Toward an Understanding of “Transformation”

From Commentaries On…A COURSE IN MIRACLES, Tara Singh, ©1986 Life Action Press, pp. 211-212.

“The daily [A COURSE IN MIRACLES] lesson imparts something new and unknown to the computer brain. Like all things physical, the body and brain are subject to evolution. But the spirit is not. At the level of spirit, we work with the faculty of the mind [a distinction is made between mind and brain—the latter sometimes termed brain-mind], which is not physical, but rather, pure and perfect.

[In Advaita Vedanta an important distinction is made between Awareness and Consciousness. Consciousness—the irreducible sense "I am" with the physical mind/brain-mind as the aggregate of added/conditioned conscious phenominalogical impressions, in all their permutations as stored facts, memories, concepts, opinions and prejudices, both conscious and unconscious—versus Awareness, the pure infinite ineffable ground...Truth. So what is Truth? The non-dualists say it can't be told; it's what is, after all falsehood is taken away. And how to remove all falsehood—if you are want to inquire...Don't give it another thought. Be yourself here now in the present moment. All is forgiven.]

“Since each minute the body cells change and renew themselves, what is it that prevents the transformation of self? We are continually conditioning the new cells with the prejudices and fears born out of separation [from Source]. Thus we keep the old alive and prevent the renewal in ourselves as well as in the next generation. Henry David Thoreau said that whatever we call progress is but improved means to unimproved ends. And so, fear remains fear, ambition remains ambition and insecurity remains insecurity from one generation to the next. These have changed names and forms in the external but little improvement has been made.

“There are only two emotions: love and fear. There is nothing in-between. It is not a matter of degrees. Saying we are becoming less ambitious is part of the illusion because the gradual process boosts our temperament and we remain quite satisfied. We are either ambitious or we are not.

“This decision [to orient toward Truth] is made at the level which is independent of evolution and conditioning. Therefore, once again you come to, [acknowledging/embracing the daily lesson] The power of decision is my own…then the new cells will remain new because you are not contaminating them further. This is called transformation.

“But what good would it do having all this as information or even being able to speak eloquently about it? Relative knowledge has no meaning — except to be commercialized or to deceive people. Having first deceived yourself, then what you share would be forever loveless. Therefore, you have to drug yourself with the belief that you are helping another. See how the lie becomes the truth.

“In reality you extend what you are regardless of what you plan. If you are miserable, you extend misery. If you are joyous, you extend joy. Can you see the simplicity of this? We plan when we do not have the resources within. Generally, helping another is something we plan ahead of time and when we want to implement it. We project the illusion of ideals and these we seek to fulfill. But there is a state where an extending takes place which has no ideals at all. It just is [Truth].”

The central and ultimate lesson in A COURSE IN MIRACLES is stated as…

What’s real can’t be threatened.
What’s unreal, doesn’t exit.
Herein lies the peace of God.


Elvis and Me



I had an Elvis “sighting.” Nearly turned into a “Slighting.”

Some background. The prime time television special “Singer Presents Elvis” was programmed in late 1968 to a record audience. This was Mr. Presley’s first public appearance since 1961 and considered to be his comeback show.

That was just one of the many prime time television specials the Singer Consumer Products Division, under the direction of Alfred di Scipio, executive produced and sponsored. Singer Presents…Tony Bennett…Burt Bacharach…Patsy Kline...The Wizard of Oz. You probably know — even some will recall — that time was when a lot of television programming was directly produced by sponsoring companies; think, soap operas. Later on, companies would underwrite special productions (Hallmark, Mobil, IBM). And now, programs are almost all produced by independent production companies with the commercial time sold by the programmers.

Singer would probably have backed an Ella Fitzgerald special. I was with Al’s entourage at a night club where Ella Fitzgerald was performing. He spoke with her privately after the show. Alas, nothing came of it further to television. I got to be part of that scene after attending the December 31, 1969 New Year’s Eve Tonight Show with Johnny Carson at 30 Rock. 

My reason for being there was to be sure that upon arrival at the ground floor entrance to the NBC studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, Mr. di Scipio and his party would be seamlessly wisked up by elevator to the stage floor and seated. Any hitch and it would be my very life. That night Singer had all the network commercial spots for its advertisements. A big promotional deal, for sure. They had already been a regular weekly advertiser on the Tonight Show; that was during the time when Ed McMahon would do the commercials live. I once attended a rehearsal for one of those spots. Ed seemed to be a bit of a prima donna; only just one quick read and only a special ad agency copywriter to deal directly with the talent. Egg shells everywhere. Careers on the line.

I promise you I will get to the Elvis “thing” very soon. But, you must be wondering how come I came to be part of those goings on. In 1968, the year of its 100th Anniversary, I joined the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York City. My very first assignment as account executive was to the Singer account. In that role I was also involved with all the advertising that was produced and placed to promote the TV specials.

So, in the fall of 1968 the big push was to get the Singer Presents Elvis special ready with a big audience for its December 3, 1968 air date. The agency art department was given a file of show photos to use in its tune in print ads. There was one photo which was selected which featured Elvis in his bad boy, black leather jacket and pants. Looking back on some of the footage of him in the show it is hard to get why the fuss from the parents of those screaming teen age girls. He is such a handsome, clean cut devil. (Same like with the Beatles … such nicely trimmed, if long, haircuts and angel faces.) I guess it was the “devil” that was there in the leathers that was all the concern.

Well, it turns out that there was something majorly wrong with the photo. I’m talking the kind of problem that, if not corrected, could leave even an Ad Biggie like my über-boss, Gene Secunda, out in front of Bloomies selling pencils. (Anyone remember that guy who was always at the southwest corner of Bloomindale’s on the Lexington Avenue side selling No.2 yellow leads? Or, an even more obscure memory … that heavy set fellow seemingly always at the corner on 5th Avenue and 50th in front of Alfred Dunhill always in a long overcoat, fedora and earmuffs with a sandwich board with lengthy hand scribbled message decrying the injustice of his divorce. Who was he really? An undercover cop? An angel? Or, just some nut?) Here's his picture. His name is Harry Britton. Look him up.

OK, the photo. But, first, you have to get a feel for the sensitivity of things around all matters Elvis. He was a superstar already and, as such, commanded special handling. Then add in the Colonel Parker factor. Iron-fisted-manager. His reputation is a thing in itself, and is fully documented by many others should you choose to browse into that. My only taste of the Colonel’s temperament was hearing from my colleague, Ray Castner, after he came back from a trip to Las Vegas where he travelled to get the Colonel’s approval on a layout of an ad to promote the show. As one layout was being lifted out of the carrying case, it fell to the ground. Colonel Parker flatly said, “Leave it there.” A whole trip to LV from NYC just to have your work dismissed over a slight slip. There was another ad version and it was approved. But with also an indelible impression that Colonel Parker was not shy about letting you know who was BOSS. Mistakes would not be tolerated. The little people were dispensable.

So, finally, with that background, get this. It turns out that, in the photo being used in the ads to promote the show, there’s Elvis, all in black. He is turned with his right side to the camera, microphone in his right hand. He is standing in a dark background, the audience in low light. His left arm is obviously not visible from that viewpoint, but his relaxed hand can be seen just in front of his body, looking like some sort of long “thing” hanging out from his pants fly. You get the picture. Well, this would not do. At all. Ever!

That was not the least of the problem. Compounding the photo problem itself was the fact that the ads were already on press with the magazines. The most problematic was the two page, 4-color bleed, letterpress engraved version being printed into the November 28, 1968 edition of Life Magazine. As explained to me, there were four color plates with black in each. So every plate at the magazine print facility had to be “punched up” to blot out the offending section of the image. This was before computer technology in the printing process; the correction was all by hand, requiring the touch of a diamond cutter. Fortunately for all of us, the correction was made successfully. If not, the ad would have to be pulled. Muchollato dinero, señor. So it went unnoticed. No one to the wiser, as my mother would say about keeping mum to mistakes that were corrected so no one need be told.

I'm feeling the statute of limitations are off this little episode. So, if you can get your hands on a copy of that ad you can look carefully and see that in the area where the problem was corrected, there is a dark muddy looking patch; like not such a good retouch job. But it passed. 

Whew! Viva Las Vegas! Elvis, pray for me!

(Just where the 4 X 5 color chrome of that photograph is…don’t ask. But, it ain’t me, for sure!)

***Remembering my one other time at the Tonight Show in NYC sometime in around 1969-1970. My then fiancé and I were sharing a little private moment during the show, when this little old lady turns around and quite sternly shushes us. Well, what an honor! It was none other than Miss Miller herself!



Words and Phrases We Can Do Without From Now On…

“It is what it is”
This is one of those word clusters that seems to have an irrefutable meaning; after being spoken, it renders all further discussion closed. It presumes that it is understood and commonly agreed on what, in fact, is. That is the left out portion. Just what is it that is? And…says who?

If you are fond of using this sound bite as a form of praise whenever your child does just about anything, then you as a parent are probably an unintentional idiot. (And, conditioning your little precious to follow in your footsteps.) Enough has already been said about this toxic habit of raising children. If you don’t get it yet, and are open to some self-critical examination (no “yeah!” for your “yeah’s!”) search…”overly praising children.”

“Make a Difference” / “Making a Difference”
This falls in the under the unexamined embrace of the myth of progress, as in making the world a better place. Most of us would simply nod in assent that making a difference is something desirable to want to do. Upon examination, however, certain questions arise. What is progress? To what? From what? Says who! More deeply…Where are we going? From where? What for? Then if you can set yourself aside from the quotidian rush for a little while…Who am I, really? Or, more precisely, What am I? Having answered those questions (for the time constrained, simply do a search on “meaning of life.”) then come back to the notion of “making a difference.” If you then still want to make that difference, go ahead. God’s speed. It don’t make a difference, really. Do what you’re going to do. It is what it is. And whatever it is, yeah!

"At the end of the day"
People who toss this one out I believe do so to appear au courant and thoughtful. It is a mindless go to phrase for all the political pundits in the media. "After all is said and done" or "in the end" are two other  more complex expressions of the same idea. "At the end of the day" has a been of smart smugness, a phrase the anointed tend to use. Drop it, chief.

"That having been said . . . "

Usually followed with something exactly opposite, or different.

"Synergize", "Maximize", "Optimize"
When I was in advertising these were the words that peppered every marketing and advertising plan. I have heard and read my limit on those boosterish superlatives.

"Net, net"
After all is taken into account. We hear it less these days, but I once worked for a fellow in advertising who used it in virtually every fifth sentence, and I for one have had my fill.

We're wondering whether the folks who use that acronym are in fact really laughing out loud.

Some many things are "awesome" these days there is no room left for ordinary and regular. Isn't that an "awesome" idea?

"Amazing" "Fantastic" "Incredible"
And just about any other superlative word used to merely emphasize one likes something or somebody in ordinary conversation. The Hollywood promoters have been using hyper-superlatives for years. There's a place for this, but mostly it's used in the service of putting asses in seats = dollars in pockets. Isn't that a fantastic thing to know?


Gravity…You’ll Get There

Wait for It

Several years ago I changed careers. It was not some easy shift to the side, but a radical and completely wholesale change. Not like going from making cars to selling them. Or even, from scrubbing floors to selling flooring. Or, from selling brushes to painting. You get it, yes? More like, “and, now for something completely different,” as the Python’s used to say. It made it an even more exciting transition for me that my divorce was also in play at the time.

Toward the end of my twelve year career as an AdBiggie on MadAv—my soul almost completely co-opted to commerce—I woke up. There’s the classic advertising joke about a guy who dies and his contemporaries in the business are talking over drinks about his passing…”Oh, yah, so he died, did he? What did he have?” “Oh, Over-The-Counter from J&J and Business Travel from AA.” As the much beloved Bob Crandall, former President and Chairman of American Airlines would say to move the meeting on from some squashed idea…”Dumb! Done! Next?” I realized that a future in that business would come to an inauspicious end and, at best summed up with a quick toast from the boys at the end of the day at Sardi’s.

I have to get something clear before going on. The Ad Biz was not where my heart was. Continuing on any longer would have only guaranteed me a seamless transition straight to hell. Whether that is true for anyone else is not for me to say. I have my thoughts on that; but in these post-modern—dare I say, nihilistic—times, as my old friend Toby Needler used to say, “Everything is loosey goosey.” So don’t listen to that quaint old fashioned Pope Benedict XVI when he excoriates current trends saying, “We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one's own ego and one's own desires...” To each his own. Whatever, dude. (In Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980): the scene opens with Allen sitting on a stationary train. A ticking clock and a man openly weeping. The carriage is full of the most sober and miserable. He looks out of his window and sees that the train opposite is full of beautiful people, dressed in their best, having a party. One gorgeous woman (why, it’s Sharon Stone!) blows him a kiss. As his train departs, Allen struggles to get off; but, to no avail. He is trapped with the other depressed souls for the ride (of his life?). Then, at long last, both trains arrive at the end of the line simultaneously. At a garbage dump.***

If you are losing faith that this is going nowhere, well, you may be on to me. Drop out whenever. Whatever. But, are you so sure that nowhere is so bad? Consider.

But, for those still with me:

Part of my waking up experience was the simple recognition that I wasn’t taking such good care of myself—physically, mentally, or spiritually. For the immediate pinch (ouch!) I sought out a top Rolfer in NYC, Roshanna Evans. If I was awake before I started, well…the series of Rolfing sessions really opened my eyes. It was like landing on planet earth, literally. Half way through I got back up on my feet after the session and felt my consciousness gently drop down into my body. Like honey pouring off a spoon. It was like I had been living in some sort of thought bubble over and to the side of my head. There was a shift. Now everything lined up. The straightforward feeling of basic physicality. I danced with joy. Frisky monkey! Home!

As you should know by now Rolfing—or, better, Structural Integration (The “Rolfing” comes from the originator, Dr. Ida P. Rolf)—has to do with balancing the whole body along the line of gravity. It doesn’t sound like much, at first glance. But, the proof is in the pudding. Most of us live with only a rough approximation of true balance and (still!?) don’t seem to get that how the body stacks up structurally MAY have some effects on health and performance. You surely notice if that pricey painting on the wall is off kilter. Take a look in the mirror. Now go for Structural Integration. So it shouldn’t be a total loss. Do some good for a change! And, please, before “something” happens.

OK, so now I’ve seen the light. And, now what? As a marketing guy looking for something to get behind to make a living, Rolf Structural Integration had the most bang for the buck. I knew it in my bones. Time has taught me that bringing Structural Integration into the mainstream is not really a marketing proposition. Balance. Who’s not for that? But, doing something about it in one’s own life takes some doing. Alas, poor Yorick, there’s the rub.

I have become completely disillusioned to the notion that getting Structural Integration across is a function of le mot juste. Regardless of how obviously sensible something may be, acceptance of it isn’t a done deal on logical grounds alone. Look at the current political scene…one man’s garbage is another’s prune Danish. You say Potato. I say…off with your head! (Completely off the point…Oh, where can you get a really good Danish, anyway?)

And when it comes to Structural Integration, we are not talking some simple fashion change. When your body gets balanced, that’s permanent. I once discussed Structural Integration with his nibs, Garrison Keillor. He wouldn’t get into it because he said he was concerned that he “wouldn’t be funny” [any more]. Well, Mr. K…as if. He explained that he knew too many laid back, do nothing California types who lost their drive after doing all that “working on yourself” stuff. He had a point. As I got it, he was saying that he was capitalizing on his eccentricity. Like the folks in Pisa, Italia. “Don’t you dare straighten that thing. It’s a money maker the way it is.” To put a point on it, Mr.Garrison Keillor, if you had the benefit of Structural Integration, did you ever think you might be funnier. Hah!

Now here is where I am tempted to get into an extended riff to sell you on bringing a good dose of plain old basic structural balance into your life. Forget it. I trust you’ll do the right thing, regardless of what that may be and especially regardless of what I may think. But, remember, everyone has the right to their own opinion; no one has the right to be ignorant of the truth. Verbum Sap Sat. Consult the nearest mirror. As Mr. Jackson said:

I'm Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I'm Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change

*** For all you nihilists out there...

Rolfing New Jersey
Rolfer New Jersey
Structural Integration New Jersey
Rolfing Montclair, New Jersey
Rolfer Montclair, New Jersey
Structural Integration Montclair, New Jersey

“Well, my daddy, he didn`t leave me much, you know he was a very simple man, but what he did tell me was this, he did say, ‘Son,’ he said, ‘you know it`s possible to become so defiled in this world that your own father and mother will abandon you, and if that happens, God will always believe in your ability to mend your ways.’“
Bob Dylan…from his acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys in 1991

Hey hey hey the end is near
On a good day you can see the end from here
But I won't turn back now though the way is clear
I will stay for the remainder

I saw a life and I called it mine
I saw it drawn so sweet and fine
And I had begun to fill in all the lines
Right down to what we'd name her

Our nature does not change by will
In the Winter 'round the ruined mill
The creek is lying flat and still
It is water though it's frozen

So, across the years and miles and through
On a good day you can feel my love for you
Will you leave me be so that we can stay true
To the path that you have chosen?