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(journal responses)

[Warning: When I journal, I follow the rule of not following the rules of writing. :) Improper sentences, spelling, grammar, punctuation and the like denote that the emphasis is on writing rather than on editing. It is a useful strategy to burn through the “first thoughts” and get to the true insight concealed within the practice of journaling.]

Email me at care if you would like the weekly journal prompts conveniently emailed to you each Saturday. I look forward to hearing from you!

Week 1: “I feel most alive when . . .”

I feel most alive when I am writing something juicy, something helpful, something that surprises even me. I feel most alive when I have a moment of opportunity where everything feels possible and anything is likely. I feel most alive when I am talking to a friend or a client and to both of our surprise they arrive at a stunning insight that changes everything they thought they knew about themselves and life. I feel most alive when I am well rested and well nourished, when I am teaching someone something new, when I notice an interesting pattern or connection, and when I am learning something new. I feel most alive when I stumble upon an insight into the mystery of it all. I feel most alive when I see a hawk, especially when it is flying right over head, or if he is hidden amidst the trees but I notice him despite the masterful camouflage. I feel most alive when I sit down to a home cooked meal of steamed veggies and a side of rice. I realize that these experiences wouldn’t hold such an experience of aliveness for me if they were all I’d ever known. I realize that through knowing oppression, I came to experience liberation. I realize that it is the hardships in life that create the stage for joys to dance upon. Knowing this helps me open in moments of hardships, oppression, and adversity, making each moment meaningful: making each moment ripe with the potential to feel most alive.

Week 2: “The truth is . . .”

The truth is, there’s more to life than I can ever know, and so to try and make a reasoned decision about anything is ludicrous. There are an infinite number of factors and possibilities that I could never consider, so to try to choose based on logic and reason is, in all honesty, unreasonable.

The truth is, the very next thing I will write is a complete mystery to me. That is what makes it ripe with discovery. I don’t know whether my words will be insightful, boring, confusing, or worthwhile. But I keep writing anyway: to be honest, I’m not sure why. Writing simply feels like a natural extension of who I am. When writing, I discover a part of myself that I don’t get to spend time with otherwise, much like visiting with an old friend.

The truth is my future is a mystery. I have no idea what each day will hold, but what I’ve discovered is that I know what I need to know in each moment, and I know I have the wherewithal to handle whatever happens as a result of the actions I take. I know that I do not have to know what the right step is: I need only do the thing that feels most right in this moment.

The truth is I’ve discovered something in recent years that I hadn’t known in the first four decades of my life: I discovered that I am genuinely compassionate, sincere, worthwhile, and value added. It was when I reasoned my way through life that I made such a mess of things. When I trust myself, when I trust that my actions arise from a space of genuine caring, vulnerability, and wholeness, I’m empowered to step most skillfully into uncharted waters.

The truth is I don’t know why I’m here, or what step to take next, or what word I will write, but I also know that I don’t have to know. Surrender to the “not knowing“ aligns my actions with what is most truthful. Our mind collects far more information than our brain can account for or interpret. There is a universe of intangible points of fact that never get factored in to the rational equation. Relaxing our laser focus to allow other areas of our mind to share what they know allows for a more fully baked decision.

The truth is, I am skilled and recognizing patterns within a situation, though it can take some time to fully understand a situation.

The truth is, I sometimes feel awkward in social situations. I don’t always know what to say that will spawn worthwhile conversation. As a result, I can seem a bit antisocial at times, though other times I definitely shine. Those moments of shining are rare, because they arise from a space of vulnerability and genuine questioning that is not commonly found in our societal norms. I’m not as confident in situations where small talk or gossip is the topic of choice. In these situations, I struggle to uphold that boundary between wanting to say what I feel and wanting to fit in. Needless to say, I don’t get out much. :)

The truth is I’m lonely at times, and while I have developed a strategy to turn that loneliness into a source of empowerment, there are times when I wonder if that strategy is being misused, and is actually cutting me off from experiencing the fullest possible expression of myself.

The truth is, I’m not perfect. In the past I’ve made mis-steps that caused genuine hardship for people that I love and care about. Taking responsibility for my thoughts, speech, feelings, and actions was the turning point to a fulfilling life. I’ve learned to listen for dysfunctional conditioned patterns of thoughts, and when I noticed them, I simply ask: Is this thought in alignment with the fullest possible expression of myself in this moment? From there, I am able to make any adjustments needed to bring my thoughts, speech, feelings, and actions, back into alignment. When I know better, I do better. In recognizing the conditioned, unhealthy thought, the most important thing has already happened: I awoke from identification from it. That awakening is the key to living an inspired, compassionate, responsible life.

The truth is, there is way more that I don’t know then what I do know, and even the things I do know are open for interpretation. I can never know anything for sure, and that uncertainty can serve to either shut me down or open me up. I choose to open, even if that means at times I will make a mess. The willingness to be vulnerable in alignment with my highest self, the willingness to be wrong, the willingness to make a mess, creates the opportunity for truth to be known.

Week 3: “In this moment, while watching breath and stillness dance, I notice . . .”

In this moment, while watching breath and stillness dance, I notice the sound of cars on the road nearby, birds singing, and people talking. I notice the sounds of a child rising from her slumber ready to start her day. I notice oxygen which fuels my blood making possible this moment of reflection. I notice the changeless stillness within which the activity of life unfolds. I notice the death of this moment, and how it so seamlessly and perfectly births itself anew in this moment. I notice how the measured tick of my brain gives rise to my capacity to notice, interpret, and reflect upon the activity, drawing upon a story board which does not exist.

Breath and stillness continue dancing even when I do not watch. The seeming continuity of one moment to the next is a masterful illusion. Allowing this moment to remain unburdened by our ability to reflect upon the past and project into the future creates a space ripe for discovery.

In this moment, while watching breath and stillness dance, I notice eternity woven throughout the temporal nature of this form.

Week 4: “The hardship I am most grateful for in my life is . . . because . . .”

The hardship I am most grateful for is the limit on my time because it helps me narrow down my options to just the activities which feel most essential and most aligned with who I know myself to be in this moment. It forces me to stay on point, and motivates me to use this moment in a meaningful way. As a result, my days are meaning-full! As daily life encroaches upon the space I would otherwise use more creatively, I breathe deeply into that constriction and remind myself that this obstacle is helping me be more creative as opposed to interfering with creativity. That very art of awareness and surrender is the very essential creativity. With awareness comes ease and playfulness. Now as I do my “burdensome chore”, I do it with humble curiosity. I know that there is something I will learn, some way I will grow, some essential element to this activity that is setting me up for whatever amazing adventures lie just beyond it. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t see all the pieces of the puzzle or even the picture on the box. But when I am faced in this moment with hardship, I recognize that the activity is essential and that the only thing interfering with my capacity to find joy in this moment is my thoughts about this moment. The activity is essential: my thoughts about the activity are optional. “Surrender into gratitude” is a doorway to fulfillment in this moment, and it never closes. When we are able to see the door instead of the wall, every activity becomes a celebration and expansion of creativity, even if on the surface it may wear the mask of hardship.

Week 5: “The carefree birch trees dancing in the driving storm taught me . . .”

The carefree birch trees dancing in the driving storm taught me to do the same. I learned that even when life gets rough, I still have the option for how I respond. Dancing with life’s struggles helps me to navigate situations more skillfully, and I stay open to creative resolutions.

The carefree birch trees dancing in the driving storm taught me that joy and playfulness are always an option. When I hold space for the situation to rage, the storm blows over more quickly, and there is far less damage. I learned that the situation is not “against” me: the situation is always neutral. Remembering this lesson aligns me with the situation, priming me to leverage it for the best possible benefit.

The carefree birch trees dancing in the driving storm taught me to be true to myself, and trust that I have everything I need to face any challenges that rise up to meet me. Shelter from a storm is of course useful when it’s an option, but if shelter is unavailable, I create my own shelter simply by not resisting the storm.

Breathe deeply as the storm rages. Feel the unwavering smile lurking somewhere deep within. Remember those moments of awe when you became aware of a hand you could use for grasping, feet you could use for standing, and legs you could use for walking. Remember that moment of insight when you became aware that if you voiced a particular sound, the people around you would respond in a particular way. Rather than using these miraculous features as tools to get or give, use them as tools to learn. When we do that, our lives become a playground for discovery. Driving storms now incite curiosity more than fear, and we are free to share our dance with the world.

Week 6: “Right now, the thing I want to share most with the world is . . .”

Right now, the thing I want to share most with the world is the fact that I see you, I hear you, I feel you. You are my very heartbeat and life-giving breath. I would not know myself were it not for you, and for that I am humbly grateful.

I exist to serve you, even if you aren’t always aware, even if you don’t always feel supported, even if at times you just wish time would stop. The restless angst you feel at times is, for better or for worse, is a consequence of awareness.
Much like labor pains, angst is essential to the birth of an experience of liberation. I encourage you to breathe as life closes in upon you. Discover the smile behind the scream, the laugh behind the cry, the love behind the hate.

Choices you made, and continue to make, have a pivotal role in the circumstances you resist most. The freedom to make different choice is always available: compassionately waiting for you to choose it. Only when you are through settling for less will you be able to discover that the risks of claiming your place in this world do not exist. It can be a difficult lesson to learn, and it can create an experience of hardship for yourself and others, but without it, there could be no capacity to see yourself in order to claim that place.

Like the first aquatic creature to emerge onto land, the incredible weight of gravity may make the hardship of the cesspool you emerged from seem far more appealing. You may even choose to return to it for a time. I encourage you to keep exploring that heavy world, for in doing so you will eventually develop wings and take to the sky! Choose the wrench and not the belt. The only reason the belt doesn’t sting as much is because we are so used to its feel upon our soul. In a backwards sort of way, the feel of the belt provides a sense of comfort. It lets us know we are here, and lets us know we are alive. But there’s a far more enriching way to gain that affirmation.

As I like to say: we cannot fall once we realize we are the foundation from which it all arises. Step boldly.

Week 7: “Here, the humble stillness gives rise to such wonders as . . .”

Here, the humble stillness gives rise to such wonders as wandering blindly through the winding darkness that use to hold such paralyzing fear. At times I see a beacon of light in the distance letting me know I am on the right path. Each time I find my way to the source, I discover yet again it was simply my own reflection shining back at me: and then it’s gone!

This awareness shatters walls, revealing paths never before seen: new adventures, though so many to choose from. At first I would choose the sunniest ones, but lately . . . lately it’s the steepest ones, the winding-est ones, the ones with the densest of forests. It is the ones that spark a trembling of trepidation that draw me into their embrace, for it is these most foreign of lands that show me most deeply to myself.

Oh! To lie with you in a sunny field amidst the wildflowers and dragonflies with no path needing explored! To laugh with you and cry with you and poetically whisper unhinging lyrics to a song that I sang long ago but have long since forgot! Demanding your presence here with me now is as futile as holding my breath. But Oh such wonders arising from the humble stillness here! And the most wondrous of all is the discovery that it is not I who journeys down any path, but the path that is journeying through me.

Week 8: “Looking deeply past the surface of daily activity, I realize . . .”

Looking deeply past the surface of daily activity, I realize that there is more going on here than meets the eye. The baring of one’s soul, even if it is just to one’s self through writing, is enough to spark a paradigm shift. This experience informs the next, but truly it is all one inextricable arising seemingly made separate when viewed through the lens of the mind.

Life engaged at the surface level can feel hard and lonely and devoid of any inherent point. Yet there is always the option to slip beneath the surface and dive deeply past the riptide that would otherwise wash me out to sea. I choose to walk along the endless underwater shore, marveling at the strange and wondrous life that fills my perception, even if at times that life threatens to engulf me. It is that experience of dying in this moment that paradoxically allows me to experience life most fully.

Such a long journey to get to here, and as perception breeches the boundary of conventional sensation, a smile paints itself upon my face. Pupils dilate as I absorb as much of the miraculous activity as possible. My head is spinning as life keeps swimming and in that moment a single pristine step is revealed. Is there even a choice as to whether or not to take it? Where does inspiration end and I begin? Only in the mind that imagines itself the captain. But having slipped deeply past the surface of daily activity, I’ve realized that there is more going on here than meets the eye.

Week 9: “Following the golden thread woven throughout my life, I’ve come to understand . . .”

Following the golden thread woven throughout my life, I’ve come to understand that I live and I die by the choices I make. To sell my soul for anything short of fulfillment is a form of insanity. At what point do I stop bowing and start railing against the typhoon which will surely kill me? I will die anyway, so why not wave my tattered flag against the gale force winds? It’s daunting, and all but impossible, but I cannot think of a finer way to die.

Following the golden thread woven throughout my life, I’ve come to understand that I am a butterfly struggling to emerge from its chrysalis, and if I don’t make it out soon, I will die never having even spread my wings. Perhaps that is to be my journey. If so, is that okay?

Following the golden thread woven throughout my life, I’ve come to understand that reality and I create each other in equal measure: it’s a symbiotic partnership, and we keep each other honest. Taking responsibility for my role in the creation of heartache and devastation empowers me to either align with them or make a different choice. Either way, heartache and devastation break open, revealing the diamond hidden within.

As I’ve followed the golden thread woven throughout my life, the depth of despair has been transformed by the light of awareness and become a mountain peak with a stunning vista. Above all, I’ve come to understand that heartache and despair, joy and celebration, illusion and liberation, are woven from a single golden thread.

Week 10: “When I envision the first flower opening for the first time, I . . .”

When I envision the very first flower opening for the very first time, I touch that space where I and that flower are one, and I open for the very first time. It happens now, in this moment: continually flowering. I feel the warmth of the sunlight on my tender petals that, until now, had been swaddled safely inside the bud. A burst of sweet fragrance is released into the world which will now never be the same. I need not have a voice, I need not be heard, I need not be seen to have transformed this experience of life for all time.

As my seeds are carried off by the wind, it is unclear to me whom will be nourished by the fruits of my flowering, and there is a gentle knowing that as I open ever more deeply, that I am opening also to my death. For the point of flowering does not begin and end with me. The point of flowering is to lend a single note to the symphony of experience, and bowing gracefully to the pregnant space from which other notes will arise.

My flowering is but a symptom of this life that is both living me and flowering through me. I may be the very first flower opening for the very first time, but I will not be the last. And each flower that opens “flowers” for the very first time, for there is never any time apart from this time, and there is never a flower that is not the first, and there is never a flowering that is not simultaneously a amplification of life and an opening to death.

Week 11: “To me in this moment, authentic compassion means . . .”

To me in this moment, authentic compassion means listening deeply to those around me in equal measure to the depth in which I also listen to myself, my body, my dreams, and my heartaches. Listen, not just to the words shared, for words alone are clumsy and never tell the fullest truth.

Listen instead to the intention behind the words, and listen not with your ears but with the intention of listening. Listen not just to the thoughts unspoken, but perhaps listen to the dreams unlived. Listen from a space of your highest possible self, and you will begin to hear only the highest possible self in others.

To me in this moment, authentic compassion means responding to ourselves and others without fear of offending or exploiting. Authentic compassion is a response born out of sincerity and integrity: born of honoring ourselves in equal measure to the degree in which we honor another. It’s knowing deeply that we don’t have all the answers, and that some of the answers we have found are subject to change based on time and circumstance.

In that light, to me in this moment, authentic compassion means bowing with humble gratitude to this miracle of experience, this miracle of perception, this miracle of connection, and this miracle of collaboration towards shared visions. By listening to the miracles more deeply than we do the words or actions of ourselves or another, we become a pristine beacon of authentic compassion.

Week 12: “When I let go of the need to know where I’m going, I . . .”

When I let go of the need to know where I am going, I am free to stroll amidst the wildflowers or enjoy the feel of the rain on my face. Only then am I free. The willingness to bow humbly to the circumstances of my life empowers me to step most skillfully. There are forces at play within and around me that know more about my journey than I ever can in this moment. Trusting the process, trusting my very next step, even if I do not know where it is leading, is the surest way to get where it is I must go before I die.

All of time has conspired to create this moment, and me as well, for reasons that have nothing and everything to do with me. It is not of my doing that I should be here writing these words: I am not capable of such a miracle. And yet, were it not for this “me” or these “words” that are written, this miracle would not have this space to marvel in humble awe at its own stunning existence.

Stepping beyond my wildest dreams, needing nothing that I do not have, leads me to this sacred space. Only from this space can my next step be a perfect extension of who I am. When I let of to the need to know where I am going, I arrive home.

Week 13: “The unyielding stillness taught me . . .”

The unyielding stillness taught me that the only things worth doing are worth doing well. To do worthwhile things well, I must take my time with them. Slowing down as I perform the ordinary tasks of my everyday life connects me to a wealth of wisdom and insight.

As I turn my attention to washing dishes, folding laundry, or even walking to my car, I can ask, “What is it this activity has to teach me?” Instantly the activity is transformed into a classroom ripe with meaning. The task, standing in front of the chalkboard, and I, sitting wide-eyed on the rug at its feet like an eager kindergartner on the first day of school.

The student and the teacher create the teaching. The activity learns as much from me as I do from it. Together we learn dynamic lessons of humble service, deep sincerity, and compassionate gratitude.

As the activity concludes, the unyielding stillness has learned how to both generously share and receive a wealth of wisdom. Through my uncompromising devotion, the unyielding stillness glimpses its stunning reflection in the ordinary activities of everyday life.