just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

We All Fall Down

Mojo and myself Howling and Toning for Healing

It’s inevitable that we will fall down at some points in our life.  The key is knowing how to fall without it turning into serious injury.  Falls during our later years can be serious, many leading to failure in healing.  Our injuries from falling and our successful falls without injury can be our greatest gift, however.  When I was twelve I severely injured my leg in a farm accident.  The healing took a year and I learned very early how special the body is, how letting go expectation for appreciation healed the body and mind.  Hospitalized for a month, in a wheel chair for three months, and on crutches for nine months, it brought me to an attitude of acceptance and minimal complaint.  During the Cuban missile crisis, experiencing our seventh grade civics teacher directing us to hide under our desks in the event of a nuclear bomb, there was a levity in my attitude that few of my fellow classmates had.  My father and our Norwegian heritage had set a high bar for “no complaint, no complaint”and lower reactivity. There was a realization that worry, panic and complaint just didn’t contribute to the healing.  The Lutheran farming community taught the mantra “suck it up”, face the pain and move on.  My knee surgeon was a brilliant, compassionate man with sparkly blue eyes.  He mentored me through the pain of recovery and he suspected I’d need an artificial knee in ten years.  After four years of successful football and track, after a dedicated weight training program, I discovered yoga. I have had a twenty minute routine for most of my live and for the past ten years have a daily practice of 60-90 minutes….and I still have that wonderful knee almost sixty years later.  It was the continuation of balance practice and learning to fall with grace.  With all of my active lifestyle sports I’ve generally been graced with falls escaping injury.  I’ve come to realize the critical components of “fit” and “awareness practice”.  In yoga, the word “asana” means “balanced posture”.  One spiritual teacher has told me our life’s work is to find and hold our posture through whatever comes up.  It’s very hard work, especially today when so many are trying to pull us off balance.

In the mid-80’s I broke my ankle in the early days of snowboarding before they had supportive snowboard boots.  In the late 90’s I completely snapped my Achilles tendon because my windsurf footstraps didn’t fit properly.  I’ve broken my toes a few times because I missed the footstrap trying to jam my foot in.  Yesterday, on my first turn of the day with my wing board, I fell, landing on the board instead of in the water.  My right leg was bent, ankle rolled, and I landed with my full body weight, breaking my ankle.  I suspect this awkward fall was a result of wearing neoprene boots with a sole that sacrificed the feel of the turn.  The foot pressure on a hydrofoil board is very delicate and for me, doesn’t lend itself to lost board contact.  My inference is that the thicker boots contributed to the awkward fall.  My experience suggests boots with minimal sole thickness and gloves no more than 2mm thick. I had just finished a two hour mountain bike and recognize now that my awareness was not complete.  Had I been fresh I suspect I would have recognized the poor fit.  And yet, how many times we stay in relationships failing to recognize what a poor fit they are.  And then we may fall down.

(This year’s Midwest wing boarding log:  Lake Superior- 13, Forest Lake- 21, White Bear Lake- 6, St. Croix River-25, Clear Lake Iowa- 3, Spirit Lake Iowa- 2, Cannon River- 5, Mille Lacs- 6, Waconia- 3, Calhoun- 5, GreenLake Spicer- 4)

Wingboarding

This season I’ve been foiling almost eighty times.  Each time has been between two and five hours.  I’ve fallen thousands of times from my wingboard, into the water, not on the board.  In California winters, I SUP surf almost five times a week.  Yet, one day without proper awareness, I fell on the board and twisted my knee.  

We feel fortunate to escape the Minnesota winters and the dangerous ice.  With Covid, Jane and I stayed in Minnesota for the first winter in fifteen years.  In March she slipped on the ice and damaged a vertebrae that took six weeks to heal. The cold and ice just don’t fit us anymore.

I think we all want healing.  We all do what we can to cultivate a sense of stability on such an unstable platform.  A daily practice of awareness and balance helps us see what’s a good fit and what’s not.  Whether it’s the environment we put ourselves in, the foods we ingest, the media we consume, the friends and family we hang with…..awareness brings to light those elements that foster healing, health and wholeness.  A dedicated awareness practice will help us move more gracefully through our day, and in the event of a fall, will help us maneuver through the event without risking or increasing injury.

Yesterday’s weather conditions were a perfect fit for me.  My unavoidable expectations filled my head.  I was just getting my gybes, toe side riding and tacks down after falling all through the season.  Those expectations were smashed with that first turn and I now had to figure out how to get back to shore with strong winds and cold water.  After a few minutes floating in the water it became clear I couldn’t stand on my one leg.  Kneeling on the board I taxied the one mile back to shore and moved very carefully as I changed clothes, packed my gear and readied for the two hour drive home. The real work was to let go the expectations and sense of disappointment.  It was time to put full awareness to driving and safely getting to the hospital.  It was time to “make space to find the gift in the given”.  When I made it to shore the sun came out and there was a partial rainbow over beautiful Lake Superior.  My car was working.  Healing was already happening.  The process of letting go was underway as I saw leaves tumbling through the fall air.  The leaves remaining on the tree were glorious, knowing full well they, too, will fall to the ground.  It brought me back to The Five Remembrances: 1. It’s of human nature to experience disease and injury, 2. It’s of human nature to age, 3. It’s of human nature to say good-bye to the body, 4. It’s of human nature to say good-bye to everything, everyone one, holding on to nothing, 5. It’s the results of our speech, thoughts, and actions that live on.  This awareness always brings me to pause.  It’s so easy to needlessly cause injury and pain to others.  Some say our purpose here is to do what we can to ease the suffering of others.  That’s much more difficult.  In the meantime, I want to do what I can with intention and attention to not causing harm.  This comes from awareness practices aimed to hold balance, equanimity, and a posture that’s not grown from negative thoughts and emotions.

A little over a decade ago I blew a landing from a kiteboard jump and my two year old grandson screamed out, “DeDa go boom”.  He got so much enjoyment from the big splash that I continued to land butt first instead of softly landing the board.  It wasn’t graceful, but it was done with a sense of stewardship to the relationship I had with him, all the while holding attention to the care of my own body.  Awareness can bring us to that place where we fall without injury, or at least dramatically minimize our risk of serious injury. Stunt men and women are amazing at this.  

My mother had two months with stomach cancer before she gracefully fell.  My father had a dementia that took several years before he fell.  They both came to that place of “no complaint, no complaint” as they moved through the pain and suffering of the impermanent body.  They set the bar high, but showed me the importance of doing what I can to ready for a noble death.  This letting go, falling gracefully, knowing there is a grounding in the groundless, is what spiritual

practice seems to be about.  The theologian Paul Tillich has written, “Love is stronger than death”.  I think healing is stronger than falling and find great joy in surrendering to the healing process, waking up from the illusion of our separateness.

Ring-a-ring-a-rosies

A pocket full of posies

A tissue, a tissue

We all fall down

The falling leaves drift by my window

The falling leaves of red and gold

I see your lips the summer kisses

The sunburned hands I used to hold

The Public School Prayer Problem

In 1971 the Supreme Court came up with the Lemon test after the Lemon vs. Kurtzman case. It laid the following as criterion for prayer in schools:

1.Must have a secular purpose;

  1. Must neither advance nor inhibit religion; and
  2. Must not result in an excessive entanglement between government and religion.

I maintain that whoever can crack this nut will win the next presidential election and I have a way to do this. Our democracy and capitalistic economy crumble when we inhibit the spiritual element of our life journey. The secular purpose for respecting and honoring that which is bigger than our own selfish interests is peace. When we practice the Golden Rule we’re motivated to care for one another, to offer a deeper stewardship to the gift of just being, and to recognize the interdependence of all things and beings. When we limit ourselves to rigid thinking, attacking diversity, accentuating fear and greed through violent rhetoric and persuasion technique, we freeze our growth. Our current government system is frozen and I suggest it can be thawed through the re-introduction of prayer. This is not a prayer specific to a religion. It’s not a linguistic petitionary prayer to a personal god. And rather than entangling government and religion, it will offer the deepest respect to the need for shared common sense as we face a rapidly changing world.

Here are a few quotes from our founding fathers and a couple contemporaries about the necessity of bowing to that which is bigger than us:

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

Ben Franklin

Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you. Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly. Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise, as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual. From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death.

Thomas Jefferson

I think human history, for the most part, has been a cycle of hatred and revenge and indifference and callousness to the weak and vulnerable. But we’re experiencing an awakening. That’s what happens in America. Right when America is about to go under we get a spiritual and moral awakening.

Cornell West, 60 Minutes interview March, 2016

I believe that in the twenty first century we have to be open and must not put anymore ideological differences in front of the best solutions.

Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina, 60 Minutes interview March 2016

[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.

Daniel Webster

So when the constitution was written almost all of the founders had a Christian tradition. As the world has grown smaller through migration, global trade and education, we’ve come to see better how we language the Divine. No doubt, there are those who believe it’s their religious duty to convince others to believe what they believe. Any attempts to persuade another to a religious belief would fail the Lemon test. Yet, can’t we argue that any attempts to deny a time of spiritual communication inhibits religion? So how can we solve this problem?

Just as ‘how’ we language our various religions has resulted in most of our conflicts and threatens our world today, moving to prayer without language can be our best chance for healing and touching peace. Indigenous cultures recognized this power for centuries. Silent, collective breathing creates that unified space for the Divine to bubble up. It lines up to a place that’s bigger than our hopes and fears. We can touch a real faith to that which is supporting us in ways beyond the thinking of our small minds. It’s a space that readies us to communicate with one another for a stewarded ‘joining’ rather than attacking one another in survivalist ‘separating’. The ancient Hawaiians referred to the Christian mission workers as ‘haole’, translated as breathless. They referred to them as ‘those who prayed without breathing first’. Traditionally, they recognized the aligning, humbling power of collective, silent breathing before uttering words.

Today our government has been captured by big money and special interests that fail to carefully examine harm caused from their positions of belief. We’re facing a time where the power of listening and silencing the mind have appeared to have lost favor. I tend to agree with Cornell West that America is on the verge of a spiritual and moral awakening. The politics of attack, hatred and greed have been accentuated through the rhetoric of our current political campaigns. As a populace, we’re following the lead of our elected officials, refusing to deeply listen to one another for common sense, in faith that Divine Providence will produce a bigger, better solution. We have to be open to the limitations of language and the need to move beyond our ideologies, high ideals and noble thoughts. Our spiritual work is to offer “caring and kind attention to our breath, our children, to the trees around us, and to the earth with which we are so interconnected.” (Jack Kornfield). In his book A Path with Heart, Kornfield writes:

When we listen as if we were in a temple and give attention to one another as if each person were our teacher, honoring his or her words as valuable and sacred, all kinds of great possibilities awaken. Even miracles happen. To act in the world most effectively, our actions cannot come from our small sense of self, our limited identity, our hopes, and our fears. Rather, we must listen to a greater possibility and cultivate actions connected with our highest intentions from the patient and compassionate (Divine) within us. We must learn to be in touch with something greater than ourselves, whether we call it the Tao, God, the dharma, or law of nature. There is a deep current of truth, no matter what happens, our actions will be right. p. 300

Our founding fathers inserted this in the end of The Declaration of Independence and referred to it as a reliance upon Divine Providence.

So I challenge us to find our grounding once again through shared, silent, collective breathing and close with a poem written by a child immediately after 9/11:

For Our World

We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment
Before anybody says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else
We need to be silent
Just silent.
Silent for a moment
Before we forever lose
The blessings of songs
That grow in our hearts
We need to notice
Just notice.
Notice for a moment
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.
Stop, be silent, and notice
In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.
We need to be.
Just be.
Be for a moment
Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.
And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life
No chance for peace.

Mattie Stepanek, 9/12/2001

Deepest Gratitude to My Irish Friend

So much of life is about balance. The weather tries to balance as pressure systems move in and out. We can feel the restlessness of the human spirit, the turbulence that comes into the body from a restless mind. And our spiritual teachers provide us with wisdom on how to come to balance. In Hawaii they called it “ho ohponopono”. It translates into “bringing things back to balance“. I reflect upon those relationships that were more wounding than others. Those wounds fester with infection when we hold onto our stories and refuse to get bigger than what we think the problem is. Spiritual wisdom says “the problem is never what we think it is“. Our only task is to break through the illusion of separateness. When we can see that we are each other we humble ourselves to the only appropriate response, that of curiosity, love and an honest desire to understand. 

Personally, I had a great teacher who helped me navigate through some of my more challenging relationships. I see a lot of this going on today as we appear to polarize, separating ourselves from others, carried away with fear and greed. The Buddha has said this is the natural human condition. This restless mind that forever can be captured by conflict and turmoil is challenged to find balance, stability and uprightness in the face of attack, in the face of entropy and general “dis-ease”. 

Dick Donohoo may be one of the greatest lawyers I’ve ever met. He recently shed his body and his brother presided as priest over his funeral. During his eulogy he asked us to think of different people with those virtues or traits that defined them. The priest said his brother’s dominant traits were “justice“ and “joy”. While we had different views of the world, Dick and I shared a curiosity to go deeper. We respected the differences we had and recognized we were part of a team graced to each other. If it weren’t for Dick, his brilliant mind and creative genius, our company, The House, would not exist. He not only crafted a brilliant plan that allowed us to move forward, but for five years he stewarded me through multiple court hearings and challenges. 

He then guided me through an extremely difficult partnership challenge within the company and later through another property partnership challenge. Both of these challenges came from dear friends and further challenged the spiritual mandate to break through the illusion of separateness. Our best friends are the most skilled at pushing us off balance, pressing the buttons to take us out of alignment into a desire to fight.

 As in any conflict, each perceived side creates its own story and builds upon it. As we build our stories, holding our static thoughts on what is “right“, we lose our flexibility. Our rigidity then makes us more vulnerable to fall… to break. We tend to become more reactive rather than ‘practicing the pause’. Through all of my legal challenges, Dick mentored me on holding balance and joy, always looking for the gift in the given. For every 30 emails I wrote he probably only let me send one. It became extremely clear that the more we refined the question, the less we defended our position, and the more we queried into a deeper understanding of the other side, the faster we progressed.

Every year for more than a decade I invited Dick to celebrate the conclusion of one of our conflicts on September 9 at The Dock Café in Stillwater. A little over a year ago he was diagnosed with leukemia. This happened at the same time the coronavirus was spreading around the planet. The restaurant had to close. Dick passed a couple weeks ago and the restaurant is still closed. When I met with him last spring after his diagnosis I had expressed my deep desire to have one more meal with him at this restaurant. On the day of his funeral I was drawn, compelled, to go to that table where we sat last and play “Danny Boy“ on the trumpet. We’re always trying to come to balance. We’re always challenged to break free from the illusion of our separateness. We’re always challenged to carry deep hope, a bigger hope, in the face of violence, greed, fear and general restlessness which is just part of the human condition. As I review the tremendous gift this man gave me I’m fed to break through the chains that come from my ego’s restlessness and anger. The only genuine response that feeds Big Hope is love, forgiveness, gratitude, and reflection upon the lessons learned from the most difficult rivers of life we’ve traveled.

I recall one spiritual teacher saying, “Our life’s work is to find and deepen our posture”.  In yoga, “asana” means “balanced posture”.  The gravity of a lifetime of wounding experiences makes this difficult without a dedicated spiritual practice.  We can build spiritual security as investment for holding posture and balance in the face of challenge and uncertainty.  Like the reeds that bend in the wind and wave, we hold a deeper grounding from the roots below.  Big Hope is never losing the felt truth that we belong, are never alone, connected, and always supported.  As the lyric of Danny Boy attests, we are loved, have always been loved and always will be loved.  Only love is real and that’s the truth we struggle to remember as we repeatedly succumb to the suffering that comes from conflict, fear and greed.

Danny Boy played on the empty deck of Stillwater’s famous Dock Cafe.

Lyrics to “Danny Boy”

Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountainside,
The summer’s gone, and all the roses falling,
It’s you, it’s you must go, and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow,
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow,
Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow,
Oh, Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy, I love you so!

But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
Ye’ll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me;
And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!
Come to me!

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