Is this the place?

It’s late, and I’m hungry
for something information can’t fulfill.
My mind is full, but my body craves
some idea idea to move inside –
to enter and be transformed.

All my words could not bring peace to the world at my fingertips,
a world that teeters on the brink,
a world that doesn’t know its own course, its own velocity.

Whoever tells you humans are like animals
has failed to recognize the tendency
to fashion belief from dullest instinct,
and follow it into death’s lair
as if it were a great purpose.

We possess the instinct to survive,
and a talent for confusing survival
with blind consumption.
We still hunt the jungle,
unaware that life is more,
Numbed by the thrill
of shopping, investing, war.

Words cannot encompass this tragedy.
Its pathos looms over the internet tonight
as income inequality, political corruption, sea level rise.

My mind has reached the barrier of comprehension.
I lie here, hungry inside.

I must believe there’s something more than information –
some kind of theme, some reason –
I must, at least, move through my tension,
in dance, in song, creation.

I used to escape through New Age myth.
As I fed my fact-starved brain tnight, I felt all the more
the need for myth – what else makes the tragedy worthwhile?

Are we headed for an era
where greed and accumulation fall out of fashion,
where those who survived, who evolved,
communicate wirelessly through bio-technology,
(all designed, of course, ethically),
to enhance our ability to help and heal
at no cost to ourselves or the planet?

Is our instinct to consume, in fact,
our hero’s quest – and is this the place where we lay down our swords
and finally face the inner demons
who brought us here?
Only to rise again, cleansed of our shame,
enlightened of our rightful place in things,
ready to be who we really are,
ready to heal?

Is this the place?



Holding oneself soft, softer, softer
is the way to really bloom
Allowing space for the mind to detach, float
(filled with colorful images, float…)

Allowing time for the body to breathe, melt,
loosen, re-assemble itself
Feeling beliefs become re-shaped as you hear the
deep deep wisdom… so quiet….
whisper in your ear

Suddenly surrounded by so much beauty

What can I do with it all?


Peony Blossoms

You have given me
the courage to love.
It’s growing like peony blooms
pushing into round white fullness
inside my heart.

I have the courage to love
in spite of those who say it’s not safe.
My love goes beyond the mind like a ferocious bear
breaking a trapper’s net.

Ever since I met you
you’ve shown me how to love like this:
sneaking under trip-wires and past surveillance cameras
to find the vault
where the gold is locked
in unfathomable stock.

Love is the secret agent
whose intelligence dazzles all those
who try to arrest its plans.

Its sinuous body scales buildings
and penetrates walls with dazzling strength
that can only be applauded
in admiration or fear.

Now that I know
how to hack the vault,
I can always find my way back in.


Spirituality is standing in awe of life;
Dignity is the will to pull ourselves back there again and again.

This came to me while attending Moon Yoga the other day with Rhondda Smiley here in Toronto. I feel spiritually connected to life, life that flows through me and around me, when I do practices of mindful yoga and meditation. I had come to Rhondda’s class at the tail end of a flu that left me feeling spiritually and physically drained. I was tired and knew I would not be up for a vigorous practice. I needed to get down into the depth of my senses, to feel my body and breathe into my sore muscles, rather than forcefully move. Given my wonderful experience last time, I had a feeling I’d come to the right place.

I was also spiritually heavy. Not alive enough to be able to offer real warmth to anyone. And I knew this. Yet although I’d had the excuse of being sick, I wondered why I hadn’t been keeping up with my practices throughout it.

A boyfriend in college used to say that being sick signaled to him that he needed to meditate. Although he didn’t like to wax philosophical, especially in front of his buddies, I did get him to explain that meditation was a purification process. I was only 20 then, so I didn’t really understand my own need for purification until much later.

I remembered this when I started to get sick, yet I seemed to find excuses not to meditate. I wasn’t squandering the time – I did rest, and do some much-needed cleaning, and cuddle with my sweetie. Yet, I didn’t take the opportunity to delve deep into the stillness that an illness provides.

So I came to Rhondda’s class knowing of this need. To purify myself not just physically, not just by de-cluttering rooms, but spiritually and emotionally.

In the process of breathing mindfully and moving through the poses with the others, I realized I had not meditated at all for a few weeks. Although I’ve only been meditating since January, I’d been especially enthusiastic about it because of the mental and emotional clarity it provided, leaving me more creative, focused, and kind. So why had I stopped?

Well, in mid-August I had decided to back away from teaching yoga until I had a better grip on my own path, and that was when I seemed to lose steam. I knew I needed spiritual fuel to replace the career ambitions I’d had. And I did eventually ask myself: what do I believe in? I needed to put a name on my spirituality. And that name was Life. I just hadn’t gotten around to returning to my formal practice yet.

So here it was, about a month later, meditating again. And it was heavenly. And I thought, I want to do this more. And in that moment I felt my dignity. “Basic human dignity,” as a meditation teacher once said, without explanation.

I realized that I had generally relied on teachers to motivate me to reach beyond myself. This is why I loved yoga and meditation classes and spiritual books. In this moment, I was ready to motivate myself, to claim my spiritual thirst, and have the dignity to set aside my ego every day.

Dignity is the will to pull ourselves back into spirituality. Back into integrity. Back into reverence for life.

In that yoga class, I stood in awe. Just noticing the miracle of my breath. It’s my favorite place to be. Though I may wander, as we all do, through various avenues of pleasure and pain, I want to come back to my practice, to be in awe, to go through the fires of humility and emptiness and not-knowing again and again. This is dignity. This is home.

The answer is not in your mind.

0613 toronto sunset 2When we acknowledge that the answer to our problems is not in the mind, we begin to learn and heal.

I see so often that the people who isolate themselves are the ones who feel most negatively about life. When we expand in ways that are reasonable to us, small as they might be, a shift occurs. But we have to be willing to admit that the answer is not in our minds. It may be in our body, in some creative activity, or teacher, or community; it may be within us and waiting to be called forth. But it is not in the way-we’ve-always-done-things.

When we can admit that we hold fearful beliefs and patterns, which requires a great deal of courage, then we open the doors to a world of healing, expansion and beauty in ourselves.

While this may seem easy for some, the reality is that for some with anxiety or depression, it can feel light-years away, if even tangible at all. It requires a leap of faith into a new way of looking at the world. Even for those who have been to the other side of fear, it remains difficult to leap again and again. I am grateful for this human ability to have faith in the unknown, despite being wired for “fight-or-flight” and self-preservation… we still have this ability, which is basically love, to transcend ourselves. It is through this that all the capacity for healing and magic is unlocked.

How Mindful Relationships can Change your Brain

heads togetherI love learning cool things about neurobiology. So, when I came across Dan Siegel’s (2010) idea that mindful social interaction has the power to change the brain, it blew me away.

According to his book The Mindful Therapist, communicating with another person in a mindful state fast-tracks the growth of neural pathways in the brain. From the therapeutic perspective, this is great news. It means that having a mindful therapist – one who is truly present and empathetic with you – boosts your potential for brain change, which we now know occurs throughout the life span. So whatever you’re working on, having a mindful therapist is a big help. I imagine this might apply to a mindful yoga teacher or spiritual guide, as well.

To indulge in a little wondering… could this apply to all relationships? For the past 10 years, I’ve surrounded myself with happy, kind people, hoping to bolster my own health and well-being. But I never thought interacting with friends in a mindful way – such as through attentive conversations, music playing, or ecstatic dance  – might actually change my brain. Since reading The Mindful Therapist, I’ve paid attention to how I feel around these people, and sure enough, I feel more energized for a few days afterward. Siegel writes:

“Integrative communication in a relationship stimulates the growth of integrative fibers in the brain. You’re going to say, That’s too weird — how would a relationship shape the brain and why would it be that simple? Well, what they share in common is energy and information flow. So a relationship can be defined as the sharing of energy and information flow. And when we understand how that energy and information flow is happening — it could be with words, with the body, with an attitude — we can feel it, and we feel it with each other. It’s not some weird unknown thing. It’s fantastic and it’s real.” (from Huffington Post)

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that mindfulness helps us give and receive love from others, and feel more connected to life. When I look at the groups of “healthy people” to which I belong, sure enough, they are mostly people who do yoga, meditate, or another spiritual practice. And I have witnessed tremendous acts of friendship and transformation in those communities.

Maybe in the future we’ll know how to intentionally boost our collective well-being through mindful relationship. While new-agey people say we are all connected through Love, Siegel might say it’s “energy and information flow”. Maybe love is just a piece of information carried on a wire… and if we can repair the wires, how exciting would that be?