This morning, Quanita Roberson, a dear friend and colleague, and I were reflecting together, as we do. We had just completed hosting and gathering the three previous days together with a delightful group of people willing to be in deep learning together. “QT” is our creation. It’s two days spread over three of dialogue, questions, rituals, stories, and play.

Quanita’s and my reflection turned to the topic of doorways, and in particular, how there are so many doorways in to a kind of learning and experience that people are ravenously hungry to have. Starved. “There is no shortage,” we recalled together, knowing that a primary pattern in QT is to work with the symbol in front of us to invite an essential wondering and wandering together. A snippet from a dream, great. An object that people had brought with them, awesome. Any of the many artifacts in my home, perfect. They all come with a story.

It’s not content that is missing for most of us as we attempt to be good and resourceful human beings together. There are many, valuable entry points. What is missing, often, is the awareness that all of the content is connected and provides a generous invitation to start. It’s the most basic premise and simple structure that opens the doorways wide to get to the content. The premise — that we are coded to be curious together (it’s just often programmed out of us). The structure — of some simple listening and witnessing together, much of what I have learned through practicing The Circle Way.

Towards the beginning of this QT gathering, I had named out loud, “that we don’t have to accomplish anything while together, nor did we have to produce anything.” I said is slowly, almost one word at a time. It’s funny how relieving this can be, and, how, ironically, it makes many of us almost unavoidably available for the kind of accomplishment and product that most teams and groups of people would die for.

But doorways are what Quanita and I reflected on. And then she shared this poem, “Abre La Puerta, Open the Door” by American poet, author, Jungian specialist, and spoken word artist, Clarissa Pinkola-Estes. Enjoy this one.

Abre La Puerta
Clarissa Pinkola-Estes

“She’s 12 years old, — going on 20-to-life.
She is God at 5 feet tall.
But, abre la puerta,
open the door and let her in.
Give her food.

“Old Florencia lives in the parking garage
at the university, with her bags and packs
on the floor all around.
She washes her 84-year-old body in the sink at the library,
with a piece of flannel from her deceased husband’s pajamas.
Abre la puerta, she is God.
Florencia is God, the God named Florencia.

“Remember that old abuelita,
your grandest grandmother?
how she staggered toward you
on legs so thin? You were just a baby then.
And she smiled all over your infant self,
as you rose young and steaming from the void.
That was God in her abuelita form
crying with joy just to see you.
“Que, que, que, bebebebita!” says the grandmother God.
“Look,” she says, “I opened a door in my belly for your mother.
¡Miré! ¡Look! your mother opened a door in her belly for you.”
Ah, this grandmother, you can see God through her.
God is a grandmother.

“Remember that red room where you grew?
That was God.
Remember the warm hands that received you?
That was God.
Remember your father’s hands holding your face
As though it were a jewel?
In that moment, God shone through.

“Maria Martinez tells me she dreams of chickens made larger
when she cannot find shelter.
She licks her hands, “and they taste good,” she says.
She is God.
God is homeless, yet she has hope.
Abre la puerta, let her in.

“Your mate who snores, well, maybe God snores.
Your mate is God who can never find his socks.
Your lover who burns for things you cannot give,
your mate is God.
God is a housewife in mud-face and curlers
standing at the door in a housecoat
waving good-bye.
God wears a housecoat once in a while.

“Oh world who is young, and has loved so deeply,
and been so betrayed,
whose skin hangs like rags,
whose arms have no muscle,
whose eyes have lost luster —
Open the door of your heartache,
step through the door of your betrayal,
pass through the hole in your heart,
Pass through!
It is a door.
¡Abre la puerta!
Open the door…

“Oh the world is a thing whose lover disappoints,
who is tired of the news that is no news,
who toils for silly people doing silly things.
Pass through the eye of the needle that shreds your skin.
¡Abre la puerta! it is a door.
Your only hope — step through the break in your own broken heart.
¡Abre la puerta! open the door.

“Do you remember that your legs are el anillo,
the ring that circles your lover?
Your legs make a door.
Pass through the door.
¡Abre la puerta! pass the bolt through.
Open the door, the most sacred of doors,
the trail through your belly
The road up your spine.

“Remember, fire is a door.
Destruction is a door.
Song is a door.
A scar is a door.
¡Abre la puerta! Open the door!

“The forest on fire is a door.
The ocean ruined is a door.
Anything that needs us,
or calls us to God
is a door.
¡Abre la puerta!
Open the door.
Anything that hurts us,
anything we make holy
opens the door.
¡Abre la puerta!
pass through the door!

“All those years of seeming indestructibility,
and then, the grandfather of your world dies;
…his heart explodes,
and yours breaks into a thousand pieces.
Each tiny piece of your shattered heart is a door…
These are doors…
Open the doors…
Abre la puerta …
Pass through these doors.

“Whatever has died and left its big muddy boots
cold and hard by the back porch door —
put them on…
Walk through the door of this death,
the door that dying has made for you.
Walk in those boots that bend with your warmth.
You are the grandfather now.
You are the grandmother now.
¡Abre la puerta!
Open the door.

“The world is a tribe of one-breasted women …
walk through the doors of the scars on their chests.
¡Abre la puerta! open the door.
Over the edge of the world you go,
into the abyss we all march in time.
Put the best medicine in the worst of the wounds.
¡Abre la puerta! open the door.

“The lake in which you almost drowned?
That is a door.
The slap in the face that made you kiss the floor?
That is a door.
The betrayal that sent you straight to hell?
That is a door
¡Abre la puerta! open the door.

“Same old story, all strong souls first go to hell
before they do the healing of the world
they came here for.
If we are lucky, we return to help
those still trapped below.
¡Abre la puerta! open the door.
¡Abre la puerta! open the door.
Hell is a door that is caused by pain.

“Opening a flower,
rain opening the earth,
the kisses of humans
opening the hearts of the world,
These are doors…
No further lamentation required…
¡Abre la puerta! open the door.

“The scar drawn by razors…
that is a door.
The scars drawn by chain saws across forests…
those are doors.
These all are doors,
¡Abre la puerta! open the doors.

“The poem of New Life that comes every dawn,
the soaring of sun…that is a door!
The grave is a door.
The door to hell is a door to Life.
¡Abre la puerta! open the door.
¡Abre la puerta! open the door.
¡Abre, abre la puerta! open the door.”


It’s As Simple As

I’m a fan of “it’s as simple as” statements. In particular, the ones that come after an experience or ordeal that are spoken from the gut. There are things that you can’t know before the experience. There are thoughts that can’t be sorted until there has been some settling down from our good minds. There are insights and clarity that can’t occur until one let’s go, hands to the sky (or earth if you prefer) in a kind of surrender.

It was the early 20th century American legal great, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. that is the source of one of the quotes that I most use when talking about simplicity. “I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity. But I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” It’s the difference between reductionism that is convenient but has very little to do with accuracy (the before complexity) and the gut-check clarity that comes often with a real economy of words (the other side of complexity).

In the month of May I have helped to facilitate and host two multi-day leadership events. Both of these had 40+ participants. Both involved some good teaching, some solid interacting and befriending one another. Both involved some moments of deep dive, in which the level of voice dropped a bit in tone and speed to make way for the less-often truth-telling and simplicity that Oliver Wendell Holmes spoke of.

At both of these events, in the closing words, the last bits of gratitude spoken to those who have participated, and the tucking in of overarching narrative, I’ve found myself speaking, “Maybe it’s as simple as” statements. In one, “Maybe it is a simple as being willing to turn to one another with our stories, our good questions, and our willingness to lean in together. The rest has a way of taking care of itself.” At the other, “Maybe it’s as simple as being willing to take a journey together, to dare to be simple. Just like Hobbits (yes, I invoked a Tolkien reference), who take epic journeys to mountains to accomplish daunting tasks, with little more than their backpacks and a group of good friends.”

I have seen a pattern often that I saw in both of these events. Come together. Touch a center with one another. Then return to our respective jobs, teams, families, and communities — changed. Dwelling in learning. Long enough to feel a shared, simple belonging and imagination. Then going about our business, knowing that we can return together to touch the center again, changed by the awareness that it is perhaps as simple as turning to one another, and simple as being willing to take the journey together that makes all the difference.

Kai The Dog

The old joke about the dyslexic atheist comes to mind, who didn’t believe there was a dog.

This dog, however, and this post by Reverend Charles LaFond, make oodles of sense to me. God, or goodness, and playfulness, and sacredness in the experience right in front of us.

Charles writes daily in The Daily Sip, which I find often shapes my day in such a good way. You can read his posts here, including this full post about his dog Kai, who does all of the things he describes!

Kai the dog


When you look at me I see God
perhaps more than in a chalice
silver and crimson red with wine,
and more than a paten with
ridiculous wafers nobody
enjoys eating.

I see God in those big eyes
which say over and over
again that you love me and
you like me.
You seem to look at me not
with eyes of justice or anger
like the God the church
has so long espoused;
but rather with joy and
great expectation for what might
happen in four seconds
which is as far ahead as you ever think.

And that too is like God for me,
since I am not sure God is a planner
as much as I think God
is an enjoyer of the
present moment.

“A stick?”
“A bone?’
“A cuddle?”
“A walk together?”
“A bit of spooning?”
“A biscuit?”
“Just some staring lovingly at each other?”
…What shall we do now?!?!?!

Something that involves us
being together?
Something that involves me
showing you I adore you?
Something that involves a tug or war or lots
of licking your face
while I wag my tail?

This is Kai-the-dog
at Miss-Meg-camp.
He is this way everywhere,
with everyone.

How is it that we look to
altars and books to find God
and cannot see God in
everything else,
all creation.

And in Kai-the-dog?

Hold the Tension

I’ve been learning a lot about holding tension, particularly in the last six months. One kind of tension is that of not knowing, even despite my innate habit of wanting to know and reduce tension. And I think I’m reasonably good at not knowing. I can wait. Often longer than many around me. I can shrug it off for the moment with a, “well, I guess that’s not ready to be clear yet.” I can put it on a shelf, like an heirloom vase, up high in the kitchen, knowing it is there but not really paying attention to it for a while.

I get that holding the tension can have many levels of scale. The tension of everyday decisions, saying no to good things. The tension of relationships, trying so hard but just stuck. The tension of playing many roles — I’m a dad. I’m a colleague. I’m a community member. I’m a partner. I’m a friend. I’m a son. I’m a writer. I’m a do-er. I’m a be-er. There is tension just being a human, isn’t there.

Most of us have been taught, or perhaps habituated, to do things that would remove tension. Yup, that’s good. Maybe an essential survival skill. I’m all in as anyone for a quiet walk. But it’s not always good to remove that tension. Holding the tension, I would suggest, is a massive skill in human development, and is becoming even more important in the complexity that most of us live in.

As a facilitator and host, there are many times when I want to remove the tension for a group. Make it pretty. Make it neat and tidy. Make it simple. Hope that they like me for doing that. But often, my job is to help hold them — I’d say host them — in the tension for the moment when an insight comes that can’t come without the tension. It’s a tension of seeing themselves as a system, and learning to act more as a system and in relation to each other. Could be a breakthrough. Could be an aha. Could be a surrender (not a giving up) to what is emerging.

I don’t think we are designed as humans to always hold extreme tension. That sounds like a formula for early death — cortisol overload. Let’s be clear on that. But increasing our ability to be in the unknown, together — yup, that’s gold.

Dave Pollard is a writer I’ve referenced a few times along the way. I love his depth of thinking and patience in writing. From his site, How to Save the World, this morning I saw this narrative that names some of the big layers of tension. It’s a series of suppositions. It’s brilliant.

Enjoy this, and then snoop around his site too.

suppose that
the world is not at all what it seems,
and that the scientists
trying to map and explain the universe,
macro- and microscopically,
are actually just mapping their minds’ perceptions of it,
perceptions that are no more than the brain’s way
of making sense of an infinitesimally small part
of the infinite complexity of all-that-is,
that tiny part that our senses and instruments
can, vaguely, sense.

and suppose that
what we see as evolution
is just a game, a random experiment,
not anyone’s or anything’s experiment, mind you,
but rather just perturbations
of, say, for want of a better way of putting it,
nothing into everything,
for no reason, no purpose.
and that like fractal patterns of ice
creeping across a window in the dead of winter,
this apparent evolution just plays itself out —
some of the things that emerge continue and flourish,
while others fail and die out,
in infinite variation.

and then suppose that
one of the things that just happened
in this wondrous experiment, one variation,
following from the random emergence of brains
and central nervous systems
in some of the experiment’s creations,
was the imagining of a seemingly separate self,
an unexpected idea of the brain
of the creature in which it resided
that it was, somehow,
apart from everything else.

would that creature thrive, or shrivel and die out?
would this self-referential thing
so punctuate the equilibrium
of that small part of the experiment
that it would take it in a wholly new
and interesting direction
(enabling the invention of time, and space,
and science, and art, for example)?

or would that sense of separateness
be so terrifying, so traumatizing
to the suddenly self-ish creature that had it,
that it would quickly self-destruct,
unable to handle its implications,
the terrible uncontrollable world it conjured up?

or both?

and finally suppose that
(despite the convincing nature of the separate self,
reinforced by other self-conscious creatures
using other strange new inventions
like language and culture)
a few of these creatures suddenly found
this sense of separateness dissolving
until they had lost their selves
and were, again and always
just parts of the lovely, astonishing experiment
of all-there-is.

would (or could) what was left
of these self-extinguished creatures
(using their brilliant and awkward inventions)
persuade the others, still with selves
to join them, to come home, self-less-ly?
and if persuaded, could these others find their way too?

the answer, it seems, must be no:
there can be no volitional escape
from the gravitational prison of the self-made self,
since the self is what gave rise to the prison
and the self is, in the end,
just an idea,
one that cannot forget itself,
an idea that, in hindsight,
as promising as it was, apparently
wasn’t a very good idea after all.

still, if this is true
(and we cannot know)
there might be, if not escape, an inkling
of something that came before the self,
that somehow pokes its way through
the self’s tautological veil
and says, first, that
something is not quite right,

and later, just perhaps, has
(not a path, not a process, not a key)
a glimpse, a remembering
of all-there-is without a self:

of freedom.