Without Hesitation

Years ago we went panning for gold in Alaska! We knew the chances of finding any was slim, but the prospect filled us up and we spent a lazy afternoon in along the edge of a creek wrapped in happiness and sharing laughter. The chant “gold, gold, Gold, GOLD!” over of each pan that swirled just at the edge of the creek held the same magical possibility every time. Hope never faded.

We knew, of course, even with hope springing eternal, that we would not find any gold. And because of that we never contemplated what it would be like if we did find one of those enormous chunks that make headline news.

And we most certainly never entertained the idea of what we would do if someone came walking along and  asked us for that chunk.

There is a “folk” story…variations found in countries and in languages around the world called

“The Wise Woman’s Stone”

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream.

The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food.
The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him.
She did so without hesitation.

The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime.

But, a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.
“I’ve been thinking,” he said. “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious.

“Teach me what you have within you that enabled you to give me this stone.”

walnut heart

Sure, this is a teaching story. So let’s think about it as such and learn. Instead of making a run for it, the man found he could not live with tricking and taking and returned to the woman. What he really wanted to know, and to have, was how “to give without hesitating.” To no longer cling and protect, to covet and take. Even with the potential of being secure for the rest of his life, he chose to return the stone and to try to attain something intangible.

There are people in the world today who do this every day and we rarely hear about them. Instead we are bombarded with words and actions that profess the opposite of this story.

What do we have within us that would allow us to just give…..? To give without thought of hesitation? Would we give only to someone we know or love? Would we give only with the understanding of an equal exchange or reward? Would we give only to people of like mind and beliefs? Would we hold tight and walk away?

How strong are our fears? How strong is the fear of uncertainty? The internal drive to protect and to keep?

It is difficult to do in this time in history in this country, but imagine yourself walking and finding a precious diamond or ruby, large enough to provide for you and your family for the rest of your life. No more wandering. No more want or hunger. Security and comfort are yours now. Forever. A fellow traveler comes and you generously share what little food you have. Then they see the precious stone and boldly ask for it.

Without hesitation you hold out your hand and give it to them.

IS that you? Could/would you do it? Why or why not?

Now, imagine you are the person receiving the stone. Inside you are giddy. You cannot believe your good fortune! But, by sunrise you are again in front of the woman. This time your hand is outstretched and you are handing her back the treasure of a lifetime. You no longer want that security. That wealth.

You seek instead to attain something intangible. You want what it is that allowed the woman to give away the precious jewel without hesitation.

What is it? Do you want it? DO you have it? Can you, we, attain it?



Chiseled and Shuffled

Earlier this week I was listening to stories recorded by folks on the Storycorp website. I listened to 5 or 6. Each one completely different. Each one a beam of light shining on a defining moment, a question, a hope, a dream in a stranger’s life. Without knowing the individuals personally I still found myself holding my breath in anticipation, shedding a tear of sorrow or hope, and having overwhelming feelings of really wishing I could just hold that person.

There are a handful of moments in my life that I know truly sculpted who I am today. Moments where the emotions were so raw and powerful they chiseled and shuffled my heart. There are days when remembering those moments can still provoke the same powerful emotions.

When I pause to really think about the moments, events, experiences that really changed, created, allowed me to move towards the person I am today, I understand that while there are many, there are fewer truly transformative moments. Transformative moments are the ones that act like a metamorphosis, an evolution….a change.

One of those was when my father died.

Looking back, I see that the whole month, from illness to diagnosis to death, was a journey of personal growth and a shift in consciousness for me.

If you read my post called Every Single Day :(https://kathrynwonders.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/every-single-day/) you will have a glimpse into another one of the defining moments in my life.

My father was an Episcopal Minister. He loved the prefix “inter”. The dictionary defines “inter” as :  “between,”“among,” “in the midst of,” “mutually,” “reciprocally,” “together”. He studied “Inter-religious”. The parts of religion that were the same. He experienced “inter-national”, the relating between nations and peoples. He taught an “inter-disciplinary” course…combining ideas and thoughts together as they related to religious and global possibilities.

When I was little, and even when I was older, he kept reinforcing the same idea with me. He referred to it as (and this is familiar to everyone)

Putting yourself in the other person’s shoes

We are all in this world, in life together. We may feel separate, different, unique, alone, but we are not. The reason we are not is because of all that “inter” stuff. There is a enormous amount of information on line about all the similar, unifying aspects of religions. The world has become more connected as people travel more easily, as resources need to be shared and as knowledge and information flows more openly. Thoughts, ideas, beliefs are expanded and strengthened through the inclusion of and respect for other thoughts, ideas and beliefs. As the “inter” aspect evolves and grows, the possibility of sensing, feeling the same as someone else, rather than different from someone else increases.

When we have an experience that moves us in any significant way we find ourselves understanding what someone else is going through when they have the same experience. We can sympathize, empathize and express support and compassion. Our experiences are “inter-woven”.

We have a shared experience. This, to me, is all about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Life is about the shared experience we all have with one another, and the seeking out of those shared experiences. The understanding of, and the empathizing with someone else.

What happens when we deem someone else’s experience as inconsequential, trivial, not relevant, wrong, misinterpreted or mistaken? I believe we have a responsibility to listen and hear the stories of other peoples experiences without judgement.  To hear them, digest them, even if they are difficult to imagine or understand. I believe being  human it is about seeking out and sharing experiences that validate, support our own experiences and beliefs, as well as seeking out the sharing of experiences that are not similar and perhaps challenge our thinking. It is about growing and evolving, about experiencing sympathy, empathy and a measure of understanding of something, an experience of someone else’s, that we cannot fully wrap our heads and hearts around. We do we have a responsibility to be able to reach out and say “I cannot fully understand what you are going through, but I value you as a fellow human being and am here for you.  I have a responsibility to listen to you. To hold you in your joy and happiness, in your sorrow and grief, in your fear and loathing. Without judgment and/or discrimination.”

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is about understanding we are not as separate from one another as we sometimes feel. We are not separate from the “Other”, those not “like” us, those who have different traditions, values and circumstances. We are all born and we will all die. We all experience the same emotions, feel joy and sorrow. We all love and are loved. When I look at you I can see parts of me.

And that is what happened when my dad died. As I stood next to him, painfully and tenderly aware of the absence of breathing, the lack of life, I had a transformative experience. I became inter related with millions of other people. No longer was I the “other” trying to comfort someone wrapped in a hurt and sorrow I could imagine but not fully understand. I now had a shared experience that bound me to them in ways that did not require spoken words to express the understanding. Our tears and grief were now interwoven, knitted together through shared threads of love, sorrow, loss, memories.

This experience and awareness is what drives me to be present to and mindful of the ways in which I am like “Others” rather than different from them. It is important for me to strive towards compassion, tolerance and understanding because when I pause, I know I have shared experiences with every other person. And those experiences allow me to put myself, sometimes, in a small way, into the shoes of another human being and remember the joy, love, loss, grief, pain, hopes, dreams that we all have.

When I am in your shoes I understand you are not the Other. I am you. And you are me. And that is very,very powerful.


dad and me mt washington

(My dad and I on top of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire)


A Gift of the Highest Nature

We are all familiar with asking a friend to “save a spot” for us, or requesting someone to “hold a space” for us. But what about holding interpersonal, emotional spaces and spots for others?

3 26 two2

 (Sunrise March 26, 2015)

I recently read a wonderful article on the Courage and Renewal Facebook page that begins with thoughts on palliative care and the idea of “holding space” for someone. It then moves on to the idea of holding space in our lives, our being, for anyone. (The link will be at the end of this piece.)

Holding space for someone.

“Holding Space” means holding space in your being, your life, your heart, where someone else can enter and be safe, free of judgment and hurry. It means allowing there to be space for someone else to feel and be vulnerable. A space for them to process whatever needs to be processed: grief, sorrow, anger, fear.  Anything that may cause someone to feel broken, tender, raw.

Why? Because we are all fragile. Flawed. We all feel frightened, saddened, embarrassed. Maybe even shamed.

James Tolles breaks down the art of holding space into four key components: “Letting go of judgement, Opening your heart, Allowing another to have whatever experience they’re having, and Giving your complete undivided attention to the situation/other person.”

Letting go of judgement: no thought of what the other person should have or should not have done. No thought of right or wrong.

Open your heart: just open it up. Let the other person in. Let them know you’ve let them in. Care enough to be present to them.

“However we do it,
when we hold space for someone in need,
we are offering a gift of the highest nature.”
Daily Om

Allowing the other person to have their own experience: It’s not about you. Put your ego in the closet. Just listen to their story and let it be theirs alone. It is not about you.

Giving your complete, undivided attention to the other: Don’t take the phone call. Don’t make an excuse to leave. Be there.

Why? Because we have the ability for compassion and empathy. We have the capacity to want to make  things better for others. Because we can make a difference in the life of someone else. It is our humanness.

Of course our first responsibility is to hold space for ourselves. We have to cradle and nurture our own being.

And then, we open our hearts and create space for those who come into our lives. A place for them to know that here they will always find a little space, protected and respected, to mend and rest. A place to pick up pieces from whatever has broken: a heart, a life, a dream, a boundary, faith, hope, belief, purpose, will, security……

I know many people who have experienced and suffered almost unimaginable things in life. I know many people who have been blessed with a good life and admit to not having experienced too many difficult times. But every person hurts. Every person has doubt. We all feel sorrow, grief, deep joys, love.

Every one of us has had a time, or will have a time when we stumble and fall. Maybe we trip over a shattered dream, or the loss of someone we have loved deeply. Maybe we have experienced betrayal or shaming, abuse or injury. Maybe our life has been rattled to it’s core and all that seemed secure is gone.  Perhaps our whole world has not only been turned upside down but shaken so vigorously we fear we might fall off.

Our common humanity calls us to hold space for others. Our humanness requires us to protect and shield those who are suffering, hurting, lost, afraid.

“May I be the healing medicine for all who are sick.
May I bring healing to myself and others.”
Buddhist Dedication



The Simplicity Of What Is

I have never met or studied with Joan Tollifson, but through a round about way I have “discovered” her. I feel a little like I have a crush on her…..shhhhh, don’t tell anyone. I love her thinking, her writing, her vulnerability. I love the way she makes me think. Not think like, “oh what should I have for dinner?”, but THINK. More like, “Why I am I trying to escape from this moment?”, and stuff like that.


(sunrise, by me)

These days, the world is so full of anger, violence, hurt, fear. So many, many things are happening to others all around the world. Things that are  hard to imagine ever happening to us. It is hard to understand….

If you followed my other blog, Potentiality, ( kathrynthinks.wordpress.com ), you know the journey I have been on the last couple of years and I how I have changed/evolved/whatever it is called.

Recently, I find myself struggling during the day–kind of confused. Unsettled. I am a Montessori Preschool teacher. I spend my day with 21 little people ages 3-6. Life for them is about fun, playing, fairness, learning, exploring, crying, being sad, laughing, singing, missing their mom or dad, frolicking in the mud and rain, feeding the goats and our pig…….I come home covered with dust, grass stains, tears, paint, clorox, snot (sorry, but its true), little bits of juicy lunch items. Some days I come home filled with love, humility, wonder, satisfaction, contentment, joy, sadness, frustration, worry…… Then I come home, to my “adult” world. Bills to pay, sick pets, dishes in the sink, a leaky roof, a flat tire, wandering through grocery stores, laundry piles, dinner to cook, balancing time with taking care of myself and taking care of others.

Then…..I enter the “real” world beyond “my” world. News. Some nights I can’t watch. Some nights I cry. On occasion I laugh, but not often enough. Sometimes I hear about something beautiful, wonderful, compassionate, joyful. Then I have to process it all.

Today the news is about Gaza and Israel, shot down passenger planes, contaminated rivers, drug resistant disease, threats of being killed if you choose not to convert to one religion and give up another, fear of people, fear of disease, fear of fear, fear of drought, flooding, tornadoes, fear of being murdered by those charged with your safe keeping, fear of kidnapping, of mutilation, fear of foreigners, anger, more fear, more anger, more fear, more anger. Fear. Fear. Mostly more fear.

Then I read Joan Tollifson and there is this almost incomprehensible sentence, ” And it’s a wonderful way to live—to come back to the simplicity of what is, not once-and-for-all or forever-after (those are stories), but right now.” And, “… to be curious about what troubles us, to go to heart of our suffering, to take the next breath and to let it go, to dissolve again and again into the utter simplicity of the Heart.”

How are those sentences applicable to the broken hearts burying dead loved ones who were killed because a rocket flattened their house, or a bomb landed on their school,  their plane was shot down, or because they were of the “wrong” religion, or from the “wrong” country, or because they wore, or didn’t wear a burkah, or  because they “looked” like they were dangerous, or because they were mentally ill, or because they said no to a rapist…..how do they live in the “simplicity of what is right now”? How do they “let go” and “dissolve into the utter simplicity of the Heart”?

I sure don’t know. And this is my struggle. If I am able to be present in this one moment right now….grounded in “my” world, am I somehow disassociating from the “truth” of the present moment of others and does that mean I don’t “care”? “Right now” for me is very different from the parents in Gaza and Israel burying a child. “Right now” for me is very different from families fleeing violence, famine, drought, leaving everything behind and risking their very lives by doing so.

This has been so difficult for me that I wrote to Joan…..and she responded: “meet it with love. Love doesn’t turn away. It doesn’t blame or hate. It is the open heart, willing to be completely broken. And from that place, intelligent action (or non-action) can arise. Love is the real nonduality…love sees that this is how it is right now…bombs are falling, children are hurting, this is what the universe is doing…Love doesn’t try to avoid the pain or explain it away.”

How do we do that? Refuse to blame or hate? How do people open their hearts, knowing they may be broken over and over again…to see what IS, right now?  To take intelligent action?  ( Theparentscircle.com) For some, I know, this is not something they have allowed….it is their reality….there is no choice. And that is when I feel my own heart crack….how do they go on? How does their pain, their sorrow ever have a chance to take a breath and watch it all dissolve into the utter simplicity of the heart?  I don’t know….could you take that breath?

To hold all those broken hearts that are half a world away–those who are truly suffering, within my own heart  is what I CAN do….is it enough? To keep my heart open? To repel hate and fear?

It is most certainly a way of making sure compassion, empathy, concern, hope and love stay alive within me. And maybe also for one, or two others who know me, or read this and feel the same way.  I do not want to become indifferent, uncaring, disinterested, apathetic, detached, unsympathetic, isolated.

Love doesn’t turn away. It doesn’t hate.


Guess what today is? National Unity and Reconciliation