The Irrational Season

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.



But Mary was much perplexed.

– The Gospel of Luke 1:29

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said, “one can’t believe impossible things.”  “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why sometimes I’d believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  

– Alice in Wonderland

I live across the street from the police station, in Berkeley, CA.  Two weeks ago, for a string of nights the, “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations roamed the city.

Each night, the march began peacefully and each night, despite the determined efforts of the demonstration organizers, fringe groups would loot, raid, and destroy storefronts on the route.  With all of this came a disquieting onslaught of helicopters, sirens, beating drums and riot gear, often until 1 and 2 am.  I immediately understood this was to be my empathy training; my turn to peek into the lives of humans around the world whose nervous systems must endure this and so much more.

Paradoxically, for the same number of days I was attempting to find an emotional steadiness amidst the tension of the protests, my partner was working near Lake Tahoe, and sending me photos from his surroundings.

Valentino’s shot of a walk along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe

Valentino’s shot of a walk along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe

The juxtaposition of our different realities was stunning!  And it was all happening during the Christian season of Advent, a time of waiting; a time of anticipating; a time created to ready ourselves for the arrival of Christ and…Peace.

Meanwhile, the lyrics of a beloved circle chant repeat,

Deep down inside of me, there is a fire going on.   Part of me wants to sing about the light; part of me wants to die, die, die!

The human tempest happening on this planet puts me smack in the struggle: sing about the light, or run for cover?  How does God inhabit it all?  War zones to new babies; hurricanes to fields resting fallow; bustling factories and traffic jams to houses of worship filled with prayerful souls…and on, and on the list goes.  The late Madeleine L’Engle called Advent, “the irrational season,” and indeed, it is.

The Solstice and Advent both invite us to pause, to reflect and to wait.  In the cold, frozen dark we are urged to suspend our disbelief, to invite the irrational, to believe that what we most need can come from a source we could never expect if we’re limited by our linear mind.

And so, this season, I invite you to welcome new realities of the most surprising sort.  Entertain the impossible.  Embrace the mystery waiting to be born, from out of the shadows, into the light.  Your light.

Peace, peace and more peace

Solstice Soul-check

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it.

~ Mary Oliver

In a very little while, the world will see me no more but you will see me,
because I am really alive and you will be alive too. … you are in me, and I am in you.

~ John, 14:20

(S)He to whom you pray is nearer to you than the neck of your camel.

~ The Prophet Muhammed

We, up here in the Northern hemisphere, are presently relishing the long days of Summer.  Midsummer, celebrated in poetry, theatre, and music reminds us to take heed, for with it comes a particular madness.


Early morning, Summer Solstice (6/21/14).  My porch altar

Early morning, Summer Solstice (6/21/14). My porch altar


Early evening July ride; the fog rolls in blanketing Berkeley below

Early evening bike ride; the fog rolls in blanketing Berkeley below

We see it in Nature – the thunderstorms, the fireflies, the tomatoes and squash and melons that nearly double in size overnight. When I wake up in these pre-dawn, July mornings, I feel the potential of the day, tugging at me with its plethora of ideas. I feel the sun, still beaming brightly at 5pm, making an early evening bike ride irresistible! The reaching expanse of daylight, or the heat – or both – offer an energetic pulse unlike any other time.

In the last 10 days I’ve had stirring conversations with a handful of friends and clients, all of whom have voiced a certain overwhelm regarding life’s possibilities: “I don’t know what I’m here to do,” and, “There are a lot of things I want, but I don’t know which of them I’m supposed to pursue.”


Can you relate to this?


You may recall my post from the Winter Solstice, when I spoke of my vision board, and the need to, “go in,” to consider what needed to be born. Now in its polar opposite, the Summer season invites an altogether different, yet complementary, invitation. Feeling some flavor of what my friends and clients were describing, I consulted my 2014 vision board to perform a Summer Solstice “soul-check.” Afterall, the year is half-over (I know, I know!) so what better time to undertake a thoughtful assessment? Much to my satisfaction, a number of the areas of my vision board have been fulfilled…or have evolved quite nicely. There are some other areas where, when I created the board, I was not sure what the images were telling me. To my delight, I am now sensing more of what they were calling me to do and to be in this period of my life. And still, there are spots that serve as poignant prompts – cues and reminders – for intentions I still want to become a part of me and my second nature.


Unlike the slow, careful laboring quality of Winter’s gestation process, our present moment invites us to stretch, spill over, grow! And here’s the great part…it comes without worry. I don’t mean that it’s impulsive (although Shakespeare and Woody Allen might disagree with me); what I mean is that we can rest into who we are and the movement that’s already alive in us. Different from urgency, there is an immediacy that graces this season…and we can indulge it with a second piece of watermelon as surely as we can respond to it when questions, fears or confusion present distraction.

Embracing what is, May, 2014

Embracing what is, May, 2014


Taking clues from the prayers embedded in my vision board, I’m connecting each day with what still feels unfinished. It’s not a problem to be solved, or a to-do list to tackle. It is a hole for me to fill…right now, with myself. In the warm immediacy of this long summer day, I can ask for help, I can rest in what is, I can become more of who I am and who I am becoming.




What is working right now? What is bringing you joy? What do you love? May you relax into what you are becoming!  You are in it, and it is in you. Amen!

Summer Ferry Ride, July, 2014

Summer Ferry Ride, July, 2014


2012 and the Shortest Day of the Year


Nature doesn’t hurry, yet everything is accomplished

– Lao Tzu

So the shortest day came and the year died and everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world, came people singing, dancing to drive the dark away!

– Susan Cooper

The fullness of Joy is to behold God in everything

–Julian of Norwich

Today is December 21, the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  Ages ago, noticing the days being incrementally drained of light, the first humans were filled with foreboding.  Sensing a Great Ending, they were moved to enact nightly ritual, praying, singing, dancing for the Sun’s return.

A New Day Dawns, Macchu Picchu, 2006

This year’s Solstice,December 21, 2012 carries its own important story.  After 26,000 years, there is a shift happening in the heavens, a new alignment within our solar system.  Despite different tools of interpretation and speaking different languages, humans across cultures have pointed to this day, naming it:  the Great Awakening, the Ascension, the Mayan End Times, the Hopi Fifth World, Christogenesis, Timewave  Zero, the Age of Aquarius, and others.

Hmmmm….so what does it all mean?

I’m quite sure that I don’t know.  I do know that I love this time of year.   The holy season of Solstice calls us to 2 practices I know would serve us well, as we shift into this new era: slowing down and joining together.

Slowing down…

Here we are, at the end of December, the time when many of us take time-off.  We spend time with loved ones, we exchange cards & photos, reconnecting with friends long time, not seen.  We light candles, sing and play music; in short, we call the Sun back…or celebrate the Son’s arrival.

Many of us “take stock” and review the years’ events.  I love to consider the happenings of my past 12 months, to read them like some master blueprint and distill a theme or core teaching from the year.  If you read this blog, you’re familiar with the list of activities decorating my calendar, informing my life:  there was the bike blessing, my 40th birthday, becoming a beekeeper, training for the Death Ride, championing Fair Trade awareness in Berkeley, backpacking in Glacier National Park, officiating at weddings, baby blessings and rituals of every sort, and so on.

Happily enough, the slowing down initiated by darkness and the cold, reminds us that it isn’t about the events themselves (radical-craziness, I know).  Furthermore, the words of Lao Tzu (above), suggest that what needs to happen will not happen more effectively by hurrying.  Hurrying has become a seducer of sorts, a disguise for “getting things done.”  The Solstice offers no rewards for this behavior.  Instead, it invites us to light a candle, to look more closely for what we seek, to rest, evaluate and begin again.

Joining together….

This is the really important part.  The opposite of hurrying isn’t passive, apathetic or dispassionate.  On the contrary, when the darkness threatens to overtake us, we must devote ourselves – with even more insistence – for that which will bring back the light.  And in the darkness, our efforts are made simpler and are augmented by the solidarity, support and insight offered by others.  It’s more powerful (and so much friendlier) when we join together – shoveling the walk, preparing a meal, singing in harmony, exploring the details of a new dream or project.  In this way, Julian of Norwich (above) helps us to see that each moment (tough, terrifying, or terrific) of our preciously short lives are Joy and God, combined.

Joining Together, ChI Ordination, Spring 2011

Riding home this morning, after a pre-dawn Spin class, the pink sky in the East dazzled with the Sun’s promise of light.  Rounding the corner and facing the rainy grey in the North, I was met by…a Rainbow!!! December 21, 2012 and I can’t make this up!!  Descending from the heavy clouds was a sacred covenant between the Earth and the Heavens.  I slowed down, rode home the long way.  No sense hurrying.  And now, through the wonders and limitations of cyber-space, I’m joining with you, and I’m inviting you to join with me, as the Great Shift happens.

The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination.


    (And, to enhance your experience, please enjoy the theme music – links below).

Nectar’s On: drinking in the Solstice

The joyous rituals of Litha (Midsummer) celebrate the verdant Earthin high summer, abundance, fertility, and all the riches of Nature in full bloom.  This is a madcap time of strong magic and empowerment…  At Midsummer, the veils between the worlds are thin; the portals between “the fields we know” and the worlds beyond stand open. This is an excellent time for rites of divination. The Litha Sabbat is a time to celebrate both work and leisure, it is a time for children and childlike play. It is a time to celebrate the ending of the waxing year and the beginning of the waning year, in preparation for the harvest to come.

– Salem Nightshade  (

You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.

-Thomas Merton

There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.

—Martha Graham

You might recall, a few blog posts back, my mentioning, ‘beekeeping…’

Lauren bedecked in bee suit

Yep!  That’s me in my bee suit.  My friend, Frances, and I installed our bees in a freshly-painted hive at the end of April. 

Bee installation

Since then, the colony that began as around 3,000 has steadily increased; conservatively, there are about 10,000 bees now, building comb and making honey. 

Liberating the Queen, welcoming her to her hive

But this blog isn’t about bees.  And thank goodness, because I have so much to learn!  For       example, when we first introduced the bees to their new home in Frances’ backyard, we were instructed to feed them sugar syrup, to fuel their efforts.  Then, a few weeks ago, new terminology appeared in our instructions: “Nectar’s on!”  At this point in the summer season, we learned, the bees are ready to go it alone and flower foraging is prime: the, nectar is, “on.”

Got it!  And the bees get it, too – they’re a flurry of activity at the hive’s door, defending the entrance with special bee dances, feeding their queen, creating their comb, tending their brood, discovering new nectar sources, making honey….  They’re dazzling, really.  And I find myself thinking about them multiple times a week.  And, even though this blog isn’t about them specifically, when it comes to tending our own impulses and inspirations this Summer Solstice, I think we’d be wise to take our clues from these buzzing beauties.

What do I mean?

I mean that consciously, or unconsciously we (in the Northern Hemisphere), have arrived in a wonderfully creative season, the longest days of the year.  Our nectar’s on, so to speak, and it’s a time for exuberant experimentation.  With the sun at its zenith, the time is right for growing our seedling ideas into standing-their-own-ground actions.

As documented in ancient day rituals, Greek theatre, famous operas, and Woody Allen films, zany-cuckoo things happen on the Solstice.

Getting zany in the rainforest

This season pushes us to unfold our own myth, to invite an adventure with our muse.  It does this with relaxed urgency.

Relaxed urgency? Effortless compulsion?  It’s the energy we exude when we can’t not do something.  It’s not frenetic, it just happens, an outpouring of attraction.  There’s  no stopping the watermelon from expanding on its vine, and the bees – though we call them ‘busy’ – are wonderfully instinctive, simply doing what they love: feeding on nectar and attending their Queen.

And here’s where creativity becomes even more brilliant!  Devoted and determined, the bees drink from the blossoms of strawberries, almonds, onions, broccoli, tangerines, coconuts, carrots, grapes…on and on.  We can offer unending gratitude in response, because their nectar fascination becomes cross-pollination, a divinely creative act on which our very lives depend.

And so I’m wondering, in this blog that’s not about bees, how we can be more like them?  How might our everyday creations — those things we do because we feel the impulse, a loving need —  how might those acts fuel the life unfolding for the rest of us?  My heart dizzies at the thought.

So, in these days of Solstice Sunlight, be a bee!

  • Create, improvise, play!  Refrain from censoring yourself.
  • Employ relaxed urgency.  Move toward what you love, and let yourself be moved.
  • Know that what you create sustains yourself, and therefore others.
  • And finally, if things get a little wild, a little silly, a little – oh my goodness! – FUN, then blame it on the nectar –Shakespeare did!

Create and make merry…like our very lives depend on it.  Indeed, they do!

Inciting Epiphanies

Hello, and welcome to Lauren’s Blog!

Yesterday was the Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Epiphany.  For Christians, Epiphany marks the day the Wise Men finally arrived, having followed a star, to behold theChristChild.   It is, in essence, a “making real” of the event.  After the rather homely beginning in a manger with shepherds and barn animals, and after the rest of us respond by staying home from work, singing “Silent Night,” and “Away in a Manger” lullabies, and celebrating with our loved ones, the Magi arrive and up the ante: “This baby is a big deal.  We need to protect him and there are repercussions for us all!”

It’s a good story on its own and symbolically, there’s a LOT here.  I am arriving in these first days of the New Year feeling so grateful for the ways Nature pointedly guides us through the final days of December – the DARKEST days of the year (Northern Hemisphere native, that I am) – and provides a transition plan so that we might receive the increasing length and brightness of the Sun (or Son) in the days to come.  I’m obviously not describing yuletide practices as instructed by mainstream media, but if you’re reading this, you’re likely not either.

In short, Epiphany seems to me a great season to go *live* with my blog.  This entry and the one before it (Dec. 31st) mark my own movement from 2011, through the Solstice, and into the beginning of a New Year.  I would be beyond pleased if even a morsel of something written here incites an epiphany for you, or someone, somewhere:

epiphany [ih-pif-uh-nee] 

1. an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity;

2. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or
essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple,
homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

More importantly, as you live into these first days of 2012, may epiphanies happen!  Plain and simple.  May they happen within you, in the lives of those you care about, in the lives of those we do not know, in our communities and throughout the world.  A new day dawns….

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

Acknowledgements: This blog has been loooong in coming.  I would be remiss if I didn’t offer gratitude to those who nudged and pushed me along in its creation: Dad-lee, T. Taylor, A. Brucker, M.M., CMK & the EOL community, C. Morris, “V.P.K.,” B. Arnall, Davemo, M. Abed, A. Lattanand, M. Himel, and the students at ChI.

Living Compassion, a homily

[This homily was offered at the inaugural (now monthly) service for The Interfaith Congregation for Healing and Creative Ministries]

Living Compassion

Happy Summer!  Right now, we are in the season of transformation.  In this time of long-lit days, cornstalks stretch high in the fields, grapes grow heavy & plentiful on the vine, and humans gather on porches and patios to tackle projects and share new ideas.  It is a time of empowerment and inter-relatedness, and I’ve been asked to share some thoughts about “Living Compassion.”

What do the World Religions say of Compassion?  Truly, the sources are many, but to keep this succinct, I’ll offer just a few:

Buddhism: “The Great Compassionate Heart is the essence of Buddhahood” (Gandavyuha Sutra)

Christianity: “…be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” (1Peter3:8)

Judaism: “The world stands upon 3 things: upon the law, upon worship and upon showing kindness.” (Mishnah, Abot 1.2)

Sikhism: “Make your mosque of compassion, your prayer mat of sincerity.” (Adi Granth, Var Majh, M. 1, p. 40)

Chief Seattle, of theDuwamishNation: “Our God is the same God, whose compassion is equal for all.”

Are we getting this?  I imagine I’m quite literally preaching to the choir.  Fundamentally, we agree with these texts and teachers…

Hinduism: “When a person responds to the joys and sorrows of another as if they were his own, he has attained the highest state of spiritual union.” (BhagavadGita6:32)

And this experience of spiritual union, of inner peace, our True Nature – call it what you wish – is something for which I imagine we strive.  These sacred texts and plenty of other others reiterate what we might label as, “The Golden Rule,” and yet, for me when compassion is presented in this way, it’s just too theoretical.  The operative word here isn’t “compassion,” but “living!”  This implies active embodiment.  And since it’s all too easy to say and make plans about what I’m going to do the NEXT time I encounter another who deserves compassion, I want to invite us to live compassion in this moment, right now.

Place a hand on your heart, and call to mind a few activities that made up your day today. You may have been chipping away at a long-term goal.  You may have been addressing an immediate task.  First and foremost, did you bring compassion to yourself in this process?  Did you speak kindly to your perceived sense of being inadequate or failing?  Did you take the moment to celebrate an accomplishment, or to nurse a hurt feeling?  Did you firmly guide yourself away from self-destructive tendencies and back into the game when part of you rebelled, threw a tantrum, or gave up?  This is living compassion; in this way, our life becomes a sacred text for ourselves and in our relationships with others.  And it’s NOT simple!!! It demands vigilance, and tough love, and it’s essential in our pursuit of health, wholeness and peace.

To close, I want to draw upon the strengths of the season at hand.  Just a couple of weeks ago, we celebrated the solstice, the longest day of the year.  Hafiz, the Sufi poet, reveres the sun thusly,

Even after all this time 
The sun never says to the earth, 
“You owe Me.”

Look what happens with 
A love like that, 

It lights the Whole Sky!

Did you know that since it was born a star, our sun transforms 4 million tons of itself – every second – into light?[1]  No self-empowerment issues there!!!  And talk about inter-related!!?? This outpouring of sunlight creates the photosynthesis upon which our lungs and stomachs depend!

Like sunlight becoming the earth’s vitality, does our living compassion toward ourselves grow inter-relatedness with others and all of life?  I believe so…and I invite you to think about it.  As you go about your lives in the next days, notice what feels heavy in your heart.  What in this world brings fatigue that is yours to tend and transform?

May we set about to penetrate each moment of our lives with compassion.  And may we find therein wisdom enough, space enough and love enough to light the whole sky.  May it be so!

[1] Swimme, Brian.  The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos: Humanity and the New Story, pp. 40-42. Orbis Books, 1996.

Soulstice Midwifery: Standing at Door #3

“You must give birth to your images.  
They are the future waiting to be born…
Fear not the strangeness you feel.  
The future must enter into you long before it happens.”
(Rainer Maria Rilke)

One of my favorite eco-comic strips is a picture of a man standing at the grocery check-out. A voice beyond the frame appears in a bubble proverbially asking, “Paper or plastic?” The bubble above the customer’s head bursts forth, “Suddenly Jon realized he didn’t want paper OR plastic. He wanted something new, something fantastic!”

I love this because it illustrates a sentiment felt by most of us at any given time: “I don’t want this and I don’t want that.” Perhaps we want some combination of the two, or possibly (my personal tendency) we want something altogether different, something out-of-the-box. “What’s behind Door #3?”

In India’s Vedic scriptures there is a Sanskrit phrase, “Neti, Neti,” or, “Not this and Not this.” It is used by spiritual teachers when pressed by students to define the way things are, or to comment on the nature of Self. When things are neither ‘this way’, nor ‘that way’; when we are neither this, nor that—then who and what are we?

As the Schoolhouse Rock song of the 70’s put it, “Three is a magic number.” Never in our evolution have we so needed that which is waiting behind Door #3.

For all its magic, three is also tricky for us dually-inclined humans. Three introduces something new to my clean straight line. Now I’m not simply traveling from here to there. Now there’s a less familiar route on the map, twisting toward a destination that is less certain, possibly foreign.

Our spiritual traditions have supported us on these divergent, curious, exciting albeit nerve-racking adventures to the mysterious territory of three. I’m thinking most obviously of the Trinity in the Christianity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), but also of the Egyptians’ sacred geometry and the Triple Gem in Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha), as well as the Triune of deities in Hinduism (Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu), ever creating and destroying life’s dance. Our religious beliefs and faith traditions illustrate and model for us that, uncomfortable though it may be, the third way often leads to expansion, liberation and spiritual depth.

On Nov. 4th, citizens across this country walked up the front porch steps and stood bravely in front of Door #3. (For some, it took a leap of faith, while for others it was as simple as…well, 1, 2, 3.) Drawing from a diverse community of ideas in clean technology, renewable energy and green jobs, Barack Obama’s vision is to create a more sustainable way of living for all of us on multiple levels: in Iraq, in our bank accounts, in the air we breathe and in our relationships to and with others. This means that, beginning January 20th, the United States will have a leader who claims he will be incorporating ideas that are a giant combination of “Yes We Can,” and, “Neti, Neti.”

Our nation elected Obama in the wake of the harvest, a time of earthly abundance painted in vibrant Fall colors, bursting with fertile fruits—apples, maize and squash—and wrapped in the special cast of Autumnal Equinox light. Now the season has changed, and the Solstice is upon us. Solstice brings to us both its gift and a special invitation.

As stewards of Creation, we have a lot of work to do. Be we fearful or of great courage, scientists cannot paint the picture with any more clarity: last Summer, in the Arctic Circle, an area the size of Colorado was melting every week. In the words of NASA scientist, James Hansen, “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted….carbon dioxide will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm (parts per million) to at most 350 ppm.”

Given American culture’s emphasis on Christmas, I would like to reflect on the potency of the Solstice season, pairing it with Christianity. Let’s begin with the gift of Solstice—the incubation period it provides. Unlike any other season in the earth’s calendar, the Solstice season creates holy time to pause, recollect and consider the journey ahead.

In the Christian calendar, this season is called “Advent,” or “coming,” markingMary’s Immaculate Conception and pregnancy. Christians are invited to use this time metaphorically, tending the fruits of our soul’s womb. Like tulip or amaryllis bulbs waiting in the cold, dark earth, we plant our hopes and prepare for what is to come. Different from the hibernating response of bears, humans in the season of Advent prefer to warm one another and to stand firm in the conviction that the light will return. We do this by lighting candles, singing songs, and exchanging gifts to celebrate the birth of the Divine.

As we move into the darkest hours of the Solstice, journeying through to the return of the light and the inauguration of one who stands ready to make decisions on behalf of how we care for the health of our planet and our future with one another, Door #3 awaits. It invites us to knock and walk through. It is “soulstice” midwifery. The Holy Spirit is seeking to be born through you in this sacred season.

What “new thing” is waiting to be born in you in the coming year? Might it take you on the road less traveled? How, in the next weeks, is it asking to be tended in your soul’s womb? And what is it asking of you to bring to our hurting world? 

How will this season lend you space to innovate and practice? Perhaps, it is calling on you to join with others. Why not use the simple sweetness of the Solstice season to practice ways of sharing, collaborating and weaving community?

At the threshold of Door #3, our future calls us to bring our divine gifts with trust, joy and gusto. In this season of holy incubation and Divine birth, prepare yourself and those around you for the great joy that is to come. Good news indeed!

All blessings!