Saturday, March 28, 2015


      It's Monday, my day off, with nothing on the schedule. It's a good thing, too, because I'm really tired, after a rewarding but action-packed week, followed by a mighty full weekend of Circle events. Looking forward to spending the day outdoors, maybe going for a walk, or laying out in yard, playing guitar or pushing my pen over some blank sheets of paper for the sheer pleasure of non-goal-directed creativity.

            There's just one small task that lies between me and this delicious day off: a trip to the Bulk Mail department at the main post office to deliver four large trays of envelopes that a dozen, sweet volunteers helped process yesterday. No big deal; if I'm lucky, the drop-off will take just a few minutes, and perhaps I'll use the cross-town drive as an excuse to go to a movie or a hike through Hardberger Park. Nice ideas.



            But when I start carrying the trays of mail out to the car, I notice that we forgot to include the words "Return Service Requested" under our return address when these new envelopes were printed. Arrrggghh!! Without this "ancillary service endorsement," the post office won't accept this as bulk mail. Meaning I'll either have to spend $420 buying and affixing 854 first class stamps (NOT!), or handwrite the qualifying phrase on each envelope. Bummer.

            Instantly, the brightly colored visions of my fantasy day off disappear and my mood turns sour, imagining the hours of work involved in unpacking, handwriting and repacking all this mail. Kicking myself for failing to notice this detail earlier, at the print shop. Or at least yesterday, when there were a dozen friendly volunteers who could have helped with this daunting task.



            Of course, I could get on the phone now and try to round up some Circle friends to come help, but what are the chances of succeeding on such short notice on a workday? Slim to none. If I called enough folks, it probably could happen tonight or tomorrow, but that would mean delaying the mailing for another day or two, which feels unacceptable, too. "Got to do it today, got to do it alone, " mutters my ever-diligent Monkey Mind.

            Feeling dumb, glum and sorry for myself, I begin to settle into the task at hand, when suddenly I remember that this very same thing had happened a couple of years ago - and that Zet had a "Return Service Requested" rubber stamp made for the occasion. Sure enough, not only does it turn up after a quick search through the office supply closet, but the built-in inkpad is still moist, too.  Maybe this won't be so bad after all.

            The mood shifts and I decide to embrace this bulk mailing process as a gift. Why not make it fun? We still have a nice assortment of crackers and imported cheeses left over from a recent party; then add some almonds and a few of those fresh-picked, organic strawberries we got at the farmers market on Saturday. And why not a glass of that tasty Prosecco left over from the party, too?



            With this nice lunch in hand, and a fresh feeling in my heart, I start rubber-stamping the first handful of envelopes and immediately begin smiling as several of the names on the address labels jump right off the page, bringing sweet thoughts and memories to mind. There's Barbara's husky voice, laughing at her own goofy jokes. And my very tall, friend Mark, leaning down to hug me. David and Karen, standing on the front porch of their cabin; Daniel's impish grin; Kat's wise words; Thom's artistry; Bill and Jana's garden. The list goes on and on, and I'm pleasantly surprised to find distinct memories embedded in the vast majority of these individual names, and by the feelings of love, support and generosity that comes pouring through them, too.

            Twenty-three years and thousands of details later, it is all too easy to get caught up in "the work" of the Circle, and overlook the love involved. But not this time! Because this is no longer a boring clerical task, but a rich opportunity to reconnect with so many loved ones, and the gift of their sustained friendship and support of the Celebration Circle. 

            Two hours later, the work is done, and the mailing trays have been handed off to the friendliest post office clerk I've ever met. Now I clearly see that this "printing error" was actually a very special gift in disguise; iinstead of being just another bulk mailing, this was truly a Special Delivery, hand-addressed to me. And if you're on our mailing list, and receive one of those hand-stamped envelopes, I really hope you can feel the joy with which it was mailed to you!


With gratitude and blessings,


Wednesday, March 18, 2015


            Once again, our family didn't go anywhere or do anything special for Spring Break this year. No trip to the Gulf coast or Big Bend. No major house-maintenance project. Instead, we just took advantage of those few days when our teenager didn't have to go to school, and Zet didn't have to work as much as usual, in order to hang out at home, alone together. "Just chilling," as our son might say.

            Now that Mateo is a sophomore with his own interests, we don't get to hang out together as a family very often, so it was delicious to simply be around each other, moving through separate orbits that intersected periodically during the course of the week. Taking naps. Going for long walks through our neighborhood. Watching a movie on Netflix. Cooking favorite foods.

            But the thing I enjoyed most was sitting quietly outdoors for a few minutes at a time. Not "doing" anything. Just sitting without a purpose. Not even meditating, breathing consciously or doing Tai Chi Chuan or any of the other re-energizing spiritual practices that I often do. This was different. Just doing absolutely nothing. No big deal. Simply sitting silently for a bit, observing the breeze stirring the trees, the clouds swirling in slow motion, birds flitting around building nests.
         Stepping outside of the whirlwind of accomplishing tasks and accumulating treasures that seems to consume so much of my time and energy. Watching as the budding leaves seem to sprout from the bare branches right before my very eyes. Placing my bare feet on the earth, feeling the delicious combination of the cool, green grass below, the bright, warm sun above and sweet, crisp air all around, taking my breath away time and again, with the sheer freshness of it all.
         It seems to me that this is prayer in the broadest, deepest sense: sitting in silence and contemplating the magnificence of creation, unfolding within and around us. Moving beyond the limited, linear thinking of daily routines into the limitless vastness of the Divine, being made manifest everywhere I look, if only I'm willing to see with fresh eyes.

           It feels great to take such a "Spring Brake" periodically. As in putting on the brakes. Pausing long enough to get grounded by physically connecting with ourselves, with our surroundings, with Mother Earth, and simply feeling grateful for all of it. Ahhh... 
          I really hope you that you have had (or will have) a chance to do something similar, too. I believe this weekend is a particularly auspicious time for doing so, because the Spring Equinox is the time when day and night are of equal length, calling forth a sense of balance between light and dark, life and death, creating and resting. So if you haven't done so yet, let this be your invitation to step outside sometime soon! 
          One option I hope you'll consider in the spirit of celebrating the Spring Equinox is joining me and seven of my favorite musical friends at the Cave Without a Name this Saturday night, as we engage in a powerful time of celebration and meditation in the magnificent setting of the Queen's Throne Room, deep within the earth. I can't think of a better time or place for experiencing a Spring Brake!  For tickets and more information,

         But wherever you are, whatever you do, may you and All Beings be blessed by your willingness to experience and express the sense of balance, freshness and aliveness permeating the air at this rich and vital time.

 With joy,       

Sunday, March 15, 2015


 It's one of those mornings when I just can't seem to get into gear. Having returned from a two-day, mini-retreat that Zet and I had enjoyed in the Hill Country a few days earlier, I'm clearly crashing from the beautiful buzz I got from that delicious time in Mother Nature, breathing in clean, fresh air while wrapped in a velvet blanket of silence.



            I'm trying to get back into the routine of city life, but having washed the breakfast dishes, made the bed and walked the dogs, I'm putting off the inevitable need to get back to my desk and face up to the big pile of tasks and deadlines awaiting action. Unable to get any traction, I go outside to clear my head with a few minutes of grounding meditation, but quickly find myself getting bummed out by the depressing sound of rush-hour traffic nearby and the sickening sight of the smoggy sky. How I long to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head!



            But then I remember the spell-binding sight of the zillions of stars we'd seen in the Hill Country sky just a few nights before, and a doorway opens in the back corner of my mind. Yes, of course, all of those stars are still shining brightly, right here, right now! They might be invisible to my naked eye in this smoggy, day sky - but that doesn't mean they're not there, shining just as brightly as ever. And suddenly, I'm not feeling so sad or alone, and a warm, familiar feeling comes flooding through my heart and into my bones.

            A few seconds later a brand new song comes floating through my mind and I find myself singing along, feeling stronger and more centered, more willing to do what needs to be done, with renewed zest for whatever comes next...



            I can't really explain it, and I'm certainly won't claim that all the lyrics are necessarily true - or not. I'll leave that up to you to decide. All I know is that writing and singing this tune over the past few days has left me feeling more energized and deeply connected, and I would like to share that feeling with you. So, here are the lyrics, and there's a 4-minute video recording at the beginning of this column that you're invited to view and/or share, in hopes that others might find it helpful, too.


                 SOUL DESTINY

When I open my heart to the morning sky,

and the stars I can no longer see

Still shining as bright as they were last night,

still pouring their light down on me

I can feel in my bones, that I'm not alone,

for there's a star where my tribe waits for me

somewhere deep in outer space,

in some far off galaxy


Where my soul sisters and soul brothers,

are beaming a message to me

saying welcome home, whenever you return,

but for now you won't you please learn to see

that this tiny planet Earth, which has given you birth

in this lifetime, that's where you're meant to be

though it often feels wrong,

and those feelings can get strong,

it's just part of your Soul Destiny


Far out in space, there's a being with a face

that may not look much like mine

but deep down inside there's a bright golden light

being broadcast across space and time

we're so far apart, when measured in miles

and yet we share sparks without words or smiles

far beyond thoughts or things we can see

there's a way of knowing that sets my soul free


Sometimes confused, sometimes so scared

sometimes I wonder, why bother to care

in a world where we blunder and get pushed to the brink

why must I stay here where life often stinks

polluted by hatred, war and greed

where the air is so dirty, it getting harder to breathe

I don't have the answers, but one thing I know

there's work to be done here, before I can go


As I open my heart to the morning sky

and the stars I can no longer see

I just know that it's true that far, far away

in some distant galaxy

there's a place where my tribe will welcome me home

whenever that time may arrive

but until that day comes, I simply give thanks

for the gift of being alive


(words and music by Rudi Harst © 2015)

With joy, 


Saturday, March 7, 2015


           The freight train comes rumbling down the railroad tracks that lie a few hundred yards east of our house, shattering the pre-dawn silence. It rattles our windows and shakes the walls as it crawls toward Deely Station, the City Public Service-owned power plant located just nine miles south of here. I ought to be used to the sound of those four diesel-powered locomotives hauling 120 open-top gondola cars filled with coal through our neighborhood, but I'm not, even though it happens at least twice a day during the winter, with trains arriving from somewhere far up north (Montana? New Mexico? North Texas? I don't know). I start to beat myself up, thinking I should know this, then remember I shouldn't be should-ing myself... Yikes! My Monkey Mind is clearly in overdrive.

            I've been sitting at my desk for awhile, engaged in meditation, trying to still my mind, but give up after I find myself fretting once again about the environmental consequences of the hundreds of thousands of tons of coal required to fire the Deely Station every single day. Worrying about living downwind from the plant, which is slated for closure in 2018 because it emits more mercury than is allowed under new EPA standards. Thinking that I really should be more active in local politics, in order to help shift our city's continuing reliance on fossil fuels. Oops! There's that word "should" again!
            But then, I remind myself, that it's the same coal that's providing the electricity to light up this desk and write; it's propane that keeps this room warm enough to sit here comfortably, even as I worry about the environmental devastation wrought by our culture's collective over-reliance on non-renewable, carbon-based fuels.

            Meanwhile, the train keeps rolling on, as my dog casts his best begging look at me, eager to go outside for our morning walk, while my breakfast is simmering on the gas-fired stove, along with the hot water for my tea. I stare back at him between snatches of writing, catching myself in the absurdity of acting like I know what's good for the earth, while he and my breakfast both sit waiting for me to come back to this moment and do the only thing I have any real control over: pay attention to what needs to be done now. Right now.
            That means giving up the illusion that I can make any major changes to our domination-based, consumption-driven economy at this particular moment, although it would help if I simply turned off the overhead light and turned down the gas-fired stove, neither of which I really need right now. Soon enough it will be time to start in on today's To-Do list, to do what I can to help co-create a new cultural story about who we are and what we're here to do in relationship to ourselves, each other and Mother Earth.

            But for now, my task is simply to focus attention on chewing my food as slowly as I can, being grateful for this plate of eggs and veggies, cooked to perfection, and being mindful of the gift of sitting in this warm, well-stocked kitchen. As the tail-end of the train rolls off into the distance, I turn and face east, seeing the first rays of sun pop up over the horizon, and I give thanks for this new day, this new chance to choose again.

With joy, and hopes that you, too, find yourself feeling grateful for the many blessings of your life,

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


             I'm sitting on a stone bench that's perched high up on a hilltop overlooking a vast expanse of the Frio River Valley in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, witnessing a particularly spectacular sunset. Stunned into submission by the sheer magnitude of the breath-taking beauty sprawled out below, above and all around, even my Monkey Mind is being forced to take a break from his usual non-stop routine, being surrounded by such incontrovertible proof of the relative insignificance of human existence in the big scheme of things. Ahhhh, such peace...

            Zet and I are very blessed to have been gifted with two days of unplugged bliss at the Wayfarer's Cottage, an isolated spiritual retreat setting located just a two-hour drive from our house, but at least a million miles away from our demanding work schedule, our sweet-but-still-challenging teenage son, our endless To-Do lists. Just a couple of hours into our 48-hour respite here, I can already feel a sense of deep relief: shoulders softening, heart opening, attention sinking down through my groin, into legs and feet, feeling their sweet connection to Mother Earth.
            Leaning over, I pick up a flat piece of limestone that contains the clear impressions of fossilized seashells, a mind-boggling reminder that many eons ago, this high-and-dry hilltop where I'm sitting now was once part of a vast ocean floor. Mesmerized by implications of this rock and the incomprehensible scale of geological changes involved in turning this very spot from a sea-bottom into a hilltop, I almost missed that magical moment when the Evening Star first appeared. Very faint at first, then brighter, then joined by three more ever-so-faint twinkles sprinkled across the heavens.

            Before I can even seem to catch my breath properly, this sparkling handful of jewels is rapidly joined by a dozen, then scores, then millions of other stars. Theoretically, a person with 20/20 vision can see  no more that about 8,000-10,000 stars with the naked eye, even under the best of conditions. But it sure seems like I'm seeing millions of them now - when they were all completely invisible to me just a few short minutes of daylight ago. How can that possibly be?
            For that matter, how is it possible that any one of those tiny little dots I can barely see could actually be a whole galaxy? That it might be as large or larger than the Milky Way, "our" galaxy, which is actually a fairly small galaxy, although it contains approximately 400 billion stars, each one of them a "close cousin" of our Sun... When I was a high school student in the 1960's, I remember being wonderstruck when my science teacher explained that there might be hundreds of other galaxies in the universe besides ours. Just three decades later, the Hubble Telescope unveiled the existence of 100,000,000,000 galaxies; while the most recent measurements seem to indicate at least two or three times that many, perhaps far more. Given that we didn't even know there were any galaxies until 1923, when Edwin Hubble first pierced our collective presumption that all those heavenly bodies were individual stars, the only thing we can be sure of is that we have still have a very limited view of what's really out there.

            Living as we do, in an increasingly urbanized lifestyle, where our houses, cars and shopping centers keep erasing more and more of the darkness with their light pollution, while covering up more acres of soil with asphalt and concrete, it is all to easy to take the few stars we can still see for granted. To dismiss the beauty, majesty and mystery of truly seeing the Earth and sky as being unimportant, compared to the economic benefits of destroying it. Yet, how can we stay fully grounded as humans if we've robbed ourselves of the opportunity to stare up in amazement at the infinity of Beingness raining down on us from the ever-expanding Universe? How can we claim our birthright, if we've forgotten what it looks like, stretching from horizon to horizon, far beyond what our eyes can see or our logical minds can comprehend?
            Is it any wonder that we tend to scramble so diligently, trying to beat/cheat/compete for a seemingly shrinking pile of limited resources, when we've forgotten the importance of looking up at the sky and remembering that we are all rightful heirs to the limitless abundance of the universe?

            But... now that the sun's been down for a while, it's getting mighty cold out here. Time to go back inside the cottage, warm up by the fireplace, eat some dinner. I push my hat down a little further, wrap my scarf a little closer, take one last look around, absorbing all the light, beauty and energy I can, while mumbling a little prayer to mySelf: 
            "May I remember to look up into the sky more often, to see what I can - and cannot - see. Wherever I am, may I be reminded that whether it's midnight or high noon, the sky is always full of stars, pointing beyond the limits of my perception, silently urging me to join them on the journey beyond boundaries.
            May I reach down to connect with the earth as often as I can, and make physical contact with the fact that every single pebble, every grain of sand I touch has migrated to that spot from somewhere else in the universe at some point in time - a fact that my mind will never fully comprehend, my body will never forget, and my soul will never cease to treasure.
            And may all beings be blessed by my willingness to remember and experience this.

With joy,