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Sunday, May 27 2018

Boundary Waters’ Teachings


      I recently returned from a wonderful trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a National Park wilderness on the border of Minnesota and Canada.  Two or three times a year, I venture into that wilderness and always come back feeling renewed and invigorated – and often inspired.  I’d like to touch on three teachings that were especially significant for me this time.


         I left home with the intention to work on staying present and mindful in the moment.  After a five-hour drive to the entry point, my good intention was tested immediately by the task of backpacking 60 pounds of gear for 2/3 mile of rough, up-and-down terrain on the portage to the first lake.  I was humbled by how quickly my thoughts turned to estimates of how much further I had to go and questions about the wisdom of bringing all this stuff.  And I was impressed by how much easier the portage became – and how much lighter my load – when I focused on just the one step before me.  I saw once again how efforts to escape from what we deem unpleasant add to our suffering and how the practice of gently returning, again and again, to the present moment brings peace.


         After setting up camp, I perched on the massive, flat, granite slab that served as the campsite’s front porch and basked in the beauty of my surroundings.  The sun was moving lower in the west-northwestern sky.  I felt an all-body sensation, familiar to me during times in nature or in deep meditation.  The mind was quiet and the body was vibrating with a kind of hum – hard to describe.  I just slipped into it, without noticing.  When I did notice, self-consciousness took over.  The mind got excited and immediately began giving my body instructions on how to deepen the experience - which, of course, diminished it.  Again, I was humbled – and frustrated with the way my mind butts in and tries to control things, when the body’s doing just fine.  I apologized to my body, took some deep breaths and, to my surprise, I felt forgiven and re-connected with myself – despite that goofy intervention.  More and more I’m reminded to trust my body’s wisdom.  It knows the way.


         The next evening, shortly after sunset, from that same vantage point on the front porch, I was drawn to a scraggly looking pine tree on the shore opposite the campsite – directly across from where I was sitting.  It had a sense of motion about it.  As I looked closer, I could see arms outstretched and legs bent at the knees and a wild-looking headdress at the top.  I saw the tree as a dancing warrior, moving with boldness and abandon.  I felt an invitation to embrace the dancing warrior within, to let the bolder part of me breathe a bit, to give the wild man some room, to let go of some of the seriousness, cautiousness and self-containment that I no longer need, to see that being careful is not the same as caring, to take another step in the direction of freeing myself – and trusting myself. 


         On the way home, I stopped at Vanilla Bean, one of my favorite restaurants on the shore of Lake Superior.  While awaiting my walleye cakes and eggs, I read some “Banter Verses” from The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche. The masculine deity, “The God who is the Consciousness that Permeates Everywhere” is speaking:


         I am always here.

         I am the embrace

         Of your most intimate experience.


         Though I am beyond the intellect,

         I am not beyond your daring.

                  (Banter Verse 15)


         I am everywhere, infusing everything.

         To find me,

         Become absorbed in intense experience.

         Go all the way.   

         Be drenched in the energies of life.

         Enter the world beyond separation.

                  (Banter Verse 20)



         The invitation to dare and dive in - what a delicious cherry on the hot fudge sundae of boundary waters’ teachings!







Posted by: AT 06:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, May 13 2018

         For several months, I’ve been writing about the relational nature of the universe, with a focus on how we connect deeply with others.  Now, I’d like to shift the focus to interior realms, with a series of short posts on how we relate to ourselves.



Be Yourself


         Be yourself.  How often have you heard or given this advice?  This doesn’t mean that we disregard others and care only about our own reality.  There’s a balance here – and also a sequence.  Inner engagement informs how we engage the world. The dance of inner and outer begins with the inner.


         In order to operate with authenticity and integrity, we first need to enter our insides with curiosity and compassion – no comparisons with anyone else, no judgments about how we ought to be.  We orient toward appreciating what is – creating an inner spaciousness that allows room for every feeling, every desire, every nook and cranny within us, - including our inconsistencies and contradictions in an ever-unfolding inner landscape. 


         To prevent paralysis or aimless drifting, inner spaciousness is balanced by clarity and focus.  In a friendly, balanced relationship with ourselves - when we attend respectfully to the interior, inviting spaciousness and clarity - we naturally gravitate toward what’s important and central.  An inner gyroscope directs us toward choices and actions that reflect and express who we are – allowing us to live with authenticity and deep integrity.


         Again and again, we return to the practice of mindfulness – gentle, compassionate self-awareness, self-discovery and clarity. We have to be with ourselves before we can be ourselves.







Posted by: AT 04:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, May 04 2018

Nepo on Relationship


         One of my favorite spiritual authors, Mark Nepo, has written a profound book of short meditations, called: Things that Join the Sea and Sky.  His introduction to the section on relationships touches on the awkwardness and transformational power of close connection – themes dear to me – inviting compassion and awe as I experience the goofiness and grandeur of the human condition.


         Here is what he wrote:


“It’s so tempting at times to withdraw and watch life go by, but it’s through relationship that we come alive and heal.  There’s no other way but to open the door to our mind, to our heart, and venture out, knowing we will be changed by everything and everyone we meet.  Yet try as we do, we seldom come close to what we aim for.  I go to love you and miss, hurting your feelings.  You aim to protect yourself and push me away, a little too hard.  The friend we encourage to be herself finally stands up, knocking down everyone near.  Still, our heartfelt attempts, clumsy as they are, are the seeds that restore the world.  All the spiritual traditions speak about renewal through relationship, and all agree that God – or the Spirit of the Universe, or the Ultimate Bareness of Being, or whatever name you want to give to Essence – remains an indwelling presence until revealed in the world through relationship.  In time, meaning is revealed through relationship.  Of course, we need to be alone and then together.  Of course, we need to retreat and then run into each other’s arms.  But the beauty is that the cycle of relationship is never done.  And with each turn of relationship, we are transformed.”  (Nepo, 2017, p.45)

Posted by: AT 10:52 am   |  Permalink   |  Email

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