Archive | June, 2014

The wind, one brilliant day

This is from The Soul Is Here For It’s Own Joy, edited by Robert Bly. Worth buying.

The wind, one brilliant day

-by Antonio Machado

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

“In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odor of your roses.”

“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.”

“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”

the wind left. And I wept. and I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”

– – – – –

Growing a garden, or just a flower, takes time and nutrients (soil, water, sun).
What flower is your life asking you to tend?



Divorce Meditation: The Death of a Marriage

The Mid-Life Divorce Stage

I am in that stage of life where many, many people in my circles are either contemplating getting divorced, in the process, or have recently completed the process. A friend’s recent announcement about this got me stewing on the topic: a divorce meditation.

I will say, it is a strange and unnerving thing for me to witness all these divorces. My husband and I feel, as keenly as many of these couples did, the hope to stay together over a lifetime. We revisit our relationship almost every time another couple we know decides to break up. Our communication and check-ins are probably not a bad thing, but we do find it somewhat distressing that so many around us are divorcing.

We feel saddened by the loss of their couplehood. We wonder if we’ve missed something that may make our relationship implode later on. And we know of the healing that must come if anyone is to truly move on- and what hard work that is (and how few undertake it).


‘Til Death Do Us Part (Right?!?)

When I officiate weddings (I was counting them up as I wrote this: it’s somewhere around 30 now), each couple is deeply in love and writes amazing things for their vows. They talk about the heights they have experienced and the depths they will go to in order to support their shared love, their relationship.

But I will tell you, in all honesty, there are some couples who I would bet money will not make it for the long haul. (I don’t judge and I don’t counsel: everyone has got their path, and the couple is usually so in love at that moment they would never hear my concerns or questions.)

One thing you hear on both sides of the wedding-and-dirvorce path is this: ’til death do us part.

We say it in the vows- that I will not leave your side until we physically die. That I will remain with you, through all things, until the last breath leaves your body. It is a wonderful sentiment and so very true in the moment.

I think that, if we’re really honest, we discover, further into the complexities of marriage, that there are actually plenty of times we feel like leaving. (My husband and I have approached this edge, with true intent of leaving, at least twice in our relationship. How couples deal with these moments says a lot about the health of the relationship.)

We also say it when the vows are well and over, as a threat: “You told me it was ’til death do us part!” We hold that phrase in anger and fear and throw it at our former beloved as proof of their weakness.

Quite the opposite of the vows.


A black and white picture of a dead dandelion and its flying seeds, a symbol of death and moving on


Death Is More Than The Physical

But what if ” ’til death do us part” isn’t just about the physical?

For most people I know, marriage is a union of much, much more than the physical bodies. It is about a union of hearts, values, and goals. Marriage is about a union of spirits and dreams and experiences. Marriage is also about creating and maintaining a strong and deep emotional connection, not just  physical support.

There are many examples of couples who loved their partner even after one had died. Their connection ran soul-deep, not just in this physical realm. Death did not part them.

And if we turn that idea on its head- the idea that the vitality of a marriage can extend beyond death- we can see that, in the same way that death does not part some people, different types of marital death (beyond the physical) can cause divorce.

For instance, what if the soul of a marriage dies?
Like life support, does it matter if the bodies go on living when the soul is dead?

What if the deep emotional connection dies?
Should we continue to chain ourselves to someone who cannot or will not share intimacy with us?

What if the mutual support– on any level- dies?
In our Western world, marriage is about the full development of two people, as a couple and individuals. What if support for full individual (or couple) development is stymied, ignored, or denied by our partner?

What if the shared goals, perspectives, or values change radically?
This is also a kind of death due to poor proximity. Long-distance relationships – which is what un-shared values point towards – are rarely sustainable.


We Can Only Live Into the Answers

I don’t have answers to these questions. And I know that each couple has to answer them for themselves (some will be able to come back from the brink, some will not).

But I know this for sure: the death of anything is not just a physical occurrence.
Death involves the spiritual, the mental, the emotional…and so much more.

A marriage can die under many circumstances, therefore. And when a marriage dies, under whatever circumstances, we need not tie ourselves to it forever. It is a blessing of growth to let it die and to let it go.



Modern Hymnal Candidate: ‘Lifted’ by Naughty Boy

One of the main tenets of my belief system is that the Divine is everywhere.


But most especially that Divine truths are hidden in everyday places- especially pop culture.

And so, with that in mind, I would like to offer up candidates for songs that should be placed in a Modern Hymnal. (Or, a Hymnal for Modern Believers? Well, either way…)

Such songs should express some long-held or multi-faith-tested Truth.
But they should make you dance.
Or sing.
Or want to laugh as you spin in a circle under a tree on a sunny day.

They should rock your ears and your soul.

With those guidelines in place, I offer the first candidate for this new hymnal.

It is ‘Lifted’ by Naughty Boy, featuring Emilie Sande.

(Actually, I should say, everything from the U2 albums “Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby” have already been included in the hymnal. Oh, and this mantra [which will be one of those songs everyone knows the chorus to and mumbles through the verses! Anyway…].

I just love this song. It speaks to both the light and dark of spiritual journey. And I love the images- how we feel we are dancing alone, but we’re not. It’s just gorgeous to me.

What do you think? Does it make the cut?

What makes the cut in your personal hymnal?
Tell me in the comments!



Teach Me to See The Answers to My Prayers

Prayer in Spiritual Practice

Besides ecstatic dance, I combine a variety of practices into my spiritual connection time. Typically I include breath meditation, some tantric breathing, prayer (like, good, old-fashioned talking to God), energy work, and sometimes compassion meditation or just quiet attention for my altar items.

It’s quite a variety, and has probably changed 7 or 8 times in the last dozen years. The variety is due to my training: I went to an interfaith seminary.

In seminary, we learned about many, many different faiths. I was introduced to the beauty and usefulness of each one. I sort of fell in love with each of them, in some different way.

It was like falling in love with God’s eyes, then her lips, then his ears, then its body.

Each of the faith practices I use helps me connect to some part of the Greater Whole. (And, quite often, just the Whole of the Greater Whole.)


What Is Kept, What Is Released

As I rotated through different faith practices, I kept some pieces and let others filter through. One of the things I loved about Goddess/Pagan practices was the phrase, ‘Blessed Be.’ It is calming, affirming, a prayer, an invocation, and a benediction. Incredibly flexible and useful.

I also find its simplicity quite beautiful and it has remained a part of my practice, even as my beliefs have changed.

A group of pagan worshipers praying together in a circle in England.


Susan Piver, who practices the same lineage of Buddhism that I do (Shambhala), has talked about – both in her books and on her blog – the advice her teacher gave to her for finishing each meditation session. He suggested she end with these words:

“May whatever good has arisen here today be used in the service of others.”

She writes that saying these words at the end of the session is akin to hitting the ‘Save’ button when you’re done writing a text document. I like the metaphor and I like the idea that benediction is an important part of the whole prayer cycle.

(Obviously, I also like the intent: that whatever insight or change we develop in our meditation brings deeper value when it is used in service to others.)

I use this phrase as part of my benediction as well.


Buddha in prayer or altar area, offering a benediction pose.


Teach Me to See The Answers to My Prayers

Lately I have been experimenting with something that I think may be as important to my spiritual development as the phrase from Susan Piver.

At the conclusion of my spiritual practice, I usually repeat three phrases.

1. Help me to discern (see) the path that is set for me.

2. Give me the strength to follow the path.

3. Help me to see the answers to my prayers.

Items 1 and 2 are similar to what many traditions suggest their followers ask: that the will of god be made known to them. And that they have the inner, mental, or spiritual strength to follow that guidance.

Number 3, is a little different, though. And it is helping me to refine my awareness and discernment.


Praying for X, Getting Y (or So We Think)

So often on the spiritual path we pray for specific things.
Please help me get X.
Please help me understand Y.
Please bring peace to Q.

Many, myself included, hope that our prayers will be answered exactly as requested or envisioned.

Sometimes that happens.

But, in my own experience, and certainly that of others, often what we envision and what we get look very different.

And when we don’t get what we envisioned we:

  • think something is wrong with us (and our ability to ‘manifest’ or whatever),
  • or that something is wrong with God (obviously, did not get the recipe right),
  • or that we don’t deserve that Exact Thing. And it can lead to all kinds of anger, despair, and frustration.


A bronze statue of an angel wearing a hood, offering a pose of benediction during prayer.


Re-framing Our Perception

I am not entirely convinced that the difference between our vision and the (different-looking) outcome is a bad thing.

I think this is a problem of mis-perception.

Our human mind is so very small, so limited (you know, compared to God’s mind). It cannot imagine what our highest good might look like. It can only guess a tiny way down the road. So we ask for X. Or Y. Or Q. With no real understanding of what we’re doing.

It’s as if we are Central Park chess players and God is Bobby Fisher. The Universe can see so very much farther forwards and backwards than we can. 

I believe, that in my asking to be made aware of my answered prayers, I am aligning my mind more with that of the Divine Intelligence. I am asking to see through the eyes of God, rather than my own.

I do not believe, as I was taught in my youth, that my eyes are faulty or sinful.
They are, though, habituated to human perception.

Asking to be shown answers to prayers opens me up to a greater awareness and understanding of my life. Being given the gift of seeing answered prayers, especially those that don’t ‘fit,’ broadens my mind and my soul.

It is, without a doubt, one of the tougher requests I make. It takes humility to ask to be shown the way. It takes faith to ask for the strength to walk the way. But it takes humility, faith, mental flexibility and patience to ask to be shown answered prayers.

There have been answers that were difficult to see, difficult to accept. But at no time have the answered prayers disappointed. They have always supported my growth. And that’s what we’re here to do.



Dark Night of the Soul


a long, dark road with the words "sometimes the darkest places we will go, the hardest work we will do, is to keep ourselves heading towards the light."


Dark Night of the Soul

They come in many shades of black. Sometimes it is being stuck in the dark. Sometimes it is the loneliness of clawing ahead. Sometimes it is the despair of feeling so spiritually alone.

Felt this way? Feel this way? Email me. I help.