Author Archive

“Ungraceful grace”

 “Sometimes you open a door, and you are the only one
who can go through it.” —Mooji

There are very few reasons these days that I am inspired to leave the inner sanctuary of silence—to speak, to be with others, or even to write something that in any way expresses an objective opinion. For quite a while now I have been trying in myriad ways to gently explain to those I know and love why I am less available for even the most casual of gatherings…

When we come to a place where we no longer believe everything the man-made mind comes up with and genuinely feel that there is almost nothing worth speaking about unless it is spoken from one’s true home in the Heart, well—it can make for a more confusing and inconsistent exchange with those who still expect us to show up the same way we have for perhaps decades.

I feel deeply aligned with an inner truth that says until I can merge the “inner” experience of I AM with the “outward” personality, what’s being offered feels not at all representative of the Truth of the I AM that is beginning to be experienced more of the time on the “inside”.

It is as if this experiencing of the I AM is only half baked—and to bring it to the potluck seems to cause only more hunger for those who have known me to be a certain way and to engage with them in a specific dance of personalities.

Never in my life did I imagine that I would search for, allow in, let alone find a “guru” or “teacher”. But for some of us a true, clear knowing arrives, and it says, “It’s time. Bring me that One who will take me all the way Home. Bring into my reality that One who already knows the Way.” The grace of a true teacher is that they do not ask you to leave behind anything you hold dear—Christ, Buddha, God or Goddess—but  invite you to create a container large enough to hold it All:  All images, concepts, mentors and guides that are reflections of pure Love. True teachers ask us to put limits on nothing. To realize that They are It, You are It, and It is All there is…

A short while ago I heard my teacher, Anthony Paul Moo-Young, affectionately called “Mooji”, describe his final teacher, Sri H. W. L. Poonja as “Friendly to All, Friends with none.” When I heard this, tears sprung to my eyes. My experience this last three years or so is that this is increasingly my own reality, and that it feels right, and that, in fact, trying to maintain friendships at this point in my life seems at cross-purposes to what I am being called to explore and to discover and to live in, and to live from.

The Grace that has called me inward to find That which does not change; to know happiness that is not dependent on circumstances; to establish a connection with God/Presence that can never again be lost is an inward pulling so strong that it cannot be explained to anyone who is not also experiencing it.  And it can sometimes seem hurtful to others.  But it’s not personal—it’s primordial.


1 ancient, earliest, first
2 instinctive, basic, primal, intuitive, inborn, innate, inherent

Personality was created secondary to this awareness, this Presence we Are and have always, always been and always, always shall Be.

Once this Calling comes, there is no turning one’s back on it, nor turning back from it. The only choice is to willingly Go Within. Once there, however, it becomes incredibly apparent what has been missing one’s whole life, or lifetimes. And nothing in the outer reality can hold a candle to this effortless harmony and happiness.

My teacher, Mooji, has said:

“Maybe for a while you’re not going to be good company for anybody. So don’t go looking for friends. You have to walk through the wilderness of your own self. Your attention must turn fully inside. Baptize your attention inside.

“If your desire for Freedom is True, Grace will come, and take you Home. Something has already called you to look inside, has pulled you out of the raging river and now you have chosen to look inside.

“But the world wants to see progress.

“First find the Self. Just stay quiet and rest in the Self. And be happy. The world won’t understand this kind of happiness. It will rub its eyes many times and stare at you. Yes, but where are all of your achievements, your worldly goods—where is your house?  And you will answer:  This is my House.”

For most people there will again come a time when one’s Being has merged Inner with Outer and the dance becomes more graceful and seamless, open and inclusive.

I write this and share this for those who are also called Inward and know the Ungraceful Grace of this passage of which I speak. But I can think of no greater gift to share with others than to Know Who We Really Are and to then, when moved to, speak and act from that place of Knowing.

For some, the path Home doesn’t perhaps include this kind of turning inward, this basking in the depth of stillness where one can listen and really hear… but for this one, it is the case. And if there are more out there experiencing the same, know that you are not alone.

If there were anything more important to me to share at this time, I don’t know what it would be. To recognize what already exists within us regardless of circumstances is what might return an insane society to one of sanity, and a violent society to one that lives in compassion and harmony with all forms of life, including the life form we’ve been given to inhabit.

May All Beings Know Peace
May All Beings Be Happy
May All Beings Be Free from Suffering

em claire














Pillow Talk

There’s a beautiful inaccuracy I’ve been shown over and over again in the last year:  how we assume we can know another human being simply through the few, or many interactions we’ve had with them over a few or many years.

For example, people believe that they know my husband, perhaps through his work, or his parenting, or his friendship, or by how many successes or failures he’s acquired over a lifetime of near seventy years of being human.

But they can’t possibly know who this same person is at the level of Pillow Talk. No amount of interviews, or long, close talks with friends, can reveal the kind of person who is so sacredly revealed to me when we are alone, held in the safety and sanctity of romantic relationship.

The other day I wondered, What would it be like if, instead of “knowing” someone by their outward appearance, habits of survival, or armoring, we were afforded the blessed experience of knowing them at the level of Pillow Talk?  What kind of world would we be living in, then?

If we knew without a doubt—without for one moment being hoodwinked by the personality in front of us—that this person, too, wakes in the night, crying out from a bad dream, that they curl into the fragile body of their mortality in high fever, in ill health, that they sometimes wish or ask to be held.

If we could assume that no one “has it together”, knows all the answers, or is comfortable in the human cloth but instead, yearns to know Home and return to it or return to a time when somebody told them, “Everything’s going to be okay,” and could still believe it…

I think that it would be a different world. Leaders of countries, the person next to us on the subway, our co-workers, our stepchildren; the parent, the sibling—we can know that there is a level of vulnerability that this person may show only one other person, ever, in a lifetime.

But that level of vulnerability exists in all of us, perhaps and unless we have become enlightened, which, for most of us is not the case.

So, this is an invitation to remember that whoever stands before you is a practiced personality, that can’t possibly share with you that level of intimacy reserved for the safe territory of the one who shares their bed—and if they can, it is the rare and blessed and evolved one.

There are glimpses of sacred tenderness we sometimes get to see:  The soft pat on the backside of the wife, by the husband, as she passes through the kitchen, a child in her arms.  The soft smooch placed onto the forehead of the beloved one who writes at the computer. The smiling eyes and impish grins on the faces of the young couple, exchanged ever-so-briefly at the family gathering, whispering of where they have recently been, or are going to later…

I think we all yearn to know and be known at this sacred level, and one day, I believe we’ll be living in a world in which we can.

For now, let’s believe it in order to see it.

You are Love, You are Loved,

em claire

This morning God asked me,
“When did you stop singing?”

At first, I was angered.
Then, I let the question Be.

“Why,” said I,
“I believe it was when I began to follow
every thought that was given to me
by my parents,
and then by my peers,
and then by any passing stranger.
I believe it was the moment I began to choose
achievement over Alchemy
and competition over Compassion.
It was that morning I arose,
and put my feet into shoes
too tight for Freedom;
when I listened, instead of Music,
to mankind.”

“I believe,” said I, “that I stopped singing
the moment I stopped hearing Birdsong
or laughed with the sounds of Laughter.”

“And when did you stop dancing?”said God.
“Or being enchanted by stories?
Or stop finding comfort in the sweet territory
of silence?”

“Why,” answered I, “It was, you see, when I forgot that

I am You.

“When Did You Stop Singing?” em claire ©2012
(Based on the quote by Gabrielle Roth in her book Maps to Ecstasy, with permission by Gabrielle Roth)


All of It

I stepped out of the hotel we were staying in and onto the city sidewalk that was already filled with people, even though it wasn’t yet ten in the morning. But it was Saturday, and the sun was out again, and the temperature was nearing what felt like “my kind of perfect” and so immediately my spirit was buoyed as I set off in the opposite direction than the one I had taken the day before, eager to discover new sights and experiences in the cosmopolitan city we were visiting, and today it would be without dodging raindrops and a cold wind.

Only a few minutes from our hotel, I turned right, following the concierge’s directions and it was as if I had entered a new city altogether:  I was standing in a wide, cobblestoned street with quaint shops on either side as far as the eye could see, and everything was alive with early morning sunlight. The cold sidewalks shaded by skyscrapers, and the noise of the taxis and buses and cars, and the pinched faces and vacant eyes of people used to surviving in a big city disappeared as I entered the spacious promenade.

There were couples strolling, and people reading newspapers while relaxing on benches, or leaning contentedly against a storefront as the sun warmed them. There were young parents, one managing lattes and pastries, the other pushing a stroller and holding a small hand. Pairs of teenage girls giggled and walked arm in arm and older couples moved briskly along in athletic clothing, or sat, sharing a small meal at an outside restaurant. It was beautiful, and it was just what I needed.

Soon, I became aware of music coming from somewhere farther down the walk and so I slowly made my way to where it was and found myself standing in an open space where a middle-aged man dressed in a classy tuxedo and red bow tie was playing a cello. The music swelled, coursing through those of us who had come to a pause to listen, drawing us all together for a few moments in time.

Turning my face toward the sun, I stood for many minutes with eyes closed, listening, and soon warm, full tears were brimming my lashes, making their way quietly down my cheeks.

It had been a rough trip. We had taken my mother and father with us on the road to enjoy a few weeks together while we worked, as well as having planned in time for play. But my father’s Dementia had progressed much faster than any of us had expected, and to make matters worse, we were mostly in denial that he even had something really going on, because he hadn’t yet been diagnosed and, having never been there before, none of us could recognize the territory we were in.

But the trip had been harrowing. Each day, my parents looked more stressed, more strained, and my father more disoriented and anxious. My heart felt as if it had been broken into a million pieces, and strewn across the universe, and as if it would take a hundred years or more to gather it together again. And so I wept, finally. Soothed for just a few moments by what felt like Goodness, I didn’t care that I stood in a sea of strangers and I didn’t lift a hand to wipe tears away…

When I opened my eyes again I noticed a few smiling, or appreciative faces on the other side of the open space, and followed a bystander’s gaze.

It was an older man, dressed in a very worn, and outdated suit. It was yellowed and tarnished, having perhaps once been a minty-gold with light plaid, and on his head he wore a hat from the same era. He must have been eighty years old, and as the middle-aged man played the cello and the notes rose and fell, the older man danced.

He danced by himself, swaying this way and that, making his way across the expanse of cobblestones without a partner, but as gracefully as the memory he still held, his fingers knotted with arthritis, and knees that didn’t any longer allow him to totally straighten them. And at the end of the music, the older man would lay his hat out for tourists to drop coins into, and as tourists, we were faced with the reality that we were his livelihood. He didn’t spend his mornings out here dancing merely for the joy of it, and to make us smile, but to survive. And neither did the Asian man, playing the cello while his wife and small son helped to sell CDs during his breaks. My heart began to sink, as I took it all in.

Just then, a loud clapping and banging sound began to happen about fifty feet away. I looked up to see a boy about the age of ten on a skateboard. He was performing skate boarding tricks with his friends and would use his feet to make one, and then the other end of the board rise up into the air and then would bring both feet down on top of it as it hit the ground, over and over again, the loud clap and bang, carried through the air to our ears, shattering the soft of the music and the warmth of the sun and the ease and the grace of what felt like harmony for just one moment in time.

Anger rose in my throat and I wanted to shout; I wanted to plead; I wanted to bargain with the boy and with Life itself to make everything Good again—make suffering non-existent for All of us. For my father and my mother and my family; for the 80-year old man who danced for mere coins and for the accomplished musician who played the cello on a Saturday to keep his family safe and dry.

But then I got it. I understood.

It’s All of It. You can’t keep Bad out and you can’t keep Good in, and in fact there’s no such thing as either one, ultimately. There’s just Life. And without Dad’s dementia, maybe I wouldn’t have heard the music that morning, but would have hurried on by, eager to see what else was around the next corner…

And so I put money in the old man’s hat, and I bought two CDs from the musician’s wife and son, and I walked on. Smiling. Grateful. Heartbroken. Heartopened.




Life is Mostly Quiet

Believe me, you don’t have to know.

Not so much that you render yourself helpless.

Helpless in the face of what Life brings next.

So make peace with knowing very little.

About Love.

About Others.

About how life should be.

Make amends with how things are.

Not knowing a thing,

walk with gentle knees,

ready to drop to them, at any moment

that Life dictates it.

Keep an empty hand

so that it can be brought to your heart

when a grief arrives.

Make up a bed that you can fall into

as your own, comforting arms.


We come to find that Life is mostly quiet.

It asks us to live by our Knowing, while

surrendering that very same thing.

It vibrates easily around us,

candid and benevolent.

You see, it’s only

when we root ourselves solid in some Knowing again,

that Life seems to have to shout –



from Its whisper.

“Life Is Mostly Quiet”em claire
©2008 All Rights Reserved

Where does God go?

For me, the most challenging aspect of “being human” is the process of maturing into a relationship of reconciliation—with a Creator that seems to be, at its very essence, Lovebut at the same time allows “bad things” to happen to “good people”.

The first time I was faced with this paradox was when I had just turned twelve, and it was the morning after my grandmother was killed in a horrible car accident. She was broadsided by another vehicle and was crushed, pinned in the car for hours before they were able to finally remove her and take her to the hospital. She died on the operating table, her heart finally giving out.

Meanwhile, I was back at her apartment waiting for her. She had gone to get me a sleeping bag because I didn’t have one, and my family was planning to meet up the next day at a beach house we had rented to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. My parents had been on a short road trip with good friends but were on their way to the coast to reunite with us the next day; my brothers were away with their own friends and had planned on the same. Uncles and aunts were already at the beach house or making their way there that night and Grandma and I were to leave the next morning.

After a police officer came to my grandmother’s door to let me know there had been an accident, I left her apartment and walked the few blocks to where our own house was, moving as if in a dream as the late afternoon light turned to darkness. Not knowing what else to do, I sat on the stairwell near the living room with a bible under my hand and prayed to a faceless god: “Please. Please save Grandma.”

She was seventy-six; she worked out daily at the local gym, and went on walks with my mom, each morning appearing at the back door to our kitchen with her blue Cooper’s Landing coffee mug and a big, wide smile. She had a wonderful laugh that lit up any room, wore pantsuits and scarves and orangey-red lipstick and kept her hair a chestnut color, with soft waves. Whenever we came over for card playing, or football games or holiday dinners she would have her Ray Charles record playing as we entered the apartment and dishes of salted peanuts, potato chips, and onion dip. She was kind; she was good; she was everyone’s favorite relative. She came from strong Kentucky stock, and after raising her six brothers and sisters due to their parents dying young, she made her way across the United States to Alaska, where she met my grandfather, and where they homesteaded, and began their own little family.

“Please,” I pleaded. “Please, God, take a criminal, a rapist or a murderer. But don’t take Grandma.” I hadn’t yet had anyone this close to me die, and until then I believed that because we were “good” people, nothing “bad” would ever happen to us. Since then, of course, I have come to believe that every human being is Good, and hold very different ideas about “criminals, rapists; murderers”. But at twelve years old, I had no understanding yet of why people do what they do—of the unspeakable things that had perhaps been done to them—and in my innocence I supposed I also believed that each of my family members would live to be old and gray and slip away during a restful sleep and with a peaceful smile.

She died late that night and as I climbed into bed wailing, hot tears streaming down my cheeks, I was certain that I would never see my parents again either—sure that they would also suffer a car accident on their way back home now that I believed “god” could suddenly become absent and was nowhere to be found. To my disbelief, in the early hours of the morning, my parents appeared at my bedside and held me and we all cried together for a time, clear that life was precious, and grateful for what we still had.

It was the next day that I began my spiritual quest to make sense of what didn’t make sense to my heart, or to my mind. I no longer believed in any god. The god I thought I knew was kind, was gentle, and loved us. Whoever let this cruel event take place was no longer a god I cared to stay loyal to. Why couldn’t my grandma have died instantly? Was it really necessary that she lie semi-conscious, alone and in pain for hours, knowing that she would probably not survive, and that all of her family would be devastated? These are the questions that caused me to question everything.

As my search continued and as I matured I realized that the way my grandmother passed was her gift to me. She woke me at a young age from a certain, deep sleep that could have lasted easily through this lifetime and for many more. Now I believe that no person dies without their Soul’s knowledge of what gifts the circumstances of their passing will bring to their own evolution, and to the evolution of the Soul Family they travel with.

And if I believe that “god” is Love, then there is no way I can reject the countless ways that tragedy seems to open hearts long-closed or thickly armored; no way that I cannot observe how someone’s passing inspired growth where there was stagnation, and turned a barren ground into something fertile again, inviting Life to reinvent Itself…

Today, as I finish this article, we are grieving the swift, sudden passing of one of our beloved staff and friends who was with us all only a few days ago, celebrating the turning of the New Year. Without Patty Hammett, administrator of the Conversations with God Foundation, and her eighteen years of loyalty to the messages in the Conversations with God books, so much may never have been accessible for many, many thousands. And the caliber of the friendship she offered each of us was as close to angelic as one could hope to encounter with even one other human being in a lifetime.

Dying at the young age of 49, she leaves behind two sons, both still in their teens, and our hearts break open…

Last year I was given a book called The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo. It’s a book of days, each day of the year an offering and a sharing of what Mark has come to understand through two battles with cancer and myriad other challenging experiences. On the page of April 22nd he describes the aftermath of his first chemo treatment where he found himself near delirious on the floor of a Holiday Inn after twenty-four hours of being sick every twenty minutes. His wife, standing by in desperation and panic, called out, “Where is God?!”  Mark says that from his pale, slumped form he answered: “Here. . . right here.”

On his website I find this poem:

It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.

(Mark Nepo)

“It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.”

– em claire


(To contact em, please write to her at:


Whenever I sit down to write with the intention of sharing my thoughts, I think about the possibility that my personal challenges and breakthroughs might not be that different from what others are experiencing around the world—which makes sense if we believe We are All One. And I do. The circumstances for our individual growth may appear different, but perhaps what is being learned is virtually the same, and we bring those gifts back to the Collective: What you are experiencing matters.

This morning I looked closely at what I’ve encountered these past almost twelve months. If I were to describe it in two words, it would be “The Opposite.” In fact, it feels like the majority of what’s come down the pike during this last year has seemed like the opposite of what my Ego or Mind hoped would come, even having taken into consideration that “2012” might be bringing with it a few rough patches.

I think one of the toughest parts about being Spirit cloaked in Human form is that we don’t have access to “the whole picture.” We’re only seeing things from a limited perspective, not from a vantage point that helps us to see how any birth, any death, any ending or beginning that elicits extreme growth and change is intricately connected to all beings, everywhere, encouraging their evolution as well.

This week someone wrote to me and shared with me that her family just went through the second anniversary of having lost her seventeen-year-old son to cancer. This kind of loss simply can’t be made sense of in the Mind. And if there’s one thing I believe so many of the losses we’ve endured together in 2012 have brought each of us, it’s that realization.

So where do we go to make sense of it all, when we are moving through losses greater than we imagined we would face?

In these days and times, maybe we can only look at life’s current challenges through the eyes of the heart. We begin to make sense of our current crisis, loss or change in the heart, and then the mind can begin to grasp the greater purpose with more space and ease. Unlike the mind, the heart is where I have always found spaciousness, and peace. But it usually takes dire circumstances to turn me in that direction…

There’s a poem that came through me in my early thirties, during a time when I had been opened by circumstances that left me more vulnerable and raw and fragile than I had any idea I could be. It was my first “Dark Night of the Soul” and something that simply had to happen in order for me to evolve further. The title of the poem is a question. And the question is What Is It That You Were Given?

What is it that you were given?
I mean from the loss.
what was taken.
That very thing you could never live without:
the person
or place;
secret or circumstance.
Now that It is gone
and you can no longer call It foundation—

what is it that you were given?

You know, and I know this:
there is a hollowing out.
Something comes and opens you up


And from that moment on
you are no longer immune to this world.

You wake, you wander—
every familiar now a foreign.
You walk as through water
until you make it back to your bed
and finally, even there, your sheets,
your own pillow’s scent—different—
as if daily someone repaints your room,
displaces something;
disturbs a cherished memento.

You see, sometimes we are emptied.

We are emptied because Life wants us to know




It’s not a very comfortable poem. I wasn’t sure what to feel once it came through as I sat reading it, tears streaming. But in that moment it felt like some Greater part of me that hadn’t yet fully come into this life, finally did. And it was as if all those precious fragments of light that had been separated and strewn across the universe through my grief were brought back together, and made into something New—albeit a bedraggled and bewildered New.

Dear, Precious One—what is it you’ve been given, through your loss? In my monthly newsletter, I posed this question and invited readers to write to me with their story; their discoveries; the Gratitude found amidst the Grief. This process was not meant to open wounds, but to help to heal them; to empower each of us to name The Gifts, as difficult as that is sometimes, and in so doing Name our Highest Self again, pulling It from the rubble like a Phoenix rises from the ashes. I encourage you to spend even ten minutes in silence, just listening; just asking the question, and allowing the mind to quiet in its resistance until you hear a different voice; the softer voice of the heart. Then, put pen to paper or fingers to laptop keys and write, without judgment or editing. What is It That You Were Given?

If we really are to know more Light and live our lives with yet more courage, and zeal and aligned in our own Truth, sometimes our Spirit knows what that will take—something the human would never knowingly agree to, I’m betting.

At the beginning of this article I shared two words that summed up 2012 for me: The Opposite. But I’ll close by offering two words that just two days ago came into my life for the first time. These two words are Baruch Bachan (bay-roosh bay-shan).

They mean, “the Blessings already Are.”

– em claire

(To contact em please write to her at: To hear em claire read this poem, please click here.)

A gentling

Recently I ran into a friend of mine who had been traveling for some years. After a long hug and reacquainting ourselves with new smile lines and fledgling gray hairs, she asked me what I had been up to since we’d last seen one another. When I responded, I found myself saying: “You know, what I’m up to these days could best be described as a gentling.”

I’m not sure if I came up with this word or not, but all I know is that when I said it, it sounded True, like the first, wonderful warble of sound from an instrument played after many years of lying in dusty silence.

Yep–-these days when people ask me how I’m doing, I just want to say:  “Gentler.”

It’s taken a very long time for me to start to be gentler with myself. Perhaps for the majority of us the initial moment we realize we could and maybe should be our own best friend occurs only at a very low point in our lives–when we can no longer afford to make our self adversary, but instead must become advocate.

Becoming kinder with our selves is a process. I think for me it started by watching what happened when I felt regret after an “unskillful” exchange with another. I began to pay attention to a sequence of thoughts about myself that became progressively less generous and increasingly more hateful–a whole lot of “yuck” turned inward. This was a first step in seeing where and when I turned against myself and how immediate the loneliness of that experience was. It was very painful. And I had to become realistic: If I couldn’t befriend myself, how could I expect everyone else to?

Someone once told me, “You teach people how to treat you.” I believe this is a very accurate statement. How people respond to us and treat us is how we are treating ourselves on the inside.

Forget worrying about everyone else for a while–where do we disregard our own boundaries? Where do we lie to ourselves; betray ourselves; act disloyally with ourselves? Where is it that we, in fact, aren’t kind, respectful, generous, considerate, and loving with ourselves? And yet we expect everyone we come into contact with to respect us, honor us, be loyal and unconditionally loving with us–or else!

Do we really believe that people in our lives should be  “unconditionally loving” and “nonjudgmental” even if we haven’t yet learned to give our selves that same courtesy?

A while back I was doing some yoga in the living room. I’ve practiced various styles of yoga for many years now and I go through phases where going to a yoga studio feels good, and phases where “living room” yoga feels better. So there I was one morning, stretching this way and that into whatever posture felt like the next, best one, and the next posture I flowed into was one that had me low to the floor and reaching a hand under a leg and around and out of sight behind me, where apparently my other hand would somehow find it.

But as I reached under and around and up through space my attention wandered and, no longer focused on my breath, my mind was lost in thought–so much so that when one of my hands opened and gently took the fingers of my other hand into it I was surprised. It was as if a kind stranger had suddenly taken my hand and had softly squeezed it. Warm tears sprung to my eyes. I squeezed back, shaking hands with someone I was pretty happy I’d be getting to know.

Who knew I could have my own back and my own hand at the same time? That’s Yoga for you.

And also Kindness.

– em claire


To Love Yourself

To Love your self start here:
Take your own hand, and
put it to your lips.
lay the soft of your cheek
to the round of your shoulder–
where the faint musk
of the enduring dreams
and the labors of your life
perfume you.

It’s a start.
It’s a beginning.

 Now the ache of your heart







“To Love Yourself”- em claire
©2005 All Rights Reserved

(Em Claire is an American poet whose work appears in her book Silent Sacred Holy Deepening Heart, as well as in When Everything Changes, Change Everything. She may be reached through

Which one are you?

Every day I get to walk our puppy dog. It’s a ritual I’ve followed for more than three canine’s lifetimes with Bear, Sacchi, Morrie and now Toast.

Anyone who has been graced with a household pet–or “fuzzy children”, as my friend fondly calls them–knows how much laughter, zeal, joy, frustration, slobber, dirt, hair, spontaneity, tenderness, and unconditional love this kind of being can bring into a home.

And, if we’re lucky, we get to experience ourselves as equally tender and unveiled and unarmored many times a day. What would it be like to operate among human beings without that subtle layer of rejection-protection, I wonder? This is what passes through my mind whenever I lean in to kiss Toast’s rose-pink nose, near those perfectly round brown eyes, or in that soft notch where I imagine his “third eye” exists and quietly connects with my own.

Why is it that we don’t lean in as often in a day with our own partner, our own child or friend with this same kind of openness and innocence? And what is it that keeps us from asking for help or support when we really need it? I still think that one of the most effective ways of letting someone know we could use a little love and support is to walk over, climb up and curl into a trusted one’s lap, to surrender ourselves totally, knowing that we will be tended to appropriately. This approach seems to work brilliantly for animals–why not us?

For most of us, it’s very hard to ask for support when we really need it. In fact, for some of us, supporting others and spreading ourselves too thin is all we do. It’s a life of one-directional relationships, so much so that the people on the Receiving end come to expect it and are highly disappointed if we can’t bring them the level of support they’re used to.

But usually for these same people we are endlessly giving to, asking and expecting others to support them is all they know how to do. And it seems that they have made such a well-crafted habit out of Receiving without Giving, that they don’t even know to what degree they’re doing it.

Although I’m learning to reach out for support these days, I’m also learning to lend my support as well. It’s a constant balance and re-balancing of the two, as precarious as the childhood game of “see-saw”, where we would each sit on either end of a long plank balanced in the middle by some fixed support, one of us swooping swiftly up, the other dropping rapidly down as each of us took turns pushing the ground alternately with our feet. This is what exploring the dynamic of Giving and Receiving seems like these days, when so many of us are pushed well beyond our natural inclinations and healthy limits, and are forced to make choices between a meal, or getting to work on time; “being there” for our body or “being there” for a friend, staying up two hours later on the phone to be with them through a crisis, instead of logging in two more hours of much-needed sleep.

I observe that the people I know fall into either one or the other category, that of either Giver or Receiver, the majority of the time. It’s a wise and aware person who can operate from a golden mean, this “middle way” between the two extremes.

Which one are you? Do you create constant dramas, oblivious to other people’s own life challenges, and thus require everyone around you to forever stop, set down what they’re doing and help? Or are you the other kind–the person who believes you are partly responsible for any discomfort any person you know within a 300-mile radius may be experiencing, and so race out to try to lend a hand, zig-zagging across their Soul Path, certain that their lives are your responsibility and cannot move forward without you?

Lately I’ve become acutely aware of how precious and precarious the balance is between Being There for myself, and Being There for others. Ideally, it is a beautiful dance, showing us over and over again how important it is to be aware of both practices, and how to keep our own vessel “full” that we may give to another whose own is running close to empty.

If there were one awareness I wish someone could have gifted me with at a young age, it would have been to urge me to observe how often I required the help and attention of others unnecessarily, and even more importantly: How.

Each of us probably knows someone who is charismatic, charming, and maybe even good looking enough to woo even the most savvy of personalities. They have perfected the art of winning us over by, for example, pointing out their own shortcomings and making fun of themselves so that we laugh along with them, thus excusing their actions through humor. Or perhaps tossing their hair to one side, smiling coyly, and then giving you a sudden kiss on the cheek, drawing you into your more charitable nature. Or they may find more obvious and conspicuous approaches that are equally effective, through hoping to make you feel guilty, or selfish, or as if you’ve disappointed them, or that they may even be mad at you.

Every day my dog Toast makes me laugh. He beams at me and smooches my cheeks or my nose, or sometimes in my nose when my attention wanders. He accompanies me on every errand, and peers out the car window in earnest, celebrating me when I return. He plops on the couch between my husband and me every evening, and shares his beloved toys, and cleans one of our hands or a foot until it shines…

Every day I walk Toast. We take different routes, depending on the season. Sometimes we take the long, dirt roads, until they get newly oiled to keep the dust and dirt down in the height of summer. Sometimes we take the higher, paved roads if foxtails and star thistles aren’t blooming over into the road from the gravel shoulder. But sometimes, even with our best intentions, we end up with some sort of weed, or the end of a thorny vine, or a small branch stuck in Toast’s tail. It’s at this moment that he stops, looks back at me, and waits calmly, and I like to say, “Mama help?”  Then, the extend-a-leash shortens as I close the distance between us, and I kneel down and begin to work the object out of his tail, or take the back foot or a front paw he has lifted up for me to inspect, and search the soft pads for a thorn or small rock that has caused a sudden limp.

And for some reason, it always brings tears to my eyes and a huge smile across my heart. Because I think that’s how Giving and Receiving should feel.

Yeah. Just like that.

– em claire

Three Dogs Knowing

They don’t set out to do anything grand.
They play, the three of them:
Black and Burr ridden,
Speckled and Bright-eyed,
Sleek and Questioning.
Every morning the play continues –
tugging one another this way and that
along throughout a day.

If He sits, scratching and gazing out across
the great divide of valleys,
She will bring Him an enduring piece of hat
or garden hose or
the last fourth of a plastic ball
and drop it at His feet.

If the One with the moon-colored eyes
lies in the ivy, with sun on Her ribs
and leaves in Her ears
the other two will attack mid-dream
with nip and tug at
neck and tail.

It is pure genius and heart.

Three dogs living out the Mystery
every moment,
while it slips like water

all of my grasping.

‘Three Dogs Knowing’ – em claire
©2007 All Rights Reserved

(Em Claire is an American poet whose work appears in her book Silent Sacred Holy Deepening Heart, as well as in When Everything Changes, Change Everything. She may be reached through


I was fortunate to have been born into a family of “freethinkers”. My lineage is abundant with people who have challenged the ruling class, either following the route of other contemporary or historical individualists, or making their maverick way, blazing trail through the dense forest of unconsciousness with a tool fashioned by their own hands, journeying for many miles and perhaps many moments with little or no encouragement.

Although I have understood that many of my ancestors were Seekers – intelligent, passionate, fiery, courageous and determined – I never got the impression that they were rebellious for rebellion’s sake. I believe they wanted to find Reasons for Being that made sense to their heart and to their mind. And yet I am certain the paths they chose were not easy ones to walk, and that they clung to those people, places and things that represented and reflected back to them the universal truths that whispered within them.

Of Cherokee, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, German, Dutch, and Finnish heritage, I can only imagine what immense challenges and heartbreaks my relatives faced – and I can only imagine what yours have faced as well – and continue to all over the world, where people are still punished by death (or worse) for what they believe is their highest dream, grandest idea, most expansive, life-supporting hope for how it could actually be on this planet if we all lived in harmony with one another and all life forms.

I wonder how many of my relatives were “punished by law” or put to death by a deep need to live in alignment with who they felt themselves to be; how many were burned at the stake, or hung or imprisoned because they just couldn’t agree with slavery of any kind, or holocausts of any kind, or separatism of any kind, or the concept of a god that wouldn’t love us if we blundered and stumbled our way through life, trying to figure it all out.

To sin literally means “to miss the mark”. I’d say that’s fairly easy to do at least a few times a day – even on our best day – not to mention over a whole lifetime. So, I’m guessing that I’ve come from a long line of Sinners and Heretics: people who probably just couldn’t understand why wanting the authentic best for themselves and for all sentient beings was so wrong – like so very many of us wonder. And why any god we believe in can’t be a loving god, inclusive even of other gods; other concepts of Wonder and Awe and Mystery…

And then we even kill each other in that name? I believe this is an aberration, a departure from the original idea, which, if I were to submit a guess, would be: Please Love.

A heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs. (Wikipedia) The term heresy, in Greek, αἵρεσις, originally meant “choice”. It also referred to the process whereby a young person would examine various philosophies to determine how to live one’s life.

 The process whereby a young person
would examine various philosophies

to determine how to live one’s life.

This has not been the common experience for many of us on the planet for hundreds of thousands of years. But I’d like to think that those of us living in these days and times will begin to change that.

I think “the powers that be” would want it that way. The true Powers that Be: this Knowing within each of us: We started out Good. We’re made of Good. We deserve Good. We’ve always wanted to inspire and share and give away that Goodness. But for most of us, before we even got a chance to uniquely express our Goodness, it was stunted and then rerouted and perhaps misguided into a whole different idea of Who We Are and what source of goodness and intelligence we came from – stunted and rerouted by mostly well-meaning loved ones and members of our society.

Yet, sometimes even our best intentions go awry. And sometimes, we don’t even have all of the information yet. Which is why there will always be Seekers. That is, until the Answers that lie within are allowed to be heard.

Here’s to a new thought about heresy. And here’s to You. You Know Who You Are…

– em claire




“Show yourself to me,”
said I to God again.
And this is what happened next:

I became pregnant with Light.
My eyes were sunrise and sunset, both.
Freckles announced themselves planets and stars
and beamed upon my cheeks.
Each of my lips became a kiss to the other;
my ears heard oceans of life.
Between my eyes there was an indigo wheel,
between my toes, blond fields.
My hands remembered climbing-trees,
my hair, each lover’s fingers.

And then I whispered,
“But why have you made me This way?”

and it was told to me this:

“Because I have never had Your name before
nor heard the way You sing it.
Nor stared into the Universe through eyes like These,
nor laughed This way, nor felt the path that These tears take.

Because I have not know These ecstasies,
nor risen to These heights,
nor experienced every nuance of the Innocence
with which you create your lows.

 Nor how a heart could grow so wide,

or break so easily



quite so Unreasonably.”



“Unreasonably” em claire

©2008 All Rights Reserved

(Em Claire is an American poet whose work appears in her book Silent Sacred Holy Deepening Heart, as well as in When Everything Changes, Change Everything. She may be reached through

Chop wood; carry what?

There is a Zen saying, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water; after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” In my twenties and thirties I was part of a local Zen Buddhist center.

I say “part” because I wasn’t a consistent practitioner—I was never one for organized groups. Nevertheless, I was very much drawn to the dim, candlelit mornings held in silence, the light incense of Sandalwood and Pine, the creak of bare feet on a worn and wooden floor, and the unique sense of “togetherness” that sharing meditation with other human beings can engender.

When I first found Zen Buddhism, not much “Life” had happened to me. I appeared each morning at 3:50 a.m., fresh-faced, dressed in appropriately dark and comfortable clothes. I smiled sweetly and observed silence and moved with a conscious and quiet grace. I raked and cleaned and watered and sat and stood and bowed and breathed and chanted and gonged and even practiced meditation at home when not at the Zen center. Inspired by the emphasis on Compassion in the teachings of Buddhism, I became a vegan, entered massage school, and took up many gentle pastimes that fed my soul.

But time passed, and more Life happened, and soon I began to digress. I massaged my aching kneecaps whenever my teachers weren’t looking. I eased ever-so-slightly to the right or left of my cushion to give my body a break, daring my shadow on the wall directly in front of me to give me away. I skipped the Wednesday night Dharma talk and instead went out with friends and drank wine late into the summer nights. Stress and Life’s unfolding “story” spun me not toward the skills I had acquired, nor toward my own heart, but instead, toward everything “unskillful” and drama-producing.

By my early thirties I was a Zen student poor in practice but rich in rebellion. My dear Zen teacher would observe me coming and going a year or two at a time and simply shake her head. She once said I was like a helium balloon that she wished she could tie a small rock to, so that I wouldn’t keep floating away.

But she also had this to say, once I had returned for the umpteenth time, my face full of shame, my eyes constantly brimmed with tears, having experienced a divorce after 9 years of marriage, burying my beloved dog, three more romantic relationships and breakups, and my first healthy dark night of the soul: “This is good. You’re not as shiny now.”

She said this as she held my face in her hands and we looked into each other’s eyes. “Now you can relate to others, and this is where true compassion begins. Now Compassion is not just a precept on the pages, but a way of Being.”

And she was right.

As hard as those decades were, I wouldn’t trade them for who I have become, and who I am remembering I’ve always been…

All of us just want to know that we are not alone on this incredibly difficult, and extraordinarily beautiful, Mystery that some call Life, Life-ing.  Or God,
God-ding.  Or Human, Being.

I know you as Myself. And I love you.

— em claire

The Day Is Cold

Today I want to give up.
After reading Raymond Carver.
After too much wine last night.
It’s not yet 9 a.m. and the day is cold.
Closing my eyes offers an abyss;
a place to fall into.

But isn’t that what it is?
Everyone stumbling;
drinking; spilling.

Everyone wanting to be saved

Just a little?


“The Day is Cold” em claire
©2004 All Rights Reserved

(Em Claire is an American poet whose work appears in the book Silent Sacred Holy Deepening Heart. She may be reached through