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
November, 2016

Waking Up

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016


We can move unconsciously or consciously. We can wake up or stay asleep. When we move from heart knowing rather than head knowing, compassion, gratitude and forgiveness thrive. When we expand our notions of belonging, breaking the illusion of our separateness, we discover the true motivation to ‘not harm’. In compassion, we discover how our courage to meet another’s suffering is really our awareness to their suffering met as our suffering. Our spiritual mandates are:

1.Forever work to expand your circle of belonging. Where we stop growing these circles is where our violence begins. Violence is the robbing of opportunity. Wherever we oppress or rob another of opportunity, we’re ‘missing the mark’, the definition of sin.
2. Growth is humbling oneself to ’not knowing’, to engage the curious mind, forever open to surprise. The divine is too big to ever think we have all the answers. Yet, the head or conceptualizing mind is continually trying to convince us ‘we know’. Our deepest faith and hope would have us move to a different kind of knowing that’s fed from the heart. It’s a consciousness that will forever have us in an open, curious posture. It recognizes how real learning comes from an open mind that always asks deeper questions. Our ignorance settles in when we move from the ‘I know that’ mind, the mind unwilling to explore. This mind humbles itself in stillness/silence, essentially using the mantra, “I admit the mystery is big and I don’t know everything”.
3. The spiritual journey mandates we surrender in silence to hear the divine. If effect, the Word is found in the gap between the words. The mandate is “Be still and know I am God”. We can function in thought/language or rise above thought. We function in language or go below thought and language with drugs, tv, games, etc., numbing ourselves to the moment of experience. Or, we can go above thought/language, in silence, to that space before thought. This requires resolve to practice.
4. Practice more, speak less. Become more aware of the precious nature of the moment. Increase attention, relax and accept what presents, appreciate by finding the gift in the given, deepen with allowing, and ultimately move to affection as we break the illusion of our division. This is the essence of a centering practice. As with anything, what we put attention to grows stronger. The more we practice, the more aware we become. The more aware we become the more we grow our desire to ease suffering, to minimize the harm we cause. Ironically, many have called this ‘mindfulness’, when in reality, when we go above thought, we’re practicing ‘mind emptiness’. It’s a place of peace and feeling of ‘great fullness’.

The core of any contemplative practice will lead one to the ‘practice of stillness’. The core of movement in the spiritual journey will always ask for surrender to the unknown. Pema Chodron has written a book entitled Embracing Uncertainty which beautifully addresses this. As we progress to consciousness, moving from sleep to awake, we grow our confidence in meeting what comes up. Just as in the Quaker tradition, we speak when the heart has a downloaded message from the divine. We hold silence when our ego is driving our speech from thoughts of ‘knowing’ fed from greed, fear and the illusion of our separateness. The heart knows when to stand up and when to bow down. The growing awareness of this is the center of the spiritual journey.

Just Admit It: We Don’t Know Everything

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

img_4300Whether we voted for Hillary, Donald, a third party candidate, or were part of the 50% who didn’t even vote, the vast majority of voters were protesting a broken, dysfunctional system in dire need of an upgrade. Change is accelerating at an amazing speed and we simply don’t have time to stagnate in our capacity to adapt to it. Our small brains struggle with trying to make sense of complexities that are far beyond our egos solutions. We ‘think’ we can be on the winning side, when if fact, we all know the circle has no sides. The mystery is simply too big for us to ever think we have all the information. Some have said that our informational society doubles in what it knows each day. That means, what we’ve learned in history up to this moment is doubled due to the tremendous capacities of technological development. Yet, our juvenile mind seems to want to work from ‘knowing’ what’s right and what’s wrong. These small minds want to lock into fixed solutions for issues that are far beyond our thought. We end up pushing antiquated political agendas at our peril. We refuse to open to solutions that are bigger than us. We push science to validate our limited thinking rather than to discover new territory. We’re no longer the pilgrims we once were. We’re a society filled with fear and complaint and our country simply doesn’t function when that’s the driving force. So what can we do? My suggestion is to humbly acknowledge that we don’t know everything.

The famous Sufi mystic, Rumi, once wrote, “Out there, is a field. It’s a field beyond notions of right knowing and wrong knowing. Let’s meet there.” Our Declaration of Independence says that our true freedom relies upon the protection of divine Providence. There’s a deeper faith that’s far beyond our temptation to put complete trust in any political leader, party or branch of government. It begs us to come together, in humility and dedicated service, to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”. There’s a sense of stewardship from knowing ‘we don’t know’ and the quality of our living is dependent upon this pledge to our interdependence. When we sit silently in the field of uncertainty we find our real grounding. It’s not in some political platform designed from special interest lobbyists. There’s little centering found in media that feeds on conflict. We can take religious beliefs from controlling our laws, but it’s an ugly picture when we take spirituality and the sacred out of politics. We must all come to ground and admit ‘we don’t know everything’. If we truly get the divine, we accept that we’re just beginning to touch the tip of the iceberg. When we do this we open to bigger solutions. We appreciate the failures of our past efforts to push our sense of rightness.

We’re all going through our spiritual journeys. We can read all of our spiritual texts advising a life of moderation. We all know we’re to love one another, even our perceived enemies. We’re all perplexed by the tremendous harm that’s come from the hoarding of wealth as we witness millions of children suffering from lack of food and shelter. We’re somehow caught in the illusion that we’re separate from one another. Yet, deep within us, we all know that when another dies from our recklessness, fear and greed, we also experience loss. So what can we do? I can’t change you. And my happiness is not dependent up on you. I can touch true freedom when I can let go my notions of blame, complaint and entitlement. The center and calm I create within my own mind calms and centers the world. So next time we meet, can we ask Rumi’s question? Can we spend our opening time by just admitting, “We don’t know everything”? Can we pay attention to one another, accept one another’s honor to ‘just be’, allowing one another to be carried by the thoughts we’ve been exposed to through our journey, appreciating our vast diversity, and ultimately, touching one another’s heart in stillness.

I guarantee that our world would progress more positively if our branches of congress could open all meetings with, “I admit that I don’t know everything. I honor your journey. I commit my life, fortunes and sacred honor to this endeavor. And acknowledging the mystery of divine Providence, I sit with stilled mind and speech, aiming to not cause harm in search of a bigger solution.”

As Donald would say, “Today’s problems are huge”. And when the problems are big, we have to get bigger than the problem and work from a higher vibration lest we be carried in ignorance to the promises of a narcissistic paternal leader who thinks he/she is God.


Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms—never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him

Where Do You Meet Suffering

Saturday, November 19th, 2016


It’s of human nature to suffer. No one escapes it, yet we often carry the illusion that others may suffer less. This can lead us to a victim mentality. From here, things go downhill. Our work is to allow the light to enter through the crack in the darkness. When we can let go our attachment to the wound we can grow our healing. It’s why we’re so inspired by those who’ve suffered such deep wounding, only to show us how to live with more vitality.

Today, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter are in Paris, one year after the night club terrorist attack. Their love meets the suffering of this special town. For several years after 9/11, I attended a conference in New York City called “Fearless”. It addressed how we move through such deep wounding and I felt extremely honored and privileged to be with those who had directly experienced such horrific events. I visited New Orleans a couple years after Katrina and was amazed at the power of music in revitalizing a community we all thought would die. I played my horn at Virginia Tech in a healing ceremony one week after the mass shootings. I have a neighbor who witnessed my cracking moment upon learning of a son’s life threatening disease. He met me in silence. Recently, we experienced an election of extreme division. He was on one side and I on the other. We don’t know who really lost, but again, he’s willing to meet my deep suffering. We’ve had friends we’ve hospiced through painful deaths as we met their suffering and inevitable release. And I’ve had friends where it was too much to meet their suffering. Maybe you’re one of them, and I apologize. I work with prisoners to hopefully alleviate some of their suffering. We teach them how to put attention to the gift of the present moment by focusing on breath and stillness. Many return week after week and report on a more successful week with reduced suffering. Many don’t return.

I know my attachment to negative emotions seldom, if ever, helps. And I’ve seen how a small light can fill a room of darkness. Our spiritual mandate seems to be that of joy, of no complaining or blaming. Yet, our mind is restless. When faced with ‘this’, we want ‘that’. One of my greatest life challenges is to say, “I’m here. I want to be here.” Yet, in the face of suffering, there’s a continual thought of “I want to be back there”, “I want it different”, “I’m afraid about what’s coming”, etc. We’ve had human icons who’ve faced suffering with capacity I can’t begin to imagine. These Mother Teresa’s show us what’s possible. Yet, even she knew when the extreme suffering she encountered grew negative emotion it was time for rest. My wife has worked as a hospice volunteer, sitting with imminent death. The desire to fix is no more. There’s simply a desire to ‘be’ with the other, receiving the other’s transition as our own transition. The most eloquent example of holding joy in the face of extreme suffering comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran minister imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany. One prisoner was puzzled by Bonhoeffer’s ability to hold a smile in the face of such atrocity. Finally he asked him how he could manage to do this. Bonhoeffer pointed to the guard assigned with leading people to the gas chambers and said, “I’m filled with gratitude that I’m not him”. Finding the gift in the given is what gives us strength to move, to hold our center, to meet one another’s suffering beyond the realm of our mind’s division.

The ultimate skill is to deepen our compassion for each other. Can we meet one another’s suffering in full presence? Where do we lose our center? Where do we find refuge in gaining strength to deepen our courage in this work? It’s essentially a question of, “Where do we show up and do our best?”

The Need for Centering Practices

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

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Throughout life, we can be knocked down or thrown off balance. We think things are going one way and then, puff, events take another turn. We say, “The rug was pulled from beneath us” or “I was knocked off my feet”, or “It was like getting kicked in the gut”. Our sense of control or ‘knowing’ is completely undermined as inexplicable events unfold before us. We have several choices at this moment. We can resist and push back. We can run, trying to bury our awareness to what’s happening. Or we can wake up. In effect, we move from fight or flight and arrive to that which is bigger. I like the phrase, “When the problem seems big, get bigger than the problem”.

Last night our country elected Donald Trump as our president. He ran a campaign that fed on our fears, anger and sense of separation from the rest of the world. He has promised to build walls, to ignore how we damage the environment, pushing the notion of America’s dominant strength in the world. We all face the poisons of fear, anger and the illusions of our separateness. Pluralism is something that challenges our sense of knowing. It’s easy to get caught up into thinking we can somehow turn back the hands of time. Mr. Trump’s campaign was built upon anger and complaint. It’s a reactive state that fails to recognize the importance of a centering practice. If someone pushes on us, then we push back on them. It’s ego and pride driven rather than moving from spiritual grounding. A centering practice asks us to “stop, look, and then move”. It recognizes the spiritual nature of all things and beings. It pledges to only take actions that come from the grounding of the central spiritual theme, “Love one another as yourself because you are each other.”

When I woke this morning to hear of the election result I buckled over. My stomach tightened and I felt a massive drop in vibratory energy. My mind quickly went to fear and anger about the future of our country and planet. I was caught in thoughts of despair. This is where I’ve come to find great value in dedicated centering practices. It was absolutely necessary to heal through this pain with various consciousness practices. The sky was blue and spacious. The sun was shining and there were still a few birds singing. During meditation it took tremendous resolve to let depressing thoughts go as I returned to breath awareness. During yoga practice I had to embrace those who voted for Trump as me. We are one, beyond notions of separation. Filling my heart with compassion for their suffering and my broken heart, I was somehow better able to find center. These practices are healing. They help us awake in consciousness to the fantasy of our divided minds.

No matter how you voted, I can’t stress enough the importance of developing a solid centering practice. In these times of rapid change, the cultivation of stability on an unstable platform becomes increasingly important to our health as a family and planet. Develop a practice where you become more aware of how thoughts grow emotion. When we water the seeds of fear and anger we suffer more. When we water the seeds of gratitude, joy, kindness and compassion, the vibration rises and we heal.

I’m intending to do what I can to move more and more to “no complaint, no complaint”, in gratitude for the opportunity to ‘just be’. It means I’m perhaps best to hold my words while this wounding is so deep. We have all entered the ‘land of I don’t know’ and we’re in for one very interesting ride. If we can dedicate to holding our center, waking to consciousness, and loving one another, deep down, we all know that’s what we’re here for.