Life As Is

How we see life changes over time. When we are children or young adults, it stretches before us in vast waves of possibility and potential. In middle age, we become one with the waves and often forget about our own progress on the trajectory of life. Then as we begin to grow older, we may find ourselves looking more closely into the greater meaning of life and our own lives in particular. A subtle shift in language occurs: “my life” becomes “the rest of my life.” How strange that seems, both to hear and to say. That “rest” could be 30+ years or one year, no way of knowing. Of course, that is true at any time of our lives, but the longer we live, the deeper we feel that truth.

 As I look at my life, I feel both joy and sadness. Joy at the blessings that fill it, both people and experiences, and sadness at its ephemeral essence. Impermanence is the basic nature of life on Earth. Yet, full acceptance of that very impermanence is one of the greatest pieces of wisdom we can attain in our lifetime. At a certain point, we come to realize that all we are given here is rich beyond words. Language cannot fully express the wonder of living with eyes and heart wide-open on this sweet planet. The longer I live, the more profoundly I am touched by the beauty of Nature and the love of friends and family, realizing it is all fleeting and everlasting simultaneously.

Over time, I have come to surrender to life exactly as it presents itself. That is the essence of the spiritual journey I have been on for many years. Initially I was looking for a way to accept eternity, the stretch of infinity beyond my lifetime. What I found, and continue to find, is that that acceptance lies hidden in all the details of my daily life. Each tree, flower, or human soul I encounter is eternal, the entire universe held in its very beingness. When I stand in awe of that living Presence, I “hold infinity in the palm of my hand,” as William Blake wrote. Infinity, once a source of fear and suffering for me, instead becomes a source of liberation.

Humans invented time and space to try to explain the world and our lives. When we step away from that limited view, explanation is no longer necessary. We stand in eternal Presence, and within that is the meaning of life. What I have searched for most of my life is not what I thought it was. It is not an answer to a question, but rather living beyond questions and answers. This is what Ram Dass referred to as “loving awareness.” It is not something that can be explained but only experienced. And the longer you live, the deeper the experience.

Ultimately, we discover there is no end, nor any beginning. Definitions and parameters fall away, and all that is before and within me is life as is, both a miracle and a blessing. Human joy and sadness interweave within that vision. Every single experience is part of life, designed at the soul level for our expansion into awareness of the light that fills us—and everything.


We humans spend so much of our lives waiting: for the bus or train, in traffic, in the dentist’s office, in the checkout line, for vacation. Waiting to be 21 and then waiting for retirement. In a blink of an eye, our entire lives have passed in waiting for the next event or experience. Often we miss the moment we are living through because our minds are preoccupied with looking to the future. Yet the future doesn’t really exist; it is always running ahead of us, tempting us to forget where we are now.

The wisdom handed down from spiritual teachers like Ram Dass is to “Be here now.” Because now is all we have. The fantasy of the future and the memory of the past are mental distractions, which often keep us stuck in dissatisfaction. If we can learn to focus on each moment, appreciation and peace of mind arise and help us relax into being instead of aspiring.

I was thinking of this recently when Anne and I stayed at Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, for a few days. Daily life there is very simple: yoga, meditation, meals, walking in Nature, resting or reading. No TV or video; cell phones restricted to use in one room only. Breakfast is silent; quiet, contemplative presence is encouraged. Coming from the external world of noise and activity, Kripalu visitors may discover that it takes consciously letting go to become aligned with a state of being that is actually quite natural to all of us.

At home, I meditate and do yoga every day as well as walk quietly in Nature, so this was not new. However, at Kripalu, I found myself facing my habits of checking emails and going online for one reason or another. Daily routines of busyness. Without them, I realized I was “waiting” for the next meal or yoga session, feeling a bit lost. Even though I have been to Kripalu and other retreat centers many times, this awareness of my own “waiting” mindset was a real teaching for me.

The energy of the external world can catch us up in its fast pace at an unconscious level. We think it is normal. Empty space and time can feel odd. And yet they are completely natural, and it is why I and so many people go to places like Kripalu. To live fully in each moment without looking behind or ahead. So, I sat with that awareness. Within it, I remembered that I could easily bring myself back to the moment, wherever I am, by focusing on some detail in my environment: a tree, a cloud, a person, a pattern of light on the wall, birdsong. Or my own breathing, which is the Presence focus in so many traditions. The breath is only ever in the now. When I step into that soul space of pure being, I stop waiting.

So, the best part of my visit to Kripalu was reawakened awareness of living fully in the present moment without waiting for the next one. It’s a practice, an ongoing reminder of how rich each second of our lives is. No need to “wait for it,” It’s all here, right now.

Reflections on a Board Game

Anne and I have played Scrabble regularly for years. We like the mind exercise involved in forming words to fit on the board in often difficult places. Recently we bought a new board game called Wingspan, which I had read about online. It was a bit complicated to learn, but now we love it. Players create small bird sanctuaries on their individual boards, using bird cards, bonus cards, food and egg representations, and colorful markers and dice. In the course of four rounds of play, each player fills their habitats, and points accumulated from various plays and cards determine the winner. Overall, we are fairly evenly matched, with Anne usually winning more frequently at Scrabble and me winning more often at Wingspan. Occasionally we tie!

So, board games are fun, right? Relaxing as well as stimulating to the mind. But could they also be seen as a reflection of life, something we could learn from? This way of looking at them occurred to me recently when I was repeatedly losing every Scrabble game. It seemed that I was always drawing letters that did not make words—all vowels or all consonants. Meanwhile, Anne was sailing along forming five- to seven-letter words, often with triple scores. After the sixth or seventh game like this, I began to feel frustrated and angry, as if it was more than just bad luck. When I then lost a Wingspan game in similar fashion, it seemed like the last straw: God was literally “stacking the cards against me”!

As soon as that thought passed through my mind, something clicked, and I realized that each game was a reflection of life, and together they were demonstrating to me a spiritual teaching that I thought I already knew by heart: Accept what is. If you resist whatever is occurring, you will be angry and upset. In a board game and in life. And so it is. Spirit has such imaginative and humorous ways of showing us life’s truths and exactly how they work. As long as I continued to be annoyed at the way a game was unfolding, I would be unhappy—and furious that I couldn’t control the outcome. So it is with life. Accept whatever comes up, and you will feel peaceful. Resist, and you will grumble and complain throughout your days on Earth.

When I came to see that Spirit and my soul were playfully reminding me of this deep truth and that it applied everywhere all the time, I smiled—and then laughed out loud. Life flows if you allow it to be exactly as it is. Board games do too. The secret is seeing them that way. Who knew that Scrabble was hiding spiritual wisdom in all those letters?!

P.S. The evening after I had this insight, I won the Scrabble game (not that it matters… ha!)

Words and Silence

This may sound strange since I’m a writer, but sometimes I feel that words and language can weigh us down and overcomplicate our lives. At least as they are traditionally used: to argue and debate, to delineate and deduce, to explain and edify, to compile histories and construct theories. Politics, science, philosophy, religion. Even spirituality can veer off into wordiness. Some books and teachings engage the mind more than the soul. The deepest, most spiritual response to life is often just sitting or standing silently, in reverence. To look up at the trees and see God. To listen to birdsong and hear Spirit’s voice. No words required.

Of course, not all words run to excess or cause mental fatigue. Some poetry and prose can arise from a quiet space of being in the world. When I read Mary Oliver, Ann Patchett, or Mark Nepo, I feel a connection to the core of all life, Nature, and humanity, clearly expressed from the heart. Haiku is the simplest form of poetry. It pares language down to the basics and in doing so allows the reader infinite space to receive. Such writing engenders inner peace instead of a distracted, busy mind.

In one of Ann Patchett’s novels, two men from different countries who don’t speak each other’s language play chess for hours in silence. The tension and danger that surrounds them is broken by the peace that arises from their shared silence. I’ve seen chess players in a crowded city square also play in silence, those gathered around them silently watching. A small circle of stillness forms in an otherwise noisy area. How many other activities could we do quietly, creating peace in the world around us? Walking or birdwatching, for example. What about preparing meals or listening to music? We could in theory extend the list to everything. How would the world shift, without one word spoken?

Perhaps this is not completely realistic, but yet not wholly impossible, on a small scale, in our individual lives. If we hold stillness within us, outer noise falls away. Small talk evaporates. Busyness slows down. Our minds slow down. It suddenly doesn’t seem that necessary to narrate our every move or comment on everything (aloud or via texting, social media, etc.). In the space that opens up, we can rest in our own inner presence, without verbal interference.

Words can be a key part of our daily lives, and language a bridge to communicate with others. It is enjoyable and comforting to share our thoughts and feelings, bringing us closer together. But talking is not always necessary, and if we allow silence to expand within us and outside of us, what we do say becomes poetry or music arising from our souls. Gently touching the hearts of those around us and then dissolving into stillness again. Wouldn’t you love to live in a world like that? Take a deep breath, and don’t say a word. There you are.


We are born with it—a core ability to recover from hardship or illness, to bounce back from misfortune and loss. Resilience is in our DNA; it’s a survival skill. We wouldn’t have made it as a species without it. Yet, at times of turmoil and challenge, as we are now experiencing on Earth, that inner wellspring can almost seem nonexistent, at the very least in need of replenishing. A global pandemic has exhausted us, and political conflict undermines our hopes for the future on a daily basis. How do we cope?

A year or so after COVID first appeared, I went through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment (latest breast scans all clear!). I am an extremely grateful survivor, but those two events, taken together, have had quite an effect on my life. In each one, thoughts of illness and death arose, as well as feelings about aging and the number of years I have left in my life. We all consider these things from time to time, but perhaps never more intensely than when faced with a diagnosis and/or a worldwide health crisis.

Throughout my cancer treatment, I felt an abiding inner peace because my resilience wellspring was buoyed up continuously by my life partner Anne, friends, family, and spiritual connection. I accepted and trusted my soul’s journey. Still, there are always multiple aspects to life’s most profound experiences. Now a year after the end of treatment, I am even more aware of both the sweetness and impermanence of life. A variety of feelings come and go. I have tears in my eyes as I listen to a touching song that holds many memories, and I smile when I see spring crocuses in bloom or hear a robin calling. Life’s fleeting and poignant beauty touches my heart deeper with each passing year.

Recently a dear family member passed away. She was 92. My father died years ago at 94. They each had a long resilient life, though with some health challenges at the end. Whether or not we face illness in our lives, eventually, inevitably, we transition. I am not near 90, yet I am closer than I was at 20 (which is a bit shocking). When we are young, life seems endless. As we age and look back at our lives, it all seems to be passing quickly. In the last week of her life, Dodie said that everything was “happening so fast” now. We have an entire life ahead of us—and then we don’t.

Our experience of time is relative, sometimes passing slowly, sometimes quickly. Only in the moment does it cease movement. Now is timeless, and this is where resilience lives. When we live our lives centered in the present moment, human time disappears into beingness, which is eternal. Perhaps this is the way we cope—by bringing ourselves back to the present repeatedly. By remembering that the human spirit never really dies and is always evolving. It is part of a greater everlasting Spirit that fills the universe with light, beauty, and joy.

Even when the world and life seem engulfed in unrest, pain, and uncertainty, this beautiful light gives our lives resilience. Deep within us, our soul’s peace carries each of us through life’s many changes—and beyond. In the expanse of each moment, I silently remind myself of this truth.