Meditations at the Acropolis

The theme is preservation.

All around us on the Acropolis, individuals are working diligently to preserve their experiences. Photos, videos, the study of surroundings, saying to selves that they’ll remember the moment forever. Beyond the momentary effort to preserve the event, each person is seeking to preserve their bodies, live in good health, keep their souls polished like a silver ocean pearl. The self is important, and the ancient Greeks mention this.

As Socrates provides a discourse to his counterparts in Symposium, he speaks of the wisdom Diotima imparts to him.

“Those who are pregnant in the body only, betake themselves to women and beget children-this is the character of their love; their offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and giving them the blessedness and immortality which they desire in the future. But souls which are pregnant-for there certainly are men who are more creative in their souls than in their bodies conceive that which is proper for the soul to conceive or contain.”

Here, Diotima enlightens Socrates on the soul and its reproductive creativity. Our bodies procreate, as do our minds. A poet makes love to the essence of beauty, gives birth to his odes and elegies, and preserves his soul in this capacity.

What does this have to do with the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens?


“Earth proudly wears the Parthenon as the best gem upon her zone.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


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The Parthenon is a work of beauty and precision. It is considered the most important surviving site of Classical Greece. Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his masterful poetic way, stated that “Earth proudly wears the Parthenon as the best gem upon her zone.”

Everything I’ve been taught about mediation and wisdom from Eastern perspectives sharply contrast the sense of self-preservation discussed above. In Buddhism, all emphasis lies on the release of ego and self. “Liberation” is a term used amply, and self is used to refer to a kind of collective consciousness. Atman, the Sanskrit term used for soul in Hindu philosophy, refers not to the individual soul housed in a single body, but as a transcendental spirit beyond one’s own physiology.

Though this contradiction exists, I can’t help but feel a sense of inspiration bearing from both viewpoints.

During one flight from Phoenix to New York, I sat in silent contemplation with my head down for a great duration. I came to an interesting realization, a thought I had never really fully considered before. It was an idea that lies both in feeling and thought. It was the idea that many opposites and dualities in knowledge exist simultaneously, in a paradox we often reject. People often feel that they are right on an issue. If you’re pro-life, you believe in one end of a spectrum and spend the rest of your life confirming this belief. Or, you confirm another belief continually. We live in constant confirmation, and holding two opposite beliefs at the same time is a sort of rarity.

Of course, I’m not even close to being one of few who have realized this. Even Socrates himself constantly challenged and questioned his own positions to get closer to fundamental truths. But this idea is necessary for harmony, for seeing a world that is full of opposing beliefs, for connecting, for enjoying.

We preserve temples, ideas, and art. The Parthenon should certainly be protected for as long as we can hold on to it. We should also live in health to stay in health.

We also realize that theres is an end to all things, and that (quoting Led Zeppelin here) “all that lives is born to die.”

Hopefully all people experience this harmony of duality at some point in time. The realization that preservation doesn’t rival liberation/detachment, it complements it. It’s an essential thought, and certainly one to consider at a sublime place such as the Acropolis.

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Yachting in Greece

You wake up to the sound of cicadas as the sun rises. The morning glow begins to illuminate the hillside and you take off to the south of Athens. Fueled with coffee, you begin to anticipate the oceanic day ahead.

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Cruising the sea is one of the greatest ways to see Greece. Not only does it give you great panoramic views of the many coasts and islands, it’s friggin’ fun. Whether it’s a romantic getaway with your loved one or a big social partaking, you will appreciate the experience, and you will be better for it.

Of course, no Greece cruise is complete without the ouzo.

Another nice touch is wine from Lemnos. It’s pretty dry, robust, and flavorful.

A Greek yacht excursion obviously costs much, but valuates high. You get what you pay for, and you get a lot. Be sure to negotiate before chartering, ensure that the wine/beer/ouzo is unlimited, and make sure there’s shuttle service included. If you have everything you need, you’re bound to have some wild times. Take, for instance, front-flipping off the back plank:

Control Your Adventure

Yachting has a controllable level of adventure travel to it. You can lay back with the ouzo all day if you wanted to, and relax casually while you trail past the islands. You can get off the boat, swim to one of the secluded islands, and go cliff-jumping. Our group leaned toward the more daring excursion, and jumped 140 feet off the jagged rock edges. The captain wasn’t too thrilled, but I’m sure it formed unforgettable memories for some. The Wedding Therapist and I stayed in the middle of the adventure continuum. Though we ventured off the boat with a snorkel mask and dove off the plank, we left the cliff-jumping to others.

You don’t need much to be prepared for a Greek yacht ride. Here are some travel tips, however, to get the most out of your day trip:

    1. Take the Dramamine if you need it.

      This is pretty straightforward. The yacht ride can be a little rocky, so if you’re prone to motion sickness, I definitely suggest bringing the Dramamine for good measure. 

    2. Use trekking sandals, as much of the land in Greece is rocky.

If you’re venturing off the boat and onto the islands, consider hiking sandals. The land is rocky and full of rough foliage. For both men and women, I’ve heard many great things about KEEN sandals. They’re built to last, they’re comfortable, and are sure to protect the feet.

For women, you have this option:

And for the guys:

3. Take this immunity formula 3x/day beforehand to ensure good travel health.
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Airports, airplanes, hotels, buses, trains, hostels…what do these all have in common? They’re all full of people spreading their pathogens. You should absolutely be fortifying your immune system to reduce risk of getting sick on vacation. I use this and a multivitamin supplement.

4. Bring sunglasses that look good, but you aren’t attached to.

Chances are, your shades will be fine. However, I still wouldn’t take chances with expensive designer sunglasses. Here’s what I brought:

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I got those aviators (the “Desert” model) from SunglassWarehouse. They’re stylish, resistant to scratches, and only cost around $13. They’re even cheaper with code “SAVE15.”

5. Pack the sunscreen.

You’re on a boat in direct sunlight all day. Even if you don’t burn easily, have a little protection!

 

You’re going to be getting up early for this, so another suggestion is that you get plenty of rest the night before. A couple of more travel tips:

  1.  Try to power-nap as you adjust to the time difference/jet lag. Don’t sleep for more than 30 minutes during the day. If you want to be awake and alert for your excursions, try to get your body adjusting to the new rhythm.
  2. Use natural sleep aids to rest at night. I don’t like pharmaceutical sleep aids at all. I don’t even use melatonin. But a natural sleep formula lets your body settle into rest without putting you into an hours-long stupor. Natural herbs like passion flower and lemon balm are great for this, and are significant components of Desert Willow Botanicals’ Stress/Sleep formula. Passion flower is clinically implicated to calm the mind and assist with better sleep cycles (this article talks a bit about this).

Enjoy the ride

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You are the Earth’s audience. Every mark of beauty and every occurrence of joy is an invitation to your own personal bliss. This is why I feel excursions like this are worth it. It does require saving up your funds, but it’s a much better purchase than buying a brand new game system or Armani jeans. It does help, of course, when you have a large group to split the cost.

The service we used was Hellas Yachting. And (I can’t help myself here), it was “Hellas” good. The crew was fantastic, the food was fresh, and the ouzo was abounding. The chance to see Greece from the sea was amazing, and brought us up to “baller” status.

So, even if you can’t do an excursion like this, I hope some of the information and traveling tips were helpful. Whether you’re taking on a yacht cruise, just enjoying the beach, or sticking to the tour bus, here’s one final suggestion: enjoy the ride.

 

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Here Are 4 Travel/Adventure Books Worth Checking Out

I sometimes see books as a “hold-me-over,” a supplement to enjoy until I get to my next adventure.

Here’s a diverse list of four. One’s a novel, one’s a light reference, one’s a thrill guide, and the last is sort of an anthropological text.

All book purchases through this page go to supporting the site (each title links to the Amazon page). Your support also comes from booking hotel deals through the following link:

Hotels.com is a great way to find last minute deals if you need to get away. Check out the Vegas deals in particular.

The Reading List

On The Road

“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk—real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”

Way before “wanderlust” was a trending hashtag and blogging was a concept in anyone’s head, Jack Kerouac was exploring the continental United States and sharing his travels on paper. This novel expertly captures the beauty and vastness of two beautiful countries (U.S. and Mexico).

America was already settled in the 1950’s, but Kerouac’s unique lens and wild fervor was a brand new angle. In the novel, he meditates on adventure, appetite, the sanctity of human life, and the magnificence of jazz music. A truly beautiful memoir, this book is an essential work within the Beat Generation canon.

LonelyPlanet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures

“We live in fortunate times. The world is more accessible than ever before.”

This is a light, fun read. Some of the adventures are aspire-worthy, experiences to live and long for. Take, for example, #302: Mountain Biking in Chi Phat, Cambodia. The description mentions the “backdrop of mountains, waterfalls and, if you’re lucky, grazing elephants” that you’ll cycle past. Some “adventures” fall flat. I’m not really sure how remarkable paddle boarding in Wisconsin is. Nonetheless, the book is a perfect antidote to any sort of “traveler’s block” or stickiness you may have.

The World’s Most Dangerous Places

“And remember, the most dangerous thing in the world is still ignorance.”

Robert Pelton is a bad ass. He’s a writer and interviewer who has risked his life more times than you can comprehend. Pelton has spent times in places where journalists were being evacuated. This book explores the war-havoced depths of Chechnya, some of the notoriously gang-infested streets of Colombia, Uganda, North Korea, Sudan, and many more. The only common criticism of this book is some of its outdatedness.

Tibet

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“The people of Tibet, even today, can be best understood through an understanding of their past…”

In this revealing book by Thubten Jigme Norbu and Colin M. Turnbull, a vast history and fascinating culture is taught. The writers detail Tibetan history, religious beliefs, customs, food, and various subcultures.

Tibet used to be a grand enigma, a mystical land cutoff to most visitors. Tibetans, though generous in nature, were extremely averse to tourists and researchers. This book, published in 1970, provided ample insight into the beauty and simplicity of Tibetan life.

Norbu was the eldest brother of the current Dalai Lama. His pride in his culture and his personal transparency make for an enjoyable read. He mentions the secret rituals of Tantra and Bon practitioners, explains how Tibet was once full of fierce warriors, and tells of the complicated relationship between Tibet, the Mongols, and the Chinese.

Musica a Palazzo

Musica a Palazzo is essentially a way to see intimate operatic performances for less than opera prices. Not only is it affordable and abounding with insane talent from the performers, it takes place in a Venetian palace.

The performances occur in various rooms of the Palazzo Barbarigo Minotto. This aristocratic residence of the past is tucked away canal-side within the San Marco neighborhood of Venice. It doesn’t look like much from the outside. In fact, you should plan on arriving early just to find the right building. This may be your only signal:

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But once you step inside, you step into a beautiful Baroque scene of antiquity…

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The Wedding Therapist and I came here for a special abridged performance of La Traviata. (This is another added benefit of Musica a Palazzo by the way: the fact that performances are shorter than conventional opera). Each act takes place in a separate room. Our performance consisted of approximately 25 audience members, 3 singers, 3 strings players, and a pianist. Despite the small gathering, the performance had almost all the power and emotion of the original work. The overture led straight into Libbiamo dei calici, followed by a wealth of unbelievable vocal solos and arias. The singers brought about a cyclone of cathartic misery and drama in the most beautiful tones. We experienced La Traviata as we never have before (we’ve only studied it in music school and casually listened to recordings). It was a perfect event for getting to know Venice at its core.

Not only did Musica a Palazzo enculture us and leave me full of tears, they hooked us up with sparkling wine as well.

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Some tips for experiencing Musica a Palazzo

  • As with all travel experiences, try to book well in advance. You gain access by buying a membership card (pictured as the cover photo). Right now it is 85 euro per person. This is pretty reasonable since tickets to an opera at La Fenice may cost upwards of 280 euro. 
  • Dress up, but remember it’s still not the opera. You don’t need the ball gown or tuxedo. Even the tie isn’t fully necessary, but encouraged. The dress code was semi-formal overall. A nice cocktail dress, button-down dress shirt, formal sweater, khakis, sweater-dress, casual blazer, etc.; all of these would suffice. 
  • As previously mentioned, allow yourself ample time to locate the venue.
  • If you want seats close to the performers, arrive early. Seats are not numbered.
  • Don’t bring children. Children under the age of 15 can get in for a reduced price of 30 euro. Unless they are one of those genius kids that appreciates opera and Italian lyrics, however, they will probably get fidgety. There’s not really a way to excuse yourself from the performance without calling attention to yourself.
  • If you will be out all day, consider picking up a portable phone charger. This myCharge is a great one:

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A Final Romantic Note

Venice is saturated with historical architecture and design. Every street is picturesque and visually stunning, regardless of the time of day. Between the seafood lunches and our peaceful gondola ride, I contemplated our privileges and the relativity of beauty. What I witness with my eyes, another tastes from a spring. 

As our time in Venezia came to a close, we drank our final vin brulé. I listened to music on the train and remembered watching stars in Sedona (Arizona). I recalled the experiences that led to my life with my wife, and imagined what will follow. I visualized her hands, old and aged, and thought of how beautiful she will always be to me. 

Six Extraordinary Outdoor Photographs

Six extraordinary outdoor photographs, all by five insanely talented photographers.

Before we dive in, here’s a little disclaimer: unless you’ve been studying and practicing for years, you can’t take photos like this. I learned this after I recently bought my Nikon D3100 Digital SLR Camera. And don’t get me wrong, the camera is a fantastic starter instrument. I quickly realized, however, I don’t know what the hell aperture or an f-stop is. Knowledge and practice is crucial. I have a newfound respect for photographers, because it really is an art.

Here are the masterworks of the pros, in no particular order:

Elias Butler | Flagstaff, Arizona

Lightning strike the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Eli Butler is there to capture this brilliance. This isn’t his only photo to feature strikes of lightning, it’s a recurring subject of his work. Not only is it amazing that he has the timing to snap these shots, it’s also admirable because monsoon season in Arizona is relatively short. This leaves a small window to get incredible photos like this one.



#Note from Steve@HMPYG: try using the discount code SANDMAN >>>

I believe that the code is good until 7/30/2017


Sarah Alvarez | Vancouver, Washington

Mount Rainier can make the soul beckon for Washington State with its beauty and elegance. A snow-capped glory in a pool of stars, this scene tantalizes the eye with nocturnal wonder.

Raul and Sarah Alvarez were previously featured in our Nine Stunning #NaturePorn Photos article. Their portrayal of natural settings is masterful. If you’d like to take shots like this, buy yourself a Nikon D750 and study for a really, really long time.

Elias Butler | Flagstaff, Arizona

I was going to limit this feature to only pure, natural landscapes, but I’m a sucker for petroglyphs. The primitive markings are mysterious, delightfully archaic, and are representative of Southwestern native culture. Even in areas where they are preserved and featured in a touristic manner, you still experience a sense of ancient discovery that resonates within. The span of time, the larger Colossus of eternity, they dwarf you, and you’re left a lone leaf in the infinitesimal cosmos.



Frank N. Hornyak | Reddick, Florida

Bears in Florida? The Sunshine State isn’t just all gators and pelicans.

Frank ran into this furry beauty serendipitously. Like the professional photographer he is, he was fully prepared for the sighting. Frank Hornyak’s subjects are usually beautiful hummingbirds, but this deviation is a great addition.

Frank was previously featured in this #HMPYG article.

Lina Stock (Divergent Travelers) | Duluth, Minnesota

These ice formations seem unreal. This was shot in Alaska, a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. The expansive ice plains, towering glaciers, and abundance of interesting wildlife make way for an incredible trip.

I remember being told a brief story about a lady on a cruise ship. The ship’s destination was Alaska, somewhere this woman had never been. The ship set sail for six days, and all was relatively tranquil. Upon its arrival, the woman stepped out on deck to look upon the beauty of Alaska. She was so deeply affected, so overwhelmed, she jumped ship and plunged to her death.

So here’s my suggestion: Please do visit Alaska. Please don’t forget to take your medication with you.

 Follow Divergent Travelers on Instagram!



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 #TravelTip from Steve@HMPYG: Rental cars are cheapest in Vegas, L.A., San Diego, Miami, Tampa, and Philly.


Jessie Richards (#MuttCalledScout) | Alberta, Canada

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We always appreciate a photogenic dog. Scout is a majestic pooch with eye-catching features, from his gray face to rich coat. He’s a traveling mutt who is seen here enjoying the scent of fresh pine in Alberta. He has many more photos that can be mused over on his Instagram.

 

Thanks for reading! Come check out #HMPYG’s Pinterest page and follow!

Seven Nights in Cuba for Less Than $750

My latest time-killing hobby has been researching fares on SkyScanner. Though I’ve reached my quota of exotic destinations for the next six months, it’s still fun to look forward to what travels may come.

As I was playing around, I made an exciting discovery. You can book a flight, reserve a room, and eat seven nights in Cuba for less than $750. That made me, Scuba Steve, very happy.

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One stipulation (if traveling from the U.S.) is that you must venture to Cuba for one of twelve approved reasons. One particular travel allowance is for “journalistic activity.” This is an easy requirement to fill. Anyone planning to do this trip, use the contact form below and I will provide you with a super-easy journalistic assignment. #HMPYG will provide the letters and materials necessary to show that you are on assignment.

As for booking the trip and eating for less than $750, here’s how to do it:

  1. Set the search parameters on SkyScanner for the month of September. As many children are in school this month, September is a great time to book cheap airfare. I found a round trip ticket from LA to Havana for a little over $300.
  2. Search a hostel on this database. There are many that are rated “superb” for under $20 a night. 7 nights × $20 = roughly $140 for your accommodations.
  3. Eat at mid-range restaurants for about 30 CUC (Cuban convertible peso, roughly equivalent to 30 USD) per dinner. Breakfast is included with some of the hostels, and lunch can be attained with some jamon and delicious Cuban bread you buy at the market. This would leave you spending $30/day on food for dinner. $30 × 7 days = $210. Add $40 for groceries and you’re at a $250 food budget.
  4. Obtain a a Cuban visitors visa for around $60. See more information in this MappingMegan article.

Keep in mind, some hostels are as low as $10 per night. With that part of the budget cut in half, you could be treating yourself to some delectable cafe Cubano twice a day.

You would want to look good on your trip, of course. One of the best ways to look good on a budget is with shades from our awesome business partner, SunglassWarehouse 😎

What to Check Out While in Havana

Habana 61

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Habana 61 is the #1 top-rated Havana restaurant on Yelp. Servers speak English and the consensus is that the food is amazing. Some recommendations include the ropa vieja, octopus carpaccio, and chocolate mousse.

The Morro Castle

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The Morro Castle is rich with history and cultural relevance. The fortress overlooks Havana bay and guarded the city from invaders. It also held prisoners, and some were fed to sharks through holes in the wall. Its occupation bounced between the Spanish and British. As you may know from our previous article, tensions between the Brits and Spaniards were high in the 18th century. Admission is 4 CUC (4 USD).

Tropicana

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The world-famous nightclub is a landmark in the Marianao neighborhood of Havana. Though many imitations have appeared around the world, this is the authentic original. The club has included many famous patrons, including:

  • Frank Sinatra
  • Judy Garland
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Édith Piaf
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Nat King Cole
  • Tito Puente
  • Marlon Brando

The list goes on and on. This attraction is expensive, however. Cabaret tickets may cost upwards to 100 CUC.

For a more in-depth look at traveling/backpacking in Cuba, you may also check out this article.


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John Coltrane Was the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

If you ever want to commune with God, listen to A Love Supreme with complete and undisturbed attention.

The shrill passion, intensity, resolve, and grandiosity may take your spirit to celestial heights. “Acknowledgement,” the first part, orients us to the common blue-ness found within every being of humankind. The nebula of harmony. “Resolution,” the second movement, is the fusion of stellar nuclei throughout the cosmos. “Pursuance,” the third part, an urgent call to divine consciousness. “Psalm” is a final, ineffable musical interpretation of spiritual text.

Call me a romantic, but I must say that John Coltrane is the closest figure we’ll ever have to Jesus Christ in the modern world.

Upon one interview, Coltrane identified the calling of every man and woman as growing into the “best good you can be.” Self-actualization, the uppermost piece of Maslow’s hierarchy. What Coltrane did, however, was live this experience through music. He certainly didn’t live the ultimate righteous life, but he produced music that’s a miracle every time it’s played.

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After Coltrane’s death, a congregation called the Yardbird Temple in San Francisco began worshiping him as God incarnate.

A Love Supreme, a divine response to LSD

A Love Supreme was released in January of 1965. At this time, LSD use was on the rise. In 1966, Timothy Leary stated that LSD could be of benefit to mankind, and could even cure homosexual “perversions.” Counterculturists were turning to the experimental substance to find God. A behavior that Buddha himself advised against.

John Coltrane created A Love Supreme to connect with the mysterious and divine through a way that doesn’t require chemical alteration: through harmony.

Again, Coltrane wasn’t the emanation of righteousness. God knows he did his share of heroin and LSD. But Coltrane was a savior in times of spiritual confusion. He provided the medium that was there all along, but needing the right arrangement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No musician (since Beethoven) ever presented harmony in such a way that evokes universal brotherhood so resonantly. The music from A Love Supreme was purely inspiring. It was what the entire world was needing in order to advance existentially. But, like the Gospels, many will go through an entire lifetime with experiencing a single exposure.

A Moral Decline

Coltrane later went on to produce the album Om and other bouts of cacophony. With his increasing drug use, his sense of beauty deteriorated. He died in 1967. The 1980s came later, and it seemed that the general population of America lost sight of what is beautiful and transcendent as well.

What do we have now? Crack cocaine, the grave of Leonard Bernstein, Scientology, methamphetamines, bro-country, and Rob Kardashian.

What do we have to get through it? A Love Supreme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the epic spiritual poem from the album (performed musically in “Psalm”), both in visual and text format:

Source: Ramsey Castaneda

A Love Supreme

I will do all I can to be worthy of Thee, O Lord. It all has to do with it. Thank You God.

Peace. There is none other. God is. It is so beautiful. Thank You God.

God is all. Help us to resolve our fears and weaknesses.In you all things are possible.Thank you God.
We know. God made us so.Keep your eye on God.God is. He always was. He always will be.
No matter what… it is God.He is gracious and merciful.It is most important that I know Thee.
Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, throughts,fears and emotions–time–all related…all made from one… all made in one.
Blessed be his name. Thought waves–heat waves–all vibrations–all paths lead to God. Thank you God.
His way… it is so lovely… it is gracious.It is merciful–Thank you God.One thought can produce millions of vibrations and they all go back to God… everything does.
Thank you God.Have no fear… believe… Thank you God.The universe has many wonders. God is all.
His way… it is so wonderful.Thoughts–deeds–vibrations,all go back to God and He cleanses all.
He is gracious and merciful… Thank you God.Glory to God… God is so alive.God is.God loves.
May I be acceptable in Thy sight.
We are all one in His grace.The fact that we do exist is acknowledgement of Thee, O Lord.Thank you God.
God will wash away all our tears…He always has…He always will.
Seek him everyday. In all ways seek God everyday.Let us sing all songs to God.To whom all praise is due… praise God.
No road is an easy one, but they all go back to God.
With all we share God.It is all with God.It is all with Thee.
Obey the Lord.Blessed is He.
We are all from one thing… the will of God…Thank you God.
–I have seen ungodly–none can be greater–none can compare Thank you God.
He will remake… He always has and He always will.It’s true–blessed be His name–Thank you God.
God breathes through us so completely…so gently we hardly feel it… yet,it is our everything.
Thank you God.
ELATION–ELEGANCE–EXALTATION–All from God.
Thank you God.

 

Amen.

                                                
John William Coltrane
 (1923-1967)