So Good: To Build a Swing

So good. What’s so good? Some of you watched my laughter and response in a previous post. Here are a few reflections.

In the shade of a Ponderosa Pine, worry stopped and peace and laughter set in. Above the branches where the sun shone through, I saw a face of sorts. It was full of warmth, kindness, gentleness, delight, and absolute giddiness. It saw me and said, “You are good. So good.”

It said so not in words, but in absolute being. A sense of oneness as I have never felt it. One with the ground. With the Ponderosa. With the sun. With the wildflowers. With the meadow and the rolling hills. With the breeze and the birds calling out to one another. Distinct? Yes. But not separate. Connected. Inseparable. One.

It was that face – its radiance, its Being – that brought the laugher. And I am so thankful that I recorded a bit of my response because in my face I can see the reflection of that Being’s delight. Unending delight. Unending love. Limitless compassion. Infinite freedom. Bottomless joy. Gratuitous grace. Inexhaustible kindness. Unshakeable peace. Immovable courage. Unconditional acceptance.

All is well.

So good.

Who did I see? What did I see?

I do not know the name you would give it, but I know it as Love.

But even “Love” is not quite right.

It had no name. It laughed at my categories.

It delighted in my presence.

In Being.

Perhaps I should spend less of my time naming these experiences and categorizing them and putting them into my small box of understanding. And I’ll ask you not to try to name or categorize either unless you find it helpful for you and your journey, and then, by all means, do it.

I love Hafiz’s poem “Tiny Gods”

Tiny Gods

Some gods say, the tiny ones,
“I am not here in your vibrant, moist lips
That need to beach themselves upon
The golden shore of a
Naked body.”

Some gods say, “I am not
The scarred yearning in the unrequited soul;
I am not the blushing cheek
Of every star and
Planet —

I am not the applauding Chef
Of those precious secretions that can distill
The whole mind into a perfect wincing jewel, if only
For a moment;
Nor do I reside in every pile of sweet warm dung
Born of the earth’s
Gratuity.”

Some gods say, the ones we need to hang,
“Your mouth is not designed to know His,
Love was not born to consume
The luminous
Realms.”

Dear ones,
Beware of the tiny gods frightened men
Create

To bring an anesthetic relief
To their sad
Days.

Beware of tiny gods frightened men create.

Children create no such gods.

Faith like a child is a marvelous, mysterious, wonder-filled delight, isn’t it?

We admire it when we see it. We have sweet memories of those days when such faith filled our existence and fueled our adventures. Many of us miss it when we see it.

And we often cannot get there as adults until we are at the end of ourselves.

The God Who Only Knows Four Words

Every

Child

Has known God,

Not the God of names,

Not the God of don’ts

Not the God who ever does

Anything weird,

But the God who only knows four words

And keeps repeating them, saying:

“Come dance with Me.”

Come

Dance.

Breath of air for me, right there.

Time to laugh and dance with life.

I’ve begun asking myself:

What would it look like and feel like and be like for me to live with the faith of a child today? To see the world as it is and not make it fit into a neatly constructed box? To be fully present. To stop trying to be right and prove my rightness to others? To stop trying to make life do what I want it to do? To be with reality on its own terms? To engage with this moment? To really look the next person I’m with in the eyes and be with them in a way that they feel known?

To learn how to quiet my mind so that my present moments aren’t spent fretting, worrying, ruminating, or scheming? To really notice what is right in front of me? To be more aware of what I’m thinking about? To be aware of the breath of wholeness within me with each breath. To notice and hear my body?

To welcome my emotions and be informed by them? To let go of that grudge? To give others a chance to respond to that grudge? To laugh deeply with my loved ones? To let go of thinking I have the right (or ability) to judge others or control them? To stop giving even one moment to attributing motives to another’s actions?

To cry when it is time to cry? To play on the ground with children? To sit next to the elderly and hold their hand in peaceful silence? To bask in the sun on my face with my eyes closed? To feel the gentle breeze on my skin? To taste and give thanks for each bite of food, each drink of water? To give thank for the people in my life, for this breath, for this heartbeat, for life? To notice the sounds around me? To let go of my sense of control? To let myself enjoy this moment?

What would that look like and feel like and be like?

One of the lessons of these last two years in my traumatic brain injuries saga is that life is only unbearable when I demand it be different.

To be fully present and fully alive is not some cute cliche.

It is my rightful dwelling place.

It is the joy-filled life that does not require right circumstances for abundant living.

It is always waiting for us.

The birds of the air and the flowers of the field in that meadow where I sat above St. Gertrude’s know that they are taken care of. They are my teachers.

Can you recall all of the things you worried about a week ago today, a month ago, or a year ago? Any of them? Maybe a big one or two? What about the rest?

Perhaps it is time for us to learn to let go.

It is a lifetime process and practice.

Worry steals the joy of this moment and leaves us depleted and unprepared for the next.

Living fully in the moment leaves me grounded, prepared, and ready for what will come.

Embrace the wholeness that is your birthright.

Warmth, kindness, gentleness, and delight are looking at you right now and saying, “You are good. So good.”

Unending delight. Unending love. Limitless compassion. Infinite freedom. Bottomless joy. Gratuitous grace. Inexhaustive kindness. Unshakeable peace. Immovable courage. Unconditional acceptance.

All is well.

So good.

To Build a Swing

You carry
All the ingredients
To turn your life into a nightmare —
Don’t mix them!

You have all the genius
To build a swing in your backyard
For God.

That sounds
Like a hell of a lot more fun.
Let’s start laughing, drawing blueprints,
Gathering our talented friends.

I will help you
With my divine lyre and drum.

Hafiz
Will sing a thousand words
You can take into your hands,
Like golden saws,
Silver hammers,

Polished teakwood,
Strong silk rope.

You carry all the ingredients
To turn your existence into joy,

Mix them, mix
Them!

Build that swing, my friends! Live. Laugh. Love.

May you have a wonder-filled day. Fully present. Fully alive.

You is Beautiful

Three sleeps ago, in the place between sleep and fully awake I saw a face looking up at me, smiling, adoring, admiring. It had my dad’s eyes and his smile. It was mainly his face but there was more to it that I couldn’t describe.

I looked at him and he said, “You are beautiful.” Said it with his whole being – his eyes, his cheeks, his smile, his inner warmth, his words, his strong presence.

Rather than look away, I held his gaze and basked in that moment.

I said, “Um-hum.” Accepting all of it. Agreeing. Resonating with the words. Reveling in them.

He was so pleased that I accepted his words.

His adoration grew and we held this moment.

Not looking away.

The other day a woman named Annon (whose name means gatekeeper) asked me my name after I had asked about her name.

I said, “David.”

“That is a wonderful name, with a wonderful meaning.”

“It is,” I replied with a deep smile that resonated through my voice. “It is beautiful.”

Beloved.

That is my name. And it is your name too, my friends.

We are all beloved.

You are beloved.

You is beautiful.

Yesterday, (my 40th birthday) I was with my dad alone on our farm. I asked him if I could take his picture. Of course, he agreed. While taking it, I asked him to think of how he felt the day I was born.

I took that pic and then we hugged and with tears in our eyes we told each other how much we love each other.

“I love you, David Robert. You don’t know how much, boy.”

We hugged again.

And then I took another picture. The one at the top of this post.

The face in the in the place between sleep, three sleeps ago.

May you have a wonder-filled day. Fully present. Fully alive.

“It’s Your Move” and other BS We Tell Ourselves about Broken Frienships

I’m not Catholic, but I’m retreating at a Benedictine Monastery. This is my 4th retreat at a monastery and I’m hooked.

St. Gertrude’s is particularly special. It overlooks the Camas Prairie with mountain ranges rising up on the horizon. Behind the retreat center is a forest playground where you can meander and explore for hours in solitude. At the top of the hill on the SE side, the forest gives way to flower-filled, verdant meadows. And the views – well, they’re simply stunning this time of year.

I retreat for the silence, to listen, to dream, to write, to listen some more, to grapple, to struggle, to doubt, to learn, to listen some more, and to leave pretty much exhausted.

I used to feel the pressure to return home full of energy, but I usually sleep poorly on retreats. The silence – extended over days – awakens me to messages that have been trying to grab my attention and get me to listen for a long time.

Yesterday, on my daily walk to the “summit,” I heard myself say, “No, it’s your move.”

I mean, I really said it out loud and I was alone.

Ever spontaneously talk to yourself?

Usually, this happens when something really wants our attention.

I stopped in my tracks and noticed.

Noticed my stomach was in knots. My throat was tight. I was short-breathing and holding my inhalations. And I was thinking about a friend I have not heard from in almost a year.

Gulp.

A friend I used to meet with weekly. A friend I trusted. A friend I laughed deeply with. A friend I cried with. A dear friend.

On my walk through the forest, I had been ruminating (in the background of my mind) on the loss of our friendship when, “No. It’s your move” rose to the surface and just came out of my mouth and into my awareness.

I spent the next 15 minutes talking myself through why it is my friend’s move. I had a lot of great reasons. A very impressive and convincing list of why he should be the first to reengage our friendship.

As my former colleague Kenyatta would say, “That’s some bullshit right there!”

Be quiet, Kenyatta.

Because I don’t have anything to apologize for. I feel like he went away long before our last meeting. I feel like he was my friend as long as I agreed with his way of looking at the world and when I didn’t see things his way, I wasn’t of use anymore. I feel discarded.

That’s right.

It’s his move!

Again, “That’s some bullshit right there.”

And I know that’s a crass way to say it, but it’s true and it’s what came to the surface.

I used a quote by Richard Miller to frame the last podcast “Human Beings Do.” I think it’s fitting for this discussion as well.

Here it is:

Opening up awareness allows us to feel as though we are putting a tablespoon of salt in the ocean rather than in a small cup of tea.

“It’s your move,” is a small cup of tea way to live life.

In this instance, it’s living scared. Afraid of being overwhelmed by that tablespoon of salt. Afraid of rejection. Of things going sideways.

(And, by all means, do not take this to mean that any of us should put ourselves in a place to be physically, emotionally, verbally, or otherwise abused.)

But, that’s not what this is.

And we’re not cups of tea, are we?

We are oceans, my friends.

And since I had yet written an article and recorded a podcast about nurturing our being, I stood there in the forest and dove into the ocean.

You see, my friend comes up in my awareness multiple times a week. Like a consistent knock on the door.

Now, I’m as good of a rationalizer as the rest of you out there – maybe even better than most.

But in the extended silence of this retreat where the noise is diminished and my intention is to be awake, alert, and alive – well, it’s time to face reality, to open the door, to respond to those messages.

We always have the right response to every situation.

Did you know that?

We always know what to do. In our being is the wisdom we need for life.

We can, however, push that wisdom down, turn up the noise, and try to avoid that wisdom or fight it and silence it.

But wisdom remains. Right action is still available.

We are always able to be fully present and fully alive.

As we nurture being, as we move beyond a cup of tea sense of being and into ocean-sense being, we are able to meet reality on its own terms.

Another word for this is “confession.”

It literally means “to speak the same” or to agree with. I agree with reality. I speak the same. We are in alignment.

On the trail yesterday, I came face-to-face with my fighting of reality. My, “No, that’s not the way it is. It’s not that big of a deal. Anyway, it’s his move.”

But as I came into agreement with reality, I noticed that a strong sense of sadness and hurt and some anger are present. I say, “are,” because I can feel these emotions even now.

I have been acting like I wasn’t hurt ever since a conversation with my friend in which I felt he disregarded and discredited my experience. I distanced from him and felt him do the same. Our next meeting was business-like, and when he got up to leave, he told me, “Maybe we can get together again sometime.” Sometime? That’s not how it was with us. More hurt. More distance. I needed him to be there at that time in my life, to be happy for the brain recovery that had happened, to be with me. We had one more meeting after that and based on the content I thought he would surely follow up with me. That was 10 months ago.

As I write this and process this and agree with reality, I notice that the tension in my body has given away to an ache in my heart area, my breathing is deep, and tears roll down my cheeks. I miss my friend.

And so the wisdom in this moment of authenticity – of coming into agreement with reality – is pointing to right action, to an appropriate response that I have known for, let’s see, the last 10 months 😃!

It’s my move. It’s my opportunity to give my friend a chance to respond. To share my heart with him. To open up in vulnerability. To come into the clearing, into the meadow. To hear his heart and how I have likely hurt him. And to offer him my own response.

From nurturing being, we realize that we are an ocean and that even a tablespoon of rejection, or fear, or whatever it is, cannot and will not overwhelm us.

We do not have to numb ourselves. We will still feel the spectrum of life’s emotions, but these happen in a place that is whole – a place of unchanging awareness.

A decade ago, sitting at a Chili’s at Chicago O’Hare with my friend and colleague Fred Cogswell, he shared with me some of the most revolutionary and meangiful words I have ever had spoken into my life.

We were talking about estranged relationships, particularly those between fathers and sons.

He said, “We cannot fully live unless we embrace vulnerability.”

Hmmm…

Yes. It’s my move.

Right action is easy and titilatting to talk about, but not so easy to do. I know that I need to reach out, but a wave of fear comes with such plans.

What if he snubs me? What if he doesn’t even want to be my friend anymore? What if he uses this vulnerable space as a way to hurt me and get me back? What if he doesn’t care? What if he thinks I’m weak and insecure?

These fears are about me. They are unfounded in our relationship. They are not representative of my friend. They are my fears.

And they are wrapped up in a defensive posture in my body. As I listed them, my fists were clenched, jaw tight, mouth and lips set, eyes narrowed.

Cup of tea.

Back to nurturing being.

This doesn’t stop, friends. The ocean is where we belong, where we truly reside, but we tend to come back to the cup of tea mentality.

The practice of living out our wholeness, of being fully present and fully alive is a lifetime practice.

I’m just getting started.

Having had PTSD twice in my life and multiple traumatic brain injuries, the road is slow-going at times, the fears more provocative, the world a seemingly more dangerous place.

It guts me to do this kind of stuff.

I’ll bet you can relate at least a little.

But the more I practice, the deeper my connection to that unchanging awareness in which being resides.

The ocean.

Yes. It’s my move.

And so I just sent a text to my friend because I don’t have phone reception.

Now is the time. Here is the text:

“Hello, my friend. Perhaps we can get together this next week? I think often of you and am weary of the distance I feel (real or imagined) between us. Wisdom says to my heart that our friendship goes deep and that I should not give up on it so easily. I look forward to talking, sharing, laughing, healing, and being together.”

Gulp again.

As Brene Brown – the acclaimed vulnerability researcher, author, and speaker – has said, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”

Damn. She nailed it.

I’m standing in the clearing now, friends. Feeling the flow of life arise with its fear and doubts, but also its hope and peace and love and joy and kindness and wholeness. They’re all present right now. Flowing through.

I will leave you with a very fitting poem by my buddy, Hafiz, titled “The Warrior.”

The Warrior

The warriors tame
The beasts in their past
So that the night’s hooves
Can no longer break the jeweled vision
In the heart.

The intelligent and the brave
Open every closet in the future and evict
All the mind’s ghosts who have the bad habit
Of barfing everywhere.

For a long time the Universe
Has been germinating in your spine

But only a Pir* has the talent,
The courage to slay
The past-giant, the future anxieties.

The warrior
Wisely sits in a circle
With other men
Gathering the strength to unmask
Himself,

Then
Sits, giving,
Like a great illumined planet on
The
Earth.

I need those words right now.

Warrior up, my friends. Or, WTFU in Hardwick speak.

May you have a wonder-filled day. Fully present. Fully alive.

Human Beings Do

How do I respond to the pain and suffering of others?

This morning, I was reading about the recent Isis attacks in the Philippines. Over 200,000 people have fled from one city after Isis began killing people and burning and bombing homes, businesses, and even a university.

After reading some of the article and seeing a photo of nine villagers lying dead in a field after they had had their hands tied and being shot, I realized that I had stopped breathing some time ago. My muscles were tight. My jaw clenched. My stomach was in knots. I felt terrible.

So, I closed the article and tried to move on with my day and my “retreat.” I’m usually pretty adept at doing this – diverting my attention away from the uncomfortable, away from pain and suffering, and toward something that I feel like I have a little bit of control over.

I have this fear that pain and suffering will overwhelm me and so I must turn my eyes away, turn my attention away, lest I be flooded and drowned and suffocated and overtaken.

I don’t imagine that I’m the only one of us who has this response.

However, I am learning in this season, when there have been no adequate escapes from the pain and trials of my traumatic brain injuries, that such fears and my maladaptive responses to them likely come from not knowing who I really am.

What do I mean by this?

At a recent training I attended, Richard Miller said,

Opening up awareness allows us to feel as though we are putting a tablespoon of salt in the ocean rather than in a small cup of tea.”

Hmmm…

And, wow!

Rings true, doesn’t it?

You know what a sugar dispenser looks like at a diner, right?

You know, before packets, when we put sugar in a glass jar with a metal lid that had a little opening covered by that smaller piece of metal that was always getting hung up on the hinges.

Remember those?

From the beginning of time, everyone put sugar in that specific dispenser.

Except for my mom!

While I was away at college, she bought one of those dispensers and filled it with salt. 20 years later, I’m still putting at least a tablespoon of salt in my morning coffee when I visit! 🙂

It’s overwhelming. I can’t drink it. It ruins everything!! 😉

That’s kind of how it feels to engage with suffering when we are closed off to who we truly are, when we view ourselves as isolated, as contained and confined by our bodies, as governed by our minds, as in control.

That, my friends, can be a small, fearful, controlling, disengaged, and unpleasant way for us to view ourselves and live our lives.

We will have a strong desire to try to avoid the unexpected, we will try to avoid the unpleasant, we will try to avoid all pain and suffering if we live lives in which we think of ourselves in a cup of tea sort of way.

I think that many of us have forgotten who we are.

If you’re of the Lion King generation, it’s impossible to write and say that line without conjuring up the voice of James Earl Jones.

But back to the point.

Pain and suffering remind us of something we have forgotten.

When we see others in pain, it can feel overwhelming because we know that it matters and that we should care. Rather, we do care, but we may not know what to do. We may feel helpless, out of control, and so on.

And my premise is that we don’t know what to do because we have forgotten how to be.

You have likely heard (and you may be aloof to it by now) the saying, “We are human beings, not human doings.”

I think it’s more accurate to say that we are both.

I know that the emphasis of the saying is on being, but it cuts off the edges of reality. Instead, what if we said it like this,

Human beings do.”

Or,

A human being does.”

Nurturing our being leads to right action from a place of open awareness – an ocean that can engage with all that comes into it.

Nurturing our being leads us to respond wisely and from a place of peace, joy, contentment, patience, kindless, love, and wholeness.

We respond out of our integrity, not to appease a list of “shoulds,” “need tos,” “you betters,” or other messages that come from the idea that we need to make ourselves better, that we need to earn our wholeness.

Friends, you already are better. You already are whole.

The question is whether you will pay attention to who you are, to being? Will you nurture and pay attention to who you are?

How?

If you’re a westerner, there is a pretty good chance that you have spent your life nurturing and feeding and paying attention to the thinking mind. You read, you believe or don’t believe, you agree or disagree, you have conversations, you debate, you think about things.

Wonderful!

The thinking mind is a really important part of being. For many of us, this is where our sense of identity resides. We have fused tightly with our thoughts and beliefs.

We have nurtured our thinking minds!

How, though, have we nurtured other parts of our being? Our emotions, feelings, body sensations – all of these as connected and non-separate…

How do we nourish the feeling of being?

It requires practice and attention.

We have spent a lifetime prioritizing and fusing with and identifying with our thoughts and beliefs.

Of seeing ourselves as small cups of tea.

But what if we are the ocean?

What if we are unchanging awareness in which the ever-changing flow of live arises?

This morning, as I sought to engage with the pain of the people in the Philippines, I felt a whole lot like I had dumped a tablespoon of salt into my cup of tea.

I thought, “Now why did I do that? I’m on a retreat and I’m supposed to be getting away from it all!”

But now I’m thinking that what I really came here to do was to learn at a deeper level how to be with it all. How to welcome reality into awareness and experience reality on its own terms. How to welcome it all in the ocean of awareness in which being resides.

In between the lines, I spent time this morning nurturing being. I set my intention to stay awake and alert and open. I followed sensations throughout my body and then felt the whole body as sensation. I followed my breathing and then focused on it from one side of the body to the other and then the whole body breathing. I welcomed thoughts that arose and gently set them aside for the time being, knowing that wisdom will come. I spent some time answering the following questions: Where am I? When am I? How am I? What am I? Who am I? And I moved from being a witness of my experience to being witnesssing itself.

Doing these practices reorganizes our brains. Our amygdala (the fight or flight center of the brain) shrinks. Our hippocampus enlarges. We open up to awareness. We become oceans.

We move into the realm of human beings doing and we engage with our own pain/suffering and that of others with wisdom and right action.

It takes practice, practice, practice.

The more we practice, the more we want to practice because life as the ocean is much more fulfilling and freeing and meaningful than life as a cup of tea.

If this intrigues you, find a meditation class, listen and follow meditation and mindfulness teachers. Practice in small chunks throughout your day. Take the time to nurture your being.

My training in yoga nidra (yes, I know there is debate over the pronunciation, but I’ll go with what I was taught) has been through Richard Miller and his specific type of yoga nidra, called Integrative Restoration. There are lots of great resources on iRest.us and I will hopefully be teaching classes this coming year in the Boise area. But there are thousands of resources and just as many teachers out there who are wonderful and can help you on this journey.

Human beings do, my friends.

My heart and mind have been activated today. I have awakened a little more. I don’t have a list of specific next steps as a response. Those will come. They always do. Right now, there is a sense of deep sadness for the families and children of the Philippines. Being doesn’t mean we become unfeeling or immune to feelings. Human beings are moved. We live in a world that is messy. I am moved in the midst of the mess. May wisdom lead to action for children and families in crisis in the Philippines and around the world.

It matters when we don’t turn away. It matters that we wake up to our true selves and engage with the world.

There is one other thing that I did today in response to the pain and violence in the Philippines.

It is a practice that my dad-in-law taught me.

As I practiced nurturing my being, moving from the tea cup to the ocean, I imagined those who are in pain. And as I breathed in, I imagined them breathing out their pain, their despair, their fear, their sadness, their anger. As I breathed out, I breathed out to them comfort, hope, courage, peace, wholeness, and love. As I did this repeatedly, I learned of others things and breathed those in. Wisdom then breathed out to them what I could not have imagined.

I have done this for others (unbeknownst to them) in the many waking hours of my sleepless nights and they have told me, unsolicited, of experiencing the very things I breathed in and out.

I don’t claim to understand it.

But our bodies are in us, not vice versa.

We are much more than what we can see and hear and feel and smell and taste.

Human beings are not confined to the boundaries of the body.

We are interconnected in mysterious and wonderful ways.

We are one. We are inseparable. Distinct. But inseparable.

Rather than being overwhelmed during this practice (a common fear), I experience peace, love, courage, compassion, and wisdom.

I don’t know what it’s called.

I like to think that this is what prayer is.

Human beings do.

Nurture your being today, my friends, and live from the ocean.

I will leave you with a note from Hafiz:

“When You Can Endure”

When
The words stop
And you can endure the silence

That reveals your heart’s
Pain

Of emptiness
Or that great wrenching-sweet longing,

That is the time to try and listen
To what the Beloved’s
Eyes

Most want
To

Say.

May you have a wonder-filled day. Fully present. Fully alive.

When Life Gets Real

One of my primary reasons for writing and podcasting is to help others live abundantly no matter their circumstances.

Life, in general, has not been easy since successive traumatic brain injuries two years ago. So, I figure I’m in prime position to share a few tidbits regarding that whole “no matter the circumstances” business.

But  I don’t want to fall into the rut of only sharing after I have learned something.

Today’s sharing comes in the midst of feeling really awful today. Yesterday was the best day I have had in months. I was nauseous only a fraction of the day and did not have to disappear into a dark room at all. I reveled in gratitude last night before going to bed. So thankful not to feel so sick.

This morning is turning out a little differently.

I feel very nauseous, out of balance, confused, and I have a screaming headache.

So, rather wait until I feel bettter to tell you what I do to fully engage with life during the hard times, I’m going to bring you along for a bit of the process.

Right now, I’m allowing myself to move through my body and feel the different physical sensations. I’m starting in my mouth, moving to my left ear, then my left cheek….all the way down to my toes, alternating between left and right as I make my way through the body.

I’m just feeling and noting sensations at this point.

Just feeling. Not trying to change anything. Just being aware.

My jaw was clenched until I paid attention to it. It instantly relaxed. I have a strong sensation of pain in my upper right eye. There is a lot of heat there. Somewhere in my throat there is tightness. In my upper chest and then back up into the back of my mouth, there is a feeling of tightness and constriction and nausea.

Most other areas in the body have what we would call neutral sensations. As I say that, I’m noticing that in the area of my chest right above the heart, there is a warmth, like the warmth of a fire on a cool day. A smile came over my face as I felt it and what I imagine to be dopamine (a soothing chemical our brain releases when we feel pleasure) released through my body.

I am already noticing a welcome change in my overall body sensations and my spirits have brightened.

The pain in my eye is still there. Headache continues to pound. The sensations that usually lead to a migraine are nestled on the top left front of my scalp.

I really don’t want a migraine. I don’t want to go down this road.

I would like to avoid all of this. I have plans for today that I don’t want to cancel.

Cortisol is now shooting into my blood stream. I feel my heart rate increasing, my jaw is clenching again, my muscles are tightening, and I’ve pretty much stopped breathing.

I do another body scan. The warmth from that area above my heart is still there.

I spend some time there. Feeling it. Feeling its warmth. Locating its specific place in the body.

Now, I’m going to allow myself to go back to that pain in my right eye. It’s callling for my attention loud and clear. Right there in the upper corner of the eye cavity in my skull. I’m imagining the exact center of the pain of the sensation. Not making it go away. Just welcoming it and imagining its center.

I feel the pain dulling. I now imagine the outer periphery of the pain. I’m asking, “Where does it end?” More dulling. The pain is still there, but it is harder to feel.

I am now going back to that warm place above my heart. It’s so good you guys. It’s the warmth of an embrace with a close friend. There is happiness and sadness in that place. Some tears are welling up. Just letting them be. Not trying to figure them out right now.

Deep sigh. Deep exhalation.

Now, I’m going back to the right eye. Feeling it. Imagining its center. Now, its periphery.

I just jumped completely out of the moment. Started thinking about how people might respond to this podcast and how I should talk about it on social media so people will know what it is.

That’s perfectly normal. Little diversion. I want to help others.

Now back to the right eye. Feeling it. A tear is running out of it.

Back to the heart. A big, deep breath spontanesouly rises and falls as I feel that place.

Now, I am going to feel both sensations – the heart and the eye – at the same time.

But before I do, I’m back to thinking about logistics of the writing and podcast. Thank you thinking mind for how much you care. You’ll get a chance to work hard.

Back to feeling both sensations. I close my eyes. Breath in and out. Breath in and out. Feeling them both at the same time.

My right eye wants more attention. Still a little bit of piercing pain.

Back to feeling both.

The pain is loosening and moving toward an imaginary center. I’m feeling it blend.

Now I’m wondering if it’s still there.

Back to they eye. It may not be completely free of pain, but it is a 3 on the pain scale instead of an 8.

My body is relaxed.

Some tightness remains.

I’m going to move into breathing.

And I’ll bring you along for that journey in another podcast.

Let me now take a moment to reflect.

First of all, I’m feeling gratitude for my body’s ability to send me messages and stabilize itself. I’m thankful that I’m not fighting pain this morning, but am able to be with it as I am with my whole self, my whole body, my whole being.

I am reminded of a quote from Richard Miller that profoundly impacted me during the early days of my traumatic brain injury:

“I am unchanging awareness in which the every-changing flow of my life arises.”

I am not my body. My body is in me.

And in this space of unchanging awareness this morning, pain and other sensations have risen and fallen.

Even in the pain, there is wholeness. There is peace. There is fulness.

If you are in pain today, I invite you to move your attention through your body, allowing yourself to feel the sensations that are present.

Be gracious to yourself if you get off track. We all do. It takes practice to train ourselves to be disciplined enough to stay on track.

As you feel those sensations, locate them in your body. No need to fix them or analyze them or think about them. Simply feel them.

It takes practice. For us westerners, we give most of our attention to our thinking minds, to cognition. We’re well-practiced analyzers.

So, close your eyes, sit in a chair with both feet on the floor or lie down. And feel. I start in the mouth and move my way down because that is how I was trained. But there is no magic way. In fact, the more you do it, the more sensing your body feels like a wave of sensing rather than just feeling individual areas.

As you feel your way to the body, allow yourself to be drawn to those areas where there is a sense of something that may need more of your attention. For me, these areas were my right eye and that area above my heart.

Feel these areas and then move back and forth between them.

If feeling some extreme pain, locate the pain and imagine the very center of that pain. Keep focusing, focusing, focusing and feeling, feeling, feeling until you get the to exact center. Then imagine its periphery.

And let me know how it goes. I’ll continue to do podcasts like this when life feels shitty so that you can walk in my shoes with me.

I hope you find it helpful.

May you have a wonder-filled day, my friends. Fully present. Fully alive.

A Memorial and a Note about Grief

For the past five years, May 23rd has been a bittersweet day.

It marks the day one of my closest friends and companions unexpectedly passed away at the age of 37. While not biologically related, Kevin Lines was my brother from the moment we met. As the years went on, our relationship weathered the storms of distance and grew into a steady and welcoming place for both of us – a beautiful tree in the garden of our lives.

So, May 23rd brings with it the tears brought on by the rather severe kind of distance we experience when a loved one “passes on.” That extreme distance where you cannot give that missing part of you a physical hug or call them on the phone or go see them. The distance that is naturally confusing and bewildering. There is a kind of lostness.

And yet.

And yet, I can say with full experiential confidence that Kev is not gone. He didn’t vanish or disappear. I have felt his presence. I have welcomed him in my dreams and in that awake-not-awake state of being that comes in the early morning hours. I have heard his voice. I have been taught and exhorted and encouraged by his still-present wisdom.

He isn’t gone.

No, his body I cannot find to embrace. That remains a bitter pill – that there is no place where his physical presence can be found. To this day, when I visit SoCal, I still find myself spending time going to the places he lived, the places we hung out, our favorite places to eat, the boardwalk where we had so many significant conversations. I guess I just have to make sure he’s not there.

But even though he is not “there,” he is not gone.

This past February when I was in California, I was riding my bike along our favorite boardwalk and felt him next to me. I could see and feel his smile. I could hear his laughter.

And then he told me, “Let go, Dave. Life is better than you ever imagined. Just let go.”

Let go of trying to please others. Let go of feelings of insecurity. Let go of the fear of failure. Let go of the fear of looking like a fool.

Let go of holding on.

He is still with us. Still teaching.

I can’t explain it. I can’t “prove” it. I can’t give you logical reasons.

But I know it to be so.

I might be a little crazy for some. I’m okay with that. From my earliest moments I can remember, life has been charged and enlivened and illuminated by the unseen. It’s just the way it is…for me.

Not only did Kev make deep impressions in the lives of the people lucky enough to know him. Not only does he live on through those lives that he touched.

He lives on.

That, to me, is where the sweetness in all this resides.

And I will continue to live on and let go.

Not to imresss or please Kev, but because it is the wisdom of those who see life for what it really is and want the rest of us to engage with it as deeply and freely and extravagantly and compassionately and graciously and daringly and lovingly as we can.

Kev and I did a lot of dreaming and fully believed that we were destined to do something great together in our lifetime. And while this is not what we had imagined when we were in our 20s and 30s, I think we’re still going to make a run for it.

Why not?

Time to let go a little more.

Life is just beginning.

Or, as Hafiz says much better than I can:

“If this world
Was not held in God’s bucket

How could an ocean stand upside down
On its head and never lose a drop?

If your life was not contained in God’s cup

How could you be so brave and laugh,
Dance in the face of death?

Hafiz,
There’s a private chamber in the soul
That knows a great secret

Of which no tongue can speak.

Your existence my dear, O love my dear,
Has been sealed and marked

“Too sacred,” “too sacred,” by the Beloved —
To ever end!

Indeed God
Has written a thousand promises
All over your heart

That say,
Life, life, life,
Is far too sacred to
Ever end.”

Peace.

Dropping into Wholeness

 

Am I willing to drop into wholeness?

I get this image of diving into the water from a cliff.

And once in the water, being engulfed, surrounded, enfolded, enveloped.

The sounds of the outer world are muted by the healing waters.

And then we re-emerge from that watery cocoon, ready for the next stage of life.

In 2006, Emily and I traveled to Turkey where I was speaking at a conference for Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection.

Prior to the conference in Istanbul, we traveled south through Ephesus and down to Fethiye. While in Fethiye, we took a three-day Mediterranean “cruise” on a small yacht. This was right before being kidnapped, but that is a story for another time.

The Mediterranean story – if I can get your attention back from that other story – is about a defining moments on those beautiful Mediterranean waters.

We shared our yacht with 4 Aussies who were all about having a very good time.

At one point, the captain stopped about 100 feet from the shoreline and told us that the cliffs we were passing were wonderful for cliff diving.

I’m all about having a little adventure and I probably take more risks than Emily would like.

But these were very high cliffs. Cliffs in the 60-75 feet range.

The captain slowed the yacht, and one of the Aussies dove off and did a depth check. He signaled that all was good and for us to join him.

Amidst some nervous laughter and “No way!” utterances from our group, I jumped over the deck and swam to the shore and followed the only other idiot on the boat who thought this was a good idea.

We climbed up the back side of the cliffs and then stood looking out over the sea, our little yacht below us.

The sun was bearing down. A breeze gently nudged us closer to the edge.

The Aussie waved to his friends, looked at me, smiled, let out a battle cry, and dove into the depths.

I crept close enough to the edge to see him disappear for a little while…and then re-emerge with a shout of exhilaration.

My turn.

Hmmm….

As I stepped closer, I started to get cold feet.

If you’ve done anything that has given you a heart-freeze of fear and trepidation, then you know that waiting around and thinking more about what you’re afraid of doing is not really a recipe for success.

But, that’s what I did.

On this particular cliff, you couldn’t just jump. You had to get a running start to clear the rocks directory below you.

What if I slipped on the loose rock before taking off?

What if the Aussie missed some underwater protrusion in his depth check?

What if I got turned around in the air and landed harshly?

What if my legs got split apart before hitting the water?

What if…?

You know these moments, don’t you?

We all have them. They need not come from an imposing Mediterranean cliff jump.

They’re subjective to the person.

Fear of heights.
Fear of spiders.
Fear of being in groups of people.
Fear of speaking in front of a group.
Fear of dancing.
Fear of being vulnerable with your partner or spouse.
Fear of reaching out to an estranged friend and saying you’re sorry.
Fear of getting fired from your job if you do what is right.
Fear of standing up to the workplace bully.
Fear of rocking the boat.
Fear of leaving your job to chase that dream that you know you’re supposed to chase.
Fear of daring to let yourself dream at all.
Fear of dying.
Fear of losing possessions.
Fear of trying for fear of failure.
Fear of failure.
Fear of intimacy.
Fear of others getting to know you.
Fear of rejection.

Fear of paper clips.

Face it, we needed a moment of levity.

Fear of a meteor hitting the earth.
Fear of war.
Fear of being drafted into a war.
Fear of letting others down.
Fear of not having what it takes.
Fear of growing distant from your children.
Fear of being a “bad” parent.
Fear of living an unfulfilling life.
Fear of missing your purpose in life.
Fear of not being loved or loveable.
Fear of spending your days toiling in unfulfilling work.
Fear of not getting better from a chronic illness.
Fear of drowning.

Fear of ____________. You fill in the blank.

Our fears are highly personal, but we probably could put them in a handful of larger categories to which all of us can relate.

The point is that all of us face times in our lives when we’re on the edge of a cliff of sorts.

It’s just too bad we all don’t have a boat full of Aussies cheering us on.

Because they’re really effective.

With a lot of hooting and hollering, they lifted my eyes away from the fears.

I turned from the cliff and walked back about 10 steps. At this point, you couldn’t see what you were jumping into. Just a blue haze on the horizon.

Muscles engaged, decision made, I launched my body over the edge.

I vividly remember the lapse of time between jumping and hitting the water.

Falling from a height of about 20 meters means I would only be airborne for two seconds but he would be moving at a speed of 20 m/s or about 45 mph. I’m glad I didn’t have access to google and the splat calculator at that time!

I could go further down a rabbit hole with the splat calculator because it’s really amazing and does the math for you…

But…

Back to those two seconds of amazing.

They were exhilarating. Cortisol pumping. Adrenaline flooding.

So good. So, so, good. And better every time I think of them.

I could sum up a lesson from that day – and one I repeatedly learn – with these words:

We are afraid until we jump.

Until we jump.

Then, there is a sense of exhilaration as we free fall.

Followed by our entry into the waters.

And total immersion.

That moment. Those moments.

Ahhhh….

Now in the water. A type of silence. A new listening takes over.

In the water. All the way in.

Back to being submerged in fluid just as we were in our mother’s womb.

A type of homecoming.

If you’ve ever jumped into a body of water and been submerged, you know what I’m talking about.

If you’ve ever seen the film Big Fish, you’ll remember this metaphor of water.

It’s not uncommon in literature – classical or contemporary – to bring us back to healing waters, to jumping in, to being immersed, to coming back to where we started.

In those moments of immersion, space and time feel different to our senses.

We have a different perspective. We hear things we haven’t been able to hear. We see what we haven’t been able to see. We feel what we haven’t been able to feel.

We know what we haven’t allowed ourselves to know.

And then, our lungs tell us that it is time to rise.

On that day on the Mediterranean, I floated back to the surface, took in a delicious breath full of oxygen, and basked in the cheers and laughter from our Aussie friends.

I had dropped into wholeness.

No, wholeness isn’t about jumping off a cliff.

Wholeness is always waiting for us.

And no, wholeness is not even the water or the jumping or the facing of fears.

It’s what we know when we are in sync with our lives instead of trying to fight life or run from life or make life what we want it to be.

Wholeness is what is always there waiting for us to come home.

Facing our fears – diving off that cliff, being emotionally available and responsive to your loved ones, taking that next step toward your dreams, risking rejection – these often put us in a place where we unexpectedly and thankfully drop into our wholeness.

We use language like, “I feel so alive.” “I’m at peace.”

But these things themselves are not wholeness.

They’re conduits.

Wholeness was, and is, and will always be there, welcoming us.

If we begin to use the conduit as a substitute for wholeness, we’re destined to be imprisoned by it and disappointed in it.

Think of the adrenaline junky, the guy trying to prove himself with greater and greater exploits, the positioning and comparing on social media, dependence on drugs and alcohol, the workaholic, the parent living life through their children, the student consumed with grades, and the list goes on and on.

Wholeness isn’t something we gain, or earn.

It’s just there.

Ready to be accessed. Ready for us to drop into it and live from it.

Maybe you feel like you’ve only had short glimpses of it. You know what it feels like to live from your wholeness, but right now you feel anything but whole.

We’re all in the same boat, friends.

In this post-concussion, post-traumatic brain injury, post-concussion vision syndrome phase of life I’m in, whole is not how others might describe my life.

I have many days when I feel sick all day long, when I can’t drive, when I can’t ride a bike, when I can’t handle light, when debilitating headaches cross my eyes, and I have to lie down in a dark room with my eyes closed. I miss important events. I cancel meetings at the last-minute. I’m not dependable. I’m not able to be consistent.

Right now, I’m writing, recording, and publishing this podcast using my iPhone and a Bluetooth keyboard because I can’t engage with a computer screen. I have my left eye closed so that I don’t lose balance and get so sick that I can’t continue. I take a lot of breaks.

That doesn’t sound or look like wholeness.

It looks – and sometimes feels – a whole lot like life took a big ole shit on me for the past two years.

However, I have never lived a more abundant and meaningful and full and joyful and peaceful life than the one I’m living right now.

The irony. The paradoxes of life.

Through my brokenness, I dropped into wholeness.

Don’t worry, I have and continue to fight against life, just like the rest of us. But those are the really bad days and moments. They lead me to break once again and to stop trying to make life do what I want it to. They lead me to acceptance and wholeness. Not resignation. But wholeness and its ensuing wisdom, right action, and vibrancy.

I don’t need to go cliff diving, or ride my bike, or feel better, or see better, or make the ringing in my head stop to live a whole and full life.

Friends, that is freedom.

This not a trite cognitive assent that you say to yourself and then all of a sudden you’re there in the sweet spot.

It is a practice. It takes practice.

I engage in the practice throughout every day because I have to do so in order to stay engaged with life and to be able to show up more and more.

It’s a practice that we all already know. Many of us have forgotten. We have filled our lives so full of noise and we are controlled by our egos to the extent that we are like puppets on our societies’ strings.

It has taken brokeness to wake me up. But it doesn’t have to be that way for everyone.

Wholeness is really as close as your next breath.

I know, breathsensing and bodysensing have become really en vogue lately. Maybe you’re too familiar with the ideas to engage with them anymore. Familiarity has a strange way of breeding contempt. So, if you need to, wait a bit and I’m sure they’ll become less popular soon enough when people move on to the next fad.

But, as they have for thousands of years, and will for thousands more, the practices that include breathsensing and bodysensing have a very natural and instant way of bringing us home to our wholeness.

Of dropping us into wholeness.

A practice called Integrative Restoration saved my life and has connected me to life in a greater way than when life was going the way I wanted it to go. In future podcasts, I will provide specific examples and some helpful how-to’s, but for some instant access, just google Integrative Restoration or go to www.irest.us .

Integrative Restoration has been such a life-changer for me that I have completed the first two Levels of training (two five-day intensives in Southern California ) and am now going through the certification program, which feels a lot like getting another masters!

Standing on that Mediterranean cliff, I could not have predicted the future “cliffs” I would face in my life. Nor can you.

But wholeness is ready for you to drop into it right now.

I’ll finish today’s podcast with a poem by Hafiz. If you haven’t met Hafiz, I’m happy to introduce you. He has been a good friend to me in this season.

“So Many Gifts”

There are so many gifts
Still unopened from your birthday,
There are so many hand-crafted presents
That have been sent to you by God.

The Beloved does not mind repeating,
“Everything I have is also yours.”

Please forgive Hafiz and the Friend
If we break into sweet laughter
When your heart complains of being thirsty
When ages ago
Every cell in your soul
Capsized forever
Into this infinite golden sea.

Indeed,
A lover’s pain is like holding one’s breath
Too long
In the middle of a vital performance,

In the middle of one of Creation’s favorite
Songs.

Indeed, a lover’s pain is this sleeping,
This sleeping,
When God just rolled over and gave you
Such a big good-morning kiss!

There are so many gifts, my dear,
Still unopened from your birthday.
Drop in.

Wholeness is waiting.

It’s your birthright.

Open a few of those unopened presents today, friends.

Sending you the best thoughts and wishes that you might have a wonder-filled day. Fully present. Fully alive.

Peace.

 

As Self Falls Away

What do you do when you’ve been impressive all your life – or, at least thought you were – but aren’t anymore?

What do you do when you simply can’t act like you have it together anymore?

What do you do when your sense of self is stripped away from you?

What do you do when you realize that you’re not the person you thought other people thought you were?

What value are you when you’re not who you thought you were? When you’re no longer doing the work that gave you a sense of value?

These are the questions that “haunt” me these days.

Maybe it’s just because I’m turning 40 soon.

Maybe because I still can’t use a computer and have lost connection to a career (and corresponding lifestyle and relationships) I spent a decade building.

Maybe it’s because I just sat down with our tax guy and am reminded that I don’t bring in 6 digits of income anymore, let alone one digit. That I have some ideas about business opportunities but it’s all still pretty damned vague.

Right now. In this moment. In this very long season of moments, something very bittersweet has happened.

I can no longer hang my identity on the hooks of the well-built coat rack that I spent a life building.

In fact, I can’t even think of what it is I might be hanging up.

Now all of this might seem terribly depressing, nothing sweet in the bitterness.

And there certainly are times when the depression hangs on.

But I can’t really be unhappy about all of this.

I can when I try to hold onto the past and my sense of who I was.

But in the moment. When I am a human “being” I feel a sense of peace that passes over the thinking mind. Quiets the thinking mind.

The thinking mind comes along and says, “Hey, who do you think you are? Are you nuts? Your life is falling apart as you knew it! You should be really anxious and stressed out right now. Things are not going as planned.”

But, in reality, those thoughts are not real. They aren’t true. They’re just thoughts and they’re all connected to my sense of self – my ego – that would very much like to be in control again. Not real control. But at least have the illusion of control.

Instead, the ego is learning how to be but a part of this human being that I am. It informs, sometimes complains, seeks to illuminate, spurs on, encourages.

But it doesn’t really rule much anymore.

All really is well.

Always is. Always has been. Always will be.

When self falls away, we know this to be true.

We know that we have the appropriate response to every situation.

We will know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it when we take the time to nurture ourselves as human beings.

The End of Bearing Down

Grin and bear it! Bear down!!

Hmmm…

I talked with my dad a couple of days ago. We (or, at least I – I think he has figured this out long before I did) had the discovery that we’re experiencing life in similar ways. Me, with the fallout of traumatic brain injuries, and he with recent post-surgery complications.

In barely the blink of an eye, both our lives dramatically and unpredictably changed.

My dad is a rancher and a farmer in southern Idaho. His ranching roots go back to mid-19th century Texas cattlemen, cattle drives, and Bruneau cowboys.

My grandpa Jones put his family on his back when he was 14 after his dad collapsed in a field and passed away shortly thereafter. From a single cow and a borrowed calf, Robert Jones built a very successful cattle operation in spite of incredible odds.

There was a lot of grinning and bearing it.

Throughout the generational lineage of Joneses, it has always been what we’ve done.

A lot of bearing down.

A lot of pain tolerance.

A lot of pushing through.

A lot of ignoring our own symptoms and challenges so that we can help others.

So, you’ll have to understand, that the other day, my Dad’s words to me were unexpected, but at the same time a healing salve to this broken body.

He talked about how he has always been able to “bear down” and push through. He could always try harder. Throw in more grit. And he could push himself to do what he wanted to do, even if it meant destroying his body.

But,

“No more. It ain’t like it was, David,” he said with a chuckle and the wisdom of years.

He now gets out of his Ford pickup and has to stand for a little while before he can move. A wrist surgery, of all things, gone wrong.

“Is there anything you can do, Dad? Go see a doctor?”

“I ain’t going to see a doctor. I walked into the doc’s office, but came out barely able to stand on my own two feet.”

“This is new to me, David. It’s the first time that bearing down isn’t enough. I can’t just fight through it. Trying harder don’t do no good. I finally have to listen to what my body is saying to me. But, you know, I’m good, I’m thankful. I still have all I need.

In some ways a lot has changed. In other ways, nothing has changed. It don’t help to complain and wish it were different.”

No, Dad. You’re right. Nothing that matters has really changed.

How timely your words.

How timely your words.

Our common stories – albeit at different stages of life – signal the transition from bearing down to listening and responding with right action. One is not right and the other wrong.

But the end of bearing down is upon us.

There is a better way. A way in which listening to the messengers of life is not a weakness, but a strength.

A way that, ironically, takes more courage, more heart, and more grit.

I’ll finish with a poem first read to me by Dr. Richard Miller, written by

Rotter, Debbie

Simply This
At what point did
“Simply This”
become
“Good Enough”?
Is the Letting Go of
“ Hoping For More!”
A slacker’s excuse?
A dreamer’s despair?
A sad acceptance of consequence?
And when did the

“Need for Adventure!”
And the
“Expectations of Grandeur!”
Get blown like turbulent weather
On to the next generation?

Leaving me
Old,
and Still,
and bathed in Contentment?

 

Breaking into Wholeness

Rivers can teach us a lesson.

They don’t fight the contours and slopes of life, and yet they make an incredible impact wherever they go.

They go with the flow and they are the flow.

I love the way Adyashanti puts it: “If we can let go of the way we think [life] should be, then life starts to reveal its magical qualities.”

We experience life with a sense of wonder and deep satisfaction when we release our illusions of controlling it.

Often, we don’t release our tight, controlling grip unless we experience brokenness.

The gifts of brokenness include firsthand experiential knowledge that the one choice we really have is how we will respond to the present moment.

Brokenness teaches us that we have always been whole and connected at our core.

We talk about people “hitting rock bottom.” How blessed are those who do. What is a rock bottom but that core place that is whole – a place of such integrity that it cannot be moved or displaced or fallen from.

Brokenness, like all paradoxical truth, opens the eyes of our hearts and minds to our wholeness.

May we all live from our wholeness – from our rock bottom – and wholly enter into the magical flow of life.