Thank You for Everything. I Have No Complaints Whatsoever.

The story is told about a woman Zen master named Sono who taught one very simple method of enlightenment. She advised everyone who came to her to adopt an affirmation to be said many times a day, under all conditions. The affirmation was, “Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.” Many people from all arenas of life came to Sono for healing. Some were in physical pain; others were emotionally distraught; others had financial troubles; some were seeking soul liberation. No matter what their distress or what question they asked her, her response was the same: “Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.” Some people went away disappointed; others grew angry; others tried to argue with her. Yet some people took her suggestion to heart and began to practice it. Tradition tells that everyone who practiced Sono’s mantra found peace and healing. Thank you for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever. My friend Lisa, an attractive woman in her late 30’s, came to one of my seminars after I had not seen her for a number of years. She informed the group that a year earlier she had been diagnosed with a brain disorder that required immediate surgery. The surgery was done, a steel plate was inserted in her head, and her doctor keeps her under close observation. Lisa reported that now she lives from day to day. Privately I told Lisa that I was sorry she had gone through this whole ordeal. “Oh, don’t be sorry,” she told me emphatically. “I’m not sorry at all. This was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It really got me to appreciate my life and...

Iroquois Thanksgiving Address

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue.  We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things.  So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as People. Now our minds are one. We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life.  She supports our feet as we walk about upon her.  It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time.  To our Mother, we send greetings and thanks. Now our minds are one. We give thanks to all the Waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength.  Water is life.  We know its power in many forms ~ waterfalls and rain, mists, and streams, rivers and oceans.  With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water. Now our minds are one. We turn our minds to all the Fish in the water.  They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water.  They also give themselves to us as food.  We are grateful that we can still find pure water.  so, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks. Now our minds are one. Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life.  As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders.  They sustain many life forms.  With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look...

Day Four in Lafayette – or, A Stranger in a Strange Land

Today is day four in Lafayette. I now know where the post office is, Starbucks, Whole Foods and El Chorro Mexican restaurant. Oh and the 7-11 and the Indian restaurant, which has very nosey waiters (“You are alone sir? No wife?”) Seriously. But that’s another rather interesting topic entirely – dining alone. Next time he asks I’ve got the perfect response: “No husband either.” Day one, Friday, was moving day. Moving was kind of surreal. I found myself wanting more time, yet there was none. Guys showed up with a truck, and 90 minutes later were on the road. (Sunny Movers did a great job. 2 guys and a truck moved everything for $715 bucks.) “See you there.” they said. So I had to go. But then I was here, instead of there. Lafayette? A month ago I didn’t even know it existed. That was day one – Friday. Saturday I needed to get the place at least a little bit organized. What goes where. What needs to get unpacked and what might as well just stay in boxes for now. How I ended up with about 30 new toothbrushes. Maybe 40. And where to put them. Stuff like that. By midafternoon I was beat, and after a trip to the self-storage place to buy a wardrobe box for clothes that won’t fit in the closet, I needed a nap, so showered, and laid down. Until the police showed up at my door. “Lafayette police!” Great. My first whole day here. Since my door wasn’t locked they came on in, since apparently someone had called 911 from this address...

Adopting Plants, Pens, and Outboard Motors

One of the things that you realize when you move from one home to the next is that you can’t take everything with you. It’s a different environment, a different space, a different season. Maybe you had a garage, and now you will not. Or you had a back yard and now, not so much. Maybe you had a boat, but haven’t now for almost two years. But you still have the motor. Because it’s a nice motor. I sold it today to a guy that seems nice. He didn’t try to haggle with me about the price, which I appreciated very much. It’s a good motor, I told him. I like it. It makes me feel good. I was just a little sad to see it go. We seem to accumulate things, almost unconsciously. It’s insidious, in it’s own way. Stuff just… multiples. And, silly as it seems, sometimes I get attached. Plants, fishing poles, clothes. Pens. Why do I currently own approximately 300 pens? And that’s after sorting them, keeping only the ‘nice’ ones. My definition of nice in this case seems to be anything that could possibly retail for over .19 cents. Though I do not remember buying any of these pens. Oops. I have invested considerable time this week finding homes for my outside plants that I will not have room for after I move. I advertised, incentivized, coaxed and cajoled, and am so very grateful to the five lovely people who have adopted them. I had to write notes to all of them – the people, not the plants – to tell them about...

The Power of Your Word ~ Now More Than Ever

“Be impeccable with your Word. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.” ~ Don Miguel Ruiz “Since our word creates always, it stands to reason that we have got to be very careful in sowing the seed.” ~ Ernest Holmes “The word you speak becomes the house you live in.” ~ Hafiz Fridays are normally catch-up days for me – tasks, errands, correspondence – but with so much happening in our world I have also been keeping an eye on the headlines and various media reporting of global events, and also on Facebook, which gives me a running commentary of various opinions and positions. It’s like a finger on the pulse of my world. I saw the Hafiz quote online this morning, and it got me thinking, noticing, again. I am aware today of how the media speaks about world events, how common blame and judgement and criticism and condemnation have become, how separation and dislike and even hatred seem to have become acceptable in our culture, and in our language. I am aware today of how unbeautiful our words can be, and am noticing how almost unconsciously easy it seems to be drawn in to echoing that language, whether or not it is an accurate reflection of our individual beliefs, or values. Our word, with the power to hurt or to heal, to sooth or to inflame, is perhaps more powerful now than it has ever been. One person can spread their word to thousands of people in minutes, and have a profound affect. At the click of a button. Our word has never been more...

Choose It or Lose It

There is much to consider as we witness our world today. Earthquakes in Nepal. Unrest in Baltimore. Drought in California. The US Supreme Court deciding issues of love. Schoolgirls and women kidnapped by the hundreds in Nigeria. Global environmental concerns. And those are just the headlines. We each have our own challenges, personally, in relationship, with money, in our communities. It can be overwhelming, our hearts broken open, feeling powerless to affect anything. But we can, and do, affect things, every day. We are not powerless. Every day we have a choice before us; to be part of the problem, or part of the solution. The choices that we make every day have tremendous power. That’s not a platitude. It’s a fact. The love that we embody and express has tremendous power. The kindness and compassion and generosity that are available to us in infinite supply every day are the power of change. This power can change our world, and it all comes down to the choices that we, you and me, make every single day. We can tear ourselves, each other and our planet apart. Or we can love and encourage and become the sanctuary that we ourselves long to experience. It’s a game-changing choice, and we all get to make it. Ultimately we have each been given primary stewardship of one person – ourselves. I can run around all day every day for the rest of my life and point fingers and tell you and “them” what’s wrong. I can tell you all what you need to change, what you need to be. And all of that effort...

Good Friday, 2015

In the scheme of things, 1,982 years isn’t really that long. Homo Sapiens have been around for 200,000 years. So 2,000 years is really only 1% of our history, as a species. Yet 2,000 years ago one man showed up who had a huge impact on the course of that history. 1,982 years ago today was not a good day for him. He was arrested, brought before multiple governmental and religious authorities, generally denied guilt of any crime but flogged anyway and eventually executed in a most cruel and unusual way; crucifixion. His crime? Teaching that people are “children of God”, claiming it himself, and that the Kingdom of God was “at hand”, present now, and available to all. He cited as the two greatest commandments, “Love the lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might and with all your mind”, and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He taught love, the divinity of all things, powerful, and available to all. His messages stirred something within people. It still does today. You don’t have to subscribe to or belong to or pledge fealty to any person or organization to glean some pretty cool stuff from what this guy taught. But at the time, this message of love and personal empowerment made him a threat. So they made him into a villain, and killed him. Kill the messenger that taught personal empowerment and love. It was not at all a good Friday. And here we are 1,982 years later, and as profound as his teachings and his impact upon our world have...

Thinking, or Feeling – Which is More Intelligent?

There are definitely two camps within me, two distinct decision making processes. Well, maybe it’s more than two, but for the moment two is enough to consider. The first is thought. I think. A lot. Sometimes I think that I think too much. Or, I feel that I think too much. Or maybe both. And, I feel. More and more as time goes by I am aware of this other aspect of me that is very intelligent, and has a very influential voice when it comes to my choices and decisions. The challenge comes when these two aspects of self find themselves conflicted. It usually shows up as some version of: I think one thing, but I feel another. I think yes, but I feel no. Or vice versa. Or both, but one leans one direction and one the other. Or maybe the pendulums are both swinging all over the spectrum like a trailer park in a tornado. What then? Deepak Chopra says, “There is a very interesting mechanism that the universe has to help you make spontaneously correct choices. The mechanism has to do with sensation in your body. Your body experiences two kinds of sensations; one is a sensation of comfort, the other is a sensation of discomfort. At the moment you consciously make a choice, pay attention to your body and ask your body, ‘If I make this choice, what happens?’ If your body sends a message of comfort, that’s the right choice. If your body sends a message of discomfort, then that’s not the appropriate choice.” This supports my position that we live in an intelligent...

Peace of Mind, and Peace of Heart

I used to think that peace was something that either was, or it wasn’t. It was something that was outside of me, and that I got to experience peace depending on where I found myself at any given time. I knew for sure that I was not peaceful inside, at least in my mind. For much of my life, my mind was anything but peaceful. What I did not realize is that peace is something that can be learned, cultured and nurtured internally, in my mind and heart. I can develop my own experience of peace, as a spiritual practice. In order to consider such a radical idea, I had to first realize that I had been giving my power away to people, to circumstances and to situations. I had been allowing things outside of myself to determine whether or not I was peaceful. I thought that was just the way things worked, until I realized that I have some choice in the matter. Peace is an aspect of Spirit, an essential element in creation. I look to nature to learn about things, and what I see there is a largely harmonious co-existence of all life. Everything is interconnected, interwoven, and interdependent. Sure, there is life and there is death – that too is an inherent part of life’s design. But creation is not conflicted with itself. Maybe that’s a good working definition of personal peace: to be unconflicted with ourselves. This is not to say that things aren’t going to happen in life. They will. Life is also an ongoing series of learning opportunities that are not always...

The Language of Divine Intelligence

How do people experience spirituality? The answer might be best summed up by the Sufi poet Rumi when he writes, “There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” What he means is that there are countless ways to experience the Divine. One of those ways is the relationship that we have with Divine Intelligence. We say that we live in an intelligent universe, and that, therefore, all creation is infused with that intelligence. Which would include us – you and I. As it relates to people, we often think of this intelligence first, or primarily, or maybe even exclusively as mental intelligence. But it is much more than that. It infuses not just our minds, but also our bodies, our hearts and our souls. All that we are is infused with this intelligence. Every cell of our physical bodies, every thought, every breath, every inspiration and dream and desire exists within that Divine Intelligence that is the very mind of God. It’s important to expand our awareness about this, because we are constantly being informed by this intelligence. And it doesn’t always happen as a mental flash of knowing. Our founder Ernest Holmes writes, ”God speaks in a language more subtle than the human language, without a tongue, in the universal language of spiritual emotion which is instinctive… and held in common by all civilization, by all creation, by all people who have lived – the universal language of emotion, sense, feeling, intuition, instinct.” The challenge with this realization is that we have largely moved away from paying attention to this subtle language. We often defer...

Valentine’s Day 2015

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m not real big on Hallmark holidays. I think I understand the initial intention: that a placeholder is created to remind us of something, a celebratory space, set aside, for something important. Like Christmas. And look what happened with that. Great idea, wonderful underlying intention, but… But the good news is, these dates do force our hands a bit. They give us an opportunity to pause, in whatever manner we choose, to consider where we are in relation to whatever the event is. Take Valentine’s Day as an example. This February festival has its roots in a pagan love festival called the Feast of Lupercalia, a celebration of fertility and of the return of spring. The Roman Catholic church was very good at co-opting existing pagan holidays and making them their own, so, out with the old and in with the new, in 496 AD Pope Gelasius banned the Feast of Lupercalia and declared February 14 as St Valentine’s Day. Named after the patron saint of lovers, there’s apparently a lot of question as to who the holiday is actually named after, since there were at least two and possibly three Saint Valentines in the third century Roman Catholic church. What is known is that at least one of them was beaten and stoned and finally beheaded, which hopefully is not the foundation upon which a holiday celebrating lovers is built. But I digress. So fast forward lots of hundreds of years to today, when we have pretty much lost track of the origins of our February celebration. Hallmark, like the early Roman Catholic church,...

When You Find Yourself In-Between

Change is the nature of the human experience. It’s happening all of the time. Time passes, and we’re not exactly the same person from one day to the next. There are lots of little, constant changes: it’s cloudy one day and sunny the next, our weight goes up and down. We add to our experience of life, one day at a time, as a result of the little new things that are a constant part of our daily lives There seem to be levels to these things. I just sold a car a couple of weeks ago, one that had been a great car for me, that I was constantly very grateful for having. I was surprised at how attached I had become to that dang car. I mean, it’s just a car, right? But I realized that I had a relationship with that car. I related to it. It was part of a lot of stories, a lot of history – almost nine years. Sometimes I envy people that seem to just be able to let go effortlessly of what has been – cars, jobs, homes, relationships – and slide joyously into the next thing without a flinch. For me, sometimes, it can be a bit more of a process to make these changes. For me, sometimes, it can be a bit disorienting, being in-between. And then here are times in our lives when change happens in a more significant way. Big changes. They seem to come cyclically – every now and then. Everyone experiences them. We shouldn’t be at all surprised when they happen, though we often...

New Years Eve, 2014

I was out running errands for most of the afternoon today, and noticed that things were different around town. Businesses were either packed or closing early. And people seemed to be a little friendlier than usual. Though New Year’s eve is different for me than it once was, it’s still a point of demarcation. It’s a reason to celebrate. Maybe lots of reasons to celebrate. It’s a time to be grateful for another year, for people and places and experiences, for lessons learned and losses mourned, for another year of life lived. But it’s also a time, combined with some of the darkest and coldest days of winter, of taking stock, looking both within ourselves and around us and asking, how are we doing? Are our lives what we want them to be? What have we learned about ourselves, about our wants and needs, about our values and priorities, about our purpose here on the planet, and about our heart and soul desires? It can be a great time, after sitting with questions like these, to make some choices, some decisions, to make some adjustments in our direction. These aren’t “resolutions” exactly. I was never very good at those. Too rigid. too hard and fast. No, this isn’t that. What I’m referring to is more of an inner decision, a choice to say yes to what we’re here to be, to say yes to life and to love and the living and loving of it. For me, it’s a decision to let things that need to change do so. It’s a choice, an affirmation, a prayer really, of willingness,...

Thanksgiving Eve, 2014

On the eve of the day that we have chosen to set aside as a day of thanks, I find myself once again being with the paradox that is two seemingly opposite or even conflicting truths, existing simultaneously. I am so so very grateful, for I realize that I am living a life of privilege.  As challenging as life inherently is, I am richly blessed, with a roof over my head, a meal in my belly, a few bucks in my pocket and wheels with which to get to where I need to go. I remember how blessed that I am. I think of a friend of mine – one of those friends that I have never met, yet have a relationship with and feel a kinship with none the less. His name is Jared, and he raises funds and builds schools for children in the ghettos of west Africa. Today he posted a picture on social media of the toilet project that they are currently working on, so that the children will have facilities while they are in school. I send him money, now and then, for new school uniforms, or for books. Or for toilets.  I remember how blessed that I am. And my heart aches this night for people of color in this country who are going through an experience that I, well, as well versed as I consider myself to be, I realize that one can only truly understand something when they have walked in that persons shoes, which I have not. So I try to understand. And my heart aches, because people that I...

Leading with Heart

I love it when the Universe places the perfect person in my path, at the perfect time, with the perfect reminder. And I am so grateful when I am awake and aware enough to recognize the message for what it is. I am so honored to be entrusted with speaking to people about spiritual living, and tomorrow I get to do just that at Center for Spiritual Living Santa Rosa. Three services, three talks, and then a workshop in the afternoon about the human soul. Honestly, even after doing this work for quite a few years now, it still blows my mind that I am doing it at all. Me?! As I (semi) jokingly say sometimes when asked to speak, or teach, “Surely you could find someone qualified!” My messenger friend this morning dropped me a note to tell me that she has been invited to consider applying for a position of significant responsibility. And she shared with me her version of that same little voice that seems to be a common inhabitant in a lot of our heads, the one that says, “surely they could find someone more qualified!”, or, “you couldn’t possibly do that, you’re too… quiet, old, uneducated…” This is the voice that says, “look at you, with all of your quirks and foibles and even flaws, who do you think you are… to teach… to lead…“ And I told my friend, “You would be a great person to lead, because of your heart. That’s what people feel, what they experience of you. It’s your greatest gift, and your most powerful contribution. We get all wound...

The Story Varies, Depending on the Bathroom

I have the lighting in my bathroom adjusted perfectly. I have one of those light fixtures that has eight bulbs arranged horizontally, spanning about five feet, right above the large mirror over the sink top. I think they are 40 watt bulbs – when I bought them my thinking was that since there were so many I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with light on those early mornings. Currently 3 of those bulbs are burned out. Perfect. I say perfect because I have figured out how to see myself in that mirror every morning in a relatively gentle way. I have a relationship with my lighting and my mirror and my appearance and we have an agreement – I’m ok. Just don’t be too critical, because if you look with a critical eye, you will find things to be critical of, which doesn’t feel good. Not all bathrooms are as user-friendly. I have no agreement with other bathrooms. They can be a bit rude. At 55 years of age, my skin is not flawless. I like to think that I have developed character, and in truth I just don’t have the radiant skin of a 20 year old anymore. Which can freak me out a little sometimes. One of the restaurants that I frequent has about eight thousand watts of lighting in their bathrooms. It’s like a surgical suite with a urinal. Though my intention is always just to go in, take care of business and beat a hasty retreat, keeping my eyes intentionally downcast as I wash my hands on the way out, the evil mirror in that bathroom has some kind...

Hair-brained ideas, and Reciprocity

It happens every single time. I get some hair-brained idea to inquire further into a topic – it’s a spiritual curiosity really, an inspiration, but there are also moments when it feels hair-brained, like, “look what I’ve gone and done this time.” Anyway I get some bright idea like the one that came a couple of weeks ago to look into something further, to open my mind and wander down a rabbit hole to see what I can see. And holy moly, that kind of wandering can get really interesting, really fast. I’m going to be speaking at the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa in two weeks, October 26th, and I was invited to present a workshop that afternoon, following the three morning services. I don’t always accept these workshop invitations because a) it makes for a very long day, and b) when I do something and ask people to invest their time and money I want it to be valuable. Life-changing valuable. And that can feel like a challenge to accomplish in two hours. The theme in Santa Rosa this month is “story”, the power thereof, etc. So I figured ok, easy enough. Knowing personally how powerful the stories that we tell ourselves are, I can speak to that, and can also help people to begin to craft a new story for themselves, one that is more in alignment with their own hearts and souls. The “change your thinking, change your life” model works really well for this kind of thing. I’m living proof. But then I was informed that a colleague is already doing a workshop on...

The Soul, Awakened

the soul, awakened, teased long enough takes a stand refusing to be denied. no longer still, or small, but pushing, aching, surging to inhabit the bodies it has been gifted unimpeded, fearless, vital, thrilling and free. the ecstatic choreographer fulfilling divine purpose; smell basil and autumn and salt flats on ebb, taste cinnamon and apple, baked and cooled and met unabashedly by a watering mouth, tongue and lips designed and starving for such dripping delight. the soul, awakened, enrolling the chi, the impulsor, the vital life force to burst through uncertainty, mental equations created to protect that which no longer desires to be protected, but longs instead to fall, open and raw, into the vastness that meets the newly willing at every turn. the soul, awakened, morphing and popping like bubble bath no longer content to remain bottled and shelved, yearning to be fearlessly poured now, to fulfill its purpose, its design, its desire to fill this tub, this blink of an eye that is the human experience full to overflowing with warm fragrance and rich touch, slick and sublime. the soul, awakened, desirous of full dominion of all senses, awake and engaged, a consummation, an ingesting, a holy communion with the sounds and tastes and smells of life itself, rich and messy and deliciously undefined, nourishing and thrilling with edgy delight. and the mind concedes servitude, loosens its grasp, the body restoring that which the ache invites, and the heart opens, poised, leaning, falling, wholly and completely into the next gasping breath. Jeff Anderson...

48 Hours in Southern California

My one and only niece got married yesterday. It’s one of those life events that’s a point of demarcation, a point of reference perhaps, in life. For the past 48 hours, since arriving in L.A., I’ve been seeing snapshots in my head, images of a little girl. A lifetime. The before part. I can’t imagine what the after part will look like, but she’s a pretty smart young lady. I guess she’ll figure it out. And weddings inevitably bring together family. Not just one family, but two. One from rural Mississippi and one from very non-rural Orange County. It was a fascinating coming together, both at the church in Newport Beach for a few hours (for both wedding and reception), and at the primary non-church gathering spot – a big rental house on Balboa Island. Being that the bride and groom are both in their mid 20’s, the bridesmaids and groomsmen were as well. Watching young men of the south navigate the young ladies of the north was fascinating. But they had beer in common, and beer pong (hour after hour of it on the patio outside). And boys being boys and girls being girls, they seemed to figure things out. What I noticed were the contrasts, and not just in the young but in all. I haven’t had a lot of experience with the south, and holy moly, it is southern. Accents, pace, manners. Food. One of the groomsman kept calling me “sir”. I said, “DON’T CALL ME THAT! I’M JUST A KID TOO!” I didn’t really. But I wanted to. Charmed (pronounced “Chaaahmd”), I’m sure. They had...

Day One Post-Alaska – Re-entry

I have learned to plan for re-entry whenever I go away for any kind of spiritual work in a retreat or even an adventure environment. There is a contrast, and the shift of gears from, for lack of better terms, non-liner to linear can be… abrupt. Such was my day today. I missed going to the center last week, as I was wandering around Homer, and realized that I was going to miss next week too, as I will be in southern California for my nieces wedding. Talk about contrast; Halibut Cove to Los Angeles/Orange County within a one week period. I notice how my system, my being, responds to things. It was great to be at the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa this morning, but I was pretty clear that I was not fully there, not fully present. A huge part of me is still hanging on to, or aligned with, or longing for, or something, the feel of Alaska. But I wanted to be there, didn’t want to miss three consecutive weeks so, I went, and it was good to see some of my people. And then I went to the grocery store on the way home. I don’t know if it was me, or if it was them, but we all were not well in synch. It’s very busy at the grocery store. I think I said I’m sorry, in my car, about three times to people – in their cars – before I got down the first parking row. It felt a bit… alien. People were driving fast, and stereos were loud. There...