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
April, 2018

Our Biggest Problems Stem From Our Closed Minds

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

All too often we succumb to the ego’s desire to ‘think we know’.  We enter this world with curiosity and playfulness.  We all have our experiences which we try to make sense of along with those in our surroundings who try to have it make sense to us like it has for them.  Our limited views create our cultural bias, the tendency to judge the outside world through a narrow view based on our own culture.  As a child in the 1950’s, it was culturally ok to litter.  We watched racially biased television and used language that had racially derogatory implications.  We didn’t know a variety of skin color, didn’t know a variety of religions,  didn’t know the impacts our waste had on the environment or the dangers of the drugs used on our dairy cattle.  As a young child trapping gophers, I didn’t know the life of the creatures living on our land.  As a farm lad, our animals were viewed as assets.  My cultural bias was pretty homogenous except for the migrant workers from Mexico and the occasional exposure to a different European language from our neighbors a mile away.  Our cultural bias came from conservative Norwegian Lutheran traditions that were closed to embracing diversity with an open mind.  My parents were ambitious, intelligent and truly believed in the American Dream.  They worked hard and they were humble, participatory citizens, active in the church.  They believed that idle hands were the work of the devil.  As children, we fully believed the mandates of the Ten Commandments and the suggested consequence of lasting damnation if we were to violate them.  Looking back now, the commandment to ‘honor and obey’ your parents made the parenting process much easier for them.  Our religious orientation had a fare amount of fear in it.  Yet, my most positive early spiritual experiences came from a loving relationship with Jesus.  This is where I began to develop a more open mind to the mystery of God.

I clearly remember several times when pressed to find a solution or a lost object, falling to my knees, clearing my mind, and asking the Divine for assistance.  It had the regularity of gravity.  Every time I emptied my mind to that which was much bigger than me I was answered.  My tendency to ‘think’ I knew what was going on was diminished as miracles happened through my youth.  The combination of this faith and supportive parents gave me courage to step out, to broaden my view, to whittle away at my cultural bias.

This extension was most dramatically challenged in 1967 when I joined a Philippine family as an AFS exchange student.  Their life was dramatically different from mine.  They had previously lived three generations in an apartment building, but rented a house and car to accommodate the qualifications for hosting an American.  They welcomed me with deep love and fully included me in all the family rituals and chores.  Their religion was different, the school I went to had a different perspective on things, their skin was a different color, and they lived with much less than what I had been used to.  At meals, we had been instructed to eat everything with gratitude, no matter what.  We had blood sausage, shark soup, developed duck eggs, dog, snake, just to mention a few of the standouts.  Our AFS training had been ‘no complaint, no complaint’ when it came to food.  I slept on straw covered by a sheet.  Cotabato City on the island of Mindanao was half Muslim/half Catholic at the time and carried some of the religious conflicts we’ve come to see today.  The value for life seemed different there as we nightly heard gun shots and occasionally witnessed gun violence in the streets.  At the time, my cultural bias was being challenged.

My host family was so happy.  They had so little that they had space to truly give attention to and gratitude for what they had.  Each morning we woke before dawn to polish our Jeep.  I saw loving humanity in the Christians and the Muslims.  I had seen this back in Minnesota wondering why people would judge one another so harshly from their ignorance fed from a narrow cultural bias.  In many ways, I was smashing my narrow cultural bias, yet, there were areas where I didn’t resist strengthening my bias.  When returning to the US I literally got off the plane and kissed the ground for the freedoms we have and the quality of life we enjoy.  Yet, the needle on my cultural bias had been dramatically moved. 

At five, I was set on being a jet pilot.  Upon my return from the Philippines, I applied to the naval academy and the air force academy.  My cultural bias would be further tested through my senior year of high school.  I had violated the laws of ‘smaller belonging’ by traveling to the Philippines rather than staying home to run our football teams’ co-captain practices.  The judgment from those who stayed behind found a number of ways to punish me from their sense of betrayal.  While this hurt, there was a bigger shift going on.  My belief in the church was being challenged as they judged people with long hair and promoted the violence in Vietnam.  My belief in country was being challenged as the confusion of the Vietnam War was becoming increasingly evident.  The whole notion of ‘authority’ was under scrutiny.  At some point I opted out of pursuing a military education.  At the time, news was news, and the images and reporting from Vietnam kept us from the sanitary reporting of today.  We saw what war did and the premise of the war was more obscured than ever as it proceeded.  Friends were writing letters back about the horrors of the war and my bias to serve without question moved further.

That spring, Dr. King was assassinated.  That summer, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.  I had traveled to Italy for a major AFS student exchange conference that summer.  It lasted one week and I then had two weeks to travel to Frankfurt for our return flight.  The only problem was that I had spent all my money in Italy.  Traveling through Europe without a penny in the pocket is one of the greatest ways to move the cultural bias needle.  I felt the judgment from others, learned to beg for food, and found devious was to transport my way to Germany.  Here I learned the tremendous value in periodically breaking from the insulating attributes which wealth brings.  We then had the Chicago riots at the Democratic Convention and shortly after, I took a train to Valparaiso, Indiana, to begin my Liberal Arts education at Valparaiso University.

Many of my fellow classmates had been stars in their home communities.  Far from home, they had left the support of their families and their previously learned identities.  Once again, our narrow windows on the universe were being challenged in extreme ways.  We were now exposed to another major shift in cultural bias.  What we ‘thought’ of ourselves was no longer relevant.  Our minds and our spirituality were further challenged by our teachers, classmates, and a culture fully calling out the dangers which can come from a ‘I know everything’ closed minded attitude.  I came to fully appreciate the benefits of a Liberal Arts education in the evolution of humanity.  I witnessed the violence and dangers which come from a closed mind and appreciated the skills developed by those who cultivated the open mind.

A Call for a Less Violent Politics

We know it’s simply of human nature to continually face our dissatisfaction with things.  We can feed our restlessness by growing our attachment to our sense of “knowing”.  I’ve heard it said that the three most dangerous words are, “I know that”.  The closed mind takes its limited information and locks into a concrete conclusion that leaves little room for all that’s unknown.  Curiosity is quelled, we take sides, and push to get others to share our belief.  Today we have hundreds of special interest lobbies funding campaigns to get what they want.  As we’ve polarized the nation and further locked into our cultural bias from media that feeds conflict and our dissatisfaction we find ourselves frustrated with a broken system of government.  There simply isn’t an example of dialogue in any branch of our government.  Our churches seem to be regressing to pushing the Evangelical message as they help to push government agendas without regard for those who are harmed.  Yet, all of our great spiritual traditions mandate us to first seek to not cause harm.  With that, shouldn’t all of our legislation drive from that premise?  This makes common sense to me.  First, examine who gets hurt by the actions we take rather than today’s push to see how the action helps one’s special interest.

Our politics will become less violent when we use skillful means to communicate with one another.  This is fostered through taking a time in silence to just breath together, nonverbally, letting the restless mind settle before we speak.  Real faith has the courage to let the calculating mind rest as Divine Providence provides a better solution when we allow it.  Rather than the self centered nature of the lobby, participants would examine an agenda item without attachment, first exploring who gets hurt.  Ancient Hawaiian culture began all meetings with a silent, reverent breathing together before speaking.  The mandate was to act in the interest of “best for all with harm to none”.  This is the Golden Rule as promoted at the core of every major spiritual tradition.  It’s a mandate that comes from the practice of an open mind, expanding our sense of belonging, breaking down our cultural bias.

A Reactive Mind Comes from the Closed Mind

Saturday, April 14th, 2018

The open mind necessarily requires a temporary suspension of belief (the attachment to a thought that ‘we know’).  The fully curious open mind by definition holds back reaction.  Conflicts are fed through the reactive mind.  Authoritarian governments are fed from the demand that citizens believe  without question, that those in authority ‘know better’ and will ‘protect and provide’.  Yet, when we truly look at the signs of healthy humanity as directed from our spiritual masters, we’re instructed to evolve beyond the need to scare the citizens and the human greed desire to get more, no matter what the cost.

We’ve been given the universal law, sometimes called the Golden Rule, to treat others as we wish to be treated.  Whether it be Jesus, Buddha, indigenous wisdom, Allah or any other great spiritual teacher, we’re instructed to acknowledge the illusion of our separateness.  They all write and speak to our mind’s (ego) desire to separate and our instructed evolution to wake up from this separation.

We’ve had several contemporaries speak to this.  Today we remember the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, perhaps the leading activist of my lifetime, promoting the interconnection of all beings.  He once pointed out how our adversaries can smell our contempt for them, and with that, we lose all moral persuasive power.

“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”  MLK

Read more: http://www.keepinspiring.me/martin-luther-king-jr-quotes/#ixzz5BirMtoPk

We All Have our Story

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

R.D. Laing has extensively written about the uniqueness of our experiences and the truth that we’ll never have another’s exact experience.  He writes:

“I see you, and you see me.  I experience you, and you experience me.  I see your behavior.  You see my behavior.  But I do not and never have and never will see your experience of me.  Just as you cannot “see” my experience of you.  My experience of you is not “inside” me.  It is simply you, as I experience you.  And I do not experience you as inside me.  Similarly, I take it that you do not experience me inside you.” (from The Politics of Experience).

This doesn’t mean that we can’t try to understand others.  Yet, it humbles us to mistakes made when we try to take our unique experiences and draw certain ‘truths’ which we think can be imposed on others.   The series Fargo beautifully captures this in the video below.  Here, a brother is confessing to accidentally killing his brother.  He’s asking for validation from the sheriff to his story, sincerely questioning whether or not something is ‘true’ because we believe it.  The sheriff calls it out and says, “It’s not my story”.  This clearly illustrates the nature of Laing’s commentary.  Meaning is in the person!


I’m here….I just want to be here, now.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

The real work to happiness lies in our capacity to still the mind of disatisfaction.  We’re continually drawn from here to wishing we were back their, dreaming of the future or fearing the future.  This is a meditation commentary a few years back on the practice of, “I’m here.  I just want to be here, in this moment.  No complaint, no complaint.”

Small Mind vs Magnanimous Mind

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

The small mind is drawn into believing ‘it knows’.  The big mind accepts the vast mystery and is always curious and is respectful of the wisdom, “New shit comes to light” (The Big Lebowski):

“When you do judo, you’re working with the energy of the person.  If you want to go in a certain direction, you wait until the energy of the other person goes that way, too.  If it doesn’t, you wait awhile, knowing that change happens.  As the Dude says, ‘New shit comes to light’, and when it does, you’ll pick it up again.  We wait for the grain to go in the direction we want to go, and then we move with it.  But new shit keeps coming to light, things keep on changing, and we run into another knot in the wood.  So we wait again.  We have a little patience.”  (from The Dude and the Zen Master, p. 99)

The small mind is drawn into action without the patience to get more information and without the humility to know it doesn’t know.  When we draw conclusions from our reactive ego minds we dramatically run the risk for causing harm.  The small mind holds the thought (belief) that we are separate from the vast interconnection of the universe.  It’s insensitive to the damage caused from the wake of our thoughts and actions.  Locking into fixed beliefs, approaching things from our ‘knowing mind’, we engage in our attempts to change things long before the ‘grain’ is going in the direction we want to go.  The magnanimous mind comes from a spiritual guiding light that’s deep within all of us.  Our spiritual teachers have all directed us to ‘wake up’ to this.  The delusion that we’re separate drives our violence.  Our belief that we ‘know’ feeds our pride.  Our lack of patience feeds our wars.

Small minds are susceptible to other small minds who preach fear and greed.  Fear and greed lead us to actions causing harm.  When we ‘think’ we know we’re no longer open to honest, collaborative communication.  We place demands on our enemies before we’ve come to the place of open, active listening for understanding.  Frozen in our thoughts of ‘rightness’, we’re doomed to failure.  Real communication, dialogue, commands that all parties temporarily suspend their beliefs of ‘rightness’, of knowing.  We can only see how the grain goes in the direction we want to go when we move to the bigger, magnanimous mind that recognizes how everything affects everything and nothing disappears.

Today, the small mind seems to be gaining strength.  We don’t seem to learn from the tragic mistakes made from the impatient minds who’ve led us to such destructive behavior.  We went to Vietnam, lost close to 60,000 Americans alone, let alone all the destruction and loss of life to the Vietnamese people.  At over 80, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, came to see how the entire premise for the war was a mistake.  A more patient big mind would have come to see that the war was not about democracy vs. communism; it was a civil war.  ( from the movie The Fog of War).  We repeat this with our military conflict in the Middle East.  Almost every authority on the region advised against it,  loudly proclaiming that once we go in we’ll never get out.  Yet, our small minds lacked patience to get accurate information and we engaged in war before letting ‘new shit come to light’.  The American populace was sold on the slogan, “Liberate Iraq”.  Today, we have a strong contingency of government leaders who believe the US is responsible for the world.  They’ve locked into their notions of ‘rightness’ and seem to have little regard for the harm caused from this fixed belief.  The magnanimous mind would recognize the tremendous value of the rest of the world’s population before making unilateral decisions.

Today we stand on the brink of another potentially disastrous military action without having all the information and without imploring a conversation with the rest of the planet’s leaders.  Our sense of justice and ‘rightness’ has many asking for military action against the Assad regime for use of chemical warfare.  Assumptions are made that it was Assad, yet many other world leaders have motive to get Russia and the US into a continued, economically draining military conflict.  The small mind is drawn into the illusion that there will be a winner.  The magnanimous mind waits, allows the grain to go in the spiritually driven direction, and the illusion of our separateness diminishes.  The foolishness of greed and fear is the new shit that comes up.  The Law of the Universe that speaks to our interconnection is presented and we clearly see how when we hurt another we hurt ourselves.  This only comes to light when we use ‘common sense’ to waking up to a bigger, magnanimous mind.

This ‘waking up’ comes through a variety of experiences, whether spiritual practice or the fully surrendered experience in music, sport, etc.  Many of our astronauts have had this experience and a new National Geographic program has captured their ‘big mind’ realizations as they experience the fragility and oneness of the planet.  In a day where the vast majority of TV programming speaks to opinion and division, this show implores us to be more careful in our actions, to see how what we ‘thought’ was true is not, and to carry a deeper sense of stewardship toward one another, toward this amazing experience on earth we’ve been given.  For sure, our small mind will never settle down.  It’s always wanting a fixed answer.  Certainly, religions and political parties feed on this.  Corporations do their part to ‘sell’ their knowing.  

This isn’t a plea for the empty, ignorant mind.  A bigger mind is always looking to what we know for now, making decisions guided from the premise of ‘not causing harm’.  Yet, it never loses it’s curiosity.  The small mind is closed.  The big mind is open.  Perhaps that would be a better way to label our political and/or religious affiliation.  The current polarization from limited language and labels is broken, frozen in action to the rapidly changing planet.  When we recognize we are each other, we all breath the same air, all want our children to grow up in safety and stewardship to one another and the planet, the folly of trying to change one another to our small minds dissipates.  And then real collaboration and communication can grow.

Robby Naish Ad/Interview

Saturday, April 7th, 2018



Here’s an interview with Robby Naish speaking to the body/mind/spirit aspects of riding.  Engaging in play is what keeps us vital, alive.  Check it out.



Robby Naish Interview

Just Admit It: We Don’t Know Everything, So Let’s Stop Behaving As If We Do

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

Whether 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 minds 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.