I Met Her At The Health Food Store

A Medical Herbalist pitches her potions to the owner.
I’m gorping at her wares in a basket,
Close to the floor.

Chest Rub.
Contains Essential oils
Of eucalyptus, thyme and lavandin.

I cough. We talk. what do you recommend?
How much? I’ll think about it.
Oh! Thinking. I’ve just been given some money.

Pausing she says, This is my gift to you.
And take a bag of these herbs as well.
May I introduce my husband. And my son too.

Yep, I met her (and family) at the Health Food Store.
That would be over a week ago.
O! the kindness of strangers.

Thanks to Pat, the Medical Herbalist. I’m coughing better!

Boots Still Smoking

I wrote this at Rev. Mugo’s prompting back in 2003. Clearly, it takes awhile to step back from the intensity of a career. I hope these words will be of some assistance.

Several years ago I read an interview with a well-known American author of novels and short stories. He said that when he wrote novels he built up such energy and momentum that, when he finished, he had so many stories in his head that the short stories demanded to be written.

I’ve found my recent retirement from a stimulating and creative social services job to be quite similar. This job required such a mental and emotional readiness to respond to difficult circumstances that, in its absence, my mind and feelings simply carried on with the habit. When going to the hardware store for plumbing parts, I found myself screening the environment for the crisis I just knew was going to develop.

I found that the author’s comment about these energized stories in his head was an accurate description of what I was facing when I sat down to meditate or felt restless in the garden while weeding or mixing worm castings with compost for fertilizer. There I was with a new found opportunity to unfurl from the responsibilities of what felt like, and at times literally were, life and death decisions. What slowly emerged were impulses and thought patterns which, when allowed to just be, seemed to be sparks of habit energy left over from the need to “manage” the world of conditions and to protect myself. Rev. Master Mugo described me as being one who had recently returned from a ‘war zone’ with my boots still smoking!

I found that I simply could not trust my impulses and thought patterns as long as my boots were still “smoking”. Fortunately, I could at least recognize that acting on an aroused mind and nervous system focused on the world around me was apt to lead to entanglements that were simply no longer necessary.

And, of course, new and enticing invitations (always tied to some financial incentive or, worse, honor) came along for me to rejoin the fray. Fortunately I have many valuable allies, like my wife Nancy, with whom I can take refuge and sit back down without acting too much on impulses or thoughts. Frankly, the refuge taking has, at times, consisted of a firm hand on the shoulder.

In describing these leftover habits, I don’t mean to disparage the work that I did. I imagine that every profession or way of surviving in the world leaves potent vestiges. I also know that I did the best I could, did the least amount of damage possible, and, on occasion, worked with others in a way that loosened the “knots” we found ourselves in. Generally this happened in the little things, the daily civilities and compassion that were not a program, curriculum, or intervention – more like having a cup of tea at the right time.

I’m quite grateful to have done the work I did; it was a great crucible for my spiritual training. I’m now equally grateful that the conditions ripened to allow me, with ample coaching, to uncurl the unconscious fingers of duty and responsibility and move on.

Oh, sure, I have projects and occasionally do some consulting work; if it seems good to do based on reflection rather than duty or being driven. I still frustrate myself in my old ways by being too ambitious with intentions or distracted by brilliant ideas, but to a lesser degree.

And, yes, there have been some intense eruptions of doubt, depression, and cynicism. I figure that, since I don’t have to be as controlled as when I was working, the deeper human concerns of fear and isolation are freer to emerge. However, I find that just letting these concerns be when they arise, rather than getting into some sort of “analysis paralysis” because of their darkness, allows them to depart on their own.

So, the remnants of old work habits don’t seem quite as strong as they did several months ago, though I am making no forecast of their comings and goings. I’m just taking the next step, taking Refuge, and spending more time just chatting with folks. For now, there just seems to be an easier flow to things, like having a cup of tea at the right time.

Reflections On Retiring From the ‘War Zone’

Nearly eight years ago Jim retired from, what I described as, the War Zone. By all accounts his job held the kind of intensity similar to how I imagine it must be in an actual war zone. Moment to moment, from where are the bullets coming? That kinda intensity I could only imagine. It was outside my experience. (Although working on an inner city adventure playground in the 1970’s came close!) I said, You are as one who has returned home from war, and your boots are still smoking! I also said soon after his retirement, Why don’t you write about how it is for you now? And that is what he did, back in 2003.

So it is, and so it was. I have been encouraging people to write about their experiences of life and training for quite some years. And now Jim’s writing is coming home to roost in his piece titled Boots Still Smoking just published after these long years. As with Adrienne it has been an honour to walk and talk beside you Jim.

Due To Health Reasons


I have some experience in ‘gap time’. An Illness, plus many years of stress, worsened to the point where I could no longer work. I loved my job and had dedicated a huge amount of energy to it. The shock of all the loss I felt was painful and scary. I went from full-time full-on immersion in the world of employment to being at home 24/7, to not being able to leave the house, and many times not able to leave my bed.
On Retirement

I’m grateful to Adrienne for telling her story. It has been a long and rough road and I am glad we continue to walk onwards, together. It has been a privilege, and an inspiration.

Avarice, Ambition, Vain-Glory

Written in 1759 – our style of communicating might have changed however the sentiments expressed here hold true today.

The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice. Wherever prudence does not direct, wherever justice does not permit, the attempt to change our situation, the man who does attempt it, plays at the most Unequal of all games of hazard, and stakes every thing against scarce any thing.

from The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith (1759)

Adam Smith is quoted by Dan Gilbert who poses the question, Why are we happy? in this TED Video.

Thanks to Julius for the quote and link. Thanks to all who have asked after my health. I’m still coughing and I’m going back to the house I have been staying in to add another ‘R’ to the fleet of R’s I originally took with me in February. Namely, resting, relaxing, reflecting, retreating and now recovering!

Tomorrow? – A post by Adrienne.