Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Measured and thoughtful as a kiss, isn’t this how life should be?

In loving ourselves we love the world
fire, rock and water all made up of molecules
including you and me
is connected by a small piece of the beginning.

How do we love ourselves? It is as difficult at times as seeing the back of your head. It can be as elusive as it is necessary. I have tired and tripped many times. And I can only say that loving yourself is like feeding a clear bird that no one else can see. You must be still and offer your palmful of secrets like delicate seed. As she eats your secrets, no longer secret, she glows and you lighten, and her voice, which only you can hear, is your voice bereft of plans. And the light through her body will bathe you till you wonder why the gems in your palm were ever fisted. Others will think you crazed to wait on something no one sees. But the clear bird only wants to feed and fly and sing. She only wants light in her belly. And once in a great while, if someone loves you enough, they might see her rise from the nest beneath your feet.

In this way, I’ve learned, and relearned, and learned again, that loving yourself requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world – our own self worth.

All great moments of conception – the birth of mountains, of trees, of fish, of prophets, and the truth of relationships that last – all begin where no one can see, and it is our job not to extinguish what is so beautifully begun. For once full of light, everything is safely on its way – not pain free, but unencumbered – and the air beneath your wings is the same air that trills my throat, and the empty benches in snow are as much a part of us as the empty figures who slouch on them in spring.

When we believe in what no one else can see, we find we are each other. And all moments of living, no matter how difficult, come back into some central point where self and world are one, where light pours in and out at once. And there, I realize – make real before me – that this moment, whatever it might be, is a fine moment to live and a fine moment to die.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Treasure at Our Feet

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves,

and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.
- Agnes Repplier

If forced to name them, the biggest obstacles to peace are ourselves and the world. Often en route to the truth of my soul, I get stuck on myself or lost in the world. Or the reverse.

Still we carry the treasured essence within. It is always with us, very near thought it may seem far, and there is no place else to find the treasure but underneath our agitation. It waits there like gold on the bottom of a shallow lake, and though we stand in the water, the treasure at our feet, this stirring of our reflection keeps us from seeing. More often than not, I need to stop moving and thinking and fixing, and simply reach within myself.

So run, if you like, for it will all come with you. Or think and reason as many times as you must, for your heart will outlast the ripples of your thought. Or blame the things ( or people) of this world if you need to, for the things you blame will eventually disappear.

Then you and I will still be left with ourselves and the world and the treasure at our feet.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


finding where I fit
feels a lot like fishing
a vast, mysterious
ocean of experience

it keeps calling

buckets of questions
or nets of honesty
hauling in food for the day
hauling in shells
and pearls and seaweed
from a common depth
no one can see
then spending time
cleaning what I’ve found

hearing what it has to say

everyone alive must fish

requiring stillness
and patience

and a willingness to drift

we never know
where deep things live
much of who we are
lives cleanly
below the surface

we must be nourished
from what lives below
if we are to survive
essential feelings
personal truths
live below
like fish

not wanting to be caught

spiritual fishing
yields spiritual food
secret nourishment
from eating
what lives within us
to eat what lives in our shell

we must open that shell

eating what swims
below our surface
lets us see
the perspective of the deep

Every person I have ever loved and every path I have been called to has shown itself to me after fishing in the waters of my spirit, which entered deep enough, is the ocean of all spirit. It is my belief, we are all connected there, and through this communion – of bringing up and taking in what lives within us – can we hope to uncover our common purpose of being. In committing to this honest practice, wisdom becomes that very good net of a mindful heart, through which we rinse and claim the smallest of shells, those hidden casings that hold both food and pearls.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Like radios
we struggle
through our static

to receive wavelengths

that are always there,
and being human,
we are unable

to sustain

the clarity
to apprehend
the magic
in everything.
So we vacillate
from the extraordinary
to the ordinary,
time and time again,
and most of us blame the world.

Though I feel intermittently gifted, truth remains that our gifts are ever present. If enlightenment comes from clarity of being, then talent is no more than a clarity of doing, an embodied moment where spirit and hand are one. The chief obstacle is a lapse in being.

Talent, it seems is energy waiting to be released through an honest involvement in life. But like so many of us, I check whether I have power with the main switch off – the switch being risk, curiosity, passion, and love.

With this in mind, happiness can simply be described as the satisfaction we feel when we are in ultimate accord, however briefly, in being and doing. In those unified moments, our purpose is life and our talent is living it in its most immediate detail, be it drying the dishes, raking the leaves or washing the baby’s hair.

When I am convinced I have no gifts at all, I implore myself to search for the switch, to try something out of view, to gamble on what is remotely calling. When I lapse between comets, I try to watch fish swim and hear birds glide while I trudge out of sync. And in a tremor of faith, I know if I don’t try at all, it will return as surely and swiftly as light fills a hole.

...Where is your switch today?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I am a river
That flows from the dawn
I am a river
That flows ever on

I am a river
That rolls to the sea
I am a river
The river is me

I am a river
I am a river
I’m a river moving through you
Flowing to your gentle hands

I am a river
I am a river
I’m a river flowing to you
Sinking deep within your sands

(-Song by Steven Mankle 1978)

It is said that a great Zen teacher asked an initiate to sit by a stream until he heard all the water had to teach. After days of bending his mind around the scene, a small monkey happened by, and in one seeming bound of joy, splashed about in the stream. The initiate wept and returned to his teacher, who scolded him lovingly, “The monkey heard. You just listened.”

With the best of intentions, we can often build false careers of studying the river without ever getting wet. In this way we can ponder great philosophy without ever telling the truth, or analyze our pain without ever feeling it, or study holy places without ever making where we live sacred. In this way we can build a cathedral on the water’s edge, spending all our time keeping it clean. We can count our money or say our prayers, without ever spending or feeling anything. In this way, we can play music or make love skillfully without ever feeling the music or our passion.

The apprentice in the story, was brought to tears because the monkey, slapping and yapping it’s way up the river, had landed in a moment of joy, the apprentice knew that all his reverence, devotion and meditation hadn’t brought him the joy of a monkey.

The river, of course, is the ongoing moment of our living. It is the current that calls us to inhabit our lives. And no matter how close we come, no matter how much we get close from staying close with a sensitive heart, nothing will open us to joy but entering the stream.

My friend and I were once on a porch near a lake, watching it rain. Suddenly, like the simple and beautiful monkey, my friend bounded up, tracked his clothes and jumped into the rain filled lake.

I watched like the apprentice, feeling the pain of always being dry, and then I shed my clothes and jumped in too.

There we were: in the center of the lake, water from above in our mouths, in our eyes, pelting us, water entering water, lives entering their living. Each pelt of rain, on us and entering the lake, uttering….joy,joy,joy.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Living Flute

Suffering makes an instrument of each of us,
so that standing naked, holes and all,
the unseen vitalities can be heard
through our simplified lives.

Sometimes we can’t get what we want. While this can be disappointing and painful, it is only devastating if we stop there. The world thrives on endless possibilities. It is what makes nature a reservoir of health. Yet if the heart is cramped or the mind locks on to its pain, we can narrow wonder to a thread. In contradiction to the endless number of eggs that spawn a fish and the endless number of cells that blossom to heal a wound, we can hold out the one thing we want as the only food. From here, crisis and desperation are a short step.

It becomes a sorry occupation, beating oneself up for the one seed that didn’t take. It is an insidious way: the more we refuse mystery, the more we feel responsible for all that befalls us. Indeed, the more we distract ourselves with analyzing strategies that failed, the more we avoid the true feelings of loss that no one can escape en route to a full and vital life.

Even if we accept this, none of us is exempt from the turmoil and pain that arises when what we want is love. For once we pour ourselves into loving another person, it seems as if they take who we are with them when they go. In truth, they take a deep part of us, but what feeds the heart from within is endless, and everything that is living heals.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the beauty of trees. Their endless turns of bark and nubs of trunk make each look like a sage. Yet amazingly, the skin of an old tree is no more than a living map of its scars. Can it be that the cuts turn scars and the scars turn into beautiful quiet notches in which things can fly and nest?

In every space opened when what we want gets away, a deeper place is cleared in which the mysteries can sing. If we can only survive that pain of being emptied, we might yet know the joy of being sung through. Strangely and beautifully, each soul is a living flute being carved by life on Earth to sound a deeper and deeper song.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

There are times

There are times I wish I could go back
When happiness filled the air between
Before the bruising and hurt obscured
As words were hurled in pain unseen

There are times I wish I could go back
A single choice of action change
A moment that I could be retrieve
How would this look to rearrange?

There are times I wish I could go back
If only for a brief reprise
Hearing once again your laugh
One more look into your eyes

There is no time I can take back
No time machine to get me there
Only now is all we have
Does it matter I still care?

There is only time for what we make
Just grateful for this life to live
Know this from a heart to heart
Gladly would the time I give