Life in All Its Mystery

September 1, 2021

“I step into the day. I step into my life. I step into the mystery. Aho!”

This affirmation, connected to the Ojibwe Nation, was shared with me years ago and has stuck with me for about a decade. I wrote about it in 2019. Before the Covid pandemic, before both global warming and climate change had caused a significant increase in the number of wildfires and hurricanes and floods and earthquakes worldwide, before the racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd, before the tragedies following the US troops leaving Afghanistan, before, before…

Lots has changed since 2019. And while we still get to step into the day, we don’t always feel that exuberant ‘Aho!’ as we do so. We feel the weight of the Delta variant as it infects with more speed, feel the weight of lockdowns, of no vaccinations (yet!) for our children, of the concern that we’ll go back (and back and back) into virtual teaching forever, of the fear that we’ll never really figure this all out and what then?

I spent several months during 2020 and 2021 learning with Meg Wheatley, a thought leader and spiritual friend, who worked with a cohort of us to build up our bandwidth to sit with whatever comes, and to develop a stomach for the ups and downs of the upcoming year (and years). We worked to have a slowing down of our heart rates, and a calming of our breath – and we did so in community. It helps for us to step forward in community – to work together towards a sense of peace in the midst of so much chaos. Schools are now open here in California. They have been open in many parts of the world for several weeks and soon will be open for my nephews in Minnesota. We are in the thick of it – stepping into our lives and into the mystery of the world – and we need each other to do so.

What I like about the Ojibwe prayer is the polarity it holds. I love the ownership and agency of the words, “I step into my life” and the understanding that so much of life is not to be controlled as we “step into the mystery.” It’s a both/and time if there ever was one. (Hint: It is always a both/and time.) We need to focus on both task and relationship, clarity and flexibility, family and work. We need to have a sense of agency as we move forward and an awareness of the mystery that we won’t always know what we are moving towards. Deep breaths, Everyone.

This way of walking in the world is not an easy feat for so many of us. Dominant culture, the news, and social media, etc. all can push and pull us back into places of anxiety and sadness, fear and frustration.

Ask yourself:

  • Where do I have control in my life and am I owning that control or am I abdicating it?
  • Where do I notice myself needing to be more open to a bit of mystery and what can I do to help myself do so?
  • What are some of my strategies for living more successfully with the polarity balancing of both agency and mystery?
  • What moments go past me unconsciously in which I could be even more grateful that I am stepping into my life and my aliveness?

Here’s to claiming your life in all its mystery. Be Well. Mask Up. Aho!

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at I look forward to hearing from you.

Cool Resources

Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter’s School by Courtney E. Martin. Amazon writes, “Courtney E. Martin examines her own fears, assumptions, and conversations with other moms and dads as they navigate school choice. A vivid portrait of integration’s virtues and complexities, and yes, the palpable joy of trying to live differently in a country re-making itself. Learning in Public might also set your family’s life on a different course forever.”

Stuck Improving: Racial Equity and School Leadership by Decoteau J. Irby. HEP writes, “An incisive case study of changemaking in action, Stuck Improving analyzes the complex process of racial equity reform within K–12 schools. Scholar Decoteau J. Irby emphasizes that racial equity is dynamic, shifting both as our emerging racial consciousness evolves and as racism asserts itself anew. Those who accept the challenge of reform find themselves “stuck improving,” caught in a perpetual dilemma of both making progress and finding ever more progress to be made. Rather than dismissing stuckness as failure, Irby embraces it as an inextricable part of the improvement process.”

Two fun newsletters I encourage you to check out:

Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing Newsletter and McKinley Valentine’s The Whippet Newsletter