No More Tears

It will be a year ago tomorrow that my mom left this world. Even though I believe that she is happy and at peace, I still want her here with me NOW.The heartbreak of loss seems to be a fundamental, inescapable aspect of the human condition. When we take the risk of caring about another living being, we set ourselves up for eventual loss. What can compare to that pain?

Coping with Loneliness: Finding Your Way Out of the Dark

Loneliness can be so agonizing that it often presses us to seek a quick remedy, something to numb the pain. Here are a few suggestions to help you make your way back out of the darkness without introducing new regrets.

Seeking Solitude but Finding Loneliness: Five Wrong Turns

Many of us feel the need to seek out solitude. Recently, though, I’ve been learning that this quest for time alone can be a gamble. Sometimes, when all that I’m seeking is a little solitude, I can take a wrong turn somewhere and find myself way out in a lonely place. Here are five wrong turns that might take us away from solitude and toward loneliness.

To Everything There Is a Season: A Time to Smash the Ice

Is there a time for rage? After a brutal winter and an attempt to come to peace with the ice that wouldn't leave our streets and sidewalks, here's what happened when I finally had a chance to do something about it.

Did You Hate the Ice this Winter? An Exercise in Reframing

Have you ever found yourself starting to hate something in nature, like ice? This winter I noticed that many of us here in my wintry city were not only afraid of the ice; we really started to hate the stuff. It became almost like a personal enemy. This entry describes an exercise that I used to try to make some sense of peace with the ice.

Floating: An Exercise in Simple Trust

It’s a cool, starlit night, and I’m alone in the hotel pool. Leaning back, I release my feet from the bottom. I feel myself lift up. The quiet of the water surrounds and embraces me. I am fully supported.Sometimes people experience God in this way, too—like water that surrounds, holds, and sustains us. Our part is lean back and let go—but this isn't easy for most of us.

Worn Out? Seven Thoughts that Keep You from Taking a Break

You know that you could really use a break.You’re frustrated and irritable. Your energy levels are low. Everything feels like a chore. Yet you can’t seem to allow yourself to take any time off. What kinds of thoughts might be getting in the way of your taking a rest? Here are seven possible culprits.

The Rest Note: An Essential Part of the Music of Life

When taking piano lessons in elementary school, I was introduced to the concept of the rest note—a deliberate interval of silence within a piece of music. In life, too, we need these spaces for rest. If you find yourself getting irritable, indecisive, and inefficient, you’ll probably benefit from a chance to step out of the stream of constant activity.

What to Do when Your Soul Screams, “Enough!”

You’ve been putting so much energy into this. It could be a strenuous task, a tough relationship, or a major goal. But persistence is good, right? So you keep pressing on. Then, at some point, you start to experience an internal shift. Even as you forge ahead, a voice seems to well up from within: “Enough!” Should you heed that inner voice and stop what you’ve been doing?

People Pleasing: Short-Term Benefits and Long-Term Costs

So you’re a people pleaser! You’re helpful and kind, and you routinely put others before yourself. This strategy may serve you well much of the time: You feel good about helping others, and they usually like you. But what happens when your desire to please others crosses the line, turning into a fear of disapproval and conflict? This is where some big problems can arise.

Loss, Hope, and Beautiful Things: A Message in the Clouds

I hadn’t been looking for anything. But this reflection of clouds, sun, and sky was captivating, like a magnet for my attention: Here was something really worth noticing. Later I couldn’t help but wonder: Are these spectacular scenes of natural beauty readily available to me, but simply passing by me unnoticed in my everyday life?

Final Words: My Last Phone Conversation with My Mom

This was probably it—my last chance to talk with my mom before she died. Over a thousand miles away from me, my mom was lying in a hospice bed. Although circumstances prevented me from being physically present, we had a chance for one last phone call. And here I was, faced with what would probably be our last conversation in this world. What could I possibly say?

Overwork: A Trigger for Spiritual Struggle?

What types of situations lead to struggles in people’s religious and spiritual lives? Traumatic events might come to mind--or perhaps conflicts with religious people or institutions. But in daily life, some triggers of spiritual struggle might be much more mundane. Overwork, in and of itself, might just be enough to do the trick.

Dropped Balls & Missed Flights: Facing Personal Limitations

Balls were falling all around me. And they were balls that I had dropped. In the span of one week, I missed a deadline for a paper, failed to post my blog on time, and fell further behind in my administrative tasks. I even missed a flight. Failing to live up to expectations—my own and those of others--creates a real sore spot for me. And I know that I’m not alone in this.

Unfettered: The Quest for Solitude and Wide Open Spaces

I started driving off into the desert and wanted to just keep on going, away from everyone and everything. Last year I blogged about this experience and found that many readers resonated with this desire to escape. A few weeks ago I had a chance to take another drive into the desert. I looked back: Had I been able to follow my own recommendations from that earlier entry?

Yearning for the Light: Finding Hope in Life's Dark Tunnels

Some periods of life can feel like a long, dark tunnel. The tunnel might be an overwhelming project, a period of depression or loss, or a dark night of the soul. Even if we trust that we will eventually come through these dark times, it can be difficult to sustain our hope and energy. How can we cope when we are still waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel?

Breathless: When Everything Is Just a Blur

Last month I described a ride in a tram car with a floor that slowly rotated in a circle. Although the steady turning meant that I couldn’t focus on any single scene for very long, the movement was slow. But what about those times in life when things seem to be spinning much faster?

As the World Turns: Learning to Enjoy Times of Rapid Change

Around and around. I was riding an aerial tram car in which the floor turned in a circle, giving ever-changing views. Although the ride was exciting, it was hard to focus on any one thing. Life often feels like this: Even when good things surround us, we can feel disoriented when events, tasks, and people around us shift constantly. How can we make the most of these times?

Sweet and Sour: Two Flavors of "Thank You"

Sometimes the feeling of gratitude—and the experiences leading up to it—can be cheerful and bright, with a taste that’s sweet and simple. Yet gratitude isn’t always so easy to access, especially when we face difficult life experiences. Although the sweet taste of gratitude can be hard to find in these sour situations, it's ultimately worth the search.

The Quiet Power of Encouragement

We can all use a boost sometimes. The gift of encouragement, while often subtle, can be a powerful one. When we “en-courage," it’s as though we actually infuse courage into another person. Encouragement can provide us with strength to look ahead, move forward, and reach for the next goal. A little encouragement can transform the whole emotional tone of a tough situation.

We All Lose Our Balance: The Art of Falling Well

The path away from regret sometimes involves risks. Because we’re not perfect, we’ll probably take a few spills. But if we can see in advance that slip-ups are likely, we can try to learn the safest ways to fall in that particular situation—and commit ourselves to getting back up again. These themes of “falling well” came up in my recent surfing lesson.

Paddling Away from Regret: Pursuing a Dream Despite Fear

I had talked myself out of it. At dinner with friends, I came right out and admitted that I was going to “chicken out.” I was too afraid to take a surfing lesson. But when my friend found an option that caused my main excuse to evaporate, I was faced with a choice: Would I face the risks of pursuing my dream, or would I choose the longer-term risks of inaction and regret?

Spiritual Sunglasses: Sometimes We Can’t Take It All in

Intense sensations of light are part of many powerful spiritual experiences. But regardless of whether we see them as supernatural, transcendent experiences of awe, love, or connection can sometimes feel overwhelming to us. Why do we sometimes feel the need to "dial down" the intensity of these spiritual or transcendent experiences, even if we see them as good?

Envy: What Good Can We Glean from Such a Toxic Emotion?

Envy has the scent of death about it. It seems to creep up, unbidden, from some filthy gutter in the depths of the soul. But even if envy is generally a bad thing, could it contain any seeds that could be used for good in our lives? Before tossing it on the trash heap, let’s see if this ugly feeling called envy contains anything that could possibly be redeemed.

Looking for an Escape? The Impulse to Run Away from It All

I was bummed out and burned out. All that I wanted to do was to keep driving. I wanted to keep going, farther off into the desert, putting mile after mile between me and everyone else. And this desire was so intense. It didn’t feel like something I merely wanted; it felt like something I needed. It seemed so urgent, pressing…desperate. I had to get away.

More Than Words: Five Ways to Unleash the Power of Symbols

Sometimes words simply can't capture profound experiences in our lives—moments that feel close to the heart, perhaps even mystical or sacred. Powerful messages and insights can come to us in symbolic forms: images, dreams, and music, to name a few. But often we aren't sure what the symbols mean. This entry gives 5 practical tips to help you make the most of symbols.

Beyond the Rules: Faith, Freedom, and the Chance to Soar

Religion does have its share of rules and rituals, and these can feel like a burden at times. On the brighter side, religious involvement can foster self-control, helping people to pursue their goals effectively. The more spiritual side of faith can also help to point people toward the transcendent--where, paradoxically, freedom just might become the rule.

In Pursuit of Warm Fuzzies: Turning to Faith for Comfort

At some level, we all need "warm fuzzies"--a sense of comfort and security. Many people turn to religion and spirituality to help fulfill these needs. What are some benefits and downsides of using religion and spirituality as sources of comfort?

Gifts of the Shadow

It's true that shadows are dark places, at least in relative terms. But a shadow also implies the presence of light. Shadows form when something gets in the way, blocking the light. Our experiences of shadow aren’t limited to the physical world; they can carry into the psychological and spiritual side of life as well.

Surprised by the Light: Lessons from a Junkyard

Who expects a powerful life lesson to come from a junkyard? Sure, it's easy to sense spiritual light around us on cheerful, easy days. But what happens when life gets ugly? Sometimes, even when all we can see is junk, radiance can catch us off guard. In my case, an unexpected grace came to me on a plane's descent, after I had been watching sunlight dancing on the water.