Sunday, October 29, 2017

Worry Transformed

Worry. I am no stranger to that particular affliction, one to which the human mind is particularly prone. Evolutionarily speaking, the brain’s ability to anticipate potential problems kept us fed, sheltered, and safe from predators. In other words, worry kept us alive.

But in our modern world, this same tendency leads to chronic stress, which is harmful in any number of ways, wreaking havoc with body, heart and soul. Fortunately, the plasticity of the brain lends itself to the development of new habits. We can choose what we cultivate.
I once worked with teen prostitutes. When my coworker and I found ourselves in alarming situations on nighttime streets, after we decided the best strategy, Alyson would chuckle and say, “Well, this is going to be interesting…” While I often wondered if her view of interesting meshed with mine, I knew she was teaching the value of curiosity. When nothing else can be done but await the unfolding of events, isn’t curiosity a worthy response? 

Worry wants to force the outcome to its liking. It yearns for control, thereby seeking to collapse the unknowable into bite~sized and pleasing morsels. But we can’t know what will happen or what is ultimately best. While our minds thirst toward the future, they do so blindly and without the capacity to weigh the myriad factors that weave together in any situation. 

To show up fully while recognizing how little we actually know, to live graciously with our essential unknowingness, is a life~enhancing stance that opens us to the mystery of existence. We are not in charge here. In any given situation, all we can do is choose the action we feel is best. That action~~even if it is to take no action in that moment~~is our offering to life. And as with any true offering, we must willingly let it pass from our hands. We surrender the outcome~~and ourselves, as well~~to something much larger.
The capacity to worry is part of our human wiring. So, too, is the ability to transform that worry into something else. Curiosity. Surrender. And, of course, gratitude. Jazz great Lionel Hampton said, “Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart.” I would suggest a slight change. For me, gratitude is awareness~~a full and rich awareness~~stored in the heart.

We have been granted an opportunity to play our own small part in the vast sweep of life on this planet. When that settles into a human heart, gratitude naturally follows. And that heart must grow larger, simply to hold it. And still it can’t hold it all. Gratitude, and the love it engenders, pours forth of its own volition and out of its own abundance.

Transformation is never easy. Yet lively curiosity and heartfelt surrender, with gratitude and love overflowing, are particularly sweet rewards for our efforts.

Overflowingly yours,


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Harvest Festival

It has happened once again. The turn of that great wheel has dropped us into cool nights, with aspen quivering in all the shades of yellow. The sun slides farther to the south as it travels the sky. Shadows elongate and become more pronounced, a hint of things to come. Autumn has returned…and aimed us straight toward winter.  

Harvesttime has historically been an occasion for thanksgiving. For modern folk whose food comes largely from supermarkets rather than backyard gardens, it’s easy to lose touch with these natural rhythms. But with that first whiff of wood smoke, the plaintive call of southward flying geese, or colored leaves whirring to the ground, doesn’t something in us yearn for return?

And return we can. If a traditional harvest festival is not available to us, we can create our own, pausing to relish the bounty of the past few months in our own lives. Let’s do so now…
Begin by tuning into your body, adjusting as needed to find a comfortable position. Become aware of your breath as you welcome this brief period of stillness and inner awareness.
Now let yourself move back to the depths of last winter. As the film runs forward now, see your life moving from winter into spring, from spring into summer, and from summer to reading now these words on the page. 
Perhaps it’s been a time of great personal growth or change, perhaps not. Whether challenging, delightful or a mix of the two, simply tell yourself the truth about it all. Catch up with your own experience.
No matter the particulars, recognize the fruits of these months~~the lessons learned, the gifts received, the new facets of yourself grown. Just like the corn we savor directly from the cob, extract the nutrients, hopefully even some sweetness, from all you’ve experienced these past few months. 
And with the gifts of these kernels in mind, if any regrets or resentments linger, you might consider releasing them now. Like the cob, the husk, and the stalk, perhaps these things have served their purpose and can begin to drop away. They then become available as compost, energy to be transmuted for the next cycle.
The Autumnal Equinox has just passed. It was the balance point, a place to pause and give thanks before we’re swept forward again. The Equinox is also the harbinger of winter, a reminder that it is time to begin turning inward.

Snow now crowns the high mountaintops, and we shall soon take shovel in hand ourselves. The rollicking expansiveness of summer will find then its counterpoint in the colder, more reflective days of rest.

We’re not there yet, but it won’t be long now. Hear the geese calling...feel the chill in the air...see those leaves brightly shining...and know it is so.

With wishes for a lovely and quieter fall,


Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Long Time Sun

Several of us gathered in a meadow between two lakes, lugging chairs and cushions, water bottles and pinhole cameras. Clouds had moved in and continued to build throughout the morning, and though they softened the dramatic effect of the eclipse, it was still a rare and delightful experience.

The setting was magnificent, with mountain views in three directions, a bowl of sky above. And then it began to darken, and a lone goose shouted out his coarse song. 

The humans in attendance wove periods of meditative silence with delighted exclamations as one pinhole camera in particular revealed the tiniest toenail of a sun. 

Amidst this odd, noontime gloaming, I sat in a copse of low scrub oak and felt a quickening in my core. Perhaps I was imagining it, or even creating the sensation. I felt it nonetheless.

Now, as I think back on that day, I’m struck by how this very same moon travels between us and the sun each month, though the angle is seldom precise enough to block the sun’s light as it did that day. For eons, humans have honored the new moon as a time for quieting. A time to turn inward, listen for guidance, or simply to be. 

But we modern folk largely ignore this monthly near~eclipse, and our pace often remains frenetic. Balance is lost, and balance lost brings with it consequences. The hate in Charlottesville, the President’s disturbing response, the alarming presence of advisors in the White House sympathetic to white supremacist and fascist ideologies…it is all quite harrowing.

During times of spiritual eclipse, though, the solar eclipse offers counsel. Darkness will come, it says…and darkness will go. Though shadow may at times obscure the Light, it will not, it cannot, extinguish it. We can choose hatred and the fear that gives rise to it, or we can align with a spiritual Light, one that shines always, regardless of whether we humans, with our limited vision, can see it.

We have been given life on a rare and beautiful planet spinning through space. Perhaps we might be enticed to open to awe in the many moments of our lives, small or grand may they be. And when we open to awe, Light is not far behind. It rushes in, guiding our actions and working through them into the world.

And yet, fear and all the disturbance it creates will invariably rise up to block what an old song calls “the long-time sun”. Whenever it does, we must open again to that eternal luminescence, one that may produce a quickening in our core.

And in those instances when we can’t quite find our way, we might think back to last month’s eclipse, and remind ourselves that Light shines on, just on the other side of the blockage. Shadows come and shadows go, but Light remains. Always.

May we live in harmony with the Light,


And for those of you interested in the song referred to above, here it is by The Incredible String Band, the folks I first heard sing it~~ 



Sunday, August 6, 2017

Standing at the Intersection

I find myself thinking these days of justice. I do not mean the external system of man~made laws and the courts designed to enforce them. What is most of interest to me is the internal, subjective knowingness we each have, that sense of living from our deepest code, one that is in alignment with All That Is.

While certainly important, a formal legal system can never take the place of attuning to one’s own conscience. Wiktionary traces the word conscience to the Latin conscientia, meaning “knowledge within oneself”. Yet another root is conscrire, which literally means “to know with” or “to know together”.

A conscience is not merely an individual matter. An internal guiding mechanism fit to meet the varied challenges life brings our way, must be grown and continually nourished within a rich contextual soil. The Hopi and Navajo, for example, know themselves to be part of a vast and interconnected web. When this sense of interrelatedness is routinely nurtured, acting casually or carelessly from self~interest is simply unthinkable.

In her book Motherpeace, Vicki Noble suggests that, as our sense of relatedness has broken down, we rely more on an external system of ethics to “summarize what people once knew without the need of words and concepts.” 

To explore the concept of justice, Nobel takes us back to the Greek goddess Themis, who holds scales of balance in one hand and, in the other, a sword to cut through deceit and confusion. An ancient symbol of justice, Themis is the daughter of Gaia, the Earth Mother, and Ouranus, the sky god. Symbolically speaking, therefore, Themis represents the intersection of heaven and earth, the harmony of Yin with Yang.

Justice can never be merely a cerebral endeavor. Right conduct cannot be determined from rational thought alone. True justice must be firmly rooted in a vibrant awareness of our place in the diverse community of living beings on this planet, as well as whichever larger spiritual perspective speaks most profoundly to us. 

Yet in the busy, modern world most of us inhabit, it is easy to be lulled into forgetfulness. So we take to churches, synagogues and mosques. We read sacred texts, sit on cushions or lie on the ground beneath rustling aspens or a star~filled sky. And we re~member ourselves into connection with something far greater than our small concerns.

And when we return to the world, refreshed and nourished, we are better able to add our own voice to those of many, many others calling for a deepening awareness of the interrelatedness at the core of life.

As we do so, we feed a living justice, both external and internal, one that knows in its bones that we are all one, a justice that acts accordingly. Whether in our legislatures and courts, the marketplace, or our own homes, that’s an expression of justice worthy of its name.

Standing with you at the intersection,


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Let There Be Magic

I read fantasy fiction. There, the secret’s out! This professional woman in her early sixties curls up, during lunch breaks and on many evenings, with tales of fairies and dragons, heroic quests and enchanted kingdoms.

Near the end of my current book, The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks, Wil Ohmsford confronts the fear that has kept him from accessing the power of the Elfstones, power needed to combat the evil that threatens the land. In this pivotal moment, Wil realizes his fear was not “of the thing that haunted…his dreams, or of the Demon that hunted Amberle and him south from Arborlon…It was his fear of the magic.”

Fear of the magic. Something in that phrase grabs me and won’t let go.

In our own epic journey as a species in this world, many things frighten me…hate, greed, and the harm inflicted upon the Earth and our fellow inhabitants, to name a few. But could I also fear the magic?

The magic I’m referring to is not, of course, contained in Elfstones or legendary swords. It is the magic of the human spirit, imbued with love and aligned with a greater force for good. But am I afraid of that magic? I don’t think so. If I’m truthful, though, I often forget about it. And sometimes, even when remembered, I don’t fully trust it.

The obstacles facing us are, indeed, formidable…and mostly of our own creation, born of spirits and psyches out of balance. Things can seem rather grim. Dismal. Hopeless. When I’m snagged by such reactions, fear has me in its clutches for sure. Magic seems a distant thing at best.

As I hear of another hate crime~~against a vulnerable individual, the Constitution, or the Earth itself~~I have a choice. To what shall I give my energy? I can certainly lend it to fear in its various guises~~dread, anger, apathy~~and thereby strengthen fear’s grip on the world. 

Or I can heed Sharon McErlane’s words from her book Casting The Net. “Let your hearts open,” she writes. “Let compassion well up in you and then serve…with your hands, your voice, and your listening. But most of all, serve with a loving heart…This is all you need to do. This is everything.” 

Every spiritual tradition offers such sentiments, as well as practices to align our hearts with that greater good. The choice, though, is always ours.

Perhaps that fictional line stuck with me so that I might confront the fact that I don’t always trust Love, with a capital L, that unfathomable essence at the heart of all things. It also offered me a choice to trust anew.

So once more, I give myself fully to the magic and offer it safe passage into my world. Like Wil Ohmsford with his Elfstones, I too say, finally and again, “Yes!”


PS. Be sure to read the comments...there are many today...and feel free to leave your own! Blessed be!!!