Category Archives: The Book of Awakening

Mojo Monday ~ Where Love Is Deep

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Where love is deep
much can be accomplished.
~ Shinichi Suzuki


Opening the book where my heart shaped bookmark was hidden within the pages I found myself greeted by Mark Nepo’s essay called Where Love Is Deep.

I find his book The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have to offer up wisdom, advice and new perspectives.   Seeing as how I have been working diligently on a big project, the timing was ideal to read the sage and inspirational words of Mr. Nepo.  

Here are the authors musings on envisioning, dreaming and manifesting.

“Despite our culture’s over-emphasis on doing, there is a a rightful place and time to get things done.  In truth, there is very little we can not do.  Much of the time we just lack either the ability to envision the dream built or the confidence that we can build it.

I remember early on how my grandmother would encourage me to envision even the smallest dreams down through my hands into the world.  She would say, ‘See it her,’ pointing to my forehead, and the she would take both my little hands and say, ‘Now see it here.’  Then she would laugh and say, ‘And soon, it will be here.’ With this, she would look around the room.

It is an amazing thing about being human that we can feel something inside and then build it in the world.  It seems we have this inborn need to love and to create.  At their deepest, these drives of spirit appear to be the same.  For through her love, wasn’t Grandma creating me?  Don’t we help birth another the instant we encourage them to see with their heart?  Don’t we help birth the world each time we give someone confidence to build what they see with their heart?

Somehow we are meant to wrestle the earth –wood, clay, marble — into forms; to seize the air — notes, words, color–into signs; meant to hold other breathing questions like ourselves and shudder as we part.  I go on and on as if to declare that life is worth living.  It makes me ask with joy, What shall we fall in love with tonight?  To what color shall we devote our being?  What instrument shall we be next?

Close your eyes and envision some becoming that you dream of.  It might be the dream of a solid relationship or the dream of a home or the dream of building something lasting with your hands.

  • Breathe deeply and envision the dream fully completed, existing in the world.
  • Breathe slowly and spend time with this vision.  Enter it and circle it.
  • Now open your eyes and look to your hands.
  • Feel the completed dream move into your open hands.
  • Feel your hands pulse with the energy of the dream waiting to be built.


What dreams are you envisioning?

Do the visualization exercises provided by Mark Nepo cause any shifts or realizations? 

Without thinking too much about this question (Just see what is the first thought that comes to mind.) What color is your dream?  
Were you surprised by the answer?  What does this color represent?  How does it make you feel?  

What do you think you would need to do to realize your dream?  

Do you think that it is true where love is deep much can be accomplished?

Mojo Monday ~ Coming Home to Yourself

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Art by Michelle Fairchild
The spiritual life is about becoming more at home in your own skin.
~ Parker J. Palmer

As our Cosmic Cowgirl tribe of writers dives deeper in contemplating and wondering about topics like identity, perspective, vision and so on, I find greater clarity.  My latest article in Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine is called We Are Stardust.  It expresses my thoughts on the topic of Identity.   Here is an excerpt from the article:

Can you wrap your mind around the reality that both you and I are literally made of  stardust?  How does an identity of being made of stars feel when you try it on?  Do you stand a little taller?  Does it blow your mind, just a little, or maybe a lot?  Does it make you want to swagger or maybe just stare up at the night sky and say “Why hello there my friend, I had no idea we were related?”

In next months article about Perspective I share my suspicion that the one perspective at the core of them all is the one we have of ourselves.  What I know is that there is a theme, a thread of connection, in my writing.  I feel a calling to shine a light and offer up ideas and tools on how we can heal our wounds and really learn to be a guest in our own hearts, and truly love ourselves.  I also believe as the quote at the end of this posts suggests “Each time you remember the Truth of who you are, you bring more light into the world.”

This weeks Mojo Monday is about Coming Home to Yourself.  It is about as the opening quote by Parker J. Palmer states “…becoming more at home in your own skin.”

Today I share with you an excerpt from Mark Nepo’s book entitled The Book of Awakening Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.  Mark even includes several grounding practices at the end.

“Anything that removes what grows between our hearts and the day is spiritual.  It might be the look of a loved one stirring their coffee as morning light surprises their groggy eyes.  It might be the realization while watching a robin build its nest that you are only a temporary being in this world.  It might be a fall on ice that reminds you of the humility of your limitations.


As Parker Palmer suggests, the aim of all spiritual paths, no matter their origin or the rigors of their practice, it to help us live more fully in the lives we are given.  In this way, whatever comes from a moment’s grace that joins us to our lives and to each other — this is spiritual.  For example, I was having coffee the other day in a cafe and suddenly, from the rain of noise around me, there arose a word of truth in the exposed voice of a stranger whose face I couldn’t even see.

I don’t know her context or her story or whom she was revealing herself to. I didn’t even turn around to see her face, because in that moment, there was a perfect beauty in our staying anonymous.  I only felt, simply and deeply, that without her ever knowing, her moment of pointed and unexpected truth made me more at home in my own skin.

The life of spirit is everywhere: in dust waiting for light, in music waiting to be heard, in the sensations of the day waiting to be felt.  Being spiritual is much more useful and immediate than the books about books would have us think.
  • Center yourself, and as you breathe, realize that your spirit fills your life the way your ones and blood fill your hand. 
  • As you breathe, realize that your life fits the world the way your warm and living hand fits a glove.
  • As you breathe, feel your spirit fill your skin and feel your skin fit the world.”

Mojo Monday ~ If Not Now, When?

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Change.  It can hold promise and excitement.  It can also incite anxiety and make for restless nights of tossing and turning.  
For over a month my husband and I rode a self-inflicted roller coaster ride of his getting a new job that would require us to move to a new town.  At first I was filled with only anxiety.  I began to be plagued by irrational fears.  Slowly I worked through those and grew more excited about such a change.  A new town, a new house, a potential new job for me, though it looked promising that I could stay with my current employer who had other offices in that area too.  A bit obsessively I began to scour the homes for sale on-line.  We started to look around our current home with new eyes, the eyes of a seller.  A desire for newness and something to push us our of our comfort zones grew more appealing.  Then the unthinkable happened.  The job fell through. 

Deflation.  Disappointment.   Those were the things I at first felt.  Talk about counting your chickens before they hatch. Yet, I also knew that it wasn’t the end of my story.  Life was going to carry right along.  My desire for change and to take some action and to push myself out of my comfort zone wasn’t reliant on my husband getting that job.  There are still goals and dreams I carry in my heart and soul.  There are things I wish to accomplish that rely only on my personal commitment and efforts.  My biggest realization is that there were other things that needed my attention right now and I had been squandering my time with the what ifs.  This isn’t to discount the benefits of dreaming, but in this case I was too caught up in projecting too much on one possible outcome.

One of my favorite books is called The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo.  I want to share one of the essays called String of Todays that takes on the topic of ‘If not now, when? 

Since surviving cancer, there is a burning bit of truth I live with every day.  Sometimes it doesn’t let me sleep, but most of the time, it brings me great joy.  No one uttered this to me, and I didn’t arrive at it or work at it.  It just revealed itself, the way a broken bone makes us re-feel the immense pressure of air.  And this bit of truth is, If not now, when? 

It keeps coming dow to this: There is no tomorrow, only a string of todays. Still, like mos of us, I was somehow taught to dream forward, to fill the future with everything that matters: Someday I will be happy,  When I am rich, I will be free.  When I find the right person, then I will know love.  I will be loving and happy and truthful and genuine then.

But almost dying seared the sense of future from me, and though I expect to live a very long time, though I make plans and look forward to the many things I plan, I have no choice but to dream now.

I start out, as I always have, pouring the best of me into an imagined time yet to be, but then I hear, If now now, when? and the best of me floods back to the only place it truly knows – Now.

This all helps me understand a story about Jesus very differently.  I’m thinking of the young, rich merchant who approaches Jesus after his Sermon on the Mount.  He admires Jesus so, it truly touched, and wants to join him.  So he asks with great sincerity what he needs to do, what arrangements need to be made.

Jesus opens his arms and says, ‘Come with me now,  Drop everything and come.’
The young merchant stumbles and cites his many ‘yes, buts’: He can’t leave his business so suddenly.  He has to leave word.  He’ll need to gather fresh clothes.  How much money should he bring?

With open arms, Jesus simply says one more time, ‘Come with me now.’
How often do we all rehearse this moment, putting off love, truth, joy and even God, citing our many ‘Yes, buts’ to ourselves, when all we have to do – hard and simple as it is – is to drop everything and Come Now.

  • Breathe slowly and meditate on something dear to you that you have been working toward.  It might center on being happy, knowing love, finding a partner, or learning how to play music, or how to understand the truth of your experience more deeply.
  • Breathe deeply and, for the moment, dream about it now; that is, eliminate the efforts to build it tomorrow.
  • For the moment, imaging that whatever portion of this work you are to know or achieve or inhabit can only happen today.
  • In hale deeply and take the energy of everything you’ve planned and put off back into your life today.
  • Rather than feeling overwhelmed with all this, try to let this energy simply fill you as you move through your day.

Mojo Monday ~ Sustaining Wonder

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“In truth, our aliveness depends on our ability to sustain wonder:
to lengthen the moments we are truly uncovered, to be still and quiet
till all the elements of the earth and all the secrets of the oceans
stir the aspects of life waiting within us.”
~ Mark Nepo
In The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo, the topic for November 11th is called Sustaining Wonder.  He begins the days reflection with a quote by Kahlil Gibran.

“In one atom are found all the elements 

of the earth; in one motion of the mind are found 

all the motions of existence; in one drop of water 
are found all the secrets f the endless oceans; 
in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of life.”
How do you sustain wonder in your life?

Do you think there is a connection between sustaining wonder and guarding your time so that you have time to ponder, reflect, and marvel? 

What things can make you think “WOW!”?

The author’s reflection on November 1st entitled The Next Moment of Love also offered up thoughts on overextending ourselves.  It begins with a quote by Thomas Merton:
“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude 
of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, 
to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help 
everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.  
The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his or her work for peace.”

Mark Nepo then continues, “Merton wisely challenges us not just to slow down, but, at the heart of it, to accept our limitations.  We are at best filled with the divine, but we have only two hands and one heart.  In a deep and subtle way, the want to do it all is a want to be it all, and though it comes from a desire to do good, it often becomes frenzied because our egos seize our goodness as a way to be revered.  I have done this many times: not wanting to say no, not wanting to miss an opportunity, not wanting to be seen as less than totally compassionate.  But wherever I cannot bring my entire being, I am not there.”
Consider these thoughts and questions that he poses at the end of this section.
  • Center yourself and think of the many kindnesses that you feel called to do. 
  • As you breathe, let your heart glow around one.
  • Without thinking, pray for the others, but devote yourself today to the one.

Wonder is also mentioned in the November 9th reflection called Diving Half-Blind.  This quote by Thomas Brown introduces the topic:
“We carry within us
the wonders we seek
without us.”
Mark Nepo later in this passage writes, “….the deeper we go, the slower the world; the slower the world, the soften our way.  So we must keep calling each other into the depths of what we know.  For below the surface we all shine.  Diving in, we all turn silver.   Given to air alone, the cuts of this world burn.  But when we dare to enter what is deep, the bruises we carry soften and glow.  In truth, the more we accept our limitations and surrender to the depths below our woundedness, the more the vastness holds us up.  There is no way to know this but to dive.”
He closes with the following suggestions:
  • Center yourself and hold a pain or ached that you carry; hold it gently before you.
  • As you breathe slowly, surround your pain or ache with a loving kindness meditation that keeps broadening your prayer for all living things.
  • Allow this silent prayer to subside.
  • Now, if you can, feel your pain or ache slightly softened by your love for the world.
There is wonder in the simplest of things.  This thing called life is a wonder.  Our “aliveness” is a wonder.  Author Mark Nepo shares these profound thoughts about life in his reflections of November 24th entitled The Need to Continue.
“The longer I wake on this Earth, the louder the quiet things speak to me.  The more I experience and survive, the more I find truth in the commonalities we all share.  The more pain softens me, the deeper my joy and the greater the lessons of those things that live in great stillness.
      Before I had cancer, I used to complain so much, annoyed that every chore would need to be done again, that the grass would grow back as soon as I’d cut it.  Now I am in aw how it will grow no matter what you do to it.  How I need that knowledge.
     Now, twelve years from that bed, I am standing in a gentle rain, each drop a whisper of simple things I will never understand.  Now, there is only air in the sky of heart waiting to rain. Now, I am thinner, grayer, brighter, less able to say, and my heart has learned more on this side than it will ever let me know.  Now, I want to learn how to kiss an orange, unpeeled, and taste the juice.
       Twelve years ago the unasked-for growth disappeared, and —praise this life — I have been shedding ever since.  Now, all that remains is my armless heart wanting to live.”
  • Sit quietly and consider your thoughts as leaves and your hears as the tree.
  • Breathe slowly, and try to listen to the soil you share with everything.
  • Breathe deeply, and meditate on what is oldest in you.

Here is a poem to inspire you in all your wonder and wow-ness!


Remember Your Wow-ness by Patricia Lynn Reilly
(Poem appears in Patricia’s book called Words Made Flesh.)

Verse 1
Do you ever look up at the night sky and say WOW?
Well you’re made of the same WOW-ness as the night sky.

Verse 2
Do you ever get lost in it’s bigness and say WOW?
Well you’re made of the same WOW-ness as the big sky.

Verse 3
Do you ever feel held by its darkness and say WOW?
Well you’re made of the same WOW-ness as the dark sky.

Verse 4
Do you feel the tug of the full moon and say WOW?
Well you’re made of the same WOW-ness as the full moon.

Verse 5
Do you ever try to count the stars and say WOW?
Well you’re made of the same WOW-ness as the night star.

Voice Choir
You are composed of the same stuff as the Milky Way.
You are an exquisite dimension of the Galaxy’s development.
You are a space the Universe fashioned to feel its own grandeur.
You are an individualized expression of WOW. WOW! 

Mojo Monday ~ Breaking Patterns

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Many who find themselves drawn to the Cosmic Cowgirl tribe of women would probably shake their heads knowingly if I was to say that becoming a Cosmic Cowgirl tends to shift things in one’s life.   I have heard stories from various Cowgirls about the changes that occurred after becoming a member and taking courses, some of them huge, such as moving to a different state or country, leaving a dead end relationship, quitting jobs or retiring in order to pursue an artist life. 

The common thread I have pulled from their many stories is the courage and the bravery each of these women finally found deep in their souls to find their voice, pursue their dreams, to claim who they are and what they really want in life.  Sometimes the journey is not smooth or easy.  Change may challenge not only those taking action, but also those close to them as well.  Sometimes family and friends look on bewildered.  Sometimes they are fearful of the change.  Sometimes those who love us the best are not the most supportive traveling partners. 

If all goes well everyone adjusts.  If all goes well, when the chaos settles down, all those ties that bind will be strong and intact.

Here are some thoughtful words of wisdom about this very subject from author Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening.

Breaking Patterns
 
If I contradict myself, I contradict myself.  I contain multitudes. ~ Walt Whitman

“We create patterns that others depend on, and then the last thing we ever imagined happens; we grow and then to stay vital we must break the patterns we created.
There is no blame or fault in this.  It is commonplace in nature.  Watch the ocean and shore do their dance of buildup and crumble and you’ll see this happen daily.
We know we are close to this threshold when we hear someone say, ‘You’re not yourself,’ or ‘That was out of character for you.’  What is difficult at this juncture is to resist either complying with how others see us or withholding who we really are.

The challenge, which I don’t do well but stay committed to, is to say to those we love, ‘I am more than I have shown you and more than you are willing to see.  Let’s work our love and know each other more fully.”

  • This is an awareness meditation.  As you move through your interactions today, notice whether you arecomplying with how others see you or withholding who you are.
  •  After each interaction, simply breathe slowly once or twice and return to the fullness of who you are.

The reality is that things don’t always turn out as we think or hope they will.  Sometimes relationships do not survive change and growth.  Life continues on though.  Hopefully one finds peace in one’s heart for those things that may feel unresolved.  Forgiveness for one’s self is paramount and ideally forgiveness for others follows.  There is also a jewel of advice again from Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakeningregarding the role of compassion.

Feeling Beyond the Hurt

Withstanding the tension between opposites until we know it is ‘enough’ releases us from the swing between one extreme and the other. ~ Helen Luke

“Sometimes, when I think of my parents, who have hurt me, I am lulled by a wintering sky to feel for them, to try on their view, but in my empathy an old pattern kicks in and I start to lose the truth of my hurt, as if there’s only room of one set of feelings – theirs.
The struggle is a common one.  So often we feel for others and lose ourselves, or cut others off to preserve ourselves.  Like a radio that can only tune to one station at a time, it seems like only one side of things can be received, though all sides are broadcast.
But compassion is a deeper thing that waits beyond the tension of choosing sides.  Compassion, in practice, does not require us to give up the truth of what we feel or the truth of our reality.  Nor does it allow us to minimize the humanity of those who hurt us.  Rather, we are asked to know ourselves enough that we can stay open to the truth of others, even when their truth or their inability to live up to their truth has hurt us.
This does now remove the emotional facts of our lives, nor does it ask us to remain in a hurtful situation.  Rather, compassion asks that we open like mountains to the sky, like mountains that can withstand every kind of weather.”

  • Sit quietly and bring to mind someone you are at odds with.
  • Breathe deeply and allow the truth of your feelings, not just the truth of your position, to rise.
  • Breathe evenly and allow the other person’s feelings, not just their position to rise.
  • Let your breathing ease and tension in you that either undermines yourself or undermines this other.

What are your experiences with change and growth?

Has it had any impact on your relationships?

Have you ever complied or withheld your true self from others?


How have you held true to yourself?

Mojo Monday ~ Living Is the Original Art

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Do you ever feel weighed down by the pressure you put on yourself to achieve, to live your purpose, to be successful, to be Legendary, to change the world for the better, to help stop global warming and to do your part towards creating world peace?  There are times when I get tired just thinking about it all, let alone trying to do it all.
I have held a life time dream of being a writer.  I was one of those students that actually enjoyed writing research papers.  I could get lost in the racks at the library for hours and hours.  In high school and college I had opportunities to share my writing.  Once I left college though all of my writing took place in private journals.  My dreams of pursuing a career in writing were set aside and I the reality is that I let fear hold my dreams at bay for too many years. 
I am now in a place where after gathering up my courage to pursue my writing dreams I have a blog, I write a column for the Cosmic Cowgirls Magazine and I write Mojo posts for the Cosmic Cowgirl member site.  My brave steps also led me to dust off a manuscript I began over a decade ago.  I now know that my life experiences in the past decade will make it possible for me to write an even better book.  I have had a couple of strategizing sessions with a successful writer and I joined a small writing group for six months that is also being facilitated by the same writer.    I am attempting to stick to a writing schedule three nights a week. 
It isn’t always easy though.  Last October was a busy month, and I often let my schedule slip through the cracks and fall to the bottom of my priorities.  Then in December as the holidays came upon us my writing again dwindled.  In the beginning of January my husband and I decided to tackle a home improvement project.  More of my time went to removing wallpaper and painting than to my writing.  Honestly I was thrilled to be working on this project.  I love decorating and freshening up our living space is making me one happy camper. 
What I have struggled with is reaching moments where I am not enjoying my life because I am feeling so pressured to get things done.  In the back of my mind the guilt is building because I haven’t done enough work on my book.  Yet there is also the reality that I am a mom to two young children and I work full time.  It is important to me that I connect with my children, connect with my husband, stay in touch with friends and family, work and keep up the house.   It is also important to me that I write.  I want to fulfill my dream of completing this book.  However, if I don’t get to the writing because I am tired from all the other demands it weighs on me, sometimes in an unhealthy way because I my inaction transforms into guilt and anxiety.  Occasionally I even wonder what it would be like if I just lived my life and didn’t put all this pressure on myself. 
Then I recently read a passage by Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have that touched upon this very conflict so perfectly.
It is called An Invitationand begins this way:
 “Yours is to live it, not to reveal it.” – Helen Luke
“Helen Luke was a very wise woman, deeply grounded in the life of the spirit.  I knew Helen during the last two years of her life.  During that time she was a mentor to me.  These words are from our last conversation.  They troubled me, for I have spent my life becoming a writer, thinking that my job has been just that – to reveal what is essential and hidden.
In the time since Helen died, I’ve come to understand her last instruction as an invitation to shed any grand purpose, no matter how devoted we may be to what we are doing.  She wasn’t telling me to stop writing, but to stop striving to be important.  She was inviting me to stop recording the poetry of life and to enter the poetry of life.
This lesson applies to us all.  If we devote ourselves to the life at hand, the rest will follow.  For life, it seems, reveals itself through those willing to live.  Anything else, no matter how beautiful, is just advertising.
This took me many years to learn and accept.  Having begun innocently enough, there arose separations, and now I know that health resides in restoring direct experience.  Thus, having struggled to do what has never been done, I discovered that living is the original art.”
  • Center yourself and think of your life as a story not yet written.
  • Breathe slowly, and relieve yourself of the responsibility to record your own story.
  • Breathe deeply, and imagine your path as the patch of sky a bird flies through.
  • Now just breathe and fly. Enter your day, and breathe and live.
Did this essay speak to you?  What did you get out of it?
I took from it a message to relax and live life first and allow my very life to be my original work of art.  I don’t want to just give up on my dream.  I am staying steadfast in the desire to finish my book, as that is a project dear to my heart. Yet I know that the writing process will be better if I relax and enjoy the process, instead of piling on the pressure and guilt when I don’t live up to the expectations I set for myself. 
Is there anything you would do differently if you took the approach that living is the original work of art?

Mojo Monday ~ Relationships

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This Christmas evening I sit with two books in front of me.  Both have some elements I felt called upon to share.  Both have to do with relationships.

The first is a book I received as a gift from a friend in the mail only a few days ago.  It is called The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have.  Mark Nepo is the author and the book is designed so that the entries are dated and start with January 1st and ends with December 31st.  When I first received the book I read the current date and then went back to my birthday to see what message I would find there too.  

Synchronicity stepped in on the night of December 23rd.  I was taking a bath in an attempt to ease the horrible cramps and back pain I was experiencing.  Pain and not feeling one’s best can sometimes trigger other emotions and thoughts that are not the most positive or helpful.  In that frame of mind I was having some trust issues be re-stimulated.  On my way to the bath I had grabbed my new book.  Once in the hot water I flipped to the entry on December 23rd. 
Here is what I read:
A Surety of Roots
You didn’t come into this house
So I might tear off a piece of your life.
Perhaps when you leave,
You’ll take something of mine:
Chestnuts, roses, or a surety of roots. 
    Pablo Neruda
“Perhaps the most stubborn thing that keeps us from knowing love is distrust.  Certainly, we have more than enough reason in our world to be cautious, alert, and guarded against being hurt or taken advantage of.  But the fact remains that in spite of all the new and terrible stories that we pass on at parties, there is no other doorway into kindness and all its gifts but through the gentle risk to open ourselves, however slightly, and try.  The question we must ask, that I ask myself every day, is which is more debilitating: to be cut off from love or to be scarred by the pain of being hurt?
What made Neruda, such a great poet is the largeness of his heart, and through his large kindness, he suggests that giving heals and that until we step into that space between each other and try, nothing can happen.  But once we do, giving and receiving become the same, and we all grow stronger for going there together.”
  • Center yourself, and bring to mind three small gifts you are will to give away.  They may be tangible or symbolic or gestures of kindness.
  • Wrap each gently in your breathing.
  • Bring these gifts with you into your day.
  • Before you come home, give them away.
I was a bit stunned that my thoughts about not trusting had been greeted by this very strong message that distrust keeps us from knowing love.  My heart and my head rolled this passage over and over again.  I knew there was great truth in this message and I thanked the Universe and Great Spirit for sending it to me. 
The second book that had also leapt out at me at the last minute is one called Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection by Gregg Krech.   This is how the book begins in the Preface:
“In 1991 a movie was released called Defending Your Life and starring Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep.  The story line centered around several characters who died and were transported to a temporary location where a decision was made about their future.  The purpose of this place—which was a rather comfortable, almost resort-like city—was to give people who passed through a chance to watch film highlights of their lives.  They had a chance to defend their conduct and the choices they made while alive, and subsequently a final decision was made about their future.  They might be sent back to earth to ‘try again’ or, if their lives were generally laudable, they would ‘move on’ to some higher form of existence.

What I found most interesting about the film was the idea of stepping back and observing your life.  In 1989 I had the opportunity to do just that for the first time, at a center located amidst the rice paddies in rural Japan.  It was a Naikan center.  The work Naikan means literally looking inside.  In the fourteen days I stayed at the center I spent about fifteen hours per day watching the films of my life run across the screen of my mind’s eye.  Prior to this experience I had been to dozen of retreats and spiritual conference.  I had spent at least one week each year on a solo trip in the wilderness to simply be quiet in nature.  I had meditated in forests and at Zen monasteries for days and weeks at a time.  Yet I had never really stepped back from my life to simply see how I had been living.

The process used at the Naikan center was very structures.  I reflected on the relationships with nearly all the key people that had played an influential role in my life.  In each case I looked at three aspects of that relationship:  What had I received from that person.  What had I given to that person.  The troubles or difficulties I had caused that person.  I sat on Japanese-style cushions and faced a blank wall in order to limit outside distractions.  Except for the time it took to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom, I did little else for two weeks.  In some ways I resembled the characters in the movie I have referred to, except that I had the opportunity to do this –fortunately—while I was still alive.

During my time at the Naikan center I had doubts.  Why spend time reviewing my past, when there was so much to do now?  Why spend time considering the troubles I was causing others when I was already striving so hard to be a good person…Notwithstanding my persistent questions and doubts, I persevered each day with the review of my personal history, as far back as I could remember.  As the days passed, I began to understand what was attractive and uncomfortable about Naikan.  Naikan involved self-examination; that is, we examine our own life, not the actions of others.  How often is our attention wasted on judging, criticizing, and correcting others while we neglect that examination and lessons of our own life?  While we can never know the actual experience of another, we know our own experience intimately.  While we can do little or nothing to control how others treat us, we can do much to control how we treat others.  And while we are often powerless to impose our choices on others, we make choices about how we shall live, moment to moment, day to day.  Examining one’s own life is profoundly sensible, though not necessarily comfortable.”
In a section called Intimate Attention author Gregg Krech has this to share:
Relationship as a Vehicle for Training
Henry David Thoreau knew how to live alone.  Really alone.  A few of us may set up solitary housekeeping in a parcel of unexplored wilderness, but the vast majority will choose, and be chosen by, intimate partners.  Such choices may be temporary, or…well, actually, temporary is your only option.  These relationships are the graduate school of self-development.  They provide us with the sharpest tools, the heaviest weights, and the thickest texts.  They push us to our edge, stretch us beyond our limits.  They may wing us on a pendulum from ecstasy and joy to the farthest reaches of pain and grief.”
Please Remind Me
By Gregg Krech
Please remind me of why I am here
when I am somewhere else.
When anger stirs
over unwashed dishes,
unkept promises,
and unpaid bills,
Please soften my heart
and remind me
of why I am here.
When frustration is triggered
by the same argument
for the hundredth time,
please tame my words,
deepen my breath,
and remind me of why I am here.
When my attention is drawn
like a magnet
to myself—
my needs,
my wants,
my comfort,
my pain—
please blink my mind
and allow my eyes to see
into the heart of another,
that I may attend to their needs
and bear their pain
and be dissolved
into the reason I am here.
I know that reason
Yet, so often,
I find myself somewhere else
and forget.
So please remind me.
Lastly I want to return to The Book of Awakening and share the passage from September 20th called Unconditional Love.
“Unconditional love is not so much about how we received and endure each other, as it is about the deep vow to never, under any condition, stop bringing the flawed truth of who we are to each other.
Much is said about the unconditional love today, and I fear that it has been misconstrued as an extreme form of ‘turning the other cheek,’ which to anyone who has been abused is not good advice.  However, this exaggerated passivity is quite different from the unimpeded flow of love that carries who we are.
In truth, unconditional love does not require a passive acceptance of whatever happens in the name of love.  Rather, in the real spaces of our daily relationship, it means maintaining a commitment that no condition will keep us from bringing all of who we are to each other honestly.
For example, on any given day, I might be preoccupied with my own needs, and might overlook or bruise what you need and hurt you.  But then you tell me and show me your hurt, and I feel bad, and you accept that sometimes I go blind to those around me.  But we look deeply on each other, and you accept my flaws, but not my behavior, and I am grateful for the chance to work on myself.  Somehow, it all brings us closer.
Unconditional love is not the hole in us that received the dirt, but the sun within that never stops shining.
    • Center your self and consider a relationship in which you have recently endured some pain in the name of love.
    • As you inhale deeply, consider the conditions that keep your pain unexpressed.
    • As you exhale deeply, consider ‘being unconditional’ as a bringing forth from within, rather that the enduring of what comes from without.
    • Enter your day and consider ‘bringing forth who you are’ in the name of love.
    Unknown Author