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“It’s not happiness that makes us grateful but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – Br. David Steindl Rast

Being Stretched, Waking Up, and More

A note from Carl:

I wanted to begin with a quote from Mark Nepo that seems to most clearly to capture my sentiments of the last week:

“In spite of all that is happening and because of all that is happening, I stand firmly in my belief in the strength of human kindness to overcome the destructive effects of fear and violence. The things we hold dear and the bonds we try to uphold and repair are more meaningful than ever. We must reclaim our humanity and reawaken our sense of moral law and not succumb to becoming like those who have lost touch with what makes them human. We must remember and affirm that we are more together than alone.” -Mark Nepo

Barcelona, Sierra Leone, Charlottesville, anything coming out of Trump’s mouth…

This has been quite a week. We have often quoted Francis Weller’s invitation to hold gratitude in one hand, and grief in the other and to be stretched large between them. For me, this has been a week of stretching.

A few months ago, when Erin and I were contemplating the theme of our fall course this year, we asked ourselves “What is really needed now? What are the essential tools and skills for living in these times?”  We decided on the theme of “Coming Home: To Present Moment, Mindful Embodiment and Your Inner Teacher.”

This theme seems essential for navigating in this world. How do we continue to return to a centered, grounded embodied presence, and have access to our inner-teacher, our own inner-guidance, and then engage in the world in a way that can be of benefit?

We love the Zen Peacemaker’s 3-tenet model of not-knowing, bearing witness, and taking meaningful action. From their website:
Not-knowing is the first tenet of the Zen Peacemakers. Not-Knowing is entering a situation without being attached to any opinion, idea or concept. This means total openness to the situation, deep listening to the situation.

It is the role of the Bodhisattva to bear witness. The Buddha can stay in the realm of not-knowing, the realm of blissful non-attachment. The Bodhisattva vows to save the world, and therefore to live in the world of attachment, for that is also the world of empathy, passion, and compassion. Ultimately, she accepts all the difficult feelings and experiences that arise as part of every-day life as nothing but ways of revelation, each pointing to the present moment as the moment of enlightenment.

Bearing witness gives birth to a deep and powerful intelligence that does not depend on study or action, but on presence.
We bear witness to the joy and suffering that we encounter. Rather than observing the situation, we become the situation. We became intimate with whatever it is – disease, war, poverty, death. When you bear witness you’re simply there, you don’t flee.

Loving Actions are those actions that arise naturally when one enters a situation in the state of not-knowing and then bears witness to that situation. It has nothing to do with the one’s opinions or other’s opinions as to whether it is loving actions or not.

I appreciate how writer and teacher, Loch Kelly, looks at awakening as a next stage of human development.  In his book, Shift Into Freedom, he writes: “The question that emerges today is: Can the average individual access the potential for a new stage of adult human development that previously seemed limited to only a few wise women and men? Can we choose to do this before a breakdown, or without joining a monastery? As we combine modern psychology, neuroscience, and ancient wisdom, we can start mapping the particular changes needed to initiate and support the next stage of growth. To expand the potential of our full human development we need to explore and study this new stage of life together.

I appreciate how Loch frames waking-up as not a rare, esoteric event reserved for the few, but as a natural next step in growing up. He also speaks to value of the combination, which has been so important for us. Erin and I (along with several of our mentors) are synthesizers. We know the scent of what is authentic, and how to bring things together in a coherent and complimentary way. One of the reasons we were so naturally and deeply drawn to Embodied Life work is that it gives a coherent context to grow our kindness and freedom through the body and our movement, through how we are with our inner-life and all that moves in our emotional world, though our capacity to listen to ourselves, others and the world, and through our ability to simply sit, and be the warm, welcoming space that greets our moment of life. And then to take meaningful action that arises from this wise foundation.

Awakening our capacity for presence, for kindness, for empathy, and for direct action seems imperative for our world. 

As Pema Chodron writes:


We still have space left in our fall class if you would like to join a circle of respectful, courageous adults learning you wake up in the world, we would love to have you. You can read more about the class below and here. If you’d like to join, just reply to this email. Payment plans and one scholarship 1/2 price spot are available. 

The Fist

There are days
when the sun goes down
like a fist,
though of course

if you see anything
in the heavens this way
you had better get

your eyes checked
or, better still,
your diminished spirit.
The heavens

have no fist,
or wouldn’t they have been
shaking it
for a thousand years now,

and even
longer than that,
at the dull, brutish
ways of mankind –

heaven’s own
creation?
Instead: such patience!
Such willingness

to let us continue!
To hear,
little by little,
the voices –

only, so far, in
pockets of the world –
suggesting the possibilities

of peace?


Keep looking. Behold, how the 
fist opens with invitation.

~ Mary Oliver ~
With love,
Carl

PS Erin will be holding a grief ritual in a canyon on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Here is what she writes:

Over Labor Day weekend I will be hosting a circle for Tending the River of Grief. It will be held on the morning of Saturday,September 2nd. Location (in our local canyons, weather allowing, in my office in inclement weather) will be revealed when you register. Offered by donation. In turn, all proceeds will be donated to a local charity. If no one comes, I’ll happily do it alone. I have no agenda and no great hopes, but I’m willing to follow this soul-calling and see what happens. There’s a space for you if you’re called to join. If you’d like to register to join – it’s by donation. Any amount, even $1, will reserve your spot. I’m asking people to register so that I can have an easy way to communicate with all who intend to come. Read more about the inspiration for this event here. 
Register to join me in Tending The River of GriefSept. 2, 9am, right here.  

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