Rejection’s good side


I’ve been submitting work to journals lately and have received two very kind rejection emails in the last two weeks. While it’s never fun to be rejected, I’m also curious to dig into it and reflect on what lies beneath the surface. Rejection isn’t the same thing as failure, but it sure feels like it on one level. What happens if I play with Lincoln’s famous words about failure?

What concerns me is not whether you’ve been rejected, but whether you are content with your rejection.

For much of my life, I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid rejection: playing it safe, drawing inward instead of reaching out for help, not rocking the boat, following rules, doing what’s expected of me by others, conforming to societal norms. Continue reading

Polishing the mirror and filling the well


Sometimes I get so bogged down in the gunk of daily living, of arguments or rejections, a cold or lack of sleep, that I completely lose track of the spacious stillness that lies behind all of it. Thomas Merton has a great prayer for this:

“May we all grow in grace and peace, and not neglect the silence that is printed in the center of our being. It will not fail us.”

There are an uncountable number of practices for polishing the dusty mirror and seeing the light of clarity and peace shining back. Daily writing is one that works well for me. And yoga. What a gift — a thousands year old method of waking up the body, of realigning energy channels, of helping me to notice and appreciate the vastness of my interior and the wonder of this vehicle that carries me around all day. Meditation, when I get around to doing it, has a similar effect of settling my busy, chattering mind and returning me again and again to the present moment. Continue reading

Attention is the greatest gift you can give


Life throws so much at us, we can forget to slow down and do one thing at a time. I recently heard the story of a woman who had difficulty as a child getting her parents’ undivided attention. Forced to settle for whatever they gave her, she eventually came to believe that she didn’t have anything important enough to say that would warrant their — or anyone else’s — full attention. She stopped sharing her innermost thoughts and feelings with people, resulting in isolation and loneliness.

When I share genuinely with someone, I am unconsciously looking to be seen and treated as the most fascinating thing going in that moment. In acknowledgement of this universal longing, there’s a wonderful African greeting. When a person arrives in a village after being away, they say, “I am here to be seen.” And the response from the group is, “We see you.” Isn’t that what all of us want? Continue reading

We are all in this together

2000_7.9_Whitsunday sunset_crop

I woke this morning haunted by two phrases chasing through my dreams: “We’re here to make the world safe for —” and “We can eliminate all evil,” half-consciousness laying bare the emptiness of such phrases, the mistaken assumptions about who we are, how much power we have, and why we are here in the first place.

When we tell ourselves that we are here to cleanse or perfect something — whether it’s us, the environment, people with different skins, alien cultures, or desperate terrorists — we totally miss the point. Perfection is one of those goals born from the story of separation. As is curing, rather than healing. Or cleansing, rather than embracing. Continue reading

Giving tree


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

We are the universes favorite memory downloaded

our pains absence from photos stars exploded

each breath etched life cycles light recycled

our nature’s inertia to nature spinning infinite

Love. forgiveness. stretching generations our children’s fingertips

Self maps across spines spirit vines speaking

metamechic meanings divine tree breathing sacred pictures Continue reading

Song of the dog at the door


The house can barely contain her now, its four-cornered world no match for what calls to the dark forest from within. A flimsy summer cottage of a house, full of strangers, windows thrown open, their screens torn away at the sill, the better to admit small animals in the night.

She’s at the back door with the leashed dog, looking out across grass to a scene at the forest edge. A man and a boy are there with four German Shepherds, an adult male and three pups. The middle pup is posed on an overturned garbage can, its throat tied with a complicated rope, its wild enthusiasm spilling over. The man works hard to pose it while the boy aims a camera, but the puppy is too rambunctious and won’t stop moving. Continue reading

An opportunity to look anew at the world


We’ve had a couple of good snows lately. It’s a lovely excuse to take a walk with the dog and my son, with a long-lensed camera. I love seeing what he finds interesting, what attracts his eye and how he frames what he sees. We poke along, stopping even more than the dog would prefer. So much to see and to take in.

Our neighborhood is a wonder in the snow, the tall trees frosted, bare limbs against a close, slate gray sky. An extravagance of plant textures: spiky bursts, waxy rounded leaves, globes of red berries trembling on frail-looking stems. Fences’ every vertical and horizontal graced with white. A homely, forgettable concrete block wall in an alley looks like the moat enclosure of a Japanese castle. The cracked paving of the same alley is transformed into a postcard: one pair of tire tracks curving away on the fresh white surface, a staccato of rabbit and cat paw prints weaving among them. Continue reading

Take two stories and call me in the morning


Nowhere is the breakdown of the old story of command and control more evident than in the modern “health care” arena, with its ever-increasing cost and complexity, reliance on drugs and technology, and faltering ability to make us healthier or better cared for. When my parents were diagnosed with cancer, the very language used by their doctors was a language of war. In older cultures, by contrast, illness was seen as an indicator of disconnection, disharmony, or imbalance. People, not diseases, were the focus of treatment.

“If you treat disease, you win some, you lose some. But if you treat people, you always win.” ~ Patch Adams

Last week, I attended a noontime lecture at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health. The speaker, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, is a Stanford trained doctor in clinical psychiatry who researches so-called narrative medicine — the healing practices of indigenous elders. His goal is to introduce their healing wisdom into mainstream medicine and to transform medicine and psychology by coupling it with various narrative traditions. He opened his talk with this:

“If you want to change the world, keep talking and tell a story.”

Continue reading

Dr. King and the hero’s journey of freedom

Since today is Martin Luther King Day, I wanted to share one of the greatest speeches by a great role model for living into the New Story of connection and belonging. In this speech, King sets a high bar for our nation:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Continue reading

The divinity of the speck


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

A few months ago, in a storm of grief over the way the world is going, I wrote to author/teacher/medicine woman Deena Metzger, “Knowing what you know, being sensitive to all you perceive, how do you not despair?” She answered: “Because I know that Spirit exists and that some of us are being guided and so we are doing what we are called to do and that has to be sufficient. And because — I don’t want God to despair too.”

I have shied away from those words; their challenge was too devastating. I’ve buried myself in purposeful overwhelm, busybusybusy applying my skills to good causes, and when fatigue forced a halt, burying myself in lesser distractions – conversations with friends, an old movie, a brain-candy novel, surfing the Internet. Checking the stats for this blog, frustrated that no inspirations were coming for new content (surprise!) and bemused that the most popular page, by far, was Quotes on the Dark Night of the Soul. Refusing to admit – despite all indications – that I was (unadmittedly, only borderline-consciously) traversing a similarly shadowed valley. Continue reading