Whenever life becomes challenging, my first impulse is to flee. Maybe it’s because I’m a Sagittarius. I read a meme recently where Sags described having to-go bags packed at all times “just in case.” They are ready to jet off somewhere at the drop of a hat. I don’t have a literal to-go bag, but I do have a figurative one.

As soon as I encounter a difficult situation, I fantasize about moving to Europe, or back in with my parents, or at the very least hiding under my bedcovers. The universe though is the best and worst kind of parent because instead of allowing me to run away from experiences, it forces me to confront them.

Several years ago when I had an extreme sensitivity to noise, I moved from place to place looking for my quiet, peaceful Shangri-La. It’s a little more complicated than that because some of my housing situations turned sour and necessitated I leave, but in essence I searched and searched for a great place to live. I even went so far as to move to the middle of nowhere Missouri, but even there I was plagued by noise.

If you know yoga, you’ll get the joke — this person is performing warrior pose. Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

What finally squelched the problem is I built up my warrior self. I stopped turning into a meek mouse when I heard loud music. I stopped covering my ears wishing I could escape to somewhere else. To be fully transparent, all along I confronted people, telling them to turn down their music. I called the cops on my neighbor multiple times to complain about noise. I did all the things people told me to do, but the music kept playing.

On some level I think people didn’t respect me when I knocked on their door and said, “Turn down your music,” because they sensed I didn’t have any bite to back up my bark. They could tell if they pushed even a little I’d cower in fear and turn into a victim. Through therapy I have learned to hold my ground, to say no and mean it not only with my words, but with my vibration, and that’s when the music stopped.

Not turning into a victim is a lesson I continue to learn because it’s still my first impulse. Not being a victim is something supported by my spiritual teacher who wants me to be brave and to fight. He said, “Life is fight. Life is the constant fight against belligerent forces.” Later on he said, “No one can be victorious without fight: Victory without struggle is unthinkable.”

That means there’s no easy way out. That means I can’t hide under my covers and pretend things aren’t happening. It means I’ll never be victorious if I keep withdrawing from the world, thinking I can escape life’s problems. The hard truth is there’s no escape. The sooner I remember that, the easier life will be.

I dream of a world where we recognize we can’t run away from our problems. A world where we realize we have to stay and fight the hard battles. A world where we assert ourselves with strength and determination embodying our inner warriors.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

For more than a week I heard the strains of music, drums, and chants drifting through the air. I live near a school and the teachers were on strike for better pay and smaller classrooms, among other things.

What’s interesting to notice is I have a tendency to assume that if I ask nicely enough, I’ll get what I want. If I was a teacher and said “please,” surely the school district would have given me a raise? I think it’s safe to assume the teachers did ask nicely and the school district said no. They couldn’t accept that and took further action. Witnessing the strike I’m reminded sometimes we have to use force and pressure to meet our needs. Sometimes we have to protest and boycott and make a fuss.

Sometimes we have to make a fuss. Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash

I know that’s obvious, but it’s easy to be on the outside looking in and say, “Of course you have to behave that way,” and much harder to be in the situation ourselves. How many of us would stand up to an authority when it’s our own neck on the line? When we didn’t know how a situation would turn out? I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I would have marched during the Civil Rights movement,” but not as many are saying they’ve marched with the Black Lives Matter movement.

I’m not trying to shame anyone, I’m merely pointing out it’s harder to act with force in the moment when we don’t know the outcome. Some people might say acting with force isn’t spiritual. That spiritual people should be pacifists. My spiritual teacher disagrees.

He said, “In all actions of life, whether small or big, the unit mind progresses by surmounting opposing forces. Life evolves through the medium of force. If this force is not properly developed, life becomes absolutely dull. No wise person would advocate such a thing because this would be contrary to the very fundamentals of human nature.”

He also said, “The use of force against an aggressor is valor and desisting from such use of force is cowardice.” My spiritual teacher is not a “sit on your laurels, do nothing” kind of guy. He’s a “use force when necessary and stand up for yourself” kind of guy.

In case you’re wondering, by striking, the school district acquiesced to the teachers’ demands. They demonstrated by speaking up, by acting, by drawing a line in the sand, you can get what you want. That’s not universally true of course. Sometimes it takes multiple strikes and boycotts. Sometimes it takes years before injustice crumbles but by continuing to apply pressure, change happens.

For myself, I want to live in a pressure-free environment. I want pleasantries to be enough. I want ease and harmony all the time. However, that’s not realistic. It is impossible for us to remain static and inert. We either progress or we backslide. There is no staying still. Given those two choices, I’d much rather evolve than regress, and sometimes that means holding our ground until the other side relents.

I dream of a world where we recognize sometimes the use of force is necessary. A world where we realize being nice isn’t enough. A world where we remember in order to surmount obstacles we have to make an effort.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I’m sick right now. I’ve had a low-grade fever for the past few days. I’m not thinking clearly in my fevered state and find myself reaching for everything to feel better. Not only medicinally I mean. I want to eat everything in my fridge, I want to watch all the movies, I want to sleep all day. I want to do everything all at once. And hi, being sick means I’m not satisfied with any of it. I’m a lock searching for a key yet to be found.

It has me thinking about the principles of my spiritual practice. My teacher says mundane pleasures give human beings temporary satisfaction and relief but nothing of a permanent nature. I’m there! I’m acutely aware of that state because I am dissatisfied with everything. I don’t know what I need or what I want other than the general “to feel better.” I eat something and momentarily I feel better, but then I feel worse. I don’t mention all this for pity but rather to express being sick has put me in touch with the pain of being human. When I’m well, the pain and pleasure cycles last longer. When I’m sick, they’re shortened, demonstrating to me how much I desire permanent pleasure.

I want to eat all the cookies! Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

My spiritual teacher says only by turning toward something infinite and unwavering will we feel permanent pleasure. Communing with a power greater than ourselves is what brings that permanent happiness. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at the moment I don’t feel spiritually connected. I don’t feel the love of a higher power. I don’t feel in the flow of life. My meditation sucks at the moment because I can’t hold a thought for more than a second or two. It’s taken me twice as long to write this post as normal.

You might be asking yourself, “Why is she even writing this?” I’m writing this as a reminder to me that getting caught in the pain/pleasure cycle sucks. I’m writing this as a reminder to myself that as much as I want to eat cookies, they’re not ultimately going to make me feel better. I need rest and medicine at the moment, but even when I’m not sick, I’m more satisfied, more content when I’m not chasing one thing or another. I’m more content when I turn inward during meditation and when I turn outward to serve others. Happiness cannot be found at the bottom of a bag or a box anymore than it can be found at the bottom of a bottle.

I often forget where true happiness lies even when I’m not sick because I think it can be found through a career highlight or a romantic relationship. Those things absolutely contribute to happiness but not of a lasting nature. Lasting happiness comes from communion with a higher power and serving others. The more I remember that, the better.

I dream of a world where we recognize what will make us truly happy. A world where we understand material things only contribute to our happiness in a fleeting way. A world where we turn inward to meditate on the divine and turn outward to serve others.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

My therapist said something to me this week that I’d heard before but this time I really heard. He told me, “There are some things you don’t need to know.” I’m a curious person and want to know everything. That curiosity is a key component of being a journalist. It’s a journalist’s job to find out as much as possible about a story. However, truly, there are some things we don’t need to know.

I think we understand this in the context of children. Children are not served by hearing the full details of scary or complex things. We don’t tell them graphic details of war or rape. We may paint with broad brushstrokes or present information in a way they understand, but children don’t need to know everything.

I know these are the “evil” monkeys, but they work well with knowledge too. Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash.

In many spiritual traditions, God or higher power or the divine is parentified. We are usually called divine children of God or a variation of that, and so it follows that perhaps higher power treats us the same way a parent would, as in the universe shields us from information. I’ve said before if I knew all the things the universe had in store for me I would get overwhelmed. That continues to be true. After contemplating I don’t need to know everything about the future, I feel more at ease. I feel more at peace. I feel more trust that it’s not my job to gather as much information as possible and strategize regarding all the scenarios.

We have the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” I usually think about that expression with wistfulness, wishing I could go back in time and remain ignorant to bad news. Or I utter it with envy, wishing I could be like someone else who doesn’t know what I know. However, maybe I can continue to experience bliss in the form of ignorance by remembering I don’t have to answer every question; that I don’t have to know what will happen next. Maybe it’s OK for me to be in the dark sometimes and trust it’s for a good reason. Maybe I can relax into the knowledge I am still a child and there is still a parent taking care of me. Not my birth parents, although them too, but also an unseen parent, a mystical parent.

My spiritual teacher says it is the duty of the Cosmic Consciousness to look after us, the divine children. He also said this Cosmic Consciousness will do whatever is best for us, that our needs and necessities are better known by this divine energy.

“A child of two months does not know what she requires; her mother knows,” he wrote. “She is solely dependent upon her mother. Similarly, devotees are solely dependent on the Cosmic Father, and for that reason the Cosmic Father has a special responsibility.”

For today anyway, I’m feeling into that more, letting myself be a child. Letting myself swim in ignorance, recognizing the bliss that comes with it. I’m remembering I don’t need to know everything and also that I’m dependent on a power greater than myself that is taking care of me.

I dream of a world where we realize sometimes it’s OK to be in the dark. A world where we understand we don’t need to know everything. A world where we realize there is a force greater than us in the world and that force is here, acting as our parent.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Something happened to me this past week that threw me for a loop. I spiraled into a lot of fear and insecurity, projecting the worst possible outcome. Despite having a blog called “Another World is Probable,” for my own life, my first impulse is doom and gloom. When I’m in this emotional place, I lose all rational faculties and feel utterly alone, despite all evidence to the contrary.

I had an experience on Saturday that pulled me out of that hole and helped me change my perspective. My friend Rachel Kaplan launched her podcast, “The Healing Feeling Sh*t Show.” I highly recommend checking it out, by the way. It’s all about emotional potty training for adults. I attended the launch party by myself, anticipating I’d see familiar faces in the crowd, but no one I’d spent much time with. While hobnobbing, I spotted not one, but three people I hadn’t seen in years. It felt like a gift, a synchronistic delight, to anticipate aloneness but instead have the opposite experience.

The world is magical. Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

I realize some of you will scratch your heads because after all, don’t Rachel and I have friends in common and therefore wouldn’t it make sense I would see them at her launch party? Yes, yes it would. But wait! There’s more. I ordered a Lyft home and the driver was also a friend of mine! That’s literally never happened to me before.

I bring this up because all of these synchronicities reminded me life is magical, that there is an intelligence at play in the universe. It reminded me I may think I’m alone and under-resourced, but in actuality I have a wealth of care and support at my fingertips. There is an inherent love for me that I cannot fathom or anticipate.

Despite the numerous magical experiences in my life, I usually think they’re a fluke. I think the synchronicity is a one-off, something never to be repeated. My experience from Saturday night illustrated to me how wrong that is. Magic, synchronicity, and care is more the norm than it is the exception. I regularly have these experiences. Not so regular I can predict their occurrence, but regular nonetheless.

I’m not alone in this. I know many people experience synchronicity and what could be called a coincidence. For me, today, I’m taking it as evidence of a loving higher power. An entity that acts benevolently, that orchestrates things in such a way that I’m taken care of, and also shows me from time to time that I’m not alone, that there are greater forces at work in the world that I’m often unaware of.

My spiritual tradition corroborates this. Over and over again my spiritual teacher says the divine loves us more than we can imagine. Loves us so purely, completely, and unconditionally our human brains are unable to comprehend the depth and breadth of love. But it’s up to us to recognize it.

I dream of a world where we realize we are not alone. A world where we recognize there is a greater, benevolent force at play in our lives. A world where we remember we are loved deeply and completely and that means we’ll experience magic from time to time.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Retreating

I’m recycling this post from 2016 because it feels relevant.

I don’t want to “adult” right now. By that I mean I don’t want to be responsible, I don’t want to run any errands, I don’t want to show up and engage in life. What’s interesting is I don’t want to go somewhere else, I don’t want to swim with dolphins in Maui for instance. I want to withdraw completely. In yoga, the term for withdrawal is pratyáhára.

Pratyáhára is not the same thing as hibernating. In its true form, pratyáhára means the conscious endeavor to withdraw the mind from mundane qualities and attractions and direct it toward something subtler. It’s considered a crucial first step in meditation.

Sometimes it's important to retreat from the world.

Sometimes it’s important to retreat from the world.

I won’t claim that I practice perfect withdrawal, but the space I’m in right now is a melancholy one. I don’t want to engage or connect. I want to retreat from the world, which is highly unusual for me because my name literally means to bind. I’m all about connection, presence, and form. I love making things happen, turning an idea into reality. But right now, that doesn’t interest me.

I could start to chastise myself because I place so much value on engaging, but when I think about pratyáhára, I remind myself it’s possible this, too, is OK. This, too, is a part of the spiritual process. I know my spiritual teacher discusses the term in relation to meditation, but I wonder if for me right now the desire to physically withdraw is also a call to go inward. To turn toward my inner self and practice communion with the loving presence within me that’s also within everyone.

All things in moderation of course – the world cannot function if we all retreat all the time, but maybe retreating also has a place. Maybe I don’t have to be “on” all of the time or responsible all the time or aware all the time. Maybe it’s OK for me to check out. I struck a nerve there because typing that I started to tear up.

I’m learning to become a more balanced human being, but to do so I have to spend time at either end of the spectrum. To paraphrase my spiritual teacher, meditation is an effort to remove one’s internal distortions – to extract the gold from the alloy, in order to experience merger with the divine. The distortions should not be cast aside, but should be smelted in the fire of meditation and restored to their pure and original form. And withdrawal is a part of that process.

I dream of a world where we strike a balance between withdrawal and engagement. A world where we give ourselves permission to retreat every once in a while. A world where we understand there is a place for all things.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I don’t set New Year’s resolutions. I used to set New Year’s intentions, which morphed into New Year’s visioning. The idea stems from the notion it’s easy to fall into inertia and let one day bleed into the next. That if we don’t have a plan, we’ll wander around listless, purposeless, like a thistle blowing in the wind. However, here we are at the end of January and I haven’t finished envisioning what I want for this year.

I feel loads of pressure to get it done this month, as if January is some magical time of year that leads to wish fulfillment. Or as if January is the “last-call month” and if I don’t create a road map for the year in January, somehow I’m doomed and none of my dreams will come true. That I’ll never change certain aspects of myself and my life. I know many people feel the same way because I’ve seen comments floating around on Facebook and Instagram saying things like, “January was my trial month. My resolutions actually begin in February.”

Why pineapples? Why not pineapples? Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash

I get it. I feel the same way. And I’d like to point out here not only can change happen at any time, but also we can start over at any time. I could start my day over at 10 p.m. And I could commit to something new on December 28th. The date and time don’t matter. The pressure we put on ourselves at the start of the new year, myself included, is self-inflicted.

The reality is we’re constantly changing, constantly moving. My spiritual teacher says movement is the very characteristic of the universe. So like it or not, we’re all moving. And the reality is the movement or change doesn’t often sync up with the calendar. That’s why most people don’t stick with New Year’s resolutions. We’re trying to make a change starting on January 1st, but maybe we’re not actually ready for the change yet. Maybe we’re trying to force something.

What I know to be unequivocally true in my life is change happens when all the elements sync up. When internally I’m ready and externally the world is ready too. For instance, I may want to travel through outer space, but until I train as an astronaut or someone builds a spaceship for private citizens, that’s not going to happen. Sometimes our inner motivation hasn’t lined up with the outer world yet, and that’s OK. That doesn’t mean they never will. Sometimes what’s required from us is patience and acceptance of what is.

I dream of a world where we realize change often doesn’t sync up with the calendar. A world where we remember change happens only when all parts align and that’s a process that can’t be rushed. A world where we go easy on ourselves if we’re not able to accomplish something we set out to accomplish because we understand maybe it’s not time yet.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

As you likely know, famed poet Mary Oliver died recently. Oliver wrote many poems and one, “The Summer Day,” gets quoted frequently. The last two lines are: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?”

People regularly use that quote as an aspiration to live life to the fullest, but in the context of the poem, Oliver writes of a person who kneels in the grass and strolls through fields enjoying the summer day, asking, “Tell me, what else should I have done?”

Love this image. Photo by Michele Bergami on Unsplash.

All the poems I’ve read of hers have a certain poignancy as she reflects on the transience of life. But instead of lamenting this fact, she revels in it. I’ve been thinking about the transience of life, not only my own, but also as it relates to climate change.

As I write this, rain streaks down from the sky prompting coastal flood and high-surf warnings. Ice caps are melting. Scientists predict we’re hurtling toward another extinction. It raises fear, anxiety, and nihilism within me. I think about my nieces and nephews and feel sad they won’t experience the Earth the way I have. That they won’t know the wonder of witnessing countless fireflies lighting up a summer night. And yet the time we do have left, the fireflies that are still around, are worth enjoying.

I realize it’s always been true that people die, that one generation experiences something the next does not. But right now I think we’re experiencing a collective grief because we’re all undergoing the same loss at the same time. (However, I have to say some of us are getting hit harder than others.) Our grief is no longer solely personal because the world we live in is going through a metamorphosis. And that metamorphosis makes our lives wild and precious. Our lives are wild and precious because everything matters.

A monk friend of mine describes our spiritual philosophy as exactly that: Everything matters. In materialism, only matter matters. In idealism, nothing matters. But in tantra everything matters. It seems to me more and more of us are taking on that perspective, that everything matters. That everything is important. That everything is valuable and sacred. I’ve used this quote many times before but my spiritual teacher said, “If one ant meets a premature death, it will disturb the balance of the entire cosmos. Therefore, nothing here is unimportant, not even an ant.”

Even a tiny ant matters. From the smallest creature to the largest one, they all matter. And every moment matters as well. Not in a heavy, weighty sense, but rather each moment contributes to our life. The boring ones, the sad ones, the relaxing ones, the adventurous ones. They all make up our existence. They all make up our wild and precious life. If we have a little time left or a lot of time left, we can savor all of it as the beautiful and rare thing it is.

I dream of a world where we realize everything matters. A world where we remember the tiniest creature to the largest one matters. A world where we remember life is fleeting and we do our best to be present to it all. A world where we maintain perspective about our wild and precious lives.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.


I have a confession: I make mistakes. I know, that doesn’t seem like much of a confession because everybody makes mistakes, but with the amount of shame and fear that comes up from admitting it, you’d think I killed a man and buried his body in the backyard.

I notice the intensity of shame and fear shifts according to my perception of safety around making a mistake. If I make a mistake and the only person affected is me, for instance, the shame and fear levels are low. If I make a mistake at work, the shame and fear levels are high. The levels spike because my brain starts telling me the story, “I’m going to get fired! I’ll be destitute!” In my mind, the only way to stay safe at work or in my relationships is to be perfect. If I’m not perfect, something bad will happen. It’s not entirely logical but when are emotions ever logical?

When I typed in “perfection” this is what came up. Photo by Bill Williams on Unsplash.

This week when I made mistakes, I gave myself the basic mothering and fathering messages I learned in therapy: “I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not ever going anywhere. I’ll protect you. I’ll meet all your needs. Nothing about you will keep me from meeting your needs.” It helped. It also helped reminding myself security doesn’t come from other people or an external source. Security comes from me and from higher power. Money for instance doesn’t come solely from a job. It can come from an inheritance or the government or whatever. If I lost my job tomorrow, I could borrow money or start a GoFundMe campaign or any number of things.

When I’m stuck in perfectionism, my perspective shrinks and I think in black and white. However, the world is in color and much more nuanced than I remember. When thinking about perfectionism, I was reminded an early definition of perfect is, “Brought to consummation or completeness.” That’s coming from the 1913 Webster’s Writers’ Dictionary. As a one on the Enneagram, I’m all about finding holy perfection, and the practice for me is to remember “perfect” doesn’t mean without mistakes, rather, it means completeness.

Completeness ultimately means unification with a power greater than myself, according to my spiritual tradition. I meditate and live my life in such a way that I’m moving closer and closer to a divine entity. I’m trying to unite and merge with something much subtler than I am. When I’m stuck in perfectionism, I lose sight of my journey and instead focus on a snapshot in time. I forget I’m learning and growing. I forget mistakes are an integral part of the process.

Will I still make mistakes? Yes. Will I still beat myself up about them? Probably. But more and more I’m using tools to come out of it, to love myself, and to be in the space of seeing holy perfection.

I dream of a world where we remember in our quest to be perfect, really we want safety, peace of mind, and completeness. A world where we realize we are all moving toward something whole and unified. A world where we remember it’s OK to mess up and even perfect in its own way.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

For the past two weeks family surrounded me. First in Seattle visiting my immediate family (minus my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew) and then in Ojai visiting my spiritual family. I loved it. I felt warm and cozy, filled to the brim with care and affection. And at the same time, I dreamed of going home, being alone, and eating cookies while watching Netflix.

This weekend I did just that. And while eating cookies and watching Netflix, I felt an ache in my heart for last week when family surrounded me. I can’t win. I suspect it’s similar to being a parent. I’m not a parent, but as an auntie, I want my nephews and nieces to stay the age they are now and also get older so I can relate to them as adults. I want something old and something new at the same time. Humans are funny like that.

Loved the juxtaposition here. Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash.

Will I ever be satisfied? Probably not. In my spiritual tradition we say human beings have a thirst for limitlessness. We want unlimited happiness, we want unlimited love, we want unlimited satisfaction. We are all seeking this. It’s the very nature of what it means to be human. To use a Sanskrit term, it is our dharma, or the essential characteristic of human beings. Pretty sure that means I’m screwed then because I’m never completely satisfied. Just kidding.

The only way to quench the thirst for limitlessness is to drink something infinite, so to speak. For me, that means Cosmic Consciousness, or God, or Infinite Love, or Source. When I touch that Cosmic Entity through meditation, I feel satiated. Full disclosure though, it was during a yoga and meditation retreat I wanted to eat cookies and watch Netflix. So. Just in case you thought every time I sit down for meditation I fall into a state of rapture and deep peace, I want to disabuse you of that notion.

However, I’ve fallen into a state of rapture and deep peace often enough to convince me meditation is my answer to the question, “How can I feel satisfied?” Thus far it’s the solution I’ve found to wanting something old and something new at the same time because Cosmic Consciousness is both very, very old, and very, very new. And also because I’m human I know I’ll remember and then I’ll forget and then I’ll remember again. But I keep trying and I think that’s the important thing.

I dream of a world where we realize ultimate satisfaction doesn’t come from material objects but rather from something infinite and unlimited. A world where we realize we can have something old and something new at the same time if we turn to spirituality. A world where we realize we won’t engage “perfectly” but as long as we keep trying, that’s what is most important.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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