Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

One Christmas Story

Once upon a time, there was a world and every child was recognized as a Child of God.  Each child grew up knowing she or he was daughter or son of the Divine.  In this world, there was no religion, no political party, no tribe, no warfare. It was world free of ignorance and aggression, a world that knew all beings, all life, all in the great cosmic embrace was and always has been and will ever be, Basic Goodness.  It was not a mystery.  It was a given.  It was the World of Love.

The children came into the world and a star was always lit in the sky for each and every one of their births.  It was always Christmas, every day in all the people’s hearts in this world.

Families were made up of caring people, sometimes a man and a wife, sometimes a wife and a wife, sometimes a husband and a husband.  Some families had just a mom or just a dad.  Children wore the faces of all the lands.  Faces were all different shades and blends of colors ranging from off-white to very dark brown.  All the eyes of the children were stunningly beautiful.  Almond, round, oval, crescent-shaped.  Each child knew in their hearts that they mattered and they all had a reason for being in this world which would become clearer as they grew up and engaged in their sweet and wonderful world.

All children played from the time they could walk.  Schooling was a community activity, with all adults finding time and instinct for teaching the children something that resonated in their own good hearts.  There was a place for the artists, musicians, carpenters, scientists, mathematicians, chefs, filmmakers, writers, builders, toymakers, doctors, nurses, for all the disciplines to impact their world.  Everyone invested in society.

When each child was born, a great celebration was made, and those closest to the child along with the elders in that family and community entered the silence to receive a name for that child, that reflected that child’s sacred place in the web of life.  The deep and abiding silence would offer a name befitting that child’s innate set of gifts for the world.

This is the way our very world began.  See we live in the World of Love.  The earth was created through an infinite number of interactions and purposeful intentions of a supremely compassionate cosmos whose only wish was happiness and goodness for the soul, divided now into so many so-called individual spirit bodies.  Today, the illusion of separation has become apparent to so many human beings on earth that its power to divide us is greatly diminished.  This is good.  It is time.

The fog that has separated humans from each other, from sentient beings everywhere is burning away as the Great Eastern Sun lights brightly our minds, the one mind of love that binds us, all of us. 

Still, we have preferences and make choices based on these preferences.  Our preferences derive from what we choose to accept and what we choose to reject.  The World of Love is also a planet of choice; we get to be here and make many choices, what to eat, who to love and marry, to have children or not, where to live, which work we will engage in, whether to create, contemplate, or withdraw into our cocoon of the closed mind of habit.  Choices are founded on one of two energies, the creative energy of love or the destructive energy of fear.

Love knows that all beings wish is for happiness and to be free from suffering.  Love knows that the natural cycle of life will bring suffering via a perceived separation when someone gets sick and dies.  In the world based on love, the beings know that loved ones will die and yet they never are trapped in a state of doubtlessness or confusion of whether they will be united with their loved ones again.  They realize that just because their loved one is no longer in a physical form, they still are with them energetically.  It is not mystical, it is truth.

However, when fear creeps in, it creates confusion in people’s minds.  People begin to doubt themselves, their realities, their purposes, their basic goodness.  They begin to operate from a place of uncertainty and became ignorant of their own innate place in the world, in the web of being in the universe.  Ignorance is a fog of uncertainty.  In ignorance, we play out our illusions, we may become aggressive and overly passionate.  We may withdraw and lose touch with our own minds and hearts and one another.  We begin to feel pain and suffering more than necessary.  We begin to wallow in this lack of clarity.  We begin to hurt ourselves and each other.  In our ignorance, we feel there is a “me” to protect.  We create divisions and boundaries; we make claims on our world, and began to label black and white, good and bad, mine and yours. 

The children born to a world of fear and confusion come into the world in cold and sterile way, no longer cradled by the community.  They are immediately separated from their moms, their dads, their family, the warmth of their community.  They are sent to schools and separated from the container that had once encouraged their stepping into their place in the mandala of life.  In their ignorance they become jealous and protective of their turf. Aggression is experienced and people use forceful means to stake out their territory.

Yet, the abiding light and warmth of the Great Eastern Sun shines despite a distorted mentality that preferrs to close off to the world, to the heart of the world and glorious awakened feeling of the Sun in the vast sky above.

Still, a feeling of connection resides in the hearts of the children on earth despite an illusion of separation.  On one fateful day, a very confused mind who had spent his time blasting imaginary beings with electronically constructed guns, which are a product of the fearful and ignorant mind, decided to take his jumbled mind and wreak destruction in the real world, on real humans, in our World of Love.

In his total hopelessness, he killed his own mom, an utterly unimaginable act in the World of Love.  He then sunk lower into the depths of barbarism and confusion and took the lives of twenty-six more innocent lives, young ones with so much future ahead and their teachers and guardians in a rampage of unspeakable and utter disconnection.  He was killing himself over and over and then he cowardly ended his own life. 

At this moment in the story it is time to feel.  Breathe and feel.  Be with what is at the moment in your heart. 

Is there perhaps a way to reflect the love in our hearts and remember the spirit of goodness of these children, of their teachers?  To place the fear we feel into the arms of love?

The World of Love, in the One Christmas Story, is here as a bright, warm, tender, guiding light for a world of fear.  We have a choice.  The One Christmas Story is a choice.  Jesus, a warm innocent swaddled babe of basic goodness held in the tender embrace of his mom and dad and the creatures in the vessel of the loving stable where we was birthed, offers to us, sometimes confused ourselves, definitely and desperately saddened and crushed by one human’s actions of madness, with the moms and dads and families and the community of Newtown’s heart of suffering, a choice.  The choice is either the World of Love or a world of fear and ignorance and confusion.

In the World of Love, we hold the families of all the loved ones who perished on that fateful December morn.  We love you.  We will protect you.  We will be here for you.  We vow to bring the World of Love more fully into being.  We will awaken to what is real. 

We all vow to look into the mirror and see a child of love and honor that being of basic goodness.  We acknowledge our own basic decency and think and act in a way each and every day to honor the goodness that joins us all in a worldly embrace.  We will each sit quietly and remember in silence each day to feel the goodness and the joy that comes from our unity and extend compassion to our fellow human beings.  We will be a beacon of basic goodness so no child of the world of love ever feels such desperation in a heart that has turned off and wishes only to harm and kill. 

May these confused minds awaken, may the suffering that was created turn to love, may the fog of ignorance remember that we are all Children of God, and of Love, and of Basic Goodness.

May we all notice and pay attention and see each other in our world.


Friday, December 21, 2012



The word flow

And the world aglow

We follow openly our path

To be with love at last

Our arms and hearts open wide

As we willingly put aside

The World of Confusion

Serving only illusion

As we step into the Love

Of the Great Mystery’s Glove

We flow at last

Clearing the past

Flow is Wolf

And Wolf is Flow

We stand in our truth this time

And welcome the sublime


~ Nyah Weh, Swenio~
(Thank You, Great Mystery)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 21, 2012

One World Ends, a New One Begins

Hello my friends, I am writing to tell you that yes it is true, a world is ending on 12-21-2012, a pattern that we have all been playing out for the past eleven thousand years perhaps, at least since recorded history.  This world has many names and is going the way of the dinosaurs.  It has been “ending” since what many in the New Age Movement celebrated in 1987 as the Harmonic Convergence but what I have come to call the Vibral Alignment.  It is officially over on Friday.  Sigh of relief.  The qualities of this world can be seen in the catastrophic mayhem, ingorance and confusion exhibited by one tortured soul on Friday, December 14, 2012.  Also by 9-11 and the many slaughters of innocent lives that have happened over the last few millennia.  Yet, despite what seems catastrophe, devastation, madness, and perpetual sadness, and yes, it is to be sure, there is an underlying truth of Oneness and Basic Goodness, as evidenced by the heroics of one teacher who gave her life to save the lives of all her school children on Friday and the compassionate loving goodness that resides in all of us.  And this basic human goodness and heroic quality is within us all.

One of my profound root teachers, a Seneca Elder who no longer lives in our world, but does indeed advise from the realm of spirit, called this world the Fourth World of Control and Separation.  Her name is Twylah Hurd Nitsch.  Her Seneca name, Yeh-Weh-Node, means “She Whose Voice Rides on the Four Winds.”  She brought to be me and countless others the profound and common sense teachings of truth human goodness, in other words a way to be, to live with confidence and dignity in our world.  Her home on the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation was the fulcrum of her sharing from her kitchen table, living room and 12 post and beam teaching lodge in her backyard, the ancient teachings of human basic goodness; she gathered people together from all four corners of our world, of all races, spiritual paths and walks of life. 

Twylah Nitsch, who many of us lovingly and respectfully called Grandmother Twylah, or Gramma Twylah, or Gram, was the lineage holder of the Seneca Wisdom, a role her family fulfilled since the 1770s; the Seneca are the philosophers of the Five Nation Peace League.  Gram was also the keeper of the teachings of the Wolf Clan Teaching Lodge, which offered to the world the wisdom, philosophy and the prophecy of our earth, its history and all its creatures.  Her core message, its essence if distilled down, is the same as other spiritual paths, religions and earth teachings -- that we are all One, and we have lived out this life and many lives to experience being physical on earth and we are here to remember our unity and reclaim our universal oneness.  This is what is happening and fulfilled in what the Mayan calendar inscribed on stone for 12 -21-2012. 

Gram was not shy about sharing.  She taught what her elders, her grandparents taught her.  I remember one story of the immense respect her Grandfather Moses Shongo, a great Medicine Man of the Seneca, shared with her.  He place her on the counter when she was a young one, maybe nine years old, eye level with him and gave her a teaching, saying that she is equal to him and thus they would meet eye to eye, heart to heart.  This message stuck with me.

Grandmother Twylah was both a talented dancer and jazz musician, having even played with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.  In her elder years she taught many of us who came home to her, the Cycles of Truth and Pathway of Peace.  She was a consummate storyteller and I vividly remember her telling the story of the Great Peacemaker, an awakened being, what Buddhists would call a Buddha, and Christians would call a Saint.  His name is Deganawida and he came to bring his people, known as the Haudenosaunee, which would eventually become known first as the Five Nations, then the Six Nations (or Iroquois Confederacy), into a place of the Middle Way, a peaceful co-existence.  This is an example on earth of a peace and unity that is possible between human beings.

As Gram told this story of The Great Peacemaker with a sparkle in her eyes and a beautiful all pervasive sense of humor, I knew he had what is known as Christ-Consciousness or Awakened Mind.  The story opened my heart and always made me cry; it was a visceral experience.  In the path I walk today, Shambhala, a lineage that goes back to The Buddha, teaches that all of us are imbued with Basic Goodness, that is what we are at our root, and that basic human goodness and an enlightened society is not only possible but what we all long for in our hearts and minds, and what is already present. 

What I have come to know, in my heart and gut, is that all paths lead to an enlightened community of people on earth walking in union with all sentient beings. There is no separation or division, and never has been.  That we all have as our essence the qualities of wakefulness, of gentleness, of courage, and the living quality of natural intelligence, that there is no separation between us, any of us.  No separation between me sitting here in Starbucks typing this and the gentleman who just sat down to sip his coffee and read The Buffalo News across from me.  No separation between him and the baristas. No separation between them and the farmers who grew this coffee.  No separation between the farmers and the coffee plants.  No separation between the plants and the soil.  No separation between the soil and the worms aerating the soil.  No separation between the soil and the water.  No separation between the waters of the world and earth.  No separation between the earth and our solar system.  No separation between the solar system and our entire universe.  Every bit of everything is in all of us.  We are all one.  Call this what Gram and the Seneca call Swenio or the Great Mystery or God, or One Mind, or Buddha nature, or the Divine, or the Creator, or the Living Christ, or Krishna, or Allah, or Jehovah, or any name we humans for the past eleven thousand years have called the life force that sparks everything that is within all of us.

Now on Friday, 12-21-2012, the Fourth World of Control and Separation is done.  Welcome to the Fifth World of Unity and Illumination.  The Mayans predicted this cosmic shift, chiseled into their stone tablets, and shared the stories orally.  In all traditions, we share the stories of creation and life and death through word of mouth, from one human to another, from one sentient being to another.

Grandmother Twylah affirmed what I had been doing since I was a child, relating to the other worlds -- to the spirit worlds of the ephemeral, to the mineral world of stone people and crystals, to the plant world of trees and flowers and all things that grow from the soils and sands of our earth, to the animal world of the four leggeds, the creepy and crawly ones and the winged beings that fly and give us a sense of a horizon beyond that which we can see with our naked eye or the finned ones that swim and give us a sense of the deep watery mysterious depths of our united soul, or any of the other worlds that I have forgotten to mention.  That is what Gram shared with me and the many others she magnetized to hear these earth teachings of wisdom and innate goodness. 

Gram also was wise enough to bring as many of the wisdom keepers of the indigenous peoples of our earth together in what she called her Wolf Clan Gatherings, having in fact met with the Dalai Lama and his entourage of Monks in 1991, two years before I would return home to Western New York and meet her and eventually live with her and receive a transmission of her teachings.  Her one requirement of the Indigenous Elders was to bring a story of humor and laughter to share with the people.  How like her, her mischievous but very intentional way of teaching and opening us all up.

The Vibral Alignment is about our minds, hearts and cores, all our chakras, and energy points within our bodies, all sentient being’s bodies, the Earthmother’s body and that of our entire universe lining up in one pulsating beat.  We all will vibrate with one mind, one heart, and one being.  Grandmother Twylah gave a teaching of our unity using her hand, telling the story of the Peacemaker, and the story of the Five Nations coming to find a truce and establish a long-held peace of generosity and goodness that exists to this day.  She used her hand to demonstrate that the four fingers closed represent one heart, one body, one mind under one law and closed it with protection and unity of the thumb crossed above the fingers in a fist or knot of oneness.  The Peacemaker’s Message was, “All for one, one for all,” a universal theme in all the great spiritual and earth paths for the last thousands and thousands of years. 

The part that we humans confused, and it was part of our collective learning as we move through all the worlds that Gram has spoken of and written of in her book, Other Council Fires Were Here before Ours, with her granddaughter, Jamie Sams.  We will be confused by the illusion of separation.  We will let ourselves be controlled.  But the possibility of becoming awakened always exists, always has, and by entering the silence, in whatever form we find that quiet place, can we access our truth, our sacred space and our unity with all.  And in that quiet sacredness are other awakened beings both here on earth and off earth in spirit realms and many different forms to help us. 

Now we move into what she taught us about, the Fifth World of Unity and Illumination.  She said imagine that we all we have two lines running from our head to our feet and this connects the physical, earth realm with the world of heaven or spirit; and the other line runs from one hand through our heart center to our other hand, representing our path on earth.  These two lines intersect in our center, our heart.  The Truth Line from earth to heaven, and The Pathway of Peace from hand to hand, representing our Earth Walk as physical beings on this, our precious planet that we share with nearly 7 billion other humans and trillions of other earth forms. 

Gram loved to talk about directions and spoke of the north as the place of Wisdom, the East as the place of Integrity, the South as the place of Stability and the West as the place of Dignity.  She would say remember we are all whole and a circle represents this wholeness.  Gram would remind us that, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

I say  thank you, my dear teacher and friend, Grandmother Twylah for truly your voice is still resounding clearly on the four winds that blow through our world.  I offer these teachings that you offered to us and let them move out from my small dot on this earth to the four corners of the Uniworld.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Poem from The House of Belonging

What I Must Tell Myself

Above the water
and against the mountain
the geese fly through the
brushed darkness
of the early morning
and out into the light,

they travel over
my immovable house
with such unison
of faith
and with such
toward the south

cresting the mountains
and the long
coast of a continent

as they move
each year
toward a horizon
they have learned
to call their own.

I know this house,
and this horizon,
and this world I have made.
I know this silence
and the particular treasures
and terrors
of this belonging
but I cannot know the world
to which I am going.

I have only this breath
and this presence
for my wings
and they carry me
in my body
whatever I do
from one hushed moment
to another.

I know my innocence
and I know my unknowing
but for all my successes
I go through life
like a blind child
who cannot see,
arms outstretched
trying to put together
a world.

And the world
works on my behalf
catching me in its arms
when I go too far.

I don’t know what
I could have done
to have earned such faith.

But what of all the others
and the bitter lovers
and the ones who were not held?

Life turns like a slow river
and suddenly you are there
at the edge of the water
with all the rest
and the fire carries the
feast and the laughter
and in the darkness
away from the fire
the unspoken griefs
that still
make togetherness
but then

just as suddenly
it has become a fireless
night again
and you find yourself alone
and you must speak to the stars
or the rain-filled clouds
or anything at hand
to find your place.

When you are alone
you must do anything
to believe
and when you are
you must speak
with everything
you know
and everything you are
in order
to belong.

If I have no one to turn to
I must claim my aloneness.

If I cannot speak
I must reclaim the prison
of my body.

If I have only darkness
I must claim the night.

And then,
even in the closest dark
the world
can find me

and if I have honor
for the place in which it finds me
I will know
it is speaking to me
and where I must go.

Watching the geese
go south I find
even in silence
and even in stillness
even in my home
without a thought
or a movement
I am part
of a great migration
that will take me to another place.

And though all the things I love
may pass away and
the great family of things and people
I have made around me
will see me go,
I feel them living in me
like a great gathering
ready to reach a greater home.

When one thing dies all things
die together, and must live again
in a different way,
when one thing
is missing everything is missing,
and must be found again
in a new whole
and everything wants to be complete,
everything wants to go home
and the geese traveling south
are like the shadow of my breath
flying into the darkness
on great heart-beats
to an unknown land where I belong.

This morning they have
found me,
full of faith,
like a blind child,
nestled in their feathers,
following the great coast of the wind
to a home I cannot see.


~David Whyte
from his book of poems
the House of Belonging

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christ and The Buddha -- True Oneness through Loss and Emptiness


“Treasure what you have and when it is gone be happy that you had it.”

Kailen Bittner


I am sitting in my car which is parked on the shore of Lake Erie.  I can see the land jutting out to the south of me and the windmills in the town I grew up, Lackawanna, their counterclockwise spinning generating clean energy that is being harvested for the families in my hometown.

I grew up here on the edge of this waking world. Buffalo feels to all my senses as a community that is coming awake, enlightening in the first part of this 21st century.  The wind farm, urban food farms, refugees from Burma and Somalia and Bhutan transforming our cityscape with their food and farms and spiritual lives, local food and farmer’s markets, grassroots action and mindfulness community growing.   And yet, I sit here with a hollow and raw human heart freshly wounded by the madness of one young man and wonder why. What could have brought him to this point of insanity to massacre so many children?  Was it something we as a society are creating?  How can we change collectively to ameliorate this senseless violence?

My mind feels numb, my heart feels the agony inflicted, and these are not even my children, this is not my boys’ school, I knew no one from Newtown, at least I didn’t think so until this morning when I awoke early on what is my youngest son’s 12th birthday, and I picked up my phone to check Facebook and see that I do indeed know someone from there.  A Facebook friend and mother also interested in creating a good and healthy world for her children had just moved out of that very town two years ago, and her children had attended that very school.  My 14 year old son told me only a couple days ago that we are mathematically separated by a mere six degrees of separation on this earth as long as the person is not living a remote, completely off the digital grid, or Bedouin existence. 

As news of this traumatic loss of truly the most innocent of life sunk in and met me at my core, I realized that if I moved into the sadness, I could and needed to feel the moms’ and dads’ grief, that there is no separation, that the separation has always been an illusion.  I also realized listening to our President speak that I had never heard a US President before cry publicly, never in my 47 years on this earth, as a proud and dignified United States citizen, had I felt the utter woundedness of a US President so palpably.  I was grateful for his tears, for his humanity touching mine. Either you love and feel your heart and go there to that place that you feel and it is hard, or you fear and you shut it all down, close it all up tight, fix on a point and hope it will never change, that you will never move off that spot.  President Obama bravely felt it and expressed it; his tears spoke for all of us. This is bravery coupled with gentleness, a 21st Warrior with Heart has emerged as an example for us all. 

A whole bunch of young children and their teachers gone from our world, plucked out of our world because someone’s spirit and soul were sick.  Why so sick?  Why living in such darkness, and ignorance and fearfulness?  We must ask these questions, we must delve in deeply to the place of darkness and shadow so we can answer these questions intelligently and meaningfully, so we can take sensible action that will make a difference, so we are not, goddamn it, asking this question in another six months.  It is time for us to stand up collectively in a national united embrace and change things.  We should all be gathering today in a community place, entering the silence together, holding one another, embracing and loving each other, and settling for a world that is creating peace in our hearts and in our minds and in our families and in our schools and in our neighborhoods and in our nation and in our world.

The mindless and heartless death of yesterday should all be hallowed deaths; deaths that help move our collective hearts forward to stop gun violence and the easy access to ridiculous rounds of ammunition.  I am not a lawmaker or policy person, but I am a mom, I am intelligent, I am a human, I am a citizen of this great nation, and I will not stand for this any longer.  I challenge us all to wake up, to gather together, to meditate together, to contemplate with grace our basic humanity and goodness, and then to give our President and our representatives and lawmakers in Congress the mandate to make change that makes a difference, so we are not wondering again in the near future, why.

I am not against the 2nd amendment, but I know the balance has tipped, we live in a culture of violence from movies, to video games that glorify violence, to access to guns and military-style artillery.  And the access to such destructive power just is too available if someone wants to inflict such violence.

I only know that as I began this essay sitting in my car last evening as the sun was setting, staring out over the vast lake with cloud formations turning above me and colors beginning to mute and darken to soft heather grays with oranges tucked behind the winter mix of clouds, that my heart was with the families in their devastating grief.  The gulls flew over heading for some unknown point on the distant horizon, all lined up and knowing.  Now we humans know this weekend will begin a period of mourning nationally.  The holidays will be impossibly hard, the suffering from the wound so raw and recently inflicted.

Then we will meet, hearts and minds unified, and we shall act to change things, in our own hearts and minds, in our own families and schools and communities, and in Congress.

Having this week struggled with my exhaustion from familial frustrations, I awoke on December 14th to fix scratch brownies at 5:30 a.m. for Aidan, my soon-to-be twelve year old. I said a little mindfulness chant to awaken my confidence, and stirred baker’s chocolate and butter, realizing that the irritants of the week had were no longer in my mind.  That I am not those irritations.  I am not that anger.  I am a being ever changing and sometimes struggling but aspiring to open further and further and further to my world and circumstances.  To feel my world on the most basic gut and heart places.  I stirred and added compassion to these brownies, these compassion brownies.

I went over to my son’s school during first period to decorate his locker for his birthday today, with his favorite colored wrapping paper, red, and a Sponge Bob helium balloon.  As I was leaving his school and saying goodbye and thank you with my bag of leftover wrapping paper, and ribbon, and scissors, and tape, for some reason it occurred to me that it is very easy to access a school.  It was a fleeting thought, and yet only a half an hour later was this madness happening in Newtown.

I called this essay Christ and Buddha because they are both my teachers.  They have been with me my entire life.  Both of them, side by side, residing in my heart going back to my childhood.  They are my friends, my confidants, my cheerleaders, my roots. Christ by ancestral lineage and Buddha by association from a lifetime of dreams and visions and a long ago past.  I call on them now and offer to them my devastatingly dripping heart of sorrow and sadness amidst my human blood and feeling.  I offer to them all that I am and give back all that I am to my world.  I offer to my sisters and brothers and their babies my essence.  I place my heart of sadness tenderly and presently next to yours.  In truth I am you.  And I have never been anything else.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What I Know About Men

There is a tree.  A woman reaches out to touch that tree, to sense the rough strong bark ripple along her palm.  As she savors this moment, she realizes that through sensing her world, she is becoming her world.  She realizes that she is beginning to know herself and that there is another half in this world who has been teaching her right along.  What she knows about herself has come from others in her brilliant, alive world, including all the men.

What I know about men is that they make up the other half of my world.  What I know about men is that they outnumber me in my home.  What I know about men, frankly, began to really inscribe itself on my life and move deeper into the many layered me through the birth of each howling baby boy.

I have noticed so many things about my world, and men in this world.  What I know about men is this, they are vulnerable.  They feel their world as deeply and gut-wrenchingly as we women do.  They notice their world, they see the fear and suffering, they walk the edginess and exhaustion, too.  Their shoulders must be strong and broad and able to bear the weight of family finances, and woes, and sorrows that cut to the core and heart of every one of us.

What I know about men is that they have mammoth hearts that are warm and tender and afraid but wish to be confident and reliable and loyal to their loved ones, to their spouse, their community, their spiritual home all the while keeping a façade of having it all together in the work realm.  What I know about men is that they get tired too, they get sick, they cry, they weep, they break down and collapse to the floor, they crumble and need to be picked up sometimes.  What I know about men is that they, at times, feel the shame of their humanity, or their neediness; that their aggression and anger may flare and burst out like a raging, roaring fire. 

What I know about men is they remember the time when they were once young and they had a story to tell, tears to shed, a hand that needed holding, or a victory that needed celebrating, or a heart that needed mending, or a face that needed wiping, or a torso that needed hugging.  What I know is men are human and strong and frail and soft and firm and joyful and fearful and confident and resilient and impermanent.

Today as I sat at the lovely Art Deco bar at Oliver’s with a friend, I noticed a well-dressed, manicured man in his thirties next to me.  When he strode in I observed his impeccably tailored clothes and Italian shoes and coiffed hair which told me the outside story.  As I sat there drinking my red wine and laughing giddily with my friend, I began to see the inside story of this man.  He reminded me of a man I once knew well, who passed from the world this year, and who, too, felt like he needed to impress the world and be someone special and wise.  What I know is that it took him a long lifetime to let that illusion go and to just be authentic and true enough with himself to let go into the flow of love.  What I know about men is that they are timid and shy in love and some sign of acceptance is all they need to come alive and flourish in that same love.

I stood up to make my way to the restroom and as I entered the ladies’ room, I realized that what I know about men has come to make a difference to me, a meaningful absolute difference to me.  I have come to realize that what I know about men is directly and inarguably linked to the simple but profound art of paying attention, paying attention by listening, by quieting down both my mouth and my inner conversation.  Paying attention by offering space for things to settle like dust motes and manifest into that which they already are but has been shaken and stirred up for so long that they have lost their true identity.  What I know is that there is a way back.
What I know about men is that they all started out as newborns with cries of need for nourishment, warmth and love.  What I know about men is that they want to be appreciated for their trueness and not despised for their weakness.  What I know is that when they have forgotten something, disappointed themselves or others, or have failed in some way, that they may feel their knees buckling under the weight of life but do not want to be bailed out or rescued or treated like an incapable child.  What I know about men is that they grow up from the comfort and arms of their moms to men, to men who want to be appreciated, loved, heard, honored with space and dignity, they grow into men who want to love their mates with their yearning hearts and not have to defend who they are, their basic goodness. 

What I know about men is that they started out as our children and they want to love and be loved.  They need their moms with all their hearts and they orbit their moms throughout their years and still need to land nearby once in a while even as they grow up for a hug or just the space and devotion only a mom can offer.  What I know about men is that the love they learn from their mom through trial and error is the love they will share with their first love, their small loves and the great love and that they need a good deal of room from their mom so they can feel their way through the workings of their hearts.

What I know about men is they want to feel less shame and more dignity, less fear and more confidence, less neediness and more resilience.  What I know about men is that they want to love with all their hearts but need some silence in a crowded room or a noisy relationship to actually share and be received.  What I know about men is that a woman who bosses them around because of her need to control, or her own fears of death and impermanence ,will quickly stale and erode the love that was there.  What I know about men is that the love from a mother can be much more forgiving and as moms we should take care to be forgiving yet also spacious in our doing so.

What I know about a man is that things and electronics and digital doodads and toys may seem to be what he is thinking about but what really matters is the love he feels for The One in his life.  He is grateful even in his quietness for the connection that has permeated his life.  What I know about a man is that even if the world ends, the love he feels and has felt is what defines a man and is his signature left on the world.

What I know about men is from my many teachers, my sons, my husband that was, my father, my brothers, my boyfriends and lovers and guy friends, and fellow warriors, my teachers, my neighbors, my colleagues, my classmates, all the men who have touched me, my life, my dreams, my mind, my heart, my being.  What I know about men is that they love and love to be loved.  What I know about men is good.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Moon and Jupiter -- Our Little Spot on Earth Can Make a Big Difference

“The inconceivable wish to help all sentient beings always begins with oneself.  Our own experience is the only thing we have to share.  The inability to measure up to our own standards is decidedly humbling.  It allows us to empathize with other people’s difficulties and mistakes.”

Pema Chödrön, NO TIME TO LOSE, A Timely Guide to the Way of Bodhisattva


Last weekend was full of wonderful moments to come alive, to be myself, to offer gratefulness for my good life.  Perhaps I just noticed the workings of the way of the world around me; perhaps I was just a tiny bit more awake.  Whatever it was, I am glad I noticed my world, the people, the happenings and all the being in my world.  I was not only more peaceful and content, I was actually joyful, a genuine happiness not predicated on changing my life circumstances, just direct and present joy from being with what is offered in each moment. 

The weekend started out by simply paying attention to my world, that is, to the way my body feels in the world.  This means being with what is and what our senses are showing us.  Now let’s start with the eyes.  My eyes caught sight of the moon this past week, a big, gigantic, round, full luminous body so near to us in the sky that I felt ready to reach my human hand out to caress it and feel its smooth marble coolness.  As I was cleaning up dinner dishes, the moon whispered into my ears, “Look at me rising through the trees and call that son of your to come see me.”  I shut off all the lights in the kitchen and called Aidan, my youngest to also enjoy the display.  He willingly came and looked upon our celestial neighbor with a rather blasé casual glance, as if to say, “Yeah, I know, she is there always orbiting about us.  And, oh by the way, you see that giant star at ten o’clock, that’s Mr. Jupiter so loud in the sky and oh, so far away despite his brilliance.”

As I was driving to a dinner business meeting the day before, which was a day punctuated by emotional upheaval, I also witnessed the moonrise and realized that despite the illusion of difference, we are all seeing the same moon in the sky, from our own spot on the earth.  It gave me some reference point, some shared connection, some unity despite my trepidation and feelings of trembling as I wade through this world, our shared world, remembering we all stumble at times, we all struggle and we all feel sadness, and to keep in mind that these feelings pass, they are fleeting like the weather.  Look at that celestial neighbor and know that we see the same through different eyes, on our own wee little dot on motherearth.

The week began with some challenges and struggles.  For me, these center on being a parent.  I love being a mother; I feel I was designed for this work.  But also, at times, being a mom presents so much uncertainty and I fall into my personalized trap of reacting to circumstances rather than pausing.  My older son is struggling with his first year in high school.  This is not uncommon.  I can state all the reasons that it is more challenging for him but that is just building a case of why rather than just going with “the what” of the situation.  The craziness that I was feeling also brought amazing realization – I may feel mixed up, scared and uncertain, BUT I have never, ever been alone.  This awareness was profound for me.  It felt like a gentle hug that awakened me.  Call this awareness, call this God, call this the Great Mystery, call it whatever you like, the name doesn’t matter as much as the wakefulness quality it gave me for absolutely nothing in exchange.

As the week wound down towards the weekend, I spent most of Saturday going about household chores as one son did homework and the other played. As Aidan and his friend enacted “Shoot the Zombies” around the house and I washed and vacuumed floors, I felt content, I felt that I belonged here, I felt I could release the clinging and grasping and wishing for a different now.  There was a moment when Aidan said my name, “mom”, and a complete and utter moment of peace in my present washed down me, from head to toe, and I found myself smiling.

I think sometimes that we get depressed because we overthink our lives.  We all have our mental lists and our banal tasks of living and our hooks and habits that cause us to trip and trap us in thinking which depresses us not only mentally but physically.  The secret is to keep moving forward, while staying present.  For me, I have wishes and dreams and aspirations, and these keep me moving ahead.  The key for me is to not live in those places all the time.  When I am present to what is, whether that be washing out the kitchen sink while the laughter and flight of play of the boys is happening around me, I physically sense the goodness of life, that is what pulls me out of my habitual mind of worry and wishing for something else. 

Upon awakening on Sunday morning, I felt good that I had accomplished the chores of yesterday and that my boys and I had enjoyed a performance at Canisius High School of Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors” and continued our evening at a wonderful local restaurant in the city.  Prior to entering the school, friends of my family were exiting the school gym with their brood, and it struck me that true happiness comes from being present with what is, what life is presenting at the moment, that the precious joys of life are meeting old and new friends alike, in  whatever iteration life offers them to us.  The joy of life is linked directly to the serendipity of life and even through the inevitable tragedies and suffering and changes that we all encounter, there are surprises if we remain open.

I have felt the repeating treadmill of chores, and work, and going to the office to see the same faces, and cracking the whip as mom coach, understanding why this might feel so endless and fatiguing.  This is natural, many of us feel this.  If we are constantly searching and expecting to be entertained from our mind’s boredom, then of course, we will suffer more.  Becoming aware of the amazing every day reality through true perception of our senses can be lifesaving and certainly joy-producing.  It may feel the same, or we may think we are just going to the same place over and over, but that is an illusion, it is our mind creating our illusion, almost as if we have horse blinders, feeling like we are in a cartoon reel repeating over and over.  Each moment is new, fresh, and heretofore unlived.  Each moment offers a new chance to be touched by our world, to touch our world and those in it, to make a difference, to relieve someone’s pain or sadness, to make an impact, a difference, to extend some human kindness.

And, sometimes, we may have a realization that we need to change something about our lives or our environment, it may be as simple as a small shift in the way we think about, talk about, or view our world.  Small shifts over time create new worlds. Sometimes it is time to drop our warm but totally claustrophobic cocoon with gentle courage while holding ourselves as we traverse new paths.  Sometimes it is time to move on from relationships, gently but definitively saying goodbye.  Hanging out with the right crowd that supports our path is important, shows compassion towards our self and towards our immediate and ever-present world.




Wednesday, December 5, 2012



The mystery of my disappearing

Happens over time

Drawn out days

That seek the night

Turning into years and decades

A lifetime of worries, regrets, anxieties, untruths.

I seek to put this all into a place

Into an illustration of a life that can disappear

A life that can vanish

Yet still be worth the moments of magic.

The taproot of my existence

Not as myself, as she sits here with swollen eyelids this Mother’s Day

But the taproot that

Burrows itself deeply within

This earth spreading outward

In all directions

Joining with all the other taproots

Deeply embedded within the core

A meaningful, quiet core of existence

Where anger no longer sounds

And fear doesn’t have a name

In fact, it has no meaning there

Since there is no need.

The mystery of my disappearing

Is no longer a mystery at all

It has been the meaning

Of my existence
Since I must lose myself to become one.


(Written May 10, 2009 on Mother’s Day)

Sunday, December 2, 2012



The journey of a tear

Dwelling first within my heart

It starts as a welling of a dull inside ache

Appearing rather suddenly in my eye’s corner

Watery, flowing, alive

Its destination yet unknown in its meaning

Yet my tear’s highway is always the same

Edging its way out of one corner of a sad eye

Beginning its passage down

A flushed cheek on the face of a feeling

Washing its way off the edge of tired soul’s face

The human pondering her life’s own journey

Desperate in its teeming stasis

Dreaming of being instead a river

That can continuously flow

Like this small droplet of fluid

That has made its way

Out of her eye

Over her cheek

Down her chin

How different is the tear really from the river

The tear as the river is both

Wet and flowing

And ever feeling its way

Through its passage on

Human surfaces

Just as a river flows over

This precious earth’s own surfaces

(Written January 8, 2006)

Monday, November 19, 2012


Resolutely I jump off the train

Await my lover

In the barbershop

Old worn black barbers

Shave and style

Young black men’s heads

I intrude

And still I am welcomed

Phone rings

I answer

Playing secretary

Wanting so badly

To be accepted

Am I stuck in my whiteness?

Unspoken desperation

Desire for acceptance

For a brief time

We connect

The humor of our game

Our barbershop quartet

Plays on.

(Written on February 22, 1991 in Michigan City, Indiana)