Once upon a time there was a man who was a man, but more and more often a heart carried about by a body. You could tell by his eyes. At times his heart leaked out through them, and when it did, the blaze of light left no doubt. On the day of this story, the man took his fishing boat out on the lake. He needed big bodies of water to soothe him, and though his roots whispered to him of south Florida, he stayed.
The lake, as all lakes are, was usually a lake, but on this day it was tremulous glass. Glass that shook and slipped on itself, revealing the lake’s insides green and brown, woven with ripples of sunlight. He didn’t notice the underwater world unfurling below him as he opened up the motor and soared out. His mind was on the little bit of smoke curling around the motor, speed, and barely hidden thoughts of trouble. His heart was beaming radiant through the cracks in his eyes and seeing the water for what it was.
The boat swung out in a soaring arc across the lake, and from the midpoint, sighted a willow on the far shore and focused.
The boat lifted and fell, lifted and fell under the willow that stretched out past the shore, lolling its wild head in the wind. Grey rocks lay at the tree’s base. They called for human hands to stroke them, pick them up, and feel them pulled across cheeks, smooth and elemental to the land. He reached his hands up and, with a movement uncharacteristic to his eyes, tied the boat to a branch with hurried yanks. The sun poured golden though the long leaves of the willow and filtered down to the bottom, caressing the rocks and whatever was there.
He hopped on a thick trunk of the willow and walked to shore. As he balanced in the beauty tumbling all about him, his eye was caught, or perhaps his heart flung his head to the side, and he saw a black fish glistening on the rocks. He walked over to the fish moving with futile breath. Gently, and with utter lack of impatience, he slipped his hands under the heavy body and eased it into the water. Did heaven dip through earth right then? Was it drawn by the love that flooded through his hands into the fish? I think so. The tail of the fish flicked fast through the water and she was gone.
He glanced at the waves lapping the shore, the soft wet spot where the fish had laid, and waded back to the boat. He started the engine with a click and nosed out from under the arms of the willow. Suddenly the fish was back, swimming close to the boat. Her head was above water and her gills fluttered with the alien breath. Her eyes bulged hugely at him, her lips kissing and sucking the line between water and air.
H had no thought: there was just the fish and the waves cresting silently over her back, washing down in rivulets of silver. She looked at him with eyes that perceived from the same bundles of nerves and snapping electricity as he. Two souls sought a toehold on form, and finding it they jumped, scaling the enormous cleft in evolution. Something brushed together brief and deep, in a way that does not give a second glance to time.
She swam up to the boat and he reached down stroked her head with fingers and palms. She leaned in and rested.
And so they stayed. She circling the boat, gazing at him with crazy fish eyes and kissing big fish-lip kisses, and he speaking softly to her about anything that was there. Time passed, towering clouds sailed before the sun, and the man, who was certainly a man, became a little scared as his mind looked in on the scene. With a curl of wrist he set for the far shore. The fish kept up, flexing her thick tail in powerful pumps. Parting the water’s surface for one last look, her heart shifted and settled in perfect line with the boat, and he was gone.
I sat in a cathedral built in the twelve century, having fasted for several days, quite quiet in mind and body. Tourists moved about, taking photos, reading plaques, sitting in prayer, the collective noises a soft patter dropping into the immensity of calm. Streaming shafts of sunlight sifted through the towering expanse of silence.The space created by the hand-hewn stone columns was powerful, visceral. All I could do was sit and be.
As I sat in the vast stillness of space held by the soaring walls and columns, something clicked inside and I knew that was what I was. Absolute eternal stillness, complete unto itself.
Somehow the ancient space held by the cathedral revealed to me what I really was. I could see it. It embodied a reference point for me, and embodied it so plainly that what I am resonated in recognition.
The moment passed and my focus came back to two young Italian women getting up from the pew in front of me. One of them had gorgeous long red curly hair that bounced and swirled around her. A wave of jealousy hit and I thought "I want her hair." Quick mental flashes of how my life would be better with her hair. What it would get me.
The contrast to the moment before was extreme, the difference jarred into my cells. The Work was alive in me that afternoon, and straight away I asked, I want her hair, is it true?
The answer came instantly, not in the form of a yes or no, but as an image of trying to attach the woman's hair to the eternal column of stillness. It didn't work. It couldn't be done.
The two things are made of different stuff, and one cannot mix with the other. It was like trying to make two positive magnents touch, they don't. The column of eternal stillness - absolutely timeless, stillness itself, unending and complete. The woman's hair - ephemeral, fleeting, of the world of form.
I saw the hair next to the column of stillness and I saw the hair burn away, their essences fundamentally different. The hair a flicker of flame, here and gone.
This is what you are. You are not your hair, not your job, not your position in life, not your image of what you think you are. All of these things melt immediately when held next to what you really are.. and there you are, shinning, vast, reaching though eternity with a play of form arising, dancing above you, and then melting away forever.
Good Morning All,
I hope this bright day finds you well. I am delighted to offer a second retreat at Light on The Hill in September. This past weekend a group of beautiful souls gathered with me there for retreat. It was sweet & deep, and I am filled with gratitude and some astonishment for the amazing depth of the container created for slow, peaceful inner looking by the sincerity of all present.
Retreat is an opportunity to bow out of our daily life and responsibilities for a bit and shift down into a deeper part of ourselves. This deeper part is always there, but is often half hidden, or fully hidden by the cares of the world. So much can be seen on retreat. If you are called to a time-out for deeper looking - I welcome you.
Here is the official announcement ... take a quiet, breath-filled moment upon reading it to see if you are called to come. The heart can be trusted in such matters, and I invite you to place your hand on your heart as you listen in. This simple act can have wondrous effects on inquiry and listening.
Move into stillness and listening at the beautiful Light on the Hill retreat center in Van Etten, NY. Let the ancient quiet of the hills hold you as we move into heart-based inquiry using The Work of Byron Katie.
Daily morning walks, three periods a day of silent meditation, guided meditations, extended silence, and group sessions support you to invite presence into old beliefs and thought patterns. Molly Larkin will join us again, bringing her strong and steady presence to the group, holding space with beautiful grace.
We will spend this time together honestly sensing in and listening to our own hearts, to the wisdom and perfect guidance therein. Space and time is opened for patient, loving inner child work integrated seamlessly with The Work.
These precious inner children embody all of our stressful thoughts, and when we take the time to get quiet enough to sincerely listen to them, to really be right there with them, these little ones will tell us everything about their world - what they are afraid of, how they feel, and what they need from us to feel safe and joyful again.
In my own work I have found that every stressful thought is embodied by a little one, and by sitting with them with nothing but love and acceptance, a powerfully visceral healing can happen. The Work can be done gently and patiently right there while holding the little one, leaving no one out.
There are a variety of shared rooms in cozy, simple cottages and huts located on the retreat center, as well as the option to stay at one of the many local BnBs. Enjoy access to 236 acres of woods, streams, walking paths, a labyrinth, Stillpoint Sanctuary, and hilltop vistas.
We will have vegetarian food prepared by Light on the Hill chefs, provided to us daily with sweet love.
Space is limited, so if you know you want to come, get in touch with me!
This retreat is open to all levels of experience.
Certification Candidates receive 10 credits upon completion.
$365 ~ room and board additional.
To sign-up and receive more details on lodging and meals respond to this email.
September 20th -23rd,
Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon.
Last week I spent 5 days sitting in silent meditation with Sharon Landrith, a teacher of Adyashanti's lineage. There is something in me that wants to drink and drink and drink of that deep silence and stillness, and I keep going back for more.
When my kids were younger we went to a Sunday gathering that our neighbor hosted. It was a spiritual gathering, and I remember at some point the leader said if you wanted to find a teacher, and open to something deeper in your life, light a candle every night for a month, and look into it for 30 minutes.
His words triggered rage. I thought 'this guy is obviously retired, and he's got the time. Some of us around here actually have to WORK!!' I was SO pissed.
How could he have the audacity to tell me that there was that kind of time to be had? He didn't know! Locked into the identity of an organic farmer pulled up by my own boot straps, my life was built on devotion to non-stop work, and had been for years. I honored no space for contemplation.
Looking back I see I yearned for that quiet candle gazing so so badly. The depth of the rage was equal to the depth of the yearning.
Several years later when life started to up heave I remembered his guidance. I sat every night with a candle, gazing into the pure beauty of the soft flicker. Within a month I found my first teacher.
It is a journey to really trust and honor the call for quiet and stillness. Our culture does not support it. Value is placed on doing, achieving, and building up a life. We are not taught the sacredness of quiet stillness and keen listening for the whisper of God. If the yearning is there, heed it. It is the voice of God calling you home.
Spiritual inquiry is different than asking questions and trying to figure out the answers in the way that we usually do. Usually we pose a question to ourselves and begin to worry it over and over with thinking. We are sure that if we just think about it enough, research it enough, ask enough people about it we will figure it out.
Spiritual inquiry is much different. It does not use the mind to figure out the answer to a question.
In spiritual inquiry - also called meditative or contemplative prayer - the mind poses a question, rests this question into the heart, into God, into the absolute, and then patiently abides until the answer yields into form.
When these answers come, they come with an energy that is instantly recognizable as the truth. The truth does not need qualification or justification, and once this truth is experienced inside a person, they know it on a level deeper than mind. A person who has experienced the truth does not need external validation because they simply KNOW.
It is with this experiential insight into truth that abiding shifts in behavior and habitual patterns of thinking can occur. This is the beauty and power that The Work has to offer us.
When the mind sincerely asks the heart a question, and brings all of its pain and confusion to the door of the heart and lays it there in patience, and then waits in that sacred land of not-knowing, the heart will yield up an answer from a place beyond thinking, a place of truth.
The Work of Byron Katie, presence, and spiritual inquiry all beckon to this domain of the heart, of the absolute, of God. These modalities aid in our descent into the unknown, into the only place from which real insight, transformation, and creativity can arise.
This place is beyond time and space, and it is self-authenticating. This place is in everyone, and is available to anyone willing to suspend all conditioned beliefs and take the sacred plunge into the divine.
Have you ever had the thought "I'm not supposed to be here"? Have you had that thought anywhere - in this moment, at a particular juncture in time, or even existentially. It's effect is the same no matter where it gets set loose in your life.
"I'm not supposed to be here" flows under my day, deep deep down where I don't notice it. It's subtle, resounding impact on my moment to moment life is profound. How do I know the thick pervasiveness of this thought? How do I know how it is woven into the fabric of my unconscious? Because I've done The Work on it and I have seen it in action.
On the fly I can now simply say "I'm supposed to be here" and because I have often done Work on this thought, the words themselves resonate inside as true, and the world opens, if ever so briefly, to gentleness and indescribable sweetness.
The Work shows us exactly how a thought permeates our life, influences our actions and colors our emotions at every turn. That is one of the gifts of meditating on question 3 "How do you react, what happens when you believe this thought?" By meditating on this question you are SHOWN the horrors of believing a thought. That sounds extreme, but if you get close enough and subtle enough in your looking, the affects truly are nothing short of horrific.
I have a wonderful teacher in The Work who relates, after years and years of practice, that he can notice a thought float past and he has so thoroughly seen all the ways that thought wrecks havoc with his life that there is absolutely nothing in him that is tempted to latch onto it ever again. Now that is freedom.
That kind of freedom comes from really clearly seeing just what a thought does to your life, to your world. Without this clear seeing there will always be some part of you that figures it's a good idea to believe it.
Here's something else this same teacher once said (I really love him). He said that thoughts are like tools. As simple and as non-emotional as that. Thoughts are tools that we pick up and use every day.
Now think of some tools. If you pick up a hammer it's a good idea to know what it will do if you swing it, right? And need I bring in the image of a chain saw? Backhoe? We sure as heck want to know what happens when we power these things up. The same is true for thoughts.
Every single thought has it's own exact and particular affect when we pick it up and turn it on. The Work gives a way to clearly see what thoughts do when we fire them up and start using them (often willy-nilly) in our life.
"I'm not supposed to be here." Let's look. What kind of world do we live in when that thought holds complete sway? What's that life like?
Hell. I am always an outsider. Something else is supposed to be happening, and I need to figure out what it is. In a world where "I am not supposed to be here" is true I live with an energetic edge that forever keeps me outside of now - like the push that two magnets create - that energetic push is between me and the world, me and other people, even me and the chair I'm sitting in.
There's a sad, ashamed quality of looking that comes through my eyes. I feel fear. There is no rest. I am the Little Match Girl, always looking in, separate, freezing and forlorn.
That is the world that we live in when the thought "I'm not supposed to be here" is in power. When that thought is king look at the country he rules. Really look at it. What is that kingdom like? I'm not supposed to be here. Do you want to live there?
Now for a moment imagine that you are walking into a world where this thought is absent. In fact, no one in this entire world has ever even heard the thought "I'm not supposed to be here." What is that world like? Take a moment. Sense into it.
There is a deep coming home. A sense of indescribable joy begins to rise through me that cries 'can I be this lucky? Can it be this good'? My being begins to sink into here, to fuse and join with what is here. And I can hardly believe that I get to live here. The joy is almost to much to bear.
This is the world we live in. We are supposed to be here. You are supposed to be here. See what happens when you let that in.
A couple of years ago I was at a silent meditation retreat with Adyashanti. During one of the morning talks he spoke about throat clearing and weight shifting during meditation. His basic message was that these things are usually not necessary, and in fact are a way to bleed off nervous energy.
He went on to say that if the body remains still, and lets the nervous, shifty, want-to-do-something-about-it energy just be, eventually the energies release and integrate into the stillness. The commitment to stillness actually provides a physical example of calm that the nervous energy can map onto.
My ears perked up at his words. I had been experiencing a hard painful lump in my throat during the week of meditation, and figured it was a good idea to swallow in order to help move the energy. I trust Adyashanti, so when he spoke about keeping still and not bleeding off the energy I decided to try it.
Then things got a little crazy, and a perfectly fantastic 40 minute meditation ensued.
I decided right as the meditation bell rang in the session that I was not going to swallow for 40 minutes. Did you swallow even just reading that? I have no idea where this commitment came from, it just bubbled up fully formed as that dang bell rang.
Not only did I commit to not swallow, I simultaneously committed to rest my attention on my throat the entire time. That is to say I would be doing nothing to distract myself away from whatever sensations arose there. Yes, I committed to sit in a tortuous hell for 40 minutes.
Allow yourself imagine that scenario for a moment. Is spit starting to fill your mouth? Is the urge to swallow mounting in your throat? It is if you're anything like me.
So I sat. For 40 minutes, absolutely still, and completely focused on being present to my throat. Let me tell you, it was something else.
The urge to swallow would mount to an all consuming absolutely-have-to-do-it level, convincing me that it was by-God beyond a doubt true that I had to swallow. And right there, at the peak of intensity I would commit, just for that millisecond, to not swallow.
The urge to swallow came in waves, and each time at the peak I would hold out, and then the urge would slowly back off for a bit. And mount again. And so it went for the entire time. I got so close to giving in, and I didn't.
There was something that just absolutely believed it was a FACT that I had to swallow, and time and again it turned out to simply not true. I never HAD to swallow, despite almost everything in me telling me that yes, yes you do.
I can't say there was a resulting amazing shift in the painful lump in my throat. This surprised me as that was what I anticipated would result. Instead shifts came about in ways I didn't expect at all.
One was this clear, moment to moment repeated experience of totally thinking I had to swallow, followed by the simple not-trueness of it. To be shown over and over that something everything in me was saying was true actually wasn't was a deep lesson.
The other gift that came from the Spit Meditation, as I have come to call it, was shown to me several days after I came home. It was evening and my children were whining just before dinnertime. I felt the same sense of mounting intensity that said I HAD to do something to stop them from whining. The sense of urgency and if-I-don't-make-this-stop-I-will-go-insane was exactly the same as the sensation in the Spit Meditation.
I was able to see this very clearly, and in that had the capacity to ride out the wave. For the first time I fully appreciated how powerful the intensity of those kinds of moments were with my children. Of course I had noticed them before, but the Spit Meditation gave me a relentless experience of sitting with that kind of energy, so it became much easier to spot it when it happened elsewhere in my life.
I also realized a profound respect for just how powerful the intense energy was, and from that realization a compassion towards my self was born, as I saw how frequently it coursed through my day to day life.
I don't have a sweeping conclusion to The Spit Meditation, yet I have seen it's far reaching impact on my life, and I am thankful to whatever bubbled up in me that day several years ago as the meditation bell rang.
Last night a friend and I were talking about romantic relationships, typing away via Facebook messenger, delving into the nature of love and the feel of care-taking vs unconditional love. She remembered a dream she had involving me, and here are her words describing this dream -
"I forgot to tell you a dream I had about you a while back- I dreamed that I was asking you 'can you tell me in one word what is my problem in romantic relationships? Why I can't find a partner? What's the one word that sums it up?' ...
You said bitterness."
When she related this it stirred a memory of an experience that I had about 7 years ago. It was planting time on the farm, early spring when the smell of the warm black soil iintoxicates, and the breeze curls around the awakening tree branches with dizzying possibility, when I suddenly and precipitously started having heart palpitations to the tune of one every four seconds. This went on for about a week, during which time I was terrified, feeling my mortality in a visceral way. Nothing like that had happened to me before, although I had experienced years of physical pain in my heart. The long and short of it was that Western medicine couldn't find anything wrong, and the acupuncturist I went to said point blank "your heart is closed shut and it's starting to rebel. You have to open your heart."
Well I had absolutely no idea what that meant - open my heart? I realized she didn't mean physically take a knife and fillet it open, so what was I to do?
I prayed. I don't remember my question, or where I was, or how I was feeling inside as I prayed, but I remember what I heard because IT WAS LOUD AND CLEAR AND IMMEDIATE.
The voice said - and I put it in caps because that's how it spoke -
REMOVE THE SEEDS OF BITTERNESS FROM YOUR HEART.
Last night, hearing this word bitterness come back to me again after so many years, and, bizarrely through my own voice in my friend's dream, I was inspired to do an internet search on the word bitterness.
Here is a bible verse I found that speaks directly to my heart, and truly, if you really let in what it is saying as verbatim, and take it as a directive for your life, well, that is a blueprint for a totally wild life.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."
Can you feel that? It keeps no record of wrongs. And here's the thing - love CAN'T hold a record of wrongs. It's not that it doesn't because it chooses not to, no, the true essence of love is that it CAN'T even begin to hold onto a wrong, a grudge, a judgment. Not at all! This is wild crazy stuff.
This is a teaching on the absolute true nature of love, to be taken verbatim. And I can feel it, I can feel the soft strongness of my heart humming along with the words in total resonance. Can you feel the gentle up-welling of springtime coming through those words? Forever new, forever yielding up and out of love. This bible verse is telling us about the essential nature of our own hearts. The confused parts of ourselves may hold grudges, judge people, be filled with bitterness, but our true hearts , our true natures, are not doing that. They can't. And therein lies our salvation.
If you're up for it, try this. Put your hand over your heart and say the words "it keeps no record of wrongs." And then sit there for a bit and feel whatever happens. This can be repeated at intervals. Tune your inner listening in towards your heart, while at the same time gently sensing into how it feels to hold your hand over your heart.
I’m currently taking a class through the Institute for The Work that, if I pass, will qualify me to volunteer on The Work Helpline - a helpline that can be accessed through the ITW website and used by anyone that wants to be facilitated by an experienced facilitator of The Work. The class curriculum includes exploration of stressful thoughts that arise around volunteering and being of service. This exploration of beliefs around service lead me to a personal foundational belief that ‘I have to be able to access my intuition’. As I put this thought through the four questions and turnarounds of The Work I experienced waves of freedom, peace, and a sense of deep belonging in the world.
Go gently with this inquiry - we have been given as gospel that it is better to access intuition.
I have to be able to access my intuition. Is that true?
NO! On what planet could that possibly be true? Not here. Look around. How many people now, and throughout all of time, have actually been able to trust their intuition? Not a big percentage. What kind of sadistic God would make it true then, that we have to be able to access our intuition when the vast majority of human experienced to date is that we do not?! What is this insane “have to” in my mind? I mean really, look at my life. Have I EVER had to be able to access my intuition? No. Am I perfectly ok right now, even given all the times I did not access or act on my intuition? Yes! I’m absolutely ok.
Who am I and how do I react when I believe that ‘I have to be able to access my intuition’?
There is a huge figure towering over me, screaming that I have to find my intuition. Terror, I don’t understand what she’s really saying. Fear. Micro assessing every little tiny move I am about to make. Testing the waters incessantly. Fear to act until I’m enlightened on a matter. It makes me tired to say the belief in my head. I feel like I’m getting yelled at. I’m being told the world is scary. I experience a collapsing in and closing as I am told that this is the way it is. Sad acceptance. Oh no.
Who or what would I be without the thought ‘I have to be able to access my intuition’?
Ahh, a huge weight comes off. Innocence. A child in the world. Meant to be here. Home. Open to everything coming my way. Welcoming, wanting to see everything. Everything is a friend. A layer between me and the world that I didn’t even know was there melts away. A weight is coming off and I want to lean back and nap for hours in perfect comfort and well being. Peace, immediate deep wordless access to my heart. Lots of heart energy. A soft continuum of my life expending into my past, no horrific breaks or mistakes.
No line between me and other things. The wind chimes outside the window come right up, right up to my heart. I feel the luxuriousness of my cat stretching on the sheepskin. Peace. Abidance. A sense of deep time. I’m off the biggest hook ever, now I can just be. I want to rest. Sleep in the peace. Deep stirring of impressions from early early childhood.
I can breathe again. Sit back with my head on the chair, supported, at rest, belonging. I’m good. I feel my innate, intact goodness. These are all just words until you feel it for yourself.
I don’t have to be able to access my intuition.
Well, isn’t that they way it often is? That I don’t trust or hear my intuition? Reality absolutely proves out that there is no reason whatsoever that I have to able to access my intuition. It’s not a prerequisite to being here in this life. Image if everyone who couldn’t access their intuition was suddenly not allowed to be here. I think there would be no humans left.
Hasn’t every time that I didn’t trust my intuition, or every time that I didn’t act on intuition, or every time that I couldn’t access my intuition – haven’t each of those times set me up to learn? Often setting me up to learn so much more than I could have had it not happened? Right now I’m seeing all the no-intuition moments of my life as beautiful arched doorways to growth. Doorways I would never have walked though if I knew I was doing it.
I have to be able to not trust my intuition.
Yes, because if I have to be able to trust my intuition at all times I am not free. I live in a prison. I have to be able to not trust my intuition so I can have the full spectrum of experience. I have to be able to not trust my intuition because, hello, it’s going to happen.
I have to be able to trust my confusion.
Do you feel that? Do you feel what happens when you fight your confusion and think that it shouldn’t be there? It gets way worse. I have to be able to trust my confusion as an equally arising face of God. Only my prejudice says that it’s not as good as clarity. What happens when you allow confusion just to fully be with you? Peace. For me, immediate transcendance to the witness point of view. Disidentification with the confusion. I see it’s not ME, it's only here with me.
As long as I push confusion away I stay in a state of fear, a state of resistance, a state where I can’t calmly look at confusion.
I have to be able to trust my confusion in that it will continue to visit me until I can be at peace in its presence, until I can welcome its presence as the teacher I need.