Meet the Reckoner

This entry is part 17 of 33 in the series 99: a journey

Welcome to the 99. 

The 99 is a journey made up of individual steps…. Like steps on a pilgrimage into you.

Each episode takes 9 minutes and is designed to give you something to think about, to feel, or to do. You can take just one step, or join me for as much of the journey as you’d like. 

The 99 is inspired by religion and philosophy and science, but is not just any one of those. 

It might feel to you like a chance to take refuge from a hectic world. It might feel like a nudge into something deeper. 

Either way – or both – this is 9 minutes just for you.

To get started, let’s take a minute to fully arrive. Here. Now. 

Will you breathe with me for 2 breaths?  From way down in your belly, inhale for a count of 4, hold, then exhale for 7 ready? 

Inhale 2 3 4

Hold 2 3

Exhale 2 3 4 5 6 7






Today, our theme is reckoning, or thinking about the reckoner. 

Certainly, this can be a troublesome concept for me if I think of a reckoner as someone outside of myself to settle accounts – a sort of judge who may or may not be fair and who scolds or punishes.

But what about that part of me that carries this aspect within? The American Heritage dictionary says that reckoning can be like counting or tallying. It can also be the act of calculating one’s own location using an educated guess. As-in, I know where I was three hours ago, and since then, I’ve been headed the right direction and going about the right speed, so I should be getting close to my destination.

Or maybe I know I’ve been headed away from where I want to be, but I wonder how far off track I am? That’s reckoning.

This might be a good time to introduce another favorite word of mine: discernment. It’s a little different than reckoning, but I like to think that the two ideas are close cousins. Discernment is kind of like reckoning, but it means more like, the ability to have sharp perception – or to judge well. 

If I’m having a rough day—let’s say—and I find myself eating an entire pint (or two) of ice cream. Reckoning might be that moment when I step on the scale the next day and realize that I’m moving farther from my weight loss goal. 

Discernment might happen sooner—say—when I get the urge to look at the serving size on the ice cream container label. Oops. That pint isn’t actually a single serving. You mean I’m supposed to get four servings of ice cream out of this little cup? 

Here’s the thing: I often associate reckoning with guilt and shame. The process often goes like this:

Step 1: I identify some person who seems amazing – probably on social media – because you can always tell how amazing someone is by what they post on Facebook or Instagram. 

Step 2: I project my own ideas onto them. “There he is again, smiling and having a great time, eating lots of amazing food, and looking fit and trim. 

Step 3: (Looking down at the empty pint ice cream container I’m holding). Comparison – I do this reckoning where I tally up my own happiness – or lack of it, and compare it with what I see when I look at the happiness I’ve projected on this other person. 

Step 4: is a decision point. I can head back to the freezer for more ice cream, or I can make a different choice.

In the world of 12-step recovery programs, you might hear the question, “what’s the next right step?”

To me, this is a profound and empowering question to ask myself when I’m in a place I don’t want to be. 

Maybe I don’t know how to be the kind of happy I’ve imagined onto the person on Instagram. Maybe I don’t know how to be happy or healthy or to get a job I love, or any job. 

But I can use reckoning. 

I can identify that the next right step might be to put down my phone and stop looking at Instagram. The next right step might be to put down the ice cream. The next right step to me feels like redemption. Just like that, no matter where I am – or what I’ve done, I don’t have to have it all figured out. I just have to do one thing. 

Maybe the next right step is to get out of bed if I’m depressed. 

Maybe the next right step is to say I’m sorry if I hurt someone. 

I don’t have to know how to fix anything, or get out from under depression, or make the pain go away. 

I don’t have to. The reckoner in me knows that I can make an educated guess about the next right thing to do.

I don’t have to get wrapped up in shame and guilt about everything that I’ve done wrong. What if I could just put down the shame and guilt for a moment and do one right thing? 

I love to turn to one of the favorite poems of Rumi, my old friend:

Come, come, whoever you are.

Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. 

It doesn’t matter if you’ve broken your vows ten thousand times, our is not a caravan of despair.

Come, yet again, come, come. 

Yes, my friends, there is always a reckoning. There are consequences for our actions—and—this need not be a caravan of despair. As long as you are alive, you have the gift of choice, of intellect. You can use reckoning to discern the next right step and take it. 

Practice kindness and forgiveness – of yourself. Acknowledge the ways you’ve harmed others and take ownership of that harm. Reckoning is not about punishment. It’s about balance, and fairness, and justice in all things – including compassion. Will you be your own reckoner and just start to notice the small choices you make without thinking? Those choices mean things. They get us closer to the people we want to be, or they move us away. May we be ever mindful, and when we make a wrong choice, may we remember that this is not a caravan of despair. Come, yet again, come, back to yourself. 

Let’s end our time by taking 2 breaths together once again. 

We’ll breathe in for 7, hold for 3, exhale for 4. 


Inhale 2 3 4 5 6 7

Hold 2 3

Exhale 2 3 4


Inhale 2 3 4 5 6 7

Hold 2 3

Exhale 2 3 4

I’ll leave you with this quote from Hillel: 

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? 

And if I am only for myself, what am I?

And if not now, when? 

Now go out into the world in peace and have courage

Hold on to what is good.

Return to no person evil for evil. 

Strengthen the fainthearted

Support the weak. 

Help the suffering. 

Honor all beings – including yourself.

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