switching gears – the easy way


In the past, I could be in a funk for days. My thinking was off, everything was going wrong (especially in my thinking!), I was crabby, nothing suited me, the cat was a pill… you get the picture. If you’re honest, you can contribute your own list.

This morning, I awoke with that kind of thinking. Yuk. I am not a pleasure to be around, particularly for myself. Today, though, a gift arrived.

I spent time with a friend in her yard and garden. First, we cleaned the koi pond. Then, we cut off lilies past their bloom in the bushes. Finally, we took a tour of the vegetables in her suburban garden, dragging huge zucchini squash from their hiding places onto the lawn. Bees and dogs followed us around the yard, interested, of course, in every move.

Afterward, my friend and I parted for our separate days.

I feel better now. For a “city girl,” for one who has lived most of her life in her thinking and feelings – as if they are the center of the Universe! – the small tour of yard and garden was a gift. My friend apologized for all I would have to do when she leaves and I tend her garden for a couple of days. I don’t see it that way.

A day. A gift. Grounding. Something simple. Something profound.  Memories of the ancestors, people of the earth.  Songs.

Small pleasures. Gifts of God.


After Charleston, thoughts



Like all of us, I am grieving for the losses suffered in Charleston, S.C. last week. The United States is face to face again with the bitter and harsh reality of the racism that is in the fabric of the nation, with the danger to lives of folks who are not white, and with all of us, because, we are part of this horror. Every single one of us.

I’m white. That gives me something I did not earn, will not earn. I am a white person with a legacy of white privilege. These days, we who are embarked on the journey of learning about our own racial identity talk about privilege. We know we have privilege. But, is knowing we have white privilege enough?  We are victims of our own privilege.

Over the years, I have heard the conversation about race in this country changing.   Many of us recall the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement, and we recall the powerful witness of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  We remember also, that awful day of his death.  We were grieving then.  We are grieving again, now.

What I am thinking, in these days of shock and mourning and amidst the words from all sides of the political and social spectrum, is that we are all complicit in this hate crime. It’s too easy for us to point a finger at the young man who carried that hidden gun and used it to kill others simply because they were “different.”  It’s easy for us to blame the gun lobby, who even now are saying the victims were lax in not carrying their own concealed weapons.  It’s easy for us to blame the others who influenced that young man; certainly, the Internet is full of sites that and anger and enrage young people who are looking for their own identity.    It’s easy for us to shake our heads at history and the legacy of racism in this country.

We are all complicit, and we are all victims of the way things are.

If we are to “have a conversation about race,” which is what our President suggests, in his own grief, again and again, how do we do that?

We are all complicit in this crime. We did not pull the trigger, but we support “the way things are” without ever looking at ourselves.  This is the hard thing, to acknowledge that our privilege is built on crimes like this.  White privilege is built on the way things are.  We may rant and rave and we may show up now, to grieve, but things will not change.  We like the way things are, because then, we are not asked to change.  We don’t have to look at ourselves, at our own complicity.  We are a nation, a world of children, children in adult bodies, children, who will not, cannot, do not take responsibility for ourselves.

“The way things are” has produced and will continue to produce “the system” of which we are all a part.  Every system is designed to get the results it gets. (G. T. O’Connor).  Unless parts of “the system” refuse to participate, “the system” will not change.  We will have the same elected officials.  Drugs and violence will continue to run rampant.  We will continue to complain, even those of us on the left, but there will continue to be police violence, dangerous cities, more guns on the streets, and more deaths like the ones in Charleston, S.C., unless we change the system in which we all cooperate.

We are complicit in this crime, every single one of us.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophet of ancient Israel, Isaiah, was frantic for his people.  He petitioned them, again and again, to repent.  What he meant, I think, is that the people were asleep.  They were living as if they had no power to change.  They blamed their leaders, they complained, they suffered, again and again, but they would not change.  They would not change their system, just as we will not change ours.  The people were asleep, but they would not look at that, they would not see themselves as they were.

The people would not take responsibility for themselves, for their own complicity.

And so we are tired of the suffering, but we continue to point our fingers.  We continue to blame others.  This nation, this world badly needs people who will take responsibility for themselves, take stock of their own complicity, who will stop complaining and repent.

Will we do that, now, now, now?

To repent will mean to accept our complicity, to refuse to honor, in any way, the systems we now have.  Does this mean people – everyone – in the streets?  I think so.  It is way past the time for us to be in the streets with signs blaming “the other.”  We have to be in the streets as adults, with a show of strength.  We have to acknowledge our own complicity, our own white-ness.  And we have to stay in the streets until change really happens.

Enough is enough.  Will we ever awaken from this dream, this sleep, this nightmare?  When will we ever, truly, with our whole being, say, “enough is enough.”  When will we stop blaming others, become adults, and do this?  When?




2366-trustI expect that trust can only be proved, moment by moment.

When we trust another, we know our trust over time, over many moments, over different circumstances. Trust in another does not magically happen when we begin to know someone. It is in knowing someone that we gain trust – or not. When trust is broken, a true break occurs in the relationship. It is wisdom, I think, to remember when trust has been broken, to mend our own feelings, and to observe whether or not trust is broken, again. Broken trust cannot magically be repaired. Feelings remain: betrayal. Broken trust will have to be honored in us when it happens. We owe it ourselves and to The Other.

We earn the trust of another person. We earn the trust of another by how we honor their experience of us. Will we be honorable? Can we be trusted? Are we true to our word? Do our actions match our words? We earn the trust of another over time. When we have broken trust, we have to be honest – with ourselves, and with the other. We need to look at ourselves, then, to look deeply into ourselves, to discover what it is that has caused us to be less than trustworthy. If we are honorable – to ourselves, as much as to The Other – we will be interested in why it is that we broke trust. Why? Look deeply, look deeply.

When I was younger, I did not pay attention to the feelings of betrayal that marked some of my relationships. I did not pay attention to that place of vulnerability in myself that felt each betrayal, that knew it was so. And I suffered because of that. And I did not call another to accountability. That hurt both of us. As I grow older – and hopefully wiser! – I acknowledge, often only to myself, the feelings that arise when I have suffered a betrayal. I listen to myself. I honor myself. That is the beginning of trust. Can I trust myself?

I know that God/theUniverse/Spirit can be trusted. I know this from experience. The experience of trust I know, even when it seems to me my world is slipping away, is, ‘surely, God is able.’ “Surely, God is able,” the old hymn sings. Surely, God is able. Time may not be what I would prefer, but time and again, I have been shown that God is able.



Staying with What Is

FullSizeRender“Simple, but not easy.”  Babushka


It’s simple, really. As they say in 12 Step: “simple, but not easy.” The practice of “staying with what is” is deep and necessary spiritual practice. Simple, but not easy.

Eugene Gendlin’s little Bantam book of the 1980’s, Focusing, is about the practice of “staying with what is,” in particular, in the body.  Our bodies are fountains of wisdom and insight, and they hold our history and our potential.  Gendlin outlines a simple practice of staying with whatever sensation the body presents, waiting patiently and gently for it to shift or change in some way, and waiting for the story that needs to be told to come to consciousness.

I have used “focusing” to profound effect many times through the years.  At one time, I was trained to facilitate the process with others under the name “Biospirituality.”  The two – biospirituality and focusing – are the same process.  Over the years, I have heard the same process mentioned and described by many teachers and facilitators.

The wisdom we hold within us is so much deeper and so much true than the “wisdom” we often listen to:  that one persistent, loud, banging voice (or voices) in our heads.  And the wisdom in our bodies can be accessed so easily:  simply by honoring, feeling, and acknowledging the story that is aching to be told.

Today, stay with what is.  If something is troubling you, go away to a quiet place, alone, and sit for a few moments.  Feel what you feel.  Don’t push anything away!  Sit, and wait, and wait, and feel.  That’s all.  Stay with the feeling, no matter how uncomfortable it seems at the beginning.  Stay with what is.  That is your true reality.  That is your true wisdom.  Your truth is waiting to be heard – waiting for you to hear it!

We are conditioned to “push through,” to manage the outcome of all things.  If something is uncomfortable, we change it without regard to its deeper reason for being there.  If you practice “staying with what is,” you will be amazed at the strength and power you have inside of yourself, and you will be amazed at how your strength and power alter your reality, feelings, and even relationships.

I can help you, if you’d like!  I can lead you, gently and trusting your own process and wisdom.  Let me be your guide in this practice, at the beginning.  We can speak via phone or Skype.  See the tab:  “About” to learn how to contact me.

In the meantime:  stay with what is.



IMG_0405In the sanctuary, Shalom UCC, Richland, WA

“Contemplation is life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive.  It is spiritual wonder.  It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being.  It is gratitude for life, for awareness,  and for being.  It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source.  Contemplation is,  above all, awareness of the reality of that Source.”  Thomas Merton

Thank you, Sir Thomas Merton, Brother Merton, for those eloquent words.  I cannot say the same thing in the same way, but I want to reflect – contemplate – your words.  Your words bring me back to an experience of life I have always known, an experience of life I have had the pleasure of relishing, these later years, from time to time.


In the past several months, my husband, Jeff, and I have had our yard redone.  The privilege of having a beautiful place right outside our home is something I cannot fathom, for the most part.  Having grown up in rented flats in a working class neighborhood, I never dreamed I would have a yard of “my own.”  And yet, it is a privilege to have a beautiful, safe place, a feast for my eyes, a privilege that does not escape my awareness.  As I write these words, children and mothers and fathers today are being forced from their homes, leaving with nothing, victims of battles that are not their own, conflicts they did not make.

But the true luxury of the new lawn is that I love to sit on it, lie down on it, do the child’s pose on it, smell it, run my fingers over it.  The cat loves the new lawn, too!  LiLi is not a friendly sort, but when I walk onto the lawn, she jumps over the chairs on the porch, over the brick edging, over the plants, and onto the lawn, to join me in my moment of refreshing.  Every single time.  She comes right over to me, and every few moments she gets closer and closer, nudging in.  She loves the smell of this luscious new lawn, too.

Here, for a few moments, I can be present to the scent, to the color, to the feel of the lawn.

Here, for a few moments in my day, I can be present, also, to the color of the sky, to the smell of the bushes as I take a morning walk, to the dogs that pass me, with interest, as they go on their morning trek with their owners.

I have not always been present in my life.  To be present is a present – indeed! – in my ordinary life.  When I am present, I see the lovely in the ordinary.  When I am present, I see the simple nod of the head, the acknowledgement.  When I am present, I see the flicker of grief cross the face of my beloved friend.  When I am present, I breath, and sigh, and notice whatever is present to me, then, now, now, now, now.

There is nothing more simple, and more grand, I think, than to know life in the present.  I don’t do it perfectly – there… my mind wanders, as the mind does.  But when I am present, I am also grateful.  Completely, bountifully grateful.

As I write, I realize there are no words to express this presence.  Probably Merton struggled to find words, also.  So many of Merton’s writings are about the matter of the abundant beauty in the world.

After I began to know “presence,” I began to know that the beauty, the magnificent beauty of all that is, had always been there.  I, however, had not always been there.  I had lived so much of my life with concerns – thoughts, worries, preoccupations – of so many other things.  And those concerns were all inside me, I carried them with me, they weighted me down, they kept me facing down.   I did not see what was present to me, around me, even then.

After I began to know “presence,” I said to a friend:  “the world is so wonderful.”  She reacted – immediately – to that.  The world is not wonderful, there is poverty, and hunger, and violence, and war, and nation against nation…  Of course, all of that is true.  I live every day grateful for the privilege I have to be present.  I know the world is not wonderful.  I hope the life I live will leave a better mark on this world.

And yet, there it is, the complete, utter, miraculous wonder of… this… present… moment.