Just In Case You Want to Know . . .

Be yourself


Happy Friday, y’all … shucks!!
You knew it was coming sooner or later . . . so . . T.G.I.F.!!
Part of my program’s philosophy, if you haven’t realized or even care to know, is that I try to “keep it simple” … my life that is … by staying humble.  Now, don’t confuse humility with weakness because it is a true art of balancing two ideas, concepts or notions – humility with strength that many folks lack or are unaware of.  One gets to know oneself more so you can learn your own “thresholds” for … “whatever” comes up in life rather than surprise oneself by making a mistake for THEMSELVES due to some spontaneous or ignorant decision or statement!  It’s happened to me a few times and I learned how to better manage my behavior – actions as opposed to “re-actions”!  Those darn “reactions” can be “scary”, if y’all know what I mean.  I don’t like to live with having done something really ridiculous and NOT learned from it … learned something VERY important, in fact!  I mean, I do all this because I really care for myself, so I can be a “product member of society” or a “good citizen”.  It could be a “cool alien” for me, as far as I am concerned.  I embrace the fact that I am “just passing through”, which gives more meaning to my life each day.
I can only thank each of you again for reading these pieces on the blog and these e-mails.  Taking my humble moment to say if you would like to be removed from the list, feel free to send me an e-mail with “STOP” in subject and content.  That’s just me being me.  Hey, I wanted to share this last thing as the weekend appears with a full moon in a few days.  I was watching a special on Muhammad Ali on WLRN last night called “Ali in Miami”.  It was an interesting history even trying to depict his feud with Malcolm X.  I really admired both of them as a youngster but was pretty naive at the time about what was really going on “behind the scenes” in the Nation of Islam.  I  just know I wanted to “Be Black and Proud”!  They both represented role models for me because they sought self improvement … I wasn’t so aware of the division.  Still, out of it comes one of my favorite quotes under my yearbook picture when I graduated from St. Paul’s of me shooting a layup.  The caption was: ” … float like a butterfly, sting like a bee …”!  To me, that’s that balance of humility and strength.  Some people may never understand “you” and your intentions and beliefs.  Still other folk may not even understand themselves ….  That’s why I just keep it simple and focus on myself … being the best that I can be rather than always judging someone.  When I need to to save my life or someone else’s life, I judge the situation and determine how to handle it as best as I can, too!   Of course, communications and peace are my method and goal, respectively.
So whether you’re with me or not is cool.  At least you know where I am coming from … just in case you care to know!

John I. Cook, Director


“Makes Me Wanna Holler . . . Throw Up BOTH My Hands!!”

makes wanna holler


Happy Hump Day … Yeahhhhh!
The week is already half over!!!  It’s all because of the three day weekend of Memorial Day, y’all.  I hope none of you took the celebration for granted.  I mean, we are supposed to have fun … honor those who served our country.  A friend of mine from Princeton included an historical review of the beginnings of Memorial Day, which actually started after the Civil War ended.  It was quite an event, as decorations were first placed on graves and simple “burial locations” for those who died … and there were many … and hadn’t received a proper burial.  Fields were scattered with bodies as the old style of “warfare” didn’t involve any government agencies to clean up afterwards … just sayin’!
The friend is Cora Monroe, the article is by David W. Blight in “The Onion”, May 29, 2011.  Memorial Day was first called “Decoration Day”.  Memorial Day became, as us humans often do with important things, a political football, thrown around by Notherners who claimed a victory over the Confederacy and slavery as well as Southerners who claimed it was their relatives blood spilt on the land as a sacrifice for what “they” believed in .. an agrarian and plantation-centered society (much like feudalism!) based on African slavery and servitude.  You know, what “makes me wanna holler … throw up both my hands” … is the depth of ignorance that still permeates our America today, even with the abundance of historical works available in our society illustrating when and where things like this occurred!!  I mean, I remember studying in college the concept of “the political man” (sorry ladies, that’s what it was called!) in Western civilization; but this kind of stuff is bordering on “stupidity in its crudest form”!
I mean, “we” as a people have endured some “crazy stuff” since arriving to America.  African Americans were subjugated after attempts to enslave the Native Americans failed, since they, “Amerinds”, knew their own land better than the “colonists”.  Our nation’s history has arrived today to where an officer in the City of Cleveland’s Police Department can stand on the hood of a car with two people immobile (probably dead already) inside who had led them on a high speed chase and fire multiple shots as if in a darn movie!!!  So … “they” charged the officer at first and a judge decided that, ” … we couldn’t determine WHICH officer’s bullet(s) actually caused “the death” of the African American couple inside!”  Now, I do understand that if there was a “shadow of doubt” that the bullet came from this officer’s gun … and that if found guilty, he would probably spend the rest of “his life” in prison … the judge had to find him “not guilty”.  (Our justice system needs serious revamping when it comes to stuff like this!) Yet, look at the “big picture” and see how many times something like this has gone down in the African American communities and streets … ” … from sea to shining sea!”  And we call this “civilization”?!  Now, we … can just kill someone without arrests, charges, trials and jury/judge to decide … and THEN say that the culprit (at least one of them) is free to do the same darn thing at his earliest convenience!??!
Oftentimes, especially in the past like in Little Rock, AR, federal folks have had to come out and “restore the peace”!  Has it changed much in nearly 200 years?!?  Are we really all that intelligent but can’t figure out how to get along?!?  “Makes me wanna holler … throw up both my hands!”  Please, do your part … Be the peace and love!

John I. Cook, Director

Our History is Quite Short, Let’s Not Shorten It More!

Memorial Day Love


Happy Friday, All!

And a Happy Memorial Day Weekend with a hearty T.G.I.F. attached!!  I like it … a three day weekend and some great weather?!?  Looking forward to it!  I remember some childhood Memorial Day Cook Outs in the Catskills with Mom and Dad or at Croton-on-the-Hudson’s State Park near Ossining … even Bear Mountain State Park a bit further North of Westchester County, NY!
I always remember the reason, though … that we could do all this fun stuff and honor our nation’s military and the simple fact that it is because of them that we can live such lives having cook outs and parties, picnics and family gatherings … going to amusement parks riding on attractions that “scare the shoes off of youse”!!  We call that fun … In some places, bombs are a daily observance like in the land known as the West Bank.  In still other places, food and water are scarce and some of the things we do for fun have never even been thought about!  Some of us can take a day off of work and go on boats and swim and cookout and enjoy the mountains … or the beaches … whatever you prefer … “from sea to shining sea”.
So let’s not forget out nation’s military and the central part they play in keeping “our country” … yes, this is where I am living so I am claiming it, too … safe so we can enjoy (though we often destroy) our natural environment.  I hope those who are talented at discovering ways to improve life in countries where basic drinking water is scarce … can come to the aid of those suffers.  Maybe those with special skills, talents and interests will help combat stuff like “Ebola” and cancer … dementia even …  and can find cures or treatments for the illnesses that humans suffer from … not to mention the mental illnesses that plague this world’s inhabitants!  Let’s not shorten our history, folks, lets find ways to continue living together on this planet.  Yet, again, I would like to thank the Armed Forces, both past and present … hopefully the future, if necessary (maybe there will be a “peace pill” developed like a “soma” tablet once mentioned in futuristic literature – Huxley’s Brave New World).  Don’t overlook the real reason for Memorial Day, Folks.  I am sure if you look hard enough, “you” can find something wrong with it.  But try to look at the positive ingredients … Enjoy the food, the fun, the frolic, your friends and families!!
Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

John I. Cook, Director

Happy Birthday, Marietta Dolores . . . RIP

Mom Bd


Happy Hump Day, Yeahhh!

Happy Birthday, “Mommie” … yes, my mother … Marietta Dolores (Watkins) Cook R.I.P. has a birthday today!!  Born on May 20th, 1917, Marietta would be 98 years old today.  She used to treat me so warm and lovely … She always told me to try to make it on my own … since she and Dad couldn’t help so much … “One man can change the world …”  Big Sean, John Legend, Kanye West sing it best … Ron Paul says it best …  “We need to get ready for a change of things …” … “I hope you make it on your own; and, If you love yourself, you’ll never be alone …”  “And when I die, I hope you teach me how to fly!”  Some fantastic lyrics from the song by Kanye West, Big Sean and John Legend … so pretty … dedicated to a woman … someone’s s grandmother.  I want to dedicate it to my Mother … some of the lessons she always wanted for me … humbly, sweetly … gently and nurturing!  Now of course I had “Big Ike” my Dad, who balanced all that out with his “tough love”.  Great combination, those guys … We didn’t turn out so bad … I am still doing what I think they’d want … especially Mom!
I sit back listening to my favorite tunes … imagining she’s talking to me, through others’ music … lyrics and notes … I hear you!  I do! So many of us who care for her and the things she did, the lives she touched … I just don’t want to forget it … It’s what makes me who I am.    She put up with some of my major drama …  I mean … MAJOR drama … from walking me through thoughts of suicide as a teen in White Plains to visiting me at “The Big House” here in Broward County in her early stages of Alzheimer’s.  She was always there, talking with someone to help a situation I had gotten in.  She was also there … with Dad … at my graduation from St. Paul’s School in Concord, NH in June of 1972; and they both were there in June when I graduated from Princeton in 1976!!  I cherish those moments … when I could bring them pride and joy …
She worked as a Girl Scout Troop leader for the African American teen girls in the Winbrook and the neighborhoods where African Americans lived in White Plains … Brookfield Street and Dennison Street and up into the Fisher Avenue area as well as The Projects.  She organized trips to Europe, Israel included, with the Ladies from the Bethel Baptist Church Flower Club and served as President of the White Plains Student Aid Society for several years.  She also got folks out to vote from The Projects as she was often involved with the Mayor of the City of White Plains as well as other local politicians.  For several years during my years at Rochambeau Elementary School before it closed down to facilitate voluntary busing policies adopted by the City of White Plains to integrate the entire School District, including areas like Ridgeway, Rosedale and Post Road neighborhood children, my mother served as President of the White Plains PTA (Parent-Teacher Association)!  They say, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”  … that would be me!!
So in closing, way up there in the sky and deep down here in my heart, I am wishing you the Happiest of Birthdays, “mother Mary”!
Thanks for joining me, and a Happy Birthday to my friend, Rebecca, with the same birthday as my Mother …
John I. Cook, Director

“Everyone” Happens for a Reason!

Meeting People


Howdy, y’all!

It’s another Monday in our lives … yes it is!  It is a pretty cool and special week for me … Mom’s birthday is Wednesday so I’ll be putting together a tribute to and for her … just a few words.  How did your weekends pan out?!?  Not that we can change it now, but at least we can put some things together for next weekend … or tomorrow even!!
Saturday, I had an opportunity to meet with a group of students from a program sponsored by the Broward Sheriff’s Office.  It is called the Community Justice Program, and is directed by Mrs. Nicole Valencia Mercado, registered mental health intern and Youth Counselor.  There was also her assistant named Mr. Balfour, who met me out front when I first arrived to the location where the presentation was to take place, the Lauderdale Lakes Multi-Purpose Center.  The youth were from a variety of backgrounds and attended different schools in Broward County.  There were 12 teens all together.  I introduced myself first and then gave each of them the opportunity to introduce themselves.  The theme of the presentation was “Stop the Violence” and “Getting to Know Thyself”, both my favorite topics to date.  Of course, I tied in some of the backdrops I use at book-signing events when I market my first book, “From the Projects to Princeton”.  We started off with my skit from the  movie, “American Gangster” with Denzel Washington and the soundtrack done by JayZ.  They seemed to enjoy the rendition I present of Frank Lucas as he had a change of heart when one of his drug generals came up short with his money.  I decided to have him (Frank Lucas) “pray” instead of murder the 3 children in his drug general’s family to the tune of $1K a piece, as the debt was $3,000.00!!
The next segment of the presentation got them involved in listening to some Japanese jazz by Keiko Matsui with me and jotting down some thoughts that came to their minds as I worked with them on a “guided meditation”.  They enjoyed the music though one young gent commented in his feedback remarks, “It made me fall asleep … but the music was good … it was ok!”  Another part of the same segment exploring culture through music had some selections with a strong Latin influence from the “Rippington’s” guitarist, Russ Freeman.  They enjoyed the rhythms and Latin flavor of this music as I also asked them to jot down some of their thoughts on those selections, too!  I even sat down in the lotus position with them as I described how yoga is a connection of mind, body and spirit through our breath … just one of the ways I use to keep myself calm and prevent violent thoughts from taking over my head.
I know most of us have heard the expression, “Everything happens for a reason.”  Yes, of course, but I’ve added a twist to it to include how we might best understand why we meet certain people in our lives.  Sometimes, those people challenge our self esteem, our self concept … even some of our major beliefs and values.  Yes, that is exactly why they have come into “our” lives.  Some folks change who they are, what they think even, because the person(s) giving them the most in their life, be it finances or a place to live … a car or a job even, hold a certain point of view.  A good example of a person who did NOT do the aforementioned is the Asian woman who was the “girlfriend” of the former owner of the Clipper’s team in the National Basketball Association.  When he spoke bad about her being around “African Americans” and bringing them with her to “his” games, she stuck to what she believed and “blew the whistle” on his racist beliefs!
So, let’s expand the “thing” in the expression, ” Everything happens for a reason.” anecdote to “everyONE” happens to each of us for a reason – to help shape who we each are … and become!  After all, there are those who believe that “we” are not the experiences and shortcomings we may have had in certain stages of our lives, but “we” are who we become as a result of what we learned from those experiences.  Even we … yes, each and everyone of “US” reading this … happens for a reason.  Don’t take “yourself” too seriously, either.  Remember, as “Kevin” of the Hollywood Brahma Kumaris said last night at the end of our 2nd Annual World Peace Meditation Day in ArtsPark, Young Circle, Hollywood, FL, “We are not only here to enjoy each other in peace and harmony, but also to have a good time! Yay!”
Enjoy your week, folks.  Make each moment count, for you are trading it in for a day of YOUR life!
John I. Cook, Director




It’s Friday, y’all!  I’m about to bust my move …. T.G.I.F.!  It is true … I am approaching a high level of silliness … but I like it!  I hope you don’t mind.  Of course feel free to join in and say or write something … even THINK something really silly!!  Then chuckle … or laugh … get a belly laugh when you can!  It is good for the nervous system.  I’ve heard it is a great stress release and has some chemistry with our brains releasing something pleasurable even!  Not bad for a bit of laughter, heh?!?

I just wanted to briefly mention that in much of my writing and work, even in workshops, I try to strike a balance! It is my goal at least.  Sometimes I succeed at that goal and other times, I go on a bit, especially if it’s something close to my heart and life experiences.  It is something I strive for in all my endeavors … balance.  I like to do yoga, be it Raj yoga which is mostly relaxation through guided meditation, perhaps with soft background music to enhance ones ability to relax ones mind.  Or, asana/vinyasa yoga with many movements and positions (asanas) relevant to curing and healing … even stretching and relaxing the human body through the union of mind, body and breath.  Thoughts are constantly racing.  It is a wonder some of us remain civilized though I have learned that many folks require medications of various types to find that balance.  I pay attention to how I feel in certain situations and try to recognize my threshold for “drama tolerance” or “ignorance” in general.  The more I live … and pay attention … the more I realize that some people actually cannot manage their own personalities.  And that’s okay, too … as long as one follows the proper treatment program and counseling, if necessary and included.  I mean, I was in a program a few times that required my undivided attention, especially of and on myself … not my ego … but what I was REALLY feeling … inside!
I had to learn to peel back those layers … layers of lies and deceptions as well as the layers I had “installed” to protect my most inner essence of peace and harmony …  It seems that some people just don’t want to get along.  They thrive and flourish on a rare form of energy that comes from a negative, hurtful non-nurturing place that can be dangerously manifested in ones behavior!!  It has the same effect on others whom it “reaches”.  I think about my parents sometimes … who didn’t have the psychological paradigms yet had enough insight to raise four kids after moving from the South to the North on the Eastern seaboard.  They remained married 50 years and it only ended when my father died some months after their 50th Anniversary.  I always remember my father telling me that as a man I needed to develop “mother wit” … to maintain that balance that many men need to work on.
Our lives, methinks are much the same.  I mean, why would a guy be driving a train at the speed of 106 mph in an area designated for 50 mph???!  Didn’t he know how many people were on that train counting on his ability to do his job properly?!?  Hadn’t he driven that train on that same stretch of track before??  What was he thinking?  Couldn’t there have been more effort on his part to seek a balance between whatever he was doing as opposed to guiding that Amtrack train safely to all it’s destinations?!?  Don’t they get sick days?!?  Okay, I’m done … Just trying to hammer home my point of seeking and acheiveing a good balance in your life.  Nobody said you have to be perfect everyday … but do indeed seek a balance!!
Enjoy your weekends, folks!
John I. Cook, Director

The Gift of Gratitude

grace rose

It’s Hump Day … Yeah!!

We’re making progress … towards the weekend!  Just being a little silly but this weekend should be an interesting balancing act for me between a workshop early Saturday morning at 9AM, my yoga and swimming afterwards … okay and sitting in the jacuzzi at LA Fitness (this is my mini-retreat!) and a Brahma Kumaris Meditation at Young Circle’s ArtPark on Sunday.  It’s a pretty cool place that the City of Hollywood really takes great care of and pride in!  Security (unarmed) on every corner, including the bus stops that dote Young Circle … shucks there are various international restaurants, Publix and Walgreen’s in that Circle!  An interesting mix of young hippies, homeless folks that hang out in the park all day … they can’t stay at night … security and police keep them from hanging out there. It looks like a cross between “Greenwich Village” in NY and SoHo (South of Houston Street) with a mix of ethnic groups, many Europeans, too.  Interesting indeed.
Monday I missed yoga as I met with some friends at H.E.R.O. and a client who needs a resume and wants to apply for work.  So, by the time the meeting was over, it was already 8PM … when yoga starts.  So, I cruised home … had forgotten about “Food Truck Night” until I saw all the people walking around the Circle!!  There they were … The Food Trucks!!!   From Asian food to Argentinian food including pizza and Italian Cuisine Truck … I got a Gaucho Burger and chocolate covered bacon strip even … it was dark chocolate!  A former student from White Plains who lives in Ft. Lauderdale with her husband and children also told me about it.  I had just earned a few bucks so I decided to treat myself … nothing fancy ’bout a “Gaucho Burger” (egg, cheese, ham on top) side of fries and a chocolate covered strip of bacon, right?!  I know my yoga friends from class were wondering where I was and my vegetarian friends are deleting this e-mail fo’ sho!!  I don’t eat stuff like that ever except on some outing of curiosity like “Food Truck Night”!!  There were a lot of people out there, too!  Kids, families, couples … single ladies sitting under a tree even … munching on snacks from the trucks.
It just brought a little smile to my face … An Asian couple invited me to stand at their table set up by the Argentinian Street Food truck, since there are no chairs out there.  I didn’t feel bad from the food though I was expecting some reaction with the acid reflux I experience from time to time … But nope!  Nothing!  (Trust me … I had gratitude for that, too!)  I watched a webinar last evening about “re-wiring our brains” and “afformation” rather than  (or in addition to) “affirmation”.  It was free with Mind Valley, an entity about thought and self help for me to tap into from time to time.  I even took notes!  The presentation talked about having gratitude for what we may have … even if some of us want more!  Just be grateful for what we have, too!  Yes, folks that I often see carry a bit of arrogance rather than gratitude in their attitude.  It doesn’t turn me on … not a bit.  Nor am I impressed with that type of attitude …which is usually exhibited to cover up something “else”.  Us humans do some strange things to ourselves … and each other.  Mind Valley suggested some re-wiring … even trickery … though on ourselves to convince ourselves of what we deserve in life!  It was interesting how the workshop was presented.  The conclusion was pretty much: Even if you don’t believe you deserve certain “situations” in your life (good ones of course!), if you continue to use “afformations” – seeking that love of your life or the job of your dreams – at least you’ll be ready when you’ve worked hard enough at it to acquire it.  The last step mentioned was “action”!
Always in Peace,
John I. Cook, Director

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: