A Sacred Act


We all know we are in a season identified in our culture as a time of giving. But what about receiving? For without this end of the equation, something that has been given cannot find a place to call home. It cannot land and be welcomed in. It cannot be expressed in any kind of a meaningful way.

It is interesting to note then how much emphasis gets placed on the one giving, along with what and how much is given. And then there is the built-in hierarchy where the giver gets the loftier position than that of the receiver. We focus on the generosity of the donor; the one who is doing for others. We even have award ceremonies where we single out, and celebrate the most generous among us. The message being; these are the truly gifted ones.

But there is no giving, no generosity possible without the receiving. Without the magnanimity of the one opening themselves up, often even submitting or surrendering, in order to receive. There is no generosity of the giver possible without the full and equal generosity of the receiver. So where are the award ceremonies for those of us who excel at receiving? No where to be found actually. Instead, those that are on the receiving side of the equation sometimes hold the undesirable position of being seen as “less than;” evoking pity, contempt, suspicion, superiority, and more.

To receive is to permit to enter. It is to take in. It is to welcome, to greet, to accept, and to serve as a receptacle for. When viewed from this perspective, receiving is a holy act. A sacred exchange that requires both sides. And this is true whether we are talking about our relationship with All That Is or what happens between us and other people in interactions large and small, visible and invisible, easy and difficult.

So how about it? What would it take for you to see the precious nature of receiving? More to the point, what could you start doing about that? Does it require a change of heart? Of identity? Of habit? Whatever it calls for, one thing is certain; for many of us, receiving can be far more difficult than giving will ever be.



In the span of one week, I unsubscribed from two newsletters, and bowed out of an online group. I had signed up for the newsletters because I was interested in learning more from these two people. However, one bombarded me so often with so many tips about living better that it would have made me sick just to keep up with the sheer volume of suggestions. The other newsletter turned out to always be selling me something, hard, and all under the guise of ancient wisdom. It was gross, exhausting and deeply unsatisfying to wade through.

Then there was the online group. In theory, it seemed like a good match. But ultimately, I decided that it fell short of what I actually need and most yearn for when it comes to community. That being, person to person contact in real time; gathering over something meaningful and significant with people I value.

While you would never know it to look around you, this is the season for slowing down, doing less, and perhaps most importantly of all, cutting away what weighs you down. This is the time for turning inward, reflecting, thinking deeper thoughts, and living more simply. It is the time of naked trees, root health and bare essence.

But who could possibly find their way there in the midst of the buying, the shopping, and the keeping up? Always the keeping up.

Which is why, despite my typically clear boundaries around my inbox, I had signed up for the newsletters and online group. I wanted to keep up in the areas I am passionate about and find inspiring. Areas I want to be proficient in for myself and those I work with. Only, these days even the “healthy” stuff, the inspiring words, the worthwhile topics, the must-sees can be a source of overwhelm. A false reflection of how you are not keeping up. A false reminder that you are not enough, not doing enough, and that other people are more together than you are.

Long ago I read something from a famous sage who said that you do not need to know everything. You just need to make use of what you do know. Can you imagine that as your guiding light in the Information Age? In a world enchanted by volume? Can you imagine choosing for what you can actually digest and make use of? To actively and consciously choose to know “less”? As in less is more.

What if, for the next several months, until the first growth, smells and movement of springtime, you just didn’t. Didn’t try and stay up to date. Didn’t try and keep up. Didn’t. Didn’t. Didn’t. But instead, chose to watch Nature and her quiet, inward and simple winter ways.

And if you would like to put this into action, what could you unsubscribe to?



As part of a training I am in, a group of us shared an experience of looking at a cup and saucer; naming out loud what was factual about what was before us. On the surface, it seems like such an easy, obvious and simple exercise. As in, it was small. But small in relation to what? You would be amazed by how many of the comments made were not actual facts, but instead interpretations. Going even deeper, interpretations based on who was doing the interpreting. It was eye-opening to see the array of projections and perspectives that could be laid onto an inanimate object; one that would ostensibly have very little charge in the life of a human being. It was after all, just a cup and saucer.

It got me to thinking that if that level of “story” could be imposed on something inanimate, what are we doing with and to ourselves and others where the stakes are higher, the emotions run deeper, and where the need for things to be a certain way is a whole lot more intense. Because this so peaked my interest, at the end of the day when we had to choose something to work on for homework, this is what I chose; to fact-find in my relationships with myself and others. And as is so often the case, I had no idea how deep this one would go.

For instance, when I am fact-finding, I see that person’s face has changed expression. I feel a tightness in my gut. I notice the thought that says I have done something wrong. This is different than assuming what that other person is thinking, different than ignoring the sensation in my belly, and definitely different than jumping to “I am wrong” as opposed to I am having a thought that says“I have done something wrong.” Just a thought, and nothing more than that. No, “I am wrong.” No, “That person is awful for making me feel this way.” No needing to be in a bad mood or think less of myself when I am staying with the facts.

Try it for yourself. When something is disturbing you, can you take a step back and label what is there as plainly and directly as you could say that the cup has a chip in it? As in, “I see…I feel…I notice…” whatever is there? And then hardest of all, put a period at the end of that sentence; letting it stand as is, with the facts, versus an assumption, projection, or interpretation coloring what is actually there. Easy to say, yet so much more difficult to do in practice given how many of our interpretations are based on the past, as opposed to what is actually before us.

It has been amazing this past week to stand in front of more than 40 college students, all doing whatever they are doing, showing up however they are showing up, participating however they are participating, and to be ever more aware of the spin I will put on what they are doing. Or not doing. And how often that spin is because I want things to be different. Further yet, where I need things to be different so that I can be OK. What a terrible predicament to put myself in. Basing my life on what others are, or are not doing; based not in fact, but in my need to perceive things a certain way.

When we are established in the Truth of who and what we are, and when we are established in the Truth of the moment, everything else takes care of itself. Not only that, but everything, absolutely everything, gets to be exactly what it is, as is.

And isn’t this precisely what we all most long for? The space to be, and to be seen, for who we are? As we are.

Tricky Footing


I am on a run in the woods traveling down a trail covered in leaves. Beneath the leaves are lots of acorns and loose rock. I keep stumbling over and over again in this one particular section, almost falling flat on my face several times, before I recognize that I am actually, not there. Not in my body. Not on the trail. But elsewhere, in my mind. And it takes all the near misses of falling down to recognize that there is a deep agitation inside my mind that is burning me up from the inside, and pulling me out of where I actually am. It is nothing short of pure hell to experience a mind on fire and a body left vacated. No wonder I can barely stay on my feet.

It occurs to me how essential it is that when we are navigating tricky terrain in our lives, (which I am, hence the burning mind), that is exactly the time we least want to go on autopilot. The time we least want to check out and go unaware. And yet, it is often exactly what we do and where we go when we do not want to feel what we are feeling. But the truth is, when the footing gets particularly tricky, difficult, and even “unbearable,” that is exactly when we most need to be where we are. When we most need to be in our body, fully within ourselves; seeing what we are seeing and feeling what we are feeling.

I recently heard a great teacher talk about how our attention is our most precious resource, and that one of the most powerful things we can do is to recognize when we are giving our attention away. How, why and when do you give your attention away? Worrying about the past or the future? What someone thinks of you? Financial fears? Ruminations about the body? Work to discover what it is that takes your attention away, and take it back. Whatever the cost. Whatever it is that you must give up or rework.

Claim your attention as the powerful force that it is to literally choose your happiness or unhappiness. Your health and well-being or your suffering. Your peace of mind or a kind of chaos within. Be where you are. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Your body is here. The Earth is here. This moment is here.The mind, on the other hand, may be anywhere, but here. And when that is so, work to get it back.

You might be thinking sounds good, but how do I do it? I’ll tell you what I did. Once I noticed what was going on, an attention to your thoughts always being the first step, I began to do two things. The first one was I began to feel and listen to the sound of my feet hitting the Earth. I felt the cold on my face. I tuned into my breathing and I began to focus on the sky and the trees. And when that wasn’t enough to cool the mind off, I began to talk to myself saying things like; “You have a choice, what do you want more; to feel like this or to do something else?”

To take your attention back requires a kind of presence on your part; a willingness to notice when your mind has taken off. And then what you need is an absolute, unshakeable accountability on your part for the thoughts you choose to keep and to the places where you give yourself away based on where your attention goes. And while there is no end to what grabs our attention away from us, away from what is real and true, away from the present moment, this is yours, and only yours to do.

Taking & Leaving


“Take what works for you, and leave the rest.” I find myself saying this to my college class as we begin to cover some more weighty and challenging topics. Just saying this goes a long way to bringing a sense of relief into the room. And permission. Permission to choose on behalf of what works. Permission to choose differently than what is currently being offered.

Have you noticed that despite all of the choices, and all of the information available to us, we often live as if we do not have the right to opt out? To choose to say “No?” To give ourselves the permission to say this is all that I can do? All that I want. All that I can handle. Leaving us far too often suffering under the weight that we need to be doing it all. Need to know it all. Need to be up to date on it all. And always, and in all ways, needing to be doing more. Ever-more.

In a time where we are consuming more information and content than we can healthfully make use of, can you imagine what your life would be like if you only took what you really needed or wanted, and left the rest? Can you imagine deciding for yourself when you had had enough?

It puts me in mind of an old Saturday Night Live skit where the scene opens invitingly to diners enjoying themselves at an “all you can eat” buffet. People are laughing, chatting and happily eating what they have chosen for food. The opening scene ends as the people naturally and easily let the wait staff know when they have had enough, and would like the check.

The next scene is cast in semi-darkness, where diners are bound to chairs while the wait staff forces enormous and unworkable amounts of food into their mouths. People are screaming, crying and trying to get away from the force feeding. But to no avail. Between the bondage, the screaming, and the mess being created, it presents as a kind of modern day hell made complete by the booming and ominous voice saying, “Not all you want to eat, all you can eat.”

I find parallels in this dark humor to what we are up against in The Age of Technology. That being, a kind of boundary-less imposition of something that in the right quantities, and under the right set of circumstances, would nourish. But that under the current conditions, creates suffering and overwhelm.

What would your life look like to take what you need, and leave the rest when it came to the use of the screen technologies, or anything else for that matter? What if your criteria became, “I will ingest only that which feeds and nourishes my mind, body and soul?” Only that which offers contentment and fulfillment. What then, would change around how you use what these times have to offer, if you actually started with how you felt and what you needed, in any given moment?