Living Together In Small Ways


“How are we to live together?” I am wondering this daily. At the larger, societal level, it can feel too big for me to wrap my arms around this one. It can feel beyond what I can hold. Too big. Too troublesome. Too much effort. Too little return.

And so, I make it very small. Small enough that I can have an impact. Small enough that I can see movement. Small enough that I can accurately and rightfully claim what is mine to do, and then try to do it as best as I can.

I go inside my own life. I go to living with young adults who are in some ways very, very different than me. They look different. They smell different. They move differently through the world. They want different things than I do. They expect differently. They love differently. They eat differently. They relate differently. And yet, we are the same. They are my people; the ones I am travelling with. Because of this, I try. I try to understand. I try to be better than I have been. I try to not ridicule or demonize their ways. I try to bridge and ride and respect the differences.

Could we not bring this level of “smallness” into the living of our daily lives? Could we not recognize that we are all travelling together? That we are all each other’s people? It is so very easy and natural and human to focus on what is different. It is a survival mechanism. Different could mean danger. Could. 

To balance my  tendencies to experience differences as bad or threatening, I come back to two teachings:”Say ‘yes’ to whatever shows up” and “Everything is allowed.” Nothing denied. Nothing banished. Neither approach to living equals condoning bad behavior or agreeing to the wrong thing. Instead, these teachings serve as a remedy for what ails us. As a softening into the truth of what is before us, whether we want it or not. And as an attempt to align with perhaps the most powerful thinking we could ever hold regarding others;all life, no matter what form it takes, has a “right” to be here. Beyond how we feel about it and beyond how it chooses to be, think, move, act, speak or live.


A Tiny God


My childhood home had an enormous pine tree that grew in one corner of our backyard. It towered over the rose bushes, the fence, the bird house on a pole, our garage, and other trees. It felt to my little girl self as tall as a mountain. Amongst the shelter of its lower branches I felt safe. And known. The great pine and the ground beneath it was sacred to me, though that was not a word I knew or would have used back then. Over the years fallen needles had accumulated to build layers and layers of softness and comfort. When you walked under this magnificent tree, the ground was literally different than anything else you would walk on. It felt otherworldly to me. The layers of built up and decaying needles made it easy for a small girl to dig into the earth to bury things in her life that had died. It was here that I would come when our home and the ways of the world would overwhelm me. I felt held here. I felt heard here.

I never talked about my experiences in this place with anyone. There were no words for it. It was different than church where someone told me what to want and to feel and to pray for and to be ashamed of. In this place, there were no rules, obligations, expectations or have-to’s. Just a yearning revealed, recognized and met; one that I did not even consciously know I had. This experience was beyond the world. It was a way of being seen though there were no eyes. It was a place where I felt something way down deep that I did not feel anywhere else. At the time I thought it was the tree, which is why when it became infested and there was talk of needing to cut it down, I felt cleaved down the middle. I did not know then that while yes, something did exist there in that place, it was also in me. And while in the times to come that place would lie dormant and forgotten within me for many years, when the time was right, it was as though a seed that had been planted and forgotten suddenly found its way into its day in the sun.

The technologies consume our children’s hearts, bodies and minds while asking nothing of them and returning nothing to them by way of their spirits. To be so engaged and enthralled with something that requires so little of you is not the recipe for a strong moral character. It is instead the makings of a spiritual brat. Our children are being warped and drained spiritually at a very tender age. When they are young, a felt sense of the Great Mystery of Life is not something that has to be taught. They are it. Sadly enough though, what they come in embodying can be unlearned, which is what happens when we make the biggest and most meaningful thing in our children’s lives come from a machine. As Father Gregory Boyle writes, “God can get tiny, if we’re not careful.”

If there was ever an argument for avoiding and limiting screens in childhood this could be The One. Spirit sick and soul hungry children make for very unbalanced and unhappy grown-ups, no matter what their facility with technology is.



A Long Hold

I once read “Change happens in an environment of love.” And I am told recently by a body worker who uses long holds in her work; “The holding is where the healing happens.”

This is so not how we often go about being with and handling change. Too often we go into change in our lives as if we are going into battle. We gear up. We resist. We fight. We complain. We are critical. We believe we are not doing it right. Or enough. We need another way. The pull yourself up by your bootstraps at any cost is just not cutting it these days. It no longer fits. We need a more mature version of what it means to be with shifting times.

So here it is. What if every luminary who has ever spoken had it right? By that I mean, what if it really is about love and compassion and forgiveness? Not as some lofty concept that sounds good on paper or meant only for the really holy ones. Not as some abstract ideal that gets held up as something to aim for but that is really not that practical in the day to day. What if it is about softening, loosening the grip, and letting go straight in the midst of what usually sends us into bunker mentality? What if it is about slowing down and doing less while the warning bells are sounding?

We are entering into a great shift. A time that is revealing what we often do not want to admit; there are no certainties and the ground beneath us is not as solid as we need it to be. We have two choices. We can enter this change as we always have, or we can try something new. Conventional thinking would say we must all brace ourselves for what is coming. It would say hunker down or get ready to fight. But what if it is neither? What if this was our chance for real, lasting and life-affirming collective change? What if a long hold in soft arms in an environment of love is exactly what we all need in the years to come? What if this is precisely what we need to do for ourselves and others? Even the ones we disagree with, or are afraid of.

Virtually and Perpetually Distracted

I read this week that the video game Pokeman Go had 45 million players in its first 12 days, and that among a host of problems related to the scavenger hunt nature of the game in the real world, was that 110,000 distracted driving-related incidents had been reported in the first 10 days. I am left wondering so very many things. Things like what would it be like to garner 45 million people’s time and energies to devote to….?  Fill in the blank. Things like, are we so out of our minds with the siren’s call of the technologies that we would jeopardize innocent lives on the road? Things like, why do we have plenty of time for this, but often so little for what really matters most?

If there was one question that I could ask All of Eternity, it would be; “Why is it so hard to remember who we are and what it most important?” Why does it seem easier to forget than to remember? Why does it seem so “natural” to get distracted and to lose track of really important things like self-care, self-love, the health of the planet and the importance of each other? And why is that even when we want to do things differently, it can be so hard to change?

Almost 30 years ago I had the worst birthday of my life. It was my 25th. What made it so awful was that I became utterly unnerved and unhinged that a quarter of a century had gone by and that I had been asleep at the wheel. I hadn’t done anything worth mentioning. I hadn’t a clue about how precious and short-lived Life really is. After this difficult revelation, I made some changes. Some things stayed the same. Maybe even most things stayed the same. It was hard for me to line up in my own mind why it was that I saw the need to change, and that I wanted to change, but still found it so difficult to do so. It was just so easy to get distracted. It was just so easy to forget. For a,long time I beat myself up about not doing better, believing it to be some failing on my part that I could not just get to where it was I most wanted to be.

I see things differently now. Sure, there is lots and lots of research about how and why people change, and why they don’t. My sense, though, is that there is more at play than we usually recognize around what creates change. Something that is beyond the obvious of A+B=C. Something that is beyond a human hypothesis. Something that is beyond will and intention. Maybe it is built into us for some reason beyond our knowing to struggle like this. Maybe it is so the Universe gets to create through us. Maybe it is about choice at some level far deeper than most of us go. Maybe it is to learn forgiveness, or to ask for help. Maybe it has to do with some evolutionary shift that will occur in its own time no matter what we do. And maybe there is no reason at all.

Through all of this unknown around how it is that we remember to pay attention to our precious lives and how to keep shifting towards the expression of our truest nature, I know one thing for sure: The technologies are exploiting our weaknesses in ways too numerous to mention. By this I mean, all of the daily ways we use our devices to miss our lives, our health and one another. All of the ways that we do not know how to say no despite what it is doing to us. All of the ways that we can squander away our time here, living as if what we do does not matter, or does not amount to any more than chasing down digital creatures in the real world. If on our own we struggle with being here and with what is most precious, how will we fare with something that magnifies our tendencies to forget?