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See with my heart

I try not to cry on airplanes. It’s not kosher. And, it looks eccentric.
But when I watch movies or read books that tug at my heart, I cry. I used to be self-conscious about it. But not so much anymore. Truth is, these days I’m glad any time that I’m connected with my heart and at home in my own skin.
Here’s the best part: I feel no need to tidy it up. Or even make sense of it.
Of course, my mind strays, and frets, say, wishing my anxiety wasn’t so high. (Another good reason to give myself grief.) This is no surprise, as we live in a world that puts a moral price tag on anxiety, and we’re drilled by church and culture to tidy it up, “Be strong. You’ll get over this, don’t worry.”
And when we see life as a self-help project or contest or assignment, we shy away from places where our heart is soft.
But here’s the real power. When I see with my heart, I pay attention.
Life is about being conscious, welcoming what is already there. You see, in that soft heart (tenderness, humility, gentleness, kindness, empathy, connection) there is the gift of wholeness and sufficiency. The invitation is to sit still. And to listen, to the affirmation of the Holy One. And to say the only prayer you need to memorize, “Thank you”.

Yesterday driving toward an airport, I’m shuffling all this in my mind, with my Sabbath Moment deadline knocking. I’m driving from Hayesville, NC (the very south-western corner) toward Franklin and then on to Asheville. So, I’m driving by Chatuge Lake (near the Southern Appalachian Mountains), and through the Nantahala National Forest. A bucolic terrain that unfurls. Fog still sits in the pockets and valleys. “Do you see that? Lord have mercy,” I say out loud to no one in particular. And I quit worrying about my Sabbath Moment.
I pass a smaller lake, there is steam rising, like smoke gently wafting from birthday cake candles that have just been blown out. After the wish is granted.
As my friends who walk the Camino de Santiago would say, “This is medicina pura.” If you were looking for transformation and I were your doctor I’d say, take two doses of gooseflesh.
Transformation is not about being made tidy. Or brand new. It is about honoring ways to live awake.
The Celtic church had a word for these moments of transformation. They called them thin places. “A thin place is anywhere our hearts are opened,” writes Marcus Borg. “They are places where the boundary between the two levels becomes very soft, porous, permeable. Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts and we behold (the ‘ahaah of The Divine’) all around us and in us.”

Here’s the deal: When we see with our heart, it’s no longer about protecting myself from life, but from letting (or allowing) more of life in. And, if we do–just for a moment–we may find ourselves (in the words of Henry Miller) living aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.
Aware (being awake) is a good verb here, because to live is to be conscious (versus cruise control). And fully conscious connects us with our heart, and our capability to love.

Cross-country flights are perfect for catching up on movies (and re-watching favorites). On this trip, I watched Late Night. A comedy about a late-night TV host. I love humor, because it can often help you hear the truth.
It’s a story about a woman going through a crisis of identity (a popular talk show host, played by Emma Thompson). She lived her life guarded (in other words, tidy), and is learning to connect with her heart. And her authentic self. Learning to let the uncertain and human parts out. “Be careful of showing who you are,” she is cautioned. “Once you turn it on, you can never turn it off again.” And I say, Amen.

I also watched Walk the Line. There’s a scene where Johnny Cash auditions for Sam Phillips. He is hoping for a record deal. He is playing an uninspired and insipid version of a gospel hymn.
And Phillips tells him no.
When Cash demands a reason, Phillips says, “Because I don’t believe you.”
Cash looks crestfallen.
Phillips continues, “We’ve already heard that song a hundred times. Just… like… how… you… sing it.
Cash says, “Well you didn’t let us bring it home.”
Sam Phillips answers “Bring it home? All right, let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing ‘one’ song. Huh? One song that people would remember before you’re dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing? That same tune we hear on the radio all day, about your peace within, and how it’s real, and how you’re gonna shout it? Or, would you sing somethin’ different. Somethin’ real. Somethin’ ‘you’ felt. Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.”
Yes, that scene made me cry.
I want to sing that kind of song. That touches where we hurt, where we care, where we heal, where we give, where we reconcile and mend, where we make and are made whole. That lets us see with our heart.

Tomorrow is the first day of Autumn.
I spent the week with the good people at Hinton Retreat Center. A place committed to creating sanctuary spaces and gardens. A place away from the bustle where we retreat, reflect and renew. It was an honor to be with them. My treat was learning a new plant; Okra. I’d never seen it grow. And Els (who oversees the garden) made sure I came home with some dried Okra pods.
I’m home on Vashon today, my morning walk in the rain. I stop at Fisher Pond to check on the congregation of Canadian Geese (although from the racket I’d call them a Youth Group) that use the pond as a Rest Area on the way to their winter home.

Quote for your week…
The courage and fundamental human competence to taste the full flower of every particle of life, and to respond with absolutely fierce risking-trust to what is needed to every moment. Gerard May

Note: My new book This Is The Life, is out October 14. Join me each week for new video reminders and invitations about mindfulness, grace and the power of the present. Join us on Facebook and Instagram. And pass the word.
SM reflection questions and exercises are available for group and personal use. Let me know if you want to receive.


Today’s photo credit — Mary and Joseph Retreat Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA… Jan Nowinski… Thank you Jan… keep sending your photos… send to

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I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
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In the mailbag…
–Terry, Thank you for today’s offering! I stand in awe of your writings. They give me pause. Time for reflection. I try to live in the present moment amidst so many distractions. I find it difficult to maintain my focus on the Lord at all times throughout the day. Still, when I am able to do so, my life proceeds in a much better, fear-free fashion and I know I am strong on the inside because of Him. Your missive reinforces that for me. Thank you. Beth
–Thank you so much for sharing. I look forward to your emails. So inspiring and beings me peace. Cheryl
–Without a single doubt the best SM you have ever written…or perhaps I just needed to hear it desperately. Elizabeth
–Hello Terry, Took a ride yesterday and stopped at this tranquil spot to pause for a long while and enjoyed the view.  I also bought mums, pansy and rooster tail to make my terrace one of my sanctuary places to sit and read.  I am feeling more at peace.  Thank you for your new book Sanctuary- I am already reading it again!  God Bless!  Sincerely, Mary
–Thank you Terry: Great Mr. Rogers story…and so true.  When we are strong on the inside we don’t have to show it on the outside! Congratulations on the Ace!  I’m still playing for my first!  LOL Aloha Bill
–I appreciate the reminder that I am enough! I don’t have to ‘be’ in control. Laura
–Walking through lower Bidwell Park In Chico, CA after my dear friend died on Thursday. He loved living here and was a giant of a man. Paul will be truly missed. Please say an extra prayer for him.  Thank you, Terry. Kathy
–Thanks you for your words today. They touched my soul and made me feel strong. Peace and blessings. Susan
–This refilled my quart low heart.  Where else could I find a Lakota healing song, Wendell Berry and a prayer from New Zealand. Your stuff ain’t bad either.  Thank you. Ron

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Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid to love, I who love love? Euguene O’Neil

Capable Flesh
The tender flesh itself
will be found one day
-quite surprisingly-
to be capable of receiving,
and yes, full
capable of embracing
the searing energies of God.
Go figure. Fear not.
For even at its beginning
the humble clay received
God’s art, whereby
one part became the eye,
another the ear, and yet
another this impetuous hand.
Therefore, the flesh
is not to be excluded
from the wisdom and the power
that now and ever animates
all things. His life-giving
agency is made perfect,
we are told, in weakness-
made perfect in the flesh.
Saint Irenaeus (c.125-c.210)

A Different Language
I met a little girl
Who came from another land.
I couldn’t speak her language
but I took her by the hand.
We danced together,
Had such fun
Dancing is a language
You can speak with everyone.

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