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.

Miracle Earth

Stop for a minute and consider where you are. You, along with billions of other living beings, live on a planet that rotates around a giant ball of fire at exactly the distance that allows for life to occur on it. Other planets circling the same fiery ball are not positioned so that life as we know it can be sustained. On Earth, the greens of the land and the blues of the oceans arise from the perfect blending of temperature and light. The lengths of the days and nights and the seasonal changes unfold seamlessly. That in itself is a miracle. Each day we take morning, afternoon, and night for granted. We take the warmth of the sun for granted. We take the air that we breathe for granted. Yet all of it is miraculous.

And fragile. We are repeatedly counseled to care for this Earth with tenderness, as if she were our Mother. As she is. Without her (and Father Sun), we would not exist. This small blue and green marble in the midst of millions of galaxies and universes is unique. A tiny cell in the cosmos. An expression of universal consciousness, as are each of us who live here. Is this not a miracle to keep us in awe for the rest of our days here on Earth?

Sometimes I imagine myself floating among the stars, multiverses stretching in every direction beyond my ability to even fully conceive of them. I picture myself part of an infinite tapestry of light and beingness. Eternity unleashed. Such an imagined vision used to frighten me—and at times still does. Yet, more and more, I feel the miraculous beauty of it, and I am filled with peace. Peace beyond understanding or definition. I experienced such boundless peace in the recovery room after breast cancer surgery two years ago; I felt myself held by a Presence that both calmed and comforted me.  Ever since, it seems not that far away. If I allow that awareness to arise from soul memory, then everything shines with that grace, that divine peace, that miracle. There is nothing else.

If you open your heart wide enough (or it is cracked open by circumstance), you will be gifted with your own version of the miraculous, and it will never leave you. Each one of us on this planet is destined to receive this wonder: an entire universe present in every seemingly small detail of our expansive, infinitely unfolding lives.

And you don’t have to go through surgery to experience it! Take a walk through the spring woods, look up at the starry night sky, watch the brilliant colors of a sunset, or share a sacred moment of connection with a loved one. It’s all there, right before you, 24/7. Spirit finds you at just the right moment in your life and opens the door wide. You were born on planet Earth to be part of the miracle.

Appearing Nightly

What we have named God, or Spirit, lives on planet Earth in billions of human, animal, and plant forms. God appears nightly, and daily, everywhere we look, inside and out. There is nothing that is not an expression of Spirit in this world. Yet we often question her/his/its existence, especially in today’s conflict-ridden world, and repeatedly fail to recognize the divine light within ourselves. If we are spiritual or religious, we may think we have to do something to be enlightened or blessed. We see ourselves as falling short of divinity, of worthiness for blessings. And we also judge others for what we have been taught are their failings.

What if there are no failings, no impossible tasks that we have to achieve in order to be blessed by Spirit? What if we were born blessed, full of the light of God/dess, which can never be extinguished? What if everyone and everything we see on this planet is part of an intricate design of becoming, which we can only see a small portion of in our individual lives? And what if we are now living through a time in which our inner awareness opens wider and wider until we can see enough of that design to recognize it everywhere—most of all within our own hearts?

We did not come here to live and die as tarnished, imperfect, self-hating human beings. We came here as God to experience God in ourselves and all things. To realize there is no such thing as imperfection. Each of us is living out the perfect design that we decided on, with Spirit, before birth—so that we may grow and evolve, along with all living beings. We are not separate from one another. We are one another, because within Spirit, all is oneness. It lives as us and every other animate and inanimate form on Earth, each a divine expression of beingness. When we fully realize this on every level, the separations and conflicts now so prevalent on Earth will dissolve.

I’ve always had a “utopian” vision of a future world where people share responsibilities and decisions in a peaceful, circular way with no leaders or followers, no roles or hierarchy, no guns or war. All abundance shared. Creative expression encouraged and supported. Loving-kindness, compassion, and heart-centered interactions as natural as breathing because everyone sees one another as family, not “other.” Over the years, I’ve come to believe that we all have a similar vision deep inside us. We were born enlightened, with the light of God present within us as our soul. Our soul knows the overview of our life journey and is always guiding us toward more understanding and expression of our light in the world.

We have learned how to survive as individual identities in a world that doesn’t currently support soul expression, but there is an awakening occurring now on the planet. We are bridges from the old paradigm into the new as we become increasingly aware of the light within us and express it more fully in the world. We are each opening to this vision in our own way, and no one way is better than others. We will eventually realize that there is nowhere to go and nothing to attain–it’s all within us already. God is always here, day or night, 24/7. Adyashanti: “You are seeking God with [God’s] eyes.”