A Beautiful Stew

“The Chefs of G~d

are cooking up a special stew

Just for you.”

~ Rumi


Who are you? I mean really.

Sounds like a simple question, but have you ever actually asked? I’ve posted on the subject before, and maybe once I know the answer, I’ll be done with the exploration. But that might not happen till the day I die! Or maybe it’s just at that precise moment, after my life has flashed before my eyes, that I’ll finally know just who I really am. Ha.

Amazing how we much we take it for granted, how many of us go through life without even pausing to ask that basic question. In my Fierce Light workshops, I often use a simple Zen excercise I learned from one of my inspirators, Roshi Enkyo O’Hara of the Village Zendo. In this partner practice, one person asks the other, “Who are you?” and after listening to the answer, says, with a little bow, “Thank you.” For five minutes. Which is actually a very very long time.

When I first tried it, I felt as if this practice expanded me, from my smaller self, to my larger, larger and still larger Self. At first, the obvious answers emerged- I’m a man, a filmmaker, a son, an artist, a sufi buddhist baha’i punk rocker – all the usual descriptors….but eventually I ran out, and things began to go further afield. I discovered that I am You, I am a blade of grass, a speck of dust, a dentist in millwaukee (that one surprised me!), a murderer, a lover of Love, an ant, a whale, everything that is was and could be…all of the above, and none of the above.

So who am I? I am a gorgeous stew, of the Great Big Enormous Beyond Enormity All Everything Totality, spiced up with the particulars of my souls journey ~ all I have been, known, seen, everything I do, think, feel and love. Especially all that I Love.

My unique ingredients are not who I am though. Rather, I am the dance of my elements, of mind body spirit and shadow, impermanent, ever changing, but rooted somehow in an essential Beingness, that is Me.

Sometimes we think we know someone, or we think we love someone, but what we really know or love, is just one small aspect of their stew. Perhaps the part we lack, or the part we celebrate in ourselves. Sometimes what we love is not even in their stew at all – it’s part of us that we’re projecting onto another. Yikes, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Love is about truly Seeing. Whether we are talking about another person, or ourselves, we cannot love unless we see, honestly, clearly, with an open, forgiving heart. Because we are all stews, it’s okay that part of our unique concoction includes our broken bits. We all have broken bits! In fact, those crunchy, gristly shadowy parts of us, with the proper mixing and spicing – add a dash of compassion, half a cup of letting go, three tablespoons of forgiveness – can be some of the most nutritious parts of our stew. The minerals and vitamins.

But we need to see those bits, bring them into the light, embrace them, release them, and allow them to be part of us. Both/and. Sometimes we need to release the shadows, sometimes we just need to shine the light into the basements of our consciousness, and see what’s there. If we try to repress the shadow bits of us, or deny them, they lurk around in our unconscious, sediment at the bottom of the pot, not properly integrated, and they can throw the mixture off.

We are continually seasoning our stews, and as we become more conscious, we can decide just what the flavour is we’re going for. With consciousness, we can align ourselves with the great Chef some call G~d, and start bringing forth those seasonings that we intuit we are here, on this plane, this planet, right now, to discover.

What spice, what ingredient, what pinch of this, or dash of that, would bring you into harmony? Or put you into the perfect off-kilter place you need to be right now- in case you are a little too balanced? Perhaps, in fact, there is nothing you need, other than what you have in this moment. Phew, that would be quite a feat – to accept who we are, and work with what we have.

More than anything, the key to being a tasty stew is truly integrating your ingredients, letting them flow together, play off each other, bring out the best in you, the whole You. It might seem unlikely – how can that broken heart ever be part of my flavouring, surely it’s going to turn me sour – but really, the choice is yours. As Viktor Frankl said, in “Man’s Search for Meaning”, we can lose everything except for one thing – our freedom to choose how we respond, to whatever comes our way.

The Chefs of G~d are cooking up a special stew – named You. Our small, individual stews are each a part of the Great Stew that constitutes all of creation, in fact all that is manifest and unmanifest, seen and unseen. Each one of us is an essential ingredient. This world, this universe, would not be the same without you. Thank-you for the vitamins, the minerals, the spices, the salty sour sweetness you bring to the mix.

Maybe it’s time to turn up the burner, and bring those juices of creation and destruction, tragedy and comedy, eros and pathos, compassion and ecstasy, love and limitless possibility, to a boil! What do you have to lose?




  1. Who am I? My demons tell me I’m a thorn without a rose. In fact they sing it with Tom Wait’s voice, playing electric guitars nad drums, so loud that they sumberge all other inner voice who might tell me a different story. Tori Amos’ grandfather was a Cherokee indian who used to tell her: “You can’t hide from the demon in your own heart, it always knows and you have to make peace with it.” But…I’m sure they don’t know it ALL and maybe it’s time to rebel against them…Like you said, I have nothing to lose. I have to try that exercise you mentioned, maybe I’ll come up with some unexpected answers. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. As one who sat with you in the Fierce Light workshop in Maine a few weeks ago, I know my answers to that question skirted my fears of intimacy, and yet demanded that I make that journey inward. Six weeks later, I go deeper and deeper, and I am discovering my work in the world and my own heart simultaneously. I honor you and thank you for not hiding behind the film making but being willing to engage deeply with your audience, as you do the people in your movies. Who are you, Velcrow? You are the one who does not hide. You are one of the fearless brothers!

  3. Thanks Carla. Oh I got my fears, like everyone. But I am always unpeeling the layers it’s true. I doubt I will ever be completely fearless, or if that is even quite possible. However, i try to find out what my fear is trying to tell me, how I can grow through it, how I can soften to it, to myself, and not cling to the fear, or add fuel to it’s flame. Too often we build a bonfire of anxiety. That’s not my problem – if anything, i sometimes have a little too much Pronoia (Rob Brezny’s terrm – the opposite of paranoia). I always look for the brighter side. Learning about the shadow has been important for me because of that, but I’m happy my tendency is towards the light. So, I am not fearless, but I am learning about what I call indestructible vulnerability – allowing myself to be all of me, my strong bits, and my broken bits…all part of the stew…

  4. How do you learn to accept the broken bits instead of sweeping them under the carpet?

  5. I think it helps to realize that everyone has a shadow, it’s part of who we are, and nothing to be ashamed of. There is no one on this planet without some broken bits. Then, the fact of the matter is that there is no carpet to sweep anything under – it’s all part of you. So in fact, letting them into the light means they won’t be exerting unconscious control over you. So often we are propelled by unknown forces – often our shadow – and we feel rudderless. Freedom comes from awareness, and acceptance. You can’t push them away, that doesn’t work, so it’s often better to see them, embrace them as part of your learning process, then let them go. Because dwelling on them can just be a trick of the ego to keep us in our small self. There is no one answer – we all have unique circumstances and things to learn. For you, it might be that you are overly aware of your demons, as you call them, and so it’s not about focussing on them, but rather, not grasping so tightly on them. You see them, you probably know their source inside and out. So perhaps you could work towards learning to accept them as part of who you are, but not think of them as the defining characteristic of who you are – they’re just part of your stew…you are all the elements, and then some…so let them go, let them integrate into you, let them dissolve in the greater whole…this might take patience, and certainly will require a softening towards them, towards yourself, towards their source…forgiveness can be very empowering…

  6. Tou’re right! I have to forgive the ONE who sent me the demons (they’re not a part of me, they just express someone’s opinion) and send them back to him! Thanks!

  7. great post. I especially found it useful where you started

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