“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.”

Alfred Austin

I long for days when the porcelain sink briefly turns brown as I wash my hands.  Spending so much time in the world of ideas and people, sometimes I crave the earth. Admittedly, I think too much. Soil is a good antidote.

This year it is tomatoes, oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, cilantro, fennel, onion, and chives growing in our 6′ x 8′ plot. I don’t garden for the fruit or the herbs, as superior as they may be to the market varieties. I go to the garden because it restores me. It’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself, as Alice Sebold has written.

Before the first frost last year, we brought in a tomato plant that was still fruiting in hopes that it would survive even a month longer. The freshness of the smell was a delight for a few hours. Then the next morning, I awoke to wilted leaves and limp stems. There was talk of buying a grow light for the winter, but perhaps there is a season for growth and a season of waiting.

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”

May Sarton

I have been feeling uneasy with the pace of life recently. As much as I want to have an impact on my family, community, and business, I am questioning how much time and energy are spent running from one virtuous commitment to another.

I walk by the garden at least once a day, checking for pests, pulling a weed, or pinching a runt or two. It is a care-ful act. I become attuned to creating space for growth.

Observing, weeding, pruning, and feeding – this is the work of life.

“If you wish to make anything grow, you must understand it, and understand it in a very real sense. ‘Green fingers’ are a fact, and a mystery only to the unpracticed. But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart.”

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Accepting and Slowing through Meditation

Purple Flowers Field of Badlands Utah by Guy Tal

Purple Flowers Field of Badlands Utah by Guy Tal

“People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”

 — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Let me be clear from the onset . . . Meditation is rarely peaceful, blissful, or serene for me. There are moments when my mind quiets and I am aware of my breathing, or even that awareness disappears. Most of the time I’m listening to my thoughts racing by – things I don’t want to forget, memories, and especially plans.

I first started meditating, or sitting, seven years ago. I was curious. It became a challenge for me to see if I could sit still for 30 minutes at a time.

There are many benefits to meditating, but it was not scientific evidence that prompted me to experiment. It was knowing that I think too much, and simply the question of, “Can I learn to stop?”

My goal was not shutting down the mind, but slowing down and being present to whatever was there. I read Seeking the Heart of Wisdom and decided to commit to a daily break from activity.

Practicing Acceptance


“You want to escape from pain, but the more you struggle to escape, the more you inflame the agony.  You are afraid and want to be brave, but the effort to be brave is fear trying to run away from itself.  You want peace of mind, but the attempt to pacify it is like trying to calm the waves with a flat-iron.”

Alan Watts

The tension that existed when I began to sit still exists today. I know what I want, a quiet mind in this case, and I’m accustomed to making that happen through force of will. Ha!

Just like trying to make myself feel differently than how I actually feel, the mind does not respond to coercion. My only response is to let it be. If only it was that easy.

So, I sit in order to learn to let go, in order to accept my discomfort with sitting and the noise of my incessant mind. Does it sound torturous? On some days it is. But mostly now I can smile both at the activity and the voice inside me that grunts through gritted teeth, “Shut up!” “We’re trying to defeat this!”

I whisper, “It’s okay,” to myself and resist the urge to go into battle. It’s a beautiful practice for developing acceptance.

Slowing Down


Both my passion, and my tendency to cast myself in the role of Superman, often mean I’m in a state of constant mind and body activity. I love the fullness of my life, but I don’t want to live frantically.

Meditation encourages me to stop and intentionally move into the present. It’s often painful because I have so many good things I want to do.

Pressing the pause button to dance, do yoga, and sit are some of the ways I’m learning to slow down. I also love that my wife moves naturally at a slow pace. She teaches me that very little in life is urgent in the way she moves, knows when to rest, and savors our sensual world.

At the end of our meditation together, I pull her legs toward me and she climbs onto my lap for a moment. This, too, encourages me not to jump up and keep going. We breathe together and prepare to go back out into the world as more accepting and aware beings.

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Exercise as a Practice

Dumbells for Sale by Andy Wagstaffe

Dumbells for Sale by Andy Wagstaffe


In 2002 I received the gift of 30 extra pounds. After a year of brownies and beer with little physical activity, my body sent me a message. I recognized I wasn’t going to be fit forever, and that it was going to take work. So, I started running again.

Yes, I needed to lose weight. But the gift was the telegram that I needed to be more embodied.

Committing to exercise was an important decision. First, I started feeling better. Not only could I walk up stairs without being fatigued, I felt my musculature. I become more attuned to aches, pains, and thus, other signals that my body is sending.

Second, weight training, running, and stretching offer me a chance to live between being goal-oriented and being process-oriented. As anyone who exercises knows, there are days when the body does not want to perform in the way the body thinks it should. Every repetition, stride, and hold of a stretch offer me the chance to ask the questions:

  • Am I listening to my body?
  • Am I pressing too hard?
  • Am I challenging myself?

These are not just questions for exercise, they are questions for life. When I press too hard, I risk injury and am apt to lose form. When I press too hard in other areas of my life the same is true. I risk sickness and fatigue, as well as becoming less effective and present.

But I also love the challenge. So, every trip to the gym lets me be in dialogue with this tension. I have the opportunity to feel embodied, strong, enduring, flexible, and alive. And I have the opportunity to listen to myself and learn when to retreat.

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The Dance of Relationship


“Tango magnifies” – Kapka Kassabova

I thought I was a salsa dancer, but I was wrong. After three months of salsa lessons, Pia and I had learned the basics sufficiently enough that I was dancing with Latina strangers in Southern California.  Not that I was comfortable, but I could pull it off.  The quick footwork and lively music seemed fun, much more playful than the waltz I had failed to learn ten years prior.

It was January of 2012 when I stepped into my first group tango lesson.  All of the American stereotypes of dancing with a rose in my mouth fell away.  It was elegant, precise, difficult, and very relational.

Thanks to Ana Savitzky & Marco Mambelli, we learned a new dimension of tango dancing.  Ana and Marco are beautiful people, passionate about the significance of the Argentinian dance.  I remember being told time and time again, “Lead with your energy, not your body.”

And herein lies the importance of tango in my life and in my relationship with Pia.  Our dance reveals our relationship, and my dancing signals where my life needs attention.

Tango is a mirror.  When I step onto the dance floor I will be taught, not just the frame, walk, steps, and form.  I receive cues when I am pulling or pushing my partner, when I am not making space, when I am not listening, when I do not see the floor, and when I am moving rather than feeling into my partner and the energy between us.

“Stop thinking.  Relax.  Be present.”

These words I hear in dance and other contexts for good reason.  Calculating my next step on the dance floor takes me away from the dancing itself, just as analyzing my internal and external world separates me from that self and world.

Our profound and excellent current teacher Paola Bordon says, “Tango is life.”

As much as I savor the fruits of nearly three years of learning tango, I don’t do it just for the sheer enjoyment.  It’s a relational practice for Pia and me, as well as a spiritual practice that brings me closer to my essence.