Posts Tagged ‘life’

A Notorious Presence

August 24, 2017

We just think we know what will happen today.

We rely upon all of our yesterdays, our planning, our assumptions, and the sheep-like complacency of our fellow humans to make our day like any other day. Human survival depends on reliability and predictability.

And then some wayward ripple of Life comes along. That smooth boring surface of daily living becomes an unfamiliar landscape with a murky outcome. Some people are fine with the unknown. Others need to know the conclusion now. They turn to Life for answers. Sometimes, Life responds with possibilities or even solutions.

Other times, there is silence – an empty waiting chasm of nothing. No resolution. No advice. No insights. No path to follow.

That silence is a place for something more to happen. Something greater is being asked of me. I am being asked to fill the emptiness, to bring what I dare not be. When Life does not offer a solution, perhaps I am being asked to create it.

The poet Rumi wrote: “Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.”

I want to be notorious.

Life has delivered me in the world with all of the abilities and qualities to live as fully alive as possible, to engage in spite of my doubt, to embrace the unknown without planning for every contingency. When Life is silent and not responding to my question, not resolving the problems surrounding me, not delivering me from my trials, I am being offered the opportunity to be notorious.notorious

The silence at daybreak is an open invitation to be more than was possible. I want to get up each day and square off with the mortality that is claiming the years of my life. I won’t last forever in my comfort zone of known outcomes.

I want to fear me in the mornings.



Broken presence

July 30, 2017

Death breaks me open. It is Life’s warning signal that all that is comes to pass. Regardless of our inherent need for homeostasis to flourish and grow, cascading events will eventually overwhelm us and break the sustaining links.

Nothing comes to stay.

In just five short trips around the sun, this harsh reminder of impermanence has made it nearly impossible for me to stop and voice my process here. My mother and sister a few years ago, and my brother gone on the 12th of July are no longer available in my life. Minor deaths chip away at the façade of permanence – the death of all my possessions in a fire, a lover pretending to be a friend.

And with each death, I am broken open exposing dark, empty parts of me. I dream once again that I have died, read my obituary in the newspaper only to arise with the realization that I am broken with a choice: I can either close myself over that darkness or I can open my brokenness to the living presence in the light.

I took a short journey to the edge of my known world recently and submerged myself in its culture. I spent time with my grandchild who is my hope for the future even though I am broken enough to know it is not my future. We met our worries together and found they meant nothing. Only the present moment held meaning. Oblivion is waiting in the next blink of an eye.


Across thousands of miles, a friend reached out daily and reminded me that life is not just death, but is also promise, love, and hope. To live broken is to make a contract with an eternal setting sun and lets its light reach me.


The presence of joyous noxiousness

April 30, 2016

Well, I’ve died again.

It happens occasionally in my life. I’ll go underground, converse with the god of the underworld, and resurface to live the next iteration of my being in the world. This particular death process has lasted a few years and ended last night with a dream that I died and was able to read my autopsy. Here I was, dead, and reading my autopsy, alive, so that I could figure out what killed me. Dreams are great.

My cause of death was joyous noxiousness.

My response this morning is close to a WTF moment. But then, in order to come alive, to break the barrier, the part of me that went into darkness needs to die with all of its woe-is-me, heart-breaking, I-wish-the-world-were-different, my-mommy-and-daddy-were-mean-to-me excuses for not becoming fully alive.

We’re not talking soft sweet sympathetic head patting and empathetic eye blinks and hand holding meant to stimulate my emotional growth. No. We’re talking die already.

And what killed me was joyous noxiousness. Evidently, this joyous noxiousness has been quietly and steadily killing me without my knowledge and has now made itself known in a most magical and unexpected way.

My new life, then, is to learn how to live with it.

This one’s for you, Kathy.

The presence of self-remembering

November 23, 2014

I sometimes forget that I am an eternal presence. Just over four years ago, I had a small epiphany and made a connection more with what I call my “eternal presence” – the essence of my soul or spirit who came to live in this body and experience this life – who knows that I have always existed and always will and knows that I am a part of the ultimate divine being (God/Spirit) and remain connected. I began this blog then and write about how my eternal presence connects to everydayness of life and how the everydayness of life connects to my eternal presence.

But, I get waylaid by life, distracted by other paths of existence and forget to stop and come back here to connect . . . to write about the outside. Writing about the outside brings it inside where I – the “I” who is eternal — can connect and process and reflect and give back to me who is thinking, sensing, and feeling her way through this life.

Events, people, writings, readings, animals, objects, thoughts, tasks – in other words: life – comes into my awareness to remind me of what I already know: I am an eternal presence existing in this mortal body, resting behind this thinking sensing feeling experience. Life is poking at me. God is poking at me. I make all of these invitations to the universe to show me how to bring my true self to life, yet unless those invitations show up in the way I imagine they should, I completely miss them.

Until I choose self-remembering . . . and suddenly I recognize them as singular messengers responding to my requests. A phone call from my daughter reminds me that my morning candlelight vigil for her is being heard. The balance in my bank account more than sufficient to meet my obligations. The person who comes upon my path with a word that leads me to a hidden wisdom.

It is the everydayness that makes the eternal interesting.

©2014 by Barbara L. Kass

A Blue Cup Presence

May 10, 2014

Material objects sometimes represent more to me than their momentary utility. A psychologist would tell you that I project myself into these objects, giving them my personality and attributes, a process called personification.

A shaman would tell you that everything has a spirit living in it, including material objects because those materials were made from earth’s resources, and the earth and its resources are nothing but living spirits. And, just like any other spirit, we cannot own them. They only agree to be borrowed for a time in our lives.

Some years ago, my daughter and son-in-law were struggling with their lives. The details are meaningless to anyone but me and them; the consequences, however, could have been so very costly to the person we care about more than anyone else: their daughter and my granddaughter. All of the responsibility for my granddaughter fell upon my son-in-law. He was a very young soul then, barely past the age of 20, and he had to make the commitment to save his own life first.

My resources were limited to taking care of me. While I could cheer him on and babysit, I could not step into his life and fix it for him. I could not run his race or lift his burden. It was his battle, not mine.

A day came very early into this battle . . . a very hot day, where his struggles brought him to my door while running the numerous errands that were his life at that moment. He asked only for a glass of water, and I gave it to him in a cup exactly like the one shown in the picture. bluecup1 (2) He swallowed the water in what seemed one gulp, so gave him another, but this time filled with ice. He was close to being late for his next appointment with destiny so I told him to take the blue cup with him.

I never saw that blue cup again.

Ten years later, I see my son-in-law and granddaughter all the time, and the blue cup in the picture is the mate to the one I gave away that day. My granddaughter rocks the world with her presence and my son-in-law has discovered grace and gifts within himself that amaze and comfort me.

When I look into my cupboard and see that lone blue cup, I am reminded of that day, what preceded it and what has come after. I don’t long for the presence of its mate. I don’t ever ask my son-in-law about it and I don’t want to know where it is. Instead, I imagine that other blue cup still out there offering a long, cool drink of water to a thirsty world.

©2014 by Barbara L. Kass

Learning Presence

September 12, 2013

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us. Joseph Campbell

My fingertips surprise me when I allow them to translate directly from my soul without filter. When I returned to this blog last week, I responded to a comment from Laurie (Speaking from the Heart ) by saying: “The more I learn, the less I know. I have seen, heard, and felt SO much that all I can say is that I know even less than I knew three years ago because my learning has far exceeded my knowledge. Now I have to go write a blog about that.”

So, here I am . . . writing a blog about that—the more I learn, the less I know.

At the age of four or five, I was complete. I knew everything I needed to know. My memories of that time are curled up in an idyllic cloud of nested satisfaction. During that brief period in my life, I had no worries about the past or the future. I was totally caught up in the present and that was enough.

Life happened and the world caught me in its grip of reminiscence and anticipation. Consequences began to haunt me. The future held shadows that foretold of events to come.

Learning became a cognitive process that created more questions. Half a century later, I stand at the edge of knowledge cliff facing a vast emptiness of unknowing.

I have learned that I often get what I have asked for only to find out that I have asked for something that is not good for me.

I have learned that no one is really in charge of life here on earth except the laws of physics and nature.

I have learned that we create our existence.

I have learned that nothing has to happen and everything will.

What I don’t know is how to put what is best for me first.

What I don’t know is how to help others see that we can only be in charge of ourselves and if we just do that, we might cause less harm to others.

What I don’t know is how to create a daily existence that is based on everything I write about here.

What I don’t know is how to let nothing happen.

I am learning ever . . . so . . . slowly . . . that if I just watch my life and live from my true presence, something will happen.

And it might be better than what I had planned.

©2013 Barbara L. Kass

the presence of art

February 8, 2011

Occasionally, a little nugget of words comes my way and strikes a little spark inside me. I read a lot, traveling roads paved with the sentences, ideas, discoveries, and conclusions of the world as seen through the eyes of others. Seeking to uncover my own undeniable truths, I sometimes find them in the most unlikely of places.

This morning I found a phrase about people turning their “lives into works of art.” I found it, of all places, in The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville. Yes, there are spiritual atheists out there, self-selected and defined, but that is not what this blog is about.

This blog is about living life as a work of art. I am immediately enchanted with the idea. Even though the author of those words was using them to describe the lives of Nietzche and Oscar Wilde as miserable delusions, I cannot help but take that phrase to the next level and be the work of art, live as if I am a delicate sculpture or a carefully crafted oil painting or the twirl of a ballerina.

What if I can construct my thoughts as if they were already Pulitzer prize-winning stories? What if I can direct my limbs as if they were a choreographed Broadway score? What if I can take my voice and create a symphony that makes me come alive with joy?

Thoughts to words.

Words to actions.

While I am seeking truth through the perception of others, I often find my own truths within the arguments of my own perceptions. I am spending these moments looking at every person, every creature as a work of art. It was no accident that a particular group of cells came together at a specific moment in time and joined with the living soul energy that now occupies that body. It was a carefully orchestrated plan that had been on the drawing board for centuries.

And each one deserves my applause.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

the presence of challenge

January 12, 2011

The belief taught in the Lotus Sutra provides no easy answers, no escape route from the difficulties of human life. In fact, it rejects such easy answers; instead it implores us to take up the two tools for exploring life, belief and understanding, and use them to continually challenge and work to perfect ourselves. And it also provides us the energy to do just that. -Daisaku Ikeda (

Life has its easy moments . . . remembering that “easy” is a relative term. What I sweep through like a breeze might be a hardship for others. The idea that life itself is easy appears true for only a few individuals. Even then, what we see is the appearance that life is easy. We don’t see the struggle and work behind the scenes. Many people I know who seem to have the easy life worked very hard to get there.

Life is not always hard, but life is always work. In a recent post, my friend, Ben, wrote “the challenges in the world today . . . are forcing us to seek something new in ourselves and only in this moment. That is all we have.”

He is right – we only have this moment to meet the challenges of our lives. Because life is not static, each moment brings a new challenge. Even if those challenges appear to be the same old challenges, they are not. We are unwinding and unfolding along with that challenge in each moment. More of our selves are exposed and available. Thus our abilities, our perspectives, our understanding are changed and there is more of who we truly are to bring to that challenge.

I have a few friends who have physical handicaps. One of them has multiple sclerosis and has had it for 40 years. He copes by reinventing how he meets that challenge each day, in each moment. When one technique stops working, he finds something new in himself to meet that challenge. He gets creative and is willing to do the work required to deal with the new challenges life brings him.

Ben goes on to write that the moments of our lives are “the alpha and the omega.” Each moment is its own beginning and its own end. Once we get inside that knowledge, we realize this moment is the eternal present and this is the only chance we have to find that something new in ourselves to meet our challenges.

Find something new in you today, tonight, tomorrow, and all the moments you encounter. Be that new creation, that new thought, that new action. There is a reason why we set all of this in motion and leave it in motion. None of it was designed to become cold and still . . . and that includes you.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of water

October 15, 2010

This morning, I was washing dishes at my sink, liberally rinsing the soap from my rice pot, and being grateful for the privilege of washing dishes. Here in America, I have the luxury of water available to use as I please. Not everyone on planet Earth has this luxury. About one billion people lack access to clean water and 38,000 children under the age of five die each week from unsafe drinking water and unsanitary conditions.

If we had that many children dying in America each week, we would set up a foundation and have a race to find the cure.

Today is Blog Action Day for water ( On this day, bloggers all over the world have agreed to write and post a blog today about water and the water issues we face on planet Earth.

Water is liquid life – invisible magical particles that exist in the air, glittering crystals in snow and ice, and the marvelous unity of blue in the rivers and oceans that cover the Earth. It ranks right up there with oxygen – you can have all the oxygen in the world, but if you don’t have water, your chances of surviving beyond a day or two are pretty slim.

Water is a universal solvent. It has both positive and negative polarities making it cling to anything with a charge, including itself. Buddhists admonish us to live softly like water, yet it was water that cut the great and beautiful cliffs and valleys of the Grand Canyon.

We cannot make water. It is like trying to grow a dinosaur. In college, my environmental science professor said, “You can put a whole bunch of hydrogen and oxygen together in a sealed room and it will be a really, really long time before you get any water, if ever.”

Water makes up about 70 percent of the earth’s surface, but 97.5 percent of all water on Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5 percent as fresh water. Nearly 70 percent of that fresh water is frozen in the polar icecaps. Most of the remaining water is in the soil and in deep underground aquifers and is not accessible for human use.

That makes less than 1 percent of the world’s fresh water (about 0.007 percent of all water on earth) available for human consumption. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and underground aquifers that are shallow and close enough to the surface for us to access. Water in these areas is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and can be sustained. However, the water cycle is a closed cycle – meaning that the same water is constantly recycled. On one hand, this is good news: simply keep the water clean and we can use it over and over. The bad news is that we are not getting any new water.

Every item that humans manufacture requires water. Every single one. It takes 1,500 liters of water just to make a T-shirt. Water fuels the energy systems of America. Every day, more than 500 billion liters of fresh water travel through our power plants—more than twice what flows through the Nile River. Think about that before you buy that next useless trinket or the cell phone with more gadgets that you could ever learn to use in your lifetime.

If we keep using water the way we have been, that lifetime will get pretty short.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of Magic

August 17, 2010

The Magic Cat
She has always been a creature of comfort. Her soul loves feeling good to the point that never mattered who might be inconvenienced in her search for warmth, a complete body rub, and dinner off my plate.

Yesterday, we said our temporary goodbye. She could no longer eat or drink water even though it was clear she wanted to. Sitting at her water dish, her meow was mournful and painful for me to hear. I made the decision to allow death to claim her body, and set her soul free. I needed to put her out of my misery. I feel only a little bit better that she is no longer physically suffering.

There is no doubt in my heart that she will be present for me when I make my transition home.

She represents more to me than a 7-pound feline with an attitude. We have a 17-year history and there are a hundred thousand memories associated with her presence. When she first arrived in our lives, Bethany was a young girl and Magic was her birthday present. Magic was supposed to be her cat, not mine. But I was working from home back then and she found my lap beneath the keyboard while I typed away. She snuggled up against me late at night searching for warmth and the familiar sound of another heartbeat. She taught me how to throw her cat toy and she would fetch it and bring it back to me to throw again. When we had visitors, people said she followed me around like a dog. I told them she was very much a cat: always on the wrong side of every door.

I dragged her 2,000 miles across the United States from Texas to Maryland and changed residences six times in 15 years. One time, she even put up with living with male cats for 3 years. She was always well-behaved and polite. These past four weeks were the only time she was sick or caused me any concern at all.

I carry the question of whether euthanasia and depriving her of suffering was the “right” thing to do. I take some comfort from the idea that if she trusted me with her life, then she also trusted me with her death.

I have a lifetime of stories to tell about her, but right now they all make me cry.

I miss her presence.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass