Essays Archive        


Moon Dancing With My Shadows (“Excerpt from Small Steps Huge Changes”)

I went to a workshop at Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, New York, and I had a few early morning hours dancing seemingly alone in the moonlight, which will stay with me. It was so incredible that I tried to write about it, because it was the perfect topic for an essay. But the words did not flow on to the page. It needed editing. But from what I had written, the reader would most certainly understand the essence of my experience. During the remainder of the week there, I edited the essay several times and eventually it morphed into a short surreal poem. It seemed better—it captured the light of my mood—but somehow did not convey the importance of that few hours of Moon Dancing with my Shadows. Yes I said “shadows.” Now a week later I am at home and awake in the early hours of morning and I know it is time to write.

It was 4:00 am on that other morning, and I had slept soundly and felt rested and excited about the learning that was occurring in me, but I also felt completely alone. My room was a dorm room about seven-feet square, and I shared a bath with several men and women in similar rooms. It reminded of me when I was a child and shared one bath with three sisters and a brother. It was a fond memory that warmed my spirit. But at this hour all was very quiet. As I gazed out into the darkness, I had the urge to take a walk, but felt frightened that I would be walking in an unfamiliar place in that darkness, and it might not be wise. Unsafe even! But the urge to “just go” seemed to come from a fearless peaceful place inside me. So I opened the door. It creaked. I jumped and then giggled softly about the fact that my fearlessness was short lived. It was very dark and I moved slowly off the porch alert to every sound. Not fearless perhaps, but feeling the moist peaceful brush of the air on my face. It had the slight chill of autumn, and I could imagine the burst of color that would soon fill the trees.

I headed down the path my eyes adjusting to the darkness. Into my night vision came murky images in shadow. Under each tree and beneath each bush, there seemed to be an aurora of light that painted a distorted picture of each bush upon the ground below. My feet picked up speed, my fear lessened, and I began to explore the light that broke the shadows. It was everywhere as I went everywhere with a shadowed yet opening heart. As I entered the garden, it was a cascade of silence punctuated with the crunching sounds of my footsteps upon the path. Now and then something would move in the silence and take my attention away from the shapes and forms of the plants that lined the walkway. I would feel uneasy, but would return quickly to the joy building inside me. I had forgotten this feeling of freedom that has moved my spirit since I was a child, the love of nighttime, and the magic of moonlight.

As I meandered here and there, I began to notice the source of the shadows of light. The stars were vivid and above me hung a luminous quarter moon. It called to me and I followed. It led me down a path aglow with white splashes from a nearby streetlamp or two. This time when movement caught my senses, I saw on the side of the Main Hall at Omega two shadows. I stopped abruptly! Could they both be me, one a giant shadow and the other much smaller? The giant shadow seemed to want something; perhaps it had the answer to my questions. So I stood with it toe to toe and asked aloud, “Do you have a message for me? No message came so I asked again, twice. Twice more no message came, but I did remember a few songs from my childhood, and I began to sing: “When You Wish Upon a Star” “Catch a Falling Star,” and “Would You Like to Swing on a Star.” I began to twirl and twist and jump and skip and dance as I sang with abandonment. I forgot that darkness was nearby. Of course, as shadows do, they joined the

dance. I welcomed their company and the aloneness that I felt seemed to lift with the sound and movements of our Moon Dance. The small shadow seemed especially present not to mention a graceful dancer. The freedom of childhood was mine with my shadows. As I glanced up, I noticed that the stars were vanishing from the sky and the moon had moved toward the lake so I let my feet dance after it. I remembered one of my favorite childhood poems, “I Have A Little Shadow That Goes In and Out With Me.” I remembered how much I loved giving it to my grandchildren!

As the moon and I danced toward the lake, I began to hear more sounds. Animals began to scurry and the charcoal sky was turning a soft silver hue. And then I saw it, the view that will hold my memory captive. The lake lay in stillness and hovering above it was a wall of mist, kind of stringy, but not transparent; and above all that, hung the moon spreading its final visible glow before dawn arrived with the sunrise. The stillness of that view became stillness within me. I stood in awe at the beauty only a few here at Omega would see today. My earlier fears had been challenged with my love of adventure. Out of that stillness a rabbit hopped, two deer walked slowly behind me, and the early birds of morning began to chirp. I had become a part of nature. Just when I could hardly believe the vision my courage had co-created with the moon, a flock of wild geese cut the mist of the lake as they winged their way across in perfect formation. I could hear the harmony their wings played against their bodies. Then as if a powerful director had taken over the scene, a fish danced to the ice-like surface of the lake. I turned to find a circle of life rippling the water and the dancing fish no longer visible.

Earlier when I left the dorm, how could I have believed that I was alone? Life was hidden in the shadows and difficult to see, but it had completely surrounded me as I danced. I turned to head back to the dorm, a little wet, a little cold, and covered with the glow of Moon Dancing with my Shadows. Maybe my shadow did give me a message. If I could remember to challenge my fearful thoughts, Moon Dancing would always be possible. I hummed “Que Sa Ra Sa Ra, what ever will be will be,” all the way back to the dorm and into the shower. I’m still humming!

Can This Be Maui?  (Added 7 January 2013)

Can this be Maui? It is a dark starless night, the rain slashes against the window, the winds howl with 50 miles an hour gusts. The house is empty except for me. Sleep comes intermittently if at all. Doubts about whether I should be here alone nag me and breathing deeply doesn’t seem to help.

Can this be Maui? It is morning, a light rain continues, the winds are not as strong and yet the bamboo grove sways and sweeps the ground. The weather forecast is not promising: 70% chance of rain, 50 miles an hour wind gusts. Outside the window, the lily pond beyond the deck is beautiful, the deck is wet and shiny, and the door slightly open lets in a pure and sweet freshness. The fearful part of me feels like going back to bed and covering my head. The curious part of me whispers, “go out and take a few photos.” So dressed in my robe and slippers with camera in tow, my hands slide back the door, and I venture out. Now absorbed in the beauty of the ocean, focused on the view in the camera, and not feeling my feet, my body tumbles down on the lower deck, my camera flies off into the grass about one foot from the lily pond. Only my elbow and my pride hurt and my mood darkens as I lay there on the soggy deck. Since staying here on the deck doesn’t seem to be an option, I pull myself up, retrieve my camera (bent but not broken), and shuffle back to my room and sit silently on the bed. My body is tired, my mood is gray like the clouds above the ocean, and self-doubt seems to have taken me over.

This is the day I have set aside to explore my close surroundings before I head out on my Maui adventure activities for the next seven days. Should I  even go out? 50 mile an hour gusts of wind in Virginia would encourage me to hunker down for protection. So I sit, and sit, and sit. My brain is full of chatter that is not encouraging. The pain in my stomach increases and disappointment shatters me and I weep. Can this be Maui?

As I allow the disappointment to get as big and painful as it needs too, something happens that has happened many times in my life during difficult experiences. A space of calm opens up and lifts me off the bed. The disappointment is strong and yet I can take a small step toward the bathroom and get dressed. I can take a small step toward my car and drive the dirt road to the main road; and if the wind is too strong, I can return to this rugged North shore bamboo farm and make the best of it.

With my heart pounding, I turn on the road to Hana toward Pa’ia searching for breakfast. Within a few miles, the wind has quieted, and the sun is out. Rainbows mark my passing along the amazing coastline that is Maui’s north shore. Can this world of sudden change be Maui? I later learn that it is!

Thus my exploration of Maui began and the discoveries I made and shared were glorious. The week continued to have some misadventures and some spectacular adventures and the courageous and joyous parts of me lived them fully. It all began with my choice to take one small step in the presence of fear. Can this be Maui; can this be life? The answer to this question was my biggest discovery once again.


A Beautiful Child (Added 30 December 2012)

That beautiful child is I.

A few days ago, my niece sent me a group of old family photos. In the grouping, I discovered a beautiful child holding an old doll. It brought back memories of a Christmas play where I read a poem about “…keeping the old doll and giving the new one away.” Although the poem was part of a play, my feelings about that old doll were real; I loved it. As I gazed at the photo of the beautiful child holding the doll, I remembered that feeling of love; my heart was soft and full. Many times I’ve experienced that feeling over the years: when I married my new husband, when each of my children were borne, when a bond of female friendship was revealed to me, when I gave unconditional love to an amazing yet flawed man, when I held my grandsons the first time, when I witnessed my son-in-law’s tears at a grave site, and so many moments in nature. It is a feeling that has no words or thoughts; it exists in the silence of my heart.

During a recent trip to Maui, I rediscovered that beautiful child in the eyes of the aging woman I’ve become. The pictures reveal a deep self-love that has taken me many years to experience. As I compared the pictures of me as a child and me as a grown woman, I finally could see my own beauty and it made me laugh with joy. The beauty had nothing to do with the physical features displayed in the photos; it was the radiance that traveled from my heart through my eyes and took in the world around them.

For many years, I searched to be a better person, to become wiser, and to learn how to live a full and productive life, and to be admired. The search brought many accomplishments and awards for my talents and skills. It also brought disappointments. In many ways, it served me well. Many times the circumstances of life and my thoughts about them hid my beauty from me, and I could not believe others even when they shared their love and compassion for me. In my own eyes, I was not enough! The feeling of love felt like something I could give and could not feel worthy to receive. This week as I gazed at the two photos, the child and the woman, it dawned on me that the beauty of love has always been within me patiently waiting for me to rediscover it. 

Patience has been my work this year and I’ve learned much about the difference between tolerance and patience. So as this year ends, the compassionate patience I feel for myself fills my heart and it is soft with love; a love that has always been close at hand and seemingly just out of my reach. As the New Year begins, my heart is open and I look forward to the experiences I will create. The beauty within me has been revealed and my spirit soars again as it did in my youth. May I remember to look deeply into my own eyes to find love and then freely give it away to others. That beautiful child is I.

T.S Elliott once wrote: “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” For me it is so. Namaste.


America, What a Concept (Added 7 November 2012)

Election day in a small village is exciting and fun. The voters are old friends, new friends, community workers, casual acquaintances, and families coming together to express their preferences through voting. As a poll worker, the day was long, warm inside, cold outside, enjoyable, inspiring, and at times emotional. Let me tell you why inspiring and emotional experiences were my companions on this day in small-town America.

The voting was heavy and because most of us know each other in some way, our politics are often known. As the voting lines formed for this election, we stood together only as neighbors—rich and not so rich, young and not so young, extraverted and not so extraverted, highly educated and not so highly educated, multi-raced, blue voters and red voters—without malice or ill intent. We were voting and the choices we made were ours alone. We kissed each other, hugged each other, waved to each other, talked with each other, supported each other, and laughed and yes cried with each other.

As the day began, a young woman from across the county came flying in to vote. She was adorable in her winter hat pulled down over her ears; it brought attention to her laughing eyes. She hugged me and said, This is my first time to vote! In her eyes, was the energetic light of being part of something bigger than herself. She literally danced to the voting booth and then out; waving and glowing as she left the precinct. My skin covered with the goose flesh of a sacred moment. As more new-generation voters came to exercise their right to choose along with others that had been voting for a long time, it reminded me of how precious this right is to Americans. We are the same and we are different; separate stars in an integrated constellation.

As the day ended, a not-so-young man entered the voting precinct. He looked concerned and said to me, My father-in-law is out in my truck; he is 85 and he’s had a medical procedure today and we’ve been with the doctors. He is immobile at the moment and concerned because he has never missed an election since he began to vote. Is there a way for him to vote from the truck? Yes, I said! And I saw the familiar light return to his eyes. As he voted, we prepared to go outside to collect “Zach’s” vote from the truck, being careful to follow procedures that would allow his ballet to be cast privately. We wanted to protect his right to choose. He lay in the back seat of the truck, and as I stood on my knees in the front seat to get his ID papers, Zach asked, Can I vote? Of course, I said. In that moment, under his white hair and beyond his aging body, there was the light of youth and his eyes held the same excitement I had witnessed in the young girl that morning. He knew he was going to be part of something bigger than himself again. I asked, Do you need support in filling out your ballot? He beamed and said, No! It took him some time to physically fill out the ballot, and it was my honor to wait for him. For me, Zach’s light infused the darkness around the truck and as I looked from my fellow poll worker’s eyes to Zach’s son-in-law’s eyes, they seemed to glow with something unexplainable. It is that something that is precious in America even during the most difficult of times.

As Zach’s son-in-law returned to the inside of the voting precinct to witness the casting of Zach’s vote, he said two simple words: Thank you. It was an unforgettable moment; we hugged and thanked each other for making it possible for Zach to vote. He turned to leave and I turned to stay. Tears filled my eyes and heart with light. The voice in my head was still, the polling precinct was quiet, and the room filled with the light of choice I had been witnessing all day. It had been amazing to be part of something bigger than myself.

Later heading home, fatigue turned to laughter and memory recorded these shared emotional experiences of inspiration.  America, what a concept!


“Yes And” vs “Yes But” (Added 5 October 2012)

The written word has often been the way spiritual messages have been received during my Life. Sometimes it is after an experience and the message literally jumps off the page. Sometimes it is before an experience and during the experience the words start ringing in my ears. Sometimes it is an old message and it has such power that writing it down brings clarity.

This message was powerful for me: remember to say “yes, and” instead of “yes, but.”  During an improv class this week, the teacher/actor stated that the simple act of saying “yes, and” was the secret of creating an audience pleasing scenario on stage. Since saying “yes” is the first rule of improv, the message didn’t seem new at first. As we began to practice creating scenes, it was immediately clear that it was easier for me to say “yes, but” and it was equally clear that doing so blocked the scene from expanding. The teacher/actor also recommended a small book called Improv Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson. As is my practice, I downloaded it and began to read it the very next day. As I said “yes, and” to what she had to say, the profound lesson came that what she was saying would be an amazing way to not only do improv, it would change a life from a negative focus to a positive one.

So I’ve taken her words to heart. During the last 48 hours, I’ve said yes to everything. It was difficult to remember at first, and practicing made it easier and easier. It was amazing. Of course, there are times when I have to say no to someone, and what I’ve found is that even that is easier when I say yes to what is transpiring in the moment and then expand the conversation or activity to make my point or acknowledge someone else’s need. It is fun and it lifts my spirit and doesn’t dampen the spirit of the others involved.

The human survival instinct supports us in seeing what is there that needs to change or is threatening to us. The need for control is strong so supporting someone else’s ideas or interests each moment seems difficult at times. Acceptance of “what is” can be challenging and this simple idea of energetically saying, “yes, and” has given me clarity about my own negative or judgmental views as I’ve gone through my day. Opening my heart in this way supports others in a way that is so kind and so nurturing. Not surprisingly, it has supported me in refraining from self-judgment as well.

Sometimes an old message said in a simple direct way can change the Life of the one who truly hears it. This one has certainly changed the content of my last two days, and the intention to expand the experiment is exciting and feels like a spiritual loving act. The experiment itself has supported me in living more fully in the present, which is, of course, the only place we can live fully.


Life After Death (Added 30 September 2012}

It has been eleven years since that beautiful October day. As I sat on my deck looking out over the city, the leaves of fall were turning the world into bright hues of red, orange, and brown. Yet, some of the trees were still brilliantly green. It was a time of change and abundance in so many ways. But inside me deeper than even I imagined was a sense of sadness and powerlessness to change the drinking habits of my 37-year-old son. Over the years, my daughter and I, had pleaded, threatened, and prayed for him to give up drinking. He had tried a few times, but the result was always a choice to drink again. Now he was very ill in the late-stages of alcoholism. It had been a few years since we had seen him because he just never showed up to family gatherings. He had stopped answering his phone and his friends called me to say they thought he was dying. The last five years had been a roller coaster ride of emotions for me as he was better and then not better over and over again. Meditation had supported me in staying centered enough to love my daughter and her family, support my partner’s interests, hold a demanding job, and attempt to just enjoy and learn about my life. It had been difficult. On this glorious October day, I felt that I had done everything I could and my body sagged from the weight of wanting him to be different.

As I sat in deep silence, I felt the most pain I have ever felt in my body. It was too strong to resist so I just sat and let it come. My heart seemed to stop breathing, my throat was tightly constricted, and the top of my head felt as if it would fly into the trees so great was the pressure. Too tired of being sad and disappointed to resist, I invited it to get as big as it could. When I could bare it no longer, it vanished and was replaced with a deep stillness of peace. In that moment, the sadness remained, but my clarity was back. It was his life to do with as he chose, and I had the same choice for my own life. With the wisdom that I was changing my own life not his, I decided to offer him my support for sobriety one more time. This time was different than before; this time I knew I could accept whatever choice he made, but he was my son and for myself I needed to offer him assistance one last time!

Since that time, I have written of the learning that came from my choice and consequently his choices. In some ways, I have glamorized his death in my own mind. His choices were courageous; his experiences were dramatic examples of how to live and not to live for those who watched his progress. I focused on these positives as we supported him in whatever healing was possible, and eventually, supported him as his alcohol-damaged body died. He died no longer an alcoholic, no longer with something to hide, no longer alone. He was free and it was spring one year and four months after his first healthy choice in a very long time. What I have never written about is how difficult and how painful it was to be the Mother of a dying son, and what Life was like for me when I could no longer touch his physical presence. How hard I worked to make it look okay. The deep wound of loss affected many of my relationships and still I clung to the strength of knowing that I had done the “right” thing. I had helped him to die with dignity. I could do this and I began a long path of self-healing without the courage to ask for support directly.

It is fall again and change is in the air. Healing for me has been as better and not better as my son’s alcohol addiction. This weekend I attended a Buddhist retreat workshop with Tara Brach. As she led us in meditation, I felt the deep pain of powerlessness again, and again I invited it to get as big as it could. In the stillness and sadness that followed, I knew that my healing was complete. The last few years have been filled with the joy of living and remembering his life and what it brought to mine. No longer do I pretend that losing a son’s physical presence is easy, no longer do I need to be that strongest person in the room, no longer do I hide that losing him changed my own life in ways I could not have imagined. The silence of deep meditation, the practice to live in this moment, and the awareness that we are a part of something bigger than our physical being have supported me to accept and heal from the things I can not change.

As I was leaving the workshop, a young woman came up to me and asked me to share what meditation had meant in my life. I felt reluctant, but I had had some physical limitations during the last year that had been difficult to accept and meditation had really supported my healing. I felt that my experience could be supportive of others so I said okay.  As we filmed, I shared about my back issues and my fear of aging, and then she asked me if there had been a particular time in my life when meditation had made a real difference. My heart suddenly flew open, and I shared with compassion for my own pain about my experiences when my son was healing and then dying. This sharing felt different because it was given with an intention to support others that might be going through a similar experience. The sadness of loss was there of course, but there was also within me a joyful lightness of gratitude for Life, his and mine. Eleven years ago a wise choice changed my Life; this year there is the wisdom and clarity that we are all here to support and be supported to live, to love, and to die well. The tenderness of compassion makes that possible.


An Open Heart (Added 24 August 2012)

Of late my heart has been closing when I have the intention to maintain an open heart. Mostly it happens when a small activity of the day seems more difficult than I judge it should be. It could be loading bikes on a rack, spilling milk in my new car, lateness of a friend, hot when I want it to be cool, or appreciation not shown. Because I know myself well, I know it is something much bigger at work here. My overall intention for my life is to love well, and of late, that seems more difficult than it has for the recent past years. So I’m asking why and what is this deeper discontent within me?

My deepest longing is to love and be loved and yet fear can hold me back by expecting perfection. It is not a new fear and it is well practiced. The deep longing for companionship thwarted by my fear of losing independence is simple but complex within my thoughts about what to allow and what not to allow into my world. My intent to live in the present can be silenced because the past day was not as I wished it to be, and/or others want me to plan a future that I resist for the sake of maintaining control of my own Life. Even as I write this the turmoil of Life within me is churning. Do this, don’t do that, go here, stay there, love this, mistrust that; the mind chatter is overwhelming in these moments.

Michael Singer wrote a book called The Untethered Soul, and it speaks of the way to let the personality desires play out while the Seer of what is transpiring watches without judging or clinging to an outcome. As I read his book, I know from personal experience that what he says is true for me. It is a process that has become familiar during some twelve years of practicing. When I’m in that centered place what happens outside me is like a movie and I can watch my personality, the actor, think and plan and wish without attachment. It is a most peaceful place. So when discontent of the kind I’ve been experiencing of late is present within me, it puzzles me as to what I’m to learn this time.

It has been some seventy-two hours since I began this essay and then stopped writing because I realized I was living in a huge story and could not write authentically from that place. Many things have transpired since then and have brought me clarity. I’ve been living at least for the past few day in a story of my own making about what others want me to do, how they want me to live, or what they need from me. It is all a “Story” from the part of me that loves stories and the justification they give for me to be less than open and less than loving. It protects me and not in a way that is creative; it prevents me from living each moment as it is with an intention to hear the quiet voice that wisely guides my Life.

Now I’m truly here listening and my next steps seem obvious to me. Without being sure of outcomes or things unseen, this is my opportunity to act without attachment and with the joy of what I will learn from the experiences my actions create. Recently a friend was talking about his experiences and how excited he was about his hopes and dreams for the future; I recognized them as both different and similar to my own. As we parted, I heard myself say to him, looks like you’re on it and I’m just standing beside it. Then from deep inside me came that still small voice, that is not the Phyllis I know; I recognized the voice as me and not me. One of me is the movie my personality creates with thinking, assessing, resisting, and this me was the Seer who watches in loving amazement at times. I smiled with the recognition that it is the Seer that I can trust and I let the Story of discontent go.  In a moment of stillness and of true listening and hearing, there is clarity and no justifications for or arguments against are needed. Mark Nepo writes: Each point of discovery led to the next, as if some logic out of view were guiding her. …every moment she came upon was holding a treasure she was supposed to find. It is good to be home in my body again.


Time for Expansion (Added 3 August 2012)

It has been seven years since this small community called to me and embraced me within its furry mountains and quiet streams. It was a time of change from working long hours to going inward to discover what was left to uncover within me. It has been amazing and comfortable and productive in a different way than accomplishing projects. It has been exciting, it has been challenging, it has been peaceful, it has been stimulating; and mostly, it has been healing. It is why I came.

During the last few weeks, I have begun to feel that my time here in this small community is limited. The withdrawal I needed and the healing it has brought to me has completed this phase of my life. Last night as I looked around during a concert on the mountain, I saw the same people I see almost daily. I’ve come to look forward to their presence and the feeling of security and safety they trigger within me.

On the other hand, more than anything else, my Life has needed expansion and change. The need for expansion comes from an internal voice that says explore, experiment, and do not become complacent. It isn’t dissatisfaction with what is; its more a wonderment of what other experiences and growth are possible for me. Change for many is difficult, but for me the newness of change is invigorating and stimulating. When Life becomes routine, my energy drops, my spirit sags, and my interest wanes. There was a time in the past when this need would cause me to question “who I am,” and “why am I like this;” now it feels warm with acceptance like the return of an absent and beloved friend. The need for change calls to be embraced with wonder and welcoming; it is part of the personality that has formed my human experience for as long as I can remember. It causes my spirit to soar just thinking of what I might feel and experience next.

No plan of action is within me as yet. When the time and move is right, something within my spirit will say, “Get crackin.” The patience to wait for that insight has come as a part of the growth I’ve found in this small blue house on top of a hill surrounded by mountains. My gratitude for the wisdom to come to this place of healing overwhelms me with joy. Expansion now calls and the excitement of just what that will entail lifts my energy and makes me want to sing. It is a song of healing and caring for this person I am and the growing Being that awaits me with my next choice and adventure.

Oh how I love the mystery, miracles, and experiences of living fully!


The Best Thing About Today is Everything (Added 3 July 2012)

The rock in the creek feels cold against my warm skin in contrast to bike riding on this hot day. The water is low and gurgles a quiet tune I can’t quite place. There is a joyful feeling of contentment as the warm air circles close in and sweat runs down my back. In my view as I watch the water run over the rocks, he stands with his back to me looking into the creek. Of course, I cannot hear his thoughts, but I can feel his energy of concentration. This slow to respond, slow to move, slow to show emotion man has a great capacity for deep joy that I admire.

When he turns, his familiar face and eyes are beaming toward me as he explains that he is looking for the rock we used in meditation the last time we visited the creek. “Are you still holding on to that rock,” I ask? “Of course,” he says, “it is a beautiful memory.” My nature is to question his continuing visions of his past, but this time I make a wiser choice and just enjoy this moment of his sharing.

His love for me is visible in the steady gaze of his eyes, and it both comforts and frightens me. It triggers my need to flee to freedom and my need to feel connected in the same moment. Joy has not always come to me with ease, as my human need to protect myself and those I love is well practiced and vigilant at times. His open heart is almost always constant even when he is confused or slightly annoyed with his surrounding world.

We’ve shared an amazing day and a half. He agreed to run away for a day to escape the heat and discomfort brought on by a loss of electrical power in our homes even though his electricity had returned. We drove to a nearby city, had a fabulous lunch/dinner, saw a glass blowing demonstration, drank a frappachino, strolled in a park by the water fountains, fed the swans and ducks, sat on a mountain top in a cool breeze, repaired his bird feeder pole, drank a glass of wine, listened to beautiful music, danced, ate cheese/tomatoes/fresh basil, and viewed the downed limbs in my back yard. As we danced I asked him, “What was the best thing about today?” And, without waiting for his answer, I laughed and said, “Everything.” He laughed out loud with complete delight and agreed. “The best thing about today is everything!”

Now we’re sharing another day here by the creek. We arrived by bike and are sitting on a rock in the sun. He talks about a concept in a book we are sharing and wonders if he’s got it right; if he has understood it. I listen to his expressed doubt and somewhat confused words, and have a knowing that he understands it perfectly. Not only does he understand it; he lives it. Now we’re looking for another rock for another meditation. Mine is blue and fits my hand perfectly and his has character or so we say. As we close our eyes and state our intentions for the week, I feel his love and send him mine. We are as one and so very different. He throws his rock first, splash; then I throw mine, splash. We look at each other and see each of us in the other. It’s hot and we leave on our bikes.

The best thing about the moment is everything.


Flames From One Candle (Added 12 May 2012)

The eye can see what we have in common or focus on what keeps us apart. And the heart can feel what joins us with everything or replay its many cuts.– Mark Nepo

It is late evening and Mark Nepo’s words speak to me; his writings have been an inspiration in many ways during the past few months. This evening he invites me to light a candle, to close my eyes, to reopen my eyes, and to see each thing before me. He encourages me to ask myself how the things I’m seeing are different and how they are the same and listen to my heart speak.

So I do. Since it is evening, I cannot see out my window. So I let my eyes travel around my room. There are so many gifts, which represent the many connections I have made in my Life. Each is different; some from nature, some not, some big and old, others small and new. There are pictures. The furniture is old and full of tears and laughter. The room is silent, but my memories are active and I just let them come.

At first, the feeling is a bit overwhelming and tears flow as I remember Nepo’s request to include looking at the lighted candle as part of my meditation. So I do. It is orange and it’s light is a lacy hue; two triangles extending from it’s center one reaches toward me and the other away from me. It is so beautiful and I will it to come closer. It does not; so I reach my hand toward it and it appears as if the light is resting upon my hand. I close my hand around the dancing light and it disappears back into the candle. I try again; I want to catch the light and hold it, but the flame of the candle cannot be held, it must shine wherever it will or it disappears.

Suddenly I remember that I have not asked what all the objects I see have in common. So I relax into the stillness with the candlelight. The light glows and fills my vision and it seems we are one. “We are all one,” repeats in my heart. All these objects, all those I’ve loved, and all those who have loved me are part of this one light. Each of us carries part of the flame within. Without judgment of how things should be, we can simply shine and bask in each other’s light. If we hold the light too tightly, it dims. The choices we make increase the light or dim it.

In this moment, I know that I am the keeper of my own flame. All those I have touched or been touched by have been the keeper of theirs. We grow, we love, we fear, we make choices, we love again, and we will finally remember. We are many flames from the same candle, and yet, just one light; apart we are a flicker but together we make a luminous Life.

Memory of a Son (Added 13 April 2012)

It is spring again; forty-eight years have past and yet my memories of a small toddler are as vivid as every. My gratitude for his life makes me smile and relish my part in giving him Life. What an awesome experience to see the love of a husband and a father reflected in the toothless grin of a new life. The memory fills my heart and I see a vision of him in a jaunty Easter hat and sports jacket toddling up the small hill in front of my house; two steps forward and one step back and finally falling and rolling to the bottom only to rise again and begin again with laughter and determination.

It is good to remember the joy of him running across the yard, small frog in hand and joy in his face, panting as he recalls how challenging it was for him to catch it. I stood in wonder at this amazing child so full of life and uninhibited yearning to have a good time and accomplish what he set out to do. His love of sunsets, sunrises, and wind in the treetops is a love we shared. In those magical days, he marveled at the beauties of the life of which he found himself a part be they giant mountains, rock music, or the smallest of butterflies.

The time in his life when earning money was primary brought out his competitive nature. He wanted to have the biggest paper route and he wanted to make the most sales at his part-time job. He wanted to make the basketball team. He wanted to be great! He wanted his girlfriend to promise forever and railed when she did not. He wanted to hear his music uninterrupted and spit on his sister when she came into his room to chat. He thought it was funny; she did not; nor did I. He was not a model child; he was simply “a spirit having a human experience.”

He made the team, got a new girlfriend, went off to college, had much success, and oh so many friends. Academics didn’t seem to be his focus, but he seemed to relish his relationships and became the life of the party and the favorite student to his teachers. He was very entertaining. In time he began to drink alcohol to lessen the pain of the world not always being as he wanted. For his family, his drinking triggered the fear that we would lose him to alcohol. That fear in part was realized. His physical body left us nine years ago, but for me his spirit is in the sound of the wind through the treetops and in the light of an early Easter morning sunrise.

His smile could light up the room and his sense of humor made me laugh. Now his spirit of aliveness lives in me and the memory of his voice reminds me that Life in this physical realm is short and that what we create here lives forever within those we have truly touched. Memories of his birth and death have supported me in finding this place where I intend to live with compassion for others and myself and with a love of Life every day and every minute. It is my full responsibility to live with presence and courage and to grow into the person I am called to be. I am not a model woman; I am simply “a spirit having a human experience.”

May the light in the eyes of our children remind us of the light that is possible in our own. Happy Birthday Greg! Your light lives on!

Surrender (Added 14 March 2012)

“Surrender” has been a prominent word in my world of late. It has appeared on billboards and in books; it has appeared in conversations ranging from memories to tennis. It began with a strong reaction to someone suggesting that I needed to surrender my Life to a God outside of me. This experience triggered an old and familiar pattern of resisting a belief that seems counterproductive to my intention to live an authentic life as a co-creator with the Universal energy of which I am a part. Because I intend to respect everyone's personal spiritual belief, I thanked him and energetically moved away from him; his intensity to have me believe as he does triggered discomfort in me. 

So as days passed and the word "surrender" seemed to appear everywhere I began to ask, "What is to be learned by this encounter and my reactive experience to it?" I silently voiced this question without demanding an answer, but held an intention of openness to hear an answer should it come. Today in the quietness that is The Wintergreen Nature Foundation on some Wednesday mornings, my clarity about what I was to learn came.

To live a full and authentic life, I must "surrender" to the present moment. I may not like what is happening. I may not agree with what another person has to share. I may not be comfortable with a feeling that is triggered within me. I may need to remain silent. I may need to speak aloud about something that is bothering me about what’s happening. I may need to remove myself from another's energy to remain in my integrity with myself. I may need to rediscover a more loving energy to support another's life or mine. I may need to be gentle with whatever emotion is present in another or me. Without the wisdom and acceptance of or “surrender” to each moment as it is, I cannot choose an appropriate action with a conscious intent and honor my need to live authentically in this moment, and the next, and the next.

It is choosing from a conscious loving intent that allows me to co-create a meaningful and purpose-driven physical/spiritual Life with the source of my being, within the events happening around me, and in relationship with others. Whatever is happening, it is happening! I cannot change it, but I can surrender to “what is” in each moment in order to respond from the healthiest part of me rather than to fearfully react. This act of responsible choice and the intent behind it becomes the vehicle of my creation and the consequence it brings. It is with gratitude that I accept all the parts of me—the difficult and the pleasant—and quietly surrender to the learning that my experience offers in this moment, and the next, and the next. These moments of choice step-by-step and consequence-by-consequence truly become the Life I experience.


Limitations or Opportunities? (Added 12 March 2012)

A friend of mine has hearing in one ear only. He is conscious of it and often mentions it as if it’s a limitation. This habit has triggered in me a new perspective about what I see as limitation and opportunity. It has been a life-long habit to observe closely human behavior and sometimes to judge or to give value to what I see; that is changing. Now more often I observe not to give value but to learn and to appreciate the insight that observing brings to me about me.

Mark Nepo is my author of choice the last few days, and his writing speaks to me in the silence of my being and I am changed by what I hear. His voice stills my mind, brings me to the present, and opens my heart to listen not to the words but to the message his words point too. Today that message is to consider every limitation as an opportunity and to be opened to what is most important to learn in each moment.

Those who have poor vision, those who have less than average senses of taste and smell, those who have physical difficulties, those who have hearing challenges, what do they have in common? What I’ve noticed is that they look more closely, eat more slowly, move more deliberately, and listen intently to others. In short, they seem very present because they do not take their senses for granted. They are aware that the opportunity to connect must be given their full attention and they have learned how to do that. What a gift!

My friend has learned to angle his head in a certain way that tells me he is listening carefully sometimes cupping his ear with his hand. A young blind child’s face radiates the sun in his eyes as he turns his face up to feel the warmth. The woman in a wheel chair demonstrates patience as she waits to enter through a revolving door. The man whose taste and smell is not so acute takes two bites before he makes his choice of what to eat. Their faces are intent, their focus inspiring, and their opportunities unbounded.

Recently I’ve been seeing growing older as a limitation; an ache here, a gray hair there, a bit of fatigue at the end of the day, a need for a short rest more often, a wrinkle on the back of my hand, a need for glasses more often. So today, I’m altering my thoughts about limitations and seeing opportunities everywhere. I now move slowly enough in the morning to watch a cardinal land on the bird-feeder, my glasses magnify the beauty of the gifts that fill my home, my aches encourage me to stretch and care for my body and to find the wisdom to rest when rest is needed. The veins and wrinkles on the back of my hand remind me that I’m dehydrated and need to drink more water today. As my hair grows and the gray is more visible, I’m reminded of what a long and remarkably healthy life I have and the freedom that brings. This year as I focus on creating more humility through patience, the experiences that I ‘m creating through what I’ve viewed up to now as limitations are supporting me in doing just that. And as I chuckle at this thought that is now present, my perception of losing some short-term memory gives me ample time to remember the most important thing: what is the present moment offering me as an opportunity. I am filled with love and gratitude for the ability to write my thoughts and feelings down in a way that enriches and expresses my experiences. What a gift!

My friend hears with only one ear, but he listens closely to me. I am sometimes impatient, but I’m learning to accommodate his need for being on my right side to hear more clearly. We are continuously mirroring our shared ability to change life-long patterns. What a gift!


Beings Share Presence (Added 13 January 2012)

A blind child guided by his mother admires the cherry blossoms. – Kikakou

As the child, my ears are alert to my mother’s voice for my eyes do not see. Only my focus to hear her words will bring me the visual image to admire. My nose will tell me of it’s fragrance, my touch will tell me of its softness, but only through my mother’s tone and voice will I know what that fragrance and softness belongs too. I hear from her there are five petals close together in almost a circle; and where the petals attach in the middle of the cherry blossom, it is a deeper shade of pink that grows almost to white at the petals’ edges. From the middle of the deep pink rise varying lengths of stamens with small orangey-pink, round fluffy dots at each of their tips. Her words say that the stamens are the pollen-bearing male part of this delicate precious flower. My mother says, behind the flower the great sun, which I feel on my face, casts a dark surrounding edge that make the blossom even more vivid and creates a shadow of the stamens on the petal itself. Their shadows are grey tinged with pink. Her voice falls upon my ears and her words become my thoughts, and I imagine with great specificity how the cherry blossom appears and admire its beauty.

As the mother, the blind child’s face filled with wonder inspires me to see more clearly through her blindness. Supporting the child to see this flower through her imagination is my gift to her. As I carefully describe what I’m seeing, my gift to this unseeing child supports me being present enough to fully see it myself; and this level of awareness is the child’s gift to me. This delicate flower filled with color and shadow created by the warm and nurturing sun comes alive in my being and is energetically past to this curious and loving child. My heart aches with gratitude for this small being whose blindness first filled me with sadness; but now has added a measure of being alive that could not have been possible without what I once considered to be her handicap. She never considered herself handicapped, and her acceptance has brought me bravery and added awareness that life is created by the choice to live with “what is” with courage. The light shining in her sea foam green eyes reflects what she is seeing through my voice and her other senses. It is a deeper beauty than most of us seeing-beings take time to admire. This cherry blossom is magnificent, and the glory of its connection to this growing child leaves me speechless and filled with awe for this blessed life.

As the cherry blossom, I stand in the glow of the sun knowing that I add beauty and wonder to the earth and to its inhabitants. I am part of the Universe as a cherry blossom, and I cannot be otherwise. As the child, as the mother, or as the cherry blossom, my purpose is simply to live my best life and to grow.


How Am I Different? How Am I the Same (Added 6 January 2012)

Mark Nepo in his book, The Awakening, asked the questions: How am I different from others and how am I the same. Then he issued an invitation to sit in silence with eyes closed and contemplate these questions. So I did. My heart called me to the computer to put down my feelings, and I became distracted by email for a moment. There in the emails I read: We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. This quote by Anne Lamott brought me back to my intention to explore Nepo’s original questions.

In this silence, the wisdom of Lamott’s quote is known somewhere deep in the part of me that I share with all others. We are here together at this time, in this place, and in this specific body to understand that the essence of all Life exists in each of us humans and in all living matter. The manifestation of that essential Life we have brought into being takes many physical forms; all different, all unique. Each of us makes choices that create our life day-to-day, hour-to-hour, moment-to-moment, and those choices add up to a Life unlike any other.

Each of us experiences death of our physical body, each of us grows physically from birth to death, each of us is capable of thought, each of us experiences the pain of physical life and the joys. If we examined each Life, it would not be what happens to us that would be different for pain and joy comes to everyone; it would be how we respond to what happens to us that has created our unique experience of our individual Life.

One woman loses a child and creates a shrine in its honor. Another woman loses a child and creates a charity in its name and supports the lives of many children. Those two choices create how they will live what is left of their own life. The experiences were the same; the creation process of what remained in each of them became very different. A man loses his job and settles into years of depression for what might have been. Another man loses his job and decides to create a different way of living and becomes a role model for others. Same experience different choices. The list of similar experiences and different choices is endless.

Here I am. During my life there have been courageous acts; disappointing choices; fear manifested in anger, sadness, jealousy, etc.; love manifested in the rearing of children, supporting friends, caring for myself, the seeking of a balanced life, etc. All of these things have resulted in my becoming the “soul in a body” that I see in my mirror this morning. If I stood in a long line of people, those who know me would recognize me even though we all have two eyes, two arms, two legs, one nose, and one mouth. They may remark that I look like someone else, but if they truly know me, they know that I am like no one else.

I believe deep in our core of being, we are each a small piece of the Universe, and we have manifested into this unique physical form equipped with the tools and a gift we need to create our healing part of the collective. To live well is to choose to grow into what we are most capable of being and be grateful for the uniqueness of the Life. If in this Life, we do not become conscious of the power of the collective Life of the Universe, we will be given another chance. For this Life, in this place, I have a knowing that the Life I have created has supported the Lives of others and me. In the end, the lesson of living Life is the same for all of us. We are a soul having a physical experience that has the opportunity to contribute to the healing of all living beings. As a physical manifestation of a living Universe with unique skills, hopes, dreams, and personalities, how much healing we contribute is up to each of us for we have free will to choose what we will create. Each day the intention to live in fear of losing a physical existence that is inevitable carries us away from the love that is the essence of the Life we all share.

I am a soul as is everyone else, which is manifested in the Love we all share. I am a personality in a physical body with the power of logic and thought as is everyone else. Then what makes me unique? The answer for me is in what I choose to give my attention and time too; with a conscious intention to live my life fully not someone else’s, just mine. How do I know this is true? Because I can finally see my own goodness and I like what I see in my mirror. In the words of Lamott, I am truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who I was born to be. I am filled with gratitude for this awareness.


The Bike (Added 14 November 2011)

The bike had sat in my garage for nine years. Two years ago it was refurbished with new tires, new horns on the handlebars, and had been given a good checkup so it could be used for riding with my new bike group. The bike had belonged to my son and the sight of it triggered many emotions. He had bought the bike as transportation when he lost his driver’s license because of a drunk driving charge. He reported that it was one of the best things that had happened to him of late. He loved the air on his skin and the strength that was coming back into his body. The strength coming back into his body was coming too late for him to survive this incarnation, but he seemed to love his experiences on the bike.

After his death, the bike was one of the things I wanted to keep. So I did. It sat on my balcony until I sold my condo. It went into storage while I built my home in Stoney Creek. When it came off the moving van five years ago, it went into the corner of the garage, because I was still not ready to let go of the memory of the healing I thought it would bring to my son. It is a Gary Fisher bike, some say one of the best. It looks brand new even though it is old. When I took it to be restored with new tires, etc., the repairman remarked on how well it was made and how unworn it appeared. I cherished his words, but was not quite sure why.

As I began to ride the bike, it seemed a bit big for my frame and often my back hurt after riding a long distance, so I chose to buy a new girl’s bike. I called it a “comfort bike” instead of “an old ladies bike” for obvious reasons. So my son’s bike went back into the corner of the garage to rest for a while longer. On a few occasions I offered to share it, but it did not get ridden. It sat and sat, and I would see it with a flood of emotions triggered by the healing and loss it represented. It is my habit to give away something of value when I do not use it myself, but the timing had not come for releasing this old bike; there seemed to be a feeling within me that another time would come and it would be needed by me; perhaps for my grandsons. Because of their ages, that would be a very long time into the future, but it was the logic I used to hold on to this small symbol of my son’s longing for health and my own.

Two days ago, a new friend suggested he would like to go biking with my group, but his bike needed repairing. Without hesitation, I offered the unused bike in the garage, and I felt my heart open to the possibility that the bike would finally be used. To make that possible, I pulled it out, pumped up the tires, admired it’s beauty, and my heart felt lighter. Later we loaded the bike into his SUV, and I felt as feathery light as the evening air rushing across my skin. The next morning at the trailhead, he tried out the bike and my heart began to sing. He did not know it was my son’s bike or the impact his riding it could have on me. I turned and sped away leaving him to his own period of learning since he had not ridden a bike for sometime. I felt free and happy on this glorious fall day.

On the ride back to the trailhead, my friend and I rode together; I shared that the bike had belonged to my son and he was the first to ride it besides me. He quietly said, “I am honored.” So were my son and I. As we remounted and rode on, the bike was “just another bike” racing to the song of the fall breeze. No memories flooded me for I was in the moment, and this moment was another level of healing I had not expected. We stopped again to sit by the river; all I felt was deep gratitude for all the extraordinary experiences of this Life lived fully. In the peaceful stillness, I closed my eyes and let the gurgle of the racing river wash through me as the sun shared its warmth. It was a beautiful river, a beautiful moment, a beautiful bike, another memory, and I loved and was honored to share it with this friend.

The essence of my son is alive in me and I so cherish him.


Limiting Beliefs (Added 20 October 2011)

A limiting belief—just as it sounds—is having a thought about the past, present, or future that keeps you from seeing what is true in the moment you are living right now. Perhaps you awaken from a long night’s sleep and have the thought that you are tired; but are you really tired or just not quite alert as yet? Perhaps you look in the mirror and think that you are getting older and no longer beautiful; yes you are getting older, but aging has it’s own beauty. You see a friend walking and think she really wants to walk alone; but in reality when you join her on the walk she is welcoming and the walk enriches you both. Perhaps the thought is that living alone is not as enriching as living as a couple, but the amount of freedom that comes with living alone is amazing. Perhaps your belief is that your children should behave differently, but then you see them blossom into their own lives that are very different from what you imagined. Perhaps your belief is that you love to write, but that you are too old and unknown to get published; you go forward anyway and your book is published and it brings you great joy. Perhaps your belief is that your life experiences should have been different, but deep inside you know that it has been those experiences that have created you Life. Perhaps your belief is that there is only one Path to God and that prevents you from appreciating all those who believe in a different God than yours. Perhaps your thoughts are that your thoughts are true and you do not question further how best to live your Life with yourself or in relationship to others. Perhaps you have doubts about your own goodness and forget to look at the generosity that has been a major thread of your Life. Perhaps your belief is that friends and family should be more open hearted and open minded and so you close your heart and mind to them. Perhaps you have made what seems like a mistake and your belief is that you cannot be forgiven and that thought keeps you separate from someone you love. Perhaps the belief is that if you don’t act in a certain way, you will not gain acceptance; but someone once said, “if you do not always bring with you who you truly ‘are’ others will fall in love with who you are “not” and how limiting will that be? Perhaps; perhaps; perhaps; each day is filled with limiting thoughts and if they are believed they can create a limited Life. These thoughts and beliefs allow no space within the present moment; no space for creativity; no space for love; no space for forgiveness; no space for experimentation; no space for growth; no space for seeing Life as it truly is in this moment without adding a story based on the beliefs, sometimes harsh and most always repetitive thoughts and sounds.

Sometimes we read or write something like the paragraph above and immediately believe that our thoughts and/or beliefs could never be otherwise, but is that true? For me it is not. The ability to bring awareness to the harsh, dramatic, judgmental, and repetitive sounds within our minds contains the freedom we think is not open to us. In each moment, we can step back from a belief and ask one simple question: Does this thought or belief serve to expand my Life or limit my life? If the answer is expands, listen. If the answer is limits, look at it and let it go for it does not serve your Life or anyone’s.


Just “Two Beautiful Old Pine Trees” (Added 28 September 2011)

Two beautiful old pine trees stand on the edge of a mountaintop. They were planted by the property owner in the early 1900s and seem to be a symbol of welcome outside the front door of an ancient majestic medieval stone castle. They stand side-by-side and seemingly apart. One is straight and tall; one is leaning and oddly shaped. At first glance, it is easy to admire the one that has grown straight and tall. With closer observation of the direction of the winds and of the angles of the sun, it becomes clear that the one that seems to be leaning-in has twisted, has transformed, and has become deeply rooted thereby protecting the other from the elements. Because they are almost 100 years old, their roots under the surrounding plants, rocks, and soil are entwined with and supportive of each other in ways that cannot be undone. This deep presence and seeing of their combined lives bring a growing appreciation of connectedness. Depending on where you stand, they are framed by the sky above, or the garden below, or by the giant stone arches of the porch. Depending on the time of day, they are framed in blue, white, or shades of pink. Depending on the weather, they appear dark green, light green, silver, or gray.  Depending on the winds, they stand absolutely still or dance about. Their growth has been influenced by many things, and yet, these giant pine trees already existed in the tiny seeds from which they grew. They cannot be other than what they were intended; they are pine trees. Trees have stood as symbols throughout history: the tree of Life, the tree of knowledge, the bodhi tree of enlightenment, the tree of good and evil in the biblical garden story, ugly bare-limbed trees depicting death, the Greek goddess Athena’s olive tree, etc. Standing here in awe of the long and exposed lives of these trees, it is easy to imagine them as symbols and to create fearful or loving stories of meaning framed with the hopes, dreams, fears, loves, strengths, or experiences of my own long and exposed Life. As stillness and silence settle my mind, I know this for sure. My creative symbols are nothing more than objects to which my mind has assigned a meaning—sometimes pleasant sometimes difficult. In this moment, shining through the deep quiet wisdom within me, absent my story telling, my mind’s eye clears. There standing before me simply living their intended lives are just “two beautiful old pine trees.” Without the distraction of my noisy thoughts, I can truly see and appreciate the Life that is here. Amazing.


Autumnal Point (Added 24 September 2011)

It is called autumnal or fall equinox, but what is it? To quote Wikipedia: …the Sun is at one of two opposite points on the celestial sphere where the celestial equator and ecliptic intersect. These points of intersection are called equinoctial points: classically, the vernal point and the autumnal point. By extension, the term equinox may denote an equinoctial point. Although the word equinox is often understood to mean "equal [day and] night," this is not strictly true. For most locations on earth, there are two distinct identifiable days per year when the length of day and night are closest to being equal; those days are referred to as the "equiluxes" to distinguish them from the equinoxes. Equinoxes are points in time, but equiluxes are days. By convention, equiluxes are the days where sunrise and sunset are closest to being exactly 12 hours apart.

This natural symbol of equality of day (light) and night (dark) is a reminder that light and dark are different not better or worse. Who could argue that day and night have distinct powers to aid in the Life upon planet Earth? So to carry the “Point” into an individual Life, who could argue that pleasant (light) experiences are better or worse than difficult (dark) experiences since every experience has the potential for learning by the being that experiences it. Since being human with the power of our minds to create stories around our experiences, it is often easier to live in an imaginary story of what happened and how we should react than to see that how we respond to an experience in this moment creates the suffering or not.

Equality is a slippery word in our culture and the term is often used to compare one thing, one thought, one person, and one event to another. In my youth the expression, “all men are created equal,” stirred many thoughts of disbelief in my mind: Does that include women, does that mean skill level, does that mean talent, does that mean appearance, does that mean…on and on? Even to a child this equality thing did not hold water from a physical perspective. Growing and aging brought new “judgments” about equality and how to discover what equality really means—not to others, but to me.

This search for meaning has brought me to this autumnal point, and to a knowing that equality is expressed within through an attitude of “non-judgment” about what we can see, smell, hear, taste, and touch through our five senses. It is a deeper understanding that the Universal energy dynamic of which we are a part is without judgment. Like the similar times of day and night in this season, we are connected by individual and collective purposes with an equal opportunity to live our best lives. It is not always easy to carry that deep sense of equality into our relationships for we are indeed spiritual beings in physical human forms with old patterns of reactions and judgments. It takes a deep intention to look inside us and see those patterns, take a second look, and remind ourselves they are imaginary stories we have created to feel okay in this particular incarnation and perhaps others. Our patterned reaction may not be the healthiest response in this moment, and if it is not, it may be wise to make a different choice.

Recently in a difficult discussion with a male friend about equality between genders, I suggested that our older generation seems to have more difficulty with this deeper feeling of equality since our culture has encouraged stories about superiority vs. inferiority for all of our lives. I asked if he thought past feelings of inequality had colored his view of male/female relationships. His immediate response was no, equality had not been an issue for his former long-term relationship had been with a “very strong woman.” What I was really asking him to consider was whether in his male/female intimate relationship, he could have felt guarded, less than, limited within the relationship, or less free to be himself, but that view of subtle, male inferiority had not even occurred to him as a possibility. His reaction to my question was immediate! It was clear to me that as a male, he had automatically assumed that the woman in his relationship had to have been weaker or less assertive for inequality to exist. Since I did not feel he was open to the idea that this assumption was in and of itself telling about his view of equality, I just said there are many kinds of strength and the subject was ended. His physical pain during the discussion expressed itself in a visible expressed pain in his chest as he talked about the need to live a more solitary Life to insure his freedom to be himself. He did not seem to see the connection. The annoyance I felt in my body as I viewed his pain turned into compassion and acceptance for us both.

This experience has supported me in looking closely within me to see where I discover feelings of inequality as a part of my physical existence. If there is a value judgment placed by me on what I see, it is sure to mean that I do not see myself as equal—it could be a feeling of doing better or of a feeling of doing less, of being stronger or of being weaker, in control or not in control. It doesn’t matter for none of these express the equality of a creation spirit. The rejoicing of another’s strength or my own cannot diminish or inflate my feelings about either if I am without judgment of that person’s or my own value as a result. Since the evolutionary process of physical “survival of the fittest,” has taught me to judge whether or not I am safe when with another, this approach to Life is challenging and yet interesting and exciting to me.

Observation of the equality of light and dark during this Fall Equinox reminds me that deep equality means no judgment or comparisons are needed. To honor what each contributes with no value judgment added supports my intention to appreciate all that “is” because it “is.” If I’m walking on eggshells, stomping heavily through a room, or withdrawing my love in a reaction to another to gain acceptance or power, it will be my challenge to ask why I do not feel equal in this moment without demanding an immediate answer. If I’m open, the answer will come in its own time even when I don’t like it.


Impermanence (Added 8 August 2011)

During the past few weeks, I’ve spent time at the Wintergreen Nature Foundation as a volunteer. It is summer and the calls to rescue injured or troubled animals and people come in quite often. Without complete awareness of how my thoughts carried me to judgments, I had various ideas and/or comments about these experiences of others.

One particular Saturday, a call came that a baby rabbit had been very still in the garden for a long time and appeared injured. The caller stated that hawks were circling and it wouldn’t be long before the rabbit could not be saved. As I was hearing the story, it occurred to me that we saved the rabbit or deprived the hawk of its meal. Either way we were upsetting the balance of nature and rabbits are numerous for a reason. The thought was, “leave the rabbit alone,” no second thoughts. Later a call came that a skunk, which appeared to have a broken leg, was outside the restaurant by the golf course. Nature Foundation staff were asked to come and see what they could do. Reluctantly they went! By the time they arrived, the skunk had scuttled off into the underbrush. We were relieved and I thought little of what the fate of the wounded skunk could be. Earlier that day, a dog had stumbled upon a hornet’s nest and had been stung badly, and a staff member went looking for the nest to eliminate it so humans could walk the path without being stung. It is the most reoccurring event involving injury that comes to the attention of the Nature Foundation. My thought was that the bees were there first and should be left alone to resettle into their lives.

A few days later, I was the human contemplating the impermanence in nature and wondering what to do. A friend and I had gone to visit Natural Bridge in Virginia. It is a beautiful spot and it was early evening as the light played its songs upon the angles of the rocks and crevices as we watched. It was peaceful and awe inspiring to see the effects the water has played and still plays upon the landscape as it all shifts and changes imperceptibly. It is hard to imagine that this amazing spot will not remain as it is permanently. It’s a rock! As this thought was taking up residence in my brain, I noticed a man and a small boy up ahead. They were looking at the ground with intense eyes. My eyes followed theirs to the ground and there it was: a snake eating a live frog. The back legs and rear of the frog were already in the snake’s mouth and the frog’s body was badly bloated as its eyes bulged, its front legs kicked, and it sought freedom from the snake. I felt the pain of the frog’s struggle; I wanted to do something to make this stop, but what? The frog was too damaged to live; the snake was hungry and needed food; the snake might bite me, but I felt the frog should be killed instantly so its suffering would be over. I chose only to stand and watch with sadness and curiosity as this unusual sighting in nature played out. The frog was large and it would take a long time for the snake to consume it. As I voiced what I was feeling, my friend wisely reminded me in his own way that this is nature; sometimes difficult sometimes serene; to have one meant having the other. I could no longer watch so we turned away and continued our walk through this civilized and yet still wildly natural, tourist attraction.

These images from nature have stayed with me. The story of the frog/snake sighting has been shared with friends, as has the beauty of Natural Bridge. Today if someone walks along the same path we took, there will be no hint of what occurred between the snake and the frog. The changes to the rock will remain a mysterious slow process. Only the man, the boy, my friend and I will really know the changes created within us from these experiences. Life is by definition impermanent and the cultivation of acceptance has been my yearlong intention since Winter Solstice of last year. Once again I am reminded of my power to create what is needed with my intention. I have a deep knowing that no matter what my perception is in the moment, the Universe is a friendly supportive force within me that “does not take sides, but seeks only balance.” It is my intention to have compassion for what I hear and see and to learn the lesson of impermanence as I witness it in nature. With that lesson learned, I will be free.


A Glimpse of Time Passing (Added 30 July 2011)

What happens when the past becomes the present? What happens are visions of past experiences, people, and places that are pictures in the mind’s album. They are dusty, unused, and come unexpectedly with clarity into focus.

Recently I met my daughter and her family to fulfill her wish to visit the two homes where she had been a baby. I did this with some reluctance because she could not remember these homes; she was tiny; birth-to-two and then two-to-four. Going back there did not necessarily appeal to me either since my relationship to my former husband and her Dad had become faded memories of love and pain. But there we were in front of a house that I had come to as a bride, altered it with the support of my dad and husband to accommodate our family—a house in which I had brought my children, and where I laughed and cried and planned the perfect future.

As I approached the door, I remembered my husband carrying me across the threshold; I remembered bringing my son and daughter home to the loving arms of an extended family that had arrived to celebrate their coming into Life. I remembered a Victorian styled, bright red couch that I couldn’t wait to replace. I remembered the tiny kitchen where I cooked my first Thanksgiving turkey. I thought of a day when the world was perfect because we were exhausted together and happy. I remembered a green chair where my husband sat feeding our children their bottles. I remembered a summer of disruption as Dad added the addition and my son walked in the foundation ditches and later put nails into the exposed electrical outlets. I remembered a small tree and a ladder that helped my children climb it. I saw a small boy planting a tomato plant and harvesting the crop it yielded. I saw a rocking horse and felt the small kicks from my daughter still in my womb. I remembered a day when she rolled over and over and we laughed and felt proud. I relived a day when my small son gave my baby daughter a drink from a cup as she rested in her crib; she almost drowned. I remembered a trip to the doctor that straightened her tiny leg with a cast. I saw a Linden tree when it was smaller than me and now it towered over the house. It is hard to express all that I saw through the visual memory there in our first small house. We had invested time and love and then sold it without looking back.

Unbelievably, the man and woman that had bought the house from us still lived there, and it felt wonderful that they had continued to add their love of the house to ours. They had added gardens, doors, patios, waterfalls, fireplace, and fish—just to mention a few of their creations. He graciously invited us in and gave us a tour on a hot day inside and out. The small trees that we had planted cast some shade now, and the flowers his wife had planted added color all around them. We took smiling pictures with a camera to add to our real photo albums of course, and we spoke of the skill and time that each family had given to this beautiful modest home. As we did, I watched my past blooming in my present. It doesn’t matter that all the futures I imagined did not occur. What mattered was the memory of love and support that flowed through the energy of the house into me and then to my daughter’s family. There is evidence that we are still there as surely as we are here through our choices to give of ourselves. My choice to visit the past because I love my daughter created a rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of time passing in the present, and my gratitude for my daughter and our choices to share our Life sang within my heart; a reminder and then a another memory of time passing in the present!


The Present Moment (Added 19 June 2011)

Neighbors dropped in yesterday and provided me with fun, friendship, and an unexpected sacred moment. It is challenging to accurately describe a sacred moment and the power it contains, so I’ll start slowly from the beginning. It began with a black pearl bush; in fact, two bushes. My friend had started them from her plants, and her husband had traveled along with her to deliver them to me and to share a few moments of time. She had even created a “care sheet” to support me in growing them; so typical of her. The love she has for living things is abundant.

It was a balmy late spring day and the hydrangeas were in full bloom and served as a backdrop as we drank smoothies, ate rice chips and salsa, and enjoyed a glass of wine on my screened porch. Life felt good! As often happens with this friend, the discussion turned to nature and bird songs in particular. So she and I pulled out my IPad to compare what we were hearing in my yard with the Audubon recorded bird-songs. It was fun and laughter came easily. Although this was true, it seemed my friend’s husband was very quiet for him. He is usually telling some joke or making some silly observation. I began to think he was just bored as my friend and I turned to playing games on my IPad, so I asked if he would like to join us. He said, “No, I’ll just walk up to the edge of the golf course.” His demeanor seemed unusual, but I dismissed it and returned to the game my friend and I were sharing.

As time to leave approached, my friend’s face grew still and she said, “I hate to ruin the fun, but I have something I need to say.” Then she said, “I have breast cancer.” For a moment, the world on my screened porch stopped, and we were drawn deeply into the present moment. A slight sadness passed across her eyes. It was quickly replaced with a look of acceptance of what was now occurring as she described her coming treatment. I looked at her husband and there I saw a deep pain quickly replaced with an expression of deep love for this woman with which he has shared many years. Just as they have been together in many things over the years, they are together in this. In that moment of presence, their togetherness seemed all that truly mattered, and I was touched by their love for each other. She said, “He still makes me laugh.” He, in character, chuckled with pleasure at that thought.

We shared how important it is to avoid fearful story-telling about what is happening and to simply deal with what is happening right now in the present moment. There was no hint of pity or of wasting time blaming the Universe for unfairness. Their courage was plain to see, as was their fear of what will come next. Each of us was quiet and calm in our own way as we shared that precious moment. As I watched them drive away, I knew this strong, courageous couple was focusing their attention on accepting and living Life fully in each moment, and I was grateful that they were part of mine! No one knows in Life what will come next, living in this present moment is where we find our power.


Creation of a Day

Today seems peaceful in some ways and unsettling in others. So many days of my life have been spent wondering what is my purpose. Today it seems as if it is only to be present and accepting of what is in this moment. There is nothing wrong with today. The sun is out, the day is quiet, and there is nothing required of me by anyone else. I’ve watched the French Open and seen the victory there as a moment in time that is relevant only to the lives involved. I’ve dressed to go biking and yet I stayed in the drama unfolding at the French Open as if it had some significance in my own life. Does it? Is it just enjoyment of seeing two competitors doing their best at what they love? Or is it something within me that lives through the accomplishments of others? Is it a need or is it a choice to merely enjoy life as it comes my way?

My night raiders are still at it, and again I found my bird-feeder empty this morning. I can feel within me the need to know who is the night raider and how can I change what is happening in order to have my world be as I choose it to be. I’m grateful for the awareness of this part of me that continues to need challenging if I am to be at peace with what is in this moment. Only then can I make a responsible choice to support the life I want with the consequences that come from making choices within the presence of acceptance.

My friend is out of town and some part of me is pleased by the freedom that gives to me and I have an authentic knowing that he is doing what enriches his life. And yet, there is some judgment within me that says his needs are externally power driven. How do I challenge the part of me that judges his actions and wants him to be different so that I can be happy? This is not a new conflict; the difference is that I am aware of the thoughts and feelings within this dynamic that create circumstances I do not wish to occur. I can make the choice to not act on the fearful thoughts that invade my mind.

As I sit typing this, I realize that my day is my own creation and whether or not I act from a place of fear is all up to me. In this moment, I choose to go for a bike ride and feel the wind in my hair. That feels nurturing and I can feel my heart open as I consider the possibility that life is an illusion created by my thoughts, and I can choose which thoughts I will give my energy too. I alone am responsible for the experiences I create and it is those experiences that enrich my life if I choose.


What Are You Doing Today?

What are you doing today is a question that is asked of me often. Yesterday it came to me several times and I felt compelled to give an answer. Then I began to ask myself why there is an expectation that I must be doing something? Of course, routine chores like making a bed, fixing food, doing dishes, caring for my home are always needed, but this question seems to be about something more. It seems to carry an expectation that I need to be doing something “important.”

From some people the question triggers a feeling of annoyance within me, and I sometimes give them an answer like, “nothing special just the usual things or there’s always plenty to do.” It is more avoidance of responding from annoyance than an answer. It quiets my annoyance and turns off their questioning. For others, I just say something like, “planning a quiet day.” That answer feels authentic and supportive of the way I want to live my life.

As I examined my feelings during these different experiences, I discovered the part of me that wants to be what the other person perceives me to be, a busy, active, interesting person. For some reason, I have doubt about whether that person is capable of caring about me just as I am in this moment. For sure, I am an active person with a wide variety of interests, but sometimes I enjoy “Being” in my home. What keeps me from sharing that is a feeling of inequality about my choices and about the other person’s ability to receive an authentic answer without judging me as different than his/her perception of me. Simultaneously, I feel “less than” because I’m choosing not to do something “important” and “more than” because I feel at some level the other person isn’t capable of understanding that need.

Today is a day that seems to need a quiet thoughtful stillness. The birds are chirping in the trees, the squirrels are trying to get into the bird feeders, the breeze is moving the leaves, the raindrops are collecting on the deck, and the mountains stand observing it all. I’m sipping my coffee and hearing the quietness that surrounds me. I’m reading, I’m writing, I’m thinking, I’m dreaming, I’m questioning, I’m answering, but more than anything else I’m simply being here now doing this and it nurtures my life.

It is a reminder that I am not here to fulfill anyone else’s expectations; I am here to find meaning and purpose for my own life. For me that means unplanned days from time to time. Today I have set an intention to answer the question, what are you doing today, with authenticity no matter who is asking. Sometimes I will be playing golf or tennis, rushing around running a project, working to beautify my yard; but sometimes I’ll simply be choosing to “Be” and for me that will be enough. I will trust that the other person is able to handle that answer in his or her own way.


Without Thinking

This morning I awaken to the gentle sound of rain, and I snuggle down into the night’s accumulated warmth under my blankets. There is no thinking only comfort and presence; it is as if I am one with my feelings and it feels like what I believe peace to be. As the morning unfolds, the feeling of hunger comes and without questioning it, I stretch, arise, and move to my robe. It is blue and soft and so cool to the touch as I slip my feet into white booties. Sliding my feet along the carpet, the harder surface of my wood floor is recognized at the doorway. The blinds are up and the rain is falling harder now and its sound fills the room. Time to make the smoothie that has become a part of my mornings of late: cantaloupe, pineapple, blueberries, yogurt, strawberries, apples, and raspberries. Their smells mingle with the sounds of the rain and for a moment the blender whirl drowns out all other sounds. I glide to the coffee maker and the smell of coffee is strong enough to feel like I taste it already. I smile at the wonder of just being present without thinking something should be different than it is. Cereal now mixed and I settle into my big leather chair to eat it and drink my smoothie. They are delicious and colorful in contrast to the dark quiet of the room and the day outside my window. I gaze at my joy garden that is bright with purple, pink, and white against a blue-gray sky. It feels soft in my gaze and nurtures my need to just be present with what is on this day. I pick up my book and begin to read. It is Jon Kabat-Zinn speaking about the senses: seeing, hearing, touching. It seems to belong completely with my morning of presence and peace. In the pages, he quotes, William Stafford: What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

Again no thoughts come, just an incredible presence and knowing that in each moment there is beauty and nurturing for the soul for the taking. The rain is softer again and the pools of water stand wherever my eyes fall. Without thinking, there is a deep knowing that I am not a separate entity seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling this moment, but an integral part of it and without my energy and presence it would be different. The rain is, the fruit is, the wood is, the carpet is, the chair is, the joy garden is, Jon Kabat-Zinn is, the peace is, and I am. How beautiful to know all this without thinking!


Normal Thinking

She looked into my eyes. She said that my pelvic area was not moving when I lifted my leg. She said that I was flexible in my hips and so compensated there for the lack of flexibility in the last vertebra of my back. She said that when some part of the body is not used, the brain notices and will see the lack of movement as “normal.” She said the unused area becomes more and more unbalanced and eventually creates pain in the body.

This pain in my lower left hip has been coming and going for several months. It eventually has became uncomfortable enough for me to seek advise from a therapist. I give her my full attention for mobility is very important to my lifestyle. I hear her clearly, and my mind begins to connect some dots. She continues my therapy and she comments that my pelvic area begins to move a little, but I can’t seem to feel it. She says that’s okay because the movement is subtle, but necessary to maintain the health of the back and ultimately the nerve in that area. I trust her and relax into the treatment, but my mind continues to connect the dots.

If unused muscles and bones create a message to the brain that their dysfunction is normal until the imbalance creates pain, is that also true of emotional dysfunction? If I choose not to feel the emotional pain that is part of my everyday physical existence, does my brain begin to believe that emotional numbness is normal until the imbalance leads to acute physical, mental and/or emotional discomfort? I begin to remember the times in my life when I have felt emotional pain and have chosen to override it with thinking. I’ve told myself that life is difficult sometimes and have moved on without giving the pain its due course and attention. Have I, therefore, sent a message to my intellect to override this pain and continue to function. I know at a deep level that the answer to this question is, “Yes, many times.”

The physical discomfort is in my second energy center, which I understand to be the energy center of creativity and belonging, and it is sending me a message. My exploration must be the asking of why? What do I need to notice and to learn about in this moment? As I sit with that question and just relax into the moment, I feel certain that if I remain open the question will be answered; not by the intellect, but by something deeper inside me that guides my life if I choose to listen. I will not seek the answer in my mind, but I will relax into the present and observe what comes to me. I will trust the Universal force to support me in my learning and relax into the pain, feel it deeply in the moment; I will no longer resist the discomfort, but welcome it in with whatever message it brings. It has been years since I fearfully resisted emotional pain and stiffened and numbed against it. It feels healing to be curious about what I don’t see and/or feel instead of afraid in this moment. What is it that my intellect views as normal while my body is screaming to be noticed?


Quiet Reflections

During the last few weeks, I’ve been experiencing pain in my second energy center. I’ve felt that my body is trying to tell me something so each morning I’ve asked the question: “What do I need to know that I do not want to know?” Without requiring an answer, I’ve continued to just be open to learning. Also this week, I’ve felt the need to remain quiet while reflecting with more stillness than is my normal pattern. I’ve supported that need by canceling the things I just did not want to do this week. It has felt really good and freeing, but I’ve also had this voice in my head that says, “What’s wrong with you?” I watched the thought come and go and remained quiet, peaceful, and still. I’ve read, baked cookies, watched the birds out my window, slept late, meditated, done yoga, watched old movies, and just stayed in my home with just me. I’ve felt content even though my mind seemed to want more from me.

A few days ago, Eckhart Tolle’s book, called The New Earth, was mentioned in a conversation with a friend, and I had a knowing that I wanted to reread it. As I began, I felt I was reading it for the friend to support him in his relationship with someone he loves; but as I began to read, I knew the book’s message would bring me the understanding of what I needed to know that I was resisting unconsciously. This morning I read Tolle’s words I needed to hear: If you are not in the state of either acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm, look closely and you will find that you are creating suffering for yourself and others.

In that moment, I began to look at my choices during the past few months and the intentions behind them. What do I need to do or not do that I am not accepting? For what actions does enthusiasm reside within me? What do I enjoy simply for the doing of it? Where am I doing an activity with a secondary agenda? The questions poured out of me and I found myself tearful. For so long, I have worked to be conscious, to be authentic, to be present, and in that moment, the part of me that feels sorry for myself was active yet again. Why? Because I didn’t have all the answers to the questions that my busy mind dumped on me? This need to understand everything that happens has been a recurring theme for as long as I can remember. If I understand it then I can accept it, or more accurately change it; or so my Story goes. My fearful need for influence is great.

Tolle goes on to say that if you can neither enjoy or bring acceptance to what you do—stop. My intention is to have compassion for the part of me that feels I need all the answers to life’s questions now. I will ask for guidance to accept what is happening in the moment without adding drama and fearful thoughts or intelligent explanations. If I can’t do that, I intend to accept that too. I will look at my activities one by one to see if there is a second agenda lurking in the shadow of my fearful ego. If I find one, I will look to see what I can learn from that situation in the present moment. In some moments of fearful thinking, I will just stop!

Today feels peaceful as I write this down. I don’t know what it is I am not aware of in this moment, but I am fully aware that I am enjoying the quietness of it.


Pure Light

The parking lot at the University of Virginia Medical System was crowded. Finding a space took 30 minutes. I felt impatient with the loss of time and the people that swirled around in the garage seemingly in my way. The appointment for a minor skin ailment had brought me here. As Winnie the Pooh often said, “Oh Bother!” “Was this really necessary? What a waste of my day!” These thoughts were still in my head as I entered the glass elevator with a few others on the top deck of the parking garage. We started the long slow descent to the lower levels.

And then it happened. The elevator door opened and a middle-aged woman entered pushing a teenage boy in a wheelchair. He seemed challenged both mentally and physically, and my reaction was to look away so that his mom would not feel I was staring at the young boy. His mom and I exchanged pleasantries as we rode down to the exit level. It occurred to me that I was behaving as if the young boy was anonymous and invisible. My heart hurt. He was a soul and I was ignoring him out of fear of being misunderstood.

In that moment, I chose to look into his clear blue eyes and said, “Hi.” He didn’t look at me, but his eyes were alive with the joy and pure light of the incredible sun that rose through the window of the elevator. He wasn’t concerned that it was crowded or that too many obstacles were in the way of what he wanted. He wasn’t complaining internally, he wasn’t judging others; he was without fear and was gazing in awe at the light. The light from the sun had entered his eyes and body completely and radiated outward toward anyone who chose to look. As the elevator door opened, I said to his Mom that I believed he was enjoying the sunshine. She said, “He is always attracted to the Light.”

In gratitude, I left the elevator carrying the gift of pure light that had come to me from the sun through a young man that reflected it. I chose to pass it on for the rest of the day. The courage to challenge my own fear in that moment had supported my own pure light and brought pure joy! As my day progressed, it was reflected back to me in the smiling eyes of those I encountered. In the absence of fear, it seems each of us becomes a conduit for the Light and its reflection. What more important purpose could a soul bring into this world of physical existence?


Nature’s Message

Yesterday nature spoke to me through the visual image of a heart; it supported me in examining my own. Friends had joined me on a walk by a mountain stream that led to waterfalls. The air was chilly, but not numbing cold. Many days and nights before had been extremely cold so the stream had frozen ice sculptures everywhere with running water painting different shades of gray under its surface as the moving water touched the ice in various ways. Many rocks upon the ground were more visible to me than usual and I wanted to pick up all of them. When it seemed I should do so a sudden stillness appeared with a different message that said, “Leave the rocks in place;” so I did. Thirty minutes into the walk, the falls appeared in the distance; they seemed frozen solid. As we ventured closer, the running water under the ice was apparent. It gushed down the mountain under the ice into a pool of moving and bubbling liquid. I climbed higher to see it more clearly.

The fast moving falls as it entered the pool of water surrounded by ice at its base had created the shape of a large and pulsing heart. My legs felt weak and I sat on a rock to study and feel the power of nature before me. In the sunny light side of the heart pool, the water churned and danced, but in the shaded darker side of the heart pool, the water hardly moved at all. Something in my own heart felt frozen. The small shadowed area of my own heart became visible to me as I remembered the losses that life has co-created with me. In this small shadowed part of my own heart, the pain was immense. I felt it deeply and then quietly released it through the tears that welled up in my eyes. With the absence of resistance to my feelings as they were in that moment, my heart reopened to the beauty and life that was represented by all the parts of the watery heart below. Clearly as the sun moved and warmed the pool, the light would grow and the shadowed frozen area of the pool would diminish.

Many emotions were resident in my body; the state of love and the state of fear fought for domination. I thought of future losses that could ultimately occur with the experiences of living fully. One of these experiences was contained in the laughter of my friends as they sat along the mountain stream. Their light was suddenly reflected in me as I moved back down toward them. The intention to feed the love light within me healed the small shadowed part of my heart a bit more and allowed me to know the joy of this new experience.

Living without attachment and an open heart creates vulnerability, and it is sometimes difficult to do from the shadows of past experiences. The choice is always mine, “Do I live in a state of love or a state of fear?” My intention was as clear as the bubbling water under the falls, let the light within me grow and expand with a welcoming compassion for the dark shadowy edges that I know still exist.

As we walked toward the trailhead, rocks called to me. Freely I stooped to pick them up; they are reminders of my choice to fully live from the most loving place I can find within me in each moment. One of my friends encouraged me to pick up a larger rock than I usually do; he placed it in my backpack. It was heavy and it was light! My heart was open and my friend was truly my “present” in all the meanings of that word. Once again gratitude for what “is” trumped the sadnesses of past experiences and the fears for the future. My energy churned and danced in it’s light. We had reached the trailhead together; it was time for lunch!


A Death in the Neighborhood

He was 65. He was youthful and apparently healthy. I didn’t know him well, but knew his wife. They appeared to have a wonderful life. She went out to dinner with friends and he died while she was gone. His memorial was held and the entire community turned out to support his family and to say goodbye to him. I was there and I learned much about him that I didn’t know.

He did not have children of his own, but his extended family was more connected to him than many parents are to their own children. He was an accomplished pianist, but did not play often, because he felt he couldn’t play up to his earlier standards. He was a role model to his nephew and a continuous support to his nieces. One was married in his backyard. I learned he was a brother, a son, an uncle, and a friend to many. He was a photographer with the tenacity and perfectionism to create a new business and share the beauty of our mountain community with the sick and the well alike. One family member said, “he could be difficult,” and those who knew him best chuckled agreement. He created gardens that he said, “just evolved.” Their colorful landscapes are a testimony to his ability and actions that put his beauty into the world around him. But what stood out during his memorial service, as one after the other went to the lectern to speak, was his love for his wife of 34 years. He was portrayed as a person whose primary purpose was to make her happy. He was a role model for integrity, compassion, reverence for life, and love. His essence was generously given in his relationships, his music, his photos, his garden, and his passion for life. He lived his life with gusto and without apology, or so it seemed to me as he was remembered.

My learning about myself came as I left the chapel and headed home. I began to ask the question, “Where am I not living fully?” During my walk to his home and the memorial reception, my neighbors were in my thoughts. Did all of them have this sense of knowing that it could have been anyone of us that decided to return to our spiritual home? Were they questioning how they were spending the winter of their lives? Were they reminded of the preciousness of each moment we share? Were they grateful and honored to be supporting our neighbor’s transition to his place of Source?

Entering his home, each neighbor there seemed more precious and my heart felt quiet. There was nothing to say or do, but each of us had brought our energy to share in whatever way seemed appropriate to us. The rooms overflowed with food and sunlight and sharing and something else I could not identify. It was time to go home and feel the loss of this neighbor I knew only slightly before his death. Today I know him better and he has left me a clear message, “live fully and share the gifts that are uniquely mine.”

For some who knew him well, his physical presence will be missed and their healing will take time. As for me, I feel honored to be a small part of his world, and that even in death the strength of his essence is passed on to me through those he loved. A few weeks ago, he danced the two-step; and I watched in order to learn; and I will remember. Given the opportunity to dance, my intention is to dance with gusto!