Friday, December 23, 2011


I ask you to stop,
please, I implore you, stop.
Do not lean forward into that next
moment which will never give more
than what you have in this very one.
What you most desire in your
depths is an unflinching, steadfast partner.
Be still and feel. She,life, is always dancing you.
What is it that scares you so much about being here, now
that you are willing to bleed her away
in exchange for a false promise to the kingdom's keys,
in which you already live.

You run away from the very one that would fulfill you.
Instead, allow her to seep into your marrow,
every cell, every fiber.
Let her grab hold of your heart and dazzle you with her beauty
the crunch-crackle of the breakfast cereal;
the slippery aromatic wetness of lathered soap and water;
the cold breath puffing like a billowy cloud from pursed lips;
common, crystal clear and magical communication to colleauges across vast global distances;
A night sky so capacious its starry limits unimaginable;
a heart pounding; a yellow flower; a brown apple core; a siren;
the broken, smelly trash bag spilling its contents on the rain soaked ground;
heaping pyramids of tires, discarded, used up, black, springy, round;
the drone of cafeteria voices afar;
the sturdiness and earthy pine of a wooden seat underneath.
a sadness, an elation, a squeeze.
It is all embraced by love, by life.
her miracles are myriad,
infinite in fact.
Just stop and
open your senses.
What is here right now
is so much more than enough.
for a
listen to
her radiant

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Few Things For Which I am Grateful

My sister in law who makes tasty special vegetarian dishes just for me.
My own sister who I love with all my heart who lives so far away I often ache.
A world that is filled with staggering beauty.
Wonderful thanksgiving smells
A beautiful and smiling wife.
Night skys with stars so bountiful one is dizzied by space.
A Mom and Dad who love unabashedly
Leaping lizards - Geckos in this specific case.
Water, crystal clear pools, britta drinking, a canal with fish, hottubs
Beloved people who live in Seattle
A strong and vibrant father in law
Watching my son fish for the first time.
A friend in DC who I am hoping got a good meal and warm bed tonight.
The dearest college friends for whom I would do anything and who have seen my highs and lows
Misty dog, blackie dog, butchy dog, obi dog.
Aria, Coda, Tessie
A & T They are awesome.
Generosity itself and how it manifests in so many ways

Friday, October 28, 2011

Who Am I ?

Who am I ?
What a delicious question.
I could savor it for a lifetime.
When I truly bite into it there is a deep satisfaction.
I am sated through and through.
Oh it’s not because the fibers of eden’s apple cling to my belly.
On the contrary the question creates an immense
unfathomable and unknowable void
But where I used to Fill that Void with the many practices that
constitute a life, and call that happy, now, the void fills the practices that constitute a life, and contentment girds my actions.
Nor does the question grip me because I rejoice in celebration of
some laudably (and bemusedly) formed abstraction of having arrived somewhere.
That would be too convenient, and leave out the whimsy of a wild journey.
A journey that never was about getting anywhere but here anyway.
I could list a thousand conditions that claim to be me and in a way they are.
For they certainly aren’t separate.
It’s just that if I try to answer who am I from the depths of my being
the sweetness of a question mark is much more compelling than
A period.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The World In A Train

When the world is moving through this frame
I must heartily cry or laugh
It is the embrace of ten-thousand joys and sorrows;
the palpable exquisite beauty inherent in all
that animates these arms, legs, gut, mind.

In these moments I know so deeply who I am.
I want nothing, need nothing.
This is more than enough - a gift beyond measure.
I soulfully ache. I burst in an explosion of sound and color
my boundaries dissolve.

In these moments I know from my deepest heart
that there isn't anything I would not do for
anything or anyone.

I looked into the souls of fellow travelers on the metro today
a pregnant woman bringing new life into this world - feeling
a bit naseauted from the bumpy, jolting ride.
a wrinkled wise woman who in another era might have handed down jewels
of wisdom from bygone days but who today looked weary and burdened;
A gaggle of giggling teenagers
making enough noise with their uncontained joy
to disrupt the austere and saddled adults;
A blind man with his trusted companiion a loyal
and smiling yellow lab, slumbering at his feet.

Each is so dear to me.
Each working so hard for his and her happiness.
Each breathing, living, eating, loving.
I want to hold you so close I can hear your heart beat next to me
I want to cradle you in my arms
rocking back and forth on the floor and tell you I love you.

You are my sisters and brothers. Nothing that matters
separates this from that; you from me, the tear from
the water bottle rolling to ad fro on the floor.
All moved by silent forces.
All embraced.

When the world moves through this frame it is all present
and I explode with emotion.
We are all of us jammed together on this rattling cylinder
hurtling to our destiny. Here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Spiritual Bypassing

I just finished a very challenging and insightful book. Spiritual Bypassing : When Spirituality Disconnects us from what Really Matters by Robert Augustus Masters I had purchased the book after a retreat I attended with my sweetie. At one point in this retreat all the participants engaged in a very powerful exercise. For the exercise each person wrote down the facts of a situation in which they had had a strong emotional response. For example, someone shared that she had just had to tell her 20 year old son that she would not pay for his car loan. Next each person partnered with someone and told them the facts of the situation. The partner then responded by saying, “ I imagine you would feel . . . “ it was a powerful exercise because it unearthed feelings people didn’t even know they had, and because just the simple act of someone listening and trying to place themselves in the shoes of another changes both. We then exchanged partners and interactions several times.

The situations I chose were happy. I chose the fact that my sweetie and little one had treated me royally during my birthday week. I also shared with partners that I had gotten a wonderful card from my parents that had made me cry. After the group as a whole debriefed it was clear that very few people chose happy situations. I talked with my sweetie and told her what I chose, and how I found it difficult to come up with something that had evoked a strong emotional response that had been negative. Her insightful response was “ interesting – I am surprised you did not raise – and then she proceeded to name two things that evoke in me a low-grade but very deep disappointment and sadness. In fact I do not think that I am generally aware of the pain.

It was then that I knew that I had some interesting material to work with. Somehow I was failing to look at some important things in the interest of appearing “together” or “spiritual” or to simply avoid pain.
That’s when I began to revisit the idea of Spiritual Bypassing. According to Robert Augustus Masters

Spiritual bypassing is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.
Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one's negativity or shadow side, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being

Essentially spiritual bypassing is a run around of life. Because pain is, well, painful, we seek to avoid it or numb it or falsely transcend it. This is not much different than how most people operate most of the time. From thrill seekers to drug addicts, to anorexics, to workaholics we know there are numerous ways to cover or get away from pain. In fact the Buddha identified similar challenges over 2,500 years ago when he pointed out grasping and aversion at the root of our problems. However with spiritual bypassing our false refuge is spirituality itself.
Interestingly, one of my sweetie’s biggest challenges around my burgeoning spirituality of the last several years was her perception of a certain flatness in me. She would frequently remark that where she might get too angry and loud – I was not angry enough or loud enough. When we would need to discipline our little one we often struggled because to her I seemed so incredibly non-reactive. From my perspective it was hard earned and cultivated non-reactivity.

What if she had been right though? What if there was truth in what she said? To what extent might I use my spirituality to avoid conflict? What if the flatness she experienced was really a false detachment – a way of stepping over my connection to a situation or issue or person rather than a way to go more deeply into the conflict and discover who I truly am and who others are. Goodness knows I had always avoided conflict during many other years. What if this had just given me another excuse but with a more acceptable mechanism?

I knew it was true at least to some degree. I had been invested in improving some me that had made gains and was now in a different place. I had so quietly created a new narrative for myself. Knowing that “I “ did not quite have it altogether was painful. I struggled. It was also however, incredibly instructive, since it allowed me to see a blindspot where my ego existed powerfully and strongly and before then, unnoticed. It showed me how incredibly subtle my ego could be. I had crafted a new “me,” a “more spiritual me”, even while touting notions of “no – self” Evidence that I had identified with this new me existed in the fact that when I realized that I used spiritual bypassing, I felt defensive, resistant, and like at some level I had failed. I even felt defensive of authors I loved who may or may not have bypassed spiritually. All that ,is the ego in operation. Does your true self care? Your true self is able to hold with compassion that which is driven to get it right while at the same time knowing in advance that it already is. What cared was this movement of mind that wanted a story that said” I used to act this way but now that I have found spirituality I am improved this way”. And it wanted that story because it believed it would help predict the future. It wanted that story because it wanted to prove to the world that is healthy, sane and safe. It wanted that story to cover the pain of not being enough.

One’s true self is not interested in the future. One’s true self is not invested in whether it gets anywhere else. One’s true self can look at the way spiritual bypassing happens and rather than feel let down because one has failed – feels compassion for that which needs to behave in these ways to seemingly protect itself. As I have said before, love claims all, our true self does not worry if “we got it right” and knows that only an ego worries about that. It then embraces that very ego in a blanket of compassion that recognizes the ego’s, (in this case gentle , but ultimately misguided) attempt to protect, defend, and safeguard. We put up our guards but does truth need to be defended? Does love need defenses?

At first when I realized that I had been spiritually bypassing I felt upset and paralyzed. I did not know what to do. But really the key to working with spiritual bypassing is similar to much of our other spiritual practice. Deepening our awareness is key. We are already more than halfway there if we can realize when it is happening. We might then ask ourselves why? – not in an accusatory way but gently, in a curious and attentive way. The answer need not be intellectual in fact perhaps it should not be. The question is to get you to inhabit the feeling of what it is that you are afraid of or in pain about. The question is to bring you closer to what is at the heart of that contraction or knot. What is it in me that could use some tenderness? What is it that feels like it needs to be protected? What does it need to be protected from? How did it come to those beliefs? The point is not to cast blame , or say so and so acted this way and now I need to act this way to be vindicated but to probe the origin of the conditioning that is generating the painful belief. The point isn’t even to get rid of the pain or problem (for that could be the very spiritual bypassing about which we are speaking ) but to understand how that pain or problem takes place within the much larger truth of who you are. Your pain is real but it is only a small part of you.

Spiritual Bypassing makes avoiding your pain a fixation and thus seem more solid and monolithic. By avoiding pain it is given more substance and weight than if the pain is acknowledged and explored and ultimately seen as happening within something infinitely more vast. Engaging in spiritual bypassing is like saying that your fingernail is you. Your fingernail is part of you but it’s not the whole thing.

Why then might we continue to do it even when we recognize that it may not be helpful? Because some part of us still holds out for a time or state that is pain free. We believe we might get “there” - some place without pain. But here is an interesting question to think about deeply for a moment - in truth would you really even want that? What of life would be missing if there were no pain? Why is pain synonymous with “bad. Isn’t pain a part of the unfathomable beauty of existence, at once personal and universal? This is not to embrace masochism but to point out the degree to which pain (whatever it is) is a part of life’s palette of colors with which we are painted. Furthermore that pain frequently is the catalyst for great compassion. When seen and acknowledged it can link us to the recognition that each of us experiences different flavors of a basic and primordial yearning for wholeness. Pain unifies us in the recognition that we will all face sickness, sorrow and death. That is not meant morbidly, it is meant to help us realize how incredibly precious we are and life is. Feeling pain is a deep sign of caring for this life.

I am working on moving towards my pain, knowing it embracing it, cradling it, letting it exist within compassionate space. I suspect by knowing my own pain I will be more open and loving to others who are in pain – which is just about all of us. The key however will be to know that pain AND to know the vastness within which that pain is taking place. That is essentially to walk on earth and be in the kingdom of heaven at the same time.

Even though I am not a psychologist, I suspect that there is an acute rawness underneath the hidden places where we spiritually bypass to survive. I wonder if we believe that we cannot tolerate the pain? Again, without being a psychotherapist, I believe we can. If those hurt places are approached gingerly and with love they can be healed and made whole. We are all in this together. Ultimately your pain is my pain and your freedom is my freedom.

Eventually you realize that even so called spirituality (whatever that is) is itself a means, a means toward an end which you already have within you.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Heart of Darkness

Be where you are, fully, presently, wholly,
and if it is in darkness that you currently reside
savor its thickness, delight in its mystery
and the way it obscures vision.
Let it embrace you with its infinite capacity.

When darkness is its most potent
What is there? What is present in the heart?
You may think – but I cannot see
and I am frightened
and that may be true,
but of what my sweetness?
Do you think your sight has ever
brought you closer to your truest strength.
Precious, what if you
released your need to understand?

Darkness asks an alertness of us,
a readiness for anything
a collaboration with the unknown --
what we never really knew in the first place.
In darkness lies possibility and potential.
It is not to be feared
Its lead as the fall guy has hidden its obsidian beauty
It is the birthplace of galaxies
and the dearest currency of our own hearts.
Hearts which weep with our shared suffering.
Tears unending in tributaries source bound.

So easily we are lulled into believing to
fear the night – it is that of which we are most afraid.
But it is in the darkness that our greatest gift lies,
Our immense and unbounded completeness
Naked, vulnerable, powerless and alone.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


To know this does not require study,
for years, a psychology of the brain
or reading a thousand books to help a self
that was never there to begin with
or even, for a seeking “me” that is spiritual,
meditation in a cave for a score of years.
No, nothing you could ever do or say
would bring you one iota closer to it
and it would never leave or go one micrometer further,
no matter what happened.
Even though this can be covered like a shade that mutes the sun
always the light shines even when it cannot be seen.
This, does not ever seek to control. It simply is not interested
Why would it be? What is, is infinitely more satisfying
and therein lies its ultimate power,
the mysterious power of pure potential. The birthplace of creation.
It can be contacted. It can be touched. It is you.
But is you without all the things that you call you.
Naked, transparent and gleaming.
Ironically, the entryway requires complete surrender.
Total oblivion.
When all that you thought you were is removed, what is left?
That is what enters
What once seemed so solid, substantive and real
What drove actions and viewpoints and even our foothold in the world
Loosens, relaxes and unmoors itself
What is, feels unendingly open, porous and vast
and out shines light and breath and nothingness.
This, is an unknowing, a deep stillness, a wide open space
in which the cosmos itself unfolds moment by moment.
Be still and embrace infinity.

Friday, June 3, 2011

What's In a Word

The other morning I was listening to Tara Brach ,when my sweetie groaned “what was I thinking” as her alarm clock sounded, alerting her to the need to get up in order to bring the car in for it’s oil change. She had made the appointment but after sleeping poorly several days in a row prior, she was now regretting, at least in part, the early appointment. I told her I would take the car in. She said “are you sure” I said of course it was no big deal. She again repeated “are you sure – that doesn’t feel fair, I made the appointment” I repeated cheerily that it was no problem. Her comment “it’s not fair” struck me as incredibly interesting and worth unpacking. Separate from what exists to be explored around how couples negotiate chores, duties and tasks, which could be another interesting post, I realized that there are a number of words whose meaning I seem to have a much different relationship to currently. It prompted me to reflect upon exactly what is in the words we use.

Recently I had the experience of hearing a story about a child, Florence, who was having difficulty learning to tie her shoes. My “own” child, who is several years younger is also having difficulty. It has caused him much strife as he believes that he is the only child in his class who cannot ties his own shoes. I said to a third adult, Alice -- not the parent of Florence, “see other children cannot tie their shoes either “ It was an odd comment generated perhaps in part as way to placate hurt feelings as I tried to understand (and perhaps alleviate my child’s pain or perhaps my own pain at seeing him suffer) –– as if the comparing and contrasting actually helped resolve the hurt feelings for either of us. But we’ll address that in a moment. Alice responded to me -- “Yes, Florence is dyslexic”.

What was interesting is that I had this very clear insight into how our words can block us from seeing what is really present. Prior to Florence being called dyslexic she was just a child struggling to tie her shoes but with the name “dyslexic” I could now box in her limitless potential. This entity Florence was now seen through the lens of “Florence who is dyslexic” and all that the word dyslexic means to me. Maybe I have known many incredibly smart dyslexics. Maybe someone who was dyslexic beat me up in 7th grade. Maybe my favorite uncle was dyslexic. Maybe the dyslexics I knew struggled a lot. In any case, I could feel my perspective shift with the availability of the label. I felt like I now understood something about Florence that I did not before. But did I really?

A few days later I learned that another child I have known her entire life had recently been diagnosed as autistic. My mind again gyrated and boxed the child in. It sought a nice neat little way of interpreting or understanding past behavior and interactions. But does that “label” really help me to understand? Rather than reach for the vast multitude of reasons why a behavior showed up – I could “explain” it by assigning it to the category autistic. When I call something by a name – am I interacting with the name and the label or am I interacting with the person or thing itself. When someone is assigned a label – cancer patient, mentally ill, autistic, palestininian, disabled, gay or lesbian, criminal – what do we see? Are we still able to interact with what is showing up at that moment and how much are our interactions colored by what we think we know because of the label?

Imagine the layers of words that we use each day for our experiences and for people, circumstances and situations in life. Imagine the many, many ways that these labels reduce something infinite to something smaller. When we give something a name we feel like we understand it better, and at some relative level we do. I would not pretend that there is not great utility in description and analysis. But might we also be missing something in doing that? What are we missing and how do we engage if we are not aware, at least in the background, that everything has such infinite depth that it could never be captured or confined.

Labeling is not wrong and it is not a problem. Words themselves are incredibly beautiful. Of course we need them. Words are an amazing invention. Language itself in any form is simply astonishing and magnificent. That somehow we figured out a way to communicate to each other is simply a true wonder. Words are symbols but they are marvelous and powerful. They help us live and act in the world. They are phenomenal tools. When we take them too seriously however, when we mistake what is really behind a word or a label or a form and miss the essence that everything is in its unity, suffering occurs and violence manifests.

Even all the most spiritual texts, the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, the Sutras, the Tao Te Ching, they are just words, powerful words pointing to something beyond themselves which must be realized individual by individual, but they are still just words. So often the texts are taken literally, fundamentally, as if they themselves are the truth. As if they could deliver TRUTH itself that would be unmutable and unchanging. Do we really think TRUTH could be captured by words? Sometimes I find it heartbreaking how so many wars have been fought over these spiritual and religious words. Can you imagine anything more insane? What “you” just said is so against what “I “say, that now I need to kill you? But where did each “you” come up with “your” ideas? Do you believe you really could have a thought independent of all the history that has preceded you? If your thoughts then, are products of something else, culture, education, history, race, genetics, circumstances etc, is it really worth killing someone or even arguing with someone who has different thoughts? Are they even your thoughts? Are the other person’s thoughts hers? What would happen if you were curious about how you came to those thoughts?

There is an old saying that says “if you meet the Buddha along the side of the road kill him” it’s a kind of shock-tactic statement in a spiritual tradition that is so gentle and full of compassion and non-violence. What could it possibly mean? Well, for me, it means not to take false permanent refuge in form. The moment you have locked in, the moment you are identified with a position, (even if the position is “I won’t have a position”) you have ceded the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The moment you take your thoughts or your words too seriously you will suffer. For me it’s the notion that even the ideas/concepts/experiences that initially row the boat of spirituality/seeking/enlightenment must dissolve too. It's like if you think you've got the truth - that ain't it. The mind’s desire to think “Iv’e got it” once and for all misses the point. I am reminded of another sutra – cultivate the mind that dwells nowhere. This is the beginner’s mind that is filled with possibility. This mind recognizes that all is new each and every moment. It is a mind filled with wonder, awe and gratitude. It is an incredibly deep gratitude that is not necessarily for a particular thing - though it can be expressed for particular things but in some ways, it is a gratitude that anything even IS at all. It is a gratitude for existence itself, that this amazing beautiful anything is even here.

So what is in the words we use. It has become clearer to me that though we manage to communicate and we have dictionaries and thesauruses and translators – and that generally we understand each other we can’t ever really be sure that through our minds that we actually mean the same thing when we refer to something. How could we be? How could we take the infinite and sum it up in a few letters and sounds. I think it is why I have always been drawn to poetry. Poems are readily open to multiple meanings and easily change through time with our experiences and they can very easily point beyond themselves to the infinite. One of my favorite books of poetry has always been Adrienne Rich’s Dream of A Common Language. It’s a beautiful book of poetry that is poignant, insightful, reflective, earnest, spirited and always courageous. The incredibly touching and sincere book explores through language what language can never ultimately do and yet paradoxically in the spaces between the words and the meanings perhaps does. It is a book that reflects on what is for me the charge of poetry: “ The drive to connect, the dream of a common language.”

In part, because I have been resisting less, when my sweetie said “that was not fair” I did not know what to do. It felt like it did not compute. What exactly is fairness? It seemed to me that at that moment fairness might at least in part be about arguing with what is. It seemed to me that fairness might be about thinking something should be different than what is appearing. I looked it up in the dictionary to get some help.

Fairness – what is fairness?
1) free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice: a fair decision; a fair judge.

2) legitimately sought, pursued, done, given, etc.; proper under the rules: a fair fight.

What I am struck by is that it seems both definitions hinge in some ways upon a subtle separation. Each depends in part upon something external. They depend upon some external arbiter or two or more entities.

In definition 1) Who or what determines what is free from bias, dishonesty or injustice?
In definition 2) who or what determines what is legitimately sought, pursued, done, given, etc. ?

What happens to the concept of fairness if we consider that there may be multiple “fairness es”? What happens to the concept of fairness if we really experienced things as one and whole? Do we think that one “fairness” exists in a given situation?

I do not pretend to know the answers to these questions. I don’t really try to answer them with my thinking mind. For me, the questions can do a beautiful job of actually arresting my mind. I am not even sure my mind feels like it can wrap itself around how to answer the questions. And in that space it is easier to let go of that which feels like it needs to know and needs to be right or even needs to understand. And what is left then? Can you feel that?

Language is so magnificently beautiful. It helps us cross the great divide among each other but it can never get us there fully. It is always limited in its capacity as beautiful as it is. Each of us is alone. And in this aloneness we are one.

The “eyes” of love make everything whole.

Here is a poem by Rumi translated by Coleman Barks that I would like to leave you with.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other"
doesn't make any sense.

Let’s meet in that field.