Present Tense

On ceremony

Last night, there was a drum circle at my house.  A gifted friend suggested that it was needed for me and for our land. Since she is usually right about these matters, I was all in.

We gathered around a substantial fire with our drums and no real plan other than to drum into a nice, meditative state.  For ourselves, for the land, for the ancestors.

Drumming is healing; it’s a primal and sacred beat and if you really allow it to take you over, it’s like feeling the heartbeat of God/The Divine/Source/Gaia.  It is ceremony.  It is what we are meant to do.

Another gifted and wise friend of mine recently said “Life is ceremony.” Meaning that we have to pay attention to the small rituals of our daily walk on earth.  Why do we do certain things; why do we NOT do certain things?  Are we treating our time here with the necessary gratitude and honor that is our birthright?

There is a lot written about mindfulness anymore.  It’s a tired buzzword that has mostly lost its meaning.  We equate it with doing things slowly and gently or piously and that’s not always the point.

The mindfulness of ceremony is realizing that everything we do emits energy.  Everything we do has an effect on everything.  We don’t live in a vacuum or a bubble.  We affect and are affected by every other human and non-human, not only on this planet, but in the entire cosmic plane, both past and future.

So, if you ponder and absorb that concept, you see that pop culture mindfulness isn’t enough.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong.  But, we need to gather and meld our minds and energies.

Decades ago, most folks attended church in the US.  Okay, here’s the obligatory eye roll from some of you who reject and mock organized religion.  I get it.  I haven’t regularly attended church since I was 6.  What I’m saying is that the weekly (or more) visits to a church service were a time to gather in ceremony.  And even if you squirmed or fidgeted or counted the seconds until the service was over, it had an effect.

We need these gatherings.  We need ceremony.  We need a time to lose ourselves in spirit and the energy of that spirit or consciousness that animates us.  A time to allow our analytical, western minds to shut the hell up.  A time to go inward and quiet the fears, monkey mind, anxiety, cravings and grasping that comes with modern life.

About a week ago, my family gathered to bury the ashes of our parents.  They had requested a very simple graveside gathering.  In my mom’s words, “no preaching”.  And so we did exactly that.

We gathered; kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and a few other friends and relatives.  My brother spoke, I read a short eulogy, my uncle said a short prayer and then we talked.  Anyone who wanted to share a fond memory of my parents spoke.  We laughed a lot and that felt good.  We were able to honor our parents’ lives in an informal, loving way, just the way they envisioned.  Ceremony.  A gathering of love and closure.  It was cleansing and necessary.

To me, ceremony is about healing; it’s a way to nurture ourselves and all of humanity.  Heck, all of everything.  So, if we begin to live our lives as ceremony, it would force us to look at what we do.  Is this activity/thought/belief nurturing or is it harmful or an escape?  Does this make me feel good and full and nurtured or is it merely a habitual way of masking my pain or unworthiness or fear?

Get a drum, grab a rattle.  Hell, grab a couple of sticks and walk around your yard banging them together.  Go inside, find that trance-like state of feeling safe and connected to all that is.  Gather some friends and sit around a fire.  Try to catch yourself within your daily habits and routine and see if you can make it into something sacred and nourishing.  Let’s all look for meaning in our actions; then let the toxic stuff go.

That is ceremony.

July 23, 2017 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

You say goodbye….

I’m saying goodbyes and that sucks.  I’ve done it plenty of times over the years, but as I get older it gets a little harder.  I’m wise to the obligatory ‘we’ll stay in touch’ and ‘we’ll come visit’ lines that we all spout during goodbyes.  That rarely comes true.

We move on. We humans are amazingly adaptable and thankfully forgetful in these situations.  Most goodbyes involve short term pain and then we snuggle into our new home/job/ situation/life and leave the old life in the rear view mirror.  Merciful, really.

We all scream that we want ‘closure’, but do we really?  Closure really means that we want to tie things up in neat little bows and go forward without any pain and suffering.  Life on earth just ain’t that benevolent.  A change or transition involves bidding farewell to something.  Even if it’s something negative or unpleasant, we still feel that tug of regret when it’s time to cast off.

I’m greatly looking forward to my change in venue and yet it’s been a melancholy week or two.  I was out walking solo in the meadow behind our (soon to be sold) home a couple of days ago, gazing at the  enormous mountains that guard our valley.  I wanted to cry when I realized that my dogs would never romp here again.  That’s right, I was overcome with emotion on behalf of my dogs.  The finality of our lives here  in Colorado snuck up on me.

It’s those little moments of clarity where you realize that you’ll never be in this place, in this moment again, that sting.  Yet, every moment of every day is unique and we rarely mourn it’s passing.

We’re saying goodbye constantly; to every second of every day of our lives.  There is only now and then it’s gone.  Every minute, hour, day of our lives is quickly part of our past.  If we are living mindfully we should enjoy every minute, as that moment is rare and singular.

Such a simple concept and yet, so difficult.  Another lesson for me in letting go.  Life teaches us so much; now to learn to let it sink in.

June 18, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 31 Comments


“Recalibrating…Recalibrating… Recalibrating”…..

My brain has been like a confused GPS unit all week.  I thought that I was prepared for this kind of situation.  Why do I meditate?  Why do I study?  Why have I spent so much time reminding myself to live in this moment and that life is all about change and evolution?  That was all supposed to help me cope with the inevitable course alterations that are required of a functioning human.

I’ve spent the better part of the past year preparing for a transition in our lives.  Emotionally, financially, physically; the whole package.  I did this knowing that it all might not play out the way I was anticipating.  The whole point of a mindfulness practice is to remind ourselves that all we know is this particular moment.  All we really know is that life changes randomly despite our best-laid plans.

So, when a ‘recalibration’ became necessary, why did it freak me out?  Because old habits are so very ingrained in all of us.  I hate that.  Enlightenment is extremely hard work when your brain is so damned stubborn.

I want what I want, NOW.  I cannot stand uncertainty.  I need to have firm plans. I am dangling and swinging in the wind. ARGH!

So, as I sat on my meditation cushion this morning, it suddenly hit me: I’ll be fine.  With whatever transpires.  I planned for one scenario, but I’m open and ready to embrace the other one that has suddenly appeared.   Either one will be great.

The funny thing about my current angst is that I’ve always been a glass half-full type when it comes to how my life has played out.  Things typically work out just fine.  Yes, there are challenges, but we adapt.  We recalibrate.  I must keep reminding myself that it all unfolds as it will.  I can only respond in a healthy and flexible way.

I was listening to a podcast the other day from some talks at a Buddhist retreat center and a couple of concepts jumped up and stuck in my brain like  post-it notes.  “Respond, rather than react” and “pay attention; don’t cling”.    Allow yourself the time to ponder and assess your new circumstance and then don’t hang onto the old one and expect it to change. Don’t cling to the pre-conceptions or the ‘what ifs’ that can clog up our brains and cause us such suffering and pain.

I’m marching toward a fork in the road and either path is fine.  Either path will contain joy, pain, challenges, peace, happiness, tragedy, growth.  Because that’s life.

March 9, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

I’m posting this NOW….

Hello_smileAlmost 7 years ago,  I published my first blog post.  So, here it is.  A lot has happened in that time, mostly good, but as with everyone, there have been challenges, losses, setbacks and the writing has been my solace. 

Maybe I’m a slow learner, although I never thought of myself that way. I tend to pick things up pretty fast, but there’s lot of stuff that I put right back down, just as fast. I read a book about people like me. Author Barbara Sher called us “scanners”, in her book “Refuse to Choose”. We like to jump around, in terms of our interests. Learn as much as we’d like and then latch onto the next thing.

That’s worked out pretty well for me, in a lot of ways; I can throw a fastball, read a stock chart, play a C chord, change a tire, cook a mean prime rib, pilot a motorcycle, ace a test, ride a bike with no hands (my record is two miles), sing the alto part of Handels’ Messiah, read and understand a map, and a lot of other things that I mastered and have since, forgotten.

So, it was a bit of a shock to someone as accomplished as me, in the little things, that I had not quite grasped the ‘big things’; the universal truths of life, the reason to get up in the morning, the road maps for growing up, growing mature and growing old, gracefully. That brings me to the name of my blog:  Present Tense. It has taken me literally decades to begin to explore a truth that many of you, maybe even unconsciously, use to order your lives and it is this: You can’t change the past, you can’t predict the future; you can only live in the present. In fact, it was a quote that I read in a magazine, sitting in a waiting room that really slammed me in my fevered, overly analytical brain: “We tend to rehash the past, and rehearse the future.”

I know, simple, right? But, to really absorb this concept was a true revelation, an epiphany for me. I’ve said and done so many stupid things in the past that haunt me and I’ve spent thousands of hours, thinking and planning and worrying about the future, that to finally begin to understand that truth and begin to practice it, is, and I HATE this overused word, empowering. Maybe a better word is, freeing.

So that’s the genesis of Present Tense; living in the present, feeling and acknowledging what’s going on RIGHT NOW, good or bad, joy or sorrow, boredom or incredible excitement. When you boil it down, it’s really all we have.

When my husband and I lived in Ohio, our house was out in the country, surrounded by soy bean fields and woods. Just across and down the street a ways, was “The Church of What’s Happening Now”, which I never attended. I know, that sounds like a comedy bit, but that was really the name of this small Pentecostal church in our neighborhood. I read the sign everyday, and the meaning never sunk in. Not being a church goer, I always thought that Christianity was all about the hereafter; waiting for the day the lord would take you from this mortal life, into eternal life, which is the ultimate in living in, and for the future. But, at “The Church of What’s Happening Now”, those folks were always organizing something to help the community; clothes, money and food for the poor, fellowship groups for the teenagers in the area, softball games, picnics and what I now see, is that yes, they were most certainly looking forward to the hereafter, but they realized that you have to put in the work, NOW. In their time on earth, there is lots to do in the present, to keep you occupied; in their case, it was helping their fellow man, on his or her journey.

So, I’m working to become an unofficial disciple of “The Church of What’s Happening Now”; living in the present, letting go of the past and letting go of the flawed notion that you can ever really plan for the future. You can lay a decent foundation and have a rough roadmap of how you’d like things to turn out, but to use another cliche, “life happens”. And really, if you think about it, it still comes down to the present; the choices you make every second, every moment, everyday, will in some way determine your future and if that’s too much pressure, keep this little nugget in mind: every moment passes; what may seem difficult or excruciating, at this very moment, will soon pass because no matter how much we struggle or rant or rebel or complain, time keeps on tickin’, tickin’, tickin’ into the future (thank you very much Steve Miller Band).

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , | 13 Comments


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