Ten Thousand Days

The Sanctity of Vows; The Sacredness of Values

May 7, 2022

Photo: Rui Xu

Day 2814 – Day 2821

This month, those on my email list are working on purpose and meaning.  One of the definitions of living a purpose guided life is to live in alignment with your values.

If you think I think I’m a Guru on all these things, I don’t.   I might be further down the path than some, but I also need the rigour of the practice.  I gain so much from the various ways I give daily and weekly and monthly focus to the practices.  Everything I suggest is something I’ve either done, and found helpful, or is a task that I am currently working through, myself.

Last year I did all of the values exercises that I offered for resources on purpose.  I just ended up confused.  There were so many great values and so many things I cherish.  I couldn’t find a way to narrow it down to a handful.  I’m sure we all have many values that we think are desirable.  Finding the core handful of values that drives you and guides your life may be a challenge.

Sometimes we don’t value the things we think we should.  Sometimes we value the very things we don’t know how to achieve but having them would heal childhood wounds.  These wounds may be there to help guide your soul’s evolution, yet sometimes our conditioning and traumas make the very values we need for healing, and transformation difficult for us to uphold.

Values are things that we hold sacred.  If they weren’t sacred, they would be mundane which means they would not have great intrinsic worth.  Some of the problems we have in living up to our values come from an increasingly secular world that lacks the ability to recognize and revere the sacred.  How can we narrow down our values if we aren’t used to holding anything sacred?  How can we build the character strength to, for example, put the needs of our children before our own ego needs, if we haven’t been raised to honour sacrifice for what we hold sacred?

There are many books that aim to inspire us to live a life of purpose.  We might come to believe that this is what everyone is doing.  That is a false perception.  Many struggle to define their values, and everyone struggles to live them.  Values are aspirational and therefore, living a life fully on purpose is also aspirational.

Values are like our compass to the sacred and our purpose is like the path.

Recently I came across a well-worn, hand written list of my personal vows as a Minister.  As a group, we took vows essentially to serve the spiritual needs of all, without any form of discrimination.  We also had the opportunity to write our own personal vows.

These are the only vows I have ever taken and probably the only vows I ever will take.  They are sacred.  As I looked at my vows, I realized they were a large part of my core life values.  I have edited them, for precision, and I would combine some vows into a single value.  That I chose to make these sacred vows demonstrates the core values of Service and Devotion to God.    To the list of vows, I would add values of Creativity, Beauty and Wellbeing.  Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service are aspects of my values.

I wanted to share my vows because they aren’t and shouldn’t be secret – I made them in a sacred space in front of my Seminary cohort, clergy and God.  And, these are the vows to which I hold myself accountable.

  1. I will stand for those who seek Justice and cannot stand for themselves (this is a form of Service);
  2. I will live in the spirit of Non-Violence (as a value this is part of my penultimate vow);
  3. I will live Simply and Sustainably;
  4. I will remember the Divinity of all beings and Love All; and
  5. I will live in Truth.

The last one is a doozy if you grew up in a family where there was triangulation and where there were secrets.  I did, and my experience last week may serve to illustrate how we can choose a value because it is something we lacked, and where living that value is difficult because of our conditioning.

Last week, I spent a lot of time writing and re-writing my previous post.  As I thought about the dream, I was gaining more insight into its lessons and clarity into how the dream applied to my life.  The post became less about the person in the dream because the way dreams work, as I’m sure you know is that it’s not really about the person who appears in the dream.   I always post my first draft of a post and sometimes, I will decide to go back and edit, many times, until the work is done.  But, if I’m telling the truth, that’s not the only reason I re-wrote it many times.

I was also concerned about protecting the feelings of the person in my dream, should he ever read my post.  This has been a theme in so many of my dreams about him, and a theme in my life.

I think it’s loving and non-violent to seek not to purposefully hurt someone’s feelings.  However, protecting the feelings of someone who has not protected mine is a form of keeping secrets, rather than boundaries.  Being evasive and avoidant is a waste of time and compromises my ability to live in Truth, reflecting a coping mechanism I learned as a child, of walking on eggshells, in order to survive.  If you break it down, the whole dream was a play within a play within a play that was a colossal time waster.  The dream itself was calling for me to cut through the crap of all the “stories” we tell ourselves and others and look to the Truth.

I’m sure that if we all look at our lives, we will find at least one example of this struggle to live our values.  For example, if someone has the value of fidelity, but were sexually abused as a child, they may experience a sex-addiction that keeps them from being faithful.  That failure can keep them locked in a cycle of self-hatred and addiction that separates them from that which they hold sacred.

So, as we work on values and purpose, it is important to take a penetrating look at how we are really living, and whether this is how we WANT to live, according to our values.  Living a life that betrays our values can bring lots of pleasure, and gratification.  Sacrificing our values might seem easier than the discomfort of living them, but denying that which is sacred is soul-destroying, in the end.   With compassion for ourselves and for others, we can break the patterns that keep us separate from the sacred.  We can, and we must, have enough self-compassion to seek help, if we cannot do it alone.

I am grateful that I kept this hand-written list of vows, and that I came across them just at the right time.  I am grateful for the lesson that struggling to live in Truth has taught me about the sacredness of values and the difficulty we will all face in living them.  I’m grateful for the reminder that we must always have compassion and forgiveness for our failings and the failings of others as we strive to live our purpose. 

I hope that you, too, will practice self-compassion when you encounter the challenges that your values bring your way.


For what are you most grateful, today

Ten Thousand Days

Eternal Flame

April 29, 2022

Day 2802 – Day 2813

Over the last few years, I’ve written occasionally about the idea of a Twin Flame that is a popular idea in the new age spiritual community right now.  I’ve been on the fence about it.

I do not believe that one soul is shared by two people.  I do believe there is a collective soul and that some people have the spiritual gifts of mystics.  But, what do we know about the contours and shape of the soul? All we can do is approximate its dimensions through our yearnings.

I’ve had a lot of dreams over the years about a certain man.  He recently got married.  And, because we don’t have a strong pre-existing friendship – in my mind – that kind of ends whatever story might have developed between us.

And yet, the stories told by the subconscious mind, or the soul, always persist.

I should say that, in my spiritual tradition, there are dreams and there are “experiences.”  Experiences happen when someone – usually the spiritual teacher – visits in the dimension of sleep.   Experiences are very rare and I am told that you will know it when it happens.

Then, there is the dream. My spiritual path draws on the work of Carl Jung.  Dreams are symbolic and reveal our hidden emotions about someone else, a situation, and about ourselves.   I always like to ask what part of me do I see in those who appear, and where is the strongest energy in the dream?

Dreams are fundamentally important to soul work. They tell us the stories we can’t tell ourselves by using symbols we recognize from our lives or from the collective unconscious. They are an invitation to deepening our experience of our own and the collective soul.

Last night I dreamed of this man again and I noticed something had shifted.

As I said, I have had many dreams of him and I even dreamed of his wife, in early 2021, probably around the time that he was considering marrying her.  In my dream, he really wanted me to like her.  He wanted me to spend time with her but I knew right away she was not my cup of tea.

It wasn’t like she was a horrible person to me. In my dream, she was blonde and tall and sporty – attractive.  She was also status-conscious, wanting to go to all the “in places” and eat at trendy restaurants.  She was very materialistic. She was ambitious and driven to “succeed” materially and keep up with the Joneses.  Not. My. Cup. Of.  Tea.

She must be his cup of tea, and that is what should matter, to him.  But, in my dream, he wanted my approval, which I couldn’t give and when I ran into him after spending time with her, I ignored him.  This angered him, but I felt that he had not been a friend to me in this life, and so, I felt he had no right to expect me to affirm his choice of partner.

To be clear, I have no idea what his wife is like. This is about how my subconscious saw her.

Over the last year, my dreams of him have been pretty much the same theme – every time he appears in a dream, he wants approval or my help in some way.  He often tries to charm me and push past my boundaries to achieve it. And, in my dreams, that always annoys me. I awaken, feeling annoyed.

Our interactions, in reality, have always been pretty one sided as far as affirmation and approval goes, though he solicits it.  And, when he has had the opportunity to respond (he’s had many) he has dropped the ball.  He’s been rude and arguably exploitative to me, both personally and professionally.  Expecting affirmation without being able to reciprocate reveals the kind of childhood narcissism that doesn’t have a place in adult connections.

One time he made an effort, but made it all about himself.  He took a private gesture from me and made it public, leaving me feeling foolish.  I was embarrassed though he was the one that had crossed my boundaries.

It is not uncommon for those who have routinely had their boundaries disregarded to feel the shame that belongs to the transgressor.

Annoyance (Anger) and Shame (Embarrassment) are powerful red flags.

Last night’s dream saw a new theme.  To set the context: in real life, I don’t understand him.  There’s a very good chance that who I thought he was, was my own projection,  but he seemed to change, significantly, when his (now) wife came on the scene.  He has a pattern of morphing his personality to match those around him.

He’s become much more successful, materially and maybe even socially.  From his behaviour, though, it appears that he has set aside his more professed spiritual values.

I can’t understand why he would stand at a fork in the road, when he was claiming to feel he was on the edge of a spiritual “awakening,” and choose a life of materialism.

I don’t want to pass judgement and maybe it’s possible his spirituality was always just for show but I got the sense that it was important to him and that he was seeking, in earnestness, but found himself in a kind of desert, wandering alone and aimless.  Seems to me that being without a Sangha (spiritual community) who are committed to enlightenment and without a solid set of ancient wisdom to guide you there, makes it easy to lose our way.

That’s exactly when our own ego and desires can lead us to believe the corruption of sacred texts that gave rise to the prosperity gospel or the cult of manifestation that came from pilfering and repackaging vedantic texts into The Secret.

There is nothing wrong with money, per se, but when the choice is materialism or enlightenment, I can’t understand turning away from Spirit, in favour of distraction.

It makes me sad, if I’m honest.

In my dream, we bumped into one another and he assumed I was in that city to attend his play (I was not).  I reluctantly agreed to go. (An interesting choice that signals my boundaries and priorities need attention).

I was given the liberty to take any place I wanted although the show was sold out.  I moved around, standing in different places.  I couldn’t make sense of the play, no matter where I stood or from what angle I watched.  I wondered if I’d had a stroke or had experienced a fugue state or if the play was in a foreign language.

His brothers were in the play with him, and they all wore cartoonish, foam costumes.  He stopped the momentum of the show, smiled at me, preening.  It was ridiculous and surreal.  Rather than be annoyed, however, I felt awkward and embarrassed.  I wondered why he, a married man, was vamping for me.

The significant shift in this dream over others is that I no longer feel annoyed; I simply don’t understand what’s going on and I am embarrassed.

I’ve told you more about myself from these dreams than about him.  I’m sure there is a part of me that is annoyed with myself for wanting HIS affirmation (and the affirmation of important people from my childhood) despite his withholding it.

The fact that the play makes no sense is a loving kindness from my subconscious or soul, to my waking myself: The narcissists that have populated my life will always pretend and withhold. There is no point in trying to understand them. The relationship with them is all smoke and mirrors.

Maybe I can stop trying to understand and just accept that they are who they are.  I don’t have to be the audience to their game, anymore.

I don’t have to waste time on things that aren’t real, anymore.

I also don’t have to feel guilty about my own acts of withholding – of my time, energy,  affirmation, or story – from people and situations that take more than they give.  I don’t have to feel shame. I have a right to my boundaries.

In reality, I have disengaged from this man for some time now – and yet, the subconscious mind processes things slowly and deeply, catching threads that weave throughout our lives.

In the dream, I was concerned about what I could say about the script, which he had probably written.  I thought I could avoid comment by saying that I prefer to give feedback on a written script.

In real life, I am a playwright.  It is an affirmation of my talent, and a reminder to keep my boundaries around my talent.

In my dream state, I was embarrassed at his vamping for me and I wanted to draw attention to the fact that he is married.  It’s time, says my soul, to stop taking on other people’s shame for their behaviour.

In the dream, I decided to be evasive and say that I was “overwhelmed by the costumes and pageantry of it all,” and that I was “distracted by events happening elsewhere.”

Evasiveness is a red flag from my soul, calling out to me to hold firm my boundaries, saying: “Stop wasting time and energy on the feelings of people who disregard your own.”  To do so distracts me from my own priorities, values, and purpose.  I want to place my full attention on my own happiness, which shows up in my dream as those “events happening elsewhere.”

I can let go of the need for my father or mother or sister or brother or teacher or baker or candlestick maker to affirm me.  I don’t need anyone else to understand or approve of me, or to give their feedback on my choices and my boundaries.

I affirm myself.

If any of my readers are struggling with similar themes, I urge you to find reliable and supportive people to help cut through the crap and see things clearly.  I could not have unpacked this dream and identified these themes in my life without the support of my spiritual group (Sangha) and some very loving and supportive friends.  A good therapist is another very helpful option.

Where does this leave that Twin eternal flame that may or may not be at the heart of this connection? Well, while the idea of a Twin Flame is romantic and I love romance, I have decided that, for me, it is a story full of nonsense.

With this story, the new age spiritual community may be doing a disservice to vulnerable people trapped in unhealthy patterns. There is a guarantee of long term clients on anything branded Twin Flame, for sure.  If you’re on the fence about this notion, I recommend the Twin Flames video by Dr Ramani Durvasula for an analysis of the similarities between a Twin Flame relationship and one characterized by narcissism.

There IS a strong pull to some people. Often it’s because  the “connection” mimics familiar dysfunctional patterns.

The soul will use this, in your dreams, if you pay attention.

The man has hurt me and reminds me of people who have hurt me. As humans, they deserve love – with detachment.  They don’t deserve a place in my life.

I forgive them for being withholding and I accept that they are who they are and not who I hoped they would be, or who I deserved to have in my life.

I remember a dream where this man appeared as a storm made of light.  A metaphor for a spiritual transformation if ever there was one!  Jung might suggest that this storm holds a lot of my energy.  Time to reclaim and integrate my own radiant light.

I forgive myself for wanting to be loved by people who – for their own limitations – cannot love me, affirm or approve of me.

I may be wrong about twin flames (I doubt it) but if this man and I have a soul connection, there will always be a bookmark here and I may always feel its contours in the yearnings that live between the pages of my story.

I can live with that.  Anyway, I have no choice; He’s married.

In all of this, what makes me grateful?  I am grateful that my experience of this man triggered my soul to send me disturbing dreams that helped highlight a wound that needed healing.  I’m grateful that my spiritual path values the messages of the soul that we find in dreams, and, I’m grateful that I can cut through the smoke and mirrors of the narcissist and heal, at another level, these old wounds.


For what are you most grateful, today?


Ten Thousand Days


April 17, 2022

Photo: Maria Victoria Portelles

Day 2783 – Day 2801

Today is Easter or Resurrection Sunday in the Christian faith, following the feast of Passover.  I was raised a Catholic and so not going to church on Easter Sunday is considered a mortal sin, but I prefer to just keep the Sabbath in my own way and to keep it holy.  A walk in the forest is a great way to celebrate the resurrection, in my opinion.

I suspect that the Roman church designated the death and resurrection of Christ to coincide with Springtime (and the birth of Christ to coincide with the winter solstice) as a way to bring in more pagans to the faith.  All you need to do is look around and see that all things are being resurrected in Spring.  The trees bud and begin to blossom, the daffodils and crocuses and tulips begin to blossom and the weather returns the longer days of sun into our lives.  I struggle with this natural rhythm because my mother was dying in springtime and looking back, so was my sister.  Spring always seems a little bit melancholy to me.

I’ve been spending some time this weekend tearing my house apart and sorting out what I want to keep and what I want to give away.  I’ve been going through my pantry looking for items to give to the Foodbank (people need help now more than ever, and I see that donations are way down as we all feel the pinch of inflation).   I think this ritual has something to do with “lightening up” as the days grow longer, or there wouldn’t be this universal phenomenon of Spring cleaning.  In the Christian tradition, this really is the start of the new year and so – as in all faith traditions – we clean to make way for a fresh start.

I think I have a long way to go before I can claim that.  After two years of working from home without a filing cabinet and six years of living in the same place with mountains of things that belonged to my mother (and were “gifted” (read: unloaded) to me by my father upon my return to Canada), I feel the weight of too much stuff.  I took a load of goods to the charity shop yesterday and was surprised at how much more there already is, waiting to be taken over.  Two years of pandemic pantry stuffing means we are all overflowing with stuff.

When I moved back to Canada I remember my sister saying that I would feel better once I was in a place where I could be surrounded by all my stuff.  I guess that’s the thing about family – sometimes they know you the least of anyone.  I had spent years and years in New York and London living in rented accommodation that was tiny and what you might term “service.”  The amount of stuff I had was minimal.  Granted, I had a storage locker in both countries but I’ve always found that the less I have, the better.  I feel much more free, the less I have.

I am grateful for all that I have – whether they are things, ideas that have served a purpose in my life (even if that is no longer needed), and relationships that have been a joy or, in sorrow, have been a lesson.  I hope to release them all with gratitude for how they have served me.

I hope that over the next few weeks or even months, that I will be able to cull at least half of what I own.  I probably won’t cull my crock pot or my dehydrator or my painting easel but I am beginning to feel a bit of distress over creating artworks that mostly end up needing to be stored.  I want to walk softly on this earth and mounds of artwork in a closet is not aligned with that value.

Whenever we shed, whether it is weight or possessions or relationships, there are emotions that go along with the process.  Yesterday I struggled to give away a favourite teddy bear even though it was just sitting in a cupboard.  It is in good shape and I hope that some mother who struggles with money or who values items of a second life will be able to give it to be loved by a child.  It wasn’t serving the purpose of “Christmas Bear” to sit in the closet, even though I did have lovely memories attached to the toy.

As I’m going through my things now, I am asking myself whether holding on to this item is really filling a good purpose in my life.  Marie Kondo would ask if it sparks joy.  Christmas Bear sparked joy but the purpose of a toy itself must be considered, and it wasn’t fair to Christmas Bear to hold on to it.  Holding on was also filling space in my life and weighing me down.  As we open up more space, we can feel anxious.  We might be inclined to rush to fill the space with more stuff or more relationships that may not be a good fit and only serve to bury us.  I know that this will be a struggle ahead and so I have made a low spend pledge to myself and a caution pledge on new relationships.

I’m digging out corners of my closets that have not been touched in 6 years, and digging myself out of a life that seems to have stopped serving me well.  Right now, my home is in worse shape than when I started.  Everything is out on the counters and floors so that I can assess and make choices.  With the stuff are memories, hopes, dreams and distractions and many of them need to be released.   I hope that I can move quickly through this part of my life and rise up from the ashes of all that burdens me.

A new year is a great time for a fresh start and I hope that if you are drawn to spring cleaning that you can rid yourself of outworn ideas, fears, relationships and things so that you can be more aligned with your true purpose here on earth.  I hope that this is a time of resurrection for you, as much as it feels like it is beginning to be, for me.


For what are you most grateful, today?


Ten Thousand Days

Still to be Still

March 29, 2022

Photo: Harli Marten

Day 2672 – Day 2782

It’s been a minute since my last post. One hundred and ten days, it seems.  That seems like an auspicious number so it’s time to write.

I have been writing weekly for those who subscribe to my email list, and that is about all I can muster at the moment.   If you’d like to read what I have to say then you can subscribe here.

I’ve also not been writing much here because there is someone who has trolled me for quite awhile – someone who I picked up on YouTube.  I enjoy being an inspiration to people, and I have now had to come to terms that this may mean that my content shows up as their content.  What I’m loathe to do is to provide a glimpse into my personal life to this person, during my time of mourning.  

But, I do not want to ignore my loyal readers and it is time to return to the land of the living.  I want to let you know I’m doing fine.  I’m dealing with life just the same as everyone.  Some days are wonderful and some days are catastrophic.  But on all days, if I haven’t yet done it, I count my blessings before I go to bed.  When the world seems to be falling apart and catching fire, being grateful is what keeps my head above water.

I have learned something about myself in this quiet.  I’ve spent most of my life in large cities where I am constantly able to have intellectual and artistic stimulation.  I went to an Ivy League school with some of the brightest minds in the world.  Right now, I feel completely stifled and bored.  Yes, I think we are all bored after 2 years of a pandemic, but the level of boredom I have reached has me feeling like I am in a coma.  This doesn’t mean that my life is without love, busyness or companionship.  I just need more intellectual and creative stimulation and to use my talents in more challenging work.  This is a problem I have lately identified and it is something on which I need to work.  There is nothing worse than  having a gift and not being able to use it.  And, lately, I feel like I’m becoming more and more stupid, as the world around me has been so dumbed down.  At the ego level, this is something I need to address because it will add to my happiness and challenging oneself is a great way to add more flow moments into one’s life.  I hope that you are identifying and addressing those things that are limiting your happiness.

I do enjoy writing about my personal life and so, I’m going to turn to the personal letter form.  I’m looking forward to surprising someone this weekend with a short dispatch from my life.

There is no doubt that beyond our personal lives, the world is deeply troubled.  Lies and misinformation seem to be the order of the day.  I have found that not knowing what to believe can leave me feeling paranoid – perhaps this is why we see so many conspiracy theorists out there today.  Instead, I have turned to what I do know – which is an inner knowing – that of my faith. 

I have a great bible study group and unfortunately I can usually only drop in on weekends (I used to go every day but the time of meeting has changed) because of my work schedule, but they have become “fam.”  I don’t agree with all of their interpretation of the bible but I love having an opportunity to focus on spiritual life together,  every single day (or as often as I can make it).  We have time for prayer together and this fortifies.  Gratitude and the cultivation of all the practices that I’ve talked about over the years has been a lifesaver.  Spiritual Oneness is an essential part of that.  I have another group that gathers around the teachings of my living spiritual teacher and we meet every second week for prayer, meditation and fellowship and I’ve found that invaluable as well.  My groups help keep my focus on Oneness. 

Meditation and stillness is important, perhaps even more so, now that the world seems to be teetering on chaos.  I’m not a great meditator although I know that my path in this lifetime is to meditate.  I go for a walking meditation every day, at the same time that my spiritual community is meditating, globally.  I feel that in the inner stillness, we are doing some good work on cultivating Oneness, together.

This month, on my email list, we have been placing our focus on Oneness and I have been advocating for stillness.  We all want to do something but we need to get our egos out of the way and the best way I know how to do this is through meditation.  We also need empathy for others and the humility that an awareness of Oneness brings.  I believe that the easiest gateway into all of these qualities arises in stillness.  And so, in a chaotic world, I am working still to be still.  I hope you will join me.  In a world of chaos and suffering, one of the greatest services we can provide is to actively be a witness to the suffering and in the stillness, bear all that the experience entails.


For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

In the stillness

December 9, 2021

Photo: Sage Friedman

Day 2587 – Day 2671

It has been a long time since I’ve written here.  So much has been going on and this year has been a tribulation.  I feel that I’ve been tested over and over again and if I have not failed the tests, it is owing to my faith and to my practice of gratitude.  

I have been silent and in the stillness, I not only preserve, but I also find my strength.  Prayer and meditation are useful tools for the grieving.  I highly recommend them, in these challenging times.

I’ve been taking a lot of sleep and engaging in positive distractions and I’ve taken a few walks, but less than I’ve wanted to take.  Our weather has had a lot to do with that.  We’ve had horrendous storms that have caused floods and destruction of biblical proportions.  There has been a lot of grief in the witnessing.

It is appropriate that I am coming to the end of this year of practices (most of which is on YouTube, with the exception of the final quarter of the year, which I will create and post in 2022, when I feel I am ready to leave this period of mourning) with soulfulness, faith, hope, love and soul-work.  If you are part of my email list, you will have been getting weekly guidance on a month of practices.  Soulfulness seems the culmination of all we’ve done so far this year.  In the face of adversity, only the soul can make sense of things.  

I don’t have much to say, today.  But people have been reaching out to me because I have been so silent.  My hope has been to be an example and an encouragement to others, but sometimes, in being that example, it is necessary to model self care and for me, right now, that is stillness.  I just wanted to drop in and let you know that I’m still here, still profoundly grateful, and still faithful to this work.  Although its simple, I want to encourage you to find the good in every day.  Every day, no matter how trying, there is something good.  If you can’t find it, be silent and listen to what arises, in the stillness.

For what are you most grateful, today?

Ten Thousand Days

The Forfeit

September 14, 2021

Photo: Brian Erickson

Day 2543 – Day 2586

I’ve been intentionally practicing gratitude every day for over seven years and still, sometimes I forget how glorious life is – all the time.  Right now, my heart feels heavy all the time and that is how it is going to be, for awhile.  

The weather echoes my mood.  For the rest of the week (most likely the month), it will rain, and the clouds descended into the Valley this morning.  The amount of rain in the PNW is enough to give anyone Seasonal Affective Disorder and so in winter, I return to the festival of colour that is my artwork. Despite the dull pallor that surrounds me, I am immersed and engaged in life whenever I am Painting.  Visual art – whether painting or photography –  is like making music or writing poetry in that it expresses the ineffable.  Some things need colour, tone, rhythm and texture to be understood by the heart and known by the mind.

I stopped at the intersection that leads to my workplace this morning, and I felt myself on the verge of tears again.  I looked for approaching traffic (there is never any).  In a defiant last stand of summer, the sky glowed behind Mt Baker.  I reached for my phone to capture the image but the eye of the camera doesn’t capture light in the same way as the human eye.  And the heart captures it in an entirely different way: the only way that the beauty, love and death can be lived as one. 

The sky was emblazoned in glorious hues of yellow as the sun disappeared behind layers of cloud. Moments of beauty.  This is what enkindles our hearts.  Much like love. 

Winter is the forfeit of summer as grief is the forfeit of love.


For what are you most grateful, today?


Seven Year Itch

September 7, 2021

Day 2558

Today is not 2558.  Today is 2579.  But, on Day 2558, we hit seven years of gratitude.  I completely missed it.

I missed it because there was a death in my immediate family two days before.

I completely forgot to show up to any appointments or notice anything much that entire week.  I’d be surprised if I had been performing as normal.  I’m just not an automaton.

You might think I’d be angry with God but I’m not.  Yes, I’ve experienced anger but not with God.  In fact, I’ve been grateful.  I’m grateful for the life lessons that I experienced for having been a part of the same family as the person who passed away.  I’m grateful for the memories that I carry with me and although the manner of their final sendoff is not as I would have hoped, I’m grateful that I found a way (creatively, I might add) to say goodbye and get the closure that I needed.  And finally, I’m grateful that I was able to get right with the person before they died.  I can’t be responsible for how they received my love, forgiveness, amends and release, but I know that I did what I needed to do to be able to look at myself in the mirror and feel good.   I made sure that I said goodbye with authenticity and integrity before the final moment came. 

When the final moment came, I was not there.  I was not there when my mother’s final moments came, either.  I was the only family member who was living far away at the time.  And so, perhaps I am the best equipped to know how to get closure when you can’t be there.  While I’m not grateful to have lived most of my life without my mother, I am grateful for the lesson that struggling for years to get closure gave me: get right before the time comes and stay right with people.  Never let a day end with anger or unforgiveness between you.  And always, love.  And if you love, let it be expressed. 

One of the most powerful expressions of love is, of course, gratitude.  Without this practice, I’m not sure I could bear this loss with any grace at all.

Even as illness hovered and death came to our home, I knew this anniversary was coming up for some time now, and I have wondered all year whether I would experience some form of 7-year itch with this practice.  All I can say is that the more that I practice gratitude, and allow myself to express my appreciation, the more open my heart becomes.  The more open my heart becomes, the deeper this practice becomes and the more joy there is – even in the face of sorrow.

If I’ve got an itch, it is to see how deep this joy can go and the many ways that gratitude will give me grace in sorrowful times.


For what are you most grateful, today?



June 21, 2021

Photo: Kal Visuals

Day 2500 (reprise)

It wasn’t until I posted a video yesterday and needed the day count that I realized I had reached this milestone.  It was Father’s Day and my living family of origin was gathering to wish my Dad a happy day.  It was summer solstice and the longest day of the year.  And it was 2500 days of gratitude.

I think milestones are important markers in our lives.  They let us reflect and appreciate and they let us dream. They help us to make meaning of our lives.

To me, this is the biggest milestone, yet.

I’m not sure what to make of it.  I texted a few people who have been on the journey with me from the beginning.   Everybody wanted to know what I was going to do to celebrate.  Sadly, I wasn’t able to do anything to celebrate the day.  However, I will take myself kayaking later this week to celebrate both my birthday and this milestone.

One person wrote back about how this was a great personal commitment.  That didn’t feel quite like it captured what this was for me.  Of course, it is a personal commitment, but it has become more than that.  It seems to be morphing into something but right now it is in the in-between and so that makes it hard to describe.

What strikes me about 2500 days of gratitude is how quickly time passes and yet how so much has changed.  These past 2500 days have been some of the hardest of my life and I am hoping that there are better times ahead but I also know that there are some very hard times coming.  With all that said, I can’t imagine where I would be without gratitude.  I’d be a horrible, cranky, angry person if I were still here on this planet at all.  Gratitude has been a life buoy for me.  But, it has been more than that.  It has been an organizing principle around which I have designed a way of being.  It is also the cornerstone of a set of secular spiritual practices and it seems to be the fuel for a kind of life mission.

For the first time, I’ve reached a milestone, knowing that it was coming, and not really being able to say much about it.  I know that this year  I’ve found my ministry in it.  I also realize that there is something about Faith that I need to flesh out in this set of practices.  But I’ve also been discouraged about my ability to reach people and about people’s possible lack of appetite for the simple yet profound practices.  Beyond that, I think I need to just sit with it for a little while longer.

I feel quiet.

I was with my family yesterday and I never mentioned my milestone.  I’m not even sure whether they are aware that I have a website, let alone over 100 videos on YouTube.  Sometimes, we need to protect what matters most to us.

Some people can’t stop bragging.  I’m not one of those people.  Sometimes people think I’m being la-dee-dah because I mention the time I went to a Sufi centre in Istanbul or that I got to attend a climate change conference in Bali, or that I saw most of Caravaggio’s surviving paintings at an exhibition in Budapest.   It is just the life I’ve lived, living overseas.  But still, I learned a long time ago to keep quiet about the things I’ve done, with most people.  I have discovered that many people who have done something out of the ordinary keep quiet about it.   So I’m not alone in keeping things to myself, especially if I think that a person might not appreciate the accomplishment I have achieved.

Still, it makes me wonder.

And so, maybe I will just sit in wonder and in silence and gently paddle my way around this milestone and let it reveal itself as it wills.  In another two months, we will have another milestone of 7 years to celebrate.  Reaching the “Quarter Way” marker feels bigger than even 7 years but maybe by the 7-year mark I will understand this moment and have more to say about what this moment means.  I am reminded of the marker on the pier in Key West that marks the southernmost point of the United States.  I always felt wonder, when I saw it, at all that lies beyond.

Photo: Frank McKenna


For what are you most grateful, today?