35. Sparrow and Stone

March 22, 2018

Sometimes I feel
like a sparrow in a storm,
hurled like a leaf,
helplessly,
searching for sanctuary,
any shelter I can find,
and finding none, struggle on.
I am small but I am brave,
and no matter what happens,
I always remember,
I can fly.

Sometimes I feel
like a smooth river-stone,
deep in the riverbed
hidden and safe,
and the river flows over me
cold and clean,
and carries the earth’s wild life.
Whether it floods,
or trickles, or torrents,
here at the bottom, there is peace
and grace.
Golden sunlight
glittering on the water,
lovingly kisses the river’s face,
and all of Life
rushes joyously along,
as I rest for a while
in this sacred place.

34. To Be Who You Are

February 25, 2018

The summer I was ten years old was an awakening of child-size revelations.  That was when I first started to look at the world around me, and to notice things beyond the end of my own nose.

The warm lazy days flowed along like an easy river and carried me with them, and there was plenty of time. Sometimes when I was by myself I climbed up in the little pear tree, and I wondered about things, like life and God. I’d be wondering what God was, but then I’d notice a perfect green pear I could pick, so I did, and I ate the pear and it was warm from the sun and crunchy and sour and sweet at the same time, and the juice ran down my chin and I forgot all about God. I just knew that he was around and always watching out for me like Granny did, and keeping me safe. Even if I woke up in the middle of the night in the dark, he would be there and I could go back to sleep.

Summer evenings when I went to bed it wasn’t quite dark yet. I looked out my window at the lilac-tinted sky above the roofs, and I understood that God was a Presence, so big that it filled the whole infinite twilight sky, and yet it still had time to notice me falling asleep. God was something strong, that saw me and knew me and loved me and thought I was okay.

I always tried to be good, and that meant sometimes having to do what I didn’t want to, or act like somebody different than I really was. And I came to wish with all my young heart that I could be the same person on the outside as I was on the inside, just be me, the way God saw me, and that be okay with everybody else. But I didn’t dare.

I never imagined that 50 years later I would still be trying to do that. The simplest truth at bottom of all truths is that we all want to be who we really are. But as children and as adults, it’s hard to discover what that is, because most of our world demands us to be everything else but that. And we’ve each been taught a system of  well-intentioned lies, (each a slightly different set, like You’re not good enough unless… You don’t deserve that… You can’t do that because… You shouldn’t want that because…) and these rules were meant to protect us from the problems and suffering our parents or guardians had experienced in their lives.

But their lives are not our lives. Without realizing it, we grew up and limited our own lives, for years or even for a lifetime, by unknowingly believing and embodying those rules, some of which were never true in the first place.

What was true for them may not be true for us, and so the mind/soul work for each of us must be the unlearning of our untruths and the relearning of what is true for us now, and actually, always was. When we know the truth, it really can make us free. If we don’t unlearn and relearn, we don’t grow into what we are meant to be, we hide our light, and we cannot live an authentic life, which is the one thing every living soul sincerely longs for.

No matter what anybody else told you then, or tells you now, you do have the right to be who you honestly are, and that real-you is actually much more wonderful than you know.

33. FYI, I Love You

February 11, 2018

One of a few meaningful regrets in my life is that I spent so many years not saying I love you to people I loved. Some of them have left this world, and I no longer have the opportunity to tell them face-to-face. I can only tell them in my evening meditations/ prayers.

This is a habit that so many of us have – holding back and not expressing the good things that we feel for each other. There are many different reasons – mine were that I was shy, embarrassed, and my family had not been physically affectionate when I was young. For many of us, it just seems easier, or safer perhaps, but it has a cost. Not saying I love you, not saying I’m proud of you, not saying I respect you for who you are. When the moment passes, we may never get that opportunity again, and we will never know how much it might have meant.

Now, I just tell people. Just like that, no big deal. What a radical idea! Not the romantic I-love-you, but just the friendship I-love-you, the Mom, Dad, sister, brother I-love-you. Especially I think we ought to tell people who probably know we do, or ought to know. Do they know for sure? It might actually matter to them more than we knew.

I often give hugs spontaneously to friends, coworkers, patients in my E.R. Nobody seems to mind, and sometimes, it turns out to be a gift they needed, but couldn’t ask.

I smile at strangers that pass me on the sidewalk. (A stranger’s smile saved my life once.) Smiles cost nothing at all – you can give away zillions of them. Try it. You’ll never regret a single one.

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32. Courage and Faith

January 10, 2018

There is a basic universal law that is always invisibly working in our lives, whether we know it or not, even when we are totally unaware: “What we believe is what we receive.” This is the winner’s edge, and the loser’s self-defeating curse, because we can only be that which we dare to be.

In every aspect of life on earth, courage is the difference-maker. That, and the commitment to hold onto a little bit of faith, sets every impossible dream into forward-motion. “Nothing is impossible, if you have faith.”

Jesus said that, and he was telling the truth. That’s exactly what he and other messengers came for–– to give us the gifts of the power of truth. Some faith is required, and the greater the faith/belief, the stronger the outcome. But faith is not easy. It requires courage.

If your heart and soul truly desire something “impossible,” don’t play the odds. Go for it, all out. Believe anyway. Because if you believe you can, all bets are off, and the power of the universe gets behind that. If you dare to Believe you can do it – you will.

31. How To Learn How

December 30, 2017

When I was much younger than I am now, I wanted to become a firefighter.* Never mind why; it’s a long story. I was small compared to the male firefighter Wanna-Bes I was competing with. I went to the gym and pumped a whole lot of iron and didn’t get much bigger but I did get hecka-strong. (It took a while.) I applied at every fire department hiring opportunity that came up and took the tests. First is the written – easy enough if you study hard. (You should study really hard.) Next, if you pass the written, you get to take the physical agility test.

I failed the physical agility tests of the first three departments I tried for, at first by a mile, and then by inches, and finally by 2/10 of a second. I went back to the gym. I put in an application at another fire department, and took another test. I failed another one. Maybe two. I forget now, because  once I passed, It didn’t matter, I would pass some more…

I had to fail, to learn how. I had never encountered those kinds of challenges, or even those kinds of objects, lifting and carrying heavy rolls of fire-hose, climbing the 100-foot aerial ladder, dragging the 160-pound dummy through the tunnel. (In the beginning, I only weighed 112 pounds myself.) Very early I learned two Essential Truths, and I’ll share them with you in a minute.

There are wonderful things you can learn from books, that’s one of the reasons I love them so much. But there are some things you cannot learn that way. You can’t learn how to play home-run baseball… out of a book. You can’t learn how to downhill ski… out of a book. And you can’t learn how to be a firefighter and perform the skills a firefighter must do extremely well, very quickly, and absolutely reliably… out of a book. Here comes one of those Essential Truths I mentioned:

Essential Truth #1: The only way to learn how to do it is to do it.

Take downhill skiing, for example. The first day when you go out to the bunny hill with big awkward boots and slats for feet, what’s going to happen? Right! You fall on your butt. Not once, but many times. There will be people around who will see you fall on your butt. Little kids will laugh. Some adults will smile smugly. Others will be annoyed because you’re messing up the good snow with your sit-splats, and getting in everybody’s way. “She shouldn’t even be here! She doesn’t know how to ski at all.”

The next day, you will again fall on your butt in front of everybody. A lot. But probably you will be doing a little bit better, and there will be thrilling moments when just for short distances, you get it, and miraculously, it works. It feels like flying! Your heart, for sure, is flying. Now when you fall, you get up quicker, you want some more of that good feeling.

By the third or fourth day,  your spirits soar. You get that feeling more times, for longer moments, right before each time you crash clumsily again. But now you will be up more of the time than down, and though not exactly smoothly or elegantly, you are skiing!

And pretty much like that, in spite of a very steep learning curve, I had to learn how to be a firefighter by doing the things a firefighter does. There was no other way. That meant falling on my butt in front of people a lot, and getting up again.

We who aspire to be writers, like anyone learning any skill, must expect the same process.  In the beginning, it’s the beginning. While the first levels of success in skiing may take a few days, writing more likely will take a few years. We’re learning how to express our gift. For every great writer, there was a beginning. Thus, Essential Truth #1 about writing: The only way you can learn how to do it is to do it. But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself. Oh, and the skiing is fun too.

Essential Truth #2: Failure is a necessary part of success.

Falling down is one of the first things we all do in life. For a new-born person, this is necessary, inherent, and totally valuable. Failure is how we learn what to do and what not to do. There is no other way. 

We never learn as much from success as we do from failure. Therefore, allow yourself this part of the path. Expect to not be brilliant at anything right away. Expect a cartload of disappointments and possibly humiliations along the way. These do not prove you are un-brilliant. They only mark your serious commitment to the truest and best expression of whatever is your unique personal gift. It may be different from most people. Many people live their whole lives without expressing their truth, not because they don’t have any gifts, but because they don’t have the enormous courage it takes to do it.

Don’t be one of those. Fly down the snowtrails, again and again. Fall on your butt with joy if possible, or with determination if not, and then with embarrassed, wounded, but unconquerable pride, Get up.  Fall down, get up, keep going. Fall down, get up, keep going. Fall down, get up, keep going. You can do this,  if you want it bad enough. Because if it truly is your path, you will do it.
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*I did become a firefighter and served eight years with Alameda County OES Fire Department as a line firefighter and officer.
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