We Love Answers



As I teach on yoga’s ethical system at various studios around the country, I am invariably asked about a real life situation and the pressing question of what to do. Although the situation is always unique, the dilemma has a constant theme: how to be both non-violent and truthful in that particular situation. When I reply, “What a great question; keep asking it,” silence takes over the room. The disappointment in my “non-answer” is palpable.

I am becoming familiar with how much we love answers to the lived experience of our complex relationships. I hear it from others; I know it all too well in myself. It seems like a pervasive inner plea to make life easier by being told what the “right” thing is. But the ready-made solution that answers give tends to cheat us by preventing a deeper dialogue with the complexities these experiences bring us.

On one of my travels, I met a studio owner who shared her experience of conversing with nonviolence and truthfulness when her husband of 10 years suddenly said to her, “Honey, I’m working on myself and I want you to tell me all the things that you see I need to work on.” Wanting to honor his earnestness, yet knowing her response could prove disastrous to their relationship, she wisely asked her spouse to let her think about his request for a few days.

She had no idea what to do, she told me. But she was willing to sit in the chaos of not knowing and the complexity of her spouse’s request. She was willing to reflect on what it would mean to respond from a place where both truthfulness and nonviolence prevailed. She was willing to trust that the question itself would reveal an answer. Eventually she was able to say to her husband, “I’ll tell you what, I will give you three things I think you need to work on and 3 things that are awesome about you.”

She didn’t give her spouse a 10-page list of quirks. Nor did she play it safe by denying his request. She masterfully limited the list to 3 weaknesses and then balanced these weaknesses by including 3 strengths. Being able to sit in the “not knowing” allowed her to tap into a kind, authentic response that had previously been unavailable to her.

Simple answers hold an important place in our lives, but they can also steal opportunities for growth. The next time we hear our inner voice longing for things to be easier, perhaps is the time to welcome the gifts waiting to be discovered if we are willing to sit in the complexity.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on We Love Answers


tree growing out of rocksLast month Dad turned 90 years old. I, along with my 2 brothers and our families gathered in Tulsa to celebrate. We laughed a lot and for the most part avoided touchy subjects. But mostly we told stories. They were stories packed with memories, the kind that sustain life by giving it roots and some sense of belonging.

In my mind I found myself moving through the details of my life with this man, holding each event up as if through a microscope to clearly examine what has so significantly shaped me. I was looking for a theme that could hold all the experiences. And then it became clear: I had learned about choices.

You see, my dad should have died in his mid 40’s when he had a massive heart attack while away on a business trip, where, instead of coming home, he spent a month hovering between life and death in a distant hospital. Dad was a driven man with one goal, to rise far above his childhood depression memories and give his family what he never had.

It’s what happened after Dad was released from the hospital that was so amazing. My dad chose to live. And in order to live, he had to change, well, everything. In stark contrast, Dad’s hospital roommate, ignoring Doctor’s orders to avoid any strain, went home the day he was released from the hospital and mowed his lawn, dropping dead in the process.

Two men with massive heart attacks, both released from the hospital on the same day, both given strict orders to rest, both wanting to live, but one died that day and the other is still living 45 years later.

Choices don’t sit in a vacuum, and they are meaningless if they aren’t supported by congruent action. There is a constant vigilance that life asks of us, to examine what it is we say we want and what it is our choices reflect.

In a world that seems to have gone mad with violence, wishing for peace has little impact. It is the moment to moment choices we make that will contribute (or not) to a safe and compassionate world.

Thank you, Dad, for showing me that my choices, no matter how small, require a daily diligence.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Choices

Uncle Bill



My Uncle Bill died at the ripe age of 92 in physical pain, mental alertness, and spiritual security. He was considered by many to be a giant of a human being. Shortly before he died, circumstances brought me alone to his bedside where I took the opportunity to seek the wisdom carried by one who had lived long and learned well along the way.

Sitting by my Uncle Bill, I asked him, “What do you regret the most in your life?” His eyes turned reflectively inward as he answered, “I grew up in a community of immigrants from four different countries, all speaking their native language and living out their unique customs. In all the opportunity there was for me to play with children who had come from a country different than my own, I chose instead to play with the German boys because that was what I knew. I could have learned new words, played new games, tasted different food, and made new friends, but I chose to stay ‘with my own kind’. I regret to this day that I missed out on so much.”

It’s hard to convey the tangible heaviness in Uncle Bill’s voice as he spoke; it’s also hard to convey my own surprise that in 92 years of living this would be his biggest regret. But I witnessed the cost to my uncle and I am witnessing it today in a world that seems bent on defending what is familiar and attacking what is different. The resulting wars and suffering speak for themselves.

It is risky to reach across the boundary of difference because difference always carries an unknown outcome, and for whatever reason, unknown outcomes seem to frighten us. It is risky to step out of the circle of familiarity and extend an invitation of friendship. Fear and blame come so much easier for us.

In a world of growing polarities where each group is clinging to its own familiarity, my Uncle Bill’s words still live. They invite us to take the risk and the opportunity to “play with others”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Uncle Bill

What Are You Doing to your Brain?



Even though I don’t carry my cell phone with me all the time. Even though I have non-tech hours built into my day. Still, I am amazed by the power that little device holds over me in its insistence to be swiped, clicked, checked, and played with.

It reminds me of the experiments B. F. Skinner did with rats. In one experiment, he created a lever inside a cage for rats to push. By pushing the lever, there was a random possibility that food would appear. What he found was that the rats had a little rush of excitement to the brain each time they pushed the lever, whether food appeared are not. The result was the rats kept pushing the lever.

continue Reading →

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on What Are You Doing to your Brain?

Running Hot

hot temperature gaugeThe world feels too hot to me. Hot tempers, rash decisions, and revved up speed are warning signs that trouble has found us. Like the gauge in a car warns us when the radiator is over heating, we humans are being warned that the pace we are keeping is non-sustainable and down right destructive.

When the radiator gauge indicates overheating, the sensible thing to do is to pull over to the side of the road and turn the engine off. Stop and let things cool off so the damage can be assessed. If we choose to keep driving, the car is in grave danger of being totaled or in need of expensive repairs.

continue Reading →

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Running Hot

As Usual…



The holiday season for many of us is filled with customs. I can remember as a child the yearly Christmas Eve candlelight service. My eyes would fill in wonder as the lights dimmed, the candles were lit, and the congregation sang Silent Night. I remember how grown up I felt when I could hold a lit candle by myself. Then there were other customs of leaving cookies for Santa, and the early morning rush to the tree to open presents. These were the customs, the “as usuals” I waited for every Christmas.

This season of the year is filled with customs; we all have them whatever our faith tradition. Some of these customs we continue to live out each holiday season, others we relive in the memories of our childhood. The customs, the “as usuals”, of our lives are important.

As we begin a New Year, it is easy to focus on the big stuff, but in truth it is the routines, the consistents, the “as usuals” upon which our life is defined and our character sits. As we enter this New Year, what are the “as usuals” that will define your life?

Posted in Practice, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Holding On

Sister LucyFor the many years I have been practicing yoga, “letting go” has been a major theme for me. I have carried a deep conviction that yoga is a process of subtraction, not addition. To finally rest in the essence of who we are requires a discipline of letting go of all that stands in the way. I still hold this conviction, but on my recent trip to India I caught a glimpse of the importance of also “holding on.”

My final ten days in India were a unique opportunity to travel with a woman fondly called Sister Lucy. Born into a family of 9 children that barely had enough themselves, Lucy watched her father generously share with neighbors who had even less. Perhaps it was partly this influence that led her to become a Catholic nun whose goal was to serve the poor.

Through the circumstances she encountered, she developed a passion for the many children left to survive on the streets of India. Facing impossible circumstances, she began to take these children in, feeding them, getting them an education, teaching them to respect all religious traditions, and transforming them through love. To date, she, plus the committed housemothers and social workers who support her, have saved over 1000 children from the streets of India.

Has this been easy? Not at all. Sister Lucy continuously faces government corruption, lack of funds, and children who haven’t learned yet that love can be trusted. But Sister Lucy fiercely holds on. She holds on to each child. She holds on to her dream for all children. She holds on to the transformative effect of education, respect for all religions, and love.

Hold on? Yes, some things are worth fiercely holding onto.

Posted in India | Leave a comment

Dhotis & Trousers



For men, the traditional pant worn in India is a dhoti. A dhoti is one long piece of cloth wrapped around the body from the waist down to the ankles. Although this style provides some freedom of movement, there are certain restrictions placed on the body. One obvious restriction is speed. This garment does not allow a man to walk quickly. That fact alone can change the whole day and demeanor of the man. Because he has to walk slowly, he is able to be more relaxed, more aware, more available to the moment, and more available to life in general. The same can be said of women and their traditional saris.

I live in a culture that prides itself in the freedom of quick movement. In almost an instant I can have whatever I want: any drink of choice, any food of choice, access to temperature control to facilitate my comfort, the ability to order anything I “need” from an online catalog and have it delivered overnight or local access to 24 hour shopping, instant access to information and entertainment for my own pleasure and interest…and the list goes on. In my culture the speed of movement and availability are supposed to make my life easier; they are supposed to make my life enjoyable. But they don’t. In fact, what I notice is how much these things steal my life from me.

continue Reading →

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment