You know how it is.



“You know how it is. Sometimes
we plan a trip to one place,
but something takes us to another…
God fixes a passionate desire in you,
and then disappoints you.
God does that a hundred times!” – Rumi

“You know how it is.” You want something. I want something. We are fixated on it, we want it so badly.

“We plan a trip to one place,
but something takes us to another…”

I see so many examples of easy spirituality on the web. I don’t think Rumi considered the spiritual path easy. It’s not as easy as deciding what we want, then deciding that God placed that desire in us, and then, when we are disappointed, deciding that God is testing us, and that if only we pass this test, our desire will be achieved. Oh – if only it were that simple, if only we could manipulate God that way, if only we held the Universe in the palm of our hand, to shape to our fancy.


I know what it’s like to want something badly, don’t you?

For a long time, I wanted a life partner.  That’s what I thought would make me happy.  I fashioned the person in my mind:  someone who would understand me, who would enjoy doing the things I enjoy, someone who could explore intellectually with me, and someone to whom I was wildly attracted, of course!  The list was all about what I wanted, and didn’t include – as I consider it now – anything about who I would be as a partner.  But, there it was, the List, the list of the perfect partner.  I wanted that; I wanted him.

I wanted him to relieve my loneliness, to always be present to me.  So many long evenings, I sat on my red velvet couch in my lonely apartment, going through my phone book, looking for someone to call, someone to relieve the loneliness.

For a long time, that is how I lived.  Caught in the cycle of my unconscious desires, I thought that was how I had to live.  That’s all life was for me.  Is that all there is?

And then, for some reason, I surrendered to it.  I surrendered to the loneliness, to the ever-present solitude of my life, to the life of complete alone-ness I seemed to have.  I don’t know why I surrendered, but I do remember the very place I was when I raised my hands into the air and said:  “ok, God, if this is what you want, this is what it is.”  I can picture myself at that moment, driving into the alley behind the apartment building that held my one lonely, solitude-infested apartment.  I expect I will always remember that moment of surrender.

The loneliness did not end.  I made a sort of peace with the loneliness, though, at that point.  Or maybe I made a sort of peace with God (for the moment!  that dance never ends!).  I knew that the loneliness would raise its head from the pillow from time to time, and so I accepted that I would embrace it, whenever it arose, whenever it was awakened.  That, too, was an acceptance.


I can say, now, many years later, that I am grateful.  I am grateful for the one life I have been given, for the one life I am privileged to have lived, to be living.  I can also say that the moments of pain and sadness and sorrow and anger and grief and, yes, loneliness, have continued.  I know now that they are part of life.  The moments of pain and sadness and sorrow and anger and grief and loneliness do not tell me that God has abandoned me, or that I have abandoned my path.  No, those moments are part of the path.  They are part of me, part of this one life I have been given.

Even so, I am grateful.

This ever-disappointing God:

“God fixes a passionate desire in you,                                                                                                        and then disappoints you…”


We are people who like to control outcomes, although, truth is, the outcome of any given action or intention or desire cannot be controlled.  God cannot be controlled.  We want to shape God into a shape that fits into our little box – we are ever-inclined to want to understand the workings of this Universe – and we learn, once again, that this God, this Universe is far beyond our understanding, and even farther beyond our ability to control.

And all we can do – if we can stretch that far, sometimes, not always – is to be grateful, to lift our feeble arms into the air to say:  “yes!”  Come what may.




Moment by moment, new beauty I see…

IMG_0382Beauty is there, in every moment.

When our lives are busy, we miss the moment. That is a loss in our lives, that we do not see the beauty, the iridescent beauty in each moment.

When I sit in the morning, cup of coffee – a little bit of milk, thank you – in hand, if I am awake and aware, I see the beauty of the day as it arrives, moment by moment, moment by precious moment.  I gaze, I don’t stare, but I gaze with a soft gaze at the tree and the sky beyond, just outside my front window.

There, there – I catch for a moment a certain shade of light, the light of that day, that moment, that morning, that season.

Ahhh… as I gazed a few mornings ago, a rainbow drifted across the sky, the air filled with some drops of moisture that day.  The rainbow gleamed.  I stepped out onto the porch to see it arc across the sky, end to end, that ephemeral, transient beauty.  From one  moment to the next, it dissolved into nothing.  Now, it is only a memory, a memory of a deep and rich and passing moment.

Moments are attached to feelings, feelings, that great gift and burden, of being human.  In the moment, in the feeling, there is the hint – always the hint – that this is passing, that this is brief, that this, like everything else, will die.  This moment will be gone.  This moment of beauty, of the fulness of life, of great feeling, will be gone… is gone.

One day, I sat at my wooden desk.  On one corner of the desk I have framed a greeting card, an imaginary, art nouveau woman with a flowing robe and flowing red hair.  She is surrounded by architectural design rather than an ordinary room or place.  The image is a myriad of colors, representative of that time and place, that form of art.  But that is not what the image brought to mind.  As I sat that day, I was touched, to my core, with the beauty of that image, that imaginary image of a life, of a moment, filled with color, beauty.

And then, I was sad, or filled with longing, or fear, or loss.  I was filled with deep feeling, a sort of melancholy.  One day – today?  tomorrow?  the next?  when? – I would not be able to know such beauty in this particular form, in my being, in my body, in this place, in these surroundings.  This moment of beauty, of absolute beauty, was passing, and as I reflected, had already passed.


These mornings, I watch the passing of the moments as the days break.  I watch, also, the passing of seasons, of time as each day becomes longer than the last.  There is something so human, so sentient, in each moment.  In all the days and years that have passed, how often have I rushed from one important meeting, event, gathering, to the next – and been completely unaware, at the same time, of the beauty of this particular moment, this light, this being-ness, this breath, this sound, this color?

If the gift of being human is to be cast into these bodies, these feeling bodies, then the gift is to receive the pain, the absolute pain and power and beauty of each moment.  When we miss it, it is gone – forever.  Forever gone, and missed, completely eradicated from existence without one knowing, one awareness, one breath caught, one feeling, one deep emotion.

Like you, I have missed so many of these moments of my life.  They are all around us, I am sure, ready to be seen, not grasped, but simply experienced, known, loved, accepted.  Words fail me.  Experience passes.  Life continues – with all its importance, its business, its agenda.

Gaze.  Gaze at the world around you, your world.  See.  See what is.  Now.  Live it, now.


Don’t believe everything you think.


That’s it. Great rule to live by. That’s all it is, complete wisdom in one sentence:

Don’t believe everything you think.

Maybe you’re like me. I have a busy, busy mind. My mind is interesting – yes, very interesting. Your mind is interesting, too. I guarantee that! I’m smart. I’ve known that since I was young. I’m sure you’re smart, too. Those things are true.

We honor the mind, our thinking mind, in our culture. If we think something, we believe it is true.  As human beings – as these wonderful works of wisdom – we limit ourselves by living within the cultural constraints of our minds. It is counter-cultural to open yourself to the wisdom that lives within you, within you and outside of the limitations of your thinking, even your best thinking.

Thinking can only take us so far – and there is so much farther to go!  Your body is a place of wisdom.  Begin to know your body’s wisdom by feeling your feelings.   When something happens to you, take a moment to experience that event in your body.  What are you feeling?  Breathe!  Breathe for a moment, and feel the breath in your body.  Now, what are you feeling?

As you practice this, you can begin to name your feelings.

A long time ago, someone asked about me:  “I wonder if she knows the difference between her thoughts and her feelings?”  I am grateful that I took notice of that comment.  Do I know the difference?  I do now.  From that moment on, I began to observe – to feel – my feelings.  That in itself is a journey.  When we begin to include our feelings in our answers, in our decisions, in our observations, we encounter another dimension of ourselves.  When we include our feelings, our perceptions deepen, our love deepens, our experience deepens.

Your body has a wisdom that your thinking mind cannot perceive.  In a way, your thinking mind is on one plane of existence.  The wisdom that is beyond your thinking mind has deep roots, roots in the earth.  The wisdom beyond your thinking mind perceives on many levels, levels that your thinking mind simply cannot conjure up!

If you are sad, feel sad.  That is practice.  If you are lonely, feel lonely.  That too, is practice.  If you are happy, feel happy.  That is practice.  From moment to moment, the practice of reaching beyond our thinking mind takes us into new territory.

A good parent teaches feelings to their child by mirroring those feelings.  When the baby cries, mom will say:  “oh, you are sad.”  Or she will say:  “you are angry that your plate fell on the floor.”  Dad will say to a toddler:  “you are frustrated because you can’t reach the ball.”  Sometimes, we have to mirror our own feelings to ourselves.  We have to begin again to learn about ourselves, and about our own perceptions of the world.

Maybe you’ll need help as you begin to discern your feelings.  Maybe a therapist can help, a professional who can ask you, again and again:  “So… how do you feel about that?”  Maybe a spiritual guide can teach you to listen to your body’s wisdom as much as your mind’s wisdom.  Maybe a 12 step meeting will be the place you begin to learn.

Each one of these places can be the doorway to growth, to growth in consciousness.

Such simple practice, to not believe everything you think!  And at the same time, such a deep, profound, ever-expanding practice.

For today:  don’t believe everything you think!  Give it a try!


“All stories are true.” – Ibo proverb



about-storytellers“All stories are true.”

There is great power in stories. This is basic to the human experience. When we think of stories being told, the image of ancient peoples sitting in a circle around a fire comes to mind.  Perhaps the gift of one person in the ancient community was the gift of story-telling, and so they were designated to tell the story of the community. The story brought the people together, and the telling of the story brought the people together with their ancestors, their history, and to their unconscious connections to past, present, and even future.

We still tell stories. Something in us wants to tell stories, and so we do. How often have we told one another where we were and how we heard about the events of 9/11, when the story of our nation in this post-modern era was forever changed?  Why do we turn on the evening news, except to hear the story of the day, a story to which we are connected, like it or not?

What story of your own do you tell, again and again? What is the story of your life you would tell at this moment, at this time?

There is great power in stories. To heal from trauma, we must tell someone our story. Sometimes the details of the story change, but the story must be told, over and over and over again, to release the trauma. It is our need to tell the story. It is also our need to find someone who is safe to be the recipient of the story.  When we are grieving, we need to tell the story of our grief, of our loss, of our troubles.

We need to speak our story to someone, to a community, that is safe.

Who is safe? Well, I can say who is not safe. Someone who interrupts to insert their own opinions or their own story, is not safe. Someone who wants to give advice is not safe. Someone who wants to change our story for reasons of their own is not safe. Someone who has an interest in keeping us trapped in our story is not safe.  Sometimes our closest friends are not safe.  Maybe we need to find others to listen, other friends, who are safe.

Certainly, someone who does not honor the importance and the privilege of hearing our story is not safe.  Do not share your story with someone who cannot be trusted to keep the story safe, safe from telling others, safe from gossiping about your story.  You are the keeper of your story, and as the keeper, it is your responsibility to care for your story, as you would a child, keeping the story safe from those who will abuse the story.  You are responsible for your story.

There is great power in stories, and stories must be told. Our healing is in the telling.

Sometimes, stories need to be told again and again until their true kernel is discovered, through the telling of the story. Sometimes, we tell the story over and over again, as if we are turning a beautiful, rough rock in our hands, looking at it from many angles. We feel it, we sense it, we see it, we run our fingers over it. And so it is with the telling and the re-telling of our stories.

“All stories are true.” The details of a story are not often true. We see this in ancient scriptures, when sometimes the same story is told in many versions, from chapter to chapter, book to book. The details change. But the power of the story remains.

How often have you heard someone you love tell a story, and as you listen, you realize that the story – which you have certainly heard many times before! – is being told for a certain effect: to impress, to remember, to grieve, to instill with a particular meaning. And so you have witnessed, you have known that the details are not always true, but the story remains, the story is true.

What is your story? Who will you honor by telling your story? Choose carefully! Choose someone who is safe to hear your story! Choose someone who will honor your story – honor you – by listening, quietly, with great presence, with respect. Choose someone who will not degrade your story by telling it to others as gossip, as if the story was not rich and important. Your story – whatever it is! – is your richest gift to the world.

When you tell your story, you begin to see yourself in new ways. When you tell your story, you see the empty places, the things that are missing. You see the characters in the story, and you see who has had power in your story. As time goes on, and as you tell the story again and again, you begin to see the shifting of the story.

Perhaps you need to become the hero of your own story, because you are the hero of your life. Life is difficult, for all people. When you tell your story, you begin to look at it differently. Maybe you see the parts that are missing, the parts you are not telling, that you are ashamed to tell, that you have been told are not worthy to tell. This is not true.

And when you tell your story, over and over and over again, sometimes you may find that you are tiring of your own story! Some things that were true are no longer true, and will never be true for you again. You have grown. Maybe you’ve outgrown the story you have been telling. It is time to tell another story.

“All stories are true.”


“What’s Happenin’ – by poet Peggy Trojan


What’s Happenin’
Peggy Trojan

Selma Makkela
printed all the news fit to print.
The Hemmilas had a boy,
Erickson’s cow was hit by lightening,
The Polks motored to Chicago
for their grandson’s graduation.
Nothing to cause you anger
or “take to bed worry.”
When you saw Willard
at the feed store, you could ask how
Mildred’s broken leg was coming along,
send an anniversary card
to the Mattsens,
keep an eye out for
Johnson’s lost calico cat.
The news connected you
to community,
safe in the knowledge
you were informed enough
to know just what
was going on.

Peggy Trojan retired from teaching English to the north woods of Wisconsin.
She enjoys quilting, gardening, picking berries, and writing poetry. She is a
member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

I had an aunt, Edna Johnson, who also “printed all the news fit to print” in the Door County Advocate. When I would travel all the way from Green Bay to Ellison Bay (!) to see her for the weekend – about 80 miles – she’d make sure she mentioned that in her column. Everything was newsworthy, and we had to wait for news – wait for news to be published. That’s hard to believe for those of us who receive news every moment, at our fingertips.

But have we lost our sense of community, a community that cares, a community that takes notice, a community of real people, not “bits of information?” For as easy as information is to receive these days, connection does not seem easy to receive.

“Something’s lost, and something’s gained, in living every day…” from “Both Sides Now,” written by Joni Mitchell.