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The Writing Life

fictionMy time in the desert is continuing to work its exciting, uncomfortable, and transformative wonder. I am beginning to recover from several bouts of illness and depression that are, I think, essential components of a “desert experience.” The existential questions I have been considering have boiled down to: I know I am a writer and will continue to write, but what shall I write? I have written poetry and short essays most of my writing life. My popular Tao books are primarily poetry. My blog work is short essay form. On which should I concentrate? Both?

Or … the answer comes to me, “neither.” I think I may be finished with both of these forms, at least as a primary focus. Several years ago I wrote and self-published a short novel, Tales of the Happy Frog. It has sold in the tens of copies. It was an experiment that grew out of a weekly journal column and there was no real way to market it. Despite the dismal sales it was the most enjoyable writing I’ve ever done. It was difficult, a real stretch for a poet, but it was fun! Since “fun” is written large on the to-do list of my life, I have decided to put all my efforts into a new series of novels that have been languishing for three years, all growing out of the characters of that first one.

I want to keep in touch with everyone so I will be using this blog to let you peek into the fiction writing process; how it flows and doesn’t flow, how ideas come from the stuff of our culture and life and from our common hopes and dreams. I will share descriptions and dialogues from my work – with no particular connection to an emerging story, simply thoughts and words that strike me as interesting. The overarching theme of “Freedom, Simplicity, and Joy” will inform my novels and I will be seeking to give a form and structure to these sometimes overly philosophical ideals.

Below is a short dialogue from my current work. It will appear somewhere in a novel soon, I hope:

     “So, you’re having a nervous breakdown,” Ken Woods intoned, “Figures. You’re about due for one.”
     Carole Evans slapped Ken’s shoulder with exasperation, “Be serious, idiot!” she warned, “Robert is worried.”
     “I am serious,” Ken rejoined, “anyone who’s not coming apart right now simply doesn’t understand the situation. I think intelligent people are going to suffer more and more disorientation and decompensation. It’s the only healthy response to an insane world.”
     Ken was a well-liked professor of psychology, affectionately known as the Campus Curmudgeon. He was a vocal social critic and activist whose energy had lately been spread thin in an attempt to understand and respond to the multitudinous outbreaks of outrage among students, faculty, and community. His remarks did not disconcert Robert. He felt Ken was taking his fears thoughtfully and replying from that thoughtfulness.
     He continued, “Robert, don’t be afraid of such experiences. The human mind is capable of a much deeper and broader perception of reality than the one we’ve been conditioned to accept as the only perception.”
     “Watch out,” Carole interjected, “he’s about to suggest his Magic Mushroom therapy.”
     Ken turned to Carole with a flash of anger, “Carole, do you really think I am a druggie, a tuned-in burned-out hippie? Do you think I would suggest anything harmful to anyone?”
     Carole was the Head of the English Department and had the reputation of being no-nonsense. She flashed back at Kenny, “I don’t think that, Ken. I just think Robert is vulnerable right now and doesn’t need any radical suggestions.”
     “Have I made any radical suggestions?” Ken raised his voice, “Well, have I?”
     “Ken, Carole,” Robert cut in, “Let’s not argue over my pathology or treatment plan. I don’t need fixing. I just need my friends to be my friends.”
     Carole leaned back and smiled, “I’m sorry, Robert. Of course that’s all you need.” She turned to Ken reaching over to pat his arm affectionately, “I know you are not suggesting anything. I just sometimes get caught up in your Old Hippie persona and forget that you really are a dear, intelligent, and compassionate man.”
    “Humph!” Ken snorted, but with a smile at the corner of his mouth. Then he turned to the young waiter who was passing by and waved his glass, “Dave, another round for my friends and me. Robert is paying.”
     Did I really need another pint of the sumptuous Amber Ale? ” Robert thought. “Sure I do!”
     “I’m not an aging hippie like Ken,” Robert said, “so I can’t rely on the flashback theory to explain what’s been happening. I’m honestly worried that something physical is misfiring in my brain.”
     “You thinking of seeing a neurologist?” Carole asked.
     Robert sighed, “I’ve considered it, but I also have the feeling that all these episodes are portending something important. Maybe a brain tumor, but … I have the strangest sensation of calm during the actual episode itself, as if the altered perceptions and hallucinations are benign, even important.”
     Ken looked at him with an intent expression, examining his face as if he were making a diagnosis. He leaned back and continued to study him. Robert began to feel a bit awkward. Then Ken leaned forward and said, “These experiences are real, Robert. Take them seriously and find out what they are telling you.”
     Carole started to protest, then sat back in silence. The corner of her mouth turned up in a wry half-smile and she shrugged her shoulders in a, “Why not?” gesture.
     “I do take them seriously,” Robert said, then reflected for a moment and asked, “What do you mean by ‘take them seriously?’”
     “I know you take them seriously in that you are worried about them,” Ken said, holding Robert’s eyes with his hawk-like gaze, “But there is a deeper level of seriousness you need to explore. What if there is nothing at all ‘wrong’ with your mind? What if you are experiencing a long-neglected function of your brain that is wired into the most fundamental essence of who you are as a human being?”
     Something in Robert’s chest constricted at hearing Ken’s words. An undefined emotion tried to emerge but couldn’t work its way past his mind, which quickly responded with, “What if I’m just losing my mind? What if I’m actually teetering on the brink of insanity?”
     Carole started to say something, but Ken kept pressing his point, “What you are describing is not insanity. Your ‘visions’ – to use the correct word …”
     Carole again tried to interrupt.
     “… Yes, Carole, I use the word ‘vision’ deliberately,” Ken continued. “In a society that is sorely lacking in ‘visionaries,’ older definitions of the word will become increasingly important. Robert is having ‘visions,’ not hallucinations.”
     Carole finally interjected in a skeptical argumentative tone, “How do you know they’re visions, Ken?”
     “I do know!” Ken answered in a gruff tone, “I do know the difference, Carole. Believe me on this. This is my field. I’ve spent my life exploring the boundaries between so-called ’sanity’ and so-called ‘insanity.’ I’ve studied and experienced both visions and hallucinations and I know the fundamental differences. Human beings have come to dismiss any experience that dares to venture outside of a culturally defined normality and are thus in danger of destroying the very essence of their humanity.”
     He took a deep breath and turned back to Robert, “Robert here is a fundamentally healthy and sane man. His experiences are visions, the product of a creative mind reaching for something deeper and more human than it has been allowed heretofore.”
     The constriction in Robert’s chest once again appeared. This time he could not interrupt it before it made its way up through his throat to his eyes. Tears began to form and a small sob formed in his chest. He swallowed and turned his eyes toward the flat screen on the wall that was flashing continuous images of athletes in action or some sort. He swallowed again, then felt Carole’s hand on his arm. He turned back to his friends and let the sobs begin to escape, quietly and somewhat under control, but escaping nonetheless.
     “Are you frightened?” Carole asked.
     “I suppose… a bit,” he said, “but Ken’s words about a deeper…” He choked up again and had to turn his eyes away. This welling up of emotion in the midst of conversation was unfamiliar to him. “… About a deeper experience of life somehow made me feel as if a long buried longing started to emerge. It is…” He waited until the small sobs subsided, “… as if his words touched the heart of my recent experiences.”
     Ken and Carole were silent, creating a space in which Robert found some comfortable breathing room, an open place in his mind where there had before been only mixed and fearful thoughts.

I hope you will follow along as I live out the answers to my desert questions. I hope you like the novels when they appear. But mostly, I hope for us all, freedom, simplicity, and joy.

Symptom Management

coldLiving next door to my two year old granddaughter has been an enlightening experience. She is darling. She is sweet. She is delightful. And she is a walking germ factory. I had forgotten that the parents, and in this case grandparents as well, get to experience the wonder of the way children build healthy immune systems – by catching every virus imaginable. Most of these they pass on to family.

In the midst of my second cold of the past two months, I became fascinated by the process of illness. I know that there is a complex body/mind connection in illness; that the body can help heal the mind and that the mind can help heal the body. I was practicing with training my thought process to support my body and had just written down a healing affirmation: My body is efficiently removing the toxic effects of this cold and restoring itself to health. Immediately I had a coughing fit, a sneezing fit, and a nose that flowed with mucus. “Some efficiency,” I thought, “so much for affirmations!” Then I realized that my body responded exactly as it should to such an affirmation.

Symptom management is an interesting thing, sometimes necessary and helpful but often counter to the body’s processes and natural instincts for healing. Sneezing, snuffling, coughing, and even fever are the ways the body sloughs off toxic material. Too much symptom “management” actually interferes with this healing activity. I will take something to ease a sore throat and help me sleep, but if I can avoid over-medicating myself I will be more in line with my body’s wisdom.

Much of our psychological and social suffering is the same – natural symptoms produced by the toxicity of a conditioned mind and culture. Without the perception of suffering, the disease would surely kill our spirit quietly and quickly. The person who is dismayed is the person with a healthy psychic immune system. It may be the attempt to manage our psychic symptoms that has exacerbated the disease to fatal proportions in our species. Our conditioned mind has developed a series of toxic “viruses” – existential fear and anxiety and the accompanying grasping, distraction, blame, and violence. Rather than let these symptoms lead us to true self-examination and the discovery of the root causes of our personal and social ills, we put all of our energy into economic symptom management – accumulation, diversion, distraction, blame, violence, and ultimately warfare over resources to insure the continuing economic ability to manage the symptoms.

Teachers such as Jesus, Lao-Tzu and the Buddha emphasized simplicity, not because of the intrinsic virtue in such a practice, but because simplicity allows the symptoms to emerge from repression and denial and begin to work their difficult, but ultimately healing and joyful, process in our spirit. By letting our fears, anxieties, angers, and sufferings be available for mindful awareness, we find that they actually lead to our healing and happiness. But by seeking to manage them through clinging, accumulation, and distraction, we keep the disease active for a whole lifetime – working its ravages in our bodies, minds, and cultures.

I am ill with far more than a simple cold. Semi-consciously I have been seeking to cooperate with my spirit to heal this illness. The more my habitual management tools have fallen away, the more severe the symptoms appear. Rather than sinking into despair over this, I see it as a call for a new approach that will bring actual healing rather than a medicinal cover-up job. It is hard work, as I have said before, but only by seeing clearly through all the illusions I have constructed will I find the ultimate joy and freedom that is my birthright.

Toxic Thinking

toxicI am learning about depression from the inside. Despite its destructive and enervating qualities, the experience has fascinating aspects. I notice the physical nature of the process in a profound lack of energy, especially as the day turns into afternoon. Aspects of life that seem manageable in the morning gradually turn into major difficulties by 3:00 in the afternoon, and into overwhelming obstacles by evening. I wait for bedtime so I can shut down the toxicity of my mind for a few hours.

I usually wake up willing to make coffee and sit with my morning writing pages. As I write and sip my hot coffee from the heavy white mug labeled, “Flatiron, Jerome, AZ,” I am able to watch my mental processes as they spill out my fingers onto the page. In this way I can put my attention on my thinking processes while my mind is fresh and focused. Even when the morning seems somewhat dim, by the time I am finished with three pages of writing I am usually able to see how to reframe my thinking into a more positive framework.

When I stop writing and go about the day my attention tends to shift and no longer notices the flow of toxic thoughts. They circulate in the background of my psyche, just out of my conscious awareness. By the time a few hours have passed these thoughts have done their work on my mood and energy. The evidence for the effect of thoughts on mental and physical health is overwhelming. Thoughts trigger countless chemical, hormonal, and organic reactions. We have, perhaps, 30,000 thoughts each day and most of them, in our culture, are not particularly health-enhancing.

One aspect of countering toxic thinking is helping the brain chemistry in its production of serotonin. Stress and aging decrease serotonin. Sunlight enhances its production. Exercise enhances its production. Rest and self-care enhance its production. And certain pharmaceuticals enable serotonin to remain circulating in the brain longer. These strategies provide a basic biological/physical support for treating depression.

A second, and perhaps even more important, tactic in dealing with depression is developing the ability to bring attention and mindfulness to the thinking process. This practice is difficult to perfect because our conditioned mind is not trained to be attentive and mindful of its own processes. Toxic thinking is usually the default mechanism for the idle brain. When we are not depressed the mind has a certain resilience which injects more positive elements into the thinking process; seeing options, alternatives, support systems, and broader views of reality. When depression settles in, however, toxic thinking – always in the background – combines with the physical aspects of brain chemistry and together they overwhelm the resilience.

Sometimes the toxic thoughts are overt and one can almost hear them echoing in the chambers of the mind: It’s too much for you. You made a big mistake. You’ll never make it. You’re not strong enough. Who do you think you are? What have you done? You should be ashamed. You’re a failure. Your life is meaningless. Disaster is just around the corner… on and on the repetitive, vicious, poisonous voices drone; overtly and covertly they drone on. An alert and non-depressed mind can somewhat balance these thoughts – though they are toxic to all of us even at the best of times. Our brain/body system is continually struggling to balance the effects of this truly poisonous process.

As I work with my own depression I am using all the tactics at my disposal: sunlight, exercise, rest, self-care, a mild SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor that helps the serotonin remain in circulation), and a commitment to the practice of attention and awareness. Qigong provides both exercise and mindfulness of my body’s energy. Walks promote the flow of energy but I have to be careful to keep them shorter and slower so as not to bring on extra fatigue. Continuing to write during the day helps me see the processes. And I am reminding myself to make every moment a meditative moment – not in the sense of seeking serenity but simply cultivating the ability to notice what my thinking is doing while I’m going about each little ordinary activity. I am beginning to consciously catch the toxic thoughts more often. This doesn’t always stop their poison from entering my system, but it lessens the dosage a bit. I am able to say to myself, “That’s bullshit. Stop poisoning me. I wouldn’t have a person in my life who talked to me like that and I won’t have you! Get the hell out!”

I have accepted depression as an essential part of this “Desert Experience.” I have, in part deliberately and in part unknowingly, withdrawn most of my life-long support systems – systems that have maintained my conditioned mind and business as usual for decades. I’m experiencing the natural consequences of this withdrawal and I trust that I will come through to a new and profoundly transformed phase of my life. If you have experienced, or are experiencing, depression (and our number is legion!) you know the difficulty. But trust the process; take care of yourself; rest; get the help you need; and pay attention. It’s an important time, perhaps the most important time of our lives.

Resting in the Desert

restingThe frenetic activity of the past four months has come to a halt and I am coming to terms with the stress and loss that my wandering path has brought about. Freedom, simplicity, and joy remain as the guiding current in the river of my life, but the stream has gone underground for the time being. The starkness of the high Sonoran Desert has brought me an unexpected gift – an unavoidable period of fatigue and depression.

Our home on wheels is parked, “docked,” to use motor home language, at my son’s house in southern Arizona. The weather is lovely. The family is supportive. And I am absolutely exhausted. Plans to roam about the area have been shelved and replaced by plans to read lots of books and take frequent naps. Quixotic notions of slaying windmills have faded for the moment and I find my mind slipping into a spacious place of healing and recovery.

I had underestimated the psychological and physical effect of leaving everything behind. I don’t regret it at all, for I can sense the spaciousness that is now slowly taking shape. It remains, however, a profound loss of all familiar things, places, and routines that are associated with “home.” These things cannot be immediately and off-handedly replaced by an entirely different way of living without a grieving process.

Continued stress greatly reduces the body’s production of Serotonin, a neurotransmitter among whose complex functions, is enabling the ability to feel optimistic and enjoy a sense of well-being. Aging, wouldn’t you know it, also slows down the production of Serotonin. So this aging, tired, and depressed man has been clearly told by all of his advisors, seen and unseen, material and spiritual, to Rest! The adventure is an authentic and important one, but for the next two or three months… Rest your body and mind!

It is very helpful for me to be able to frame the coming months as a “resting in the desert” experience. Many spiritual traditions see the desert as a place of cleansing and renewal. One returns from the desert having experienced the burning away of the extraneous and inauthentic. The desert is not a place of bustling activity, it is a place where roots must burrow deep for water; where rest occupies the greatest part of the day; where stillness brings insight; and where beauty is found in hidden places.

So, this is me… resting. I might not write as often for a bit, but will do so when it seems congruent with the healing process. My invitation to you is to pay attention to your own stress and fatigue. It builds up silent and hidden, repressed by the need to produce and be active. These are stress-filled times. Make rest and healing a non-negotiable part of your life.

Blowing in the Wind

blowingI’m sitting in the early morning darkness, snug and warm in my old Home on Wheels. It is parked beside my son’s house in Southern Arizona. In the two plus weeks we’ve owned it it has taken two trips – both to the dump station at the Circle K. We are getting to know my son’s family, including new granddaughter, Emma, in a deeper way and we are learning how to live in 200 square feet of space. The future is completely unknown, except for the images presented by various voices in my mind, some hopeful, many full of fears. Where to from here? Where is this all going?

Yesterday the wind howled down from the Huachuca Mountains all day, rocking our home and creating a restless energy within me. With 40 mph gusts shaking my room, I had the feeling that my life was anchorless and adrift on an unknown sea. I tried asking the wind what it was saying, but all I could feel was a sense of threat, as if there was a malevolent predator howling around the outside of my walls. I had a vague sense that the winds of Tao were speaking and I was having trouble listening.

As the new morning dawns I have my earphones on and am listening to Bob Dylan singing, “Blowing in the Wind.” How appropriate. Where are the answers? They are, my friend, blowing in the wind. I begin to understand the message of yesterday’s wind from the mountains, grabbing my home and shaking it to get my attention. “How many years will it take, my friend,” it is saying, “to get your full attention. To truly shake you loose from the mooring lines of culture and set the ship of your life free on its journey?”

“Listen,” it says, “You didn’t set out on this path to have a comfortable retirement. That  ship sailed long ago. You’re looking for Something Real before you die. You’re looking for your own personal answers to the questions: “How many roads must you walk down before you can call yourself a man? How many times must the cannonballs fly before you refuse to light the fuses?  How many times can you turn your head, and pretend that you just don’t see? How many times must you look up before you see the sky?”

Bob asked these questions decades ago and the answers remain blowing in the wind. The years since he first sang the questions have seen an urgent increase in the necessity of listening to the answers the wind carries. These answers are not carved on stone tablets or written in little black books, but they exist. The wind carries them across the seas and down the mountainsides, shaking and quaking our little houses, saying, “Listen! Your hearts know the answers but your minds are too loud.”

What do you hear when the wind blows and the questions arise? How many roads must you walk down? How many times must the cannonballs fly? How many times can you turn your head? How many deaths will it take? What answers do you hear as the wind whispers in your ears or rocks your foundations? I can’t articulate the details of the answers, but the wind playing across the strings of our hearts certainly can. Are we listening?

 

Tiny Houses and Small Choices

Cabin-BillI have been presented with some interesting questions about our choice to purchase an old Winnebago Motor Home to be our residence. Most of the questions arise from the assumption that we are embarking on a “Recreational Vehicle” lifestyle. An increasing number of people, especially seniors, are turning to various styles of RV living because they find it an affordable alternative to fixed housing. Some are choosing it as a full-time way of living. Many more are using RVs part-time to enjoy seeing sights while feeling self-contained. These are valid choices, although they involve some trade-offs and considerations.

For us, the choice was not about nomadic living or becoming recreational travelers. It was about seeking what felt, for us, to be an appropriate way of living an Earth-centered life. We wanted a “Tiny House” – one that would help us limit the amount of our possessions, decrease our use of non-renewable resources, keep us more mindful on a daily basis of the essentials of existence, and allow us to be more directly involved in the seasons and moods of the natural world.

We found that the typical “Tiny House” was quite expensive, unless one could build it oneself. We considered doing that, but found it to be impractical for us. Most Tiny Houses run into zoning problems unless they are on a trailer bed. After a couple of years of thought and exploration, we determined that an older motor home best fit our understanding of a “Tiny House.” Their size is usually around 200 or so square feet. The units are self-contained and flexible – able to be off the grid entirely for periods of time yet also able to connect to electricity when appropriate. And an older model motor home costs much less than a classic “tiny house” and fits our limited budget.

We do not really consider it an “RV.” It is our home – with the advantage that we can (carefully) move it to various locations. Its carbon footprint, despite the use of gas when moving it, is to our advantage – much less than a typical house. It drastically limits our accumulation of possessions and keeps us mindful of every purchase of food and clothing. It keeps our attention on every use of water, lights, stoves, heaters, and coolers. It invites us to spend much of our time outdoors. We have to spend more time and care on personal issues like showers, bathroom use, dish washing, house cleaning, and laundry. We are finding that these activities become mindfulness exercises rather than automatic tasks to be hurried through. All of life seems to be settling down to a more basic level.

Living in a small space also brings a new depth to our relationship. Personal quirks that larger homes have allowed us to ignore over the years now become doorways into deeper understandings of each other and of our own psyches. An already intimate and joyful marriage has been offered an invitation to evolution and awakening we would never experience otherwise.

Nancy recently got verbally slapped by a stranger on Facebook for talking about how her cold helped her gain insights into her life. She was told that a simple cold was nothing compared to the suffering of so many in the world and that perhaps she should examine these issues for herself. Nancy let it roll off her shoulders, understanding that this woman was dealing with her own unique situation and emotions. I was a bit defensive on Nancy’s behalf, but soon let it go as well. The incident served to remind me that, in a culture that is on the knife edge between disintegration and transformation, the urge to take some sort of action can actually be immobilizing, especially when we become narrowly focused on a tiny element within the array of possible actions.

We each experience the disintegration/transformation that is occurring from our own unique vantage point, one that is based on our personal history and conditioning. This personal history and conditioning also puts us in a position to make unique contributions that are based on who we are and where we are at the moment. Amid the multiple layers of embedded choices which face us, it is important to see clearly the Taoist ideal of,  “one small step,” which is ours, and only ours, to do in the present moment. Taking that action will lead us to the next vantage point and to the next step.

There are many alternatives to business as usual. Tiny houses are only one of the options for the creation of a new society and a new way of living in harmony with each other and with the Earth. Many of these options will be shaped by family situation, economic circumstances, and health. For instance, the ability of a middle-income family to choose organic food and other Earth-friendly options may be far greater than that of the family living below the poverty line. One person may have the ability to politically organize, while another is better working quietly on personal and family transformation. It does not help to assume what another person can or should be doing. It is enough to mindfully determine what is appropriate for our own small, next step.

Shared housing, urban and suburban gardening, community supported agriculture, tool libraries, and hundreds of other creative ideas are emerging and more are popping up all the time. Each person is responsible for mindfully considering, thinking, meditating, evaluating, and ultimately choosing among a multitude of competing voices. The choices of action will be different for each individual, but they will be equally important. They will be based on the unique circumstances in which each person finds themselves. They often seem small and insignificant to the conditioned mind and a little voice will tempt us to think, “this won’t make any difference.” But it will make a difference! Each little mindfully considered choice will contribute to tipping the balance – one way or another. Our world will take a small step toward transformation, or toward disintegration. It’s always our choice.

Depression

depressionOne difficulty of writing a blog is the way my conditioned mind will lock into a particular image of itself that it needs to present, then hijack my writing so that it conforms itself to that image. To be confused, unsure, afraid, or depressed is unacceptable to this conditioned part of my psyche and such states must never be revealed in the blog. The story seems to say, “People are looking to you for encouragement so you must keep yourself centered and confident. For heaven’s sake, don’t write anything if your can’t be positive and wise.” Yet, why communicate at all if I can’t communicate the full range of my experiences of life? Without that freedom my writings, my books, and my essays over the past 30 years would be a waste of words – mere facades woven with language to cover rather than reveal my soul.

At the moment I am discouraged and depressed. I acknowledge that both Nancy and I have been sick with a severe cold for the past week and we all know how that affects mood and outlook. Yet this current discouragement, though it will pass, is real and should not be dismissed by that part of me which is so terribly concerned with image.

I feel as if I have foolishly stepped off the edge of responsible behavior. I am assailed by the very voices I wrote about in a previous blog, Do You Know What You’re Doing? I reread that particular blog and found encouragement from my own words. Yet the feeling remains that I am somehow a foolish and naive man who, at age 74, is throwing away his life in Quixotic tilting at windmills. We have very little money. Our motor home is “docked” at my son’s home but we can’t remain here indefinitely. I have no idea what my contribution can or should be to the healing of the Earth. I am judging myself by all the standards that I actually don’t affirm to be true, but they feel true right now.

I write these discouraged thoughts because they are real to me at the moment. They are not the only reality. They are merely conditioned thoughts firing through the synapses of my brain. I write because I believe that a full-on acceptance of the transient moods of life is far more healthy than the effort of trying to pretend they do not exist. Acknowledging depression and discouragement is the first step toward moving through and emerging into the daylight. Our conditioned mind uses depression as one of its major weapons to resist transformation. It also hits us with the double-whammy of, “You’re depressed? What’s wrong with you? You shouldn’t be depressed? Buck up?”

“Buck up!” is a common refrain in life, but there are times when we long to hear, “Buck down for a bit.” There is nothing wrong with depressive and discouraged moods. Life is full of challenges and we are not always at our physical and emotional best to face them. That’s OK. We’ll find our way through. Compassion and acceptance, despite the insinuations of the conditioned mind to the contrary, are the strongest forces available to the human soul.

Lao Tzu remains my most compassionate guide, reminding me that, “The only step necessary in the thousand mile journey is the small one right in front of you.” It is raining and the Huachuca Mountains just south of us still have a bit of snow on their peaks. Nancy is napping. Kleenex tissues form their own small mountains by the chair, bed, and couch. I’m going to, “buck down,” and take a nap myself. That’s the next small step. It will be enough.

Bless our hearts, all of us.