Friday, December 05, 2008

To allow yourself to be taken by life, by God

I often write in my journal during challenging times and good times as well. The practice of reflection can help to integrate and synthesize experiences, to draw the bitterness out of difficult circumstances and to highlight the preciousness of uplifting times.

During a period of extreme personal challenge in the spring of last year, I wrote some thoughts to recapture my faith. I condensed these thoughts into a quote, which to my surprise seems to have touched many people. It lives in my email signature.

To allow yourself to be taken by life, by God to the shallow edges and the deep ocean, to learn to live with fear, to seek to serve, to be gracious, to love. Perhaps that is all there is - not the having, but the practice of being carried and submitting to that which calls you.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


In Buddhism, there is the idea that most people are sleepwalking through life and the purpose is to awaken. While it may seem that you are often awake in your life, it may be less so than you think.

When coaching people, I often ask them to describe exactly what happened with a difficult or troubling situation. This activity is different than telling the "story" of what happened (e.g. "this person doesn't respect me"). "
Tell me what words were said. Describe the actions that took place." This practice can help someone to awaken by calling upon the ability to observe carefully.

Sometimes, at a specific point in the situation, a person is unable to clearly remember what was said or done. "I don't remember exactly what happened next." This can be an illuminating point to determine where an underlying issue, overwhelming feeling, or trigger reaction came into being and where the person fell asleep, so to speak. Then, I ask the person to take time to recollect carefully or to watch for the same moment in a future situation and record what happens the next time. When these moments are seen clearly for what they are, often the solution or clarity of what's next comes naturally.

If you observe, describe, and become more aware of exactly what happens in a challenging situation, what can be revealed?

Importance and the Environment

Many modern dysfunctions related to self-destruction (and thereby environmental destruction) come from a lack of recognition of the sacred importance of every person, animal, tree, rock, substance, and object. To compensate for this lack, we become like black holes drawing resources in and blighting what comes in touch with us.

An outward manifestation of this is the sheer amount of trash (literally, garbage) that we generate. About 1,000 miles west of San Francisco is a patch of swirling plastic and debris in the Pacific Ocean, estimated to be twice the size of the state of Texas and weigh about 3 million tons, in some places up to 300 feet deep. Plastic-made objects that drift into this area (everything from bottles and bags to toys) fragment into particles as fine as dust but have no natural way of being removed or degraded into the ocean. Creatures that consume these particles become carriers of toxins. Several more of these plastic trash islands and patches cluster in an area twice the size of the entire U.S.
This environmental issue is very related to people being raised without a sense of appropriate importance and connectedness. Whether a person thinks/feels that he or she is the worst person around, or conversely, the best thing to walk the planet, what they share in common is a lack of context for being important. How am I related to others around me, the larger society, and all living and non-living things? How is each object in my awareness important as myself and how can I preserve its well-being or purpose? What can I do differently to honor what is important?What does it mean to have a healthy sense of being important?

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Have you ever wondered how something was able to happen in your life at the right time without your doing? "That was just what was needed right now!" Or, perhaps against all of your previous patterns and desires? "In the past, if I were faced with this situation, I would have always ___________, but this time I ________________."

Becoming open to grace allows this to happen more frequently, to be led towards new ways of being and acting through everyday miracles. Developing this openness takes practice, discipline, and awareness, much like what an athlete would do. In sports psychology, the optimal state of being is "the zone," an unconscious focus, without too much thinking but with complete awareness of the present, primarily through the senses. In this state, peak performance arises, often in a psychic manner of anticipating the exact shot or stroke needed.

In translating this to everyday life, practices that encourage the development of deep present, sensate awareness and to quiet the thinking mind can help to cultivate "the zone" in daily activities, akin to the experience of grace.

What daily exercise of the mind or body can be helpful to you in becoming more open to receiving grace?