Our Collective Past


I am just now making my way back from a very emotional and psychologically painful week. One that plunged me into the darkest recesses of my own past, along with that of our collective past. It all began innocently enough while I was doing my weekly shop at the Co-Op I belong to. The story goes like this.

As I was shopping, an employee approached me from behind, brusquely saying “Your mask isn’t covering your nose.” Caught off guard, I turned around to face him, pausing for a moment to catch up with what was happening. At which point he said “Are you going to do something about it?” Pause. Pause. Pause. “Sure,” was my reply.

As he walked away, saying loud enough for all in the general area to hear, he declared, “Someone’s gotta do it.” And then went on to rip into me with a fellow employee, the likes of which I did not stay to listen to. But as I walked away, like a bolt from beyond, the word “vigilantism,” dropped into my mind, and I began to get what I will call overlays of past times. I saw lynchings of black men. I saw women being raped. I saw Jews being driven out of their homes and annihilated. Through it all I could feel the righteous indignation of those bringing the harm as they justified to themselves and to the world, “These people deserve it.”

Now, I recognize that this is very, very far out there. But is it? For modern science is finally catching up to what people have always known. That being, we carry the traumas of our past encoded directly into our DNA. As a matter of fact, recent research is saying we carry the trauma of our ancestors for fourteen generations. Fourteen generations. This means we all carry a past of harm. And, this means we all have access to learning and healing from our collective histories.

Why am I telling you all of this? Partly because I am trying to be with the undercurrent that is building. A kind of undertow that carries with it atrocities large and small if we do not intervene. I am trying to understand my role in all of this. And partly I am telling you this because I want to start a conversation based on respect and the inclusion of differing view points. This is how that conversation would go.

Should my mask have been up over my nose? According to the current mandates, yes. But not according to the wiser and deeper part of me that says I need to breathe freely in order to remain healthy, and that my health is the greatest contribution I will ever make to the common good. Was that man within his jurisdiction as an employee of the Co-Op to say something to me? Sure. But his thinly veiled hostility and dangerous self-righteousness smacks of past atrocities. Ones where we were so very certain that we had the fix on the truth, and that because of that, any and all words or actions were therefore, justified.

I keep wondering how history will judge this time period. My bet is that it will not be favorable. My bet is that people will shake their heads at how we have allowed fear to drive us, dehumanize us, and separate us. So whether you believe I “deserved” it or not, how much are you willing to sacrifice of our shared humanity? How much dignity are you willing to strip from another? How many edicts will you agree to in the name of this?


A Higher Appeal


Many years ago, after dropping out of the doctoral chase in the 11th hour, I found myself in Lenox, Massachusetts at The Kripalu Yoga Center where I had stumbled my way into a Yoga Teacher Training; having gotten there through a series of unlikely and serendipitous events. I had no clue what I was doing. What I did have going for me though was that I was very, very open, having recently let go of how I felt I needed to show up in the world.

It was that time in Life where I had released one well-known trapeze bar before I had my hands fully on the next one. As a matter of fact, not only could I not see the next bar, I had no idea if one was even there to take hold of. Or, as I sometimes feared, if I would be left plummeting, embarrassingly and publicly so, to my professional and personal demise.

It left me in a position that when I got to this training, it was like all bets were off given the realties I had been subscribing to. Looking back, I guess I should not have been surprised by some of the things that started happening to me, but I was. I would enter deep states of both expansion and relaxation, where much to my surprise, for it was nothing I knew anything about, Swami Kripalu, the yoga master, Indian saint and namesake of the institution I was at, would show up and tell me things. And while what he was saying was spot on and blowing my mind, it was nothing I talked about because, well, you know… he wasn’t actually there. And oh, by the way, he had been dead for nearly twenty years.

After a time I got used to it. More than that, I began to count on it. I believe I was able to do this because I had just released long-standing beliefs and models around who I was and how I needed to show up in the world. Given that I was wide open, my ideas around what was possible had broadened. So while I knew nothing of what was happening, I knew it was working. Whatever it was.

At one point, I began to go with questions, and have “little” conversations with him. During one of these interactions, I was painfully aware of the rift that I felt inside of myself regarding who I was, and of not trusting that I could be that in the world. I was becoming ever more aware of the ways that I would either feel like I needed to hide or to fight. Hide the truth about who I was. Or, try and defend my right to live in a way that made sense to me.

I was stuck. I knew that neither way was working, but I couldn’t figure it out. It felt like I either had to be who others thought I should be and do as they thought I should do, or, go to war in order to win my right to do so. This left me feeling either bad about myself, or feeling at odds with others. When I asked him about it, he simply said, “Nothing that separates.”

Nothing that separates. I have never received more profound guidance around how to be in the world in a way that honors myself and what I know to be true, while doing the same for others. Nothing that separates not only includes all of each one of us, it includes all of anyone else as well. This is not something many of us understand, or would believe to be possible in our zero sum game world, where it is either my way or your way. Either I get my needs met or you get your needs met. Either your candidate/issue wins or my candidate/issue wins.

It’s not working. And it is not because of those of us on the other side of the divide. It is because of the divide we have created. It is because of the separation itself. Let us stop talking about this as if it is someone else’s fault or doing. Let us recognize that we are part of the equation, and that our inability to entertain anything outside of our frame is not the other side’s doing or fault, but an indication of how little faith and confidence we have in our own beliefs and ways of being. So much so that we cannot tolerate a “dissenting” view as it challenges in a way that we cannot bear.

For the Truth is, anything that is true and real and worth living for, cannot be ruined because of a dissenting view point. Anything that is real and true and worth living for is only made better by open challenge. And because in the end, anything that is worth fighting for takes it orders from beyond our particular and conditional ideas about how the world should be. Accordingly, if you yearn for something else, seek a higher perspective on how you approach things and I will lay odds that you will get the same message that I did: Nothing that separates.

I leave it to you to work out what that means for you.

Why Not?


I was co-leading a series on women’s health and their journey into healing when unexpectedly, the woman I am facilitating with began what felt like a very channeled outpouring. All of which fell under the heading of, “Why Not?”

As in, why not be better to yourself? Why not take charge of your life and your health in a way that makes sense to you? Why not claim this one life of yours? Not only was the question unexpected, it was downright inspiring. Exactly where I most want to be in my life and in the company of others; exploring what is possible while blowing up false and distorted limitations.

The way this question was posed sat on the other end of the spectrum of a conversation that I had had earlier in the day. One where I was listening to a long list of “why nots.” Not in the inspiring sense, but as in why it could not happen. (Interesting that the same phrase can work in both directions.) Why they could not find a job. Why they could not do what they really wanted to do. Why it was not possible to be OK given what is going on in the world.

My goodness how easy it is to feel that way right now. So easy to fall into the mindset that what we really want cannot, or will not, happen. Given the state of affairs, who could argue? You would have to be a mad woman, beyond naive, or living in a bubble to believe anything else. Right? It seems so logical to go with gloom and doom and everything that could not possibly happen. So very, very justifiable. So realistic.

How foolhardy, foolish, risky, dangerous even to believe in the why not? of possibility and no-holds-barred. So, instead, we go along with a program that none of us actually wants; believing we have no other options. And while it may be true that the times are especially challenging, don’t we do this regardless of the times? That being, focus on why not, and not in the open and curious way, but in all of the ways that it will not happen.

But the truth is, we always have options. And somewhere deep down we know this, which is why we are so enamored with heroes and heroines across history. And do you know why we love them? Not because they were guaranteed an outcome or had all the answers. Not because they were being realistic or level-headed, but because, against all odds, they said why not? in a big and brave way. Because they decided on something and went for it. Stood by it. Lived and breathed it in ways large and small. Whether it was easy, difficult or approved of by consensus reality. Or not.

I do not think anyone has said it better than Abraham Lincoln when he stated, “Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.”

And that is precisely how it works. Something must be determined, first. And then the way reveals itself. Not, the other way around, as many of us would demand. Want in on something that links you to the greatest among us? What can you determine today? Something that you can hold to long enough to be shown the way. Because truly, why not?



This past weekend, I attended a virtual retreat that, among other things, included lots of what would have looked like from the outside, as not much at all. But a much different story unfolded based on what was happening inside of me. As in, on the first night, in the midst of the stillness and the quiet, an earth shattering proclamation floated itself into my mind saying, “There are no conditions to you being here.”

It made me weep with the pure Truth and resonance of it. And it made me weep with both relief and sadness. Relief, that I do not have to do all of the things I believe I need to do. And sadness because of all of the wasted efforts and false ideas around who and what I think I need to be. It was like passing through a montage of humanity where I was witness to all of the ideas and stories we hold around who we think we need to be. How we think we need to act and speak and present and think and want and laugh and move and, you name it. On and on it went.

I must look a certain way in order to be loved. I must please you in order to exist. I must be somehow important enough, well-off enough, smart enough, thin enough, funny enough, accommodating enough, pretty enough, well-mannered enough, enough, enough, enough of something, just to occupy space here on this earth. It was excruciatingly sad to bear witness to all of the conditions that we impose upon ourselves to feel like we are deserving of love, acceptance, safety, belonging, and approval.

With the most basic and fundamental error of all being, what we feel we must do to even have the right to be here.

Worst of all? We do not even know we are doing this. We do not even know we have based our lives on sets of conditions we feel we need to submit to just to have a right to exist. That is how ingrained it is. How invisible to us it is. How woven in. How accepted. How “normal” it all feels to be constantly driving ourselves and containing ourselves based on this inner set of conditional mandates. Never recognizing the trade-offs we have blindly agreed to.

One of my favorite thought leaders is Dr. Zach Bush. I once heard him describe the experience of bringing patients in the ER back from near death experiences. To a person, the first thing every one of them would ask was “Why did you bring me back?”

The second thing they would talk about was the deep sense of acceptance they had felt wherever it was they had just come from. A level of unconditional acceptance experienced for the very first time in their lives. No conditions whatsoever on who they were, or how they needed to be. No wonder they were not so interested in being back here.

Could we not begin to aim for some semblance of accepting ourselves without condition, without needing to be on the brink of death in order to do so? Or maybe, at least, less conditions than we currently impose? And could we not recognize that as we place less conditions on ourselves, we place less conditions on those around us?

And that the combination of more tolerance, acceptance, ease, and patience with ourselves and with others would actually set the very conditions for everything every one of us is yearning for?

There are conditions that help living things thrive. Find out what those are for you at the deepest and most basic level, and then open to the Truth that there are No Conditions To You. Being. Here. Say it. Say it to yourself each and every time you catch yourself believing you have to be a certain way.

There are no conditions to me being here.


Helping Or Hurting?


I was recently facilitating a webinar on taking care of yourself in the digital age when a question came in around how much news you should be watching. Beyond any answer to this, the question itself reveals a lot about not just what we are up against with 24 hour news cycles, but also lots and lots of essential awarenesses to be had around what we feel we need to watch. Or perhaps, more to the point, endure, in order to be part of the world. In order to be informed. In order to know what is going on.

In order to belong.

The question asked speaks volumes about where we go to find our answers. In other words, how often we look outside of ourselves to tell us not only what we should know, but also how we should feel about what is going on. More to the point, whether or not we actually have a choice. But the truth is, to live well in the world we currently inhabit is to cultivate a sense of sovereignty over our own life when it comes to where, when, and how much information is in our best interest to take in.

This requires a deep sense of self-trust. One that gives you the permission, the fortitude and the strength to opt out of what is not working for you. Believe it or not, this can be simple. This can be something you determine without an expert or some culturally accepted metric. And it is nothing more, or less, than posing one simple question to yourself:

“Is this helping or hurting?”

Sound naive? Maybe. Sound like an out-of-touch-with-your-head-in-the sand approach? Perhaps. But what if deciding what you take in and what you do not graduates you to the position of someone who has taken full responsibility for how they feel. Someone who has recognized that to be on constant overwhelm is to harm both themselves and those around them. And that to decide your own mind, what it is that you will put into it and what it is that you will not, is to make you a trustworthy source in the world.

Think about it. We believe we need to watch the news to know what is going on. But in the process we often lose touch with, or override the reality of, what is going on within ourselves. And when we are lost and disconnected from ourselves, how can we possibly believe we are in any position to make wise and discerning use of what is coming at us from across a screen? As a matter of fact, from this place all we can do is to spread the contagion of overwhelm and fear.

Just how many times do you need to see images of places burning and out of control to know what is happening for others? Just how many times a day do you need to watch the maps and follow the numbers to be aware of what we are up against in terms of world health?

Watch yourself. Feel yourself. Trust yourself.

Are you more or less empathic after the umpteenth image or news report? Does what you watch leave you paralyzed in your own life? Are you left afraid to be alive?

These are your answers.

Puzzle this out for yourself. Do not look to anyone else. And when in doubt? Get truly single-celled amoeba intelligent as in move towards, move away. Move towards what is life-affirming. Move away from what is toxic or depleting. It is that simple.

P.S. And when the rational mind comes in to tell you why you must do something that feels harmful to you, I will leave you with what someone once said to me; “Two drowning people are not better than one.”

Save yourself and you are now in a real position to help others.