Nature Thrives on Differences


I continue to mourn the loss of civility in our country. It seems our main discourse is to blame, accuse, threaten, or denigrate people who we disagree with. I recently read a quote about civility from the Institute for Civility in Government that Brene Brown shares in her book Braving the Wilderness.

Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process. Civility is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored.

As I read this I knew it was true, yet so hard for me to do. We are so polarized at this point I have a hard time wanting to hear what the other side has to say. I have made preconceived assumptions about them that preclude me from wanting to hear their point of view. I have family in very different political camps than me and although I love them I find I don’t want to talk to them. This is wrong–for me and for my family.

My commitment is to practice deep listening, first with my family and then others. This will require me to pay attention, be present, and be open. If I can’t bridge the divide with family how can I expect our country to bridge the divide. May we all find peaceful ways to begin to bridge the divides that separate us from our fellow citizens. It starts with one relationship at a time, and I believe it is probably the most important work we can do at this time.

Peace be with all of us in our endeavors to listen to each other and find common ground.





I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.  Joyce Kilmer

The beautiful Service Berry tree offers gifts each of the four seasons.  After the blossoms turn to berries, the Cedar Waxwings come in droves and denude the tree of berries within two days. It is a wonder to see, especially since I don’t see them again until next year. Do they have a special radar that tells them when and where the service berries are?  The fall gift this tree bestows is vivid fall colors of red, yellow, and orange. Winter offers time for rest. Her leaves have let go and she hunkers down for the winter, renewing her energy.

Service Berry tree in backyard.

Trees continue to be my solace and my teacher. They are rooted to the earth. When I’m fragmented and unsure, I return to nature and the beautiful trees dotting her landscape. I reconnect with the Universe, becoming rooted, centered–coming home to my core essence.

Visiting Northern California, I saw a mighty redwood standing with a gapping burned out hole in its trunk—surviving, but scarred.  My life has had raging fires that have burned and scarred. I too have survived these fires that have swept through my life.  I stand taller and am stronger for the burning. Trees continue to teach me how to live.

The cypress that bends to the mighty winds–bending but not breaking. It teaches me how to live with the power of the wind and not resist it.  I am learning to flow with the changes that take place. To fly with the wind, instead of pushing against it, diminishes the stress that comes with resistance.  I feel the freedom that comes with trusting the flow of life.

The trees that have died become nursing logs and new growth begins.  As parts of me die, old patterns or habits no longer necessary or useful, space opens for me to create new stories.  Death brings life, and my old ways of being are a nursing log for the person I am becoming.

The tree stands in all its glory—proud, majestic, and strong. It survives the many elements and still reaches for the sun with hope of renewed life.

I continue to reach for the sun, to stretch and grow.  The sun heals me and gives me hope for tomorrow. May you find and befriend the gifts of trees to support nourishing growth within your being.

Spring is Here

Spring is nature’s way of saying “let’s party.”  Robin Williams

I’m always amazed at how much lighter I feel when we turn the cornerIMG_0951.jpg



from winter to spring. The burst of color from the first flowers of spring: daffodils, crocus, and hyacinth bring me such joy. Their winter rest has produced such beauty. A good lesson for me in my busy schedule. “Rest in the stillness,” is a thought that comes to me when I get too busy running from one activity to another. When I say this I feel myself slow down and breathe.  Always a good thing.

Spring affirms the changing of the season reminding me that life is constantly changing. I need this reminder periodically in these tumultuous and divisive times we are living through. I use the word through purposefully because we will live through these times as we have other hard times in our history. It is just sometimes hard for me to remember when I am feeling the angst of our country’s divide. Spring is a great reminder that life continues and dark turns toward the light.

It is hard to pick my favorite season, but I think I would have to say it is Spring. The beauty of the flowers, the birds preparing their nests, and the return of sunny warm days.  It is the sense of rebirth and renewal. I wonder what is being rebirthed in me, what wants to emerge? I think of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “Where there are flowers there is hope.”  Yes, Spring opens my heart to hope and trust that all will be well.

Follow Robin Williams’ sage advice, “Party” and enjoy the vibrancy this season offers.

Whose Voice is it Anyway?

Your North Star

One of the hardest questions for me to answer is, “How do I discern when my ego is talking or my divine guidance?”  This is a question we all ask at times.  I listened to a wonderful interview with Dr. Joan Borysenko, by Devaa Haley Mitchell of the Shift Network.

Dr. Borysenko and her husband interviewed several spiritual leaders from all faith traditions asking this exact question.  There are no easy answers, but all agreed upon one point, that there is a deep sense of knowing. I’ve definitely experienced times in my life when I felt I was being called to something new, and struggled with letting go of the known.  I left a tenured position at the age of 43, with no idea of where I was heading, but I had a “deep knowing” I had to follow this voice. I closed out a successful business when, again, I had a deep knowing I was being called somewhere but didn’t know where. I don’t want to make it sound like it was easy. The ego wants to be safe. It took two years of bartering, ignoring, denying this “knowing” before I closed my business. Each new experience created an internal battle between my ego and soul. Once I said Yes, new opportunities opened that I had never envisioned, opening a whole new life.

There are signs to look for when you are not sure which voice is talking:

  1. Look for synchronicity.  We’ve all experienced events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connect.  I often have books show up just when I need them.  Follow the trail. These show up often one after another and are leading you somewhere.
  2. Notice your body sensations.  Notice when you feel a big Yes or a flow of energy when you hear or see something.  I’ve learned to notice when my body constricts or expands, clearly pointing the way.
  3. Pay attention to your dream life. I used to keep a dream journal and was amazed at the synchronicity of my dreams to the questions I was pondering. Ask your dreams to give you insight to a question you are grappling with.

Two major blocks that stop divine guidance are: 1) Not having enough time to slow down and pay attention. We can’t pick up the cues if we are rushing from one thing to the next.  2) When we have old traumas not dealt with, we create a box of safety. We see life through the lens of that box. This keeps divine guidance out because guidance comes in the present time.

May you tune into your individual guidance system and learn to discern the difference between your ego and  divine guidance. Trust your internal GPS.




Two Affairs

I heard someone say recently that we all carry on two affairs throughout our lifetime:


one is with the past and the other is with the future.  Each has its own siren that calls us forward or back in time taking us away from the present.  This really made me stop and think. As I reflected on these two affairs in my life I became aware of how often I am pulled from the present moment.

This photograph shows a part of seven miles of old growth trails right out my back fence. I walk them as often as possible. Nature is my spiritual home.  Even on these trails I find myself fast-forwarding, planning my next hour, day, week.  The natural world gently calls me to listen to the birds singing, to bend down and smell the flowers by the path, to be astounded by the gradation of greens that dot the landscape. Even with all this call to slow down and notice the moment, the future’s call is often louder.  Eckhart Tolle says, “Focus on the NOW and tell me what problems you have at this moment.”  Stress and gratitude cannot reside in the same moment.  Being present takes our minds off the future and/or past.

I don’t spend a lot of time in the past.  I am not one to put energy into bitterness and regret. I don’t spend time wishing my past were different. I do spend time reflecting on the impact of my life events to help me understand my behaviors and beliefs of today. My past experiences are my best teachers.  Being from a long line of alcoholics I have definitely spent time looking at the impact of alcoholism on my life, and the behaviors I developed to protect myself.  These are behaviors that no longer serve me, and hinder my ability to live a full life today. By acknowledging them I have the opportunity to heal through them. My affair with the past is more about learning how my past impacts me now, so I can let go of old stories and make room for the new.

I continue to practice being fully present right here, right now.  It doesn’t always work as I have a very active mind filled with chatter.  As I quit the chatter, I breathe into the present.  Buddha states, “ Enlightenment is not a state we transcend to, but rather it is experiencing full presence and awakening in daily life.”

May we all learn to be more fully present to our lives, opening our hearts to the awe and wonder life offers.



Being My Authentic Self

Be Yourself

The very energy of life is the spirit released by being what we are.  Mark Nepo

I am struck by how often I yearn to be all that I am meant to be.  What makes me believe I am not living my authentic life?  This is a question I often ponder.  Who am I beneath the layers of cultural expectations and learned behaviors?  I know that beneath all of these layers is my Divine Essence. That spark that I entered this life with. I touch her when I experience awe or wonder at the beauty that surrounds me, or deep sharing with friends, or playing a game.  Often, I am reacting or responding to the daily rush of activities.

My question again, who is responding—–my authentic core or my highly developed ego based on cultural norms? I read a piece on “Lifehack” by Mandy Kloppers where she listed some things we should not care about. Reading over the list I thought, Yes.  When I care about these things I am trying to fit in instead of listening to and following my inner wisdom. Below is a condensed version of what she recommends:

1. Don’t care about what others think.  The minute you do you begin trying to please them, which in turn gives them power over your actions.

2. Don’t fret over past mistakes.  We all make mistakes and actually that is the only way we learn.  Perfection is highly overrated. We can only be ourselves when we give ourselves permission to try new things and experiment.

3. Don’t focus on what you don’t have.  Our culture is so consumer driven that we believe we need more, more, and more.  We begin comparing our lives to others.  Comparing ourselves to others creates a mindset of lack.  There is always a loser in comparison and it is generally the one comparing.

4. Worrying about the “what ifs” takes us out of our own fullness and keeps our lives small.  When you begin trusting your inner voice, you are living from your authentic self. 

5. Wishing your current life away by thoughts of “I’ll be happy when…” This one phrase puts your life on hold. Wishing your current life away is a precious waste of happy moments.  

6. Don’t live your life regretting what can’t be undone.  Look at what you’ve regretted in life, learn from it and let it go.  Regrets hold us in a past that can’t be changed.  

Step into your present life with the valuable lessons you have learned and enjoy what life offers today.


The Mystic Within

When it’s over, I want to say, all my life I was a bride married to amazement.  Mary Oliver

I dedicate this piece to Mary Oliver, whom we lost this week.  She was a true mystic, present to the amazing beauty of nature that surrounds us every day.  The mystic sees the sacred in the ordinary.  The mystical path takes us from our head to our heart.  It is a path of mystery, awe, wonder, and gratitude.

When I am fully present to life, I am able enjoy the birds in my backyard, the park I am able to walk everyday, and the antics of the squirrel that has outsmarted me each day.  This beautiful squirrel continues to eat my birdseed and bird suet.  I finally went out and bought a squirrel baffler.  Looking out in the yard later I noticed the squirrel sitting on a branch of the tree looking at the baffler.  He looked up, he looked to both sides, and then stared at the baffler.  I am smiling and thinking “Ha got you!”  All of a sudden he crouches down, takes a flying leap up under the baffler and proceeds to enjoy the suet.  As I watched this great display of nature, I was feeling no stress or tension, I was just smiling and enjoying the intelligence of this little critter.  He is now part of my wildlife backyard.

Abraham Maslow once said, “The great lesson from the mystics is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends, and family…in one’s backyard.”  Yes, it is what Abraham Heschel calls “Radical Amazement,” the ability to see the world through the eyes of awe and wonder, and to be amazed and astonished at the beauty, complexity, and synchronicity that graces our lives.

Mary Oliver shared her mystical soul with us through her poetry.  I thank her for waking me up to a form of earthy, accessible, and mystical poetry.  I close with her three recommendations for life:

Pay attention
Be Astounded
Tell Someone

May you know in your heart that animal-close-up-fur-47359we are all born mystics.  Being a mystic is as natural as experiencing wonder.