LIVING THE SOULFUL LIFE
By Scott Kalechstein
The Blank Check
As 1998 draws to a close, I would like to invite you to prepare for the new year by reminding yourself that you are already in ownership of three of life's most precious and basic possessions: Free will, some crayons, and a blank page. If you are like me, sometimes the realization that your will is free and your slate is clean can feel like a huge responsibility. Sometimes I wish that God would simply save me from all this freedom and just tell me what to do. In a world that teaches us to hand over our power, sometimes going along with the pretense that we are not free to choose feels much safer than acknowledging that we always have choices before us. Allow me to share with you a chapter from my life that illustrates how delicate a matter following your heart and taking responsibility for your life journey can be.
The first check ever handed to me for my musical services was blank. It came with an invitation: "Here's a check. It's blank. Fill in how much you think you deserve." Donald Epstein, founder and developer of Network Chiropractic, had hired me to give a Saturday night concert during a Transformational Gate weekend workshop. Now he stood before me, smirk on his face, as if to say, "Now's your chance, kid. Step up to bat and tell me, the universe, and yourself who you think you are." I looked at the check in my hands, a little slip of paper with no numbers, no zeros. Free will had never felt so intimidating! In the few moments it took me to come up with a figure, I flashed on another moment, some seven years earlier:
"Mom, Dad, I'm not going to continue school next semester. I don't know if I need some time off or if college is just not for me, but for now this is what my heart is telling me to do." I was thankful that picture-phones hadn't been invented yet, because I didn't want my parents to see how much I was trembling. They argued, they pleaded, they begged me to reconsider, but my mind was made up. After years of traveling the known freeways and adhering to the signposts of popular opinion, I was feeling compelled to set out on a road less traveled. Although most of my friends were in shock and my parents withdrew both their financial and emotional support, I walked into the heart of my fears, rented a small apartment in Greenwich Village, and started selling laundry bags on the sidewalks of New York City while I sorted out just what I had said no to, and more importantly, what I had said yes to!
It was while living in New York that inspirational songs began to wake me up in the middle of the night and not let me sleep till I wrote them down. The sweet, compelling call of a career in music started knocking on the door of my heart and would not let me turn away. Since my belief was that working in the arts meant scarcity, I braced myself for a life of creative abundance and financial poverty!
I had been raised to value security, money in the bank, and preparing for the future. Here I was, a college drop-out, hawking laundry bags to pay the rent, and spending all my leftover money on personal growth workshops and recording tapes of music that I had no idea if there was an audience for. My parents thought I was nuts and were frightened for me.
Although I, too, had major doubts about my path and my choices, something inside me trusted the process enough to stay with it. I started doing monthly concerts in the N.Y. area. In addition I led The Musical Healing Circle, a workshop where I gifted people with an intuitively created song of healing and empowerment for their life journey. I had hopes that money would come in from these endeavors and that the word would spread about my offerings. After five years of putting my services out there, putting out laundry bags was still paying most of the rent. Discouragement weighed heavy in my heart, and I found myself looking at options for a safer, more predictable life.
I was sitting in my first class on opening day at Queens college. I had decided to go back to school, get my degree, and go on to become a qualified, licensed therapist. I knew I had gifts in that arena, and I longed to erase the sense of fear and uncertainty I had about my financial future. Besides, I dearly wanted to do something pleasing to my parents and feel accepted by my family again. I sat in that class, Creative Writing, the only course I was actually looking forward to, and felt dramatically out of place, as if I was from another planet. An active volcano started rumbling in my stomach. Silently I dialogued with it while the professor outlined the curriculum. "Get out!" the 'volcano' spewed. "Get out of this class and don't look behind you! This is not for you! Your classroom lies elsewhere!" Being a student of A Course in Miracles, I remembered its council about reactive decision-making: "The ego always speaks first. Its voice is always the loudest, and it is always wrong." This gastric volcano needed to cool its lava. I replied diplomatically, "Let's not do anything hasty. Why don't we make our way through this first day of classes and process our feelings about it before making a choice?" That's when the volcano erupted, ending the internal discussion and moving me out of my seat and towards the registration office, where I got a 75% refund for my tuition and then went home, called my parents, and told them I had dropped out for the second time.
Whether it was wisdom or rebellion I don't know, but college was no longer an option.
I stayed in bed for two weeks, curtains drawn, exploring the shadows of depression and despair, fears of being a laundry bag peddler for the rest of my life swirling around in my head. Just as my night seemed darkest, a ray of dawn came through me in the form of a song. The song, Follow Your Heart, contained a mantra that ignited the flames of my vision and gave me the courage to carry on. I will share the chorus with you:
Follow, follow, follow your heart Find the still small voice inside
Follow your heart to the fountain of truth And drink from its endless supply
Two weeks after my twenty min-ute return to academia, I got a call from a very good friend who forced me to get out of bed for the weekend, where I had been holding my very own private pity party. He took me to Omega Institute, the Esalan of the East Coast. As soon as we got out of the car we spotted Dr. Bernie Siegel and his wife taking a pleasant afternoon stroll. My friend knew Bernie personally and instructed me to get my guitar out of the car. I approached cautiously and said hello, wanting to be sensitive to his possible need for privacy. My friend, however, offered no such tact. "Bernie," he exclaimed enthusiastically, "you've got to hear one of Scott's songs!" Nervously, I serenaded Bernie and his wife, aware that if he liked my music he might be in a position to play a significant part in getting others to hear it. He loved it, and invited me to sing the next day for hundreds of people at the workshop he was conducting.
A member of Network Chiropractic's staff was in attendance, and took my business card. A few days later I was hired to perform at one of their events, The Network Chiropractic Transformational Gate. It was my first professional gig. I gave my all, and then some. I made up songs based on things people were going through during the weekend. People were laughing, crying, singing, dancing, and totally receiving what I was giving. At the concert's close, I was inundated with appreciation and support. They even talked about having me as a regular at their weekends.
It was then that Donald Epstein took me aside to discuss payment. "Here's a check. It's blank. Fill in how much you think you deserve." In that moment Donald became God for me. He was God telling me, before I was born, "Here's a life. It's blank. Create whatever you think you deserve."
I stood there, trembling, check in hand. I didn't like that moment! I wanted someone to tell me how much to charge; I wanted someone to tell me how much I was worth. I wanted instructions, not freedom! I knew I was being invited to step up to the plate and think big, and I knew this was one of those moments where I could either play it safe or change my life for the better. Picking up the pen, I took a deep breath. I imagined how much I felt comfortable receiving. Then I took a swing at something larger. Donald didn't flinch. The world didn't fall apart. And in that moment, college or not, I graduated to being Scott Kalechstein, M.D.T. (Modern Day Troubadour).
Network Chiropractic began traveling with their workshops, and I went with them. Thousands of people became exposed to my gifts, and the grace and momentum I had been praying for was manifesting as quickly as I could say "Play Ball!" I started touring with my own workshops and concerts, supported by the connections I made at Network weekends. Two years after filling in Donald's blank check, I kissed my last laundry bag good-bye and packed my possessions into my car. I was moving to California to create a new life. I knew it was blank. And with crayons in hand, I was ready to fill it in with what I knew in my heart I deserved.
With levity and love, Scott Kalechstein sings and speaks for his supper. He shares his gifts at churches, conferences and living rooms, both in the U.S.A. and in Europe. He is a prolific recording artist, a licensed minister, a dynamic workshop leader and an inspirational speaker. The Blank Check is an excerpt adapted from his forthcoming book, Teach Me How To Love, which is an autobiographical account of his own healing and awakening process. For a catalog of his music or booking information, Scott can be reached at (760) 753-2359 or e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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