“Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave,

and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you,

there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me.

To see reality–not as we expect it to be but as it is—

is to see that unless we live for each other and in and through each other,

we do not really live very satisfactorily;

that there can really be life only where there really is,

in just this sense, love.”

Frederick Buechner

thur sun

(photograph by me, Kathryn Howlett)

Facebook is interesting to me. I have reconnected with friends from long ago, become friends with people I have never met, found a voice I didn’t know I had, and decided I like taking photographs.

I posted the above quote a few weeks ago because I found it beautiful. Stunning. Passionate. Full of promise. A kind of grounding to reality….to what is important.

Some friends didn’t “get” it. “We are not bound to each other.” “I only live for myself.” “I don’t care if others have peace, joy or freedom.”

There was a moment, when reading these other reflections, when I found myself holding my breath. Really? Not everyone feels, believes, that we ARE bound to one another? That the other’s peace an joy and freedom allows us have and feel peace and joy and freedom?

It matters to me. I may live a different kind of life from others in different places here in the US and in the world….. I may have more, or not as much. My sorrows and my hurts may be caused by different things. My joys and happiness may be triggered by different things. My goals and ambitions may be different. My fears and worries may be different.

What is the same is that we all have those feelings, those ambitions. What is the same is we love, are loved, have been loved, will be loved. Someone’s heart sang when we were born. Someone will cry and hurt when we die. We are bound by love.

The reality, not as we expect it to be, but how it really is, tells us that “unless we live for each other and in and through each other, we really do not live very satisfactorily.”

Fundamentally I believe this. I understand completely there are bad and evil people out there who do horrible things to people…and it makes this idea of being bound to everyone by and through love, very difficult.

Yet, I stand by it.


The idea of kindness, and what it means to different people is of particular interest to me. As I speak with people I occasionally hear, much to my surprise, how one person thinks something is an act of kindness, and the other person questions if it was. What is kindness?


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

By: Naomi Shihab Nye

6 14 sunrise2(sunrise June 14, 2014 by Kathryn Howlett)

In an article in Psychology today, Tara Brach retells the story of  Father Theophane, a Christian mystic looking for spiritual renewal. http://www.psychologytoday.com/em/152690

The lesson in the end, is about paying attention to other human beings and seeing them as us. We distance ourselves from others by seeing them as different from us. At times we may not feel the call to be kind to to others who are not the same as us.

Father Theophane was given this question for contemplation: “What do they need from us?”  A question of compassion and empathy…what does the other person need?  ” But as the wise man reminded him, spiritual awakening is inextricably involved with others. As Theophane focused on the needs of those he had been given to serve, he would recognize their vulnerability and longing for love—and realize that their needs were no different than his own. “

Understanding that the “other” person’s needs are not so different from our own makes them more like us than not. In this light, kindness may flow a little more easily, unblocked by the barriers of differences and freed by similarity.

 “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
– Dalai Lama XIV

“You Are The Sky”


“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found. You are the sky. Everything else… It’s just the weather. 


(photograph by me, Kathryn Howlett)

If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher. The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. 

To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. 

Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. 

They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” 

Pema Chodron

The past two mornings the early sky has been lackluster in brilliant sunrise color here in central NYS. Cloudy, rainy weather. Yesterday before I opened my eyes, it was the sound of rain that sang to me. A few birds intent on singing in the rain, sang in perfect call and response. This morning it was the sound of a woodpecker tat-tatting on the siding outside my open door. Occasionally he would whinny or give a sharp pik sound. A noisy alarm for sure.


Today I read the above quote by Pema Chodron and I thought I would share. I love the imagery that we are the sky and everything else is just weather. It reminds me of a guided meditation I do sometimes: Sky Like Mind, by Jill Satterfield:


No matter what, we are the sky, or have “sky like mind”, and the weather just passes through. Watch the weather float, sail, storm, drift, fly,  thunder, fall from the sky. And then it is changed or gone. And the sky remains. More weather will come. And go. And there will be the sky. Unchanged for all the hail, sleet, snow, rain, thunder, lightening, wind, clouds…..just the sky.

Lean in to the weather, don’t back away, this moment is our perfect teacher.

Before I Open My Eyes

In the still dark hours of early morning, the baby birds outside our bedroom window begin to stir. I can sense, through my closed eyes, that the darkness in the sky is giving way to light. Before I open my eyes I breathe. In and out. In and out. I silently chant, “I am breathing in. I am breathing out.” Repeat. And repeat again.

In the stillness and quiet, I am. I pause in this space in order to just “be” for a fleeting moment in time.

I become grounded. I become steady, tethered to something indescribable.

Then I open my eyes and am spun into a world of life, color, vibrancy. Bird song fills the air. Color saturates the world.


 (photograph by me, Kathryn Howlett)

In these moments, I come to understand that I am part of it all. This is my journey. This is where my learning and understanding begins: with the songs the sunrise sings to me each day.