Effortless Effort


While away on retreat, I was reminded of one of my favorite concepts: Effortless effort. At first glance, it can seem like these two ways of being could never go together. When you look to the ways of the natural world though, you see that it is the only way that it goes together. But in order to see this you must be willing to strip away the striving, the scarcity, the worries and the comparisons of the fear-based human mind that drive so much of the unnecessary efforting in our lives.

All the stories that we create and buy into that would say life must be difficult. That in order to get what we most desire, we have to work really, really hard to get it. That we can only get there on our own, and that there will always be forces opposing us. Screwing with us. Against us.

To understand ourselves at this level takes time, and it takes our willingness to pay attention to the words we use and the thoughts we think around how hard we believe we need to work, and perhaps most importantly, why. In other wordsWhat do we believe, down deep, about what we deserve and what we need to do to get it?

Nothing in the natural world feels undeserving. Nothing in the natural world worries that it will be in trouble if it outshines something around it. Nothing in the natural world believes that any other part of Nature is screwing with it. Nothing in the natural world feels as though it needs to prove itself, outdo another or justify its existence by working harder than anything else around it.

There is nothing wrong with effort. It helps us to accomplish what it is that we need and desire. The problem comes in when our efforts are driven, scattered, destructive. It’s easy to spot. Are your efforts filling you, or do they leave you depleted? Do your actions lift you and those around you up, or do they pick away at your sense of self and the quality of your relationships?

Be on the lookout for a lot of energy expended without a proportionate return on your investment. Be alert to how often you are busy to be busy, because anything less feels too hard to be with. Pay attention to the end of your day and the exhaustion that leaves you empty and wired. Tune into the sensations of being on a treadmill that never ends; no matter how much effort you put in.

To be effortless in our efforts is to flow with the river as opposed to trying to push it. It is to know yourself and why it is that you do what you do. It is to be plugged into Something Greater than yourself, and to trust that you are being carried along. No matter how much effort you put in.



I am heading out for retreat on the day I am writing this, and it has got me thinking about a quote from Joseph Campbell. Years ago his words gave me permission to retreat; well before I could articulate what I was doing and why. The quote goes like this:

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

This is why I go away, and this is why I maintain a daily practice. Exactly because of what he wrote. The experience is not something you can read about, watch on Netflix or hear about from another. It is not always easy. It is not always popular. You run the risk of being labelled selfish or indulgent.

Most of all, you run the risk of discovering aspects of yourself that you may not want to know about. Qualities, thoughts and emotions that you have kept hidden from the world. Interestingly enough, at first it will seem like there are only dark things you keep hidden, but if you stick with it long enough, you come to see how you also hide your light, your gifts, your superpowers.

True retreat is not about distracting or indulging yourself. It is about one thing, and one thing only: Being with yourself through it all. Discovering the Truth of who and what you are. From this place, you are in a position to truly live. From this place, you are in a position to truly contribute.

Anything less is just a continuation of the same old, same old conditioning that has created the endless loop of suffering and misery we all struggle with. So why not take the chance of going off by yourself to see what there is to be discovered?

A Dicey Love Affair


This past weekend I was traveling by plane; putting me in airports and in contact with a lot more people than I usually am. I always take these opportunities to get a handle on the pulse of our world. To get a sense of how we are doing and what we are making important.

At my first airport, when I walked up to the gate and looked around, every single person (except for an older gentleman reading a book) was face down in their phone. This included the young and the old, people eating, people traveling solo, friends and families.

It is sometimes all I can do to not start screaming or sobbing. Maybe even both at the same time. I just want to yell out, “Stop it! Look up. You’re missing it. You’re missing other people. You’re missing yourself.”

Our love affair with all things screens is destroying us. Curled around our phones as we would a lover, our constant need to bond to something non-human is eroding our connection to Life. To what it feels like to be alive. To what is required, offered and given in relationship. It is poisoning what we believe we need and falsely conditioning us to put our attention, constantly, on the wrong things. As we pay homage to these shiny objects of ours, something non-living by the way, we too, become less than the living.

Perhaps, worst of all the atrocities when it comes to our cell phone use, is how our fascination/obsession/addiction has annihilated what it means to love. What it takes to create a bond with another being; whether for a momentary exchange with a stranger or a lifetime of living together with someone you love.

Our love used to be reserved for things that are alive. People and animals that we were in direct relationship to, and that gave to us as we gave to them. Bonds that were forged through all the moments of life; times you wanted to be there and times you didn’t. Times when it was hard and times when it was glorious. Times when it was boring, awkward and inconvenient.

And while we will shake our heads when we hear of the statistics around what is happening to our children in this regard, of the mental illness and the all around despair linked to their cell phone use, still, we do nothing but give lip service to what is happening. Unwilling as we are to take a bold and definitive stance that says our children and their capacity to relate is precious enough that we will take a stand. That we will fight for what it is they come to see as worthy of their love and attention.

It has struck me many times over the years how we really do not fully comprehend the way that we are crippling ourselves and our children by making something non-human the center of our lives. And while most of us would say it’s not my phone that I am most committed to, when you look around, that is not at all the message that is being conveyed to the rest of us.



I am watching closely now what is happening in the world when it comes to our health. This includes Big Tech becoming the doctor of the future, vaccine passports, mandatory medicine, the censoring of alternative approaches and more. We are living in times where we run the risk of bypassing our humanity in a quest for the supposed infallibility of the technologies and of those slated to make billions in profits off of our increasingly sick population.

We also run perhaps the biggest risk of all by believing the fantasy that something outside of us will guarantee health, wellness and happiness. With not much effort, by the way, on our part. Instead, a kind of passive approach to our health and well-being that does not require much; other than to extend an arm, take a pill or schedule a tele-doc appointment. All while being told, “This is what you must do.”

How can we be expected to know how to care for these bodies of ours? After all, we’re not experts. We couldn’t possibly know what to do.

While there are many, many layers to how it is that we will be caring for ourselves over the coming years, I would like to propose that at the very heart of any authentic and humane discussion of what happens with our bodies be the irrefutable requisite that sovereignty is at the center of any discussion, policy enacted or delivery of care we engage with. A definition of this word recently offered to me by a wise woman sums it all up:

Sovereignty is rulership over oneself.

My god, can you imagine it? Can you imagine, as the dictionary writes, “freedom from external control?” In other words, a lifelong path of claiming total rulership over your body and its health as the core of what we do individually and collectively. With this as the starting point, we cannot go astray. We cannot be confused by mixed agendas or glitzy new technologies. We cannot get spell-casted by the marketing arm of pharmaceutical companies. We cannot be strong-armed by hospital insurance codes or public health fear tactics trying to scare us into action.

But. And there is a big but here. To have this level of sovereignty at the center of our lives is to recognize the current paradigm that tells you, “You are a child who needs a parent/expert to tell you what to do. You do not possess the authority to decide for yourself.” This is not something that is easy to see in yourself, but it can be gotten to by paying attention to how you talk about your body and who decides what happens with it.

Listen for statements like, “My doctor put me on…” or “I didn’t think I really needed it, but he said…” Pay attention to how often you have a sense of something happening in your body that gets silenced in the presence of your doctor. Be on alert when you don’t say something for fear of irritating or angering your doctor. And then, learn to be honest with yourself when you catch yourself being relieved by not having to be the one to make the decision because it feels like it’s so much safer and more of a sure bet to just do what they tell you to do.

Sovereignty and freedom go hand in hand. There is no freedom without rulership over your own health choices. And there is no rulership without a felt sense of your right to be free of external authority governing the very territory of your own body.

This is what is before us now and has little to do with a healthcare plan and everything to do with each one of us growing up enough to become the one who claims the leadership role in matters of our own health and well-being. This does not mean that we go it alone. But it does mean that we partner with those who place our sovereign human nature above all else because that is what is so at the deepest and most fundamental levels of what is real and what is true for a human being.

And because that is what we have decided we are worth.

Mops & Other Atrocities


This week when I went to call the number on the mop I own to order more refills, I was told they no longer make this mop or the refills that go with it. I’ve had this mop for years and thought I had figured out how to keep a perfectly good thing going after the stores I go to stopped carrying the refills, having opted instead for the newest, latest and greatest mops du jour. When I figured out I couldn’t get what I needed in my area, I called the company directly. I thought I had solved the problem. Not so.

This experience parallels my recent foray into trying to keep alive a laptop computer. When I went to the place that restores computers they told me they could fix the problem, but that Apple would no longer support this model. Meaning, I would be flying without a net in the world of hackers and all the other things that can happen online.

I’ll also throw in here the washing machine I got a few years ago that I am told has about a 6-7 year lifespan due to all the modern upgrades. The very same upgrades “that make the washers so much better for us,” have actually shortened the lifespan. Again, I am told that this is the tradeoff we make to get all the superior features, and that I should just see how much better it is for me, even when I know it is not.

In fact, the upgrade claim turns to dust in my mouth and is a pill I am not willing to swallow when I know that if the people making the machines were invested in something long-term, and not just intoning the mantra of how much better our lives are now and banking on us all just taking it, they could do better. They would do better. How do I know they can do better? Because they used to. As evidenced by the washing machine my mother had for over 30 years. With every repairman able and willing to fix what needed fixing.

Where am I going with all of this?

This throw-away way of living is killing us. And not just in terms of the planet. The disposable, convenient, “just get a new one” mentality is permeating every aspect of life now; devastating not just the Earth, but us as well in terms of who we believe we are and what we make important.

We pay an “invisible” price when we believe that our lives and what we need is best done from the level of what is cheap, convenient and therefore disposable. As in, not valuable, not worth fixing, not worth investing in. Not really caring about. Because we have been paying this price for so long now, we have come to believe that this is just how it is. Worse yet, we have not noticed the dulling of ourselves and the overall general malaise towards life that has sprung up in its wake.

A kind of disregard that has crept in when it comes to caring for things. In other words, none of it matters, because we can just get a new one.

We cannot expect that the lack of value we bring to the relationship to what we purchase will be separate from how valuable we believe we and those around us are. It’s just that simple. The only way this changes is by more of us coming to see that our lives are valuable enough to demand a world based on what endures.