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
October, 2015

Giving Momentum to Our Dissatisfaction

Friday, October 30th, 2015


It was great relief for me to learn that it’s of human nature to live in the realm of dissatisfaction. The restless mind is just how it is. That was Buddha’s First Noble Truth. He then went on to say that we suffered to the degree we attached to and grew our thoughts of desire for things to be different. The momentum we give these cravings increases our suffering. He then went on to say the antidote to this suffering is to let the thought filled craving mind return back to the moment, empty. When we let go the suffering leaves and when we attach to the craving thought we give it strength and grow our suffering. Meditation as I’ve been taught is the practice of getting better and better at witnessing this restlessness. We can’t stop thoughts and feelings from coming up but we can get better and better at noticing them and letting them go before they build momentum and consequent suffering. Simply put, we can suffer when we attach to thoughts of wanting things to be as the way they were or we can suffer with anxiety about what we want things to be. Our peace is found in finding the blessing in just being here in this moment. It’s why our breath is such a wonderful object of meditation. We can sit and attach to the thought, “I wonder how much longer this is? I need to do that chore and I hope traffic isn’t bad this morning. My knee hurts and I can hardly wait to straighten it out….and on and on the restless mind goes.” Or we can let go and return to the awareness of breath. Some days it seems impossible to quiet it down and it’s been referred to as ‘monkey mind’. Other days we can notice the thought more quickly before it captures us and leads us further from the moment. It’s called a ‘practice’ because the work never stops. The more we sit in stillness the more sensitive and aware we become to our restless mind, the more aware we become to our thoughts and emotions, and the better we get at letting them go before they build momentum. This increased awareness helps us make less of a mess of things. We can notice our reactive mind, return to breath awareness, take pause, and hopefully take a better action. It’s why the Buddha instructs on developing skillful means in speech, action and how we earn a living.

No one ever said this work is easy. No one escapes the suffering mind. The next negative thought or emotion is just around the corner. The poisons of greed (wanting more), fear (anxiety about what’s coming), and ignorance (ignoring our inter connection with everything) work us all. Our ‘practice’ is to get better at noticing these thoughts and emotions and letting them go. Gratitude for the moment is healing (returning us to wholeness). Forgiveness is necessary. Compassion (meeting one another’s suffering as our own) deepens our practice. When we quiet our mind we create opportunity to reside in the heart space. It’s what we’ve come to know as “the peace that passes understanding”. You experience that you’re much more than what you’re doing. You’re awareness residing in the body. This is where we experience the love we’re looking for. It’s who we are. Once we’ve let go we discover the exquisite balance of head and heart and we discover a tremendous ability to manifest. We develop better skills at stepping out of the way of what’s happening in front of us in a manner where we can really see it. The more we move into this witness mind, the more we can move into the broader dimensions of our collective experience. Beyond thought, emotion and the physical, we allow the energy of the world (God, Source, Allah, Rama, Sattva, whatever label used) to pass through us, to reveal to us, without our getting caught, wounded or conditioned by it. We move from the social trance to ‘waking up’. Some have called this the “aha” mind as we witness the trance in the world. I recall someone telling me this is our challenge, to live in the moment, to be of it and not to say, “this is my moment”. It’s the moment of instant opportunity to “be”. Beauty is continually being asked to be seen, even in the most terrible of places. Our practice is to not miss this opportunity of the moment. Katagiri Roshi said, “Each moment, emergency moment”. In the book Each Moment is the Universe he says:

Emptiness is not negative; emptiness is letting go of fixed ideas in order to go beyond them. The Christian mystic Meister Eckhart called it the desert: in the dessert of emptiness, everything dies and comes back to life. This is really true. Otherwise you would never be successful in doing anything at all. When you dance, when you sing, when you walk, when you do zazen (sitting meditation), whatever you do you must be empty first. Then your body and mind become flexible and you can really jump into painting, dancing, eating breakfast, washing your face, chanting or doing zazen. At that time you become one with your activity, whatever it is, and do your best. p. 53

When we’re filled with thought we can’t be fully present. We can’t totally turn ourselves over to what we’re doing. We don’t experience the refreshment that comes from emptiness, the newness of the moment, facing the wonder and surprise of the next arising moment.

I know some of you may be questioning the wisdom in letting go our plans. While all spiritual traditions speak to faith in that which is bigger than us, the relative world does make certain demands upon us. We’re continually facing the tension of the social trance and waking up as we move from relative reality and absolute reality. It’s why understanding intention is important. We can carry intention in the moment. In his book The Isaiah Effect Greg Braden describes some secrets of prayer as discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Many others have written about this (Esther Hicks: Ask and It is Given, Wayne Dyer: The Power of Intention, The Secret). They all describe the necessity of ‘feeling’ the gift of what’s asked for outside of the abstractions of time and space. There can be no doubt as we juice our request with the fullness of it’s completion within the present moment of the asking. He denotes the difference between the petitionary prayer and this kind of prayer. In the first we’re asking conditions to be different with the help of an outside power. In the second we’re touching the fullness of receiving the gift at the moment of it’s asking. It’s why I like to refer to meditation as “making space to find the gift in the given”. It’s complicated because this prayer demands a full surrender to the heart, aligned completely with the base intention of “no harm”. When these requests are made in the syrup of love from a stilled mind, coming from our center, we’re fully in the emergency moment. No craving. No desire. No doubt. No suffering. This is real healing, real return to our wholeness, breaking the illusion of our separateness. It’s touching the Ultimate, the peace that passes all understanding or reason, joy, etc., accepting and knowing that the next negative thought or emotion is just around the corner. Again, it’s of human nature to live with the restless mind. It’s with humility and gratitude our spiritual teachers have shown us a way to suffer less. Isn’t that what we’re all here for…to help one another suffer less?

Prayer of Loving Kindness

May you be in peace.
May you be healed from all resentment
May you awake
May you be happy
May you be in love now

Motive Continued

Thursday, October 29th, 2015



I was raised on a dairy farm in southern Minnesota. As a child, we tried to go on a vacation. We traveled to Duluth, a four hour drive, before my father’s anxiety about his cows overcame him and we had to return. He loved his cows and they knew it. They could feel his caring energy and responded with far less milk when another person tried. He simply didn’t trust anyone else to handle them with the care he did. We reaped the benefits of farm food, eating from our garden, drinking unpasteurized milk fresh from the cow, and enjoying the meat from a cow that had lived a life of service in sustaining our family income. When a cow’s milk production dropped below an income producing level our family would butcher the cow, ending up with a year supply of meat. Hutch was our butcher. I can’t remember the name of the truck driver who transported the cows, but I know Hutch and the driver really cared about their work and how the cow was handled. We had an unspoken reverence for the meat we ate, having had a personal relationship with the cow that was now nourishing us. Sometimes it was especially poignant if the cow had been one of our 4-H show animals. We got to know them as much as our family dog. We never did eat our family dog, but I came to eat dog when I was in the Philippines as a high school foreign exchange student. Our AFS orientation highly stressed eating everything with an attitude of gratitude, no complaints allowed. When dog meat was presented, there was no option. The motive was to not offend our host. The motive for eating cow meat was easy. It was affordable sustenance for our family and it tasted pretty good. We were indoctrinated with the necessary benefits of meat. It was easy to conclude that we were taking care of ourselves through the dietary benefits of red meat. Hutch did an amazing job at breaking out the various cuts from sirloin and t-bone steaks to hamburger, liver and tongue. We got it all.

Years later Hutch stopped and we started taking our retired cows to Wilson’s Meat Packing plant in Albert Lea. They were a major employer for our community and a tour of facilities was almost mandatory. I don’t specifically recall seeing the killing floor, but I heard the stories about how they killed the animal. They ranged from hitting them on the head with a sledge hammer, to electric shock to slitting their throats. Both Hutch and Wilson’s killed the cow, but somehow, I seem to recall the meat tasting better when it came from Hutch. I was troubled by stories of the workers who had to kill animals from the start of their work day to the end of it. However, the thought of not eating red meat never crossed my mind. As a high school athlete, I devoured meat, trying to gain pounds for football. Meat tasted good, built strong muscles and made me feel good.

In 1971 my wife and I read Diet for a Small Planet. We had embraced many of the teachings coming from the East and were fascinated with their dietary habits. After reading about the environmental impact from a red meat diet, being exposed to the possibility of a meat free diet, we went to McDonald’s and had our last Big Mac. It was a lot of work back then. There were no veggie burgers or meatless substitutes. If you went out and weren’t going to eat meat about the only thing you could order in the Midwest was iceberg lettuce salad. I recall that first week without meat. My desiring mind just wanted it and it was hard to let the thought of a meat meal go. Then something strange happened that I hadn’t expected. My tastebuds changed dramatically. Vegetables I hadn’t liked before started tasting delicious. We slowed down our dining experience and relished the taste of what we were eating. We no longer felt heavy after our meal. But perhaps the biggest surprise came from our friends and family. Almost universally, we were attacked for our dietary change. Everyone wanted to know ‘why’ we stopped eating meat. We started by giving some of our philosophical reasons. It didn’t go well. They became defensive, assuming we were judging their continued meat filled diet. It was a hot topic that felt like we were breaking ground on a new religion that threatened them. As a courtesy, whenever we were invited out to dinner we told our hosts that we didn’t eat meat. When they asked ‘why’ we soon softened our answer to, “Because we feel better”, almost implying that we were allergic to meat. In truth, we did feel better…much better. So our motive to stop eating red meat first came from wanting to have less environmental impact. Even back then it appeared evident that forest lands were disappearing so cows could graze, methane from the cows was impacting the ozone layer, and you could feed twenty people for the same amount of resource it took to feed one person on a meat diet. Our decision back then was motivated from our love for our planet. Yes, this was a new belief that we acted on with the information we had at the time. The benefit of feeling better was perhaps the main motive for continuation. A few years after going meatless we started eating fish. We had times where we ate poultry. While we still periodically eat fish, our main diet is plant based. We can say that our forty five year experiment has worked well for us.

So what’s my motive for writing this? It’s certainly not to say we were ‘right’ given the recent reports of danger from red meat. But it is a hope that we all take greater care in what and how we consume. I think it’s important we look at how our actions help or harm our family, community, nation and planet. The food industry seemed to lose it’s sensitivity to this. The drive to profit allowed us to change our motive for what we defined as better. The small farms all but disappeared as massive corporations now became our supply of dairy and meat. The relationship my dad had with his 26 milking cows was gone. Feed lots replaced grazing fields. Poultry practices were brutal as the birds lived a tortured life. In short, as we saw the change in the food supply and how animal products were coming to market, we were glad we weren’t participating. Our motive to continue with a meat free diet was strengthened.

Food awareness became a ‘practice’ for us. We became alert to all the chemicals being added to our food supply and searched out those foods with the least processing. We’ve become increasingly aware of the harm from trans fats, sugar and salt. We’re amazed at the thousands of offerings in our super markets, but more amazed at how few of them are free from additives. It’s refreshing to see the growth in organic food choice and meatless alternatives. We think it’s much easier to give up or reduce red meat consumption today given all these food options. It’s easier to do this as more and more information comes out about the health and harm that comes from our dietary practices.

I’m not advocating that a meat free diet is for everyone. The topic is too complicated. However, I can say our life has gone better as we’ve put more attention to the food consumption process. It’s been good to examine personal and environmental impact and make choices from love for our bodies and planet rather than from fear. The recent report from the World Health Organization linking a higher cancer rate with large consumption of processed meat may lead one to change behavior from the motive of fear. I can say our longevity with this practice has come from gratitude for the gift of these bodies and a sense of stewardship for their care. Concern for the food we eat and how it impacts the planet comes from our ‘feeling’ that we’re all connected. The statement, “We are what we eat” carries weight with us. I think it’s good to pause before ingesting the gift of food, give thanks for the opportunity to participate in the dining experience, and put great emphasis to how it feels in the belly/body after eating rather than primary focus on the perceptual pleasure of how it tastes in the mouth without regard to how it harms the body.

The real motive is that we all want to feel good. Putting attention to how we feel through the eating process is key to a dedicated dietary practice. Feeling sluggish and tired doesn’t feel good. Feeling energized, strong, light and ready to move feels good. Whether eating meat or not, moderation is key to this. When we slow down, give thinks, chew our food and pause for at least fifteen minutes after having a moderate portion we can deliberately take action to conclude the meal or have more. It’s aware, mindful eating vs. less aware, less mindful eating.

If you’ve made it this far I suspect that I’ve succeeded in not offending you. My intention was to share a snippet of our journey as red meat free citizens in hopes that others may feel open to exploring dietary changes for personal and planetary health. It’s not about ‘right vs. wrong’, but it is a story about what has worked for us over the past four decades.


Thursday, October 29th, 2015


What moves us to do what we do? Why are we so defensive whenever another questions our motive? The fact is, this is such a complex area far beyond black and white answers. It’s especially true when we’re moving to make choices for apparent health from what we’ve judged to be harmful behavior. Whether changing positions on political party, gun control, abortion, war, abortion, gay rights, etc., we’re introducing flexibility to a thought we’ve held onto for a long time. A thought held onto for a long time is called a ‘belief’. It takes a lot of energy to actually change our behavior from what we’ve held as belief for a lifetime. When I was young, raised on a farm, my first lucrative job was trapping gophers. Their dirt mounds damaged farm equipment and I received a bounty from my parents and our county. I don’t know what motivated me to not kill that last gopher. I was an active member of the NRA, was a mediocre marksmen, and when I shot my first pheasant it was my last. I can rationalize reasons for my change of behavior, but even I don’t know the exact reasons for these changes. As a young child through my junior year of high school I only saw myself flying jets for the military. I felt the deepest sense of patriotism for all this wonderful country had given me. My sense of ‘us vs. them’ was a positive experience as I co-captained Minnesota’s No. 1 ranked high school football team. My junior high and senior high education stressed the ‘us vs. them’ motive to surpass Russia in space, nuclear weaponry, and military might. We ‘believed’ we had to be prepared to get them before they got us. My belief in us against them was loosened with the Vietnam War. We had been indoctrinated to believe it was a war between communism and democracy. The domino theory believed that if we didn’t win in Vietnam we’d fall under the control of China and/or the Soviet Union. In 1968 that motive was questioned as more and more information came to light. It was the first war where we had difficulties identifying the enemy. It was the last war where we had a draft. I suspect our military would still be in Vietnam if we hadn’t had the draft. The military belief is to never give up. However, in 1968 everyone had ‘skin in the game’ because of the draft and we were all involved in deciding how to go forward. With time, we discovered that 58,000 of our young soldiers were killed and three million Vietnamese died under a false motive. It was a civil war and not a war of ideology as had been sold to us. My motive to fly a military jet plane radically changed and I acted by enrolling in a liberal arts college instead of a military academy. Upon review of then Sec. of Defense Robert McNamara’s documentary, Fog of War, years later this incorrect motive was substantiated.

So today we still can’t identify our enemy. We sell weapons to one group only to find out later they’re in the hands of the very people we’re fighting. Without skin in the game (a war tax taken directly from everyone’s income/assets, or a draft) we find it easy to fall into an ideological belief sold to us through those who ‘know more’. In the face of new information that continually knocks down our original motives we’re left with anxiety over what to so many seems like wasted money and lives. The notion of ‘us vs. them’ has become more and more elusive as allies become enemies and previous enemies become apparent allies. In the confusion, someone looking from the outside could find some humor in enemies collaborating to kill another enemy only to come back and kill each other. That’s the nature of the illusive motive, the confusion of who’s fighting who, and the strongly held belief that it’s ‘us vs. them’.

The whole concept of ‘war on terror’ capitalized on this. It was an ill defined enemy allowing wars to extend indefinitely. So many of the so called terrorists today are angry civilians who had a family member or friend killed under the motive to turn a totalitarian state to a democracy. If another country invaded us under the motive to change our belief for the better, and if they accidentally killed my family and friends in the process, I’d have to work pretty hard to not want to retaliate. We’ll never know how many friends and family who were our friends turned ‘terrorist’ once we killed their friends and family and called it ‘collateral damage’. Throughout the Iraq War we heard military strategists suggest that we could save one-hundred citizens from terror, but as soon as we accidentally killed an innocent civilian we were back to ground zero. Not only had we lost the good will of those we were trying to help, but in the process we appeared to grow the number of terrorists. The nature of motive must continually be examined. It’s a moving target and our problems stem from our unwillingness to hold some flexibility in our held thoughts, our beliefs.

I hope I’ve used somewhat skillful means to present the topic of motive. As a democratic society we can never let go our thirst to identify motive. So much harm is done to the environment and to each other because we stop exploring the never ending question of that elusive target, motive. I personally find today’s official line motive to continue wars in the Middle East until all the terrorists are dead as an insult to our intelligence. The military is trained in this thinking. As a society we have to forever push the question, “What’s driving the ‘belief’ that our decision makers are holding on to?” That’s where the real dialogue of a democracy happens (in my belief). Most spiritual traditions also ask us to explore what’s driving our actions through the basic question, “Is it fear or love?” It’s my experience that love has a much better track record than fear, but that’s just another thought (belief) that I must continually be open to reexamine.

Sidenote: I went to post this on my Word Press website and was blocked with the following message:

There have now been several large scale WordPress wp-login.php brute force attacks, coming from a large amount of compromised IP addresses spread across the world since April 2013.
A large botnet of around 90,000 compromised servers has been attempting to break into WordPress websites by continually trying to guess the username and password to get into the WordPress admin dashboard.

Yes, continue to examine every belief system, exploring the never ending questions of motive. It’s my belief our survival depends upon it.

Holding Your Center in Mayhem

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015


The reactive mind often leads to behavior that results in a mess. We can take a thought, give it momentum, and before we know it, we’ve taken an action we’ll soon learn to regret. We know it’s of human nature to live in a mind of dis-satisfaction. The next negative emotion is coming up just around the corner. We can’t stop this, however, we can learn to dismiss it. With practice and awareness training, we can catch it, come back to our center, and find our balance. How often have we heard the wisdom of taking a “balanced response”. There are certain disciplines I’ve practiced for decades and I’m gaining greater confidence in my capacity to hold balance. Boardsports, yoga and music are perhaps my main disciplines that have tested me over the years. In music, playing with and for others, I’ll sometimes miss a note. I can attach to my judgment of the performance or I can allow it and move on to meet the next arising moment anew. If I let the critical mind grow momentum to the thought of the missed note and my insufficiency, I greatly increase my likelihood of missing another upcoming not. If I let it go, return to my center in the here and now, things go better. Less mess. Yoga has the same impact. The precision and depth of my postures are directly related to the ability to ‘let go the thought filled mind’. When given momentum to a thought of comparison I greatly increase my chances of injury and falling out of the posture. One of my meditation teachers told me that our life is really just a journey at going deeper into our posture…touching our center in a ‘balanced position’ (the definition of asana in yoga). When in balance we break the illusion of our separateness. We feel supported, never alone, effectively feeling the love of the universe. It’s a feeling of ‘fullness’ vs. the typical feeling of restlessness that moves through us so much of the day.

While musical and yoga performance are great disciplines to practice balance and posture, perhaps my lifetime of dedication to boardsports and the elements is the most palpable. We learn skills of our sports (windsurfing, kiteboarding, SUPing, surfing, etc.) on a flat surface. As we gain precision in our skills, we challenge ourselves to more turbulent conditions. These conditions place more demand on our capacity to ‘allow’ things to come up without panicking, without losing our center. Over the years, most of us in boardsports can look back on moments where a reaction taken from out of center would have ended our life. However, with pause and a return to our center, we’ve felt a bigger support. I’ve learned so much from the statement, “When the problem seems big, go bigger than the problem.” These activities capture the need for balance in ‘body/mind/spirit’. There’s a deep respect for the elements and their mystery, for the very nature of ‘surprise’ around every corner. The unborn security that comes from a dedicated practice in our discipline and posture give us the confidence to receive the grace of that which is bigger than us. That was the nature of my day on Lake Superior yesterday.

We arrived to what we call ‘lit up conditions’. The strong 30 mph winds had churned the lake into a white frothy picture of endless waves. Conditions had definitely turned up several notches from what we thought we were driving up to. My watersport partner, Judd, and I looked at the conditions and knew it’d be a day for full awareness, a mind of presence. We rigged our small gear and went into some of the most turbulent conditions I’ve ever seen. There were mountains of water moving everywhere and it became the perfect place to practice surrender to the moment. We could accept the conditions in love, beyond our mind’s notion of separation, or we could let fear and resistance break us apart as the tremendous force of Lake Superior worked to destroy us. Things were moving so fast, with no apparent organization. Waves would randomly break on the inside and on the outside. As soon as I left awareness of the moment in fear, I got kicked. As soon as I returned to the breath and the moment, time slowed and the apparent chaos of the water was gone. Exit plans opened as grace was given in full support to what was put before me. With a sand bottom and ten foot wind driven waves, their was no predicting when the wave would break. Yet, with surrender to the moment it was like we were outside of time, coming just to the edge of the break in time. These are the moments where we live in the undivided self. I’m not ‘doing’ the wave. I’m not separated from the wave. I embrace the wave as fully integrated to my awareness of my body. This is the essence of returning to the center during what at first appears to be mayhem. At one point I was surfing the face of an eight foot wave on the outside when air got under my fin and the board spun sideways. These waves are moving so fast when the winds are this strong, the thought captured me and I was swallowed, turned and churned underwater, and I clearly remember the ‘feeling’ of support as I hung on to my equipment through the ordeal. The response of gratitude for the support fed my strength to quickly get back up and ride another wave. I was the water, the wave, the moment. It was time to dismiss fear and judgment of myself or my equipment or the conditions. The chaos of the water had no time for another thought.

I’m not such a young man anymore. The youth that could take thrashings like this was gone. Yet, the wisdom of hundreds of hours on the water and in balance training left me having more water time in these demanding conditions than ever before. My sessions we generally only 20-30 minutes before I’d have to come in a recuperate. Judd stayed out the entire time and illustrated silent confidence on the water with the exception for a few moments that stole his peace. After each break the power of intention and grace had me face the breaking waves with a sense of freedom and gratitude. So few will ever get to experience the beauty of such radical water terrain. My last run out felt perfect. The wind was strong as I easily hopped over wave after wave to deeper water. I’m not sure what happened on that last wave, but it swallowed me up and spit my equipment away in a split second. I was in cold water, equipment gone, in strong rip currents, exhausted from several hours on the water. The negative thoughts and fear still rose up. However, practice gave me the courage and strength to surrender to the moment in gratitude for the fullness of the day. In peace, I rolled over on my back, gave the weight of my body to the water, looked up at the beautiful sky, and prepared for the next wave to wash over me. With the strong rip current, I needed each wave to assist me in getting to shore. Each wave was like a breath in. White water approaching, hold the breath, paddle and kick like crazy, and then relax in gratitude once it had passed. I was supported. I was not alone. Grace was all around me. Wave after wave washed over me and I allowed the moment to be, in surprise to the next arising moment. To my surprise, I had been carried to shore, could humbly touch earth, and concluded my sailing session October 20, 2015, on the mother of all lakes, Lake Superior.

These waters are sacred. Judd and I were now lit, sharing our observations and insights of the day as we came to the absolute feeling of fullness, the absence of complaint and restlessness, in honor to the sacredness of all things, places, and beings. We found our peace in the midst of mayhem and we were filled with joy.

The Never Ending War and Finding our True Voice

Friday, October 16th, 2015



Today I’m reposting from something written in December of 2008.  Yesterday our President rescinded his promise to get us out of the Middle East military debacle.  In 2002 almost every expert in Mid East studies warned that once we invade one of their countries, we’ll never get out.  They almost unanimously said it would stir a hornet’s nest with no end.  They also said that no matter what we do, when we leave there will be a blood bath.  This was a foregone conclusion with Iraq.  It’s also forecast for Afghanistan.  Nixon knew this with Vietnam, but he followed through and today we’re no longer fighting a war there.  Today we have those who would have us engage in military conflict with no end in sight.  Yes, I don’t have all the information, but as a country we need to ask some very important questions.  First, do we have accurate figures on how many of the Afghans want us there?  After just bombing a hospital, killing innocent civilians, what’s our strategy going forward toward what’s been called ‘collateral damage’?  We know that killing a civilian while going after terrorists creates a multiple of future terrorists.  Think about it.  You’re living your life and another country claims that they’ll make your life better.  You have no voice and they send a drone to your community, accidentally killing several family and friends.  They apologize and try to convince you that it’s for your own good.  Seems like most of us would radicalize at that point, no matter how good the sell pitch was for a more democratic society.  Finally, these wars seldom go well unless we’ve all got some ‘skin in the game’.  Our national safety nets are currently jeopardized, our infrastructure is falling apart, and we’re losing momentum in several areas where we used to lead as we essentially borrow money from China to fund our military.  We made better choices with Vietnam because everybody was in the game due to the draft.  Today a few in power make these massive decisions and we’re led to believe it doesn’t affect us.  But it does.  So let’s take the pain up front and impose a steep war tax to fund this military machine that’s currently bankrupting us.  I think we’ll soon learn just how willing everyone is to have the US act as a policeman to the world.  Yes, we all like to help clean up a mess.  We’ve seen it with friends and family involved with the difficulties of a marriage.  We step in and what happens?  They get back together, but hate us.  Solomon’s Wisdom suggests we not ‘meddle in other’s affairs’.  We blunder into our conflicts with other nations claiming that we had faulty intelligence.  Yet, the only real intelligence comes from when we deeply put ourselves in the shoes of our supposed enemy.  Yet, it seems our politicians and military leaders have very limited skill in this area.  Our spiritual traditions advise us strongly about the intentional harm we cause others, some calling it sin, others bad karma, etc.  Some would say it’s like the Golden Rule, saying we’d like a large country to step in and save us if we were an Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, etc.   And then a drone, bullet or bomb mistakenly kills a dear friend or family member of yours.  It’s my view that our efforts in the Mid East went to waste with the first innocent civilians killed as we coldly labeled it ‘collateral damage’.  No, I’m not the ultimate pacifist.  But I will say President Obama’s decision to let this war drag on will go down as one of his biggest mistakes.  As a family, community, nation and global community, time’s running out for ‘finding our true voice’.


Finding Our True Voice

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

The politics of fear, sold through the voice of an authoritarian parent figure, limits our voice to the short term.  We end up with a focus on “self defense”, praying that “Daddy” will take care of things.  The selling comments are generally of separation.  For example, “We’ve got to get them before they get us” breeds a military of force with unlimited expenditure.  There’s a nationalistic focus with unquestioning loyalty to the parent figures in charge.  This approach quiets the populace, diminishing the questioning of authority to an act judged unpatriotic. Today, even through our election process, few contenders question the federal budget dedication to “self defense” and debt service.  A focus from fear does not align with a stewardship and more often than not drives from greed and ignorance.


A politics driven from sense of stewardship and vision aims to the long term.  Many indigenous tribes ran their visions seven generations out. Rather than spending 60% of every discretionary tax dollar on “self defense”, the primary focus would be on “Self defense”.  Our political decisions would be driven from a longer term perspective, would recognize the speed of change, our planetary interconnection, and our mandate to collaborate internationally for the health and well being of future generations.  A platform of Self-defense would aim to nurturing our planet from moderation and gratitude.  It would recognize that harm done to any life is harm done to oneself.  As such, a new voice would vision a planet aiming to a radical transition from our current politics of fear, greed and ignorance.  A true citizenry of hope would recognize that if we can’t “see” it, how in the world can we expect to manifest it?  With a vision of doom and gloom, anger and blame, fear and despair, we present a collective consciousness that does not bode well for future generations.  It’s time we all sat in front of the future generations and addressed long term stewardship.


“Dear grandsons and grand daughters, great grandsons and great grand daughters, and on and on, may we always drive our thoughts, emotions and actions from what’s best for all with harm to none?  We here present our vision for a planet of healing and nourishment for future generations. Please hear our words.”


  1. We vision a politic that focuses on compassion, generosity and moderation.Decisions in family, community, nation and planet will be driven from a perspective of “what’s best for all with harm to none”.


  1. We vision a politic that views our children as our most valuable natural resource. As such, budgetary spending will focus upon enhanced health and education to meet the rapidly changing universe with the skills necessary of harmonious living. National budgets from all nations will be transparent, aiming to diminish the current trend toward ever increasing military spending.  Military objectives will command service without harm.  We vision a planet void of nuclear weapons.  The international community will not be tolerant of actions that harm innocent civilians and all citizens will be able to witness diplomatic forums where those who violate the law of harmony find their voice.  Healing will come from genuine aim to understanding rather than forced military actions that risk harm to even one innocent civilian.


  1. We vision a politic where profit is taken away from those engaged in war, health care or education process. A moral conscience will once again be restored when the corporate world’s current profit only motive is eliminated. We vision a planet where all citizens nourish body and mind through adequate food, shelter and education.  In the spirit of “pursuit of happiness”, all citizens will have opportunity, regardless of sex, race, nationality, age, etc.


  1. We vision a world of tolerance and understanding. Citizens will be mandated to study history to be sure not to repeat the same mistakes, to study various spiritual traditions for similarities and differences, to care for the body with regular exercise and meditation, and to view all personal, business and political decisions from a perspective of long term effect. Whether from the science of quantum physics or ancient spiritual wisdom, citizens will hold deep regard for our delicate interconnectivity. Everyone counts, every thought and feeling matters, every action affects everything. A refocus on the arts, on rhythm and harmony, curiosity, and disciplined resolve to go deeper, will drive our humanity’s evolution.


  1. We vision a world where all citizens are taught the laws of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness, not as religious dictates, but as necessary practices for the very survival of humanity.


  1. We vision a planet of wisdom councils.Elders of the family, community, nation and planet will meet to take action on various issues of concern.  All laws will be directed from the mandate of “best for all with harm to none”.  When unique circumstances present to these councils, they will be addressed accordingly rather than rubber stamped from a law upheld by biased “parental” court figures.  The pro life/ pro choice conflict will vanish as people see they are pro life and pro choice, addressing issues from best for all, harm to none.  An attitude of “I know that” will shift to an attitude of curiosity, understanding and compassion.


  1. We vision a planet where nurturing, stewardship and the art of “taking care” takes a front position to the parasite of greed, ignorance and fear.In the healing of our planet, America, community and family, we recognize that change happens, energy dissipates, and our commanded purpose is to slow entropy, nurture one another, and forever hold aim to a better world for our children. Our command is to care for the body/mind, hold feelings of hope and well-being, love our family with deep resolve, actively contribute to and participate in our community, and hold reverence for the very gift of life on this planet.

Fighting Thoughts, Fighting Words

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015


For several years I’ve worked with inmates at the Rush City Prison facilitating them in developing a meditation practice. While the group I work with is founded on the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, it’s a diverse group coming from several faith traditions and ethnic backgrounds. Many have found themselves in prison because they momentarily lost their center and violently reacted to another. They all deal with the need to hold their center while in prison lest they lengthen their sentence or get placed in isolation due to their reactive behavior. We teach the men how to settle into an upright posture that helps still the restless mind. Sitting erect, guided in finding a relaxed, yet precisely tuned posture, we generally use the breath as the focus of meditation. We begin the session in silence, do a brief check-in, sit in stillness for fifteen to twenty minutes, followed by a brief topic presentation and discussion. Almost all of the men report how their lives go better when following a meditation practice. When confronted with life’s difficulties they’re less likely to react to the words of another. This is particularly challenging when living in the close quarters of a cell with another prisoner. So how does this relate to the Four Noble Truths?

While Jesus teaches us to love one another as ourselves, the Buddha discovered some basic truths that express the same wisdom but with some very practical ways to accomplish this. He noted that: 1. It’s of human nature to encounter ‘dis-satisfactoriness’. 2. Our suffering in life comes from our attachments to these desires and cravings to have things different. 3. It is possible to end our suffering by letting go of these attachments and returning to what ‘is’. 4. He elaborates on methods to do this with his Eightfold Path. When we sit in stillness, allowing thoughts and emotions to be dismissed, there’s an increased awareness to the impermanent nature of the passing moments. There’s also a deep awareness to the mystery of life and a sense of everything being connected. With a dedicated practice, the meditator increasingly becomes more and more skilled at identifying attachments to thoughts and emotional feelings. With this earlier identification, the thoughts can be released allowing the freedom to return to the moment and awareness of breath. Without this awareness, we can attach to our thoughts, elaborate on them, develop our opinions and judgments, and eventually move to a place where we will fight others to defend them. The key to successfully living in peace is to stop the momentum in being carried away with our thoughts, especially when they’re filled with negative emotion. We learn to see them as nothing more than attachments that grow to a place with potential to cause deep suffering. The extent of this suffering is proportional to the strength of the attachment. The violence we witness in the world is proportional to our unchecked awareness of these attachments and the power they have on us to cause harm to others. Whether we call people ‘fundamentalists’, ‘idealogues’, ‘bull headed’, etc., these people have strongly attached to their notions of being ‘right’ and have closed their awareness to possibility with frequent statements of ‘I know that’. All war stems from these notions of ‘being right’ and the need ‘to change another’.

It hasn’t been very effective, has it? We continue our attachments to ‘rightness’, failing to respect our extremely limited information to what’s really going on. Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara did an excellent documentary on this topic in his senior years of life called The Fog of War. He details how we attached to the ‘thought’ that the Vietnam war was about communism vs. democracy. Close to sixty thousand Americans died and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were killed on this incorrect thought. With further information and time to review what happened, it was clear we acted on an incorrect ‘thought’. It was essentially a civil war. We continue along these same lines today as we engage in multiple sectarian and civil war disputes attached to the ‘thought’ that democracy needs to be pushed. Others attach to the ‘thought’ that Christianity needs to be pushed, while others believe (attached thought) that Islam is to be pushed. Unfortunately, today we risk another global conflict as Putin (Russia) has attached to the thought of a strong, authoritarian government and our government leaders have attached to the notion of a free government by the people. Whether it’s countries and the potential for war or our spouses and the potential for divorce, we’ve given momentum to our thoughts, elaborated and grown them to a point where we’re ready to fight. Yet, our spiritual teachers and elders advise us to just sit with one another, to just allow ourselves to be in one another’s shoes, to compassionately meet one another’s suffering, allowing that which is bigger than us to bubble up with a bigger, better response that what comes from our small, linguistically based, reasoning minds. Our forefathers called this surrender to a bigger, better response Divine Providence. It came from a place where all parties were willing to momentarily surrender their ‘thoughts’ in recognition to the truth that there’s no understanding without this. Most of our diplomacy only feeds further violence as we try to get the other to think like us. The famous linguist, Noam Chomsky, has noted how violence underlies all attempts to persuade or change another. Dr. Martin Luther King has written about how another can smell our underlying contempt (sense of rightness) when meeting with another of different thought.

So we work with the inmates in Rush City, training them in their capacity to recognize that thoughts are linguistic. Language is made up from arbitrary symbols. The meaning to words is not in the word but in the persons relationship to the word. The experience of the Divine is universal, yet the words we use are varied. The open, flexible mind holds a solid confidence that we’re supported in a bigger way. The smaller, closed mind is locked into changing things in a way that we’ve become attached to, insensitive to harm caused. In practice, the men learn how to see their thoughts, release them in pause, and take actions that are less likely to make a mess of things. Yesterday we had a group that testified to the effectiveness in this mindful practice. Men who used to ‘react’ from their attachments to the meaning in words were experiencing a better life filled with positive momentum from their freedom to ‘let go’. As we left the prison, I overheard a correctional officer relaying a recent experience with another where he said, “Those are fighting words for me.” I reflected back on a teaching my parents gave me in grade school, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can’t hurt me.” I know I’ve found freedom and joy in realizing ‘what you think of me is none of my business’. I know my life runs more smoothly when I let go my desire to change another. Rather, it works to ‘just be’ with them. When I can see that thoughts are like sweat, just bubbling up, only to evaporate, I’m more joyful. This is perhaps life’s hardest work, this training to suspend fixed belief. Culture pushes us to fight and the Divine pushes us to love. Culture attaches to the illusion of our separation. Our spiritual experience expands our awareness of ‘being one another’.

The Challenge to Practice Balance

Monday, October 5th, 2015


Life doesn’t happen on a flat surface. Everything is changing, moment to moment, even though we do what we can sometimes to convince ourselves that things are not changing. A vital life recognizes this, growing increased sensitivity to the need for balance lest we fall off center and make a mess of things. For sure, there’s no guarantee on this. Even those with a strong, dedicated practice of balance can loose their center. Yet, we can see more and more how a balance ‘practice’ creates an unborn security, reducing our chances for handling life’s events with such suffering and stress. This balance practice can begin with just the challenge to stand on one foot. It can begin with the challenge to just focus on our breath without getting carried away in thought. In short, it’s the practice of holding our center, aligned in body/mind/spirit, without allowing our untrained mind to take us wherever it wants.

Holding balance requires keen awareness to the present moment. If the mind is drawn to what was or craves what will be, we increase our chances for loosing our center. Yet, this seems to be the very nature of the human condition. One of the greatest spiritual truths is that, “Life is dis-satisfactoriness.” Our suffering in life is related to how much we attach to our desire for different conditions. Our life challenge is to hold our center, cultivating our posture, no matter what, giving us strength, stamina, flexibility and sensitivity in facing what comes up. We can try to bury our heads in the sand with a Pollyanna like denial of life’s difficulties. We can let the gravity of negative emotions have it’s way with us. Or we can cultivate awareness to our center that has relinquished the grasping mind’s pull from alignment.

There are a number of physical disciplines dedicated to holding balance, many coming from the East (i.e. yoga, tai chi, chi gong, akido, etc.). Even holding the meditation postures requires a deep sensitivity to balance since the slightest imbalance will eventually result in restlessness with the body. Slightly raised shoulders, minimally tilted head, uneven triangular base with the legs and buttocks, etc., can all lead to attached attention that gives momentum to pain and suffering. Holding balance in movement offers a great opportunity to challenge ourselves. This becomes especially noticeable in walking meditation. It’s also why board sports play into one’s balance practice opportunities. While skateboards and surfboards have been around for decades, the relatively recent introduction of stand up paddle boards (SUP) has made the single surface board experience accessible to almost everyone. I have taught SUPing to hundreds of people over the past four seasons and have been amazed to learn that more than half my students report that they’ve never worked with their full body weight on a single surface (i.e. snowboard, skateboard, windsurfer, wakeboard, balance board surfboard, etc.). Many of my students have come from a yoga practice that brought them awareness to the need for a balance practice. It’s why the marriage of SUP with yoga has been so popular. In short, SUPing deepens one’s yoga practice and one’s yoga practice deepens one’s SUP performance. Any balance practice works to develop one’s ability to embrace the present moment with keen awareness, free from the draws of the random thoughts that fill our minds. With awareness, we become better able to identify these thoughts and emotions early, dismissing them, bringing our full attention back to centering. If we let them pull us away, elaborating on them, attaching to them, we’re pulled off center. Giving them too much attention, they grow, gain momentum we eventually fall over. Some have called a ‘belief’ a thought we’ve held onto. We’ve all seen how rigid attachment to ‘belief’ leads to war and conflict. It doesn’t bode well for a well balanced life that’s cultivating unborn security.

The relationship of balance in body/mind/spirit is becoming more and more evident as we come to know more about our human condition. One definition of stress is, “The distance between where we are and where we want to be.” The Buddha said we suffer to the extent we attach to our desires for things to be different from what they are. Christianity advises a moderate life that lives in contentment for what is. The Bible says, “Be still and know I’m God.” It’s this place of stillness, keenly within the moment’s arising, when we find our center. It’s hard to hold and some say we can just ‘bounce’ in our experience of it. Yet, having touched this peace we have faith that shows the emptiness of materialism and a purely secular life. There’s a ‘knowing’ that humbles us to the mystery of just ‘being here’. Touching this place of perfect balance there’s a surrender to ever ‘thinking we know’. The need to be right diminishes. There’s a greater sense of the human experience offering the courage to meet one another’s suffering with reduced judgment. Touching this place, we’re more curious, more willing to seek common sense, knowing we’ll never fully understand one another. There’s a commitment to ‘be careful’, living in a way to minimize harm to others, knowing our thoughts, emotions and actions play into the overall balance of the universe. Most medical professionals will advise any of their ‘dis-eased’ patients to reduce the stress in their lives. Find balance and ‘ease’, touching peace in the moment, free from the restlessness that so often plagues us. The word ‘heal’ derives from the word ‘whole’. While there are no cures for our restless minds, we can all ease our suffering by periodically ‘touching wholeness’ in awareness to the divine nature of the present moment.

Touching balance in the stillness of the moving, arising moment has sometimes been referred to as ‘peak experience’, ‘in the zone’, ‘flow’, etc. These are all descriptions of the ‘wholehearted’ experience where we’re our best, free from thought. A balance practice improves our capacity to have these experiences. The irony is that the ‘empty mind’ is the most full, that a strong mindfulness practice is a mind-empty practice. Further, the stronger and more connected we feel, the more humble we are. It’s why the ultimate athlete looks like their performance is down with the least amount of effort. In balance, the play of tension and relaxation is as precise as the rotation of the earth, as the cycles of sun and moonrise. There’s a precision that’s come from a practice that allows complete surrender to the moment, in faith that there’s a bigger support. There’s an emptiness that is not negative, but rather, it’s a letting go of fixed ideas in order to go beyond them.

A strong balance practice is keenly aware of the need for precision, rhythm, and depth. A dedicated practice tunes deeper and deeper to momentum. As we relax our practice we lose momentum and eventually turn negative. With courageous dedication, a lifelong balance practice in body/mind/spirit may be one’s best investment. It’s where unborn security lives as we all come to know what an uneven surface life provides, forever changing, moment by moment. Living life from our center we’re standing solid in a deeper knowing, beyond thought, that allows us to relax in the felt experience of a bigger Support. It’s far beyond words, although words help us to point to it. It’s a practice that allows us to ‘cultivate stability on an unstable surface’ because we learned long ago, life doesn’t happen on a flat surface. Time is just an abstraction and the Mystery will always be unfolding when we surrender to it.