Trading Places

I have on occasion thought about each person in my world.

I might see that they have more in intelligence (Well, I think that) or they might be able to see, or they might be able to drive a car and go where they want when they want, or they might have more education such as college, or they might play piano or sing better than me (Well, I think that too when I compare) or I think they have a happier marriage or they’re alone and don’t have to please or answer to a spouse.

If I really delve into this little idea, I don’t really know the childhood they had—even if they give it to me in great detail.  I don’t know what they struggle with in all the areas of life or what’s pervading their minds or what physical pain they either have had are having or will have. 

When I compare, I’m only looking at what I think they have that I don’t have; and I discount or don’t know the hardships they have had or are having.

It all comes down to……………………………would I trade places with them?  And WITHOUT EXCEPTION, I’ve always said “NO!”   When it gets right down to the nitty gritty, I want to be just where I am – not in the past (because I’d have to do exactly what I did then because that was the only light I had at that time).  I wouldn’t want to be in the future because I wouldn’t have the wisdom of what Life is teaching me today. 

So after that little exercise; I think I could find many circumstances, people and things to be thankful for!

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Being of Service

Yesterday I had a call from a friend of 50 years who is now 91 and bedridden. He asked me to play and sing to him. He has always been special to me because he encouraged my career in music. But even more special, we began the 48 Teaching tapes together many years ago. (You can find them on this website.)

So I played and sang Danny Boy in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which is coming soon. He said it made him cry. I asked, “Bad cry or good cry?” He said, “Good cry.” So I sang a myriad of songs and styles for which he was very thankful. An idea from the Teachings came to mind about “being of service.” 

I presented the question, “What does being of service mean to you?” to other people I knew in the Teaching. One said that doing the dishes and cleaning the house was a way of being of service, though it probably isn’t normally thought of that way.

Another said calling and listening to someone who lives alone is being of service. 

Another said saying “No” can be of service. You can ponder on that one because it seems like it could never be considered as a service; however, if someone asks me for money over and over but is quite capable of working and earning a living, it may be of service to say no. It increases their necessity to be responsible for themselves.

Some have the ability to find humor in just about every situation. So, to me, they are being of service by giving me the option of seeing that everything might not be as serious as I am seeing it.

I see watering and fertilizing my garden and caring for my cat as being of service. The list is as long as you care to explore in your daily activities.

The thought popped up, “What’s the benefit to me?”

I’ve had people tell me that they like to “help” people. Dr. Bob distinguished between helping and “making a little contribution,” another way of saying “being of service.” He pointed out that in order to “help,” one has to see oneself as being elevated above the other. “Helping” gives a good feeling, but isn’t that temporary?

As I’ve studied the Teachings, I have found that being of service gets my attention directed outward. 

When my attention is directed outward, I’m not concentrating on what I don’t have – like more money or a better mate or a different car or more attention and approval, thinking I would be satisfied and permanently happy if I had all I wanted.

One can ask self, “What more do I want or need?” Think… possessions, titles, fulfillment of our desires, as well as all the other things we crave. When we center in on ourselves and what we don’t have, we entrench ourselves in depression, want, anger, frustration and many other unpleasant emotions.

How many ways can you turn your attention outward and be of service today?

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Objective does not have emotions tied to it.

I was introduced to the teachings in 1975. As I studied, I came across the term “surrender” and it raised the question “What do I surrender to?” Through the years I’ve discovered that many times it’s impossible to understand the teaching idea presented until some time has passed and there’s a place or circumstance that clarifies. This school is very different from the public schools we attended wherein we read assignments, took tests and recited back the material studied to the teacher hoping for a good grade. So I learned to not make it important to understand every idea at once – to let it go for a while. There is always plenty that can be worked with during the interim.

One of the teaching cards which you can find previously presented on the blog says this: 


We cease to think we know what ought to be. 

Here’s another version:

Surrender to what is….
Surrender to what people are….
Surrender to what I am…..

Surrender our desire for certainty
Surrender the need for safety
Surrender what “I know”
Surrender what “I know is right”

Along with this, I’d like to say that there’s a certain story I love from the “Caravan of Dreams” by Idries Shah called “The Princess of the Water of Life”. You can find it on the internet.  It’s a beautiful teaching story.

The main phrase in the story is “perhaps something may come of it.” As I’ve told the story, I’ve found some who don’t know what a djinn is. It’s an Arabian mythical creature that is able to take on a human or animal shape and is mischievous.

So I have combined that phrase with “surrender” and another idea from Dr. Bob — “I live in what I radiate”  If I’m not always trying to “get something” or “make it come to me” or control people and circumstances, I can work with seeing what’s going on and what I can do.

Recently I had musicians come to my house to jam. It just seemed like fun. The jobs are few for jazz musicians; but we want to keep our “chops up” (technique), be with like-minded musicians and play the music we love following all the aloneness and separation from the pandemic.

I asked a New York jazz pianist I met recently to come play Wednesdays at my house along with an amateur drummer I had worked with for eight years.  After a year of Covid, no gigs, and moving to Florida, the NY piano player decided to learn upright bass and needed someone to play piano. That was me – yay!  Then he invited a jazz guitar player he knew which added depth to the sound.  

The drummer abruptly decided to quit because he found other interesting things to do; so I had the opportunity to “surrender” what I considered   “ought to be”. Then I remembered a really good jazz drummer from our area; and he not being busy either, acquiesced to join us. The jam just got better and better. 

Later the jazz drummer brought in a well-known bass player on Thursdays so the NY musician could stretch out on my grand.  For that day I sat back, listened and just had a grin on my face for two hours.

And so with all these changes going on, I can  say I experienced the “Something may come from it.”  The “something” could just be musicians introduced to each other or keeping the “chops up” and/or learning from each other. So if we get a gig all the better; but if not, we had the creative endeavor and enjoyment of each other and the music.  

We can make a purpose to radiate out a good mood and perhaps some skill we’ve developed and use it in service to the community and others. Then we can watch, observe and see “what something can come from it” – could be something quite amazing, be to our advantage and also quite delightful in the process.  Happy comes in moments — it’s a temporary state of being that we can create through our own efforts.

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Brazil Experiment with Babies

Study on attention

[From Marsha…I’ve heard a lot of controversial advice about attention given in raising children through the years like “Don’t give the kids too much attention because you’ll spoil them.” or “It’s bad to let them show off.”  Later it became “Don’t break their little spirit” which came to mean let them do whatever they want which I observed led to entitlement and inability to consider others. I’m sure you have many of your own “passed down’ suggestions from parents, peers and other sources.

The teachings talk about the four dual basic urges and how we continually want to gain attention which results in many unconscious things we say and do to get it – some who have money even try to buy attention through parties and gifts.

On the other side of the four dual basic urges, It mentions wanting to escape being ignored or rejected; and how we react to what people say and do believing that they are putting us down when often it was never meant that way.

The teachings also say wanting attention is not bad or good, it’s just what goes on in the manmade world. When we’re aware of the unconscious urge, we can wake up. One small way I saw to get in charge of my inner state was to not expect people to remember my birthday. So I just take care of that myself by doing something special for me that I wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Below is more descriptions of occurrences that have happened in the past from a workshop called Santa Cruz 71 found in the CD’s from Jim Wilson on the website under links.  Dr. Bob begins…]

The ancient Chinese have a method of punishment that they refer to as ostracism.  In a given village if a person didn’t play by the rules the village had set out, they met together and decided that he was worthy of ostracism possibly.  If they found him worthy of ostracism, he could walk into a teahouse and nobody saw him.  He could walk down the street and nobody spoke to him.  Nobody said a word.  If he went into a food supply place, nobody could see him – they just acted like he wasn’t there.  In other words, he was totally being ignored.  This was equivalent to a death sentence because the man usually didn’t survive very long under it. 

A few years ago an experiment was run in Brazil with a big orphanage which they didn’t seem to have too many compunctions about.  They took 300 infants that were admitted to the orphanage – just infants.  All 300 received a very balanced diet as best could be determined by the best physicians available.  Each were given clean clothes and clean beds to sleep in. 

The difference was that 150 of the babies were picked up and cuddled and suckled and so forth by some lady at least one hour everyday – about four 15-minute sessions. 

The others were only given the essentials of care – no attention. They were bathed, but that was all.  There was no cuddling or anything, they were bathed as efficiently as possible. 

At the end of one year of the 150 who were being cuddled and petted every day, two had died. 

Of the 150 who had been just taken care of efficiently, 70 some odd had died – almost 50 percent. 

At the end of the second year, only 15 of the “efficiently cared for” were alive; and 144 were alive of the group that had been given attention. 

So a psychologist came up with a statement that we must have attention in order to survive and we must have approval in order to thrive.  Kind of makes a little rhyme and is somewhere pretty close to right. 

Some attention to the baby can be just scoldin’ : “Don’t do that!  – “Now get away from that!” That’s at least getting some kind of attention.  Now he would, of course, rather have approval, but he’s at least getting attention that way. 

He would love to have approval at a certain stage of his development; and he must have approval or he will be very uncomfortable; and one of the more painful things we can think of is disapproval; and the disapproval we like least is that which is directed at number one – me.  That right?  I can stand your disapproval of others; I don’t like it, but when it gets to this one, that’s really painful.  

[Here’s the statistics easier to see.]

300 infants in Brazilian orphanage

A group: 150 babies were regularly cuddled/petted for 4 x 15 minutes every day

B group: 150 only given essential care

After 1 year

From A group only 2 infants died (1.3 %)

From B group 70 + died  (almost 50 %)

After 2nd year

From A group 144 babies were alive that is 96% survived

From B group only 15 infants were alive.  That is 10 % survived.

[From Marsha…In studying the tapes since 1975 I’ve heard many workshops where Dr. Bob made comments about this subject.

He has said that if we want attention, we can just ask for it. Imagine that! My cat has figured that out – he just rolls over and has a cute little meow. I can’t turn that down.  He’s got his mood up!  I have tried asking for attention and it worked – the trick for me is to be free to be rejected if it should occur. It’s a pretty good bet, though, that most will come through in some way, shape or form.

He also said that to “give attention” is very worthwhile. Everyone needs it, yet we forget not only to give attention but also appreciation. It is an activity that doesn’t cost us anything, and yet is very effective in connecting with people.

With 2020 and the pandemic, the devastation of the lack of giving and receiving attention was felt by everyone. I heard from many who live alone saying how difficult it was without human touch to the point of descending into self-pity and depression. The pandemic has made people afraid of each other; and it will take awareness and courage to bridge the gap that has occurred to bring all of us together again.]

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Teaching Cards Gift From Donna Lancaster

Long ago (1975 to be exact) when I started in the teachings with the 48 tapes I was intrigued with the ideas presented. I was in so much conflict at the time that all I could hear was the examples and parables. It seemed when a teaching idea passed by that I heard it — and then it was gone because there is so much material to hear and work with on each individual tape.

So after all these years, I learned that our beloved Donna Lancaster went through many of the workshops now on the website and extracted teachings ideas one at a time. She then put them on pages that could be printed as cards. (There are approximately 400 of them on 47 pages.) I printed them on CardStock and cut them apart with a paper cutter.

This enables one to gather them in a bowl and then each day, week or month depending, pull out an idea and work with it. I find I can’t remember a paragraph; and I even struggle with memorizing one sentence. The creative mind in me adds words, subtracts words, changes words  and often the meaning and possibility of discovery disappears.

So, dear Donna, we still miss you and thank you for your dedicated and devoted work, which I and others are passing on to those who ask, are interested and find it through all of us who value what has been gifted to us!

Here is a link to the PDF file.


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Who is the Teacher?

Long ago Delilah, a tabby cat, came into my life. Facing diminishing sight from retinitis pigmentosa, I was worried about sitting or stepping on her because she was very dark. But she adapted to the danger after a couple of times of almost being squished. She learned to meow when I came into the room. I remember once when I had pink eye, she comforted me by curling by my side. It seemed she knew I was in distress. At 14 years she passed away. After her, I knew I would always need a cat in my life.

A friend of mine shared that she gets too attached to pets, so to be “safe” she refuses to get another. At 83, she said the loss is just too painful and not worth it. There is an old saying that says, ”It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” It’s for sure I’m not going to get through this life without some pain – whether physical, mental, or emotional. So I have decided to always have a cat whether it’s painful or not. There is a Teaching idea that I use frequently and that is to be “free to experience” whatever is going on because everything “comes to pass”. It’s worthwhile when I measure the pain against the many hours of joy I have with these cats.

At the humane society I began looking for a white cat that would be easier to see. In opening one cage, Bella, a white cat, started loving on me; and, of course, she became our second cat. I discovered that cats are like humans, each has it’s own special personality that unfolds as we get to know them. One of Bella’s games occurred around 3:00 am. I’d wake and hear Bella playing with a little cloth mouse, which after a time she’d bring to the bedroom, meowing. I finally figured out that it was her gift. And then she would jump up on the bed and sleep with me for the rest of the night. When I groomed her thick fur, she had the look of ecstasy on her face while rolling over for me to get every part of her body. I had never experienced connection with an animal to that degree.

I had taken on the suggestions from people who believed that cats were just “dumb animals.” Then one day I stumbled across a book called “Kinship with all Life” by J. Allen Boone and it opened my mind to see more about all of creation. It is wonderful to speculate that we all are connected – humans, animals and plants. To me, all animals are special – at least the ones I’ve come to know. It’s only at this age in my life that I want to learn to communicate with my cat, or horse or dog that I come in contact with. This book pointed out that I am not superior. Only as I’m humble, can I hear and communicate with these precious creatures – hence they have become my teachers.

I’ve seen my cats look into my eyes when I’m talking to them. Do they understand my words? That’s in my “I don’t know department.” Communication with animals is an ongoing experiment.

Another friend has a ranch where she gives lessons, boards horses, and does therapy riding. During my riding lesson she shared with me to look where I wanted to go, not at the saddle, horn, or reins. She said that the horse uses pictures in the mind for communication. I’ve experienced this at times when thinking about my cat brings her to my side for loving. We have such a privilege to be with these amazing creatures. They deserve our understanding, generosity, and kindness and always give back.

Bella had a heart condition we were not aware of and she passed away six months later. So, back I went to the humane society.  There was a beautiful cat named Myra. She came out from her little hide-a-way and licked my hand. The caretakers said she had never done that with anybody else and I thought, this is “the cat”. I associated “now” with “then” when I had previously chosen Bella. But as with humans, all are not alike and “now” is never like “then.” Each moment is completely different from the last. I will never know Myra’s past; but it didn’t work out for us. No matter what I did, I couldn’t connect with her and I refused to force her to let me love on her. I felt ignored and rejected and finally realized I had to face facts – with my blindness, I couldn’t be a therapist or cat whisperer, I needed a therapy cat – one that would be very affectionate. So I gave the wellbeing of Myra back to the humane society.

I had set many “ideals” for the cat I thought would fulfill my needs. Most times we don’t even recognize that we have so many “ought to be’s.” The cat had to be a female, between three and six years old, and multicolored. White parts could be seen when the cat was on a dark colored surface and the black parts showed up on a white surface.

From Myra, I learned that in picking a cat I needed to be able to pick it up and hear it purr – not hiss and lash out. It was the next step in tweaking my list and the best I could do for choosing. I don’t fit with all the humans I meet, and there is an inner feeling that lets me know which ones I want to know better. It works sometimes and doesn’t work on others. So perhaps all the senses need to be in the now and working – sight, hearing, touching, awareness and also inner feeling. What a lesson for so many things we do in our daily lives.

School Talk #25 discusses “Making up the Mind” – and there is another “Excerpt” called the “The What and the How”. I have experimented with both of those ideas by myself, with my daughter, and with my musical partner – it’s always interesting. I wrote down specifically what I wanted. Of first priority was a cat that needed lots of attention, leaving off the “ideal” of female and three years old

But after two trips weekly to the humane society, I finally realized I was afraid of making a mistake. There is a Teaching idea that we’ve never made a mistake because every decision we’ve made – at the time it was felt to be right, or proper and/or justified. But another discovery for me was that each “mistake” points me in a new direction that is more to my advantage.

After a month of these trips to the humane society, I saw this colorful cat (white and gray) tearing up the paper in his cage. I concluded he’s not for me! I wanted another Bella. I had made another “ideal”.

Next week I saw him again. Oh no! – he’s a male, he’s only one year old. But I remembered that I wanted to leave off the “ideal” of a Bella. Outside the cage, I could hold him and he was purring. It was time to take a chance again.

I brought him home. Is he too young? Yes, according to what “ought to be.” Was he Bella? No! Is that what we lay on every living human being we know? Do we unconsciously foist off conclusions we have about people we meet because they look like someone we did or didn’t like in the past? We’re all so different. I have discovered that I learn about myself from everyone I meet. I’ve discovered that each person in my life brings out a different personality in me. If I’m with a musician, I become music. If I’m with a fun person, I automatically bring out the silly, creative, happy one inside.

So, here I go. I finally made a decision to take him home. I discovered quickly that he wasn’t shy like Myra and was out exploring the house in thirty minutes. Yes, he has way more energy than I thought would be advisable; however, staying at the computer too long makes my eyes foggy and unresponsive. So playing with him in the morning and throughout the day breaks that hypnotized habit. Being sequestered for a year, I find I need activity more than being sedentary. He certainly provides action. Ha! So “we think we know what we need” and Life seems to know better what I need then all my little mental “ideals.”

I changed his name from “Rocko” to “Jazz,” since I don’t play very much rock. When we’re not playing, he follows me from room to room and helps me with all my tasks. He is a character, just like all the previous cats and humans I have ever known or know now – each has something to share and teach me, whether pleasant or not. Would you like for EVERYTHING to be pleasant and JUST THE WAY YOU WANT IT? Hmm. Ponder that one.

It’s time to go see what Jazz is doing because he is making some noise and I want to be part of it.  Thank you, Jazz, for gracing my existence. 

So, who’s the Teacher and what is Jazz teaching me?

  • He is a reason to get out of bed.
  • He radiates enthusiasm for life over the simplest of things – a box, a string with a feather at the end, something that wasn’t there before, a new person coming through the front door, watching birds in the front yard, feeling the breeze from an open window.
  • He sleeps with me and I know when I wake up through the night that he is there. When I touch him I feel warmth and hear purring.
  • He takes me away from media because he’s really more entertaining. He crouches and I say, “Get ready, get set GO!” Then he pounces, jumps in the air, turns half somersaults, falls, rolls to an upside down position and uses all fours attacking the mouse; and I giggle and laugh at his antics. In other words, he brings me back to the joy of the physical world.
  • He reminds me to be curious about everything and everybody and teaches me to remember that all life, all people, and all situations are to be enjoyed.
  • He can sneeze, and doesn’t have the fear of Covid. He just sneezes and doesn’t make it important.
  • He doesn’t judge my weight or my age.
  • He is a great listener and I get to express everything I need to say out loud without censure. I don’t have to apologize to anyone because I gave expression to some inner secret or some disappointment, anger or guilt.
  • I get exercise getting up and down from the floor, which I would not do ordinarily.
  • He reminds me that life is fun – not all the serious stuff we’re drawn into by news, the warnings of doom and gloom. He doesn’t care, he lives in the moment – no past, no future, just NOW.
  • To stop and pet him and listen to the purr affords me a quiet mind – something quite rare.
  • He is a wonderful companion, filling many hours which used to feel unfulfilled – now there’s laughter, affection, and joy.

I’m ever thankful to have him in my life and for our spirits to be connected.

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