If I could only point out your discrepancies, your flaws in thinking, I’m sure I could fix you. After all, I’ve read all the books and, having made some progress, am wiser than you might think! So goes my ego thoughts when feeling the need to impart my superlative ‘spiritual’ (or otherwise) wisdom to another.

Recently, I had the great (mis)fortune of doing just that. A client I’m consulting on a writing project was describing some of her spiritual practices, a few of which I had imbibed in during an earlier phase of my life. As she named several teachers/writers, I described them as being part of the ‘astral circus,’ which surely implied how I perceived her spiritual state. Oh, how self-righteous I felt, couching my presumed intention to impart something of value to her undoubtedly for her own good. How generous I was imparting my ‘advanced’ wisdom in helping her along her own path. Yet, as soon as I used the term I regretted it, knowing it was so far out of context not to mention incredibly ego-driven on my part to do so.

Oh, the arrogance!

Of course my behavior was to boomerang, a karmic consequence if there ever was one, coming fast and loose a few short weeks later. Upon stewing on this absurd display of impudence and pride however craftily I thought I had disguised it, my client called me on it. She told me she was hurt by what I had said, feeling I had denigrated her beliefs and therefore her. Regardless of whether I felt my perception was right or wrong I knew from whence my true impulse came: and that was from the ego, spiritually beneficent or not!

Once her assertion was leveled, I instantly apologized knowing deep down that my true intention was to position myself as ‘better than,’ ‘further along than,’ and ‘more spiritually evolved than,’ her. In rapid succession I became aware of two other things: of being exposed, having to confront not only her but, just as importantly, myself, and also that ‘being right was more important than being kind.’ Ha! How spiritual is that?

So we talked it through and I recognized the enormous value of owning (taking responsibility for) the truth of what I had done. What’s more, once exposed to myself, I was aware of doing this kind of thing throughout my life, whether imparting precious insights about politics, God, healthy food patterns, parenting, whatever. While becoming increasingly more conscious of the dynamic of “I know best,” it seems I have generated an opportunity for practicing humility and none too soon!

Fast forward a couple weeks after my lesson in humility and truth-telling to self and karma has surely sought me out. How? I was to be on the receiving end of someone else’s presumably ‘well-intentioned’ spiritual vanity when a friend told me I had made numerous ‘dualistic/causal’ statements that hampered my spiritual advancement. Oh, the justice in the universe! Naturally, I was angry and defensive, calling her on some of her own ‘causal’ beliefs even though her style is often different than mine. But dualism is still dualism and naturally, the paltry ego went into action right away to point this out. It also occurred to me that defensiveness can take the form of defending one’s integrity and it seems I owe myself that much.

Still, as the days wore on, I fumed. But something else was unfolding as well. My regard for my client’s honesty and integrity for communicating how she felt in the first experience grew in my estimation. In addition, in the karmic exchange that followed between she and I a greater ‘owning’ on my part occurred, which was a relief. With this, I felt profoundly better, allowing the emotions to surface and dissipate.

What’s more, I became aware that until such time as any of us truly become enlightened and transcend the ego altogether we are stuck with it. That doesn’t mean, however, we can’t take responsibility for the (ego’s) actions, quite the contrary.  Becoming ever more conscious of what we are doing is the way to reduce unwanted effects, ultimately taming the pesky illusion we all suffer from. I, for one, am only able to practice this process when conditions are right in combination with my intention to do so, when the opportunities present themselves, and so I must.

With that, I (dualistic description that it is) march on, practicing vigilant awareness on these, at times laughable at times cry-able, human characteristics we all suffer from: those of vanity, pride, and arrogance, juicing our own positions, juicing my own positions and perceptions, resulting in the unconscious habit to ‘make someone else wrong’. As Helen Keller so rightly put it: “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.”

Dedicated to Carol Scott (and women everywhere who have believed in others more than themselves)


Cool Women are not actually cool in the modern sense. When I say ‘cool women’ I am not talking about dress or any sense of fashion. Nor am I describing cleverness or some level of professional achievement. Rather, the cool woman moniker describes a woman who is somewhat aloof, inaccessible emotionally, yet is otherwise quite frequently intriguing, setting up an allure maybe even a mystery about her that one wants to know more about. Cool women are typically smart in some way, acquire a veneer of social grace or competency and are otherwise invitational in nature. They are often accomplished in speech and have established a sense of presence for themselves as part of their demeanor and polished façade.

The cool woman façade creates the impression that she is agreeable, obliging but in actuality is anything but. She often displays these characteristics towards both males as partners and friends but this is particularly true with females who may seek emotional closeness with them. What is not always apparent initially is that the cool woman is far more focused on performance and meeting or exceeding social/class expectations (whether professionally or domestically) both for themselves and for their children. This leaves any genuine emotional intimacy or connection with others a distant second, fearing destabilization from it.

As a consequence, this achievement driven focus often prevents them from affirming positive qualities or accomplishments in others. Instead, the cool woman typically withholds direct such feedback defaulting instead to a subtle critique ‘for one’s own good.’ Furthermore, cool women typically view other women as rivals, sending out ‘signals’ that other’s read as ‘better than’ with their own position relegated to ‘less than.’ Even if no rival signals exist, other women feel ‘in competition’ with the cool woman since the strong desire for closeness sought but withheld becomes a challenge.

One can easily be fooled by cool women when they are exceptionally good at utilizing linguistic skills of an intellectual nature. The most accomplished cool woman suggests closeness without ever having to deliver it. This is in contrast to the cold woman who either has an edge to her persona, is overtly critical, or even aggressive. Someone drawn to a cool woman for psychological reasons may become quite frustrated with her since she rarely if ever lets others in to the most vulnerable recesses of the cool woman’s heart.

Why does this matter to me? My mother was a cool woman. Never did I truly know how she felt about me or anyone else for that matter. Yet, I couldn’t help but sense she loved me on some level. She never stated it directly nor did she indicate any valuable quality of mine, which of course held mystery and confusion for me. This ‘loved’ belief largely rested on the fact that, as a homemaker, she was present throughout most of my childhood and adolescence.  She seemed to communicate caring through her homemaking acts, preparing all her daughters to become like her as their first responsibility, and only secondarily acting on any sort of intellectual or creative talent or impulse.

This is not to say, she didn’t value education and wasn’t promotional of it. She was. She had a bachelor’s degree in education and, you guessed, home economics, which she used to support herself before marriage and later on, ironically, to help fund college educations for her daughters. Yet, the modeling she consistently portrayed was that of homemaker and wife and not as a professional woman. This would sound counter intuitive to the cool woman described above were it not for the fact that all of her private resources were used to keep others from accessing her true feelings. In short, my experience with her was that she was never truly accessible emotionally to any of us children, with the modest exception being her youngest daughter.

Homemaking was mother’s achievement and she did it well. She knew how to do it right even if that was a subjective interpretation of hers. Furthermore, homemaking was the measuring stick we were to be measured against. She was not alone in this belief system in that it was common to many, many women in the 1950’s and earlier. Yet, this focus was also the barrier that kept me separated from her and ultimately from a portion of myself. Homemaking was not interesting to me. Cooking, sewing (only out of necessity) and the ‘domestic arts’ was boring! Making the perfect pie, having dinner on the table at the right time, tending the perfect garden, sewing the best dress were her priorities. We children seemed to be unwitting accomplices in the protective coating she established for herself.

How did she create the impression she was accessible when in truth she was not? In short, she had all the characteristics of the cool woman described above but with her own unique expression of them. She had lively eyes when something tickled her. She possessed the most beautiful soprano voice when she sang. She was physically present throughout nearly all of my upbringing with the exception of my junior and senior year in high school when she went back to work in a home economics classroom. And when she did go back to work, she seemed to come alive. Some distant renewed spark ignited and for a time, she became a different person. She actually displayed personal enthusiasm as opposed to the robotic nature I witnessed during all the years that came before.

Why does any of this matter to my perception of cool women in general now? Without being fully aware, I seem to have been looking for warmth and affirmation from my mother in the bodies, personalities, and relationships of other cool women I have come in contact with throughout my life. Of course, this has been to no avail. Unwittingly, I’m drawn to cool women as if by some magnetic force field all in an effort to make a particular cool woman let me in, to even affirm me in some way. It seems I have been attracted to cool women friendships and professional connections so that I might finally get from one (or more) of them what I was unable to get from my mother.  While this is certainly a frustrating psychological dynamic, there has always been an accompanying suppressed fear that I might be a cool woman myself!


In contrast to cool women, warm women are easily accessible emotionally and psychologically in that they are open, willingly tell you how they feel and want to know how others are feeling. They are generally nurturing and affirming of others although they may or may not be self-nurturing. In addition, the warm woman usually has a positive outlook on life and is not cynical or critical.  If she happens to criticize, it is delivered in thoughtful language that is mindful of the other person’s feelings while still being clear, thus softening any blow which may or may not occur.

Warm women are often (though not always) adept at raising children, instilling a strong sense of self worth due to ongoing overt affirmations for their children’s personhood. Warm women are noticeably loving and loveable. While they readily acknowledge accomplishment and achievements, the warm woman also clearly communicates another’s value unrelated to performance, relying instead on acknowledgement of and a genuine affection for a person’s essence.

The warm woman is often a good listener, conscious of not only what you have to say but your right and need to say it. Her general demeanor is one of kindness and observable awareness for how another is handling their life, their pursuits, and their struggles. She is eager to communicate with friends and family about her own life’s experiences as well as learn about those for whom she cares. She will even drop what she is doing sometimes, making an obvious effort to connect as opposed to ‘half listening’ or putting a person off to finish some task.

In addition to being open and receptive to others, she frequently initiates unsolicited communication with close friends and family members to inquire how they are and/or support them emotionally in whatever way is reasonable. In most all things she is self-assured and confident and even when she is not, she is aware of her shortcomings and works to correct them. The warm woman is open to self-critiquing as long as it is constructive. She listens well to other’s concerns about her, taking subsequent steps to either address a perceived slight or change ongoing behaviors that may be disruptive to a relationship. This is due in part to the high value she places on relationships in general.

Why do warm women matter to me? Warm women are infinitely appealing for their very warmth, concern, and ability to extend themselves in a friendship. As a general rule, this trait carries through in primary relationships with partners as well. Yet, being raised by a cool woman, and even in the face of being drawn to warm women, they are quite baffling to me. Why? In short, they are unfamiliar territory and at certain points, I become skeptical of positive feedback even when offered. At this point, I may become irritable and look for reasons to push the warm woman away. While this occurs more frequently in friendships, it has also occurred in work relationships, disbelieving accolades.

Because I’m far more familiar with cool women (though ultimately, unsatisfied) they remain my default recognition as potential friends. This has rarely, if ever, been conscious. Yet, warm women are who I crave to spend time with, work with, and develop bonds with. I seek them out like a plant needing water yet the essential elements I crave ultimately limit the friendship when the warm woman praises my accomplishments or positive qualities. The early stages of a friendship of sharing and general optimism typically remain robust, the caring and comfort they provide leave me feeling liked/loved and supported. What’s more, it feels natural that I reciprocate; at least that’s how I perceive it at my end. It is only once I am affirmed or nurtured to a greater degree that I get into trouble. It is the classic ‘approach-avoidance’ syndrome at which point I head for the hills emotionally.

As a result of affirmation deprivation in my early life, I have tried to cultivate warm women behaviors, to lavish praise and support on others although I am more than a little conscious of withholding these traits as well. What’s more, as recent consciousness of both cool and warm qualities has increased, I have become painfully aware of withholding affirmation or nurturing for me! In fact, books or affirmation cards designed to boost a woman’s self esteem leave me skeptical, even scoffing, due to the uncertainty in my own worth, consistent with my disbelief when hearing positive feedback from others.

Why do I contend I have ‘no experience’ of positive affirmation or praise? Because even when given I think surely the deliverer must be mistaken! In my mind, I simply discredit it, however subtly. What’s worse, I am more likely to believe affirmations from a man than a woman which is ironic since I rarely received it from my father, quite the opposite. He was more likely to criticize while mother was flat out mute.

Enter Carol. I was blessed with a lifelong friendship with a woman who died several years ago. She was the warmest, most affirming, caring, loving person I have ever known. For several decades our friendship thrived. And even if I did not quite believe my value as seen through her eyes, I did value the fact that she valued me. Later on, however, there was a change. As I began to have professional successes, she would offer exceptionally glowing praise. Astonishingly, I found ways to criticize her though never directly. I found myself irritated when she would be ‘in awe’ of something I had done, which sounds crazy to the well adjust psyche. In fact, I would be so irritated and skeptical of her accolades I concluded there was something wrong with her, which just goes to show how uncomfortable I became with increasing acknowledgement and affirmation of my talents.

But the mind’s eye criticism I once directed at her has boomeranged. I have become more and more aware of what has always been deficient in me, which is my inability to acknowledge my own self worth and accomplishments from the inside. What was not provided in my formative years from an external (the mother) has left me at a perceived loss, though not an insurmountable one.

At times this feels like a handicap although not such a handicap that it can’t be worked through and overcome. With increasing awareness, I can make different decisions about what to believe about myself, to question early messages or lack thereof. With increasing awareness I can also make different decisions that acknowledge upon hearing positives by others, that they are trustworthy. After all, while being drawn to cool women out of familiarity, and possibly even by sharing some of their characteristics, I know the healthy and happy path for me is to overcome my discomfort and flight patterns both figuratively and literally when I hear supportive qualities or accomplishments about myself from warm women. I can also stop being drawn to cool women, stop expecting unrealistic outcomes. At the heart of it, I can cultivate the courage to make a seismic shift, to stop looking for ‘love’ in all the wrong places.

Oftentimes (though by no means always) a warm and listening heart, an affirming and positive demeanor is the quality I have provided others over the course of my lifetime even though I have withheld it from myself. Psychological ‘programming’ embedded as distorted beliefs are tough to identify in ones’ self, let alone, dismantle. While I think this is true for many women (as well as men,) it is time I accept the truth about myself in this regard. It is time for me, without the external craving for or the denial of it, to truly see what I have been incapable of seeing previously, to own my worth, to see what I may be capable of both personally and professionally, and to love and nourish myself independent of it all.

For Liz and Patrick: 

I went to some friend’s wedding recently. As is true for most weddings, it was a blessed occasion, as well as the social highlight of the summer for me. I imagine this to be true for the bride and groom as well. They both beamed, emitting rays of tenderness and affection for one another. Being a ‘May—December’ affair, the wedding was the second marriage for each of them, a glorious promise of ongoing love.

The church was decorated simply, including a few voluptuous floral arrangements and an array of finely dressed friends and family. The music was stunning, the pianist stroking the keys with breathtaking precision and feeling. As usual, the soloist led us in song at appropriate places befitting a catholic ceremony, along with gifting us by singing two luminous solos.

As a member of this church myself, this soprano grabs me where-I-live, what with her perfect-pitch voice that carries all the naturalness and subtlety of a song bird on one hand and the immense, thunderous crescendo of a wave dropping dramatically on the other. She always ‘has me at the first note,’ immersing me in a pool of beauty. After her first solo at the wedding, a stray thought occurred: I could hire her to sing Ave Maria just for me, some other time in this acoustically perfect sanctuary. I could lose myself in that sound, transported during the translation of that elegant energy that passes through her mouth.

And then, of course, a few minutes later she sang it. With a small catch in my throat, I had to stop myself from weeping. A kind of pressure occurred in an effort to prevent the tears from flowing so publicly upon hearing Shubert’s masterpiece rendered so lavishly.

Then there was the couple! They were so very endearing, she in her 50’s and he in his 70’s: The bride so beautiful and light, the groom so gentle and self-assured. As they knelt, the priest said he would ‘be brief’ with his comments because, after all, the wedding couple had older knees. One can’t ask old knees to stay in that locked position for too long and expect to get up. And at that we all laughed recognizing the truth of it. Throughout the ceremony, the priest seemed demonstrably tender with the bride and groom, extending great delicacy and care. Having known the near-blind bride for years and the widowed groom for decades, he clearly celebrated their having found such a sublime love for one another, one that was not just gentle but sturdy as well.

Now, weddings are usually joyous affairs and catholic weddings typically display no small amount of additional reverence for God, being one of the holy sacraments. But I was particularly struck by the priest’s devotion during the blessing of the host as he prepared to share the Eucharist with the couple, as well as the rest of us in attendance. It seemed obvious and palpable that he loved God, correction, loves God. While communion might be his version of the soprano’s crescendo, it is sourced from the same place and he is in recognition of that fact.

It also felt like he was inclusive, conscious of the community before him, even beyond his role as priest. His actions were not rote like some priests, not a habit from years in the priesthood. Rather, the love emanating from him was genuine, palpable, a visible stream originating from something greater than himself. It was beatific, lovely and, dare I say, knowable. What’s more, that love felt energetic. It didn’t need to exert itself, it just ‘was’ as if powered by an underground spring. At some point, it seemed to me he delivered that love, priest-as-conduit for all of us to partake, above and beyond the sacrament.

And in a flash I was reminded of the most beautiful description of love shared by a man and a woman which is this: “The love we have for each other is not different from the love we have for God,” (Dr. David R. Hawkins and Susan Hawkins.) It is breathtaking to me that God’s love can be expressed beyond personalities, beyond any role of priest or soprano, beyond but including the union of a couple, incorporating the whole of humanity. All are equally sourced from the same spring.

And so I left the church that day feeling buoyed, enlivened, and blessed to be both witness and participant to this touching and beautiful wedding between two people who deeply love one another; to be blessed to hear the soprano’s powerful trilling; to be bathed in one priest’s transmission of the Divine. I was also buoyed by the promise, no, the knowledge that this love is unstoppable, pervading every atom, every cell, every droplet in the spring, every wave in the ocean, and all of life. For Divine Love is both eminent and transcendent, everywhere at once, animating all that is both in the now and in the ever after.


The Anatomy of Negative Emotions

Whether they are positive or negative, the energy of emotions can seem staggering at times. This is particularly true when there is an aggregate of negative emotion swamping the system, pressing downward on the self. Example: guilt accompanied by anger accompanied by sorrow accompanied by shame, or vice versa. The negative emotions have always been more difficult for me to deal with. Should I suppress or express them? If suppressing, what price will I ultimately pay; ditto, to expressing them? It seems I move lightening fast into some presumed protection mode, frozen in habit, worried about injury to myself or others.

Over the last year I have become aware of said aggregate above when taking on writing jobs that I don’t really want. This also occurs in other circumstances as well. The first emotion to appear has been fear followed by anger followed by rage, ultimately erupting into a Vesuvius from within. While I have wanted to direct the emotion outwards at a manufactured perpetrator, more often than not, the finger gets turned inward towards my small, meager self, wondering why I continue saying ‘yes’ to things I want to say ‘no’ to. “You fool,” I think.

In the case of hired-gun writing, the rationale has almost always been to pay the bills. Sometimes I warp it into some misplaced sense of duty, responsibility, commitment to both self and another, which would not be so wrong if it were not for the fact that I have kept the pattern of agreeing to things that, in my heart, I want to say a resounding NO to. Once this awareness arrives, I feel stupid, ashamed, grief-stricken. Then what happens? I squelch it, pushing it downward, ever deeper, until I recognize a tightly wound knot of negative emotion far worse than the original feelings I suppressed. What’s worse is, in a split second I decide to not feel them. But, of course, they return with a vengeance.

Yet, there is good news here. Once I am in enough pain, I begin correcting things that have contributed to my self-inflicted misery, examining the why’s and wherefores, habits and payoffs (yes, payoffs) I get out of my behavioral conditioning and vow to challenge and change them. Remarkably, at such a turning point, relief begins to surface. It begins subtly. This process allows me to behave differently, to be different. While all of this is glacially slow initially, it builds. With increasing momentum, I become aware of how the positive emotions have far more power, individually and as a collective, to sustain and carry me forward. I even begin to recognize a kind of courage. Upon reaching some critical mass, my heart and mind bursts open, obliterating anything previously perceived as negative.

The Anatomy of Positive Emotions

There is nothing like hope. And hope is followed by joy, which is followed by understanding not only is there choice on how to be; what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to, I am the only one to make it. For me, this generates a sense of liberation from mental-emotional programs that were set up long ago in the ego-mind.

Once I begin to feel hope, a panoply of lightness spreads. I take enormous comfort in knowing that peace, joy, and love are emerging. I see them not with eyes but with the heart. What’s more, this feels natural, a nature that is sturdy and true. The quality of me is not experienced differently exactly; rather, it is experienced—and witnessed—as a quality that is greater than what I have previously perceived of as a ‘me.’

How do I know this? I recognize it as a state of being. What is first labeled in my mind as a positive emotion is rapidly transformed into the awareness that of my own small self, I cannot create this feeling of freedom and joy, this state of peace. Instead, I am acutely aware that it comes from that which animates me. Call it what you will. What I know is that it comes from something larger, immense and infinite.

I cannot force this state into being either. My role is to seek conditions that will facilitate it. I cannot force myself to be joyful. I can, however, say ‘yes’ to some invisible yearning and allow it in. I can encourage and bring into play those things that have helped joy arrive from previous experiences. Breathtaking music can trigger such a state. Writing my heart out can trigger such a state. Beauty as expressed from a shard of light reflecting off a mountain, an elegant stand of birch trees, the glistening of a child’s eyes in wonder, or the astonishing fragrance of a stargazer lily, and many more things that move the truest part of me can trigger it.

Ever expanding, when this state arrives, however sudden or slow, stillness ensues. I become aware of yet another quality. Language in the form of thinking slows and sometimes even stops, however briefly. Breathing seems to stop or, at minimum, I am unaware of it. It seems that the ‘me’ that is in this state recognizes breathing is not required. The state includes but is not dependent on it, precluding it instead. This state is a quality of that which creates all life having nothing to do with time, yet experienced in it. This expansive state is buoyant, maintained by an infinite lightness. It feels like an unstoppable Love, simply unstoppable. Unstoppable that is, until the state is interrupted. Some other part of me, some manufactured ego-mind ‘me’ stumbles back, inserting itself somehow.

When I come to, I recognize there is a destiny to fulfill, some purpose I am committed to even if I know not its details. You can call it the ‘soul’s business’, spiritual evolution, living out my days on the earth plane, whatever. All I know is that for some wild and wonderful reason, I am to continue in ordinary time until the state of unconditional Love transcends any small self I have previously been operating from. Creation has its own reasons for these earthly opportunities suspended in life form, only to be periodically transfixed by the invisible. I must be patient and am. Mostly! In any particular circumstance, the interruption of such bliss back to daily human affairs requires me to keep moving forward until the next state arrives, until the next piece of beauty renders me breathless, until the next reed of infinite Grace quiets my heart.

So I wait.

Not long ago while attending a book discussion group, a lovely bird and I sang a duet together, he with his song and I with my words. It was quite remarkable really. Our little group takes turns reading and I was up. No sooner had I started and the bird in question arrived in the chimney flu, launching into a loud melody of his own making.  I mean he was loud! Not only that, he was delightfully melodic, communicating in his language and me in mine. It seemed the more I read, the more insistent he became and I quickly felt immersed in his rapture as he sang his heart out! It seemed our little duet transcended both of us, becoming a third thing born of sharing. Not only was I aware of this in the moment, the third thing obliterated any comprehension of the words I was reading, rendering instead a greater understanding found in being. I became both lost and found in the larger experience, feeling astonishingly uplifted, expanded somehow. I felt not only a smile on my face but one planted firmly in the heart, beating in syncopation with his.

To contend we are all in this life at Earth School together is a heady concept made headier by a knowing participation when subjectively experienced. I often feel this when out in nature, witnessing and involved with birds, trees, flowers, even pedestrian things like mud or decomposing leaves. The muskiness of a tree, the overwhelming fragrance of a Eucalyptus, even when a tiny gnat flies into my face as I walk, all evokes this sharing, this all-one-thingness that is transcendent, lifting me out of what I perceive as me. When I am blessed to reside in this space I feel fortunate indeed, enlivened by a force greater than any definition as writer, mother, friend; whatever.

I see this in other people and creatures as well, though they may not experience it in quite the same way. My old friend Bennet feeds peanuts to squirrels, throwing them in their shell on the ground outside his back door each morning. I’ve watched his face when he does this. I see his joining with each squirrel in some invisible force field as they scamper toward each nut, also entering a third thing, a space they intimately share for a moment before the spell is broken.

My hummingbirds also display this quality. Most of the time they function according to hummingbird rules, which is to say territorial, chasing each other away from the feeder in an attempt to be top bird. Yet there are times when they share. It is a joy to watch. Lately I have seen as many as three, four, sometimes five hummingbirds perched or hovering around my 3-hole feeder, waiting their turn to drink. It is just as if they silently agree to suspend their individual nature, relying instead on a collective One. On occasion, when the feeder has been drained dry a bird will even peer in my window as if to say “fill it up, creature!”

This hushed communication remains a mystery to me for how is it that form or the physical world can be so overcome with a force not of bird or animal making. Yet the songbird and my duet incline me to know it not only can be but is when desiring to do so, whether consciously or unconsciously. For the bird in the chimney kept up his warbling until I finished my paragraph, and even briefly thereafter, only ending his song when it was someone else’s turn to read. While others in the group noticed and even commented on the bird, I took such pleasure in having him accompany me and I him, not only witnessing but immersed in the One life we all share.

Venturing forth into the great unknown; it is so very overwhelming. I have a 90-year-old friend who is in the process of moving to her (likely) last physical location, a retirement facility. While she has moved many times throughout her life, often not of her own choosing, she has become skillful at it nonetheless. Still, this time is different for her intuition tells her it will be her last before the ultimate address change to the great beyond, the most massive unknown of all.

In a minor way I can relate to her trepidation as I get ready to collect social security, another milestone surely but likely not my last. While my ‘retirement’ poses a different kind of overwhelming quality, it cannot compare to my friend’s, although I will also be moving to downsize expenses. Yet, through my own confrontation of a shrinking time frame, surrendering to the inevitable earthly departure requires a different kind of living until the actual event occurs.

Taking stock and reviewing a life is not for the faint of heart. Naturally some of us cannot help but examine ourselves when confronting such pivot points. I hear in my friend’s voice her own examination although she rarely relates much detail. Mostly, she shares the fact that she is undergoing a process that is difficult. It requires courage and honesty, surely. There is an unmistakable whiff of both pain and even pleasure as she negotiates it all. Yet remarkably, there emanates a kind of gratitude and respect from her for the privilege of living through it all, regardless of sorrow and reget.

This entire examination process feels essential to any forward spiritual evolution of my own as well. And while I don’t know exactly how she views the process for herself, I sense her necessity in doing so just the same. It is inexplicable how the soul, a larger Self takes over at some point, almost demanding it be done, even if not continuous. While I have the freedom to say no to that Self, some quality deep down where I really live, cannot. After all, I have to take the long view of infinity and me in it, regardless of location, for I know beyond any reasonable doubt I am accountable for my choices.

Surrendering to this accountability is both painful and relieving. For example, I haven’t always been kind. I haven’t always been courageous. And I certainly haven’t always been generous or selfless. I haven’t even always been honest! The details of these broader acknowledgements have been acted out in daily living with family, friends, co-workers, even strangers. While I’m hardly alone in my transgressions, I’m still no less responsible for not just acknowledging them but ultimately transcending them in an effort to be free.

So I watch as my friend moves slowly through her ‘last change’ silently but communicating just the same, all the while feeling the parallel energy of my own. Even if our presumed timelines are different, traversing the spiritually examined landscape is recognizable and familiar. So much of the process between the two of us is unspoken yet felt; a quiet transmission that passes the baton from one to the other, a delicate yet sturdy sharing in some inexplicable way.

And I am grateful beyond measure.

Everywhere I stand is Holy Ground. If only I could remember that, be truly conscious of it all the time, life would be a breeze. A sense of holiness does come to me in flashes. Yet too much of the time holiness seems to reside somewhere else. To view God as infinite, ever-present and omnipresent, by definition He must be everywhere always, including where I stand. Naturally, this includes not just a patch of physical geography, but also the territory inside the heart. And while I believe this conceptually, so much of the time it is not what I operate from.

Most of my life the ego has controlled my head, and therefore, my living, with the heart’s terrain relegated to a backup position. You know, like when you’re in trouble? How difficult it remains to consciously invoke that which created me and sustains me with real surrender. Instead, I plod along relying on that increasingly unreliable source: the ego. And while it has served me in helpful ways, it has frequently sabotaged my very happiness. For the ego long ago hijacked reason, focusing its business instead on the linear world which, in my advancing years, is not only pale by comparison, but has also contributed to misery and depletion. After all, reason and the intellect only take a person so far. Once you’re truly at life’s edges, it is the heart, that terrain where God resides, that is the springboard of faith. It is the heart that is the holy ground where Love resides.

And so it is that I have become desperate for God, even in the face of my ongoing resistance and lack of habit.  This would strike me as funny if my spiritual state didn’t seem so serious! For I have become increasingly aware of an inability to live, let alone be happy, in a linear, worldly fashion, plotting and planning, organizing and mapping out my days. I have become bereft, it seems, unable to be ‘fed’ by anything the ego has to offer.

This inability, of course, requires a transcendence, a leap of faith that feels greater than my ability to exercise it. Yet exercise faith I must. Quite simply, there is no other way. Until such time as I reach some critical mass of lovingness, however, I often feel stuck, relegated instead to some no-man’s land practicing surrender, which does yield astounding outcomes at times, most visibly, peace; peace and an all-encompassing loving that is indescribable. Other times, however, practicing faith in God consciously, continuously, is no small feat. When struggling with it, I lapse automatically under the ego’s spell.

Yet the power of holiness, God’s infinite love planted in the heart, sits silent, waiting for my next acknowledgement. Miraculously, each time that acknowledgement occurs, faith is automatic, instantaneous, subtle, even if seemingly temporary. My charge now is to surrender more and more, with the faith that it will someday be the only thing from which I consciously operate.  There simply is no other way. For in the end, the heart, which is to say God’s love, governs all things, however I may have previously viewed life through the ego’s lens.  The heart is the seat of holy ground and it is everywhere, and the only thing I long for. Quite simply, it is the only thing that makes any sense at all.