Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Saturday, October 27, 2012



There’s nothing as good as the moment you find yourself in


After slowing down

Breathe in the cool stream of air

Feel it filling you up

Giving you this moment of life

Offer a cheerful little smile

Breathe out into the space

There’s great stillness

A vastness we all can access

That we all co-exist in

That we all exist in forever in timeless space

If that’s too big

Just slow, pause, breathe in, breathe out

Listen to your breath

It is you

Feel your heart beating warm inside your chest

Sounding out one moment into the next

The rhythm of your life

Your good sweet wonderful life

There’s nothing as good as the moment you find yourself in


(Written May 29, 2012, Sitting by myself on a massive boulder not quite alone at Point Pleasant Park, Halifax, Nova Scotia on a drizzly, cool Spring morning)


Friday, October 26, 2012


A Poem

I watched as the news from the television set spoke of the world’s inhumanity

I felt the force of destruction and despair move through me into the next room

The feeling of who are and a death wish knocked at my body’s door

I walked away and refused Death Mother’s admittance

The chaos is real and happening

But what if I choose to not let it into my place

My small place in this large world

The world, the planet, is bursting and alive every day and in in every moment

Life which culminates second by second

Nature doesn’t wait for the right time to act

It dances spontaneously

I passed through the archway of my mind's meanderings and back into my small yet significant reality

Realizing that my mind and body contain all the life there has ever been in the world

We are specks of unity, vessels holding the entire world in our bodily forms

Jesus and other messengers, earthly warriors of truth, remembered

They came to remind us to remember too

The illusions we carry in our thoughts are so dense and thick that they had to physically demonstrate to us their humility, they sacrificed to help humanity remember our oneness

Their hearts are wise and knowing

I turn back from my thoughts and the inner workings of my mind again to look out with a fresh view upon my family

They are the reflection of all the moments of life within me

And at this moment I want to be me

There is absolutely nothing missing

I am glad to be in my body, standing precisely where I am with all my gifts and charm, and frailties and foibles

Timeless, motionless

In a freeze-frame of utter gratitude to be alive as me

The pain delivered by the television pulled me back to this reality

Of standing here in total open inner silence

Seeing the beauty of My Family

My cousin Mary’s shining daughter, Grace, her smile and bouncing blond curls

I heard the ebullient laughter hanging in the air

I would not have chosen to be anywhere else on earth

But here in my Aunt’s kitchen with these, my people, my lovely family with all their flaws and sparks of life

Conversations of the Heart

This week I went with my former husband to attend a lecture at Canisius High School of the author of the bestseller, Boys Adrift and Girls on the Edge, Dr. Leonard Sax.  He is a clinically trained physician and psychologist and offered an evening that was insightful, humorous and intelligent.  His books are based on many longitudinal studies showing certain shifts in children and cultural habits. 

His words resonated with me from the start.  He started the presentation with that photo of that drop-dead gorgeous mother looking straight into our eyes who graced the cover of Time Magazine in her snug black outfit with her breast popped in her 3 year old’s mouth as he stood on the chair also looking out at us.  This got a lot of chuckles from the audience. Dr. Sax basically asserts that thanks to the proponents of attachment parenting, we have actually done a huge disservice to our children.   Now I am personally not opposed to attachment parenting. Natural childbirth in the hospital, homebirth with my second, breastfeeding on demand, sleeping with my children were all facets of my style. So was a sense that I was somehow flawed or not good enough.  How could I ever stand up to the demands of motherhood?  And I certainly rescued my children again and again due to ignorance and fear.  I accept this and I love myself despite all my choices.    

Dr. Sax spoke to the Culture of Self Esteem that is all pervasive in our world and that we have raised the last two generations of our kids in a world very different from the Culture of Humility in which anyone over thirty  grew up.  He spoke of this shift and how our young people lack a certain resilience because we as parents, particularly middle and upper income families, have shielded our children from any disappointment, and he was speaking of the minor disappointments of life that build character.  This “helicopter” style of parenting coupled with the overabundance of indoor time, gaming, cell phones, on and on, all detract from children and humans being able to touch in to their basic humanity, their basic goodness.  I think of the “nature deficit disorder” I have heard about, that is, children spend way too much time inside and are missing the exploration of the phenomenal outdoor natural world, even as close by as their own backyard. 

Children (and adults) are distracted by all these digital things to do.  Bedtime and nighttime are changed with phones and devices in bed.  My bedtime was my time to let my imagination run free.  I created so many worlds and possibilities and sometimes I ached and dripped with loneliness.  Reflecting back I prefer it over this damn cell phone sitting by my bed each night for company and over emphasis on communication via this mode.  The digital highway is even detracting from intimacy and dating; being single in this electronic era really stinks. I always say, “You cannot hold hands or kiss in a chatbox or text.”  I want connection; I need connection -- voice, and hands, and touch, and deep listening and looking into each other’s eyes. 

For children and humans to be resilient they must have time to delve into their souls and minds and hearts.  There must be darkness as well as light.  True solace is not to be found in the virtual world but in the real world.  And to gain a sense of who we humans truly are, we must experience failures and disappointments and find that we are more resilient than we ever imagined.  I remember all the travel I did alone and all the pickles I got myself into.  Sometimes I did get into dangerous situations but I learned to listen to that inner voice that is a guide; that we all have.  Our intuition is the voice of experience passed down throughout lifetimes. 

Dr. Sax reminds us to open our hearts and make space in our world to communicate with our children and that cars offer the ideal container to have these conversations of the heart.  Turn off devices, tune into one another.  There is no guarantee of the next moment, so breathe and open up in the moment you find yourself in.  Just today on the short drive to the Middle School, Aidan and I were noticing the high school kids smoking and looking rather disheveled.  Aidan says in his wise way, “You know mom it is actually good that I was exposed to Grandma and Grandpa smoking growing up because smoke is awful, it smells awful and I know I will never smoke.”  Then he continues, and this part really wrung my heart, “Grandma and Grandpa did a decently good job because look how you turned out.  You are not perfect but your fine, you are genuine.” 

I appreciated the way Dr. Sax reminded all the parents in the auditorium that our job is to be a model of humility and goodness to our children and to others.  He reminded us that humility is caring for others as much as we care for our self.  That it is not about being great or unique but being a genuine person.  There is no one our children like or love more than their own parents, despite our shortcomings and our failures.  If we have little sense of who we are, we will never know what really matters.  I know for me the people who have a presence built on dignity and humility and gentleness are the humans who really engage me and touch me.  These human beings are not caught in the trap of their ego but are engaged in the work of the world confidently and with great humbleness. 

Dr. Sax left his audience with the three things that really matter most to us:

1.     Find meaningful work

2.     Find someone to love

3.     Find a cause to engage in

“Esse quam videri”

To be rather than to seem to be

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Soaked with Life: A Journal Entry

 "It is in the work of life that we learn to truly love and to be alive.  Not in taking the easy way out."
(Entry from August 3, 2006, Portland, Maine)

Yesterday, we all sailed together in Portland Bay.  Bobby, Aidan and I took out the Sunfish.  This was Aidan’s first time; he is just six years old.  We set out into the bay and made two passes as a thunderstorm rolled in.  We sidled up to the dock and jumped onto the pier, kneeling, my son and I were holding on with the tethers firmly gripped in our hands.  We waited while Bobby drove his car down to us.  Suddenly a wild, terrific storm swept in and the waves were rolling and crashing, swelling over the dock as Aidan and I held onto the boat with all the might of a six year old child and his mama.  A man came to offer help.  This moment, these minutes were so intense and profound.  I felt completely alive, aware of the danger side-by-side with my six year old; Aidan and I became one body, truly one.  It occurred to me in that suspended space of time waiting for Bobby’s return that I am raising exactly the kind of man I would like to be with.  Good.  That’s my contribution, my creation.  I reassured Aidan with all the confidence of the divine female and male combined within my being that all is okay and rainbows surround us and it’s all good.  And, I really knew it; I felt my words.  I could count on this unseen protection not from God, but from life, from our selves, from our togetherness. 

As this rain pelted us and soaked our bodies, the back of us, and rivulets of water streamed down our heads and faces to our noses and into our open mouths, we were soaked with life!  My hair was ravaged and clinging to my face and nape of my neck, cascades of water from my earlobes. Utterly soaked with life. 


The middle way in love

Neither sticking to the other, our Beloved and

Smoldering the oxygen from their bodies

Nor pulling away and distancing ourselves out of fear of the primordial wound

When one relationship ends there is a tendency to fill up the space

There is so much spaciousness and oxygen

That one feels to be drowning in all the freedom

The path of equanimity

Free from attaching or averting


This all takes practice and more practice

It is possible to turn the mind and heart into allies

It is good to be confident in one’s own basic goodness and sanity


Wednesday, October 24, 2012


The ever present now,
There is no escaping it.
It is good to empty into the next moment.
Whenever you are is
Called now,
Known as the present.
The long now,
There is no escaping
Or turning away from.
The plants and animals
Live in the ever present
Children do, too.
We are not any different.
When you take your
Next breath
It will be now
And the breath after that, too.
Breathe and be,
Awaken to your gentleness
As one moment folds into the next.


A Poem by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Me of Then and Now

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever
 to be able to do it.”

J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Okay this essay I know from the start is going to be just way too personal.  It makes me uncomfortable even thinking of writing about it.  But I must.  I must because I feel a bit of confusion, fog and irritation in this moment.  I want to write to relieve this. I want to write to acknowledge it, to bow my head in homage before all that I am, all messed up, aggravated, angry, sad me.  The me made up of all that has gone before me in this life.  The me I have tried to hide, cover over, reinterpret, reinvent.  The me of my childhood, my youth, my young adulthood.  The me who just wanted to dance and sing and explore her life.  The me who would go for long adventures in the scrub field by the railroad tracks.  The me who felt so awfully alone as a young person.  The me who bashed her head through her bedroom window.  The me who hid in her garage loft or bedroom closet to escape the noise and clamor of a household ridden with alcoholism and crazy acts of volatility.  The me who imagined a whole magical kingdom by her bedside that would come to me as I rolled over with tears in my eyes to turn away from the sadness outside my bedroom door.  The me who just wanted to love someone so much, so dearly, so profoundly.  Who would create any persona to convince both that other person and myself that I was good enough, that I was worth loving?  That I could offer love worth accepting. 

I had a little eating ritual as a small girl.  It involved graham crackers, butter, peanut butter, and of course, a butter knife.  When life got too loud downstairs and all hell was breaking loose with words and hammered emotions flying, I would escape to the haven of the second floor where my great grandmother’s apartment offered a safe respite.  I would go into her bedroom and shut the door and just make these little crackers to eat.  One after another I would pop in my mouth and all was good.  Everything would start to settle down in my head and my body relaxed as I ate bite after bite.  When I was full, I would go and sit with my Great Gramma.  I loved her without any doubt or hesitation; just love unimpeded pouring out of me, being received by her.  She had dementia and I realized at the time something was amiss, but she there for me and I for her, we had no need to create barriers to loving and accepting each other.  I would sit on her lap as she rocked me on her wooden rocking chair and we would watch, As the World Turns, a 1960s soap opera really apropos for all the turmoil flying down beneath us.  My parents now have been married over fifty years and I know one thing, their marriage today would not have continued.  That’s my viewpoint, maybe I am wrong.  I am grateful they stuck together; I see it as an act of generosity to their children that they stayed united, and I know I couldn’t give that in my marriage.

I guess I see some correlation between the me eating peanut butter, butter graham crackers and the me today who still turns to food and sometimes red wine for comfort in my loneliness.  I don’t overdo it, but I do it and I look forward to it, and I depend on it also to a degree.  I like to draw  a distinction between my way as okay and others as excessive.  I just feel that I may be kidding myself with all this hair splitting by degrees.  This little perfection streak of mine is wearing thin and becoming annoying.  The fact is I have a bit of a superiority complex which is causing me to suffer because it separates me from people.  I do not have it when walking in the forest or when my body blends into and is absorbed by the landscape.  The fact is I realize I just like the connection with the natural world, its quiet, its unequivocal moments of magic like the other day I sat contemplating on a stone in the fall forest at Knox Farm in East Aurora, the haven that I have dubbed the Sour Green Apple Forest with all the fluorescent glow of the changing foliage.

Lately though it just feels so lonely to be alone.  The paradox:  we are all alone, no one can really give us what we need, or give us what we alone must give ourselves but at the same time we are all fundamentally connected and have never, ever been separate for one moment. 

Ever since I left home for Chicago in 1987 and began my life separate from my family of origin, I began to question my reality.  Who really am I? Why am I here?  Why do I feel so damn lonely around other human beings but so content and joyous around nature?  There were moments, usually ones that involved heartbreaks in my late teens and twenties when I just wasn’t sure I could go on another minute.  I contemplated ways to end my suffering and I always returned to the same conclusion:  it wasn’t always bad, there were some glorious moments, some moments of delight and wonder that took my breath away; I didn’t always suffer; there was always some fundamental good thing that kept me going, kept me alive. 

I began my spiritual journey after being a Catholic whose heart and mind was profoundly and achingly moved by the gospel of Jesus.  I liked to help people mostly because it offered to me an occasion to connect with other human beings.  In some ways, it actually alleviated my own suffering, it took away the loneliness.  In my last two years of high school at Mount Mercy Academy, me and some other students got jazzed on protesting nuclear proliferation with some activist nuns.  I hadn’t realized prior to that that being Catholic meant putting yourself out there, opening your mouth and putting a voice to all that mattered in our hearts.  As high school rounded to college then graduate school in Chicago, I ended up in a career where I could take all this activist spunk and wrap it about my childlike broken  heart and start working with others, really as broken as me, to change the world. 

I kept feeling the need to engage in this world of suffering, to help make things better all the while I was separating from myself, my own mind and body.  There were times I would literally be out of my mind truly.  Usually that is when I turned to a boyfriend to ground me, and some form of physical intimacy would help.  The pleasure inevitably turned to pain.  So the suffering caused suffering and the pleasure caused suffering.  There was really just no way I could win.  That was it, I was done.  Either I was going to jump off the Halsted Bridge in Chicago’ West Loop into the spaghetti mess of highways below, or I was going to get some relief.  I hadn't found out that the precious answer was within me all along.

I chose to keep going forward no matter how sad I was, or how confused.  I found in my Chicago days that long urban bike rides for miles at a time coupled with secret, sacred places to recover my humanity like the Lincoln Park Zoo and the tucked away Zen Garden or the Big Cat’s Cage in the 1920s era stone building would revive me.  I would go and sit in front of those tigers and suffer with them, empathize with their lack of freedom and movement. I would just sit and stare in at them and meet them eye to eye with my raw heart.   My quest to save my suffering self led me to seek the Divine Female and eventually leave Chicago to backpack alone through eight countries of Western Europe and the UK and Ireland in search of myself and ancient remains of goddess sites, ruins and statues; I liked to refer to the museum female statues and carvings as “Goddesses in Captivity.” 

I came to know that Woman is the creative juice of this world.  The ancient female was confident and knew her sacred role in the world’s creation.  She had a voice and war and aggression did not dominate.  The life force of the world, that natural confidence of our earth, thrived in abundance in all of earth’s living beings.  We recognized, man and woman alike, that sacred energy existed in all things throughout all three kingdoms -- animal, vegetable, and mineral. The goddess piece of the puzzle then led me to an exploration, a very hands-on engagement of indigenous people. I sought out American Indians in the Southwest, exploring the vast reservation of the Navajo and the tiny reservation of the Hopi enveloped by the larger one of the Navajo.  I met with people who made rattles, and packed herbs; I met a Hopi chief who showed me on what appeared to me dried up dessert land shelter remains that were 1000 years old and dinosaur tracks that were millions of years old.  He offered to me blue corn flour and paper thin delicately rolled tortillas.  A sacred gift; the blue maize is sacred life sustaining to his people in this extreme arid clime. 

In those days, I just had to go out and see for myself the people who lived side by side in the most ordinary sense to the earthen magic.  To the blades of grass, to the stone people, to the trees and their swaying branches, to the insects motoring along their inner earth highways, to the clouds forming and unforming day in and day out, to the magnificent sun that rises and lights our every day on earth unquestionably.  There is just no  sense of "for or against" in this scenario.  Everything goes about what it does and is the way it is designed to be. 

We humans have incredible minds, minds that influence our feelings through our thoughts, minds that can invent, change and imagine, minds that can destroy, manipulate and dominate, minds that cause us to suffer as they become fixated on outcomes and attach to ideas or preferences.

All these travels led me back home to the Buffalo area.  Born and raised in Lackawanna, I have danced back and forth to my old neighborhood.  There is much pain associated with this place for me.  Old childhood wounds and fears that are obviously unable to reach me now, still they hang on the tendrils of my heart within me.  Some things I just have never spoke of and don’t imagine I ever will.  So my sojourn back to this region led me to the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation to live with a Native Grandmother and study the ancient wisdom as retold and transmitted by her.  We were married by her in her living room surrounded by Indians, White people, confused members of my Irish, Catholic family wondering why the Indian lady was waving marijuana all over them as they entered the wedding venue.  It was a sage smudge stick to cleanse the thoughts that needed some brushing away and the drum was played in a heartbeat sound to remind us of our unity.

I would spend my days studying this ancient wisdom and my nights alternating between work in a health food store in Fredonia and my brother’s bar in Lackawanna.  I always seemed to walk between two worlds but I was getting used to being a bridge.  Marriage led to building a house with the Amish on 55 beautiful acres of land in Zoar Valley to 2 babies and to an eventual divorce.  We all ended up in the Village of Hamburg in two separate homes.  It has taken me years to feel okay about my decision to initiate the divorce.  I know now that the wound that I helped create would never go away but it was a thread in the weave of our collective family life and had a piece in forming the me I am today.

So I have arrived at 47 years of age and I have more questions than anything else.  I ask myself:  

Are we sowing karmic seeds or reaping the harvest from past seeds.  Or are both these things happening at the same time?

Am I so romantic that I see only good qualities and potential for my own happiness and cannot see potential for suffering in a new relationship? 

Why am I so blind to indicators of trouble?  How much is our compassion for someone about our own preferences and influences?

What are my habitual patterns and am I just spinning my wheel of suffering over and over again?  If so, how can I stop?

It seems to me that I have such a fundamental belief in goodness, but then look at my life over the last 4 years and the trouble I have gotten myself into.  I clearly need to pay attention gently and fearlessly to my choices, to what and whom I let into my life. That wisdom is being able to apply discernment and knowing on the spot by following a gut check.  It is all basic goodness at the core but many are trapped in their patterns and habits and these can sure do some damage. 

I have all this wisdom but when it comes to my heart, I get attached.  I want to love and be loved.  And I want the physical presence of the other.  I loathe this digital age.  Good to connect us when we are far away.  Bad as a replacement for face to face real moments of intimacy.  Holding hands and staring up at the night sky must be done side by side and I wonder when the pendulum will swing back.

I just know that if I have all this in my heart and I don’t share it, then I will close down, yet if I share it, I may risk losing something or someone.  I am choosing to be vulnerable because I know that in truth the ones that love us do so for the true, most certain, flawed beings we are. 

I have spent the last year feeling my way back around relationships, most of which are with divorced men with children.  In one of these relationships I encountered a disturbed being who became verbally abusive.  I know one thing, I did not like being treated in this way and I wasn’t sticking around to be part of an escalation of abuse.  Once around that cycle was more than enough for this warrior. 

I have come to the point in my life that I know my meditation is loving.  Loving myself, loving others.  I wish to meet people where they are, as well as meet myself where I am.  These meetings take place each and every moment with a fresh mind, a new breath and an ever-softening  and awakening heart.  Offering love in the form of loving kindness and generosity is my meditation and opening my heart to the world is the vehicle.  This does not mean that there will not be times that I might reject a certain situation or someone and be on my way.  I will still offer to them goodness; I will begin with an act of generosity toward myself ensuring that I do no harm to myself nor others. 

The ending of this essay is that I took myself all alone across some of this vast, wide world and landed in place after place to live and love and be.  I traveled this continent and returned year after year to Europe.  I recently journeyed to Nova Scotia for a week retreat and visit to Halifax.  I perused the streets, ate dinners alone, and danced till the pubs closed with perfect, wonderful strangers. 

And this past weekend, I sat on the fence wondering if I would be courageous enough to travel 15 minutes to Lackawanna to a bar one mile down the street from my childhood home, the home my parents still inhabit.  Funny as it sounds I am braver to go it alone in foreign lands and faraway cities than I am in my own hometown.   In the end I did go on a rainy Saturday night and I sat with my lovely cousin drinking a few beers and enjoying the exuberance of a one man band as he sang and played his heart out.  The bar, the hometown, the excessive drinking, the people were all as I remembered them.  It was a sweet night. There were a few gems along the highway of the evening.  The next day I arose early as I do every day to become occupied with being a mom and an engaged member of my community despite my sheer exhaustion from staying out too late.  I see now that the me now just needed to touch that old, faraway place again with the me that I am today.  The me of then and now joined hands to be one across time.

“I'm youth, I'm joy, I'm a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan: Peter and Wendy

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Poem from The House of Belonging

THE TRUELOVE by David Whyte
There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours,
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.
I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.
Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals,
who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water,
and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
the distant
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them,
and how we are all
waiting for that
abrupt waking,
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will not come so grandly,
so Biblically,
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love,
so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
everything holds
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don't
because finally
after all this struggle
and all these years,
you don't want to any more,
you've simply had enough
of drowning,
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness,
however fluid and however
dangerous, to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Excerpt from A Story of a Broken Hearted Warrior

Loneliness & Emptiness

I have met a new friend, formed a new relationship, welcomed a long overdue family member to dinner and breakfast and lunch – may I introduce Loneliness.  And a good friend of Loneliness is Emptiness.  That is where I am right now and with whom I am spending my time, quality time with Loneliness and Emptiness.  I feel achy but there is a quality of having been waiting for my two friends to show up, or rather, they have been waiting to be welcomed in.  Two guests that have stood out in the cold awaiting my invitation.  And it isn’t so awful although it has a quality of being adrift but grounded simultaneously. 

I realize that I must practice quietly sitting and working with my breath everyday and taking refuge in the Three Jewels -- the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha.  If it were not for my daily practice, however rough and edgy it may be and feel and seem, I would be lonely and depressed and unmotivated and lazy.  It takes a symbiotic combination of gentleness and fearlessness to welcome in my two long overdue guests. 

On the matter of not too loose and not too tight, as it applies to matters of the heart, I have noticed with careful observation that it takes precise discernment to notice the difference between attaching myself to someone too much that it becomes uncomfortable for that other person and I begin to lose my inner confidence and sparkle and that ordinary magic of simply loving freely with natural poise and grace.  Then when it becomes apparent that I must loosen up, it is a matter of letting go without creating a drama of "I am letting go and you will wish I hadn’t because you will miss me so much."  There is the gentle loosening that is rooted in authentic love and wishes of happiness for the other.

When we are invited to spend time with Loneliness and Emptiness, we may feel that we have been wronged in some way.  Someone we have loved may have passed away, or our loved one may have chosen to leave us and move on to another relationship or place, or our child may have grown up on us before our eyes and moved away.  So many ways we may feel hurt and may be experiencing suffering.  Or we may have felt the need to change our circumstances in our own life, but are still suffering because of the change or the illusion of change. 

For instance, I recently shifted a relationship with my long time partner and I have been feeling very sad and adrift.  Loneliness and Emptiness have been standing out in the cold waiting to be invited into my home and heart and now that I have done that I feel some ease and comfort.  I feel peace because I chose to allow these beings to reside in my heart and my heart is still beating.  I also realize that despite all the very large life changes, there is so much to be thankful for and so much basic goodness in my day to day existence.  We are still friends, we still love each other, my children are healthy and vibrant, I have good friends and my family around me and a job, a home, a life that is full and rich.  Despite everything that may at times torment me or sadden me, I realize that the life of what exists right now in this moment, in each and every present moment, is where the truth lies. 

Becoming intimate with being present in our present is a source of joy and frustration since it is not something we generally practice.  We dwell so often in the past and mill around there or dream of the future and bettering our situation, when the true gem exists in the very moment of our life and our breath. 

When we constantly dwell on the past or something rises up in us to upset us, we more than likely need to look at that in the moment; there is something that is longing to be understood about ourselves.  I know I struggle intensely with being alone and out of relationship.  I define myself by my partnerships.  I long to be someone’s beloved and place to rest inside of.  I get this sense of emptiness and becoming one; it is a sense of emptying myself with a another, a formlessness.  This pure loving energy, an ancient primordial dance takes place.  It becomes my antidote to all the loneliness and separation and individuality.  There are two and then there is only one.  Our bodies join and I welcome in the other; I want to be a container for someone and offer my depths, warmth and softness; I want to feel my being filled with gentle strength and courage; I want to risk becoming vulnerable together and to meet another consciously and mindfully. 

Then something happens, change.  The dance of lovemaking is a place where we seek union with another potentially awakened being, we can actually help awaken through touching another this deeply.  It can be precious and brilliant and tender and aching and vulnerable.  Yet, it always ends one way or another.  The pleasure ends and there is pain and suffering; if we are willing to face this truth and feel all that is going on inside of our bodies, we can be transformed by love. 

In relationships, one may start to attach more while the other averts.  This just happens. I aspire on my path to practice direct openness with others.  To opening my heart to the rawness quality of being alive and present.  To the presence of utter authenticity.  To surrendering to the world at it meets me and I meet it in the most ordinary way each and every day, each and every moment in my daily mundane and banal tasks of life.

We crave the unity and oneness not realizing that the separation is only an illusion and that we are completely one.  The unity already exists, has always existed and will always exist.  The thought that we are separate is a concept created by our ego.  Once we begin to label something, we begin to believe it, but there is a paradox here, that the label can also help us see beyond the fixed notion of something or someone.  So instead of focusing on the separation, if we see the unity all around us, we will no longer suffer as much, or feel as frightened.  Loneliness and Emptiness will become our true and lasting friends. 



On Death & Love

I am alone

You are alone

You in the sterile hospital room bed, tubes, stainless steel, monitors

Me in the comfort of my bed at home, books, items

Both of us alone

It is only an illusion – these concepts

Emptiness manifests no illusory state

Conceptualizing manifests the illusions we take as reality

The emptiness

Is luminous

Is alive

Is still

This great emptiness is the wholeness

It awakens us in its vast occurring

Existing outward in all directions

Wide open raw space

Loving Kindness--

How do I love you, any of you?

In a state of impermanence

My effort to make this love last forever

Is illusion

Only the emptiness in which we, our love, is cradled

Is beginningless and endless

The duality shaken, the duality of you and me

Removed, never having been in the first place

Imperfection and Contentment

The world is built on a fabric of basic goodness.  The sun rises each morning and lights the day ahead.  There is air to breathe; we have bodies and minds to work with, however impeded by disabilities or challenges they might be.  Our mouths can smile, as can our eyes.  We can choose to help someone in need, even simply casting a smile someone’s way can lighten another’s burden.  The earth is still orbiting the sun and we are still secured by gravity. 

The basic dignity of life cycles on with birth and death in the animal and vegetable kingdoms.  Birds sing, wind cools, sun warms, plants grow.  The world continues despite the imperfections we all experience and the struggles this imperfection may bring us.  Adding storylines to the suffering only causes more suffering.  Our minds are capable of so much, either suffering or joy.

We are human and we will struggle in life.  There is plenty to struggle with and the struggle comes from the suffering we naturally experience as humans and our resistance our minds have to change.  There seems to be degrees of suffering.  There is the suffering that is simply due to untimely things happening to us, to those we love, to our world around us.  Accidents, natural disasters, sickness are all occurring at all times.  There is the suffering due to attachments we make, changing circumstances in our lives or dreams and hopes unrealized.  Things end and things we wait for and hope for never arrive.  Our relationship ends because our beloved found someone else to love.  We never receive the invitation to marry the one with whom we hoped to spend our life.  And, there is the big picture suffering; that is, the world in which we live is in constant motion, a moment to moment flux.  If we stop for a moment, just sit or stand, pause and reflect, we realize that the basic nature of the world is not for or against us.  It just is.  We just are.

Nothing is permanent as much as we would like to fix our mind around a fixed point, a true north.  We all realize this truth on some level, however, it causes so much uncertainty and angst that we attempt time and again to find an anchor and place of solid foundation where we can hang our hat, set up our home, solidify into statues of happiness and peace. 

We are waiting for that moment, however unrealistically, to get everything synced – the kids are safe and established, we are in a happy marriage, we have fulfilling, well paying careers, all of our friends, family and community members have everything they ever dreamed of.  We are living in a kind of Disneyesque reality of perfection. Then it is shattered by a diagnosis of cancer, a job loss, a flood, a tragic car accident.  The illusion is shattered and we feel devastated and angry and shocked that this could happen to us.

The more we come to terms with what life actually is – constantly changing and impermanent – the more content, peaceful and even joyous we can be.  The truth is all this uncertainty and landscape of constant change brings us a great deal of suffering.  How can we respond to this?  If we can notice what we are really feeling on a physical plane – where it feels in our body – our head, our chest our tummy – we actually can slow down our racing mind and relax a bit.  This gives us the opportunity to sit for a moment with our physical feelings in our body as they naturally arise.  Our frenetic swirling thoughts that we attach to our suffering end up distracting us and increasing our suffering actually. 

By connecting with our suffering physically and slowing down a bit, we begin to link our struggles in the world to our mind's attachment to a small-minded way of thinking which is fundamentally based on fear.  There is another way, to work with our mind and its basic wonderful quality of always being able to transform.  Once we see and realize the capability of our mind, we have a choice of paths before us.  Either we stay hooked on our old ways of thinking, doing and being which contributes to further chaos by building bigger and bigger mind dramas around our struggles and life situations.  Or we choose to gently pause our mind's racing and breathe if only for a few minutes; through the space we make when we slow down, we can actually reduce the impact or damage we might be causing others.  We feel the space growing inside of us and around us. 

Obviously, we all have our struggles.  What can help us to face and feel and relate to our struggles?  First, beginning with noticing what we feel when we struggle and where we feel it.  We may begin to notice we had other struggles we weren’t even aware of and some of the struggles may fall away.  We may have a particularly big struggle we deal with and have for a very long time.  It may be with us our entire life.  And perhaps this big struggle may be the key we use to relate and connect to others and in truth help others.