Adventures of A Gravestomper–The Book!!!!

You’ve seen the Gravestomping videos. You’ve joined me on my stomps through some of the smaller more intimate graveyards in the Chicago area. But what about the big spooky ones? What about the haunting legends? The gothic romance? The enormous statuary that makes Chicago graveyards so infamous? What about the famous Rosehill Mausoleum, where a just few steps into the place sends shivers down your spine? What about the statue of Death in Graceland Cemetery and the creepy old legend about it that every Chicago school kid knows? Or Bachelors Grove, considered one of the most haunted spots in America? And the bizarre museum of punishment at Queen of Heaven cemetery? Or the burial sites of Chicago gangsters at Hillside’s Mount Carmel?

Need more of that Gravestomper motivation you get on this blog? Every line of this book is designed to motivate you to get out there and make your dreams come true. Like the interview with a funeral director in Chapter 10 in which he reveals what being around death for 24 years has taught him about living life to the fullest.

Adventures of a Gravestomper, the new book by Corin White, Published by Dorje Publishing is available now. And it’s packed with motivation to end all your excuses and go kick life in the ass! It’ll be on amazon.com soon but order it directly from me now and you’ll be out there stomping even sooner!. Just $20 plus $3.99 shipping.

READ AN EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK HERE:

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To buy your copy via a secure PayPal button vist my website at http://www.thegravestomper.com/GraveStomperBook.html 

The Bike Path of Life

Many of you have written me and asked me: “What do you mean when you talk about living in the moment?  And what do you mean when you say that people are avoiding living by losing themselves in a fantasy?”  I’ve decided to use an analogy here to illustrate my point. 

Graveyards aren’t the only places I like to stomp. I bike ride.  A lot.  Five times a week you can find me on my mountain bike on a nearby trail  in the woods.  The path is beautiful, hilly, expansive.  It has a lot to offer—a lot of secrets.  And lot to teach.  It’s an incredible place to go and hike, jog or bike and just be in the moment.  And all moments have something to teach us if we’re present in them.  When you’re paying attention, you start to notice patterns on the bike path: types of people and their habits.  The path is like life—see?  And the hikers show you the types of people who are just letting their lives slip past them… Maybe you’ve seen these people in other areas of life.  On the road.  In the grocery store.  At work.  It’s true that these characters populate all our lives.  Which do you think you are?

The zombies:

This is by far the largest group on the path.  They stumble along, alone or in couples, completely unaware of where they are or their surroundings.  Lost in some fantasy.  They zig zag on the path in front of you and you never know what they’re going to do, because they never know what they’re going to do.  There is no purpose to their being there—they’re just there, victims of “fate” hoping something will amuse them, bless them or curse them. 

When you’re a rider you MUST announce your presence to these people otherwise they will step in front of you and get mowed down.  It’s astonishing how many are startled when you slowly ride up—you have to approach them slowly, if you clip past they will throw themselves in front of you—and gently call; “Passing on your left, please!” 

Some of them jump.  Some gasp.  Other’s grip the person next to them in fear.  On several occasions—and this is the truth I swear it—I’ve seen women, run in circles not knowing what  to do.  I’ve had to stop my bike and wait for them to decide where they wanted to go.  In one case a rather hefty woman dove for the side of the trail and fell on her face.  I have to admit, I wish I had video of that one.  It would surely take the Gravestomper blog viral.

These people are a bit of a menace to those who are out riding.  In this case their lack of being in the moment is a danger to themselves and others.  Note too that this group—like every other group on this list, will blame YOU for their lack of awareness.  And they are by far the largest group out there.

The tech-addicts:

The first in this group is just amusing.  They are the phone users.  These are the hikers who are on the path, surrounded by green, wildlife, blue skies and scented breezes but who aren’t really experiencing any of it because they have a phone stuck to their heads. They chatter loudly with friends who are also somewhere else not experiencing their surroundings.  You can pass them three or four times on the loop of the trail and they’ll still be on the phone each time.  It’s true, sometimes you’ll see them still on the phone when they hop into their cars and drive away from the forest preserve, splitting their focus in traffic for the ride home. When you see them you can’t help but wonder if they’re terrified to be alone, or if they ever enjoy any moment because they’re so conditioned to want to be somewhere else with someone else at all times.

I’ll throw the smokers in here too—inhaling deeply on their cigarettes so they don’t have to breathe in the experiences around them. No fresh air for them!  The one’s who smoke while riding bikes are the funniest.  With every pump of the pedals they decrease their breathing capacity and their ability to ride.  Sometimes they’re blue in the face and hacking up phlegm: mmmmm… sexy!

The texters fall into this category too.  And they are the most dangerous of this group.  A few weeks back. I encountered a man and his two daughters riding on the path.  The eldest of his daughters, about twelve, was texting while on her bike.  She was swooping in wild arcs across the entire width of the path, unable to control her steering because she was so focused on her phone.  Her father was unconcerned, but then, he fell into the first category: zombie.  Guess his daughter was well on her way to that category too, as I had to shout for her to wake up to keep her from crashing into me, and she was so startled when I did that she almost fell off her bike.

You do have to be careful  with all of these people because they will wander in front of you while you’re riding and, unfortunately, they’re not concerned whether or not they take you down with them.

The clan mentality:

By far the most exasperating on the path.  Families who come into the woods.  Mother.  Father.  Three or more children.  They all walk abreast of each other, completely blocking the path.  They never hear when a bike is approaching because they are too wrapped up their family drama and dynamic.  For them no one else exists.  For them there is only their clan.  For them—you are an intrusion into their space that they feel entitled to  because they are a family.  Most often you will get a dirty look from one or more member who finds your presence in the woods an imposition on their experience.

In this case: I advocate bowling.  It’s really the only way they’ll learn the world is bigger than their tiny clan.

The pet lovers:

These guys are fun and friendly, interactive and usually they are aware that you’re coming because they want to keep their pets safe.  Unfortunately some of them walk in couples or trios while use those extending leashes and set up a road block across the whole trail, in which case they are no longer pet lovers, they are clan mentality (see above).

Joggers:

They’re out every day. Even with their headphones on they know you’re coming.  They stay to the right and allow you to pass.  They never hoard the trail because they know that there are OTHER PEOPLE who are using it for MANY PURPOSES.  These guys are usually in the moment have a purpose and goals.  They are, in fact, a delight to share the trail with.

The dedicated bikers:

Like the joggers these are the ones who are out there doing.  Practicing every day or so.  Present in the moment.   We are the smallest group in the woods and the ones who have to negotiate all the others.  But we’re also the ones who get the furthest, go the fastest, and who experience the most.  We also have the firmest asses.  But that’s another blog entirely.

Happy easter.

 

Stockholm Syndrome: “A term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors” –Wikipedia

This syndrome develops when the following four conditions are present.  It can develop in any relationship where these factors are present between an abuser and a victim:  terrorist/hostage; parent/child; lovers; teacher/student; government/subjects; religion/ followers.

  1. The victim believes he’s in danger.  Weather from an implied or stated threat by the abuser.  The victim also believes that the abuser will carry it out.  This threat is usually accompanied by a prescribed code of behavior that the victim must abide by that determines the level of punishment at the hands of his abuser.  Examples: if you do not prescribe to our group’s code of morality we will humiliate and ostracize you.  Or, if my dinner is not hot, to my liking and on the table when I get home, I will throw it against the wall and make you clean it up right in front of the children.  
  2.  Small kindnesses from the abuser that make the victim believe the abuser’s really not all that bad and  that there is a possibility the situation will get better.  These momentary kindnesses also act as a carrot on a stick that make the victim believe there’s a way to finally win the approval of the abuser.  Examples: the sacrament of penance in which the priest forgives the sinner.  Or, the alcoholic/abusive father who pays for his sons college.  Or, the jealous boyfriend who buys his lover jewelry after hitting her.
  3. Isolation from all outside influence other than that of the abuser.  Example: Everyone outside your religion is out to get you and lead you into shame and eternal suffering.  We are the only chosen people.  Or: if you go out with your friends I will harm them.
  4. The victim really believes there’s nowhere else for him to go. Example: if I leave my religion I will have bad luck for the rest of my life and then go to hell. 

 

We were told we were sinners and that we should be punished.  No amount of “God’s love” or forgiveness nor promise of happiness in the hereafter could ever change that fact.  We were inherently evil we were told.  And we deserved to be punished.  The “One Catholic God” was our father, they said.  And they were his representatives.  To question them meant suffering greater than we could possibly fathom with our tiny minds.  We were in essence, taught, to shut up and take it.  Or else.  We were told this from the time we were infants and dunked into water to wash all the evil away.  Evidently it didn’t take.  Because we were still to be punished daily in school and when we went home to our parents.  The threat was clear to me when I  was seven and ran away from school and they dragged me back and beat me for it.  The brilliance of that one act was lost on them.  The effects of the deed were too precise for words: an arabesque of abuse expertly executed.  In that one act they’d achieved all four steps of the Stockholm Syndrome.  The threat, the isolation, the belief there was nowhere for me to go where they wouldn’t find me and bring me back was sealed: all by age seven.  The kindness came when they stopped beating me and allowed me to live.  Swell bunch of fuckers they were.

Broken by seven I had nine more years within their organization, each one punctuated by their yearly tribute to punishment: easter.  Every ‘good” Friday they would drag us kids into the church and show us something called stations of the cross.  If anyone else carried out such a public performance they’d be arrested for pornography.  Subjecting children to a snuff play.

There they forced us to watch over and over again the abuse, torture and murder of a man.  They called it beautiful. They called it glorious.  They told us it would be our greatest honor to follow in his footsteps.  All of their saints had been murdered brutally too.  Didn’t we want to be saints?  Meanwhile the pastor who was rubbing our faces in this threat was fucking my classmates behind the altar.  No one found out about it until we were all adults. 

Didn’t I want to be an altar boy my parents asked me.  “No.  Never.”

Meanwhile their Pope—unbeknownst to us followers–was beating himself daily with a belt and  covering up little boy rape.

By the time I was in my teens I got my courage back and  tried to run away again.  My father physically stopped me and threatened to have my friends arrested, further reinforcing the isolation while adding a threat to the safety of my loved ones.

He’d also done a good job raising me to believe I needed him to survive.  “You?  Make a living?  No way.” He told me repeatedly from the time I was in junior high.  “You don’t know how to do anything.  You’ll starve. And then you’ll come crawling back to me begging and grateful for what I’ve given you.”

Within the next few months I was broken again, and I settled into my life, numb.  I began defending my family and its religion.  I didn’t know why.  They treated me like shit but I didn’t know there was anywhere else to go. The fear of bad luck and poverty and suffering if I left was consuming.  Until the day I realized my life had been nothing but suffering and bad luck and what did I really have to lose.  By 29 I got far enough away from them to get some perspective on it all.

At 33 I left them and I never looked back.  It took a few years to begin to get myself on track, but by then my luck started to improve, tremendously.  I began to find successes I never could have had in that environment.

I know there are others out there who’ve been through this.  Maybe this won’t hit you now but someday you’ll get a little bit of distance and then, in that quiet moment, I want you to ask yourself: What do you really have to lose?  Your suffering? Your identity as the victim?  There is more.  So much more.

Happy easter is the most absurd phrase I’ve ever heard.  It’s a secret message those with Stockholm Syndrome give each other.  “Yes—life sucks.  Yes, I’ve been fucked and abused and beaten and broken.  And for some strange reason, I’m happy about it.”

Happy images from a recent gravestomp thru a Catholic cemetery

People who are grieving the death of loved ones come upon this painting and believe its beautiful art.

The caption on the window stated that she chose this fate to having sex and she was blessed for it.

Law of Attraction or Law of Decay?

Back in the late 80’s I worked in a book store. At the time there was a deluge of new ’self help’ titles that were preaching the beginning of what has come to be known today as the “law of attraction“. The authors of these books swore emphatically and passionately that if you just followed your heart and did what you loved for a living, happiness would quickly follow and money would flood in afterwards like a tidal wave.
 
Now, I got my first job when I was twelve years old. I worked as a bar back in the bar where my father used to go and get drunk. To say that I had a Dickensian upbringing is a bit of an understatement. I grew up in a blue collar Chicago neighborhood where everyone hated their jobs and were miserable from 9-5 every day, and then came home at night and got drunk. By the time they were forty their bodies were shot, their mobility was limited: they were overweight and stuck and unhappy. So, when I read what these authors were saying about doing what you love, I desperately wanted to believe them. After all, I thought, they’d published books, so there had to be something to what they were saying…right?
 
I majored in creative writing and minored in dance as those were the things I loved most at the time. When I graduated I was ready for the happiness and wealth these self-help gurus had promised but ended up, instead, working in a factory that made dance clothing. I was the only one there with any kind of college degree and I was far from the highest paid individual in the joint.
 
Depressed at this outcome following five years of college, I decided what I needed was more education to make my dreams come true. So I went to graduate school and got an MFA in creative writing. During that time I sold some stories to national magazines, did some freelance writing for corporations, wrote a kids book for a New York publisher, tutored writing students and then, finally, ended up a writing teacher at three different Chicago Colleges/Universities. I thought my problems would be over but in all that time I never made more money than I did working in the factory, nor did I see any of the success that was promised by those new age gurus who told me that if I just followed my passion I would succeed and succeed big.
 
Once, when I was teaching at Loyola University, one of the top Universities in Chicago, I asked the English department chair if I had any future as a teacher at Loyola. His blunt response to me was: “What else do you know how to do?” I was devastated that I had spent ten years of my life educating myself to wind up at a dead end.
 
After eight years of teaching college, I finally decided I didn’t want to be poor, underappreciated or overworked any longer and I quit teaching to pursue other interests. It took me a few years to begin to get my life on track again because I was still clinging to the belief that if I just did what I was passionate about I would be successful.
 
In the middle of this I learned about sales, entrepreneurialism and about a Tibetan doctrine about kingdom building that the ancient BÖn used to build the silk road. Studying these things confirmed something that direct experience had taught me years before. The Law of Attraction is merely an advocation of self indulgence. The truth of the matter is: If you wish to be successful you must first conceive of a vision that is bigger than yourself and your own desires. It must be big enough to include other people. Big enough for them to find a place in it. Otherwise you will never find success no matter how passionate you are, no matter how badly you need to express yourself, or how much talent you have. Desire alone never brings success. In fact, the more desire you invest in a thing, the more likely that thing will elude you.
I always think of this LOA movement as a four hour long sex session that your partner skips out on before you orgasm. When it’s over you’re left chafed and frustrated and alone–wondering why you wasted all the energy to begin with when with a little effort you could have just taken care of yourself.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Birth of a Gravestomper

Maybe it all started that afternoon when I was wandering through the St Francis Borgia grammar school library looking for something to read. Those days reading bored the hell outta me. I preferred being outside: running, biking, lying under the hundred-year-old silver maples in my front yard making up adventures. There was life outside in the open air and things were so stagnant in that Catholic school. There was little of interest to me within it’s beige walls and filthy asbestos ceilings. So much so that in second grade I asked one of the nuns to let me go to the bathroom and I simply walked out of the school and ran away. It took my father throwing me to the ground, beating me and kicking me to make me agree not to leave it again.

 

But anyway: back to the library. I was looking for something that would excite me. I’d already read the only book the school had on Greek mythology about fifty times. I loved the stories of the Gods. They were so much more interesting than the battered crucified curse we had to face above the chalkboards every day. That was a constant reminder that there was no way to win. If the Catholics didn’t lobotomize me with their our fathers and hail mary’s, then someone else would sling me up on a tree and nail me in. Their philosophy sucked. A point I reiterated years later in Catholic high school to a gym teacher who then dragged me into his office and beat me up. Another curse. They were all about curses, these people. But the old Greeks knew the Gods weren’t infallible. They were like us only bigger and more powerful. This seemed important to me. But there was only one book about them in that Catholic library. Looking back now, I admit, I’m surprised there was even the one; but there was, and I’d read it; and I was looking for something else; and that’s when I saw it.

 

It was the cover that caught my eye. It was black. On it was was a black and green winged figure pointing at a couple of tombstones. Behind the figure a purple sky was split by a lightning bolt and above this was the title, Here Lies the Body by Scott Corbett.

 

I checked it out and immediately started reading it. It was about a New England boy and his little brother, who was may age, who got a summer job cutting grass in ‘Hemlock Hill Burial Ground’. The elder brother wanted to be a writer and spent his time making up poems about the names on the tombstones. Turns out there was a mystery surrounding the two old men who owned the cemetery. It was a great read that left an indelible mark on my imagination. I read the book maybe a dozen times after that.

 

As it happed, my house in Chicago was walking and biking distance from at least six cemeteries. I decided to have some adventures like my heroes from the book and started spending my days—and when I was older, some nights—in Acacia, Westlawn, Mount Olive, St Joesph’s and Elmwood Cemetery in River Grove where John Belushi was originally buried before they moved his body to Massachusetts. In my teens I discovered Graceland and Rosehill on the North side where the first communal mausoleum was built. I fully explored the famous Mount Carmel: notorious for all of the gangsters like Al Capone who are buried there and where all of my Irish/Italian family is buried. I was looking for something. I didn’t know what.

 

When my mother found out I spent so much time in cemeteries she was horrified and said: “How can you do that?”

 

Why” I said to her. “It’s not the dead I’m worried about. It’s the living.” Which tells me now that even then I understood one of the principles central to the Tibetan Bon process: a realization that this life is characterized by suffering. But what no one seemed to be able to tell me was: How to we go beyond that suffering?

 

My time in cemeteries instilled a habit in me. One that lead me to search through the dark of this city for something even though I didn’t know what I was looking for. I know now I was looking for the way to go beyond death. I knew there had to be a way and it wasn’t through the crucified curse. I’d read about Easterners who meditated in cemeteries and I was intrigued. Where did the practice come from? I wanted to know. Later I would find out: Tibet.

 

In my late teens I began to explore dark Chicago nights, clubs, smoky bars and glistening city streets the way I’d searched those cemeteries in my youth. Still looking for the answer to what was behind that dark. On the way home I’d drive into Acacia cemetery, which was open all night back then, and I’d sit on the gravestones and stare up at the stars. One those nights I always knew: the answer would eventually come.

 

One night in the late 80’s I was in club Berlin, staring at a New Order video on the screen. I set my glass down hard on the bar and said aloud to no one: “I’m not coming back! This is it for me.”

Evidently I’d made a decision, but about what I didn’t know. By the time I hit 30 I’d fully explored the ‘New Age’ and found it to be to be no different from the religion I’d been raised on. There was no answer to what I’d been looking for in those cemeteries, or on those dark streets. Just an endless string of opinions.

 

By the time I was in my mid thirties I was researching Tibet. I uncovered a reference to these incredible Tibetans who were called Bön. They were in Tibet before the Buddhists got there and indeed the Buddhists had learned from them. I couldn’t believe some of the legends about these incredible people. Could they be true? According to the book they were all but extinct.

 

“Now, where the hell am I going to find one of these Bön?” I said to myself.

 

But I didn’t have to find one. Two weeks later one found me. I was up in Wisconsin doing palm readings at a Spring festival. He was a Bönku or “seed of Bön”. That is, a Bön master. He gave me a meditation to try and I did it. When I’d master it he gave me another exercise. Unlike all the religions I’d grown up around he never asked me to trust him or believe him or follow him. He simply gave me these experiments and said, “Try them. See what happens.”  See, now, if I was a New-Ager, this is the part of the story where I’d tell you that this Bönku told me I had a special gift, great spiritual power and that I was chosen to lead people. That sort of thing is pure bullshit. He didn’t tell me I was ‘special’ or that I was ‘chosen’. In fact he basically showed me how ignorant I was, and I how I was a prisoner of my own life and habits the way all of us humans are. If anyone had told me I was very powerful I would have known it was bullshit because I felt totally powerless back then. Power was the one thing I wanted because I was tired of having any and all power taken from me by others. I’m astonished so few are willing to admit the fact that they want power. They’re so afraid of it. But just because they pretend not to want it, doesn’t mean they’re fooling anyone. It could lead them to great things if they’d just admit it. But he did tell me that if I worked my ass off I could have great power and reach enlightenment: the way all humans can. It’s just that most humans already think they are already enlightened and so they can’t even be bothered to try and grow further. 

 

By midsummer that year I had taken vows of refuge. Meaning, I committed 11 years of my life to Bön training. That first year I learned all about the famous “cemetery work” of the Bön. (Some of it is chronicled in Alexandra David-Neel’s wonderful book, Magic and Mystery in Tibet.) And I realized why I had always been drawn to cemeteries. Lets just say that cemetery practices and all of the practices we Bön do are aimed at ending suffering: our own and the suffering of others. And we’ve dedicated our time here to manging our minds and ending suffering.

 

Now, cemeteries hold a great deal of magic for me. And I, as a Bön “Gomchen” as we are called, spend my time stomping the grounds with a great deal of appreciation and respect not only for the energies present in those places, but in the power of those places to relieve us of suffering, fears and limitations. For me, every trip to a cemetery is another adventure; it reminds me that we are more than mere dust and bones. We are energy.

 

But as my Bönku said to me the first day I met him: “If you’re not managing your energy, who is?”

 

And that my grave stomping friends, is the key to it all…