Sunday, February 12, 2012

Stewarding my boys, not trying to shape them

Several years ago I read something which completely changed who I am as a parent. I was introduced to works of the poet Pattiann Rogers and the below poem tugged at my heartstrings. In an anthology of her work she acknowledged her sons: "who have been perfect in every way, enriching and broadening my life, never ceasing to fill me with wonder and amazement and pride,...".

What I took away from that was that my children have always been, always are, and always will be perfect in each moment. That doesn't mean I'll love their every behavior, nor that I don't expect change and growth, but at each moment they are exactly where they need to be, even even when they infuriate me most! That shift in viewpoint took the burden of approving of or even liking every moment. As a result I grew in patience and tolerance allowing them to "be" themselves--all I really need to do is steward them, to hold space for them as a safe container.

This shift continues to inform my parenting and even how I treat myself and others. I hope it might be useful to some of you, and that you'll enjoy the below work of brilliance.

For John A. and Arthur

By Pattiann Rogers

This is what I ask: that if they must be taken

They be taken like the threads of the cotton grass

Are taken by the summer wind, excited and dizzy

And safe, flying inside their own seeds;

And if they must be lost that they be lost

Like leaves of the water starwort

Are lost, submerged and rising over and over

In the slow-rooted current by the bank.

I ask that they always be found

With the same sure and easy touch

The early morning stillness uses to find itself

In needles of dew on each hyssop in the ditch.

And may they see everything the boatman bug,

Shining inside its bubble of air, sees

Through silver skin in the pond-bottom mud,

And may they be obliged in the same way the orb snail,

Sucking on sedges in shallow water, is obliged.

And may they be promised everything a single blade

Of sweet flag, kept by the grip of the elmid

On its stem, kept by the surrounding call

Of the cinnamon teal, kept by its line

In the marsh-filled sky, is promised.

Outloud, in public and in writing, I ask again

That solace come to them like sun comes

To the egg of the longspur, penetrating the shell,

Settling warmth inside the potential heart

And beginnings of bone. And I ask that they remember

Their grace in the same way the fetal bird remembers light

Inside the blackness of its gathering skull inside

The cave of its egg.

And with the same attention a streamer of ice

Moving with the moon commands, with the same decision

The grassland plovers declare as they rise

From the hayfields into the evening sky,

I ask that these pleas of mine arrest the notice

Of all those angels already possessing a lasting love

For fine and dauntless boys like mine.

Monday, August 15, 2011

4 pathways

Yesterday I went to a "celebration service" at Bohdi Spiritual Center. I really loved the "sermon" which described ways we approach change and the world. The director spoke of them as the 4 Kingdoms, but I think I prefer the term Pathways or Planes to describe them.

The first is the victim -- life happens to me. Things just happen. I am powerless and thus also not responsible for my life. When fear happens, I react with despair. I want to run away. But I will often try to bring in someone else to share in my despair or fear. Who wants to be alone in there?! Change can be fear provoking because it is happening to me, I didn't ask for change!

The second is the individual -- I am in control. I invent my life. I can be super creative which is great, but also when I am stymied I am responsible. There is a lot of pressure here. Fear arises, but I know I can stop it with my thoughts. In this place much brain storming occurs and it can be a place of much growth! Change can be met with courage and hope.

The third is where universal energy moves through me -- I am a vessel/conduit. When I am open, the creative force moves through me creating all sorts of things in my life. When I am open I can also intuit what I need to do. Much less pressure, but the responsibility is to stay that open channel. If I feel fear, I need only remind myself to reopen connection to the universal force. Change impacts me less because I am simply channeling.

The fourth is where the Universe is as me -- I am as the Universe. This is the place where anything is possible because I am in complete alignment. There is no separation between me and my life, my colleagues, my family. All people and experiences are mirrors and gifts of insight; I understand the universal force is flowing like a river. The river will flow faster, slower, swell and shrink, but it is still the river. Change is part of me like breath. So there is no fear.

In life, I feel all of these states. I strive for the first two to have minimal opportunities to manifest. I spend a lot of time in the third and occasionally I make it to the fourth pathway or plane. There I am peaceful and happy. Knowing the peace in the fourth pathway, I know I must continue to work towards that mind/heart space through my actions and interactions.

May it be so!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Following your passion

Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy, addresses the issue of following your passion in a wide-ranging talk. Money quote: "Follow your passion? Worst advice I ever got." ( )

I'm not sure that Mr. Rowe is making the correct conclusion about success and passion. Sounds like the passion of the pig farmer who lives in Vegas making a great living feeding his pigs the casino food waste is perhaps making a comfortable living, and he found a clever way to do it (perhaps finding the clever way to best the system is his passion.)

I think defining passion is a tricky business. A passion doesn't have to be playing the violin. Some peoples' passion is simply to be useful--and beyond that they may or may not have creative impulses. When we talk about helping our children to follow their passion, we are not suggesting they become marginal to society and seek out the obscure, rather that they grow into their own skin, that they own themselves, that they are able to define with clarity what their place in the world is.

There are leaders and there are followers, there are pacifists and fighters, there are those who make music and those who enjoy others making music. It takes all to make a world, and if we make that world through a higher consciousness the outcome should be not a happy joy fest, but a richer fuller existence for all.

And finally, this is a life long process. Passions are not all formed by birth; as we grow and change, our passions may grow and change. As parents it is our job to keep holding space for our children to explore that with consciousness. As humans it is our responsibility to hold space for ourselves and everyone else in the same way, suspending judgment and being fully present now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Taking a bigger perspective

There is a great gentleness which comes into play when we connect with the present moment, a sense of being nurtured. What is it to feel nurtured? The feeling of being held with unconditional love without judgement. When we step into the center of the circle of the present moment through meditation, yoga, or even simple mindfulness that circle holds us in a nurturing embrace. That is why when we take time to practice or be mindful we feel so much clearer and so much more able to love ourselves and the world. Then we are in a position to meet each challenge as a teaching moment.

Being mindful towards each moment transforms our experiences from a series of events (to be qualified and sorted into good, bad, memorable, difficult) into a flowing of life. Then it is as if we stand in the middle of a stream which flows around us. We still notice how events make us feel. In this we recognize our humanity -- our vulnerability helps our compassion grow and being in a place of allowing, keeps us grounded in the stream.

Thus our task is to be in the stream and stay alive to its movements, not to let our eyes glaze over. And when we glaze over, and for a span of time we go to sleep, then we must be aware enough to wake ourselves up. Or else the universe will do it for us with a challenge or "accident". We must keep pinching ourselves to stay awake to be truly alive.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Many "new age" gurus talk about finding joy, or bliss in each moment. But they also speak of being truly aware of all of our emotions. I used to wonder how one can be in bliss in a moment of anger or sorrow because anger and sorrow are as much human emotions as joy.

What I begin to understand is that each of us can find the joy in each moment. But joy doesn't necessarily mean happiness, as in a warm fuzzy feeling, but rather a sense of wonder and being alive for all that is right now even in a moment of sadness or anger--to be able to notice all of it. And within that dwells the wonder that, "I am here to witness this" whatever "this" may be. That is joy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Wisdom of No Escape

It seems that all meditation techniques have the same basis which is to learn to be honest and warm-hearted towards ourselves in order to truly know ourselves in mind, body, emotions, and spirit. And no one can know these truths but ourselves. Pema Chodron calls this nontheistic. Nothing to do with belief in God, but rather that only only I can know myself, only you can know yourself. No one but you can discern what to accept and what to reject.

So there is a requirement of each of us to take this pursuit on relentlessly whether in meditation or real life. We pay attention to our breath, what is in our head, come back to the present moment, notice we are thinking or judging by naming the action, back to the breath, or the noticing of thoughts, back to the present moment, and so on. And in this process continue to be as warm and gentle and honest, eventually learning who we truly are and what it means "to let go of holding on and holding back" (Pema Chodron). Thus, ultimately, strong feelings or reactions to events don't clutch and hold us, rather we exist, experience, and move on.

Monday, November 17, 2008


"The Charter for Compassion is a collaborative effort to build a peaceful and harmonious global community. Bringing together the voices of people from all religions, the Charter seeks to remind the world that while all faiths are not the same, they all share the core principle of compassion and the Golden Rule."

If we want to write such a thing let's define compassion:
"Compassion is an understanding of the emotional state of another or oneself. Not to be confused with empathy, compassion is often combined with a desire to alleviate or reduce the suffering of another or to show special kindness to those who suffer." Compassion is really about showing up. It is the ability to hold space for ourselves and others as we live what it is to be human.

In considering a Charter for Compassion, a global map as it were for guiding us to be compassionate, I feel we must all strive to exist in this state of being present, and constant vigilance of our motivations for doing, caring, believing. Compassionate behavior can slip into rescuing or condescension, or be driven by guilt, shame, or fear. That would be ultimately counter productive. So in order to breed true compassion we must begin to work our way out from under many cultural constraints which have been imposed over centuries to control human behavior. Step number one: learn to show up in the present moment for each moment. It might only be for a few seconds at first almost like surfacing for air while swimming. But with practice soon we might begin to float with ease.