Being human–the paradox continues.

In my last post, I prescribed patience in holding myself and my species in this place in time on the planet when it seems there is so much inhumanity toward humanity and to the earth. Last night I watched a documentary on human trafficking that turned my stomach. A vulnerable teen lured into the sex trade by 3 men for over 6 years before escaping. Yet today, just when I was almost seduced to cynicism, a poem came that reminded me of the other side of being human–how precious it is, how rich, how utterly beautiful. How this poet, a human being, can write such words and proclaim such truth. It came as an antidote to my nausea, a deeper perspective on being human–yes, we live, we die. The simplest definition of being human. Humans, homo sapiens, live on earth. A truth. The name human even derives from the meaning “earthling”. And in the Hebrew adamah or “ground”, thus the Old Testament story of God literally breathing life into “dirt” to create Adam, the first human.

Yet while we live on this earth as earthlings… ah, that can be a luminous thing if we listen well, if we see with eyes beyond the eyes that glimpse we are human, yet we are Being. So I also hold fast to the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes ( Women Who Run With Wolves) who was taught by the grandmothers that reality is more than we live and then we die. As she writes in her story of the myth of The Skeleton Woman, our journey is Life/Death/LIFE. In most traditions and understanding, this refers to the physical aspect of the human body living and dying on this earth and then the spirit transcending the body–that in this physical body dwells the eternal. A truth for me as well.

But for me it also is true now, before my physical body is called by Death. Each day there can be living, then a dying, then a coming back to life– a rebirth, a transformation, a recreation to seeing the Real beyond the obscurations. Each time I am tempted to “traffic” my experience of being human, particularly of being a woman, I can be called back by the words of a friend, the smell of fresh bread filling the house, the planting of flowers or a poem such as this.

Picnic, Lightning  

It is possible to be struck by a
meteor or a single-engine plane while
reading in a chair at home. Pedestrians
are flattened by safes falling from
rooftops mostly within the panels of
the comics, but still, we know it is
possible, as well as the flash of
summer lightning, the thermos toppling
over, spilling out on the grass.
And we know the message can be
delivered from within. The heart, no
valentine, decides to quit after
lunch, the power shut off like a
switch, or a tiny dark ship is
unmoored into the flow of the body’s
rivers, the brain a monastery,
defenseless on the shore. This is
what I think about when I shovel
compost into a wheelbarrow, and when
I fill the long flower boxes, then
press into rows the limp roots of red
impatiens — the instant hand of Death
always ready to burst forth from the
sleeve of his voluminous cloak. Then
the soil is full of marvels, bits of
leaf like flakes off a fresco,
red-brown pine needles, a beetle quick
to burrow back under the loam. Then
the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the
clouds a brighter white, and all I
hear is the rasp of the steel edge
against a round stone, the small
plants singing with lifted faces, and
the click of the sundial as one hour
sweeps into the next. ~ Billy Collins ~

Planting the last pot..listening to their “lifted faces sing ” and coming back to life.

It’s Hard to be Human

One of my soul friends recently said, “It’s easy to be Spirit, but it’s hard to be human!” It does sum up what I have been examining recently. What does it mean to be a human being? We are the most evolved of our species, and yet I struggle with what we have yet to learn about living together on this planet. Below is the human origins exhibit at the Smithsonian that opened my eyes to the story of our evolution and just how long that took.

What a privilege to be here as a human being with a unique intelligence and capability not in existence before. It took 6 million years to arrive at a place at the top of the tree of origins. We learned how to stand erect, to use tools, to develop language, to do complex thinking and examine our emotional response. And yet we have not evolved to understand that we are all ONE. I don’t need to elaborate on that. We all know the ways we separate and exclude and fear one another as a species. And as an individual of that species, I can see and know it in myself. Despite my most fervent desire to not judge others, to love others, to treat everyone equally, to be in harmony and experience peace in my heart, let alone peace on the planet, I have not yet evolved to this level of consciousness. And YET I do believe some of us have. And with great trust, I know that I have that potential. And I am evolving to this great divine intention. But in the meantime, I agree with my friend, “it’s hard to be human.” It’s hard to be in the NOW and NOT YET as my seminary teachers described it. This poem by Jane Hirschfield was given to me by another friend. Perhaps she knew I would need it–this poem– and this kind of friendship– to evolve. I plan to continue writing on what it means to be human, but for now, this.



a small purple artichoke


in its own bittered

and darkening


grows tender,

grows tender and sweet

patience, I think,

my species

keeps testing the spiny leaves

the spiny heart.

The Dovekeepers: A Worthy Read

My niece, Laura, loaned me a book for a long plane ride I had ahead of me, and it’s probably not a book I would have picked up on my own. But I’m glad it was my traveling companion! It is based on the historical story of the siege of Masada 2000 years ago, where a group of exiled Jews hold out against the Romans in a stronghold built by Herod. In the writings of Josephus, he reports that of the hundreds that lived there, only 4 women and 1 child survived. Intrigued by that fact and by the story told her by her “great-great grandmothers of ancient Israel” when she visited the site, Alice Hoffman crafts a story of 4 women who are dove keepers in the stronghold in 70 years B.C.E.

The story of the 4 women and how their lives intertwine is so compelling, stretching and wrenching that I could feel it in my bones. It is a story for that part of all of us that is fierce, independent and resilient, even if it has not been tested as these women were. The culture of this Jewish exile group taught me much about the repression of women at that time. It’s not a story that surprises, as in many ways, it persists–the idea of women as property, as second class, as not as capable as a man, as feared for their intuition, as objects of sexual desire. And yet the author’s research into the specifics of this arc of history is so detailed and intriguing, while her imagination invoked in the fictional storytelling is lush, raw, tender, and bloody. These women are sensual and jealous lovers, disguised warriors, spell casters, tigress protectors of their offspring and survivors of genocide. I closed the book feeling a stirring of that feminine power and resiliency within me and all women. I loved the story of these four women–and yet wished I could know the real story of the 4 that survived the siege and why. (Published by Scribner’s, 2011.)

Resurrecting Easter

In some churches of the Christian tradition, the year is divided up into seasons reflecting the life of Christ. Each season has a color and an emphasis and is called the liturgical calendar.  I have lived by this calendar in parallel with the Gregorian calendar for most of my life. The high point of the liturgical year is Easter Sunday, and the seven weeks that follow are called the Easter season. It’s Easter season now until June 9th when then Pentecost is celebrated. The color of the Easter season is white. 

Easter sunrise, April 21, 2019

It was a strange Easter this year as I sat on a mountain top at the end of Angel’s Palace trail in Kodachrome State Park in southern Utah— far from attending any church service to honor Christ rising from the dead to save us from our sins. And yet it was a sacred morning as I sat to meditate and listen and reflect on how I came to be in that very spot and not in a pew.

I remember how deeply I could once feel the joy of Easter morning. This new beginning, this amazing grace, this time where anything could happen. I could say with happiness, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” and sense the long lineage of Christians who have celebrated Easter morning and the freedom it proclaimed. I helped arrange the Easter lilies, assisted with the service by reading the scripture or helped write an Easter skit. And I had prepared for this day by attending all the Lenten services for the 40 days prior and had dedicated a part of my time and life to remembering Jesus on his way to Gethsemane. Truth be told, I inwardly scorned all the emphasis on eggs and bunnies.

This story was so important to me that I went to seminary, and for a time I was the one giving the Easter sermon and leading the service, sometimes three of them in one morning. I even remember how I judged those who  couldn’t seem to understand how significant this day was or only attended church on Christmas and Easter (we called them CEO’s, Christmas and Easter Only) as if maintaining some old tradition but not really caring about the story of the resurrection. 

And now I am almost mystified that I am that one who doesn’t go to church, even on Easter, the high point of the church year. I yearn to observe it in some way because the joy I felt all those years came from a place that recognized Truth in the story. Jesus was an Awakened One. While I can no longer reconcile the teaching that he died to save me from my sins, I also feel this Easter story is Truth and it goes deep to showing us that physical death is not the end of who we are. We are spirit in a physical body. And we are humans, learning we are all wrapped up in the Being of God while we walk on earth. I have always been fascinated by that long beautiful rambling sermon that Jesus gave to his disciples in the book of John just before he is arrested. He keeps repeating “So that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may know that they are loved.”  

Resurrection means more to me now than the story of Christ rising from the dead; it means me awakening from the sleep that doesn’t remember who I am and who I was created to be. It’s a rising of True Self, before my ego was erected and fixed. It’s the resurrecting of the True story of who I take myself to be and how then I respond to knowing how close I am to God. 

 My Easter message given to me on that mountain top was on a path that was narrow, a little scary and one that made me very alert and awake to each footstep that I took. The message like the path requires that same alertness to not fall back into old patterns and ways of the world. Jesus’s words from that same sermon in John rose up—“to be in this world, but not of it.”  The very same words of my path in the Diamond Approach.

Looking back on my path..

 A poem by Rumi now thrums in my head: 

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep. 

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep!

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch. 

The door is round and open. 

Don’t go back to sleep.