Category Archives: personal change

Change

But start slowly, because direction is more important than speed.
Sit in another chair, on the other side of the table.
Later on, change tables.
When you go out, try to walk on the other side of the street. Then change your route, walk calmly down other streets, observing closely the places you pass by.
Take other buses. Change your wardrobe for a while; give away your old shoes and try to walk barefoot for a few days – even if only at home.
Take off a whole afternoon to stroll about freely, listening to the birds or the noise of the cars.
Open and shut the drawers and doors with your left hand.
Sleep on the other side of the bed. Then try sleeping in other beds.
Watch other TV programs, read other books, live other romances – even if only in your imagination.
Sleep until later. Go to bed earlier.
Learn a new word a day.
Eat a little less, eat a little more, eat differently; choose new seasonings, new colors,
things you have never dared to experiment.
Lunch in other places, go to other restaurants, order another kind of drink
and buy bread at another bakery.
Lunch earlier, have dinner later, or vice-versa.
Try something new every day: a new side, a new method, a new flavor,
a new way, a new pleasure, a new position.
Pick another market, another make of soap, another toothpaste.
Take a bath at different times of the day.
Use pens with different colors.
Go and visit other places.
Love more and more and in different ways. Even when you think that the other will be frightened, suggest what you have always dreamed about doing when you make love.
Change your bag, your wallet, your suitcases, buy new glasses, write other poems.
Open an account in another bank, go to other cinemas, other hairdressers,
other theaters, visit new museums.
Change. And think seriously of finding another job, another activity,
work that is more like what you expect from life, more dignified, more human.
If you cannot find reasons to be free, invent them: be creative.
And grab the chance to take a long, enjoyable trip – preferably without any destination.
Try new things. Change again. Make another change. Experiment something else.
You will certainly know better things and worse things than those you already know, but that does not matter. What matters most is change, movement, dynamism, energy.
Only what is dead does not change – and you are alive.
– Clarice Lispector

Growing

“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”
— Alice Walker (Living By The Word)

The One Who Knows

Talks & Essays

The fact is there is no escape from the pain of losing what we love and inevitably become attached to. No escape from the fear, confusion, anger and broken heartedness that comes with the territory of human relationship or simply being Life in the form of a human body. There is no escape from the fall, no escape from the hard landing and no escape from that dark bottom of the well where we find ourselves at these times. When the outcomes of these encounters are painful or even “disastrous”, is it possible to see them not as failures but rather potential dharma gates of deeper compassion, understanding, forgiveness and loving kindness? Is it possible to really meet these times, no matter how agonizing, with an open heart? To meet even the heart that shrinks in pain and fear with gentle attention even when it seems that every fiber in our body and mind want to just get away? This is the heart of our practice and unless we want some artificial, dualistic, imaginary practice we must learn to work with them as such; facing all of this on and off the cushion and meeting these moments that at some times seem to stretch on endlessly with an awareness that allows whatever is there to simply be there. If there is sadness, be there with it as long as it needs your presence. The same with fear, worry, anger, rage, feelings of rejection and failure, broken heartedness and loneliness. This is not about thinking our way out, but rather about learning our way into these seemingly awful times through the power of attention. This is a fierce practice that requires a fiercely loving heart; a loving heart that can hold and contain even the heart that’s broken.

How is it for you when … you figuratively find yourself at the bottom of the pit of your agonizing life situation and you are alone? You are destitute. You are deeply grieved and grieving. At these moments even though we may have people who care for us, we are cut off, unreachable, solitary and destitute. And how can it be otherwise? It can be helpful to talk with friends, a therapist or teacher, but can anyone really reach us when we have lost a child, a partner, a loved one, received a devastating medical diagnosis? When we find that our mind or body is not the immortal and invulnerable something we had thought it was? When we suddenly realize that we are “old”? When we realize that we may not see old age? May not see our children grow up? When the self-image that we hold onto so tightly and identify with so completely or the future we envisage and so desperately hope for is completely shattered or called deeply into question? We want so desperately to be comforted. We want so desperately to be held in a way that just makes it go away; makes it somehow all ok, as though simply because it is painful and frightening it is not ok. And in a certain way it really is not ok. How could anything that so completely throws us down the well be ok? Life makes no mistakes and at some point if we are to truly be alive and free regardless of our life situation, we simply must learn to live beyond the limited images and hopes to which we so desperately cling. As Joko Beck once said, “The one thing in life we can truly count on is Life being exactly how it is.” For some losses, disappointments, betrayals, devastating life changes there is nothing that will make the pain go away and nothing that will mend the rupture that we find ourselves to in fact be. We are that pain, and trying to get rid of it creates a conflict in the mind between what is and what should be that only makes the fire burn more searingly.

The key to working with our “having tumbled down condition” is to see that even at the moment of impact things have changed already and that this moment is not what we think it is. In fact, it is not what we “think” at all! Thinking is always “old”; just a bit behind the curve of life, if you will. Have you looked closely enough, deeply enough? Have you let your situation speak to you its’ complete truth without your assumptions, presuppositions and images of how it should or could be? How will you know if and when this situation and what it stirs up is finished with you, rather than when you are finished with it? Can you see that thinking about whatever is present in your life right now is quite different from what is actually here right now? Have you really become so completely attentive that there is no “you” there observing and hence no separation at all? Are you willing to not feel better too quickly and to follow this pain right down to its roots? This is demanding and austere practice, but if you have not done it then there is more work to do; if you have done it, there is probably still more work to do. And there is no one, absolutely no one, who can do it but you. It is important to have companions on the Way and someone who can encourage you onward with the confidence of having walked this Way before, but only you can do the work of your life. To go so completely into this moment that “you” disappear: What is that? Then, who are you? Are you the one who suffers, or are you the One who Knows?

Happy New Year!

May you all have a safe New Year’s Eve and a blessed New Year. I’m sure there will be lots of changes in our lives, as always.

This blog has been rather quiet this year as I’ve been more active on the social media networks, twitter, tumblr, google + and facebook. My intent for the New Year is to get back to this space, into deeper thoughts again, rather than the shallowness that often takes over in the over-busy social networks. It’s not so much about who reads it here, as it is about having a space and a time for contemplation and expression.

May you all find the space and time you need for deeper contemplation this coming year, and may you find your way to express yourself in this world. Namaste!

Writer (repost from 2005)


“Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid,” by Jan Vermeer

She withdrew into herself,
First writing just for one,
Then touching thousands.
She incarnated ghosts, hurt, and joy
Into paper-and-ink stories of wonder.

One author said, “I can get rid of anything by writing about it,” meaning that the process of externalization could liberate him from the pain in his soul. That realization produced a delicious dichotomy; to free himself: or to hold on to both joys and tortures by remaining silent about them.

Writers write because they must: They need to express something from deep within themselves. They hear voices that others do not. They listen urgently, and they must communicate what they hear.

People feel Tao in the same way that writers feel something unique. In the process of listening for mysterious voices and expressing the wonder that comes is a magic akin to the perfection of Tao.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all. — Lord Byron

“I started with all the handicaps, incapabilities and helplessness. I didn’t talk when I was twenty. I taught myself by the act of writing.” –Anais Nin

“Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one;
it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order eventually to become that path himself.” — Henry Miller

Most people are separated from writing about the things they really feel deeply or even sometimes from knowing they feel those things at all. We live in a very shallow sort of society where we are rather actively discouraged from thinking about anything too deeply or expressing our inner thoughts and emotions, and most people come to internalize this and guard their own thoughts from any depth of feeling.

Yet we admire writers who are able to make us feel, and end up caring more at times about fictional characters than those in our own lives. Why? Because we see the depth of feeling displayed in those characters, while those in our own lives are trained not to show their own depths.

A lot of writers write because they can’t express these things in their own lives, so they create fictional characters where they can share their thoughts and feelings.

Tao is about a deep connection with the process of life itself. Once you experience that, you find it everywhere, in everything. It isn’t possible to be separated from it, although some days the feeling is certainly deeper than other days.

I’ve written for a long time for myself. I would like to write for others as well.

The Tao of the Self — Eight

The easiest way to be yourself is simply to flow like water.
Water flows easily and benefits everyone without even trying.
It is lifted to the highest places and flows down to the lowest places
And so is like the Tao.

Consider what you let flow into the watershed where you live.
Consider the flow of the deepest feelings of your heart.
Consider how to flow easily with other people, and be good to them.
Consider the flow of the words you say, and their meaning.
Consider what flows from your government.
Consider the flow of the work you do and enjoy it.
Consider the flow in the timing of the actions you take.

If you are sure of who you are and don’t contest it with others,
there is nobody to blame.

The Tao of the Self — Eight

Have to include this version also since it is beautifully written:

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 8
translated by Red Pine (1996)

The best are like water
bringing help to all
without competing
choosing what others avoid
hence approaching the Tao
dwelling with earth
thinking with depth
helping with kindness
speaking with truth
governing with peace
working with skill
moving with time
and because they don’t compete
they aren’t maligned

The Tao of the Self — Seven

We think of Heaven as eternal
And Earth as lasting a very long time.
Why do Heaven and Earth endure?
They don’t exist for themselves,
So they are able to last a long time.
So if we are wise, we will not think of ourselves alone,
But what we want to live beyond us.
We can move beyond self-gratification
And consider what is best for the long term.
By acting beyond our own self-interest,
We can fulfill greater goals
And live on through our actions.

The Tao of the Self — Seven

The Tao of the Self — Six

valley_of_flowers_uttaranchal_full_view
The Valley of Flowers, in northern India’s state of Uttarakhand

Be open and empty, like a great valley;
Be receptive of the world like a mother is to her child.
Be open to all things, soak up the rain and the sunshine.
And accept the fog and mist that rolls in sometimes,
If you are always open to life, that spirit will never fail you.

– The Tao of the Self — Six

The Tao of the Self — Five

The universe is impartial;
It doesn’t take sides.
Sometimes it is wise to be impartial;
And not choose a side.

Everything can change with a breath.
The shape of things change around you but not the form;
Your world may seem empty, and suddenly become full.
Words matter less than actions.
And acting from your heart matters most of all.

The Tao of the Self — Five

The Tao of the Self — Four

empty_vesle
Empty Vessel, Marilyn Coon

If you imagine yourself as an empty vessel,
you can be used, but never filled.
Your spirit can create thousands of things!
Blunt the sharpness of your speech,
Untangle the knot of your emotions,
Soften the glare of your eyes when angry,
Merge with the dust when your work is done.
Your spirit can be hidden deep but ever present!
We do not know where we come from,
But so many things can come from within us.

— The Tao of the Self, Four