What are some of the most precious gifts you have ever received?

Take a moment now with yourself. Was it an understanding word? A non-judgmental shoulder to cry on? Something important reflected to you by another that you could not see on your own?

As we enter the final lap in the “time of giving,” it seems essential to reevaluate. To question whether or not we have got the real meaning of this season “right.” To wonder if what we are doing is even giving at all.

By that I mean, is the giving reflective of our truest nature and what it is that we all really need to receive? Or is it some frenzied and distorted version of an offering whipped up by people making a profit off of us? Built to medicate the masses against the malaise and the dis-ease of life together.

When I was growing up, Christmas morning was a literal feeding frenzy. Four kids ripping open present after present with no pause until the floor was littered with wrapping paper. And then, when that last present was opened, the dark and heavy feeling that you were “shit out of luck” descending over you. It all happened so fast. There was so much stuff. Yet, there was never a feeling of being sated. Of having been met. Of truly being gifted.

One year I remember sitting in the midst of the carnage and thinking, “Is this all there is?” Immediately I felt ungrateful. A bad person. Ashamed for not being satisfied with all that I had been given. I mean, come on, look at all of this stuff. It should have felt like enough, right?

When I reflect across my Life on some of the most precious gifts I have ever been given, there is not a single thing in the list. I know we all know this on some level. And yet, we have allowed this knowing to be hijacked. To be dictated by something outside of ourselves. Leaving us to accept warped versions of what it means to both give and receive in deeply nourishing and valuable ways.

How do you give and why? Where do you give from? Do you even know?




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.


In-Between Places


I don’t know about you, but the times we are living in can feel like a kind of suspended animation. A limbo of sorts. A collective holding of the breath, if you will. A waiting, waiting, waiting. A place that is neither here nor there. A retreat that goes on for more than you believe you can endure.

As someone who has intentionally spent a lot of time out of time, I know this one well. That place where you have geared up for, been with all kinds of things you never thought you could be with, and now, you have had enough. Now, it feels like you have done all that is yours to do. Risen to the occasion more times than you can count, and now, you are ready for a break. Ready for it to be over.

Only… It goes on. Right in the face of all that you have done. Endured. Been patient with. Learned from. Been a good sport about. And it can start to feel unfair. No longer helpful. Beyond your capacity. A punishment even.

The Celtic lore refers to those places that are neither here nor there as the “betwixt and between” places; threshold times when the boundaries shift and all bets are off; giving rise to a new way of seeing and being with ourselves and the world. As they say, the veils are down, and we are, with the right frame of mind, privy to something extraordinary. Maddening, you might think. Or magical. It all depends on your perspective.

This week, I read the phrase, “the in-between place is still a place.”* Imagine that. The in-between place is not a no place; some time or space without its own location and address. It is not a place to be gotten past on your way to somewhere else. It is not less desirable than where you have been, or where you most want to go. Instead, it is a place unto itself. One deserving of your full attention. Your acceptance. Your respect. And most powerful of all, your reverence.

How often do we live as if there is somewhere better to be than here? As if, when this is over, then, finally, I will be where I most want to be. Need to be. Deserve to be. It’s funny, that for a place we often don’t want any part of, it sure can take up a lot of head space, and by extension, a lot of our life.

But what if it were true that the in-between place is a place. A place you want to include. What then? A while back, the thought “No where is better than here”  occurred to me. Try it. Whenever you catch yourself trying to get away from where you are, say that out loud to the betwixt and between space, and see what happens.

No where is better than here.


* The Shaman’s Mind by Jonathan Hammond