Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quiet Center

Sit down, feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your legs. Is your back straight?

Bring your attention to your heart. Focus on the space between the breasts. Simply be in that quiet, that deep, and quiet place. Sit for at least 10 minutes today.

While you are sitting, go deeper. Allow your attention to go deeper, so that you are part of the great whole of all creation, and your little mind, which still spins somewhere else, does what it does, says what it says, and can be itself.

You are whole. You are the silence. You are the great heart of the universe.


Monday, January 25, 2010


Dear Friends,

Most of us are looking for wholeness. Usually, we are looking for wholeness by searching for that person, that job, that home, that object that will make us whole.

What I've learned is that wholeness is who we are. We simply identify with the part of us that is not whole, usually our minds. Listen: what part of you does not stop, day or not? What part of you is telling you what to do, who you are, right now?

That is the mind. Your mind is the one who is telling you that you need something, someone else to be whole.

Sink into your whole self for a moment. Feel the wholeness that is you. There! Your mind doesn't stop, even for a moment, but now it is no longer all you are. You are whole, here, now. You need nothing for this blessed moment.

You are whole, complete.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The end of the year

Dear Ones,

Does it seem as if time is passing quickly? I suppose it is for all of us - after all, our lives, our important time to live and breathe and have our being - goes so quickly when we think about all those who have lived and died before us.

Mary Oliver, the poet, asks: What is it you will do with your one wild and precious life?

I like those words: wild, precious.

Wild because we get to make up our lives. We get to live them as fully ourselves as possible. We get to peel away the layers, live less with the expectations others have for us, and more with our own desires for ourselves. While we may not have complete freedom, we are free to know our feelings and to have our feelings and to express our feelings, and to allow that for others. It takes some work to get to the wildness of our lives, but the work is worthy work.

Precious because this is the one life we have, for now, as far as we know it. Some seem to know that we've lived before, and who we have been, and what important or unimportant things we have done. They may be right - I'm not willing to question their understanding, if that's how it is for them. But as far as we can discern, it seems as if all we have is this moment, this important moment.

At the end of the year, reflect on your life. Have you been living its wildness, its preciousness? If you have, then continue, for you are following the path you were meant to travel. If you have not, then how will you live from this day forward?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Something so ordinary

Dear Friends,

Something so ordinary as the birth of a child. So many babies have been born in places unremembered: on the road, in a ditch, in the desert, in a car on a city street. Maybe someone, hopefully someone has told each child their story.

Something so ordinary as the birth of a child. People are still telling the story. People are still recounting the time of the child's birth. This was the long-awaited child, the birth of the Christ-child.

Something so ordinary as the birth of a child. Know this birth, in you, also. Feel the gentle movement of the child, now, born in your heart. People are still telling the story of the child, born in your heart, because the child has been born in theirs, as well.

This is Christmas. Something so ordinary, and wonderful beyond words.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

For today

Dear Ones,
For today, give thanks. Give thanks to the Universe for providing you with life. Give thanks for what you have - a warm bed, a warm house, food on the table, a job, health care. Give thanks for the people in your life, for those you love: your partner, your child, your friends, the person who checks out your groceries at the store. Give thanks for services: for the green light, for the cross walk, for the post office. Give thanks for the things you can see: a little bird at the window, chirping for a partner, alone, early in the morning; a lovely cloud, changing shape; the sliver of a new moon; a little boy missing his two front teeth.

Give thanks for all things. As you walk today, give thanks simply for giving thanks. That's it. You only have to make this your practice today.

These are the holidays. So often the holidays don't/can't live up to our expectations. Shift your focus from the fun you're supposed to be having to something deeper, and much more practical.

Ah, yes, thanks! Thanks, all, for being here, for you are a part of my world.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Finding Peace

Dear Ones,

Maybe you're a manager. Maybe you're a parent. Maybe you're an administrator. Whatever your role, it is up to you to find peace in the middle of hard times.

Conflicting news reports and the reality of our lives and the lives of people we know tell us that these are hard times. We each have our own way of handling hard times. What is yours? Tell the truth! How do you cope with difficult times? Do you deny them, and act as if things are the same as they always have been? Do you get strident and simply march on? Do you hold up your fist and blame the government, or the leaders, or anyone else in your way?

Find peace. That's your role today. That doesn't mean that things aren't tough. What it means is that you will make finding peace your goal for the day, come what may.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My heart is at Peace

Dear Friends,

Like you, I am concerned, frightened, and sad about the things I see around me. I want to make a difference, yet what I am able to do seems to be so little. I think about the little ones, afraid in their homes. I think about the people - even in the United States - who must make the decision not to get medical help because they cannot afford it. I think about neighbors who are angry with their neighbors. I think about the hungry. I think about those people - this moment - who are living in violent homes. I think about those people - this moment - whose streets have become the places of war. I think about leaders who want to destroy some of the people who have entrusted them to lead.

Like you, my list goes on and on. This is a difficult world, and for many, many, many human beings, this is a world that does not bring them what they need to live.

Can I make the world better by laying out the difficult places? I struggle with this. How can I make the world better?

I trust that even those whose lives are simple, devoted to prayer, are making this world a better place. Their hearts are at peace. My heart is at peace. Your heart is at peace.

As you go out to be in your world today, remember your peaceful heart. Enter your world with a heart of peace, come what may.

Monday, November 30, 2009

There but for God's grace

Dear Friends,

This past year I have often answered the knock at the door of my office and discovered someone with a long story, asking for help. Help means a few dollars. I confess, I am conflicted about how to respond. I listen to the story. I ask the person's name. I give them my name.

Most of the stories have a thread that sounds somewhat the same. Most of the stories are convoluted, too difficult to follow. Are the characters in the story real or not? Sometimes I walk across the street and pay for a room for the night at the motel there. One woman, after seeing the room I'd paid for for her, refused to stay there.

What is help, really? And is it really the grace of God that separates my life from these lonely people?

I don't believe that we "pick ourselves up by our bootstraps." It takes some privilege to even do that.

These days when so many of us are complaining that we have to watch our spending over the holidays, I don't know what to think. And these days, many of our neighbors are hungry. A woman overseas sits on the ground even as I write, flies flying around her head, her baby, hungry, in her lap.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

All Shall Be Well -

Dear Friends,

“All shall be well.
All shall be well.
All manner of thing shall be well.” - Julian of Norwich, Christian mystic

This past spring I came into conflict with a woman in the congregation I serve in downtown Oakland. The season of the conflict came quickly and unexpectedly. I was caught by surprise, although I was able to gather people who were available to listen to the offended person, to treat her with care, to hear her complaints, and to also invite her to her own place of responsibility.

This is not to say that I did not find myself thrown off-center! In the past, however, my way of being thrown off-center meant that I would become depressed, unable to be present to the congregation and to the community we serve. Instead, this time I began to ask the question in prayer: “What does this person do that is hidden in my shadow?” When I asked the question, responsibility for the answer belonged completely to me. In that responsibility I would also find freedom.

“What does this person do that is hidden in my shadow?” What came clearly to me when I stayed with the question was: anxiety. As I traveled deeper into anxiety, holding that part of myself with care and also trepidation, I discovered fear and anger. I decided to learn from the fear and anger, long-time companions on my journey. I sat with fear, spoke to her, and learned what it was she wanted from me. Then I sat with anger, spoke to her, and learned what it was she wanted from me.

From anger I learned that I am the one responsible for my own setting of boundaries. Boundaries provide safety for me and for others in my life. From fear I learned that I am the one who must provide for my own emotional grounding.

This past spring I came into conflict and I grew. I grew in my ability to stay centered, even during the storms of fear. What became clear to me: “It’s all good. It’s all good.”
This was the Moment of Illumination! “It’s all good.” I shared this idea with others around me who were struggled with their own demons, demons inside and out. “It’s all good.” Sometimes the points of interest in our journeys are places that hurt; sometimes the points of interest involve people we would not have chosen to make this journey with us; sometimes the points of interest involve our looking at parts of ourselves we wish would go away. They don’t! “It’s all good!”

In early November of this year I traveled to New Orleans to work on a team rebuilding houses for families who lost their homes in Katrina. Our team inherited the home of a couple who have spent most of the last 4 years living in a small trailer, living on the generosity of family and friends, waiting to go back home. As our team worked, we were supervised by Phyllis, who coordinates the work, materials and tools for the rebuilding of at least 60 houses at any time in New Orleans. Our team was not a team of experienced, hands-on workers. We made mistakes, and we saved our questions for Phyllis, who showed up once a day to bring supplies and to see our progress with a mind to preparing for the next team of people. Whatever we shared, Phyllis listened, nodded, and said: “It’s all good! It’s all good!” That’s what she has learned from her work after Katrina: “It’s all good.”
In the African American Christian tradition, there is a saying: “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Yellow Tree

Dear Friends,

The tree outside my window is yellow again. I'm waiting. I'm waiting for the little birds to arrive to have their feast for the harvest. Yesterday I saw a jay, threatening and strong, sit on a branch. Soon a hummingbird came along, taunting the huge visitor.

But the finches have not yet arrived! I'm waiting. How will I wait for them? I'm impatient for them to come here to my window for my viewing pleasure.

The wise ones say those who travel far fail to receive wisdom. Wisdom and joy are right here, right now.

Take a look!

Monday, November 23, 2009

How to let go

Dear Ones,

How do we let go? Living the life of surrender - the acceptance that all things are as they should be, that all is well - is the center of our spiritual journey. We do not "do" letting go! Surrender is not a "do" thing. Surrender is simply acceptance.

Not many of us are good at this. We are accustomed to making things work out, making them work out the way we want them to work out. We are practical people, after all. We know what needs to happen, and when it needs to happen, and we know how it needs to happen. We are the craftspeople of all that happens around us and in us - and around others!

Today, breathe into each moment. Practice "being" rather than "doing." Give thanks in each moment; this is the season of thanks, after all!

Surrender to what is. What does this mean?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Make Your Plans for the Day

Dear Friends,

Make your plans for the day. Decide what attitude you will have today. Will you be grateful? Will you feel good about yourself all day, come what may? Will you be kind, to yourself and others? Will you be full of joy today? Will you find yourself to be free in every moment?

We actually get to choose. If life has been throwing you some hard balls lately - and who hasn't had those times? - then decide for yourself that today will be different. Choose your plans for the day.

Try it! It works!