I’m sitting at the kitchen table looking out the front window. It’s a rainy, cold spring day in Pittsburgh. As I sit here, I recall another time. There was snow on the ground and I was writing, sitting at this same seat. My older son had just left for school and I noticed his footsteps in the snow leading up the yard, away from home, to school. I felt a deep sense of sadness as I thought that the time would soon come when he would be leaving for good, heading to college and then into his own independent life. I thought of how much I would miss him and his younger brother who was only a few years behind.
That was about 15 years ago. Both of our sons are now grown and gone. Yet, the time between then and now feels like the blink of an eye.
I spent most of my life repressing, or denying, my mortality. Telling myself that I was still figuring out what I wanted to be. A lot of things came easy to me, especially the academic stuff. I graduated with distinction from the college and the law school at the University of Virginia. I worked for two elite corporate law firms- Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York and Hogan Lovells in Washington, D.C. Entering academics, I ultimately became a Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh. My record of scholarship is impressive, initially in the areas of race and poverty, later in legal ethics. I serve on corporate boards and have an ethics consulting and expert witness practice as well. In other words, I got the tickets.
But several years ago, I came to see that I had been coasting all along, never really committed to anything. Because of my gifts, I never had to push myself that hard, never chose to really put myself out there. My father died, my mother disappeared into Alzheimer’s, and my pretenses that I would live forever or that I was still trying to decide who I was going to be all came undone.
I began working with a therapist and rereading my most important spiritual texts, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki and the Tao te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation). It was a rocky road. It is a rocky road still.
But I have family, good friends. I am drawn to the mountains and to the ocean and am able to spend a good amount of my time outdoors. I am blessed with the capacity to hike, run, bike, snowboard, and walk our dog, Sammie. I am engaged in a book project that is meaningful and compelling. And more and more, I am centered, fully present in my moment. Each day I feel stronger and more alive. I am blessed.
beautiful and real, lovely
Thanks for showing interest in what I put out too. I sincerely hope you continue to find my works entertaining & pleasurable. Be safe.
Thanks so much for visiting and following – what a pathway we are all on! As you say – moment by moment! Staying and enjoying this one is always my challenge (and I’m pretty sure I am not alone in that!)… yet I am learning…and with great poetry and inspiring words all around, how can we not? Thanks for yours…am enjoying the reading!
This moves me on a deep level, Thomas. Thank you. Gratitude also for following Spirituality Without Borders. I look forward to meeting you there in the spaces between the words.
Happy that we connected.
Thomas….this was such a wonderful statement to read on this rainy (at last!) morning in mid-California. What you said about your life and facing NOW is so much what’s happening to me. So it was very uplifting. I note it was a couple years ago. Hope life is kind to you still. Betty
Thanks for the kind words. Rainy cold day here as well. But I’m reading beside the fireplace- much beauty out there in the poetry and prose I’m encountering. Lucky me.
Thanks for the follow.
I felt a connection with what you wrote, I too am a lawyer who has found pseronal satisfaction from writing, and who has had to acknowledge death as a part of life and confront the incredible reality of Alzheimer’s in a parent. Such is life.
The Stephen Mitchell translation of the Tao is the only one for me. It’s truly wonderful and embraces all that is, in the most simple and open way possible.
Death has stopped by more times than i ever thought possible but while i miss those who have gone on ahead, sometimes desperately, I believe that Death is just a doorway to a different place. I think we walked through a doorway to get here and that the doorways never stop…we just keep going from place to place forever.
In this, our current game, we have strong feelings and emotions. Our brains are in charge of our lives, chemicals, hormones push us to reproduce, fight, love, etc., and because of the strong emotion we miss the people we love.
Truth, to me, is relative and personal. It doesn’t exist in general because no one is free from their own world view, experience, prejudices, etc., to see things in any other way than personal.
i think we have core personalities that are truly us, no matter our form. Just like the startled baby, calm baby, fearful baby…we are who we are. Those are the bits that can’t be changed, no matter what.
And don’t forget hormones, the ones that make teenage boys sometimes hate their mothers and misread the expressions on their best friend’s face. Brain studies have shown that boys fight because they see hostility on the faces of others even though it’s not actually there.
Men and women have brains that function differently. I was reading brain studies and the book on the brains of women was filled with information. The book on the male brain was short and could have been shorter. Mostly filled with aggression and misreading of things. Lots of examples. Hormone driven. Sigh. Our bodies are simply here to get our brains from one place to another, according to what one reads. At least our bodies are fun, I guess that’s their reward for doing what our brains tell them to do:)
At any rate, I have absolutely no fear of being dead. I have a horrific fear of being kept alive and not being able to die when I’m ready to leave this place. I do believe that life is what we make it and what we make it has to do with who we truly are…the us that we brought with us.
Everything here has been made up by humans. Every single belief, every word. All pretend, just stuff we made up and yet, people are willing to kill and die for those things. How is it possible that people don’t know that none of this is real and that we can change it anytime we like? That is so weird to me. Things change all the time, beliefs come and go but people just don’t get it. Sigh.
Well, I hope you’re happy and I hope you have a wonderful life. I believe Death is our best friend who is here to stop suffering and take care of us as we leave this place. I have nothing against Death. I’m grateful for all the good it does and I truly believe that no one leaves this place until they are ready to go.
Hi Thomas. Thanks for visiting and following my blog. Sounds like you’ve had an interesting journey back home to self. I’ve always liked the Zen path, but too busy with other paths. That’s OK for me since I believe we all reach the mountain top in our own way, always with the help of others. Thanks for shining the light on your path and book.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I am very new at it. I am really enjoying your blog. You write beautifully . I see you went to the University of Virginia. I moved to North Carolina from there so “Go HOOS”.
Thanks for visiting my blog, Thomas! I’m glad to connect and look forward to reading more from you. Beautiful Sunday to you and yours 🙂 #NF
Like you, and some others here, I haven’t posted in quite a while. Yet, like you, and the others here, I’m compelled to reply to what you’ve written, to connect with you and the others on a level that goes beyond our conscious reasoning.
I’ve been on a soul quest for several years and have lived through my dark night of the soul. At times, I feel as though I’m still in the midst of my dark night. But then something like this comes along: someone else’s story–someone else’s dark night, and I don’t feel so alone. In fact, I feel connected knowing that there are others, such as yourself, seeking out your truth and answers from within, just like me.
It’s a pleasure to meet you!
I can’t tell you how much it means to me for you to leave this message. These tender threads of human connection. Struggle, struggle. But not alone.
Hello Thomas — yes, time passes so quickly, and we really have only the present moment in which to decide what we want to be. So true! This year I’ve resolved to improve my attitude and be more connected with the world by visiting and commenting on a positive blog every day, keeping a list on my own blog as a reference. I’ve added your site as today’s entry. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights!
Thanks so much, Meg.
Seeing your message was a great way for me to start my day.
Let’s each stay strong.
Thomas, thank you for visiting my site and choosing to follow along. Your bio is so very thoughtful and compelling. I look forward to reading more.
thank you for stopping by to read and follow my words, thomas. i really like the approach you’ve taken to learning and finding your way through life. and understanding there is so much more than material success.i look forward to reading more from you – peace, beth
Thanks for following my blog MyKoruLifestyle.com
I certainly understand about getting older and life going by even faster. We then try to figure out who WE are and what WE like to do. Continue in your healing and processing, and finding your happiness!
Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, liking a post and following me. I am honored–I am awed by your writing and perspective. I look forward to reading more of your work and musings. Thank you! So grateful to have found you!
Thank you for sharing and Greetings from Gede Prama 🙂
I’ve just reread many of your posts Thomas, because they help me when I’m in a dark and difficult place. I gave up blogging about 18 months ago when my sister was diagnosed with cancer. Creativity disappeared and concentration became difficult. I was full of fear and disbelief, and shock. I stopped following all the blogs I had enjoyed – except yours. Your writing gives me the most wonderful comfort and strength. It’s strange because reading through your posts I notice so often you have berated yourself, felt unworthy, spoken of your failures, and beaten yourself up. Please let me say that whatever you were, or were not in the past matters not. You are what you are now. You have the most amazing wealth which you share with all of us on this blog. You are so worthy. You are needed. You give out a most wonderful light for us to bathe in when we need help to heal. Thank you for what you give.
I look forward to your book – a signed copy please! Have a peaceful, healthy, happy and successful 2014, with very best wishes,
As you see, like you, I have not posted anything for a while. But yesterday I read this message and this morning I wrote and posted again.
Believing in ourselves, ceasing all judgment, especially self-judgment, is for each of us the elusive but absolutely essential way of being. Whether we write or not, post or not, isn’t the important thing. Holding on to our sense of self and living each moment in a strong and present way is our desire.
I am sorry to hear of your sister’s cancer diagnosis. I am sending her- and you- my strongest, best thoughts.
You haven’t posted for many months now but this message is itself a loving and exquisite composition. So you carry on and you bring others the light of your existence- as you have this day with your kind and gracious message to me.
I just nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award – thank you for sharing of yourself and bringing more light into my life.
Thomas, your talent for inspiring others through your beautiful writing is what prompted me to nominate you for the Sunshine blogger award. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt writing with the rest of us ❤ http://enlightenedlotuswellness.com/2013/07/19/spreading-the-light-sunshine-blogger-award/
Thanks so much.
Just left a message for you on your blog.
I’m so happy that we are connected.
I nominating you for a blog award because you are so inspiring. Write on! http://foolishsagewisdom.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/inspirational-blogger-award/
this is the most inspiring blog I have visited for a long time. I’m glad to be here.
Greetings from the Far North
I have created a new YOU-NIQUE award which I have nominated you for because I think you are special! Further details here. http://justcassie.wordpress.com/2013/05/04/you-nique-award/
Your honesty makes me feel less alone. Thank you. I’m so excited to be connected with you through your blog.
Thanks for your kind words on my blog. It’s a pleasure to connect with you here, and I look forward to sharing insights with you…
It’s hard to put it in words, but your posts are inspirational and nostalgic at the same time. Thanks for having this blog!
Time for another award! I nominated you for The Liebster Award. 🙂 http://justcassie.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/liebster-award/
Tom, I’ve nominated you for the “Family of Bloggers” Award. To see the nomination, visit http://anotherlovelyday.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/overdue-thank-yous-awards-and-a-little-winnie-the-pooh.
Thanks so much for your friendship and followship.
Thomas, I’ve nominated you for the 2012 Blog of the Year Award @ http://davidkanigan.com/2012/12/08/blog-of-the-year/#more-13084. You are under no obligation to accept. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your inspirational posts and your friendship in 2012.
WONDERFUL blog! A pleasure to read your posts!!
Powerful. There’s a real rawness about you, met with a magnetic vulnerability and awareness that combine to form quite the insatiable desire to understand more. Who exactly is this Thomas Ross?
Your writing ability is great, sure. But there’s a realness here that I feel this modern writing world lacks. This modern world in general lacks. This modern species we have become; we lack a deeper intuitivity of being, on a collective level.
Your energy is a kinetic motion. Keep with it.
You have given me two gifts here- the kind message and the chance to read your own wondrous blog. I’ve left a message there in which I try to express and explain my great regard for your work. Here I’ll just say- I am so grateful for this connection.
That gratitude is mutual. Big. And mutual.
I do indeed look forward to what awaits. There’s a connection here, beyond the words. But the words are such a powerful tool, aren’t they?
So good to know you. I’ll be in & out for awhile, but I’ll stop by when I can.
Blessings to you as well.
Hey there friend. I’ve missed your thoughts. 🙂 Anyway, for what it’s worth:
Oh my heavens, you write so beautifully! There is a gentleness, vulnerability and poetry to your words! What a lovely blog.
Fantastic uplifting post! Have a great day. 🙂
Fantastic uplifting post 🙂
In French, there is an expression saying that you have a beautiful feather. It means that you write very well. When I read you, into my head it sounds like I’m reading a book. Can’t wait to read more about you.
My best thoughts,
This is such a lovely compliment. You are kind.
I’m happy that we are now connected in our writing.
Hola, just wanted to let you know you have received the Bear Hug Award…. you can read about it here: http://missytree.com/2012/09/29/the-bear-hug-award-an-award-of-sincere-appreciation-goes-to/
love and peace xox
Thanks for stopping by my blog. I enjoy your words very much and look forward to reading more.
Hi Thomas. Thank you so much for visiting and following my blog. A pleasure to meet you. I’m looking forward to following your posts. Have a beautiful weekend. Maarit-Johanna
i really like this self portrait 🙂 a human moving forward to the deepest part of his being…looking for the light and the peace…and sharing his thoughts by beautiful words…connected to a mysterious and powerfull full of creativity !!! you are learning to fly like an eagle…good job tom !!!! be encouraged to be you and to increase your vision 🙂
I’m delighted you dropped by to my site Thomas because now I’m introduced to your wonderful blog! You write beautifully and tenderly and I look forward to following your posts.
I feel the same. Fortunate for this connection.
Tom, I’ve nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. See the nomination at anotherlovelyday.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/one-lovely-blog-award. Congratulations!
Thanks so much.
You certainly have created “One Lovely Blog” yourself. Congratulations on the recognition of your work- which I admire- and thank you for the kindness of passing it along to me.
Hi Thomas In case it’s raining, I have just given you The Sunshine Award. I hope you like it! Best Wishes from Cassie 🙂 http://justcassie.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/awards/
Sun is out here but that doesn’t diminish the meaning of this kind gesture on your part one bit. (I just left a message on your blog trying to explain how blessed I feel to have connected with you and your work.) So for here, I’ll just say- you are the best, thanks much.
Oh, I get it.
Yeah, this is a good way, as I suspect the title and form of book etc will just come about organically as you proceed.
You know, that magic occurrence when one is in the zone of synchronicity, or however you choose to describe it.
Words, eh, so little and so much;
the whole world in a word, and yet no thing in the word.
Glad to have discovered your writing – it’s very zen like in its simplicity and impact.
What say you to ‘HERE ONLY ONLY NOW’, and to your book, THE PRESENT NOW, perchance?
The present moment seems so common now in a way – not that I’m against the obvious benefits of it being common now – but something that leaps off the page (sorry), so to speak ;,)
I’m just sayin’
I agree that the title isn’t really what I want. But then the book project itself has evolved. Four months ago, I thought of the blog writing instrumentally- as a way to pre-promote the book project.
Now the blog writing has become an end in itself. Something I care about, deeply. Something that draws me so hard that on days when I can’t write, I feel somehow adrift.
So the book? Unsure of its best title, even unsure of what form it might take now. We’ll see. First I’ll write it. Then I’ll name it. In consultation with you perhaps?
Your words are healing and I’m pretty sure that I understand your epiphanies. Thank you for using your obvious gift of writing and relaying important thoughts. I will continue to read. ~Sonya
Your stylish blog is a treasure.
Glad to be connected.
Tom, I appreciate the generous comment you left on my blog earlier. You have some great stuff here and I look forward to spending some time browsing your articles at leisure.
I’m so happy we are now sharing our writing with each other.
Hi Thomas, just read your about page, and am looking forward to reading more of your story. Thank you for the inspiring words.
So glad we’re connected now.
As I said over on your blog, you really should think about losing that “foolish” tag- your thought and writing are anything but.
Thomas, I was visiting over at Dewdrop Worlds and came across your blog. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that you are not only a writer of interesting Zen stuff but also a lawyer and a human being to boot! Looking forward to coming back to browse through your posts.
David, thanks much for dropping by and leaving this message. Visited your blog as well and glad we connected. Tom
Hi Thomas, I am glad I discovered your blog through Tracie Louise’s lovely blog. What you are writing is very important, and your writing is beautiful. I treasure the simple things in life, and record them in my blog. Best wishes from Simple Cherishes.
I’m so glad that we connected. Your blog is a wonder- I love it.
Thanks so much for your kind comments. Yours is very inspiring. Best wishes from Simple Cherishes.
Hi Thomas, I just read your Blog ‘About me’. I love that you write so eloquently and honestly about your journey in life thus far, you have a special way with words and verse and put your reader at ease and wanting to read the next line. I am glad that I have found your blog and look forward to reading more. I wish you well on your life’s journey and the many twists and turns you still will make during this lifetime, I do hope that your struggle gets easier as the years roll on and that you complete your book project and be proud of the outcome.
Anne, you have left for me such a thoughtful and kind message. Thank you for taking the time to read my writing and for your generous response.
I just wanted to tell you I had nominated you for the Lovely Blog award. 🙂
Cassie, I left a reply on your site expressing my feelings and gratitude. Your regard for my work is a gift to me of immeasurable value. Tom
Beautiful blog Thomas and inspiring thoughts. Congrats on the well deserved award by projectwhitespace!
Dilip, much thanks. The blogging world is filled with so many generous and supportive souls- like you. Tom
Hi Thomas, just wanted to leave you a note that I gave you the Inspirational Blog award. Don’t feel obligated to act on it, but please do come over and see the photo I made for you. 🙂
So, Bethany, I left a reply on your site trying to express my regard for you and for your writing. Your celebration of the work of others is a wonderful thing. Thank you. Tom
Very pleased to meet your acquaintance Thomas. This ‘about me’ page is my first reading of your blog, but I know instinctually that I need to explore more. Your writing is open and welcoming, and your story is one I can relate to in many ways ~ as my oldest just graduated college and is about to launch her own life. Also very much in touch with the ‘inner work’ that it seems you have also embraced 🙂 Looking forward to visiting here ~ Love & Blessings, Robyn
Robyn, I am blessed in uncountable ways. Being connected with you is one of them. Tom
Thanks very much Tom – appreciate and likewise!
I nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blog Award! See it here: http://withanopenheart.org/2012/07/12/thank-you-for-the-beautiful-blogger-award-and-the-very-inspiring-blogger-award/#more-678
Nina, you are so kind and thoughtful. The writing on your blog is beautiful and inspiring as well. Tom
WELCOME! Thank you for subscribing to follow my blog. I hope you are encouraged, inspired and enjoy the photos I take of everyday life and events as I journey through my retirement years.
BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!
Thanks for liking my blog enough to follow it Thomas. I keep a little book on my desk, it’s called ‘The Buddha’s Little Instruction Book’. It’s a great comfort when I dip into a negative patch – which fortunately isn’t often. It’s also wonderful on all the good days.
Jude, my pleasure.
I like your insight that reminding ourselves of the Tao lessons when we feel strong and centered is as important as turning to them when we struggle.
Your words…. carry me back in time…to places and faces…feelings and thoughts I’ve encountered in my own journey…. They remind me that looks backward…can tell us how far we’ve come….while looking ahead… we have a new awareness of how far we’ve yet to go…But, unlike the past, there is now a new confidence and commitment about the journey and where it will ultimately lead us….
Your words remind me…of our similarities as human beings, and that those similarities are greater than our differences. Your words are a reminder of what a remarkable journey we are all on….
Thank you for your gentle, eloquent and visually beautiful.. reminder….of how much alike, we all are.
I have looked through bits of your blog and very much enjoy how you put thoughts into words. It is a pleasure to read.
It is also interesting to me that you have listed 2 books – Zen Mind, Beginners Mind and the Tao Te Ching as important books to you. They are important to me too. I have a copy of the Tao Te Ching (Stephen Mitchell translation) that I have been reading every 6 months or so for more years than I can remember. It helps me get back to the real. I am deeply in love with it.
I look forward to continuing to read your blog. Thank you for sharing your words with people who need them.
Six or seven years ago, when I was in a very bad place, a friend suggested the book to me. I have carried it with me since and hardly a day goes by that I don’t reread a passage.
Thanks for taking the time to share your regard for my writing. I draw strength from your kindness.
I’m so blessed to have found your writing. Thank you for this gift!
Thank you. I’m glad that we connected.
As Napkinwriter, I’ve become a blessed friend of Christine and her dadirri7 blog and a wondrous way for me to “be” in Australia….and so I found you through her…and in finding you I hear the stillness and quietness and centerness, which I myself cherish and am in process of writing “Being Faithful To the Quiet……..(for a very long time now, seems I’m living it first. I find your writing and your truths….peaceful. I am a writer by soul command.
Thanks for the kind words and the thoughtfulness of your response. I continue to feel the support of writers from writers throughout this blog world. It’s a precious thing.
Thomas, your blog is stunningly well written and concise, at the same time humble and honest. The tone of your entries bode well for the success of your book. That you stumbled upon my blog and thus allowed me to discover yours was quite a gift. So wonderful to find someone who has “had it all” and is still a seeker. Thank you for your contributions to this topic, I find it quite heartening that there are so many voices calling us to this moment, only here, only now. On some still, quiet level, far away from the frenzied fray, a sea change is afoot. It amazes me to continue to discover how many people are finding their way to peace and light. Lovely, can’t thank you enough for the connection.
Cathrine, thank you for the kind and thoughtful response. I am so glad that we connected. Tom
Thomas! Your story. Your journey… I look so forward to reading more of your blog and following. (Just noticed as I’m writing this, that you’ve begun to follow my blog – thank you…) Nice to meet a friend on the path.
Yes, I’m glad that we connected.
Hi Thomas! I’m a bit delayed but I’m now happy to be following your awesome blog! Greetings from Art and Practice!
Talia, I’m glad we connected. Tom
Hi Thomas! I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award!! 🙂 http://shalvikap.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/one-lovely-blog-award/
Shalvika, thanks so much for the nomination. This blog tradition of allowing writers to acknowledge the work of other writers is a lovely thing. Keep the musings coming.
I just found your blog through someone else’s and I’m so glad that I did. I really like what you’re doing here. It’s a beautiful blog 🙂
Congratulations on the Versatile Blogger award!
So glad you were wandering in the blogosphere and found my blog, so that i could find yours, i have been reading your posts on the Tao to my husband in bed this morning, a truly wonderful way to start the day, thank you for your thoughtfulness, reflections, inspiration, for your encouragement to be present, and do keep writing Thomas 🙂
What a lovely and kind message to leave. It means so much to me that you would take the time to read my work and share your thoughts. I’m glad we connected.
Well firstly thank you for your visit to, and comment on my blog. Your blog is full of wisdom and I feel it is one I will return to often. The Tao played (and still plays) an important part in my personal path. I have wondered from it and have explored other ideas. I am still exploring…Your blog is kind of nostalgic to me (in a good way) and reminds me that whatever strange and sometimes scary frontiers I explore in my spiritual journey, the Tao is never far away.
Wandering is a good thing. When I read your blog I thought of the Keirkegaard passage: “To venture causes anxiety but not to venture is to lose one’s self.”
Thanks for the read and the thoughtful comment. I’m glad we’re connected.
I’m glad you found my site. Your words have a deep sense of peace (or the energy behind them, perhaps), even in the midst of your humanness. Isn’t that the most brilliant option we can hope for? Good stuff here.
Julianna, again, this is the greatest kindness- to read and respond. I’m one month into this project and feeling strong. Thanks. Tom
We are blessed for who you are Thomas and what you are creating on this planet. Thank you….blessings.
Thomas, Thanks so much for the generous and kind comment.