The Potato Principle

Mycology is the branch of biology that deals with fungi.

I once heard Paul Stamets, a mycologist, express reassuring ideas about life. Not that what he said was new to me, but hearing from someone who, in a way, dedicates himself to observe the process of death and rebirth, was comforting. His ideas replenished my reserves of tranquility to deal with the inevitable end of life, or, to be more precise, the end of the physical life in the shape and form we currently occupy in this physical dimension.

Since my youth I have been aware of Lavoisier’s principle of conservation of mass which states, in my own simplified way of putting it, that “in nature, nothing goes to waste, everything is transformed.”

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Pause for a moment, and think about change. We are changing all the time, aren’t we? Where are the newborns and toddlers we once were? They are not here anymore. In this physical realm, we are all part of this amazing circle of life where everything changes constantly through a process of birth, growth, decay, and death. Everyone and everything is in constant transformation. When we cease to exist as live organisms, we are transformed — we change form — and become nutrients for other living organisms. For instance, the matter we are made of decomposes and becomes soil from which vegetables come out. Those vegetables become the food that sustains life. Vegetables and animals will exist for a time and then they will die and disintegrate into soil again, only to become nutrients for other life forms. And this process keeps repeating itself, without end. My friend Audrey calls it “The Potato Principle,” poetically indicating our destiny.

I can see that we are made of everyone and everything else. Every life form that preceded us is somehow in us now. Nothing is destroyed. Nothing is created. Everything goes through a transmutation. Everything that has ever existed, exists in me. All my ancestors are, in some way, in me. We are all interconnected and inter-dependent: we inter-are.

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What follows is the result of my attempt to capture Paul’s ideas. This is not a word-by-word transcription of what he said. I was not able to capture every word, but these are his ideas, and he deserves credit for them.

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“Knowing that we are connected with every organism on this planet should inspire us to pause and feel the wonder of it all. We are not a part of nature; we are of nature. I feel better about my own mortality knowing that I have sprung from nature, I am of nature, and I will return to nature. Life and death is a continuum. Molecules are assembled, disassembled and reassembled in different forms.

It gives me solace in my own mortality to realize that from this web-like ecosystem I have sprung and into this web-like ecosystem I will return. I know that when I die, my molecules will be spread throughout the Universe, free to be reassembled in different forms, free to become elements of other organisms.

We all share the same molecular Universe and knowing that we are this Universe gives me great peace and gratitude.”

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I like to think that I am made of everyone and everything else, that I carry in me particles of everyone who has ever lived before me, and of everything that has ever existed. I like to believe that through the rearrangement of molecules, all my ancestors live in me, and that, after my physical death,  my particles will also inhabit everyone and everything, and I will be omnipresent. I conclude that we are one very large organism; some parts are dying, some parts are being born, but no part ever disappears. We are everpresent. We are all connected, not only through total interdependent relationships, but at a deep molecular level.

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The truth is that, in this physical dimension, nothing is permanent; everything is impermanent. Life is not about birth and death; it is about metamorphosis. Every single thing undergoes changes of form, appearance, structure, or substance. All life forms go through structural or functional modifications during their development. Mutations are happening all the time. Think about the transmutation of a tadpole into a frog, of a chrysalis into a butterfly, of a fertilized egg into a newborn animal, of a tiny newborn baby into a full developed adult human being. And even when physical death occurs, tissues degenerate and facilitate the appearance of new physical life, and metamorphosis continues. Again, the only permanent thing in life is change.

During our life journeys, we go through many of those metamorphoses; some are completely involuntary, beyond our choosing and control, but others aren’t.

And here I change gears, to talk about a different kind of death and rebirth: many are the times when we can choose if we are going to heed the calls to change, and leave behind lives that have played themselves out and don’t serve us anymore, or if we will keep trying to hold on to what once was but isn’t anymore. If we accept those calls — if we face our fears and take the leaps of faith they demand — we go through those radical transformations, those spiritual awakenings, those deaths that allow us to be born again and reappear as new beings, capable of seeing what we weren’t able to see before.

I accept the existence of two universes — the physical and the non-physical — and consider that we inhabit both at the same time. I believe that we are, both, mortal and immortal, that we experience birth and death in this physical plane, but not in the spiritual one. I believe that we are, at the same time, separated and united, many and one, human and divine.

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You may want to read “The Potato Principle – 2,” one more reflection on birth and death by the great Thich Nhat Hanh. And you may want to watch “Fantastic Fungi: The Forbidden Fruit,” a short movie with Paul Stamets. And if you want the best book on the subject, please read Paul Veliyathil’s “Sunset Stories: Lessons from the Dying for the Living.” Here are the links:

The Potato Principle – 2

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Sunset Stories

https://www.amazon.com/Sunset-Stories-Lessons-Dying-Living/dp/1539490904

 


 

Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect, and write, and who not only strives to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches mindfulness meditation, mindful living, and the official Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He organizes Silent Peace Walks.

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– “Peaceful Ways – The Power of Making Your Wishes Come True”

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– “Pay Attention! Be Alert! Discovering Your Route to Happiness”

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– “Silent Peace Walk”

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Crossroads

I have reached a crossroad. 

Which way should I turn? 

Inward perhaps. 

Deborah Gregg is a talented artist and art teacher. She is one of those shining human beings who touches lives in a positive way. When I told her that her “Crossroads” inspired me, she replied, “Glad I could give you something of meaning. That is the goal of my work: to connect to others in a meaningful way, to give gifts that reach inside. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do that. Maybe I have to reach inside myself to understand more.”

Well, one of the beliefs that I embrace is that we are here to explore and to inspire. Real artists, like Deborah, do this all the time: they explore and inspire.

I have reached a crossroad. 

Which way should I turn? 

Inward perhaps. 

For the long road ahead

can best be navigated

through the internal mapping system

of the subconscious.

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If I reflect upon the paths

from where I came

will I find the next best direction?

~ Deborah Gregg

The adventure never ends. We are here to explore and to inspire. We are here to pay attention, be alert, learn to see, and live lives that are worth living.

Take a look at Deborah’s beauty-full and meaning-full work. Here’s the link to her website.

http://www.deborahgregg.com/

And after spending time at Deborah’s website, I invite you to read, or re-read, “A Bend In The Road.”

http://pierofalci.com/blog/2013/10/23/a-bend-in-the-road/

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Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

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God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

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Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

~ Karl Paul Reinhold Niebuhr

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The Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

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O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

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A little bit of history… The Prayer of Saint Francis is a Catholic Christian prayer. It is widely but erroneously attributed to the 13th-century saint Francis of Assisi. The prayer in its present form cannot be traced back further than 1912, when it was printed in Paris in French, in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell), published by La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe (The Holy Mass League). The author’s name was not given, although it may have been the founder of La Ligue, Fr. Esther Bouquerel. For those interested, a professor at the University of Orleans in France, Dr. Christian Renoux, published a study of the prayer and its history in French in 2001. The prayer has been known in the United States since 1927 when its first known translation in English appeared in January of that year in the Quaker magazine Friends’ Intelligencer (Philadelphia), where it was attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_of_Saint_Francis

My personal take on all this?

My feeling is that the Universe conspired for these powerful words to be associated with the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi, thus empowering them to reach and touch more people.

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My Prayer, My Sanctuary, My Religion

I live a prayerful life, a life full of prayer, and this is how I pray… I pay attention. I am alert. Everywhere I go I am with God, surrounded by God, immersed in God. I see and I feel the Divine all around me and in me.

Mindfulness is my prayer.

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This is where I pray… Everywhere.

The Universe is my sanctuary.

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This is when I pray… All the time. I am in connection, communication and communion with God all the time. I remember, recognize and reveal God all the time.

Kindness is my religion.

Put a little love in your heart, / And the world will be a better place / For you and me / You just wait and see Think of your fellow man / Lend him a helping hand / Put a little love in your heart

Mindfulness is my prayer.

The Universe is my sanctuary.

Kindness is my religion.

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The Lord Will Not Let A Good Man Down

During the initial phases of my unemployment, by the end of 2001, Frank would call me every week to check how I was doing. We lived in the same neighborhood. He was not one of my closest friends, but he took upon himself calling regularly to encourage me. It is interesting how people come into our lives for a reason and for a season.

During one of those conversations he said, “Piero, the Lord will not let a good man down!” Those words had a tremendous effect on me. To this day, whenever I think about them, Frank’s deep voice, seasoned by his Jamaican accent, resonates in my mind. “The Lord will not let a good man down!” I believe that he was a messenger, and that the Spirit spoke to me through him. After our conversation I felt inspired to write a prayer that brought me much comfort and peace.

Almost two years later I was contacted by Vicky, from Catholic Charities, and offered the opportunity to minister to the unemployed. The idea was to create workshops that would lift up the spirits of those going through unemployment. While reviewing what I had put together, Rachel, who was assigned to organize the event, came across the prayer and fell in love with it. Hers was the idea of using it to close the workshops. And so it was. Sean and I were the presenters and we facilitated a series of workshops in several parish halls during 2003 and 2004.

Years went by and I din’t think much about the prayer until the day when Fernando, a friend, told me that it had been recited at the opening of a meeting he had attended. He knew it was mine because I was given credit as the author in the copies handed out. I was curious, excited and happy. He told me about Back on Track, an organization established to provide spiritual, motivational, and practical support to people facing career challenges. I looked up, found their website, and with amazement saw that my prayer had been posted on their home page. I sent them an email expressing my joy that the prayer was being used, and Art replied back with equal enthusiasm expressing how happy he was that they were now able to contact the author of the prayer they had adopted.

Since then, I have been a collaborator of Back on Track, leading workshops on a regular basis. The prayer has been in the hands of thousands of people now, and people approach me all the time to thank me, and tell me how it has helped them in difficult times.

Well, I guess that the point I am trying to make is that you never know how what you do is going to affect others; you never know how you are going to be used by God. I take all this humbly. I am happy that it took a life of its own. It is not my prayer; it is God’s. To God alone be the glory.

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The Lord Will Not Let Anyone Down

Dear Lord, I thank you for everything. You gave me what I asked you. Losing my job was not a punishment but a reward, a blessing. You really love me. I thank you for the opportunity to spend more time with you, listening, learning, and serving you. Thank you for the additional time I now have to be with my loved ones. Thank you for the additional time I now have to take care of myself. Help me to use this time wisely. I ask you, Lord, to lead me in the right direction. In the middle of all confusion, help me hear you, choose you, and obey you. Give me the strength to reveal you and honor you through my dedicated work every day. Sometimes I feel that I am less organized and productive than I should in this job search. Give me peace to accept my limitations and free me from this anxiety. Let me understand that, even if I do all the many things I believe I should be doing, it is only because of you, it is only because of your blessings that I will find the right answers to my requests. I know you have a place where you want me to be and I will patiently wait for you to take me there. Inspire me, then, to do, among many things, the right things. Give me peace, strength, and courage to trust you, accept you, and surrender to you completely. Make me remember that you have always taken care of me and have always provided in abundance. Send me the people you want me to meet and that will be good to me. Lead me, Lord. Take me by the hand through the one open door, among many, you have chosen for me. Lead me to where you want me to serve you, reveal you, honor you, and touch other lives.

Written by Piero Falci, December 11, 2001

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You can download a copy of the Back on Track Prayer at

http://backontracknet.org/files/814/documents/The%20Lord%20Will%20Not%20Let%20Anyone%20Down%201-09.pdf

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The Present is in the Present

My good friend Jack, again and again, reminds me to stay in the present. He made a copy of the following passage from Eckhart Tolle’s book, The Power of Now, and gave it to me.

“I have learned to offer no resistance to what is; I have learned to allow the present moment to be and to accept the impermanent nature of all things and conditions. Thus have I found peace.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Many years ago, I wrote the following, which became a part of my book “Pay Attention! Be Alert!” published in 2008.

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WE ARE WORTHY AND READY
… I lived with the hope that a master would come to enlighten me, someday, at the right time. But I never made any serious attempt to define when this right time would be. I had heard that “when the disciple is ready, the master shows up,” and so I just lived under the expectation that my time would sooner or later come, and that I had to patiently wait for it. Within me there were these vague sensations and unexamined ideas that I would receive blessings only when I became worthy and ready, and that only through hard practice and personal sacrifice I would be able to eventually reach that state of worthiness. So, believing that “when the student is ready, the teacher
appears,” and believing that it was up to the teacher to decide when to show up, I hoped for this glorious day of enlightenment to take place in the future when, eventually, my worthiness and the teacher’s good disposition would combine. When I finally decided to examine these ideas, two revelations emerged: the first was that I was always labeling myself as not ready and unworthy. I was convinced that I needed to become better and that, to reach that holier level, I had to go through more preparation. So, I was always reading another book, attending another course, or learning another practice. I had unconsciously put myself in a self-repeating and never-ending cycle of
training because, no matter what I did, I invariably judged myself as not sufficiently prepared. And by doing so, I was convinced that whoever had to show up with life-changing lessons not only had yet to come, but would only come if I reached that state of readiness and worthiness that I was unable to clearly define. The other realization was that I was waiting for some external agent, upon whom I had no control, to hopefully show up. But what if the master was not at all similar to the image that
I had vaguely sketched in my imagination? What if the master was completely different from whatever I had imagined him, her, or it to be? What if the master was right next to me, right here, right now, and I was unable to see? I realized that in order to recognize the teacher I had, first, to get rid of my preconceived and limited ideas. I realized that in
order to be able to see I had to set myself free from my self-imposed mindset and cultural conditionings. I came to the conclusion that I was distracted by an illusion. I was hoping for my preparation to be right, for someone extraordinary to show up, and for some formidable event to take place in the future. I was not in the present moment. I was not paying attention to what was happening here, now.

THE PRESENT IS IN THE PRESENT
Why was I focusing on this illusion called future and not rejoicing with the gifts that were being given to me in the reality called present? I came to realize that the givers and the gifts were in the present, not in the future.

The present was in the present.

The present is in the present.

The present will always be in the present .

The gifts are in the now.

I came to the realization that I became very good at making preparations to live, but that I was not good at living. I had been conditioned to continuously prepare myself for the future without paying attention to the present.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” ~ John Lennon

I paused and examined my quest for perfection. I realized that I had to stop putting all my hopes in the future. I had to switch my focus from the future to the present moment, and reach a healthy balance. I had to stop considering myself as not ready yet. I had to stop with my self-imposed need to be perfect as the prerequisite for enlightenment. I  had to accept my human condition, with all its inherent imperfections and limitations. I had to accept where I was and who I was, and that I was ready and worthy already.  Finally, I had to stop waiting for someone special to come in the future. I realized that whoever had to come was already right here with me and that I was the one who was not able to see. He who had to come was showing up again and again, all the time, in many ways, wearing several disguises. I was the one who was not paying enough attention.

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Our Power To Create What Will Be

The world has changed.

The world is changing.

The world will continue to change.

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Reality has changed.

Reality is changing.

Reality will continue to change.

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Don’t pay attention to the pessimists who say, “This is the way it was, is, and will always be, and nothing will ever change.” Don’t give in to cynicism and resignation.

We are here not to learn to accept what is, but rather to remember the power we have to create what will be.

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I Love Myself

Some friends call me “Mr. Happy.” I have had many bad days in my life, ful of fear, anxiety and depression, but nowadays I am in a good mood the majority of the time. I count my blessings and give thanks everyday for the life that was given to me. I smile most of the time, and I sincerely try to make others feel good. It is not uncommon for people to approach me and ask, “How come you are always so happy? What is your secret?”

I thought about the things that make me happy, and wrote them down. I created a list and called it “My Happy Life Formula.” I read that list quite often to remind me of the things that make me happy. I put them in practice, and it works: they truly make me happy! I am happy because, everyday I do what I know I need to do to be happy.

First and foremost, I am happy because I love myself, fully and unconditionally. I am gentle with myself. I accept myself, approve myself, and take good care of myself. There’s nothing wrong with me. I am a child of God. I am whole, perfect and complete. I am.

I am happy because I love my neighbors as I love myself, and because I love myself a lot, I have a lot of love to give. I sincerely make it my objective to make other people happy. I pay attention to whoever may be in front of me at any given time, and I give them my love. This makes them happy, and it makes me happy. I am happy because I love everybody, and because everybody loves me… they may not know it yet, but eventually they will.

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I am happy because I know I have the power to create my own happy reality. I can select my thoughts, discard the ugly ones and nurture the beautiful ones. And because I pay attention to the quality of my thoughts and do the things that make me happy, I have great, happy days, day after day, and this brings about a great, happy life.

I am happy, and the people around me is happy too.

God blesses me and I am a blessing to the world.

I give thanks and I am happy.

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