Begin to Heal the Country

Posted on: November 7th, 2016 by PennyGill No Comments

We all are deeply concerned about the aftermath of this very difficult and toxic electoral campaign. I invite you to join me in a daily practice of sending kindness and blessings and healing to those you have most disagreed with and who have disagreed with you. Begin with inviting healing and ease for yourself, and then, send it out into the country. Here is a lovely version of the ancient Metta practice, from the Himalayan Buddhist tradition, which I have adapted to express my own deepest concerns and desires. Please do the same, as you wish. Blessings to all….Penny

First, for yourself. And then, for your opponents, as you visualize them:

May I (May those who so disagree with me) be happy, healthy and whole.
May they have love, warmth, and affection.
May they be safe, economically secure, and free from fear.
May they know themselves to be respected, secure, and people of value and dignity.
May they celebrate the many layers of their identity, of who they are.
May all people find ease, peace, and well being.

Checking In

Posted on: April 5th, 2016 by PennyGill 1 Comment

I am so happy to report that What in the World Is Going On? has engaged readers in the Tibetan community in India, Bhutan, Burma, Sri Lanka, Italy, Germany, Norway, Great Britain, and of course, the US. I will be jogging behind it, as it goes out into the world, with ever more astonishment and joy.

As a Lenten practice this spring, I began to copy treasures from various file folders into a lovely, big black book. Here is one I thought you might find worth pondering; I have. It is by Paul Ferrini. And I think it speaks beautifully of Manjushri’s main point: Heal your fear and open your heart center!

The Rewards of Partnership

As long as there is growth and honesty in your relationship, it is worthy of your commitment. This doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. Even in the best relationships, doubts and fears continue to arise for both people. However, mature people learn to hold those doubts and fears with compassion. They learn to be patient with and accepting of each other.

In time, the hard shell around your hearts begins to crack open. Where fear used to hold you back, you learn to take baby steps forward. You learn to walk through your fears and stretch your hand out to your partner. You learn to heal together and to trust each other.

And then you experience a gentleness born of the struggle, a sweetness born of the pain. Then there is a twinkle in your eyes when you look at your partner. It isn’t the same twinkle that was there when you first met. It is a different one. It tells of your journey through fear and projection into the heart of acceptance and love.

Why Teach?

Posted on: February 1st, 2016 by PennyGill No Comments

As many of you know, I have just begun my very last seminar at Mt Holyoke College. I have a fine group of new students, half of whom are from South Asia. We will be studying another version of What in the World Is Going On? This time, focusing on global capitalism and its deep connections with our current climate crisis. The main readings will be Naomi Klein: This Changes Everything, Fred Magdoff: What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism, Steger: Globalization: A Very Short Introduction, and Joanna Macy: Active Hope. It should be a splendid way to finish up my long teaching career at the college.

But I write to pass on a stunning quote from Thomas Mann, the distinguished German novelist of the first half of the 20th century (Magic Mountain, for example).

“a vocation towards educating others does not spring from inner harmony, but rather from inner uncertainties, disharmony, difficulty – from the difficulty of knowing one’s own self.”

This seems to me both wise and stunningly accurate, for teaching has led me deeper and deeper into both my self and the world. Such a blessing!

From Darkness to Light: Solstice 2015

Posted on: December 23rd, 2015 by PennyGill No Comments


Shower of Spirit: Summer Rain or Fierce Thunderstorm?

Posted on: November 19th, 2015 by PennyGill 1 Comment

Manjushri speaks of the Shower of Spirit now drenching us, bringing us a new energy, an energy of a higher frequency. It has been difficult for me to really understand what that means, and I have looked for concrete evidence and images. Last summer, for example, there was a period of more frequent and intense solar flares, and I wondered if that was somehow related to this Shower.

Probably not. But it is a good example of how I automatically try to ground a Teaching about Spirit in my three-dimensional, visible world. But Shower of Spirit surely refers to a different aspect of energy, not material, not visible to the human eye, and maybe quite unrecognizable to a normal person like myself.

I’ve been pondering this all summer and fall, at my island cabin. I think I did learn one very helpful aspect of this Shower of Spirit: I used to envision it as something comforting and welcome, like a soft rain in early summer. But not so.

For me, the Shower of Spirit has come to mean a time of intense inner and outer transition, painful losses, and some inescapable interior pressure to speak ever more truthfully from my deepest self. No more self-censorship or circumlocutions. I realized that the Shower of Spirit is actually a goad, a relentless wake-up call, and an invitation to much more transparency and deeper integrity.

There is nothing easy about this process, but perhaps it is a necessary step to recognize my embeddedness in the great web of interdependence and compassion. No soft summer shower, but thunder and lightening, as well!

Fear Shapes Our Lives

Posted on: July 3rd, 2015 by PennyGill No Comments

Nine people gathered in a circle to study their sacred scripture last week were murdered in Charleston, South Carolina. There are many ways to understand this horrifying event, as we’ve seen in commentaries from across the nation and around the world: tragedy, the act of yet another mentally-ill young white gunman, another reason for new gun control legislation, or a stunning reminder of the deep structures of racism in the US, just to name a few. A Greek student of mine wrote me from Athens that night, bewildered by the violence, and asked if there is a civil war between blacks and whites in America. The answer to that is a firm No, of course, because the violent attacks are almost exclusively white-on-black. But it is easy to understand why people around the globe would see the violence in America as a sign of a civil war. The sad truth is that these murderous impulses are rooted in our unfinished and undigested civil war of 150 years ago and the systems of slavery which preceded it.

One wonders, how can old historical practices and events like that continue to shape today’s American society and politics, after all these years? Part of the answer is our fear: how we experience fear, how fear overrides evidence and obliterates thinking, how we help create fear in ourselves and others, and how our fears shape our most basic understanding of ourselves and our world.

There are two kinds of fear, as the teacher Manjushri explains in my new book, What in the World Is Going On? Wisdom Teachings for Our Time. The first kind, communicative fear, we share with many other species; it gives us information about an immediate danger in our environment which requires a response: flight or fight, in most cases. This superb mechanism, sensitive to a “tiger in the grass,” vastly enhances our survival, and we can only be grateful for it. The second type, imaginative fear, however, is created in and by our own minds. It may or may not be grounded in reality and may have little connection with any plausible threat to our survival. Yet it can just as powerfully shape our perceptions and our behavior, over and over, until it becomes an unexamined dimension of our supposed reality. Because it is wound so tightly with human intellect and human imagination, it is much more difficult to trace its roots, and it is a delicate process to uncover those deeply rooted fears and begin the long and hard work of dissolving them.

The steps of this process, however, are simple and straightforward. First, identify the fear lurking deep in one’s heart and mind. Give it a name, and as best you can, bring it up to the surface. Then, greet it with kindness and understanding, over and over, day after day, until it slowly dissolves. It will lose its power to trigger a sense of danger, to initiate a counter-attack, and to escalate a situation all out of proportion to its actual size and heft in the world. You will be rewarded with much more ease, both in your own life and in your surroundings. And it will surely reduce the violence in your community and world, as you no longer fuel it with your own fearfulness. It may seem too small to make a difference, but truly, it is probably the best way to begin to heal the generations of fear and violence in the United States.

Video of reading at the Odyssey Bookshop

Posted on: June 14th, 2015 by PennyGill No Comments

I am delighted to write, that a video of my reading at the Odyssey Bookshop in May is now available on the web site; just click on Videos, and you will find it there. I was honored that Joanne Creighton introduced me, and my colleagues at Mt Holyoke College and I had a spirited conversation about the book. Enjoy!

Reminder: I’m reading from my new book at the Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Thursday, May 7, 4:30.

Posted on: May 6th, 2015 by PennyGill 2 Comments


KwanYin on the Earthquake in Nepal

Posted on: May 1st, 2015 by PennyGill No Comments

I asked my Teacher,  Kwan Yin, to help us understand the terrible catastrophe and suffering in Nepal.  This is what she said:

At one level of understanding, the earthquake is simply an event in the ancient cycle of the massive tectonic plates scraping against each other and releasing enormous amounts of energy.  As you know, this is the geological source of the entire Himalayan range.  One must not ignore this level of understanding; it is foolish to grab some apocalyptic or punishment frame of analysis or interpretation.  It is absolutely not a judgment or a punishment.

All people suffer, regardless of their personal wealth or the level of development of their country.  It is deeply challenging to live in a human body.  Yet it seems such an event can be a stunningly powerful “tool” for awakening countless human beings to the deepest possibilities of compassion, inter-relatedness, and generosity.  It reveals instantly the ridiculousness of the claims of ego.  Perhaps counter-intuitively, it also reminds many of the stunning preciousness of human life.

Nepal has long been the seed-bed of profound spiritual understandings and practices, from the first generations of Hindu practitioners to the highly erudite Buddhist monasteries and wandering devotees.  The Himalayas have been extraordinarily fruitful.  And all this has emerged within the relative cycles of geologic compression and release.

May this great earthquake also serve to bring profound awakening both to the people of Nepal, as they struggle to rebuild their lives and figure out their relationship to modernity and self-governance, and to her friends and fellow citizens around the world.

Light candles and say prayers.  Send money, keep in touch, and encircle the country with your heart.  Encourage yourself and others to grow as deeply as possible, in response to the suffering of the region.

Thank you.  May I post this on my web site?

Yes, of course.  Now, keep your mind calm and open, and do what needs to be done.

Thank you very much.


The Bhutan Foundation and Tibet House USA both suggest local organizations with long presence in Nepal, as highly effective recipients of our donations.

Two New Events

Posted on: April 22nd, 2015 by PennyGill No Comments

I’m happy to report that I will be signing books in Denver, Colorado and South Hadley, Massachusetts, in the next several weeks.  Here is the information. I would so enjoy meeting you!

Hay House’s huge annual convention in Denver, Colorado, April 24-26, 2015, at the Denver Conference Center.

The Odyssey Bookshop in So Hadley, MA, will hold an event for me, reading and discussion of What in the World Is Going On? on Thursday, May7, 2015, at 4:30 PM.