Recently I read an article on Tara Brach, a well-known meditation teacher, where she told the story of a woman who works doing palliative care. It seems that the most common thing this woman hears as people are dying is that they were not true to themselves.

Really, really take that one in. Let it penetrate so deeply that you cannot possibly ignore its impact. Let it disturb you enough to make a change. For if you can imagine what it would feel like to be at the end of your life, and realize that you had not been true to who and what you are, you are in a position to change that fate. So, imagine the personal regret. The devastation. The heartbreak. And then, take it further by imagining the loss as not only being your own, but being the loss of everyone you ever met or were in relation to. And imagine how that loss would keep rippling out; emanating from a center point of falseness, while reaching further and further and further into the world.

Devastating is not nearly big enough, not even close, to capture what we are talking about here. For what we are talking about here is missing, due to mislabeling, THE VERY MOST IMPORTANT THING OF YOUR WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE. In Truth, there is nothing else you are meant to be doing here other than to figure out who and what you are, and to find ways, large and small, to be true to that. And only that.

And yet, we find endless ways to chip away at holding true to who we really are. We find numerous avenues to get so sidetracked that we no longer even know what it would mean to be true to ourselves. We take on versions of who we are, lacking in truth and resonance, because that is what we were told, or because we find it far too arduous to dig in and commit to throwing off the lies: all of what it is, that is not us. We then go on to not only accept, but to defend with all our might, what is false. And we then go on to call it who we are.

Regularly we forget that this most sacred and time-honored endeavor is far more important than how much money we make. Whether or not others agree with us, or even how much they like us. It is more important than where we live, what our job is, or how much we weigh. It matters more than where our kids go to college, the ring on our finger, or the car we drive. Whether we had good luck or bad luck, whether others got us or not, and whether or not we were famous. It is more important then the latest iPhone, putting someone in their place, or keeping up with the news or latest must-see episode.

We “sell out” all the time and for all kinds of reasons. We then go on to legitimize why it is OK to diminish, hide and falsify who we are. And we act as if all of the diminishments and dings we submit ourselves to are not that important. Are no big deal. Are worth the cost of belonging, safety, and other worldly measures. But a day of reckoning is surely coming for each and every one of us.

Will you be ready? Will you be able to measure up to the unwavering, the unapologetic and the unforgiving clarity of death in terms of who and what you have been? For what we all know, deep down inside, but somehow choose to ignore, is that there is no clearer lens, no truer test of how we have done in this regard than being at the end of it all.

But being at the end of it all leaves no time. So what do you say? How about now? How about not letting another moment go by where you leave being untrue to yourself, unchecked.


I teach the art and practice of Mindfulness. My favorite definition coming from Jon Kabat-Zinn who says that, “Mindfulness is being present moment to moment without judgment.” If you have ever tried to wrangle your mind into the here and now, you know that being present is hard enough, and when you factor in the “without judgment” piece, it gets even harder.

For the longest time, I thought of judgment as a problem. Maybe even the problem. As in, the enemy of humanity. Of close connections. Of a well-lived life. The very thing that needed to be dealt with and ultimately eradicated. A scourge deserving to be wiped out and wiped clean from our minds. I thought of it as an indictment against how we were doing as people whenever and wherever it showed up. A kind of relational, self-esteem and spiritual shame that needed to be concealed. Or even better, annihilated.

But after years and years of my own practice along with years and years of working with others, I have a different story these days around judgment, and it is one of growth, repair, inclusivity and forgiveness. It is an understanding that as humans we are always judging; for both good and ill, with the truth being that judgment is not just a wart on humanity, it is also an integral and essential aspect of the human experience.

At its best, judgment is a kind of discernment of the mind that is absolutely necessary for not only physical survival and where we put our precious attention and spend our time, but it is also a prerequisite for emotional and spiritual well-being to make the determination that something, or someone, is not in your best interest. Not worth your time or energy. And as judgy as that may seem, it is not. Instead, it is a crucial and necessary determination that speaks to, and supports, the preciousness of your one Life.

Right next to discernment is learning the signs of when judgment has gone south; turning us against ourselves and the world. This is where mindfulness, a kind of noticing and paying attention to our thoughts, comes in handy. For without a recognition that we are judging, we run the risk of letting something harmful, go unchecked.

So, while in certain circles, judgment has gotten a bad rap, the real question to ponder is, when is it life-giving, and when is it life-depleting? Where is it a necessary response, despite the judgment you may impose on yourself or have imposed on you? And when is it based in ignorance, prejudice, fear and unhealthy conditioning?

One way to move through this is to begin to pay attention to the thoughts you are having as you go through your day; particularly the ones that seem to elicit a big charge. The ones you ruminate over. The ones that make you angry or frustrated. The ones that put you at odds with yourself or another. And when you find that you are in a judgment that is not life-affirming, say to yourself “Oops, pardon me.” And then imagine withdrawing yourself from what you are focusing on.

When I do this, I see it as though I have inadvertently stepped on someone’s foot. Maybe even my own. And that as soon as I feel the weight of it, I withdraw the pressure, back off, and say “Sorry, I’m in the wrong place.”  No more and no less.


Taking Hold

“Take hold of what is being offered and work with it.”  I come across this gem as I am re-reading my notes from an Ayurvedic training I did last Fall. Seeing this on the page before me, stops me. Suddenly, I have no interest in plowing through with self-study; recognizing how far superior these words are to any specific information I might glean about the particulars of Ayurveda.

Take hold of what is being offered and work with it.

Can you imagine? Can you imagine turning what comes your way into something you work with? One that instead of deciding that you do not want, you nod “yes” to, recognizing the offering before you? The counsel here being not to push away, ignore or deny what you do not want or wish was not happening. But instead “take hold of.” Like shaping yourself willingly and comfortably into a big bear hug around what Life presents.

And what of that phrase “being offered?” When I hear that, it feels holy, vital, rich and essential. It feels like a gesture that I want to receive. One that I want to pull in close. And then, “work with it,” in an open, appreciative and meaningful way. Seeing it as an abundant opportunity to transmute, grow and heal. This as opposed to resisting, refusing and returning (or at least trying to) all the things that come my way each and every day that I want no part of.

Take yesterday:

I don’t want the logging trucks ripping up the dirt road.

I don’t want another gloomy, overcast, rainy day.

I don’t want to be teaching in front of tired and checked-out students.

I don’t want any part of the college’s new system for tracking students.

I don’t want to keep being run by old survival patterns of the past.

I don’t want, I don’t want, I don’t want…

I want it to be different.

Return it all something inside of me demands. Give me something else. Something better. I don’t want to hold what is being offered, I want it to go away.

My God, the effort. The effort of pitting one’s will against The Great & Undeniable Reality.


It Still Is Winter


For some of us, to admit to the fact that it still is winter is the equivalent of saying “Yes” to something that we do not want. Something we wish would just go away. Something that leaves us feeling as though there is someplace better. More desirable. Less harsh and effortful.

Mostly, I think this is because it is hard to believe that something that leaves us so very, very uncomfortable could actually be loving, healing and supportive.

It puts me in mind of a couple of years ago while I was doing a vision quest in the desert of New Mexico. On the surface, the desert can be very, very scary. Harsh. Unforgiving. Difficult and overwhelming. As I was spending four nights out on my own in this place, alone in an environment that not only was I unfamiliar with, but over which I carried a lot of assumptions and baggage around what the desert had to offer, I could see that my beliefs were going to turn out to be my biggest struggle. For in my mind, I could only imagine that it was the place where people got stung by scorpions, bit by rattle snakes, and where they then went on to die alone; starving, thirsty and gone mad in the blistering and relentless heat. A carcass left to be later picked apart by the animals. Leaving only bones.

And yet, when I put aside my imagined fears, worries and fretting over comfort and safety, and opened to what was actually there, what I found was love. Pure and simple. A kind of Mother’s Love that changed and reset my nervous system just by me laying on the ground in this place and being open to what was there. Beyond fears. Beyond likes and dislikes. Beyond assumptions.

Which is not to say that I was not very, very uncomfortable. For I was. But beyond the discomfort was something so profound as to have the power to change my life for the better.

I know this may seem crazy. Fantastical. Fluffy, impossible and New-Agey. But I will tell you that something deeply invisible in me, that then went on to be visible, changed in me; moving me towards greater health, wholeness and ease. To this day, I continue to go sit or lay down on the ground in all kinds of weather, and in all kinds of seasons.

Which brings me back to winter. Recently, in the cold and as the sky was darkening,  I found my way to the ground once again. I did this because I was beside myself with a welling up of emotions that I knew were going to take me down a familiar road that has only brought me great pain. Without even giving it thought I found myself trudging to a place on the land where we live, and then crumbling down on top of the snow with the weight of what I was experiencing.

As I was about to give over to a rising wave of intense emotion, I was caught up in the most perfect silence I have experienced in a very long time. Save for the movement of the birds, it was utterly still. And even the movement of the birds carried stillness on their wings. When I finally arose, everything was different. I was different.

There is great healing available in the ways of winter, with stillness being perhaps its greatest offering. Try it. Go find someplace to sit down or lie down. Give the mind enough time to settle out. And then wait. Without demand, expectation or preconceived beliefs. Just wait.

“Motherliness is essential to healing because Mother Nature alone can heal.”

Robert Svoboda