Wednesday, January 29, 2020


There are few gifts as precious in life as someone’s undivided attention.

There are few things rarer in life these days as the gift of someone’s undivided attention.

The need to be paid attention to is universal and unmistakable. Though we may not frame it as such, it is built into our hardwiring and even into our DNA. We need to be seen, heard, acknowledged, and appreciated. When we are not, we suffer.

We need to pay attention to others. We need to see, listen to, acknowledge, and appreciate fellow living beings. When we do not do that, we suffer.

We have an intrinsic need to connect. We need to experience a felt-sense connection within our own being to ourselves and to our surrounding world. This connection is the foundation to our sense of belonging. Belonging is also a hardwired human need.

We are living in perhaps the most distracted and disconnected time in human history. Attention is largely scattered, which throws connection and belonging right out the window. It is so rare these days to really feel seen, heard, acknowledged, and connected to that when it happens it is startling.

In an age when we mistake social media ties for actual friendship and texting with authentic communication there is a low-level anxiety that for me is palpable.

We long for the gift of precious attention.

I have recently had a few experiences where I was seeking to connect and commune with others who were clearly somewhere else in their attention. I purposely stopped what I was saying, and in all instances, it took a few long moments for them to notice I had ceased communicating. In one case there was no awareness of that at all.

I was grateful to notice the obvious disconnect and yet to be able to choose to not take it personally. It is a human dilemma much bigger than me. I didn’t go to “they should be seeing, listening, paying attention to me.” I simply noticed that for them something else entirely was going on.

I daily see people driving while texting. I have one-sided conversations with great regularity. I frequently am interrupted in social engagements by an uninvited and unannounced selfie. I speak into eyes that are darting everywhere but back into mine. It seems to be the current lay of the land.


There are few gifts as precious in life as someone’s undivided attention.

So, while I personally recognize all of this as the foundation of much at least subtle suffering I am not painting this as a problem for or about others.

I see it as an invitation to hone my own skills in terms of giving precious attention.

When you appear, I am committed to seeing you.

When you speak, I am dedicating myself to really listening.

When I am on the phone with you, I will not be multitasking or mentally engaged in to do lists or other distractions.

I am personally devoted to connecting and communing with those in my sphere.

This is not an easy feat in a culture of constant distractions and continuous deadening.

And, I am committed to precious attention and intimate connection.

Regardless of what you do, I will give you the gift of my precious attention.

And in giving you that gift I am gifted as well.

I see you. I hear you. I acknowledge you. I appreciate you. I consciously connect with you.

And in my precious attention, you belong.

Thursday, January 23, 2020


People can be really irritating.

And thus, my mirrors for awakening.

May I most humbly share with you that in my meditation chair I am an enlightened master?

Well, when things are quiet, and the temperature is pleasant, and the circumstances meet my meditation requirements.

Awe, the enlightened state.

And then the neighbor throws multiple items into the recycle bin just outside my bedroom window. And then my husband loudly sneezes or answers his phone or bangs a few pots, pans, dishes.

People can be really irritating.

Okay. I can get really irritated.

That is much more to the point.

Irritation is a form of discomfort and human beings do not like discomfort. While the degree to which we avoid, and resist discomfort may vary the displeasure at it is universal.

Which makes our relationship to irritation and thus discomfort a perfect form of sacrament.

I spent decades of my life trying to rid myself of people and situations that irritated me. What I found was that every time I ridded myself of an irritant qualifier another one immediately took its place. After numerous cycles of this pattern I finally got that the common denominator was me, myself, and I. I was the source of irritation, not the person, place, or thing.

This realization led to an increasingly expansive relationship to things that seem to irritate me. They are each and everyone an opportunity for me to grow and to deepen internally.

Each irritant is an angel here to teach me more about me.

A concentric piece of learning in this regard is that I didn’t get the lesson when I only tried to pretend that I was not annoyed.

I also did not integrate the message when I lashed out at the perceived instigator of irritation. Add to that, that the plausibility of lashing out was increased when I tried to pretend I was not irritated.

As I have slowly and imperfectly developed a more awakened and spacious relationship to the never-ceasing causes of irritation in life I have grown to appreciate the experience of annoyance in terms of what it activates inside of me.

Without falling into total denial, I own at a felt level that while people and situations can be really irritating it is really me that can be simply irritable.

That may not seem to you to be the good news.

For me it is.

I can do very little about most of the external things that I find irritating. I do have an increasing amount of dominion about what happens in my own interior. That dominion is strengthened each time I choose to engage an awakened relationship to the things I think are annoying me. Each time I make that choice is like a repetition at the gym. My responsiveness grows stronger and steadier. I become more steadfast and secure.

So, for me irritants have become sacraments of spiritual practice.

Does that mean they have become comfortable?


And uncomfortable can certainly be valuable.

Most people know that pearls are the direct product of an oyster being irritated.

Awe, a pearl of great price.

So, bring on the clanging recycling and the sneezing and the banging pots and pans. I am ready and open to relate. Each one of those are angels of awakening. The more the annoyance the greater the mastery. Hallelujah, I am aghast!

People can be really irritating.

And I bless and love each and everyone of the ornery little buggers.

Thank you for annoying me into awakening. You are a precious pearl within my heart.

Thursday, January 16, 2020


I am slowly moving into yet another goodbye.

I have experienced goodbye enough times to be very clear that they are not about absence.

They are about presence.

I have also said goodbye enough times to know that love is never past tense. My father transitioned in 1982 and I love him more today than I did then and more than I did last year. I am quite certain that for as long as I am on this planet the love will continue to grow, deepen, and mature.

The same is true of Jean.

I am calling her Jean in this writing because that indeed was her given name. I am calling her Jean so that anyone who knew her will recognize the inspiration for this homage. I likely have not referred to her as Jean in years.

To me she was Lola.

It was a self-ascribed moniker that she shared with me decades ago. It stuck. I very often sang the opening lines of the Barry Manilow song “Copacabana” when calling her. We would giggle and laugh and share the secret place that only good friends can know and share.

And that laugh.

Lola was brilliantly wise, knowledgeable, and extraordinarily articulate. She had a deep and abiding spirituality that permeated her being, living, and giving. She could put the wordless into words as well as anyone I have known. Though ninety at the time of her passing this internal Light never really dimmed. Even a stroke in the past year didn’t rob her of this God-force inside. She still wrote poems and delivered wisdom pearls almost until the end.

And that laugh. That incredible laugh.

Lola had a naughty side that was integral to why we got along so well.

As sharp as Jean always was there was often a momentary pause between stimulus and response when something struck her funny. This could be particularly evident if the source of humor was of a shadow nature. There would be a pause and then an internal rumbling that began way down deep and erupted in a sound that completely defies description. Though indefinable I can hear it as clear as if it were happening here as I type these words.

Perhaps it is.

And so even as I begin a process of goodbye she is still right here. I have no doubt that she will always be right here. I will always hear that laugh and feel that wonder.

I do not deny or diminish the impact of a physical death. “Here in spirit” is not the same as here in flesh. I will greatly miss the unique and wondrous physicality of Jean. I will miss the ornery little shimmy she shared when she called herself Lola. I will miss the brilliance and the boldness, the blind-spots and the mischief. The extraordinary artistry of her words, and the way she could nod off in meditation.

I will miss my Lola though at a real, intimate, virtual level she will always be with me.

The weepiness and the laughter. The wordiness and the wonder. The sacredness and the shimmy. The prayerfulness and the play.

She was so many things in this lifetime. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, confidant, companion, student, teacher.

So many things. And yet most of all she was love.

She long ago shared with me that her favorite song was If We Only Have Love. How appropriate.

Called by many roles, known to countless as simply Jean. Married to who she adoringly called Mr. Nice Guy for nearly seventy years.

To me she was and will always be dear friend. Valued companion on the spiritual path. Fellow pilgrim. Love incarnate. You may call her Jean. For me, her name was Lola.

Fly high and shimmy free, my Lola. And thanks for the dance.