Archives for the month of: April, 2015


During meditation this week these words from Pema Chodron grabbed me: “Only with equanimity can we see that everything that comes into our circle has come to teach us what we need to know.”

What came to mind for me were images from three intersecting circles. The first circle held searing pictures of racism from videos of killings, protests and violence across our land. They confronted me with how far we have to go to heal the deep wounds of slavery, and they raised many questions. Collectively do we have the will to create equality of opportunity? Can we secure justice in the oligarchy that our democracy has become?

The second circle is an outdoor amphitheater that seats 600 in one of the camps of the youth organization I led for several years. The memory of standing in that arena with a blazing fire at its center to speak or lead songs and cheers restores the hope of engaging young people in social change.

In those years we brought together urban, suburban and international youth to strengthen their understanding and appreciation of difference, tap into their idealism and advance their leadership skills to make a difference. Today many of them are advocates for equality and justice in metropolitan St. Louis, Dayton, Cincinnati and elsewhere.

Within the third circle reside the questions of if and how to engage racism at this stage of life when my white privilege allows me to choose not to. What are my obligations in retirement? Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s words ring with their challenge: “I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.”

What is in your circle this week, and what is it here to teach you?


We often use the phrase I changed my mind to explain a minor shift in behavior like switching our choice of entre at a restaurant. When is the last time you changed your mind about something important like your livelihood, your lifestyle or a relationship?

Part of my work in coaching is to help people break through an impasse that is blocking them. Most of us hit these walls when we are overwhelmed by too many to-dos, confused by conflicting demands, immobilized by opportunities or sometimes just stuck in a rut.

Whatever the reasons given, our way is usually blocked by a mindset. I’m too busy. I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve it. Do any of these ring true for you? If so, is it time to begin changing your mind about something important? Here are a couple of suggestions for starters.

A rut is a routine on steroids; a mindset is an attitude. You can begin to change both by replacing chunks of your daily routine. Start with a small step and build on it. If you spend 30-45 minutes on social media each day, replace 15 of those minutes searching websites, books or magazines for phrases or images that convey your vision of the change you wish to make.

Start a journal. Add a single entry each day – one quote or picture you have found that inspires you and moves your energy toward your vision. Keep it simple. One consistent action over the coming month will become a new routine.

As you gradually modify other routines, you will transform your attitude and the messages you tell yourself. Shifting your mindset can lead to changing your life.

Giving Tree IMG_0191

For her bed time story one night this week our six-year-old grandchild chose The Giving Tree. As is often true the simplicity of a child’s tale taps the complexity of an elder’s painfully acquired perspectives.

First published fifty years ago Shel Sliverstein’s story has been interpreted in a variety of ways from a parable of unconditional love to the “me” generation’s exploitive narcissism. (The boy takes everything – fruit, branches and trunk).

When I asked what she liked about the story, our granddaughter had two answers: the tree kept giving and giving and the boy kept getting older and older until all he wanted was to rest on the stump that remained.

The story offers several questions for our reflection. To what extent do we give? To what extent do we take? How do we receive?

Have we identified what it is that we have to give in life? Do we give freely without expecting anything in return? Do we give “it” all away because that may be safer than risking the request for reciprocity?

Do we take without considering consequences, oblivious that the day will come when there is nothing left to take, or, as those of us who are seniors fear, there is little more to give?

Do we take without appreciation? The boy never thanks the tree, although she takes joy from his childhood play in her branches and his periodic visits through the years.

After every gift the tree provides, the narrator reports: “And the tree was happy.” Was it that she was fulfilling her destiny? Was it her unwavering commitment to relationship? How open are we to receiving such bountiful grace?

IMG_0178 - Copy

This week our family celebrates Peggy’s birthday. With winter lingering the arrival of her special flower is delayed, but its significance is seldom absent whatever the month.

Daffodils have accompanied our life together, the gift of a Limeliters’ song some fifty years ago.

I do not have a mansion. I haven’t any land. Not one paper dollar to crinkle in my hand. But I can show you morning on a thousand hills, kiss you and give you seven daffodils.

I do not have a fortune to buy you pretty things, but I can give you moonbeams for necklaces and rings. And I can show you morning on a thousand hills…

Seven golden daffodils shining in the sun, light our way to evening when the day is done. And I can give you music and a crust of bread, a pillow of piney boughs to rest your head.

With the color of sunlight and its cyclical profusion this simple flower reminds us of earth’s bounty and the life-giving riches that sustain body and soul.

The romantic dreams and meager means of youth have seasoned. We saved a few paper dollars and with the generosity of many acquired some land. The home built by friends and our sons is a mansion to us. Each morning the view encompasses several hills. Music and singing join our three generations. Peggy’s home baked bread nourishes us well beyond the crust of necessity. Now a perch for resting birds, the piney boughs wave above their hillside neighbors.

Most amazing, perhaps, is the bouquet pictured above. It greeted us as we arrived on the land the spring we broke ground. There were no other flowers in sight. Their origin remains a blessed mystery, as does the fortune we celebrate this April birthday.

Upper Road 3 IMG_0175 Edited

While they are happening, transitions in life can be messy. Think of leaving a relationship, losing your livelihood, confronting a debilitating disease or moving to a new community. It is mud season in New Hampshire, the obstreperous passage from winter to spring and a timely metaphor for the muddle of change.

Locals know well the indicators of this season: days warm enough to melt the snow followed by nights of congealing cold; deep ruts in dirt roads that suck the traction from your tires; cracked macadam heaved up by melting and refreezing water beneath; tell-tale orange signs prohibiting heavy loads on vulnerable streets.

As with all liminal times, what is giving way has not completely yielded and what is coming has not yet fully arrived. In our lives it usually takes longer for our emotions to catch up with the physical changes thrust upon us.

How do we cope with this muddy transition? We pay attention, looking for the shoots of crocuses as the snow recedes, noting how the daylight lingers and the air fills with promise. We practice prudence, avoiding the pudding filled roads that can mire us. We prepare, planting indoors the seeds for our gardens to come.

Lastly, we seek and mine the treasure that can be found only at the heart of this unruly period. The warm days and cold nights trigger the launch of dormant sap from roots to leaf buds high above. Long hours tapping trees and collecting and boiling the sap yield maple syrup, the liquid gold that is the boon of this stretch of disruptions.

Next time you find yourself in the middle of a transition may the mud season metaphor provide some sweet reminders that summer is coming.