Mindful Mondays: A Time to Speak

This is an invitation.  An invitation for you to speak your truth.

What have you been silent about that needs to be shared?

While silence can help us listen and cultivate a greater sense of inner knowing, it can also be painful to be silent.  To swallow your words, thoughts, and feelings day after day can be toxic.  There is a time to be silent and there is a time to speak. 

Sometimes we stay silent to avoid pain or tension that can come from speaking our truth.  Sometimes we stay silent because others are not ready to listen or we don’t want to be disruptive.  Remaining silent doesn’t keep the peace.  It sparks a growing turbulence within you and is felt at the subtlest of vibrations by others around you.  Inauthenticity is destructive both at the individual and collective level. 

There is risk and vulnerability that comes with sharing your truth.  We often hesitate because of the fear or the emotional labor that comes with authentic expression, yet there is also a freedom that comes with sharing yourself.  A liberation.  A release.

You know when it’s time to speak.  Don’t hesitate one more moment.

Be courageous.  Be kind.  Be bold.  Be true.

Pele: Goddess of Fire, Photo taken at Jaggar Museum, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park


Mindful Mondays: Don't Fight Life

Don’t fight life girl.   

These are words of wisdom from my Grandma Gummer for just about every situation in life when you are “working yourself up”.  Approaching life with impatience, anxiety, stress, frustration, a desire for control, discomfort in the unknown are all signs of fighting life.

What are you fighting with life about right now? 

Time? Limitations? Change? The future? Injustice? Money? Somebody else? Yourself? 

When we are fighting our thinking can become cloudy or rigid.  The energy of fighting can foster a loss of connection and dualistic thinking.  It creates a consciousness of separation and isolation which is an event in the mind, but it is not our true nature.  Our true nature is that we are part of Creation and deeply interconnected with all of life.  We are not to fight life, we are life.

Fighting keeps us pushing

and spinning

and crashing

and dominating our way through life

when what we really need to do is the most countercultural thing, which is to stop. 

We need to pause.  We need to breathe.  We need to connect.

Fighting can be part of the process, but our most creative, generative, healing, and revelatory times are not in the chaos of the fighting mind, it’s in the stillness of the mind.  It is in the pause where we find what we need. It is in the stillness of mind, spirit, and body where we can turn our attention to how life and Spirit is speaking to us, guiding us, and loving us.  It is in the stillness of mind where we find “the way”, moving into an alignment where our deepest self meets Spirit.

An excerpt from Hearts on Fire by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ: 

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

Photo: Grandma Gummer, Guyana, South America,  Photo credit: Aisha Becker-Burrowes

Mindful Mondays: The Light of the Moon in Turbulent Times

I remember looking at the full moon outside my apartment window in Brooklyn the night of September 11th.  It had been a trying day.  2,753 people had just died that morning 3 miles away from the comfort of my home.  I could still smell the smoke from the burning twin towers in my apartment.  It was the stench of death.  I had never been that close to tragedy.  Never that intimate with it.


I was numb.  I was angry.  I was terrified.  I remember looking at the moon that night and thinking, “How can the moon still be shining its light so bright in the midst of all this chaos, suffering, and death?”  I was judging the moon for having the audacity to shine its light so brightly, even critiquing it for keeping on with the business of life during such a tragic time.  But I couldn’t take my gaze off that light.  I needed it.  It comforted me.


I needed the light of the moon because it reminded me that even in the midst of human suffering, and violence, and death…. life perseveres.  People that day wanted to bring about mass destruction for their cause, but they couldn’t kill the light of the moon.  I felt some sort of comfort in that.  So I wept mighty tears, let the anger boil up inside of me, wrestled with my hopelessness and kept my eyes on that moon.  I kept my eyes on the moon, waiting for the night to pass and for a new day to come.


As I reflect on the violence we have witnessed in the recent years….the past month….the past 10 days, I think about that moonlight on 9-11 and what it taught me about tragedy, about suffering, about violence, about life.  I offer to you the wisdom I got from that moonlight as one of many ways to move through these difficult times.


Life has the final word.

This is a call to faith and vision.  One of my favorite quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King states, “The arc of the Universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  Look around you.  Even in the midst of destruction, life fights its way through – physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  Grass sprouting through cracks in the concrete, nurse logs giving nourishment to new plants and trees, the devotion of the sun rising and setting.  Look at history.  Eventually justice prevails, eventually truth reigns, eventually love wins.  Look to your own life.  The tragedy and turmoil you may have faced. You are still standing, still breathing.  You have endured.  Maybe a bit tattered and worn…. but you are here.  There is great power in the life force, look to this for hope and strength.


Find the light.

This is a call to inner healing and self-care.  Don’t become the energy behind these attacks on humanity.  Accept that the energy of that same violence is in you too.  Draw wisdom from that.  Don’t become it, transform it.  Find whatever feeds you, gives you hope, makes you feel loved and bask in its glow.  Let it fill you up, comfort you, nourish you and give you strength and wisdom and courage. I invite you right now to stop and take a deep breath.  Pause.  Breathe again.  Take a moment to reflect on the things that bring you joy, nourishment, and love in your life. Receive them fully.  You can do this physically by surrounding yourself with those things or you can practice this mentally and spiritually by receiving the energy of those things through the power of your thoughts.  Hold these intentions of self-care and inner healing close to you.  It is an act of tending to life, your life, which is also part of the work of justice-making and peace-making.


Be the light.

This is a call to action.  We cannot be silent.  We cannot be apathetic.  We cannot be paralyzed by our sadness and pain.  Do something.  Anything.  Even in your stillness.  And trust that others are doing something too.  There is life and light in our thoughts and in our actions. Collectively we work to shift consciousness, to shift policy, to shift institutions.  We are everyday people. Move and shift-shape your circle, your family, your community, this world. Be a beacon for a new day to come right now.  You may or may not live to see that new day, but in any case know you will be part of ushering it in for someone else.  Your ancestors did that for you.


In remembrance of and dedicated to…
















“It is in life that we find life; life is all around us. Be certain to see the beauty of life in all of its forms, draw spiritual energy from life continuously renewed from the lands that ground our feet and the airs that breathe life in our physical bodies. Life is the light. Love, both physical and spiritual, brings peace. It is our inner peace that can guide our steps, center our understandings, and keep the light aflame. Undoubtedly, life and love are always shining – we have to see it, believe it, step into it, and invite others into it as well. Love was never meant to be an individual adventure.”

-Dr. Derrick Brooms

Photo credit: A full moon captured July 18, 2008.  NASA/Sean Smith

Mindful Mondays: Remembering Ali

Muhammad Ali.  The Greatest. 

I was one among thousands who lined the streets of Louisville last Friday to pay my respects to Muhammad Ali.  As the processional drove by, I couldn’t help but be overcome by the scene.  All people.  Young, old, black, white, rich and poor were throwing flowers in the street, carrying heartfelt homemade signs, and chanting…..”Ali! Ali! Ali!”  I took the moment in with awe and wonder, contemplating the impact that one life can make.

Ali will be remembered as an athlete, an activist, a humanitarian, a conscientious objector, many things.  Let us also remember Ali as one of our spiritual teachers.  Not a guru that performed miracles, not a spiritual teacher who cloistered themself off from worldly things to find wisdom, not a theologian with years of scholarly study and preparation, but one of us.  He fought.  He was a father.  He got divorced.  He had to change careers.  He got sick.  He was steeped in the “stuff” of the world, good or bad and drew wisdom and faith from it.    And it was his spiritual wisdom that touched all corners of the world and it will be this wisdom that will live on for years to come. 

Impossible is Nothing. 

I Am the Greatest. I said that even before I knew I was. 

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.

I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want. 

It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe.

Don’t count the days; make the days count.


Thank you for sharing your prophetic voice. 

Thank you for modeling for us what it means to be courageous and uncompromising about who the Divine created us to be. 

Thank you for standing by your faith and spiritual beliefs in the midst of persecution. 

Thank your for showing us what it means to be a human being that lives into their Greatness.

Photo credit: Getty Images, Stanley Weston

Mindful Mondays: What's gripping you?

What’s gripping you?   What situation is having its way with you in your life?  It’s easy to become victim to the worries and concerns that weigh on our hearts and minds.  The suffering we experience is real no matter how temporal our realities may be.  The question is not how to become free from our suffering, but how to remain steadfast in our faith in the midst of our pain. 

To remain steadfast in our faith, is to remember.  Remember so that you don’t get lost in your worries.

Remember who you are.  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says that “we are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  While you may have some ups and downs in life, your spirit remains. Breathe, seek solace and care tenderly to the spirit within you to find a sense of knowing, comfort, and guidance. 

To remain steadfast in our faith, is to remember.  Remember so that you don’t get lost in your worries.

Remember your last testimony.  How easy it is to forget how you made it through the last storm.  We often make it through past struggles either victoriously and or just plain make it through only to focus on the next struggle or the next challenge.  Your life is a resource….it has taught you to endure. No matter what you may have gone through or faced in your past, the life force running through you is strong and you are still here.  You are here wiser, stronger, better.

To remain steadfast in our faith, is to remember.  Remember so that you don’t get lost in your worries.

Remember that you are not alone.  Spirit is present.  Loving universal energy surrounds you. The ancestors are walking beside you.  Take time to connect with that which gives you life, the source of all Creation.  Whatever that may be for you, it is Good and it has everything you need.  

Mindful Mondays: Just Breathe

Today I invite you to take a breath.  A deep, long, intentional, mindful breath.

Go ahead….take another one.  Maybe close your eyes this time.

Cuz sometimes in life that is the only place where we can find a sense of peace and release, even if for a fleeting moment.  That is just how magical your breath is. 

A breathing meditation from The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Naht Hanh:

As you inhale, be mindful that “I am inhaling, one.”  When you exhale, be mindful that “I am exhaling, one.”  Remember to breathe from the stomach.  When beginning the second inhalation, be mindful that “I am inhaling, two.”  And slowly exhaling, be mindful that “I am exhaling, two.”  Continue on up through 10.  After you have reached 10, return to one.  Whenever you lose count, return to one.

Mindful Mondays: Wisdom from the Elders

There is such wisdom that comes from our elders.  In a society that rushes through life and celebrates youth, we miss out on stopping and taking time to be present with the old folks.  When we sit and listen to the stories, the struggles, the joys and then the reflection that comes with looking back on decades of a lifetime, one can see how our elders can be our modern day prophets.  They hold a spiritual wisdom that has been tested through death, birth, uncertainty, change, and opportunity.  Much spiritual wisdom can come from a long life.

I want to share some wisdom from the elders in my life and from the elders/ancestors in the lives of members on this listserv.  (Some quotes are paraphrased.)

May these words from our ancestors and elders guide you wherever you are on your journey right now. 

On Spirituality . . .

God is in charge and all is well.  Divine order. –Grandma Gummer

Whatever it is you’re hoping for or praying for, just take it one day at a time. –Granny

You have to pray, plan, and persevere. -Rev. Gwen Hall

On Success. . . 

Keep your eyes on the prize. –Monte Posey

Don’t put off what you can do today for tomorrow. -Grandpa Henry George Buzan 

On Fear and Struggle . . .

 Do you know how camels avoid the sun? They face the sun head on and use their own shadow to avoid the heat.  That's a lesson about how we can face our own fears.  -Mira Lee

It’s all in the mind….you can think about things in negative ways and make life harder or you can think about things in positive ways and make life easier.  I choose the latter. –Grandma Petersen

On Others . . .

When you meet somebody for the first time, just do not judge them good or bad.  Give time to know the person. Then you will know the person better. -Amma

Don't be envious or jealous because there will always be someone who has more than you and there will always be someone who has less than you. -Cecilia Storey

Special thank you to all the readers who shared wisdom from your elders and ancestors!


Natasha Burrowes

Spiritual Director, Educator, Writer

Mindful Mondays: Holding Onto Your Moral Power in Trying Times

Don’t become the chaos that is around you.  Don’t be seduced into participating in the negative thinking that surrounds you.  Don’t become what you are fighting against.  Hold onto your peace.  Hold tight to your integrity.  Hold firm to your moral power and agency. 

In the United States, this can be particularly difficult to do an election year when there is much negativity, divisiveness, judgment, deception, and hate.  It’s easy to scroll down your Facebook feed these days, turn on the television, open the newspaper and just get caught up in the chaos that is being created to make a profit off of your fears.  It can be difficult to hold onto your integrity and moral power when you are living in the clutches of oppressive systems and ways of thinking that have the sole intention to dehumanize you, to reduce your worth to your labor or spending power.  It can be challenging to hold onto your integrity and moral power when you have people or situations in your personal life that are negative and have a disregard for your highest good. 

All of these things can be an assault on your outer life, but it doesn’t have to be an assault on your inner life.

In trying times, it is even more important to cultivate the stillness, the peace, and the quiet within you in order to keep your integrity in tact.  Mahatma Gandhi says, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This is easy to embody in times of peace, but can be challenging to do in times of chaos or tension.  The world needs you to hold firm to your vision for peace, justice, and equity.  The world needs you to model it, to embody it.  Cultivating peace and justice within you is also part of peacemaking and justice-making work.  In fact, it is the most important because the transformation needed for our world, our communities, and our families is deep within you.  Practice mindfulness, breathe, connect with nature, cook a meal, pray, do whatever it is you need to do to expand a sense of stillness and peace within yourself because transformation and change is now…. it’s in every moment and we need you.

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.  More than that, it is cooperation with violence.  The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his work for peace.  It destroys his own inner capacity for peace.  It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the roots of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

- Thomas Merton from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Mindful Mondays: Who are you?

Oren Lyons was the first Onondagan to enter college.  When he returned to his reservation for his first vacation, his uncle proposed a fishing trip on a lake.  Once he had his nephew in the middle of the lake where he wanted him, he began to interrogate him.  “Well Oren,” he said, “you’ve been to college; you must be pretty smart now from all they’ve been teaching you.  Let me ask you a question.  Who are you?”  Taken aback by the question, Oren fumbled for an answer.  “What do you mean, who am I? Why I’m your nephew, of course.”  His uncle rejected his answer and repeated his question.  Successively the nephew ventured that he was Oren Lyons, an Onondagan, a human being, a man, a young man, all to no avail.  When his uncle had reduced him to silence and he asked to be informed as to who he was, his uncle said, “Do you see that bluff over there? Oren you are that bluff.  And that giant pine on the other shore? Oren, you are that pine.  And this water that supports our boat?  You are this water.”

-Anecdote taken from the Onondaga tribe (upstate New York) from The World’s Religions by Huston Smith

Who are you?

Woman. Man. Black. Asian. Hindu. Muslim. Canadian. American. Mother. Sister. Uncle. Grandfather. Educator. Gay. Heterosexual. Artist. Educator. Nurse . . .

Us human beings, we are social animals and much of our conscious identity lies in who we are in relation to other human beings.  Most of these are constructed identities and are based off of social agreements that are limited by place and time.  These social identities can help us situate ourselves within communities, families, and places.  They can give us a role.  Sometimes these identities are limiting and other times they are liberating.  Sometimes they represent who we are and sometimes they don’t.  Sometimes we claim these identities for ourselves and other times people project these identities onto us.  Either way, these identities are who we are socially, but who else are we?

We have an ancient identity that we often overlook, our identity as creatures of the Earth.  We are related and connected to all of Creation.  What a wonderful thing to realize that we are not only part of a human family, but we are part of an Earth family and an Earth story?  We are connected to a process that started 4.5 billion years ago. We are part of a living and breathing organism, created and wonderfully made.   There is a life force in Creation that is powerful, resilient, and steadfast.

So the next time you need strength…

the next time you feel like you aren’t enough . . .

the next time you feel like you don’t know who you are or where you are going…

tap into the life force of Creation that is running through you and that IS you every moment you take a breath.

Mindful Mondays: Letting Go of the Things We Can't Control

Mindful Mondays: Letting Go of the Things We Can't Control

Are you a control freak?  Do you have a deep and unhealthy attachment to “how it should be” or the “way you want it” or “what they should be doing”?  Our need for control is often based in fear.  It could be a fear of the unknown, a fear of change, a fear of discomfort or pain, or a fear that we aren’t “enough” to handle what comes from the unexpected.