love

wendy's incomparable joy

it's March 15th, the day my mom died 14 years ago. i've been writing about her on this day pretty much every year since, but today i don't feel like i have a lot to write about other than that i have a deep appreciation for who she was in my life and the lives of my children, family and community. whenever i talk about her with some who knew her, they always have the fondest memories of her wackiness, generosity, playful spirit, great parties, commitment to our planet or her love of dogs. she was a powerful presence in the lives of many people. although she wasn't particularly fond of babies nor of other peoples' young children, she was also a wonderful grandmother who loved my children with all her heart, especially after they got old enough to have real conversations with her. and, although i don't really miss her anymore the way i used to, i do feel sad sometimes for my kids not having her here for the important moments of their lives. she would have loved the fact that they're renting an apartment in Paris right now.

Wendy with her prize radishes

as i reflect on who she was and all the many gifts she gave me, i am especially grateful for the love of the earth i inherited from her and her father Elsworth. her joy in getting her hands in the soil and growing things was a big part of her life after she moved back to Love Creek Ranch, and i've been thinking about her all day as we we planted hundreds of seeds in our garden. she'd pop into my mind as i held the packet of radish seeds (remembering this wonderful photo of her), stopped to thank the little hummingbird who watched over our proceedings or said hello to the worms in the ground.

we also had the honor and pleasure of having our friends Kaedence, Laura and Tiger here with us in the garden to plant, chat and celebrate Laura's birthday. as i shared with her that her birthday is the same day as the day my mother passed, i felt a deep wave of appreciation wash over me for Laura's presence in my life. although she's more like a big sister, in many ways she holds that motherly space for me... always unconditionally loving, truthful, deeply affectionate and kind. i wish she and my mom could have met each other. they would have hit it off right away.

i'm so grateful to have had this day out in the warm sunshine with Jakob and our friends planting, singing, sharing a good meal and reconnecting with the Mother of All Beings. i'm sure my mom would have loved it, too. i have a feeling she was there... laughing, dancing and singing around the garden, infusing the seeds with her incomparable joy.

1907474_10153679362368574_7354749017361975124_n p.s. i just wanted to note that i forgot to post this until March 17th, St. Patrick's Day, which happened to be one of mom's favorite holidays. Happy St. Paddy's Day mom!

 

grateful for gratitude… witnessing the re-birth of hope

marianna gratitude this weekend i had the great privilege of participating in a gathering with some amazing folks. there were people of all ages, faiths and histories, and we were all there to support a wonderful woman in our community and deepen our own healing as well. it was powerful to say the least.

i personally had some powerful things arise for healing (about which i’ll write in my next blog), but there is something that happened which i will never forget. because what happened was so deeply moving - on every level - that something fundamentally changed in how i see children.

as you may know, i have been a champion of young people and children forever, having been a mother, substitute teacher and Challenge Day Program Leader among other things. in other words, i have been extremely aware of the prevalence of adult-ism in our culture and the incredible damage it does. so, it was truly awe-inspiring to witness the awareness and encouragement from every single adult there when a beautiful little 5-year-old boy stepped up of his own accord and asked to take on a leadership role in the gathering. this was no small thing he did… let me tell you.  no small thing.

it meant stepping up in a way that many adults i know would not be comfortable doing, and he did it with joy, grace and the deepest sense of knowing that emanated from the center of his being. it was so beautiful.

it was in that moment that i reconnected to my vast store of hope for the human race.  as you may know, i’ve written more than once about my struggles with hope and my capacity to carry on with a smile in the face of all we are facing in this critical time in history. i have often felt more despair than i care to admit. but in that moment, i felt hope. real hope. a deep trust, an abiding faith that we are going to be okay.

as i sat with tears streaming down my face, i watched this child’s incredible poise and presence as he listened to all he needed to do to fulfill the role for which he had volunteered. and my heart soared as though it had wings when i watched him carry it out with more grace than most adults. this little boy, with his tiny, young body and huge, eternal heart, restored my faith in humanity.

and the beautiful thing was, i had this momentary flash of, “I’m so glad young people like him are going to fix the mess we created” but it was instantly replaced by, “no. i’m so grateful he is joining us in the task of healing what needs to be healed so we can all awaken together. i’m so glad i get to stand side-by-side with this beautiful being as we build the bridge to the New World together.” all in one moment, i was informed, inspired, ignited and illuminated. in that one moment.

IMG_0213in these last couple of days since the gathering, i have felt so different. so much more possibility and joy. and this morning, i woke up feeling so grateful… for everything. for being able to get up well before sunrise to enjoy the quiet and dark to meditate, do yoga and share time with my husband. for the privilege of living where i live, for the way trees remind me how to be still, for eating food from my own garden every day, for the vast, deep and joyful love i feel for my husband and our children, for our amazing community and all the possibilities that stand before us as we walk forward. for children who have parents who stand beside them (rather than in front of or behind them) and say, “i believe in you.”

then what i realized is that i am so deeply grateful to be grateful. to know that i am grateful and to feel gratitude pretty much every hour for my life- even the struggles. especially the struggles. and to be grateful while i’m right in the middle of them, even if i don’t understand why they’re happening.

i have truly come to believe that gratitude is the key to everything… if i can truly be grateful for every one of my circumstances, regardless of how wonderful or terrifying they seem, i can be free to trust that everything is falling into place exactly as planned.

and what i have seen, time and time again, is that gratitude and generosity are the keys to healing all wounds. if we can be grateful, we can be present. if we can be present, we can be generous. if we can be generous, we can experience moments of connection which remind us how grateful we are. and the whole cycle repeats itself as we spiral upward toward remembering who we really are.

so, in this month of Giving Thanks (at least here in the states), i say, “thank you.” to everything and everyone. to my family, my friends, this beautiful little boy who brought hope back to my heart. to the people who make the most difficult choices they can possibly make, like the courageous and beautiful Brittany Maynard. to the heroes i meet every day like my friend Mark who is helping to heal deep wounds in a native tribal community and my friend Rosendo who, although faced with possibly impossible odds, is one of the brightest, most joyful people i have ever met. to every sentient being who lives on this beautiful planet we call Home. and to our Mother Earth, who gives unceasingly, without expectation, and supports us despite it all.

i am so grateful for being grateful.

what are you grateful for?

i wish you a beautiful November filled with joy and gratitude.

erin and cow

THE BEAUTY OF INSIGNIFICANCE

recently, i was worrying about the fact that i hadn't written a blog in a few weeks when it occurred to me that no one is waiting with baited breath for the next one. sure, i get a comment here or there, but it's rare. to be honest, it felt like a kind of spiritual slap in the face of my self-admittedly large ego.

then, in the next moment, i had this eye-opening realization that i am utterly insignificant. it wasn't a moment of self-pity (nor am i looking for someone to take pity on me now). it was just a very matter-of-fact understanding - more deeply and plainly than ever before - of my utterly complete insignificance. i shared with my husband that it's like seeing, with complete clarity, that i'm simply one tiny little grain of sand on a vast cosmic beach.

earthinmilkywayon one hand, i was kind of thrown for a loop because i know that, at the core of my being, i matter. a lot. we all do. a lot. i mean, that's what my book is all about! that's why i even write these blogs in the first place. sheesh! but, to be totally transparent, a big part of me knows i've spent the last eight years doing all of this to prove to myself how much i matter in order to avoid seeing how completely insignificant i am in the grand scheme of things.

so… here i go yet again, diving in at a deeper level, questioning my entire set of motivations for writing the book, creating the website and being the voice for this message. throwing my battered ego into total panic mode as it grapples with this truth while trying to find my footing on this long, slow climb up "Mt. Awakening." and i am going to finish the book. period.

as you can see, with this kind of realization, it could be easy for me to careen headlong into my bad neighborhood. you know, the part of the mind that loves to criticize, abuse and go to very dark places. and, i tell you, my bad neighborhood has a six-lane entrance, a lot of dark, dirty streets and a teeny tiny one-way alley exit.

but honestly, it was kind of a relief. to know the depth of my insignificance gave me room to breathe and let myself off the hook of over-achievement i've been hanging myself on as long as i can remember.

the truth is, no one else's life, no cause or institution, not even the planet itself is dependent on me contributing to the world because of what i do. actually nothing depends on my contribution in any way, really. the conclusion i'm coming to is that being happy and fulfilled in who i am - doing my best to live out what i’m here to live out, loving everyone as best i can, and creating what i'm creating in any given moment - with as much joy as possible is the best, and only, way for me to participate fully in this experience of being a human.

as i am coming to a deeper, humbling understanding of this realization of my own insignificance, i am finding genuine peace and joy standing in this space. it's quiet here. i have room to breathe and stretch, and grow and read and just hang out and enjoy the beauty of this moment. i have nothing to prove. nowhere to get to. no one to impress. just breathing and standing here.

and dancing… in and out of the peace and worry, the beauty and terror, the sheer humanness of being human. and, most of all, loving. that’s it. plain and simple. i guess in the end, there is only love to be offered and only love to be received. the rest is all window-dressing.

 

in the end

i don't know anything.
 
i don't have any answers.
and the more i seek, the more 
elusive 
they seem to be.
 
i question everything. 
 
i seem to be falling asleep 
far more than i seem to be waking up. 
i worry - almost endlessly - that i'm not doing enough to 
contribute 
to the world. but then i 
stretch myself so thin, i find myself 
exhausted 
by the process.
 
 
 
ok, i know a few things.
 
we each matter. 
and each of us is wholly 
insignificant. 
 
i am learning
to give and receive love in a way i 
never have before.
i'm starting to trust it. 
 
love matters. 
probably more than we care to admit. 
 
in the end, love is all there is
anyway.
 
 
 
maybe that's enough.
 
lovely autumn

bright light and deep darkness… reflections on Robin Williams and more

robin williams

it's 9/11, a day most of us will never forget.

that morning our family was at the San Francisco airport getting ready to put our 15-year-old son onto a plane to Newark, NJ, on the first leg of his year abroad in Spain. needless to say, he didn't board the plane. instead, we sat at a bar near the gate and watched the second plane fly into the World Trade Center, then walked like zombies to our car as the impact of what had just occurred started to hit us. thousands of souls left the earth that morning, leaving gaping holes in the world and initiating this country into that particular territory of fear and violence which so many others know all too well.

one month ago today is also a day many of us will never forget.

that's the day Robin Williams took his own life and left a hole in the world that will never be filled. and, even though it's been over four weeks since, i still find myself bursting into tears at the fact that he felt so alone in some deep, down part of himself despite the abundance of love that was all around him.

and, although there have been some who have criticized Mr. Williams and others who have committed suicide for being "selfish," i see this act as something to be met with the utmost compassion rather than unblinking derision. (thank you, Cheyenne, for posting this very good article about why suicide and depression are not selfish.)

my heart and prayers continue to be with Mr. Williams' children, wife and all of his dear family and friends as they muddle through this most difficult time. may you all know that he was one of the most selfless humans i ever witnessed (in my very limited way) and that his suicide had nothing to do with you. i am so sorry you have had to deal with some who have expressed their wounds in negative ways toward him; but know that they are just working it out in their own, uninformed way.

malcolm x

i guess if there is any gift in Mr. Williams' untimely death, it's the outpouring of press that's bringing his death and this important and serious issue to light with compassion and care and honesty.

i've watched videos like Jimmy Fallon's heartfelt tribute and read achingly beautiful blogs like Rachel Leibrock's in which she captured my sentiments exactly when she wrote, "And then I started crying. Crying because I genuinely loved Williams as an actor and a comedian -- I grew up watching Mork & Mindy. Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite films. Crying because in that moment, I also felt his pain immeasurably. I felt the absence of hope, the absence of faith that life will get better. The absence of any light."

i've read tributes like this one from Bimbo's 365 Club and quotes from the many celebrities who tweeted and posted, like Goldie Hawn "Oh Robin...Our hearts are broken. Rest in peace darling. We loved you." …and Jessica Chastain "Robin Williams changed my life. He was a great actor and a generous person. Through a scholarship, he made it possible for me to graduate college. His generous spirit will forever inspire me to support others as he supported me. He will forever be missed." …and Danny DeVito's heartbreaking, "Heartbroken."

i think it's easier than most of us would care to admit to let ourselves go to that dark place. it sometimes feels as if we're pushing up against something immovable - especially when we're present to this human race and all the messes we've made; what we've done to ourselves, each other and our only home; all the insanity we continue to play out. one thing i know is that suicide is not a selfish act. it is an act born of an illusion that we are separate and alone. it's an act that is often carried out by those of us who are extremely sensitive to what's happening in the world and we feel as if it's just too much for us.

truth be told, i know this territory all too well. i've been there myself. i understand the experience of feeling completely alone - even that the world would be better off without me - when i was in that place. i remember thinking those unshakeable, consuming thoughts and nearly driving off the road one day five years ago. and i remember, and thank God for, my loved ones and friends who gathered around and reminded me that i mattered. if you relate or if you have had or are having thoughts of suicide, i urge you to reach out and get help. that's what saved my life and i'm so glad i did.

when it comes down to it, i truly believe we are all here to shine our light - whether we shine as brightly and humbly and generously as Mr. Williams did all around the world or whether we shine simply and sweetly right in our own backyards. i think the only thing to do is to shine our light, even when we grieve the loss of those we love… maybe especially then. and, although he may have believed in that terrible, critical moment (or for longer than we can imagine) that he was utterly alone and his light was unfixably diminished, may he know, as his soul flies free, that he never was alone and that his light burned brightly until the very end and beyond.

finally, in his daughter Zelda's words, "To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you've had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too."

dear human

The Courage to Love

what do you love? who do you love? and what does it take to love… to really love - deeply, fully, unabashedly? i'm reading Joanna Macy's and Molly Young Brown's book, Coming Back to Life, in preparation for a workshop i'm doing by Joanna in November, and it has brought up such deep feelings of love for our beautiful world and all of its inhabitants… a love laced with intense grief, despair and anger. a love interwoven with a fierce desire to radicalize my expression of it. a love continually surrendering to trusting the perfection of all that is and all i can be and do to contribute. this is the love of life, the love which wants to protect my children and theirs from all we've created thus far out of our ignorance and greed. this is love born of faith that we are not alone in our striving to create something far better from the ashes of what is dying all around us. this is love willing to lean into the discomfort of taking actions that may be judged as impractical or out-of-the-box. but, as Paul Hawken writes, "At this crucial stage in human history, there is no inconsequential action- only consequential inaction."

Being Love requires the courage to let go of old ideas, beliefs and behaviors - a bold leap from the continent of the known, falling into the wide open vista of the unknown, trusting that our wings grow as we begin to soar. it takes allowing our ideas of who we thought we were to be burned away for who we are ready to be now - again and again and again. in the last month, i've been given a chance to leap from the safety of my comfort zone into loving more fully. it's been vulnerable, raw, wide open, fierce, tender, scary, deep and strong. what i've gained, though, in doing so are invaluable opportunities to give up taking myself so seriously, habits of thought and action that no longer serve me, and multiple layers of pride. it's been exhilarating, demanding and real, and there are many moments when i stand in awe at what has transpired by being willing to take that leap.

like seeds that sprout only in the wake of great infernos, Being Love also requires a tenacious commitment to create ourselves as greater than our circumstances no matter how small we feel. once we reach the shore of that new continent, we stand on fresh earth where we have endless opportunities to co-create even more love. for me, this has deepened my capacity to stand in the face of intensity, doubt and judgment with love and compassion. sometimes that tenacity looks like potent reminders of "i hear you," "i see you" or "you can do it." sometimes it looks like gentle whispers of "i'm right here" or "i've got you." when we courageously commit to Being Love, we remind ourselves and those around us that every one of us has countless opportunities to BE Love in the face of adversity, deepening our experience of transformation and awakening. when we choose to do so with whoever is right in front of us, we can walk through the fire of what seems most challenging, difficult or impossible. we can choose to courageously love our children, parents and other family members, even when we experience them as demanding or unreasonable; the people in our communities, regardless of circumstances; our chosen partners, no matter what.

so i ask you, what does it look like to Be Love courageously? what would it take for you to love boldly? what is it costing you not to? what would you have to give up in order to do so?  what could you embrace? and what would be available to you if you did? whether we are facing outright hatred, global devastation or unfathomable loss, or we're embracing the tenderest of moments of deep connection, when we step into Love, there is no more courageous act and nothing as true and deep. after all, love is what we are. love is all there is.

 

what if we're here to remind each other of who we really are… and what if that, simply, boldly and truly, is Love? as William Carlos Williams expressed so eloquently, "It was the love of love, the love that swallows up all else, a grateful love, a love of nature, of people, of animals, a love engendering gentleness and goodness that moved me and that I saw in you.”

Everything is Love

"Today, I will fall in love with life at least three times..." (Matthew Fox)

We grieve weep and wail because we loveThere is something I am coming to understand… deep in my bones. It's been sitting there patiently waiting for me to find it, and has hinted to me many times before. I calls in small quiet whispers, especially right before I go to sleep or right as I'm waking up. It warms my heart when I'm thinking about how much the people in my life matter to me. It tugs at my sleeve the instant I feel saddened or angered by something about which I've read. Recently its been the possibility of losing polar bears forever or the fact that my country continues to spend outrageous amounts of money on "security" rather than allocating those resources to making sure everyone is educated, healthy and fed. But it keeps shining its bright steady light into my heart in those moments when I judge others or myself as "wrong" or "not good enough" in all the ways my ego does its illusory little job and I remember that I am so much bigger than that.

What I have come to understand is that every act - every single human act - is born out of love… either by being love or wanting love.

In other words, there is nothing we do that is not connected to love. Even when we think otherwise.

Consider that, maybe, we hurt others and cause grief because we are crying out to be seen and loved… sometimes intentionally, most times unconsciously. We level mountains, push endangered species to the brink of extinction, or raze forests because we love our children and want them to have food in their bellies… often not experiencing that there are other choices. We build weapons of mass destruction or strap bombs onto our bodies because we love ideals in which we believe… maybe or maybe not fully realizing the impact of our actions.

We grieve, weep and wail because we love… deeply. We get hot with anger, engulfed with rage because we love… fiercely. We dance with joy, are consumed with ecstasy and raise our voices in songs of praise because we love… widely.

TECUMSEH I went down not long ago to the Mad River, under the willows I knelt and drank from that crumpled flow, call it what madness you will, there's a sickness worse than the risk of death and that's forgetting what we should never forget. Tecumseh lived here. The wounds of the past are ignored, but hang on...

Sometimes I would like to paint my body red and go out into the glittering snow to die.

His name meant Shooting Star. From Mad River country north to the border he gathered the tribes and armed them one more time. He vowed to keep Ohio and it took him over twenty years to fail...

his body could not be found. It was never found...

if we ever meet him, we'll know it, he will still be so angry.

~ Mary Oliver ~

In everything we do, we are inextricably and undeniably acting out expressions of love that are deeply personal and many times misunderstood.

But what if, in the moments when we don't understand the motivation behind someone else's actions, we did our best to discover how they are actually birthed from love? What would be possible in terms of peace, justice and a world that works for all if we really took the time to comprehend their intentions?

Yebuny received this beautiful note from a stranger on the train recently.

What if, for example, we saw our rage as the passionate belief in justice born out of our deep knowing that we are all one and that whatever hurts someone else hurts ourselves? Our anger as the simple defending of our right to provide for our families? Our grief as a reflection of all the moments we were simply giving ourselves an experience of aloneness born out of the illusion that we're separate? Our violence as an unconscious act of wanting Love - a stretching out ones palm to be filled with a mote of kindness and compassion?

What if we could choose in every moment to BE Love… to welcome, accept and embrace all of life, all of humanity? What would be possible if we saw everything - every thought, every belief, every word, every attitude, every action - as Love?

I know I'm posing a lot of questions here. I imagine you may be asking, "What about this or this? How could that be an act of Love?" But, imagine suspending any notion you may have been taught about "how things are" and choosing instead to see everything as a gift of Love… what might be possible then? Imagine what that could be like….

The Guest House This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

I don't have any answers, but what I am coming to believe is that believing we are doing anything other than Loving is only causing more suffering. Yes, pain is inevitable. Suffering, however, is optional. In the end, we will lose that which we love, but the question is how will we love it while it is here? How will we love our children, friends and communities? How will we love distant strangers, clouded mountains and tiny frogs? How will we love this wild and precious life?

When we love- fully, deeply, fiercely, widely - it can hurt. That is part of being human… and that's when we know we've loved.

...To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal, to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

(excerpt from "In Blackwater Woods" by Mary Oliver, American Primitive)

I say, let us take on a wild experiment to choose to see every act as an act of Love… and living from that place, welcome the guests who arrive at our door and let ourselves fall in love with life.

What About My Heart?

 
I said: what about my eyes?
God said: Keep them on the road.
God said: Keep it burning.I said: what about my passion?
I said: what about my heart?
God said: Tell me what you hold inside it.
I said: pain and sorrow.
He said: stay with it.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.
-Rumi 

 

 

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, not with my semi-usual semi-anxiety, but with a sense of deep loss, as if someone near and dear to me had died. I didn't feel sad… just somewhat empty and curious. It wasn't "bad." I was simply aware that there was an experience arising in me that I hadn't felt for a long time. For a few minutes, I couldn't put my finger on what it was exactly. But then I realized I was touching - almost as if for the first time yet very ancient and familiar, and very tentatively - an underground lake of grief that has always lived inside of me. It was a grief for fallen trees, for innocent children dying every day, for enslaved women, for extinct and endangered species, for young black men arrested simply for being who they are, for the pillaged earth, for a species so lost we don't remember who we are. It felt familiar and yet so buried that I had forgotten it, like a letter to my future self from years ago, saying, "Remember me? I'm still here."~ Rumi

My question is - do you feel this same lake of grief inside of you, too?

When you hear about about another ancient tree that has fallen, another of our earthly companions who has stopped walking the planet forever, or another mountaintop that's been blown to bits, do you feel that deep, aching emptiness? When you read about millions of bees dying off and children born sick, do you see a connection? When teens, college students or little children are gunned down in their classrooms, do you wonder what we're waiting for? When a father in a small Sierra town kills his two teenage children, the family dog and then himself, do you ask yourself if he himself was deeply lost? When you hear about a young woman in India who dies from being gang raped or the Amazon rainforest being destroyed at a catastrophic rate, do you see the correlation in how we treat women and how we treat our earth, Pachamama?

What do you mourn? How do we live with all this grief? How do we cope with the massive amount of bad news that is out there on a daily basis? How do we keep hope alive?

I'm sure there are many more people who feel it than I am aware of, but I wonder how many of us divert our attention from it in the name of carrying on and getting through our days? We all have mechanisms for dealing with the grief and bad news… denial, avoidance, numbing out. There are a multitude of ways to keep it at bay. But that's the problem. We just keep it at bay. That lake of grief is always there. In the end, it is unavoidable… and the only way to deal with it is to be with it. In other words, we have to feel it to heal it.

Because, as we know, our personal and global attempts to avoid being with it have actually become the very causes of what continue to feed the grief… addiction, eating disorders, bullying, sexual harassment, fracking, a vortex of plastic as large as the state of Texas floating in the Pacific ocean, corporate greed, political power-mongering, a war that costs $720 million a day, racial profiling, the massive rift between the "haves" and "have nots," and ultimately, murder, suicide and extinction. Sadly, the list goes on and on.

The more I think about it, I am cognizant of how this ever-present grief affects me in every way. It influences my choices when I shop. It drives me to write articles like this. It guides me to continue to question my impact on the planet and how I can reduce it even more. It fires up my righteous anger and motivates me to speak, write and take action. But ultimately, it makes me remember how very much I love this world and everything and everyone on it.

I just listened to the "Animal Sacrifice" episode of This American Life2 about the story of the thousands of "Dogs for Defense" who served and died in World War Two. The story touched my heart so deeply because these loyal, innocent beings - mankind's oldest friend - had no idea what they were getting into. They went into service with the joy only dogs can bring to any situation. There was even an elite group of "Bunker Dogs," outfitted with saddlebags filled with explosives, who were trained to be suicide bombers. The narrator said, "Without knowing what the war was for, the dogs had done what they'd been asked to do... because that's the nature of the bond we have with dogs. We take care of them and ask them to trust us… and they do." That's when I broke down.

I was so stunned, I just kept asking myself, what have we done? What are we doing? What more are we are capable of? What choices are we making, all from this place of forgetting that who we are is Love?

I believe we must choose to allow ourselves to feel the grief at how deeply we do not understand what we have done and what we continue to do.  In response to the murder/suicide in our community earlier this month, Merita Callaway (one of our county supervisors and a neighbor of the family) said, “…We do not understand and hope that time brings some peace.”3 I, too, do not understand and trust that time will bring some peace. But I also know that it will take more than time to bring peace. It will take the intention to make different choices… to reach out when we would rather stay focused on ourselves, to use less when our habit is to consume without thinking, to write letters even if it means getting up earlier or staying up later, to do what is not comfortable because, ultimately, that is the only choice that will ensure peace. Our addiction to comfort has lulled us to sleep. But we can no longer afford not to wake up.

We have been making choices from a place of not seeing the forest for the trees, so to speak - out of the illusion that our comfort is more real and easier to achieve than the greater good of the whole. We all do it. However, if we truly love the only home we have and all of its inhabitants, if we truly love each other and ourselves, we will choose to get uncomfortable.

Megan Hollingsworth, founder of ExtinctionWitness, is someone who is a living example of a commitment to getting uncomfortable enough to live from love. She allows herself to feel her grief - all of it - deeply and fully, and she comes out the other side empowered and more committed to being of service in the world. I am deeply moved by her capacity for compassion and ability to be with this deep grief by truly allowing herself to experience the incalculable pain of the world. Megan is doing some of the most important work on the planet - reminding us that, in order to shift the vast amount of unconscious damage we have done to the planet and each other, we must allow ourselves to feel our grief about the violence, ignorance, greed and inhumanity or our thoughts, words and deeds. Again, we must feel it to heal it.

As my friend Alex wrote in a most touching and memorable post on facebook:  "I heard a story on the radio about a refugee camp near Kabul, Afghanistan…. A girl my son's age died in the night from the cold. Many others are suffering the same fate…. I got off work a little early today, and laid in the afternoon sun that spills into our home. I had a nice snack, and now will go pick up my son from day care. I'm warm and satisfied, surrounded by love and abundance…. I am blessed beyond what I deserve, and I don't understand suffering. If I could give up one blanket, one meal, one set of clothes, one tank of gas, any of these comforts I take for granted, so that another child like that can live, I would. I think any of us would. I wish it were that simple. Maybe it is."

I believe our grief at what is happening in the world - whether we're aware of it or not - is actually the evidence of how very much we love this world of ours. It's not our anger and fear that source this lake - it's love. We do what we've done simply because we've forgotten that what we really are is Love. That forgetting has consequences far beyond our understanding.

So, as Rumi so wisely wrote hundreds of years ago, "stay with it… the wound is the place where the Light enters you."

 

 

There is a light- a light that guides you through the storms.

There is a place- a place of healing and calm.

There is a peace- a peace that lives beneath the waves.

Beneath the sorrow and the joy, there is a stillness and grace.

Beauty is like rain, falling from the skies.

It is God's love that's pouring from your eyes.

The wounds of life, they bring healing my friend.

The heart that breaks is but opening again.

The heart that breaks is but opening again.

- "There is a light" by John Astin

Resources:

  1. Rumi poem
  2. Union Democrat, "Three Dead in Murder-Suicide," February 4, 2013
  3. This American Life, episode #
  4. John Astin, "There is a Light," Remembrance

Lighting up the world with points of light

Recently I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada leading a Sacred Commerce workshop with my wonderful GTYM teammate and Vice President, Yebuny Johnson. We had just completed our two-day workshop and were out at a wonderful restaurant called Noorish to celebrate with some of the folks who had attended as well as other community members. This very special restaurant, founded by our wonderful friends Sheniz and Ayaaz Kasaam only a little over a year ago, has become a community hub filled with a joy and vibrancy I've rarely seen, except for Cafe Gratitude and a few other "conscious eateries." Not only does Noorish provide organic, locally-produced healthy vegan food in a gorgeous, joyful atmosphere, but there is also a beautiful yoga studio downstairs where they offer daily classes as well as regular events such as lectures and music.

The snowy night we were there happened to be the same night that our friend, Sparrow Grace, was performing kirtan downstairs. Everyone in our group decided to go down to enjoy the music while we waited for our food to arrive. We walked quietly downstairs, took off our shoes, and stepped into one of the sweetest spaces I've ever been in. There must have been about forty people, mostly sitting, some standing in the back of the room, swaying or dancing, all in a joyful state of prayer. I found myself standing next to a young man I hadn't seen since our last visit to Edmonton and we just stood arm-in-arm letting the music wash over us, smiling and swaying.

Then, as Sparrow Grace sang one of her own songs, I  began to experience something I can only explain as "Divine Reassurance."

I saw and felt that this little spot on the map - this restaurant/yoga studio - was a sanctuary, a "point of light," if you will, which was a hub for the seeding and growth of our global conscious awakening. I "zoomed out" and it felt as if I had seen light emanating from the building as if it were a beacon bursting with an invitation to come join in the festivities. Besides that, every person in the place was "beaming" light and the earth upon which the building sat was glowing. I saw the glow from the earth as a strong "thread" of light originating in the very core of the planet that was supporting and co-creating the light with the intentions of the place and people who were there.

I was completely overwhelmed with tears of joy as I had an experience of deep understanding that this was just one moment, one place among many - among millions - that is bearing witness to the shift taking place in us and on the earth. It is one part of a global movement towards a social, environmental and spiritual awakening for all of us, whether we are aware of it or not... and this is just the beginning.

 

As I stood there opening myself to this understanding, I zoomed out again and saw the earth as if from space with all of these millions of points of light shining all around the globe. There were hundreds lighting up every minute. Then they began to intersect and connect in what I saw was a weaving of the most beautiful web of light I had ever seen, a web of consciousness all around and connected to the earth as each light connected with those nearby on the surface of the earth as well as on the most microscopic level at the very core of the earth.

In that moment I knew - without a shred of doubt - that all is well. I knew that Hope is alive and thriving, and that everything I have worked for and given up to support has been a part of this awakening. I knew, too, that there would not be some apocalyptic end to life as we know it, but rather that there would be a transition, an almost imperceptible shift that is born from the movement of millions of us who are waking up and building something. That something is a bridge of light - from the old, unworkable world to a new, mysterious world that works for all - and we are building it as we walk, run and dance across it.

This movement has been growing for decades with increasing velocity and urgency, and it is rippling throughout the world, inviting all of us to join in and co-create it. As Paul Hawken writes in his sobering yet inspiring book, Blessed Unrest, the movement "is dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely independent…. One of its distinctive features is that it is tentatively emerging as a global humanitarian movement arising from the bottom up…. This is the largest social movement in all of human history… coherent, organic, self-organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change."1

I used to feel disappointed and frustrated that we haven't made enough progress or that we haven't come together in a unified global movement, but what I realize is that we've just been priming the pump for this more powerful time of a deep, true, organic and lasting shift. We are up against the wall of our own miscreations, and now is the time for us to prove we are much more than the consequences of our actions as we act locally and intend globally.

The beautiful thing is, everything we have done has led us to exactly where we are today - on a personal and global level.

It is no wonder we are, at this time of transformation, waking up in every way. When we remember that we are part of "Life's longing for itself"2 - the creative force that governs everything, it is simply too great to deny. When we wake up to the fact that we are part of life, not separate from it or claiming dominion over it, we realize that we are here for much more than ourselves. We are stepping into something vastly greater than anything we could wish for personally and the rewards are far greater than anything we can imagine.

I agree wholeheartedly with Paul Hawken when he said in his talk at Bioneers October, 2012 event, "These are not goals we can achieve in an lifetime. These are goals that create a lifetime. This is who you are…. We do this for those who will pay the price if we fail, and we do it for those who will carry this incalculable hardship if we waiver, and for those who are watching and wondering if we will choose more stuff or more life…."3

We have no guarantees. We are building the bridge as we go. But we have no other choice. Again, in Paul Hawken's words, "We do what cannot be done because it's the only way to learn how to do what cannot be done."4

So, I ask you… are you waking up? Are you ready? Are you up for this?

If so, who are you waking up for? Whose future rests in your decisions - from the grand (starting a movement with no evidence for success) to the mundane (switching from packaged foods to whole foods)?

Who is counting on you? And what will your part be in building this bridge?

 

 

1. Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest

2. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

3. Paul Hawken, Bioneers October, 2012

Step Up, Give Up, and Be Love

As we move into this new and already transformative year, it seems to me we are all being asked to "step up and give up." Step up and raise the bar of our consciousness- both individually and collectively. Give up anything that stands in the way - be it habits, addictions, or attachments to things or even identities. As I often say, we are at a crossroads in human history. Can you feel it? The opportunity to choose the very fate of humanity is in our hands… and, despite the fact that much needs to change in the big picture, what is truly going to make the difference is all of the small, seemingly insignificant choices we make on a daily basis. It is these choices, the outward expressions of our willingness to "step up and give up," that will collectively add up to tip the scales in the direction of creating a world that works for everyone. It's about taking care of our many communities… one thought, belief, word, attitude and action at a time.

In the wake of the heartbreaking tragedy in Newtown, CT, I have been wondering how to make sense of it, and honestly, I have not been able to… other than to continue to ask myself, "What would love do now?" I love this question because it brings me back to the fact that I am always have an opportunity to be accountable for

Being Love with everyone in my life. In doing that, I can make my contribution to a more peaceful and loving world.

So, I invite you to consider where you can "step up" by sharing an acknowledgment with someone you just met, give others an opportunity to share what's in their hearts by giving the gift of listening, or reaching out and offer a helping hand to someone in need. Or consider "giving up" being right about a position you have held that causes separation between you and someone else or choosing language that causes pain or separation (such as gossip).

What would love do now?

Our dear friends at Challenge Day shared these wise words, "During times of tragedy, it's natural for many of us to experience anger, upset and strong emotions. Now, more than ever, we invite you to Be The Change and join us in choosing love. Instead of dialogue that causes separation, let's all create opportunities for connection and cooperation." You can learn more about their tireless work to create a world where everyone feels safe, loved and celebrated here. Consider that, if we focus on what is best for the whole (which includes us!), we can't help but succeed!

In honor of this time of great change, I invite you to try on one or both of these Superpowers of Community - acknowledgment and apology - to begin your process of "stepping up and giving up." In taking on acknowledging others for who they are (rather than what they do) or apologizing for any way in which you have showed up as anything less than love for anyone, I invite you to see for yourself that transforming the world can be as easy as changing ourselves… it's an inside job.

Here's to a year filled with more blessings than we can possibly imagine.

 

Photos come from Challenge Day.

BEing LOVE... what is your wish?

I've been spending a lot of time thinking about Being Love... especially since we just celebrated Valentine's Day, and I must say, I am truly astounded sometimes at how much Unconditional Love there is in my life and all around me. Then I remember that Love is truly the one and only most renewable resource there is. The more we give, the more flows in... the more we share, the more we attract. Sometimes, though, it can feel like a real stretch to allow ourselves to Love and be Loved unconditionally... Do you feel stretched, as if you're being fitted into a new skin that you're not quite familiar with yet?  

Last year brought so much to be grateful for… blessings to count and lessons to reap, opportunities to release the old and embrace the new. And already, in this wonderful New Year - this time of global transformation, deep and powerful awakenings are blossoming and birthing. It seems so many of us are in the midst of a personal re-evaluation or crisis… in some ways, it seems as if this is "The End of the World As We Know It!"

Do you feel as if you are being tested, "pushed" to release anything that is no longer authentically "you" or in alignment with your purpose?  

I truly believe we are being called to cultivate what we need to live the work we're here to do. And, if we want to be up to big things, we are likely feeling a deep need - even an irresistible urge - to love ourselves like never before, to shed the pieces of our identity which no longer serve us, and live in a more authentic way from the Love that we all are… to be Wayseers.

Do you have a wish for yourself or humanity that is becoming undeniable?  

What keeps you up at night? Wakes you up at four in the morning? What gives you the chills, makes you cry or takes away your breath? What is that deep interior dream that you keep close for fear it may be too fragile for the world? And, what if you took it out, watered it and grew it into a sturdy oak of a dream? What might be possible for you, your family, your community and the world if you did that? What if we Loved enough to create a true and lasting shift for humanity?

What is your wish?

In the words of my insanely courageous friend, Elisabeth Wilder, "I think the most important thing that I have realized...is the fact that life is to short to spend it doing what you think you are "supposed" to be doing. Do what you WANT to do, do what you are PASSIONATE about doing, do what you are DRIVEN to do, do what makes you SMILE, do what you LOVE, do what makes you want to DANCE, SING, LAUGH, LOVE, and FLY! Here's to living every day. Because what's the point of only living your life part of the time?"

What is my wish?

My wish is that we shed our fixation with competition, consumption and conflict, and instead openly honor and embrace collaboration, creativity and compassion – in relationship with the planet, other people and ourselves.

My wish is that everyone can experience Unconditional Love. Can you imagine what this could do to elevate our experience of life around the world? It could make “sustainability” a reality and open the door to “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward All." We could write a new, unique and completely transformational chapter in human history.

My wish is that we step up to our greatest potential in a way we never have before… with passion, conviction and Love, to unite and find our greatest potential for good… and that we do it now.

My wish for you is that your life is "about finding the intersection of the world's greatest need and your greatest passion," as Jim Carrey shares so eloquently.

My wish for you is that you get how very much you matter and that you Love living your life ALL of the time!

Question of the Week… January 29, 2012

How have you had a positive impact on the people in your life?

(Please share your thoughts in the comments area below. We look forward to hearing from you and having a great conversation!)

Question of the Week… January 22, 2012

How could you contribute to your community or the world this year?

(Please share your thoughts in the comments area below. We look forward to hearing from you and having a great conversation!)

Question of the Week… January 15, 2012

Who matters the most to you and why?

(Please share your thoughts in the comments area below. We look forward to hearing from you and having a great conversation!)

Happy 2012... Choosing Kindness

I have been thinking about kindness a lot lately. The conclusion I've arrived at is that kindness is one of the single most important qualities we can embody with each other. This is not to say that other qualities aren't important; it's just that I've come to believe that kindness is the most essential quality to call forth when it comes to any relationship. Kindness is the cornerstone of love, the harbinger of awakening, and our most powerful touchstone when we're tempted to stay stuck in our smallness.

Our kindness engenders gratitude in others and the kindness of others magnifies our own experience of gratitude; not only that, the more kindness I express for and to those around me, the more grateful I feel. Gratitude bursts forth when we share or receive kindness… and living a grateful life engenders more kindness in turn.

Whether we're chatting with the clerk at the grocery store, greeting our partner after a long day of work, visiting with family members, getting on the bus, or looking in the mirror… every interaction is an opportunity to bring kindness to whatever relationship we're in at that moment.

I am tremendously present to the fact that I have an opportunity to choose kindness in every moment.

And, let me be perfectly honest, there have been many moments in the past when I didn't. I feel like I've gotten so much better in the last few years, but time and stepping into a committed partnership after years of being single will, I'm sure, give me many more opportunities to practice making that choice.

Consider that we've all acted on that hankering to say something unkind or to make a snide remark. Consider that we've all left kind acts undone – the ones that might require a little more effort on our part, like smiling when we don't "feel like it" or asking how someone's day is going. Sometimes it feels like going just the slightest bit out of our way to make someone's day better is more than we're up for. I've done it more time than I can possibly count… we're human and we forget who we really are – often. But what if we chose to practice being kind to the best of our ability every day?

Often, the person with whom we have to practice kindness with more than anyone is ourselves.

This morning as I was sitting in meditation I realized, on a deeper level than ever before, that all the energy I spend feeling like I haven't done enough, made the kind of progress I want to make (whatever that means) or contributed enough to the betterment of the world has been an act of incredible unkindness to myself. In that moment, a wave of kindness for myself washed over me and I felt as if a huge weight had been removed from my shoulders. What if simply being a loving presence is enough? What if sharing this beautiful life with the people I love, trusting that doing my best is always enough, is all that's required? What kind of kindnesses could I offer the world living from that place?

The level of freedom I experienced as I sat there was phenomenal. I feel like I was given one of the greatest gifts I have received in a very long time.

And, now, here we are… stepping into another New Year – an infamous one at that – 2012. It holds infinite possibilities for each of us to contribute to the people in our lives and the world around us. It holds endless opportunities to remember who we are and choose kindness as our customary behavior for every interaction. Regardless of what you choose, here are some questions to consider as you release 2011 and step forward into the coming year….

What if, in choosing to live from kindness and appreciation…

…it became the norm to express appreciation and kind words and deeds rather than put-downs?

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qc8ZbVcdHpg

 

…we felt the pain of others and reached out when we were able?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfeXxkbgCVE

 

...we laughed together with shared, spontaneous enjoyment of life rather than at each other's expense?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoYsQnENTUM

 

What if all it took was a shift in our consciousness… to BE Love rather than get love (as coined by my friends Matthew and Terces Engelhart, the founders of Cafe Gratitude)? What would we choose?

The truth is we always have the opportunity to choose kindness, to choose differently if we don't like the choices we've made before. Instead of being in reaction, we can choose to be "response-able" with our words, thoughts, deeds and attitudes towards others and ourselves. Instead of choosing out of habit or default, we can choose with a conscious awareness of the outcome of our choices.

In this new year, I commit to choosing kindness as often as I possibly remember. And I invite you, if you see me being unkind in any way - or holding back and playing small - to call me out and remind me of who I really am. We need each other to be reminded of who we really are, so I invite you to ask the people in your life to lovingly, kindly remind you when you forget.

At this momentous time, we are all - every one of us, as a species and as a civilization - being asked to step up our game. We are being asked to expand, stretch and grow into the larger expression of ourselves. It's time to get that we matter, to be the ones we've been waiting for, and to do it with kindness. What will you choose?

May 2012 be your best year ever!