New Mantra

Usually I post on my book blog,, but I felt this post fit better here.

I have done a meditation practice for a long time.  Like decades.  I’ve used many different tools, with varying results, but usually I feel I do OK.  Recently I heard a podcast in which a young man explained how he created his own mantra with help from an experienced meditation guide. When I tried what he explained, a mantra came to me and meditation has been easier than ever before (Dang, this reads like an infomercial….)

Listen to Justin Michael Williams’ podcast on Sounds True here.  From the transcript,

“He just says, “Close your eyes.” He asked me, he said, “If you could be bathed and soothed by any energy and if that energy could help you become the person that when you close your eyes you know you were put on this earth to be, what would that energy be? If you could get it out of an ATM anytime you needed it, if you could let it fill you up and bathe and soothe you in every crevice of your inner and outer being, what would that energy be? Name it. Use one, two, or three words and name it.””

My mantra came in an image first and then words.


[Pause…]  Thoughts:  Should I say what mine is?  Is a mantra too personal? Would it reveal too much about me?  Would it influence others’ experience?  Would I be embarrassed by what I think it says about me?

Oh, my! Am I not the most fascinating thing in the entire universe?!

The mantra that came to me was first the image of a prism with light coming in and a spectrum coming out.  The words next were, “I am the light; I am the prism.”  Using both the visual and the words on my in and out breath have been a unique experience meditating.  I am very grateful for it.



Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash







Shame Again

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change. – Dr. Brene Brown

I’ve echoed this idea before: I think getting past your shame is a Hero’s Journey.


Days Without Pirate Attack:

I found out something new about myself just trying to explore why I couldn’t stop eating chocolate. Bam! Pirates swarming the ship. There it is: shame. To be fair to the pirates, I was doing an exercise specifically designed to uncover hidden beliefs.

Shame is something you can’t even say out loud. Shame causes you to hide your secret from others, but also from yourself.

You stubbornly stick to the story of what you use to hide your shame: Isolation? Partying? Sarcasm? Jokes? Cynicism? Drinking? Eating? Buying stuff? [Insert any deflection device here]

And it works, for sure. Mine’s worked for me.

It works so well, I actually buy into “This is how I am.” “This is just what I do.”

It works so well, even I can’t see the shame.

All you see is your deflection device, and you think that is the problem.

Fascinating, aren’t we? And powerful! So powerful that we can feel or do something that we are so ashamed of, that we’ll create something new to hide our shame from ourselves.  That’s how bad we think it is. [Spoiler alert: it’s not.]

So, now what? I can’t undo what I did. I can’t seem to un-feel how I feel.

I think the first step is what I did to find your well-hidden shame.

There are a lot of tools and techniques to get past the deflection. Fake it out, as it were. I use Avatar tools, but here’s another.

One way is to respond quickly to a prompt or question and notice the thought or image that flashes. You have to pay attention to the feelings that arise and be willing to let the feelings tell you where your shame really is.

When you respond quickly to prompts like these, the shame will usually come up.

I can’t ever tell anyone that I…
I won’t ever speak about…
I am most ashamed of…

I am going to make up an example. Let’s say you grew up poor. You did your best to hide this from our schoolmates and only your best friends knew what your house looked like. You affected sarcasm and disdain for any activity that cost money you didn’t have. You had a caustic remark ready for anyone you thought had more money than you or was more casual about money. You have since worked very hard to “make something of yourself” and have “enough” money. By most people’s measurement you are now rich.

However, now you can’t turn the sarcasm off – which comes off as mean and heartless, and there hasn’t yet been “enough” money no matter how much you make. You would like to be kinder and more generous, but just can’t seem to change.

When you respond to a prompt like: I can never tell anyone…

You see your dad sitting in the backyard, drinking a beer and talking with his buddy about how unfair his boss is and why he was docked pay for a mistake and why it’s not his fault… and on and on… and you feel a choke in your throat as you think, “It’s never his fault. I hate him.”

Then you realize, you are ashamed of being poor, but you’re more ashamed of your father and you just realized you’re ashamed that you hate your father.

How can you ever say that to anyone, even yourself? You think: I am bad. There is something wrong with me. A normal person does not feel this way.

The feeling of shame -> judgment of self -> abusive self-talk -> fear of anyone seeing how you feel -> stubbornly cling to response to the fear and illusion-creating behavior.

“Being stubborn gives you a false sense of a strong self.” Mona Miller

Then what? What do you do with your new information?

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” Dr. Brene Brown

Bringing your shame out into the open by sharing what you have found is the key to destroying shame and its blocking power. That is why the AA Step 5 is so powerful and life-changing for many. You say all the worst of yourself out loud and that listener just nods, listens, and hugs you when you’re done.

You don’t have to join a 12-step group.  You just have to pick the right person to share your story with.  Pick someone with compassion and discretion.

You don’t have to tell everyone, and you don’t have to badge your shame. Keep your privacy and boundaries intact.

When I uncovered a shame just recently, I went out in the backyard to say it out loud. It was HARD. But once I said it aloud, then I could write it down in the workbook I was using. I could feel a lot of my tightness loosening. I have since told a close friend.

I see now how much of my self and my actions I have filtered through this shame. At first I was exhausted, but today I woke up feeling better than I have in quite a while.


With the year near ending, I’ve been thinking about a goal for 2019.  A quote (“forget safety // live where you fear to live”) prompted me to re-read the full Rumi poem.


There are many guises for intelligence.
One part of you is gliding in a high windstream,
while your more ordinary notions
take little steps and peck at the ground.

Conventional knowledge is death to our souls,
and it is not really ours. It is laid on.
Yet we keep saying we find “rest” in these “beliefs.”

We must become ignorant of what we have been taught
and be instead bewildered.

Run from what is profitable and comfortable.
Distrust anyone who praises you.
Give your investment money, and the interest
on the capital, to those who are actually destitute.

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.

From now on, I’ll be mad.

By Rumi, from “A Year With Rumi,” Edited by Coleman Barks


Although the near-last stanza is what is quoted most frequently, I am drawn today to “We must become ignorant of what we have been taught // and be instead bewildered”.  I’m noticing the word “bewildered” and how it has the word “wild” inside of it. Is it about the wild being brought out from inside?  Is it from the outside in?

Time for the OED! I have a hard copy condensed (itty bitty, need a magnifying glass print) OED.  Once I’ve toted it from the shelves to the kitchen island where the light is best today, I find the definition:

  1. to lose in pathless places; to confound for want of a plain road

What a lovely and apt definition. Thank you, Samuel Johnson.  I know this is the definition Rumi meant with his original word — not the more common, second definition: To confuse in mental perception, to perplex…  Since I can’t read Persian, I have to thank translator Coleman Barks, too.  I am awed by how one word can turn a poem.


I’m feeling bewildered this week while thinking about what (if anything) to set out to accomplish next year.  Thankfully, I live in the desert so it will be pretty easy to find that “pathless place” physically as well as metaphorically.

I just noticed the word right before “bewilder” is “bewig”.  How accurate is that?!


Sad Weekend


days without pirate attack

I read my friend, Paula’s, post yesterday morning A Sad Day.  I sat out in the backyard and cried for a while.  I am staying in my “very sad ” this weekend, too.  Not because the memories of my own assaults came back.  Not because I remembered others’ stories.  I am sad because it feels like those senators just don’t care.  They may believe Ford, et al.  But their actions tell me that they don’t care compared to what they want.

The stories of girls and women, boys and men who were bullied and assaulted may or may not be believed, but the powerful just don’t care about our feelings if it gets in their way.

(I can’t find the link right now…) I read a very good self-effacing man’s confessional this week, wondering if his memories of how he had treated women were the same as theirs. He asked and found out he had hurt at least one, so he publicly apologized. Had K. been emotionally mature enough to respond this way, I believe we’d all have responded much differently.

Senators, you should take away another lesson from this week:  humans are designed to remember when they’ve been hurt.  And you just did it to us again. WE WILL hold it against you.  Guaranteed.


Found Objects

A couple of days ago I found a tiny jade elephant charm mixed into the rocks in my Arizona backyard.IMG_0005

I’ve walked by that spot hundreds of times, but never saw the elephant.  Or maybe it wasn’t there until that morning.  Maybe. More likely rain, wind, under-surface critters, and my own steps and weight shifted material to move the elephant into view.   The charm has likely been in the rocks from when they were brought into the yard for landscaping.  How did it get into the load of rock, then?  Where did the rocks originate?  How many times have people been near the rocks on their route to my backyard?

What I find fascinating about a found object like this charm is it focuses my attention completely on something unexpected for quite a while.  For several minutes I examine it, clean it, turn it around with my fingers. I wonder how it got to this particular place and time. I wonder what it will bring to me, and what I will bring to it.

Does the object have significance? Some cultures use jade elephant charms to bring good fortune to the wearer.  A quick web search says that a jade elephant is used in Feng Sui to strengthen the influence of that room’s section. A symbol of an animal can bring with it all the power of that live animal. We have (somewhat) changed our treatment of elephants in recent years.  We know elephants have strong family ties, lifelong memories, and feel emotions as we do.  You need only read the biographies of the elephants at the The Elephant Sanctuary  in Tennessee to feel connected.

I believe the charm has whatever significance I give it. I believe at some point someone wore this charm, and they believed it had significance, too. I believe that person was not from a Western culture, so I am now connected to her or him through this charm. I believe they valued the jade stone it was carved from. I believe this charm has connected me to the original wearer and reminds me again how we are all connected to everything.

Reference Points


Days Without Pirate Attack:

Saturday I received a text from a friend showing me a picture of his new son.  Baby was, of course, adorable with that “Where the heck… What the heck…” look on his face common to newborns.

This friend has a lovely family with a wife, step-daughter, and two sons.  This is not at all my idea of him! My idea of him is stuck from over twenty years ago.  In my head he is still the person I would call a “rake.”  Some admiration, some judgment.  Sticky identity. Hmmm.

But enough about him.  What does this have to do with me?

This is actually a good question.

What does it say about me, my identity, that keeps him stuck?  What is my identity that holds him in his?  When I say “his” I mean my idea of him.  Probably not his own idea of himself or anyone else’s idea of him.

If you want to drive to Denver, you need to know where you’re starting from to plan your route accurately.  If you think you might be lost, you need to stop and find some reference points.

Where am I to still see him that way?  That’s what popped into my head last Saturday as we texted back and forth, and I looked at a new human being with half of his DNA.

I knew it would be necessary for me to un-stick my identity of me from back then to allow his to be current.  I’ve been running through some attributes to see what felt most solid.

Immature: mature
Entrepreneur: job
Gadabout: traveled only a little
Infatuated: pragmatic
Went around curves really fast: too scared to do that
Worked hard to change: afraid I haven’t changed at all

…. oh. Only matters how it feels, not whether or not it’s true.

More work to do, if I can be brave enough to do it.

What IF the Opposite were True?

This post from Very Smart Girls made me stop and think and then think some more. Asking that question is a powerful practice tool.


I’m tired.  What if the opposite is true?

I’m smarter than her.  What if the opposite is true?

He’s only doing that to make money. What if the opposite is true?

I have to get that done today.  What if the opposite is true?

Interesting results! Feeling certain of beliefs and, well, anything, limits my growth and experiences.

Give this practice a try.



Shortest Dharma Talk

from my Zen Page-a-Day® calendar this week:

“”I have arrived, I am home”is the shortest Dharma Talk I have ever given. “I have arrived, I am home” means “I don’t want to run anymore.” You need that insight in order to be truly established in the here and now, and to embrace life with all its wonders.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

This is one of go-to poems when I am doing a walking meditation.  I loved seeing it come up on the calendar with a little more insight to it.




The Concept of Space

I enjoyed this fresh take on the notion of space…

“We think of space as if it were a far-off destination or something we create. But really, space is ever present and everywhere. A room crammed full of stuff doesn’t have less space than an empty room, It just has more stuff in it. We are not creating space when we take stuff out, space is already there. There is nothing but space.  
Inside us is space as well. Like our external space, our internal space can become crowded with stuff that might impede our ability to move around and do things efficiently. Our internal space becomes more and more crowded with thoughts, beliefs, and judgments that keep us from healing, movement, and growth. Much like a hoarder who crowds his life with material things because he fears he may someday need them for survival and well-being, we hoard and crowd ourselves with unnecessary beliefs and judgments.
“Should” thoughts and “can’t” thoughts and “have to” thoughts and “never/ always” thoughts are dis-empowering and create impossible conditions for our healing, depleting us of our energy. Thoughts like “I will never have enough time, space or resources to fulfill my needs.” Or thoughts like “the only way to feel better is to have or do x, y and z” set us up for failure time and again. These thoughts crowd our internal space and become externalized in the form of judgments of others and the world.”