In 2015, I learned to live

Ghost stance

2015 was like a new birth for me. This time around I felt every inch of being squeezed out a new birth canal. I entered 2015 on the verge of leaving, which you can read about here. Honestly, on that cold and lonely cliff-edge of early January 2015, lying in bed, when I spoke a commitment to stay, I did not know what I doing. Through the lens of a year lived, I can see what it was I decided to stay for, and more importantly what steps I had to take to realize that commitment.

When, by early March, I was not feeling better, all I remembered was the message that “if I choose to stay, I will have lots of help.” So I asked for help and the response, no matter what the situation, was loud and clear throughout the whole year. In short, I have never CONSCIOUSLY incarnated. I was fully incarnate when I was born, but I came in that way! As I grew up, soaked in the indoctrination of both wise, and unwise adults, I slowly disconnected from that “original completeness,” into a no-man’s-land of being neither here, nor there. At this crossroads of life and death, it was time to remember who I am, and fully occupy this body. It was time to come home.


Gazing into my own eyes, I could see an old soul in a newly occupied body, giddy with the infatuation of first love. This was energy incarnate; spirit unleashed in flesh; form with function; fecundity and frivolity; a relationship between body and soul in its original uncorrupt form. It was time to forget about occupying wall street, or town hall…it was time to occupy this temple-body, and to come home to the here and now.

Breath Universe
Architecture of a single breath

The decision to stay, I had to make alone. The ensuing journey was shared with so many helpers: the masterful reiki of Lana Maree Haas; the healing gifts of Dr. Tim Bhakta; the bioenergy work of Tracy Rasmussen that launched this whole endeavor; the music making with Brad Van Wick and Heidi Svoboda; the Dance of 5 Rhythms in Lawrence at Be Moved! and the fire-tending at Stone Dance. Perhaps the spark that lit “learning how to incarnate” was the burning of my prairie in March.

Buddha in the flames (photo: Steve Smith)
Dragonheart (photo by Mitch Kauffman)

The first hump was to flat out admit that I didn’t know how to incarnate! I had some clues from the past 10 years of self-healing work, however. To remember why I came here was crucial, and that task is to FEEL. EVERYTHING! Resisting the pain, the dislikes, the challenges and discomfort, made them worse. I’ve learned that choosing to ignore anything along the way just means that it will circle back around, again and again, each time with a higher amplitude, until it gets my attention. So I pay attention. To everything.

There are too many lessons from the year to narrate about, so I’ll just summarize what I gained:

  • Feel without judgment…just feel
  • If I need something ask
  • If I am lost, sit still, listen, and look around
  • The answer is usually in the question
  • Play
  • Dance
  • Move

The final most potent lesson came just last month through TUT, The Universe (Mike Dooley) when the daily message stated:

How about, Paul, no matter the temptation, you no longer think or say, ‘I’m tired,” “I’m hurt,” “I’m angry.” 
Don’t even think or say, “I’m happy.” Instead, whenever the urge arises, think or say, “I choose to be tired, hurt, angry or happy.” And give it a little time. 

Because this is how you become anything, 

The Universe

After years of trying to figure out why things were happening in my life, this simple suggestion showed another way! Trying to constantly figure out why, creates attachment. And attachment makes anything in life harder to let go of. Instead, the message was clear: just act like I choose everything, speak it, and watch how differently reality can unfold. When I started saying: “I choose this pain in my shoulder” it actually began to evaporate.

So I choose life. I choose to be here, to be now. I choose to experience everything I encounter. I choose to engage people (Thank you Z Hall and Salon-360), thoughts and ideas-especially those that differ from my own. I choose to engage my body, and dance with life. I choose to be grateful for 2015, and for the richness of experience and feeling it brought. And today, I choose to be pain and judgment free.

Peace and blessings to all of you as you experience life in 2016 wherever you find yourself in this moment. Now’s the time!

Now clock


Teetering on the edge

I understand the seductive allure of guns. When I was in high school in LaJunta Colorado, I bought a 22 rifle. I’m not sure why this was allowed in a Mennonite pacifist home, but perhaps it was because we had just moved out to the wild wild west from Ohio. I respect my parents for giving me this grave responsibility. For the most part I did target shooting of cans and bottles. Peering through the scope, I could see the target clearly. When I was setting the scope with a friend’s father, I shot a bottle swinging on a rope at 100 feet. Turns out I was a crack shot with a gun.

One day, I went into the dusty dry field to the West of our house. There were lots of beautiful little green and yellow birds in the few trees of an arroyo. I shot them. Lots of them. Maybe 20 or more. I just remember doing it and thinking how beautiful they were, but nothing more. And then, bam…another one bites the dust. They littered the ground like a confetti. I went back to the house and told my sister, in a bragging tone that I had just shot all these little birds. I was so proud of myself!

She looked at me.

Horror on her face.

And said only one word.




I did not have an answer.


I will never forget that look, or how I felt about her questioning look. I had that sinking pit in my stomach from realizing I had just made a mistake that I could not take back. I had committed a senseless act of violence without thought. My memory of that moment is one of shock…and horror at myself, and what I had done. Without her knowing it, just by being herself, and revealing her true feelings to me, she put a new target in my sights that has ruled my life since: the question why? I can’t say for sure, but I do not believe I ever shot that gun again.

A few decades later, as I was in graduate school studying composition, my brother asked me a similarly potent question: what does composing bring to the world? The hidden agenda behind the question was: if it doesn’t bring something good to the world, what use is it and WHY do it? Again, I did not have an answer. But I started looking for one! I am eternally grateful to both siblings for their part in these existential crises about how I want to move through the world, and about taking responsibility for my actions. I never stop asking the question: why? My siblings were the precipitants of searching for purpose and meaning in my life. And bit by bit I found it.

In the endless analysis of another mass shooting this week, John Cohen, counter-terroist analyst at Homeland Security until recently, said that one pattern these shooters is that they come from dysfunctional families and are “in search for some sense of meaning” and  “they are looking for something to give their lives cause.” You can listen to the story here. Without purpose, and a convergence of events that tip them over the boiling point, they snap, and shooting lots of people gives their life meaning. In the larger discussion this point went largely un-developed by Steve Inskeep, but I believe it is a key to understanding our cultural situation. Perhaps our consumer culture does not create a context in which to easily find meaning. Easily acquired guns are a seductive force in the name of power, and meaning in a meaningless existence without a true source of internal power.

I understand the seductive allure of guns. I also understand the power of knowing I have purpose, and feeling like life has meaning to me. I encourage all of us to protect our youth, not by buying bullet proof blankets, but by nurturing in them a larger sense of purpose, and how they fit into that purpose.  Let’s ask them questions about meaning, AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE ANSWERS. Let’s notice what is important to them, and share what is important to us. A young life whose quest for purpose and meaning is nurtured and fed by big brothers and sisters asking the right questions at the right time, is one less tension ready to snap when challenges arise. We can help each other with our purposes by reflecting what we value in each each other, in all of our interactions. I understand the seductive allure of guns. I also understand the captivating purpose of meaning. Let’s go there.