nurturing & greeting rituals

Image by SofieZborilova on Pixabay

Imagine coming into the presence of a baby. (Or, if it’s easier, a baby animal.)

Eyes round and open, she is awake and alert, expressions flitting across her face.

Would you ignore this luminous presence?

Or would you take in her precious being with an attuned, loving, perhaps even grateful greeting? Perhaps some sweet words, a higher-pitched, maybe even cooing, voice, a soothing tone…

In so doing, you acknowledge that her presence affects you. That she is here and you are here. That you are connected with her. In a way that feels nourishing and contactful to both of you.

What if this were the way we lived our lives?

In contact with each other, with the earth, with the other-than-human beings, and with the rhythm of our lives, all the time?

What would change?

I know I would feel more open, more grateful, more awake, more alive… more present.

From what I understand, our indigenous ancestors lived in this way—in deep contact with themselves, each other, and the earth—and from this deep experience of kinship, in deep gratitude.

Our Native American brothers and sisters, indigenous to North America, continue to carry this relationship of kinship, of respect and gratitude into our modern times. They remind us of what is possible.

As you know, I’m all about practicing presence!

It’s my tagline, afterall: “practice presence for life.” And I’ve written a whole e-book about small, doable rituals you can incorporate into your daily life to feel more present.

But I think there is something else I’m exploring here.

It is what all my presence practice rituals are pointing toward. Like the Buddhist story of the finger pointing to the moon, we don’t want to get fixated on the finger, but to focus our gaze on the moon.

All my presence rituals are meant to support a dropping into this deeper contactful presence.

So, what is presence, anyway?

Right now, I am experiencing it as a full-bodied, full-souled contact with myself and “the other.”

And when I feel it, I feel grateful. Presence and gratitude go hand in hand.

Since many of us don’t often get the chance to interact with a baby—human or animal—how about practicing with an alive being you connect with daily?

    • A partner or child
    • A pet or plant
    • Some other being outside—the snow (a good choice this winter in MN!), the sun, the moon, a tree, or a mountain?

Find a specific living being—human or otherwise—and let that being teach you how to be fully present. (You might also find some of my other presence practices/rituals help prepare you for this. Poetry is one of my favorites, so here’s one:)

Praying by Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Here are a few suggestions* for getting started:

    • Open all your senses to this being—sight, sound, taste, scent, touch. And keep returning to your senses when your mind sidetracks you back into thoughts. Take this being in as fully as you can.
    • Receive how their presence affects your whole bodysoul—body, heart, mind, soul. You might experience it as pleasant or unpleasant. Continue to drop thought and come back to body and heart, in particular.
    • Make some sound—words or otherwise—to express your experience. It might be joyful or sweet, or you might feel sad or angry or confused. Express whatever it is with sound.
    • Notice how you feel nurtured having greeted this being.
    • Take some time to receive any greeting in return.
    • Then thank the being for this contact that brings you here, in touch with yourself and the living web of relationship all around you. Use words or sounds or movement or gestures and keep coming back to your body and heart.

Let’s close with a nurturing and greeting ritual:

Place your hands in prayer position in front of your heart with me.

As we bow our heads to our hearts….

We are bowing to ourselves for practicing.

We are bowing to each other for practicing together.

We are bowing to the earth as the ground of our practice.


* After writing this, I realized how influenced I was by the recent work I have been practicing. You can find a similar practice in Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin.

I also want to credit the phrase “nurturing and greeting rituals” as originally from Erik Erickson as “daily rituals of nurturance and greeting,” which I found in Dolores LaChapelle’s book Sacred Land, Sacred Sex, Rapture of the Deep. She uses it not only in the realm of humans, but to include all of the natural world. (p. 170+)

to love

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings
in such a way as to complete and fulfill them,
for it alone takes them and joins them
by what is deepest in themselves.

~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We are part of everything we see—
this is the love that keeps moving us back
into wholeness when divided.
To love by admitting our connection
to everything is how we stay well.

~ Mark Nepo

We spent last week on a retreat in the strangely and wildly beautiful Sonoran desert pictured above. I had no idea how many living beings I would encounter in the desert!

I was struck, over and over again, how what looked like inhospitable earth—rocky, dry, severely lacking the the lush green carpet I am familiar with as an Easterner living in the MidWest—could not only endure, but encourage such hospitality!

Every day, we participated in practices to connect us with our earthly selves, in particular, our wild, indigenous nature and deep instinctive, and imaginative soul. These included yoga, dancing, dreamwork, ceremony, council, and long wanders on the land.

teddybear cholla--500x

We gathered together, united in our love for this precious eairth.* Our practicing was to come into deeper communion with eairth and the other-than-human beings living in the desert, as well as to see the ways we get lost and forget this primal connection, this original love.

There is no wasted energy in the desert. As a cactus passes from life into death, it slowly allows its outer skin to fall away or decompose to create nourishment for the next being to grow. The generosity and nobility of each being releasing its life to the next joins them in an unending cycle of death and birth, and, dare I say it?, Love.

Love unites, completes,
and fulfills them, joining them
as outward emanations
of eairth’s love,
as we humans also are.

fallen cholla feeding other beings--1200x

On this Valentine’s Day, I invite you
to engage in presence practice
on behalf of eairth.

Something that joins you to this deepest uniting, wholeness-creating power of Love that eairth and all her beings so generously express, even as we pollute and ravish her/them.

    • Thank the water as you use it—for washing, drinking, flushing, cleaning—the wood as you burn it, the food as you prepare and eat it, the gas, oil, and electricity as you heat and light with it. This is being present with and appreciating in the moment, the gifts of eairth.
    • Sing to eairth, her creatures, and her other-than-human (and human) beings.
    • Engage in a ceremony to acknowledge and honor your commitment to being in deeper relationship with eairth’s love.
    • Or try a practice we did on retreat: Take a praise walk and appreciate, bless, and praise all the other-than-human beings you encounter (plants, trees, animals, rocks, snow, sunlight, rain, fog …).

What are some other practices
you can engage in to live
your deepest Love today?

* eairth = earth and air as one

the longest night

Winter Solstice is just about here.

Friday, December 21st, at 4:23 pm Central Time.

This is not a human-formed celebration, but an earth event, a turning of the earth wheel that happens once each year. As we are inhabitants of this earth, earth standing on two feet, this longest night of the year is happening not just to us, but within us, in rhythm with us—we are in rhythm with the Winter Solstice.

“…everything is potentially a sacred text through which God can speak to us.”
~ Christine Valters Paintner, in her book Lectio Divina, p. 20

By acknowledging this darkest night of the year, viewing it as a sacred text, we can participate consciously in the turning of the year, in the unfolding mystery of nature through which God speaks to us.

We can participate consciously in the sanctifying of time, the sacredness of this natural earth rhythm, this holy turning of the year through which God/True Nature expresses:

  • in the darkest depths of night
  • in the stark, cold of winter,
  • in the birth of the new light.

What might this look like?

Our ancestors experienced a sense of “original participation” as Owen Barfield called it, or, “participation mystique” as other authors have named it.

It is the experience that we are not separate from nature, but of nature, one with nature. The darkening earth, the cold, the birth of the light are all mysteries of our own being, not just something happening to the earth around us.

Mysteries happening to us, in us, through us. As God speaks to us, in us, and through us.

To enter into this embodied experience of Winter Solstice, you might ask:

  • What is alive in my darkest depths? What is deep down, inside me that feels dark or perhaps even endarkened?
  • What in me is cold, perhaps hibernating or perhaps needing warming?
  • What wants to come to light in me? What spark might I tend and allow to grow into a flame and life-sustaining embers?

I invite you to create your own ritual to honor this turning of the year, something as simple as considering the questions above. And I would love to hear your answers! Please post in the comments below.

what do you want to re-member?

What have you inherited?

With All Hallow’s Eve, the Day of the Dead, and All Soul’s Day almost here, it’s a good time to consider our ancestors.

We have inherited so much that we often forget how indebted we are to those who came before us…

Your genes hold the physical coding of your mother and father’s lineage passed down to you.

  • Perhaps you have your grandfather’s nose or your great-grandmother’s smile?
  • Or you inherited a sensitive or healthy immune system…
  • I got my mom’s mom’s jaw and my sister got hers from my dad’s mom.

Household items–furniture, dishware and more–are passed down.

  • Perhaps your grandmother kept love letters from her fiance–your grandfather-to-be–in that slender bedside table drawer.
  • Or canned peaches in those beautiful blue canning jars.
  • I’m grateful to be drinking tea from some of my nana’s teacups.

Family attitudes are also woven into who we are today–whether we’ve taken them on or fashioned our identity as a rebellion against them.

  • Perhaps there was a strong emphasis on honesty–maybe even in a hurtful way–so you can’t forgive yourself for not telling the complete truth even at an unhelpful time.
  • Or maybe going to church was important and now you rebel against it or feel guilty when you don’t attend.
  • Or maybe, like in my family, hard work was valued and you have a difficult time not overworking…

Ways of managing the often challenging path of being alive are also passed down–some more, and some less skillful…

  • Perhaps you learned from your ancestors to take the edge off with a daily drink or two…
  • Or you learned that a quiet walk in the woods was oddly comforting.
  • Or that eating sweet treats could soothe your need for connection/love.
  • Or, from my parents, that sitting quietly together in the morning by the fire restored a sense of connection.

All of our ancestors strove to survive and thrive.

Amazingly, they did, and they passed their genes, their attitudes, their coping behaviors, and their stuff down to us.

We are here.

We are the result of their surviving, of their whole lives–their attempts to love, to live, to create a good life.

And we have choice as to how we interact with our inheritance.

What and how do we want to live now?

What do we want to re-member?

Because we are literally re-membering–practicing in our bodies what they practiced–when we continue to do what they did.

  • Do you want to re-member hurting someone with your words?
  • Do you want to re-member an unrealistic ideal of what it is to be a good hardworking person?
  • Do you want to re-member habits that are not skillful?
  • Or would you rather re-member the goodness of your ancestors when you see their likeness in the mirror?
  • Or the love of your grandparents?
  • Or the moments of connection?

Whatever we choose, we can honor our ancestors for their perfectly imperfect lives which created the reality of our being alive this Halloween, Day of the Dead, and All Soul’s.

We can take the time to honor their gift of our life.

Dave and I are keeping it simple–we will be getting some photos out, lighting a candle, and spending some time remembering our ancestors together.

New Year, New Light, New Practices!


Remember with me for a moment what it was like for our ancestors, for some of us, even as close as our great-great grandparents…


As the Autumn passed, the days grew darker and darker.

After the harvest celebrations and the fields gone fallow, people cozied up together, sharing the warmth and the light of fire as the darkness grew deeper every day. They structured their lives around the light, sleeping when it was dark, up to 12 hours or more per night.

At the peak of darkness, when it seemed like its reign would never lose its grip, the people started to notice that, slowly but surely, the days were beginning to grow lighter again. They ventured out earlier and stayed out later…

The return of the light meant the return of life–of days warming, of plants starting to grow again, of animals mating and giving birth…


It’s no wonder that this season, regardless of which

religious celebration you participate in, is all about

waiting for and celebrating the return of the light.


This natural seasonal rhythm is built into our genes, passed down through thousands of years of biological, ancestral memory.


We celebrate that there is always a new spark of light–birthed right in the middle of the darkest of days. 


We celebrate that there is always an end to the depth of darkness.


We celebrate that there is always the light that returns again, bringing with it new growth and new life.


What new sparks of light within do you want to tend?


What new ways is your soul asking you to grow–to

open, to melt, to become more whole in the New Year?


Before we can nurture the new light, we have to first get clear on what we want–we must dream, vision, and imagine the life we want to live!


That’s what this dark time is meant for.


We sleep, we rest, we become more receptive to the life, the light that wants to live through us with practice, introspection, contemplation, meditation, prayer…


I have a perfect practice opportunity for you, one
that will support your sacred dreaming and visioning time.


Create space in your life through presence practices.


Feel more centered, more soulful, more connected.


Reconnect with your daily actions and make them into sacred ritual.



I’d LOVE to practice with you as a sacred beginning

to the New Year of more Light!

making life meaningful


“We are often tired and imbalanced not because we are doing too much, but because we are doing too little of what is most real and meaningful.”
~ Marianne Williamson


Moving into the holidays, we do get tired and imbalanced.


Most often, we ARE doing too much—

  • Working hard to earn the money we need to not only survive, but to buy gifts for our loved ones,
  • Making time for more connections with those we care about,
  • Decorating and creating a home environment that will help us shift into the mood for the holy-days…


And even though all of this is true, what if the problem were not really the “too much,” but the fact that we are not engaging with what is “most real and meaningful”?


The poet David Whyte tells a story that illustrates this in his book Crossing the Unknown Sea. He was working for a cause he loved, doing work he was good at, and feeling driven to work hard and make a difference in the world. But he was burned out, exhausted, and feeling disconnected from himself all the time. Reading poetry together, a friend gently commented that he was not exhausted from overwork, but from not living a wholehearted life. In his case, he was ignoring the inner call to step into his vocation as a poet. The harder he worked, even though it was for a good cause, the less time he made for what had meaning to him, what was most real.


What is most real and meaningful for you
during the holy-days?

How can you live a more wholehearted life right now?


My life and work are about meeting life exactly as it is and finding ways to be more present and mindful right in the midst of it all, in the thick of it.


Here are some simple ways you can practice presence in the life you are living right now, so that you can feel more meaning, more enjoyment, and more depth:


Another focus of attention to help you feel more meaning and purpose in your life is to mindfully engage with rituals that create a sacred container for your life.

These might be seasonal rituals, like the Holidays—perhaps you attend services, decorate your home, or celebrate the waning and waxing of the light. (If you’re in St. Paul, please join me for a Winter Solstice Celebration on December 21st.)

Or they could be practices you consciously engage with to create a sense of the sacred in each day, like you can find in my free Welcoming the Sacred E-Book.


If you’d like to practice in community, I’ve created a free, online 5-day Practice Presence for Life Journey for you! Join me to get on the right foot in the New Year and set yourself up with meaningful practices to help you live a more wholehearted life, every day.

Practicing Gratefulness

I taught a class on practicing gratitude just before Thanksgiving.


(Scroll down for the video!)

We explored how we can’t just assume an “attitude of gratitude,” but we can practice to be present, to open our heart, mind, and body to more gratefulness.


When we brainstormed how gratefulness / gratitude feels, there were so many ways we experience it on the inside. We feel connected, warm, loving, kind, happy, open, excited, tingly, uplifted, grounded, centered, accepting, positive, and more… 

What about you? How does gratefulness sense and feel to you?

These are all aspects of Who we truly are.

Of course we would want to be in touch with them! We can think about them as aspects of our Essence.


Your Essence is something that never goes away. It is an essential part of you, not changed by mood or anything that happens to you. It feels like home, like our birthright.


When we feel in touch with this, we can relax.


We know all will be well.


We make better decisions.


We trust life.


We talked about a lot of different ways to practice opening to gratefulness—from gratitude journals to thanking those who help you, from saying grace at meals to practicing random acts of kindness… The  one I’m going to try on in the New Year is a Gratitude Jar!


There are so many ways to open! 🙂


Please join me in the simple 3-minute body practice below to invite more opening–to help release the habitual contraction we hold in our bodies so that we can make space for more gratefulness and be more present.



Gratitude is a Presence Practice.


When we want something, we find a way to get it or work toward it, to practice.


We have to prioritize practicing gratefulness!

  • Not to get it right.
  • Not to reach some ultimate gratitude high.
  • But to be more present, to open our hearts—for ourselves and for the world.


If you want an opportunity to practice with me for a week, join the
free online 5-Day Practice Presence for Life Journey,
starting in January.

Set yourself up with a sacred and mindful start to the New Year!


and there is only the dance


We begin in the name of Allah.
Alleluia, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
There is no God but God.
Sacred, Holy, Heaven here on earth.


Just four of the many chants/dances we began with our first night of the Dances of Universal Peace retreat with Sufi teacher Maitreya this past weekend.

We sway, bow, pray, sing, open…

Holding hands with our neighbors…

  • stepping into the center, lifting our hands and hearts and minds to the Divine,
  • bowing to each other, to True Nature within, to ourselves,
  • collecting the mercy and grace in our cupped hands and letting it pour down like rain, blessing us head to toe.

Maitreya reminds us over and over that we are already enlightened.

There are obstructions to this light, but it is already within. We dance to remind ourselves, to reconnect to this light within, among, and beyond us.

The rhythm of the simple chants and steps entrains the bodysoul.


Step, bow, turn, spin.

Forward & backward, surrender, change course, turn inward & outward.

 Again. Again. Again. Again.


Perfection in the repetition, in the fullness of the unifying rhythms of body, heart, mind, and soul.

This is embodied group spiritual practice, joining hands, hearts, and voices together to weave the fabric of Love.

How do you embody your spiritual practice?


Join me for another, perhaps more accessible-in-daily-life, form of embodied spiritual practice: Healthy High Tea in the garden, in which we mindfully nourish our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls with real food and good company.


Bowing Practice

I’ve been practicing bowing recently.


When I was researching possible publishers for the book I’m working on, I stumbled upon a book called Bowing by Dahn Yoga Education. I was intrigued and ordered it.

When it came, I devoured it in one sitting and started practicing!

It’s a simple practice, bowing.

Just like the tulips in the photo, that rise in the spring, bloom radiantly, and then release their form to the earth to build up energy for their next blossoming in the following year, bowing is a metaphor for being willing to let go, and then re-form and rise again…when it’s time.

Hands at my heart, I feel myself here, human, woman, being, connecting earth and heaven.

Prayers reach to heaven, draw down into my earthly body, mix the light and dark, the active and still, the blossoming and the release of this form.

And then the downward trajectory, bodysoul (body-heart-mind-soul) returning to the earth with reverence and humility, a sacred return.

How surely gravity’s law, / strong as an ocean current, / takes hold of even the strongest thing /
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
 (Rilke in II, 16.)

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, growing from the earth, returning to the earth. Head bowed, touching the earth, hands open to receive.

If we surrendered / to earth’s intelligence /
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
 (Rilke in II, 16.)

Surrendering this moment through the physicality of the bow. My body embodying it so that my heart and mind can learn this gesture as well.

…to fall, / patiently to trust our heaviness. / Even a bird has to do that /
before he can fly.
 (Rilke in II, 16.)

Returning to standing, following the same pathway, with a subtly changed orientation of the heart. Bringing the humble, solid, ever-supportive and accepting presence of earth up into my humanness, connecting heaven and earth.


Would you like to practice embodying the bow with me?


Women’s Yoga Evening Practice

Relax, renew, and restore with SomaYoga, Yin Yoga, meditation, and embodiment practices specifically designed for a woman’s body, heart, mind, and soul.

Thursdays from 7:30-9:00 pm at St. Paul Yoga Center.

Yoga, as we practice it in the US, has been developed by men for a man’s body, not a woman’s. Our curves, our different hormonal cycles, our neurological wiring, and the body tyranny we face in our culture… these all call out for a different way of practicing.

Women’s yoga, as I’ve been studying and practicing it, is about creating space for you as a woman to express and be all of yourself through your body. It is a way of inhabiting your body in an inquisitive way, of coming home to how a pose can flex, move, curve, and flow to feel good and opening and inviting in your woman’s body. Read more.


Worship Service: Everyday Sacred Embodiment

Sunday, May 28th at 10:30 am, Minnesota Valley UU Fellowship

Embodiment is such a buzz word these days. What does it really mean? And what’s the big deal about being in your body? Join Interfaith Minister Katy Taylor and Worship Associate Betsy Carter to explore these questions and consider how this all fits into the times we are living in. Come curious and ready to inquire!


reprise: Come, yet again, come.

Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving
Ours is no caravan of despair
Come, yet again, come.


Both Passover and Easter are about freedom.


The brain, on the other hand, likes patterns it can repeat, which makes it easy to fall into ruts…which don’t feel like freedom.

In one sense, it’s a good thing because the brain following well-known grooves to ride a bike or walk or drive frees up our energy for other things, like learning something new or trying on a new way of being…

But what if some of our repeated patterns aren’t serving us–and yet they keep repeating on autoplay? How do we find our way to freedom?

Come, yet again, come. This is a sweet invitation to come back to ourselves, to stop the autopilot of habit and wake up. To be present and experience the freedom of being right here, right now, in this very moment.

Wherever we are, whenever we notice, we have the chance to choose freshly again.

We can take a look at what we’ve been choosing.

When I’m not present, my type One orientation habitually and unconsciously chooses to try to improve things–me, you, my environment…life! I just have to learn a little more by reading one more article, to straighten the pile of shoes in the foyer, to update my site to make it more user-friendly…There’s always more to do and never enough time… Your way of getting lost may be very different from mine, but we all have them.

When we notice we are on autopilot, we can ask:

Does what I’m habitually choosing reflect my values?

I often find my value for contemplative quiet time gets relegated to last on my list. Sure, I fit some in every morning, but if it’s something I truly value (and need to be well!) wouldn’t it make sense to create more space in my life for it?

Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving…

Why do we wander away, leave what we value?

We forget. We get pulled back into the automatic pilot of repeating habits.

These are so compelling because they are familiar–the patterns have been traveled so often that they feel known, safe, comforting…even if we’d like to change them.

They don’t challenge our sense of who we might be, which might happen if we didn’t follow them. Our self-identity relies on them. In my example, I know myself as someone who is always making things better. This is an integral part of how I define myself, recognize my value, and orient to the world. Who would I be, how would I interact with life if I didn’t need to know myself in this way? What options for being, for freedom might open up?

Holding what I am repeating on autopilot along with my values creates a paradox. How can both be true? And yet they are.

If we hold this paradox with mindfulness, we can receive the wisdom of right action. There is no ultimate “right” way to always respond, no one tried and true way to reconcile these opposites. If there were, believe me, I would have found it! 🙂

When I’m not present, I fall back into habit = unfree.

When I am present, I can hold both the habit and what I value, and see what freely arises as true in my experience right now, in this moment. Letting these guide me, holding the tension, and listening will result in the right action I seek. The next time I ask, the moment may require something else of me.

Come, yet again, come. Being present means I am responding freshly each time I wake up enough to come, yet again, back to myself and hold the paradox. May Passover and Easter remind us of this possibility–the possibility of freedom in any moment that we choose presence.


OK, your turn! What habits do you fall into without thinking? How do these affect your ability to create space for the things you value? How do they affect your freedom?


Please join me to practice presence together, April 24th-28th:

For five days, you’ll receive a daily email with suggestions and inspiration for ways to practice presence that support your everyday life. We’ll share ideas and get support from each other in the private facebook group. Sign up for FREE!


I look forward to journeying with you!