Dancing in the Tao

Cultivating Emotional Resilience

Free-Falling Through Life

Life is a Mystery. A Mystery so awesome that we insulate ourselves from its intensity. To numb our fear of the unknown we desensitize ourselves to the miracle of living.  We perpetuate the nonchalant lie that we know who we are and what life is. Yet behind this preposterous bluff the Mystery remains unchanging, waiting for us to remember to wonder.

Tim Freke, Jesus and the Lost Goddess

We don’t know where Life came from or where it’s going. We’ve been making up stories to explain the mystery, explain Life, explain ourselves to ourselves, since we started telling stories, and while we’ve described a lot of the landscape, most of us feel no closer to the heart of it all than when we began.

I am free-falling through Life. And I have a mind that won’t shut up about it all; a mind that longs and searches for certainty, yet thrills when it finds itself at the edge of knowing, gazing out into the vast unknown, wondrous.


“I never met another man I’d rather be. And even if that’s a delusion, it’s a lucky one.”
― Charles Bukowski

Funny that: I’ve never met anyone I’d rather be, either … and yet one night not too long ago I spent hours (again) shaming and beating on myself for perceived and imagined shortcomings, one after another. Are you like this, too? Ridiculous, contrary creatures, us humans. There’s no one I’d rather be … but I on a rough night I can barely stand to be me.

Then, the next morning, came a freeing thought: I don’t have to like everything about myself.

This seems so revolutionary that I want to dance across rooftops singing it at the top of my lungs. We don’t have to like everything about ourselves. I mean, seriously: can you name anything that you like everything about? Even the best, most perfect things in the world end – and it’s hard to like that. But somehow we think that we’re supposed to like everything about ourselves, or change the things we don’t like so that we like them. But maybe that’s just not possible, or likely, or even desirable. Maybe just making peace with some of our less desirable qualities can free up some energy and inner space for … something way more fun than loathing ourselves. Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who loves everything about themselves – you go, my friend … you go!

Another thought: Traits I don’t like about myself are traits I share with some percentage of humanity – they are human family traits. I always feared they made me less a part of the human family … but I’m realizing that they make me more human. I belong.

Fortunately, that night was not all misery … I managed to continually disrupt the darker moments with skills, tactics and techniques I’ve been gathering for years, refining and honing these last 24 months. I’ve lost too much of my life to the demons of shame, anxiety, self-contempt, etc. when they come a-haunting, and I don’t let them hold sway anymore. I didn’t sleep much, but there were long moments of rest in a battle-torn night: I’d find a small truth I could relax into, a technique that circumvented my mind, a method (I think) for triggering a cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones that increased feelings of well-being almost instantaneously…  So, although ultimately I didn’t sleep much at all, I rose feeling tired but stronger.

In the battle of changing old habitual thoughts, you may have to put in some all-nighters re-framing your understanding and reprogramming your beliefs; but every moment spent replacing old, unnecessary and harmful thinking with beneficial beliefs and thoughts are moments that create a better present and lay the groundwork for a better future.

Your imagination is your preview of life’s coming attractions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    - Albert Einstein


Boundary Defense

Anger flares when our boundaries have been transgressed. This will happen whether we are conscious of our boundaries or not, and often we can be blindsided by our own emotional reaction when we’re not aware we have a boundary somewhere. Boundaries are where our experience of ourself meets our experience of the world. I know that’s vague … but they seem to be something each of us needs to find for ourselves. Some of the markers that are most helpful for me are: what I want and what I need, what my gifts are, what I am willing and able to offer in any given situation, and also … something that’s harder to say … what I don’t want, and what I don’t need.

All energy we put into what we don’t want and don’t need is energy that we are literally stealing from our own life force, our own development, our goals and dreams. In order to be fully ourselves in any relationship, any group, any community … we need to be clear on this. But there is a great fear: if I give voice to my needs and wants, to my don’t-needs and don’t-wants, then I will lose the relationship, the group, the community … I will be alone. I think this is one of the roots of all of our stories, particularly as women. We do not trust that if we speak our truth, that we will have a place. We deeply fear isolation. And so we continually sacrifice our very selves in order to belong. But then we lose both ways: we don’t honor and hold ourselves, and we do not fully participate in the relationship, the group, the community, because we have compromised ourselves.

My experience, though, especially over the last 18 months is this: As I speak my truth clearly, with compassion and respect for others’ boundaries, I feel more fully myself, more fully empowered, and I have more energy and focus for creating the life I truly and deeply want. Not only this, but: I’ve watched the lives around me transform as I’ve changed. I was holding others in my life in a state of dependency in order to take care of my own need for belonging, my own fear of not being able to take care of myself. We tell ourselves that we are doing a service by sacrificing our wants/needs/desires to take care of someone else (I’m not speaking of the children here – they have legitimate claims on us – I’m speaking of the adults we “care for.”) but really, we are attempting to meet our own needs, and to avoid our own lives, in an unconscious, and ultimately frustrating way. As we do this, we either suppress or act out our anger as we allow our boundaries to be transgressed; hence our resentment, our depression, our confusion.

For myself, I have found a way out of resentment, depression and confusion: The way forward for me, the power in life, is to continually clarify what I need and want, what gifts I have to offer to the larger community, my goals and dreams, my longings … and what I don’t need and don’t want … and then to devote myself whole-heartedly and single-mindedly to creating the life I envision. It’s all in my hands. Subject to the laws of the Universe, of course :)

Best to you all,


Following Desire

Yesterday, I felt strong and clear. Today, after surviving another battering of thought/feeling waves that swept away both strength and clarity, I find I’m once again clear, but not as strong.

I feel like I’m out on a storming ocean in a small vessel. One moment, a great wall of water rises up, encircling me, closing in, and that’s what reality looks like: My imminent demise. Then, suddenly, lifted on a swell, I can see to the horizon in every direction; reality now looks vast and chartable, if only apparently calm in the distance. My best practice, my only practice at these stormy moments, is to keep myself in the boat, my hand on the tiller. After a lifetime of going where the current took me (asking no more of life, or of myself, than whatever showed up), I have a direction at last. It may prove a figment of imagination, but it’s a destination nonetheless – and it’s about time I tried to get somewhere.

I am following my heart’s desire. For better or for worse, I’m all in. I’m laughing as I write this, because there are no guarantees. In fact, if you’re laying down money the best odds, by far, are against me.  Yet, I persist. Despite a beguiling kaleidoscope of shifting thoughts and emotions about it all, I have a steady desire; and even though the object of my desire may remain forever out of my grasp, my dogged pursuit is calling forth the best of me, and I’m learning mad skills.

One of the most useful new skills: I’m learning to hold my thoughts and feelings more lightly in my mind. After some time of paying attention, I can see how changeable and insubstantial they are, arising and subsiding on their own tides, in response to whatever shows up around me, or perhaps what I ate most recently. I’ve found I can have back-to-back thoughts that completely oppose one another, cancel each other out; yet both are accompanied by supporting, corresponding emotions that lend to each opposing thought an apparent weight and truth. Which of this shifting phantasmagoria should I follow? Oops, too late. They’re both gone … replaced by a third, fourth, hundred-and-fifth, on and on. A kaleidoscope makes a lousy compass.

Desire is a slightly less faulty compass, both because it arises from a deeper place within us and because it endures the buffeting of thoughts and emotions. Whatever you may think or feel about your desire, it keeps coming back. But desire is an intensely problematic compass. First, as noted, there are no guarantees. To co-opt Lord Krishna’s words to Arjuna: You’re entitled to your desires, but not the fruits of your desires. Desire can focus and motivate us, but it makes no promises. We may never get the job, the person, the house, the dream … and, if you’re going to use desire as a compass, you have to accept this going in, or make your peace with it as quickly as you can. Otherwise, you suffer. Well, and this is the second point: you’re going to suffer anyway. As the Buddha said, The root of suffering is desire. And the greater your desire, the greater the suffering. No doubt. Best, probably, to move right along … if you can. Uncurl the fingers of your heart and release whatever it is you wanted back to Life.

But! But! But! you say. I know. Whatever you may think and feel about your desire, it can be a pesky, persistent thing. Let go though you might, there it is again. Like an adorable, aggravating puppy. So my goal, at present, is to keep the focusing, motivating force of my desire alive and leaping in my heart, while accepting that this is all I am entitled to. Wish me luck.

Fierce with Reality

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.”

From the moment I first read those words, years ago, I longed for that feeling: to be fierce with reality. I knew what it meant, intuitively: a power of presence in my life, of standing in the whole truth of myself: my beauty and my ugliness, my joy and my pain, the soaring scintillating heights I could reach with my mind, the dark dank despair that lay ever hidden in my heart. I knew that when I was fierce with reality I would walk differently, no longer always looking at the ground, but gazing levelly  around myself in wonder at the world and my place in it. I knew, too, that I would be able to trust myself to handle anything, and that others would instinctively trust me: they would sense that I had no secrets from myself that might wound them. I knew I would feel a strength so powerful I would nearly vibrate with it.

Florida Scott Maxwell, brilliant woman, gave me clear directions to becoming fierce with reality. All I had to do was possess all I had been and done. And she let me know that this could take some time. I’ve returned to those words again and again for courage and inspiration as I’ve gathered the pieces of myself over the years. Indeed, it has taken some time.

Now, every day, I stand more firmly in all I have been and done. And some moments, I am so fierce with reality, I vibrate.

Finding my way

I started this blog thinking I could lead readers somewhere better                                                                                                                                                                                                                           than where they were.

I was certainly Dancing, but I’d forgotten already about the Tao:

There is no place to go, so no leaders are needed to get there.

Everything we need, we have already within ourselves.

All is well, right in this moment, no matter what we might think of it.

A favorite chant from time I spent with a guru translates like this:

This is perfect. That is perfect. From the perfect springs the perfect.

If you take the perfect from the perfect, only the perfect remains.

The pleasure of a slow, deep breath

The relaxed smile that parts my lips.

Relaxing into how little I know. How little I need to know.

Just love, and do the next thing in front of me.

Welcome to your Beautiful Life!

Let go, it’s okay. You can take care of yourself now. Build your dreams, pour your energy into yourself, into love, into giving and creating wholeness for yourself and for all the lives you touch. That’s the goal.

As one the best Tweeters in the Twitterverse says: Establish your light; and then Shine.*

So many gifts: When you’re ready, you’ll just start pouring them forward.

* Be sure to follow her at @MSKIASWAY

Follow Your Pleasure

Follow your Pleasure, follow your bliss.

Seek out all the bits of Life that bring you joy,  track them down and give everything you’ve got to making them your own.

Life ultimately decides if you can have them: but only you can decide how hard you’ll work for them, how focused you’ll stay, how much of your best game you’ll bring.

In the end, you may not get what you want – but you’ll have brought out great beauty in yourself and in the lives that touch yours as you strive for the Best in Life – whatever that looks like to you.

Go for it, my friends!

One beautiful spring day

a woman walked up to my smile and said, “In my country we say ‘thank you’ with every breath. Then we don’t have to remember to be grateful.”

And she walked on.



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