Samson 45

Each time I stepped outside the lobby to smoke, he sauntered across the street from the park’s stone washroom building. I gladly gave him what I had. His face is beautiful, shaped such that a smile is its most natural posture. Eyes partly closed, but twinkling. His weathered complexion made it hard to guess his age. So I asked. 45. He doesn’t hear well, so would gently raise his hand to his ear if I didn’t shout loudly enough.

The shelter a few blocks over won’t admit him. “I’m not funded…”

“What brought you to Saskatoon?” His ex started sleeping around on their reservation. He traveled away: “I’m healing…,” he struck his breast tenderly. He’ll have to go back as the season turns. Too cold here, and he’s not funded.

I wondered if the fixed smile–as I perceived it–wasn’t also a wince from hurt carried constantly conscious. Inescapable. I don’t remember what I said that made him laugh and cough, but then I knew. It’s a smile. Surely it’s both. Pain and joy. Fear and freedom. Desperate, but content to be sharing a cigarette with a stranger. The stranger content to be too.

He raised his cap and massaged his brow, and I tucked my near-empty pack into his leather-skin coat pocket as I readied to depart, shouting, “For later…”

Negligent of my own soul this morning, I didn’t ask to be blessed. But I was.

One cheek rose higher toward a sparkling eye. “Oh…you’re an angel…” He high-fived me.

You are too, Samson 45.


Neil D. 2019-07-24

[Related: Green Shirt]

What kind of strength is weakness?

What kind of “strength” is the weakness that comes from suffering? The REAL kind of strength. It’s not a muscular or defensive (or even O-ffensive) kind of strength. It’s not from being a winner, of any game. It’s in a realm (“real”m) infinitely and eternally larger than infantile game-playing and falsely strong, winner, childish egos.

It’s the kind of fortitude and okayness that comes only from soaking up the outpouring from a ripped open heart.

From noticing with wisdom: You are still here. Your soul is a pool of strength that needs no sense of security or meaning from the small, imaginary world where the small, former you lived. But nothing about that smaller life was, or is, wasted. It is the birthing springboard of You being reborn into the fullness of who You was meant to be. Of You becoming more conscious of how enormous You is, and has been, all along. To have stood through all that, and still be standing.

You aren’t going anywhere, You. The weight of your suffering has planted You so firmly in existence and the real world that any forces which the old, small you feared will progressively evaporate as You grow in awareness that You ARE the unique You that creation has always needed for it to be whole and complete.

You do not belong to anyone. And you are realizing You do not even belong to your own self, even though you thought belonging to your self, and owning your shit, was a sign of strength. You belong to all of creation, just as it all belongs to You. You, still standing, belong here.


Neil D. 2020-01-06

New Year’s Ode To Mothers

Throughout 2020 I photographed from my back porch roses which bloomed from the same vine.
New Year’s morning 2021, I scrolled through these photos and the song “Lo How a Rose E’er Blooming” came to mind.

I searched for lyrics and discovered the origins of the song from ca. 1600 on Wikipedia.

Isn’t it true that in virtually every icon we have of Mary she stands serene with her arms at her sides, but palms subtly raised toward us, in case we are moved to fall into her loving arms? Contrary to gathering our attention, she stands placidly, without chasing or beckoning us, just waiting to be noticed, like a rose with beauty in and of itself, which we can behold when we are moved to notice.

My own mother, born in 1931, has lived to see 2021, and is 375 miles apart from me. Even at my age of 52, I cannot wait to fall into the comfort of her bosom which makes everything OK. Sometimes, when I’ve longed for that warmth but we have been apart, a thought of falling into the open arms of The Rose comforts me. My mom would never be jealous of that because she has always been ready in solemn patience for any child to fall into her arms, no matter how old or large—for my mom too is stand-alone beauty itself.


Neil D. 01-01-2021 (amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, grateful graduate of Notre Dame, “Our Mother,” regardless of today’s later gridiron outcome vs. #1 Alabama)

Searching for the word “compassion.” A two-person chat

Love is a mess of romance and compassion. Compassion can remain.

“Compassionate”… A word we struggle to apply to ourselves. Especially when involving romantic love and pain.

Romance can cloud our recognition of compassionate love within ourselves.

[December 26, 2020] {Nancy and Steve were at a support program with Gary. A few hours after, Nancy messaged Steve…}

Thank you Steve.

Thank you for what Nancy!??

🙂 For sharing your beauty, Steve, and just being with me today. I think you’re awesome, and I love you deeply, Steve.

Omg Nancy I felt like a train wreck today.
But thank you for accepting me.
Love you too, Nancy!!

So funny you sent that Nancy bc I am on the treadmill thinking about how I have nobody lol.
And then you remind me that’s just my head messing w me.

You are alone, Steve. Maybe you can let yourself feel it even more deeply. I think you’re onto something very enormous. And, I think, it’s… Steven.

I feel like Gary judges me, Nancy, and doesn’t understand.
So thank you Nancy.

You’re welcome Steve. You are welcome to all of me that I can give, Steve. And you deserve a lot of credit for helping me be able to give myself.

I’m not sure I fully get what I do for you Nancy but lol I am so glad I can help someone!!!!!!!

Nor can I myself put into words what you do for me. It’s too big, Steve. You are sinking into your beautiful soul of goodness. And it is too enormous to express in words, or to understand with the mind.

It makes me smile to see you struggle during meetings, Steve, unable to find words. I get some sense that this lonely, train-wrecked okay-ness you express is a consciousness awakening inside you, integrating the complex feelings you wrestle, into your “head messing with you,” and into the tender heart that binds you to the need for love that all the beautifully complicated people in your world demand.

To me it seems like the Steve who wants certainty re-meeting the Steven who can embrace uncertainty. That happens inside. Some people think it’s the ego surrendering to the soul. Maybe you are like Lizzie meeting Elizabeth— alone, which is why you wrestle between loneliness and the occasional feeling you tell us that you’ll never find someone or marry again. Maybe you are finding the more enormous you, and that has to come first, despite Gary’s judgemental impatience.

You and Gary have a very intriguing and long relationship that the rest of us can only sense from outside of it. He has a soul with its own deep and unique beauty, and sometimes he seems to be frustrated like you are moving too slowly and deliberately on your journey. That slowness doesn’t surprise me at all, given the sense I have of how vast the inner beauty is that you are discovering. Maybe I’m more patient because it sure feels like the unveiling to the world of the full Steven is worth ANY wait. It’s gonna be epic:)

Dear lord Nancy!!
I hope it’s epic!!!
I just feel the need to explain what I can’t. I don’t know why I am ok w what Jean did but I am.
I don’t know how the hell I am ok after anything I have experienced but I am!!!!

I believe in you, Steve, because I believe in God, and I sense God in your soul welcoming you home, back into your fullness, as you were made.

Most likely bc of people like yourself.
I am content in life for today. I have everything I need. Sure I’d like my house fixed up etc, but overall I have what most people never get and for that I am thankful.

And I think you and I have the same type of outlook on life.
Which makes us ok in a mess.

I wonder, Steve, if your OKness is authentic divine compassion pouring out of your soul. Maybe you understand how broken children of God like Jane and Jean can be, and I wonder if that is because you have sort of opened your eyes to your own brokenness.

I think it’s divine compassion, because from it flows forgiveness, almost effortlessly. That kind of compassion and forgiveness don’t dismiss what has been done to you, but “understand” it in a way that only a heart — and not a mind or an ego — can grasp.

And from what I can tell, what flows after compassion and forgiveness is authentic gratitude… a sense which can’t be put in words, that you “have what most people never get.” By the compassionate loving you extend to those other broken children of God, you are giving them what most people never get.

Dear lord yes Nancy!!!
Maybe that’s it!!!
You should be my counselor!!!!!!
I’m not ok w being treated like shit but
I can’t explain lol.

Maybe that’s… Steven. In his enormous fullness.

Yes! Can’t I just be ok… or good…?? lol
And why are you the only person who understands this.
I can’t change people or make them love me.
I can only be the best person that I can be.

I think there is definitely a kind of “mess” that is all in our head. But as we battle that idea, and try to convince ourselves that it’s all in our head alone, I think we get mistaken that all sorts of “messes” are only in our head. The most enormous mess is the mess of being human. The messy mixture of what is in our head, and what is in our heart. I don’t think we have to — or are supposed to — give up the messiness that comes from interplay between our heart and mind. We were created human, and humanity is goodness.

And let me be clear.
I know I deserve better than what Jean did to me.
I know that with all my soul.
But I am not perfect.
Nor will I ever claim to be.
I just want to BE ME.
Whatever that mess is at that moment or in that hour or day.
It could be taken away tomorrow so I’m gonna enjoy what I have.

The problem with my forgiving heart is that people do take advantage of it at times.

Yes, that seems to be my experience too Steve.
So what?
What they are hurting is not our enormous soul; I think it’s what our ego/mind thinks is our soul. It’s our human sense of right and wrong — of judgment — that gets so deeply wounded by people who victimize us.
That suffering MUST be real.
If a spark of God lives within us — our soul — we “know” suffering is an inseparable part of acting with authentic lovingness. We can’t love any more deeply than we are willing to suffer. I think there’s a pretty good historical example of this. His birthday was yesterday.

And don’t be such a silly dumb ass! 🙂
Millions, if not billions, of other people understand all this. But there are many more who are not yet ready to hear it with open ears. Maybe you and I have been willing to hear it, but have not been ready to hear it. It’s a very big deal. You – YOU, Steve – are a child of GOD. Now, pause for 20 seconds, and think about how passionate you are about loving your own children. There is a part of you in them. Think about how desperately you want to help Kenny’s boys right now. And now, think about how infinitely passionate God is about loving each and every one of his children. It is not so much a duty that is given to you and me (to show them that love from anything we can give), but it is a gift for us to be able to do that. For God to have chosen Steve and Nancy to pour out divine love from inside of themselves onto other children of God who can be much more alive if they can be OK with their imperfections. And, by the way, this is not something you need to aspire to. Something you need to achieve. Some goal you have to chase. You, Steve, have been doing it most of your life. Others have benefited from it. Now it is time for you. Your time. Benefit from God’s love that lives inside of you. It makes you OK. And, enormous.

I absolutely LOVE your words above, Steve.
And now, it’s time for this old fart to take a nap 🙂
To curl up, alone, with the arms of my own soul embracing me in a warm love shown best to us by the child whose birthday we celebrated yesterday. Can dreams be any sweeter?

Sounds perfect!
You should be exhausted
Sleep well and thank you!

Neil D. 2020-12-26

Brown is beautiful – inspired by KC & JS

[5 minute read]

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
[T. S. Eliot’s Little Gidding]

Our soul is our home. And it has infinite possibilities in the color brown.

To help someone is not to do it for them. It is to amplify their effort—their way. Effective therapists, true friends, confidants, and authentic lovers do not tell us how to feel or think. They do not even tell us WHAT we feel and think. They assist our growing awareness of what we have already begun to feel and think—our way.

Therapy is a tunnel that leads you from one cavern of perception to a new one. And when you do not feel at home in that cavern, you look for another tunnel to a different cavern. Successful therapy leads you through this maze of tunnels and caverns to a final destination. And that is in fact the very cavern in which you started: “… the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started…”

This is what non-dualism and mystics mean by having all that you need already. You have always had all that you need. But the human love of mystery and exploration drives us with a motor that can be summed up in “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” For, “We shall not cease from exploration…”

As we have visited these different caverns, we have discovered that the grass there is also brown. Not green. And when we return to our own cavern, and realize that grass only looks green from some other side, brown becomes beautiful. We can rest from the quest for illusory green. “And know the place for the first time.” We can’t “know” that brown patch if our eyes are restlessly aimed elsewhere.

Perhaps you have always felt like the loser in some relationship. The other always had to have the last word. The other got angrier and pounded their fists louder, and so you acquiesced. In addition to “loser” and “winner,” we use words like “strong” and “weak” in that context. And so perhaps you were the weak one. Perhaps the therapeutic tunnel you followed was to improve your self-esteem, to speak your truth, to “use your voice,” to stand up for yourself.

I suspect once you travel those tunnels and visit those caverns, and then you return home to your own brown space, you have grown in awareness that you were a loving person in your losing relationship. You acted with love by withdrawing from the dance that led repeatedly to unhappiness for both partners.

One partner must step out of the dance, or both partners get nowhere. Both believe their grass is greener, even though they know it’s brown. Even though they know? Yes, we know it in a way that we don’t admit to ourselves or to our partner, because in that dance, winning is valued, and losing is weak.

Apply those ideas to Jesus Christ. He was such a loser he never judged the people with whom he interacted. He was such a loser and so weak, they made him carry his own cross to his own death, and he did it willingly. What a weakling. What a loser. Why didn’t he stand up for himself and use his voice? Why didn’t he have more self-esteem? Because. Because ego is much less important than we initially believe it to be.

Ego is only a small part of our nature—but an important part, which tells us we are separate individuals from others. It’s an important piece of knowledge to have — that we are not identical with others — but we don’t *live* from that place of knowledge. Separateness is not life-giving by itself. It is not a large part of our nature.

The largest part of our nature is living from a place of love. Loving. Life-giving. Judgmentalism and ‘being right’ do not satisfy our full nature. Perhaps they are tools that keep directing us back to fuller awareness of our brown patch. Our very own home. The home of our very own soul:

It is judgmentalism that leads us into those tunnels in caverns, and so it serves us well by letting us explore to discover that we are most fully home in our full self:

Our soul is our home. And it has infinite possibilities in the color brown.

We value ego, and we also value being right, too much. But the worst of all illusory values is to believe that hurt and pain and suffering are things to be avoided. These are feelings from which we learn that brown is beautiful. We cannot know deep and authentic love without knowing pain, hurt, and suffering. This was the example of Jesus Christ. Awareness of suffering deepens awareness of loving.

Christmas celebrates the Incarnation—the start of the example of God’s becoming man. God suffers. And God suffers so deeply that we often say, God is Love. The example of Jesus Christ is an example that deep suffering always accompanies deep love. That pure love is always accompanied by pure suffering. There are long-standing wise traditions that speak about the suffering of God. In your own suffering, in your own soul, and your own piece of God, in your own “divine spark,” that same truth is what emerges from knowing and loving the color brown for the first time. From exploring all those other tunnels and caverns.

By surrendering to your suffering, you are following the example of the incarnation. And from that come the fruits of perfect love. Learn to be aware of how deep your suffering is, and you will also become aware of how deep you are as a font of love.

You were not weak. You did not lack self-esteem. You were, and are, a mysteriously wonderful example of love accompanied by suffering. The more you try to avoid future suffering because it hurt so badly in the past, the more you will avoid deeper love, and being a source of deeper love. Including for your own self.


Neil D. 2020-12-25

Inspired by Susan C

Came a Christmas morning text among many, but from an uncommon genre of warm wishers:

“Merry Christmas to you and the family Neil!🎄”

As, by aging, wisdom besets me absent volition, a realization unfolds from within—somewhere deeper than my conscious mind alone. It has the flavor of authentic appreciation—gratefulness that some interpersonal relationships perhaps born of transaction or convenience evolve to survive, and neither their nascence nor evolution were inevitable. Nay, they are both inter and personal. Between two human beings, EACH of whom exercise their inalienable freedom to invest — to risk — trust. Not all such commitments bear fruit, yet that makes more wondrous the ones which do.

My profession is in selling—always implying risk for a buyer, and to the seller as well whose time too is limited. My profession is support—always an interpersonal time commitment that’s BIdirectional, demanding trust each way, especially if subsequent engagements are to happen. My profession is science—a foundationally *human* vocation. Scientists fancy much of their practice as objective, but the involuntary wisdom I’m talking about eventually, for most scientists, humbles them to recognize they are only scratching at the surface of unfathomable mysteries. The vocation itself makes scientists more aware of human nature and frailty.

Beneath this wisdom is some vague understanding that personal integrity has its own way of rising. It seems the more we grow true to who we are as unique human beings, the more we grow into the calm that, although we are mere stitches in the fabric of creation, our thin and frayed thread is no less or more valuable than those over and under which we are woven.


Neil D. 2020 COVID-19 Christmas Day