Sunday, December 23, 2012

Life of Pi: Dwelling with a Tiger in a Lifeboat

I saw Life of Pi last night.
Here is what I came away with:

• Each of us has survived a life storm of some sort, the trauma of birth, etc.
• We each find ourselves out to sea in a lifeboat with a tiger (the wild , uncontrollable energy of life)... I do.
• How we relate to this tiger determines our life experience.
• The story we prefer to favor is either one that deals with the tiger or one that attempts to deny the tiger.
• The story that faces the tiger can awaken, enliven and free us to the what it is to live in this world.
• The story that attempts to deny the tiger puts us to sleep, dulls us and keeps us in mental and emotional chains.
• Any story perspective can be used to either face or deny the tiger (science, spirituality, art, humor, relationships, etc.).
• All the ways humans numb themselves with drugs, alcohol, judgement, religion, politics, worry, etc. can be attempts to escape the lifeboat and the tiger.
• The story that there is no story or that life is an arbitrary collection of subjective stories can be an attempt to deny the tiger and can put us to sleep in the name of awakening.
• Conclusion: When I feel more alive and connected I am dealing with my core relationship to the tiger. When I feel dull and isolated I am attempting to deny and avoid the tiger.

Enjoy wrestling with your tiger!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Contemporary Sacred Place at Skyspace by James Turrell

Places for gazing into the Mystery are created wherever people settle. From ancient caves through stone cathedrals to contemporary steel and glass structures, the builders of each era use current technologies to sculpt openings from their cultures into timelessness. James Turrell's Skyspace at Rice University is a sacred space for our times. It transcends religion and philosophy and invites us to directly experience the overlap of energy and matter, light and shadow, the heavens and the earth.       

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Pattern of the Flood

Here's a drawing from my book 24 Patterns of Wisdom. It illustrates how, despite our defenses, the beliefs and structures securing our sense of well-being are sometimes overpowered by forces beyond our control. Swirling currents dissolve the clear descriptions of who we are , why we are here and where we are going. The pattern of the flood is devastating. Yet, it is temporary.The flood can move us into the humility and gratitude that connects us more deeply with the rest of life and flows into renewal...Stay safe, stay connected, stay open.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Our Primal Bond With Clay

We share a primal bond with clay. Both are made of Earth's raw stuff, both are animated by forces greater than ourselves, both are  shaped by designs we did not invent. As we mold clay into the architecture that shelters us, we discover the blueprints of the soul supporting and guiding us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sacred Space is World Space

People think of sacred space as being separate from the world. My experience is that it provides a gathering place for the whole world. In sacred space, the totality of forces participate in a mysterious dance of stirring formlessness into form, lightlessness into light, silence into sound, renewing the world again and again. To enter sacred space is to enter the paradox of both finding yourself and rediscovering your connection to the whole world. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Design Provides Vessels for Offering

Design provides vessels for offering. Each shape contains the imagination of its maker. The form of every designed object, from a chair to a concert hall, is a dream made tangible. As matter is structured by desire, it creates containers that receive the energies poured into them before they offer them onward into the stream of existence. In this way, the things we design reflect the vessels of our bodies-hearts-minds as we are shaped by life to offer life into the currents of living.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thresholds of Transformation

Architecture invites us to cross thresholds of experience. It calls us to move beyond what we know to discover fresh nuances of the spirit-matter dance. Each portal is marked by twin pillars, embodying the hope and fear encountered at threshold crossings. Passing between these pairs of opposites and crossing into interior realms, we enter a unique sense of place. At these moments, we have the opportunity to see ourselves and our surroundings with fresh eyes. We can look again at what we thought we knew and sense it as if for the first time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Architecture Establishes Our Place in the World

Architecture establishes our place in the world. It marks where we stand between heaven and earth. Our dwellings orient us in the four directions of space and where we reside in the flow of time. Each building and room, each monument and plaza, offers us a place to say "I AM. I honor the opportunity to inhabit this world." Then architecture provides the stage to enact what each of us is here to do. It sends out the invitations. All we have to do is join the party.

Our place within the fluid ecology of the world is truly established when it honors and supports our interdependence with the whole, dynamic system of renewal. Honoring our place involves honoring the place of every being on the planet. When we inhabit a community, we are living within a society that includes much more than human beings. Everyone is already at the party, the more we learn and harmonize with each others songs the more revitalizing it will be.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Architecture Reveals the Possibilities of Light

Architecture reveals the possibilities of light. Each form offers the sun's radiance a different nuance of reflection. Each material discloses a varied tone in the spectrum. The interplay of light and architecture describes our journey to discover the mysteries of spirit dwelling in matter.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Architecture Reveals the Soul

Architecture has the power to reveal dimensions of the soul that words cannot describe. Tangible form opens our senses to intangible qualities of spaciousness and silence. Matter defies gravity and reveals the animating design of spirit. Our human form enters a resonance with the universal design guiding the whole creation... Celebrate architecture!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Being Conscious in a Body

BEING CONSCIOUS IN A BODY is what I appreciate today. Each morning we wake up to the miracle of inhabiting a physical vehicle for exploring the mystery of this world. As humanity celebrates NASA's Curiosity Rover exploring Mars, I celebrate the ability to rove Earth with curiosity. Being conscious that I exist and that I can explore that existence through thoughts, emotions and my five senses is a wonder that never ceases to amaze me. The seemingly simple act of opening my eyes and perceiving the light, shadow and colors of forms in motion is the result of processes far more complex than any mechanical device invented by the human mind. The ability to savor a sip of morning coffee and the songs of birds in the trees outside my window is a gift that inspires me to explore new possibilities of being conscious in the physical world. It calls me to see through the ignorance and obstacles that cloud much of what we do and find patterns that remind us of the tangible peace, harmony and delight that we can share when we appreciate the simplest of connections between us...Enjoy the gift of being conscious in your body and exploring what your rover is possible of perceiving and creating.

Monday, August 6, 2012


REBIRTH is what I appreciate today. On the anniversary of my birth in this world, I'm aware of the countless rebirths that have occurred over the years. Every breath is a dying of the old and a spawning of the new. Every word and gesture reshapes us and the world in one way or another. Some rebirths are like the bright sproutings of new flowers. Others are more like being washed onto the shore after a storm. Whether, as the poet Hafiz says we go "kicking and screaming or dressed for dancing," life carries us onward through rebirth after rebirth... I think of the many times I have passed through a time of change and feared the coming of the next rebirth. All the philosophies and platitudes faded and I entered the raw experience losing the known and being thrust into the unknowable. Each time it has been at once daunting and so alive. Each time, the rebirth peeled away worn our layers of persona that needed to die so deeper, truer currents of life could be revealed...And what was revealed was that which does not die and is not reborn—the indefinable awareness that continues through every fading and dawning. That same, unchanging awareness peered through these eyes when I was 5 years old, 10, 20, 40...In appreciating rebirth today, I appreciate what continues and the wonderful mystery of living both...Enjoy what you are appreciating today...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Patterns of the Human Journey

Patterns of the Human Journey presents a sequence of visual mandalas that describe the unfolding of consciousness during our life experience. This sequence of geometric symbols reveals the archetypal awakenings through which every person passes. Knowing these diagrams increases our skill in gaining clarity in confusion, harmony in conflict, and comfort in chaos.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Touching the Flower of Life

The Flower of Life is an ancient diagram generated from overlapping circles. It is said to depict the patterns of creation emerging from the formless source of life. It is also considered to describe the basis for musical harmonies, human proportions and the organization underlying numerous structures in nature.

I've never seen the Flower of Life drawn in three dimensions, so I drew this today to explore a more tangible, sensory experience of this beautiful, cosmic design. I'd love to hear about your experience seeing the Flower of Life in 3D, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Hidden Wealth in Simplicity

At one time or another, most of us have found beauty in simplicity. We've opened to the wonder of seeing gems of clarity amidst complications. Usually, we have the luxury of doing this by choice. We select simplicity from an abundance of options. Spare shapes, muted colors and quiet thoughts become preferences within louder possibilities. The zen of their peace and order are mixed with the sense of being in control. 

Simplicity imposed upon us by life's circumstances is another matter altogether. Lack of money, poor health or other restrictions beyond our control can force us into narrow lives we do not want. In contrast to the spaciousness and balance of chosen simplicity, imposed simplicity can be constricting and stressful. When our survival is put in danger by uncertain supplies of food, shelter and clothing, sensing beauty and calm can be the last thing on our minds.

These moments, however, offer access to the real power of simplicity. That power is not entered by making things simple through our will. It is experienced by surrendering to the flow of life energy that carries us through times of limitation. Such times of uncertainty challenge our assumptions about life. They rattle our relationships. They tear at the fabric of our world. If we resist, we suffer in fear. If we somehow embrace what is happening, a shake-up can open us up. Expanded beyond our control, we are humbled enough to appreciate the beauty of humble things. Imposed simplicity breaks our pretenses and makes keen our senses. A bowl of rice can become a feast. A bench beneath a shady tree can become a sanctuary.

I'm not romanticizing poverty. We all want to live in abundance. It's just that these days of economic restriction can test our limits. They can push us into hopelessness with no end in sight. If we are crossing such a time of drought, each sip of water is a blessing. Savoring the depths of the simple blessings we find, we can be strengthened by their miraculous beauty and power. Finding strength in simplicity we can access the wealth hidden with each step of our way.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A New Home Comes from a New Dream

Last night I dreamt that I tore down my old house. At first I thought I did this to rebuild the structure in better condition. Then I realized I didn't have to follow the old design, but could build something entirely new. I was free to create a house that fit who I am becoming now. This dream expressed what I've seen over and over again. We talk glowingly of building dream houses, but mostly we cut and paste from old dreams. As a result, we inhabit old patterns of behavior and never discover the fresh possibilities life offers.

To dream a new dream takes courage. We have to risk looking beyond preconceived ideas and peer into the unknown. We have to look past the countless thoughts that fascinate our minds and gaze into the thoughtless spaciousness from which our thoughts arise. These spacious waters terrify the mind. It clings to the safety of what it knows, or thinks it can know. The mind thinks that curiosity alone can discover new visions. The curious mind, however, finds what it already knows. New dreams can only arise from the dreamer who is perceiving the changing visions of the dream. This perceiver is the silent awareness at the core of our experience.

The place of dreaming is the blank page, the empty canvas, the void in the cooking pot. These frames assist us in seeing what is emerging within the frame. Before starting a design, the real work of discerning the vision is done by sitting and gazing into empty page. It is resisting the mind's urge to display its cleverness and jump to a sparkling solution. The vision comes from patience and a willingness to see new forms. It comes from letting go of personal authorship and receiving what is being authored by life. A thousand voices may try to distract your attention. Yet, if you are steadfast in your stillness, you can see beyond the preconceived and conceive new forms and ways of living. As Virginia Wolfe wrote in Moments of Being, "Then one sees through the surface to the depths. In these moments I find one of my greatest satisfactions, not that I am thinking of the past, but that it is then that I am living most fully in the present."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Interdependence Day

Independence is not possible without inter-dependence. Freedom does not exist without sensing our interconnection with everything else. "The self is made of non-self elements," the Buddhists say. Each of us could not have taken our first breath without the complex web of life that produces oxygen, DNA, food, language, shelter and clothing. At every moment this intricate network supports our every thought, word and action. 

Celebrating our independence is really celebration our awareness of inter-dependence. The kingly mindset believe it is separate from the rest of life. It pretends to lord over the world it thinks it owns.  To free ourselves from the illusion that we are each separate selves disconnected from the whole is to remember that we do not exist without the whole. 

For me, celebrating Independence Day is to celebrate my inter-dependence with you and the rest of life. Enjoy your celebration! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

How Do You Want to Live: A CBC Radio Podcast

I've made it my job to find the sacred in the ordinary. In this podcast Mary Hynes, the host of the CBC Radio program Tapestry, and I talk about how the divine is not limited to churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. We discuss how you can find it everywhere, if you just look - even in the lineup at the grocery store!

For thousands of years, much of humankind has believed that only special places are infused with the sacred and that you must get away from the everyday in order to find it. Not so, everything is infused with the holy - from chairs to clothing to kitchen stoves.

In my view, the holy is not based so much on the physical environment, but on the experience and perceptions of it. Take a listen for a new and fascinating perspective on the meaning of sacred in this program entitled How Do You Want to Live? 
Click Here to Listen to the Podcast

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Architecture of Re-Membering

Architecture is made of memory. The slope of a roof, the shape of a window, and the color of a door contain the record of the minds that conceived them and the hands that crafted them. This is never so clear as in the memorials that honor a person, group or event. At first glance they honor an achievement that took place in a particular moment in time. Looking deeper, we can see the courage those individuals expressed when they were thrown into the whirlpool of powerful and far reaching forces. Even deeper, we can see ordinary people, like ourselves, who responded to great challenges in extraordinary ways. Seeing how they brought forth their hidden strengths calls us to bring forth our hidden strengths.

These encounters with memorials are moments of re-membering. They counter the events that dis-membered our minds, bodies and cultures with healing powers of attention and care. Offering a handful of flowers before a head stone not only honors the person memorialized there. It also offers the ache in our souls a gesture for reweaving the torn fabric of our lives into a new and more human whole.

Since every building and designed object is made of memory, every place can become a memorial for re-membering our lives and the world around us. The words on this screen, for example, are made of eons of human struggle to develop a language that re-members our connections across the great divides between us. The table and chair at a cafe offers a setting to stop in the midst of a hectic day and re-member who we are and sense our interdependence with the web of living. In this way, every place can become a place of re-membering, a place to recollect the fragments of our lives into a revitalized whole.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

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.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Design Question That Matters

Whether you are designing a closet, a kitchen or a garden, there's one question that's more important than style, budget or square footage. Glossy design magazines ignore this question and focus on shiny objects and dazzling gadgets. Most architects and designers overlook it as their minds glow with visions of innovative forms and dynamic spaces. This may produce beautiful and functional homes, but it often misses an essential ingredient: YOU!  

The creative question that matters and must be addressed if your house is to feel like home is this: "What do you want to experience?" If you don't ask this question, listen for the answers and shape your home to support what you want to experience there will always be a disconnect between you and your surroundings. 

When you choose a new set of flatware, admire its design and materials. More importantly, imagine using it to eat a meal. How does the fork feel in your hand? How will the spoon scoop soup and the fork butter bread? Do this with every design choice you make, from the chairs at your table the floor plan of your dream house on the hill. If you do, the flooring your choose will be supporting the personal character of your life, the walls will embrace your particular style of dwelling in the world and the roof will shelter you dreams, not somebody else's.    

Monday, February 20, 2012

Embracing the Endless Pilgrimage

We are all pilgrims on an elusive and endless road. This struck me as I watched the movie The Way. In the film, Martin Sheen plays a conservative, controlling father who is unexpectedly compelled to carry his dead son's ashes across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. For more than 1,000 years, travelers of all stripes have walked from every corner of Europe on this pilgrimage route to the cathedral in the west of the country where the remains of St. James are said to be enshrined.

The moment the movie began, tears welled up in my eyes and spilled over the rims. In the images of the pilgrimage road on the screen, my soul recognized its ancient and ongoing passage through the world. Though I've been to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella, I haven't walked the Camino de Santiago. I have, however, heeded the lifelong call of my soul to travel to pilgrimage sites all over the world and plumb the depths of my heart and mind. Over time, each day has become another stretch on an endless pilgrimage road. The terrain of this sacred journey has become fluid and ever-shifting. Every step of the way is an arrival, but not a place to linger. The languages spoken communicate what is beyond words.

What moves me deeply about pilgrimage is its accurate and poetic depiction of the human journey. Despite our attempts to build lives on stone foundations, our spirits continuously flow. Endless streams of consciousness ripple through our minds. Currents of energy shimmer through our bodies. Like shooting stars, we rocket through spacious stillness. But this silent, unmoving background is nothing like the granite ideas we use trying to take root in groundless soil. Instead of the solidity we seek, we pass through intangibility and impermanence. The pilgrimage removes the mask of certainty we hold tightly to our face. It says, let's get real and acknowledge we are all travelers on the way. Compelled by longings we define but know are indefinable, we move toward specific goals that when reached have no tangible substance.

When we acknowledge our lives are a pilgrimage, everything changes. Each person becomes a fellow traveler sharing the same road in his or her unique and personal way. Instead of going home at the end of the day, each step becomes an adventure and a homecoming. If we're tired, we learn to rest where we are. When we're hungry and thirsty, we learn the local language for finding food and drink. Lost and alone, we find companionship and direction from those nearby or from the compass in our soul. Instead of inhabiting a prison of dead routine, we dwell in a living landscape; each building and tree breathes; each event and relationship is a dialogue of life speaking with itself through that place and interaction. Life is far from what we expected and the journey is a mystery revealing ever deeper surprises.

Whether we take a dramatic walk along the Camino de Santiago or stroll down the path of a so-called quiet life, we have a choice. Fight the journey by straining to construct a solid home or engage our life as an unfolding wonder. We can either try to stand rigid in predictable formation or walk with nibble steps, responding to the music of the way. On second thought, we really don't have a choice. We may try to refuse the call of the pilgrim's road, but it can't be refused forever. No matter how tightly we struggle to build a solid house on immovable foundation, the earth eventually quakes and force us out the door. Each morning, we might as well lift the packs of experience and grasp our walking sticks of our skills. We might as well give in to the tug of our spirits to explore this confounding and wondrous world. We might as well greet each other as endless pilgrims and bid each other well on our way. Because we're already on the road and we always wandering through this endless world.

Friday, February 3, 2012

THE KEY CHANGE: From Viewpoint to View-Field

The key shift in awareness is
from self-centered viewpoint to ever-widening view-fields

CHANGE. We want it. We work toward it. We try innovative technologies, different organizations, new laws, other politicians, varied diets, fresh relationships, creative ways of working, and more. These tremendous efforts have shifted many things. The world seems perched on the edge of a major transformation. That monumental shift cannot happen, however, if one central factor isn't altered. The key change at the foundation of all others is to move from a self-centered viewpoint to ever-widening View-fields.

Most of the time, we see ourselves standing at the center of the world. As the drawing in the upper left hand corner depicts, each of us experiences life revolving around "Me." This Me is the central character in every life story. In this scenario, all change is directed toward what benefits the Me no matter how much it undermines the surrounding world. Such self-centered viewpoints spawn the greed, isolation and limitation that separate the haves from the have-nots, the powerful from the powerless, the in group from those on the fringes of society. In this structure, all change is merely a shift in appearance. The divisions that wound the world are reinforced and deepened.

On the other hand, events arise that knock the Me off center. Economic collapse, climate change, and social uprisings can push the Me to the edge of the world stage. Despite the personal trauma of this experience, a great opportunity opens before the Me. As the second drawing from the upper left depicts, the Me's self-centered view can widen into an arc of perception. Viewpoint can open to the View-field. The concerns of the individual can include the concerns of the whole. Change from this perspective can be directed toward benefiting as much territory as possible. The View-field approach spawns more compassion, connection and expansion. This key shift in outlook generates true structural change in what the Me thinks, says and creates.

As the third and fourth drawings above depict, each shift in viewpoint can widen into a broader View-field of concern. Our lives change from being all about Me to being about the role I can play in the wider world. This is not a diminishment of self. It is an expansion to a broader definition of self, a Me that lives as We.

How has life urged you to move from a self-centered viewpoint to a broader View-field? Please share your experience. It will help us all change the ways we see and transform the world we are creating.

Read more about the View-field and other patterns of change in my book 24 Patterns of Wisdom. Click here to see a preview of what's inside. Click here to see the book trailer on YouTube.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Courage to Walk on Water

There comes a time when the solid ground we walk upon dissolves. Tried and true methods for navigating life as if we were dwelling on firm terrain no longer work. No matter how hard we try or how much we love, our reliable maps and compasses, insightful knowledge and beliefs, precise formulas and techniques fail. The lines connecting people, places and events vanish. Our actions don't produce predictable results. We can't get a grasp on things. Not only has the rug been ripped from under our feet, the floor is gone too. We find ourselves adrift with no land in sight. The solid earth has liquified. We are living in a watery world.

Our first response it is to flail about, desperately attempting to grab something that's not moving. We look for fixed reference points to tell us where we are. We search for clear signposts to guide our way. The watery world, however, has shimmering milestones and undulating pathways. Everything is swirling, rising, falling, rolling. Nothing is graspable or clearly defined. The separate billiard ball world we're used to has melted into an ocean that continuously heaves and breathes. It's bottomless. It stretches beyond all horizons.

It's time to sink or swim. So we start paddling. Maybe we embrace the challenge and have some fun splashing about in the waves. We carry with us the solid ground belief that we are separate from the watery currents, however, and our arms tire from the effort. Our bodies remember we are not dolphins; we were made to walk upright. But, we've be told that walking on water is reserved for saints. It only happens in the mystical realms of miracles.

We realize there's no alternative. The only way to find food, shelter and clothing is to step onto the shifting currents and find a trail across the roiling foam. Treading on water is counter intuitive, to say the least. It takes a powerful suspension of disbelief to stride through the rippling seascape. That's what life calls for these days. The analog world we have inhabited for thousands of years has been swept away by the digital tide. Everything is out at sea. The only way forward is to summon the courage to walk on water.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Imbalance: The Secret to Dynamic Balance

We seek balance in stillness. Another kind of balance makes the world go round. It's the dynamic balance that nature uses to renew itself. This animated balance enlivens your body through yoga and exercise. It sparks relationships, regenerates economies, and recreates the world in countless ways. This illustration of Growth, Decay and Renewal from my new book 24 Patterns of Wisdom depicts this dynamic balance. It diagrams how balance in action comes through what appears to be imbalance. Instead of seeking balance through freeze-framing it in unmoving suspension. We can sense the dynamic balance that is already and always moving us toward lively renewal.