Day 158 “The Meditative Walk”

Just steps away from the car park there is a big old oak tree whose branches extend over the river.  I start here, releasing any stress from the day, and saying a prayer of invocation.

When I am ready I start my walk, first along the path through the woods and then circling back by the river, and eventually stopping  at a bench overlooking the flowing water where I can contemplate further.

On this day, I have brought my ten-year-old son.

I explain my ritual and invite him to join in my initial clearing and prayer.  As we walk, I advise him to be open to whatever thoughts, emotions, or sensations present themselves, but caution him to keep his mind clear, grounding himself by concentrating on his feet on the earth if he has to.

“Could we see signs along the way, Mom?”

“Like what?”

“Like that hawk sitting in that tree over there?”

“Possibly.  It could also just be a hawk sitting in a tree.  I don’t usually pay too much attention, unless the sign recurs.  But it is definitely okay to appreciate nature; he is a beauty.”

We walk on in silence.  The woods offer a plethora of wildlife and I can see that John is alert and on the outlook.  So serious for such a young man.

We reach a fork in the path, and I point us towards the river.  This is my favourite part of the walk, where the graceful old trees line the riverbank, and magnificent homes stand guard across the way.  It is a hot day, with little breeze, and the river is peaceful.

John points at two more hawks resting in the treetops.

“A good sign?”  I ask him.

“I think so.”

It has been six months since our family was torn apart by separation, and while John seems to be doing well, I often wonder.  He is an old soul; to worried about his mother for his own good.  I am happy that he came along with me today, on what he calls my ‘finding inner peace’ walks.

I steer us off the path and across a grassy patch to a bench.  “I like to sit here at the end,”  I explain, “and just think about the walk, and anything else I might need to experience for healing today.”

I direct him to sit up straight with his feet touching the earth.  He has to sit forward.  Then I suggest he closes his eyes, and breaths deeply, releasing each breath slowly and fully.

“Feel the earth beneath your feet and around you, and as you breath, let go of your separateness.”

“What does that mean?”

“Try to experience yourself as a part of the surroundings.  When you breath, for instance, imagine your awareness expanding beyond your physical self and becoming just part of the flow, so that the river feels like it is moving through you, and that bird’s song is inside you.  Do you understand what I mean?”

“I think so.”  Then after a few minutes.  “Why doesn’t everyone do this, Mom?”

“It would be good.  What are you feeling?”

“Like I totally let go of anger.  I can’t hold onto it when I’m in this place.”

“Now you know why I come here.”

From the corner of my eye, I can see that others were approaching, so I suggest we move on.  As we walk back towards the car, John, who had fallen quiet again, says:  “You know how they say seeing is believing?”


“Well I think it is actually the other way around.  If you believe it, you can see it, but you have to believe it first.”

“You may be right.”

I don’t often share my meditative walks with another person, but it occurs to me as I write this that John and I are due for another.



Daylight had just begun to creep into the night sky when an insistent tapping woke me.   Fighting against the fog of sleep, my mind struggled to identify the source of the sound.  It was coming from a window, across the room.  A small bird was tapping frantically on the windowsill.  Silly bird, I thought.  You don’t want in here.  

Awake now, I decided to start my day.  In two weeks I would be going away on a much anticipated retreat.  I had things to do.  As it was a Sunday, I would have several hours to myself before the kids awoke and the day got underway.   Thanks, little bird, I thought.

The next day, I was already waking up by the time my little friend arrived, tapping once again on the same window.  He flew into a nearby bush as I made my way to my car a little later, and when I started the engine, he flew onto my side mirror and cocked his head at me.  I laughed out loud.   “You can’t stay there,”  I scolded.  “I have to drive to work.”  Stubbornly, he rode down the driveway with me and then flew away as I turned onto the street.

We were to become best buddies for the next two weeks, he greeting me every morning, then riding with me on the car.  When I’d return in the late afternoon, he’d be back to greet me again.  Mom’s friend, the kids called him.  “Why is he doing that?” they’d ask.  “I have no idea.” I’d respond, but I had a feeling I’d find out soon enough.

* * * * *

Time came to set out for the retreat.  Three of us were traveling together and stopping for the night on the way.  We chose a cute little town with a promising looking little restaurant where we could get a gourmet meal.  I chose the Duck.  Never having had duck before, I didn’t know what to expect.  The grease from the bird kept me up all night with stomach pains, and prompted a number of jokes about sitting ducks, and Duck! and so on, all night.

We arrived at the retreat center just before dinner the next day.  The cabins were rustic, but the setting was idyllic.  Our cabin was set  back in the woods, not far from a stream with a waterfall.  The beauty and serenity of the setting instantly filled me with calm.

The bell for dinner sounded, and my friends and I made our way to the dining hall. A line had formed along the entrance way, which doubled as a book store.  “Oh good,” my friend Sandy exclaimed.  “I want to shop for books.”

I was not as interested.  I’d spent all my money getting here, so I would practice some restraint.  I turned my back on the books to avoid temptation, but just as I did, someone tried to pass, and I knocked a shelf.  I caught a book mid tumble.  It was open, and as I glanced at the page, I was startled to see the picture of my little bird looking back up at me.  I gasped.

“Remember the bird I told you about?” I exclaimed to my friends.  “This is it.”

“What does it say?”

The caption read:  “If this bird has shown up in your life, it is bringing you the message of…….”

Shaken, I put the book back.  The message I just read  was no coincidence.  I couldn’t concentrate all through dinner.  I had to know the rest.

The book, Animal Speak, by Ted Andrews, said that the bird that had been following me was a cowbird, and that cowbirds speak to the issue of abandonment in childhood.  Andrews said if this bird had shown up in your life, it was time to deal with those issues.  I was dumbfounded, and trembling, but at the same time, there was no better place for healing.

* * *

I awoke the next morning before sunrise, and slipped out of the cabin quietly.  There was just enough light to see the outline of a path.  A movement in the brush alarmed me, until I saw that it was a bird that flew just ahead of me.  I followed.  The bird flew ahead a bit further.  I continued on the same route.  The bird settled on a branch of a tree, and I approached it as if being beckoned.  The tree stood on the bank of a stream.  Without daylight, everything was imbued with an eerie light, almost other worldly.  I decided this was as a good a place as any to meditate on my findings from the day before.

Taking a few deep cleansing breaths, I opened my awareness to the beauty of my surroundings.  Immediately, I became aware of another presence; a presence I had not felt for many years:  the divine feminine.  My heart filled with deep longing, and sorrow, as tears rushed down my cheeks.  My issue of abandonment.

Why did you abandon me? my heart cried.

I did not abandon you, the voice was gentle, loving.  It was you who abandoned me.

It was true.  I had become so entrenched in the pursuit of material happiness, I had neglected my spiritual roots.

I never left you.  I felt myself surrounded in a warm embrace, and sobbed.  I cried for all the years  lived in a vacuum, striving to please others, and be good enough, yet lonely, incomplete.  I cried for the arrogance that made me think I didn’t need this connection, and for the ingratitude that I had shown.

Mother, I had called her as a child.  She was a loving, patient presence that was always there for me:   her voice the subtle changes of the wind, her essence a sudden release of fragrance.  She spoke to me through signs and omens, but mostly through birds.

Birds.  Birds had brought me back to her.

Hope, renewal, rejuvenation, and love filled me.  My feet barely touched the ground as I skipped back to the cabin, daylight just starting to greet the day.

“Tell your bird friend we don’t need the wake up call,” one roommate grumbled at me as I opened the door.  “She’s been tapping at the window since 6.”

Sure enough, she was there again as we made our way to breakfast, following along and finding a perch just outside our window.  Then, as if she had waited, she followed us across the grounds to the gathering place, where we would be studying for the day with Delores Krieger.

Synchronicity is the Universe’s way of telling you, you are on the right track, Delores offered.

At lunch, I looked up the species of bird:  catbird.

” The presence of a catbird as a totem indicates you will be encountering a wider range of people than you are normally in contact with …..With the catbird as a totem, look for new people coming into your life that will teach you lessons in your ability to communicate.”

It made sense.  The focus of the retreat was how to teach therapeutic touch, and it appeared that I was renewing old forms of communication as extracurricular.

I was feeling the synchronicity.


Day 156 “Good and Evil”

Jane first contacted me because she thought she was under psychic attack.  I agreed to meet her at her apartment.

A slender, attractive blond answered the door.

“Jane?”  I noted her hesitancy, but she stepped aside to let me in.

The apartment was small, and despite the clutter, quite tidy.  I asked her permission to walk around.  Nothing that felt external jumped out at me, however, I did feel a lot of chaotic energy connected to Jane herself.  What I was sensing didn’t fit the woman before me.  She seemed “normal”.

“What makes you think you are under psychic attack?”  I asked her.

Jane told me she felt it, and sometimes she would hear voices.  She said it happened at all hours, day and night, and she was losing sleep.

“It doesn’t make practical sense,”  I told her.  “Who would be attacking you and why?   I am more inclined to believe this is an internal phenomena.”

“You mean I’m doing it to myself?”  She considered this thought, and then slowly nodded.  “I’ve wondered that, but why?”

I suggested she come to see me in my office where we could explore the possibilities.

Nothing on the surface seemed out of place.  The first couple of visits, Jane arrived looked refreshed and well dressed.  She shared that she had troubles holding down a job, mostly because she still didn’t know what she wanted to do.  She had also been seeing a psychiatrist to help deal with personal issues.  She didn’t really remember much of her childhood.

I noted that Jane, apart from being highly intelligent, was also incredibly creative.

“Sometimes, I can be,”  she concurred.

I maintained that the phenomena she was experiencing was internal, as if there was more than one person inside her.

This notion set of an unexpected chain of events.  This well polished woman of nearly thirty suddenly transformed into a little girl before me.  Her legs started swinging back and forth and her responses took on a childish, sing-songy tone.

“How old are you?”  I asked on a whim.

“Nine,”  she replied, and then without hesitation, “Where’d you get that picture?  Is it your hand?”

She was referring to a plaster mold of a hand that hung above my desk.

“No.  See mine’s too big.  I don’t know whose hand is it.  I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“I know you,”  her eyes continued to scan the things in my room.   “You are going to help us.”

“I hope so.”  I suddenly knew I was in over my head.

* * *

“What do you like to do for fun?”  I asked Jane during our next visit.  She was her usual self when she arrived, but the question caused her to stir in her seat.

I waited for her to get comfortable again, but suddenly she didn’t seem to be able to.  She stood, and started to pace.

“Did I ask something that was upsetting?”

The woman that turned to me was not Jane.  She looked much older, and worn by the years.

“Oh, I know how to have fun, alright!”  came the response.  “Are you one of those self-righteously moral types?”

“Can’t say that I am?”

“I like a good drink, and a hard man, if I can find one.”  She laughed at this.  “What is it you hope to do here anyway?”

“Jane thinks she’s being attacked psychically.”

“Jane thinks she’s too good for the rest of us.”

My head was reeling.  What was happening here was beyond me.  After ‘Jane’ left, I had to confirm with my secretary that what I had just experienced was true.

“Did you see Jane before our appointment?  What colour was her hair?”

“Blonde, as usual.”

“And what colour was it when she just left?”

“Come to think of it, it was red.  How did that happen?”

“You tell me!”

* * *

I shared with Jane what had been happening during her visits.

“How is this possible?” she asked me.

“From what I can tell, something traumatic must have happened to you to cause your psyche to split into different identities.”

“That’s what my psychiatrist says.”

“And you don’t believe her?  Doesn’t it make more sense then psychic attack?”

“I just wish I could know for sure.”

A thought occurred to me.

“Tell me about grocery shopping.”

“What do you mean?”

“How do you know what to buy?  Do you ever find yourself getting home with things you either don’t remember buying, or don’t even like?”

“All the time!”

“Well, that must mean everybody participates.  Next time you grocery shop, stop and listen.  See if you can get a sense of the others.”

The suggestion worked.  Jane called me with excitement.  “I know what you mean, now!  My psychiatrist says this is a great breakthrough.”

But the progress would be short-lived and my lack of expertise would be to blame.

Little Janie arrived next accompanied by a horrible smell that made my stomach turn.  I could only describe the energy that followed her as evil, and I reacted accordingly.

We did a ritual to cleanse her from this demon, and banish it.

It worked too well.

It turned out that the demon-like figure that had appeared in my office that day was the one that held the key to Jane’s ability to heal.  The evil that it reeked of was the torture and humiliation that had been perpetrated against young Jane.  In order to be whole again, she needed to access that knowledge, and I had banished it.

I had not seen that like the ying yang symbol, there is good in bad, and bad in good.  I had reacted out of fear.

“Evil is the construct of man,”  a religious studies prof once said.  “The idea of demons was borrowed from the Greek, daemon, which actually means mischievous.  The idea being that demonic beings were intended to shake us from our complacency and help us grow.”

The entity that appeared in my office that day accompanied the young Jane.  It came because she trusted me to help it, and I did not.

Judgment is such as harsh thing, and when we put it in the context of good and evil we eliminate other possibilities.

Jane would have to work long and hard to regain the trust of this part of her – so essential to her wholeness.

Distinguishing Past from Present

My father had a habit of tilting his glass in such a way as to indicate that it needed refilling.  He would perform this ritual without saying a word, but the accompanying look would speak volumes:  I am the Master here, and you are to do my bidding.

I hated it, and I fought against him, but the reality was that he did hold all the power.

When my husband was laid up, I took on the role of caregiver.  One morning, he tipped his coffee cup and gave me a look of appeal.  I felt myself cringe.  He is just like my father! my mind screamed.  I felt the weight of years of oppression and depression hovering over me.  Have I married my father?  Is there no hope for me?  Is my joy always to be squashed?

th-1My therapist recommended Perfect Daughters, by Robert Ackerman.  It reveals the struggles, characteristics, and patterns associated with adult daughters of alcoholics.  I learned that women of alcoholic fathers will often enter into relationships where they see an opportunity to heal the original father/daughter rift, and that this attempt is seldom successful.

What I have gleaned from experience is that I often tolerate behaviours for a long time, and that instead of seeing fault in the other, I will be quick to blame myself.  I know that I do not like confrontation, and that I feel like my complaints are trivial in the light of the bigger picture.  I have also learned that I often project unresolved feelings about my father into my current relationships, and  I recognized immediately that the gush of emotion over Ric’s innocent gesture was just that.

Many feelings related to childhood have bubbled up as a result of the stress of the past years.  I have been feeling the despair of never seeing an end to the hurt.  Ric, tired of his predicament became more defiant, pushing his limits, and striving to regain control over his life.  My response was accelerated anxiety and as much as I understand that he is an adult and makes his own choices, I find it hard not to react, spiraling into a dysfunctional dance of feeling like a child again, caught in a cycle of chaotic impossibilities, destined to be crushed.

Then I had a dream.  I don’t remember what it was, but I awoke with sudden understanding.  The panic I had been feeling is a product of my child’s need to finally feel in control.  Somehow, she believes that if she could just control my father /Ric’s behavior, then everything will be okay.  Her desire to control stems from a need to know that there is consistency in life, and that the process can be trusted.  She needs to feel secure and know that she is loved no matter what, not only if she behaves herself, or manages not to upset anyone.

The adult me knows that none of this is possible.  People will always behave and make choices outside of our control.  It is not a reflection of their love for us, but a product of their own inner workings.  Ric’s struggles and his attempts to resolve them are not about me, in reaction to me, or more importantly, because of me.  If his actions have consequences that affect me, then it is up to me to look after myself and make sure I have taken appropriate protective measures.

I am reminded of something one of my university profs once said.  It went something like this:  Where there is power over, love cannot exist.  Where there is power for all, love exists.   My father behaved as if he was the only one with power in the family.  I did not feel loved.  My marriage to Ric is a partnership and a sharing of power.  I feel his love for me.


Day 149 “Meridians”

By the time I took myself to Emergency, human touch was unbearable.  I could get no relief from the swelling that affected me head to toe, and my heart was continually racing.  Emotionally, I felt out of control:  cranky, teary, and desperate.

The heart palpitations got me admitted directly, but the tests they ran showed the problem was not my heart.  An IV drip was started, but the painkiller they were infusing me with did not touch the pain. Two doctors came in and touched me in certain places, setting off cries of agony.

“Your blood tests showed that your liver counts are out,”  one young doctor explained.  “We don’t know why that is, but it is consistent with someone experiencing your level of pain.  We suspect you have fibromyalgia, but you will need further tests.  We are referring you on to Urgent Care.”

A battery of tests and doctors followed, checking my kidneys, my heart functioning, and so on.  Always the liver counts came back as suspicious.  No explanations.  Fibromyalgia, each doctor deduced.

“Take pain medication,” the Internist said.

“Your heart can’t tolerate pain medication,”  the Cardiologist countered.

“Go see Dr. Li,”  a good friend advised.

I called Dr. Li.  A tiny, Chinese woman, half my size, Dr. Li had a reassuring presence.  She listened intently, and asked specific questions.  “I don’t know fibromyalgia,” she said in her broken English.  “I will check your meridians.”

I held something in my left hand, while Dr. Li ran a rod connected to a computer over my right hand.  The machine squealed and reacted as she clicked buttons, and read the computer’s reactions.  At the end, she handed me a printout.

“The body has many lines of energy flow,”  she tried to explain.  “This tells where there are problems in the flow.  Green is good.  Red means there are danger spots; yellow is chronic.”  I had two green lines; my printout was a sea of red and yellow.

“Each imbalance is scored 1-4.  A four means you already have cancer.  You do not have a four, but your numbers add up to four.  Not good.”

Thus I began my course of treatment – weekly acupuncture, a drastic change in diet, and cleansing with Chinese herbs.

My health improved.

I continued to see specialists, ensuring that I wasn’t missing anything.  A year after starting my treatments with Dr. Li, they found the abnormal cells aggressively growing in my right breast.  Surgery followed.

I asked Dr. Li about it.  She confessed that she had been a medical doctor before coming to Canada, but that she found that by the time traditional medicine finds something, it is usually too late.  She prefers to work on preventing disease, where she can actually help the patient.

I escaped the threat of cancer with only a fading scar to remind me, and I credit my work with Dr. Li.  Her knowledge, combined with an uncanny instinct for what a body needs, promotes well-being.

It’s all in the meridians, apparently.

Criticism Be Gone!

I was forty before I could finally ask my mother about her constant criticism of me growing up.   We were alone together, in the car, driving out of town.  I had her undivided attention.

th-4“Help me to understand, something,” I prefaced the conversation.  “When I was young, you always told me no one would ever love me.  What was that about?”

“I didn’t say it to be mean,”  she explained and I believed her.  My mother was not typically a malicious person.  “It’s just that you were so different from your sisters, and I was afraid for you.  I thought I was helping you by preparing you for the inevitable.”

“But why, Mom?  What was it about me that you thought was unloveable?”

“You were just so smart, and independent minded……”  she trailed off.  “I guess I thought that men don’t like smart women.”

“Do you understand that I heard what you said to mean that I was impossible to love?”

“Oh my God, that is not what I intended at all!  Of course you are loveable.  You are compassionate and kind, and you deserve to be loved.  I thought I was preparing you, that’s all.  You were just so different,  and I thought I had to protect you.  I never meant for you to think you weren’t loveable.”

She paused in reflection.

“When the school came to us and told us they had done some testing and wanted to send you to a special school for the gifted, I was scared.  I didn’t know how to handle it.  Your father was all for it, but all I could think about was how would you fit in, and who would ever love you.  I guess I thought I was helping.  You were an enigma to me.”

Mother’s criticism of me was born out of fear and ignorance;  my acceptance of her harsh words was a reflection of my need for her approval. 

I understood.  Within the context of my mother’s upbringing and beliefs, I did not fit the mold.  She was merely expressing fear related to her own limitations.  Unfortunately, for the first forty years of my life, I lived out my mother’s legacy, choosing partners who were incapable of loving me.

My mother was not the only one to be critical of my intellectual abilities.  “Everyone hated you,”  a drunken cousin once confessed to me, then added, “but I don’t know why – you’re so nice.”  Classmates called me Browner, implying that I only got good grades because I ‘kissed up’ to the teachers.   Even close friends have commented that I’m not really that smart.

By listening to the criticism, I began to devalue myself.  Driven by a need to be accepted, I started to act dumb.  Better to deny self than to be criticized, right?


Embracing criticism and taking it to heart is ultimately a sin against the self.  We are each uniquely created, and destined, and it is only through accepting our differences, and nurturing them, that we can truly be fulfilled.

th-3Rejecting criticism is the first step to living authentically, and the only hope for living purposefully and to full potential.

Armed with this new understanding, I will stop apologizing for who I am.  I will let go of the need for praise from others, and recognize that their criticism is more about their process than mine, and let it be.  I will celebrate who I am by committing to my own process, and focusing on my goals and gifts.

I will finally start living.





Dragon Energy

Referred by her priest, a young woman made an appointment to see me.

“It’s urgent!”

She arrived the next day, and I could see by her movements that she was in distress.   No more than thirty, the woman looked tired, and something else – afraid?

In keeping with my preferred practice, I had requested that she not reveal any details of her situation to me in advance.  I prefer to start with a clean slate, no expectations or assumptions to confuse me.

I asked her if she had ever had energy work done before.  She had not.

“I’ll explain as I go along,”  I suggested.  “First, make yourself comfortable.”

She chose to lay face down on the treatment table, and I began my preliminary assessment.  There was clearly a barrier of some sort in the field.  If you meet with resistance, it is usually yours, Delores Krieger’s words echoed in my mind.  I started again, this time moving my hands further from the surface of her body.  No change. Maybe I am too forceful, I thought.  Intentionally, I focused on being whisper gentle.  The energy bounced back at me.

“I’m sorry,”  I said.  “But this does not seem to be working.  Are you open to trying a different approach?”  I had just studied third degree Reiki, and while my experiences with it were limited, I didn’t know what else to do.

I moved her to a chair, and explained that whatever was happening was between herself and whatever she deemed God to be.  “The process which I am about to do, will help you make that connection, so that you can ask for what you need.   Are you okay with this?”

She nodded ‘yes’ and I instructed her further as to how we would proceed.  I invited her to close her eyes and breathe deeply as she concentrated on what she needed.  Then I began.

The ritual doesn’t take longer than fifteen minutes, and when I indicated that we were finished, she opened her eyes clearly revealing that she wasn’t convinced.

I didn’t know what else to say.

Two weeks later, she called again.  “That thing that you did, how often can you do it?  Is it too soon to have another?”

When she arrived this time, she was animated, almost excited.  With no preliminaries needed, we moved right into the treatment.  This time she had tears in her eyes at the end.

“I felt it!” she said quietly.  She asked to come back in two weeks.

“I can feel it wearing off days before I come,”  she told me on her next arrival.

“How does it feel?”  I was curious.  This was fairly new to me too.

“It’s hard to describe, but I somehow feel more vital, alive, and then I feel myself becoming tired again just before I’m due to come back.”

Then she really caught my attention.

“I was supposed to be dead by now.”

The woman explained that she had been diagnosed with a rare terminal ailment, and given two weeks to live.  A single mother and business owner, she wasn’t ready to give up, so she visited her priest, who then referred her to me as a last resort.

“The treatment for my disorder takes a month to work, and I was too far gone, so I needed a miracle.”

Reiki employs symbols that access different forces, one of which is the dragon.  I have never really been able to define what this energy is other than to note that is often connected to breakthroughs.

Last time I saw her, my client continues to run her business and enjoys watching her own daughter blossom into a young lady.

An Enlightened Life

“What would you like to learn about?”

“Tell us about your life,”  one woman called out.

“Well, yes, that,”  the tiny woman responded, “but there’s nothing to learn there.  What do you want to learn?”

After several protests, our teacher promised that she would fill us in on her ninety plus years at the end of the weekend.

I had anticipated this workshop for months, without really knowing what to expect.  Dora Kunz, co-founder of Therapeutic Touch, had published several books about her work, but I found them difficult to read, and hadn’t gained much from them.  Unlike her partner, Delores Krieger, Dora did not have a nursing background and so remained somewhat of an enigma to those of us who pursued understanding of this simple, but powerful technique.  I had taken several workshops with Delores, each of them long and gruelling, packed with information and experiences, Delores being a tireless lecturer.  Krieger’s workshops were always accompanied by an outline of curriculum expectations, and formally conducted.  Participants would have to ask for breaks, as Krieger’s passion for the subject matter precluded any need for a break in her presentation. It was immediately apparent that Dora Kunz’s approach was in stark contrast to that of her colleague.

My initial reaction to Kunz’s opening question was disappointment.  I had signed up for a workshop on meditation, did she not know that?   Was this woman too old and senile to be able to put a program together?

“Well we signed up for a workshop on meditation.”  Someone else must have been thinking the same as me.

“Yes, but what about meditation would you like to learn?”  I had to admit, the lady was charming.  She must have been all of 4’10”, with waves of white hair caressing her gentle face.  A warm smile, and twinkling eyes embraced her audience, and an obvious sense of humour set us at ease.  “At my age, I don’t plan for these things, you know.  I find it’s better to just go with the flow.”

So that’s what we did.  For three mesmerizing days, we listening hungrily to the words of this tiny guru, whose vast bank of experience and pragmatic approach to teaching guided us to the deeper understanding we sought.  For me, her greatest lesson was yet to come.

At the end of the weekend, as promised, Dora told us about her life.

“I was only five years old,”  she began, “when my parents, recognizing there was something different about me, built me a meditation room.”  As a young child, Dora had an awareness of energy and other realities that most parents would brush off as an active imagination.  Dora’s parents decided to nurture these gifts in their only child.  When Dora was eleven, she was invited to study with a man at an institute continents away, where the spoken language was different from her own.  Her parents told her to meditate on it, which she did, and decided to accept his offer.  “I looked like an eight-year-old boy,” Dora laughed, “when I arrived at this institution full of adults.”  Dora stayed and studied with this man for several years and then moved to another foreign country to further her studies.  Her work eventually led her to the United States, where I would have the privilege of meeting her.

When asked how she knew which offers to accept, Dora responded:  “No was not an option for me.  I trusted that this work was my calling, and so I always looked for a way to say yes when opportunity knocked.”  It was not always easy, she went on to explain.  At one point in her life, she was asked to speak about her spiritual beliefs to a group of convicts.  She was just a young woman, and felt incredibly vulnerable and intimidated by the gathering of murderers and hard-core criminals she encountered, but she said that was all soon forgotten when the men found something comforting in her words.

Dora continued her work, and I would encounter her again at another workshop, still teaching, just two weeks before she passed away.  She was 95.

Dora Kunz remains for me an icon of someone who has led a complete life.  She lived her life inspired by a passion for learning and helping others.   She was dedicated to a life of service.

(Image from


Sue Bender, in her book Everyday Sacred, uses the symbolism of the bowl to depict the spiritual life.   She relates this image to Tibetan monks, who as part of their training must survive with begging bowls:  they must ask for what they need and make use of what they are given before they can beg for more.

Everyday Sacred literally fell off the shelf and into my arms one day, as I was reaching for a novel in the library.  It could not have appeared at a better time.  I was mesmerized by Bender’s words, and loved her analogy.  I could relate to the idea that we are bowls, or vessels for Spirit, and that whatever comes into our life must be consumed and processed before we can ask for more.  In this way, we make life sacred.

Shortly after discovering the works of Sue Bender, my marriage ended, leaving me shattered and scarred.  I prayed for a sign that everything would be okay.  Signs and omens surrounded me, and I felt comforted.  Then I got my new phone number.  I was disappointed that it had no obvious pattern to remember: 2695 were the last digits.  One day as I sat musing over how I was going to remember the number, I had a thought:  what did the numbers spell?- b-o-w-l.  Bowl!

Life had served me up a full helping of misery, and it would be a long time before I could empty it, but I came to understand that emptiness is what I needed before anything good could come my way.  As long as I hung on to anger, grief, or resentment, my bowl did not have room for anything else.  Empty was the goal.




On Wisdom

The difference between knowledge and wisdom is experience.

A young man once asked me if he could shadow me for a summer, so that he could learn from me.  I asked him to tell me about his life.

“It’s good,”  he replied.

“Tell me about a hardship that you have overcome.”

“None that I can think of.  My life has been easy.”

“Are your parents together?”

“Well, no,” he explained.  “They separated when I was fifteen.”

“That must have been hard.”

He shrugged.  “That was about them.  It wasn’t about me.”

He was a nice young man, and I believed him to be very sincere.  “What will you do with your summer, if I say no.?”

“I was thinking I’d try to get a job at a resort up north.”

“That’s what I would recommend!”

His disappointment was visible.  “But I want to help people;  I want to do what you do.”

“Let’s look at this hypothetically.  If someone came to you suffering from deep depression, how would you help them?”

“I would meditate on it and look for answers.”

“I see.  And if none came?”

He had no response.

“Let me explain something,”  I was starting to feel a little bit like David Carradine talking to Grasshopper.  “Much of my ability to help another comes from life experience.  In the case of depression, who do you think would be in a better position, someone who has lived through it and come out the other side, or someone who has meditated on the possibility?”

He didn’t need to answer.

“The best thing you can do for yourself right now is gather experience.  Learn all that you can, too, but when your intellectual knowledge, meets your experienced knowing, then you will be ready.”

“How long will that take.”

I had to suppress a smile.  I was impatient once too.  “That depends on you.  From where I stand, you have a ways to go.”

“Why’s that?”  He looked offended.

“You haven’t even recognized the pain of your parents’ divorce.  How can you help another deal with their wounds, when you haven’t looked at your own?”

“There is time for everything,”  I said more gently.  “Now is a time for gathering.  Go North.  You’ll learn much more there than I can ever teach you now.”