Archives for the month of: July, 2015


The collapse of a highway bridge in California this week is a compelling image. Our failure to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure mirrors our reluctance to invest in strengthening the connections that link us inextricably to each other and all life on the planet.

Our willingness to permit the chasms of commerce, class, race, religion and politics to divide is dooming us all. Can we build bridges to withstand the forces of human nature as well as Mother Nature?

We hear the naysayers’ answer daily. Those of us who would answer YES can begin by first tending the geography of our inner landscape.

Research on the brain is confirming what the experience of millennia has taught us about ourselves. Our ability first to survive and then to thrive results from the dance between our emotions and our cognition, our “heart” and “head.” Our ability to balance the two is key. Too much feeling without a rational reality check leads us astray and vice versa.

The good news is that our literal life-giving breath provides a transformative tool. Athletes, artists, counselors and those who meditate know this well. Training expands aerobic capacity and improves our health. Deep breathing interrupts cycles of fear, reducing stress. Breathing with focus and gentle intention creates a channel of mindfulness between head and heart, a conduit that brings the wisdom of each to the other.

Gaining perspective, balance and control of our own being is the first step in cultivating life-generating relationships with others. In words from Thich Nhat Hanh, Our breath is our bridge from our body to our mind.

An informed heart is our most powerful ally in spreading compassion. May your mindful breathing today launch ripples of peace within and outward to all whom you meet.


Each day the media spins its stories of our human condition. Most often we see what sells, the dark side of our fear that leads to greed, hatred, degradation, violence and destruction. Like images in a hall of mirrors the distortions of the dark side become the reality we perceive as our nature.

It is difficult not to yield to despair in the face of the ways we treat each other and our planet. At the same time, each of us contributes to the fear / love equation by our choices each day.

I have taken to searching for those whose lives, work and writing lift up the goodness and promise of our human journey. Without messages that nourish the light of our souls, how else can we survive individually and as a species?

Diane Ackerman provides today’s inspiration, reminding me that my attitude and my actions make a difference. May you find a gem in her words to nurture your soul as well.

In the name of the daybreak and the eyelids of morning and the wayfaring moon and the night when it departs,

I swear I will not dishonor my soul with hatred, but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature, as a healer of misery, as a messenger of wonder, as an architect of peace.

In the name of the sun and its mirrors and the day that embraces it and the cloud veils drawn over it and the uttermost night and the male and the female and the plants bursting with seed and the crowning seasons of the firefly and the apple,

I will honor all life – wherever and in whatever form it may dwell – on Earth my home, and in the mansions of the stars.


Climbing their lattice of bamboo and twine to a height of eight feet, the peas quickly staked their claim as the most visibly prolific performers in this year’s family garden. Less ostentatious, the radishes provided counterpoint in the ground. A bountiful teacher, the garden is a metaphor for mindfulness.

Through their gifts to each other last Christmas our younger son and his mother conspired to invest our small garden plot with a new approach. A carpenter by trade, his gift was to build raised beds and trellises, start the seeds early indoors and do the heavy lifting.  Her gift was a set of grow lights and her knowledge from past experience. Together they agreed to tend the plot regularly.

The visible progress to date is a plethora of vegetables in various stages of growth toward harvest. Less apparent but longer lasting are the lessons this project is teaching. Certainly, there are the hours spent planning the plot and its contents; constructing the beds and selecting, ordering and planting the seeds. However, the more enduring lessons are the following.

  • The cultivation of intention and follow through
  • The give and take of partnering in a journey
  • Accepting responsibility for the things we can control and letting go of those things we can’t (e.g. the weather, seeds that don’t germinate and taxes paid at night to four-legged visitors)
  • New awareness (e.g. natural allies like the tree swallows who swooped in daily to feast on grubs and beetles and a family of foxes who appeared as the voles began burrowing into the beds and moved on as the borrow mounds subsided).

Most bountiful to this spirit is to observe a son’s new found interest and a spouse’s maternal joy in a joint project with one of her offspring.

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Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. Taught by parents to an earlier generation of children as a defense against the cruel words of taunting peers, the verse betrays the reality. Name calling does hurt; think of the number of teen suicides in response to bullying.

The power of words is particularly evident in our cultural, religious and political conflicts. Wherever each of us stands on the spectrum of right to left, we know what phrases to expect from the other side and which are most effective for us to use from our own arsenal. Like an ice berg many of these words are code for a much larger load of assumptions and beliefs below the surface.

Take your own pulse for a moment. What thoughts or feelings come up with the following words? Flag. Second Amendment. Amnesty. Compromise. Forgiveness. #BlackLivesMatter. Marriage. Heritage. Amazing grace…

Our words help us declare who we are and what we stand for, our integrity. They can be weapons we use to defend ourselves or attack others. They also are tools for understanding, bridge building and reconciliation. The choice is ours – daily.

Words can inspire as in Rachel Remen’s contribution to Prayers for a Thousand Years, a compilation of hopeful expressions for the new millennium.

May we find each other in the silence between the words.

May we heal the loneliness of our expertise with the wisdom of our service.

May we honor in ourselves and all others the deep and simple impulse to live, to find sacred space and open land.

May we remember that the yearning to be holy is a part of everyone and the only hope for the next thousand years.

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