Friday, December 23, 2022


In 1984 my colleagues and I opened Connection Holistic Counseling Center. That might not sound like a big deal, but in Memphis, Tennessee, the term holistic was akin to a pejorative. The word was just coming into vogue in the more progressive spiritual circles. Yet those who were not in the know or the flow wondered, “What are they doing in that brick structure on the corner of Perkins and Renshaw?” One concerned friend told us we had better be ready to run during the middle of the night, in case we were bombed. And though that sounds crazy, we did have a bomb scare a few years later, when we moved to a larger location.

Connection gave me the space to open a holistic practice that I branded as “Life Enhancement Counseling.” It was actually what we now call coaching, but the word and concept of “coaching” had not entered the self-help narrative 37 years ago. Though I was eager to help people with life coaching, there were always extenuating circumstances that must be addressed before my clients were free to focus on their life’s work. One person would be living with a raging alcoholic; another would be an alcoholic. Some clients were heartbroken because their partner just left them, and others dealt with the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one.

Holistic counseling is based on working with the mind, the body, and the spirit, and that’s what we did. We jumped into the sea of existence and angst, with no nautical charts to guide us. We swam on intuition and the help of benevolent, unseen forces. I spent numerous hours wrestling with clients over self-nurturing. Everyone was on a fast track. I instilled its importance: “We must nourish ourselves with the beauties and joys of life. We can’t afford to be aware of every negative current event.” My clients would then talk about getting massages and pedicures. To them, these were the epitome of self-care. Some might even throw in a much-needed wardrobe update, so as not to look like the little match girl. Yet, I knew there was something missing. I was not sure how to convey those lost elements, and, at the tender age of 37, I wasn’t feeling spot on about what the missing links were either. I was barely one step ahead of them, in the game of self-survival.

I was tenacious and emphasized the importance of the mind as well as the body. “We need to be aware of our thoughts, and, in some cases, consciously choose to change repetitive, self-effacing thoughts.” I knew the missing element was spiritual. Sure, I taught people to meditate, self-hypnotize, and to calm their rage and fears, and, though they might be freed from immediate self-destruction and feel great when they left my office, these feel goods were fleeting.

As I’ve grown, I’ve finally put my finger on the missing elements. Their plan was to nurture the physical body, and, though physical maintenance is essential, caring for ourselves requires much more. Even meditation can be short-lived. Ramana Maharshi tells us that meditation only tethers the minds; it doesn’t free us. All our work on the mind and body, and even part of our spiritual work, leads our parched selves to the edge of the water. This is important. We need to find the water of our souls, but we must drink of the water if we are to be filled.

What is drinking the water? It is moment-to-moment awareness. It is listening more. It means watching the breath and planting and watering the seeds of compassion and peace within us. It means giving up all resentment toward everyone and every situation, at the point in which it occurs, and not escorting irritation and judgment around. It means feeding ourselves so much equanimity that we build a strong foundation, so that when the storms come, and they will come, we can still stand on the grounds of peacefulness. And, just like a garden needs continual care, our inner worlds require constant awareness. We must sew and nourish the seeds of peace and compassion as an ongoing practice.

Remember how people talk about Sunday Christians? They go to church on Sunday and then feel free to sin the rest of the week. As we all know by now, the word sin means missing the mark. If we meditate 30 minutes a day, but do not carry the practice of generosity and love into our moment-to-moment experience, we are like Sunday Christians. We do our work and then go about our business, and put our intentions of living a compassionate, loving life away, as we scamper back to our hurried, cynical, or fear-driven worlds, where we nurture our upsets and opinions.

No matter how we live our lives, we all have free choice. But if we say we want peace and happiness, we must cultivate it in each moment, in the garden of our lives. This is not about efforting; it is about repeatedly tuning into the ongoing Presence of something greater than pain or transitory joy. We must easily relax into the deep stillness of the eternal now. We must open the gates of our hearts in every situation and not sit in the comfort of old games, such as having to be right or championing cynicism. Being a spiritual warrior is both easy and hard because we take the simple and twist it into a challenge. It’s always time to stand up for what we want, get clear on what we believe, experience who we are, as opposed to the caricature we call our selves, and to live in awareness of the presence and the present, because when we do, life becomes EZier and EZier.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022


There are tears scattered through my mind, my heart. They land softly in my world.  And they are good tears. When my daughter left for college, I was bereft. I found comfort in a cemetery. It was a place of mourning. I joined the ranks of the bereaved and in those hallowed grounds of suffering, I let my tears flow. Refreshing - these tiny drops were my salvation.

There's a deep vulnerability in crying and letting go of holding it together. Tears detoxify the soul. They wash the dark places of our hearts and reassemble the puzzle pieces of our confusion. And yet, in no uncertain terms, society maligns our tears. They are deemed weakness by life’s hardness. Just let one tear fall and we apologize to our peers.

I love how children cry. I recall my grandson Thomas’s eyes filling with tears when we parted at the airport in Houston. He was only three, and as he walked away, with his mom, I remember his tear-stained face disappearing down the corridor.  That memory fills me with sweetness.  

I am a buffalo heart - one who feels others and cries with them. I cry for the trees, the air, the waters, and for the animals. My heart grieves as humanity commits crimes against itself and others. We need good grievers. We need those who mourn for the loss of sweetness, compassion, and tenderness. We need snotty noses and glistening eyes to bear witness to Mother Earth and to all forms of injustice.

We need the desperate moments of our lives to show up on our faces. They should not be hidden under a smile that never reaches our eyes. Our darkest moments need the light of expression, not suppression. There are already too many self-proclaimed martyrs.

The world peddles excellence, strength, and success and turns its nose upward, away from the complexity of reality. We have lost our ability to balance greatness and despair. It is not allowed. “Chin up. Where’s that smile? Don’t cry.” We are admonished for taking the medicine that can restore our strength. Tears are the medicine for weakness. We need a few moments in our lives where weakness can come forth or at least pass through with acknowledgement. We do not have to cry daily. We do not have to be perpetual wailing machines, but we do need a space where all sentiments and emotions have a voice. We need the grail of grief to open us to a field where the ego is not welcome. We need to listen to the rhythm of life and to open to what appears. We need the dark velvety blanket of grief to comfort us when our dog dies, when our child is injured, and when our partners leave.

We need the good, the bad, and ugly if we are to walk the sturdy path of aliveness – the path that leads us home to the self. We need the spa and the garbage dump to unlock our hearts and to restore our vision.

The next time our heart aches or we shed a tear, no need to reach for the light. Let us rest for a moment in the great unknown and see what our tears offer. Let us bask in the temporary shrine of the soul and create a soft space for the wounded parts. Let us not hide the parts or luxuriate in them either. Let us allow the wordless pain to flow for a bit so we can retrieve the joy that lies beneath the age-old sorrow of existence, because when we do, everything becomes Ezier and Ezier. 


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The Power Of Vulnerability


“In my defenselessness my safety lies.” A Course in Miracles

I take notes. Maybe it is a diversion, but when I hear great or unique ideas, I write them down. I take notes when I listen to videos, read books, attend conferences, and even pull quotes from the Internet. I write them down because I do not want them lost in my subconscious mind. I even turn my thoughts into quotes. I have journals, notebooks, notes scribbled on scraps of paper, and recorded messages on my phone. Right now I’m writing this in a special bound notebook full of notes, quotes, and ideas. These notes will be transferred to my computer, and soon you will take a peep into my world. Once I put the ideas in a notebook, they become mine. I nurture them, read, and reread them. These notes are life notes for me, because they often become lifelines. When thoughts spin in habitual circles of inner madness and illusions, I pull out the notes to myself. The words breeze through me and I feel like someone hit my mental refresh button.

The following ideas came to me through BrenĂ© Brown, who quoted psychoanalytic theorist Karen Horney. The ideas are in my notes, though I have added more from my research. Each time I run across them, I feel relief! “That’s right. Of course. No wonder. How insightful. I know that but keep forgetting.”

Maybe you too will be interested in the ways we respond to shame. What are our neurotic needs?

  1. Withdrawal – We Move Away From People. Detachment. We clamp down. We put up walls. We keep emotional secrets from others and bury them in ourselves. We run and shut the door to our room or to our heart. We are desperate for personal achievement and have an unhealthy need for a high level of self-sufficiency, autonomy, independence, and perfection. We house a fear of being slightly flawed, and have a need to live life in narrow confines, as inconspicuously as possible.

  2. Compliance - We Move Toward People. We people please. There is need for affection, a partner to make life okay, for social recognition and personal admiration.

  3. Aggression – We Move Against. There is a need for power and power over others. We move against, shame others, exploit, control, or manipulate.

My notes on shame remind me of how shame manipulates me; not all the time, but it holds a prominent place in my psyche. I am a people pleaser. I do not want others to dislike me. I walk a thin line between pleasing people and loving, appreciating, and supporting others. I watch my thoughts and emotional reactions. Can I come clean with myself? Which side of the emotional divide am I living from in the moment? Am I in my power or in my shame?

Even as I write this, I imagine you reading and thinking I am a complete flake or a weakling. Then I laugh and realize that only a shame-based person, who projected their shame on me, would do that. We would therefore be in the same boat. Vulnerability has a rightful place in my inner and outer dialogue, even if others cannot appreciate or respect it.

Life is complex. Complexity adds character and richness to life, but the egoic mind is a specialist in turning complexity into complication. The biggest complexity of human life is integrating our human limits with our true nature. We are unlimited, brilliant beings who live in a dimension bound by limits. This dimension is form, and, for us, we take the form of humans. Unfortunately, form has developed a generous portion of shame, and that shame is reinforced by parents, teachers, friends, and our families. William Q. Judge spoke of this divide between our limits and our true nature in his translation of the Bhagavad Gita. “The battle refers not only to the great warfare that mankind as a whole carries on, but also to the struggle which is inevitable as soon as any one unit in the human family resolves to allow his higher nature to govern him in his life.” He is saying that being in a body will cause suffering because our two sides will do battle. In the Bhagavad Gita, the struggle is between Krishna, our higher nature, and Arjuna, our lower nature.

In unpacking boxes yesterday, I found an old letter from a friend who attended my spiritual center. She wrote in glowing terms about the talk I gave that Sunday morning. I read with rapt attention, resting, glowing in her words. She purchased the cassette of the talk and listened to the tape repeatedly. She even shared it with friends. Then I came to the real kicker: she said that the most important part was when I said I was standing in my power, even as I navigated my abandonment issues. Her words reminded me of the truth. Sharing our vulnerabilities and our lower nature requires courage. It demands that we risk that others may not like us, but when we take that risk, it usually has an opposite effect. Exposing our weaknesses to others inspires people as much as sharing our success stories and our against all odds stories. Her letter speaks to the power we have when our strength holds hands with our shame. It somehow transforms our weaknesses into stories, lessons, and realizations. We are not perfect, nor can we escape the limits of human form, but if we courageously face our limits, we charge our spiritual momentum, and our lives become EZier and EZier.