Friday, July 22, 2016


    It was the last day of my sophomore year in high school, and I was helping my biology teacher clean out his supply closet. Somehow, moisture from an AC vent had leaked into a cardboard box full of mimeograph paper, which had gotten wet and moldy, so my teacher told me to throw it away. But on my way to the trashcan, I noticed the only the top two reams had gotten soaked; the rest of the paper was fine. I asked if I could keep it, and could scarcely believe my good fortune when he said yes.
     I'd grown up in a very frugal household, where money was scarce and school supplies were always doled out carefully to my five brothers and me. We had a clear mandate to waste as little paper as possible, and use it only for school assignments. Moreover, the sheets of loose-leaf notebook paper that we received were always imprinted with a cage of thin blue, horizontal lines and clearly defined red-lined margins that dictated the linear trajectory our sentences were supposed to travel.
     But, suddenly, I'd been gifted with a virtually unlimited supply of clean, white, unlined sheets of paper to use as I wished - and I had three months of summer vacation in which to experiment, too. Freed of the need to conserve paper, much less write in straight lines on assigned topics, my writing hand took off running for the white open spaces. Soon I was filling page after page with words of multiple shapes and sizes, scrambling all over themselves while trying to make sense of the world and my place in it. I was sixteen, and it was 1968, when a seismic shift in social and cultural assumptions was knocking down walls and boundaries throughout the country, even in small, rural Texas towns like the one where I was raised.
     Having recently been introduced to rambunctious writers like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, e e  cummings, Pablo Neruda and Dylan Thomas, my stiff prose paragraphs quickly gave way to a non-stop stream of pubescent poetry and song lyrics. It was mighty exciting to watch my verses go sprawling off at random angles while I wrestled with the Big Questions that had taken over my rambling, teenage mind. And while those early explorations were undoubtedly clumsy, that paper trail marked a trajectory I've been following ever since: writing for the sheer pleasure of exploring, expanding and expressing the personal, cultural and spiritual stories arising within and around me.
     Forty-eight years later, I continue to be astounded by the boundless power of a blank sheet of paper, with its open-ended challenge to let my thoughts and perceptions stretch out in any direction I dare to travel. I'm also deeply grateful to have this safe outlet for the many raw emotions that frequently arise in response to a world that often seems to be unraveling right before my eyes.  At a time when I can feel overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of information and connections that digital technology delivers day after day, a clean, white sheet of paper offers a consistently gentle way to communicate clearly with the one person I seem to have the most trouble connecting with: myself.
     Does any of this ring a bell for you? Or does it sound a little crazy and/or self-indulgent? Either way, please consider giving yourself the gift of some quiet time with a pen and a few sheets of unlined paper - and see what emerges. Or perhaps you'd rather follow your urge to paint, sing, dance or swim. In any case, I hope you'll find some time this summer to express yourself in ways that are deeply satisfying to you. After all, it's never too late to have a happy adulthood!

With gratitude and blessings,

    PS: In the spirit of joyful expression, I'll be performing in concert tonight, July 22) with Rudi + the Rudiments at the Unity Church of New Braunfels, located at 408 Gruene Road, 78130. I hope you can join us for this special evening of love and laughter. And if you happen to have any friends or family who live in the New Braunfels area, please let them know about it, too. Big Fun will be had! For more info,

to all who are holding the Circle in thoughts and prayers by visualizing a generous flow of financial abundance. And thanks to those who have responded to our appeal for donations to help us move through this temporary financial low spot. To date we have received $2,033 in gifts. Thank you for supporting us in dancing through the coming months, as we continue our vital work of fostering a creative, inclusive approach to spirituality. We are deeply grateful.!donate/c23y 


Monday, July 18, 2016


   Imagine you're at a movie theater, watching a fine film you've been looking forward to seeing, featuring a great script and one of your favorite actors.  You're having a good time when, suddenly, you feel a piece of popcorn wedged between your teeth, way in the back of your mouth. You poke at it with your tongue again and again, but it doesn't budge. Looking around to make sure no one's watching, you discretely attempt dislodging it with your fingers, but it stays stuck. You do your best to ignore it and focus on the film. No luck. You just can't seem to quit poking at that darned thing intermittently. So there you sit:  having paid good money to see a spell-binding, big-budget, action-packed film which you can't even enjoy, because all you can think about is this irritating thing stuck between your teeth. 

     It's no big deal. Normally, you could easily fix the problem with a toothpick or dental floss -- but you don't have any, nor are you willing to miss any of the movie by going out into the lobby to do something about it. But neither can you really enjoy the movie, because that #$%#$ popcorn hull won't go away. You, my friend, are officially stuck in the dreaded Popcorn Conundrum Zone.    
     Unfortunately, the PCZ is not limited to movie theaters. It can appear without warning in the midst of almost anyone's otherwise pleasant life, perhaps even yours. There you are, with more than enough to eat, a reasonably comfortable place to live, enjoying relatively good health. And yet... there's that one thought about one particular problem that somehow gets stuck between those dull teeth grinding away in the back of your brain, and no amount of mental floss can keep it from bugging you, over and over again. Whether it's a major financial crisis or a minor grievance against a co-worker that you're stewing over, each time the "popcorn hull" tugs at your attention, you probe the possibilities of doing something about it and get frazzled from worrying about it. But, then, realizing there's nothing you can really do about it in the moment, you glumly stash it away in a distant corner of your mind and do your best to forget about it, until the next time it pops up.   

     So what can you do about that yucky feeling of being stuck in the PCZ? How to get back to enjoying the amazing, technicolor movie that is your life? Well, I don't pretend to know all of the options, much less be able to present you with The Right Answer. But I do have a couple of clues to share. The first is to become aware of your breath and relax. The simple act of making this choice to engage in the conscious act of breathing, rather than continuing to ramble down the subconscious path of random worrying, restores a sense of balance. Focusing on your breath tends to slow your heart beat, enables you to connect with whatever sensations and feelings are present in your body, and come to peace with them for the moment -- rather than simply stash them away along with your grumpy resignation, thereby creating an even bigger piece of popcorn. 
     In addition to lowering your immediate sense of stress, restoring peace and raising the health of your immune system, engaging in this process of choosing to focus on your breath and relaxing creates an inner spaciousness, along with an enhanced possibility of receiving some new insight around the situation.

     I've had multiple opportunities to practice this process inside the PCZ myself in the past few weeks, ever since we discovered that the Circle didn't have enough money left in our Operating Account to pay all our bills for July. This is the first time that's happened since the global financial shakeup of 2008, and my mind immediately went into overdrive with worries, fretting about the possible causes, fixes and changes in the Circle that this fiscal shortfall implies. 
     Perhaps you remember those old-fashioned popcorn balls, stuck together with salt and syrup, that we used to get in our Trick or Treat bag in the days before Halloween became a potential source of danger.  Well, sometimes I felt like I had a whole one of those popcorn balls lodged in my throat! Time and again the "popcorn" in my mind has taken over the forefront of my attention, falling into thoughts of fear and lack. But, time and again, I choose to relax and take action by engaging in the process of softening my breath and opening into the field of infinite possibilities. 
     Has the financial shortfall been solved? Not completely. Have I found peace with it?Mostly. Do I still find myself in the PCZ? Periodically, but not nearly as often as before. And that's just how it is. But I have absolute faith that all is well and all shall be well. And that as I keep relaxing and opening to new possibilities in my way, and Zet does it in her way, and you do it in your way, the Circle community will find a good way forward. I don't know what that means, exactly, but I trust it nonetheless, and affirm that this situation, however uncomfortable and unsettling as it may feel, is a gift - something to be welcomed, embraced and learned from. 

     I do know that when we sent out a request for donations in this Around the Circle space last week, we received $1,650, which helped close the gap in meeting our monthly expenses of $9,895. And that the Council of Stewards met last Sunday, decided to transfer our remaining savings into the operating account and began working on new fundraising ideas.

     So as you work on your own PCZ, remember that all of us involved in the Circle family see each other and all of creation as a gift, as sacred. Right now is an opportunity for you to share your gifts with the Circle. I ask for your support in staying focused on the infinite field of possibilities. Hold the Circle in your thoughts and prayers, and help us visualize the generous flow of financial abundance that has sustained this community for the past 25 years - and will continue to do so for many more years to come. 
     Please consider making a donation now by sending a check or clicking on the link below. A gift of any size, whether $10 or $10,000, would help us move through this temporary low spot, in advance of our successful Sacred Art of Altars fundraiser in September, and help us dance through the coming months, as we continue our vital work of fostering a creative, inclusive approach to spirituality.

With gratitude and blessings,

Friday, July 8, 2016


 Our hot water heater broke without warning last week, sending water leaking all over our laundry room. It's an old heater that's seen a lot of use over the past fifteen years, so we shouldn't have been surprised, but we were. It took a couple of days to come to decide on a replacement, another day to schedule a plumber to come install it. Unfortunately, the morning after it was installed we smelled a gas leak, but because it was the Fourth of July weekend, we had no choice but to shut off the gas and wait a few more days until another plumber could come and check things out. So, essentially we've been without hot water or a stove for a week.
     Fortunately, it's been no big deal, mostly just an inconvenience. Sure, it's taken a chunk out of our savings, but we're blessed to be able to buy a new heater and hire plumbers, so it's just a matter of time till this problem is fixed. And the weather is so darn hot right now, that it's no real sacrifice to go without cooking or taking hot showers for a few days. In the meantime, this is serving as a good reminder not to take this precious resource for granted, knowing how many people on this planet don't have access to any clean water at all, much less have hot and cold running water flowing freely at the turn of a faucet handle.
     In short, I know that while this is not how I'd like things to be, it's just a temporary situation, and that all is well.
     Meanwhile, there's a different but similar circumstance in the Celebration Circle: our financial flow has been running low in recent months, and our bank account is currently depleted. For the first time since 2008, we don't have enough funds on hand to pay all of last month's bills. Historically, our level of giving is always significantly lower during the summer months, as it is for most congregations of all faiths. We've always had sufficient funds to carry us through those low months. But this year, that dip began earlier in the year than usual, and that fact, combined with some unexpected operating expenses and the loss of one major donor, has brought us to where we are currently.
     Like the water heater, I know that this is a temporary situation, and that this, too, shall pass. Rather than dwell on a feeling of lack, I chose to focus on the power of our purpose as a spiritual community, and the abundant field of support being generated by the many, many people we have served over the years. The Council of Stewards will be meeting this Sunday at 3pm to discuss our options, and I am confident that we will find ways to meet this challenge.
     In the meantime, I am asking for your support in staying focused on the infinite field of possibilities. Please hold the Circle in your thoughts and prayers, and help us visualize the generous flow of financial abundance that has sustained this community for the past 25 years - and will continue to do so for many more years to come. 
     Also, please consider making a donation now by clicking on here. A gift of any size would help us move through this temporary low spot, in advance of our Sacred Art of Altars fundraiser in September, and help us dance through the coming months, as we continue our vital work of fostering a creative, inclusive approach to spirituality.

With gratitude and blessings,

Saturday, July 2, 2016


     I've long been fascinated by the singular sensation of watching groups of purple martins cavorting together in the sky overhead. There's something so heartwarming and mind-expanding about watching those freewheeling acrobats of the sky defy gravity with such speed, grace and beauty.
     Shortly after buying our first home in 1992, Zet and I installed a cluster of gourd-shaped martin houses in our front yard, and quickly came to enjoy sitting on our porch swing, witnessing the comings and goings of the half-dozen nesting pairs. Each year, they took up residence in early spring, where they hatched their broods, and soared through the neighborhood until their late summer migration took them back to South America.
     We reluctantly left that little colony behind when we sold our home in 2001, but were delighted to find that our new neighborhood on the Southside already had several martin houses located close to our property, so we could continue to enjoy watching a nesting colony every spring.
     But for the past three summers in a row, we've been particularly gifted because a large portion of the San Juan Acequia Trail (built through our neighborhood as part of the San Antonio Mission Reach in 2013) has magically become a pre-migratory roosting ground for thousands of purple martins. Starting in late June, at about half hour before sunset, huge flocks of these whirling, swirling magicians of the air arrive in wave after wave, streaming in from all directions. Once assembled, they put on a truly mind-boggling display of mass coordination as thousands of them zoom up, down and all around, seemingly at random, without ever bumping into each other, before settling down to roost in massive numbers along the treetops and utility wires lining the creek. What a sight!
            And then, one night, a few weeks from now, they'll all be gone, having somehow reacted to some unknown signal, triggering their annual mass migration back to South America for the winter. Although biologists have done extensive research into the mechanics and logistics of migratory behaviors, the fact is that much of this process remains mysterious to the trained professionals and casual observers, alike.
     What seems clear is that there is something innate to the species that enables them to fly, mingle and migrate in the unique ways they do. They are obeying some deep-seated mandate that lies at the core of being purple martins.
     Observing their astounding display again today at sunset, I can't help but reflect on what it is we humans are born to do as a species. What is our purpose?
   Based on the headlines from today's newscasts, once again it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we were born to debase, debate and dominate others and our surroundings. But as I gaze up at this magnificent sunset, watching the intricate web of life being woven by thousands of wings soaring simultaneously in this stunning 3-D display above, every cell and fiber of my body, mind and spirit is filled with love. I feel with total clarity that this is what we are here to do: to bear witness to the miracle of life through our uniquely human capacity to love whole-heartedly and choose consciously. Not as a theological construct, not as a poetic metaphor or a lofty ideal, but as the ground of our being human. And, just as this awareness comes slipping through my mind, the first cool breeze of the evening moves through the trees, whispering "Yes...Yes...Yes..."
With gratitude and wonder,