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, 2016

A Matter of Grace

Monday, October 24th, 2016

I recall a yoga instructor telling us that depth isn’t as important as the grace in which we move in and out of our postures. The Law of Least Effort advises us to move in resonance to what is from a deeper listening. From here there’s a fluid movement that gracefully takes us to the edge where we meet our balanced posture in stillness. It’s the same with any performance. When we let go and allow, trusting in that which is bigger than our concept of self (ego), the dance reveals itself in harmony and perfect alignment. The word ‘grace’ is related to ‘gratitude’ not only by the first three letters, but by a meaning that opens us to a bigger belonging. Rather than ‘trying’ to accomplish something, we surrender to a new ground that’s supported in a way we can’t describe in words. It’s where the real music is found.

We don’t have to be a well trained performer to see this. It’s naturally obvious to most of us when someone is feigning the passion in their performance. Last Saturday night Lady Gaga, a huge talent, broke with grace when she clumsily moved from hat on to hat off in her performance. The rigidity of movement was also seen in her movement to sitting on top of the piano. Her voice was impeccable, yet her capacity to blend movement with voice was hampered by the resistance to let go. So how do we get to that point of grace? With practice. Our life practice is our practice and it’s how she got to the point she’s at in performance. Rehearsal with resolve brings us to the point where we can surrender and let go to grace. Yesterday I was windsurfing with a friend who got caught in a huge gust. His sail contorted, the board went up on it’s tail, and he was close to complete loss of control. Had he not had thousands of hours of sailing experience, he would have blown up. With grace, new ground is discovered that allows us to go to our edge, just past what we had conceived as possible. When I’m performing with our blues band it’s now undeniable when I’m surrendered in grace to the moment and when I’m caught in my concept of self. The audience knows this and enters the space as well. The barrier created in my mind of ‘us vs. them’ is gracefully and humbly released to something bigger.

So how many political speeches have you heard that are filled with grace? This campaign cycle has seemed to be worse than others for it’s violence. Or maybe we’re waking up to the ineffectiveness of disgraceful campaigns. Michelle Obama seems to be the only one that has this somewhat figured out. A line she used, “When they go low, we go high”, has been frequently used in the campaign. Yet, going high means we stop complaining and move to the ground of faith, hope, and stewardship in meeting the demands of our rapidly changing world. It steps away from judgment with grace, humility and surrender to that which is bigger than all of us. It’s a turn of politics that moves from the profane to the sacred, from the secular to the spiritual, from ‘God plus fear’ to ‘God minus fear’. Our politics are defined by whether or not we feel the universe is safe or dangerous. A deeper, graceful approach recognizes that we are all interconnected, change happens, and our work is to seek understanding in finding the gift in what is. This felt sense of ‘great fullness’ comes from the sense of gift rather than from our ego’s sense of control and it’s need to ‘fix’ what’s broken. When we step into grace we have the courage to go deeper, to grow curiosity to bigger solutions, to move from monologue to dialogue, to move from argument to collaboration, to move without resistance to a ground of understanding that recognizes our need to support each other. When we step into the grace displayed by Gandhi it’s obvious to see how we need to ‘be peace’ rather than push peace. It’s obvious that when we attack others we attack ourselves. It’s why one of the great spiritual precepts is to ‘not speak ill of others’. It’s when the dominance of negative ads, complaint in politics, and argument have brought to such low levels in threatening our democracy.

Grace does not move from greed, fear or from the illusion of our separateness. It doesn’t come from that place of dissatisfaction or restlessness. It moves from our center, heart aligned with head, in balance to that bigger sense of belonging. A life practice of stilling our thinking mind, just letting thought and concept go, brings us to that place of grace. With resolve to lead a more graceful life we can practice breathing in, noticing where resistance lies, feeling the sensation, and then with awareness, letting go, stepping from our conceptualized notion of being a separated self. Some teachers have referred to this as the process of ‘self settling into Self’.

So where do you move from? From head or heart, with an open or closed mind, in curiosity or dogma, from fear or faith, from anger or love? Michelle Obama gave one of the most brilliant political speeches recently, simply by focusing on the word ‘maybe’. It stepped from the ground of absolute, dogmatic knowing to a questioning. No doubt, she’s political and she’s working within a political environment dramatically out of step with the times. Yet, she seems to be hospicing the death of these old world approaches to electing government officials. Check out her speech and see if you were moved. Was it filled with grace?

Who’s Your Real Provider

Friday, October 21st, 2016




Who’s Your Real Provider?

I was taken by a recent video taken from the wisdom of former Supreme Court Justice, David Souter. He describes a dire turn for our country when we succumb to electing a leader who claims he can solve our problems and end our suffering. The notion of supporting someone because you ‘think’ they’re going to save you is filled with fear and doubt. True faith cultivates a ‘knowing’ that you’ve always been supported, you are supported and you always will be supported. It stands outside of time and space and resides deep in the heart. Touching this confidence comes from touching stillness beyond the limits of language and thought. It breaks the barrier of ‘thinking we’re separate’. In the film series ‘Breaking Bad’, the lead character is led to causing great harm and violence through his drive to ‘be the provider’. Today’s gross unequal dispersion of wealth is a result of those who would attempt to take the role of ‘provider’. Yet, our real faith comes in accepting this moment in it’s fullness with the full support of that which is bigger than us. When we surrender the cleverness of our thoughts and just sit with one another we’re humbled to the ground, filled with wonder for all that we don’t know. We strengthened to meet the unknown. We have the courage to meet one another in our joy and in our suffering. Our real provider is often named God, but since the meaning of the word is in the person, there are enough meanings for that name as there are people. The arrogant will push their meaning on others with a sense of being the ‘provider’ themselves. The human being will let go thoughts of knowing and allow the divine mystery to work through them. There we find freedom from thoughts of insufficiency, fears of punishment, judgment and shame. It’s where we find the precious moment in its transience and the peace and harmony of the divine mystery in all beings and things.

We’re living in momentous times where the wolf addresses the sheep in provider sheep clothing. The human desire to supplant God with their ‘doing’ and ‘saving’ results in political candidates like Donald Trump and leaders like Putin, Assad, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and the list goes on. Their greed for power lifts them to power from the negative emotions of fear and anger. The overriding sentiment is one of division, being #1, and building walls. The ignorance of our inter dependence threatens our children, our environment and our very democracy. Our survival and thriving as a democracy depends upon our willingness to sit in stillness as we listen for direction from divine providence. This planet is so precious. Our children are precious. The very next breath we take is opportunity to express gratitude for the very gift of life. Real faith revolves around listening. It’s unfortunate that the skill of listening is not even on the table as today’s political campaigns revolve around the communicative element of expression, often to the point where they speak at the same time. Too bad, because it’s only through stilling the mind, looking at one another’s humanity with compassion, that we can secure our real security, touching the ground of a bigger provider.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken

The Illusion of Static Balance

Thursday, October 13th, 2016


Yesterday I had a fascinating discussion with two very dear friends. One an amazing athlete, the other a life long body builder. They had just come from one of their first yoga classes and were amazed at the new challenges presented to them. Both of them contrasted the slower pace of the postures and the perceived difference of ‘static’ balance and ‘moving’ balance. I used to think this way, also. Yet, the more we practice these balance traditions, the more we see there is no such thing as static. Impermanence is always there and we only have the illusion of stopping. Whether in seated meditation or moving meditation practices like Vinyasa yoga or Tai Chi, there is always the next arising moment and the more refined our awareness the more we can see this. Just as the wave in form is always moving, our bodies never cease movement. The illusion of permanence and separateness forever become more obvious the more we practice.

Essentially, the more we practice the more we surrender concepts of our self (ego) and come into alignment with our center. In yoga, the term ‘asana’ means balanced posture. It doesn’t mean static or fixed posture. It has to do with depth. As we challenge balance in moving from four point, three point, two point, and eventually one legged postures, we’re forever refining our perceptual awareness of center. From a witness mind, we gently and safely wrap the poses around the breath. Perhaps we put awareness to changing sensations in the foot, or we witness thought streams coming and going (or maybe not going). By stabilizing the body in alignment we can go with awareness into the areas where the tension is or the emotion is. It’s mindful, slow and intimate. It’s a forever changing process where we open to something that can’t be defined or put into language. There’s a curiosity and joy in discovery as we challenge the further release of tension so we can show up in alignment to what’s coming up. These practices are tools that provide a spaciousness for inquiry. It breaks our addiction to tension, opens us, and allows insights to arise. There’s a vulnerability and surrender that move us from reason/logic of the head to the heart. Elkhart Tolle calls this place ‘above thinking’. Plato and Socrates called this place wisdom, the truth that I come to when I accept the fact that I know nothing.

Real balance is forever in movement from the heart. It’s bottomless and as a life long practice challenges us to hold our center in the face of cultural gravity. We come to hold all people’s journeys as sacred. We hold balance in our love for each other recognizing the trauma and suffering we all have to work through. It’s a process of committing to being bigger than who we ‘think’ we are. It’s what some have called the discovery of Self from self (ego). Real balance from the center breaks the illusion of separateness and permanence, opening us to the next emergency moment, ready to show up balanced, non-reactive, and poised to be our best. It’s why I like to think of life as the practice of cultivating our stability (awareness of center) on an unstable platform that’s forever moving. Our joy and success in life are directly related to our willingness to ‘wake up’ to this, to engage consciousness over unconsciousness, awareness over unawareness, and above thinking over under thinking. It’s about our willingness to be pilgrims to the unknown, centered in faith to that which is bigger than us, in joy for the very gift of the next moments mystery. This is the essence of ‘just be it’.

Vitality and the Present Moment

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI once heard someone define vitality as fully meeting the present moment. I’ve also heard some psychologists define depression as a lack of vitality. When we’re fully engaged in the present moment, whole-heartedly giving all we have to this moment, we’re at our best. There’s an alignment with the inner and the outer, a place that’s a portal to something deeper than sense perception and our projection of personal self. We can step out of our story to be with the simplicity of the moment. There’s an aliveness and beauty to it where we can experience directly without needing the thought process to convince us. This alertness reveals itself as something very deep and it takes you from the story that has a heavy past or future. This place of full vitality is a discovery of the beauty of living, if you only live a little free from the story.

So leaving thought in wholehearted action is a stepping out of the story to ‘just be’ with the moment…to discover the aliveness of the moment. You see directly when you don’t bring in mental labels (language). Without the personal relationship, in that alertness, there is also a stillness. It frees you from you as the story based centered self. This moving from ‘thinking’ you’re somebody to experiencing fully the nonverbal takes you to the discovery of your ‘somebody else’. When you choose to be present without the interference of thought you have one foot in the un-manifest and this influences what does manifest. The way you experience the outer world is heavily influenced by the fact you’re rooted in the depths of your being…in the spaciousness and stillness of the present. At this moment love flows from the un-manifest into the world of form.

I recently watched the second presidential debate between Clinton and Trump. It was a mean, confrontational event that many have described as a low point for our nation. And then, at the end a gentlemen asked from his heart if either candidate could say anything good about their perceived enemy. It was a moment, very brief, where we found hope. Our addiction to negative emotions and judgment was buried for an instant as they broke the barrier, built a small bridge, and eventually shook hands.

I was taken by another politician interviewed on CBS’s “60 Minutes” this summer. The president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri made the following observation and comment:

“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 spiritual and moral awakening. I believe that in the 21st century we have to be open and must not put anymore ideological differences in front of the best solutions.
Do you agree that we have to work to reduce poverty, we have to defeat drug trafficking, that we have to improve the quality of our democracy? Yes? Well then let’s find which particular projects we can do? And let’s find ways to cooperate. The challenge will always be, ‘Will their rage be channeled through hatred and revenge or will it be channeled through love and justice?’

No doubt, our world is changing faster than at any other time in history. Population growth strains our resources. Climate change has resulted in a refugee crisis straining national boarders around the world. Advances in transportation and technology have resulted in a global economy and society that demands mutual respect for one another lest we destroy this beautiful gift of life. Our balanced response, moment by moment, is best served by whole hearted attention to that which is best for all with harm to none. A reliance on that which is bigger than what we ‘think’ we are is our first step to vitality, healing and ultimately, to love.

I’ve heard ‘stress’ defined as the distance or gap from where you are to where you want to be. We’re stressed to the extent we attach to wanting things as they were, or we push with anger and fear to what we want them to be. Our best solutions will come when we can simply sit together, when we can touch our shared humanity and apply the universal spiritual principles every major religion has been based upon:
Aim to cause no harm. To love one another as ourselves, even our perceived enemies.
To not take what has not been offered.
To respect one another, especially our elders who’ve traveled so far and have hopefully learned so much. Especially our children and their children who have so far to go. To respect means to listen, surrendering notions of being right.
To engage in non hurtful sexual conduct that comes from kindness to one another.
To use words that aim to heal rather than harm, to plant and water seeds of positive emotion and to refrain from watering seeds that grow the negative (fear, greed, ignorance).
To be aware of how our consumption practices influence us, others and the planet. To practice a life of awareness and moderation aimed to heal rather than deepen the wound.

These are intentions I grew up with as a Lutheran. They are practices and intentions world spiritual leaders promote through every religion. The mind is a restless thing. We’re by human nature forever drawn to our dissatisfaction. We can protest vote from anger, abstain from voting from our indifference and cynicism, or meet the moment in full awareness, stillness and faith, taking an action from the heart filled with a bigger hope and faith.

No matter what our circumstance, can we make space to find freedom in the moment, to touch stillness before thought, opinion, and fixed notions of right vs. wrong. Our forefathers called this respect and awe for that which is bigger than us ‘Divine Providence’. It feeds our sense of wonder, humbles us to the mystery of life, and fills us with the energy to meet each other from a sense of connection and dependence rather than us vs. them. To meet in the moment, full of vitality and a sense of well-being, curious to see what bubbles up as a better solution. Again, will we channel our current rage through hatred and revenge or will it be channeled through love and justice and the ultimate realization that we are not separate. We belong to each other and our kindness will determine our very survival and security.

Wisdom, Knowing When to Pull In and When to Let Go

Saturday, October 8th, 2016


I’ve just come in from one of my more challenging windsurf sessions. Winds varied from 5-35mph and it was hard to figure out what rig to use. I first went out on a large sail and had to sheet out (let go) wind in the sail. It was difficult to safely sail in the gusts, but worked great in the lulls. I then rigged down to a small sail and loved it in the gusts and bobbed trying to hold my balance in the lulls. I finally came in and rigged my middle sail to meet the conditions and couldn’t help but reflect upon Goldilocks and the Three Bears. So much of finding balance is listening deeply to discover the middle way. The sail I finally went out on was not a compromise. It offered me the best combination of power in the radically changing conditions. With careful listening, it was the safest choice and the most powerful choice for playing the balance of pulling in and sheeting out. It is amazing to see how much wind a large sail can handle when you sheet out. One time I did the Gorge Blowout racing in the Columbia River. We started in light winds and sailed several miles through narrow corridors where the wind was blowing 40 mph. To compete you needed to handle a mid-sized sail through parts of the river where people were on sails half your size. It took tremendous finesse and balance in knowing when to let go and when to pull in.

I’ve been windsurfing since 1981 and learned to kite board in 2004. The kite board bar took ‘letting go’ to a whole new level. With windsurfing, when you feel a gust you first pull in and then let go if the wind is too powerful. In kiteboarding you pull in to steer the kite and when a gust hits you let go and feel the kite load up. I broke several lines as my instructor yelled at me to stop pulling in. I had to unlearn a habit that was entrenched in my mind and body. I had to learn how to listen to a new piece of equipment as it played the elements. In both sports, the real power in my connection to the equipment comes from just below the navel. Both sports incorporate a harness that trains your body/mind to your ‘center’. One’s endurance and range of use are determined by sensitivity to this. With these sports, you slowly learn that you have brains in your feet that are being forever educated to the subtleties of pressure on a single surface and balanced performance that’s found in your middle.

I was recently at a blues jam discussing politics with the host during one of our breaks. He claimed that most Americans hold life positions that are somewhere in the middle. He believed our stagnation in government and apathy in public participation was due to a focus upon extreme positions. Many politicians speak of ‘reaching across the isle’, ‘finding a compromise’, etc. They don’t seem to recognize the power of ‘the middle’. When we can truly understand that there is a ‘better’ solution, that there is a ‘best’ sail to pick for the conditions, that their is a chair, bed, bowel of porridge that fits, we can get to the position of ‘win/win’. It requires an open, deeper listening that wants to explore what comes up. It means ‘letting go our position of being right’. It requires the wisdom to know when to pull in and when to let go, forever understanding that there’s something bigger at work in finding the best solution.

When we try to use force to push our sense of ‘rightness’ we make a mess of things. There’s a lot of rhetoric coming from some political factions calling for America to exert force in it’s relations with other nations. David Hawkins has written a lot about Power vs. Force and so much of our real power on the planet has come from the wisdom of knowing when to pull in and when to let go. Can you imagine all the lives that could have been saved had our leaders better known when to ‘let go’ during the Vietnam War or the Iraq War? There’s a delicate balance that requires dialogue and the wisdom to find a balance of decision rather than a stalemate. So what does ‘power’ really look like as opposed to ‘force’?

We find our power when we ask how we can turn our issue over to what is bigger than ‘me’, but still stay connected to me. We take on an attitude not of gain, but of depth, love and respect. It takes a radical humility to ‘let go’, to ease up on the ego. We stop competing to be better than another and just aim to be better than we were. The key to real power is to treat yourself as if you’ve already arrived to where you want to be. With this comes the aim to let go being right and embrace being kind. We listen deeply and let go thoughts that weaken us. With force, we naturally create a counterforce that weakens us. Power brings grace and strengthens us. Force is loud and aggressive. Power is silent. Force is always moving against something while power doesn’t need to move against. Force continually needs to be fed while power self sustains. Force makes demands while power is at peace. Force is constantly consuming and then destroys. Power is at peace. Force takes energy away while power gives life energy. Force associates with judgment while power drives from compassion and makes us feel positive. Force is polarizing, feeding on conflict. Power unifies, feeding awareness to our interconnection. Force needs an enemy and carries a high cost. Power has no cost. Force requires ‘proof’ and is argumentative. Power deals with intangibles. Force associates with sickness and what’s wrong. Power associates with health and gratitude.

Power comes from letting go our notion of being right or our grasping for some fixed knowledge. When we open to that which is bigger than us, to the divine mystery, we’re not setting one single circumstance that would betray us. Our greatest challenge is to stabilize ourselves in an unstable environment. When we shift from ‘our mind’ to the mind of that which is bigger than us (magnanimous mind) we breath out the problem of fear that’s been fed from our ego. We can then take in a breath of power, not weakness. When we openly explore “Why” we can’t help but touch the silence and divine mystery of the unknown. When we explore the “What” we can’t help but go deeper into understanding. When we’re aware enough to witness our restless mind we’re ready to see the tremendous benefit of pause, to say we’re willing to stop and breath every time we’re out of peace. It’s this deeper listening, a faith and hope, that informs us of the wisdom to pull in or let go. It’s where we find our balance in turbulent conditions. It comes from practice and the very core of being.

Meeting God Without Words

Friday, October 7th, 2016

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My life study has been to examine how language impacts our life experience. In 1972 I had an amazing stoke of luck and timing. I was studying language and communication disorders at the University of Minnesota when Katagiri Roshi, Minnesota’s first Zen priest moved in two blocks from where we were living. I had been fascinated with comparative religious study and was eager to learn what this Japanese master could teach me. I had previously studied General Semantics and was taught about the arbitrary nature of words and the meanings we put to them. Basic tenets of this study were that the map (word) is not the territory. It recognized that ‘meaning is in the person’. There is no such thing as absolute meaning. The study of interpersonal communication taught me how active, persistent listening and unquenchable curiosity is the main tool for moving closer to consensus meaning. It’s characterized by questions like, “Tell me more”, “I’m not sure about what you said, did you say….?”, “Can you go deeper with that?”. There’s an open inquiry that takes place where we recognize the limitations of words, where we acknowledge that meaning is within each of us and if we really want to meet one another it’s going to take some real work. General Semantics and Zen clearly pointed out the pitfalls with our ‘semantic reactivity’. My ancestral religion, Lutheran, had stressed the power in humility and silence. The Psalm 46:10 states, “Be still and know that I am God”. I had found great peace and joy when sitting still without words. Katagiri Roshi taught me the practice of quieting the language (chatter) of the mind with instruction in zazen. It was a very precise practice that stressed the importance of posture and stillness of body to hold a still mind. He continually made small adjustments to my seated posture and instruction to holding attention to the breath. I found an amazing increase in vitality the more I did this practice. It was almost as if my attachment to the words in my head, the never ending thoughts running through my mind, drained my energy. The release of these thoughts settled my feelings and emotions down. The complaining and anxiety in my head passed by like clouds in the sky. He taught me to be firm and dedicated in my practice, just as my mentor in General Semantics had taught me to view this as a life long practice. They both spoke to the power in holding a ‘witness mind’, almost as if standing outside the concept of oneself just looking at the thoughts that come up.

At first I was taken with the amazing sense of peace and vitality found with this practice of ‘witnessing the language in my mind’ and letting it go. My work improved, time expanded and I accomplished more, and I seemed to be ‘doing my best’. It was working so well, yet what Katagiri Roshi called my ‘excusing mind’ kept coming up with reasons to stop a dedicated practice of stillness, of meeting God without words. We would sit in stillness most mornings at a very early hour. I had made a vow to hold to this practice and yet, my mind of dissatisfaction wanted to sleep longer. The practice of ‘stillness’ was not a natural skill. It became clear that the more I did it the better I got at identifying my wandering mind. I could more easily see how thoughts (language) bubbled up, how easily it was to attach to them and grow them, and eventually they carried me from the task of stillness in the moment. Katagiri Roshi explained how it’s impossible to stop thought completely through a sitting session. He suggested that we look at stillness like a ‘bounce’. With a quiet body and mind, we can meet God without thought/language, touch that moment free from our notions of time and space, and then find ourselves back in thought. This eased my frustration with whether or not I was ‘good’ at this practice. It was clear that it’s just human nature to have a restless mind that fills with desire for conditions to be different. I was learning the skill of witnessing this mind of dissatisfaction, seeing how I suffered to the extent I attached to my internal complaints, and observing the peace that came when I let these attachments go. I was still plagued with thoughts of ‘not having enough’ (greed) and ‘anxiety of the future’ (fear). The daily practice improved awareness to how these negative thoughts could throw me off balance. More importantly, those moments where I bounced into stillness gave me the most profound sense of belonging. This practice increased sensitivity to the impermanence of each moment and the illusion of my concept of separateness. Words can’t describe this and I can only use words to point to this ‘felt’ experience of ‘meeting God without words’. There was a sense of support, no matter what. The feeling of being ‘alone’ was gone. These experiences fed a confidence I hadn’t known before. Some have called this ‘grounding in the groundless’. Katagiri Roshi used the analogy of how we’d respond when the earthquake happens. With a deeper awareness to how the mind plays with us, with practice in meeting God without words, it was repeatedly shown how the less reactive mind produced less of a mess from my actions.

Today I get to share these practices with others looking for a more successful life. I’m careful to not call it meditation, yoga, prayer, mindfulness, or any other term that tends to trigger resistant semantic reactions. For me, it seems best to point out the value in giving our minds some relief from the never ending chatter that seems to cause so much suffering. We recognize the value in tension/relaxation in most life skill training. We deplete ourselves when forever holding a tense posture. We stretch ourselves, deepen, and grow stronger when we tense and then let go. That’s what this process is about. With an estimated 60,000 thoughts per day, well over 90% of them being repeat thoughts, we’re worn down. The results of dedicated practice/training in meeting the moment without words/thought are substantially documented as beneficial to the quality of one’s life. This practice of meeting God without words gives us the strength to meet the arising moment with solid grounding, knowing we’re supported and connected with one another in a deeper way. Better knowing our ‘center’ we’re more likely to hold our balance in facing what comes up. The more we can hold our balance, the less likely we are to hurt ourselves or another. The more aware we are to our thoughts (internal language) the more our ‘doing’ can align with our ‘being’. Breaking the illusions of our separateness, we become the action, we better meet each other’s joy and suffering as our own. We become more sensitive to the limits of language, grow our curiosity, and forever search for how we can steward this very gift of the next breath, family, community, nation, planet and future generations. The practice of ‘Be still’ grows the depth of our relationship in God, diminishes our complaint and feeds our sense of ‘great fullness’.

Holding Your Center: Why Hillary Clinton and Mike Pence Won the Debates

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

I’m not much for the debate format. When looking for real character in national leaders, perhaps the most important qualities for me are how well they can listen and how well they can hold their center/balance when under attack. I’m looking for the strength of their backbone (courage to stand strong), wishbone (intention and faith to steward our communities, nation and planet to sustainable actions that have concern for all), humor bone (ability to find the humor in oneself and situations, to not take oneself too seriously) and hollow bone (ability to be flexible, acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers, that deeper listening and respect for one another goes a long way to a bigger solution).

We want leaders that authentically show loving kindness to those they serve, that are capable to meet others in their suffering, that can serve to feed hope and joy in themselves and others, even through the most difficult of times, and perhaps most importantly, can ‘hold their center’. Some have called this virtue ‘equanimity’. It’s a powerful trait that comes from a strong sense of belonging to something bigger than one’s image of self. When we’re caught in notions of ‘us vs. them’ we tend to leave that bigger sense of support, a support that our Declaration of Independence has called Divine Providence. Our two party system has us attacking one another much like cancer cells in our body. We all want the body to live, yet we’ve separated from our spiritual mandate to care for one another as ourselves, attacking one another as an enemy over seeking understanding from our common dilemma…to live in harmony in a rapidly changing planet. We ‘think’ we’re right and they’re wrong. We become vulnerable to the good opinion of others, seeking approval from others, caught in the notion we can ‘change them’, denying the very freedom our forefathers advocated in founding our country.

So why did Donald Trump and Tim Kaine lose? They were thrown off center and lost their balance when under attack. None of us truly know what we’ll do when under attack, but we do know it takes a dedicated life practice to ‘hold our center’. The reactions of Trump and Kaine clearly showed me their inability to solidly hold their balance when arrows were thrown their way. Clinton and Pence held their posture without ‘losing it’, without losing their composure. We’ve seen Clinton hold her composure under hours of exhaustive scrutiny from a legislative inquiry. It’s why it was quite humorous to many of us when Trump questioned her stamina to hold center and awareness through difficult circumstance.

We tend to stray from discussing our spiritual practices when discussing politics, falling back on the ‘church separate from state’ mandate. Yet, we’re a spiritual country/planet and we know that our back bone builds ‘unborn security’ through spiritual practice. The more we cultivate our sense of wonder for the Mystery/Divine/God (whatever you call it), the more willing we are to cherish the moment, acknowledge change and accept the reality of impermanence. Moving to a spiritual mandate over materialistic mandate, the more we can break the illusion of our separateness, and the better we can see the need to meet one another with loving kindness and compassion in the midst of our joy and suffering. This spiritual awareness moves us from warring monologue to an invitation to dialogue. It moves us to be more scrutinizing of our actions, aiming to not cause harm. Yet, to the extent we’re caught in our ego, sense of ‘rightness’, and the illusion of our separateness, the more vulnerable we are to losing our center when the earthquake happens.

I can’t say with any certainty who will hold their center in the face of the rapidly changing times we’re now facing. I do know that whoever loses their center usually makes a mess of things, reacting from greed or fear. I do know that these positions of leadership require a solid backbone and having watched all of the political debates thus far, Donald Trump and Tim Kaine have shown weakness in their backbone. Every spiritual tradition advises a daily ‘practice’ for growing deeper into these various bones. As a voter, I would love to have an interviewer ask what these candidates ‘do’ rather than what they ‘believe’ when it comes to their life deepening into the four bones (back, wish, humor and hollow). We’re looking for who’s ‘real’, who’s got authenticity. They fight one another on this issue. The media is mandated to report conflict and perpetuates the fight. Yet, when it comes to our real security, it will be the leader who can hold the reactive mind at bay with a backbone that can meet the moment with the most balanced response for the welfare, stewardship and sustainability of the family, community, nation and planet.