Love Is My Community

DSC00852Thought I’d share a poem I recently wrote after a week of seeing, hearing, feeling, and knowing love.  I interact with so many people who, whether spoken or unspoken, question love.  I help some to see that “love gets in” when we begin to show that love to ourselves.  But love is a community, it comes from within, it comes from above, it comes from the arms, neighbors, family, friends, and strangers around us and so this poem:

Love Is A Community

Love is a community

A heavy blanket becomes

A playful hideaway with the lift of a friend’s arms

Scary monsters shadowed on the walls become

Characters in a tale when a friend sees them with you

Sounds of voices – noises become

A lullaby in the protection of a caring embrace

Love is a community

The scatter of papers, clothes, boxes, clutter become

A possibility with the hands of friends

A can of soup, a box of crackers become

Gourmet when not eaten alone

A lament becomes

Poetry when read by another

Love is a community

Love is not a battlefield,

A torture chamber,

An asylum

Love doesn’t profess lies,



Love doesn’t promise to stop,

Then forget

Love doesn’t promise to give,

Then change the rules

Love says, I am sorry,

I am sad,

I was wrong

Love takes the first step

In making amends

Love waits,

Stays present, sits quietly,

And trusts

That there will be a time

When words will come

Love is a community

My community



The Work of Love

I receive the weekly e-mail from Mark Nepo and his peers at Three Intentions ( and find his writing  inspirational and challenging. It integrates well into my way of seeing the world. I am including his weekly intention here, because it is a good thought to integrate. Tomorrow I will post a “rabbit trail” of my thoughts about his three covenants. Until then, I hope you take time to read and ponder.

Three Covenants

Our love needs to be bigger than our insanity. —Henk Brandt

There are three covenants that keep us engaged in the work of love. To begin with, when we see something true and beautiful in someone, it is not the work of love to change them or force their growth in our direction. It is the work of love to create conditions by which what is true and beautiful in all we behold can grow and blossom, bringing forth its deepest nature.  At the same time, the work of love depends on giving others, especially young people, a sense of safety in the world, nurturing their confidence to lean into life and the unknown—not away from these eternal resources. Still, being human, we constantly slip from integrating our experience to being consumed by our experience. We move, almost daily, from having our fear, pain, and worry live in us to living within our fear, pain, and worry. So the third covenant of love is to keep each other company when we’re drowning in our experience and awash in our feelings, until it all can right-size, until our experience and feelings can once again live in us. These covenants exercise the muscle of compassion we call the heart.

—excerpt from Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, forthcoming from Simon & Schuster, October 2012

Occupy Kitchen Table

Occupy Kitchen Table: an alternative approach!  You are probably familiar with Occupy Wall Street and the many adjunct protests going on around the country in the last few months.  From the pages of Wikipedia the Occupy Wall Street protests were initiated by a Canadian protest group against social and economic inequality, high unemployment, greed, as well as corruption, and the undue influence of corporations—particularly from the financial services sector—on government.

I do not desire to debate the purposes, benefits, or methods of Occupy Wall Street, but what I would like to offer, in the most non-critical way is an alternative to confronting economic inequality, unemployment, greed, and social- and emotional-perceived disparity, back in the home, at the kitchen table.  So much is accomplished at the dinner table: connection, trust, care, relationship, modeling behaviors, social interactions, discussions about thinking and how to think, skills like cooking, etiquette, nutrition, eating, mindfulness, self care.  Perhaps you are saying that I am glorifying meal times, and honestly, perhaps I am, but the truth is so much is lost in family relations, social skills, and self value, by not connecting and not experiencing relationships and their associated skills.

How does one learn to take initiative, or set goals, or learn what it is like to talk through a discussion, or even a disagreement, by sitting in front of a computer or a TV game while eating?  Or grabbing food on the go?  Or eating at the nearest fast food?  Or eating whenever or wherever you want in the home?  I know families are busy.  I know funds are limited.  I know nerves are frazzled and people are burned out, but much is being lost in the lack of connection.  Connection breeds self worth, self confidence, skills to be employable, skills to represent one’s self, skills to learn that “I am ok being me”.  So many are crying out for connection, relationship, value – crying out to be seen or heard, touched, or understood…and so much of these needs can be met in the home, at the kitchen table.

We all have thoughts, opinions, stances, purposes.  Mine is not to negate the occupy groups, but it is to perhaps in using their phraseology, start a new movement – Occupy Kitchen Table!  Let’s get back into the kitchen to: cook together, eat together, talk together, be together, help each other grow in confidence and value together…and occupy the kitchen table together.  I hope you join the movement and pass the idea along!  Occupy Kitchen Table!

Celebrating Life

Celebrating life!  Celebrating Nana G!  Nana G is not my Nana, but today was the celebration of her life and passing.  I wanted to be there.  I probably hadn’t seen Nana G for over ten years, and she probably wouldn’t even have known me if I did see her, but I wanted to honor her, and in a way, I wanted to gather with those who celebrated her and knew her better than I did.  I wanted to feel the joy of her life because she represented for me something that I wanted in my own life– fun, joy, pleasure, laughter…

Over and over the testimonies from her grandchildren and great-grand children (she was almost 97) validated my knowing of her – she loved life, she had fun in almost everything she did, family and friends were so important to her, and when you were in her presence, you knew you were going to eat something homemade and delicious.  What was also shared today, though, was that she faced difficulties and challenges all throughout her life, and yet in all of that she chose life, joy, laughter, and lightness.

I had the privilege of working with her in her pain.  She came to me for therapeutic bodywork.  Her legs were swollen, she walked with a limp, she was slightly bent over, but it was as if her heart told a different story than her body, and she wasn’t pretending.  She greeted me with a hug, told a few jokes, and always invited me to come and visit her for a meal every time she saw me.  She was there for me to help her, but I always left the session feeling loved, enlightened, and a little lighter with joy.  Pain was there, but it never really governed her story.  She was a very feisty woman.  What was true about Nana G was that she was free to accept help, but even more so, she was always free to give – help, food, and useful creations.

I took her quilting fabrics and magazines from my mother.  I remember seeing piles of craft materials, magazines, and fabric throughout her rooms.  I understand that even into her nineties she was reading, learning, sewing, creating, and growing.  There wasn’t a moment she didn’t seize to enjoy.

What I also know about Nana G is that she didn’t read tons of self-help books to learn how to be, or learn how to connect, or learn how to take care of herself.  She did love her Lord.  Love was an action; it wasn’t a duty.  At least it didn’t feel like it was a duty.  She loved because she felt loved.  She loved because love flowed through her.  She was connected to love and in knowing that love deeply, sharing it was natural.  She lived how scriptures spoke to her.  She lived love!

We have much to learn from Nana G’s life and I was reminded of many of those things today.  Every day we get to write the story of how we live in love and share love.  If the moment is heading in a direction we don’t want to go, we get to create a new direction in the next moment.  Our story doesn’t define us.  What defines us is the love we rest in, that lives in us, and that which we share.  Joy and laughter are choices in the journey…from watching her and her family; it appears they are exceptional choices.  Celebrate life today.


Film poster for August Rush - Copyright 2007, ...

Continuing on in the theme of practicing the presence of people, I have been cognizant of another theme…that of listening.  I had dinner with a friend the other night and he said he watched the movie, August Rush.  I haven’t seen it yet, but he related that the message he received from the movie was about listening. August Rush: The music is all around US, all you have to do is listen.

I smiled to myself, because that was part of the theme of practicing the presence of people that I have been integrating into my life.  I talked the other day about seeing the nobility in others, no matter who, not only for that person, but for you…to glean and learn together…as a shared moment of love, learning, life, and creation.  Listen, watch, observe, and integrate…then live it and share (let others glean from you)…that has been my integration. 

Jack Kerouac (whom I’ve quoted before) says, “Be submissive to everything, open, listening.”  As you go about your day, as I do mine, I hope you listen…wonder, be inquisitive, integrate…listen.

Love Liberates (Part 2)

Frozen stream in Enäjärvi, Finland.
Can't Beat Flowing Downstream in a Lovely Snowy Stream

The last time we talked about love liberating, I suggested that love being liberated needs to start within us.  If love is not liberated within us, then the love that we extend or share with others is based on the patterns of our experiences in love in our own lives…and may not be a liberating love.  The patterns that we talked about before may be patterns of shame, fear, judgment, frustration, perhaps even despair.  Our own self love is conditional; bathed in these emotions; based on our experience, interactions, and relationships.  The greatest gift of love that we can give to ourselves and others is to continue to find healing and freedom in our own love so that these laden patterns don’t taint our love for and with others. 

Taking this idea a step further, love liberates if we love in freedom and with freedom.  You might have heard the analogy of our lives flowing down stream versus paddling strenuously and endlessly upstream.  I like this analogy.  For many of us having been influenced by our cultural heritage, faith-based emphases, environment, family; we think the way to be loved is to earn it, work hard to please, perform, over-extend, sacrifice, endure – in other words, paddle up stream…and if we paddle hard enough, maybe someday we will get there.  In our “love for others” we “love”, teach, or influence others to do the same.  If we understand what true love is – free, liberating – something that already is and doesn’t have to be earned, we can see that paddling up stream is not liberating love.  Liberating love is accepting the completeness of love in us and resting in that, as if it already is and we already are…and flowing downstream in that freedom.  I share this analogy often with parents, because as parents, I think we have the “power” to help our children find freedom in love – find freedom to flow downstream in their own self-care and self-love.  Think about it, rebellion is a reaction, a paddling upstream response. 

If we aren’t free to flow downstream, we most likely will hold others to the same standards of paddling upstream, and love becomes more conditional.  If they don’t paddle as hard as we do, then where do we often go – back to judgment and shame.  If they paddle harder, then our response might be – jealousy and competition.  All that to say, the more comfortable we are in our own self-care and are living in knowing we are love and are loved, we flow downstream.  Sure there might be bumps and obstacles along the way, but water that flows downstream, does just that, it flows.  If we are flowing downstream, then the condition of our love for others encourages their flowing downstream and doesn’t contribute to their paddling upstream.

Enough said…life is not about arriving…life is about practicing…growing…resting…knowing.  Integrate these thoughts as contemplations.  Nothing mentioned is about good, bad, right, or wrong…remember love unshackles – sets free – for you and those you love.