e- = from


-stimare = value

A lack of self-esteem is often named as the core of all psychological difficulty. In truth, it’s a simple matter of measuring value. When we esteem someone else, we measure their value to us.

What system of measurement do you use? There are all kinds of measuring devices. The one closest to home is your own heart. Let your value of yourself and others arise from within you.

My closest friend from college and I have been friends for more than twenty years. I know that she is a brilliant thinker and strategist, and I hold her ability in high esteem. When I am having trouble sorting out something in my life, I can count on her to straighten out my thinking every time.

You might ask if I don’t esteem myself enough to be able to do it myself? Sometimes, but Barbra Streisand is right: people who need people are the luckiest people in the world. I need my friend’s clear mind. Part of valuing her ability is having some of it rub off on me.

The fastest way I know to self-esteem is to listen within and use your own standard for measuring value.

Ask: How can I value myself and others today?

Infinition: Self-esteem is no longer an issue for me. My value is assured in my eyes and in the eyes of God because it comes from within me. As I value myself and others, my value increases.

reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)


dis- = not


-trust = firm

Over the years, so many people have come to me with “trust issues” in their lives and we would work and work at finding their causes. Certain things in our lives we just trust.

When I get on the M104 bus going down Broadway, I don’t ask the driver what route she’ll be driving. I know the route, and if she plans to deviate from it, she’ll tell me.

If we really had trust issues, we’d have to check everything. Can you imagine? Is there really toothpaste in that tube? What’s the fertilizer that farmer used on the carrots in my fridge? You take my meaning.

Distrust is a habit, the habit of suspicion, and it has absolutely nothing to do with anything outside us, nothing at all. It’s something we learn, and we learn it through experience. We internalize what for us is not firm, not stable, not true.

Those of us who have had the horrendous opportunity to heal abuse of any kind know how we learned distrust but it’s really not important how we learned to distrust. What is important is what we do with the habit now.

Somewhere deep inside our Spirits we know that trust is just as viable and ultimately the easier choice than distrust no matter what happened in the past.

Ask: How can I deal kindly with that’s not firm in me today?

Infinition: I choose to trust the goodness of the universe from now on. No matter what conclusions I’ve drawn based on the past, I choose to trust again and again. It’s such a relief.

reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)


con- = together


-trahere = to draw

Every day on earth we deal with the principle of polarity. Up, down. Left, right. Over, under. Matter asks for polarity. A contract draws together the intentions of two or more people.

I’ve heard attorneys refer to “reducing” a contract to writing. Interesting, isn’t it, that this makes the word conTRACT (not CONtract) make sense? Maybe they’re the same! With all of the polarities in life, it’s hard to remember that life, like the ocean tides, ebbs and flows. Sometimes when we experience contraction, it comes from a place of fear.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote of this in her Gift from the Sea, “We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap to the flow of the tide, and resist in terror at its ebb.” It’s important to remember that we too need to ebb just as much as we need to flow.

Look at the Latin etymology of contract. It means: a drawing together. Next time you need to conTRACT, instead of coming from fear, come from knowing that you are drawing yourself together, and that flow always follows ebb.

Drawing up a clear and deliberate CONtract with yourself about your need to ebb will truly give you the courage you need to flow into the next phase of your life.

Ask: How can I allow myself to contract when I need to and trust that I’ll expand when that need arises today?

Infinition: I understand the flow of life and where I fit into it at all times. Instead of being afraid when I need to contract, I choose to trust and I expand in that choice.

reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)


ex- = from


-pandere = spread out

You have seen, I’m sure, the Taoist symbol of change called Yin/Yang. In the dark, contracting, yin side, there is a small dollop of light. In the light, expanding, yang side, there is a small dollop of dark.

What most viewers forget is that the symbol whilst printed and static actually represents motion; it’s a depiction of the interplay between expansion and contraction. We in the West often favor expansion over contraction. We seem to feel that bigger is always better. Perhaps, but what if we’re talking about something like poison ivy? Then, I think not.

Expansion is about spreading out our minds, ideas, expressions, influences. The trick to living through expansion is to prepare for contraction to come soon after because, like the yin/yang, contraction is included in expansion and vice versa.

When the title for this book came to me, I was in a hugely creative period of expansion. Ideas came fast and furious, and so did opportunities. I wrote the proposal and then I had to wait in a contracted time. Once the book sold, expansion followed contraction, as promised.

What happens is, when we’re in expansion mode, we forget this, and then are upset at contraction. Don’t worry. They follow one another as night follows day.

Ask: How can I spread out today?

Infinition: I know all about the rhythm of the universe. I both expand and contract with ease because I know they contain one another.


reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)


hus = house


bonda = master

There is a book on my shelf by an African anthropologist called Male Daughters, Female Husbands. I bought it so I would remember that the roles we fill in our lives can be constraining if we don’t do the work to define them ourselves.

Social custom has a lot to do with what being a husband means. But what is it really? The Anglo-Saxon roots of this word mean housemaster. In some cases, this is certainly evident. But what about Mr. Mom?

Roles are important shorthand for interface in society. They make it easy to understand relationships between and among people. However, there is also room for defining for ourselves what husband means to us in our own relationships.

I know lesbian couples and gay male couples who consider themselves husband and wife. I know others who do not. It seems to me that if a role we take on boxes us in, it is in our own best interests to define it, as we need it to be.

So if master of the house isn’t your style, choose another.

Ask: How can I fit my roles to me today?

Infinition: The roles that I play make interaction and explanation easy. I am happiest with my roles when I define them for myself.

reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)


wif = a woman

I remember the first time my husband introduced me to someone as, “my wife, Susan.” My brain literally went tilt in my head. Wife meant lots of things to me. I worked at home so I cooked, cleaned, ironed, shopped and generally took care of daily reality.

At dinner the night of our first anniversary, my husband said to me very gently, “Are you tired of playing house yet?” And that’s exactly what I’d been doing. Arrrggghhh! It was my own learned ideas of what being a wife meant that I was acting out. I stopped that very day.

The Anglo-Saxon root of wife means woman, which means, in turn, wife man. Like husband, wife is a word which clarifies relationships.

When women began to keep their own names rather than take their husbands’ as a matter of course, we began to redefine what wife meant. Like the word husband, if what wife has meant to you doesn’t work for you, think through what it does mean to you and choose that.

Ask:  How can I best be the person I was meant to be and in relationship with my partner as well?

Infinition: I listen to myself deeply and I learn how I most happily define myself and my roles in life. I choose the most freeing definition for me. I am always my best self, on my own, and as a partner.

reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)


femella = a woman

In his Dictionary of Word Origins, John Ayto writes, “The symmetry between female and male is a comparatively recent development.” So, what is it to be a woman?

Just as with males, I think women (and men) spend their whole lives figuring this out. The deeper Latin root of femella meaning a woman, is the verb felare, which means to suck, and was about nursing children. Yet, just as is so about maleness, biology is not destiny. There are as many types of women as there are types of men, and as many variations on femininity as on masculinity.

I am living proof of Carl Jung’s theory of the opposite gender living as a force within the psyche of a gender. I experience my own masculine energy consciously. In women, Carl Jung called that energy the animus.

In my lifetime, women have paid special attention to their animi, going out into the world, and doing far more than nursing children (although that’s plenty!). What is this about? I think that gender fluidity is about becoming whole selves.

All genders need to be able to call upon the other(s) within in order to be fully functional in all aspects of life.

Ask: How can I let go gender biases today and be free?

Infinition: I choose to have all aspects of myself available to call upon when needed. I look at my feminine qualities as vital resources for giving my gifts to the world.

reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)


strictus = strict, narrow


stringere = to compress

So here is the most notorious excuse for bad behavior in the book: stress. Actually, this is a shortened form of the whole word: distress. As in damsel in distress. (Just to be fair about it, I’d like to point out that there are plenty of stories about knights in distress as well.) At the risk of sounding like I’m metaphysically malpracticing, I truly believe that most stress is of our own making.

The Latin root of the word is strictus, which means strict or narrow. We decide on a goal and then we stress ourselves out trying with all our might to push the river to get there. Why? Instead, I think we’d all be better off and nicer about it if we’d decide on a goal, take steps to achieve it, and let go a little more. This is why.

If you’ll look at the deeper etymology of strictus from the Latin stringere, it means to compress. What we do is compress ourselves into smaller and more restricted spaces and timelines and wonder why we feel squashed, and then we call it stress.

Instead, how about an upgrade? Let’s say we make a list of dreams for our lives, and then we stress (read: make more important) those that matter to us and let the Tao take care of the rest?

Ask: How am I being too strict with myself today?

Infinition: I give up distress totally today. Life will go on no matter what I do. I know when to make my goals important and when to let life lead me.

reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)

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se- = apart from


cura = care

Oh, here is a whopper of a concept if ever there was one!  People have stayed in boring jobs for security, in miserable marriages for security, even in religious traditions for security. Security is the reason my three siblings think I’m crazy for the way I live my life. The whole insurance industry is based on the illusion of security.

Because—and I don’t ordinarily consider myself an alarmist, but . . . there isn’t any such thing! At least not how it’s defined in today’s world.  The truth is that jobs can be downsized, marriages can end in divorce, and churches don’t fall down when we leave them.

The Latin roots of this word give us much more security than our current (and in my opinion, narrow) definition. It means, literally, apart from care, not in the sense of uncaring or uncared for, but in the sense of carefree. AND, it’s a choice.

As long as we keep looking for security from outside of ourselves, we won’t truly have any security. The moment it comes from within, meaning that it comes from ourselves and not others, we are carefree.

Ask:  How can I be so secure within myself that I am carefree today?

Infinition: I realize that security is an inside job. If help is wanted, I inquire within, and I find all the security I’ll ever need.

reprinted from God’s Dictionary (Tarcher/Putnam 2002)


dominus = master

Danger is, I think, as much an illusion as security. Whilst there are people who truly do live in danger, we in the West are addicted to adrenaline so we name things dangerous which are not just to feel alive.

A lot of the time, danger is in the eye of the beholder. Being late for a party or even for work isn’t really dangerous. Being followed by a menacing presence is a dark alley is.

The Latin roots of the word tell us what real danger is. It’s when someone is a master over us when it is inappropriate. That’s what creates danger. No one, save Deity, really has a right to be master over us except our very own selves.

In the Hebrew Bible, humanity is given dominion over itself. The only place mastery is appropriate is within each individual.

Ask: How can I be a master of myself today?

Infinition: If I have given myself over to the mastery of another, today I find a way to be master only over myself. What a relief.

reprinted from God’s Dictionary, Tarcher/Putnam 2002

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