Rudy Red Slippers



I’ve been working with a personal trainer for a few months to help my IT band issues.

Last week, after I completed three sets of strong, focused dead lifts, she looked at me and said, “most clients work from data, they want to know all the facts, and move from there.  You’re different.  You work from your soul, you move toward things from your center, to get to where you want to go.”

In a few words, she captured my rasison d’être without realizing it.

Soul versus data.

The first comes from vision or passion, the second describes the out there.   Soul vision grows from centering.  And it grows in its centering.  If not directed by this vision, data scatters itself in a bustle of information, thinking that the more it knows, the more it conquers, while never connecting to its essential power.

This is the ego: the chatter of diversion, the soul stifled, as ego sends us chasing our tails.

When we substitute the descriptive facts for passion, we abandon what makes us feel alive.

Facts don’t change the out there, soul changes the facts.

Data isn’t the fire: this seems to me where we get ourselves stuck in life, all of life, in the information age, when we lose our vision to data, thinking that data and information are the fire.  When the ego uses data to catch us in its facts, it starts the mind chattering in comparison and judgement and personal limitation; soul quietly nudges us beyond the facts into imagination, connecting our limitless inner world to the infinite outer one.

Without soul driven radical love, the ego uses facts to keep us small, reminding us of imperfections, limitation, comparison, scarcity, deprivation.

Deep unconditional self-love fuels the passion for living well and living courageously, one powerful set of dead lifts at a time.  One mile at a time.  One poem at a time.  One chapter at a time.

This has little to do with worrying about the body’s so-called limitations or imperfections, one’s skills or talents, or scrupulously working with facts, which when in the ego’s hands escalate our insecurities, inadequacy, and drown out our inner wisdom, the still small voice that’s wiser than the facts.

Here and now is where soul emerges, but we must listen.

Feeling the strength return to legs, thighs, butt, body, and feeling the strength in knees that don’t burn after 4 miles on the road, that gets the fire going.

Revising a poem or a paragraph until its depths find skillful unpacking, then realizing that three days have joyously passed in revision, that’s soul.

When the soul is on fire, it enlarges perspective: opportunities present themselves, synchronicities abound, the work we’re born to do unfolds.

Facts should serve soul’s purpose with a gentle hand.

“Facts are for soul, not the soul for facts.”

Here’s an example:  if I finish 14 miles instead of 26.2, data explains to me why my knee is on fire, tells me that me have IT band strain, and suggests the road to recovery — get to the gym, strengthen my butt and thighs and core.  But data doesn’t fuel the fire that gets me moving beyond injury: its soul that refuses to let injury dictate my life arc.

Data tells me “very few people recover from IT band issues,” a limiting story without soul.  The facts also start the ego’s wheels turning when I do better than I believed possible.  Or when I do worse than expected.  The unchecked ego uses facts to catch me in glory, failure, and limiting information, none of which are the goal.

Soul knows better — soul knows that the joy is in the journey.

Data tells me that the chances of an unpublished writer being accepted by a publisher have gone down to near zero in the self-publishing age, that I ought to just pack it all in, and start hunting for a “regular job” (as if it were that easy) if I want economic stability.

But soul won’t allow that decision, it keeps digging into itself, deeper and deeper, more certain in its uncertainty than in data.

For my soul knows that the ego uses facts to obscure soul work, when fear lurks looking for a reason to say “no” instead of “yes.”

The centered soul finds a way to its flowering — and I’m invoking the garden metaphor for a reason.  Because the soul’s flowering is our life call, what makes us turn ourselves toward our inner light to grow in magnificence and splendor.

I always believed that when the out-there changed, I had accomplished something, while never being satisfied with the outcomes.  That’s because I hadn’t learned how to let Soul lead the journey, and to work from the soul is to find joy on the path.

Another example: data tells us we’re in a global meltdown, but it’s those connecting to Soul that will save us.  Hitting folks over the head with climate data won’t change the deniers —  it’s spending our energies and time with those who have soul vision to innovate, create, and take action that will change our collective ways of being.  The soul followers will steer us in the right direction, because it’s the right direction.

The Soul driven will change our course, for the better.

Enlarge soul.  Then enlarge Purpose.  Shifts happen.  That’s soul work.  Sometimes, our soul work appears to change, when the data tells us we’re going in the wrong direction.  But from the soul level, the process is natural, evolutionary.  The ego tells us that we’ve just had to move, pack up life again, and we are doing life wrong, because it didn’t go according to plan.  Joseph Campbell writes, “you must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”  That’s soul work taking place.  When loss and change present themselves, it’s a call to something truer and deeper in us, no matter the change or its discomforts.

Sometimes, the changes are pain filled beyond words.  If we’re privileged to those depths of soul scouring, we’ve been called to our work’s depths.

Soul has turned our course, and we can’t yet see the magnificent vista view waiting for us down the road and over the hill.

Our job is to go forward, a step at a time.

Data describes the shift to personal power in our life trajectory.  But it’s just a story arc of description, not the power itself, nor is it radical self-love.   Soul is our power, and soul work is our calling.  Sometimes the changes move slow, other times soul work lifts us like Dorothy being carried to Oz on tornado winds, from black and white to Technicolor.  The terrifying wizard turns out to be just a man behind the current, a brilliant metaphor for the ego, a fear factory sending us on errands that won’t return us to our heart’s desire.

The man behind the curtain’s errand was nevertheless part of the journey and necessary to the story’s unfolding.

But only the ruby slippers will return us to our heart’s desire.  We have to learn that for ourselves.  We have to learn that we already have what we’re looking for, but we were so busy looking outside of ourselves, we couldn’t see the way home.

The soul’s ruby slippers, our sacred power, our divine birthright.  Reminding ourselves of our  soul power is spiritual practice.  It’s pretty simple, though it requires daily commitment:  close the eyes, count to three, and breathe the self home.





God’s Big Belly Laugh


The woodlands

stand before me,

in exuberant stillness

the trees welcome me

into themselves.  The

Divine Mother sings in

my ears, as branches clap

to a chant flooding the road

preparing the way for

God’s big belly laugh.


The Buddha laughs,

his round belly carries

the joy of everything:

he’s given up renunciation

for an incarnation

of happiness.  His fullness

holds the road

that begins anywhere,

and leads nowhere,

so all universes


may inhale

and exhale

the Buddha’s

big belly laugh.


“Behold, the entire

cosmos turning

within my body,”

Krishna said to Arjuna,

showing his true form,

revealing himself as

the source of every breath,

every leaf, every organism,

every mountain peak,

every sun, every galaxy,

every circulating gesture of Vishnu

in all past, present, and future yugas.


Krishna showed Arjuna

there is nothing

He is not.

The overwhelming wonder

terrified Arjuna, so Krishna

discreetly veiled his form.  But

He mischievously timed

his concealment,

a second before Arjuna

would have witnessed

the revelation of all origin:

Vishnu’s first

big belly laugh.


Fish and bread offer

meager celebration

after a resurrection:

in their existential haste

the writers forgot about

that dance with Mary Magdalene.

After astonishment,

fingered wounds, and meal,

wine flowed from new skins.

Fermented on wine

and eternity, Jesus reached

for Mary’s hand,

took it in his, and said,

“Let’s dance.”

He twirled his beloved

a hundred times,

then a hundred more,

their fingers wrapped

around each other,

they laughed

until the heavens

rolled and unrolled

ten times ten

times ten, and

they tumbled

to the ground in joy;

engulfed by their laughter,

Thomas believed.  Jesus bent

next to Mary’s rapt being,

her eyes incandescent with joy,

and he whispered in her ear,

“I wear your anointing still,

and I will wear it until the end

of time, when all that

remains is my Father’s

big belly laugh.”


The woodlands

stand before me,

the trees invite me

into their arms, and the sky

calls me home. Beside the road

dogs howl, their clamor

recedes as

shimmering trees

envelop the road.


The Divine Mother

rises from the ground,

chanting holy sweetness

in my ears, her white robes fold

circles around me, again and

again, twirling me ten times

ten times ten.  My feet rise

from robe, road, and earth,

lifted into sky and sun,

the Mother’s love

soaked fragrance and

I become one.


On the unseen road that

begins anywhere

and ends nowhere,

I surrender

to all that is,

as the Divine Mother

carries me home

to most high heaven, and its

celestial temples, where live

angels and prophets and poets

and those resurrected in

God’s big belly laugh.





This prose poem was drafted late last summer.  That month was flooded in luminous images difficult to untangle, their speed and intensity overwhelming.

The poetic arc I tried to capture was God’s laughter, a trope all but ignored except in the mystical traditions, because the ego hates joy — and religion loves to keep us in our suffering.

It’s been months since I’ve looked at this, but I felt nudged to return to it today.

The final version, which will take shape for another year or two or ten, will include a section on Hafiz, the Islāmic Sufi poet who inspired it; but that part still isn’t drafted.

Strange how that works, the poet who seeded my imagination remains invisible.

A couple of quick notes on the sources: in Buddhism, the image of the Buddha with a big belly is an iconic or metaphorical representation of unbound joy and expansiveness.  Not an exercise in realism, but expressive license.

The section on Krishna refers to the Bhagavad Gita.  In the “Song of God” (Bhagavad = God, Gita = song) Krishna reveals his true form to Arjuna, and it’s one of the text’s highlights.  One of the world’s most important religious documents, it’s an excerpt from the Mahabarata.  It’s a small but powerful text, and I strongly urge anyone with spiritual thirst to dive into its pages.

Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu — a relationship that many liken to the Christian father-son relationship.

In defining “yuga,” I’m being lazy, and for brevity’s sake I lifted a definition via Wiki:  “Yuga in Hinduism is an epoch or era within a four age cycle. A complete Yuga starts with the Satya Yuga, via Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga into a Kali Yuga. Our present time is a Kali Yuga, which started at 3102 BCE with the end of the Mahabharata war.”

Indian religious cosmology and mythology’s vision is vast: human history takes place in an endless cycle of Universal life and death.  The universe folds and unfolds, age after age.  Human history is dwarfed by the larger forces at play.  Think of pictures from Hubble, and you get an idea of Indian cosmology.

It was important to me to portray a laughing Jesus.  The idea of a laughing, not smiling, but an irreverently laughing, love intoxicated Jesus came powerfully to me during this month of poetic flooding.  The Jesus we never see, the one who danced, sang, loved, engaged with life as a fully alive, aware being, not the mystically detached blue-eyed Caucasian that dominates our narratives.

This is the Jesus of Christ at-one-ment, not the small cult figure that’s strangled our spiritual imagination.

Lastly, hearing the Divine Mother chanting isn’t a metaphor — it was real singing.  But I’ll leave it at that.