For some time now, my three children (20-somethings) share this little mantra with me, often accompanied by a big grin. It goes like this: “Just do you, Mom!”

Whether that means wearing a funky flowered hat, leading a guided meditation on the quad of a local campus, or making friends in line at the RMV, I find this call to just be myself a lovely affirmation every time I hear it.

I believe their call to me is an echo back from my daily attempts to encourage their discoveries about themselves ever since they began that discernment process.  Of course, like all of us, they have shifted and morphed as they “tried on” various versions of jock, artist, rock star, philanthropist, hipster, and general badass.  Some they have tossed out of hand.  While others have become integral pieces of who they are.

be yourself

And of course, like all of us, they have suffered. There have been grave losses, illness, dark times, and broken dreams.  Yet, I have seen these unwanted crucibles, time and again, transform them and others in miraculous ways to live life fully present.  There seems to be no profound personal or spiritual advancement without them.

However, these are the places where we can get stuck.

The journey of who we are and why we are is a life-long one. The task is made more difficult when we hold on to identities about ourselves that don’t tell the whole story.

Often, in my classes, when I ask people what they would like us to know about them, their first identifier may be, “I am a recovering alcoholic” or “I am a survivor of abuse.” These are hugely important facts.  It is vital to share these parts of ourselves. They demonstrate strength, resilience, and a tenacity to rise above.  They are living proof to yourself and others that you have been through the worst and have come out the other side.

These experiences help to shape us, AND THEY ARE NOT US. Each of us is much more than even the sum of all our stories.

Clinging to your personal history as it is you, is still living in the past.    121

Transforming your past into a happier today includes sharing your experiences with others, whether they be hard tales of abuse, addiction, neglect, or poverty. Both speaker and listener heal, grow, and connect deeply with one other.

Embracing your past from this perspective, you can honor and accept where you have been, utilizing it in the present where need be. But releasing the attachment to these stories.  They will not disappear. Nothing gets lost.

Just doing you is a call to the present…

In fact, this release allows us to live in the only time there is: now.

There is no need to put labels on who we are.  Living unencumbered by our own or other’s definition of who we are: we see things with fresh eyes.

nompondo dp“Just do you” is the vibrancy of noticing what’s around you right now: a smooth pottery coffee mug, cloud formations or rain at the windows.  People and creatures, landscape and cityscape, offering themselves for enjoyment.  The authentic you arises naturally from this place.

There is a lightness and rightness about being you in this moment.



Now, everyone that knows me knows that I’m obsessed with running…a little too obsessed is what friends and family members have hinted at over the years.  I have run almost everyday for 30 years.  Like the postman, through rain, sleet, and winter’s snow, I am out there. 

Partly it’s simply a well ingrained habit, like brushing my teeth each morning and evening. Part of it is because I have a passion for food combined with a weakness of the will and running has, for the most part, allowed me to keep my “girlish” figure to some extent.

On those days when I’m feeling exhausted and blown out, when I have to push myself to “just do it”, I most often return with a renewed sense of energy…a clearer energy.         

Lastly, lacing up those Asics and taking to the streets has become a ritual akin to meditation for me.  When I’m stressed, the rhythm of my breath and the sound of my sneakers hitting the pavement begins to take my frenetic energy down a notch.  It’s  a time to think and to not think…both realities of meditative practice.  My runs are usually between 4 and 5 miles, and occasionally, I will spent two miles or so simply repeating to myself the mantra, “one, two, one, two”.  I return to my work feeling calm with the added occasional bonus of gleaning some insight on a problem that has been bedeviling me for a while.

That all sounds good, right?  This is all reasonable and healthy…right? (bad knees notwithstanding). 

But there is a fly in the ointment that only the sweetest, daffiest little lady that walks her dog by me every day for many years can see.  She often smiles wisely at me as I am running by her as fast as I can. I say, “Good morning Shirley, can’t talk now, gotta run” and she kindly replies, “What are you running from today, Katherine?” 

What are you running from today, Katherine?  Good question.  There has been a sense of urgency that I have felt for much of my life. What a shock when this urgency was unmasked as a terrible illusion.  When feelings, situations, or reality APPEAR too hard to face, when being in my body is more than a little uncomfortable, this is when I need to stop running. The only thing that will allow for spiritual transformation is letting all of it…all those monsters real and imagined… just BE.  To sit still, to allow painful emotions, or happy memories for that matter, to wash over me like waves, while I sit like the mountain, like a Redwood, like the Buddha.  Ahh, that is where peace resides.

Mark Nepo, in The Book of Awakening, speaks to our instinctive flight or fight responses, ” The doorway to your next step of growth is always behind the urgency of now.  Now more than ever, when all feels urgent,  you must cut the strings to all events.  Now more than ever, when the weights seemed tied to your wrists, you must not run or flail.  Now more than ever, when each decision feels like the end, you must believe that each question is a beginning.” He continues, “In this way, pray to have your True Self inch through your turmoil.”

I have been taking this advice for a time now. I’m not sure if it’s made the way any easier (perhaps not in the short run, no pun intended). However, I’m sticking to the practice as someone put it, “as it my hair were on fire”.  Again and again, renewed courage and expanding compassion bubble up from that invisible place where my soul resides.

Of course, in accepting my own human frailties, there are many moments when I don’t take the time to dip that proverbial bucket down deep enough in order to access that well where ease and wisdom exist eternally.  Again and again, I need to be reminded to go back to the well, to tap it.  It is a well that never “runs” dry.

I’d like to close with a quote for the day (haven’t done that for a while!):

“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.”  – Blaise Pascal

(Amen Blaise)