Friday, January 30, 2015


Once upon a time, long ago and far away in the peaceful, prosperous Italian town of Gubbio, the citizens woke to the grisly sight of a young woman's badly mangled body lying on the street, bearing clear signs of having been gnawed on. No one knew what had happened. But a few nights later, it occurred again to an elderly man; and later a child, and then another. People were frightened, not knowing who or what was responsible for these horrible deaths.

Finally, an old woman reported seeing a large wolf slinking through the shadows on a side street, causing even more fear. No one was willing to have anything to do with the beast, much less hunt it down. So the terrified townsfolk decided to seek out a holy man who lived in the region, because he had a reputation for being able to communicate with animals, and they thought he might be able to help the town deal with this nightmare.

A delegation arrived at the abbey where St. Francis lived, and asked him to talk to the wolf about obeying the commandment against killing, or, better yet, stay in the forest where wolves belong. Francis did as he was asked, went into the forest and met the wolf, addressing it as "Brother Wolf." Afterwards, he went to the town square and spoke to the anxious citizens gathered there, saying "Good people of Gubbio, the solution is quite simple: you must feed your wolf."

The townsfolk were outraged at the notion of feeding the beast, much less acknowledging it as "their wolf." But not having any other solution at hand, they followed Francis' advice and began feeding "their wolf" - and the killing stopped, leaving the people of Gubbio to live in peace again.

When I first heard this story years ago, it was just another interesting, historical and perhaps apocryphal anecdote about St. Francis. But these days this legend speaks to me at a deeper level because, as difficult as it has been, I've gradually learned the importance of recognizing the presence of the "hungry wolf" that comes prowling through the streets and alleys of my life from time to time.

Mostly it tends to remain a nameless, shapeless fear that lurks in the shadows of my mind, something I'd rather not face or deal with. Very rarely is my fear based on an immediate danger (a raging fire, a coiled rattlesnake, a medical emergency). Almost always, it takes the vague, shadowy form of am unspecified feeling of unworthiness; a wringing concern about money; a bottomless well of worries about an upcoming event.

Whatever form it takes, if left unattended, it can eventually sneak into my body and leave me exhausted, perhaps even sick. More often, it simply devours big chunks of precious time and energy that are spent being unfocused, stressed and depressed.

As far as I know, there's no way to kill it, medicate it or chase it away, although heaven knows I've tried such strategies often. Because the very act of attacking it in any way simply allows it to steal more and more of my time and energy. It's much healthier - and in the long run - much easier to face this "wolf" directly; to acknowledge it's presence, recognize it as "my" wolf and "feed" it with compassionate, non-judgmental attention, without getting caught up in the made-for-reality-TV drama of it all. Then, and only then, is the wolf free to slink back into the distant, misty forest of old memories, habits and patterns that it came from...

Granted, that's much easier said than done. It takes time, patience and persistence to develop the ability to see the wolf for the imaginary, self-constructed concept that it is. And it takes some degree of practiced skill to feed it with loving, non-resistance, from a space of compassionate detachment. I certainly haven't perfected this approach, and still find myself fighting the wolf more often than I'd care to admit. But at least I've learned to recognize the symptoms of the Wolf Attack Syndrome more quickly than before.

Fortunately, I've also learned that I don't have to face the wolf alone, because Spirit is ever-present in the process, if I'll just remember to attune to the Presence through prayer and reflection. And that each time the wolf appears is actually a gift, providing another valuable opportunity to grow. That one of the benefits of having a regular meditation practice is that it helps develop that part of the Inner Self that is capable of observing circumstances unfold on the outer plane, without judgment or needing to change things. And that it's helpful to be part of a spiritual community, full of loving companions who can remind me about the truth when I forget what the wolf is (finite, illusory, powerless) and who I AM (infinite, loving, powerful).

Thank you for being part of that community. I trust that you, too, feel that the Celebration Circle helps you deal with challenges as they arise. Whether you live locally or far away, attend Circle events often or not, your love and support play an integral part in helping me, and countless other individuals, remain focused on the positive power of unconditional love, which is more than a match for any "wolf" or challenging circumstance. At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

With blessings,


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lesson about humanity

I've been writing a piece in this Around the Circle space just about every week for the past seven years, and hope to continue doing so for a long time to come, because it's one of the favorite parts of my work with the Circle. But when Zet and I read the commentary (below) that Sonia Lopez posted about her experience at the MLK March, it felt like something we wanted share with the wider Circle community, because it's such a wonderful illustration of the practical applications of spiritual principles in daily life, which lie at the heart of what the Circle is all about. Sonia is the Development Director/Volunteer Coordinator at Haven for Hope (, a place for people experiencing homelessness in San Antonio. She is also a yoga instructor teaching classes for children at the Southtown Yoga Loft ( She and her husband, David, and their children, Zach and Olivia are an integral part of the Circle family, and have been instrumental in fostering the growing energy of our Children's Circle program.
              With rich blessings,

There was a lesson about humanity hidden inside of today's MLK March for me and my friend, Emily. It started with two moms' ideal, romanticized version of what an over-three-mile walk would be like with our four kids. I don't know about Emily, but I envisioned my little ones gasping in disbelief at the immensity of the crowd gathered to pay tribute. I fast-forwarded to when they were thirty years old, citing today as a positively pivotal moment in their childhoods. I think there may have even been a song playing in the backdrop..."Wind Beneath My Wings" or something like it.

Instead, we soon realized that three miles can feel more like a twenty-mile-hike to little legs, that a wagon is hell-on-wheels when you're pointed uphill, paletas will give the kids a sugar rush and it's a good idea to note where you parked your car...that is, if you want to get home.

At the end of the march, we were human. We were hungry, tired, and frustrated. So we practiced humanity. We laughed, we hugged and we thanked each other. Because, no matter what, inside of every circumstance, we should always at least try to choose love.

Emily, Lilah, Olivia, Sonia, Zach & Charlie in their wagon at the MLK March 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015


           The photo of Barbara (pictured left) isn't a very good one, and doesn't begin to do justice to her radiance and beauty, much less the grace and enthusiasm with which she was dancing to the beat of "La Bamba" at the time this photo was taken. Hopefully you can still see the sheer joy of movement she was expressing. But what you probably can't see very well is the wheelchair in the background, and therein lies a tale.
            Ever since moving into a nursing home several years ago, Barbara has spent most of her time confined to that wheelchair. According to her, it had been "a long, long time" since she'd last danced, but there she was, rising up out of that wheel chair, swinging and shimmying from side to side with the sweetest smile imaginable.
            I went to that nursing home to perform a concert sponsored by the Texas Music Heritage Foundation of Kerrville,
, an amazing non-profit organization founded by writer and musicologist, Kathleen Hudson, who is fully committed to reminding people that "telling stories and singing songs make a difference." I've enjoyed performing a number of these THMF shows at various residential care centers and educational settings, and each has proven to be an interesting adventure in letting go of limited beliefs and expectations.

            The residential center where Barbara lives was actually the last of the three different residential care facilities where I was scheduled to perform that day. The first one had been a particularly tough audience to engage, due to the fact that the majority of the 25 people "attending" were actually fast asleep in their wheel chairs, and all but a few of the ones who were awake didn't seem very interested in listening to me play in their dining room, much less participating. Still, I take seriously the biblical reminder that wonderful things are possible "wherever two or more are gathered in the name of Love," so I just focused intently on the three that were interested initially, until eventually the good vibes we generated rippled through the room and a few others joined in the fun, too.
            Afterwards, the THMF Program Director and the facility's Activities Director both declared the event a success, but I felt pretty bummed out, because it had been so challenging I wasn't at all sure that I had enough energy left to perform at the two other facilities scheduled later that afternoon. But as I sat eating lunch at a local café, I realized my mistake:  I'd been trying too hard to "make it happen" by myself, by sheer force of willpower and stagecraft, rather than simply sharing my music as skillfully as possible without being attached to how much the audience members did or did not like the tunes.

            So in the space between lunch and my next show, I did my best to arrive with an open heart, prepared to meet the residents wherever they were energetically and let go of my expectations and desired outcomes. Sure enough, both shows were much more enjoyable for me and everyone else involved, ending with the singular sight of Barbara rising up out of her wheelchair, ever so slowly and precariously, before she was finally able to get on her feet. There she was, careening to the beat of "La Bamba", lurching through a series of scary-looking balancing acts that spontaneously morphed into a heart-achingly enthusiastic dance, causing several nurses, administrators and maintenance staffers to coming running down the hall in amazement as word rapidly spread through the ward, "Barbara's up out of her wheelchair and dancing!!!"
            I've been blessed to receive many standing ovations during my career, but this was by far the most rewarding one in memory. Thank you, Barbara, for demonstrating the true power of trust and Spirit in action!

With joy,


Friday, January 16, 2015


           It's one of those beautiful, sunny winter days that the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce likes to brag about to would-be visitors from up north. It's just 65 degrees, but it feels much warmer under clear blue skies as a slow, soft, southerly breeze prevails, ahead of the cold front forecast to blow into town tomorrow night. I can't help but grin from within as I review the many personal and professional blessings swirling through my life.
            A number of frisky squirrels, dogs, cardinals and honeybees are delighting in the gloriousness of this day while I take advantage of this magnificent sunshine to hang a load of laundry on the clothesline, pick some fresh collard greens and green onions from the garden for tonight's pot of soup, and cover our herb garden in advance of tomorrow's plunge of temperatures into the mid-20's.

            Even something as simple as hanging the clothes on the line, one garment at a time, feels like a totally luxurious experience as I become mindful of the movements involved, grateful for the ease of motion in a healthy body, thankful for the resources to buy, wear and care for these clothes.
            Looking down into the grass, I unexpectedly encounter several patches of arugula growing wild beneath my feet, and harvest some of it for a salad to eat with our soup, too. Sometimes called "salad rocket" or "roquette", these tasty greens have a rich, savory flavor that can fetch top dollar in gourmet markets, but here they are, growing wild and free for the taking, right in our back yard.

            Writing these words while basking in the sunshine, I'm grateful for the freshness of the New Year and the first full moon of 2015. It makes my heart smile to think of the many blessings we've been experiencing in the Circle community recently, beginning with the strong wave of positive energy that was generated in last Sunday's Morning Circle, when we officially moved into our new meeting location at Say Sí.  It was so stimulating to write our Letters of Affirmation while seated in the new gallery wing of this inspiring art institute, surrounded by the creative energies of the many talented teenagers who explore, express and exhibit their artistry here. I can't help but believe that the seeds of consciousness planted in those self-addressed letters we wrote on Sunday will bear marvelous fruit in many different ways in the days and months to come.

            It's also exciting to be meeting once again in the historic, arts and cultural district that is the King William neighborhood. Ironically, it's just across the intersection from JumpStart Theater, where we met from July 2005 through November 2013. Only this time our meeting space is an art gallery that is bright, colorful and full of natural light, instead of being a black-box theater.
            And it's very affirming to know that our Year-End Fundraising Campaign was such a success, with a final tally of $9,600 that surpassed our goal of erasing the deficit in our 2014 Operations Fund and helped us start 2015 on firm financial footing.

            As we prepare to enter the 23rd year of sharing our co-creative approach to spirituality in South Texas and beyond, it's heartwarming to feel like we're basking in the radiant light of love flowing through our community. I hope that you, too, feel yourself flourishing in the ever-expanding field of possibilities that is the Celebration Circle - as we continue to cultivate this rich field together.

With gratitude and blessings,

Saturday, January 3, 2015


          Each December, right before the winter holiday break, a friend of mine used to ask the students in her high school creative writing classes to make three separate lists of the things they'd like to (1) stop doing, (2) start doing and (3) keep doing in the new year. Invariably, she found the majority of her students could readily identify a long list of things they wanted to quit doing, but found it much harder to create a list of positive goals they wanted to set. Moreover, very few could describe what they were doing well and wanted to continue doing. 

            Does that sound familiar? Many of us are like those high school students: although we're quick to criticize our past and vaguely hopeful about our future, we generally don't give ourselves much credit for what's going well in our lives at present. 
            I believe that's why most people's New Year's resolutions are doomed to failure: because they involve a high degree of judgement and rejection of the past in favor of some elusive, golden-hued, hoped-for future that isn't really anchored in the present tense.
            Heading into the new calendar year, there is such a strong cultural bias towards making New Year's Resolutions, focusing on a fresh start, beginning a new diet, creating a budget, clearing clutter, finding a new relationship, etc. As laudable and desirable as such goals might be, I believe it's equally important to be grateful for those aspects of our lives which are currently going well. To be patient, kind and accepting of ourselves just as we are in the present tense, before trying to "improve" ourselves by creating a field of affirmation for a possible future. Only then do we have a firm foundation on which to build our field of dreams.

            That's why I hope you can join us for the first Sunday Morning Circle of the New Year, as we examine the subtle-but-important differences between setting New Year's resolutions and affirmations; between creating goals and holding a vision; between wants and desires. As we do so, we'll focus on embracing the goodness in our lives as the basis for a group process of writing letters of vision and affirmation to ourselves for the coming year.    
            Then, at the end of the morning, you'll be invited to place the letter you've written to yourself in a sealed, self-addressed envelope, which we'll hold for you throughout the year, then mail back to you in December.

            If you've already done this with us in past years, you know what a powerful exercise this can be - and will want to be there. And if not, you're in for a special treat. Either way, please do plan to be there and join in the process of affirmation with us. The first Sunday Morning Circle of the year has always been a powerful, high-energy occasion - but it should be extra-special this time, because we'll be meeting at our new location in the spacious, light-filled art gallery at Say Sí. What a great way to start the New Year! I sure hope you can join us there. I promise that you'll be glad you did!

With blessings and best wishes for a healthy, happy New Year,

PS:  Speaking of things that are going well, I'm delighted to report that we have not only met, but exceeded our goal of raising $8,000 through our Year-End Giving Campaign. As of December 31st, we had received $9,604, which enabled us to finish our fiscal year in the black and begin the New Year on a firm financial footing. Many thanks to all of those whose generosity made this possible, with special gratitude to Betty Franklin, our hard-working President of the Council of Stewards for initiating the Campaign and holding the vision!