A Discipline for the Soul

More Than Meets the Eye

Last month I lost an old friend of mine who had been battling brain cancer for the last year and a half or so. We were very close in high school, and for a few years we lived and breathed everything baseball. He passed away in the early morning, and that afternoon I received an emotional but brief call from his mom asking if I’d speak at the memorial.

I immediately went into writing mode. I grabbed my journal and traveled back 25 years in my mind. For the next two days, I allowed my thoughts to fall into “everything Jeff.” Any time I thought of something related to him or a memory popped into my head, I wrote it down. All of our former classmates and friends were sharing memories and pictures with each other, one of which has the two of us on the field with our backs to the camera watching the other team warm up prior to the game, something we’d done countless times together. Jeff was wearing the number 12.

The morning after my conversation with his mom, I walked outside, my head completely engrossed in what I was going to write. As I stepped out of the garage, a bright red cardinal appeared in the tree next to me, and I heard the message immediately. Jeff’s family was from the St. Louis area and they were huge Cardinals fans, but I sensed that there was more to it.

Animals represent many things to different faiths throughout the world, and after my wife was killed almost three years ago, the appearance of animals and the significance of their totems took on great importance in my life. Not surprisingly, when I looked up the cardinal totem online, what I found was this.

Ted Andrews, author of the book “Animal Speak,” suggests that cardinals are connected to the number 12.

I shared the story with Jeff’s folks, and all of us agreed that this was his way of letting us know all was ok.

Need I say more?

Why not? It gets better.

The last few years have also brought me into close contact with energies that we can’t see. That’s about the most general way of saying that my life has been one big Poltergeist experience more often than not. It began within 24 hours of my wife dying, and hasn’t stopped or let up since. My closest friends and family members have seen it all first hand.

A couple of weeks after his death, I was in my loft talking to Jeff, much in the same way I’ve talked to Shani since her passing. I’ve had two strange incidents over the last year where my TV turned on completely out of nowhere at some pretty powerful times, so I thought I’d throw it out there….

“Hey Jeff, gimme the TV,” I said. “Shani gave me the TV, so c’mon….I know you can.”

It happened. That night! I fell asleep on the couch and was lying there at about 2:00 in the morning when I heard my father’s voice. I recognized the old Christmas DVD right away, and as I peeled my eyes open, I rolled over in time to witness the TV turn on by itself…or with a little help, you might say. I looked across the room and saw both remotes on the other end of the sectional and immediately ran into the bedroom to wake my fiancée and show her.

Spooky? Strange? Scary, you say? Welcome to my world.

It doesn’t stop….

Last week I received an email about a luncheon I was asked to attend the following day for Atlanta Victim Assistance, Inc. As a recently appointed member to the Board of Directors, I also got a phone call and an apology for the last minute notice, along with a sincere request that I attend.

I really didn’t want to go. I had “things to do,” and the short notice was an easy out. Over the next few hours I gave it some thought and realized that going to the banquet is what I was supposed to do, so I did. It was wonderful, and I knew then that I was right where I needed to be. As I left, I felt that inner peace of having followed my heart instead of my head, and proceeded home.

I came up to a busy intersection here in Midtown Atlanta and saw a car with its hazard lights on, holding up traffic in the middle lane and stuck at the light. As I got closer, I realized that I recognized this person as a young guy from our building with a reputation for being a bit of a pain in the ass-a young Eminem look-a-like with a large pit-bull that he has no control over. And although we’ve never met personally, I’ve had my own brief interactions with him that haven’t exactly left me wanting to get to know him better.

To be completely honest, as I started to pull up to the light my initial thoughts were, “He can take care of it. He’s a few blocks from home.”

And then I thought, “He’s my neighbor.”

I parked my car in the service drive of the hotel on the corner and helped him push the car out of the way into a temporary parking spot. I offered to give him a ride home so he could do what he needed to do. He hopped in and was extremely thankful.

As I shook his hand, I saw the unexplainable. He had a huge tattoo of a red cardinal on his forearm. No, I didn’t ask him about it. I didn’t need to.

In that moment, I knew that I had followed my calling and not my own selfish motives. I was in alignment with what I was supposed to be doing. Had I not gone to the luncheon, I never would have met the kid, nor seen the tattoo.

In yoga, we talk about the benefits of becoming present, of staying “in the moment.” We talk of the active mind and how our thought patterns are just a result of experiences and not our reality. We talk of seeing things clearly and appreciating beauty more as we become aware.

We also talk about connecting with God. The Source. The Universe.

So what does all of this mean to me?


When I lost Shani, I immediately knew that I couldn’t trust myself, or more specifically, my thoughts. The things that I have seen and carried in my head these last few years would be enough to send most people to the psych ward. Seeing your spouse in the condition I have is not something that ever leaves you, and the shock I experience today is no different than that which I experienced when I first saw her lying in front of me with a bullet hole in her head. Our minds can do some crazy things.

Yoga has taught me to let that be. It is what it is. I saw what I saw and don’t have to respond. I continue to learn how to be with what is, instead of living in anguish over what was. In doing so, I believe I am more in tune with my real identity, my soul. And it is this piece of our being that is constantly getting guidance from God. All we have to do to listen is to still the mind, a tall order for most.

Our physical bodies are only a means of achieving our calling during our very short time here on earth. But when we put all of our faith and energy into achieving physical goals or acquiring “things” and personal achievement, we miss out on our fundamental purpose which is simply to help one another. In that state of disconnect from spirit, we feel uneasy, making ourselves more susceptible to the negative states of being like fear, greed and selfishness, which eventually lead to anger and violence and the world we live in now.

Simply put, the result of listening and accepting what we are asked to do while we are here is peace, while our constant pursuit of personal gain usually leads to unrest and lack of fulfillment. What we pursue is a choice.

While I enjoy “things” like anyone else, I’d rather have a cardinal on my shoulder than a Ferrari in the driveway any day.



4 responses

  1. Andrea

    I read your blog a bit, I certainly appreciate all you’ve done for yourself and community since losing Shani. It looks like this is a newer endeavor for you, and I wish you the best of luck!

    May 23, 2012 at 1:36 am

    • Thank you so much, Andrea! My life is incredibly full, and I am reminded with each class I teach and every conversation I have that Shani’s spirit lives on.

      May 23, 2012 at 3:11 pm

  2. Scott Vogel

    Love you Fecht…..great blog!

    March 21, 2013 at 1:01 am

  3. Sean Brooks

    Mike as always, you never leave me with a word “Speachless”…. I’ve come to know you, and appreciate your spirit. Once again you are contributing in your own special way to help create peace, and ease those with pain… I admire you, and I’m glad to call you a friend… Sean

    April 18, 2013 at 11:11 pm

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