Preparing to Meet

My heart laughs with joy, because I am in your presence.” – Chitmachas Chief

How do you prepare to talk with someone that you have great admiration and respect for? I once read a discussion of this question. It’s an interesting one, isn’t it? It combines the need to be courageous along with the ability to master your anxiety.

I recently wrote a quick recap of the moment that my kids and I came face to face with grammy-winner Macklemore and his kids. Did I say anything to him? Nope.

Along those lines, I can think of the time when I was in my 20’s and I got onto an elevator and it was just Bill Gates and me. All I did was squeak out a high-pitch, “Hi.” Wow – that’s profound… <eye roll>

Podcasting with fellow bloggers, creatives, and writers has given me a new opportunity to practice the skill of meeting people I admire, even if it’s just over a video call. Of course, I prepare by reading as much as I can and also writing out discussion prompts.

But it’s the quelling of the nerves that is most interesting to me. I’ve found if I can quiet the noise, it allows me to access a deeper kind of question that arises out of curiosity instead of judgment (of myself). Unsurprisingly, my go-to method is meditation. It allows me the practice of quieting my ego before stepping in to a shared conversation with another human. Sometimes, it evens allows me to listen to my intuition.

And the answer I read about to this question was in Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening. Here’s Mark’s answer:

“’If I only have this time on Earth with this person, if I may never see them again, what is it I want or need to ask, to know? What is it I want or need to say?’”

Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening

On that note, Vicki and I talked with blogger, film-maker, producer, director and overall story-teller, Mitch Teemley on the episode of the Sharing the Heart of the Matter podcast released today.

I hope you’ll to listen to this podcast so you can be inspired by this wonderful man. Search for Sharing the Heart of the Matter on Apple, Amazon, Spotify or Pocket Casts or click here to listen to Episode 9: The Audacity to Believe with Mitch Teemley on Anchor.

Show notes and more links for Mitch Teemley plus a space to share the take-away gems that you glean are on the Heart of the Matter: Episode 9.

(featured photo from Pexels)

What Blocks the Way

We tend to make the thing in the way the way.” – Mark Nepo

In The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo tells the story of the time he and his friend, Robert, drove 400 miles to visit the Botanical Gardens of Montreal to visit the largest bonsai collection in the world outside of Asia.

“We strolled toward the Chinese Temple Garden, a lush yet simple retreat from the streets that covers acres, a place of renewal originally constructed in the 1600’s in China and moved stone by stone to Montreal in 1990.”

The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

Only to find it locked. Mark feels grumpy as he follows his friend as he starts to walk the perimeter.

“Suddenly, when we had walked farther than was originally in our view, the walls disappeared. It turned out that the Garden had no walls, save for the façade at its entrance. So we simply walked through the open grass to a path that welcomed us.”

The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo

That lesson in having enough resilience and belief to find the way around what seems locked resonates with me. In fact, it’s the topic of my post for The Heart of the Matter today: Stuck on the Path to Freedom.

And while you are there, check out the rest of the site and subscribe!

(featured photo from Pexels)

Going With the Flow

If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” – Lao Tzu

I’ve noticed something interesting with Mr. D. If presented with a household choice like what to watch for our tv show time before bed, he will insist in a vociferous way that might be spectacularly specific to being 3 ½-year-old and all the certainty that goes with it, that it needs to be the option HE wants. But if the tv is already on and tuned to something that is appealing to the younger set, he will more often than not, just meld into watching it.

As I witness this, I recognize this same trait in myself. When I’m presented with a choice, I find it necessary to make it MY choice and am involved with it in a very discerning and egoic way that is likely to result in anger or disappointment if I don’t get it the way I want. But if something just happens, I can adapt to whatever it is without my thought or much bother.

Case in point – I was going out to dinner this past weekend with a group of people I’d rounded up after I remembered that it’s okay for me to sometimes get a babysitter and have grown-up time. When it came to picking the restaurant, one of my friends suggested one and I looked at the menu and thought, “Oh, this doesn’t sound like what I want to eat for MY night out.” I suggested something else that was nearby and that was fine with everyone.

But had I gone to a friends’ house and they served me the food that was on the menu I objected to, I likely would have eaten it, or not, without much thought. I would have been grateful for the warmth, company, and work that they put into it.

Which makes me wonder how I can cultivate that flexibility so I’m more in the flow of life. Because when it comes down to it, I do better when I admit that steering the big picture of life is beyond my pay grade. Then I can save my energy for just “being” with life and not trying to bend it to my will. Sometimes what is served up by the Universe is the usual banality and routine. But sometimes I’m surprised by joy and delight in things like the other day when in the middle of a busy day, I answered the phone, and it was a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in five or six years just calling to say “hi.”

And that’s what I try to do for Mr. D as well. Sometimes he has the unfortunate experience of having to go along with the boring chores of family life. But when he’s flexible and going with the flow, I try to surprise him now and again with an activity like a bouncy house that is beyond what he would have thought to have ask for – just to plant the seed that when we let go of control, sometimes the result is being open to what is beyond our limited expectations.

I’m not sure if the reminder is for my son or myself, but hopefully it works for both.

(featured photo from Pexels)


External silence can be the doorway to inner silence.” – Ram Dass

On a recent lazy holiday morning when it was still dark at wake up time, my kids and I were snuggled in my bed watching a lightning storm out the windows. Lightning is fairly uncommon in our area so Miss O was chattering away about it in her typical 7-year-old patter until three-year-old Mr. D said, “Ssshhh, I can’t see.

As someone who relishes and recharges from quiet, I really appreciated that sentiment.

The past few days my kids and I have been staying at an AirBnB on the Washington coast. There is no city noise here – no car doors slamming or car alarms going off, no hazy road noise, not the occasional siren and no one talking on the sidewalk. It’s just the roar of the ocean. It’s like a complete vacation for my ears from the noises I’m not aware of hearing until I get away to this entirely different soundscape.

In an On Being podcast, Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, called quiet a “think tank of the soul.” In her introduction of him, Krista Tippett mentions that he’s gone out to record dawn breaking across six continents. She goes on to say, “He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound but an absence of noise.

I was so taken by the work of Gordon Hempton that I’ve written about his work before in a post titled Silence. One of the points he made that really stuck with me is that our ears are always on. That’s why alarm clocks work – because even though our brains are sleeping, our ears never do.

Gordon Hempton told Krista Tippett how he became dedicated to being a listener:

“I grew up thinking that I was a listener. Except on my way to graduate school one time I simply pulled over — making the long drive from Seattle, Washington, to Madison, Wisconsin — pulled over in a field to get some rest. And a thunderstorm rolled over me. And while I lay there, and the thunder echoed through the valley, and I could hear the crickets, I just simply took it all in. And it’s then I realized that I had a whole wrong impression of what it meant to actually listen. I thought that listening meant focusing my attention on what was important even before I had heard it, and screening out everything that was unimportant, even before I had heard it. In other words, I had been paying a lot of attention to people, but I really hadn’t been paying a lot of attention to what is all around me. And it was on that day that I really discovered what it means to be alive as another animal in a natural place.”

Gorgon Hempton on the On Being podcast

To the wonderful perspective provided by Gordon Hempton, I would add that it’s only when I sit in silence that I can hear my inner voice. It’s wonderful break when I get away from the city noise and find outer quiet but I still have to work at cultivating my inner quiet. When I manage that, usually by sitting in meditation, even for just a few minutes (or seconds sometimes), I’m rewarded with a renewal of spirit and ability to listen to myself.

So I echo Mr. D’s sentiment in all it’s different meanings, “Ssshhh, I can’t see.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Light, Water & Soil

People grow when they are loved well. If you want to help others heal, love them without an agenda.” – Mike McHargue

When I picked Miss O up from school the other day she handed me her mystery science project. It was a little plant in a shot size plastic cup. The experiment was for each table of two kids to divide up – one would leave their plant in the light and the other would put their plant in a dark cupboard for a week. They made predictions about what would happen.

Miss O’s plant was a little radish seedling that had been in the dark cupboard for a week so I was surprised to see that it had three little shoots popping through the meager soil. Miss O’s conclusion about why her plant survived the dark cupboard was that it could survive there but not thrive.

As she handed it to me, Miss O said to be really careful. She was super proud that it had survived. And I promptly bumped my hand and spilled it all over the seat. I scooped the little dirt back in, apologizing and trying to restore calm.

Then I handed it back to Miss O in the back seat and she spilled it. Holy cow – if this plant survived, it was going to be a miracle, not science! But I scooped it up once more and when we got home, put a little fresh dirt in, watered it and put it in the windowsill.

All the while I was thinking about the conditions for growth. I hazard to guess that we’ve all been in the dark cupboard for a week. I think I was in there for a couple of years as I went through my divorce and before I found meditation.

But when we make it through, what do we need to really thrive? For me, it’s meditation, sleep, time in nature, playing with my kids, and conversations with deep and thoughtful friends (online or in real life).

I often poison my soil by eating too much sugar and spending too much time in front of a computer but when I balance it out, I can feel my roots growing deeper.

Amazingly, Miss O’s little plant is doing great in the windowsill. If it keeps growing this way, it’s going to need a different container but I suppose we humans do that too as we navigate the different phases of life.

A Better Perspective On The Glass

Be confident, not certain.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

When looking through the profiles of the potential donors that I had to choose from for my kids, the sperm bank provided very thorough profiles of the candidates. The one I chose had rated every one in his direct family and extended family except one aunt as an optimist. I thought that would fit perfectly with my family history.

But the older I get and the more that I practice meditation, I’m realizing that optimism is a trait with a downside. In fact, the most common suffering I experience these days is when I let my optimism go unchecked. This is the topic of my latest Wise and Shine blog post: The Glass is Refillable

(quote from David Folstad of the Life and Random Thinking blog and featured photo is from Pexels)

Our Relationship With Pain

These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.” – Rumi

About 15 years ago I was climbing Mt. Whitney in the winter with my friend Jill and about 7 other climbers and 2 guides. Though Mt Whitney claims the prize as the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet, by reputation it isn’t a hard climb in the summer.

But in the winter, our approach was a couple of miles longer because the parking lot was snowed in, we had to carry heavy 55 pound packs with all the gear we needed and the route was deep with crappy snow so that even in snowshoes, we were regularly sinking in to our thighs.

I started out feeling fine but by the time we were at about 10,000 feet, my left ear was incredibly painful. I kept trudging along, not listening to the pain because I figured there wasn’t anything I could do about it. By the time we made camp at 12,000 feet I was in tears. Fortunately I didn’t impact the teams plans to climb because a storm with 60 mile per hour winds came through and we all had to go back down the next morning.

Mountaineering books are filled with stories about people who ignored their pain – usually with more dire consequences than my ear on Mt. Whitney. And of course this seems to be a universal human experience to not listen to the signals we are receiving. It’s the topic of my latest Wise and Shine (formerly Pointless Overthinking) blog post: Do You Listen To Your Pain?

(featured photo from Pexels)

The Journey Is The Destination

Tell me and I will forget, teach me and I will remember, involve me and I will learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

I took the kids out hiking last weekend. Before I had kids, I used to hike every Saturday morning starting in the years one of my friends was preparing to climb Everest (the trick of hiking with someone in that good of shape – make her talk all the way up and you talk all the way down). So hiking with my kids feels like going back to my roots.

But instead of hiking up Tiger Mountain as I would if it was just me, I choose a flat trail to Tradition Lake that the sign says is 1.5 miles away. As we head out with high energy, I had great hopes that we’d actually GET to the lake this time. Because we’ve tried this before and about a half mile in, after we’ve looked at countless sticks, rocks, bugs and slugs, Mr. D gets tired of “hiking.” I put him on my shoulders and carry him back to the parking lot.

I consider not making the goal to be good practice for me. I love finishing and as I wrote in the messy middle post, I find myself often rushing to the end. To enjoy the process of getting there, and to enjoy all the slugs along the way, is a way of slowing down my adult brain that is so intent on goals. It’s another opportunity to immerse myself in my kids lantern awareness, to use the term from researcher Dr. Alison Gopnik.

Of course I could carry Mr. D farther and get to the lake even if my knees, hips and shoulders might disagree. I think Miss O could do the trail all the way no problem. But I think developing the endurance to get there himself is something that is worth leaving it to Mr. D to do.

What I’m learning about accomplishments is not only to be flexible about what the end-point is but also to value the progression along the way. “Hiking” with my kids is like a walking meditation for me, another chance to learn that sometimes the goal isn’t what the sign says. It’s a practice of learning when to say we’ve gone far enough instead of pushing through. It’s honoring the deep knowing that comes with celebrating the beauty of the journey.

And sure enough, at about half mile in, we reached the end of Mr. D’s desire to hike. My reward for being willing to turn around was that we laughed the whole way back.

How do you feel about not reaching the end-point on the sign? Do/did you hike with your kids?

How Not To Be Mean

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

The other night my seven-year-old was being short-tempered with her younger brother and snippy with me. I asked her not to take out her mood on others and she replied “I don’t know what to do with the meanness!”

Wow, that stopped me in my tracks! It left me trying to tease apart all the ways we can quell our inner meanness and became the topic of my Pointless Overthinking blog today, What to Do With Our Inner Meanness.

The Blossom of a Distant Crush

There is no remedy for love but to love more.” – Henry David Thoreau

When my friend Mindy got married over 20 years ago, I remember her remarking that she felt like finding her person freed up a space in her brain for other things.

It was an interesting observation but one I hadn’t thought about in great depth until recently when out of the blue someone I had a distant crush on sent me a beautiful email. In the one gesture, distant crush blossomed into a romantic possibility.

I haven’t spent much time actively dating since I decided to have kids on my own. In these seven years, I’ve had that space in my brain, as Mindy calls it, free to focus on taking care of these kids and more or less just cruising along getting things done.

So I’m a little shocked to remember all the space that having a little romance takes up in life, of which only a small portion is actually consumed by the lovely time spent talking to him.

First, I have emotions all over the place – excitement, fear, expectancy, impatience. They cycle through my day creating waves (often of elation and joy) in what to used to be a pretty calm (mostly happy) sea.

Second, I’ve spent all sorts of time making a music playlist called “Thinking of You” and listening to it instead of the podcasts and books I used to so efficiently consume. Granted, a lot of my podcasts have been on summer break so there’s that but to match my mood, all I want to listen to is The Cure, Cold Play, Leonard Cohen and so on.

Third, I wake up in the middle of the night now with my brain racing to think about what’s next, the last conversation we had or to wonder about all sorts of things I can’t control. I think about The Hot Goddess’s latest brilliantly funny snarky pie chart about communication in midlife dating and wish I had her sense of humor about all this. Or The Goddess Attainable’s list of Zen she’s found from dating disappointments and wonder if I can find my Zen again.

All I can say is that this makes for a very rich meditation practice. Finding the space beneath all the energy and excitement where the river of life still flows and will carry me regardless of what is to come seems both harder to do these days but also more important.

I’m also discovering that it doesn’t matter how old you are, the intensity of new possibility is electrifying. I might have lost that space in my brain but I’ve opened wide a space in my heart where possibility roams free.

(Quote from Mary of the delightful Awakening Wonders blog, featured photo is mine)