I just read this story about a pastor challenging his parishioners to use a small sum of money (that he gave them from a loan) to go out and do something with it that would double the money, in order that it then be given back to the church and from there donated to three very worthy causes. (Warning– the end of the article made me cry.)

What really struck me about the story was the way that it pushed people to look at themselves and their gifts in a new way, making them see what they really have inside them and to use it creatively, to share it with others. The money was, in a way, incidental. People take money seriously, so being handed the seed funds really just ensured that they would take the challenge seriously and not just blow it off as impossible or whimsical.

Last night was the winter solstice, Yuletide, the longest night. This morning, marking as it does the return of the light, seemed like an opportune time to talk about returning to the “light” we each have within us.

Everyone’s heard the saying “Don’t hide your light under a bushel”, meaning that each of us has gifts and talents that are meant to be shared with the world, and that it’s a sort of false humility to pretend they don’t exist. But that’s usually as far as it gets taken– so no wonder people still dismiss it! It sounds like it’s saying that you have to put yourself out there and take the risk of showing what you can do, what you love to do, and opening yourself up for judgment for no reason other than “just because”. (Or, for some people, “Because God gave you those gifts so it’s wrong not to use them.”)

The implications of that truism run much deeper, however. It’s not about showing off for its own sake, or for ego’s sake, or as a holy dog & pony show. Shining your light on the world not only brings you the joy of doing something you love, but also does great things for the world around you. Your joy is infectious; it creates joy and love wherever it touches. The work you do out of this shining is much more powerful than work done out of rote obligation or resentment; it ripples through the world in ways you may not even be able to predict.

Going back to the article, one of the most beautiful things about that story was how the challenge made people experience, tangibly, that doing what they love can be a way for them to help others and benefit the world. It was a glimpse at the kind of talent and beauty that lies beneath the surface of every community. These people all turned to the things they loved to do, things that in many instances they had never thought of as being worth anything to anyone else, and shared them with the people around themselves. They poured beauty and love into the world, and reaped a tangible return that would have a measurable effect on the places to which that return was given– hard evidence of the worth of their lights.

Steve Pavlina has a thought-provoking article on contributing to the world through your career that is a terrific take on what I’m talking about here. One of the difficulties many of us encounter, I think, is that we are taught to undervalue our gifts. In an unhappy culture it becomes necessary to cut each other down out of the fear of what it might mean for us if everyone around us took the risks and lived their love. Those with artistic gifts or talents that are equally difficult to measure in monetary/hierarchical terms are particularly discouraged from trying to make a life out of them. They aren’t “real” or “practical” (or dreary?) enough. Just to be safe, we should get a “safe” career.

Can you imagine Louis Armstrong choosing to spend his life as a factory worker?

Yet that’s what so many of us do. We relegate our loves to small corners of our lives and try not to get too cocky about them, and spend the bulk of our time doing things we dislike or at best tolerate, feeling that we are somehow fulfilling a vague sense of obligation through our martyrdom. And it impoverishes the world around us.

Suppose the pastor had gone to his congregation and said, “Here’s fifty bucks. Go out and donate it to a worthy cause and come back and tell me how you spent the money.” Everyone who participated would’ve dutifully picked some recipient for the cash, handed it over, and been done, and gotten very little out of it. Instead, by being challenged to double the money through use of their talents, they opened up their lives, hearts, and imaginations. They forged friendships, started new businesses, gave each other gifts, created exciting memories, forged whole new identities for themselves.

And when they nearly tripled, instead of just doubling, the money they started out with, the money that was offered to charitable causes was infused with the energy of love and joy, with the commitment and excitement of the participants. In a metaphysical sense, it’s like receiving a handful of fresh seeds versus a handful of old dry ones. The dry ones might sprout, but the fresh seeds will probably take root more quickly and yield much more.

If you’re feeling the tug of the season and thinking about making resolutions for the new year, why not consider one along these lines: If you were given a sum of money to double through the use of your talents, how would you use the things you love to do to achieve it? Maybe even take the challenge yourself– even if you just take a twenty and use it to fund the experiment, with a goal in mind for the money you make. Do it as an offering to the Divine Wow, do it to benefit a charitable cause, or do it to give yourself a reward for taking the risk to see what would happen when you value your gifts. (If you do something like this, please post a comment with the results, or email me– I’d love to hear what happens!)

As the literal light grows longer once again and ripens the earth around us, let your metaphorical light shine stronger and brighter than ever, and ripen your life, your self, your world.


I did an exercise from Julia Cameron’s Vein of Gold book some years ago, when I was still trying to get my head screwed on properly and purge the most unproductive and least interesting of my demons. It was a simple one, but lengthy, and the instructions were merely to write your own biography. But– the important part was, you had to write it from your OWN point of view. Only what you remembered and felt, as you remembered and felt it, not as it had been told to you by family or friends. The point of it was to see your life through your own lens, and therefore to realize how much of your view of yourself and your life had been made up of others’ (often skewed) perceptions.

It was a very revealing exercise; I discovered, for example, that although I had always thought of myself as being a shy child, the evidence of my memories didn’t back that up. I remembered many times when I’d made friends easily, approached people without fear, spoken up, instigated play. But because I was often quiet and lost in my own daydreams, and sometimes reserved in new situations until I felt safe there, others had labeled me shy and I’d simply accepted it.

I want to put that aside for the moment and talk about the origins of the word “romance”. “Romance” comes from “romans”, which meant “of the people” or “vulgar” and referred to the vernacular language spoken in France (to differentiate it from the formal Latin) in the medieval era. During this time, adventurous and epic stories of chivalrous heroes became popular at court. They were called “romanz” stories originally because they were written in that common language, but over time the term came to refer to tales with the elements of heroism, adventure, daring, courage, chivalry, and eventually (perhaps due to their large audience amongst the ladies of the court) courtly love. The archetype of these romances became the story of a hero who pledges his love and service to a (usually married and highborn) lady, and proceeds to embark on one or more challenging quests to prove himself worthy of her. Given that these stories flourished in the south of France where the worship of Roman and Celtic goddesses had been sublimated into fervent Magdalene and Marian cults, it is not hard to see a connection between the figure of the untouchable domina in these stories and the feminine divine; they probably struck the same chord, for example, that is touched now by Superman stories in a country soaked in Christian mythology. Continue Reading »

Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you’, it will be enough.”

So in this perfect quiet moment, here is my offering on this feast day:

Thank You, Beloved, for the innumerable good and beautiful things in my life, the generous and fascinating people, the endless variety of color and music, the unseen hands helping, the benefits and triumphs. Everywhere I turn, everywhere I look, You have left me gifts that take my breath away, that teach me expansiveness and kindness and make me free. Thank You for the things that prove to me that life is beautiful and that this world’s natural condition is happiness and joy.

Thank You, Beloved, for the hardships, the sorrows, the times of loneliness and pain, the fear and rage, the injustice and cruelty. Each of these things has shaped who I am; has strengthened me and taught me compassion; has taught me what it is to be completely and fully present in every moment; has forced me to search for truth, and allowed me to see hidden saints among us. Thank You for the initiations I would never have asked for but that I have faced and come through, more than I was before.

ThankĀ  You, Beloved, for the mysteries and puzzles, the things whose role in my life I cannot understand or explain. These are the things that draw me ever deeper into the experience of this life, into the search for wisdom and meaning and higher knowing; they teach me patience and paradox, offer me adventure, keep this world always new and interesting. Thank You for the things that ask me simultaneously to seek answers, and to learn to sit peacefully within mystery.

Thank You, Beloved, for this life, and this world, and this Love that runs through everything like sun-warmed honey. Thank You for this moment, this breath, this pulsing heart, this self, this infinity.

Thank You.

Thank You.

Thank You.

Where love goes, I will go too.

Lead me ever deeper into the heart of the heart, along the curving spiraling path towards the spark that is the secret soul of the world. I will follow your twirling steps into these woods and never look back. Lure me onward. The truth behind the symbol of the sailors’ death is that the sweetness of the siren’s song is the ultimate union with all things. To those who put wax in their ears there is only the horror of mortality and a loss of will, but to the lover it is the deepest instinct, the ultimate quest pursued without regard for the fragile limits of one incarnation, not a literal drowning but a willing sacrifice of ego for the chance to merge with the ocean of spirit.

It has never been safe.

I cannot keep up if I am armed and shielded. I must leave them behind, all the warrior’s trappings, the illusion of control; I will run to you unencumbered and bold, unhesitating, clothed in desire and with my face painted only with the radiance of your kiss. Love, I hold out my arms to be filled with you. Every glimpse of you (like sunlight through leaves) burns away everything that is not you. The cup does not shield itself against the wine. Fill me and I will never again be afraid of you. This self is fragile as glass, blown into being by unseen lips and made for you. When others look at me, let them see through this delicate life to the glow of your ruby heart.

My every step follows on the heels of Love. For those who are hopelessly, hopefully in love, the Beloved is everywhere. Everything is a reminder of this relentless passion, this infinite desire. Love, you look at me through the eyes of a passing stranger and whisper to me in rising storm winds. You are elusive as a hint of perfume and solid as the ground I walk towards your embrace. Everything makes me think of you. I save every moment to tell you about when we are together again. Everything I am, or do, or will become, I lay as roses in your lap for the light of one smile.

Ruth said, do not ask me to turn away from you; let me live and die with you, and call your God my own. Love, wherever you lodge, I will find a home; those who love are my caravan in this journey to you. The Beloved that sings in you is the refrain of my own heart. I place my feet into the shape of your steps, though they lead to deeper places than I have ever known.

Where you go, Love, I will go too.

The native people of Australia tell a creation story of ancestral spirits who emerged from the dream that preceded this reality, and walked through this world singing everything into being. Each of our lives, to the core of our physical being, softly echoes the verses of our unique naming-song, the span of our days counted in the measures of heartbeat and breathing, the melody of voice and laughter harmonized with yawn and sigh and growl, the syncopation of our steps bridging the movements of our existence.

Music is inseparable from life. In its earliest forms, dating back before recorded history, music may have been humanity’s stylized imitations of birdsong and animal call, wind and storm. Anthropologists and ethnologists are hard pressed to think of any documented example of a human culture that does not include some form of music. It seems to be as integral to our ability to communicate and form societies as language.

Music is inseparable from spirit. Myths from all over the world describe music as a gift of the gods, or a secret stolen from them; even the word “music” has divine origins in the Greek Muses. Religious traditions have their sacred music, often carefully bound by rules to keep it pure and sublime, given in ceremony as offering and praise to deity. Composers throughout time have drawn inspiration from the world of spirit, expressing through music those thingsĀ of the soul that are beyond all words. Continue Reading »

I write this Love Bhakti as a gift to, and in honor of, two people whom I love dearly and who are family of my heart if not of my blood.

These two were married this weekend, on a perfect clear day in the company of their loved ones. I was given the great privilege of being one of the two people to perform this wedding, and it’s an honor that will never fail to amaze me and fill me with joy. The ceremony came, as so many do, as a reward and something of a relief after a long process of work and planning and stress, excitement and disappointment and anticipation and hope. Continue Reading »

In this day and age, we tend not to have a healthy relationship with the concept of secrecy; its connotations are almost entirely dour or negative. And yet, for all that it has a bad rap, there’s a beauty to secrecy, a wild and shadowed footpath barely discernible through the deep forest of our innermost lives, leading to places unreachable by more conventional means.

One of our universal traits as human beings is that we are each the tabernacle of the secrets we carry. No one, no matter how frank and open they consider themselves to be, is ever completely revealed to the world. Continue Reading »