“Haven’t you forgotten something?”

It had been a rough few days. I’d sent my stepbrother, Grant, an email with the sad news that my dear dog Jubi had passed away. He replied, “Jubi was a constant source of entertainment and joy and affection for so many…. It was a great give and take of love and caring….” I smiled, then dissolved into more tears.


Making new friends.

Jubi, the white fluff ball, had been my close companion. She charmed scores of strangers I would’ve never otherwise met – timid children who brightened at the sight of Jubi, and irresistably reached out to run their fingers along her down-soft back; steely adults who involuntarily stopped in their tracks to bend down and caress her. “She’s like dandelion fuzz,” a stern-faced man said, cracking a smile.

I cried until the well was empty. Restless, and uncertain how to soothe the sorrow, I ricocheted from one task to another. Tried to read, started to organize my desk, contemplated a walk. Nothing stuck.

Then, I remembered!

Three years ago. Crack of dawn. As I tossed back the bed covers, a wave of anxiety washed over me. The writing deadline. Co-workers expecting a product. Days old to-do lists.

Where to start? Get dressed. No, boot up my computer. No, eat something. No, it’s cold, get dressed.

Didn’t notice Jubi until I tripped over her, planted on her haunches in the middle of my room. “What does she want?” I wondered, motioning her to jump up on the bed. She didn’t budge. “Hey, what is it?” I asked impatiently, skirting around her. She didn’t move a muscle, her eyes laser focused on me … just like on our walks, when I lost touch with her and she seemed to say, “Are we still connected?” It was a look that’s hard to resist.

I halted, cinched up my bathrobe and met Jubi’s gaze. A connection! She was saying something to me … like, “What are you doing! Haven’t you forgotten something?”

Oh! I get it! Entangled in the underbrush of the day’s demands I’d darted here and there, desperate to find a way out. Now, captivated by Jubi’s questioning look, I realized we hadn’t started the day as we always did, with moments of quiet prayer, preparing for the day’s activities.

So I scooped her up in my arms, slowly settled into my worn green leather chair, and welcomed stillness. A feeling of gratitude welled up in me for the abundance of qualities readily accessible to each of us – intelligence, creativity, compassion, and more. I’ve come to see these spiritual qualities as flowing from a loving and ever present divine source, and naturally expressed by each of us through our oneness with divinity. Meditating on these ideas, I began to trust that I’d be guided that very day.

It wasn’t long before I glimpsed a first step to take on the writing project, even felt inspired. I slid Jubi off my lap, dressed, ate, and sat down expectant and peaceful at my computer. Maybe Jubi sensed the shift, too, because she curled up nearby.

Now three years later, through tears, I felt once again the sweet urging Jubi awakened in me that morning: in the midst of uncertainty, pain and loss, stop and be still. I remembered her questioning eyes, “Haven’t you forgotten something?”

I slid into the same worn green leather chair and became quiet within. Gratitude for Jubi’s lasting gifts rose in my heart. The way forward would open up. I settled in to listen.

Mom’s Presence

Last week, as my dog, Jubi, and I were walking past a pre-school a few blocks from our home, a woman was standing nearby holding an infant in her arms. Our eyes met. We hesitated, paused, and looked at each other as if to say, “Do I know you?”

Then in a flash of recognition, we smiled, recalling the touching moment that first brought us together. The woman had been pregnant with the baby she was now carrying, and had been walking near my house with her other daughter, then about three years old.

It was 11 months ago – June 2013. I’d been sitting alone in the bedroom where my mother had passed away peacefully after a brief illness two weeks earlier. Tears were streaming down my face.

The night before, it had rained – an unusual summer occurrence in Northern California – and the sun had just broken through the clouds, drawing my attention outward. In hopes of comfort, I called to Jubi, “Come, let’s go for a little walk.”

We stepped outside. There was a cry … then a wail. What was the sound? Where was it coming from? We turned the corner. A mother and child were walking in our direction. The little girl was desperately reaching up and grasping at her mother to no avail. We drew nearer. The woman was pregnant, unable to pick up her crying child, who then tried to climb on top of her mom’s shoes. I smiled, remembering how I loved to balance on my dad’s shoes, my feet rising up and down with his, as he walked.


Sensing a need, I asked if we could help. “She’s afraid of the snails!” Mom said, with a twinkle in her eyes. Sure enough! Snails were crisscrossing the moist sidewalk from one grassy plot to another, leaving trails of ooze in their wake.

Mom said her family lived five blocks away, and she wanted to call her husband to pick them up, but had left her cell phone at home. “Here, use mine!” I offered. She dialed. Dad was at work, and couldn’t leave.

“My car is right here, how about if I drive you both home!” But that was out of the question, since I had no child seat. ‘Jubi!’ I thought, a full-proof solution. Our gentle white fluff ball had quieted many upset children through the years – surely she’d provide a tantalizing distraction.

“Would you like to pet Jubi?” I asked the child. “NO!” was the resounding response, followed by an inconsolable howl.

With no answer in sight after all, I instinctively knelt down beside her. Then an inner whisper, “Be still … and listen.” As is often the urge in moments of distress, I mentally reached out to the Divine with childlike trust. A feeling of compassion welled up, and a knowing that no matter what, we were all loved and cared for.

“Would you like to climb on my shoulders and go for a ride?” I heard myself say. The child hesitated, then reached for my outstretched hands. I hoisted her up. High above the sidewalk she settled in, and off we strode with Jubi in tow.

Mom and I chatted and laughed as we ducked under low-hanging branches sparkling with raindrops. The family was from Turkey, and Mom was earning her PhD at the nearby university. She was looking forward to the arrival of her own mother who was flying in from Turkey the next day to help with the delivery of their second child.

Four blocks into our trek, my shoulders began to sag. But confident that we were in good hands, I said, “Would you like to climb down and take Jubi’s leash?” With a jerk of her knees that signaled “yes,” she slid off, and led Jubi toward her home. When we arrived, Mom and I hugged. I wished her well.

Fast forward to last week, when we bumped into each other again. I congratulated her on her infant, and realized her older child was attending the pre-school – the girl I’d carried on my shoulders. As we recalled the day of our adventure, with a grin she said, “My daughter’s not afraid of snails anymore!”

I laughed, and breathed a silent thank you. I was glad for the child. And I was moved – this time to joyful tears – as I recalled that heartfelt experience, which at the time brought with it something surprising … and healing. A feeling that my mother’s love was still with me.

The qualities of my mom that I treasure, especially her generosity – her sensitivity toward other people’s needs, and her freely giving of herself – had been the very qualities that enveloped me that day. By the time Jubi and I had reached home, my shoulders were back to normal, the sun was shining brightly, and for the first time since Mom’s passing, I’d felt hope. I knew that as I lived the qualities that I and so many other people cherish in my mom, I would always feel the presence of her love.



A Walk of Tantalizing Scents and Wonderful Discoveries

In my last post, I talked about finding a “Deep River” moment – intentionally pausing and listening instead of pushing ahead and overextending myself. Some of you commented on the power of calm and the unconditional love and blessing such moments make possible. Thank you. Recently, I discovered a Deep River moment unintentionally and in an unexpected way, sparked by our dog, Jubi, while we were walking in a new neighborhood.

“Let’s go!” I said, hoping Jubi would pick up her pace. She and I had radically different ideas about what this walk was about. For me, short and brisk – a break from my organized schedule – even the walk was tightly scheduled. For Jubi, it was all about the smells, however long it took. Each blade of grass, every tree and bush deserved to be sniffed and studied – like a shopper trying out perfumes whose scents evoke imagination.

Around home, there are only so many directions we can go and only so many dogs to leave their different marks. It has got to be pretty predictable for her. Maybe that’s why, on this particular day, when I grabbed my car keys and started out the door to run an errand, Jubi jumped up to join me, hoping for new discoveries.

We drove to the cobbler shop where I picked up my re-soled Birkenstocks, Jubi trotting alongside and greeting the owner, a true craftsman. As we headed back toward the car, the sun shone brightly, and it occurred to me we both might enjoy a short walk in a new locale, a refreshing reprieve after a week of rain. With shoes still in hand, off we strode in an unknown direction.

2013-01-10_13-17-34_882Lured by promised treasures, within minutes Jubi’s nose was buried in wild clover spilling onto the sidewalk. Half an hour later, we finally reached the end of the block! I figured Jubi wasn’t going to pick up her speed, and I’d had enough of slowpoke. “OK, let’s go home!” I said, expecting to evoke the usual wagging tail. But instead of perking up, Jubi planted her paws firmly on the ground and looked into my eyes as if to plead, “Home? Why now? This is heaven! I don’t recognize one smell. They’re all new. I could spend the day here!”

Jubi’s communicative look often touches my heart. Today was no exception. In fact, her enjoyment made me laugh. She so appreciated what was being offered, that I felt a nudge to let go of my tightly scheduled agenda and let our walk take its natural course – instead of being preoccupied with getting to the future. Often it’s easy to mentally tick off the present task in order to be ready for what needs to be done next. But when something or someone I love – like Jubi – catches my attention and tugs at my heart, I wake up and shift naturally and happily into the present, the joy of now.

I was so touched by Jubi’s sincere pleasure that I began to feel open to what was being offered to me: the warm sun on my back, the fresh breeze hinting at early spring, and the garden patches that told of artistry and care.

Walking slowly in this ‘unscripted’ mental space offered a surprising gift:  the opportunity to ponder a personal concern that had been troubling me. I’d felt caught in the middle of a conflict between people I care about and had been trying to figure out how I could help bring resolution and ease the pain.

As Jubi and I wandered along, I realized I had the mental freedom to consider the situation more clearly without any distractions. I dug a little deeper into my own perceptions to see if they aligned with the love I value – divine Love – and to my surprise uncovered resentments I’d been harboring. No wonder I felt pained and in the middle of disagreement – I needed to elevate my thinking to be more reflective of unconditional and nonjudgmental love. With this clarity I felt the ill-will just melt away. My love and reasoning weren’t attached to one person or another anymore – I was squaring my thinking with divine Love.

I didn’t see a complete way forward, but I definitely felt freer and happier than I had been. And right then I realized I could be a healer in this situation, starting within my own consciousness. I no longer felt helpless but inspired, and hopeful that as I continued to listen, more answers would follow.

Jubi and I ambled on for another hour – her keenness for every still-to-be-discovered scent unwavering. For me, letting go of my agenda opened the way to connect with inner wisdom and a greater love. Willingness to let go of my schedule, push the ‘to-do’ list aside and focus on the moments at hand, opened me up to the ‘to-be’ channel of spiritual consciousness — to hear and recognize needed insights.

When we reached the car, I tossed in my shoes – a reminder of where we started and how far we’d come – and headed back across town toward home. I reached over and stroked Jubi’s chin. Her soft dark eyes looked up at me and then closed, as she sighed. I agree, this was a wonderful walk.

A Deep River Moment

In a particular period of my life, on more than one occasion, I was exhausted – running around, tripping over myself in an effort to be helpful. I’m conscientious and willing to work hard, but at the end of each day, I had a gnawing feeling that something was out of whack.

From my spiritual searching and practices over the years, I felt the path out of this bind involved gaining new insight, a perspective that would help me see beyond and break through this pattern. Then, I had an opportunity to join a group of women in Abby Seixas’ Deep River telecourse, based on her book, Finding the Deep River Within: A Woman’s Guide to Recovering Balance and Meaning in Everyday Life.

As Abby points out, the “Deep River” can have different meanings for people. It wasn’t a new concept for me. Since childhood, the Biblical “still small voice” has been real. Over the years, I’ve read and learned from a variety of other timeless spiritual writings and teachings. I feel especially at home with the ideas in Mary Baker Eddy’s work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, where this spiritual reformer explores the deep divinity within us and the practical effects on our daily lives of spiritually understanding our relationship to the Divine. For me, the Deep River was a symbol of the divine presence that is all around and within, embracing me – and everyone – in love and wisdom, uplifting and guiding.

During the course, the women spoke heart to heart about some of our struggles. One woman mentioned a tendency to overextend herself. Overextend! That word spoke to me, with an awakening force. Another woman talked about discovering a hidden motive to gain appreciation. Was I feeling unworthy and in need of validation?

We shared insights and experiences that encouraged us to take time to get quiet in order to find the Deep River within, to feel one with the divine presence. I decided right then to make every effort to pause – to be still and listen to the inner voice, the voice that tells me who I really am and what I have to offer – before charging ahead and overextending myself again. It hasn’t been easy, during the course or since then, but I am making progress!

Here’s one example.

A new friend who just moved to town from another country was hosting dinner for a few neighbors. I wanted to bring a gift and thought, “What about a box of See’s Candies?” See’s is a traditional California treat that would be really special.

Then I realized it would take me an hour and a half’s drive to make the round trip to the candy store, and that I had other commitments, including the promise to myself to live at a calmer pace in order to allow moments for thought to be open to the Divine. I felt an inner tug: push ahead as I’ve often done; or stop and listen as I was committing myself to do now. I decided to take a Deep River moment. I became quiet. I listened. I started to pray, something like this: “Let me feel the divine presence here, loving me and loving my friend. Let me feel and trust how much we are both cared for, nourished, supported by infinite Love.”

I stopped planning and just took in this love! My concerns began to dissipate: I wasn’t personally responsible to make my friend happy; and proving myself a good neighbor wasn’t the point at all. We were both truly worthy and loved. Like a swimmer in the ocean who is carried to shore by a powerful wave, I felt the power of love bringing me to a joyful solution for both my friend and me.

Soon, an idea came to mind. A bakery collective that’s unique to our town, and which I like to support, makes delicious cookies. The store is reflective of local color and only a few blocks’ walk from my home! A shop across from the bakery offers a selection of specialty ice cream flavors, too.

I called my friend to see if I could bring dessert, but she said she didn’t want to trouble me. When I told her about the bakery around the corner, she was delighted and said, “Yes!” After a delicious dinner, the cookies were snatched up eagerly, along with refills of ice cream.

What I loved about this experience was seeing that I didn’t have to rush around trying to be the perfect neighbor. It wasn’t about ME! In that Deep River moment – when I paused to feel my oneness with the loving presence of the Divine – it became clear that I wanted to share with my friend and our neighbors what THEY would enjoy. And the way opened to give generously that blessed ALL of us.

What makes you happy? For me, finding light in a parking garage!

It’s another day after work…and I haven’t been able to shake the blues for several days. I take the elevator down to the gloomy, musty underground garage to pick up my car – no wonder this does absolutely nothing to lift my spirits. The parking manager stands stone-faced in the pay booth while an attendant goes to retrieve my car.

Even in my funk, I’m grateful for the guys who dart to and from cars, enduring a shortage of fresh air, windowless dirty cement and preoccupied customers. So I muster up a personable question. “How was your weekend?”

“OK,” he responds without expression or movement.

“Do anything special?” I ply a little further. “Not really,” he says, sliding outside the pay booth toward me. “Just slept, I was really tired.”

“I know those kinds of weekends,” I say, thinking how lethargic I’ve been, “when you just want to rest and do nothing.” He smiles.

I don’t know his name. He took over management of the garage a few months ago, and we’ve barely said “hello.” From somewhere within my darkness there must be a flicker of light – I feel an urge to keep the conversation going.

“So, what do you do…when you’re not here?” I ask.

“I race cars,” he says, straightening up and taking a deep breath. By now, we’re face to face, and I nod.

“I buy ‘em when they’re junk and fix ‘em up and race ‘em.” I don’t completely follow his car-talk about parts and mechanics, but as he picks up his pace, I hang in there with him. “My daddy was a racer. When I was six, he sat me down in the seat next to him, put a helmet on my head and strapped me in.” He jerks his head, “My head bobbed back and forth the whole way ‘round the track. Right then,” he says, “I knew this is what I wanted to do. I’ve been building cars and racing ever since. I pick up scrap cars, and in my workshop we strip ‘em down and rebuild ‘em.”

My car arrives – not a racer by any means. I begin to get in, then stop. My car can wait. This man has loved racing since he was a child – who does he share his passion with? I really want to know.

“Do you have kids? Do they race?” I ask.

“My older daughter – she’s 26 – no way! She won’t have anything to do with it.” He sounds disappointed but resigned. “But her daughter, she’s six. She wants to ride with me. I’ve got hopes for her!” I see a gleam of expectation in his eyes. One way or other, he’s going to pass along his passion, and it might be to his granddaughter.

As I drive up the garage ramp into daylight, even my spirits lift. That nudge – to get out of myself and pay attention to someone else – breaks the spell of personal gloominess. Being a car-devotee isn’t totally new to me. Another friend painstakingly rebuilds cars for racing, and I’ve seen first-hand the patience, persistence, and skill this requires. But to have a stranger open up and share his passion – well, that puts a smile on my face!

So even in dark times, the light within never goes out. A mere breath of gratitude, a slight caring feeling for someone else fans the spark. And what a benefit…a new experience of another person sharing the light within himself. This light that never goes out – I felt it again in an underground garage. And that makes me happy!


What’s in a Tattoo?

8:00AM and I am in an unfamiliar part of downtown Oakland, in a shuttle bus and starving. I figured the bus driver would likely know the best cafes on his route so I asked him. I was not disappointed!

Although there were boarded up shops nearby, there was also a newly renovated theatre, and right next door the recommended café. It looked welcoming and showed renewed vitality in the city. As I walked in from the morning cold, a hip server swaying to rock music greeted me and pointed to a sunny window seat.

A half-hour later, after tasty eggs and orange juice, another friendly server checked in. As she turned to go, I caught a glimpse of an intricate swirling design of blue and green colors on her arm.

“Wow, that’s a cool tattoo,” I said.

“It’s a peacock,” she offered, adding with a nod of confidence, “a dead peacock.”

Looking carefully, I saw this was no strutting peacock. Its head lay limp. “Hmmmm,” I wondered aloud, “Why a dead peacock?” Moving closer, she leaned on the back of the chair next to me as she opened up.

“This peacock is like men who show off their material possessions – cars and clothes and things. I don’t like that. That’s why it’s dead!” She continued, “When I see guys acting this way I say to my friends, ‘Those dudes are totally ‘peacocking.’”

She was so genuine that I felt free to ask, “If that’s what you don’t like, what do you like?”

Simple,” she replied. “I like simple. My boyfriend – he’s good looking, but it’s more what’s inside that I like. He doesn’t have a lot of things, but he has a lot of inner depth.”

“What about you?” she asked. I agreed with her – character was more attractive to me than what someone owned. I was touched that this woman knew what was important to her, and that she wasn’t going to compromise. So sure of it, in fact, that she had engraved it on her arm! Was this a statement? Or was this a reminder to herself not to forget?

Today, a lot of people are writing and talking about not measuring our worth by outward things but looking within ourselves to find it. Could it be because our worth is truly inherent within us – the gift of our creator? We don’t earn worth, we can’t buy it, we don’t have to prove it.

How do we feel that inner worth? A friend once said to me, “If you want to feel it, live it! You’ve got it, now express it.” Little by little, I’m finding I can do it, but it takes focused intention and attention.

One way I start to live my inherent worth is by pausing, stepping back and figuring out who I truly am. Am I the labels I may have inherited or acquired…or something deeper? I’m learning from Scriptures – and am beginning to confirm by experience – that I’m created by the Divine to be wholly loving and good. If that’s the case, I can express and appreciate divine qualities in myself and others – goodness, love, warmth, caring, confidence, strength, integrity, humor, generosity.

Recently, a few examples of seeing the inherent spiritual nature of others were meaningful to me. A friend lit up with joy about her purpose in life. My sister described with enthusiasm a beautiful sunset she’d seen. A teacher showered acceptance and affection on her long-time students.

The challenge in doing this? Sometimes it feels like going against the suggesting voice of the skeptic, which often echoes those aspects of our culture that gloss over the idea of inner worth. Are there rewards? I feel better about myself and more in harmony with life. And perhaps more important, thinking less about myself and how to get what I think I need (isn’t that what a lack of self-worth does to us – makes us preoccupied with ourselves?), I’m more attuned to other people’s greatness as well as their concerns and how to contribute to their well-being. Getting my own worth straight enriches me and others.

Our conversation that morning in the café reinforced for me the importance of valuing true worth. As my new friend discovered, isn’t “inner depth,” the inner surety of worth, rather than “peacocking,” the only way that true attractiveness shines outward?


On our way home

It’s one of my favorite qualities, especially when least expected.

Our dog Jubi and I were finishing a mid-day walk. The white cotton ball on four legs, as someone once called Jubi, was trotting expectantly toward home and lunch, when I caught sight of an elderly gentleman coming toward us. He was making his way slowly and deliberately down the sidewalk supporting his frail frame on a cane. I had never seen him before and would probably have passed by with a “hello.” But as we approached and the man saw Jubi, he paused, eyes brightening. “Oooooh!” he exclaimed and tried haltingly to bend over and touch her. Seeing his difficulty in moving, I scooped up Jubi and held her close to him. He extended a thin hand and stroked her gently. Then leaning on his cane he stretched his neck forward to feel Jubi’s face against his. Responding with licks of affection toward this stranger, her ‘kisses’ evoked peals of laughter from him. Looking into her eyes, he breathed aloud, “God bless you!”

Blessed indeed! That’s how I felt too as we introduced ourselves, shook hands and bid each other farewell. The pure delight and joy in my new friend’s face as he felt Jubi’s tender kisses made my own heart soar. Yes, we’re all blessed by these expressions of tenderness that open our hearts and unify the human (and animal) family. I resolved then and there to look for more expressions of tenderness in my day…it feels so good!

Another visit to the stationery store

Yesterday, my dog, Jubi, and I returned to the stationery store that I wrote about in my last post, “Reflections on the meaning of ‘spiritual.’” During our earlier visit, Jubi had won over the heart of a young clerk who out of fear had never pet a dog in her life.

This time, when she saw the little fluff ball, she immediately bent down, cupped Jubi’s face lovingly in her hands and caressed her all over. “Oh,” she eagerly exclaimed, “over the weekend, and everyday since I met you, I’ve pet so many dogs…and cats! Because of Jubi, I’ve completely overcome my fear of animals!”

Leaving the store, I felt gratitude for what, to me, was the presence of spirituality transforming fear into joy and love.

Reflections on the meaning of “spiritual”

When I was starting this blog, a friend counseled me to avoid “fuzziness and vagueness” about spirituality. Good advice! Although spirituality has had a tangible, practical effect on my life for many years, I am still discovering more of what it means!

So, what is spirituality to me? I believe it’s the essence of our being, the fundamental nature of each one of us. In my experience, spirituality enables us to perceive and to act on our inherent goodness and to see the good in others. I can express spiritual qualities that uplift and inspire and see these qualities in others.

My dog, Jubi, for example, expresses these qualities in spades, and she brings them out in people who stop in their tracks to engage with her and find joy, loveliness, innocence, friendliness, openness. Yesterday, Jubi and I were in the local stationery store buying a birthday card for a friend. (The store also has dog treats.) A little girl spotted Jubi and immediately slid onto her knees and sidled up to pet the soft white fluff ball.

Jubi’s learned that her mission is to let everyone, especially children, approach and fondle her. She’ll see a 2 year old and become still, letting them brush their hands along her soft white back, run their fingers through her whispery tail, or lift up her ear pads to find an ear under her puffy hair.

On this particular day, the child’s dad stood by patiently for over 15 minutes while his daughter, in the middle of the stationery aisle showered Jubi with gentle caressing.

When the store clerk noticed this, she exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! That’s the cutest dog. I don’t like dogs. I’ve never pet a dog. But…can I pet her?” Around from behind the counter she scurried. First hesitating then squealing with delight, she reached out an affectionate hand. In the few moments of conversation that followed the young woman said she’d grown up in a Middle Eastern country where dogs weren’t part of family life. Now, almost in spite of herself, something switched on within her – delight, wonder, surprise, joy – evoked by encountering sweet love.

These qualities of patience and joy and gentle caring – these spiritual qualities – I have come to believe are natural to all of us. This is what I hope to explore in these blogs: how tangible is spirituality? What is its source? Is it a gift? Can we cultivate it? What practical difference can it make? How does it connect us with one another?

Meanwhile, the clerk ventures to feed her first-ever treat to Jubi. The little girl and her father walk out into the afternoon sunshine. And I buy a birthday card for a friend.