Lake Casitas (Ojai's water source) the first day of the Thomas Ventura Fire

Lake Casitas (Ojai’s water source) the first day of the Thomas Ventura Fire


This has been a very strange year (I suspect for many of you too)!  Right now, as Matt and I are literally just moved back into our home after evacuation – and with the THOMAS FIRES  still burning in areas nearby – and only s thousand or so acres shy right now from becoming the largest wildfire in California history –  I sit with fingers on keyboard and no idea what to write or say that offers some honoring pathway through the ash and into a new breakthrough in consciousness and vision.

We’ve two very good friends who had their home and entire lifework of paintings burn to the ground last week: Everything collected and cherished, crafted and created in a lifetime – GONE!  They were gifted with one item in the ashes of their lives: a (wooden no less) gently seated sculpture of a meditating Buddha facing the ashes of what was once their hearth and home.  What do you to with that?  The mind wants to make meaning.  The heart is at a loss…

City of Ojai California Thomas Fire Day 2

City of Ojai California Thomas Fire Day 2

As we help our community rebuild, the US and world news continues hitting us with another kind of wild-fire: A crazy political environment that just keeps getting crazier. Every time you think it can’t get any crazier:  IT. DOES! 

And then there is the simple elegance of life – all the good people of the world who simply seek the good simple things: Love. Fair wages for work done. A place of belonging. A sense of meaningful contribution. Leaders who do what they say and serve who they are charged to serve. Peace. Home. Food on the table.

Looking over this year, my heart should be broken open. All our hearts should be aching for humanity and this planet.  But I find instead (in both myself and in our culture) a disturbing sense of numbness. Almost shell shock.  In the lifework that I am blessed to do, I see so many people hurting from feelings of betrayal or shocking losses of trust, confidence, love, integrity, fairness.  I’ve experienced my own shocking loss of friendship in a way I never could or would have imagined possible.  I, like so many of us  (if I don’t sugar coat this message) feel what I can only call a PTSD response to what we are seeing and experiencing in humanity at this time.  From a sociological standpoint we are seeing an uprising of:  Fear. Divisiveness. Bigotry. Darkness. Disorder. Distrust of Other.   And yet.  And Yet…

With “eyes wide open” (as I often say in my retreats) what does this one (often overwhelming) viewpoint of humanity ask of us? Without sugar coating, denying, or proclaiming false optimism.. without hiding, pretending these hurts to our hearts don’t exist – without becoming myopically closed in, shut down, focused only on what I can get for myself…   What is the sacred phoenix in this deep well of collective grief ?  What is the new beauty and form that arises from the ashes of chaos and fear?


Can we smile, laugh, love, dance AND also not hide from the pain, the fear, the instability of our times? 

I believe spirituality is itself the home of the soul’s integrated evolution – in action – in the world – in denying no- thing.  I believe wholeness comes from an “eyes wide open” meeting and coming to understand the intimate and transforming power of being available to the frightening darkness of human fear and the unbearable lightness of being – Both. Here. Now.   How can we be truly present to life? How can we be more intimate with the All?  How can we let the fullness of life (the good, the bad and the ugly) become used in an artful self-mastery that opens the doorways of perception and a breakthrough into the true message of Christmas (aka Christ consciousness realized within our own hearts and not some power-play misused Christianity form of control and divisive politics).   The perennial wisdom in every great cultural tradition speaks of an inner evolution of consciousness.   I find that as the rich message to be claimed and embodied  from a dark or turbulent time.  There is a dancing to be had:  Here. Right Now. With it All.

I saw a bumper sticker on the car in front of me as we were being evacuated last week at the height of the fires in our precious little artisan town. It said: 


“The real revolution will be: LOVE” 


That bumper sticker message is the mystic’s understanding: It is an eyes wide open ability to be with the Dark and the Light of life – with the destructive fires that tear down old dry structures and some not ready to go – eventually – once the fire is burned out, the ashes settled – provide us new vistas and new pathways made clear. 


With love (and unedited)



PS. In 2004 I gave a talk at a local small interfaith church during the Winter Solstice Christmas Holiday Season. I titled it: The Gift of the Darkness.  (Audio available here under Section II. Talks:  GIFT OF THE DARKNESS (and with it, many peoples favorite SoulArts Song: The Invitation by Peter Makena)



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