Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I wake up to silence
every morning in this castle
without my trusted dogs this time
choosing to be alone then
sometimes wallowing in loneliness
the rejection I projected
reflected back to me

I am learning
how I create
watching my addictions
going along with them
following them home for tea
enjoying the fictions I imagine

here I can stay undressed
until I take my body for an adventure
walking it instead of a dog
trips to the store alone
cooking for one
I always make too much

next door two terriers sometimes worry
about a deer, quietly munching in this yard
squirrels tirelessly attack the bird feeder
a cardinal waits until they’ve tired
not noticing he has no head feathers
and I wonder about pesticides and bees

the floorboards creak as I walk
the air stirred gently by the fan
a microclimate of solitude and quiet
day night and in between
surrounded by cicadas and frogs
500 yards away cars pass by

twice a day I practice sitting
once a day I tire myself outside
often I pace the house reading
I distract myself far too late into the night
I try to find discipline to write
I bask in gratitude for my guardian angels

but really I am pausing
letting the unnameable work
so more often I will notice
when the quality arises
that allows me the clarity
to see many things better, but also
to know why I still dream about you

Krishnamurti tea

Hope is a belief that something will improve in the future. Despair is a belief that nothing will improve in the future. Hope contains a belief that the past and present are no good. Despair contains a belief that the past was the best possibility and the present is no good. We swing between both, ropes creaking, gripping tightly, burning our palms.

The mind adores routine, worships the known. It will perform all kinds of gymnastics to cling to certainty. Routines of life are built and polished, decorated and painted brightly to evoke permanence. Predictability is comforting because it supports the mind's story of what life is. Patterns of thought and reaction build, until the expectations created from the foundational beliefs the mind has carefully organized from its limited experience are perceived as needs, causing desire to become grasping and attachment.

Desire can only be tamed by that which cannot be named by the mind, but what might be known as love. Otherwise, desire is a wild power, and from what the mind narrowly perceives and has already experienced in the past desire creates an idol, a story. The image inflates into a mirage of epic proportions until all possibility of seeing truth is lost. Until it ends.

"There is always an ending to that which is incomplete."

And so I travel. Then I stay. Here I am silent. There I participate. I am inside and out, sometimes at the same time.

Some of us have trouble seeing clearly.
Some of us want truth so much (and also, clearly, do not) that will we again and again try to leave our certainty behind. And then we notice that we've brought our certainty-seeking along. The judging deciding organizing mind. We still use the mind with the will to discipline, define, illuminate, understand, control... and we still hope to understand truth with insight the mind can grasp.
Again and again we tear down the false walls we keep building so beautifully, and we dive forward past what we know to be illusions, seeking truth. While building a new structure each time.

But eventually we see that seeking is the problem. Hoping for truth means we believe it is not with us right now. Right here.

So some of us keep changing our here. Keep changing our now. Then staying here. Staying now. Then changing again. Inviting contrast, swinging from hope to despair, from certainty to fear, from illusion to devastation...

And in the space, in the brief moment where the pendulum is centered, clarity dawns.
And the mind overtakes and swings again!

But there is a space now open for truth.
In case at some point I want it more than the gratification of the search.

Monday, July 7, 2014


addiction             habit            compulsion            dependence            craving                        infatuation

identifying with thoughts
defining and putting parts of the world
into organized boxes of concepts
imagining we will be more complete
if we could possess more
avoiding the emptiness

everyone’s mind decides good or bad
no one’s mind does not say I want this and not that

but when we pick a rock from the stream
bring it closer
judge it in more detail
we notice flaws, darkness
we see it is just as bright as the last pebble
and believe another shimmering jewel
farther on in the stream
will be more beautiful
will add to our store of loveliness

and so what we yearned for and finally possessed
is instantly relegated to the past
discarded back into the stream
to the category of known and boring
and the mind searches outward again
engaging its radar for that which resembles the past
still safe but seems different
still triggering a kind of pleasure or pain
that has been experienced before

we keep circling the abyss
with eyes turned outward
not noticing our wings
denying our ability to fly

throwing images onto a tiny screen
grasping and analyzing
each flash each dust mote
faster and faster to keep ourselves distracted

when behind us inside us the void is open
yawning and patient
waiting for when we will turn off the screens
put down the stories
stop the work we don’t enjoy
finish wanting to change others
cease groping outside for love
and finally turn inside to see truth

diving off the edge
trusting the wings we have forgotten
gently dissolving and expanding
into that which has no name

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

walt whitman's corpses

Today was the end of another part of my life. A piece of my ego that really wanted to believe a certain story about myself went out in a ball of flames. Very dramatic, painful, and, clearly, necessary.

I had believed for years that I was somehow more skillful ethically than many people, that I protected people and really thought of others first. That the traumas I had survived had taught me to not do anything similar to anyone else. That I was always so careful to not cause harm that somehow I was above the fray in that way. That I would never cause someone else undue worry.

So this weekend a situation arose in which my ego latched on to one of my deepest desires and shaped it into an attachment to a certain outcome that would support its concept of reality. A reality in which if the ego wants something in particular, and I am a 'good person,' then I should get the preferred outcome, or at least a gentle lesson and a promise that it might be fulfilled in the future.

But instead, at a certain point my heart and my brain stopped talking to each other, I forgot my true nature and even the other person involved for a short time, because I was amazed that a particular outcome seemed to be happening. I let myself stare into the thrall of the ego. The story became my single pointed focus. And when, a few minutes too late, my brain woke up and paused the drama going on to reassess the reality of the game being played, everything came crashing to a halt.

So, no, I am obviously not above making disastrous mistakes. No, I am not different than any other human. Yes, I can act so unskillfully that I create suffering for myself and possibly for others- depending on what story they believe about it. Yes, I still have voids in my system that my ego tries to fill by looking outside myself for validation, love, interest and approval. And no, I don't have a handle on my emotional reactions yet and tend to be so hard on myself that I make myself physically ill.

The end of illusions is cause for celebration. When shit hits the fan, those who intend to love you will try to figure out what to do next rather than bailing entirely. Your friends that truly know you will remind you who you are and forgive you if you can't forgive yourself yet, because they know who you are better than you do sometimes. To be truly compassionate to others, first you have to look inside yourself at your worst horrific parts, the things you never thought you'd forget to do, the things you never imagined would happen because of something you did, and the most terrifying things that you did imagine that finally did come true, and caused your world to end one more shattering time.

My good friend Drew reminded me of the poem below this weekend, which seems to articulate this trip's effect on me so far. Peeling away fears, anger, sadness and despair, all the stories I wish were true about myself, others, the world, all of the concepts I hold onto and the characters I have played and still want to play. Everything is falling away, or being ripped away... or I am lighting it on fire unintentionally after soaking it with gasoline... Letting go is so painful sometimes, and seeing my own fallibility mirrored back through someone I love's dark gaze of anger and disgust is mortifying.

I bid you welcome, my worst case scenario. This ego is yours to destroy, devour, disembowel.

But truly, this is my practice too. Seeing the truth of things, of people, of my small self. Watching the cycle of birth and death, even of concepts and dreams. Learning to act from my core and true Self, but still getting caught up in ego and attachment pathways instead. This is how we all create suffering. If I can't tolerate it in myself and learn from my own wrecked life, how can I understand others, and how can I pretend to practice compassion and more skillful behaviors?

It's time to see my stories for what they are. To see my expectations and the reactions and attachments that are fueling them. To watch my dreams, and my ego, and every character it comes up with, die.

O LIVING always—always dying!
O the burials of me, past and present!

O me, while I stride ahead, material, visible, imperious as ever!

O me, what I was for years, now dead, (I lament not—I am content;)

O to disengage myself from those corpses of me, which I turn and look at, where I cast them!
To pass on, (O living! always living!) and leave the corpses behind!

-walt whitman

Monday, June 16, 2014

pet dragons

I tend to enjoy thinking of my wilder emotional tendencies as dragons. They are like unruly pets that so far have been trained badly by my own interactions with them. They are the wildest kind of animal, but they use rationalized thought as a weapon, and if not understood might be allowed to destroy more than would allow for my most efficient growth. They are part of me, so hate or any kind of resistance isn't the best option for long-term friendliness to myself... So, because the idea makes sense to me, Dragons they are. Fear, Anger, Despair. Old friends.

Yesterday, in the desert, my fear dragon sat in the car seat next to me, closer than it usually gets. It was nervously breathing smoke and clouding my view. At one point its claws were digging into my shoulders and my heart beat loudly in my ears for a while.

These are the things it told me, and with each fearful assessment, what actually happened in each situation:

1. That cloud is dark and huge, I bet it might rain. Why did you decide to turn into this wash? If it floods you will be drowned, you should turn around now. This is a terrible idea, why didn't you buy a bigger car before we left? No! Don't drive up farther into the park! It looks like rain! No! Imagine the flood and the mud and what it would do to your car! You're feeling sick now aren't you, there's nowhere to go now, see, I was right all along, and it's all your fault.

**actual event: There was a cloud over a national park. There was blue sky over the other half. All gates were open, even to the washes. No rain storms were predicted for the day. A few other cars were around including some small passenger vehicles like mine. I drove the 10 mile stretch out and back and as I got back to the campground it was fully sunny with few clouds left in the sky.

2. Oh gosh that looks like it might be a storm cloud again, still to the south, I bet it's a front. I bet it will be lots of rain. I bet this happens all the time here, I wonder if these un-elevated highways are safe? I wonder if the whole thing gets slippery or washed out? Wait, why are you turning off the highway? No! Ok, fine, let's keep track of how long this drive to the park takes so we know how fast we have to go to leave fast if it starts to rain because the bigger road is probably a little safer with more people. Or should we just stay in the park if it rains? Oh gosh what if it floods too? And we don't have any food!! Oh gosh it's so windy that must be the storm coming!! Why are we HERE??

**actual event: There was a high cloud far to the south. Since it's high desert, even when it does rain it's usually dry almost as it hits the ground. There are plants all along the highways that have clearly not washed away any time recently, and most are slow growing. The flat land makes it really hard to tell how close something is and even if it's moving away or not. It was a beautiful day.

3. There's been no cell service. For hours. No other drivers to speak of. No one really knows where we are... Was that a sign that said no services for 75 miles? WHY didn't you get gas?? There is only a quarter tank left! You know the last quarter always surprises you and goes down fast! How will you even call for help? Let's stare at the odometer and see how many miles elapse before another bar drops. Keep watching it. What if something else happens? Ohmygosh why are we doing this?

**actual event: There were drivers occasionally, the sunset was beautiful, and I arrived at my hotel just fine and had enough gas to drive around for a half hour checking out the town, and got gas in the morning when the engine was cool.

I compare these with today, when, driving a steep downhill grade out of a tunnel, with barely any shoulder, my rear left tire blew. A number of things could have happened, and there are infinite ways it could have been worse. But as it was, I received immediate help, I was very lucky, and felt as if I had been protected from every worst case scenario there could have been in that situation. And although my fear dragon was there, the only time I felt it was when I thought I had to make a decision about how to react, but in reality, the people who rescued me made the best decisions and I let them, and I was safe.

There is such a chasm of difference between fear and real danger. Fear is about what might occur, whereas danger actually occurs in the present moment. Fear requires time to think and belief that somehow one can take charge of the moment by predicting its possible immediate outcomes. So, now, instead of trying to train the fear dragon, I train myself to respond differently. It seems to be able to learn- to ease its grip, to quiet its screaming- by me changing how I relate to it. By listening to it earlier, I learn to respond in positive ways to its warnings so I can be better prepared for situations, and perhaps save myself trouble. And then, if I haven't planned well, or prepared as adequately as my fear would like me to believe I need to, I listen to it, discern whether there is real danger, and if not, I practice letting go and gently say no to its tantrums.

Because I can never know what will happen, but rather, if I trust that I am protected and that whatever occurs is for my best growth, this is easier in the end than fighting a dragon that is much more skillful at combat than I. Practicing peaceful understanding of my own fear seems to be getting me farther than resisting it, shaming it, or denying its existence ever did.

Long live the dragon of my fear, one of my best and oldest teachers.
I thank you. I invite you to stay as long as I need you to train me.

Monday, May 26, 2014


matter glides through space
pushed pulled singing dancing
rings and moons and voices

it would be risky
planets deciding to meet in person
it might be impossible
to balance in closer quarters

or something new might be created
black holes and new moons
depending on speed

either way
the universe would never be the same
and maybe isn't ready

either way
who would question
the perfect spaces between 
pieces of stardust

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

compassion practice

I learned something this year I thought might be worth writing about. Especially since it's a huge reason I'm taking this leap.

Lately I have been practicing being in a state of love. I have found I like myself much better when I am in love. So full of joy that it spills over. Exuberant, but gentle. By truly paying attention and practicing being in love with everyone I encounter, it does not inflict itself on others with cloying indecency- rather, someone deeply and safely in a state of love simply brightens a room while normal interactions go on. I'm sure you've all seen this before, it's just new to me.
I noticed that after the initial millisecond of a chemical reaction, being in love has little to do with anyone besides myself. The opening, the clarity, and the newly accessible energy all come from inside me. And they stay, long after the person is far out of reach.
I noticed that I am able to re-evoke a feeling I have explored and encouraged the growth of, regardless of someone else's behavior that may have started it off...
A person can be an safe anchor, a trigger, a catalyst, but another person could never be the source of my love.

(ok ok, metaphysically, yes, we're all one. those of you that are enlightened already can roll your eyes at this post as usual... :) )

So why do I call this a practice? Well, I've found that the moment I allow my desire for a specific outcome to become solid, to become a condition for my happiness, to become an expectation, I am no longer in an open state of love. At that point I have narrowed the possibilities available, I have tried to imagine that I am a better judge of what I want than the universe. I am in expectation. And scheduling disappointment for myself. Life can never go as expected. So there seems to be a need to continually remind myself to return to nurturing behaviors that are more skillful and positive: to practice.

Over the years I have learned ways to refocus if I find my mind latching on to longing or yearning or disappointment or despair: Schedule time with loved ones. Get the feelings down on paper because self-induced melodrama makes for potentially interesting word salads. Exercise. Help someone else.

But the best way didn't come from my mind at all. I remember I said to my catalyst at one point: this is my practice. And I didn't even know how very deeply true that was at the time, but my heart did, and my heart spoke directly through my mouth for the first time in my life.

And so, I found my practice- being in a state of love. Years of meditation finally allowed me to recognize love when it arose for the millionth time... and by finally becoming aware of it, I began to actively practice to help it grow.
There have been moments wherein my BEing in love was also what I was DOing, without expectation, without needs, with desires that didn't need to be fulfilled in any particular way for me to feel complete. This is what meditation has taught me to recognize. To notice these fleeting moments when I am actually aware of the unity within myself. Because this experience is a tiny fractal of what is possible with the entire universe- but for me, a small frail little human, it starts with this little piece of consciousness that I label 'me.'

So this practice is to be in love, to fill with it and do it, to remain filled and grounded in love as often as possible. The more one practices, the more skillful one becomes. I practice with close friends, with family, with acquaintances with expectations of me, with friends that want more, with friends that want less, with patients that are suffering, with students and children with minds like innocent sponges, with the ocean, with my favorite checker at my local health food store, with the cat from next door, with my future dog, with the whales in the channel, with the writer I'll likely never meet whose posts on elephant journal cause me to seriously consider kidnapping him for coffee one day...

And this doesn't mean in any way that I have evolved to a point of boundary-less-ness and oneness. I'm not a buddha, at least, I haven't recognized my own buddha nature to the point where I am one (ahhhhh devolving into philosophy again, whoops)... And since this catalyzing shapeshifting has started I've had plenty of ups and downs and unskillful behavior. But I've finally discovered, with a totally non-intellectual understanding, that the way I behave, the way I think, and the way I feel, are all generated from inside myself. I have choices every time something arises- do I act on it at all and if so, how far do I roll with it? I am lucky enough to be able to practice when I'm not good at something. The teachers in my life have fortunately been myriad and angelic, and my best teacher is always my own commitment to pay attention and learn, to use each miserable failure as a valuable lesson.

So how do I practice? When I realize I've slipped away from love, I return to my intention to understand, to maintain curiosity, to stay open, and to be committed to absolute honesty no matter what. Just like in meditation. Just keep practicing. I practice with myself first, meditating twice daily, and during the day whenever I manage to remember.
The act of loving, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, is to intend to understand. Compassion is "feeling with," and means that I want to understand first my own experience, to build compassion inside myself. I can then maybe be more skillful at trying to understand someone else's experience, to feel what they feel. I might even be able to lighten their burden of suffering by caring, by trying to understand, by asking how I can help.

And this all means I am finally learning how to be in love with myself, so now I have enough to share...
Which is the beginning of a much truer journey, beyond this physical travel plan that is developing as I go... learning how to love, and to love well, is more important to me than anything else.
And I will keep practicing, and failing, and practicing.
Everything is my teacher.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

resistance is painful

Although none of my friends here have said they are happy that I'm leaving, not one person that loves me has said 'No, you should stay.' I suppose it's that obvious. But, like all overthinking-prone people, at first I was wondering if I'd made the right decision, and 'shoulds' wafted up from time to time. But it's funny, as I get closer to the definitive acts of putting things in storage, seeing my last patient, stand up paddle boarding one last time, hitting the REI sale so I have rain gear for London... there is no equivocation at all. Not even slight concern that I have no idea what will come of all this. As if knowing what will happen is ever possible...
I'm more interested in packing in as much joy to my last few weeks here as possible, which is how I'd rather live every day... 
I think when something isn't quite right in my life I tend to forget exactly how joyful things can be. As if there's a joy dampener over the musical strings of life- but only slightly, so there's not something obviously wrong, and I might not even notice it, since I can still hear the music... 
So today as I walked my favorite little 3 mile stretch of the SB coastline near my house, I realized I was smiling like a maniac at everyone. More than usual. (Yes, I am that smiley girl in the hat and purple shoes.) But the real difference was that the heavy sensation I'd felt for the last year, the feeling that something wasn't quite right, despite the beautiful surroundings and amazing experiences... was gone. Totally gone. Lifted. 
When a decision is finally made, especially one that has been a long time coming, if it feels that calm and good deep in the center of myself, then it was even less of a decision than the everyday 'what to make for dinner.' 
It wasn't a decision at all. The fighting of it is what felt difficult. Resistance to what is. Resistance to myself. Letting go of that is always a good thing. A very good thing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014

mind games

It helps the mind to have a story to tell itself. The mind likes a combination of words put into a logical order that rationalizes and excuses any fears or potential drawbacks to a decision. The mind enjoys the idea that it made a decision, that it has power over the way the life will go, that it can wrap itself around enough variables to decide to act in a way that will control the course of life, and that there is some certainty and understandability possible from its perspective.

But the truth is, decisions aren't made on the basis of having enough time or information. Decisions can never be known to be 'right' except in that no decision is ever 'wrong.' Acting or not acting are two sides of the same coin. Alan Watts liked to say that we hem and haw and make a show of weighing our options, but when it comes down to it we make a decision at the very last moment and the mind comforts itself with the thought that it gave the decision 'enough thought.' Except... there is no way to ever know every variable or possible outcome. It may be more helpful to instead become increasingly aware of which actions or non-actions facilitate conditions leading to growth and love, and which lead to harm, and then, to intend to and increasingly learn to actually do that which will less likely cause harm and more likely improve conditions for growth and love. It is much easier in the end to let go of expectations and a need for certainty of a particular outcome from an action, and watch what arises and learn from it, no matter what it looks like, 'bad' or 'good.'

It helps the mind to separate this from that. It gives a sensation of understanding of reality (in order to have a sensation of control over reality) when things can be judged and put into categories. This leads to a sense that some things are 'like' and 'not-like' whatever the mind has judged its experience to be. This leads to attraction and attachment to things that are 'like' and aversion to things that are 'not-like' the mind's description of itself. This is useful in learning survival when we are children, in creating a feeling of safety. But the mind latches onto its descriptions and creates an inflexible system of beliefs and named phenomena that supports its own sense of itself, so of course it balks at anything that questions its version of what it believes reality to be. This leads to fear of losing what the mind is attached to, and anger at things the mind believes itself to be different from.

But the truth is, placing things into categories creates division, and resistance to what is. What is is a pattern, and an interlocking web of patterns, conditions and an interlocking web of conditions, ever changing instant to instant in a dance of unimaginable complexity and simplicity.

It helps the mind to create a persona that it can separate from thoughts, a persona it can elevate and give importance to. Using the words 'me' and 'I' before verbs, adjectives, and words describing feelings, gives a feeling of separateness from those actions, those experiences, those judgments, and the thoughts themselves. But can thoughts be separated from that which is thinking them? Can a personality be separated from the actions or experiences that occur? Can a mind separate itself from the body it is surrounded by or the air, water, and earth that nourishes it?

The truth is, of course not. Krishnamurti liked to say that the very activity of the mind is a barrier to its own understanding- understanding arises in the interval between two thoughts. Self is not thought, nor is it the 'thinker,' nor is it the 'observer;' is it something that cannot be described in words or understood with thoughts. The Self, to the extent it (or any of the following) can be named, is the same as Truth, the same as God, the same as Love, the same as the Tao.

A way to know the Self is to learn to develop the qualities that will allow the Self to be brought forth into the world to be seen and known by experience rather than by description, analysis, or judgment. A way to allow this is to happen, to begin to experience the Self as 'not-thought' and 'not-mind' and 'not-sensation,' is to allow the personality, the ego, to clear itself of habits, reactions, expectations, attachments and aversions. And a way to do this is by becoming still, open, and free of analysis, beginning to illuminate these behaviors the mind (conscious and unconscious) produces. As you practice, these behaviors begin dissolving on their own, and the illusions they are built on start fading in the growing light of consciousness.

'Reality is not of time and it is not measurable.' - J. Krishnamurti

Friday, May 9, 2014


There is a poet that lives above my heart
who sometimes makes the journey to my mind to help me write.
though she rarely speaks in complete sentences,
she is always there, translating the world to me.
on normal days it is a word here and there, but sometimes,
When my eyes catch something beautiful,
she holds my breath for me in her hands while she sings.
on full moon nights, she paces back and forth in my mind,
restless and drunk on moonlight,
spouting insight or nonsense.
When my heart breaks,
she falls deep into the cracks,
poems tumbling whole out of her mouth
as she cries with me and fights not to drown.
When love overflows from the heart beneath her feet
she smiles out of my eyes so I smile with her smile
and her home becomes as beautiful as the world she sees.

taking leave

Funny that saying goodbye starts as soon as you say hello. We've all heard that before, but this is my first time leaving a place I had sincerely hoped to stay.

Santa Barbara seems dreamed up by every person who could use the word 'winter' as a verb, and by every nervous child that looks at a topographical map and thinks a perfect place to live would be one without winter, with both oceans and mountains but little chance of mudslide or tsunami... although that may have been just me...

A few weeks ago I told my patients I was leaving, I gave notice at my office, and told my housemates in time for them to find another renter. Since then I've had wild swings between excitement and despair,  wondering if diving into an abyss of unknown is really the best and least harmful decision. But the hollow feeling in my gut when I think I could try to stick it out here longer tells me there's no real decision to be made. If I'm honest, I know I started moving away months ago when my catalyst first appeared.

I've realized just how much I'll miss my closest friends here, how fun it will be to return to Santa Barbara to visit the lovely people that have been so wonderful to me over the last few years, how I can't imagine finding a more beautiful place on Earth, how much I won't miss the strange plastic culture here, and how relieved I feel when I know I can stop trying so hard to get my life to flow.

This goodbye isn't because there's anything wrong with this place, this time, these people, with life, or even with me. Everything is always perfectly arranged for continuous growth and evolution, and I've lived enough places to know that we follow ourselves wherever we go...

This leave taking is intended to shift the ground of my awareness by visiting people I have loved for years, driving roads I have not before, and finding the holes that still exist in my perception which can only be understood by quiet open listening.

Until I see you again, stay safe, my beautiful adopted city by the sea, and thank you to my ocean goddess that has waved goodbye to me with so many dolphins and whales and sea lions lately.

I've seen all the signs that say 'go no further,' that say 'turn back!' and the maps that are labeled 'here be dragons' to keep sailors safe in waters they know... well, I've finally decided to join the dragons.