This past summer, I attended a silent retreat for a week in Northern California.  There was lots of guffawing (yes, I did say guffawing) from friends and family back East. “You are going to be  silent for a whole week?” they asked incredulously.  It is true (I admit it), I can be shamelessly fast talking and a little flamboyant….at times.  And it is also true that I can and do shake off the trappings of my ego self and return to right size when I am consistently being present to what’s here right now.


The moment was ripe to deepen my meditation practice. There were some persistent “gut feelings” I couldn’t shake regarding major decisions at work and with a few close relationships. I knew hard choices were going to be required that would have life altering implications for me. And while I am an intuitive type by nature, I still wasn’t clear on how or when to respond.

In other words, I wasn’t sure if I could trust my intuition. I mean, what is intuition exactly?  Carl Jung said that intuition was “perception via the unconscious.”  He called it the right-brained ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning (left-brained activity).

Even that idea appeared questionable to me.  Checking one half of the brain at the door while making some of life’s most important decisions? That doesn’t seem, well, logical, right?

shadow cairnAnd yet, there are different ways to know things and varieties of knowledge.

The knowing I was seeking was not why moths are attracted to light or why is it that my washing machine is shrinking everything lately. No, it was a fuller knowledge of self that I was after.  With that discovery, knowing I could trust my timing and decisions. From that place, I hoped to pluck the courage to act.

Arriving at the retreat, there was the excitement and anticipation of new faces and new beginnings.  Yet the first few days of the retreat were arduous ones.  Like a house in need of a purging, I hosted a vast clutter of disparate thoughts in my mind and the “ground” of my being was covered in nagging lethargy. But I just kept coming back, coming back to the sensations of breathing, the sounds of my body and the room, to now.

By the middle of day 3, I was able to sit and walk and work in silence without much inner chatter.

On day 6, clarity, that innate human capacity available to us all, if we can stop long enough, began to bubble up naturally. Through the persistent practice of mindfulness and attending meditation, insights were arising without my direct efforts.

While we learn much about the world around us by others, intuition and insights are something we discover experientially. Others can share their opinions or guide us. We can analyze facts and figures. These all are valuable.

Yet, in the words of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (6th BCE), “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” And we can only get there through the daily practice of seeing what’s here.


The mind is like a machine rife with cogs and wheels. It accumulates “dust” of distractions, busyness, and resentments that dull our core. All too often we ignore these “mites” until we are sidelined by illness, pain, or a pervasive lack of clarity.  As Thomas Merton relates, “without realizing it, life without (daily) meditation desensitizes us so that we can no longer perceive grace, listen to our inner voice, or receive intuition.”

So today, consciously tap into being aware of what is happening around you and within you. With intention, being your attention back to this moment.

Cultivate this heightened sense of observation. Together, with the reservoir of empirical data available to you in any given situation, you will find a clear path to “cut through the thickness of surface reality” to get to the truth of the matter.

This is intuition. May you learn to trust yours.  IMG_0994


Our title today is taken from the ground breaking book, Full Catastrophe Living (1992) by premier leader in the field of mind/body training and the founder of the University of Massachusetts Stress Reduction Clinic at UMASS Medical School, Jon Kabat-Zinn.     dreamstime_7048996 (1)

This book  has long since been dog-eared and worn thin by its continual use as an invaluable instruction manual for me. “His major research interests which include mind/body interactions for healing, clinical application of mindfulness meditation for people with chronic pain and stress-related disorders, and the societal application of mindfulness,” align with my own.

While I entered this stream of contemplative practices long ago from the opening of spirituality vs. the current tide of science and medicine; they are in some ways one and the same stream.

In living the full catastrophe, we accept the pleasurable experiences of life and the painful ones with a quiet balance towards them, not getting too wrapped up in clinging towards one or running from the other.  Understanding in a deeper sense that both of these are just passing phenomena, we can be with either.  

For instance, this morning my mind continued to play the daily theme it has done for some weeks now. With frigid temperatures continuing, along with my chronic, cold induced cough, I think,  “I need a vacation.” Perhaps you’ve had this thought recently too? Many, many others thoughts follow this, but they are all stem from this one.

100414a1266 (1)And there is nothing wrong with this thought (or any other for that matter).  Vacating your life for a bit, whether for a week, a month, or even a long weekend (especially if there are turquoise waters involved) can push the refresh button on our minds and bodies.  We log in so much information and activity every day. The amount we can or choose to delete never really a significant de-cluttering of brain space.

And here is some more thinking, “Some warm weather may help me with this winter cough…”

But what if  we can’t take a vacation or we got to take a vacation and it didn’t “take?” Whatever problems we have, whatever inner turmoil, doesn’t necessarily or even likely cease just because we have gone somewhere other than where we are.

If you have been struggling with sadness, anxiety, or anger before you left, chances are there will be moments while you are away that these emotions still arise.  The saying  “wherever you go, there you are”(a title of another book by Kabat-ZInn by the way) is an undeniable truth.

Since you ARE here right now, being here is always an option.

You can make room for moments right now that are exceptional and rich by not going anywhere. How? By engaging with the art of non-doing.  By being present to comfort and discomfort alike, with no particular preference.  By not judging yourself for not doing, but instead just seeing what IS here.  

As Jon Kabat-Zinn points out, “The flavor and joy of non-doing is difficult for Americans to grasp because our culture places so much value on doing and on progress. Even our leisure tends to be busy and mindless.  The joy of non-doing is that nothing else needs to happen for this moment to be complete.  The wisdom in it, and the equanimity that comes out of it, lies in knowing that something else surely will.”


Right now, there is sunlight peeking through the frost covered windows of my bright alcove in my office. A host of bird songs are making themselves known on the evergreens outside.  Cars are speeding past this little cottage while my dog sleeps.  I can breathe in warm steam and hot tea and smile at this fortune.  I can send out thoughts of healing for myself and everyone else who is coughing this morning. I can notice how warm my feet feel in these slippers.

All this from non-doing.  What is in this moment for you?