Here to do my part


“There has never been a time when you and I have not existed. Nor will there ever be a time when we will cease to be. Therefore, play the role you are meant to, right now.” ~ Bhagavad-Gita

This reminds me of a story I heard from Kevin Locke, a Lakota Hoop dancer, at the National Storytelling Festival about ten years ago. It has stayed with me all this time as much for its central message as for his mastery in conveying it.

He performed for an hour, playing his flute, telling stories, and demonstrating some basic dance patterns. His account of learning the Hoop dance frequently visits to remind me of this truth: I am here to do my part. Here is the story, with some details and names from his website; much of it is from memory: Continue reading

The awakening of divine light in all of us


This day, in the Christian world, is a celebration of new life, of the birth of the Christ child. This story invites a re-awakening of the spark of love within each of us, as divine consciousness embodied. All of Christ’s teachings are stored in our very DNA and can be accessed by anyone, regardless of religion.

It’s not random coincidence that miraculous humans emerge at times of struggle, to lead and inspire others to live from that divine light in the face of great hardship and suffering. Examples abound: Gandhi and Indian independence, Martin Luther King and Civil Rights, Nelson Mandela and Apartheid, Aung An Suu Kyi and democracy, Wangaari Matthai and tree planting, Malala Yousufzi and the right to education. All of these, and others, stood up to forces of oppression and darkness that sought to silence them through fear and violence. Continue reading

Reconsidering the all or nothing stance


In the book, Outrageous Openness, the author, Tosha Silver, is having tea with her left-brain economics professor friend, a guy who is a complete skeptic about anything spiritual or mystical. She asks him if nothing at all had happened in his life that defied rational explanation. He responds with this story:

One snowy night in the college dorm, his roommate decided to go out to some bars, and he, being tired, stayed in and went to bed. At three in the morning, he awoke suddenly to his roommate shouting his name. He heard it clearly, twice. Wide awake, he looked around the room and realized he was the only one there. In a stupor, he stumbled to his car and drove through deep snow, without conscious thought as to direction. About ten minutes later, he arrived at a snow bank, into which his roommate had driven his car. The roommate was freezing, incoherent and drunk. He was able to get him back to their room to warm up and sleep it off.  Continue reading

Extricating from the progress trap


It is easier to try
to be better
than you are
than to be
who you are.
~ Marion Woodman

This wisdom reminds me that I’m conditioned to look outward towards improvement, rather than within towards healing. Seeing myself as inherently flawed and in need of betterment, I tend to believe I have to fix those flaws myself, without help. The trouble is, the more I dig, the more imperfections I discover. It becomes an arms race of flaws and fixes.

This is a personal illustration of what author Richard Wright calls the “progress trap.” I’m so caught in it that even the question, “How can I get beyond the story of progress?” carries within it the taint of progress. I want to make progress towards getting beyond the story of progress. Continue reading

Another way to heal the illusion of separation


The poet and essayist Mark Nepo shares a teaching from the Tao that “the world in all its mystery and difficulty cannot be improved upon, only experienced.”

“Ultimately, we are small living things awakened in the stream, not gods who carve out rivers. We cannot eliminate hunger, but we can feed each other. We cannot eliminate loneliness but we can hold each other. We cannot eliminate pain, but we can live a life of compassion.”

I like the humility of this, the recognition that we are not at the center of it all; we are merely players in the great drama of life. While it may be a comedown for some, it certainly takes the pressure off. We don’t have to control and orchestrate everything after all. What happens when we surrender to the truth of this? Continue reading

Winter solstice awakens possibilities of both/and


Tonight is the longest night of the year. In the Baltimore / Washington region, we will have about nine hours of daylight and fifteen hours of night. There’s a magical simultaneity of this moving into darkness while also lengthening of days, as our hemisphere also begins to tilt back towards the sun. In a culture of either/or, today is a good day to entertain the possibilities of both/and.

In the spirit of everything being interconnected, we might choose to contemplate applying both/and to big problems we face today: energy, race relations, addiction and mental illness, the state of the environment, and the treatment of women in the military, for instance. It would make a refreshing change from the usual wrangling about right and wrong, good and evil, and putting forth expert theories about solutions. Continue reading

Learning to listen


This guest post is by Lindsay McLaughlin. You can read a bit about her on the “Denizens” page.

Annie Dillard wrote a book called Teaching A Stone To Talk. It’s a trick title. The book is about human beings learning to listen. Stones talk all the time.

In early December, there was a retreat at Rolling Ridge for Advent and the Winter Solstice. We spent some time in the Meditation Shelter tuning our senses and psyches to awaken to the animate, breathing world around us. We gathered by the glowing woodstove in candlelight and read poetry, danced gently, sat quietly, sang a bit, and told stories. Then we went out into the forest, that world, which as Mary Oliver says, “is faithful beyond all our expressions of faith, our deepest prayers”, and listened. Continue reading

The ancient wisdom of strength and true power


Knowing others is intelligence.
Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength.
Mastering yourself is true power.
If you realize you have enough, you are truly rich.
~ Lao Tzu, from the 33rd verse of the Tao Te Ching

I’ve written about this shift from the crumbling old stories to the emerging new ones as a time of simultaneity. These radically different stories of who we are and why we are here leave us to navigate the dissonance and paradox of living both versions.

The phrase, “new stories,” is a rather misleading shorthand that needs a bit of clarification. The emerging stories of interconnection, belonging, humility and compassion are not really so “new.” This is not a New Age thing. And they aren’t “new,” as in new and improved. Continue reading

Nature is speaking, but I think you heard her wrong


Conservation International has just unveiled a new message campaign, “Nature Is Speaking,” which has well-known celebrities speaking as and for “nature.” They each voice a character, such as Ocean, Redwood, or Soil. The sad thing is, there isn’t a speck of love here, and even the films’ expansive cinematography does nothing to draw you in, or elicit any emotion besides dismay and possibly guilt.

At the end of each spot comes the tagline, “Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.” It’s the meanest sort of message, casting Nature as the all-powerful, disapproving parent who indulged us for too long and is now cracking down. Taking back her power, or at least throwing it around to scare us straight.
Continue reading

Searching for spirit in the garden


This guest post is by Duane Marcus. You can read a bit about him on the “Denizens” page.

We are stardust,
We are golden,
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden
~ Joni Mitchell

I went to college to study science of horticulture. I came to believe that if something cannot be measured empirically then it could not be true. I have spent most of my life working with plants. Through this work, cracks in my belief system began to appear. Mysteries abound in the garden. I came to understand that all things are connected, that all things are energetic beings. Trees, rocks, rivers, the soil, the mountains, the deserts, people, animals all share the same source. We are all parts of one entity made up of the same swirling atoms exchanging energies with one another and with the vast universe. Continue reading