a journey

Dear …

During my morning sit, your question, ‘what is contemplative prayer to you?’ arose in me. I remember when first reading Cynthia Bourgeault 15 years ago (and Thomas Keating before her) prickling at the thought of ‘consenting to the presence and action of God’. At that time in my life, the idea of surrendering to power like that felt anathema, because of my relationship to power (feeling overpowered in an unhealthy relationship. Power DID things to me that were not in my best interest!) and because I was at last beginning to find and trust my OWN voice.  That softened gradually in me, as I came to trust that the presence of God with and in me was one of pure Love, and that surrendering to being Loved and being Love was a helpful thing! (of course, that also was the result of a few years of counseling and the presence of persons in my life who retaught me what Love really looked like)

For a few years, my experience of God was Lover. It was an amazing time of healing, a mystical time of Love healing and transforming me.  It was a mutual experience too, as I also found myself falling in Love with a God who begged to be understood in all of God’s vulnerability and powerlessness (at that time there were beheadings in the news) 

As I’ve mentioned before, when that experience of Beloved relationship between the two of us faded away into something Less distinct but somehow also More, it was difficult for me to find my way to prayer. That sacred word, which for me had been ‘Love’, I could no longer ‘feel’, personally, for me,  in the same way. I didn’t feel seen or touched (at times that had felt so very intimate and physical) It felt like just a word, not a presence. Maybe it all had just been my imagination? A psychologically healing exercise. 

It’s so hard when the words and images suddenly (or gradually) feel empty. Even when we know intellectually that ‘God’ is beyond words or concepts or feelings. I think I tried, in vain, to cling to the old for far too long, ‘trying to get the feeling again’. Then for awhile I think I actually abandoned (consciously, that is) even trying to approach God or prayer. I ‘just’ lived. Perhaps I let go? though it didn’t feel that way, it felt more like turning my back. Of course, I suppose we are never though.

And yet the earth was still teeming with sacredness (or with the Holy) and with Wonder. (When God is gone, Everything is Holy… the title of a book by Chet Raymo… felt about right to me)  I just didn’t know how to pray to/with that. Prayer, I guess, had been a personal experience of Love and this felt suddenly so impersonal. I felt small and inconsequential, immaterial and unknown in the midst of all of that, I suppose? I drifted to Buddhist meditation during that time period, I suppose, because it didn’t require me to consent in the same way. (Lovingkindness meditation could help me cultivate a loving heart, but it didn’t necessarily feel reciprocal, as if I were also being seen and loved.) The earth was where I got my feeling of being immersed in the sacred. (somewhere in here, I heard Robin Wall Kimmerer speak of the way the Earth loves us, which reminded me again of the feeling of belovedness and belonging)

Thus, I was surprised awake, when I attended a weeklong silent retreat with Jack Kornfield (in January of 2018?) and found him using  language SOOO bathed in Love, that it reawakened something in me , Re-Minding me I might say. It felt like my Oasis days again {I’d done SDSG in 2001-2003, attended almost every Returning to the Well retreat (they ended sometime near the end of the 2000’s, and they were lifeblood for me) and the Deepening Year in 2007}. After these ended, I’d felt adrift, unseen and without an anchor in Beloved community to hold me when I was lost in that Dark Night fog. *

I picked up the book, Awe Filled Wonder, that winter. It went along with me to the wilderness during our spring trip of 2018. In it I found an image of God I could feel again. Perhaps it met me in that Dark Abyss … reframing it as all-nourishing. It spoke of the oneness, the intimacy, I was experiencing in nature – where ‘the distance between the one who experiences and that which is there disappears and gives itself to him or her’. It spoke of the intimacy of communion with the Presence flowing through all beings, human included. My longing for Beloved community, in and with which I might be touched by the Presence of the sacred within the other, was affirmed. It spoke of kneeling, not before, but dwelling IN the Holy, when I sit to pray.. communing With. Communion seems to be the new feeling for me. Deep Belongingness is a close second.

All this to say, I think I am also a feeler 😊 It is a necessary component of prayer for me. I do endeavor to simply dwell with and within that feeling, however. To not be compelled to ‘do’ something with it in the moment. To let it simply nourish me and to trust that my allowing that within me has some effect— not just to/for me, but to/for the Oneness which I meet there, and in which I dwell with all that is. 

Oh… and sometimes afterwards?  I write!

*I have described this feeling to some to that of being in a canoe in a large lake when the fog is so very thick and heavy that you can’t see the shoreline even when you are 20 feet from it. You can’t discern water from sky ahead; it is one thick blanket. It’s really disorienting, because you can feel like you’re paddling straight ahead, but you’re not. There, you hae no but to hug the shoreline or risk getting completely lost. That means taking the LONG way out, into every bay and inlet, sometimes even paddling in the opposite direction of your destination. That sudden breaking through of the light is so reorienting.


Dear child

I awakened early this morning, a little before 6,  the bedroom subtly lightening into shadows and shades of grey, though still quite dark. The window at my head was thrown open wide – though it is mid-November we are having a warm wave-  so I could hear the gusting wind out there, high up in the trees, the rain’s steady patter on the porch roof below.  Instinctively, I felt the longing to be out there, sleeping in it, not lying here in my bed beside it. I yearned to feel the rain beating on the tent roof, feel the wind rushing above and about me, feel the cool dampness of the earth beneath me, smell the fecundity of wet soil and rock.  It was this feeling of being one with it, immersed and not separate, for which I longed. Ironically, tucked inside my warm house, I felt somehow as if I was on the outside, looking in. Oh, it’s so hard to describe the feeling of oneness that I experience out there to those who have not known it, and so perhaps just as difficult to express this opposite feeling of subsequent disconnection.

Perhaps some of this hunger for more was stirred awake in my belly  by yesterday’s greedy consumption of the tales of a young family’s 30 day trip into the backcountry—their words resonating, echoing in the emptiness of loss within me, as they spoke of the life changing nature of a wilderness life, their acknowledgment that those who ‘visit’ more briefly will  “never experience the peace and serenity that comes with settling into living a life in the wilderness” -what I have experienced as a fullness of being.

But I wasn’t really ‘thinking’ about their story this morning in those wee hours at all. I was simply feeling – and the word that came to me then to describe the feeling was- ‘untethered’.  

I’ve been thinking about how it is that we humans slip off into living an untethered life.  How it is that we have learned to go through the motions, disconnected from meaning, disconnected from Love, living on the surface of life, free floating without an anchor. Perhaps then, this is why the words- “Restore the Soul”– employed by the now president-elect this season, evoked something real and true within me, almost as strongly as the words shared by the wilderness family yesterday.

Reconnect our actions to our souls.  Reconnect our words and our decisions to Love.


Yesterday morning,

I awakened to listen to a soul-stirring rendition of Ubi Caritas, performed by 4 young men in a resonant stairwell, the earbuds filling my head with their resonance. Here is a brief translation of some of the lyrics

“Where there is love, there is God.

Love has gathered us into one. 

From a sincere Heart let us Love one another.

Let us be aware, lest our mind be divided.

that we might see the face of God in our midst’.

Yesterday morning,

I sat with an email, a Daily Meditation, which spoke of living a life informed by an Ethic of Love. It spoke of seeking to live our lives from that underlying value, to let our words and our actions spring forth from their roots in those depths. It beseeched me to live a life deeply rooted in Love and to attentively nurture that connection to goodness within.

Yesterday morning,

(it was a full morning!) I was offered this excerpt from Meister Eckhart’s, 13th century mystic’s, writing.

You Ask ,

What is Evil?

It is the good turned around,

deprived of what matters,

of all that really endures,

of all roots,

of what remains after a fire.

It stands outside,

pointing away, dividing,

falling, fallen, broken.

There is always evil lurking in

the good.

In other words—untethered.



Dis-connected from ‘all that really matters’.

We become ideologues, disconnected from the Love that may have first inspired our thoughts. We create institutions, which may have once been rooted in nurture, or healing, or service, but are now free floating, unanchored, caught up by the winds of profit or survival, materialism or tradition. We come to activism, forgetting the Love from whence our anger was sprung, and  becoming that which we say we hate in the other. What is Good, disconnected from source, becomes a soulless, lifeless ‘thing’, becomes evil. 


And so I woke this morning, feeling untethered from the earth and filled with its longing for wholeness. To live a life, not separate, where my humanity (whose root word is ‘Hum’- of the earth) is cut off from the earth, outside of and apart from it.  But moreso, to also be a part of a cultural life that is not disconnected from Soul, which ought to shape and inform it. I thought of the walls that we build, thinking they will shelter or protect us, the loss that is inherent in that walling off of oneself, that separating of self –the hardening, the division between and subsequent inability to feel the other.

I can feel the disconnection from the earth so potently because I have experienced the opposite feeling of intimate and deep seated connectedness – the peace and serenity of which the young family speaks—but I think of all the persons who cannot even imagine what it is that they are missing because they have not felt it.  And this makes me wonder if this is not somewhat true of a life lived disconnected from Soul —a life lived on the surface, untethered from its roots, from that deeper well of wisdom and Love.

 I wonder how we begin to restore the wisdom of soul, to reconnect the broken tether between head and heart, between heart and soul. Could it possibly be that there are those who have forgotten, too, what this feels like, who have lived lives so disconnected that they have no way of even comprehending what is missing? Who feel only the emptiness but know not the way home?

How might I help? If it is true that there are those who don’t know what is missing because they have never felt this connection to Soul, this connection to Love, then I guess the only way I can help, as simplistic as this sounds, is to Be Love for, to, and with them. Perhaps they might then catch a glimpse of it in me. As the wilderness guide leads her guests into their own experience of remembering, I might also take these ones out there with me into Rumi’s field beyond right and wrong, let them feel for themselves what Love is.

Being Love is a tall order for one small, flawed human being such as me, one I feel ill equipped for, one that calls me to do my own work. To practice and practice and practice some more. Each day, each moment, calling myself home, reaching for the rope that tethers me to the depths, trusting in something I cannot see in those depths, but that i hope will hold me fast.

Dear great, great…. grandchild of mine

My dear great, great …. grandchild of mine,

It is one week after the election of 2020, a painstakingly long drawn out week, in which we held our collective breath, waiting to see if our people would choose goodness as the light by which we are guided, and the end of which evoked a giant exhale of relief and jubilation, singing and dancing not only in our streets but around the world.

Already, the naysayers are pulling us back from joy into fear.

My child, there are those who will say I’m a dreamer (but I’m not the only one J ),  that I have swallowed the Kool-aid (I realize that both of these cultural references are likely irrelevant to you) , that I am naïve at best, blind at worst, but I understand that is their fear speaking.  A toxic negativity has so consumed the soul of our people that they can no longer hold onto Hope. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that it is we who have done the consumption- of negativity, fear, and cynicism, and so it has become who we are.

My child, it is not naïve to see Hope in the midst of chaos. It is strength. It takes strength to hold onto a center that Loves in the midst of Hate, that is hospitable in the midst of hostility, that sees goodness shining in the midst of darkness. I am drawn to that goodness as to a warm fire on a cold night. I see so many of us, carrying our candles , moving together toward that center of warmth, of goodness, of light. We can be the light that the darkness does not overcome.

Much has been made of the dog-whistles that are supposedly used by some to incite violence and and anger and fear—hidden messages that only those who understand the buzz words can hear because it is part of their doctrine. But those of us who are drawn to Hope also can hear our own whistles. We might instead call them temple bells, ringing us home. Words of Compassion and Hope, not being used to manipulate, but that rise authentically from the soul of a person, from who they are, speaking the Wisdom of the Ages, calling us to inhabit our authentic human goodness.

Since that celebration day, just 2 days ago, the fear of repercussion is growing, too. A cursory glance at the shifting news cycle reveals the shift in attention from Hope to Fear. My child, wisdom tells us that what we pay attention to grows, and to that place goes our heart. Our brains have evolved to look out for the scary and the scarcity, and perhaps there is wisdom in that too, for it helps us to survive. But, we must carry what we take in with our minds to our hearts, where it can be beheld by its Wisdom. We must learn to allow our hearts then to lead us, informing our minds to apply its deeper truths about who we are to be.

I know I must take care not overwhelm my human brain with the bombardment from too many screens that are too much for it to process. And so, I will practice restraint, take in small doses only what the antidote of my heart can neutralize. Perhaps in this way, I can teach my heart to grow stronger, to hold more, to Love more. I will continue to turn my focus to those stories that are spreading the good news of Compassion and Hope, so that these are the things that take root and grow. And I will return, again and again, to the small, the intimate, the immediate, in order to feel what is real, in order to feel the goodness of the earth and the goodness of humanity heart-to-heart.

All of this may seem foreign to you by the time you read this. Will there be screens in that future day? Will we have moved from the Information gatherers of our time to Wisdom gatherers, as our ancestors moved from hunters and gatherers, to planters and tenders? Who will we be?

I pray, my child, that we have tended our hearts well enough in this time that yours is a whole-hearted world. That we have cared enough to have left you a world, unravaged by fear and greed and hostility, but tended by a unified soul. That we see one another as sisters and brothers, that we have nurtured the earth with gratitude for all that she gives, that we have called ourselves Home.

With Hope,


notes from the wait

I realize it is not over, but it warms my heart that an honorable and decent man, with the wisdom of a true elder, steps out of retirement in response to what he sees as an existential crisis for our country and for humanity itself, to offer himself as healer, and that enough of us felt it as a balm for our brokeness. I am not making of him an idol, I see his humanity, but this feels like a soul calling.

I pray that, in time, all are soothed, that the chaos which is creating such anxiety on both sides is calmed, so that we can again see one another as fellow human beings — beloved, flawed, and worthy of compassionate respect.

Standing on the edge

Standing on this lip

of land, her endless

creativity and sheltering protection,

cluttering the space behind me,

Leaning into spaciousness

of water and of sky– comforting abyss-

where I can watch the moon ,

hidden from my view beneath that canopy,

trace her unfailing path from horizon to horizon

above this still or stormy sea

Standing on this edge

between my head with its protective clutter

– endless analysis and sheltering solutions–

and my heart

leaning into spaciousness

of Mystery and of Love, alternately comforting/distressing,

as She traces Her path across the surface of my life and then


in the darkness of this moment

I plummet into my heart, receiving fear, accepting pain

To land upon a tentative raft of trust –

Manufactured from these memories

No longer Known, but longing to re-member

Will I float or sink upon this fragile craft

Of manufactured hope

As leaves fall from these trees, opening to sky

So does each solution– plan, fix, resolve, repair–

let go into compassion, relinquishing the need to know

for now

Standing on this edge of self

At this fluid intersection

of the Yin and Yang in me

Heaven and earth kissing

in one body, Fear and Love, Hope and Pain

Where head and heart are one

Wisdom is Her name.

Wilderness Homecoming – part 4

Follow the link for the last in this series.


Thank you for reading along with me on this journey. Even as I read each day, I am brought back to that place, but also touched anew, somehow. These words this morning, when reading, filled my heart

“….But the wilderness in me is so intricately intertwined with the wilderness of the earth, I don’t know how to extricate myself and remain intact. But beyond my self-centered sense of loss, something tells me that when we extract our humanity from its wild place, making ourselves separate than, an ‘other’, we become capable of devaluing and desecrating what we no longer experience as home. Perhaps, then, the extraction of human beings from the earth is one of the costliest ravages of our ‘natural resources….”

especially after watching David Attenborough’s heartbreaking, yet hope-filled , ‘A life on this planet’.Here is the link to the last in the series.

In beauty we walk,V

Wilderness homecoming -part 3

Part 3 in the series , in which I acknowledge the multitudes and mysteries in the wilderness within and without


Wilderness Homecoming- part 2

The second of four, in this series, Wilderness Homecoming, is now published. On this day, I am searching for some Ancient Wisdom, and I find glimpses of it in the Earth. It’s a story of loss and rejuvenation, of that which is gathered, stored, and finally released. To read how it unfolds for me, please follow the link below.


Wilderness Homegoings

I have been invited by Oasis, a local-to-me contemplative prayer and spiritual companioning community, to share some reflections from my recent experience in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northern Minnesota.

This year, we were not to be permitted across the Canadian border. A deep sense of loss filled me, yet I struggled with the decision to simply supplant yet another ‘experience’. It felt forced at best, and like an unwillingness to face/be with my emptiness at worst. But after a few false starts and changes of plans, we finally took the plunge and headed to northern Minnesota, for most of the month of September. In that place, I lost myself in presence and in Love, and experienced a simpler, inconspicuous, deep sense of belonging.  

These posts are just a few samplings of our days spent (quite literally) quenching our thirst from her waters.

If you would like to read the first in this series of reflections, please follow the link below.


a shift in center

I have come to the realization that I live too much of my days, stuck in my head. (I suspect that social media encourages that too, inside that virtual space where the whole world is redacted to content — ideas, images– bombarding my mind.) I am a lover of ideas, a philosopher at heart, perhaps. I get excited by the synapses of connections in my brain from one thought to another. But I can get lost in that tangle too.

Recently, it dawned on me that at least a portion (perhaps a large one) of my seeking understanding is in order to feel safe. If I can understand the ‘other’, get beneath what makes them tick, I can fit them into my heartspace, where I ‘know’ that goodness is at the heart of who they are. I can find compassion. I can feel safe from harm.

I can think a thing to death this way though (following one well-written article to another seeking understanding). I suspect I can also think in order not to feel—pain, fear, grief– or at least in order to soothe it.

These past years the word, humility, keeps redeeming itself in me. Like many, my relationship with the concept was once closely aligned with being diminished, dishonored, belittled, disrespected — ‘humiliated’. But, coming face-to-face too with the realization that my thirst for knowledge sometimes makes the other feel diminished, with the realization that there are so many ways to understand and to see, which may all be true, (all ways are not my way), and mostly with the self-realization that I use knowledge and mastery to make me feel ‘safe’ and in control (especially during times of chaos), is inviting me to let go of ‘knowing’. Besides, is a love that is born from knowledge truly Love? (only if i can understand you, can I love you?).

Yesterday, I was reminded of Mystery, invited to center myself again there, in the great Unknowing. I don’t, nor could i possibly ever, know it all, understand it all, see it all. But perhaps I can hold the Mystery– of life, of humanity, of this earth– in my heart. And I can dwell there in wonder and Love.

It seems we keep arguing facts. We keep arguing perspectives. We keep loving only what we can see from where we stand. It is the fever pitch of crisis (real or imagined) that keeps us from quieting and finding our mutual center. I’m going to take a breather from that and Breathe.

I’ll be headed out into the wilderness for most of September, so that should help. When I’m out there, my brain gets a natural rest. I am not thinking so much as being. And being in Love. I am present without judgement of right or wrong, good or bad. No part of my brain is analyzing or caught in the tangle of chaos. It is a natural reset for me, which I dearly need this year especially. When I am there, I am simply there— the whole of me. Intact.

I wish for you too, to find such a space to nurture your heart and your wholeness.


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