In While I Was Musing, the Fires Burned, Dr. Petrillo examines the healing power of meditation, musing, and wholeness to make his case for our inner healing power. By learning how to channel energy through positive beliefs and practices, soul-searching, and meditation, Dr. Petrillo shows you how to inspire your mind's inner biological system to heal, repair, and regenerate.
He explores the impact that food has on your physical and mental health. By improving your diet and using many of the noninvasive techniques outlined in the book, you can maximize your health and engage the internal healing system in your body, mind, and soul.
Michael teaches how to change attitudes by tapping into our center for profound change in the body, the mind, and the spirit. Throughout his own personal journey to holistic health, he has traveled to many parts of the world to learn healing techniques-and he shares the best of his experiences with you here, in While I Was Musing, the Fires Burned.
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While I Was Musing, the Fire Burned
By Michael P. Petrillo
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Michael P. Petrillo, PhD
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMy Story
During a cold January blizzard in Peekskill at 4 in the morning, my mother Esther Mae went into labor. Since we did not own a car, my father Tony called Mom's cousins who owned the local taxi service. They came immediately and took Mom to the Peekskill Community Hospital where Dr. Sweet, our family doctor, was waiting. So at 4:30 am on January 7, 1927, I was born. I weighed over 12 pounds.
I was the second son of Tony and Esther. Brother Fred was fifteen years my senior. Fred described me as a child by saying that I went from crawling to running in a very short time, filled with energy and enthusiasm and always eager to learn. Mom laughed at that and said that I skipped learning to walk.
When my brother Vincent was born on December 9, 1931, two big changes took place in my life besides having a new little brother. For one, Dad realized our apartment was too small for the growing family. He found us a new place to live on upper Division Street in Peekskill where we had more room. I was four years eight months old and still running all the time. It took a great deal of Mom's time to keep me busy, which led Mom to make the second change.
Mom decided to enroll me in kindergarten shortly before Vincent's birth. That gave Mom an opportunity to spend more time with Vincent, and it gave me an outlet for my energy. I started school at Oak Street Grammar School as the youngest student enrolled.
Big brother Fred took me to school each day since Dad was working from 4 am till 9 or 10 pm seven days a week. We took our hard lives for granted then since we knew little else. Not seeing Dad very often meant that my brother
Fred became a dad to me, which is a story to be told! Fred was a husky, strong youth. He quit school at 16 to work with Uncle Tom at the New York Central Railroad repairing track up and down the Hudson River shoreline.
Fred left for work about 5 am each day, came home to take me to school about 7:30, and then returned to work. When his hours permitted, he also brought me home from school. Fred played an important role in my life. He was Mom's favorite, my surrogate dad, and my buddy and teacher about life both good and bad.
Although Dad was raised as a Roman Catholic, he no longer attended church. He did, however, have all five of his sons baptized as Roman Catholics. Mom, an Episcopalian, went to Eucharistic Services in the morning and worked at the Salvation Army in the evenings. She became a soldier and was dedicated to the Army and all its good deeds for the poor. I went to the Episcopal Church on Sunday mornings and the Salvation Army in the evenings. I loved both but had more fun and enjoyed the music and singing at the Salvation Army Headquarters. My aunt and my cousins were all Salvationists as well. My psyche was already ecumenical! I went from mass to merry music and singing. Mom sang solos and had a lovely voice. Dad, however, would have nothing to do with either! He continued to work hard seven days a week, and we continued to be very poor.
In spite of my early training, I was not really religious. I did not go to church school nor participate in church classes. I simply attended occasionally. Mom said I often slept during Mass and loved to sing and rattle the tambourine in the evenings during the Salvation Army Service.
Fred was now working full time for the New York Central Railroad. He continued to drop me off at school early before the school opened, and at times it was bitterly cold. The janitor was a kind man who let me stay in the furnace room to keep warm until school opened.
My first teacher was Miss Durkey, one of the most caring and warm people I ever knew. Soon a problem arose for me in Miss Durkey's class, however. I spoke like a street kid, which is what I was!
Miss Durkey visited our home to talk to my parents about my speech. Then she discovered that Dad still spoke Italian street-talk at home. Miss Durkey then knew the source of the problem. She told my dad to speak English only and that it was time to drop the street talk. Mom and I worried about the reaction Dad would have. Mom told me later that he was so shocked that he said nothing but just complied!
Soon after that we moved again, this time to The Flats. Today we would call them slums, but my dad was still not able to afford much more. The rent was $20 a month, and that was difficult for us. It was a grim place to live and we were eager to move on. We finally found an apartment on Main Street above a barbershop and my uncle's shoe repair shop. It was a much happier place to live. And I was getting older and it gave me a whole new area to explore and new friends to meet.
Shortly after our move to Main Street, I discovered a special weekend Halloween event at the Peekskill Theater. I decided it would be great fun to sneak in and enjoy the films. It took place all day lasting till nearly 12 midnight. There were hours of horror films to sit and squirm through and thoroughly enjoy! The last film was the classic Frankenstein! It was great fun for a young boy.
The film ended late, and I started home with a group of friends. My friends lived closer to the theater than I did. Each one left the group as he reached home, and I soon found myself alone in the dark. I hurried past the stores, which were closed. Suddenly, a man came out of a dark doorway and tried to grab me. I ran as fast as I could as the man chased me for half a mile uphill on Main Street, cursing and yelling for me to stop. At the top of Main Street, I saw the home of a good friend. The house was dark, but I ran between the hedges and under the porch where my friend and I often played hide and seek. I crawled around to the back of the house where I curled up under the back porch steps. I had hidden under the steps playing hide and seek many times before.
The man was thrashing around in the bushes yelling for me to show myself. Suddenly, all the lights on the back and front porches came on. The boy's father came out and shouted to the man to get out of the yard or get shot! Then I knew I would soon be safe!
I was still shaking with fear and anger though, so I stayed under the stairs till all the lights went out and everything was quiet again. Then I crawled out and hurried through their back yard to the street and ran the rest of the way home.
It was very late when I reached home, sneaked up the stairs to the bathroom, washed my hands and face with cold water, and crawled into bed. Mom heard me and came into my room.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
Still shaking, I blurted out where I had been that day and what had happened on the way home. I worried I would be in trouble again! But Mom hugged me and reassured me. She said, "You did good!"
Mom knew that I didn't need to be told how much danger I had been in. But I knew I must be ever more watchful. My body now knew a fear of someone coming up behind me and surprising me. It took some growing for me to learn to get those fears under control.
That part of me remained behind the scenes and out of sight for years. However, when I was attacked, bloodied, hurt, or frightened, the hidden part jumped out and the fury was unleashed. I called him my sleeping grizzly!
When I was about 9 years old, an Italian bully named John punched me in the face, bloodied my nose, pounded my chest, and hit me below the belt. I backed away till I reached a chain-link fence on the playground. Finally, the angry sleeping grizzly came out. I fought back, beating him with hammer blows till I was pulled off. It made me shake with inner terror that he could bring out such rage in me. I didn't understand at the time where the rage came from. I now know it was a reflection of the terror I had felt when Pop got drunk and beat me. Mom always intervened before Pop would stop, but that terror of his anger never left me.
A similar event happened at college. One of my many jobs was to work with a partner checking the outside doors on campus at midnight to be certain that they were locked. One night I was hurrying since it was late and I still had studying to do. I tested one of the doors and turned to go to the next building. I was passing a bush when my partner jumped out trying to scare me. He thought it was funny. I was startled, and without thinking I turned around and hit him under the chin so hard that it lifted him off the ground and nearly knocked him out. We were both finally able to laugh about the event, but it did take some time to reach that point.
Many years later when I was at the church in Livermore, I went down the hallway to turn off all the lights at the end of the day on my way out the front entrance. I didn't know that one of our women members was still working in a classroom. She came out behind me and playfully tapped my back. I instantly turned around and without thinking lifted her off the hallway floor at least two feet. It was totally shocking for both of us that I would react so strongly. She was frightened, but she finally cried out to me.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you!" I put her down and we looked at each other laughing.
Going home from the Livermore church that night, I realized that my response was a reaction to that old fear. The fear was still there, though it did not come out very often. I knew it was time to face my fears.
I dealt with my fear responses in therapy. I relayed how I was still hyper-reactive to any threat of someone coming up behind me. I learned the potential hazards of practical jokes, and I knew that I didn't want to repeat my fear reaction ever again. This led me to realize that we all have a little savage within that could become violent if our lives were threatened. The challenge was to learn to control the fear reactions. With thought and meditation over a period of years, I have learned to overcome the fears.
Chapter TwoFamily, Discovery, and Early Mentors
In Peekskill, winter was wonderful, white, cold and fun for all of us. One snowy day while sliding down a hill on a sled when I was about 7, a kid suddenly cut me off by bumping against my sled. I ricocheted out of control and sailed under a road barrier out into traffic. A car hit my sled, crushing it, while I hit the oil pan under the car, suffering a wound to my forehead and the loss of several teeth. When I came to, I was screaming, vomiting, and barely conscious, but I remember that my brother Fred appeared and took me to the hospital. That event affected me deeply, and today I cannot crawl into tight places without anxiety and some nausea. However, the accident did lead to a wonderful self-discovery soon after.
I was home recuperating for some time. In the long hours while I waited to heal, I developed a love for daydreaming and reading. These were two new discoveries for me that became increasingly important over the years. I would later realize that I was becoming a Muse.
I loved my mother completely. She was fun to be with, a great cook, and a wonderful nurturer. She was also a spiritual, earthy woman who loved her family.
Her green eyes were as changeable as the ocean and an indicator of her many moods. When she was impish and playful with her bubbling laugh, her eyes were clear, bright, and alive. When she went into her psychic self, reading tea leaves, acting as mid-wife, or counseling her large number of women friends, her eyes were grey, distant, and mysterious.
Mom had a flashing temper. When she was angry, her eyes changed from clear sea green to grey, stormy, and dangerous. I got out of the way when I saw that look in her eyes and dared not cross her.
When I was sick or had a wound, Mom became the Medicine Woman in the tribe. Our pantry was her medicine chest with herbs and mixtures of medicinal weeds for healing, plus the traditional cold alcohol baths for fevers, and ex-lax for elimination. She had a remedy for everything for those who came to her for help.
One day when Mom and I were uptown, a small boy came out of a nearby shop and began choking. He was beginning to turn blue when his mother came out. She began screaming. Mom rushed to the boy, lifted him by the heels, and slapped his back with one big swat! Out of his throat popped a marble. The boy was sobbing when Mom put him down and hugged him. His mother came up to hug him then, as Mom and I quietly walked away without saying a word. I was awed, but Mom was calm and went on without skipping a beat.
It took a lot to get Mom flustered. She was unflinchingly cool regardless of what was happening around her. With four sons and a hard working though hard-drinking husband, I think she had to be!
Mom sang much of the time. Music brought her happiness and peace. I can still tune in on her lullaby voice and the gospel songs she knew so well from her Salvation Army work as well as from being a member of the Episcopal Church. My mom was a healer to all who knew her, and one of my earliest mentors.
I loved to run, play marbles, swim, fish, climb, read, and sing when I was alone. I became very independent at a young age. When I was about seven, I hiked to a lake and climbed around on the cliffs above looking down into the water. I reached up to grab a rock above me, but the rock was loose and dropped down to the water. I fell 20 feet to the ice-covered glacial lake below, breaking the ice and sinking down to the bottom. Looking up, I remember watching bubbles and thinking that I would soon be dead. Suddenly, the cold shocked me awake! I became alert and was able to see light shining above the surface of the water, giving me a direction to swim to be safe. I climbed through the hole in the ice and hurried home. Mom made me strip off my clothes, spanked me, and cried all at the same time. Then she dried me off and put me to bed. I knew then that she loved me for sure. Her strength and love were a great influence in my life.
Chapter ThreeFriendships and Symbols
It seemed to me that we were always moving. About the time I made friends in a neighborhood, we moved to another part of town. I now know that Dad was always looking for a better place for us to live. At the time, I just felt frustrated.
When I was 10, we moved again, this time to Main Street above an appliance and electronics store. While I lived there, I attended Oak Street Grammar School during 5th and 6th grades. One teacher, Miss Depew, deeply affected my life. She greatly encouraged my growing love of studying and reading books. Books were like friends to me that were always with me wherever I moved. Books always kept me company.
Since we moved often, we attended various churches. Since I had a variety of friends in each area of town where I lived, I often attended churches with them. I sat through many a Sunday service in Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Independent churches. It was a wonderful introduction to many religions and helped to make me curious about their similarities and differences.
When I was about 13, my cousins and I attended a citywide youth rally at the Dutch Reform Church. The evangelist was a storyteller who kept my attention. I vividly remember his sermon.
Near the end, he read from Revelations 3:20.
"Behold! I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."
The evangelist symbolically told a story of Jesus standing at the door of our hearts. He knocked because there was no knob on the outside. We must open the door to let Him enter. I began to visualize the image until it became a mystical experience. I now know that I was musing. I could see my inner self listening to the voice of Jesus and hearing Him speak to me asking,
May I come in and be with you now and all of your life, teaching you to love God and yourself?
I saw myself reaching for the knob on the inside. I opened the door and invited Jesus to come into my heart. My whole body seemed filled with light, as He sat down with me and He communed His love, grace, and power.
I was very deeply moved by this experience. It stayed with me and guided my decisions about my future. Since the Baptist Church sponsored the rally, I started to attend Sunday school at the First Baptist Church.
By junior high I had lived in one area long enough to have a number of friends to hang out with and do some of the wild things that teenagers do. An event happened then that shocked me deeply. M. R., one of my friends, and I were playing tag on top of the walls around the school. The walls were topped with chain link fencing. M. R. was standing outside the fence, and our friend Nick was trying to tag M.R.'s hands through the fence. M. R. pulled his hands back, lost his balance, and fell 8 to 10 feet to the ground. I jumped down and saw that he was knocked out with his legs at a weird angle. Since I was a boy scout, I had taken first aid and had training in splints. Several other kids wanted to move M. R., but I pushed them back. I called to Nick to find the janitor and tell him to call an ambulance. When the janitor came with a blanket, he took one look at M. R. and told me that I had done the right thing by not moving him. He warned that M.R.'s back could be broken, and if we tried to move him, it could sever his spine. Soon the ambulance arrived. Nick and I watched silently as it drove M. R. to the hospital.
The following day was Saturday, and I walked to my favorite spot in the Oak Park Woods where I had built a tree hut. I was deeply depressed and worried about my friend. I didn't know then how to label what I was doing, but I laid back and stared at the clouds moving slowly across the sky. I now know that I was again musing. As I became very peaceful, a thought came to my mind.
Excerpted from While I Was Musing, the Fire Burned by Michael P. Petrillo Copyright © 2011 by Michael P. Petrillo, PhD. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
One My Story....................5
Two Family, Discovery, and Early Mentors....................13
Three Friendships and Symbols....................17
Four Mentors, Christianity, and Change....................22
Five Loss and New Direction....................28
Six Spiritual Journeys....................32
Seven Seeking with an Open Mind....................44
Eight Change and New Goals....................49
Nine Starting Over....................58
Ten A Mystic Soul Evokes The Muse....................71
Eleven Key I Symbols, Dreams, and Interpretations....................87
Twelve Key II Sayings, Quotations, and Meditation....................98
Thirteen Key III Synergism, Synchronism, and Poetry....................118
Fourteen Key IV Spiritual Wisdom and Inner Light....................127
Fifteen Key V Wise Wizard Within....................137
Sixteen Key VI Evoking Serenity....................149
Seventeen Key VII Synthesis, Intuition, and Musing....................163