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I LOVE this book!  After years of spiritual seeking and experiencing what many have called impossible miracles in my life, someone told me about this book and I had to have it.  I had to do the experiments!  What I discovered in the doing of the exercises was profound — not simply because they work, but because what I discovered about myself in the process is that I don’t see the blessings around me in my daily life.

Pam Grout’s writing is easy and funny and she says what I often think:  “I hate to break it to ya, FP (Field of all Possibilities, what I commonly refer to as God), but folks are starting to talk.  They’re starting to wonder, ‘Is this guy for real?’  I mean, really, like it’d be so much skin off your chin to come down here and call off this crazy hide-and-seek thing you’ve been playing.  I’m giving you exactly 48 hours to make your presence known.  I want a thumbs-up, a clear sign, something that cannot be written off as coincidence.”

And, so began my adventure — the adventure to find that consciousness trumps matter, that we create the world with our minds.  Indeed!

I followed the instructions.  I asked for a sign, a gift, within 48 hours – something that could come no other way but from God.  Then, I waited.

As it happened, that weekend, I was at Menla Mountain House to be in a workshop given by Howard Cutler on “The Art of Happiness.”  He’s written a book by the same name with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  I was curious to meet someone who has spent so much time in the Dalai Lama’s presence.  I marveled at how a Doctor of Psychiatry could gain so much access to one of the holiest men on earth.  I wondered what he was like, how he would be.  I was expecting big and charismatic, like Robert Thurman, who runs Menla and Tibet House in NYC, and is also a friend of the Dalai Lama.

What I found is that Howard Cutler, with his gasping breath and soft voice, first occurred for me as surprisingly artless, almost childlike.  As the weekend progressed and I listened to him speak about working with the Dalai Lama, and then doing the exercises and meditations that he taught to us that would cultivate happiness in our lives, I started to see him as truly ingenuous: naïve, almost, with an innocence that reminded me of the Dalai Lama, himself – as well as other highly spiritual people, like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Satya Sai Baba.

The weekend was glorious, the meditations delicious, and the small group of women, twelve in all, sweetly intimate and loving – I was so happy I had come.  I had forgotten about looking for my gift – I was enjoying the weekend so much.

At the end of the seminar, Howard announced that he had “graduation presents” for us.  We all laughed as he pulled out boxes of gourmet jelly beans for each of us.  Then, he told us that he had a special gift for us: he revealed a small silver box that he opened to offer us a Tibetan Blessing Bead.  He instructed us to be careful how we picked ours out of the box – they are very tiny and easily dropped, and the rug was multi-patterned – if we dropped our blessing bead, we would have a hard time finding it in the folds of that rug.

As he walked the tiny box around the room for us to select our bead, he explained that blessing beads are very rare and valuable in Tibet – a Tibetan farmer might trade, oh, say, twenty yak just for one tiny bead.  He approached me so I could select my little bead and he continued talking to the group: “What makes these even more valuable is that I had them blessed for you by the Dalai Lama.”  We all “ooh-ed” and “ah-hd” and were very impressed.  I held my tiny bead in my hand, debating whether to put it under my tongue now or wait until later.

We said our good-byes… I am always sorry when a program at Menla is over.  It is such a special world there – a holy valley where the world seems so very far away and love reigns supreme.  As I walked out of the conference center, I decided to pop my blessing bead in my mouth and savor these last moments at Menla with the added blessing of this precious gift.

Gift.

Precious gift.

Blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

It hit me like a bolt out of the blue.  This was it – my gift, delivered within the 48 hours and blessed by the Dalai Lama – what could be more of a message that this was a divine sign from God? – the very sign I had asked for.

Yes.

My very next thought?  Why didn’t I get that right away?  Why did it take me the ten minutes it took to gather my things and walk out of the center to really get it what a blessing this was?  What was I expecting?

Ah, yes.  I was expecting something material – a gift from a friend, maybe; an invitation to something I really wanted to go to.  Nothing so simple as a little blessing bead, for which Tibetan farmers would trade twenty yak – probably more if it was blessed by the Dalai Lama.

What an insight into myself.  I’m embarrassed to admit it except that, at least, I got this about myself – and could choose to be different in that moment.  I vowed never to take my blessings for granted ever again.

I went back to my room and quickly opened the book to the lab page that Pam Grout supplies at the end of each chapter – so that I could write down the results of my first experiment.  And, then I saw it.  What I had read as “gift” really said, “blessing.”  The Hypothesis read:  “If there’s a 24/7 energy force equally available to everyone, I can access it at any time simply by paying attention.  Furthermore, if I ask the force for a blessing, giving it a specific time frame and clear instructions, it’ll send me a gift and say, ‘My pleasure’” (italics and bold are mine).

Now, I am eagerly doing the other experiments.  They’re fun, they’re easy, and Pam Grout is so funny about things quantum, things spiritual, that it has renewed my faith in that God does have a sense of humor!

READ THIS BOOK!  It will change your world.  You will change your world!

Deliciously yours in the Gorgeous Gift Wrapping of it All, Linda

http://www.hayhousebooknook.com/PBook/Blogger/SpiritualChocolate

 

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deep-purple-water-lilies-pictureThe priest was very stern with all of us that Sunday: “Don’t think that you can come to church and be pious; and, then, walk out of here and treat your brothers and sisters like dirt, that you can be mean and greedy and angry and selfish – and, then, waltz right back in here next Sunday – and feel that you are a good Christian. You are not.”

He was angry. I don’t know what set him off, but something did. This was the most vehement homily I had ever heard. He continued: “Your life is out there, outside these doors. That’s where you need to be a model of Christian behavior – that is where you will be seen, with your brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, the poor and needy, the grieving and confused. ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ That is the Christ message and you need to do that to be a good Christian.”

He left us with this instruction: “Go out there and live your life as if God was watching every minute – because He is. When you meet someone who needs your help, give it. When you see someone who is in distress, comfort them. When you know that someone needs to know you love them, tell them.”

Finally – “Do not rest until someone says, ‘I see the Face of Christ in you.’”

What do you say to that?

I thought to myself, “No one goes around telling people that they see the Face of Christ in them. How on earth do I do that?”

I left church that day and didn’t give it another thought. I was having a hard time that summer – it was all I could do to stay present to my own faith and hope and turning my life around as everything seemed to go wrong around me. I had rented my apartment and was staying at my brother’s farm in New Jersey until I could create something new for myself. But, it seemed that, everywhere I turned, something was falling apart. The last straw came when my laptop computer, from which I did all of my business, crashed and burned. That’s almost literal – there was a strange, smoky smell coming from it as it wound itself down into blackness.

I felt as if I had nothing more to lose.

That wasn’t true, of course. I had my son’s jeep for the summer and had called old friends to catch up – the ones who lived in New Jersey, anyway. Now that I had a car and could travel, I called everyone I knew and made plans to see them.

One of the people I called was my friend, Diane. I had met her on a trip we took to Cambodia in 2007 with a group of film makers who had created the documentary, “New Year Baby,” about a friend’s family that fled the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia to settle in the United States.

It was a glorious trip, visiting all the temples out of Siam Reap, going on safari in the Cambodian countryside to see things most visitors don’t see – the old monks in the village who didn’t know how old they were, the young children running in the streets, trying to sell bags and jewelry to make enough money to go to school, the boat ride in the Mekong River where Cambodia and Vietnam meet, to see the people who live on the boats and almost never come on land.

One pre-dawn morning in Northern Cambodia, sitting on the stones at the bottom of a temple, up which all our fellow travelers had climbed to see the sun come up, I looked over at a tree – and I could swear I saw the side of the tree branches in the shape of Christ’s face. I called over to Diane and her cousin, Heather. They saw it, too. As the sun grew brighter, the face melted into the branches and was no more. The three of us looked at each other – we knew we had seen something special.  We didn’t speak of it to anyone.

In New Jersey, these years later, I called Diane to have dinner together. After much getting lost and traveling around in circles, we found each other and settled in at a restaurant bar midway between her house and my brother’s house.

We talked all night – we had both gone through a lot since we saw each other last. She had left New York City and was settled into a new job in Princeton and seemed happy. Throughout the evening, she had told me everything on her mind. I listened in a way that didn’t allow for that nutty voice in my head — you know the one —  figuring out what I would say next while she was talking. It was really quiet in my mind except for Diane’s voice. I felt so much love for her that it seemed to spill over onto the table and our barbequed ribs and salad and slid all the way over to her, glazing the way so that her face glowed in the candlelight at the booth table. She was beautiful in that light and I loved her.

When she was done, she grabbed my hands and squeezed them. “You are the Face of Christ to me, Linda.” The words seemed so surreal, I thought I imagined it. “What did you say?” She said that I was so full of love that she could feel it, that I was listening with so much compassion that she could sense it, that she felt safe with me, spiritually safe.

I didn’t connect it until I was driving home – that’s what the priest said on Sunday! So, I thought, “That’s what it takes? To be empty inside of my own self-centeredness, to listen with nothing else there, to love someone for Who they are – and Who they’re not?

Yes.  That’s what it takes.

Do not think this went to my head. I no sooner returned home than my brother got angry at me.  What went through my mind as he yelled at me was, “I guess he  doesn’t think I’m the Face of Christ.”  It got me in touch with my humanity.  I realized: sometimes we are – and sometimes we’re not.

It is not natural for me to be always loving, always listening from nothing, always compassionate, always forgiving. When I’m judgmental, when I’m impatient, when I’m justifying behavior – believe me, nobody does it better.

What I learned that night with Diane is that, if I’m vigilant for Who I want to be, Who I know I am as a divine child of God, how I can love more, listen more, serve more – that is the Face of Christ in all of us – whether you’re Christian or not.

We’re human – we rock ‘n roll back and forth between being that wonderful Face and being a jerk.

If I could just lessen the time that I’m a jerk – and increase my loving time… that would be something, wouldn’t it?

I could be the Face of Christ all the time.

Deliciously yours in the Wonder of it All, Linda

“To love another person is to see the face of God”  ~ Jan Valjean in “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo

The picture in the header is titled, “Cosmic Christ Arising” by artist Leigh J McCloskey at http://www.leighmccloskey.com/index.htm.  Here is the full version:

CosmicChristArisingArtistLeighJMcCloskey

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.

“The Cat’s Meow…”

April 26, 2013

CroppedTeddyWhen I awakened this morning, my eyes opened to see Jackson’s paw on my arm as he sat like a protective Sphinx beside me.  His eyes looked into mine, slowly blinked, and he turned his head away.  His paw remained on my arm.

Teddy sits over on the sofa in my bedroom, looking my way, but he knows it’s Jackson’s job to protect me.  He hangs out nearby, but never tries to take Jackson’s job away from him.  Jackson would never allow it.

Jackson and Teddy have been with me for two years now.  They were Josh’s cats from when he lived in Minneapolis.  He brought them here to live with me when he came back to New York.

Can you keep a secret?  I don’t think he’s getting them back.

These are angel cats.  Yes, little angels sent from God – first to my son to help him get over a bad break-up with his girlfriend – and then, for me, two years ago when I felt my life crumbling beneath me like some futuristic science-fiction movie where the actors run through the scenery just as the earth opens beneath them with their every step.

I am ahead of myself.

After graduate school at NYU Stern, my son moved with his girlfriend to Minneapolis to work for Target.  We all thought they would get engaged and start a life together there.  He bought an apartment, started his new job, and he and his girlfriend went to the neighborhood “rescue” to adopt a pet.

Josh had a Tiger cat when he was younger – I named him “Fendi.” I had once seen a Fendi fashion show in Milan and was so fascinated and amazed by the fur coats they offered – I remember that I laughed about what they could possibly be made of since they looked like no fur I had ever seen – little pieces of fur sewn together that my colleagues and I joked had to be mouse or gopher or something.  When I saw the little ball of fur  that would soon be our new baby kitten, I thought of those fur coats of unknown origin.  I said, “Well, that’s about as close to a Fendi fur coat as I’m ever going to get!” and the name stuck.  Fendi.  For years afterwards, people would say, “You named your cat after a handbag?”  Almost no one knows that Fendi makes many other fashion items besides handbags.

Fendi was with us for eleven years.  He was sweet and ferocious at the same time.  One time, my then-husband  had to come home from work because Fendi had cornered the plumber and the guy had called Fred in terror to come free him.

Fendi was sweet and cuddly with us.  Even so, I didn’t realize that Josh was so attached to him until he called me from Minneapolis to tell me that he got TWO tiger cats – they reminded him of Fendi and he wanted both, although they are as different as night and day in personality:  Teddy is a little feral cat that we believe was never owned by anyone.  Scared of his own shadow, he used to hide the whole time I’d come to visit Josh in Minneapolis.  On the other hand, Jackson is the most personable cat I’ve ever met – he follows us around like a little puppy and must be near one of us all the time.  He had been neutered when he was turned into the rescue center, so he must have been owned by someone.  It is like a knife in our hearts to think that someone put this gorgeous creature out in the cruel Minneapolis winter.  Yet, now we have him – so we lucked out all the way ‘round.

Shortly after Josh got his cats, he and his girlfriend broke up.  It was a heart-wrenching break-up, sudden and unexpected.  Josh spent the next few years alone in Minneapolis.  He’s told me that Jackson and Teddy were the balm for his broken heart during that time.

My own heartbreak two years ago was just as unforeseen and devastating, all the more because I thought it had occurred eighteen years before!  That’s when my husband and I had separated.  It took a long time to get divorced – in 2002.

And, even longer to really split – that was two years ago.

In all that time, we had been good friends.  I don’t think either one of us realized that it was more than friends – it was a bond as strong as a gnarly knot, but not evident in our lives.   Except for the constant phone calls, we rarely saw each other; he had a partner, I had a different life.

When he told me he was getting married, it sunk in that he wasn’t supposed to be my best friend anymore – that should have ended eighteen years before.  No wonder I hadn’t wanted another partner!  Fred was too much in my space!

That was it.  I went through all of the feelings and grief that I should have gone through eighteen years before – and didn’t.  For the first time, I felt lonely.  It came as such a surprise!  And, yet – it didn’t.

Six weeks later, my son got a job in New York and came home with his two tiger cats.  The plan was that he would live with his dad until he sold his apartment in Minneapolis.  But, Fred has a big dog — the cats couldn’t stay there.  Josh asked me if I would take Jackson and Teddy?

Josh brought them over and stayed for a few days to be sure that they were okay.  I took to them like comfort by the fireside.  Jackson was an instant buddy.  Teddy took longer to win over – it took a few days for him to come out from behind the sofa, and even longer to get him to sleep on the bed with me, but he always let me pick him up and cry into his belly when the sadness would be too much for me to bear alone.

It’s two years later now, and we’ve got our routine down.  Jackson sits by me as I write and work every day, Teddy snuggles in with me on the sofa during television time at night.

They saved my life.

Now you know why I think they’re angels.  They were with Josh when he needed them.  Then, when I needed them more, they came to me.  This is not coincidence.  This is a gift.

Not long ago, I had to look up my original lease from ten years ago.  As I read through it, I saw that, under “Pets,” I had checked off “cat” and had crossed out “1” and written in “2” – and had the landlord sign it.

I didn’t have any cats at the time, let alone two of them.

That was ten years ago.  Now, I have Jackson and Teddy – after Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt, two of Josh’s favorite US Presidents.  They are my buddies.

I love them.

I was telling my friend, Alan, how much I love heading to my apartment door when I come home from somewhere — I know that on the other side of that door, my two buddies are going to be there waiting for me.  Alan said, “That’s good.  You’re creating new pathways in your brain — pathways that expect LOVE to be on the other side of that door.  That’s the beginning.  Next is the man!”   Wow!   I’m for THAT!

When I remember that old lease, written so long ago when there were no cats, I am struck by how synchronistic it seems.  I remember that Einstein said, “There is no time,” everything already exists – and I wonder.

I am blessed.

Deliciously yours in the Miracle of it All,  Linda

Note:  Jackson is the one in the header picture and that’s Teddy in the thumbnail, looking out at the traffic on First Avenue in Manhattan.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.

“Who Are You?”

September 24, 2012

“Who are you?”

Those were the opening words in the homily at mass today, given by a guest priest who is leading the church’s Mission this week.  His name is Father Mac Donald.  He has this charming Boston accent and wears a simple white cotton robe.  The light robe makes sense since he spends most of his time in the sun-kissed, warm Caribbean, traveling here for parish missions all over the city.  I’ve met him before.   He makes me think.  He did not disappoint today.

He told a story about a woman who was asked a series of questions:

“Who are you?”  She answered, “I’m an assistant at a bank.”

“That’s what you do.  I didn’t ask you what you do.  I asked, ‘Who are you?’”

“I have four children.”  “I didn’t ask if you were a mother.  Who are you?”

“I’m a wife.”  “I didn’t ask if you were married.  Who are you?”

This went on a little longer.  I thought, at the end of the litany of questions, he would have an answer.  He finally said, “I’m going to leave you with that question for right now.  Come to the Mission this week and we’ll talk about it.”

Who are you?

He told another story:

When Boris Yeltsin, the first popularly elected President of Russia, was interviewed after he resigned, he was asked who had inspired him when he faced the difficult task of leading his country through a stormy post-USSR Russia.  His answer?  “Lech Walesa.”

Walesa was the former electrician in Poland who became a union-rights and human rights activist.  He challenged the Polish communist government and founded  the Solidarity movement that peacefully toppled the government.  He was elected President of Poland, where he presided over Poland’s transformation from a communist to a post-communist state.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

When Walesa was asked who inspired him, his answer was “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the United States.”

Dr. King, a Baptist minister from Atlanta, Georgia, is one of our American heroes.  His “I have a Dream” speech is still quoted, and children growing up — who will never know him —  live in the glorious results of his peaceful fight for African-American civil rights in this country.  He changed the face of America.  He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through non-violence.  He was a charismatic, faith-filled leader who was assassinated in 1968.  His spirit is so powerful, he lives on in us to this day.

When Dr. King was asked who inspired him, he said, “Rosa Parks.”

Rosa Parks was a black woman who, in 1955, would not give up her seat in the “colored” section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white man after the white section was filled.  She sat silently in her seat and refused to move.   She was arrested for Civil Disobedience.  Her defiance was an important symbol in the Civil Rights Movement.   She became an icon for what one person can do to make a difference in the world.

The priest asked us:  “Is it too much to imagine that one woman’s stand for herself would influence millions of people in the world, not only in the US, but in Poland and Russia, as well?  She knew who she was.”

“Who are you?”

Deliciously yours in the Oneness of it All, Linda

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you.

It’s Valentine’s Day!  And that makes it the three-year anniversary of this blog.  So, first, I want to say, I love YOU and thank you for coming and reading my “stuff” these last three years.  In that time, “Spiritual Chocolate” has had 11,498 visitors, as of just now!  You all are the best!

Last year I wrote that I was creating an amazing year of growth and productivity for myself.  And, yes, it happened – but, not in the way I thought it would.  In fact, it’s been a rough year – personally and professionally.  I crawled all the way out on the skinny branches where I could hear the crack, crack, cracking of the twigs as my life fell apart.

The skinny branches…  That’s where the fruit is, right?

So, yes, my ex-husband got married, creating a roller-coaster ride of emotions for me for the entire year – AND, my son came back to New York after three years of working for Target in Minneapolis.  It’s so yummy to have him home in NYC!

I had a falling away with some of the dearest people in my life…. AND, I reconnected with my old friend, Tommy, with whom I hadn’t been in contact for fifteen years – and now we are partners in an entertainment business, working on projects in film and television.  Mmmm, Mmmm, good!

For every ending, there’s been a beginning – for every sadness, a joy.   For every time I’ve been down on my knees in pain and sadness,  there’s been an even greater moment of excitement for something new.

Each sad event had me reaching out of my comfort zone and deep into my heart to find the strength, courage, and persistence to find another way.  That’s where the growth is.

Each glorious moment reminded me that when things seem to go away, leaving an empty space inside, God finds a way to fill us up once again.  That’s where the Love is.

I am grateful for everything that’s happened to me this year.  Without the sadness, I wouldn’t have learned.  Without the Joy, I wouldn’t have renewed my heart.  And, without all of you reading these posts and writing me emails – telling me about your heartbreaks, your brother who’s like my son, your child who’s like my father, I wouldn’t get it so profoundly that we are the same after all – we really are all One.

I am profoundly grateful to you.  Yes, YOU….  My funny Valentines….

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Deliciously yours in the Love it all is,  Linda

“My Funny Valentine, Sweet comic Valentine, You make me smile with my heart…   Your looks are laughable, unphotographable, yet you’re my favorite work of art…”     from “My Funny Valentine”  by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

“As the Parade goes by…”

November 27, 2011

As of two weeks ago, I had no plans for Thanksgiving.  What I always do when that happens is to turn it over to God – “I’m counting on you to come up with the right place for me to be to enjoy your bounty in just the right way,” and I let it go.  He always comes through.

This year was no different.  A few days after I said my prayer, my new/old friend Tommy called me, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” he said.  “Nothing,” I replied.  He immediately invited me to join him with his cousin and his very close friend at a Thanksgiving luncheon at the New York Athletic club – not too shabby, the oldest and most prestigious club in the city, if not the world.

Tommy had a request.  “You know, I’ve never been to the Thanksgiving Parade.  Don’t you know someone who lives along the parade route where we can go for a half hour and watch some balloons?”  I have to admit that I was instantly entranced at the possibility, “Yes, wouldn’t that be great?”   I hadn’t been to the parade since Josh was little — and my own growing up years in New York always included sitting on a blanket, curbside on Central Park West, from 8AM on the morning of Thanksgiving day to watch those floats and balloons and bands go marching by, each of the four of us taking turns sitting on my father’s shoulders for an even better look.  I think he loved it as much as we did.  We went every year until I was 10.

Tommy looked up the parade route on the Internet and found that it passed right by 59th Street and Seventh Avenue, the corner on which sat the NYAC.  We agreed to meet at 11AM and see what we could see.

I couldn’t wait.  And, when I did arrive, Tommy was already there, having scoped out the best viewing spot – and Boy! Was it worth it!  Just as I took my position among the crowd, I could see Kermit the Frog turning onto Central Park South and heading towards us.  I was as excited as all the kids atop adult shoulders around me, “Look, Daddy, look! – there’s Kermit!  Kermit the Frog!”  He was huge and green and rubbery and legs and arms gangly hanging down while waving in the air – and, there I was, “Look, Tommy, look! – there’s Kermit!  Kermit the Frog!”

The balloons kept coming – I spotted the blue Smurf from far away and was dancing up and down until he turned onto Seventh Avenue and I could get my picture and my excitement in sync.

Oh, My God!  How lucky I am to be here!  I feel the hot tears on my chilled face – it only takes a few big balloons, Santa on a float, and the happy faces of children all around me to remind me that I am so very, very blessed;  so very, very thankful.

Once Santa and his reindeer passed by, the parade was over – at 59th and Seventh, anyway.  It still had another 25 blocks or so to go to get to Macy’s and the closing ceremonies; but, for me, the parade had worked its magic, the child had emerged, and I was back again to simpler times, arms wrapped around my siblings or holding my father’s hand in the crowd.

I smiled at a child on her father’s shoulders.  She smiled back at me.  It was an innocent moment.  I thought, “I know what that feels like, to be so safe, to experience something so magical.”  It’s all mixed up together:  balloons, turkey, brothers and sister, cold weather, the smell of my father, hanging onto his hat or his chin or anything else of him I could grab, Mom cooking at home, someplace to belong.

The parade disappeared from view and Tommy and I walked into the club and met his friends and we had a glorious Thanksgiving repast.  We held hands and said a prayer and each of us said what we were thankful for.

It was a wonderful day, better than anything I could have dreamed up on my own.

God works his magic, I tell you – if only we let him.

I am so grateful.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Deliciously yours in the Bounty of it All,  Linda

“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”   Meister Eckhart, theologian, philosopher, and mystic.

NOTE:  I took the picture of Kermit that appears in the header (I’ve put it here now that the header has changed):  Yes, he was that close! 

And here’s my picture of Smurf:

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

Since posting my review on Linda Leaming’s book, “Married to Bhutan”, both Linda and I were on Hay House Book Club Radio together, talking about the story themes and what there was to take-away from reading this wonderful memoir about loving life in Bhutan and Linda’s life of love in Bhutan with her amazing husband, Namgay.  If you read the book, you’ll see that, truly, he sounds like a paragon of patience and an altogether wonder of a man!

Afterwards, Linda and I communicated via Facebook and Twitter, and then, finally, email.  I found out she was coming to New York City for an event, and I thought perhaps we could meet for coffee?  We could.

It seemed that we met as two strangers with a common ground – her book, which she wrote and I loved.  I was soon to learn that it was no accident that Linda and I met each other.

Our afternoon conversation did what many conversations between women do – it drifted into talk of relationships and love.

I wanted to know more about her romance with her husband.  I was intrigued by their relationship – Western drama meets Buddhist acceptance and allowing – it seemed at once exciting and implausible.  What did he make of her worry and frenzy?  What did she make of his silence and peace?

Her stories in person were as ripe with promise and love as they were in the book.  As in the book, she was forthcoming and authentic over coffee about how they had to take time to get used to each other and it wasn’t always easy, but very much worth it.  The story of the romance in the book is one of my favorite parts — and I loved hearing more about it first-hand.

I contributed some of my own story.  I met my husband many years ago and it was not long before I fell madly in love.  I’ve written about Fred before, my son’s father, my partner-in-love-and-travel-and-craziness, followed by some tough years and, finally, not one separation, but two.  The second one lasted 9 years before he finally walked into my apartment shortly after 9/11 and handed me divorce papers.  “Why now?” I asked.  “Why not?” he answered – and I had to agree.  Our divorce was final in February, 2002.

Many years ago, after the initial anger and fights of the separation wore off, we became friends – probably because there never was much to fight about to begin with.  I’m convinced, even today, that if either one of us had had an ounce of transformation skills between us,  we would never have separated.  But, separate we did.  And, friends we’ve been – for all these years.

My friends and teachers and coaches always commented that they wondered why we weren’t together.  Not only have we been close friends, full of mutual admiration and respect, neither of us married again.  He was still my “person”, as they say on the television show,  “Grey’s Anatomy” – if something good happened to me, I called Fred first.  If something awful was going on – well, there you go…. Fred was the one I called for support and comfort.

He had been with the same woman since we separated.  We never spoke of his relationship with her.  We spoke of almost everything else, though.   In fact, our relationship was mostly conversation – phone calls about good movies, a course he or I was taking, what we thought about life and love, and, most of all, about our son, Josh, who was, and still is, the focus of our attention, our care, our love. 

We rarely saw each other.

At Christmas time, while I was in Minneapolis visiting Josh, everything seemed as usual between Fred and me – calls checking in with each other about what I was doing with Josh, where we were going, what restaurants Josh was liking those days, chirpy little conversations about ordinary “friend” stuff.

On the day before I was to leave Minneapolis, Fred ended one of our phone calls with, “Oh, I have to tell you something.  I’m getting married in January.”

I wish I could explain what happened next.  My throat closed up and I couldn’t speak, I had to hang up, I fell to the floor, sobbing, as if someone I loved deeply had just died.  Well, no person died, but something did die.  Whatever that illusion was, it was over, and mourning that death has taken the better part of the last five months.

We’ve had fights we haven’t had in years, with accusations back and forth.  I felt as if I was in a time warp and I’m sure he did, too.  We’re not speaking now and perhaps that is part of the process.

I felt,  and still feel,  silly – mourning a marriage that was over 17 years ago, but I didn’t mourn way back then and it needed to be done.   The grieving needed to be done, the tears needed to flow, a new life needed to be born out of the loss, perhaps a new love out of the acceptance of what is over.

Even now, months later, I’m still surprised at my reaction, stunned that it threw me into a grief so deep that I am only now pulling myself up the well-walls by my finger-tips, looking back down into that deep, dark hole of abandonment and loss as if I could so easily let go and fall back in and drown in the sadness of it once again.

But…   I don’t.

I’m sitting on the ledge of the well now, swinging my feet over to the outside – although, I haven’t tried to stand yet.   I often wonder if I can carry my own weight alone.

I shared all this with Linda Leaming at our coffee date.  She answered with a story about what Namgay said when he heard that friends of theirs were divorcing:  “Perhaps they’ve finished out their karma together.”

Even as she said it, I felt the tears well up and I sensed that it was true – and I was sad that it probably is true.  There’s a finality now that never was there before in any of our fights, our partings, our separation, or our divorce.

It reminded me of a story from Linda’s  book about when a baby died — Namgay told her, “Sometimes they come back and live for a year or two, then they die.  They’re just finishing out the samsara.”    Fred and I were soulmates — perhaps we came back together in this life to finish out our samsara.  

It is complete.  Part of me feels frightened to be alone for really the first time in my life.   Another part of me feels truly free for the first time in my life.

Thank you, Linda, for saying the exact thing I needed to hear at the exact time I needed to hear it – another gift from Bhutan, another example of people coming into our lives just when we need them to — to teach us something, to push us a little further along on our journey.

I hope that someday Fred and I can be friendly, but not yet.  I hope that someday we can both walk our son down the aisle when he marries, knowing that we did a good thing there with him.  I hope that someday we can be in the same room with our grandchildren and remember that once we were in love and it was great and we meant everything to each other and we have that to give to our son and to his children.  The relationship may be complete, the karma may be finished, but love never dies, and that is the gift we can remember and give.

Before I leave you today, I want to add one thing.  I did know for about a year that what Fred and I had was somehow preventing me from being in relationship with someone else – something I finally realized that I wanted.  Last fall, I told my coach that I was going to turn that over to God to handle – and so I did.  Every night, from mid-November until I left for Minneapolis for Christmas, I prayed to God, “Please heal this – whatever this is – between me and Fred.  I want to be in relationship with someone else, and I know that this bond is stopping me from doing that.  I’m willing for it to be undone.  And, dear God, please be gentle with us – he doesn’t have to die for me to be free.  Amen.”

And so it is.

Deliciously yours in the Samsara of it All, Linda

“Samsara literally means “wandering-on.” Many people think of it as the Buddhist name for the place where we currently live — the place we leave when we go to nibbana. But in the early Buddhist texts, it’s the answer, not to the question, “Where are we?” but to the question, “What are we doing?” Instead of a place, it’s a process: the tendency to keep creating worlds and then moving into them. As one world falls apart, you create another one and go there. At the same time, you bump into other people who are creating their own worlds, too.”   Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Here is Linda Leaming and me with Diane Ray on Hay House Radio:

http://www.hayhouseradio.com/listenagain.php?latest=true&archive_link_type=link_mp3&archive_id=8204&show_id=235&episode_id=7208

Or, you can try this one for the mp3 recording:

http://hayhouse.edgeboss.net/download/hayhouse/freecontent/free_june_archive/hayhousebookclub_052711.mp3

You can listen for free for one more week.  Then it goes into the Hay House Radio archives.  Thanks!

 

A dear friend emailed me this morning that Sathya Sai Baba died yesterday morning in India.  I was sad at the news and then, almost immediately,  I felt peace.  He was Love on earth and is still Love now.

Sai Baba connects my friend and me in that we both have been in his presence; we both have felt the love that everyone feels when they are with him; and we both have experienced a healing, either of ourselves or someone close to us as a result of our contact with him.  This is a story of the healing that I didn’t even know I was receiving for myself – and, because of a letter my friend asked me to bring to Baba – a healing for her daughter.

It was 2003.  That was the year that I heard of Sai Baba from Landon Carter, one of the original EST leaders and someone who had lived at Baba’s ashram in India for six or seven months when he was younger.  I remember being intrigued when Landon said, “I have never felt such love around anyone the way I felt it around Sai Baba.”   Curious, I went to a Google map and looked up where Sai Baba’s ashrams were.   I said to myself, “When I go to India, I will go see him.”

At the time, I had no plans to go to India, I had no resources to go to India, and, if I did have the financial resources to go anywhere, India would not be the place I would have chosen.

Shortly after that, I got a job at a mens’ designer firm that I knew was partly owned by an Indian company, but didn’t think much about that.  After working there for about four months, the owners told me that I would go to India in November to work on the private label program for the company.

I was going to Bangalore.  I knew that Baba’s main ashram was in Prasanthi Nilayam (Abode of Peace), about 3 hours Northeast of Bangalore.  I wondered how I would get there.  India is not an easy country to get around in.  I thought, “Something will happen.  I will get there.”

My travel to India was long and arduous.  I became sick in the Amsterdam airport as a result of the Maleria medication I was taking, and  spent the next two hours in the airport mini-hospital.  I missed my plane to Mumbai.

I was so sick, I could not travel until the next day.  I wished I could have done something in Amsterdam (my first time there) but was so ill,  all I could do was sleep until the next morning, with the doctor calling me at the hotel every 2-3 hours to see how I was doing.  I’ve since learned that I had a life-threatening allergic reaction to the Malaria medication.

I was able to get a flight to Delhi the next day.  I arrived in the middle of the night, only to find out that, in order to fly to Bangalore, I had to take a taxi from the international terminal to the domestic terminal.  Not so difficult, you say?

It was a bumpy ride on a back road in a tiny cab with a smelly, turbaned Indian who spoke no English.  It was 3:00 in the morning.  As we drove in the pitch-dark night through what seemed like a long, dry country road with no other cars on it, I arrived at an empty terminal building with two gate doors.  I paid my taxi driver and got out.  I was too tired to be scared — not from the ride in the dark and not of the empty terminal — so I curled up on a filthy seat in the waiting room and slept until the 6AM flight to Bangalore was called.

This was my week in India: one culturally-taxing event after another – during the dry season when everything is dusty and dirty and tin huts line the sides of the roads with dirty, barefoot swamis praying before home-made alters as the noisy traffic rolls by, horns blaring, dust swirling, beggars screaming for your attention and your hand-out.  I kept the windows closed on those rides, locked inside the equally dirty cab with three or four of my other co-workers, traveling from hotel to factory, to and fro every day.

We only felt safe eating in the hotel.  Even so, I had physical reactions to the food.  I never actually got sick to my stomach, but something in the spices made my blood pressure spike to a dangerous level and I had to have the doctor come to the hotel no less than 5 times.  He prescribed medication and, if I wasn’t well enough to go into work, he would come back in the afternoon to check on me and take my blood pressure again.  Blood pressure medication escalated to anti-anxiety medication and he ordered me to bed.  Fortunately, those were the days the samples were being made so I didn’t need to be at the factory every moment.  Still, it added to my fear and tentativeness about India.  I wished I could go home and sleep in my own bed.

By the end of the week, I was ready to leave India, but had another week to go.  I told one of the people in the factory that I wanted to go visit Sai Baba, but had no idea how to do that.  I noticed a change in the people with whom I worked the moment I mentioned his name.

On Saturday before the only day I had off, this one woman with whom I  had shared my desire to visit Baba  told me that she was a devotee of his and she would see what she could do.  She came back a few hours later to tell me that the owner of the factory had offered his car and driver to take me to Puttaparthi, where Prasanthi Nilayam is, if she could come with me.  Of course!

We woke up at 3AM to start the journey.  It is not very far in kilometers, but the journey is on dirt roads through a barren part of India, so the trip took over 3 hours.  We arrived about a half hour before “darshan” was supposed to start.

Darshan.  How do I explain this?  “Darshan” is to be in the presence of a holy person.  It is supposed to be the most incredible experience one can have.   I had heard of the “darshan junkies” who travel from city to city, around the world, to be in the presence of a holy person in order to experience the “rush” of that experience.  I was ambivalent.  I mean, really?

I arrived at the ashram at the first light of dawn.  As I walked through the gates, I could see hundreds of pairs of shoes.  Oh, No!  I was going to have to take my shoes off and walk around this dirty place barefoot?    Yes, that’s exactly what I was going to have to do.

As we headed to the temple to line up for Darshan, I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom.  I had been in the car for 3 ½ hours already, and once we went into the open-air temple, we would not be allowed out – or, if we were, how would I know how to find my companion?  There were thousands of devotees there!

The bathroom was primitive.  Open holes in the ground with plastic pitchers by each one to wash down the urine and – well, whatever…. And, I’m barefoot and the entire floor is wet from all the water being sloshed about.  I was disgusted and upset and wanted to run out of the place and head back to Bangalore!

But, I made it.  I took a breath, did what there was to do, and walked out to join my fellow “devotee” to head to the line where they wouldn’t allow us to take anything into the temple, not even a water bottle!

I followed a brightly sarong-ed old woman who could not have been more than 4 ft tall.  She kept throwing me dirty looks every time they pushed us closer together in the line.  I don’t know how, but I always smiled back – while continuing to think, “What on earth am I doing here?”

They lined us up inside the temple VERY close together and then gestured that we were to sit down.  Right there.  On the hard tiled and cement floor.  No cushions, no pads, no nothing.  I knew that my delicate Western behind, hips, and knees were not going to like this – and I was right.

I sat down and curled my legs and feet to one side.  In the process of doing so, I accidentally touched the older woman with my foot.  The feet are the lowest of the low in India, perhaps only surpassed by the left hand (the bathroom hand).  She growled and yelled and pulled her sari tightly around her and brought her legs closer into her body.

“Wow!” I thought, “This is a spiritual devotee of a famous guru?”  I was surprised at how “un-spiritual” she seemed to be, but what did I know?   I wasn’t sure of anything at that moment except that I had probably made a grave error by coming here.

We sat and waited for a long time.  Baba is notorious for being late for Darshan.  The crowd grumbled and fidgeted.  People glared and tried to pull away, except that there was nowhere to pull away to!  Monkeys swung from the rafters, gibbering their monkey talk at the crowd below.  Birds flew in and out of the temple, chirping and screaming their hysterical screeching at all the people.

In the distance, I heard the sound of a car starting up.  Baba had suffered a fall and had to be driven to and from Darshan every morning and afternoon.  The shift in the crowd was palpable. What happened next would be forever burned into my memory — and into my Being.

The chanting started and then the movement – back and forth, hands raised up in  front of each devotee, singing out at the top of their lungs, “Om Sri Sai Ram! Sai, Baba Sai, Sai Baba Om” over and over again, until the entire crowd was raising up on their knees, undulating as one body, like a snake curling through the crowd, chanting, chanting, louder and louder…

His car drove into the temple and I saw Baba’s face – he was looking my way – and that was it.  I was washed over by a love so pure that everything else faded away.  It was the first time in my life that I went from worry and fear to utter Joy in  a moment!  The tears ran down my cheeks and I had no tissues, so I was wiping them away, making mud of my blusher and foundation and I didn’t care.  I curled up onto my knees and joined the sensuous snake, arms raised in devotion and supplication, “Om Sri Sai Ram! Sai, Baba Sai, Sai Baba Om!”

I looked around and everyone looked beautiful.  Everything was Joy and I felt such love for all of them.  I caught the eye of the old woman and she was transformed – her face was radiant – and she smiled at me with tears in her eyes.  I returned the Joy, the tears, the cries of devotion.

Baba went inside the building to meet with the people who had appointments.  The rest of us sat outside and watched for glimpses of him – Swami would come to the door every now and then and wave to us – to more chanting and devotion!  I remember that he was always smiling.

I looked around – how beautiful it all was!  Why didn’t I notice that before?

I sat there for hours, speaking to a woman who had come from South Africa just to be in Baba’s  presence – she slept in the sparse accommodations, on a cement floor with no pillow, for $2 a night.  She had been there a week.

The joy I felt was astounding.  I didn’t want to leave.  My hips stopped hurting even as I sat longer and longer on the hard floor, under the monkeys swinging from rafter to rafter.  I looked up at them in pure bliss – I would not have it any other way.

After two hours, Baba got back into his car and was driven out of the Temple.  I was too joyful to feel sad that he left.   I was in the after-glow of Baba’s darshan for hours .

I didn’t want to leave so I talked my companion into getting some food and having a picnic on the grounds.

I bought some Vibhuti, the sacred ash that Baba manifests out of thin air.  I bought 5 bags.  One for my friend and her daughter and the rest for anyone else who needed healing.  I saw very sick people walk into Baba’s temple that morning, only to see them later on, sitting on the grass  — with color in their cheeks and laughing and walking and singing.  Say what you will, those were miracles of healing.

I was healed, too – healed of my complaints about dirt, dust, bathrooms with plastic pitchers, barefoot gurus, and people touching feet.   Everyone is beautiful.  Life is Bliss.

That was the day I fell in love with India.

After my life-threatening experience in Amsterdam and my high blood-pressure the week before, I suddenly had no physical complaints at all!

I have not been seriously ill since then.

We found our driver who had been frantically trying to find us, although not frantic enough to miss Darshan.  As we walked the grounds, I remembered the letter that my friend had asked me to give to Baba.  That was not possible in the temple, but each of the postal boxes was only for mail to Swami.  I slipped the letter inside the box.

I drove back to Bangalore in a dreamy state of perfect peace.

I came back to the states and gave my friend her bag of Vibhuti and told her I had mailed the letter to Baba at Prasanthi Nilayam.  She was happy.

I forgot about that.  Many months later, my friend told me that her daughter had been miraculously healed and was disabled no more.

I was raised a Christian and am one to this day.  I DO have unorthodox ideas about what that means, but I know one thing.  People followed Christ because he was pure Love – it must have been a blessing to be in his presence — the ultimate darshan!  People like Christ, like Baba, like Krishna, like Buddha are Avatars —  and they offset much of the evil in the world.  I would have loved to have been in Christ’s presence the way I was in Baba’s presence.

Then again, I am – every day of my life.  People who are only Love live on forever whenever we choose Love in the moment.

“Om Sri Sai Ram! Sai, Baba Sai, Sai Baba, Om”

Deliciously yours in the Love that is All, Linda

I was looking forward to receiving Marianne Williamson’s new book, “A Course in Weight Loss:  21 Spiritual Lessons For Surrendering Your Weight Forever” to review for Hay House Publishing.  As a student of “A Course in Miracles”, the spiritual self-study program that Marianne herself turned me on to many years ago, I had a feeling that this was not going to be your typical weight-loss book – and I was right.

To begin, I’ve been on a diet since last May and lost 16 pounds doing that.  I was so proud of myself for making it through most of the Christmas holidays without gaining anything back – I thought I had this “monkey” off my back for good.

Alas, that was not so.  At the end of the Christmas holidays, my ex-husband and wonderful friend called to tell me he was getting married in the new year.  I never expected my grieving reaction until I realized that I never mourned my marriage the way I needed to.  January started that time – and, in the two months since, I’ve gained back 8 of the 16 pounds I lost.

I received Marianne’s book right in the midst of all the pain of my long over-due grief.

My original plan — before I found myself plunged into my unexpected despair — was to read it and review it here on this blog.    If I could take something on for myself – Well, then, I would, but I really didn’t think I needed it as much as someone else might need it.

How wrong could I have been?  I needed this book to come the very moment it did!   As spiritual as I think I am, the fact is that circumstances can and do throw me for a loop – and send me right back into thinking the old disempowering thoughts about myself that get me to start eating without thinking:  “I’m not good enough,” “I was a terrible wife,” “Who would want me? I’m so selfish”.  Before I knew it, I re-gained the 8 pounds I’d lost!

“A Course in Weight Loss” addresses these very issues of how we disempower ourselves, how we hate how we look, how we feel about ourselves when we don’t feel good about ourselves.  Bottom line?  Marianne’s book was exactly what I needed to appear in my life!

This is a book that is definitely a “course” – a step-by-step approach to – a diet?  NO!  The approach is to assist us in being willing to take on that which, as “A Course in Miracles” says, is our only problem – we think we are separate from God.  It is a step-by-step approach to have us remember Who we are: a beautiful, perfect child of God — and, as such, everything we need is right here already.  We need only remember Who we are.

Marianne’s instructions are graceful and loving:  to build an altar to ourselves and that which we know to be the Divine within us.  Then, Marianne  guides us:  to enhance our altars as a symbol of being in touch with our own spirit,   buying ONE piece of carefully and lovingly chosen piece of fruit to put on the altar,  to write  letters to the self we are leaving behind so as to transform to the Self we are becoming, and to become aware of those triggers that send us right back into our pain.  It is nothing less than a spiritual journey into our own hearts and minds to find the Real Self, the thin and whole spiritual Self that has been there all along.

Marianne doesn’t hold back, that’s for sure.  There is one chapter called, “Exit the Alone Zone” that I am positive she wrote just for ME! I spend a lot of time alone – I work alone in my home office every day – and I always feel a bit lonely about that.  This book made me realize that I – or the ego part of me – orchestrated that”alone-ness”  in order to keep me separate from others – as separate as I sometimes feel when I forget my spiritual path, when I forget that “alone” is an illusion that I have created.

Well, now it’s time to create something new!

There are beautiful prayers at the end of each chapter that  moved me to tears, each one inviting God in to heal us, to heal our un-healed wounds – as only He can do.

I finished reading the book through once, and now I have started it again, beginning with my altar in my window: a beautiful Buddha and a flower and a picture of a laughing Christ.  As “A Course in Miracles” resonated for me as my spiritual path, Marianne’s “Course in Weight Loss” is resonating for me as the path to healing all my wounds, not only weight, but money, relationship, and career.  That is a plan that I am joyfully taking on!

I want to end with one of Marianne’s beautiful prayers – the prayer that is at the end of Lesson 15, “Exit the Alone Zone.”  To me, this is the essence of so much of this wonderful book:

“Dear God, Please melt the walls that separate me from others, imprisoning me within myself.

Please heal my wounded places and free my heart to love.

Help me connect to others that I might isolate no more.

I know, dear God, that when I am alone, I fear;

and when I fear, I self-destruct.

What I suffer now and have suffered before,

dear God, may I suffer no more.

Amen”

And, to that, my own  “Hallelujah!”

Deliciously yours in the Sacred Self that we all are,  Linda

This is Marianne Williamson, a New York Times best-selling author several times over.  Her book, “A Return to Love” is a spiritual classic and widely considered by many to be the cliff notes to ‘A Course in Miracles'”.  Marianne is an internationally known speaker and teacher.  You can visit her site:  www.marianne.com to see where she is speaking in your area.

Here is the link to Hay House publishing where you can purchase Marianne’s book:

<a title="Hay House Link to Marianne's Book" href="“><a href=”http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/click?id=JZjyJRjtyzs&offerid=206928.10000509&type=2&subid=0″><IMG border=0 src=”http://affiliate.hayhouse.com/IndivProd/978-1-4019-2152-1.gif&#8221; ></a><IMG border=0 width=1 height=1 src=”http://ad.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/show?id=JZjyJRjtyzs&bids=206928.10000509&type=2&subid=0&#8243; >

Disclosure:  I received Marianne Williamson’s book, “A Course in Weight Loss:  21 Spiritual Lessons For Surrendering Your Weight Forever” for free from Hay House Publishing.

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

It is the two year anniversary of this blog.  I started it for Valentine’s Day in 2009 – and it has been a source of love and fulfillment for me every day since then.

I created this blog out of a course at Landmark Education called Power and Contribution.  It is my way to get my love out there into the world.   I am always grateful that you read it, that you email me to tell me how a story reminds you of something or someone in your life, that you comment on the difference it makes for you.  I am grateful to all of you!

Instead of a story, I’ve created a Valentine’s Day tribute – to you, to the full self-expression that is available to all of us, and, as an expression of my love:

1.               My son, Josh, has given me a special Valentine – one I cannot tell anyone about yet.  For me, that is VERY hard, but my friend, Jennifer Watt, helped me to think of this in a new way.  It is my “Secret Valentine,” the “yum, yum, yum, yummy” of my heart – like good chocolate, I can savor it, letting it melt slowly on my tongue, closing my eyes and enjoying the moment of it, the taste of it, the way it makes my heart glow in warmth and love.  There’s no one like Josh to me, so this Valentine is just the ultimate, the mountain-top, the Oscar of Valentines.  I am savoring every moment!

2.               Yesterday, I went to a chocolate tasting event given by my friend, Shana Dressler, to benefit her organization, The Global Cocoa Project.   I always held it before that I was a chocoholic, the word having an addictive connotation, like I have no control over it.  At the event, I met Clay Gordon and bought his book, “Discover Chocolate.”  While in conversation with him, he distinguished for me that I am not a chocoholic, I am a “chocophile”, a lover of good chocolate, a seeker for that which is sweet and beautiful and yummy in this life.  Thank you, Clay, for that distinction about myself – it is so empowering!  And, so very Who I Am, not just about chocolate, but about Life, about Love.  I’m a Love-o-phile!

3.               I am blessed to have the people around me that I do.  The special men in my life — all of them, my heroes:  My aforementioned totally lovable and loving son, Josh Feuer, who has been the source of Joy in my world; my incredibly supportive and amazing former husband, Fred Feuer, who has been my anchor and my rock through many a storm; my wonderful brother, Ralph Ruocco, who has distinguished “family” for me in a way that I’ve not seen before – and who is an example for me of everything that is giving and kind in this world; my coach, Tony Woodroffe, who opens the world up for me every time I have a session with him; my too-many-to-name dear friends and family – you are all a part of me; and, my dear readers, you have allowed me to become the writer that I’ve always dreamed I’d be — the one I’ve kept hidden inside all these years.  I am grateful for,  and to,  all of you!

I am declaring this year to be a turning point for me, for my writing, for my life, and a deepening of my love for you!  I will continue to write stories, and will add commentary, more reviews – of books, places,  and experiences.  I will also keep you posted on the memoir I am writing, currently titled, “The Beggar Laughed,” which begins when I volunteered at the armory with the victims’ families after 9/11 and ends with a revelatory experience at the Taj Mahal two years later.   The message is..  Well, that’s for you to read in the book…

Yum, Yum, Yum, Yummy…!   That is my mantra for the delicious life that I intend for me and for you this year!

Every day is Valentine’s Day…!

Deliciously yours in the Juicy-ness of it All, Linda

Follow me on Twitter @Linda_Ruocco

Visit The Global Cocoa Project at www.globalcocoaproject.org and see how you can make a difference for the cocoa farmers in the world.

Picture by Seneca Klassen on http://www.chocophile.com.

Visit Clay Gordon at www.chocophile.com (also accessed at www.thechocolatelife.com) and learn everything there is to know about fine chocolate!

Visit www.c-spot.com, the search spot for all things chocolate.

Visit www.lawofchocolate.com to find my friend, Sandra Champlain’s, CD of the same name.

Visit my amazing life coach, Tony Woodroffe, at www.twlifecoach.com!

And, last, – but not least, here is the link for www.landmarkeducation.com, a company that has an already-always listening for mine and everyone else’s Greatness that causes me to be that Greatness – and, I mean, no kidding!

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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