Compass Clues: Finding Home between Dizzy and Distraction

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.

– Emily Dickinson

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

– Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time

Doing less bad is not the same as doing more good…You have one life and, like a tree, you can create abundance, a profusion.

– William McDonough

Parvati and Friend, Diablo Summit

Parvati and Friend, Diablo Summit

Two Saturdays ago, a friend and I were on a bike adventure, making our way from Berkeley to the summit of Mt. Diablo and back.  The day was perfect: blue sky, warm sun, and a cool breeze.  The route journeys through several eco-systems, including Suburbia, where we pulled over to check directions and have a snack.  The bench was positioned beneath a shopping center’s speaker.  Music, similar to what might be playing in a spa, wafted its tranquil tunes into the streets, and behind us the two-story-window display beckoned from a store that makes me cuckoo: The Container Store.  I sheepishly apologized to my friend, then preceded to soap-box anyway about how insane our species has become – continuing to buy things, thus “necessitating” entire stores that specialize in helping us contain ourselves.  Never mind the thrift stores and consignment shops accepting our “rejects” as quickly as we’re off to spend the $25 promotion we received last week on

These realities (as you patient readers know), both pain and humor me.  More recently, observations like these have been my mirror.  In its reflection I see how consumed I am – how distracted I can be, how dizzy I feel by any number of projects, tasks on a To Do list, or some other alluring racket.   So often the result is…paralysis.  Really.  In the face of too many choices, a couple of things happen.  Initially, I consider the possibilities, watching as they become rabbit holes, mysteriously (?) related to the original query at-hand.

And then, after kicking each ball a little further down the field, or succumbing to overwhelm, I short-circuit, glaze over and resolve that the right decision will be obvious when a) the timing is better, or b) I’ve taken a nap.  This wouldn’t be so frustrating except that I have lived my adult life feeling fairly competent, highly capable, quite adept at multi-tasking.  And so, the paralysis is disconcerting.  Did something change?  (i.e., time is speeding up, Lauren is getting older)  What needs to happen?  Can I do something differently?

Is it possible that, similar to the World of Stuff, the World of Ideas and Go-Go-Go has become so dense, so replete, that our souls need their own Container Store of sorts?  I laugh…and then I scream.  Softly.

I pray harder in these moments.  I know that another space exists, a parallel universe that promises perspective. That parallel universe that is, in truth, the ONLY universe, our cosmic home.  And in an otherwise lost moment, even the smallest taste of it becomes a compass filled with clues.

Quiet rediscovered, dizziness subsiding, I hold the cool compass with my entire being.  In my compass, the clue often directs me toward regenerativity.  William McDonough (above) is right: doing less bad is not the same as doing more Good.  I want my life to be filled with not merely staying out of the way, being sure I’ve placed my recycling in the right bin, but with contributions for the Better, capital “B!”  I want my days, my efforts, my intentions to provide nourishment, restoration and the potential for growth.  And don’t we all?

If in even the smallest actions (and no actions) of our lives, we can feel our participation in the fertility, hydration, and healing that creates the Whole, perhaps the plethora of choices would be fewer, or at least offer more good than less bad?  Compass in charge, I asked for a tangible expression, something to shake me from my paralyzed stupor.

It didn’t take long.  I fell in love over night.  Last Sunday, my neighbor and I collected our new colony of bees and helped them move in to their new home.  They’re amazing.  Not distracted, totally dizzying (but in that good way).  The thought of doing “less harm” isn’t even part of their eco-system.  They are only about doing more good: good for the flowers, good for the Queen, good for the hive, good for Winnie-the-Pooh, and good for any of us who value the healing properties of, “hunny.”

Bees 2013

Bees 2013

What does your compass suggest?  In which direction are you traveling?  More Good?  First star, right straight till morning!!!

What is Losing?

[This post belongs in a series of 7 entries written to build community and receive donations to support the Climate Ride, a 320 mile cycling pilgrimage I made in October, 2011.  Several entries focus on and celebrate the particular efforts of each of the 4 NGOs I designated to receive funds I raised for the ride.]


“Tut, Tut, it looks like rain.”

– ChristopherRobin, Winnie-the-Pooh


“View all problems as challenges. Don’t run from them, condemn yourself or bear your burden in saintly silence.  You have a problem?  Great.  More grist for the mill.  Rejoice, dive in and investigate.”

– Ven. Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English


Last week, in the final throes the fundraising countdown, I mused about winning.  I’ve enjoyed conversations with several of you this week about ‘fessing-up to my competitive nature.  AND…as an aspiring non-dualist, it got me thinking a lot about losing.  What is losing?


I’m seeing that, for me, losing happens when I shut down.  Do you know the sort of “shutting down,” I’m talking about?  There are 3 times I feel it most: when I’m afraid, when I “know” something (HA!), and (this is a tough one) when I’m feeling self-conscious.  Yep, alone or in combination, these are the perfect ingredients for me to shut down…and in such a moment, I have EVERYTHING to lose.


On Monday I learned, along with my fellow Climate Riders, that rain is in next week’s forecast…for at least 3 of the 5 days.  “Oh, Nooooooooo,” the voice reverberated though my head.  It was fear kicking-in and I began to shut down.  …THEN, I remembered how just the day before, I’d spent the morning cycling in the rain.  I re-visited the experience in my mind: I was dry beneath my windbreaker; the redwood trees above leant extra shelter from the falling drops; my brakes responded perfectly, and my friends and I arrived safely at our destination.  Truth be told, many moments of the ride were beautifully pleasant!  Hmmmm….


Riding between raindrops, Hwy 1

Before climate change began, it was fairly safe to presume September and early October were rain-free times in Northern California.  And while rain isn’t exactly a problem, I tend to believe that climate change is.  I could be wrong, so I will hold the question openly, trying to notice when my fear or righteous indignation kick-in.  I will try instead, for these next 5 days to un-self-consciously, sing in the rain and practice the instructions offered above by the Venerable Gunaratana, “Rejoice, dive in and investigate.”


I believe that responding to climate change is a GROUP activity.  I know most of you agree because the support you’ve shown me in my fundraising these past months has been incredible.  You’ve already done so much, and I encourage you to ride along next week.  Let’s rejoice, dive in and investigate this beautiful, messy, amazing world of ours together!  Reportedly, cell and wireless service is spotty at BEST along our coastal route, but should the cell gods and goddesses smile, check my Google Plus posts.  Don’t worry!  If a techno-phob like me can do it, you can too.

Bien Viaje!


Alright, I’m off…but, wait!  You’re still caught in winners/losers suspense, huh?  I came in 2nd and won a trip to Glacier National Park!  How fun is that??  Thanks for all your support!