The Sound of Wings


My friend Brock and I often greet each other with the words “ishq allah.”  He tells me that ishq is mad, passionate, sticky love for God.

I’ve got a bad case of ishq.

Crazy-ass love for spirit in matter and matter in spirit.  Sufi-madness, believing ishq allāh ma’būd lillāh  – God is love, lover, and beloved.  I’m finding a scandalous willingness to “give up on my brain” and stagger through life as a grace-intoxicated drunkard.

Today, the sound of wings staggered me.

We hiked around a bend on a mountain trail in upper Ojai.  Our dog Saraswati saw a stand of bushes and froze in a perfect point.  She assumed a sacred dog-yoga posture, downward pointing God, a “union” with her ordained intuition.

I held my breath.  The earth held its breath.

Saraswati heard a silent starting gun.  She barreled into the underbrush.  Twenty grey quail hurled themselves up out of the bushes, no chirping, only the sound of insistent wings, saying “I am.” 

I breathed the sound and said, “So am I, beloved quail.  I am.”

Saraswati, completely pleased, sassed back down the mountain to receive a blessing from me.  “You are The Beloved too, sweet girl,” I said.

Painting by Michael Steddum


What did I do to deserve this microcosm of audacious grace?

Who created a dog that points so clearly and dearly?

What offered a flock of quail the adventure of shared get-away?

How did air, feathers, and flight evolve the capacity to break my heart into beauty with a sound that only Love can see?

Who submitted us to this drunken nonsense?

Ishq allah, love, lover, and beloved.

What a privilege it is to hear the three in one.  No definitions, no reasoning required.  Only wonder in the wordless wings.

A Jewish Prayer reminds us that we “walk sightless among miracles.

After the wings this morning, I believe we are deaf as well as blind.  Love, Lover and Beloved sing to us constantly.  But will we listen?  Will we hear?

I want to be better.

With my Beloved’s help, I’ll start with the High School Band, that rehearses every day, inches from my house.   I’ll fall in love with their raucous “On Wisconsin.”  I’ll celebrate the salsa version of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.”  I’ll dance to the drum line.  Love will transform out-of-tune band music to the sound of adoring children pointing at intangible grace.   But wait, did love change the music, the teenagers, or me?

Maybe, with practice, I can learn that everything changes everything.  Everything points to everything.  Everything is wings and wonder.  Everything is love, lover, and beloved.   Arguments, laughter, discord, and delight.  It’s all ishq allāh ma’būd lillāh ,  drunken rapture calling us home where we belong to the Beloved.

Ishq allah – drunken Saraswati


Prayer:  Help me to hear this differently.  Help me to hear the miraculous in all things.  Help me become the ears of the love, lover, and beloved I am. 



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A Generous Universe

The other night I dreamed there was a dead armadillo in my house.  It was under the chaise where I usually sit.  I knew it would soon start to rot and smell.  Rather than remove it though, I decided to wait until my husband and animals went outside.  It felt shameful somehow, to have a dead armadillo in my living room.  I’m not exactly a recipient of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but this was too much.

When I awoke, in a stinky sweat, I realized this was a dream about all of us – a dream that needed to be shared without shame.

Armadillo means “little armored one” in Spanish.    I asked myself, where am I armored?  And because it’s a dream about all of us, I asked how do we collectively armor ourselves?  Where do we apply armor that “protects” us from the staggering audacity of Grace that longs to express in the details of our lives?

A belief in scarcity seems to be our primary armor.  We suit-up in scarcity.  Some of us struggle with basic survival; others have a great idea but then decide I’m not enough to pull that off; others see scarcity in the world around us – not enough food, money, or love.

How does scarcity show up in your life?

Scarcity is a culturally reinforced habit.   Through repetition, we create neural pathways, or neural grooves in our brains that tell us life is scarce and so am I.

My relationship with my phone provides a good example a neural pathway.  I love guinea pigs, so my phone has a Guinea Pig ring tone.   The electronic Guinea Pig squeals and this means someone is calling.  I am programmed to believe this.

A couple of months ago, my husband and I acquired Hoss, a real Guinea Pig.   Hoss squeaks in the middle of the night.  I immediately think, “Oh crap, who is calling me at this hour?”  I know we have a Guinea Pig.  Yet I’m still undoing the neural pathway, the conditioning created by my ringtone.

I’ve failed many times.  I run to the phone and realize there’s no one there.  Then I get a bean for Hossy-ji and marvel at my slow learner-ship.

I’m catching on now.  It gives me comfort to know that my brain can make new connections.  Squeaking is no longer evidence of a phone call.  It means Hoss is hungry.

In the same manner, when scarcity shows up, whether its personal or global, we tend to react as if it is Reality.  Scarcity is certainly part of relative reality, but it is not Absolute.


Embedded in every perception of scarcity is opportunity – an opportunity to examine our knee-jerk reactions and move into both perception and experience of Infinite Intimate Grace.  Grace is available for us always in all things.

Do you have any conditioned, knee-jerk reactions that reflect a belief in scarcity? Could your belief in scarcity be opportunity in disguise?

One of my knee-jerks happens around planning for the coming year at the Center.  Every September or so, I start looking at the budget, events, classes, and guest speakers.  I feel a need to get it right.  I want to keep everyone happy.  I have dreams and ideas that feel too big for my britches.  I don’t know how to make the ideas happen, so I let them go, or save them for later when I know more, or when “the time is right.”   The stress, the trying to get it right, the refusal to dream big are all aspects of conditioned scarcity.

This year, as I began to uncover my smelly inner armadillo of scarcity, I decided to try the Placemat Process.  This method, brought to us by Esther and Jerry Hicks (and possibly Denny’s), invites us to take a placemat, turn it over, and draw a line down the middle.  On the left, you write your to do list:  what am I responsible for.  On the right, you write the Universe’s to-do list:  what will I ask the universe do?


Mine looked something like this:

Me:  use my experience and expertise to create a draft of a schedule; act boldly; trust.

Universe:  see into the future and arrange a magnificent 2019; help me trust, help me  act boldly.

Shortly after creating my placemat I started re-wiring, engaging neuro-plasticity, affirming:  I live in a generous universe. 

You don’t believe what you see; you see what you believe.

I started seeing evidence of my new belief in this context, my new neural pathways.  I was divinely summoned to an out of the way bagel store.  Once inside, I coincidentally found a congregant who told me how The Center made a difference in his life. I dreamed of a program of Reconciling Angels – interviewing guest speakers who are brave peacemakers.  Rather than set the idea aside as too much, I decided to let the Universe handle it.  Possible speakers leapt into my consciousness – first Gino Walker, and soon others.  I also re-visted a vision to work with Nimo Patel to bring 17 children from the slums of India to Southern California, and possibly our Center.   That’s complex.  But new patterns are forming there as well.  Impossible is turning to I’m possible.

If you did the Placemat Process, what would you do and what would you delegate?  Are you willing to change your perception and see what new experience of Reality emerges from that change?

Here’s an assignment for you:  Go to Denny’s or someplace like it.  Eat something greasy.  Do the placemat process.  Be astonished; and tell about it.  If that’s too much, simply affirm “I live in a generous universe.”  Then live like the Truth is True.  Because the Truth is True.  If we all believe in generosity, we can shift the consciousness of the world.  Generosity becomes manifest when we believe.

I send you love, healing, revealing, wholeness, and the truth of abundant Grace, here for you, always.  You’ve got this.  And so it is.


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“I pray that all beings reveal their True unassailable nature.  May I reveal my unassailable nature in the face of adversity. 

I said this prayer after contemplating an interview I did with our friend Gino Walker in church last Sunday.

Gino is an amazing woman.  She’s a talented singer, speaker, and teacher.  She has a YouTube channel called Pass the Mic.  She is a daredevil.  She bungee jumps and parachute leaps for fun.  I experienced the terror of hot air ballooning with her.  She lurched around the basket, while I sang “Up, Up, and Away” through clenched teeth.


Even with her bold power, Gino has been the recipient of racism.  She spoke with us about it on Sunday.

“A man threw a bottle at me and called me the N-word.”  “My mother taught me not to touch anything in stores because people might think I’m stealing.”  “A white shopkeeper ran out of his store and yelled ‘stop.’  It wasn’t even about me.  Some other guy had left his wallet.  But I automatically froze and raised my hands up over my head.”

This in America, in our lifetime.  Racism, intolerance, assault, and disdain for the perceived other.

Earlier in the service before I introduced Gino, I read a poem called “To Create an Enemy,” by Sam Keen:

Start with an empty canvas

Sketch in broad outline the forms of men, women, and children.

Dip into the unconscious well of your own disowned darkness with a wide brush and stain the strangers with the sinister hue of the shadow.

Trace onto the face of the enemy the greed, hatred, carelessness you dare not claim as your own.

 Obscure the sweet individuality of each face.

 Erase all hints of myriad loves, hope, fears that play through the kaleidoscope of every finite heart…. (for the full poem, click here)


People project their fear, shame, and shadow onto the other and then live like that falsehood is true….

What do we do about it?

Many good people are outraged by racism and other assaults.  Outrage makes perfect sense.  But what if we’re not supposed to do what makes sense?  I’m not sure that we can transform from a platform of outrage.  We’ve tried it.  It doesn’t seem effective.  Outrage creates more outrage.  Outrage creates more to be outraged about.  Outrage is a greedy beast that is never satisfied.  And because outrage is focused on changing the “other” it may actually disempower those who are outraged, the people that we might call victims.

Nelson Mandela

We need a new language of protest, a new consciousness of irrational peacemaking.

The new language of protest quietly insists on something bold, vulnerable, clear, unknowable, and compelling.  We feel our outrage, but we do not become hypnotized by it.  Instead we give voice to the unassailable within us.

When we are victimized; when we witness the victimization of others we say, “I am unassailable.  You are unassailable.  We are invincible source and force.  Source and force provide the unrelenting love and truth that needs no defense.  This Full-Filling essence compels us to love our enemies and bless those inner and outer demons who curse us.”

I interviewed Gino on Sunday not because she had been traumatized by racism.  That was an important part of her story.  What made her story compelling (and yes, controversial) was her ability to transcend trauma and find mystical truth in searing hardship.

It happened by accident.  She was listening to an Ester Hicks CD.  The topic of racism arose.  Esther said something like “Don’t try and change the racist.  He has nothing to do with you.  Change yourself.”

Gino, of course, at first was outraged.  “It’s their fault.  They need to change.  I’m innocent.”

Many of us would react in the same way, saying “If I’m the one who has to change, does that mean I was in the wrong?  And doesn’t that smell like blaming the victim?”

Gino battled with all of this, and then decided to try something new.  She noticed how the words about race and inferiority were based on the premise that someone outside of her had the power to rile or shame her.   She asked, where does the language of racism get its power?  Is the power in the words themselves?  Is the power in those who speak harshly to me?  Is the power a magical vast human conspiracy that decreed words to damage my esteem?  Or is the power in my learned, hypnotic belief in untrue sounds – mere vibrations of vocal cords that misinform me and deny my true glorious nature?


We recognized together how easy it is to give our power away.  We elevate racists to the position of cause, when in fact they should be effect.

To take back causal power, Gino examined her prejudices and hatreds.  She saw her own tendency to project shadows onto others.  She looked at her knee jerk plan to hate the haters.  After all, weren’t their insults responsible for “making” her feel badly about herself?

These reactions are commonplace.  The willingness to embrace and transcend them is rare.

Gino rose to the occasion.  She found that she sometimes saw bigotry that wasn’t there.  A woman who clutched her purse when she saw Gino, was not reacting to the color of her skin.  She was reacting to a heavy purse.  Gino reality-checked this with this woman and found the truth.

Gino also discovered a new way of dealing with bigots.

I asked her, “Just because you have a new perspective on racism; just because you’re owning your projections, that doesn’t mean that all racists are going to scurry away.  Racists are still real, right?”  She nodded and told us a story.

She was tested in a convenience store.  A man standing behind her in line ranted and called her a Black-A$$ bitch.  She stepped aside, offered him kind words, and spoke out-loud about sending him love.  The man didn’t change.  He stomped off to his Mercedes and drove away.  But Gino changed – she was empowered through her kind response.  Her ego died a little that day, for the cause, for more love in the world.  And the clerk behind the counter and the others standing in line, said through tears, “That was strong.  How did you do that?”


I suspect she achieved poise and equanimity through her unassailable nature.  She responded from the Truth that could not be diminished by the evil behavior of others.

We all have that capacity.

When we find the truth of who we are, the verbal bullets that others shoot at us become blanks.  Their projections of fear and shame can’t handle the truth of our unassailability.  When we love ourselves, when we love our enemies, there’s no place for the projections to stick.

I asked Gino to give our congregation an assignment.  “How can we practice these principles so that we may support you and others?”  Gino suggested we engage in personal inquiry.  “Do the work of uncovering your own prejudices and projections,” she said.  “That’s the hardest part.

I know it’s hard.  I’ve been examining my prejudices all week, revealing disdain and fear.  It’s especially hard when you really have felt victimized by others; when the voice of the separate self enters into the debate and says, “seriously, how is love going to help?  They were wrong; that person is the exception and needs to be punished with your rage.”

If you don’t know how to get started, ask your unassailable nature to assist.  It lies “stretched in smiling repose,” waiting for an invitation to change the world through you. Find a community to support you.  And most of all, pray.

“I pray that all beings reveal their True unassailable nature.  May I reveal my unassailable nature in the face of adversity.  And so it is.

back bent MLK (2)

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