The Dalai Lama was at the White House last week. It was their fourth meeting, held in private with no video cameras or reporters present. This rankled the officials in China, who see the Dalai Lama as “a dangerous separatist.” Obama considers him a friend, and I imagine a trusted advisor and fellow leader. Given the timing of the visit, the Dalai Lama offered his condolences for the many victims of the Orlando shooting.
Last year, the Dalai Lama celebrated his 80th birthday. There is a big photograph of him off to one side of the yoga studio where I practice. He’s laughing and pointing, like he just made a joke or is putting someone at ease. Looking at it yesterday, it struck me that he has been the spiritual leader of Tibet for my entire life. Even when I had no idea who he was. Continue reading
What a revelation. I saw the 22-year-old Baltimorean, Kondwani Fidel, perform his spoken word last evening. This is the power and potential of Art. To speak the universal language of the heart. To show, unsparingly, what is real, and true. To alchemize almost unbearable suffering into strength.
Not the false strength of righteous anger and bitterness. The unbreakable strength of an open heart.
Watching him, taken in by the rhythm of words, I was struck by his courage, the word itself derived from the Old French, coeur, meaning heart. His poetry was an offering of himself, a gift of story. His words shone with the raw material of struggle and honesty, polished by the thought and care of craft. Artistry transformed hard subjects all too often burdened with shame. His words reached me. Continue reading
Sunil Yapa’s novel has a strong structure: a ensemble cast—seven different points of view plus a narrator’s voice–weaving around an actual event with vivid details that rise to the level of mythic symbolism. A billy club stands for the brutality of all authority wielded in violence; a police horse evokes intelligence beyond the petty human; a facial scar suggests menace or heroism; the misty rain sets a theatrical atmosphere. Details like PVC pipe, apple cider vinegar-soaked pink bandanas, swim goggles, and a riot helmet reflecting clouds passing overhead work together in an ominous concert of impending doom.
The story at times feels like passages of the Mahabarata, Greek myths of fathers and sons, Shakespearean drama of mistaken identity, or the Bible’s story of the Prodigal son returning. Perennial activist John Henry is a Moses character, bringing his people to freedom through the desert. Even the simple mention of stores at an intersection—the Gap, Banana Republic, a bank—takes on an End-of Empire feel. Yes, they are actual stores, but they also stand for something far greater, beyond any one individual. They are part of a vast capitalist network of exploitation of material resources and people’s lives and livelihoods. Continue reading
Instead of resolutions, each year I listen for the words or phrase that will guide me. Last year, the words were trust, magic, and play. I appreciated the guidance of these words, which reminded me to trust that everything is unfolding according to a secret order, and to appreciate the presence of magic in the ordinary. Instead of deadly seriousness, playful trickster energy helps to stay fresh and present, to navigate even the most challenging moments.
In the dark days of the winter solstice, I was guided to step into the flow, and recognized that this is my phrase for 2016. I love the fluidity of it, the invitation to get up off the bank and wade right in to the moving water of life. I have a lifelong habit of observing from the sidelines so this is an invitation to get into the game, engaging with the mystery of unknowable outcomes. Continue reading
In her book, Grayson, author Lynne Cox looks back to a March morning in her 17th year when she was out training in the ocean off Santa Cruz. By then she had already swum the English Channel and the Catalina Island channel. Some of her descriptions of the sea life she encounters are mesmerizing. She takes you there: the ache and tingle of the 55-degree Pacific, the glitter of phosphorescent algae in the pre-dawn darkness, the rain of 35-pound tuna leaping to feed on smaller fish, the glory of the sunrise over land.
The story wraps around her encounter with a baby grey whale, a male, 18-feet in length, who has just been separated from his mother. Cox is on her way back to shore after her long workout, looking forward to hot chocolate and a warm croissant when her friend, the bait shop owner, comes to the end of the pier to warn her. If she swims to shore, the baby whale will follow and beach himself, which would be fatal. Continue reading
Last week, I watched the first fifteen minutes of the Republican presidential “debate.” That’s all I could stand, those ten men up there delivering their carefully rehearsed sound bites. And the rich white guy with the comb-over playing to the cheering, jeering crowd with his outrageous pronouncements. The next morning, I attended a business breakfast in a place called Martin’s Valley Mansion. As I drove through the fully paved, suburban streetscape to a strip shopping center, I didn’t see a valley or a mansion.
In the vast windowless ballroom (walls faux-painted in Second Empire French drapery and fluted columns), about two hundred women drank coffee and networked. This yearly celebration of women in business sponsored by the local business newspaper is always well attended. This year’s panelists were leaders in the tech industry, giving intelligent advice about how to get ahead and thrive in a world dominated by men. They spoke frankly in answer to such questions as, How do we make this issue of more women in tech into more than a “women’s issue”? No one remarked on the irony of that question in a gathering of over 200 women and about 10 of their male colleagues. Continue reading
It’s been a busy week of writing deadlines, so I’m taking a shortcut today to share this wonderful article, “Why Do We Experience Awe?” from last Sunday’s New York Times. I love their suggestion, based on years of social psychological research, for how we can feel more connected to each other and the world around us. It’s simple: experience awe on a daily basis.
“ . . . awe is the ultimate “collective” emotion, for it motivates people to do things that enhance the greater good. Through many activities that give us goose bumps — collective rituals, celebration, music and dance, religious gatherings and worship — awe might help shift our focus from our narrow self-interest to the interests of the group to which we belong.”
The world we’ve created for ourselves is so complicated, fast-paced, hyper competitive, and stressful. It’s a profound relief to encounter a couple of scientists who’ve taken the time to test, and prove, this simple hypothesis: Continue reading
I’ve committed to exploring and living in this threshold between stories, this liminal time of both/and, not because I believe it’s Right and anyone who doesn’t get it or come along with me, or who cannot relate to this perspective, is Wrong. Or that this is The Answer, or The Solution to all our problems. I just love the people I’m meeting, who challenge and inspire me. I enjoy being with them. They are good company.
About fifteen years ago, my partner and I had a thriving green architecture firm. Hip deep in LEED consulting, small design projects, sustainability initiatives, lecturing and teaching, we were helping to put Baltimore on the map of community sustainability and eco-mindedness. I had always been a very focused architect, completely dedicated to my profession and craft. So much so, looking back, that I was oblivious to the real reasons we do this work. I thought it was to be the best, to make beautiful (if not perfect), technically excellent buildings. To dive in deep, control all the variables and requirements, and create an innovative project that not only solved all of the client’s problems, but also a few more we threw in just to keep it interesting. Continue reading
All told, we’ve collaborated to offer eleven Restorying retreats over the last two years, with more in the planning stages. They’ve come to have a dynamic balance between structure and improvisation. We are learning as leaders to be present and notice the field, to give ourselves over to what wants to happen next, what the earth is dreaming for us. Within a framework of ritual and ceremony, poetry and mythic time and space, we enter the door that leads to the realm of heart and soul and mystery.
Themes, questions, and insights begin to weave into and through the assembled group from the first gathering. We are getting better at tuning into that and inviting participants to join in the fun of giving ourselves over to what Mystery wants to do with us. It reminds me of what Malcolm Gladwell had to say about improvisation in his book, Blink. Using basketball as an example, he wrote that in practice, the players drill patterns and set-ups relentlessly, and then every game is totally improvisational. The patterns are strung together in completely new ways in every game, every moment. I can guess from the way my son talks about soccer that it’s much the same. Continue reading
For it is in giving that we receive
This phrase is familiar to most of us. The joy of giving is greater than the pleasure of receiving. Yet giving carries risk and requires courage. Whatever we are giving may indeed be ignored or refused. If it’s something sourced from deep inside, an intimate, heartfelt gift, refusal can be devastating, even shaming. Giving makes us vulnerable. It’s no wonder that many of us hold in our generosity, especially if we have been burned in the past.
St. Francis doesn’t specify what we receive when we give, only that we receive. We may at times receive a harsh lesson in humility or in the importance of detaching from outcomes. I have been known to give with a certain expectation of how the recipient would react, only to be crushed by their indifference or dislike. The lesson is not to refrain from giving. If anything, it is that giving without expectation is like the graduate school course in generosity. It’s not for the recipient’s reaction that we give; it’s to experience reciprocity. Continue reading