Overnight sidewalk art, ice and leaf, Lindon, Utah, January 2020

There is something very sweet about this photo. In many ways, it is uneventful and perfectly ordinary. It’s on the sidewalk near my home, next to the garbage cans, and on the way to the carpark. It’s what remains from an overnight freeze — nothing designed by me or other human. Yet I was immediately taken by a certain beauty in this. In this frozen pattern that feels like it has some design to it. I don’t know the science of how this moisture coheres or freezes into this pattern. It just felt like there was something kind in the experience of seeing it. I stopped. Got my phone out. Harvested a few photographs.

Small kindnesses are things I’ve been thinking about lately. The ones that come from other people or the ones that I offer to others. Or the ones that come from nature like the momentary pattern that I caught in photo, that evoke a momentary palpability and relationship with beauty. In part, I’m thinking about kindness because a friend recently shared this passage from Danusha Lameris. It was included in a hand-mailed, and hand-written card, that I was delighted to receive.

Small Kindesses

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” when someone sneezes, a leftover from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. And sometimes, when you spill lemons from your grocery bag, someone else will help you pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. We have so little of each, now. So far from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”

For inspiration, and perhaps some beauty.

What We Seek, We Find?

There’s a King James version, new testament bible verse that reads, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth.” I mostly hear those verses as inviting faith to lean into mystery, and to take some responsibility for participating in the process.

From psychology, I’ve always been quite intrigued to observe the principle, “what you look for is what you find.” This principle conjoins us with the grand pattern of projection — we see what we know, or, we see in others what we are ourselves. It’s just another reason that we need community for sense-making, and diversity to bring us to broader sense-makings.

Pulling all of that down, here’s some simplicity that I often see in groups (or in public media reports). If any of us seek “offense” (knowingly or not), we’ll find it. In word. In deed. In gesture. In subtlety. In implied meaning. In behavior. If any of us seek “kindness” (knowingly or not), we’ll find that. In all of the above. If we seek both, we’ll find both. It’s the power of the human psyche, in all of it’s imaginative capacity and in its neurally entrenched limitations.

Societally, in these times, I’m coming to observe and wonder, about how much we are unconsciously polarizing to extremes (again — this might be part of the natural life cycle of civilizations). On the one hand is “find the offense; find the injustice; be hyper vigilant in protection.” Ah, this is such important work. Life work. Societally changing work. Evolutionary work. Except, I would suggest, when it isn’t, which for me is when it tips to the psychological fulfillment of confirmation bias — finding what we seek. “It’s all offense. It’s all injustice.”

On the other hand is “find only the kindness, only the goodness; be hyper vigilant in calling out the higher good.” Ah, this too, is such important work. Except, again, when it isn’t, which for me tips into a pollyanna, rose-tinted view of “all is well, and only well.” Denial runs too closely with that one.

I remain so interested, and grateful, to be with people that see some of this psychological, emotional, and spiritual complexity. What we seek, we find. If I spend the day looking for the color yellow, I’m going to find oodles of yellow in the day (that was likely already and always there).

These are musings. I suppose for me today, they challenge me to ponder the plethora of range and spectrum, the differences and the difficulties, that are already and always there — so as to not get stuck in rather narrow track, or unwillingly swept along on others narrowed preference that can be right for them but not for me. Musings that wake me further to what is and what I might seek to challenge.

Seeking. Finding.

Sorrow Filled — It Comes With The Times

This morning has been sorrow-filled for me. No particular incident. Perhaps several smaller things that have grown. But, perhaps just a mystery wave that has felt gigantic. I continue to learn about feeling those waves. Just because. And not particularly connected to this picture above (but I like the blatantness of these trees fallen — life and death are natural in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains).

The American Psychotherapist and Soul Activist Francis Weller talks about how all of us must develop an “apprenticeship with sorrow.” My brain can hear that. Makes sense. For all of us and the varied experiences of sorrow that are part of being human. My heart can hear that too. Except when I feel that I’m drowning in the sorrow. Again, mystery.

Quanita Roberson and I encountered each other as participants at a writing workshop. That was 2013. We’ve grown a friendship and a colleagueship over these last six years. We’ve grown a body of work that is soulful. Soulful enough to go to places of deep sorrow. In ourselves and with others.

I’m grateful for the insight that shows up regularly with Quanita. She’s a smart cookie. And I’m grateful for the added smart cookieing that we are together. Stuff shows up. It’s field. It’s openness. It’s attention to what is emerging. It’s rooted in the orientation that we humans are figuring a few things out as we go. Like sorrow.

Today, on a mystery sorrow-filled morning, I’m glad for a bit of wisdom and kindness with Quanita that points to all of us needing to become more skillful at sorrow / grief. It’s wisdom that normalizes the experience (I would say calls it out as a natural and needed growing for the times within which we live). It’s wisdom that says, don’t swim alone in the ocean that sorrow can be (ain’t no way that I’d swim alone, but I tend to take on sorrow alone).

Quanita and I will continue our offerings — they are with increasing frequency to help the people who are helping people. It’s not too late for Fire & Water, where I have the hunch, that the pod of participants and us will figure a bunch out together. Like sorrow. And waves. And inner world connected to outer world. Like wisdom. And community. And how fear impacts us. And hope too.

Expand The Circumference of Aliveness

The last couple of weeks, I’ve continued to listen to a fair amount of Francis Weller. The overarching topic is “The Alchemy of Initiation.” The topic of the section I listened to most recently is “Facing the Predator.”

In the recording I have, usually included are some questions asked by the audience / participants. I find Weller’s stuff to be pretty deep. He’s a psychotherapist and thus is oriented to much of the inner journey. I like that. And I like the way the he connects the relevance of the inner journey to the outer world of day to day living.

One of the participants asked, “What is the outcome of facing the predator?” Weller has some one line responses that I’m appreciating. He’s done, or is doing, his work. In his context Weller is talking about the predator as confronting death, or less dramatically, the myriad of voices that tell us we are less. Weller’s response — “To expand the circumference of your aliveness.”

Circumference is the measure of the outside of a circle. It measures the rim. It measures capacity. And Weller’s point, I feel, is that it is only in the ironic encounter with what encourages small that we find large. It is only in the encounter with death that we find more animated life.

Ahh…, that’s worth resting on for a bit.

In my life, there was an obvious encounter with death, perhaps too early in life. It was my father taking his life. I was 14. It makes me sad to say that, but I’ve had a few years to make a lot of sense of what was known and what I imagine was less known about my dad. Complex lives.

In my life, more recently, there is the encounter with the end of a significant relationship. It doesn’t end the way either of us thought it would. It doesn’t end the way either of us intended. The death here, is the death of a particular dream. It is the death of an embossed identity.

Back to Weller, I hope for any of us that we are able to experience the expanded circumference of aliveness. To be clear, I don’t think it wise to rush to the end, bypassing the predator. Many of us do that. The soul’s work is often daring to dwell in the descent rather than prematurely latching on to an ascent.

I’m glad for friends that can witness the encounters that phase change us from one state to another. Or the friends who are smart enough to take off the wrist watch, throw away the current construction of time, and know that soul’s work, soul’s cooking, abides by a different concept of time. It’s less of “everything squeezed in and capped at 50 minutes.” It’s more “done when it’s done.”

Back to Weller — expanding the circumference of aliveness. I love the life force in this. I love the connection to three values that I’m often speaking in the groups with which I work. Kindness. Consciousness. Flow with life itself. Often, when I’m with groups, I’m offering such verbiage, such narrative, as a suggestion to what we might just really be up to. It’s daring to go inner, even with groups taking on herculean and complex tasks, so that there are expanded choices of aliveness connected to task.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for adding your reflections to the encounters that expand aliveness.