A Return to Heart

A Return to Heart

Fires, floods, earthquakes, violence, intolerance, divisiveness, greed. It’s easy to see our world is in upheaval. These are intense, challenging times.

We are being called to return to heart.

As a human race, we have been living in severe imbalance for so long that the re-balancing is requiring some radical and painful shifts in our world.

We cannot continue living as we have been—ignoring and dishonoring the livingness of our world, disrespecting and doing violence to the creatures, the waters, the earth, the air, to women and children and people of color, people of all kinds.

We cannot continue to promote the values, the way of life, the beliefs that have brought us to this crisis. We cannot cling to our possessions, our security, our fear, our cynicism, our isolation.

All of Life is Alive

Autumn scene

by Aaron Burden

All of life is calling to us. The wind is alive. The trees are alive. The rocks are alive. The clouds are alive. All of life wishes to be in deep, sacred relationship with us. In holy communion. In partnership. As it was always meant to be.

The original peoples of all cultures were given instructions in how to live in right relationship on the lands and waters where they dwelled. Rituals, ceremonies, prayers, practices, offerings, recognition of the cycles of life. These kept the peoples living in harmony and balance with the world around them. These kept the people in balance within themselves.

When they forgot these life-giving ways, either temporarily or later completely, trouble occurred. Not as a punishment, but as a reminder of the natural order of life, as a call to return.

Life has an order that is inherently good and whole and workable. When we move with it, our lives tend to flow well. We find acceptance and peace, even in challenges. We find true joy.

We Must Live From Our Hearts

Nothing is more important than that we live from our hearts now.

We need to quiet our incessant minds, our clamoring egos, our false sense of separateness from others. We need to tune into the still, small voice within.

Meditating person

Photo by Dingzeyu Li

We need to learn to calm the voice of fear, the addictive habit of fear, that has been built up in us by our contemporary culture and listen instead to the voice of heart, of love, of peace. We all carry this voice. All of life carries this voice. The ocean carries this voice. The flowers do. The animals do.

Sacrifice and Surrender Will Lead to Joy

This is going to ask a lot of us. We will have to sacrifice cherished comforts, ways of tuning out and disconnecting, our sense of superiority, and much that is familiar or once felt secure.

We may have to leave the 9-to-5 job and follow our passion for art. Or take a steady job in order to support our art. We may have to downsize and band together. We may have to reach out and ask for help, instead of trying to go it alone.

We will not be able to rely on how things worked for us before. We will not be able to hide out and play small. It simply won’t work. We will meet with more chaos, disruption and suffering. Until we relent.

Now, we are asked to step beyond our wounded selves, our limited desires and preferences. To step into our extraordinary gifts, cultivate our capacities, and shine in our full Beingness.

Nothing less will do.

If you have a calling in your heart that you’ve been ignoring or neglecting, a calling that comes from love, it is time to follow it. If you have a longing to reach beyond the pain that has held you captive, it is time to heal it. If you have been ignoring the livingness of the world around you, it is time to get into right relationship with it.

Life is calling. Let us join together and answer the call.

To your Beingness,


On Devotion to Creativity: A Life, A Path

On Devotion to Creativity: A Life, A Path

I Am Devoted to Beauty and Creation

Some days all i can truly do is write. It’s all i can do truly, with a whole heart, with devotion. This is what’s given to me, and it’s a lot.

What jewels have been laid in my hands—I am awestruck, fascinated, dutiful, grateful. How could i possibly organize my life any differently than around these jewels?

Writing is my listening, how i tune my ear to the worlds, all of them—or whichever chooses to haunt me now.

Beauty is incredibly important to me. To actually capture beauty in the hand for a moment, more than once, more than just a lucky break, that takes deep work, to devote your life to something.

I’m interested in devotion, that profound movement of the heart—offering, sacrifice, surrender. How much it takes and how much it gives us in return. You can’t force it or fake it. It has to arise organically in the heart. But you can commit yourself to it consciously, once you feel it start.

Devotion is like a small, worthy boat that holds and carries us across waters now stormy, now calm, so that we can see astonishing lands, become salt-worn, washed whole, a part of sea and sky.

Creativity Is Not a Chore

by Averie Woodard

Creativity is not something i make myself do. It’s something i open myself to do.

I tend the garden, create the right conditions, the proper soil, show up lovingly, and work with my hands in the dirt, grateful for rain when it comes, grateful for sun, for blossoms and ripe fruit. I’m happy to tend to the slow care of picking caterpillars off the stems, cutting away the dead heads and stalks, mulching with the unused portions, watering daily. I know the seeds will flower in time.

Why would i complain about the work of creating? I’m honored to be given these seeds, this plot of ground, this longing. And entranced by the miracle of growth, new life—every time. Entranced by the process of growth and the care it takes to create art. Entranced to be in my garden of creativity, feet muddy, knees in the soil, dirt under my nails.

This is the place i feel most home, most right, at peace, one with all, belonging—even in the struggles. Outside my garden of creation there are precious few places i feel as well. Ritual is one of them, any kind of communion with the All, being in nature, around a fire, and often when i am teaching.

But, that garden of creation and communion is my first home, my path of devotion, my sacred work, my divine play.

Explore Devotion, That Magic Power

What are you truly devoted to in your life? What do you give your whole heart to, sacrifice time, money or other opportunities to follow?

What are the rewards of that devotion?

What do you care about or want more of in your life that you could be more devoted to? How would you express that devotion?

You may wish to journal about these questions, to dive deeply into them and see what arises for you. Remember, devotion is a movement of the heart. It’s not another “should.”

Please share your responses in the comments below, so we can continue the conversation.

And if you liked what you read here, share this post with a friend using the share buttons below. Help me spread the love.

To your devoted life,



How To Discover Your Unique Brilliance – Part 4

Unique Brilliance sun shiningToday I share with you the final key of the 8 keys to discovering your Unique Brilliance, those gifts that you have come into this world to share through your being and action in this world, those gifts that point the way to your most rewarding, engaging, vibrant life, those gifts that show the unique shining of you. This key is so crucial that I have saved it for last. Lacking this key many people get lost on their road to finding meaningful work or engagement in the world.

If you’ve missed my other posts on How To Discover Your Unique Brilliance, start here.

  1. You feel most alive and authentic, most like yourself, when embodying your Unique Brilliance.

Photo by Christopher Campbell

There may be things you are good at that you don’t particularly enjoy, that don’t make you shine or feel alive, joyful, and happy to be you. These are gifts you may have learned along the way, or they may even be innate; they may even help you live your Unique Brilliance by providing useful support for it in some way, but they aren’t part of your brilliance. Why? Because they don’t make you feel alive, radiant, inspired. They don’t light you up when you use them.

For me, the best example is that I’m a really good manager and organizer of things, but I don’t enjoy it. I can be hyper-organized, efficient, even bossy, but I don’t like myself or my life much when I’m using these gifts. These gifts help me achieve my goals and keep my life running smoothly, so they offer potential support to my Brilliance, when I don’t let them get out of hand. But, when the manager in me is running the show, my life becomes all practical drudgery and concerns, and it kills off my creativity, imagination, playfulness, joy.

The challenge is that other people love these gifts in me because they need someone organized, reliable, efficient, self-starting, who will handle all the difficult, boring or complex tasks. So I get a lot of encouragement to be this way, rather than to be creative, fluid, sensitive, expressive, intuitive.

However, related to the managerial part of me is a gift that is part of my Brilliance: I’m a natural leader. When I’m in a leadership role, I shine and the best in me comes out. When I’m in a manager role, I become petty, bored, frustrated with the leadership or constraints around me, and weighed down by my life. There’s a big difference.

The leader part of me has been with me since I was a child, is innate, has no off switch. Even when I try to step back and blend in to the backdrop, I wind up speaking up, rocking the boat, taking the lead, standing out. Even on the playground I would lead troupes of my friends in various imaginative games, activities and adventures.


photo by Digital Marketing Collaboration

What activities, environments, situations bring out the best in you? When do you feel most alive, most like yourself, most inspired, lit up? And, when have you felt most proud of yourself? Look back over your life—it’s helpful to do this by decades—and write down which environments, activities, people made you feel alive? Which ones kill off that aliveness? And what achievements are you most proud of? And when I say “achievements,” I’m not just talking about the kind that the world validates. You might be most proud of a time that you stopped and really talked to a homeless person.

Together these 8 keys to your Unique Brilliance will help you discover who you are and what you are here to give, how you contribute even when you may not realize you are contributing. I hope they help you to see and appreciate your gifts, your uniqueness, and to craft a life centered around this that is fulfilling, deeply rewarding, joyful, fun, inspiring.

If you need help with that, I would love to work with you through my Mentoring program. You can check it out here.

Coming Alive to the World

Coming Alive to the World

As a poet, as an artist, one of the core skills we need to develop and cultivate is a radical attentiveness to the world around us, an awakeness to our senses and the sense impressions all around us. We need to sharpen our senses to a keenness that hears, feels, smells, sees, tastes vividly, that notices what is happening around us and in our bodies in response to the physical world we encounter. We need to become sensually alive.

To do this, we intentionally practice opening our senses, paying attention. We take on a practice of deep seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling. “Attention is the natural prayer of the soul,” the French priest and philosopher Nicolas Malebranche wrote. Or as the poet David Whyte so brilliantly puts it, in his poem “Everything is Waiting for You”:

You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

We have to counteract the numbing out, the dullness of routine, the sleepiness that is so habitual and instead invite ourselves again and again into an awakeness, awareness, attentiveness, aliveness that senses and notices deeply.

We can do this by creating small windows of attention, spending five minutes with our eyes closed listening to all the sounds we can hear, loud and soft, distant and near, staccato and sustained, noticing the varied textures, letting go of naming or identifying the sounds to simply listen and hear the symphony around us and within us.

We can spend ten minutes looking out the window or sitting on the front porch, tuning up our seeing, noticing colors, light and shadow, patterns, textures, shapes, movement, juxtaposition, composition. Or we can spend ten minutes looking at one thing only—this leaf, this rock, this chair, this shoe—seeing all that becomes available to us in this act of deep looking, of presence—and noticing too how it changes us within.

We can eat a banana as a meditation, feeling its heft and form in our hand, peeling it slowly, smelling it, inhaling deeply, slicing it into pieces, feeling the slipperyness, tasting it, paying attention to all the gradations of taste, texture and sensation as we consume it.

We can take ourselves on a poem walk and open up all the sense to observe the world vividly, noticing details, smelling and touching things, listening.

Or we can walk around our living room and notice everything we normally do not see, look for what we overlook, the tiny details, the ceiling, the floor, the walls and all the objects in the room, the light and shade, the colors and textures. We can feel the textures and shapes of things, picking up objects, listening to the sounds they make if we strike them or shake them gently, smelling them.

Deliberately practicing opening the five senses brings delight, peacefulness, pleasure and gives us a rich storehouse of imagery and sensation to draw from when it is time for us to write a poem, make a dance piece, or paint a picture.

This rich, physical detail is an essential component of great poetry and great art. We experience life through our bodies, and it is our ability, as artists, to bring that life vividly to the page that makes our poems speak and sing to the reader, that causes our poems to move the reader and not simply be a series of abstractions, interesting thoughts or sentiments with no impact, no zing. When the reader can feel—see, hear, smell, taste—along with us, we draw them into the experience of the poem. And this is true with abstract art as well, because our own deeply felt experiences, when communicated in some powerful way, are far more likely to communicate powerfully than that which we have not felt deeply in our bones and blood.

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader,” Robert Frost has said. The artist has to feel it first through and through, and then feel it again as you create your art, then and only then will the reader feel it. “Understand that you can have in your writing no qualities which you do not honestly entertain in yourself,” Walt Whitman wrote. In other words, you can’t fake this. You have to live it, and it is your own profoundly lived experience that you transmit through your art as a gift to your audience, as an offering and invitation for them to wake up to the world too, to experience the fullness of this life completely. This is one of the core functions of art, providing a doorway to deeper being, greater aliveness—and it is the artist who must first walk through that door and then beckon the audience to follow.

So, practice waking up to the world. Fall in love with the sidewalk and the grime. Fall in love with the laundry on the line, moving in the wind. Fall in love with the roar of traffic and the whisper of your slippers on the floor. Fall in love with pots banging in the kitchen and distant laughter of children in a neighbor’s yard. Fall in love with cinnamon and moss, curry and rain. Notice the bit of white plastic among the brown leaves in the gutter as if it were a painting or sculpture, a deliberate arrangement. Notice the musical composition made by the ticking clock, overlaying the hint of distant churchbells and a car loudly rushing by, and underneath all that the sound of your own breathing. Notice how the air feels on your skin, how your own clothes feel, the tension and relaxation in your body, how your organs feel.

I will talk next time about coming alive to your inner world, another core skill of the artist.

Until then, enjoy coming alive to your world,


P.S. Join me for a 5-week teleclass called Writing Your Way Home, starting May 14. You’ll  access voices of wisdom, inspiration, humor, playfulness and love within that will astonish you: https://brilliantplayground.com/writing-your-way-home/



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