Allowing My Argument With Love to Die






Small, elderly, and frail-looking-but-not-acting, she darted past me on the ashram’s dirt walkway.

She almost knocked me over she was in such a hurry. As she bumped into me, I almost lost my balance. Immediately, she stopped and turned to me. Her big brown eyes were overflowing with love and a gentle request for forgiveness. Her eyes said everything. Mine answered in return. Yes. Of course. Forgiveness. Then, she handed me a card. A small card, like a business card. But this one was different. It had a message, a message from Amma. We were in Amma’s house after all – her house in Kerala, India.

As she watched me, intently with those big brown eyes, I took the card and read the words.

“Grace is always falling like rain. You just have to open to receive it.” ~ Amma

I read them again. And then I looked back up at her…but she was gone.

I stood there for what was probably a few minutes. In that moment, I needed grace. I was homesick and a bit overwhelmed with everything that India offers. I wanted to feel comfortable, and I was feeling anything but.

As I stood there taking in the dusk light and the many people scurrying across the ashram grounds, I could feel, even if just slightly, a sense of the grace Amma was speaking to. I could feel presence. It was faint, like a small window had been opened to a world that has always surrounded me even if I was unaware of it.

I kept that card with me throughout the rest of my time in India. I brought it home with me, back to the States. Somewhere along the way, I lost the card, but I’ve never forgotten the message.


A window into grace became a doorway into grace; and, eventually a world of grace.

Just the other day, I was speaking to two women about the spiritual ‘work’ each of us has done over the past many years. The three of us share similar patterns of feeling like we must work really, really hard to heal; that it is all up to us; and, that we never think to ask for help. I was telling them about some of the really powerful work I’ve been doing lately. I’ve been so grateful for the openings and awakenings I’ve been experiencing. And, it can be really deep, emotional work. It can feel hard, and yet I have this determination to get to the bottom of it all.

There’s this quest to go all the way in, all the way through. Trauma (the trauma of life) can cause us to disassociate, to leave, to go numb. I went numb a long time ago, and I stayed numb until a death woke me up, and then another death, and another death.

In my thawing, I’ve developed a fierce determination to not isolate, and to not continue to live in world that feels so separate. But, sometimes that fierce determination also comes from a  belief of having to do it all myself, and a belief that it will and must be hard.

One of the women looked at me and said, “You know. We can ask for grace.”

We can ask for grace.


Two days later,

I was dancing as I do on Sundays. Toward the end of the two-hour moving meditation, I remembered her words. In that moment, I was so open, so vulnerable, so ready. And, in that moment, I asked.

I asked for grace.

Five days later,

Grace came. The details do not matter. What mattered enough to share with you is this:

When grace rained down upon me, I wept because for the first time in my life I truly knew what it felt like to have love pour itself into me, over me, and through me, without having to ‘earn it’; without having to feel unlovable, lovable, or something in between; without having to believe in some way that I was deserving, without having to feel I was broken in some way.

I have felt love fill me before. But this time, what was extraordinary was the quality of love. It was love that gives with a clear feeling of asking for nothing in return. There was a clear sense of the unconditioned nature of love.

There was no duality present – no conditional/unconditional duality.

There was no sense of exchange. There was only a pouring out of itself.

What I did have to do was open to receive love’s rain shower.

What I did have to do was allow myself to be loved – completely and utterly loved – to no longer push love away, to truly feel love and loved. Once I did, I could no longer argue with love.

Grace is love without any demand in return. It comes and pours itself over you. It graces you.

Grace washed over me and through me. Like waves, it came and poured itself into me. Waves and waves of love, each given completely. As it washed over me, I could feel, and finally see and know, how love moves.

Love gives of itself without asking for anything in return.

Love gives of itself.

And in receiving this grace, this love, something in me did die.

What died was my argument with love itself.

There was no argument left; there was only love.





A Living Goodbye; A Living Hello

Life is: Life relating to itself, Knowing itself through relating.


Eighteen years ago, today, my husband died suddenly before my eyes. It was quick and shocking.

The grief journey it took me on was anything but quick.

A friend on Facebook just now asked, “How does one say goodbye and go on?”

How do we live a goodbye and grief? How do we live hello and joy? They go together, goodbye and go on. They go together, hello and go on.

For me, I’ve found it’s a living goodbye, and a living hello. It’s all tangled together, in a beautiful, and sometimes not so easy, dance.

Gary’s death was a doorway into awakening to the depth and beauty, the light and dark, the sacred and mundane. It was a doorway into a true relationship with life, because we can’t be in relationship with life if we are not in relationship with death.

I am not romanticizing it. It’s not been easy, nor was it easy for my daughters and family members who grieved Gary’s death. It hasn’t easy for the hundreds of 9/11 family members I worked with, or the hundreds of clients and students I’ve taught and coached. And, I am certain, it’s not easy for you. We all know grief.

If we are looking for easy, we won’t find it in grief, and we won’t find it in life.

Yet, we can find ease. We can find softness and grace. Life is filled with grace if we open our arms to be held in love. Not romantic love, but the love that carries us through it all, even the very painful things we are now witnessing in our world. I write this two days after the Boston bombings. I write this as other  bombings are taking, and will take, place in our world.

Today, I celebrate Gary, our daughters, our four grandchildren, our life together, and the years since that have, I hope, made me a more real and loving woman.

Today, I celebrate you, your grief, your journey, and the way you grace this world.

Today, I celebrate our humanity. In light of all the tragedies we face, the love that we are is greater, by far, than any hateful and violent acts we do to each other.

This I know.


Persistence. Grace. Unfurling.



After a long, long week of wonderfully internal time, slow quiet mornings and a few days of being really sick, I’m re-entering this new year with less.

Yes, less.

A little less weight from being sick, but also less looking, less sense of internal chaos, less wanting.

A great load has been lifted from how I experience life. And, with the lifting of this load, there is a marked experience of less veiling, less pushing, and less of a need to search for something that never was attainable.

None of this was necessarily a beautiful spiritual experience. Ha. I suppose there is such a thing. Yes, I suppose I have had them. But I don’t want to make it sound like this was all grace and light and beauty. It was painful. And that pain was beautiful, is beautiful. It was real. I felt things I had stuffed for eons, things I didn’t want to feel, but finally came to realize there was no avoiding it if I wanted to know peace…and be free.

I saw things about myself that aren’t pretty, ways I can be, ways I have been with others, ways I hold myself back: self-righteousness, jealousy, wanting to be special, wanting to be wanted, and how damn careful I can be…

In being with these parts of myself, really being with them with love, I came to see that at the heart of each of these unskillful habits is a pearl, a little gem of goodness and truth that was the seed of what grew into behavior was absolutely necessary at the time and saved my little psyche. AND, as an adult this behavior certainly wasn’t helpful in my relationships with others or with myself.

Shedding, unfurling, letting go…all beautiful acts of both persistence and grace.

Speaking of Unfurling

I’d love for you to take a look at this interview I did with Amy Kessel, ACC, a coach and simply a beautiful woman. Video is not my favorite form of communicating, but with Amy it was a lot of fun. She has a gracious presence that drew me in from the moment I first met her by Skype.

Her question of me and other women is, How are you unfurling? A lovely question. I think it’s a great one for all of us to ask ourselves.

While at Amy’s site, check out her other interviews on unfurling with Jennifer Louden, Ronna Detrick, and Kate Courageous.


Happy New Year!



An Unutterable Tenderness


A softness that defies language.
An unutterable tenderness.
To touch it requires complete and generous receptivity,
an awareness that is feather-light.

I’m beginning to know this place within,
this place that opens with the
touch of Grace and my
willingness to be loved.

Completely undressed I sit,
In silence I wait with
open heart and a willingness
to let my longing be known.

In this subtlest of subtle places,
I hear the whispers of this woman’s heart.
To do so requires me to leave everything I know
at the threshold into this world.

I am nobody special here,
in fact quite the opposite.
I am ordinary, undressed, and open
simply waiting to return home.


Beautiful Evidence


Smell Of Freedom
Smell Of Freedom

Whatever it may be that holds you captive is nothing compared to what wants to set you free. ~ @GuyFinley


#reverb10 day two’s prompt is from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits:
What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?


Serendipity is always happening, just like Grace is always available…we just have to be open to receiving. Today’s reverb10 post is no exception. Yesterday, I came across the quote above by Guy Finley. It captivated me from the moment I saw it…it’s captivating because I know the truth of it. It is beautiful evidence of the creative power within each of us.

What wants to hold us captive is absolutely nothing compared to that which wants to set us free. And this has everything to do with writing…

For me, writing is a direct path to freedom. Dance is another. So is love-making. Play. Prayer.

We are meant to be free. We are free, except in our minds. It is only the mind, the conditioned mind, that holds me captive. And so it is in my writing. When I am not free in writing, it is because I listen to those small voices in my head that tell me all sorts of stories about everything but freedom.

I could try to eliminate the mind, the conditioning, the stories, but that would be a waste of my time, my energy, my life force. They aren’t going to go away.

It’s my choice which one I will feed…that which wants to hold me captive or that which wants to set me free.


Think of your own creative experiences. Consider the power of the force which yearns to be free. Consider the smallness of the voices that keep you captive. Consider that you might just be afraid of the power within you that longs to be free to move, to express, to voice, to sing, to love.

In Lisa‘s reverb10 post, Writer Love, she tells of how her “writer envy transformed itself into writer love” – beautiful evidence that “Whatever it may be that holds you captive is nothing compared to what wants to set you free.” And it will set you free, if you open to the Grace of it.


Smell of Freedom is by Gagilas on flickr under cc2.0


Grace, Like Rain

“Grace is always falling like rain. We just have to be open to receive it.” ~Amma
Grace is Everywhere
Grace is Everywhere

Tenderness, Power and Grace

This is the third post in a series of three: Tenderness, Power and Grace.  All three posts are deeply intertwined. They’ve been born from the deepest, most raw feelings I experienced as I let the images of Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani (and the intense feelings of hatred and violence towards women and girls that seem to be so evident in our global community) wash over me.

I sometimes paint with Chris Zydel. It’s process painting, where the process – what happens during the process of painting – is the focus rather than the finished painting itself. On a Thursday, just after learning about Sakineh, I painted this painting, titled Grace is Everywhere. That was three weeks ago. Since then, I have been writing about what I experienced through the process of painting that day: tenderness, power and grace.

For whatever reason (maybe no reason at all), I waited until this last post to include the painting process. In this last post, I’m going back to the beginning. I’m taking us back full circle.

I’ve written about this type of painting before. What I want to share, here, is what happened this particular time.

I had been filled with these intense emotions after reading and writing about Ashtiani. At that time, I wrote a post about the power we women have to create change…how the power of our coming together can change things. And, even though I know there’s power in circles and that we can effect change, I also felt powerless to do something myself, something to free this woman from the hands of tyrannical forces that hold such misogynistic views of women, and on a deeper level, powerless to change the way women are disrespected, oppressed and hated, the way children are of such seemingly insignificant worth in a society that seems to value greed, consumption and violence. Power and powerlessness.

The more I sat with these feelings, the more anger, frustration, and futility I felt at a world that seems to not be able to see, really see just how much unresolved distrust and fear there is simmering under the surface between the genders.

The Process…

And so, when I arrived to paint, the process took over as I selected colors for my palette…or, rather the colors picked me: blood red, black, yellow, purple, and gold.

As I began to paint, the feelings spread out onto the paper: grief, anger and rage, powerlessness and power, hope and futility. They flooded the page through the paint.

Big, wide brushstrokes of blood red: stoning, death, power over the powerless.

Bright brushstrokes of yellow: the brightness of hope.

Swaths of black, deep dark black, so heavy they flooded the bottom of the picture: mourning and grief that could only be expressed with a black that was void of all light.

As I painted, I stayed with the feelings that appeared.

Tenderness that is Grace

Then, something else showed up. I felt a tenderness come through, a tenderness that wanted to be expressed differently – through my fingers rather than the brush. Quivering tenderness.

I put the brush down and submerged my fingers in the paint. The black paint along with this beautiful gold paint, a gold that flowed directly from the tenderness quivering in my fingertips. Black for grief and mourning in the immediate presence of the gold of tenderness.

As I painted, I could feel the word grace come forth as the gold began to make itself known on the paper alongside the black. Grace in the middle of death and grief. Then my fingers chose red and gold – grace appearing with power and powerlessness. As my fingers scooped up the yellow of hope, grace came along, too.

Grace appeared with everything I was feeling. It had a distinct ‘feel’ and color to it, as did all the other feelings; but the thing that stood out so starkly to me, was the deep wisdom that arose about the absolute necessity of feeling everything with conscious awareness, without pushing away any difficult emotions or aspects of the experience. Grace was not there in place of the dark emotions, it was there with them, alongside them, intermingling with them.

Grace made itself known through the direct and conscious willingness to feel the entirety of everything, and the depth of it all; this willingness was cradled by the process of painting itself.

Visceral and Palpable

The grace was visceral and palpable, and made me keenly aware of the possibility of knowing such grace in the middle of the darkest of our experiences. Even when things seem most without hope, grace is always present, falling like rain. Grace’s presence is not a question – it is always here; rather, it’s our willingness to be vulnerable in the most raw and uncomfortable places, a vulnerability that opens us like a flower, so that we can receive grace’s shower.

This willingness to see things just as they are, to feel the immensity of feelings associated with all that is happening to our planet, to the human race, to all living creatures can open us to receive the tenderness and wisdom of transformation. This grace brings the sweetest tenderness, palpable in the body and heart, a tenderness that is much more powerful than the tyranny we see today, because it is kissed with the rain of grace.

This willingness to see things just as they are opens us to see ourselves with tenderness, to see the creativity and love that resides deep in the folds of our divine robes of feminine flesh, and to know we are sacred beings with a sacred creativity to be shared. This is the soft power that we are here to bring forth at this time on the planet.

Just as the painting process held this process of revealing, so can any process of expression provide a container with which to know something greater than ourselves. Whether it’s painting, dancing, writing or any of the myriad ways we can express what’s within, whatever we choose can be the container that helps us welcome out what is wanting to unfold. It is being with all that arises, feeling it deep in the body, and allowing its wisdom to teach us a new way.

It helps me to know that grace is with me when I open to seeing what is happening here on our earth, in these places that feel too painful to look. When I know that grace is here, too, even in these places of darkness, I know I am not alone. And, I know the power of transformation grace offers. What if this life force, that is held in these darkest places could transform into light? into the light of awareness and awakeness? In this time of global shift, it is exactly this awareness we must learn to bring to even the hardest things to be with.


And, what about Ashtiani? What about grace for her, for others who are in imminent danger, others who are oppressed and victimized? I do know that if we’re willing to see directly into these horrors happening right now, if we don’t turn away, we can act in some way that can help change things. If they can’t act, we must. They may have no power, but we do, and our power lies in circles of people coming together.

Perhaps, grace is telling us that things can be different, but it will take us coming our of our own complacency to help change things for Ashtiani and others. Perhaps, this is the message within that quivering tenderness, that our power is in coming together to help support us all, as a global village to change things through a revolution fo tenderness.


And, you?

This is simply my experience with grace and the dark emotions.

I’d love to know how you’ve experienced these dark emotions, and their power and vast potential to transform.

How do you experience Grace? What wisdom does it bring?


This is the last post in a series of three on tenderness, power and grace. All three posts are part of the Summer of Love Invitational, where the lovely Mahala Mazerov has invited bloggers to write about loving kindness.


Rumi, Women’s Leadership & Love


 “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” — Rumi

This is the first of a series of posts on this topic of Rumi, Women’s Leadership & Love.

To be a leader, one must truly feel what others are feeling. To be a leader, one must be able to truly love those she leads. How do we learn this most necessary trait? By feeling, deeply, the depth of our own experience. By allowing our own hearts to break. Many spiritual teachers speak of the necessity of allowing one’s heart to break open. It’s not that the heart will break. It cannot break. It must, however, break open, meaning that all the bindings that have grown around one’s heart must give way so that the heart can thrive in its natural expansiveness. When one’s heart is free to be, it is as large, and as expansive, as the whole of the Universe.

Feeling the depths of shame and humiliation from our own experience of being marginalized, disrespected and humiliated generationally is key to women waking up to our fullness and wholeness. Both our lightness and our darkness must be brought back into consciousness if we are to be wholly female and embody the sacred feminine that we are.

Every midwife knows
that not until a mother’s womb
softens from the pain of labour
will a way unfold
and the infant find that opening to be born.
Oh friend!
There is treasure in your heart, it is heavy with child.
All the awakened ones, like trusted midwives are saying,
welcome this pain.
It opens the dark passage of Grace.


Opening to the pain of our experience as women, individually and collectively, is our passage to Grace. It is paramount that we open ourselves to feel, deeply feel, that which has been projected onto us over the centuries of oppression. There are many layers to this feeling. How much of our anger, shame and disowned power can accumulate before the dam breaks? We can use this pain as the way into Grace, the way into the opened heart, the way into the depths of our humanity. This humanity has become ripe and fragrant with our own capacity to walk side by side men, no longer simply a complement or accessory, but rejoicing in our sovereignty and self respect.

When we are able to feel the depths of what has been internalized within our own beings through the generational oppression, our hearts will move into an awakened state of love for ourselves, for other women, for men, for all of life. And, when we come to embody this love fully, for ourselves, and for others, every cell of our being will be filled with Grace.


The Amazingness of Woman


There is something amazing in women: beautiful, soft, gentle, strong, vibrant and powerful, the fullness of which is being kept hidden from the world. The world needs this beauty to be brought forward, to shine, to share and to engage with all of life.

Sometimes we catch glimpses of this amazingness of women: a look here, a touch there, words of wisdom spoken with eloquence, strength and grace.

I see this femaleness in my friends, my sisters, my daughters. I see it in strangers as they are with their children, or interact in business, or even simply walking down the street.

I feel this femaleness within my own self, deep within my body. It is my life force and the source of my creativity. When I don’t allow this truth of who I am to be seen, I can feel resentful, but it is only me that can allow it out.

When I coach my female clients to reclaim this femaleness, this vibrancy that is the source of the juice of life, I get to feel the exquisite expression of life dancing as woman. On some level, we are all, men and women, looking to reclaim this vibrancy, this life force that is ever present within. Perhaps we simply need to be the encourager to each other, to radiate another’s beauty so that they may see it themselves. The wonderful part of this assignment is that this is how we will truly come to know our own radiance.

Can you be the encouragement of Light that Hafiz speaks of for another woman? Find one very special woman and be the encouragement of light against her being. See what you find in doing so.

It Felt Love


Did the rose

Ever open its heart

And give to this world

All its


It felt the encouragement of light

Against its



We all remain




photo by dragonflysky on flickr

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