Saturday, December 17, 2011


I was recently in a dear friend’s car and, a moment after she started the car, a kind voice announced, “You are now connected.”

What a wonderful reminder. I have spent much of my life feeling alone and believing that I was carrying worlds of responsibility. It’s not uncommon: we carry the weight of our children’s well-being, our bills and debts, our relationships – and on and on. There is much to worry about if we so choose.

The weight of our day-to-day responsibilities can be lightened when we are conscious of our connection.  We are, now and always, connected to the light, to the Divine. Coincidence that it’s the same word? (Being connected to the light light-ens our load).

I like to imagine that my feet our rooted deep into the core of the Earth, receiving nurture and stability from Mother Earth and that my arms are reaching up to the heavens, receiving light and love from the heavens, from Father Sun, Grandmother Moon and all the Stars. The experience is one of profound connection.

Lovely that a car can provide a wonderful reminder of the connection that we’re invited to live. In our curious human experiences, reminders can come from anywhere.

What are your favorite reminders?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


"You know what I've always thought?" She asks in a tone of discovery, and not smiling at me but a point beyond. "I've always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark. And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I'll wager it never happens. I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are" - her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass and Queenie pawing the earth over her bone - "just what they've always seen, was seeing Him. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

From A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Honesty is the Best Policy

I don’t know of anyone who would disagree that honesty is the best policy. If for no other reason than that it’s simply easier to be truthful. I recently heard a woman say that she always tells the truth – because she can’t keep track of what she’s said otherwise. We generally expect truthfulness from others. Trust is an important foundation in on-going relationships.

A complicating factor, though, is the inherent assumption that we’re being honest with ourselves. But are we? We are social animals and, as a result, our preferences are powerfully influenced by the people around us. Some people create personas that are easy-going and cooperative which are wonderful qualities. But is it possible that we lose something along the way?

At different stages in our lives, we make decisions. We decide where we want to live, what we want to study, what job we want to take, etc.  I wonder if we lose sight of some of our passions and dreams in the process. I am not advocating not making life decisions – they are obviously necessary and with each experience, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant, we learn and, ideally, grow.

Is there a way to keep our unlived passions alive? A way to re-visit those ideas that make our hearts sing and bring smiles to our faces?

In the Gospel of Thomas, one of the Gnostic texts, Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” I believe that we’re meant to live lives filled with joy and passion. It seems that many people get caught in the day-to-day without much consideration for anything else. It takes a certain amount of relaxed discipline or effortless effort to allow our truest selves to surface. If there is no still silence, we will never be able to sense our deepest longings.

What is your passion? What is your heart’s desire?

Be honest now.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beginner's Mind

"For Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our 'original mind' includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few."

Shunryu Suzuki

I’ve heard of the concept of “beginner’s mind” in many different contexts. In the shamanic tradition, one of the archetypes we work with is the Serpent, who shows us how to shed the past the way she sheds her skin. When Serpent sheds her skin, it includes the eyes. She truly sees with new and innocent eyes. And we ask her to show us her way, to help us to see things as if never seen before.

From “beginner’s mind” it is easier to have a “beginner’s heart” as well. There is an openness that is revealed. Judgments and criticisms may arise in the mind but they are recognized and easier to release. I’ve noticed that my mind likes to categorize experiences and people. I guess that makes sense: the world seems much more manageable and more easily controlled (or so it seems) when everything can be conveniently filed away. The clear disadvantage of my practice of mental filing is that I miss so much!

When I listen from a beginner’s mind, I don’t assume that I know how the sentence is going to end and I stay present to the speaker’s expression and experience. There are many things I don’t know and haven’t experienced. Although that is an obvious statement, I realize how often I listen from a ‘knowing’ place.

The same concept applies to “seeing” the world. When exploring a place we’ve never seen before it is usually easy. We’re more likely to notice the beautiful subtleties of a new place. But in our day- to- day life?

Can we maintain this position of innocence when dealing with what is familiar and “known”?  Can we greet the people we see each and every day and see them with new eyes without making assumptions about who they are and how they’re going to react and behave? Can I look at myself in the same way? Am I willing to give up that comfortable illusion of control?

Yes. I am willing. I choose to open my eyes with curiosity. What will today hold?

Saturday, September 24, 2011


"Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth."

I just googled “most stressful life events and am disappointed to find that moving is not in the top ten. On one list, it’s number 28. While I was moving last month, a few people reminded me that moving is one of the most stressful things to go through. One of the top three, I was assured. And that gave me some encouragement.

I moved out of my home of almost 20 years, where I had raised my children. Part of the stress came from actually moving “stuff” and figuring out what to keep, what to store, what to give away or throw away. Time constraints brought another level of stress. Some guilt was part of the stress. Concern about Christmas morning. Concern about Muffy, my cat, who has spent his lifetime enjoying the wild outdoors of my old neighborhood. Maybe that sounds silly – nearly being willing to spend 364 extra days for a traditional Christmas morning and a happy cat. But those were the thoughts rumbling around in the still-dark early morning hours.

As the moving process began, it seemed that the walls were talking to me. That the very structure of the house had been storing our stories and history. My daughters’ bedrooms somehow showed me all the looks and moods they had witnessed – from diapers to Barbies to forts to Spice Girls to Facebook to . . . . The house reminded me of the dreams I had when I first moved in. The hopes that carried me – us – through the years. It also reminded me when those dreams didn’t come true.

Moving brought with it a shake-up of one level of security that I had come to take for granted. I was surprised to find out how much my “stuff” was giving me a sense of safety. It sounds a little absurd in the telling, but as I started sorting, giving away, throwing away the “stuff”, I found myself becoming spacey, absent-minded, ungrounded.

I felt very connected to my home and the land around it. I had a fire pit in my back yard that held meaning for me. It was in that physical place that I had stepped into my shamanic path and I had learned and grown there, at the fire, both alone and shared with a community of friends. Clearly it wasn’t the physical location that held the power or meaning but walking away from it stirred something.

Security. Stability. Foundation. The sense of feeling grounded and connected. All of these are fundamentally important. Important, too, to bring these to conscious awareness and be sure to build a strong, deep root structure for ourselves. To live in awareness of the truth that wherever we find ourselves standing is sacred ground.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Selfish or . . . . ?

If we love our heights, if we overcome our fears of cultivating the seed of divinity within us and if we reach the stars, we will have the feeling of returning home. The highest and the holiest are inside us. We start discovering the kingdom of heaven by loving, affirming and empowering that part of the universe over which we have responsibility - ourselves.
                                                                                       L. Robert Keck, Sacred Eyes

The underlying message of so much that I read is that I need to love, affirm and empower myself. At first glance, it sounds selfish – selfishness being one of the worst possible offenses, in the culture in which many of us were raised. But if I think about flying and oxygen, it starts to make sense: the flight attendant advises, if oxygen masks should become necessary, put your own mask on first in order to help the people around you. Without helping yourself first, you are no help to those around you.

And life can sometimes seem like a flight in peril. I spent many years doing what I thought was right and good: I took care of everything around me first, including children, family, home, profession, etc. I remember many years ago, when my children were young and my job extremely demanding,  I traveled to Atlanta for business and had an unexpected free day. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m not sure that I can find the words to express what I felt. I had no idea what I wanted or liked to do. It was a feeling that scared me; I hadn’t realized that I was lost, or how long I’d been lost.

I remember finding a book and I read it in a hot bath. I enjoyed a long, quiet walk and met old friends – people who knew me when I was full of enthusiasm for life – for dinner. I felt very lucky and blessed for having had the experience of reconnecting with myself.

Now I understand that I need to love, affirm and empower myself. “Love others, as you love yourself.” I guess I need to remember that relationships require time, effort and energy – and that includes my relationship with myself.