Devotion To Life


I have been offering a brief relaxation series for faulty and staff at the college where I teach, off and on, since last semester. This week one of the professors lingered afterwards to chat. He told me that since last spring when we covered the topic of news and its impact on the well-being of our nervous systems, he began to note his “obsessive” need to keep checking the numbers and the maps. Recognizing that this was serving as a source of great dis-ease, he made a pact with himself. If he couldn’t stop doing what he was doing, he was at least going to commit to something that might help balance out what he was exposing himself to.

What did he choose? Going for a walk. Each time that he would turn to hear more news, he would follow it up with a walk. Which meant, not only did he balance his choice, it served as a governor for how many times he could let his obsession run wild.

What a brilliant and intuitive choice. For we are, after all, Nature herself. What better way to return ourselves to homeostasis than by immersing ourselves in our own truest Nature. The quintessential place of reminding us of who we really are, and what it is that we actually need to be well. And informed. Then there is no fight. No confusion. No overwhelm. No obsession. For having returned to the most primal of truths about who we are in this body, every time we make the choice to be outside, we are able to take that knowing and apply it to how we are approaching what stands before us. Otherwise, separated from our truest natures, we bring great harm to ourselves, others, and the planet.

It is nothing short of world-wide sanity and self-preservation to choose for something beyond what comes across a screen. This is not easy to do in a world that continues to offer up so many seductive sub par alternatives to living. Ones that diminish our capacity to feel at home in our own bodies. Ones that tell us we must look outside of our own experience, our own very nature, to be safe. And saved. Messages that convince us we must fear life. Not only our own, but also, the billions and billions and billions of life forms that we share this planet with.

Nothing in Nature fears itself. Nothing in Nature makes up fears about other life forms. Nothing in Nature is anything less than completely devoted to its own Life. Only humans do this.

What would it be like to make an agreement with yourself that would balance out what it is you imbibe in that brings you misery? What would it look like for you to choose to be devoted to your own life instead? This is not complicated. When in doubt, look for the choices that you make that just don’t feel good. While the mind will always say why you have to do something or watch something, do you? Challenge whatever it is that takes you from being devoted to your truest Nature, and watch what it feels like to really be alive.

A Good Girl


Like most, if not all children, I grew up trying to be good. Being a good girl was an organizing principle in my life. A kind of Holy Grail that I pursued with all my might. I was discerning in my endeavors and excellent in my follow through in this regard. I knew that what “good” meant for my father was different than my mother, than my grandfather, than my teachers. This extended to all of the grown-ups I came in contact with. I knew exactly what I needed to do to receive the coveted recognition of “goodness” as bestowed by whatever adult stood before me.

I was so good at being good that it made me physically sick in the form of debilitating stomach pains that had no “cause” according to the doctor. It would be years before I would come to understand it was the price I was paying for a kind of goodness that made others comfortable, as I sacrificed my own well-being to be seen in a certain way. None of this had anything to do with vanity and everything to do with belonging.

I know there is an argument to be made around the perhaps “essential” nature of conditioning children to the mores of the grown-ups in their lives. A kind of “for the good of all,” that I suppose must happen to a certain extent in order to have families and communities where it is clear about what makes for good, and what makes for bad. Whether this is, in fact, how it needs to go, matters not. What does matter to us as children is how absolute to us it all feels. How undeniable, incontrovertible, and inviolate the understandings are that we pick up around what makes us good or not. And how that gives us the right to belong. Or not.

Enter adulthood. While many of us would say that our choices now are based on reason and rationality, if you look at fields that study human nature, what we find is that anywhere from 90 to 95% of what we do emanates from our subconscious. The place in us where the root of all of our attitudes, beliefs and mores live. Including what we believe we need to do to fit in. Including the deep imprints from experiences we had as children around our own autonomy and belonging. This is the very same place that deeply controls our actions, thoughts, and choices. A subterranean world of influence that we typically have no awareness of; despite its powerful presence in our lives.

Which brings me to my point. I recently came across the phrase “Virtue Signaling.” It is being used in relation to whether one complies with the mandates currently in place around the virus, or not. When we comply we signal the virtues of caring and selflessness. When we do not, we signal that we are selfish and dangerous. This messaging strikes deeply at the heart of what it means to be a good person in relation to others. Something we all yearn to be seen as. Something that may feel like heresy to question.

But what if there was more to the story than that?

This is difficult to get to in a world where the preponderance of signalling says compliance with a particular set of instructions is how you do your part. Is how you show you care. Is how you are a hero. Ways of being that every one of us wants to be characterized as by others. But at what cost, and according to whose definition of virtuous? For what if there was far more to this story than the black and white summation of who we are based on whether or not we are masked or get a vaccine? What if there was solid and current science that offered another paradigm around how to be with what is happening?

Interestingly enough, the first reference in the dictionary for the word virtuous is potent. And then, efficacious. When we consider that possessing virtue is about being powerful and effective that adds another dimension to this conversation around what it means to signal to another your virtue. Your goodness. Your caring. Your heroism. What I mean is, what if being virtuous included the courage to ask powerful and effective questions while exploring other possibilities around what it is that brings health to an individual and to the collective?

Where do you derive your goodness from? Does it come from inside of you, from your own mighty well of authenticity and integrity? Or does it come from someplace else? And what is the downside of labeling people as virtuous or not based on one demonstrable piece of information?

Be The Cream


When I first started really paying attention to how my mind worked, including the beliefs I held, I read “The Only Dance There Is” by the spiritual teacher Ram Dass. A funky little book that gathered together some transcripts from a number of talks he had given at the time. While I remember the overall feeling and gist of these teachings, what continues to stay with me was the passage where he spoke about being open to what life had to bring. He said what we want to aim for is allowing everything in. Without resisting anything. That the Truth would rise to the surface like cream rising to the top, and that everything else would naturally get spewed out.

He also said it would be a very scary thing to do. No kidding. It is. And yet, it is exactly what we need more of in the world today. An ability to be with things without closing down, denying, excommunicating, or mandating.

Interestingly enough, we have literally never had more access to enormous and seemingly endless amounts of information through the technologies we possess. Simultaneously, dare I say, we have never been so closed off to anything that does not fit with the existing buckets of information we have amassed and come to call our own. Deeply identifying who we are with the information we have accumulated, while becoming increasingly intolerant of anything outside of the boxes of our own making. That intolerance is alarmingly being verbalized in ever-aggressive ways. And it is not, what many of us feel assured in believing, outside of us. It is not someone else. It is not someone else’s doing. It is happening in and with each and every one of us.

Are our viewpoints so absolute and brittle in nature that they cannot tolerate a dissenting opinion? Do we have so little faith in our own beliefs that we have to legislate them in another? I know this place personally. The place where if someone felt differently than I did about me, what I was doing, or believing in, it felt emotionally and psychically dangerous. It felt like an attack on me. Or that, even if the other person was off base, that what they were saying or feeling had to be true. This left me exerting a lot of energy trying to get others to see things as I saw them.

More than anything else I have come to see it was a survival strategy. It was my attempt to keep from feeling annihilated by another and their opinions. As if my very existence depended on the viewpoint another held of me or what I valued. Instead of realizing what needed tending to was me and my own sense of self, I spent my energy focused on another’s beliefs. It was only when I began to recognize that my sense of self was separate from outside opinions that I was able to feel more tolerant of what others chose to think and believe.

And that is the key. Not only is your sense of self an inside job, it is by far the very best thing you will ever do to increase the level of tolerance and respectful discourse you are able to engage in, and therefore offer the world. We will always have it wrong when we believe it is about getting the other side to see it the way we do. The only real game here is, can you see yourself clearly enough to be able to hold space for how another shows up in front of you?

We are at so many crossroads right now. While it can feel daunting to know this, I think a large part of that overwhelm comes from believing we must get others to line up with our version for us to be OK. The Truth is, it is only you that you need to address. It is only your enduring sense of who you are. It is only your beliefs that say you cannot be safe or valued or included if others believe differently than you, that need looking at.

If we cannot begin to get a handle on this one, not only will we miss out on the Truth of who we are, we will most certainly be ineffectual in coming to a greater good for all of us; choosing instead to demand a kind of totalitarian allegiance to agendas not in keeping with the rich and necessary wrestling with dissenting, alternative, out-of-the-box ideas that are needed in this moment, and that have always been what has called us forward. By one another and for one another.

The Power Of Nothing


Every morning, I begin my daily practice in the same way. I sit. I just sit. I breathe. I look out the window. I might sip hot water. But basically, I sit and do nothing.

What would possess a person to sit and do nothing? Because, I have come to discover that when all of the mud settles, the mud being the difficult and troubling thoughts threatening to take over, there comes a sense of spaciousness that not only allows me to breathe, it reminds me of who I am, and who I most want to be. Believe it or not, out of the nothing, comes everything. Absolutely Everything.

I have found over the years that out of that spacious nothing-ness, creativity, ease, alignment, discernment, clarity, and my favorite of all, Truth with a capital “T,” resides. Which means that any problem I have, any solution I am seeking, any balm needed for my broken heart, or any quieting required for an insane mind, is there. Always.

I first discovered the “nothing” when, after my kids had gone off to school, my mind would kick into high gear in an absolute frenzy over all of the things I had to and wanted to get done. It would hound me about how I needed to do things; in what order, how fast, how well. It was maddening. So much so that I couldn’t settle into yoga or meditation because the demands of the mind were that intense.

So I sat, doing nothing, initially to protest. To say to the thoughts, I want out. I am not playing anymore. I will not negotiate with you anymore. And then, at some point, what began out of an exasperated refusal to participate anymore with a derailed mind, turned into a portal transporting me to a whole new universe that I did not even know was accessible with so little effort. Without me having to work my way into the ease and peace I was seeking. I literally did not need to do a single thing.

But it does take time, and some getting used to. Some days it only takes a small handful of minutes for everything to settle down. At other times, I sit doing nothing for all of the time I have devoted for a morning practice. And even though my crazy mind will still push me to get going, to do something for god’s sake, I know better now. I know that in the nothing, everything that I could have ever hoped for will show up when given the space.

To the busy, stressed out, divided, and fear-based mind this practice can feel like a death. And it is. But not the death of anything but those things that need to go anyway. Not the death of anything other than exactly what you would be better off without. Try it. And when the mind screams and screams and starts rolling out all the heavy artillery around what a slacker-loser you are for not doing more, nod your head and continue to sit, remembering that you do not have to believe everything that your mind thinks. As a matter of fact, when you get right down to it, much of what your mind thinks with all of its judgments and worries and evaluations, is nothing worth listening to anyway.