Be Where You Are

I was hiking my way to the cave located on the edge of a frothy, turbulent ocean eddy that pounded incessantly on rock off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The cave had mentored me for years.

On this day, I scrambled over volcanic rock the size of barrel cactus, moving ever upwards to get to the cave that was situated just out of sight of the tide pools and blow hole on the east side of the island. The climb would put me at thirty feet above the turbulent waves that crashed onto rocks lodged into the tiny beachhead like a fruit basket of papaya, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

As I clambered across the rocks and then descended the last volcanic outcrop on the cliff side that prevented swimmers at the tide pools from seeing the cave, I sighed with anticipation.

I was hiking my way to the cave located on the edge of a frothy, turbulent ocean eddy that pounded incessantly on rock off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The cave had mentored me for years.

On this day, I scrambled over volcanic rock the size of barrel cactus, moving ever upwards to get to the cave that was situated just out of sight of the tide pools and blow hole on the east side of the island. The climb would put me at thirty feet above the turbulent waves that crashed onto rocks lodged into the tiny beachhead like a fruit basket of papaya, cantaloupe, and watermelon.

As I clambered across the rocks and then descended the last volcanic outcrop on the cliff side that prevented swimmers at the tide pools from seeing the cave, I sighed with anticipation.

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Signals

A koan, in its most simple and profound aspect, is an exploration of paired opposites. The fact that a koan appears simple and yet is not so simple is paradox. How can it be both? When it comes to the koan of “seeing” whether a particular teacher or guru is right for us, how can we see deeper than just with our eyes to the very heart of the matter?

Seeing Through the Guru does not take the teacher/guru at face value because of a title. We want to “see through” in order to determine if the teacher/guru is fulfilling their role in pointing to the truth of the matter related to our journey and us.

Yes, I am implying that because one has the label of “guru,” it doesn’t automatically signal that the service he or she offers is true, trustworthy, and pure of heart. This assumption has caused grief for many. I believe that’s an easy proposition to agree with.

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Frisco and Fear

“You gonna try and ride Frisco again?” asked Tom. He was the contact person for the ranch and we had just finished mucking horse stalls for the morning.

“Hmm, at least the wind’s not blowing this morning,” I answered without really answering him. Instantly, last week’s fear returned.

“Didn’t you say the first time you rode him you were terrified?” Projecting my fear into the story Tom had shared with me last week, I glanced at him sideways as we walked together toward Frisco’s stall.

“Yeah, I rode him, but like I said, I was scared. That was months ago. What did Carlos say?

“I asked him. He told me I rode well enough to ride him,” I said in a voice that wouldn’t convince anyone of the truth of Carlos’ statement. I’d been riding the horses at the ranch once a week for several months but fear erased any confidence I had in my riding ability.

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Failure Stands Alone Willingly

I’ve been consumed with the idea of failure lately and what failure has meant in my life. Take for instance, my failure at selling a million copies of my first book, or even sales of half a million. That sounds tongue in cheek because who am I to write a book that is that successful?

But stop right there. That question is steeped in failure, isn’t it? My idea of failure is embedded in my expectations. In turn, those expectations are embedded in the list of goals posted on my refrigerator door.

How do I pull this mess apart and see what my beliefs are about failure and how they’ve influenced the outcome of my goals? After all, that was the emphasis for writing my second book, Carry the Rock An Apprentice Journey: to discover why the apprenticeship had failed and how the mutual beliefs and expectations of my teacher and myself had contributed to its demise.

After I left my apprenticeship I had put “failure” in the cross hairs and was determined to take it down. No more failure for me. But I learned something I hadn’t expected to see as I began to write.   Failure in and of it self is not the enemy. Instead it can become an experience of intense revelation that can propel one toward greater fulfillment and acceptance of what happens in life.

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Ants as Teachers

As a seeker of truth, enlightenment, knowledge, or “seeing,” it is natural to expect that asking questions is an important tool to help us arrive at where we say we want to be.

The following story shows the fallacy of that belief.

The story also shows the power of animals to be teachers.

* * *

On a faint dirt trail in Poway, California, I walked along peacefully. I’d been on the land that housed the sweat lodge for the weekend. Early Sunday morning, before the sweat ceremony got under way, I wanted to steal away for a short while to center myself. I also carried a pail with me to gather sprigs of white sage. The sage would be soaked in water for use during the sweat when the heat became unbearable. We would place the wet sage under our noses and breath through it as a means of managing the high heat, steaming off the hot stones in the center of the lodge.

I looked down at the ground before my feet to see a large circle of tiny sienna flowers arranged in the shape of an erupting volcano. The circumference of the circle traversed the width of the trail itself and was created by hundreds and hundreds of minute, dried flowers. The wreath was stunningly beautiful in shades of carmine, old gold, rust, and cadmium, and I stopped walking to stare.

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The Red Door

The Red Door

I was antsy and agitated. My marriage was on its last leg and I could no longer hold it up and make it stand as I’d done for so many years. My eldest daughter was using drugs during her last year in high school, and I felt powerless to do anything about it. I was at odds with performing my role as a pastor’s wife in a church that I abhorred going to. Life was dismal and depressing as I walked the neighborhood on an early Saturday morning.

What was I going to do about my life? About my family that was falling apart? About my values that told me I was a failure? About my recent dabbling with Shamanic practice that told me there was more to the world than what I was seeing in front of me?

A walk would help clear my head and give me a forty-five minute breather from a house that was bereft of talking, even while the silence was deafening. I was tired of attempting to explain to my husband the reasons I was unhappy, and I didn’t know what to say to my children about the state of their parent’s marriage. They knew my relationship to their father was on stormy ground, although they didn’t know what that meant for the future.

Neither did I.

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