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Spiritual friendship

What if the leading energy in our lives were to be our heart and our heart’s cry? What if living a “spiritual life” was actually synonymous with living a “heart-centered life”? These are some of the questions I have been asking myself—and the answers have pushed me more and more into prioritizing what I am calling “spiritual friendship.” What is spiritual friendship to me? It is the genuine meeting of two people who are vulnerable and open and truth-telling and available for actual contact and communion at the feeling level.

For the past eight years, I have been working closely with a Hakomi therapist (Hakomi is a type of therapy that works with mindfulness in a body-centered way). One of the principles of Hakomi is that the interpersonal wounds we have experienced in our life (for example, early wounds from childhood in relationship to our parents … sound familiar?) can only be healed in relationship with others. What this means is that interpersonal challenges can’t be healed on the meditation cushion or in solitary retreat.

Wounds from relationship require the context of relationship for healing. This seems pretty obvious, huh? But as someone who has been a meditator now for almost three decades, this was not something that was obvious to me in the early stages of my journey. Somehow I thought I was going to open completely to the universe and all of its mystery without ever needing to relate closely and vulnerably with others.

What I am actually finding is that connecting with other people in a heart-centered way is not just about healing. It is actually the most rewarding and fulfilling part of my life. Period. There is something about being fully received by another person and fully receiving another person, without the need for any part to be edited or left out, that feels to me like the giving and receiving of the greatest soul nourishment that there is.


Recently, I found myself in a room alone with a renowned scientist who specializes in the field of perception. We were at a conference and were sitting with each other in a room that had been set aside for presenters at the event. Finding ourselves alone in the room together, we both seemed a bit awkward at first. What would we talk about? I decided to bring up the topic of uncertainty as I knew that he taught quite a bit about uncertainty in the context of perception (for example, how we never know if what we are perceiving is the same as what someone else is perceiving, even when we are looking at the same thing).

Right at the beginning of what I feared would be an awkward conversation, this scientist said to me, “When you really start investigating how uncertain everything is, it’s enough to make you feel totally insane. There is only one thing that has kept me even the least bit sane, and that is loving relationships.” When he said this, I leaned over and said, “Would it be okay if I kissed you now?” He looked quite shocked. I gave him a big kiss on the cheek and said, “I never thought I would hear a scientist say such a thing. I have come to the same conclusion, but I thought that was just because I was some kind of a mushy-mush person.”

That moment in the green room was a moment for me of spiritual friendship, a moment of genuine connection where the heart breaks through any awkwardness or fear or holding back. I am finding those moments occurring more and more in my life, often in unexpected ways, and it is those types of moments that I hope will fill the Wake Up Festival from start to finish. We need each other so much. We need each other’s acceptance and reflection. We need each other’s unhurried presence. We need our love to break through. We need “community” in the sense of knowing that we are connected to others who are on a similar journey, where the vulnerability and tenderness of our hearts are leading the way.

The Wake Up badger

Not long ago I engaged in a shamanic journey with the intention of meeting my power animal. I was and still consider myself completely new to the practice of journeying. Although I may have a theoretical understanding through my exposure to the teachings of many Sounds True authors, my direct experience in this area is pretty limited. Since direct experience is what it’s purportedly all about in shamanic journeying, I decided to see for myself what it was like.

I was not disappointed. In the journey I voyaged back in time to a tree house my childhood friends and I had built—an impressive if not altogether hazardous tri-level construction of scrap plywood, crates, and anything we could find to nail together. I traveled to a tunnel beneath the tree house and met a squirrel, who beckoned me to follow him down a long path. At the end of the path a large badger awaited me, nodded, and then I simply followed the squirrel back above ground. End of journey.

Fast forward to Sounds True’s first Wake Up Festival, where I took great advantage of the challenging yet beautiful 18-hole disc golf course. During one round, a particularly good drive fell near a dark hole in the middle of the fairway. As we approached to take the next shot, what should block our way but a large and agitated badger—the first I’d seen in the wild despite years of camping throughout the country. The badger was not going to let us retrieve my disc, which sat just six feet away from it (and only 25 feet from the basket—it was a birdie opportunity!). After some coaxing, the badger finally returned to its lair, allowing us to finish play.

I didn’t see the Wake Up Badger as I called him during later frolf rounds throughout the Festival, but I think someone’s trying to tell me something…



Wake Up San Francisco! – March 28, 2015

Dear friends, we are excited to let you all know about Wake Up San Francisco: One Extraordinary Day of Transformation, featuring Adyashanti, Alanis Morissette, Caroline Myss, and many others.

Learn more here!

How can we stay sane, resourceful, and connected to the limitless depths of our being right in the midst of our busy lives? Is such a thing possible? Is spiritual awakening reserved for people who travel to retreats and monasteries, or is it possible that we can touch spiritual awakening and the depths of the human heart right in the midst of the chaos of our lives? Wake Up San Francisco is a one-day event on Saturday, March 28th that immerses participants in the awakening of the human heart. Bringing together spiritual teachers, poets, musicians, yogis, psychological researchers, healers, and lovers of life, Wake Up San Francisco promises to be a day of reflection, new insight, and transformation.

You are warmly invited to join pioneering spiritual teacher Adyashanti and music sensation Alanis Morissette for a one-of-a-kind dialogue about waking up in the midst of everyday life. The author of books including Emptiness Dancing and Falling into Grace, Adyashanti is one of today’s most sought-after teachers, especially when it comes to his rare public appearances. Alanis is most recognized for her album Jagged Little Pill (which still ranks as the number one top-selling debut album for a female artist). The dialogue will be hosted by Sounds True founder, Tami Simon, and will be followed by an intimate concert with Alanis Morissette.

In addition to Adyashanti and Alanis Morissette, presenters at Wake Up San Francisco include:

  • Caroline Myss, New York Times bestselling author and leading voice in the field of energy medicine
  • Mario Martinez, clinical neuropsychologist lecturing worldwide on how cultural beliefs affect health and longevity
  • Sally Kempton, author of Awakening Shakti and Meditation for the Love of It, on the transformative power of kundalini
  • Roger Housden, author of Ten Poems to Change Your Life and Keeping the Faith Without a Religion, on beauty as a portal to awakening
  • Sera Beak, Harvard-trained scholar of comparative world religions and author ofRed Hot and Holy: A Heretic’s Love Story

When we touch a limitless sense of being—vast, open, undivided—and do so in an embodied way, we paradoxically become more uniquely ourselves, more empowered, and on fire to bring forward our unique gifts. We wake up to our courage, to our authenticity, and to contributing to the well-being of others in fresh and meaningful ways. We welcome you to join us at Wake Up San Francisco!


Honoring an Irreducible Truth in Ferguson

During this morning’s run, I was talking with my friend about the fear and frustration we’d both been feeling about Ferguson, Missouri, among other places. What can we do? we asked each other. If it came down to it, would we be able to stand against the so-called authorities armed with tear gas, guns, and hoses?

I told my friend about the only time I’d come close to anything like it. The KKK was marching in a little town a few miles east of my college campus, and a small group of us organized ourselves in protest. We brought in advisors to teach us how to remain calm in crisis. We knew our history; we’d seen the footage; we were afraid. We also knew that remaining silent wasn’t an option. We boarded the bus in silence, and when we got there, we linked arms and lined the street peacefully, waiting for the hate group to come streaming up the road. It was summer then, but I remember feeling a chill that raised gooseflesh on my arms.

A few minutes later a pathetic bunch of ragtag malcontents rounded the corner—the odd skinhead here, old grizzled men there, and bored teen goths sprinkled in—all spewing the tired epithets we’d heard before: “____ go home… .”

After our protest, we boarded the bus and headed back toward campus.

Once returned to the relative safety of familiar surroundings, we’d talk about how sad the hate group looked. Their outfits didn’t even match! we’d laugh. They weren’t even marching in step together! Weren’t they supposed to be organized better than that?

But this morning, we weren’t laughing.

Every time events like these erupt, I wonder what there is to do about it. Up to this point, I’ve signed petitions, I’ve written essays and articles, made calls, protested, volunteered, minded my business, went back to bed, wrung my hands, paced the floors, pumped my fists, prayed, held loved ones close, fundraised, danced, run, sung, and sweated for the cause. I’ve cried, fretted, and did it all again. And I’ll keep on doing it.

I recently turned to a memorial delivered by Dr. Howard Thurman in the aftermath of Dr. King’s murder. I was searching for words to articulate the frustration, pain and loss of another senseless killing and the ongoing struggle for equality and peace for so many in America. The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman remains painfully, powerfully, resonant today:

Tonight there is a vast temptation to strike out in pain, horror, and anger. Riding just under the surface, all the pent up fury, the accumulation of a generation’s cruelty and brutality. A way must be found to honor our feeling without dishonoring him whose sudden and meaningless end has called him forth. May we harness the energy of our bitterness and make it available to the unfinished work which Martin has left behind. It may be—it just may be—that what he was unable to bring to pass in his life, can be achieved by the act of his dying. For this there is eloquent precedence in human history. He was killed in one sense because mankind is not human yet. May he live because all of us in America are closer to becoming human than we ever were before.

I wish I could tell you of the tremendous love and worry I feel for my brothers, for my beautiful nephews, especially, and for the precious children of my friends.

Today, I’m open to new ideas—to whatever helps me keep my heart open, my love alive. It’s an imperative for me because I am the beneficiary of an irreducible truth, which is this: love is all there is.


An outpouring of love stories

Perhaps love is not something you need to seek any longer. That it is not something you will finally get more of one day, just as soon as you pray enough, meditate in the right way, forgive better, accept more deeply, finally ‘let it all go’, rest as the ‘witness,’ stay in the ‘now’, and become a perfect spiritual person.

Friend, you will never find more love, for love is what you are. It is what your organs, your nervous system, and the cells of your heart are crafted of. It is forming as your arms when you hold another, as your words when you speak kindness, and as your tongue as you taste the honey-nectar of the beloved as it arrives by way of your sweet lover.

Allow yourself to receive the benediction of pure presence, for it is your birthright. It is wired inside you and longing to erupt from your totally out of control heart. For when it does, an avalanche of grace is unleashed, sending love stories, wild music, and sweet poetry into the stars and supernovas, seeding the galaxies with your unique light.


Share Good Karma – free gifts from Sounds True!

Dear friends, we wanted to let you know about a new program at Sounds True, called Share Good Karma, which was created so that you could receive free gifts from us – and share them with your friends.

The first two titles featured in the program are a collection of relaxing and healing music, entitled Meditation Music: An Invitation to Still the Mind and Open the Heart; and The Practice of Mindfulness: 6 Guided Practices. Once three of your friends “accept” these free gifts from you, you’ll receive an additional free gift of your choice.

Learn more and get signed up for Share Good Karma!


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