Monthly Archives: March 2005

Longevity

longevity.jpg

Contemplate in the morning.
Pull weeds in the afternoon.
The joys and labor of a single day
Are part of a whole journey.

If all you want is spiritual realization, it isn’t that difficult. For the average person, a dozen years under the guidance of a good teacher will probably give it to you. That’s shorter than what it takes to be a good musician, athlete, or artist. It’s even shorter that the time it will take you to collect your pension. If you have the good fortune to study with the right person, you can succeed in a relatively short amount of time.

But after you get it, then what? Many of us place such an emphasis on attaining realization that we may forget to put it in context. What actually matters is to walk Tao, maintaining vitality until we meet our end in a timely way. Spiritual realization is essential, but it is not everything.

A starving person dwells inordinately on the thought of food. Likewise, a spiritually hungry person can only think of realization. One who has food can place it in the right context, just as one who has understanding can place it in the correct perspective. Followers of Tao therefore do not emphasize enlightenment as an ultimate goal. For them, realization is a means, not an end. Their emphasis is on the act of living. They use the word longevity, not because they want to live forever, but because it symbolizes their determination to live the entire course of their lives well.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I like the image of the cake with ereference to the starving person – let them eat cake!

I think a lot of Americans are starving spiritually. The religious experience of most Americans is limited to Sundays at church, maybe a Christmas Eve service, the occasional wedding or funeral. Most americans don’t think about their spirituality on a daily basis, ands those who do are often misguided about what that really is. I remember finding one of my mother’s journals to God, praying for God to answer her. I was sad, thinking if only she had sought her answers within herself, she might have found them.

I try to find the spiritual in the everday and the ordinary. My garden offers the best consolations, my pets give unconditional love, my family my greatest joys. I like to think we are all a part of the same thing, the Tao if you will, and the life we live is at its best a joyous celebration of that. I like the idea of funerals and wakes being a joyous celebration of a person’s life, rather than the mourning of the loss we feel. I think if we focused more on that, it would be easier for us to deal with death and loss.

I’ve had my share of death and loss, and gotten over my fears of death and of losing others for the most part. I’ve gotten over my fears of abandonment, my own ego’s desire to be the center of everything and the reason for everyone else’s care and concern for me. Now I have the freedom to care and be concerned for myself, and others, without the fears and jealousies that held me and others back from life. I enjoy the people who come my way, but no longer have the need to hold onto them, to force them to be with me or notice me. It is so much more about choice, my own and others, to do what is right for us. I suppose some can call that selfishness, if they like, but to me, it is the most selfless thing of all.

Living well is indeed the best revenge. It doens’t mean living a long time, or being rich. It means you live your life being in the moment, moving with the flow ofd Tao, and enjoying your life, whatever it brings you. it doesn’t mean you won’t ever be sad, but it means you know sadness will not last, and there will be joy again – if you let that joy return to your life in whatever ways it can.

Disengagement

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Wearily I open my prayer book,
Sepia photograph of sage on amber page,
Flaming raven Sanskrit, strange syllables,
Intone, chant, repeat.
Number vows with beads:
Every resolution is inspiration petrified.

There are some days when one is disengaged from Tao, not interested in devotion, and everything just becomes an empty form. Gone are spiritual bliss, deep insight, and integration with the rhythm of the universe. Instead, there is duty, form, and stiff discipline. One can try to remember the reasons for one’s quest, think of the achievements of the past, reaffirm one’s goals, and still not be inspired to do one’s practice. What do you do?

Every once in a while, it is permissible to skip things for a day. If you are angry, under great stress, or ill, then it is best simply to rest. But if one has made vows, it is only a matter of laziness or indifference, then you must exert your discipline and practice even if it means that you are just going through the motions. In at least half the cases, something significant will happen. The rest of the time, going through your forms is in itself a good practice. It builds a tremendous momentum that will manifest itself in later times.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I try to think about Tao every day. Some days I don’t, and find myself even more in Tao than when I’m deliberately thinking about it. I’ll go on vacation, and find myself so into the things I’m doing on vacation, so into the flow of life itself. So I guess the practice of thinknig about Tao does lead me more into being with the Tao even when I don’t think about it. But I certainly don’t let it become a chore. I don’t think spirituality should ever be a chore or something you have to do. I spent enough boring Sundays in church as a kid to know that isn’t worth it.

Interpretation

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The sage whose words are ambiguous you call great.
Those who advocate discipline you shun.
With one, you treat words the way you want.
With the other, you resent having no quarter.

It is unfortunate that we need the words of the wise. Though they are essential to our beginnings on a spiritual path, they can cause problems because they must be interpreted to be understood. Because words are imperfect, every generation rewrites itself.

People love ambiguity, especially when it comes to religion. They can interpret things any way they want. If they are unhappy with the cast given to a particular teaching, they invent ways to circumvent it, which is why we have so many authorities, schools, and sects.

It is no accident that the most revered sages are dead. They aren’t around to correct our misguided notions, to change their teachings, or even to make mistakes that might mitigate our reverence. Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tzu — how many of us are actually devoted to the wisdom that they embodied? Or have we made them mere screens upon which we project our own ideas?

It is important to spend time with a living teacher, one who can correct mistakes and discipline you. But the object of such study should not be the creation of a new orthodoxy. Rather, your goal should be to bring yourself to a state of independence. All teachings are mere references. The true experience is living your own life. Then, even the holiest of words are only words.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

“. . .There’s glory for you!” (said Humpty Dumpty.)

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously,
“of course you don’t—till I tell you.
I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘nice knockdown argument,’ ”
Alice objected.

“When I use the word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather
scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to
mean —- neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words
mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to
be master—that’s all.”

— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I tend not to pay too much attention to people’s words. I pay a lot more attention to what people do, and to the feeling I get from a person. Perhaps that’s why I find myself so annoyed at much of what is going on in America today. People who call themselves Christians want to tell others how to live, when Christ himself would never have acted the way they do. They live in big houses, drive fancy cars, vote to cut their taxes, and claim to be Christian? Please. Sell the house and SUV and go live among the homeless and take care of them – then I might believe you’re a Christian. Father Joe is a Christian.

I think Christ would be very annoyed at much of what has gone on in the world in his name. But then, so would Mohammed. I haven’t seen many Buddhist who seem to deliberately distort the teachings of Buddha, but then I haven’t lived in a culture where that’s a dominant religion. As to Lao Tzu, well, I suppose there have been distortions of Taoism, as when it was popular with the Chinese wealthy classes. These days I find most Taoists pretty reasonable people. But in our culture people turn to Taoism as sort of a spiritual last resort after they’ve become disgusted with the actions of those of other faiths and need some spirituality that makes sense.

8.7 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia

Info for event usweax

Magnitude 8.7 – NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
2005 March 28 16:09:36 UTC
Preliminary Earthquake Report
U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center
World Data Center for Seismology, Denver

A great earthquake occurred at 16:09:36 (UTC) on Monday, March 28, 2005. The magnitude 8.7 event has been located in NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

Magnitude 8.7
Date-Time Monday, March 28, 2005 at 16:09:36 (UTC)
= Coordinated Universal Time
Monday, March 28, 2005 at 11:09:36 PM
= local time at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones
Location 2.065�N, 97.010�E
Depth 30 km (18.6 miles) set by location program
Region NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
Distances
205 km (125 miles) WNW of Sibolga, Sumatra, Indonesia
250 km (155 miles) SW of Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia
535 km (330 miles) WSW of KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia
1410 km (880 miles) NW of JAKARTA, Java, Indonesia
Location Uncertainty horizontal /- 4.6 km (2.9 miles); depth fixed by location program
Parameters Nst=239, Nph=239, Dmin=538.5 km, Rmss=0.79 sec, Gp= 25�,
M-type=moment magnitude (Mw), Version=8
Source USGS NEIC (WDCS-D)
Event ID usweax
Felt Reports At least 50 people killed, 100 injured and 300 houses Destroyed on Nias. Extensive damage on Simeulue. Felt in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and as far north as Bangkok, Thailand.

Intellect

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Scholars, drunk on words and obscure meanings,
Weave a tangled web of concordances.
Simple practice never occurs to them.
Give up education, and the world will be better.

There are many who seek Tao through intellect. They revel in thousands of coincidences, seek similarities in all the world’s religions, conduct learned discourses for enthralled audiences. But they would reach the truth faster if they tied their thoughts to experience.

The intellect is inherently dualistic. It makes distinctions and creates new connections between concepts and calls that “meaning.” This type of analytical thinking is extremely limited in the face of Tao, which is not fully rational, nor fully quantitative, not fully describable. Though most followers of Tao are learned, they also realize that the intellect is but one aspect in what must be a multifaceted approach to Tao.

It is said one must give up education, not because we should be dumb, but because we mut seek a level on consciousness beyond the intellect. We must study, but not to the point that emphasis on experience and meditation is lost. If we can combine the intellect and direct experience with out meditative mid, then there will be no barrier to the wordless perception of reality.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

As much as I like to think about Tao, it is not when I’m thinking about it that I most experience it. I am most with Tao when I’m in my garden, when I’m out in the world enjoying the sunshine and plants and fresh air, or when I am quietly meditating. Even as I put together my musings, I am distracted by the Tao – cats to pet, dog to pet or let in and out, a drink to refill, a bird to watch, the noise of workers removing wallboard that has had water leak in and ruin it.
So much going on!

And this is a relaxing day. On a busy day, there is so much more. Life is constantly going on around us. The Tao is always busy, creating, changing form. We watch in amazement as the world changes around us. How could we possibly keep up with all this intellectually? Oh, look! A rose is blooming! I am constantly distracted by all that goes on around me. Intellectually, I tune this out to write, but really, I am aware of all this going on. If I were only to listen to my intellect, I would miss so much of life. Oooh, stretch – feel muscles rearrange themselves… Turn down the heater that is getting too warm on my leg. Readjust my sitting position. See? there is alway all this going on…

Parting

Parting-Ways_Big.jpg

painting by Melissa Egan, Parting Ways

You and I assumed forever
When we became companions.
But now, unhappy, you are leaving.
The sky turns to bitter candescence
Unslaked by resignation.

There are times when we have been lucky enough to have companions on our spiritual path, but the time of parting often comes without welcome. When our friends decide to leave, we are often left with doubt, confusion, and sometimes guilt. Anyone may leave the path. They won’t suffer damnation; they will only walk a different path.

The rule for those who follow Tao is this: Walk the path together as long as you can, and when you must part, never hold your companion back.

Should one seek to have no feelings at all regarding friends? After all, the sages constantly warn against attachment. Yet emotion is part of what makes us human. We may understand philosophically why a companion must leave, but we need not deny our feelings as we walk on alone.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

This is a difficult topic for me. Parting from friends has caused the most sorrow in my life. Losing my parents was awful, but expected – you know at some point you have to face death. But friends deciding to walk away? Who ever expects that, when we have enjoyed and shared so much together. You think such friendships would last, but then, they don’t, and you are left wondering if you ever really knew that person, or yourself, at all.

For me, those partings were a result of my haiving an illness I was unaware I had – bipolar disorder. I knew my sister and nephew had problems, but I had been told I was fine. Then I had a full-blown bipolar episode after losing a good friend from my life, and realized the past losses were a part of that same pattern – the massive high at their friendship, the obsession over the loss of friendship, and the excessive attempts to restore the friendship were all symptoms of the same illness.

But do others ever understand mental illness? No, not really. They can sympathize, perhaps, but to accept that someone has overcome this beast and welcome them back into their life is beyond most people, I think. The hurts are deep, and forgiveness does not come easily to everyone.

For me, it was a lesson in having compassion towards other people, knowing they are not always fully responsible for the way they act or what happens in their lives. I am far more accepting of others, far more open in many ways. And yet, I have refrained from developing new close friendships, perhaps out of fear of loss, perhaps just because I no longer need the attachments I did in the past.

But I don’t walk my path alone. I have my husband, my friends, my children, my family members, and my kitties and golden retriever (who is an ever-loyal companion). And my feelings towards those I’ve lost as friends are pretty well resolved. The love is still there, the door is always open, but I accept that they won’t be back. Their path is different, and diverges from mine. There are stories I wish I could tell them, questions I would like to ask, but those are wishes, not needs. I have my memories, and my love for them, and that is all I need.

Attunement

sunflower.jpg

Traversing sun leads to a new season.
Vernal breath attunes the leaves.

Tao is here. It is we who are not always in harmony with it.

Tao proceeds on its own way. It is we who are not ready to follow.

Tao is absolutely sure in its movements. It is we who involve ourselves in amusements.

Tao has no consciousness, yet it is supreme. It is we who think compulsively.

Therefore, tuning ourselves to Tao is the basic task. We must make ourselves the perfect instrument, much in the way a beautiful harp has all its strings adjusted. If we are less than sound, how will we harmonize with the universal music?

Once we are attuned, we can become open to Tao. Where it leads, we follow without hesitation. Just as a musician expresses individual talent and understanding and yet blends with the swelling magnificence of the orchestra, so too does the follower of Tao remain human and yet in harmony with the universal.

When the sun begins its new pattern, spring follows. The air warms, and the world rejoices. A new breath comes over all things, and even the trembling leaves are attuned to the vernal rhythm. Turn your face to the sun, as flowers know how to do. Turn your face to Tao, as we should all do.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

We’re in the tail end of a spring storm right now, so there’s not much sun out today. Hopefully tomorrow will be a bit brighter.

And I’m a bit more focused on current events right now than keeping up with my Tao studies. Reading the economic blogs, working with my MoveOn group, and such. For some good reads today, try maxspeak, angry bear, and brad setser. That’s about as far as I’ve gotten today, so guess I’m having a pretty slow day, really.

Just caught a tiny bit of sun as it disappeared over the hill behind my house. Normally I post my Tao posts in the morning, so it’s strange to get to it this late in the day. With both boys home from school there were a lot of distractions today, and my email has been busy. I’ve been posting my thoughts on current affairs to my email groups, and that takes some time and effort to really think about what I want to say. Mostly trying to encourage people to make sure their financial affairs are in order and not to be in debt right now.

I feel a bit more secure in that most of my family is financially stable, other than my sister and nephew, who I worry about. But with inflation edging up, and the US deficit and trade imbalance so large, it’s hard to feel good about where the country is financially. We are so far out of tune as a nation with where we need to be, and it’s difficult to see how we can get on track. Our congress is sidetracked with circuses like the Schiavo incident instead of paying attention to our economic situation, or the general health care crisis that is coming. While Bush tries to convince us social security is in trouble, the deficit skyrockets with military spending and the health care crisis looms. Why is one woman’s life so much more important than everyone else’s health care? How about being fiscally conservative instead of just trying to rewrite the social contract?