We’re now halfway through winter and after a rough start, I find that I am feeling quite content.  Maybe part of the reason is having work that I enjoy, making sure I exercise and dance, and finding I can bounce back from feeling blue.  Realizing that it’s easier to go with the feeling and let it move through me, rather than fight it.  Because it does pass and the less I fight it, the faster is seems to go.

I wanted to share three quotes that I’m sure I’ve written about before, but really resonate with me and I hope they do with you:

“It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…..

Theodore Roosevelt

“If you want to avoid criticism: do nothing; say nothing; be nothing.”


“My teacher Trungpa Rinpoche encouraged us to lead our lives as an experiment, a suggestion that has been very important to me.  When we approach life as an experiment we are willing to approach it this way and that way because, either way, we have nothing to lose.

This immense flexibility is something I learned from watching Trungpa Rinpoche.  His enthusiasm enabled him to accomplish and amazing amount in his life.  When some things didn’t work out, Rinpoche’s attitude was ‘it’s no big deal.’  If it’s time for something to flourish, it will; if it’s not time, it won’t. 

The trick is not getting caught in hope and fear.  We can put our whole heart into whatever we do; but if we freeze our attitude for or against, we’re setting ourselves up for stress.  Instead, we could just go forward with curiosity, wondering where this experiment will lead.”

Pema Chodron “No Time to Lose”

I’ve also been re-reading “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle.  I can’t believe how much I’m learning, particularly about relationships.  Even just saying that there are only 6 more weeks till spring is the antithesis of Tolle’s book.  There is only now!  Enjoy it! 

I have been reading a new book called “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr and essentially it’s about, as the book jacket describes:

“In the first half of life, we are naturally and rightly preoccupied with establishing our identity — climbing, achieving, and performing. But those concerns will not serve us as we grow older and begin to embark on a further journey. One that involves challenges, mistakes, loss of control, broader horizons, and necessary suffering that actually shocks us out of our prior comfort zone. Eventually, we need to see ourselves in a different and more life-giving way. This message of “falling down” — that is in fact moving upward — is the most resisted and counterintuitive of messages in the world’s religions, including and most especially Christianity.”

If I’ve experienced anything in the past three years, it has been this. Reading the book affirms so much of what I’ve been learning. And though it may sound bad in some ways, actually it is good! It actually is great. The years of pain and sadness have given way to wanting to share in the deeper truths that I have been learning. This morning, in a chapter called “A Bright Sadness” from the book, I read this:

At this stage, I no longer have to prove that I or my group is the best, that my ethnicity is superior, that my religion is the only one God loves, or that my role and place in society deserve superior treatment. I am not preoccupied with collecting more goods and services, quite simply, my desire and effort — every day — is to pay back, to give back to the world a bit of what I have received. I now realize that I have been gratuitously given to — from the universe, from society, and from God. I try now, as Elizabeth Seton said, ‘to live simply so that others can simply live.'”

This is a big shift in my consciousness because for so many years I craved “specialness” and recognition. And I wanted stuff. I bought “stuff” and though it brought me very little satisfaction or joy, I still wanted it. (This is not to say that I would turn down any presents that anyone wants to give me. Ever.) But “stuff” isn’t a priority. I love being curious about life now. I love the life I’m living and much of the thanks go to all the spiritual teachers I’ve encountered along the way. It started with Mike Eigen (a therapist who writes a lot about spirituality) and continued with Pema Chodron, who I believe saved my life, and Eckhart Tolle, and Regena Thomashauer, and Friends In Deed, and then my dance teachers and too many others to name. I’m not quite sure where it’s all leading, but it definitely feels like a move upward – and outward. It feels that it is about paying back and giving to the world a bit of what I’ve received.

I just picked up Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth” which I am still reading.  It’s not a fast read, you have to digest it all and try to internalize it.  

I don’t have to type this out now, but Chapter 5 is “The Pain Body” and it’s about how we are trapped in the voice of our head, which is conditioned by our past, and therefore most of the time it’s impossible for us to simply be in the present, in the pleasure and joy of a moment.  I can’t really paraphrase it well, just turn to page 129 and start reading! “The Pain Body.” 

Early this morning (5 a.m. to be precise) – after I took my dogs out for a walk (Lucy needed a walk desperately, she’s 15 and you can’t argue with her), and after I realized that I was locked out of the building, and couldn’t reach my loft mate, Abigail, who was sound asleep, I was able to borrow someone’s cell phone and wake her up.  I happened to go on Facebook when I couldn’t fall back to sleep, and was IM’d by a friend in Spain, who told me that he was reading Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth” – and that he was loving it.  I had started the book a year or so ago and stopped after about thirty pages.  For some reason I decided to pick it up again and read it.  Perhaps because last night had been a difficult night for me and my dreams had been rather upsetting, I must have felt the need to read Tolle. So I re-read the first thirty or so pages that I didn’t remember at all, and then eventually came to this section, which deeply resonated for me:

“The Peace That Passes All Understanding

There are many accounts of people who experienced that emerging new dimension of consciousness as a result of tragic loss at some point in their lives.  Some lost all of their possessions, others their children or spouse, their social position, reputation, or physical abilities.  In some cases, through disaster or war, they lost all of these simultaneously and found themselves with “nothing.”  We may call this a limit-situation.  Whatever they had identified with, whatever gave them their sense of self, had been taken away.  Then suddenly, inexplicably, the anguish or intense fear they initially felt gave way to a sacred sense of Presence, a deep peace and serenity and complete freedom from fear. This phenomenon must have been familiar to St. Paul, who used the expression ‘the peace of God which passeth all understanding.’ It is indeed a peace that doesn’t seem to make sense, and the people who experienced it asked themselves: In the face of this, how can it be that I feel such peace?

The answer is simple, once you realize what the ego is and how it works.  When forms that you had identified with, that gave you your sense of self, collapse or are taken away, it can lead to a collapse of the ego, since ego is identification with form.  When there is nothing to identify with anymore, who are you?  When forms around you die or death approaches your sense of Beingness, of I Am, is freed from its entanglement with form: Spirit is released from its imprisonment in matter.  You realize your essential identity as formless, as an all-pervasive Presence, of Being prior to all forms, all identifications.  You realize your true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what consciousness had identified with.  That’s the peace of God.  The ultimate truth of who you are is not that I am this or that, but I Am.

Not everybody who experiences great loss also experiences this awakening, this disidentification from form.  Some immediately create a strong mental image or thought form in which they see themselves as victim, whether it be of circumstances, other people, an unjust fate, or God.  This thought form and the emotions it creates, such as anger, resentment, self-pity, and so on, they strongly identify with, and it immediately takes the place of all the other identifications that have collapsed through the loss.  In other words, the ego quickly finds a new form.  The fact that this new form is a deeply unhappy one doesn’t concern the ego too much, as long as it has an identity, good or bad.  In fact, this new ego will be more contracted, more rigid and impenetrable than the old one.

Whenever tragic loss occurs, you either resist or you yield.  Some people become bitter or deeply resentful; others become compassionate, wise, and loving.  Yielding means inner acceptance of what is.  You are open to life.  Resistance is an inner contraction, a hardening of the shell of the ego.  You are closed.  Whatever action you take in a state of inner resistance (which we could also call negativity) will create more outer resistance, and the universe will not be on your side, life will not be helpful.  If the shutters are closed, the sunlight cannot come in.  When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension of consciousness opens up.  If action is possible or necessary, your action will be in alignment with the whole and supported by creative intelligence, the unconditioned consciousness which in a state of inner openness you become one with.  Circumstances and people then become helpful, cooperative.  Coincidences happen.  If no action is possible, you rest in the peace and inner stillness that comes with surrender.  You rest in God.”

When I read this I had a deep inner sensation that this is exactly what has happened to me this past year.  I lost all the external ego identifications: daughter, wife, mother (Zoe moved to San Francisco), a member of a couple, a worker among workers.  I lost a home, many of the “things” that I thought mattered to me and I came to realize didn’t matter at all.  I basically had to re-invent myself.  And yet there is a sense of inner peace I’ve never experienced before. Really.  Last summer, when I was in the thick of it all, a friend of mine said to me, “Tragedy becomes you.”  Now I know why. 

When you think about this in a larger sense – in Haiti for example, I wonder how most people cope with so much loss. 

Recovery from envy: turn it over. You can call it what you will…praying, letting go, whatever you want, but it works.

When I went to bed the other night that I was feeling so much envy and desire for a Ho-Ho from Bucheron Bakery and I woke up at 3:30 am because Lucy (the beagle) had to pee and was wandering around nervously. I got dressed and took her out and she peed around four times. We think that she may have diabetes incipitis (sp?) and she needs more antibiotics because she still has a UTI. Anyway, that’s not the point of the story. The point is that I could not fall back to sleep and it was a miserable night.

All I could do is think what a failure my life has been, terrible mother, terrible writer, terrible wife, person, etc. etc. Stinking thinking, monkey mind, call it what you will, it was out of control.

So when I woke up a little voice said, “Read Eckhardt Tolle” and so I picked up “A New Earth” and the first chapter is all about flowers and rocks and something else…and it’s about seeing the ego, the externals, the stinking thinking, which is dysfunction – it’s called dukkha in Buddhism, sin in Christianity and something else in Hinduism. And it means suffering essentially, failing to live a higher life. I’m rushing here. It’s that we as human beings focus on the externals, money, success, consumerism, rather than the internal, the human, the important parts of who we are, and in that I’m not so horrible. Really. I’m not.

So now I feel better and the thing that I was envious about is actually moving in a new direction. Whether it works out or not (I will let you know), but I feel much better and I’m off to enjoy a beautiful spring day and I hope, wherever you live, it’s a wonderful day (rain or shine.)

First of all, I changed the template for the blog, just to shake things up. I will probably do that periodically.

Second of all, for some reason, I woke up feeling relatively happy this morning and I have no idea why. No “winter coming on blues” (F.O.W.) I watched the debate, it was somber and there were a few times I wanted to throw something at the television, but basically I feel that if Obama isn’t elected we will get what we deserve and it isn’t going to be pretty. And despite the feelings I have about Sarah Palin (deep dislike), McCain (disgust) and the Republicans (YUCK) — and what we know will be 27 days of lies, distortions, fear and everything they can think of to throw at Obama (including the kitchen sink) — despite the fears about the world’s economies, I am trying to stay grounded and focus on the positive. (That was a run-on. Sorry. I think listening to Sarah Palin has ruined me.)

Anyway, I recently began reading “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle and in the chapter “Ego: the current state of humanity,” he ends with this thought:

“Whenever tragic loss occurs, you either resist or you yield. Some people become bitter and deeply resentful; others become compassionate, wise and loving. Yielding means inner acceptance of what is. You are open to life. Resistance is an inner contraction, a hardening of the shell of the ego. You are closed. Whatever action you take in a state of inner resistance (which we could also call negativity) will create more outer resistance, and the universe will not be on your side; life will not be helpful. If the shutters are closed, the sunlight cannot come in. When you yield internally, when you surrender, a new dimension of consciousness opens up. If action is possible or necessary, your action will be in alignment with the whole and supported by creative intelligence, the unconditioned consciousness which in a state of inner openness you become one with. Circumstances and people then become helpful, cooperative. Coincidences happen. If no action is possible, you rest in the inner peace and stillness that comes with surrender. You rest in God.”

Maybe all of this sounds a little far out to you. (Unless you’re Oprah, who I don’t think is reading this.) If she is reading this, I want to give a shout out: “Hi Oprah!”

It used to seem far out to me, but somehow I’ve found myself on this path of searching for a deeper meaning, for living not just on one plane, but going deeper into the meaning of the events and experiences of my life and of my friends’ and families’ lives. And beyond that – to world events. This election is one of those moments.

All I know is, when I am open to the world, coincidences do happen. People do show up for me. Life feels richer and more abundance – and I’m not talking about money, I’m talking about experiences, connection and good feelings and chocolate cake. (I just threw that in to see if you were paying attention.)

New t-shirt coming out today: “THAT ONE: ’08”