To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: RIP Danpo

Today we said goodbye to our dear friend and life companion, Danpo. Danpy, as we called him, was a Tibetan Terrier just a few months shy of his 15th birthday. He spent the last year and a half living with congestive heart failure. Fortunately, there was medication that made the better part of that time fairly manageable for him. But like all living beings, his time eventually came to an end.

He was a great teacher, the way that all pets, certainly all animals, are great teachers. He lived every moment in the present. He found joy in the simple things. He gave and received love. And he left this life with grace and nobility.

One of the most challenging aspects of having a pet is the fact that they nearly always predecease us. They come into our care, usually, as helpless infants. Dogs grow quickly through the life stages, lapping us almost a decade to the year. Danpy came into the world the same year my partner’s fraternal twin grandchildren, today healthy adolescents still growing through their puppy stage with spurts in height, changes in their bodies and minds. While they still have six or seven decades to look forward to, adulthood, relationships, families of their own, Danpy, at their age, was a very old man with an old man’s illness and limitations.

We managed his illness the best we could. He got his pills twice a day, doses fluctuating to meet his symptoms. When he tired of cheese to disguise their medicine, we switched to liverwurst. When liverwurst failed, we switched to canned dog food. When the canned food finally ceased to help the medicine go down, when he turned his face from the pills that were keeping him alive, the message became clear. It was time for him to leave us.

It’s extremely difficult to make the decision to end a pet’s life. If we’d kept pushing the pills down his throat, he may have held on a little longer. But well before we got to this stage, we knew it was time to help him pass. An appointment was made, the final realizations faced, the tears and heartache endured.

Euthanizing a pet often feels like playing God. Who are we to make the decision to end a life? And yet, if we are sensitive and attentive to their subtle communications, our pets will often help us to know when the time has come. With his final vet appointment thirty-six hours away, this morning, Danpy’s symptoms worsened with heavy wheezing and labored breathing. My partner called the vet, and we took him in.

His passing was like his living. A little stubborn, in his own way and time. The intramuscular sedative was slow to work, and the final injection as well. We held his head, hands on his small chest and felt his heart beating, beating, beating, slow, fade and stop. He was at rest. We bundled him up like a papoose and carried him to the car, to his bed and set off for the two hour drive to the pet crematorium.

It’s early winter here. There are a few feet of snow on the deeply frozen ground. Burying an animal at home, interring Danpy up the hill by the family dog Chica who passed not long after they moved here, was not an option. The only truly suitable choice was to put him in the car and take him to be cremated.

It was a moody overcast day here in our valley. And it was a blessing to have the time to integrate the loss of our dear pet. We drove along the Methow River to just before where it meets the Columbia, and there we paused, where we have often stopped on the long drive from here to most everywhere. We took Danpy’s collar and walked down to the frozen edge of our river for a brief ceremony of goodbye.

We called in the elements and directions and commended the spirit of our beloved one to the air, water, land and fire. We thanked Panchamama our mother Earth and the great sky that holds everything in its grasp. We thanked the great river of the first people, and putting his collar around a river rock, we cast it out through the thin ice where it broke loose and fell into the current pulsing along, Methow to Columbia to the seas.

From there, we met the highway and drove the rest of the way to our destination. It was a quick and kind transaction. A bighearted man with a shaved head came out and lifted him from the car, bed, blanket and all. We kissed his furry head and said our final goodbyes.

There are those who might scoff at all of this love and grief and ceremony for an animal. But there are those of us who know that the great spirit inhabits every form of Being. There is no reason in denying its truth. If we attend to this life, then we will be met by the divine nature in everything that inhabits this world. And everything is our teacher.

The greatly beloved American poet Mary Oliver has said it so succinctly: To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal, to hold it against your heart as if your own life depends on it, and when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

Goodbye Mr. Danpy. Petit Prince. Little Noisette. Blacky. Petit chien. Buddy. Teacher. Friend. May I go as gracefully as you have gone, down the trail, over the snow, into the beyond.


How the Butter Spread: Why Expeditionary Learning Works

This is more than a cute story. It shows the power of engaged learning! Pass it on!


This is a story that I heard from one of our parents, but I loved it so much that I decided it was worth passing along.

Every Friday, our kids do a program called Locavores–it’s self explanatory. During the fall, as you will remember if you follow this blog, we did a lot of weekly food processing from things we had harvested locally: apples, pears, corn, squash, potatoes.  As we settle into winter, the food processing is also undergoing a change in season.  How do people preserve food to keep in the winter?  Our foodie teacher who has a lot of experience with cultured and fermented food did a short lesson last week on making butter.  In a way, it was a problematic lesson.  Nine kids, one mixer.  A lot of practice in patience and sharing!

But it turned out to be a phenomenally successful lesson, and here’s why.  The…

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Psychic Surgery

For the last few years, I’ve been experiencing what, to work a metaphor, I’m going to call “symptoms” of a psychic wound from my childhood.  It’s a wound around sex and sexuality that has been deeply bound in psychic scar tissue.  This scar tissue has acted as a deadening agent, a protection from accidental re-injury or activation.  The last fifty years allowed a lot of scar tissue to accumulate, for the psychic body to develop a somatic relationship to the wound in which it has been as if asleep.

Then came awakening.  With awakening as consciousness came the slow awakening of many parts of myself, countless and previously unknown parts.  Some of these parts brought ecstatic enlightenment to my Being.  Some brought quiet joy. Others brought pain that radiated out from the essential wound of incarnation, of being in a body.  Some of these parts are small and mundane, others are large and consequential.

About two years after awakening as consciousness, I took a long and quite activating telecourse with Waking Down in Mutuality founder, Saniel Bonder called “Let’s Talk Sex.”  For me, the course opened the door to the way sex and sexuality have been shadow parts of my Being, parts that are acting on me without my awareness.  My Trillium Awakening teacher Sandra Glickman has said “we are governed by what we can’t see.”  How true that is.

I’ve often used the metaphor of a splinter in talking about psychic woundedness.  It’s as if early life events, conditions and patterns lodge in our Being, some of them quite deeply, and once their trajectory inward stops, and they come to rest, they begin a trajectory in the other direction, back out toward light propelled by the body’s psychic antibodies that form a pocket of pus around them, sometimes with swelling, irritation and pain until they work their way up to the surface level where they can potentially be removed.  Sometimes they shoot out on their own accord, like a birth.  Even if they come out on their own, they leave a trace of their passing, a trail, a residue of awareness.  But sometimes they are obstructed and require the assistance of a skilled practitioner.

My wound material has been under the skilled care of a team of practitioners.  I first spoke of the wound with my core teacher, Allan Morelock.  He’s both my spiritual GP and a highly skilled specialist. He held the revelations without judgment and offered a salve of love and acceptance.  The Let’s Talk Sex course community was a collective massage team that prodded around the wound awakening its field of feelings: pain, distress and confusion.  Over time, the confusion gave way to a pressure to acknowledge the nature of the wound, which for the first time in my life, I spoke to my Beloved partner, revealing the people, places and actions that caused the wound.  Since then, the scar tissue of the wound has softened, parts of it have been metabolized into my Being.

But the deeper parts have been more stubborn.  They have required a commitment from me, welcoming them forward.  I say it’s been a commitment from me, but of course, it’s not been me at all; it’s been the flow of Being, bringing around events and realizations, revelations that have created space around and shed light on what has been buried for so long.  It has brought me into the transmission field of teachers whose skills with healing are both mysterious and effective.  The Shamanic healers Cielle and Jeffrey Backstrom peeled away the layers of dead and decaying matter between the wound and its healing.  They’ve created the space for and called in those who are the wisdom keepers for my life.  These keepers have revealed some of the conditions that led to my wounding and as importantly the patterns that caused it to fester, darken and limit.  They’ve brought me to readiness for surgery.

Last night, I entered the operating theater via a Skype session that brought me face to face with the psychic surgeon, Allan Morelock.  There’s a way that being in the transmission of these deeply embodied spiritual teachers, Sandra, Cielle, Jeffrey, and Allan, slices through my resistance to exploration.  In their loving, laser-like gaze there is neither a need nor a place to hide. My relationship with these teachers, especially Allan who mid-wifed my awakening, is deep.  The trust is bedrock.  The loving care, the truth telling, are utterly reliable and inescapable.

Meeting Allan last night, entering his transmission field stripped me down to the deepest, ickiest place in my wound. Through conversation, we unpacked it and bathed it in light.  He guided me into a meditative state in which we could lift out each piece of the wound, both the “story” of what happened, and the ways in which the conditions and patterns of my life have caused it to fester over decades.  He held it all in the light of loving investigation, of forgiveness and release.  He drew the whole gaping wound out of my body, left a large, tender spaciousness in its place.  In the hours to follow, in recovery mode, I rested in the pain of healing.  I was exhausted with the work of Being more fully alive.

This morning, in meditation, the palliative care of body, mind and spirit, I rested in the ongoing healing of my wound.  I rested in awareness of its long history, our long relationship, the dance of accommodation.  I acknowledge the way that relationship is changing through the healing process.  Sandra Glickman has famously said “wounds formed in relationship can only be healed in relationship.”  And in my experience this is true of all healing.

There’s a way that the depth of wounding is matched by the length of healing.  What we bring in with us when we enter this fleshly experience of our Being, what we accumulate from the early days can take the rest of our days to integrate.  There’s a way in which being alive in this human body is the core wound of experience.  When we awaken as embodied consciousness, we enter into the dance of healing, of mediating the distance and dissonance of Being and Body, which are both one and separate.  Like Michelangelo’s iconic depiction of the outstretched fingers of God and Man, these bodies are a constant ache toward the eternal.

A Poem of Paradox

Waiting for Snow

Tonight, I strip day’s clothes
by the heater, my skin
rough and dry as a reptile.
I close curtains against
creeping cold, and the spider
plant rustles like a cough
in my hands. Its tender
tendrils whisper feel me!
And I do.  With my whole body
I feel the weight of its bound
roots and the smell of dirt
dusty and brown. My arms
hold it to my chest, place
it on the coir mat by the door
and pour water into its lanky
leaves.  I pour and pour
as if it is my own thirst I slake.
It exhales a spring night
redolent of earth and rain.
I bow my face and breathe
such sweet fragrance
sleeping now in fist-tight
bulbs and roots awaiting Spring.