I am on a walk through the woods. I take a familiar path trying to do the unfamiliar. I am attempting to see and listen in a new way. A way that does not put me in the equation. A way where I am aware of what is around me without making it have to do with me. It is difficult.

Even in the naming of the birds, trees and other life I pass is a kind of claiming on my part, another way of making it have to do with me. Naming is a way of making other life belong to me somehow through my definitions and interpretations, believing I could know that life because I think I know what it is called. While the naming of the world around us serves an important function, it also has its serious drawbacks. As in assumptions we  make. As in believing we have the whole story. As in believing we give something its place. As in believing somehow it belongs to you.

Everything does not have to do with us. The world is not here to be at our beck and call. It is not here to deliver to us our version of how it should be. Other forms of life are sovereign unto themselves, separate from what we want them to be. What would our lives be like if we could simultaneously hold and respect the different forms life takes while knowing on a deeper level that there is Something unifying us all? Or how about on a purely practical level–What would it be like to know that what others do has got absolutely nothing to do with us?

Right Relationship


Did you ever stop to notice how it is that you identify yourself? What it is that you believe makes you, You?

We define ourselves in relation to one another; mother, wife, friend, daughter, teacher. It is through our relationship to others that we say; This is who I am.

We define ourselves through our affiliations; the political party we belong to, the religion we hold dear, the schools we went to, the yoga class we attend. It is through belonging that we say; This is who I am.

We define ourselves according to what we can and cannot do; I am a good dancer, I can’t draw, I am good with numbers, I am good with people, I can’t let go. It is through our capacities, or lack of capacity, that we say; This is who I am.

We define ourselves based on what we own; our cell phone, our clothes, our cars, our houses, our degrees, our books. It is through ownership that we say; This is who I am.

We define ourselves based on the past; who they said we were, how they treated us, what we were good at as kids. It is through what no longer exists that we say; This is who I am.

We are relational beings; born to know ourselves within a context of relation. It matters greatly what it is that we put ourselves in relation to. And it also matters greatly that we are connected to something beyond the relational requirements of the world with all of its fickleness, blindness and projections. It matters that we are in relation to something that is more enduring and true than  past experience, or what we do.

The trees, and all of nature for that matter, know the way. They are for no other reason than, they are. Is there something in you that is, just because it is? Something not based on an outer reflection. Something not based on how you will be received. Something not based on what you think you should do, or be. A dimension that is not in relation to anything other than Itself.

We Need Both


The light does not fear the dark. The light is not made less than by the dark. The light does not run from the dark. The presence of darkness does not annihilate the light.

Each and every day we need only look to the cycles of nature to understand the truth about light and dark; they are two sides to one coin. We need both.



Winter is the time of quiet. It is the silence following a blizzard. It is the time to go in and in and in. It is the time for slowing down and conserving energies. It is at this time that the seeds of the following seasons are planted. And it is in the darkness that they wait.

Many of us are afraid of the dark. Fairy tales and myths abound with monsters, demons and enemies that live in the dark places, waiting to spring out and get us. Wombs are dark. As are caves. The very bottom of the ocean is darker than the darkest night. These places are beyond the light of ordinary living and sight. And while this may set us on edge, if we deny or ignore the dark places, we refuse great potential and fertility.

Many traditions have a deeply reverent and appreciative relationship with the dark. A shaman is “one who sees in the dark.” The Hindu goddess Kali, the black, fierce and frightening one, is most beloved by her devotees who know her to be a loving and devoted mother. The dark goddess in Yoga is the one who clears the path for the light-filled goddess to bestow her blessings

It is not easy to be in the dark. It is not easy to be still. We are so frightened of what we might find “in there.” And yet, if we miss this part of life, we miss out on one half of our experience. For how can we know the light without the dark? It is in the dark that we are able to hear our small, still voice. It is in the dark that we learn to become attentive to ourselves and what is true. Being brave and patient enough to go there is akin to getting close to a wild animal. Close enough to pick up an owl stuck in a screened-in porch. Close enough to see a fawn trembling. There is magic in the dark places. We need this. Desperately.

This winter, make it a habit to just sit down. Do nothing else. Not even meditating, journaling or reading. Just sit and let yourself be. Do not look for anything. Do not try and figure anything out. Just sit. You will be amazed at what reveals itself to you.



I sit at eye level with the plant called Mugwort. In this quiet moment, I realize that even though I know this land, I do not know this land. So much of what I do here has an agenda; let the chickens out, pick fruit, harvest kale. Even when using the land for “higher” pursuits, my outdoor meditations, yoga classes and workshops have a point to them, a destination, a way of using the land as a backdrop to what I do. And so while I notice nature and am grateful for Her, there still stands a divide; a place where I am separate from all that surrounds me. A place where there is the observer and the subject of that observation. A place where I put my stamp on what surrounds me, in a sense believing that nature is something in particular just because I think it is so. Or want it to be so.

Even when we have the best of intentions regarding how we live on this earth, we will always be colored by our perceptions and by the illusion that being in charge, whether to protect or control, is our birthright. It is why we feel entitled to own and to take what we “need” from the earth. It is why we talk about saving the earth, putting ourselves in the position of the ones doing the saving. It is effortless to do something to someone or something, “good” or “bad,” when you see them as being separate from you. What if we looked through the lens of that which I do to you, I do to me. How I feel about you, is how I feel about me. What if instead of living like either we owned nature or had to save her, we learned to realize, we are nature. We are Her. What might we do differently? How would the world around us look through that lens?

P.S. What if we stopped trying to save the earth? What if, instead, we tried to save ourselves. What if we remembered how to be as One with our truest nature.

True Heroines

In my darkest times, I seek the company of trees. They remind me of what it is to bridge heaven and earth. They speak to me words of guidance when no other form, not my mat, my journal or another, is big enough to hold me and what I am experiencing. And they are the exemplars of what it is to be strong, flexible and rooted in a world that often ignores what is most valuable. They are my heroines. For it truly is an act of heroism to stand undiminished in the face of what the world brings.


Last week my dog Grace and I were deep in the woods when she flushed out a coyote. In the early moments of the encounter my first reaction was “Wow, Coyote! I wonder what it means to be seeing a coyote?” What it turned out to mean was that I would be finding a branch in my hand with no knowledge of how it got there. It would mean smashing that same branch over the coyote’s back when it became clear that my dog would be no match for this beast. It would mean being close enough to see its razor sharp teeth. And it would mean finding an even bigger branch along with numerous rocks to throw at it, while I screamed and fended it off for the next mile.

And while you may find it hard to believe, I had no fear. Not a speck. I simply did whatever the next thing it was that I had to do. I was clear, present and powerful. I had no past and I had no future. There were no “what if’s,” not a single one. There was only “what is.” And I was completely on board. No part of me felt the victim. No part of me imagined telling this story to anyone. No part of me wanted it to be any different than it was. And it was deeply empowering! I was an Amazon Queen.

Then. It changed. In the aftermath, my sleep and waking moments were disrupted by anxieties, fears and images. I began to make contingency plans for imagined repeat encounters with the coyote. Should I get mace? A gun? Should I carry a pack on my back and conceal an easily accessed weapon inside? I asked people, who I thought might have knowledge about this, for information I believed would guarantee me protection. I ruminated in bed, in my car, basically wherever I was (Note: And the coyote was not). And I anticipated over and over and over again future encounters and how it would be that I would handle myself.

And in the end, I am left with one terrifying and exhilarating realization: “I am not in control. I do not know how things are going to turn out on any given day.” And while most of us plan and schedule and create our stories to insulate ourselves against the reality of Life, the truth is that for all of our anticipations and planning and attempts at control, things will ultimately go the way things are going to go. And in the process of us trying to guarantee an outcome, we waste our precious life force trying to control the uncontrollable. We think if we worry enough, we will somehow protect ourselves. But I will tell you, I have had many worries in my life and not one of them has included a coyote.



“Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights the whole sky.” Hafiz

Did you ever stop to consider that without the trees, there would be no oxygen? Nothing to breathe? Nor anything to take up our breathing wastes? In effect, no life for us.

And yet, the trees give freely and honestly. They do not look for payment or recognition for a job well done. They do not lord their essential position in our lives over our heads, demanding our allegiance or coercing us into submission.

They do not need reminders, demands or pleas to give us what we need. They live not by our expectations of them; they are simply and naturally themselves. And in that, they give us life.

How might we do the same in our own essential relationships?

The Animals Have It

Lately the focus of my practice has been on the third chakra. In the yogic tradition this center is located at the solar plexus and is the home of our self-esteem, self-worth and self-appraisal. Many years ago, I attended a training on the chakra system. During a guided visualization, I was shown an image of the most beautiful dancer I had ever seen. She was fluid, deeply feminine and mesmerizing. In the midst of reveling in this experience, the powerfully destructive and cataclysmic question “What will they think?” tore in. In its wake, the dancer was obliterated. I sobbed in desperation at losing her and for the realization of how much of me I had lost over the years by allowing this question to so occupy me.

The symbol for the third chakra contains an image of the ram. To me, the presence of the ram reminds me to take my cues from the animals and other living creatures. To look to them and learn from them regarding how to feel about myself in the presence of other people. You will never find the worm feeling poorly about itself because it disgusts some of us. You will never find the moose self-conscious about where it chooses to leave its scat. As a matter of fact, you will never ever find any wild animal acquiesce to what we think it should be or how we think it should behave.

Just as the wild kingdom takes its cues from a deep and abiding knowing of its own truest nature, for truly it can be no other way, how might our lives change if we could do just the same? For practice, begin with the urges of the body. Find times within your week to allow yourself to begin from within. Notice physical cues like hunger, thirst, the need to slow down, rest, etc. Let these states be your guide. Who knows what may happen when there is more of “what do I feel/know/sense” and less of “what will they think?”

The Roots Have It

Stress is a fact of Life. All Life. Yet, without an orientation, and without strategies for optimizing the power of stress in  productive ways, we end up sick, exhausted, bitter and alienated from our own lives and the lives of those around us. Where then can we look for help? How about in the roots.

By the roots, I mean the root vegetables; the ones with the ability to grow long past the time when the other crops have yielded to the stresses of cold temperatures. In response to frost, our root friends send out sugars to protect themselves, rendering them hardy and sweet to consume. How can we do the same?

The next time you feel the tension building, catch yourself. Focus on your breathing. Let go of just one tension in the body. Breathe and notice. Say “yes” to whatever is in front of you, for no other reason than because it is. (Could you imagine the carrots refusing to accept that the temperatures have dropped?) Then, ask yourself, “What is possible here?”

As the Zen proverb goes, “The obstacle is the path,so too could we go, knowing that  nothing needs to be avoided, only included. What a sweet path with the stressful “frosts” of life we could walk.