“But what about your savings for when you retire? Aren’t you concerned about your future?”

My father and I were standing in the kitchen arguing about my decision to train in a Zen monastery. I’d been there for over 2 years and every time we’d see each other, we would inadvertently go ‘here’ in the conversation.

His main objection was that I wasn’t out in the world making money, putting it away toward what I might need. No 401K. From his point of view, this was the prime time for me to be working and saving money. While I was in my 30’s.

Then I would yell back at him, “But there is no future! There is only NOW!” which would cause him to look at me like I was the biggest fool in the world.

I hated this stupid argument. He was just trying to drive me crazy. And control me. Like he and my mother had been trying to do for years. This was a senseless battle. He would never understand my point of view and I would certainly never adopt his fear-based one.

I looked over at him standing beside the sink, shaking his head in disbelief, and then it fell in.

The insight dropped in and I spoke it out loud (I knew it was out loud because he turned to look at me suddenly).

I blurted, “Omigod! You’re saying all of this because you LOVE me. Not because you hate me or you’re trying to drive me crazy or control me. You LOVE me!”

He kept looking at me and I kept looking at him for what seemed like an eternity. And I can’t tell which one of us broke down first, because the only thing I remember next is that I was hugging him, with tears streaming out of our eyes and him saying, “Of course I love you. Both Mom and I love you very much. We just want the best for you.” And I was repeating, “Thank you. I love you. I know. Thank you.”

We stood crying in each other’s arms.

You have to understand that this never happened before. My dad and I never expressed anything remotely emotional with each other before. Ever. Not that I can recall. Now, here we both were, open and vulnerable. Telling each other that we loved one another.

All because of a shift.

A shift in perspective. A way of seeing that wasn’t available a moment before. One that allowed me to see the truth. And then to speak it out loud. To change a relationship between my father and me forever.

You see, it wasn’t a tactic. A plot to bring us together. I didn’t learn how to create great relationships at the Zen monastery where I was training. And I’m not sharing this with you now so you can go to the person you’re fighting with and try this “technique” out on them.

Because that’s what I see missing from everything I read about in personal development. They all tell you to “Do this. Do that. Say this. Say that. Manipulate this. Manipulate that.” All surface level “changes” that rearrange with no depth or understanding.

What no one realizes (and what I didn’t realize) is that we need to UNlearn all this information we’ve been taught. So we can be present with what is. With who is. With ourselves. With Life.


The reason people see me and experience me as a grounded person who responds and is present with them is that I’M HERE.

Presence is not something you can learn. It’s something you must SHIFT into. Like the “ah-ha” of a puzzle piece clicking into place when you stop trying so hard.

You don’t have to change a thing in your life to experience everything as completely different.

Because when I was in that kitchen with my father, we were still the same people we were a moment before. Two people with the same opinions and values. I went back to train at the monastery for another decade and he wished that I was out in the world making money.

What changed was this: I suddenly saw what was missing between us and what I could never unsee.


In lovingkindness,

This is from my forthcoming book, Nothing Remaining: Zen Talks About Illusion and Authenticity, and is available to pre-order here