Monday, February 22, 2016

Message From My 20 Year Old Self

Today I hiked on Mt. Tamalpais, the majestic peak that towers above the county where I live. As I climbed a steep section of the trail, my mind drifted to a precipitous climb I made 45 years earlier through the terraced Himalayas of Nepal. I mused how almost half a century has seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, how much life has been lived while little has changed. Like you, I've traveled through discoveries and dead ends, successes and failures, loves and betrayals, clarity and confusion, wonders and banalities, and the other archetypal dualities that edge the trail of a life. Threading all this together, the same awareness I call "me" looks out through my eyes, the same heart that has pounded out millions of beats powers me up the rocky slope, the same lungs that gasped for millions of breathes heaves me skyward along the earth's contours, the same feet that searched for countless places of purchase feel for solid spots to land. 

As is common these days, I imagined what I would tell my 20 year old self as he wandered the glorious mountain paths marking the beginning of his adulthood. Sifting through the endless stream of aha's and oh no's I've experienced, the most honest statement I could conjure was, "Our mind's desperately seek to squeeze the world into definable boxes, but life is too elusive and vast to fit into anyone's labels and definitions. The best you can do is open and take the next step. Let go of preconceptions and dance with the mystery that unfolds as best you can." 

This seemed like paltry wisdom wrought from a well examined lifetime. But there it was and I was ready to leave it at that. Then, across the decades, 20 year old Tony spoke up, "Not so fast, old man. I have something to tell you. Your body may be weakened by time and the nightmarish odyssey of the illness you have been through. Your spirit may be battered by disappointments and fears. Life may seem more unknowable, impermanent and uncertain than ever. Just know this. The strong, resilient, youth that I am is alive within you. My unencumbered vision that sees wonder in the smallest things peers through your eyes. The courage that carried me into unknown lands still dwells in your heart. The road ahead may be obscured, but take heart. My strength and boldness are shining within you. Let's rock this crazy adventure." 

It was a good hike on the mountain today.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Power of Architecture

I love this photo of the Oxford Union Library. What we build embodies what we truly value and this structure is a temple to books. In celebrating books, this room honors the knowledge gained and shared on the human journey. In celebrating our passage through the mysteries of life, this architecture points beyond its boundaries toward that which cannot be described. Pointing toward that which is beyond description, we rediscover the source of existence and the creative power of being and becoming. If we do not create places to honor these things we live in poverty. Imagining and building such inspired architecture, we discover who we truly are and what we can become.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sacred Space: Sparking Matter to Life

Sacred space shimmers in the places where consciousness caresses matter. In the savored overlap of awareness and physical form, both we and the world come alive. The separation that inflicts the false wound of I as separate from the surroundings rediscovers its (w)holiness as unified energy-matter. In this overlap, stones can breathe. Our elusive inner stream of thoughts and emotions can be felt as tangible patterns and shapes. The awakening spark of consciousness and the world igniting one another can happen anywhere, in the cathedral and the check out line, through a stained glass window and a path through a silent wood. The portal is the here/now. It is entered where the rays of our consciousness meet the places where we dwell. Here, sacred space sparks to life.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Architecture of Light-Shadow

Architecture comes alive in light. Morning rays awaken roofs and walls. They flow through windows, stirring interior spaces to life. Glowing surfaces reveal the shapes and spaces of every detail from countertops to cornices. Each design choice selects an inflection of light. Every choice of light is a choice of shadow. Without shadow, light cannot be perceived. Gradations of light and shadow reveal a dome's arc, the zig-zag rise of a staircase and the billows of a down comforter. The term light-shadow, or shadow-light, more accurately describes the experience of illumination.

Moving through the day, the radiance of light-shadow provides ever-shifting wonder. Wherever I am, I can savor the magical nuances of shadow-light as it dances across the surfaces of the world. At the darkest times, I can dwell in the light.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Architecture of Tangible Support

Architecture is support embodied. Floors, chairs and tables provide stable settings to uphold the details of our lives. They offer their support equally to all. It doesn't matter if you're having a great day or a crappy one, if you're a saint or a sinner, a park bench provides you with a place to rest, talk with a friend, read a book or enjoy the scenery. Look around and you will see architecture's support everywhere—the stair treads that lift you from one floor to another, the road that winds over the mountain, the bridge that carries you across a river, the cooktop that supports your simmering soup, the bed that receives your rest. Behind each of these objects are the supportive intentions and actions of those who created them. So, when you're looking for a little support, you can find it right under your feet or close at hand in architecture.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hidden Energy

When most people look at Antonio Gaudi's architecture they see undulating structures. I see energy. To me, the fluid shapes of his walls and windows, columns and railings reveal the forces animating the forms. As I photographed the roof ridge in the photo, I sensed it writhing like the spine of an immense dragon. When I visited other Gaudi sites, I found the dragon there too, rippling through the designs. Encountering the old master's work in this way transformed the way I see architecture. Instead of static masses, "frozen music" as Goethe put it, I see vessels that coax energy from the earth and sky and guide it into flowing streams of shelter and support. Buildings don't have to look like Gaudi's to transmit life-giving energy. Any outer style can come alive when designed with heart. Life can be breathed into any bit of matter to become a living being that inspires those who dwell within it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


I love the ways architecture evokes wonder. A vision stirs the soul. Mind plans how to translate that vision into tangible form. Body locates the land and gathers the materials. Piece by piece the vision is constructed. Then WOW, weighty matter rises and swoops through space. The gravity of doubt and fear falls away and our imaginations soar. Beauty floods our senses and we experience what is possible when we open to wonder.

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.