Sunday, June 29, 2014

The First Supper

After 8 days of a cleansing fast and a day of diluted orange juice, I prepare vegetable broth for my first meal. The green liquid in a red bowl offers the colors of a summertime Christmas. Raising the bowl to my lips, every cell in my body seems to surge forth to devour the gift of flowing nourishment. One sip fills me with flavor and gratitude. This primal act is holy without reasons or definitions, without gods or sages. It is Life consuming itself to continue. It is my body opening to receive the offerings of the earth from
which it came.

How many countless bites of food and sips of liquid have I taken, not really aware of this miracle? In how many immeasurable ways does life nourish me moment by moment as I fret about how I will survive and worry about whether I am loved? Those unconscious moments and groundless fears seem laughable during this sacred First Supper.

During the 8 day fast, my mind and body became wonderfully still and clear. The world became vividly vibrant and beautiful. The whirlwind of activity and striving outside my door seemed more mysterious than ever. All the hurry and hustle looked like it was preparing for a feast that already existed. We only needed to stop, see it and drink it in.

You and I have heard this all before. Yet, in the sweep of living we forget, again and again. I'm thankful I had the time and means to step back for a while and let my mind and body rest in stillness. Hopefully, the experience sunk deeper into my bones than before and I will delight more fully in each morsel of food and each gulp of liquid. Enjoy you next meal. Bon Apetit!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Creating a Kitchen for Your Soul

Your kitchen is calling. It's inviting you to engage the magic of transformation by taking the gifts of the earth and cooking them into meals that nourish the depths of your being. To make a kitchen for your soul, you don't need an expensive remodel. You don't need new cabinets or industrial strength appliances. All you need is to open your senses to the act of preparing food and the willingness to appreciate the simple miracle being created in the act.
It only takes a moment to shift your kitchen from a storage room for snacks into a place of soulful alchemy. Instead of unconsciously stumbling into your kitchen and grabbing something from the frig, plopping it on a plate and stuffing it in your mouth, try this. Stop, look at where you are and sense the possibilities. The stove is offering fire. The sink is providing water, the refrigerator and cupboards are filled with earthy bounty from the world's garden. All that's needed is for you to feel the desire in your belly and allow it to guide you in creating a meal. As you open the doors of the frig or cabinet to select the vegetables, grains and other items, savor the colors, shapes and design of the food. Imagine the fields and orchards they came from and the natural processes of weather and soil that produced them. As you slice and combine the ingredients, notice how your participation transforms the raw materials of nature and sense your consciousness as an ingredient being blended into the mix. When you place the mixture on the stove or in the oven, feel the power of fire to release the flavors from within the food. 
When the meal is cooked, serve it and eat it with the same attention you put into the preparation. Appreciate the colors and aroma of the food. Enjoy the shapes and materials of the plates and eating utensils. Actually taste what you are tasting. Feel the nourishment of what your are swallowing. Breathe and notice how easy it was to create a kitchen for your soul.
If you do want to remodel your existing kitchen or are planning one for a new home, use the experience I described above as the basis for creating  a soulful place to cook.  See your kitchen as a place where the elements of fire, water, earth and air interact to produce meals that nourish both body and soul. Choose a range that evokes the experience of  primal fire. Select a sink and faucet that honors the fluid, transforming qualities of water. Find cabinets that celebrate the foods you will store in them. Create a kitchen that inspires you to explore creative possibilities, one that says to you, "Let's cook!"

Learn more about creating a home for your soul by clicking here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How Home Inspires Your Life Journey

One of the most important ways you can enrich the soulfulness of your home is to make it a place that honors the process of living. I came across a beautiful example of this at an apartment building in Santa Rosa, California. Next to the entrance, a series of murals lovingly depicts the passage from newborn infant to aged death. Images such as this offer poignant reminders that moving from one stage of life another is natural. What seems like a loss at a given moment can become a gain at the next. Furthermore, these murals show us that we are not alone in our day-to-day challenges and triumphs. Everyone inhabiting this apartment building goes through them and these shared experiences make us all members of the human family.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Importance of a Home for Your Soul

Home is more than a sheltering roof and embracing walls. It goes beyond style that’s cozy or cool. Yet, each day, homes are boxed and sold as square footage, curb appeal and resale value. Certainly, these are smart and practical considerations, but what’s vitally important gets lost in the bargain. Moreover, the beautiful images on architecture websites and television shows overlook the most essential element in creating a home—your soul. If the core of your being isn’t welcomed where you rest your head, you will never feel at home. Not feeling at home, your body and possessions may have an address but the one who experiences those things, you, will be left with a subtle, nagging sense of being homeless.
Because most architecture ignores the soul, few people know how to provide for it. At best, attempts are made to address the soul by providing inspiring spaces. What is not understood is how the floors, walls, roofs, furnishings and other elements of a house can be designed to nurture and delight the elusive qualities of the soul.

To create a home for the soul, we have to experience what the soul is. There are many descriptions of soul. Here is mine. Soul is sensed in the force that animates our thoughts, words and actions. It is the wisdom that shapes this animating force into patterns of experience. In the depths of our being, soul is still and boundless. On the surface, it flows in a countless variety of emotions and thoughts. Despite its elusive nature, soul has specific qualities we can understand and sense. 

Genuineness, depth and connectedness characterize soulful experience. In Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore writes: “soulfulness is tied to the particulars of life—good food, satisfying conversation, genuine friends, and experiences that touch the heart.” Soul is nourished by variety, quirks and idiosyncrasies. It is the glue that links mind to body, body to home and home to Earth. It yokes the rooms of a home to the events that take place within them. The shared, universal qualities of soul become meaningful when they flow into the personal characteristics that define your individuality. 

Soul is not necessarily linked to religion. A person may access soul through the prayers, rituals and scriptures of her faith; but she can also encounter soul in a flavorful stew, the caress of a lover, and the textures of a pine floor. A chapel within a vast cathedral may be a shrine of spiritual peace, but a window seat in a living room can offer a haven of quiet renewal.
A home that nurtures and delights your soul cannot be described in a checklist of attributes. It is the result of consciously designing rooms and selecting furnishings to enliven the qualities of soul that are personal to you and your family. The forms, textures, colors and qualities of light and space that nourish you indicate your individual characteristics of soul. Your memories of meaningful places, images of homes that visit you in dreams and enriching travel locations point toward the images of soul to incorporate in the design. The foods you love, the films that move you and the art that delights you also hold keys to the qualities of a home that will care for your soul. Specific ways of translating your personal qualities of soul into the design of rooms and furnishings will be discussed in later blog posts.

When you incorporate these personal qualities of soul into your house or apartment the core of your being is nourished. The totality of who you are is cared for and welcomed. Life becomes more poetic and artful, more meaningful and alive. Your house finally is your home.

Learn more about creating a home for your soul by clicking here.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why I Practice Architecture

I practice architecture to explore the ways designed places nurture and inspire human experience. I believe that good buildings go beyond efficient function and beautiful style to frame the elusive mystery of dwelling in this world. Toward this end, architecture, from its overall plan to each detail, becomes an opportunity to re-imagine the meeting points between people and their surroundings, between the human spirit and the earth. Doorways become places to foster the significance of threshold crossing. Passageways offer ways to discover the possibilities of movement through space and time. Rooms establish settings for making one’s place in the world and unfolding creative ways of living.

I practice architecture to find more ecological means of dwelling. As each design choice can foster more significant psychological meaning, it can also become a way to attune human life to nature’s processes of growth and renewal. In this way, architecture can be a vehicle for seeing through preconceptions and limited viewpoints to discover innovative solutions to pressing environmental problems.

I practice architecture to collaborate with others and explore creative possibilities that we could not invent alone. For me, design is a dialogue between all the individuals and forces shaping a given building. To gather with others and see what arises in the space between us is an enriching and inspiring process.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Awe: Some Thoughts

I think the main thing is to differentiate between having an awesome framework that is constructed by our minds and the awe that is beyond our mental frameworks and comes from the raw experience of living. When awe comes from reinforcing a preconceived idea it builds our false sense of control and the belief that the world fits neatly into our box. Awe from raw experience is another thing all together and can blow apart any sense that we know what is going on. The question is, are we looking for the comfort of proving what we already believe or are we looking to experience life as it is beyond our preconceptions. One thing life keeps showing me is that it is not what I think it is, that my mental frameworks are temporary life rafts that are swept away by the raw currents of existence. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Each Place is a Bardo, A Fluid In-Between Space

My friend, Linda Hollier, responded to my poem, Morning Light, by saying it was about a bardo. Tibetan Buddhists use the term "bardo" to describe the space between death and rebirth on. They say it is a time when our consciousness is not connected to a physical body and we experiences phenomena ranging from clear, peaceful spaciousness to a wild phantasmagoria of terrifying halluci-nations. Those prepared for this stormy voyage and are conscious they are taking it have a great opportunity for liberation from suffering. Those ignorant of the bardos they pass through are tossed about by the waves in a nightmarish odyssey that drives them toward an unfortunate birth. "Bardo" can also describe times when our routine lives are interrupted, such as during an illness or a meditation retreat. 

Considering this, I realized that each place we experience in life is a bardo—an experience of the space between the formations of consciousness that came before it and those that follow. Viewing my experience through the frame of the bardo loosens my attachment to the mistaken perception that present circumstances are fixed and solid. Instead, I remember that each place and time is merely another episode in the ongoing journey from one bardo through another. My attachment loosens. I breathe more easily. The forms I inhabit become a fluid interplay of colors, textures and sounds. The people I encounter appear to be richly developed characters parading through an unending story. I am both playing one of the roles in this story and am witnessing the story unfold. Looking back in time, the plot line of the bardos spilling one through the other seems wisely orchestrated. Attempting to see forward, I peer into a cloud of unknowing.

Dwelling within the fluid land of the bardos, I have less fear of taking creative leaps. It all becomes like drawing on water. Forms appear and disappear. The beauty and honesty of the gesture is more important than the passing marks they make. Since my persona is a temporary character in a watery play, the flow of love and appreciation becomes more important than worrying about gaining approval for my self-image.

Certainly, I prefer some bardos over others. There are icky bardos, as my friend Tricia calls them. There are confusing, terrifying, heartbreaking and obstacle-filled bardos that can show up between harmonious, inspiring and wisdom-filled bardos. Life relentlessly carries me from one bardo through the next, not letting me cling to or push away any of them for long. Seeing them as bardos, I remember that all of them are temporary and passing through the open sky of the consciousness I am. When I remember this, each place is more like living poetry and for a time I'm liberated. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Power of Patterns

Here's a video on a talk I gave on the power of patterns describing the material in my book 24 Patterns of Wisdom. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Creative Process

Again, dawn breathes.
Again, the river of creative energy longs to flow.
Again, hesitation.
Again, cracking the ice of fear reveals the waters of the soul
and the currents singing.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Morning Light

Stillness infused with shadowed radiance
hovers between being and becoming.
From this, the day will pour forth.
Now, before all that
night’s shadows breathe the glow
beyond the horizon,
drawing in what can be sensed
before it is seen.

The dreams that tumbled through the night
pour into this pause,

this in-between.
The noisy, brilliant day is coming,
to relentlessly roll out its dramas.
this blessed still-space
enfolds all beings.
This blessed opening,
after regrets,
before promises,
is a peace 

fingers can touch
ears can hear
eyes can see
my soul can be.