the choice…


there is always a choice to choose the positive, to work within the great artistry of hope. there is also the choice to focus on the negative, to undermine and work for the purpose of failure, to lie in bed with cynicism.
…before making that choice, it helps to remember that everything – EVERY THING you have is a Gift. yes, it is good if you have worked hard and achieved. but remind the ego that you wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the stars, the minerals, the elements, if it weren’t for the biology, the chemistry, or your ancestors. all of these have given the right circumstances, the perfect combination of Gift that has afforded the opportunity for you to manifest in this life, in this world at this time.
now, take a deep breath and go do some good. work for good. work for peace. work for community. work for kindness and compassion. be a servant to Love. and then see, yes see, all the beauty you bring to Life.
~ j

A Return to Nature as Sacrament…

Solidarity Thursdays
Thursday, January 10th 2013

“You are sitting on the earth and you realize that this earth deserves you and you deserve this earth. You are there—fully, personally, genuinely.”
~ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

For the majority of my childhood, I grew up in Valley Center, California.  It is a rural town in the northeast of San Diego County.  If I had to pick one thing to be thankful for, from my childhood, it would be this – that I had the opportunity to fall in love with nature at such an early age.

Even as I write this, I feel moved to express my gratitude to my parents, yet again.  What a gift it was to fill my days with hands in dirt, running through fields, sitting and watching lizards, insects, and squirrels. I was given the freedom to just sit – listening to birds in song and the wind dancing through the great oak trees.  These early experiences began in me a journey of appreciation, respect, and love of nature and this tiny blue planet we call home.  It was in these early experiences that I began to see the sacred, the divine.  If philosophy is in the head, then Spirituality is in the heart – it is experiential.  And for me, the most spiritual experiences I have had have been in the presence of nature.  Nature, has for me, been a Sacrament.  A window into what is Sacred, what is Divine.

I miss the days when I allowed myself such freedom.  At times I long for the great oak trees, their strength, their music.  So much so, that when shopping or running errands, I even find myself subconsciously picking the parking space with the tree, if there is one, rather than not. I long for these experiences for my nephews and niece.  “Play outside” I remind them, maybe too often, because I know that love grows in experience and in time and space.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful – very grateful for technology in all of its embodiments.  I use my iPhone, maybe too often (it’s sooooo wonderful!)  I know that much of my life is dependent on computers, that I enjoy computers (they are sooooo wonderful!)  But they don’t inspire my heart to sing, my hands to open – to reach out, my feet to dance, or that deep breath that I instinctively know to take when I see a vast blue sky.  I like technology.  But I love nature.

So I worry a bit, for my nephews and niece.  Though, they too have a fondness for nature (especially the oldest), as long as they’ve known nature they have also known video games, iPods, and DVD players.  Nature has so much competition.  And although it is certain that all of this technology has benefitted humankind in a myriad of ways, there has been a cost – a shadow side to this great revolution.

We have in a way been distanced from nature, in very real, tangible ways.  We have been distanced not only in geography as we use up land for resource and move closer to cities for work.  But also in our psychology as so much of the resources nature provides are manufactured, packaged and then put on a shelf for us before we consume.  This applies to almost all we purchase in the West, from materials to food.  There is a distance, a disconnect that develops with a life thus lived.  We forget how deeply we are connected to nature, when are so far away that we don’t see the source of what we consume, we just know the store names.  We have even manipulated our religious practices, perhaps unknowingly – conveniently, in such a way to support this disconnect.


“The entire cosmos is a cooperative. The sun, the moon, and the stars live together as a cooperative. The same is true for humans and animals, trees, and the Earth. When we realize that the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise — then we can build a noble environment. If our lives are not based on this truth, then we shall perish.”
~ Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

“…then we shall perish…”   

This isn’t a judgment, it is our reality.  If we are of nature, if nature is where life is to be found – then as we are distanced from nature, we are distanced from life.  I see this not only in our environmental changes, but also in our psychology – our increased anxieties and depression.  Not that playing in dirt will end all anxieties and depression, but feeling connected and whole would – I believe – go a long way in healing many of our wounds.  In my experience, being close to nature has been a grounding force in my life.  And as we find ourselves grounded in nature, we find ourselves connected to all life.  To paraphrase Neil Degrasse Tyson – we are connected to each other biologically, to the Earth chemically, and to the entire Universe atomically. 

I think there is great reason for hope, when contemplating our future.  For one thing, the Earth and nature itself is supportive of Life.  The Earth has seen a lot of destruction and extinction of many species, even as it has also promoted healing from such destruction and supported the evolution of new species.  The Earth and life on it, most likely, will go on.  But will we?  If we begin to see ourselves not only as consumers and benefactors of the Earth, but as partners and co-creators with the Earth, with nature – then yes, I think we will.

And this is why I see reason to hope.  Even as over time, we have strayed away from the connected – grounded practices of indigenous and native culture, and from the ancient earth/nature-based spiritual traditions, there is now a resurgence and the beginnings of such awareness and (I believe) a rich desire to reconnect.

I believe we are beginning a new age, a return to nature as Sacrament.  I see it in the new movement of integrated contemplative Christianity (which is, perhaps, actually a return to a more original – less corporate Christianity) and also in Engaged Buddhism, a term of which Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “was created to restore the true meaning of Buddhism.”  And perhaps, our brothers and sisters from the indigenous, native and nature-based spiritualities will lead the way.  I think those of us not from these traditions, would do well to listen and learn from their reverence for and relationship with nature.


One of the most iconic images of The Buddha, is of him sitting under the bodhi tree, his left hand palm up on his lap, his right hand touching the Earth.  It is said that on the night of Siddhartha Gautama’s enlightenment and realization of being The Buddha, he was attacked by the demon, Mara.  Mara, proud and jealous, challenged Siddhartha’s right to sit there, claiming enlightenment to be his.  Mara’s soldiers shouted out, bearing witness to Mara’s great accomplishments and right to be there.  When Mara then asked Siddhartha, “Who bears witness for you?”  Siddhartha sitting there, calm and grounded, reached out with his right hand and touched the Earth, at which point the Earth itself answered, “I bear witness.”  It is at this point that Mara disappears and as the morning star rose in the sky, Siddhartha realized his enlightenment and becomes The Buddha.

The Earth has indeed been bearing witness for us, for all life, as long as it has existed.  It is now, perhaps, our time to return the favor.  It is our time to return to nature as Sacrament.  And it is up to each of us to find the practice that best helps us to do so.

I have a practice I do every morning as part of my meditation.  It is a practice I do to realign myself – to remind myself of my connection to all Life.  I use the mantra “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om”.  Om is said to be the primordial sound of Life itself and Shanti means “peace”.  Sitting, I place both hands on my heart.   I allow myself to feel my heart beating as I breathe in and breathe out.  I then while breathing in, with both hands over my heart, say in my mind, “Om”.  In between the breath, I say in my mind, “Shanti Shanti Shanti”. As the breath leaves my body, I say in my mind again, “Om”.  I repeat this with one hand on my heart and one hand touching the Earth.  I then repeat it a third time with one hand on my heart and one hand resting in space.

HeartBless          EarthBless          SpaceBless

I then end this practice with hands together, as I bow my head in reverence and gratitude to Life.  I have started my day establishing first, a wish for peace within my own heart, that I may have peace and be an instrument of peace for the world.  Then a wish for peace to all who share this ground, this Earth with me.  And then a wish for peace to all who breathe this same air and share this same space with me.  And finally a bow to ALL of it.  Then as I go about my day, I try to recognize the Divine in all I see, greeting Nature as a relative rather than stranger, as part of me rather than an other, as Brother Sun and Sister Moon, as St. Francis would say.

I think it is imperative that we all find a way to do this.  Not only is it necessary for our survival, it is necessary for knowing who we are.  So when out and about take some time to sit and watch the ocean, to lay in some grass watching clouds move across the sky, look out at the vast canopy of night – dotted with light as you hold your lover’s hand, to hug a tree, or talk to ants marching.  Connecting with Nature is connecting with You.


For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: Ben at The Horizontalist, Esther at Church in the Canyon, and with a unique perspective, Triskaidekapod.

Cynicism ~ a wake up call…

Solidarity Thursdays

Thursday, December 13th 2012

The long awaited film adaptation of The Hobbit, GandalfEpicopens this weekend. I have been excited about this film coming into being since I first heard it may happen. I love The Lord of The Rings trilogy and I have watched the extended cuts multiple times. So, I have been revisiting these films, some of the text from the books, and my emotional connection to these, this past week. What do I love about these stories about an old wizard and a little guy with fury feet?


Despite all odds, incredible darkness and tremendous burden, one person because of another, sees reason to hope. One person sees in another an innocence, a pureness of heart, and an openness to life. Imagine if it were different. Imagine if Gandalf were cynical instead of hopeful. There would be no unexpected journey…because we would expect the journey to end in doom, darkness and destruction.

Doom, Darkness and Destruction.

This could be the mantra of a cynic. I mean it will never work out. He always acts that way. Nothing is ever going to change. I’m not surprised. She’ll never understand. Nothing can be done, the banks have all the power. The poor will always be with us. What does it matter? The world is going to end anyway….apparently on 12/21/12.

We love drama.

12/21/12 is a great example. Do people want the world to end? Do they want catastrophe to strike?  One might think so with all the energy we have put into focusing on what horrible thing may happen on this date and how there is nothing we can do about it. Meanwhile, quietly in another room that very few are paying attention to there are others discussing ideas of transition and transformation, the ending of one era and the beginning of another. Why isn’t this as compelling or exciting – the idea of an opportunity to grow, to evolve, to mature, to transform? Then again, perhaps we will all wake up that day (of course at different times in different time zones) and nothing extraordinary will happen…I mean, besides waking up, still having a heartbeat, and breath going in and out of our lungs. Perhaps we will just be grateful to be alive, with life, in that moment. But why wait until then?

Cynicism is death.

I mean it. Cynicism is death.

It is death to hope. It is death to growth. It is death to love. It is death to living. Close all the doors, board up the windows and lock the gate, because I am not leaving any room for possibility. I am going to bury myself and keep myself company with the words “never” and “always”.

Cynicism is a lie.

If you live life long enough, if you look at life honestly, if you practice keeping your heart open…you begin to see that in an existence so full of change, so filled with impermanence, that there is no truth to “never” and “always”.  Life is full of “it could be” and “not always so”. Life by its very nature of being impermanent and changing, IS possibility.

Cynicism is a signpost (Cynicism – the lie that points to a truth…)

The heart of the matter is this: cynicism is what happens when we leave our hurt unattended, when we do not take care to heal, when we allow our wounds to fester. Like an infection – our hurt, our woundedness – doesn’t just sit there, it isn’t sedentary. Like an infection, it moves, spreading and growing. Our pain, left unattended, evolves into bitterness. Soon, if left too long, this bitterness graduates into an overall negativity. We become jaded and our language is marked with “nevers” and “always”, we leave little to no room for possibility and life is slowly strangled. Sometimes, this is disguised as humor or indifference, but no matter how you change the costume…the actor underneath is the same. Cynicism is a wake up call that we have turned off the lights and are closed for business…that we have given up and don’t care…cynicism is a wake up call that we are not fully Living.

It can be sneaky too. Something happens to us and all of the sudden we have connected it to a past hurt that we haven’t visited for a while.

Here’s an example from my own life. We had our holiday party for work, earlier this week. I am single and have basically been so in all the years I have worked there. So…the holiday party can be a reminder of this. I step up to the table, “Just one?”  I say, “Yes.”  *Reminder #1.  I walk around searching for friends and run into couples – couples mingling with couples. Couples taking pictures of other couples in front of the Christmas Tree. Couples lined up behind couples to take pictures in front of the Christmas Tree. *Reminder #2.  I sit at a table with friends, who for the most part, are coupled. *Reminder #3.  In general, I am used to these reminders and the love I have for my friends and the love they have for me is more than enough to fill my heart with happiness on such an evening. So, I blend myself into The Group and all is good. This year, however, I got separated from The Group. Miscommunication on seat-saving, left me out of the group. I was fortunate to sit next to another friend and his significant other. But as lovely and gracious as they were, I felt like a third wheel. It was somewhat downhill from there, mainly due to my attitude I have to admit. As I stepped out of the room and into my own pity party, I heard myself saying, “I’m not going to attend next year, because nothing is ever going to change. Nothing has changed in the years past. I’m 37 years old and if I haven’t found someone, if they haven’t found me, it isn’t going to happen.”

Wow.  Hold the phone…or better yet, call for help.


Someone (me) hasn’t been dealing with what is quite obviously a hurt, a disappointment, that has been living just deep enough for me to conveniently avoid. It isn’t that my hurt is unjustified. It hurts to want to connect in such a way, to desire sharing your life with someone, and not have it happen. The problem, as I see it, is that it had grown to a point that I was saying things like, “Nothing is ever going to change…it isn’t going to happen.”  I had allowed myself to get to a place where possibility is buried six feet under and hope is a candle extinguished.

Cynicism as gift.

Insofar that cynicism calls attention to our hurt, and connecting with our hurt – opening us to connecting to others who are hurting, it can be a gift. Insofar that cynicism wakes our attention and calls us to action, it can – as like all of what Life offers – be a gift. Like a siren calling, it showed me that I have some work to do, on a heart-level. To unravel some hurt and salve some wounds. To connect with what is the opposite of cynicism – with Hope.

Why hope? Because I have seen the Sun rise and Winter give birth to Spring…

photo (2)

So I meditate for myself and for all who are wounded (all of us), all who have hurt and disappointment (all of us), and all who have danced with cynicism (all of us)…

May we be happy

May we be peaceful

May we be free from hurt and anger

May we be free from negativity and despair

May we be free from all forms of suffering

May we be open to life

May we be open to love

May we be free to let go…

For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these wonderful blogs: Ben at The Horizontalist, Esther at Church in the Canyon, and with a unique perspective, Triskaidekapod

a letter to Aurora…

a letter to Aurora…

to all those who are suffering from this horrific tragedy in Aurora, our prayers are with you. to all those who are suffering from their own personal tragedies in this life, our prayers are with you. we are connected in our suffering, in our pain, in our confusion as to how such violence can occur. we are connected in these dark moments of life, where our hearts break and our minds spin with emotion, we are connected in our sense of loss as life seems to have lost all that is good.

it is important to feel these emotions, to sit with these emotions. to be where we are at, to grieve. so many of us, in our confusion, our pain, our anger are running from this horrible event. it isn’t easy to sit with tragedy, to be awake with suffering. it is far easier (and even feels good to have some brief relief) to blame. to blame the existence of guns, to blame a broken system, to blame a single individual who has forgotten what it means to be human, to be connected in life and love. and there too, we connect. we connect into groups with missions and we feel some brief relief as we find a place to place our anger, our pain, our suffering…forgetting our truer connection, that we are One.

but there is another way we are connected. we are connected in our Light, in our Love, in Life.

so as we sit in this darkness, in this night of tragedy and pain, let us look to Aurora itself. Aurora means “dawn”…the coming of day. that sacred, beautiful time when the night moves from twilight to day.

there is pain here. there is confusion and anger. but, my friends, there is also hope. the day will come again and with it the sun, shining bright the light of love and life. the Light that lives in all of us – both passed and still present, and the Love that connects us – whether we have passed or are present, whatever may come.

wishing peace and freedom from suffering for us all.

namaste ~ j

Friday, July 20th 2012

quote from the Talmud…

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
~ Talmud

…what an incredibly present reminder that we are simply instruments. opening our hearts, being present and aware, we simply do our part with ours lives as they are and have been given.

~ j



Even behind the darkest storm clouds
The stars still shine

Try to remember this

Even in your pain
In the numbness that blankets your days
In the loneliness that steals your nights

Promise me you will remember

That even as the Sun fades
The Moon still reflects the light
Of that most Ancient Love


That even as the Earth falls to sleep
Under Winter’s silent watch
This is not the end

This is only a moment in time
A space for rest
As Spring readies herself in all her beauty
Waiting to welcome you to wake

I know you feel frozen in time, dear one
Treading still waters
Tired, heavy, sinking

But please don’t forget
The sound of the waves

Remember their music

They sing to remind us
Nothing is permanent
Life is movement

And you are Life

They sing to us
The tide dancing in
The tide dancing out
Always flowing, always moving

You will wake
Rising from this nightmare
As you have time and time before

I promise

And don’t forget
Nightmares are simply
Friends in shadow
Manifesting, not to terrorize

But to teach
To grow our hearts in love
In compassion
In patience
In spaciousness

First, for yourself
And then, so wonderfully
So beautifully,
For the World

©2010, Jaysen Matthew Waller