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<Drums Rattle Djembe Doumbek>

Sitting. Being. Noticing.

October 12th, 2016

Noticing the quiet spaces sitting_flower
The empty spaces
The unthought spaces
The unborn spaces
The uncertain spaces
The vulnerable spaces
The still spaces.
The nourishing spaces
The loving spaces
The hopeful spaces

Dedicated to GH who continues to inspire me.


Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

A Path to Peace

October 11th, 2016

buddha16Let’s take a few moments to sit in and meditate on the heart center. Place one hand on your heart. Close your eyes or shift into a soft gaze. Breathe in gently and exhale slowly. Feel your palm melt into your heart and your heart melt into your hand. Finding the meeting place of hand and heart. Feel whatever feelings arise. With each new feeling, allow the inhale and exhale to shift it into something new, calm, and peaceful. Note that everything passes. As you breathe, feel your heart.

This is a direct way to meditate on your heart. You can feel and just allow the feelings to show you your heart. You can be in your heart center. Relate your mind and heart. Notice your rhythm and thoughts. Feel your mind and body connection. This is your refuge. Your heart center is where peace resides. Go for refuge in the peace that is always available.

When you are ready, take another breath and ease into your day ─ with a peaceful mind.

How simple – a direct path to peace.

Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

Meditation on Inner Peace

September 15th, 2016

Spend a few minutes enjoying inner peace. Notice what happens when you breathe in peace and beauty and breathe out worry. When you let go, you make space for more joy, more peace, more compassion, more wisdom, and more love to enter. Enjoy this five-minute meditation being with inner peace. This was filmed in the Catskills while at CampGLP – a summer camp for adults.


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Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

From One Ember – Fire

September 8th, 2016

nofire2016It’s a Thursday night in the Catskills. Almost 400 people have traveled from around the world for a summer camp for adults, known as Camp Good Life Project (Camp GLP). The evening gathering includes an all camp bonfire, full of s’mores and singing. While most of the campers are in a team-building activity, I am in my room sorting stuff, calling home, and getting my instruments ready. I bring my djembe from home in the hopes of playing at the sing-a-long.

I walk to the area where the campfire will be as it is right near my room. A small group of folks have gathered and are trying to keep the fire lit. It had rained earlier in the day and the ground is wet. Most of the flames are now just smoke. The camp staff who lit the fire have left along with all the supplies.

The small group scrambles to get the fire lit before the massive group of campers come to gather. I bend down and hold out my hands to hold space. Campfire and all, it is still a fire. It’s sacred. The bonfire is the big kickoff for the weekend. With hands open, I send my blessings to the fire. I look to my left and a woman is bent down blowing into the open space. She starts moving sticks and creating an opening for the fire to catch. Other folks are frantically looking for a lighter, matches, anything to help keep the small flame going. There is a sense of nervousness that the fire will go out. Some suggest we use lighter fluid. A few of us look up and ask that we wait to see if we can get it going by using nature, our intention, and the wood in front of us.

Smoke – more smoke. The fire is slowly going down and what seems to be a small ember is left. Again, the offer to get lighter fluid is suggested. I look now to see my new friend Pam circling around the fire and we both agree that we ought to wait and see if we can get it going ourselves. We realize we have some paper from the s’mores to use that to help get the fire going. I start a small low chant to bless the fire and I realize more people are circling around us.

Ember – one ember. Just as it seems the fire will be out altogether, there is one spark of light. Someone calls out in the dark that there is one ember still going. A few folks blow on the ember and we open the logs a little to give it more air. The ember takes and more glow begins to light up our campfire.

Fire – we have fire. The fire grows up and out and we begin to clap and hug and laugh. Most of the campers hadn’t realized the effort to get the fire going. All the fire starters gather closer to the flame knowing it was just smoke with one small ember.

Love – we are love. It took many hands. It took patience. It took our great will to not give into the easy solution (luckily, there was no lighter fluid nearby) and to just BE with the fire. It took time for everyone gathered to realize this was more than a camp fire – this was a sacred fire. And oh, how the fire danced for us.

The lessons of the fire are always right in front of us. Just when you think everything is at its most darkest, there is always an ember of light. The fire waits for us. Our breath holds great power. Lean on one another and bear witness. From nothing is everything. From one ember – fire.

Dedicated to Pamela Slim who shared in the sacred fire ceremony. Fuego.


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Posted in Storytelling | Toning the Om

Am I Brave Enough to Be Me?

September 3rd, 2016

I am sitting on a cabin step in upstate New York with a woman from Vermont who I met less than 48 hours ago. We are both participants in the Camp Good Life Project (Camp GLP). It’s my third year at this summer camp for creative souls, entrepreneurs, and change-makers. It’s a weekend of wisdom, deep learning, creating, playing (color wars + dance parties), meditation, yoga classes, and an outrageous talent show. More than that, it’s a weekend of deep connections, soulful humanness, and joyful play.

As we sit eating our veggie pizza, we laugh about our experiences from the weekend. We talk about how we have witnessed being vulnerable, feeling safe, being connected to our core values, playing our hearts out, and experiencing deep love without judgment. When asked what her biggest lesson of the weekend has been, she looks me in the eye and says she is leaving with the question, “Am I brave enough to be me?” I exhale. My eyes fill with tears. Her eyes fill with tears. We just sit together and listen to the question without rushing to any outcome or answer.

BeBraveThe question of being brave enough to be me has been part of my meditation since leaving camp. Am I brave enough to be me? For three days at camp, the answer was a resounding yes. I felt brave enough to hug friends and strangers, to (belly) laugh, to cry with people I met for the first time, to dance and sing, to drum publicly at a bonfire, to make my own mala (prayer beads), to nap under a tree, to take long quiet walks, to watch birds and share the joy of it with campers, to listen and bear witness to stories about longing or grief or dreams, and to share my deep passions and fears.

The world has too much fear spreading and camp is a reminder that something else works – bravery. The kind of bravery that asks people to be themselves, to show up fully, and to tune into their heart and live from that place.

It takes great bravery to:

  • Share about living each day petrified because you are waiting for a heart-transplant
  • Tear up as you tell the story of your spouse who has a chronic illness
  • Reveal about the infant you and your husband are waiting to adopt any day and the excitement you feel as a gay man becoming a father
  • Dance on stage for the first time in front of 380+ people
  • Design a company only to experience massive debt
  • Tell a room full of people that you had to rewrite your book from scratch three times before it was published

What all of these (and the many more) moments of bravery exemplified is the ability to fully show up – as is – just the way we are. It was the experience of being able to laugh and cry in the exact same breath. We can be brave and doing it afraid in the exact same moment. And we can do it together. This is what it means to connect deeply, live soulfully, and play joyfully.

Am I brave enough to be me? I take another exhale. I share with my new friend, “I needed a detox from snarkiness and cynicism.” It’s easy to be a critic; the real work is showing up and doing it afraid. Brave enough to me means fully living my values of generosity, connection, vulnerability, creativity, and spirituality.

And you? What comes up when you hear the question: Am I brave enough to be me?

This is dedicated to Jonathan and Stephanie Fields, the Camp GLP team and volunteers, all the campers and everyone living bravely.

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Posted in Storytelling | Toning the Om

Beam with Compassion

August 29th, 2016

Sitting with compassion for others and myself led me to write this meditation:

Fill yourself up with compassion with each breath. flower16
What do you look like when you are living with compassion?
Show yourself some compassion right now.
Allow yourself to breathe compassion into your whole body.
Notice your body and breathe even more compassion.
Let compassion move your hands to your heart.
How are you transmitting compassion to yourself?
What is your message of compassion today?
Listen to compassion.
Take a deeper breath in and out.
Breathe compassion. Again. And again.
When you see the world with compassion, what’s possible?
And take a nice big breath.
Be compassionate to youself, always.
Beam compassion with every interaction.
And so it is.

As Pema Chödrön writes, “Just as nurturing our ability to love is a way of awakening bodhichitta, so also is nurturing our ability to feel compassion. Compassion, however, is more emotionally challenging than loving-kindness because it involves the willingness to feel pain. It definitely requires the training of a warrior.

When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience our fear of pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us. The trick to doing this is to stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion, to let fear soften us rather than harden into resistance.”

Stay with your breath. Stay with yourself. Stay with compassion.


Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

Uncertainty as a Path Towards Freedom

July 14th, 2016

blog_sunsetLife is about living in uncertainty.

Life happens in the in-between moments.

Life asks us to make a journey with ourself.

Life happens in the ordinary moments – washing the dishes, sitting with our loved ones, driving in traffic, taking a walk, watching the sunset.

When we live with uncertainty, there is room to explore everything.

Maybe the map we really need to follow is one that makes us lost. In that space we find our way. By being lost, we can find our life moment by moment.

Perhaps that’s the real meaning of lost and found. By being lost, and abiding there, we are truly found.


Posted in Meditation | Toning the Om

May I Have This Dance?

June 15th, 2016

“You didn’t come all this way to sit on a couch, did you?” That was my pick up line at a dance in 1994. It was awkward and funny and eventually I danced with the woman who became my spouse.

It was almost 22 years ago that I went to a dance by myself to be part of the L.G.B.T. community, to meet new friends, and to dance. I remember feeling scared to go. It took every ounce of courage to get on the subway from the Bronx and travel to Webster Hall in Manhattan for a big dancing night. I didn’t know a soul there. I walked into the room wide-eyed and curious and anxious. I was searching for something I didn’t even know I was seeking – my inner freedom. The freedom to be myself, fully. The freedom to be with a woman. The freedom to love – all of me. The freedom to release worry of what “others” might think.

That night in Webster Hall gave me more than a life partner. It gave me my life back. A life that was no longer ashamed to be who I am in the world. A life where I was no longer inhibited by internal or external homophobia. A life where I was no longer inhibited by my body image.

Dance halls and clubs are where so many in the L.G.B.T. community gather for a sense of belonging, connection, and hope. Dance floors are places of refuge. In Buddhist terms, clubs and dance floors are often our sangha. It’s our community. It’s a place we can express ourselves, release inhibition, and be completely free – arms in the air (like we just don’t care).

The tragedy in Orlando was an attack on more than the L.G.B.T. community. It was an attack on expression and freedom. It opened up old shame wounds of our society about integration, diversity, sexuality, and our beliefs on how we define love. In many ways, it was an attack on love itself.

The mass shooting could have targeted any community and many have experienced this trauma before in other places and with other victims: movie theaters, schools, politicians, children, churches, and L.G.B.T. communities.

Our L.G.B.T. community has been vulnerable to hate, to slurs, to violence, to whispers, to looks, to shame, and more. Anyone who has ever come out knows these experiences deep in their cells. It’s the one where someone in our life feels disappointed, scared, angry and ashamed about who we are and who we love. At times, it triggers our own questioning of our identity and we begin to question — is this the life I want?

Then, on a random Saturday night, you ask someone to dance. And you dance and dance and dance.

And then you know, this sangha, this dance hall/club refuge is the very freedom that lives inside of you waiting to be expressed in the world.

Please remember – you are not alone. We are in this together.

Cry. Hug. Hold Hands. Sing. Be Seen. Be Heard. Love More. Dance. Keep Dancing.

Allow grief to surface. Reach out. And when you are ready, please keep dancing.

We Are Orlando.

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Posted in Storytelling | Toning the Om

Book Review: Tribe – On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger

June 9th, 2016

“In keeping with something called self-determination theory, which holds that human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others.” ― Sebastian Junger, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

tribeIn his new book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger suggests that we miss the fraternity that thousands of years of tribal life have programmed us for. Instead, Junger writes about how society has moved away from communal living. He gives examples of how we live at a time where a sense of entitlement has replaced a sense of village. Sebastian Junger shows us just how at odds the structure of modern society is with our tribal instincts, arguing that the difficulties many veterans face upon returning home from war do not stem entirely from the trauma they’ve suffered, but also from the individualist societies they must reintegrate into. Sebastian Junger, takes a critical look at post-traumatic stress disorder and the many challenges today’s returning veterans face.

Junger tackles the tough subjects of the rising rate of mental illness and PTSD that many in our society are experiencing. His book starts at the beginning with the Native Americans and their society that celebrated communal living and how we have moved away from the collective to the induvial. His book provides many stories of how our current way of living with selfishness and lack of connection has led to a disconnected society.

The most recent example of societal disconnect includes many of the combat veterans who come home only to find themselves missing the incredibly intimate bonds of platoon life. According to Junger, the loss of closeness that comes at the end of deployment may explain the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by military veterans today. Tribe explores what we can learn from tribal societies about connection, belonging, loyalty, and the question for meaning.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Posted in Storytelling | Toning the Om

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (Book Review)

May 16th, 2016

tippettPeabody Award-winning broadcaster, Krista Tippett, has spent years interviewing some of the most fascinating voices of humanity. Her style is one of asking deep spiritual questions and then creating space for deep listening. Tippett’s work on her national public radio program and podcast, On Being, has been share a conversation with people who inspire a sense of wonder and curiosity. Tippett has spent her career interviewing scientists, theologians from several faiths, poets, activists, philosophers, historians, artists, and many more. Within moments of listening to the podcast, it becomes clear that these are more than interviews – they are moments of deep intimacy through the mastery of genuine conversation.

In Becoming Wise, Tippett distills many of the insights she has learned to appreciate from her numerous conversations. Throughout the pages, it becomes clear that the book is a deep meditation and journey on meaning. The chapters are organized around the themes of language, love, faith and hope. Through her years of conversations, Tippett and her conversation partners advocate mindfulness, compassion, forgiveness, humility and cooperation.

Tippett’s book embodies the open question – the deep desire for connection, conversation, and belonging. The wisdom we seek emerges from the everyday experiences. Real connections with one another happen in the ordinary moments of acts of kindness and generosity. Becoming Wise is our journey of asking the powerful questions of who we are to each other.

“I’m a person who listens for a living. I listen for wisdom, and beauty, and for voices not shouting to be heard. ”

This book offers a fiercely hopeful vision of humanity. Tippett sees hope as a force and a resource. For Tippett, “hope” sees and experiences the darkness, and the possibility for good, and makes a choice. Hope is something you put into practice through actions. Tippett reminds us that choosing to be hopeful is far more courageous than being cynical. Hope insists on the possibility of a life of resilience and redemption.

One powerful theme that Tippett reminds us is the gift of presence. Presence is the engagement with life and one another. Becoming Wise reminds us that presence does not mean passivity or acceptance of the status quo. In a world of sound bites, Becoming Wise is a reminder of the longer and deeper conversations needed for change. This book is a practical guide about life’s spiritual beauty through deep reflections. Tippett sheds a light on what it means to be human.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review


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Posted in Book Review | Toning the Om