Mary Ann (Wallace) Iyer, M.D. is a licensed physician, whose awakening led her to understand that the way to health involves waking up to our True Purpose. Full wellbeing includes attending to both our outer and inner selves.

Dr. Mary leads workshops which invite individuals into deeper awareness of their path in life. Her gentle, astute Presence leads participants into the safety of their own precious Hearts, where answers to perplexing problems lie.

Under the name, Mary Ann Wallace, MD, she has published several books and CDS. Visit http://www.maryanniyer.com/ for more details.

To bring Dr. Mary to your area, email: DrMA@maryanniyer.com

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Power Over

This is an excerpt from a book I am currently writing:

Although this book focuses on the differences women and men experience in training our egos along gender lines, I want to make clear that the biggest factor needing attention is the mental structure behind this training. There are many clear biological differences between males and females. Only women bear children. Men are usually physically stronger. Our capabilities are inherently skewed differently.

This variability is not a problem, in and of itself. The challenge that faces us as a species and as individuals lies in the framework by which we define worth. For quite some time, in most cultures and religions, there are massive inequalities in what we define as having value that tend to fall along gender lines. In most cultures and nearly all religions, women are framed as objects owned by men – somewhat like cattle or houses. But this is representative of a deeper value system going on. There is what could be called a “Power-over” mentality that shows up not just in gender pools. Corporations are seen as entities with “rights” equal to or greater than the individual humans who populate and sustain them. Financial “entities” are granted assistance that human individuals are denied. Governments claim the right to own their citizens, and control them accordingly. Individuals (usually men) who have money are seen as not only more privileged, but superior in every way to those who have less.

This “power-over” mentality leads to oppression and suppression of what could be considered the feminine, if we define feminine as being the values of cooperation, nurturance and respect for all life. That which is soft, yielding and which loves. This is not just a gender-based value-system, but it is true that women have been recognized to harbor these values at a deeper level simply due to our inherent gender differences, and it is true that women have been debased as a gender along these lines. Being soft or yielding is construed as being weak. Emotions are relegated to an inferior role as less than mental acuity. An authentic expression of grief or sadness is discounted as a “pity party”. When someone cries, it may be that they are “just feeling sorry for themselves”. It may also be that they are giving vent to genuine grief, needing expression.

These sorts of judgments are made by both men and women, but decry the full range of our existence and capabilities. Emotional intelligence has gone missing for the sake of intellectual. IQ is defined as the basis for all intelligence, and only that which is logical is deemed of any worth. An intuitive, heart-centric way of life is considered frilly at best; stupid by some.

What needs to change is for the sake of both men and women. This is not about replacing men with women in positions of power. It is about changing the entire power matrix to disallow power-over oppression – under any condition or by any excuse. No living entity can be seen as “less-than” in the matrix of life for us to have the profound shift we need in our consciousness to heal what ails us as a species at this time.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Anxiety: lurking, deep, swirling, gripping, pervasive. Hard to get at. Hard to eliminate. Seems to be ever-present. So much in the background we hardly can say it’s a “thing” separate from us.

And that, of course, is its secret to lingering – far beyond its welcome.

As we deepen in our devotion to the Inner state, many notice a tidepool of anxiety lurking deep within. Far beneath the surface of self assurance and busyness is this place where we are scurrying around trying to make sure we never sink in too deep. It’s just too scary and uncomfortable there.

This anxiety has many faces, names and nuances. But it exists for all of us. Many would deny this. The busyness of their lives keeps them occupied enough that they haven’t really noticed it, yet.

But nearly everyone I know who has begun the Inner Journey stumbles into this pit sooner or later.

It is so intensely uncomfortable it feels like we’d do ANY thing to get out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

What I notice is that – right where we feel anxiety welling up --- this is the place to go. To open. To be curious. Willing to see our own selves there.
It is good.

All of us – every single one of us – learned in some way in our lives that we are not completely OK just as we are. In some way – in some small or big way – we had to change to fit in, to meet our parents’ expectations or needs or deficiencies. We had to fit in to our culture or – gads – we would be a “misfit”. That statement, unto itself is terrifying. If we don’t fit in to society it spells not surviving. By whatever primitive means our minds operate around this principle, it speaks to the most basic of Garden of Eden scenarios. Being banned. Excommunicated. Removed from the garden of our most basic sustenance. Forever.

Very, very terrifying.

Underlying all this programming is a deep societal fear that IT (society) won’t survive if individuals are allowed to be different. And – this is more than fear. It is a recognition of a truth. Society, as it is, WON’T survive if individuals learn they don’t have to meld and mold themselves to the norm of the general trend.

The basic fear of all this devolves from the most basic lack of trust. A lack of trust in an inherent sense of order that might reveal itself and evolve if we each were allowed to follow the bliss of our hearts – rather than strive and struggle to conform to the norms defined for us by the society that already exists. Bound by traditions, religions, parents and corporations. It reflects a belief that somehow we are, at our base, not OK. Not OK. We have to be defined by some external standard to bring ourselves up to an idea of acceptability. Unlike forests, animals, stars and all other acts of nature – we are somehow deformed at birth and base. We don’t trust the basic goodness of life as it moves through US. Our minds believe we have to DO something – something different – in order to be “allowed” to live. To survive.

Forget the “lilies of the field” malarkey. We humans are different. We need cars and cell phones and designer jeans.


Stop here. Pause and take the time – right now – to just open in to the question: “What, in me, says ’No way!’ to the idea that I am perfectly, wonderfully fine – right now – just as I am?”

The answer to this question – and I encourage you to ask it often – will deliver you from such deep anxiety. It is worth the pause.

Monday, September 23, 2013


I recently had lunch with an acquaintance who was lamenting her lot in life. She has to work for a living. This would likely not be a big deal, except for the periodic bouts of panic she has about not making it. Not surviving. Not making enough moola to cover the rent – or in her case, two mortgages.

I’ve heard this story a lot. Not the two mortgages part – but some variation on the terror that can grip the belly when the specter of homelessness starts to creep up.

For some reason or Act of God this does not happen to be one of my terrors. So, in some strange way, I feel uniquely qualified to discuss it. Not because I’m an expert from the inside trenches, but because I might be able to give another view on the subject. I also want to offer the caveat that I am most certainly not free of fear; and my own variation of demons lurk in the basement, periodically scrabbling up the stairs ready to pull out my nails and yank my hair.

Back to the safe territory of basic survival. I can say there has been only one time in my life I cavorted with this particular devil of doom. And that was when I cohabited with a man whose proclivity for lying only matched his ability to overdraw our credit card. I remember distinctly laying on the cold floor one particular frozen Spokane winter day, staring at the ceiling and realizing I really, really did not have any idea how I would pay the mortgage that month. In retrospect, this particular moment stemmed from one of my more sinister demons relating to deceit, but it tapped deeply enough into the survival stream that I do know how that one tastes.

Most of the time, though, where my mind goes with this element of earth life is more brimming with possibility and adventure. I recognize this is due to Grace and hope my sharing this stuff is helpful, not just a piss-button pusher. I remember the time in college, when I was living in the student health center – allowed to sleep in a bed there every night in exchange for being on call in what passed as the emergency room. I had scrounged a few dollars that month doing some ward clerk work, so I headed to the grocery store for my weekly shopping spree. As I stood there eyeing the possibilities, I did some quick math that told me the turnips were the best buy – pound for penny, so I bagged up as many as my dollars would cover and headed home. Now I know for sure that living on a bag of turnips for a week would strike some as being out there on the limb of barely surviving. But that’s the point, see? I didn’t feel that way. Not even a little. All this sort of living is just an adventure to me.

I have lots more of those sorts of stories, but the point here would be that if anyone – even one single person – can live in similar dire straits as your worst nightmare and come out of it grinning, there is some likelihood that you, too, could begin to see your circumstances in some slightly different way. Even trying this on for size could rank as a novel adventure.

Let me know how this goes for you.

Just don’t tag on any invitations for bungee jumping.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Making Peace with Being Woman

An excerpt from a book I am writing:

One thing I noticed in all the interviews I did with women about their relationships with their mothers is that to make peace with who their mother was is essential for their own wellbeing. It is as if our history lives on deeply inside of us, so that to expunge the demons of the past includes embracing them first. The wholeness of who we are includes and is in part because of this very past we most don’t want. We can’t get away from it by ignoring it if it dwells within us every step of the way. Which it does, really.

We are of and from our mothers whether we like the person they were or not. And those who most loved their mothers were most willing to see the gladness of their past. Ironically, sometimes this made it difficult to move on, too. Being stuck in the past is no better than trying to expunge it from the core of our cells. Neither attitude works, really. But to embrace it – now there is a different story. A happy one.

Therein seems to be the healthy way. The middle ground, as it were. To embrace our past is to include it gladly in our present, without clinging or pushing it away. The middle way of acceptance, embracing, seeing who and what we are in the continuum of life as it was handed to us. We can only start there which is here. When we accept gladly that which was given us to deal with in this lifetime we can most readily get on with the living of it. We can make the changes we need to from where we are, not where we wish we were already. Which is simply impossible at best.

What ground do we have to stand on if not the solid ground of where we are? Even if we are headed in some direction that will move us eventually to a different place, we must start from where we are. Peggy Tabor Millin, in Women, Writing and Soul Making, remarks: “Because feminine responsiveness does not make the splash or the money and success required in our culture, because it is not ‘out there’ and ‘in your face,’ women, as well as men, devalue it.” “By the 1970’s the Power Principle had co-opted the women’s movement, opening the doors to women on condition that they turn their backs on their roles as nurturers and responders and become competitive and action-driven. With few models for feminine power based on the synthesis of feminine and masculine, we went to where the power lay – into the world of the Power Principle.”

It is time – we are in great need – for feminine integration as part of power. We have to translate from the debased female to what it would look like to have that principle honored. All of this sounds so self-evident, yet with the imaginative power of our brains and minds we can imagine whole fantasies to distract us from the task(s) at hand – which we most need to deal with to become our full potential. Our Being. Of Life, free from the constraints we were handed as the straitjacket into which we were born.

What I realized after my mother’s death was a sense of being loved that I had never encountered when she was alive. Encumbered by the straitjacket of her time – religious and cultural – she never broke free to extend the love which she really was. She lived the norm of her times. But after her death, she has come through to me in myriad ways, again and again loving me where I had felt previously judged. It has been a most remarkable journey that continues still. I had not realized how very little association I felt in any way with any sense of a Divine Mother. In our time of patriarchal religions holding sway, the only reference to the Divine is masculine. Even the Holy Trinity, which holds the potential of including the feminine to be complete in its expression, has been stripped clear of any such reference and speaks only to the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. A more complete version would be: “The Father, Mother, and Divine Beloved.” These reflect the major relationships with which we need to make peace, find consolation and “Divine Love” to feel fully safe in this world.

Peggy Millin, again: “Now is the time of redefinition of feminine power, a definition based on inner values rather than on outer roles and action.”

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Beyond what our mothers taught us

[An excerpt from a book I am writing]

Peggy Tabor Millin in her book, Women, Writing, and Soul-Making, asks: “Why is it that women disown their genius, have so much trouble claiming it, and can be swept off by the smallest current of criticism? Are we so born to pleasing others that we do not know who we are, cannot find that inner thread unless it is handed to us?”

There are many mythologies that separate us from ourselves. The myth(s) regarding women is one of the most insidious and pervasive. Almost all religions are patriarchal. It wasn’t always this way, but it has been long enough to seem like “basic reality”. The rules of patriarchy and patriarchal religions automatically create a sense of “less-than” for women. Most of the rules in these religions apply to and for men. The need to tone down a pervasive arrogant ego implies there IS a “dominating ego”. The issue for most women by and large has to do with egos so shattered they don’t even know who they are outside of the roles they play in making others OK. Although this still speaks to the need for reducing the influence of a “negative ego”, the ego of which we speak for women is most often that inner voice of self-condemnation. It requires a different medicine. And going at it with the pickaxe of judgment just does more harm to an already injured place inside of us.

Many women grew up under the influence of mothers who were steeped in the deepest brine of this matter. Barb told me that the hardest part about living with her mother was that “it was sad and depressing. Not much joy. I knew she was unhappy. I felt bad for her. I constantly felt that I wasn’t good enough. I learned to keep things hidden, be quiet, to be embarrassed about who I was.” Lynette said, “It was hard to see my mother suffer. She dealt with so many issues: the loss of her mother, the infidelity of my father, the loss of my brother, her son. My father started drinking, and she couldn’t cope any more. Even so, she never took it out on us and maintained a ‘smile through adversity’.”

On the other hand, ironically, sometimes the very love that our mothers provide to us leaves us feeling “less than” in ways that may be surprising to those who grew up without a sense of safe haven with their mothers. Lanelle describes her mother as “so much a mother, constantly helping and present – supporting. I felt taken care of. But – I also felt less than some times – she was so good at anything and I often felt like I was not doing enough. There was a detriment of her doing all for me. I didn’t learn to persevere or figure things out so well.”

The cultural milieu and myths in which we grow up influence us in one way or another. Our mothers, of course, had this same paradigm in which to grow, survive and (amazingly) sometimes thrive. In many ways, the relationship we have with our mothers invokes the most basic Buddhist principle of learning to neither cling nor push away the reality in which we dwell. It is notable that within mother-daughter relationships, the syndrome of “never being enough” came about whether our mothers were too critical, or too helpful. This seems reasonable when our moms were constantly finding fault with us. But it is interesting that this syndrome can also arise within the context of our mothers being so good that we never feel we can compare favorably to her.

The cultural milieu in which we grew was the same, by and large, as that of our mothers. We were ALL taught – in one way or another – that as a woman we needed to earn love by being nice in the way women had to be. To placate, make OK for others. Spirituality in men’s terms has women as their helpmates. There is no mention of women in their own right under these doctrines. Our culture reflects the same more.

One ironic answer is to embrace. Use that which IS our inherent strength – for the good it can do us all. Embrace the mother we had – who did the best she could. And – most importantly, embrace ourselves – in the moment, doing the best WE can. Like in Tai Chi, we move WITH the energy of what we do best, but learn to include ourselves in the matrix of receiving as well as giving. The only way we can make the maxim, “it is in giving that we receive” really work is if we also really receive!

Learning to turn the spotlight of nourishment on our own parched souls may take some time of unlearning some of the most harsh rules we live by. But it is essential for our wellbeing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Purpose from the Heart

From a Dear Reader:
I have been trying to remember some of the things you said in reference to my state of mind or should I say heart....... would you be willing to write the essence of what you said? It was really good and want to chew on it ....the full essence of it
Very grateful for you and your willingness to share and help a fellow journeyer --
I so enjoy your spirit and heart

We get so confused about this idea of “coming from heart”. Because our mind has been in charge for so long, we really have no idea what it means to come from heart.

So, let’s go about this a different way. Rather than figuring out (a favorite mind function) what to do and how to do it and so on, let’s just drop right into the body. What does that mean?
Just notice, for this moment, the feeling of the breath. Your breath. In and out. How that feels. Notice – how the mind kicks in. Just notice that. And, just for this moment decide that – just for this moment – you’re going to just notice the breath. And how that feels. Decide that the mind can wait. For a moment.

We hear these words so often. So many spiritual teachers tell us to do this.
But then – then – the mind gets busy.
Trying to figure it out.

This is exactly the malady that ails us. And we are so used to this, we don’t recognize it for what it is.

To rest quietly in that place inside of us – by whatever name we call it or no name at all – that place that is quiet, this is the challenge, the answer and the solution.

To be quiet enough that we can notice – really notice – our breath. In and out. Try this for five consecutive breaths.

That which arises next – and it may be irritation, it may be anxiety, it may be impatience – this is what we need to notice is aggravating our situation. THIS is the culprit, itself. It tries to convince us that it arises “because of” – this that or the other – situation, person, lack. But IT – itself is the problem. The sensation we’ve grown so accustomed to that we live our lives finding excuses for it.

In our longing to find our sense of Purpose – that for which we are living – what we most need, more than anything is to let go of all that gets in the way. In the way of just LIVING. Here’s the thing: it is exactly impossible NOT to live our Purpose when we do this. Because our Purpose does not show up as a banner in the sky. It creeps in. On the undulating surface of the waves of our lives. In this moment and this one and this one. What presents itself to be done. What needs response. What we need to attend to. Here.

This IS our Purpose. Make no mistake about it – if we began a big mission with full intent of purpose and do not rest deeply in each moment of its accomplishment it will feel no different in its level of aggravation than the life we’re living now – the life in which we are not in full attendance.

That is the misery. Not being fully, deeply dedicated to this life we are in. The one that greets us each morning when we wake up. The one we pull up our boots and get dressed up for.

This is the life we have to do “our thing” within. And the sandbox we have is the one we open our eyes to – every single day.

This is not to say we can’t change the sandbox. We can. But believe me – there is no single place – no single sandbox with its new shiny toys that will entertain us for long until we get right down into the fullness and juiciness of it.

So that is our practice. Attending to what is in front of us to do. Now.

That man who is driving us crazy. That job that is killing us with boredom. All of it. Attend to it. Ask yourself: “In relation to this – what is the kindest thing I can do? For me, for it, for him, for her?”
And then – do it.
In the doing you will be kind to all of us.

And – you will be fulfilling your Purpose.

Sometimes the discontent we feel is calling us to do something worthwhile. This can be a good thing. If this is true, stop and look around – in your life right now. Who or what that you know or know about could use what you can offer? Often we think “doing something worthwhile” means something BIG. Something different, somewhere different. Something that will make a difference in some sort of a way that is in our mind – “for the world”. This is not where we make a difference. We make a difference here and now where we are, with what we are immediately aware of that needs attention.

It is big enough. It matters, and it matters enough. This is what there is to do. And it is worthwhile.

Sometimes our restlessness means we’re just not happy. If there is something that is truly wrong in our lives, it is incumbent upon us to change it. If what is wrong is that we have a habit of being unhappy – finding fault – with whatever there is, then THAT is what needs to change. Only we can answer that particular question for ourselves, because only we are the Soul in this incarnation having this exact experience.

Our Soul seeks us out. And sometimes in that process we feel the restlessness of knowing that something needs attention. This is good. Be very, very patient with yourself. It is your Heart that needs attention. Kindness.

You do know what to do. Because you are so very able to be Present with the ones with whom you share life. You know how to show up. You know what needs to be done.

Often this work is more challenging for those who are remarkably intelligent. We KNOW we know all this stuff already. So we can get caught in the frustration of: “so why isn’t it working out just yet? I already knew that.”

Translating this into the action of the body – this is the rub and it is just that translation that makes it come alive. Real.

Embodied as the wisdom we DO know. In this breath. Now.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Making Tough Decisions

From a Dear Reader:
I long/have resistance to moving to a beautiful, supportive but rustic Hermitage that’s run by nuns. I’ve been debating this for over a year now, and still never get a clear answer. Sometimes my heart pulls me so strongly I feel like I could almost teleport. But I visited for two weeks last year and couldn’t wait to leave, so I also have to listen to that. At times, each is equally strong.

I have found both the place of happiness and yearning in my heart, and then also the place of what didn’t work, that feeling in the pit of the stomach. I have a real connection with one nun, and I yearn to be able to take some of the responsibilities from her. There are many reasons this should work, but it’s a big step to take if I’m not sure.

When I visited last year it just wasn’t what I’d expected. It was cold, there was no outhouse near my cabin, there was a lot of hiking that my out-of-shape body didn’t like. It was a totally different energy than I’m used to and I wonder if I will be comfortable with it if I return?

I know you can’t decide for me, but perhaps you can help me determine how to decide between the feelings for or against. Thank you so much, if you have time to answer this.

– I hug you in your earnest efforts – really to be enlightened. The good heart you bring to it. The fullness. The deep desire.

First, I want to deeply express the awareness that you know deep in your bones what is right for you. Anything and everything I say is only to support or incite or bring to surface awareness of that Wisdom you contain on your own behalf. It is the best that can happen.

I hear, first: your longing to move to the rustic Hermitage. The heart pull. The yearning both to be there in the beauty, and to help with their work. And, the resistance to the same. The idea you have of the place is/was different than the reality you encountered. A community you weren’t expecting and with which you were not comfortable. The cold. The environment being less hospitable than it was in your imaginings.

I don’t know what is right for you. But, I do know that – for me – I stay most on track when I tell myself the truth of my experience as I’m having it. When the yearnings I feel have a component of imagining: “I would”, “It would” – meaning – a projected likelihood for something that in my mind’s eye would fulfill the yearning, I can go astray. Not because the yearning is off. But because the imagined solution may or may not be what I imagine it to be.

So, the seduction becomes either:
- To believe that which our mind has created will solve our longing
- Or give up on our longing, believing since our ideas keep leading us into disappointment, the longing itself must be at fault.

There is another way. To surrender into the experience of the moment means to also accept ourselves deeply and fully in our experience. In OUR experience – the reality we are personally, ourselves experiencing. This includes our yearnings. Our longings. It also includes the experience we are having when we are actually IN the situation we imagined would be “the solution” to that yearning.

Don’t shy away from these experiences too soon. Surrender more deeply INTO it. From the depth of the yearning cry out. There is a Divine who hears us. Of this I have become sure. When we live so deeply in our raw authenticity, the Universe DOES respond. It is only those voices in the head that decry the very essence of our heart’s yearnings that get in the way. Those voices that try to wrestle us into some sort of logical progression along the Spiritual Path. Spirituality of the Heart is more messy than that. It comes up in spews of Truth. Unasked for, in response to what is in front of us. To do. To respond to. To listen to. To answer.

So – listen to your heart in the middle of any experience you are having. That means, when sitting alone at home, feel deeply the raw edges of loneliness or yearning or whatever it is for you. And ask for that to be healed. To be filled. And wait. Wait. Turn towards yourself with full love. Full compassion. Full longing for the easing of this suffering. Full acceptance. Full acceptance.
That for which you have been longing fills you up in that waiting. It comes unbidden to those who are still long enough for it to get in through the cracks in the door. And then, when your body feels the impulse to move to the next thing, do so fully.

Wherever you are, there will be that which arises. When in the cold damp of the Hermitage, sit with the discomfort. We are led to that which is the appropriate response from being completely in the experience. And, sometimes that is a simple solution. A warm blanket. Or – a move to a warmer clime, because – really – this is what we need. Sort of like – hunger’s simple solution is to eat.

But, sometimes the solution is of a deeper sort. And the yearning of the Heart is of that deeper sort.
So, sit still longer with the yearning. NOT to make it go away. But, surrender to its pull. Welcome it. Invite it. Thank it for where it will lead you. And what it will lead to you – into your life, by its magnetic pull. It happens.

What begins to happen then is synchronicity. Of the sort that brings in more tangible effects of this. But, it doesn’t work to seek the tangible first. It just doesn’t. Because – it isn’t the tangible that is the answer to our yearning. Not ever. The tangible is just the wrapper the Universe devises to dress it up. Never get confused about this. The wrapper is not the gift. Carbon based forms fall away. The living, vibrant Center of Life – which we are – and which we yearn to touch, savor and know – this lives forever.

It is us. It is what we are looking for.

There is also this technique of boring down into the simplicities. Noticing. The yearning specifically for what? Peace. Serenity. Community. Loving the connection with a specific person. And move/act on those specific elements; without getting attached to a specific environment in which we think it will all be. Let the Universe step in more deeply. Most of all –notice that edge where you don’t trust that. That thought-place – that mistrust/distrust – is a mental conglomerate. A block. A solid spot that we all trip over when it comes in. And – usually – it’s that one big, deep area where we long the most. Where we fear the most. Where we most wish it would work out. That’s where the lack of trust trips us up. “Everywhere but HERE”, we think. “These principles work everywhere but here. This one is too big.”

It isn’t. It isn’t too big. This is the rock in front of the cave of enlightenment. That place where we argue that this – “THIS is where we can’t trust God. THIS is too big. HERE – we need to take over to figure it out.” We think we know this because of the immensity of our disappointment with what the Universe has given us in this particular region/issue/place.

Here – here is where the healing has to happen. And the healing always involves surrendering more deeply to the Life that is really in charge. It almost always includes forgiveness. Of every part of our life where that didn’t work out (how the longing got there). Of every person involved. And, most of all – of ourselves.

So much love to you – you are Blessed. You are a seeker of the Highest we can achieve in this lifetime --- the awareness of Life, Itself. Your Heart is Golden ~

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Aging Gracefully

I’ve been reflecting lately on decline. As in, of the body. This life on this planet, as it goes through its various transitions.

The inevitable contracting that must happen after we’ve done our full bloom. Noticing the resistance to this.

The other morning, I sank into a very sweet spot of surrender into the inevitability of this return to the Source. I had the sense of relaxing – so deeply. Just letting it come. Letting myself start to feel the ebb of this tide that I have known myself to be. Letting myself realize that it just may be that I have accomplished my greatest works. That I am on the decline.

And – it is O.K.

It’s also OK if more comes up for me to do. To accomplish. To share. It is likely whatever that is will be from a calmer, less frenetic pace these days. More likely that my sharing comes from the deep Inner Stillness that nourishes me in ever greater capacity as this beloved form that my body has been begins its decomposing process.

Eckhart Tolle speaks of the inevitability of the contraction after expansion in his book The New Earth. This is not exactly new news, but how many of us actually think it applies to us? I mean – our very own, one, single self? Declining. Coming back to roost – with less energy, less vitality, less vim. Our urges may still be there, but as so many old-timers are heard to say, “My get-up-and-go got up and went.”

NOW I know what they’re talking about! I get it.

And, amazingly – it is O.K.

I know I said that twice. That’s the other thing I’m noticing. I savor things more. Repetition is realized to not necessarily represent forgetfulness so much as letting things come around again. We don’t mind repeating and savoring and slowing down what we’re enjoying.

Steeping in the broth. Enjoying it all a little bit more a little bit longer.

It seems things are speeding up all around us; and although I’m pretty sure this is factually true, it is also true that we are slowing down.

That’s the joy of aging. I really do mean that.

It really is quite delicious – this savoring of this moment. No matter how long it has taken us to notice it.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Freedom of Mind

I’ve been reflecting on the number of people I’ve held hostage in my life. Mind you, most of them don’t know this. These are people who are busy living their own lives, completely unaware that the images of their selves are serving a dual function on the planet.

But they’re here, all right. Right here in my mind. In service to one or another mental complex in which they play key roles.

I came to this discovery the other day when I realized that when I feel good about myself, I almost always have somebody in my mind that I’m helping. Well, now. That means that there always has to be somebody who NEEDs something from me.

This, oddly enough, is also something I complain about a fair amount. “All these people who only want to relate to me if they know they can get something from me.”

Every mental gyration I get caught in has somebody else involved – in the fabric of my mind. When I am angry? There is always somebody in my mind who is on the receiving end. Fearful? It is of a person or situation. Always.

I’ve begun a practice which is enormously freeing.

Every time I catch myself in one of these mind traps – in which I am royally helping this that or the other person “because they need it”, I stop. I say to them, (which is really to myself) –– “You are free. You are free to live your own life, not in service to my mind or ideas.” I’ve been doing this practice with every single sort of emotional complex I can find. When my mind is stuck in an angry voice toward someone – “You’re free.” The fear in the belly when I’m thinking about such and such? “Go live your life. You don’t need to dwell in the cave of my mind any more.” Gone.

This is incredibly powerful. And I find I am getting lighter and lighter.

Who am I, really, to hold these people hostage to the maladaptive thought processes in which they play such a pivotal role? Who am I to make them objects – pawns – in such an insane bit of internal warfare? I notice that I’ve been buying acceptance on the backs of people needing me for an awfully long time. And that I need someone to be angry at – if I am to be angry. Someone or something to be afraid of – if I am to feel fear.

We all suffer in that mix.

If I want anybody to accept me for who I really am – I have to show up. As me. Pure and simple. Not as “just” the person carrying the basket with the goodies to make others feel good. Yes, I may have a basket. And I may gladly share. But at not at my own expense. I am here, too.

If I am to be free of the anger that poisons mainly me – I have to give permission to each and every person to be living their lives free of the role I’m trying to put them in. (This is not to be confused with becoming a Pollyanna, BTW. It, paradoxically, also frees ME up to choose wisely in regards to others’ habits. To be kind to me, too.)

It is really nice. Freeing. For me.

And I notice, amazingly, that when/as I do this, I ENJOY showing up for and with others – exactly where they are! Sometimes words are said that ARE helpful. But there is a bigger energy matrix feeding it all and us all. No need for a vertical axis between humans in this mix, because we are ALL nourished by the same stream. And words shared, advice given, the listening ear – all of it shares equally in the dharma of life.

I find that, in giving others permission to be in their lives as they see fit, I also have the freedom to be wise about what I need and with whom I feel the best. The most comfortable; the most supported; the most real, giving and genuine.

It is freeing. For all of us.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Aligning with Purpose

From a Dear Reader:

With regard to getting the job that is perfect for my Heart, I have never felt that I knew what that job would be. I've done many different things, and the only job that came close to my heart was my work at B. A friend says that I don't know who I am, and therefore, cannot acknowledge the skills/talents that I have that would help me to know what it is I want to do.

I am not even sure what field is right for me, even after the education and degree I received. I am very frustrated and sad that I have not been a person who has a passion for something and has been able to make a living doing it.

Thanks for any advice you can offer

~ This is a topic dear to my heart, and is something I’ve reflected on at length for myself. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

When I think in terms of just what response is appropriate for the moment in front of me I drop the confusion on this topic. I do the best possible with this – right in front of me to do. “Purpose” becomes to do the best we can – here – with deep and clarifying honesty. This leads us inevitably into the next thing to do – and often leads to greater things “to be done”. A job description evolves out of that. These jobs are ever so much more aligned with our True Purpose, which is contained deep within us and is not easily described in the world’s traditional terms. By the same token, we are more able to turn down apparent opportunities when they are NOT in alignment with this inner knowing.

The way this plays out for me is I find myself resonating with this person or that group – and interested in their situation – and responsive to their needs; and next thing I know I have a request-for-action. A job. And it is just right. Recently, (for example), I have given talks and workshops at several places to which I was invited. And the interconnections have led to an invitation to talk with administration at a lovely college where I sense I will fit; I am excited about the possibilities.

When I also attend to my inner sense of “Ugh” around a place, I DON’T go there. And it gets weeded out before I make a commitment I will then later need to get out of. An example was a recent plea to join a practice that just didn’t feel right. As I explored further, I realized “left brain reasons”, including a long commute and some history of discord that I would be exposed to.

Even when we feel in a hurry to define our “life purpose” and – for Pete’s sake – get a JOB – this technique works well.

There comes a time when our Purpose can no longer be defined as an external clean job description in the way of the world. We just don’t function that way anymore. We are more attuned to the Inner drives of compassion, service, being true to self and some Inner voice that surpasses the external definitions of things. Job descriptions may happen – but in a different sequence. Our “job descriptions” evolve out of the inner response we have to the situations Life presents to us.

This approach guides us more clearly than the purely left-brained approach. It is, though, really hard to describe to someone who DOESN’T have that guidance. So we get confused for a while. There is often an “in-between” time, when we lack confidence in this deeper urging as the voice that guides us. Eventually, we learn to trust ourselves and the deep inner voice to guide us. Moment by moment by moment -- then, at some point, we can look back and say “this is what I’m doing”. Synchronicity starts showing up in unmistakable ways as we surrender to this way of operating.

There are good ways to harness the power of the left brain in the service of Heart: since you felt aligned with Purpose – happy – at B – see what happens when you sink into the awareness of that feeling. Memorize how that felt. That’s what you’re looking for – not as an external “thing”, but a sense within yourself as you approach one possibility or another. It’s also possible to sink into the memory of that feeling and pull out – distill – discrete elements of the job that contributed to your sense of wellbeing. Write those down. And check for those elements (which matter to you) in any new opportunity that you notice.

You can also, in like fashion, sink into remembering what DIDN’T work – and memorize THAT feeling – for what to avoid, when you sense it in the pit of your stomach. And – see if you can distill discrete elements that contributed to THAT feeling. Avoid those when you see them.
This tactic keeps us from getting confused about making overarching statements about whole fields as “right” or “wrong” for us and keeps us vibrant in the field of possibility – noticing what could work because of the deeper elements that make our heart sing when we’re immersed in them. It actually broadens the field by redefining the parameters.

The trick is to keep the left brain in alignment with the Heart, instead of putting it in charge, as so many of us were taught to do. The only way, really, to know what is true to our Heart is to pay attention to the impact of this moment’s interaction. This is what guides us and keeps us on track. It seems less clean – less secure – until we relax into the trust that we DO have an Inner Guidance designed to help us. Even when our mind has convinced us “it knows” because it memorized some rule book. Written by somebody else --- for somebody else.

It is important to notice, by the way, what is true inside of you in the way of anxiety needing attention, too. So, to the extent that there is fear for survival – go to that place with FEAD: Face, Embrace, Allow Space, invite Divine Grace1. This is not to deny or “make go away” the need you may have. But, rather, to love the space that is feeling the anxiety. You can count on – the anxiety, itself is not helping the situation. By opening more fully into the SPACE that is inviting your attention, you become more sensitive and able to notice what you need to do in response to your need.

Synchronicity will begin to help you in amazing ways, and you will find yourself on the path designed for you – given THIS in your life right now. Every bit of “this”, including your personal situation.

1 http://www.maryanniyer.com/Resources/article_FEAD_It_Differently.pdf  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Envy and reality

An individual recently expressed envy to me about my circumstances in life. I’ve wondered about this, every time it occasionally happens, knowing the incredibly arduous path I’ve taken to achieve what I have. The difficult years and expense of medical school. The rigors of my chosen career. Never mind many personal travails that none of these folks know anything about.

But what fascinates me more about this whole thing is a recognition about envy, itself. What I see is that by focusing their energy on resenting me for what I have, those who fester in envy are looking away from their own possibilities. It is, in fact, a surefire technique for never getting what we want if we are caught in expressly noticing what we DON’T have.

I think about all the visualization and imagery techniques I’m familiar with. All of them, without exception, suggest the necessity of focusing on what we DO want – not on what we don’t want. I have a new wrinkle on this whole thing. I’ve noticed that if we focus on what we want with an air of dismissal – in whatever form – we set ourselves up for trouble. If there is a background drumbeat going on that accompanies a tune of “yeah, but –“ Yeah but ANYthing at all other than the purity of our intention, it buggers up the works.

It doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily get all and everything we say we want every single time. But, for sure we’ll be headed in the wrong direction if we have so many self-made obstacles to that trek that we’re shanghaied before we even get out the door!

I’ve done this on occasion, about this, that or the other. What I notice, though, is every single time I focus on the joy of whatever has arisen as a pure desire everything else becomes a nonissue. This is true whether the desire is to receive something or to give something and have it received. In fact, it is the latter category that has most often tripped me up.

But, I notice that if my focus is simply expressing myself as fully as possible, with the pure intention of doing so, I do OK. It is truly not for me to decide where or how far that which I offer goes. It is for me to give it. To show up. To offer what I can, in each moment and to each moment. And to open fully to that which is called forth from within me.

I notice that as I surrender to the joy of experiencing that which I say I want – as an act of pure love in its expression there are simply no issues about it! When I open to the purity of my desire to receive or have something, whether it is a “thing” or a state of mind, there is such clarity of path for its fulfillment. And when I open to expressing that which is in me to give, there is sheer joy in the act, itself.

Receiving and giving feel oddly like just breathing in and out when I do this. There is such sublime joy in the whole flow of this dynamic, I feel myself right on track again. More than anything, giving ourselves permission to live in the innocence of ourselves at this level unbuggers the stuck places.

We were meant for this – this breathing in and breathing out. This simple and pure receiving – and giving. Each of us. In the unique expression of Life that we are. Not to be replaced by any other person in HER pure expression of self. Each of us – enough.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fear of Change

My recent squaring off with the possibility of pending death brought the topic front and center. Many people assert that the fear of death is the greatest fear there is. I discovered that just isn’t true for me. The fears that really crimp me up are of a deeper sort. It may seem that it doesn’t get any deeper than death – but that isn’t my experience.

I notice in my own life, it is not physical death I’m most afraid of – but the possibility of some sort of torture just ahead. Something that is completely not of my choosing. What’s up there – around that bend I’m careening toward just might include some sort of pain I really, really don’t want. I glitch up the most when I feel completely out of control of where the boat is headed.

The greatest fear for many seems to be of change. Not just any old change, but specifically any change that really shakes things up in a way of major unknown consequences. Death figures right up there in this context as a major change-agent, of course. In a way, change does imply a death of sorts – to all things as we know them. And for many, the death of the body tops the list for the biggest change possible.

But, for some of us, death implies simply a change in form. And some of us don’t buy into the myth that the body is forever, so that particular facet of change doesn’t bother us so much. In fact, if we’ve hung out with really sick and ailing elders for a while, we may come to realize that death of the body is a deep blessing when it finally comes. There are other “deaths” – not necessarily of the body or physical form that are far more scary. There are forms of annihilation of the self that run deeper than dropping the physical form. For instance, if we feel of absolutely no value anymore, that is deeply painful. We – as living entities – may consider ourselves as surpassing and continuing on beyond the death of the body. But if we no longer find value in our very existence – in any shape – it is a terribly lonely proposition.

When we frame the conversation that way we open it up to realize the source of many sorts of suffering among us. We can understand the misery of those whose voices hold no weight – either because of gender, economics or age. Those who have “proven” themselves to have no worth by somebody’s strict dogmatic standards. Those of any minority in any place when the majority somehow consider themselves superior.

There is also, in today’s culture, some validity to the fear of getting old and dying – in the way it happens here. To enter the medical community as an old, sick person is often to lose any sense of dignity of self-propriety whatsoever. The worst part about my recent colon cancer mirage was the way the gastroenterologist who did the colonoscopy treated me. Like a brainless child who was meant to follow his orders. Not in the least interested in my experience or brainpower.

And that’s in spite of my being a trained physician. Who scored in the top 99.8 percentile in verbal reasoning in the MCATs!

There is a debilitation of self that occurs under these conditions that far surpasses the sloughing off of the carbon-based skin form we’re lugging around. To be treated, and start to think of ourselves as a sort of nonexistent ghost still stuck on the planet – with no worth or substance of worth – is misery.

Death, as I said, becomes a blessing. Get us out of here already.

There is a recent article in the Time magazine which describes the remarkable turnaround in returning soldiers with PTSD when they are placed in community service opportunities. One of the subtitles of the article is “We still need you”.

That says it all. My prayer for us each: As long as we are on the planet, may we know ourselves to be worthy of the space we occupy.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What is our responsibility?

From a beloved reader:
“I have no trouble loving and feeling compassion for and ONE with those who are victims or activists or even clue less where I get stuck is attempting to even think about sexually abusing and making sex slaves of little children/girls, raping, torturing, murdering WAR etc. If I am ONE with that too how do I sleep at night or even think about the horrible suffering being caused etc. ???”

Sometimes the heart of man gets confused.  Some reach out in violence in an attempt to connect.  They have become so angry, they lash out in venomous spite of their own hurt.

I’ve noticed that if I accept at base that there are those on the planet who, thrashing around in their own roiling pain inflict pain on others, it allows me a different space of understanding and possibility. When I fully realize that this, too, is present here, I open to what is possible for ME, in it all.   

We do not have to feel at one with such things to open our heart in compassion.  There is a deeper responsibility in matters of the heart than sentiments can possibly evoke.  The compassion of which we speak here is of stronger stuff than that.  Our responsibility in these things goes far beyond feelings.  When we get caught in the dynamic of that which is happening, we are lost in the suffering, itself.  When we, instead, drop into a deeper matrix – that space from which we have all originated before we began to get confused – we can find the sustenance we need to effect change that is more kind.

Our true responsibility is to attend to the sacred heart of kindness, which does not have sentiment as part of either its evocation or its delivery.  The responsibility of kindness is firm, steadfast and solid and ever looks within for the guidance and the strength to follow through on its path.

Maintaining our own intention to do no harm, and to allow for the healing possible to, for and through us in any given moment happens here – in this moment.  In this.  No matter what this “this” is.  And no matter how the pain of the moment is being expressed or inflicted.  Sometimes the compassionate expression of our heart in the moment of need is a forceful directive for change.  To love those who are hurting is not to condone or support hurtful behavior, but rather to seek the skillful means by which EACH person in that dynamic is set free from the knot of recurring pain.

Since the details of this dynamic will vary according to the circumstance, we remain open to approach each specific situation simply with this intention:  that we be available to the action needed in THIS moment for what we find – here.  Reconfiguring what compassion looks like (or feels like) gives us greater bandwidth to do what is really needed.  Skillful means sometimes looks harsh on the outside; but if our intention remains clear to reduce suffering; to do no harm, we will be cutting away the chaff not the heart of that which needs attention.

So, the point of all this is to focus less on feeling at one with a hurtful dynamic, and to utter the prayer of “what is needed here?” when we meet it.  Then, to act courageously in the way to which we are called.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Change from Peace (2)

Many of the people with whom I closely associate perceive that the world is in a heap of trouble. It seems the status quo is on a collision course with its own unsustainable future. The current trajectory includes an economic system based on infinite growth and a population boom that won’t stop expanding. Earth is a finite object, and it is where we live. Greed, avarice, financial-only based value systems – all of it – contribute to a malfeasant “bottom-line”.

We all – my friends and I – agree that to live simply, conserve, waste not, and consume little are good things to do. We share a belief in focusing on friendships, not malls, as where we gain sustenance in our lives.

But then, there is a divergence of attitudes. Some argue that “if you’re not afraid, you obviously don’t get the magnitude of the problem”; while others maintain that a fear-based response to the problems at hand is likely to keep the dilemma going.

Since I am of the latter group, it is easiest for me to speak from and about this viewpoint. I notice that fear often leads to attack, which is part of the problematic dynamic in the first place. Recognizing a situation of the magnitude of the one facing us can also be an invitation to dig down deeper into our own psyches to collectively find a different way to go about doing things. Making decisions from a space of peace, with actions designed as kindness to all involved would be a distinctly different way of going about things. Peace as a format really does require each of us, individually, to find that place-of-peace in our own souls. Otherwise it is simply lip-service – which sounds rather like the basis for thinking that got us into this mess.

Being deeply authentic and sincere in the actions of peace can only come about when – we are peaceful. And that, it turns out, is (or can be) hard work. It requires being honest with ourselves about our own fear, loathing, hatred and condemnation and facing these places squarely inside ourselves.

The goal, here, is peace as our operating principle. Because this will most likely support acts of kindness that accommodate the wellbeing of others as well as ourselves. This dynamic can only start from within each of us as an operative space. That means that we allow any fear or anger we feel about a situation to lead us into the place where we tell the truth in a way that deeply intends no harm – to self or the other. This is the collective difference we most need to make. The recognition that to do harm to any other by acts that originate from greed, fear or anger ultimately harms the soil on which we stand.

Live. And die.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

All things pass

I’ve had lots of opportunity in recent months to reflect on my relationship with instability. Our move across the country was punctuated by a robbery in Selma, CA, a car accident in Santa Rosa, NM and a severe migraine that left me five pounds lighter by the time we arrived on the East Coast. It was a transformative trip. Since then, the challenges of finding a house and the recent scare of colon cancer (that turned out to be an adenoma, not cancer) have driven home the awareness of our fragility and the temporary nature of all things.

In all of this, the background cadence of “this, too, will pass” has been a soothing drum-beat. At no time has it felt like there was a “mistake”, or an omen of a wrong turn or punishment for some things not done “right”. And, through each event, a goodness ensued. Beyond the obvious relief I felt from the pathology report being noncancerous is the joy I feel in knowing without a doubt that I am so unafraid of death. Only by staring it in the face for a few days as a real near-term possibility could I have arrived at the solidity of this knowing.

The loss of the many things on our trip across country left us even more aware of what matters to us – and grateful for what we do have. The difficulty finding a home served to both strengthen my resolve to not sell myself short under the pressure of compromise, and introduced us to a fantastic builder with whom we can actually create what we want.

I notice that any given circumstance can open to greater awareness, rather than feel like oppression that just won’t stop. Often in my professional life I have met individuals who seem to prefer maintaining their status quo, miserable though it is, over making the changes necessary to create true and lasting peace for themselves. On some level, our gut knows full well when the habits, relationships or situations we are in are hurtful. We know when we hurt. In an odd, paradoxical way, this is sometimes part of the attraction. Why is that?

There is no simple answer to this. But it may be helpful to consider a few thoughts. If we look closely, we see that there are sometimes hidden, presumed benefits from our pain and struggle. Being seen as a victim has a lot of bennies associated with it. For one, we get attention. For some this may be the only way they know to establish their worth in the world. Overcoming the victim stance requires great strength and courage because it has to be one of the most ennobled positions in the world. Victimhood is sinuously close to martyrdom, a revered state in many cultures. The trouble is, to keep getting the benefits associated with being a victim, we have to keep reinventing the drama of it – and experiencing the dastardly consequences.

There are indeed sometimes difficult circumstances in the world we must face. It is the way of this planet for all events and situations to come and go. Some are painful in their occurrence; some in their passing. How we frame these events in the matrix of our own psyche depends in large part on our acceptance of our experience as we have it. So long as we explain the passing events of our time as “our fault” or “punishment” or some other judgment–based picture, we will suffer an added blow to the original experience. Again and again, until we see it differently.

When we realize deeply that the ways of this world are in constant flux and that our experiences are potential openings to greater self-awareness, understanding, depth and acceptance, all these plays of our lives take on a different meaning. We learn to be curious about the event, and open to our experience. We learn to love ourselves in it all, and embrace ever again the possibility of deepening contact with that most precious ongoingness of life, Itself. Underneath all this is the fluid self-acceptance we can find by knowing that we, too, are temporary on this earth. We matter as we are – right now.

Noticing that all things – for better or for worse – are temporary phenomena is powerful medicine for overcoming resentment. Living in gratitude for the moments we do have – as we have them – is a payoff that beats victimhood hands down.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


I recently had a conversation with a lovely woman (J.) * about manifestation. She wondered how it was that, with all her dedication to the spiritual path, she was unable to meet the basics of life. A good income, bills readily and easily paid, a nice place to live. Worry over survival lurked in the background of life. How could this be, when she had spent so much time and effort for so long on the path of clearing the inner demons from her soul?

I hear this particular story often. As J. pointed out, there is a fallacy amongst the spiritual that to be holy, one must be poor. An oath of poverty lurks in the background as an expectation. This is reinforced by the attitude of many that if a person is on spiritual path, they should not expect payment for their services – no matter how skilled they are or how useful that which is given.

It's a fine line, I think. Between, as the Buddhists recommend, not having desires that get in the way of our happiness and, on the other hand, being completely honest with ourselves about what our desires and longings actually are. The answer is contained within this seeming paradox. I notice that as we stay honest with ourselves about what's up for us, desires fall away on their own as deeper issues are resolved. Sometimes these desires get met in the basic ways that are needed, sometimes we gain insights that make the original desires seem obsolete. But, going after the desires, themselves, as a bad thing to “get rid of” misses the point.

The demons that most need to be healed are those needing the compassion of acceptance within ourselves. Only then are we led into paths of self nurturance. When we accept what we find we are best able to fully take care of ourselves and that which we are called upon to do. This kind of self-honesty leads us to take care of what is necessary in the outer world. By attending to the inner spaces with kindness, we find a reservoir of strength to do all we are called upon to do. If we try to convey an image that is not true or congruent with the depths of our own soul or psyche, we lead ourselves astray. Often, ironically, staying honest with ourselves in the areas where we have fears and/or anxieties becomes more challenging as we traverse the spiritual path. We KNOW we've tried so hard - have had such good intentions -- why, then, is there still this and this and this we are dealing with?

But, indeed, when we gaze into our soul, above all else we need to be honest. To embark on the spiritual path is to open to ever greater levels of truth. When we rush too soon to meet/fit an image of holiness we are striving to embody, we may miss the most important elements of true self-evaluation which we are being called upon to do. This means we don’t try to be peaceful, calm, or free of desires. We look to see honestly what is encumbering ourselves from the freedom of joy. Becoming ever more honest about the anxiety we feel about our very own survival is part and parcel of this path. If what we find is fear of survival, or unhappiness over how we are being taken for granted or undervalued or any such thing, this is exactly where we dwell within ourselves. With kindness, compassion and great generosity of spirit for that which we have found.

If our mind is still muddied with fear, it does no good to deny it for the sake of image. To motor over fear (or whatever) is to deny a fact of our experience. Inevitably, as the fear space is healed, the necessary desires are fulfilled and the concomitant unnecessary desires and cravings dissipate. These are not things we extinguish by mentally convincing ourselves we shouldn’t have them. To say that desires are the source of our suffering is not to say to go after them with a pickaxe to eliminate them from our psyche. That is actually a form of aversion – the counter and equal force of craving – both associated with suffering.

Above all else, noticing the edges of our own anxiety is most helpful. Anxiety is often such a subtle, deep, penetrating layer of ourselves we don't even recognize it. It just -- IS. And so, to turn to see that shadow requires an adroit self-examining. To notice the pervasive anxiety that actually drives so much of what we do and strive for. To sit in the middle of THAT --- this is to open into such freedom. To stay still in the middle of the sensation of anxiety, itself. To only love ourselves there. To stay compassionate with this yet one more thing, until we stop struggling against HAVING yet one more thing.

Focus on treating each thing you find with compassion. With love and attention and a willingness to see what adventure this desire may be calling you into. Be gracious with this most precious life you have been given to tend. When we live with compassion, all aversive emotions dissipate of their own. In our depths we ARE peace. We ARE love. And this is what we find as all the arguments against that dissipate.

*There were several individuals within a three day period who had this or very similar situation to share with me! This is an amalgamation of these events.

Note to my readers: those of you who follow this blog will wonder the outcome of my May 22nd post. I am happy to report that an adenoma was removed and found to be not cancerous. Thank you for your caring.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gratitude as an Opening

I’ve been noticing, lately, how feeling grateful fills me up with so much energy. And – how very little it takes to engender this feeling. More of an awareness, really – of how temporary every painful thing is. How the nuances and vagaries of life really do come and go. And under it all is this deep, abiding sense of peace. Which then stirs an awareness of how very much I do have. And how very easy my life is, overall.

For this I am grateful.

When we feel grateful, it enlivens our cells with happiness. This energy is warmth in and of itself. It is self generated, without any prerequisite other than the focus of our own minds. Simply by noticing a thing – and it can be anything – about or for which we feel grateful, we are filled with a gladness of spirit.

When we are fully in this dynamic, we become aware that we hold the power to generate enormous energy for ourselves. Though gratitude often has an object of focus, it turns out to be actually independent of anything outside ourselves. It is entirely dependent only on where we place our minds – our consciousness. So its dependency is actually only internal. This is a very powerful statement to make – and an important realization to have.

When we become aware – truly – of our own capacity to generate such emotion or strong feeling, we begin to loosen the bonds of dependency on things needing to be a certain way in order for us to feel happiness. There is a profound paradox in this – in that those who feel dependent on outer circumstances to dictate their happiness are often the most miserable even when they seem to have the most. This attitude is also self generating, in that if we notice anything that is awry relative to our conditions of happiness, we carry on about it in a negative vein.

Does this mean we can never make change in our circumstances? Quite the opposite is true. When we greet what is in front of us with openhearted gladness, we are strengthened to deal with it in exactly the sort of gracious way that will most likely bring about healthy and necessary change. Our situation (again, paradoxically) often becomes exactly that which anybody might identify as “more perfect”. I’ve noticed, personally, that my decision-making capacity is enlivened, strengthened and made more true when I am in a happy state of mind.

But really, what is more important, we are happy no matter what the circumstance. There is such deep authenticity in this that there is no situation that can throw us off the mark. We live in the awareness that under it all – this and this and this – we are deeper than the circumstance at hand. When we remember our depth – IN this and this and this – there is such automatic joy, peace and happiness.

And, for this, we are grateful.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dying - or not

Life has a way of surprising us. Most of us are striving to be the best we can, given the circumstances of our beliefs, birth and current living situation. But then there is a curve ball that changes all the rules we’ve been living by.

Or tests them.

I’ve recently discovered the blood I’ve been noticing in the toilet every morning is really not a figment of my imagination. Moving from frank denial to concerned ignoring to finally getting a test to confirm what I full well knew was there, I’ve put myself straight in the line of needing to get a colonoscopy for next steps of evaluation. Being a doctor does no good in the department of soothing one’s nerves over such things.

But my spiritual practice has risen to the front and center in a whole new powerful way. I’ve done a lot of self-examining in the past little bit. And discovered – really – I’m not afraid of dying. Not to say this is an inevitable outcome here – but, really, it will be – some day. And events such as this bring this fact right to the fore of existential awareness.

I am afraid, though. Of the events that may ensue in the name of medical care. As a physician, I know well the laundry list of possibilities that await me on the other side of that colonoscopy. The sitting down to discuss ---- what. And I know full well the recommended procedures and medical treatment for each of these possibilities. Many of the options are not pleasant.

Here we run into difficulty. There just isn’t much in our culture that supports an attitude or stance of NOT doing whatever we can to prolong life at any cost. We, as a culture, are so durned afraid of death we would choose the prolongation of suffering in the decaying form over just letting it go already.

I have a problem with this. I’m not sure just how unusual I am. But I definitely know I’d rather just pass peacefully into that next night of the soul – which I so fully trust opens up again into a different sort of day – than to prolong the agony of being stuck in a form which is trying to die already. The body. It’s so, so temporary. Why, in heavens name would we try to hang onto it beyond its useful time?

I’m fully aware most won’t agree with me on this. And that when that time comes –whenever it is – I’ll likely have a fight on my hands just to be allowed to die peacefully. But I don’t want the torture of being forced to stay alive under conditions in which the body is on a natural trajectory of dying. I am so clear about this. And I know it is likely there will be a difference of opinion about what “the inevitability of death” really is. I don't know what circumstance may prompt ME to choose the route of no intervention.

So here is the real edge of my personal spiritual practice. Because to have and live in anxiety about ANY facet of life/living/dying is to suffer. For me, to look squarely into the fear of being kept alive under conditions that I theoretically don’t want is where I must go. To see it – embrace it as a possibility – and cross THAT bridge when it comes. In this day’s tendencies, it is almost as inevitable as death, and given what I know, it is more odious. So it is clearly where my work lies. To accept even this. The possibility of standing by as I watch my form deteriorate in slow motion. I may not get the luxury of dying quickly. The liberty. I feel so ready and willing to be called back Home. I just don’t necessarily like the trip getting there. And so there – there is where I find a fight going on. A disagreement with reality. This is not to say we don’t express preferences and act on them. But when the chips are down, and we see what really IS happening – this is what we deal with.

What I notice is that, in this process, I feel ever so much more aligned with Purpose. So much more willing to embrace and accept WHATEVER the Divine has in store for me. How do I know, in advance, what it is I may be called upon to do? Or where? So, this, too, is part of the curriculum. The game plan.

It opens up a whole different world of possibility to know that the WAY we die is also part of the practice. Watching, seeing, embracing, opening to what this – and this – and this is for us. To accept self here. Right here where we are.

No matter what – in the end – that is.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Tibetan Dzogchen master Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche describes the shock he experienced when he first came to the United States. Again and again, he heard a strange mantra: “I’m busy.” He came to realize that to say “I’m not busy” would be construed to mean there was something wrong. Something abnormal.

This rings true with my experience. When I resigned the Medical Director position of the Integrative Medicine program I developed in Corvallis, OR, I went through a prolonged period of distinct discomfort. Not because I had relinquished my role or responsibilities, but because there was no longer a succinct answer to the perpetual question of “what do you do?” Linking our identities to our functions is such a pervasive thing that the accompanying busyness associated has become a requisite to being defined as having value at all.

To “do nothing” is to BE nothing. A bum. A free-loader. A --- nothing.

Or so we think.

What if we unhinge that particular sequence, just for the folly of exploration? What if – just what if – we can BE, first? Just be. Try it now. See what happens. Notice your breathing, sensations, thoughts, feelings – all arising and then passing away. Notice the spaciousness within which all this happens. How peaceful, immense and grand it is.

What I‘ve noticed is that doing also arises from this spaciousness. Like every breath in inevitably leads to a breath out. Or vice versa. But the doing that arises from sequencing the dynamic in this way is ever so much more comfortable. Truer to self. Congruent with my inner state of happiness.

Lest you get the squeamies from the idea that you’ll never be functional again, I assure you that exactly the opposite is true. It’s even possible to accept a long-term job commitment under these conditions. But we won’t be confused, thinking that the ensuing busy-ness of our work is what defines our value. And, because the principles of a place chosen from inner awareness are more likely to be aligned with our values, it will not feel like a death sentence to our soul. It is possible to be settled with activities that are a cheerful alternative to mind-numbing, soul scorching work, if we choose from the inner state of peace and “yes” in the first place.

It’s taken me a few years to be comfortable with this. But I can honestly say that by focusing on my inner state as the central issue most needing attention, I’ve found such creative ideas of what to “do” with my time. I lOVE the experience of sharing from the heart. Whether that is to share my goods with a person who needs them, or my time for a cause. Whether to accept a position aligned with my values in a principled place, or to spend a weekend in silent meditation. The variability to the actions of my days still leaves me in a quandary as to how to answer the question: “What do you do?”, but I find myself more in tune with a river of peace by following this path in life.

We tend to choose our commitments more wisely when we rest first in the abiding peace of Being.
As we’ve so often heard: “Seek ye first the kingdom within”. Indeed, all things ARE aligned with that state when we do. Being in peace ensures that we peacefully respond to each situation that is best geared for the need of that moment, because we are not locked into a preformed idea of “who we are” as an external function. If we are busy, it is of this moment, and there may well be equally comfortable moments when we can say, with clear conscience: “I’m enjoying not being busy right now. And you?”

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Trusting Ourselves

I had a lovely conversation with a friend recently about “why things happen”. We agreed there is the possibility that things are just random. Stuff happens – and it is our lot to sort out how we’ll respond, given this or that in our lives.

I lean toward thinking that we may have something to do with our lot in life, though. Not in the pejorative way that many of us were taught to believe; ie: roiling with guilt about what we did wrong to bring this craziness into our lives. But rather, that there is a natural trajectory to the things we think, say and do. There are consequences of the sort that to push a ball in one direction is to increase the likelihood it will move in that said direction. There are other parameters to deal with. The slope of the land. Whether the ball is full of air and so on. But still – our action has an influence.

And so it is in our lives – any given tendency toward which we lean is likely to reap some sort of benefit, for better or for worse.

The secret for many of us, laden as we are by the aforementioned guilt, is to unhinge from the self-splattering we can get into in response to the circumstances of our lives. The same lines of reasoning would inform us that to beat ourselves up is to provoke another whole set of circumstances in which we are the victims of our own brutality. And, I notice, that is what often happens.

In our good-hearted search for the lesson to be learned in the conundrums of our lives, we tend to cast blame. “Why did this happen?” is often construed to mean “What did I (or you) do wrong to get this mess?” To dig deeper in the undoing of the maladaptive messages of our own mind is to question that premise at its base. Forget that sort of figuring out.

Ask, instead, “Given this (and this and this), what is the best/kindest/gentlest response I can come up with here?” What I find is that if there is some awakening to be had in terms of that which I may have done to provoke any given situation, it will most likely be revealed in a useful manner under these conditions. A gentle environment in which to come to revelation.

Let that be our goal, then: to be safe enough with our own selves that we dare to reveal that which we most need to see. Plenty will come out of hiding fast enough when we do this. Because we have proven ourselves to be trustworthy where it matters the most: to our very own selves.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


I’ve been in quite a process. Since moving to North Carolina, my husband and I have been on a continual hunt for our new home. Not “new” necessarily, but new to us. We imagine it being the place where we settle in for the long haul and grow old together. The place where every tree we plant will bear fruit within the season of the rest of our lives.

So, we’re being careful about where we plant ourselves and these said trees. And we’re having a hard time. It seems that every beautiful place we see has an HOA with restrictions so tight they make our neck veins bulge. One so-called green development with all the right upfront standards forbids any fruits or vegetables on the grounds that the neighbors (who are apparently into a “lifestyle” that includes no implied work) might find them offensive.

Another lovely development has a list of “preapproved plants” a new inhabitant in their restricted, elite neighborhood is allowed to plant.

Well, all of this feels like a big fat oppressive thumb on my creative, puttering soul. When I look out the window and see a potential hibiscus plant blooming in the lovely breeze inviting local hummingbirds to feast right outside my kitchen window, I don’t want to have to go through a committee to get approval before I can break ground.

What I’ve realized is that, like my lovely realtor who is becoming a fast friend keeps saying, this is a process. And more importantly, I’ve realized that I don’t WANT it to be a "process”. I want it to be over already. Decided. Settled. I want to be settled. In our new home – just right and just so. Well, but life IS a process. And this is yet one more glaring example of how that is so.

One also never knows upfront what “The Process” really means. How that will play out. To what conclusion. To my astonishment, I’ve realized the process so far has led me right back to my original assertions of what I want. I am learning that to stay true to self I need to be firm in the face of resistance by others who have their ideas about what might be right for me. So – the process is a deeply internal affair. Of setting my INSIDE home straight. Of staying true to Self, and holding on until the outer matches what I most deeply care about.

As I wrap around this realization and settle in for the long haul – of the process – I realize I get so much calmer. More sane. Less frenzied and in a hurry. I’m seeing that to stay true to the deepest principle one can find inside of one’s own soul is how one stays on track. And, then, maintaining a ton of flexibility in how the details play themselves out around that. Until the whole reflects that truing mark. Sometimes in a creatively new way – but still remaining true to an internal set of deeply held values.

I’ve been amazed to see how much resistance I’ve had to letting this –or anything, really, in my life – be a process. I want to be arrived. Spiritual. Wise. And settled in my new home already.

But, this life, like that blooming hibiscus that arose in my mind’s eye, is a continually changing, ever-growing, versatile, flexible, ever-evolving – process. Having seen this, I’m smiling with the kick I can get out of it.

This. The process.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Original Sin

It was a shock to discover my mother disliked me. I had blamed myself for all our mutual shortcomings from the beginning of time as I knew it. Of course. It was what she taught me was true.

When my mother had her stroke, I was the one who took care of her, mending her as best I could – both as a dutiful daughter and as her physician. It was all I could do to hold myself together – in pieces sewn in the fabric of “never-good-enough”. My efforts to teach her to talk, with the help of the best therapists I knew of, were in vain. It wasn’t until much later that I realized it was her effort lacking. Not mine.

How does this happen? This tendency, especially in women, to denigrate their very own being – and then to pass it on? I think of the Original sin as that time when we first turned against ourselves. When we began to believe – in some part of our psyche – that we were not O.K. When we, in effect, turned against ourselves and therefore against that life we represent.

This begins a war with ourselves that is long-ranging. Brother against brother (Cain and Abel). Mother against daughter. And, most especially, against our selves. We have found fault, because the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” represents our capacity to judge. To decide, in our minds, that some things are good and some bad (“evil”). Ever since that fateful day – and what did that really represent? – we have been in trouble within ourselves. Suffering.

Because the things we judge most represent our very own selves. We decide upfront, based on some external standard, what parts of us are “good” and which “bad”, and then turn against ourselves for those things we wish were not true about us. We designate part of us as off-limits. Unacceptable. Repugnant. To be eliminated. And the flagellation we endure in the name of this judgment can be harsh, indeed.

Many of the so-called self improvement programs on which we embark are really studies in self-punishment. Continually trying to rid ourselves of one thing or another. One characteristic or another. Trying to “better ourselves”.

Buddhist psychology describes this is another way; we crave or hate. The dual functions of wanting what we don’t have and not wanting what we do show up in every religion as the bane of our existence. The cause of all suffering.

When my mother died, I was with her. Rocking her, as her breath became more labored and she could no longer resist. I reminded her: “Right here, God loves you. The Angels are holding you. You did nothing wrong. You are innocent.” She finally began to lighten in the last hour, tears streaming down her face (and mine). As I felt her relax in my arms, I felt a huge chunk of resistance to letting myself be loved melt away, too.

The flash of her exit was also a flash of recognition for me. I know – absolutely know - that coming to a place of self-acceptance is the road back home. It may be arduous getting there, but is instantly easier when that first step is taken. I am also certain that it is not me that my mother hated, but the lot in life in general that she found herself conscripted to. I was but a bit player in that schema.

Amazingly, accepting her more deeply has also expanded my heart in acceptance of myself. Firmly and surely, I know that I am my mother’s daughter. And that is a real fine thing to be.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Being heard is one of the things we most want. It seems though, perhaps because most of us are more eager to be listened TO than to actually listen, we don’t do a very good job at it. Our craving is that big. It is not unusual in relationships for one or both persons to feel “not heard”. This may represent a failure at any of several levels. Beyond just not listening at all, one finds:

- Shallow listening: hearing at the basic level what was just said. The information may or may not be actually retained because, although the words were heard, it may not have “sunk in”. This is often associated with multi-tasking or having one’s attention elsewhere, whether on a project or one’s own thinking.
- Actually hearing what is said. The concepts sink in. If questioned half an hour later, we may remember what was said. Not much reflection happens, but we did hear what was said.
- Absorbing the deeper meaning. “Getting it.” Knowing what the spoken word means in translation into daily behavior and action. Feeling and understanding the consequences and ramification of the message delivered.
- Deep listening. Actually feeling/sensing the person speaking in their emotional tones and nuances as well as the blatant message they are delivering. Not just got their message – but got them. Understood them.
- Active listening. Deep listening with the added bonus of letting the person who is speaking know you “got them”. Giving feedback to the speaker re: both their message and the undercurrents you notice in their tone of voice. Expressing reasonable empathy to both the message and their tone. Asking for confirmation of understanding – both the message and the emotion you might be presuming to be present. If you’re really good at this, you even go so far as to affirm their sanity in re: to their reality. This is the most fulfilling thing we can do for another person. It shows respect, deep regard, caring – and is what many of us are craving in our lives.

I’ve noticed that couples who are close and feel bonded do make the extra effort to be attentive to one another in the nuances of language. And for those who are committed to this process, it doesn’t seem to be difficult. There is a naturalness to it that comes from and evolves out of a deep caring and sense of goodwill for the other. When we care, we make the effort to understand.

Going through each of the layers of listening with an eye to improvement, I offer the following. If you tend to hang out at:

- Shallow listening: take the time to ask yourself, when your partner begins to talk with you, do you actually want to listen to her/him at this moment? Is the project or thought that you are currently involved in more important to you right now? If so, say so. And let her/him know when you can truly listen. This is key. When that time comes, follow through with respect and intention to hear what the other has to say.

- Superficially hearing what is said: see if you can build in a little pause after hearing what the other person has said. Feel the sensation of the MEANING of the words actually sinking in. Are there ramifications for you in the message? Is there a request for behavior that you need to address? Do you notice a “tone of voice” that implies an emotion?

- Absorbing the deeper meaning: Kudos to you for respecting your partner enough to pay attention to her/his messages. You understand the gist and can reflect on its impact on you. Be sure to give feedback as to your understanding, and whether you agree or not. Not as an argument, but as a reality check for where YOU are. To carry this deeper, ask yourself what emotion seems to be at play here, as well.

- Deep listening: Wow, are your partner and friends lucky to have you in their lives! To be understood by another who takes the time to deeply listen is one of the greatest gifts of humankind. Be sure to let her/him know what you heard/understood. Using language that reflects not only the content of the message, but noting the undertones of emotion transforms your wonderful ability into the crème de la crème of communication.

- Active listening: It doesn’t get better. One thing to keep in mind is, in regards to emotional over or undertones, be sure to frame your comments as a “reality check”. Something like: “I notice our shoulders are slumped when you say that, and I wonder if you’re feeling depressed?” Not: “I see you are depressed.” In the realm of emotions, the tendency to form our own opinions of another’s inner reality is rife for conflict. Whereas, if we demonstrate an ability to notice, and maintain curiosity about what is true for the other person, it opens the door to more true communication. It may be, for instance, in the example given, that your partner is just really tired. But, given the opportunity to express that may be a relief!

Good communication is at the center of good relationships. No matter how deep our intimacy may be with another, when we have the sense of being heard and understood, it forms bonds of a nature designed to foster even more goodwill. Deep and active listening are the centerpieces of this central feature of good relations, and if employed on a more consistent basis, would resolve – or even better avoid – conflicts of a wide variety.

Try it: active listening. It’s good for the heart, the soul and all your relations.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


There is some confusion, I think, about the definition of “ego”. Psychology, as a field, has stressed for some time the need to develop a strong ego – a sense of self identification – as a major component for a healthy psyche. The ability to define self as separate from others is seen as essential to keep from falling into abusive or otherwise unhealthy relationships in which our ability to make healthy choices for ourselves is deficient.

In apparent contrast, spiritual circles of all stripes tend to urge their followers to reduce the demands of ego, to think of others before oneself, or even instead of oneself.

How to sort all of this out?

I’ve come to see the topic of “ego” as less important than the awareness of how one sees oneself in relation to others and the world. This may be more a topic of self image, as it were. If we embrace the notion that we are all interconnected with one another and with a common origin of Life Itself (by whatever name we call it), we glimpse the truest meaning of being free of ego. Meaning, we realize that no action or thought we have is devoid of impact of/on the whole, because we are never really separate.

Having said that, we do have some square inches of territory we call the “self” over which we seem to have some unique control and choice. This, by definition, we could call “ego”. That sense of ourselves as separate enough from the whole that we can exert some choice and direction.

Herein we begin to run into the arena of how we deal with this “self-who-is-separate”. Do we berate her? Support her? Make healthy or unhealthy choices for her? And, all these decision points seem to revolve around those aforementioned messages we’ve absorbed about “self” in the first place.

To the extent that we extend kindness, compassion and gentle regard for the one we call self, we give ourselves a chance to succeed in a good way on this planet, Earth. If, instead, we feel it our obligation to “keep ourselves in line”, to punish ourselves for every little perceived transgression (as defined, usually, by some outside authority), we will be running scared and deficient from every opportunity as victims of our own minds. We are often taught to do this in the name of helping us be “better” people.

When we think about it, it is a form of hypocrisy to treat others better than we treat ourselves. It is just as odious as thinking of ourselves as the ONLY ones who matter. If we, in contrasting notion, think of ourselves as the only one who doesn’t matter – we’ve committed the same “crime” against humanity.

What one person can we consider as “less than” in our regard for health and wellbeing? If we make our one being that exception, we have still harmed a part of life.