What’s In A “Friend”?

Happy Friday, All!
Once again, I’m in it … this thing called “life in the present”!  I think a cool T.G.I.F. might be appropriate here!
I woke up early for this one because I want to put an “issue” that is very important to me to rest.  In fact, there are two issues.  The first one, as one of my dual mottos for EE is – “Know Thyself”.  The second is – spiritual people don’t have to be your “whipping board”!  Cool?  I am listening to howling monkeys, roosters, and a variety of birds of all sizes here in the Caribbean right now as I write this.  I NEVER thought that I would be here at this time in my life.  Thank you, “universe”.  Om shanti …
It’s been a decent week for me … looking at my second yoga class this week!  I am taking All of these vitamin supplements from “Ortiga Mayor” (Stinging Nettle) and collagen (like 6 tablets a day) and I am still taking at least one prescription (diclofenac) anti-inflammatory combined with a pain reliever as well as an alternate dose of CBD/thc when I go out, do yoga or when I need to sleep.  I never thought I would be smart enough to be my own doctor either!  Thus, “know thyself” is important here, too.
Are you the kind of person that would be a good “friend” to someone?  Would “you” choose YOU to be your best friend?  In that case, “you” must be a good person with positive vibrations and values.  To be a good friend, you would have to “know yourself” and speak up when offended.  My father drilled this into my head in his own way.  He taught me to work hard and be very proud of my hard work.  He taught me to get along with ALL people but allow NO ONE to “walk all over you”, as was the expression in our household when someone had been disrespectful to one of the other family members.  This is where children learn important values from their parents and both of my parents were involved in instilling those “oh so important” values in us so we could live a quality life.
This last incident with the “American guy” who decided that “you (I) are giving the black culture the niger name” … as I quote again … I had to look at my notes because I have never heard anything so ridiculous as that in all MY life … is going to close … I hope!  There was an event of a good friend that I was fortunate enough to meet here in Puerto Viejo who is “indigenous”, well educated, well respected in the community, tri-lingual and a hard worker who does a lot of work at Casa Amma alongside an American woman from California.  His name is Leo and it was his birthday.  Upon entering the gathering after getting out of a local taxi, I was met with a bunch of kind hellos as I spotted the “character” with his mother and step dad.  Amidst the warm hellos, I heard: “Hey John, we’re all friends here!”  I think fast, sometimes too fast and incorrectly, but I know what his step dad was after.  I continued past the “character” not speaking nor acknowledging his presence (do I owe him or anyone else something special, like a “walk all over me”?!?) and extended my hand to his step dad and mother as well as a host of others.  As I approached a group of people who offered me a seat, I replied: “Yeah, that’s all based on how you talk to people.”  I am hoping we are done …
Spiritual people DO talk back to you.  Spiritual people of this day and age do NOT have to let “you” walk all over them.  Spiritual people just might use profanity to get their point across!  (That last one is a far stretch … yet it is me … and I want to be included in the spiritual group!)  Okay, hopefully you catch MY drift and “my” take on this subject.  I mean, don’t talk to me at ALL … UNLESS you anticipate that I just might respond.  That response might not be what you want … so … treat ME with much respect!  Treat each other with the same respect that we want.
Have a great Friday and a wonderful Holy Day Weekend!  Keep it real, you hear!?!

John I. Cook, Director


Let’s Do This Holy Day Season “UP”!

Happy Friday it is …  and a T.G.I.F. shout out to my Creator!
I hope all is well for each of you.  I am just glad that I can share these words with you!!
Did you “come up short” of your goals .. dreams … etcetera … this year?  Were they realistic ones, worth your time and energy, not just a carrot dangling in front of you to make you run faster?!?
Every year around this time, folks like me and you decide to make some goals commonly called “New Year’s Resolutions” or “tips for self improvement”.  Often times, due to the rat race and our overindulgence in “commercial things”, we NEGLECT OURSELVES!  I know, I know … right about now there is a chorus in the background singing, “Not mee … mee … mee … meeeee!”  Well, all that neglect stuff is out the window for me.  I only have so much time left … so I am going to maximize my experiences.  I am not sure what the “next step” is on this journey, but I want to be as prepared as possible and to have gotten all I can from the current experiences.
When I taught high school in White Plains, the Holy Day Season was a time of tremendous emotional “changes”.  Some folks were very happy and excited … while on the other hand, some folks were desperate and feeling lost.  Shucks, I remember one year on Christmas Day … I had to move!  There were no options … so … I think I spent the day in my car on Ft. Lauderdale Beach!  Shortly after I had informed a few of my friends of my situation, they came through to “help a brother out”.  After the Holy Days, I am planning to visit some of those very same folks.
I am fortunate to have struggled through some tough times on my own so I know how deep you have to dig for that “self love” when nobody else can be there for you.  This is where spiritual strength and conditioning come into existence.  It is this time of year when people “fall apart” out of jealously, envy or pure greed.  Back in boarding school in New Hampshire, circa 1970’s, we used an expression for things that we wanted to do well.  It was: “Let’s do this up!”  It was our motivation to, say for example, request a Third World Center for the “minority students” that attended this prestigious boarding school.  After all, we came to “diversify” things so .. it was only reasonable for the administration to help us “feel at home”.  I was the co-chairperson of the Third World Coalition which served to represent the needs of the newly accepted “minority students” who were invited to make St. Paul’s School a little more like “the real world” …  I think that they did a good job for us.  Besides, I am still here some 50 years later with “fond memories” of my boarding school days.
So, if you catch my drift, keep an eye out for each other during these days.  Some folks need “our love” … don’t be cheap.  It’s free to say a kind word or give a warm look and a smile to someone.  As the expression goes, “You never know what someone is going through …”  And in these times when humans focus more on “separation” of each other by religion, customs, appearance, etcetera, may we focus on “unity, harmony, respect, peace … and love” … ALL are FREE to give.  So let’s do this holy day season up right!
In the meantime, have a great weekend!

John I. Cook, Director

“Make My Day!” with Peace and Love …

Happy Friday, yeahhh!
Join me, if you will with a fervent “T.G.I.F.”!  It’s been a great week and I am happy because it’s the weekend.  I have a friend who is having a birthday gathering perhaps Sunday and, a new neighbor for a few weeks is traveling to meet her partner in San Jose  to rent a car and they will drive down the Caribbean coast.  Eventually, I would like to do something like that minus the driving part … visit the coast to Panama and maybe Nicaragua.  I hear there are some nice beaches though both countries are poverty stricken and struggling … much like Costa Rica!!  It’s the “naturaleza” that people come here for most.
I was amused by a comment I got from my boarding school basketball coach and athletic director, Coach Blake.  He responded to my last e-mail, “John, you have some interesting ideas in your e-mails.”  He also wished me Happy Holidays starting with Thanksgiving through New Year’s Celebrations.  We have always had a great relationship and believe it or not, I am ecstatic to still be in contact with him.  He’s back up in New Hampshire though we did meet up once when he and Mrs. B., rest her soul, lived in New Smyrna, FL and met me halfway from Ft. Lauderdale.  So, I can imagine some of you may wonder about some of my thoughts, too.  Most come purely from observation, cause and effect relations … and experience.  Yet, I try NOT to generalize behavior, but categorize it, maybe … label it so it is “recognizable” the next time.
Life is still beautiful as I keep my focus on why I am retired here and how I can best maintain a decent “quality of life”.  So, I started taking collagen … it is purportedly the main ingredient in cartilage.  According to some of my reading, the psoas muscle can be effected if the disc in either hip joint is degenerated or impaired.  In addition, sciatica can occur as a result of this “degeneration”.  So, my plan … with collagen, a couple of yoga classes (at least one!) per week and a monthly massage like I have scheduled for this morning, regular meditation and some exercises to increase the strength of the psoas muscles, my “plate is full”!  If I do this right, I WON’T have time for any drama in my life.  Who knows, I may be able to heal my hips, decrease sciatica, stimulate and regenerate growth of cartilage and strengthen my psoas muscles!
Over the years, I have learned to live peacefully even with “not so peaceful” people.  It is no problem for me to be “criticized” because that lets me know that “I am doing something right!”  I remember that it is still true for some people to NOT want to see you succeed and heal and be “at peace with the universe”.  How dare I do such a thing when folks are “crumbling” all around me, so to speak.  I enjoy my lifestyle here in Puerto Viejo because I can take care of myself, even living on the third floor of a large Caribbean style house with six “families”/individuals living inside.  It is so “cool” here because there is one little “Tico” boy … maybe 6 or 7, who rides this big bike up and down the street where the Jacaranda Hotel and Jungle Garden is located.  Upon seeing me, he rides close and makes eye contact … then says, “Hey Tio”!  (Hello Uncle!)  The first few times he did this, I was a bit surprised … trying to figure out “what he wanted”.  But he continued “making my days” and asking for NOTHING.  Now THIS is what I am talking about … “make my day with peace and love”.  Respect is another big word used a lot around here in just a general greeting.  Overall, one can feel the tranquility and ease with which humble and sometimes “poor” people enjoy the “Pura Vida” life style.
Shucks, I even met this Jamaican guy named “Ras Celeste”.  He saw me walking with my cane a few times until finally he approached me.  He said that he makes a tea from natural herbs grown in Jamaica that may help me.  The tea contains “chaney root”, “strong back”, cerasee, medina, white and red water grass … and “jack of bitters” ….  This is some strong stuff that he made and stored in a plastic liter Pepsi bottle for me!  I told him that I would try it first, and, after today I will pay him like $20 for the bottle.  I probably won’t buy more from him because I am taking and doing enough already … I’m just saying!
Once again, another year is coming to an end.  The “Holy Day” Season is upon us.  At some point, I need to swing by Florida for a minute to pick up my mail from the business mailbox there … say hello and chill with a few of my good friends from Ft. Lauderdale.  Have a great day, a wonderful weekend and let’s welcome the close of yet another year in our lives together!

John I. Cook, Director

“Slow Your Roll” … The Universe is in Charge!

Happy Friday, I am grateful to proclaim!  If you like, join me in thanking our Creator for another opportunity to get this thing right! So … uh … T.G.I.F.!
Well, I am going on a year living in Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica now, officially December 25th.  I have seen and heard some things that you wouldn’t believe.  It’s all cool.  People are going through their changes, everybody on a “mission”, including me.  A few weeks ago, an apparent “deal” of some sort went “bad”, the “bad guy” was here in “Puerto” as we call it for short, got caught up and shot … yes and died!  Another “incident” occurred where several stores/restaurants owed back rent to a guy … who has been incarcerated for a few years.  Yet, he owns the property where this very popular “fish joint” was as well as a bicycle shop and yet another “high end” fish joint.  The people refused to pay the two years of rent to his mother!  Rumor had it that they were trying to “bully” or “take” the venues from the mother rather than pay their rent!  The Police came out armed one evening and shut them all down, forcing them to put their chairs, cooking materials, etcetera, into the street!  So, while there is an opportunity to be peaceful, there are just as many opportunities to create “drama”.
A little update on the last message from me and EE, yes I know that we are one and the same: I met the guy who I had paid back the $10.00 to as well as his nephew.  They are from Western Canada.  The favorite nephew of this guy who has a decent “retirement” income but simply drank too much came to Puerto Viejo to make sure “Uncle Al” was okay and safe from a multiplicity of “scam artists” who appear when it is clear that someone is “not clear” on what they are doing … aka drunk!  “Big Al” as I liked to call him was a frequent target, I had heard, since his favorite watering hole was on one of the main streets in the center of town.  I told them what had happened and that I had paid “Al” back … and they both were cool and agreed not to quibble over $10.00.  The guy who had been messaging me about “Al” is an … what else … an American …  where else do you learn hideous words to hurl at people when “you” are losing!!?
 Next, I noticed that some people here have a problem with “what I do”, volunteering to teach English and writing motivational (hopefully) pieces and blogging.  But more so, “they” have a problem … imagine that … with how many talents I have been able to develop in my life … like speaking Spanish and teaching both English and Spanish … and anything else!  As a person with a “sociological approach” to understanding the world and people, I look at the world as a “laboratory”.  I look at the variables, the folkways and mores, the goals and values and I am able to come to some “hypotheses” as to why people do certain things.  For example, I have deduced that “racism” is a mental illness and that the people who suffer from it have low self esteem and need to put someone else “down” in order to feel remotely human.  Believe it … or not!  If you can only imagine how many times I have seen, heard … darn near smelt a racist as “it” approached me!  My “racist radar” goes off and I become like I often was in “the States” keeping an eye over my shoulders and in the “flight or fight” mode to protect myself from the hostile behavior.  Long story short, me and the Canadian guys are cool and me and the American guy are “finished” as associates!  I damn sure didn’t come here for that racist “drama”.  The guy from the States even went as far as to tell me once that he meditates, which I doubt, though I have seen him volunteer for the “soup kitchen” as well as the activities surrounding “Casa Amma”.  I lived 64 years without “Casa Amma”, let me see if I can do another 40 or so without it!  I am cool!  I can meditate from my studio … he can enjoy the “limelight” of his “friends”.  I don’t need it …
Sometimes, us “humans” get so much into the “control mode” where we want to control others … but NOT OURSELVES!  Look at the “current creature” in the White House of the USA … he is freaking “out of control” …. and it’s scary!  So, I am planning to hang out here in Puerto Viejo, stay away from “stateside racists” and misfits and heal and love.  I am not in competition with ANYONE  … though some may feel the need to get into competition with me … and try to “put me down”!  So check yourself, let “the universe” do its job!  It was here before ALL of us and will be here when all we are is “dust in the wind”!
Peace be with you ALL,

John I. Cook, Director

“Watch The Birdie!”

Happy Friday, All!
And a wonderful uplifting T.G.I.F. to each and every one of you!   Take it to your Creator and give thanks!
Well, most of you “readers” know me from personal contacts along my journey while others have only met me through the internet and my blog and/or two books.  You probably know that I traveled Europe last year looking for an affordable place to retire and finish my third book.  I experienced some horrific times as well as more wonderful times.  I received and took advantage of an excellent education but also found that there is more to  life than that.  So, “Educational Excellence” became a spiritual organization with me as the sole proprietor to encourage people to embrace acquiring an excellent “spiritual education” as well.   The third book will focus on how I was able to “push through” some very challenging times in the USA and seek retirement abroad.  It is also about how I handled all the racism hurled at me as I tried to navigate my way through a system that once had my ancestors enslaved.
Yesterday, I had my second encounter with the “ignorance of racism” here in Puerto Viejo.  The first incident was one when a native “Tico” from Grecia, CR approached me with his hand extended and said, “Hey, my nigg-r!”  I asked him if he was talking to me and he said yes.  I asked him to NEVER talk to me again.  He didn’t and I haven’t seen him since he came back from an alcohol rehab with a cast on his right leg. He must have offended someone else who took it a lot more seriously than I did.  Some people don’t know about “karma” and it has nothing to do with “anyone getting back at you”.  The second one was yesterday when a person decided that they wanted to get involved in my business of ‘NOT SPEAKING’ nor socializing with someone who had questioned my integrity over $10.00, which I borrowed and paid back in a few days.  When I gave the person I had borrowed the $10.00 back, which I needed at the time, he was drunk and didn’t remember.  So, one of his “drinking buddies” who also was an associate of mine decided that he wanted to “take the side of the drunk” and questioned my integrity as well.  I thought that rare.  I just distanced myself from “the drunk” who is not a local and continued on my path.  This “former friend” continued to “give me updates” about this “drunk” and telling me that he “hopes I have a witness” that I paid him back!  I am like, “Wt@”!  I started distancing myself from him, too.
Unfortunately, he thought he was dealing with a fool.  How could that be?  He wrote me several messages telling me the “drunk” had fallen and has diabetes and needs to stop drinking.  I asked him why he kept telling me about this guy who I had no interest in speaking about or to.  This “friend” and his meddling self was seeking a way to “judge me” but I didn’t know why, though I had an idea.  This wasn’t MY first rodeo with a racist.  So, I told him in my street savvy manner, “I don’t give a fu-k about him!”  The former friend continued in another long message, “Oh from your vulgar words, you must be guilty!”  So, I wrote back, “Guilty of what?  Not giving a fu-k?!  Now that’s correct!”  I thought the conversation was over but I knew he wanted to “say” something else.  He did … “Your really giving the black culture the niger name.”  The fool can’t even spell the word and wants to use it!  This character wouldn’t stop writing me messages, as he had often done before well into the night and early in the morning.  I tried to be his “friend”.  But, he doesn’t know nor respect who or what I represent, which is peace and harmony amongst ALL people.  I told him that I would post his remarks on Facebook and he dared me to, citing that “everybody loves me (him), cept you (me)”!  I told him in some more vulgar terms what he could do and what I thought he was …
He wrote some other ignorant crap to me telling me that if I “posted” what he said and we had discussed, I would make myself look bad!!  So, here it is!  How do I look?!?  Feel free to reply.  “Watch the birdie!”  “Gotcha!”
I continue to seek love and peace and work on my third manuscript.  I continue to heal amidst the challenges, minding my business and staying to myself!  My Creator knows who I am!

John I. Cook, Director

Amplify THIS!

Happy Friday, All!
Doing it every chance I get to say “Thank You!” and keep an attitude of gratitude for whatever goes down! So … T.G.I.F.!
I had a great week, especially Wednesday.  Yet, on Monday, I went to Limon to the “Migracion” office there and turned in some more of my paper work for residency here in Costa Rica.  It was fairly simple going to the office since I had been there before.  Even the bus ride there was fun, not to mention the hour I waited in a “musical chairs” set up in the bank to get to the window for “preferential treatment” ie. elderly, disabled, women with children or pregnant, etc.  Limon is an old port city and it shows on every window in every building near the Port of Limon, too.  Now, I didn’t visit the whole city but I did go in on the Mepe Public bus to the station there and chowed down on a “paty” and ginger ale so I would have something in my stomach while I trekked across Limon in the hot sun.  I also found a place inside a “nameless” mall which was inside a “nameless” storefront and got my ten year old “Fossil” watch band reconnected!
Wednesday morning at 3:00am, I woke up to meditate.  I was feeling all “stuffed and full” of something.  It was gas, so the first 20 minutes were spent energizing (blessing) my first 3 chakras and expelling the gas!  TMI?!?  Just sharing.  So around 3:30am, I went into the transcendental state and focused on my hip joints.  I go as far as to perceive energy in the form of information or “electricity”, since we are EACH surrounded by electromagnetic fields and some of us have stronger fields than others.  I often seek to enhance my own personal electromagnetic filed to keep out “dis-ease” in whatever form it may come in, be it germs or hostile comments or environments.  An hour went by and I was relaxed and had done a few closing mantras.  Later that morning at 9am, we had yoga class, which is just downstairs in Jacaranda Hotel and Jungle Garden where I am residing.  It was a fantastic class for me as I focused on extending the range of motion in my hips and working on my upper body form in planks and various “dogs” as well as the cobra.  I now understand, through the help of the instructor/massage therapist, “Molly”, that my back is also an integral part of this healing I am seeking, not to mention the sacrum!  A fine time was had by all that day.  After class, I went to the beach where there were many friends serving the free lunch provided for the town folks by “Casa Amma”. We all ended up at the swimming area in front of Puerta Pirata and I decided to go in after a “lay off” of nearly 3 months!  I had a fine time with my friends, Leo Bravo Flores and his grandson Jayckol, Barry and Nancy Stevens, David Knight, “Erik” and more.
So, what am I talking about?!?  Here it goes.  In our world today, so much negativity and competition is emphasized.  People seek “control” over one another, NOT harmony with each other.  There is always a constant battle of “bouncing egos” everywhere one goes, especially in the States.  Many “Americans” have never seen another country and don’t know any other languages while the rest of the world is seeking to learn English!!  Americans (USA) have become so egocentric to the point it is thought that the country is the model for all others ….  All we hear about is the glamour of Hollywood, the hustle and bustle of major cities, the crime and craziness and how much money is being generated for major corporations.  Well, I just want to AMPLIFY THIS – friendship and love, comradery and sharing, smiling and hugging each other.  In places like the USA, “family” seems important at times until one decides to betray the very same family that provided for their “survival” in this cruel world …  The media often “amplifies” negativity and hatred, separation and competition, non-stop work and consumerism.  These are amongst the main reasons for the multiple shootings and horrific acts of cowardice against innocent victims.  “They” amplify the destructive things.
In closing, please enjoy your day and seek harmony with each other … one person at a time!  Some of “us” will survive the “destruction” …

John I. Cook, Director


Happy Friday, All!
You can join me if you like ’cause you already know how I roll … “T.G.I.F.”!
As I look around the landscape of my own mind from time to time, especially during a meditation or what we use to call “day dreaming”, I notice patterns … colors and shapes of different sizes.  Yes, they are kind of floating in the quantum field of darkness.  Some times that darkness is blue.  Other times it goes between black and blue.  On a few occasions when I think I had reached a certain level or frequency of “energy”, if you will, there appeared to be bright flashes of white lights with blue often in the midst of the flashes.  Yet, in the overall “picture”, I see harmony.  No crashes nor collisions, nothing stops but everything remains very fluid … moving incessantly.  I would dare to state that everything is moving in harmony; yet, all the things one envisions are NOT the same.  Perhaps, like the humans on the planet Earth!
I continue to look for ways to maintain a good quality of life.  It’s funny because many people dare to “diagnose” you as the woman did where I first lived in Puerto Viejo.  Others seek to make their own progress reports on YOUR healing … without being asked.  That’s okay.  It is in moments like this where I remember one of “Big Ike’s” favorite lessons:  “Don’t waste your precious time trying to tear other people down.  Use that time instead, son, to build YOURSELF up.  Decent people can see the difference!”  I have done this a lot since my first years at St. Paul’s when I had complained to my parents about a few apparently racist remarks from some of my fellow students there.  That lesson from my Dad, who was not even a high school graduate, helped propel me beyond some of the nonsense I encountered right through my years at Princeton and into my professional career as a teacher.  I am pretty much the same today, though I have also learned to give a tongue lashing, if necessary, to any foolish unsuspecting soul who tries to “put me down”.  I also learn, as a result, to behave the way I should!
While I don’t really celebrate Halloween, I did go out to a place here that relocated from just outside of town to directly in the middle of town called “The Point”.  I had a great time just sitting and listening to a new friend and his band playing some serious Caribbean style music.  The bass player had a one string bass on a wooden stick placed into a square shaped wooden box!  Hey, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of these, not to mention if you’ve ever seen one played!  It is a sight to see, as the bass player’s whole body is involved in making that ONE string sing!  While there, the wife of this new friend informed me of some “medical procedures” she had received recently to aid in reducing discomfort in her hips.  It is a type of treatment where one takes plasma from the patient’s body and injects it into the hips,  as in my case and in hers.  There is another treatment at this same “holistic” doctor’s office where they are actually perfecting “transplanting” stem cells to areas of a patient’s body where newly generated cells are needed.  I’ll simply say that “Pamela” danced ALL night … I sat and watched though I got up before I left to chat with a few friends and “saunter” around a bit, if you catch my drift!
Well, I am going to stay with a schedule where I do yoga one day a week and seek to get a massage once a month.  This past Tuesday after I saw one of the guys practicing his shots for “Wednesday Afternoon Basketball by the Beach”, I went out there with him.  I got a few rebounds for him and passed the ball out so he could take another shot.  I hadn’t been on a basketball court in over two years since at those in LA Fitness of Ft. Lauderdale.  One thing I am learning to do more and more in my self healing is seeking that “harmony” that I observe in my meditations.  I encourage my body to seek that same harmony with all of its parts.  Who knows, maybe us “humans” can learn to live in a “unified” field here in harmony in this dimension (and perhaps others) of space!
Enjoy your November, as Autumn sets in in many places on the Planet.  Treat each other well and notice the difference in YOUR own state of well being!

John I. Cook, Director

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