Monthly Archives: January 2010


“And whatever your path is at this moment, every single step is equal in substance. Every step actualizes the self. Every moment of practice is always the koan of having to agree to your condition, to bring unlimited friendliness to what you are, just as you are, right now. Even your obnoxiousness, your failures, your rank inadequacy is it. Your best revenge is to include it as you.” — Susan Murphy, via Whiskey River

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” –- Ansel Adams

“If you hear that someone is speaking ill of you, instead of trying to defend yourself you should say: “He obviously does not know me very well, since there are so many other faults he could have mentioned.”” — Epictetus

“Let no one say that he is a follower of Gandhi. It is enough that I should be my own follower. I know what an inadequate follower I am of myself, for I cannot live up to the convictions I stand for. You are no followers but fellow students, fellow pilgrims, fellow seekers, fellow workers.” — Mohandas Gandhi

The highest Virtue seems empty;
Great purity seems sullied;
A wealth of Virtue seems inadequate;
The strength of Virtue seems frail;
Real Virtue seems unreal.

– – Tao Te Ching 41

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?”

Actually, who are you not to be? — – Nelson Mandela, Inaugural Speech 1994

Actions in life can be reduced to two factors: positioning and timing. If we are not in the right place at the right time, we cannot possibly take advantage of what life has to offer us. Almost anything is appropriate if an action is in accord with the time and the place. But we must be vigilant and prepared. Even if the time and the place are right, we can still miss our chance if we do not notice the moment, if we act inadequately, or if we hamper ourselves with doubts and second thoughts. When life presents an opportunity, we must be ready to seize it without hesitation or inhibition. Position is useless without awareness. If we have both, we make no mistakes. — Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

“Oh soul,
you worry too much.
You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.”

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

I am feeling a bit inadequate today. As much as I try to follow Tao, to be unattached to things and people and results, some days it is too much for me, and I fail to live up my promises. I really hate letting other people down, or letting my impulsive actions become a problem for someone. Some days I am simply not the person that I want to be and know that I can be, and usually am. This weekend has been a difficult one for me. Between being stupid and losing my beautiful ash tree, it’s been a really tough time. There have been good moments — wonderful dinners out with my husband, and a beautiful moonlit evening at La Jolla cove, with one of the most gorgeous full moons I’ve ever seen in my life. But my inadequacies are overwhelming the good things for me right now.

Saying Goodbye to a Tree

This time around, we are the tree-killers. Sadly our big ash got too big and was threatening to take out the entire yard, so we decided it was time to take it out. The tree-trimmer was glad for the work, the woodworkers are glad for the wood, which they pronounced wonderful and promised to make wonderful bowls from, one of which I hope to see in about nine months or so when they wood cures. Others will be glad for the firewood, the garden will be glad for the sunlight.

But, I am sad today, to have to say goodbye to a friend….


“Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.”
— Alfred Adler

“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” — Booker T. Washington

“To sit patiently with a yearning that has not yet been fulfilled, and to trust that fulfillment will come, is quite possibly one of the most powerful “magic skills” that human beings are capable of. It has been noted by almost every ancient wisdom tradition.” — Elizabeth Gilbert

“No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence.” — T.S. Eliot

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.” — Garth Henrichs

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” — George MacDonald

“You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough” -– Frank Crane

“Trust that little voice in your head that says “Wouldn’t it be interesting if..”; And then do it.” — Duane Michals

“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.” — Anton Chekhov

Every time I think I know what trust means, something comes along and makes me learn it all over again. Right now I’m trusting in magic, believing in future possibilities that may or may not happen, and yet I know they will happen. Trying to be non-attached to the result, but still wanting it all right now, instead of patiently waiting for it to unfold in its own time.

Trusting myself, trusting others, trusting in magic. Believing in magical possibilities… my challenges for the day.

Glimpsing versus Knowing

Satori — Michelle Curiel

Satori (悟り?) (Chinese: 悟; pinyin: wù; Korean 오) is a Japanese Buddhist term for “enlightenment.” The word literally means “understanding.” “Satori” translates as a flash of sudden awareness, or individual enlightenment, and while satori is from the Zen Buddhist tradition, enlightenment can be simultaneously considered “the first step” or embarkation toward nirvana.

Satori is typically juxtaposed with a related term known as kensho, which translates as “seeing one’s nature.” Kensho experiences tend to be briefer glimpses, while satori is considered to be a deeper spiritual experience. Satori is as well an intuitive experience and has been described as being similar to awakening one day with an additional pair of arms, and only later learning how to use them.

Meditation opens seldom glimpsed areas of our subconscious. When that happens, extraordinary thoughts and awareness come to us with seeming spontaneity. We realize truths that were opaque to us before; we perceive events that were previously too distant… All the power of transcendence is also within us. Tap into it and you tap into the divine itself.”
Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Inner truth is only glimpsed by disconnecting the mechanism of interpretation. If we can withdraw the activities of the senses and isolate that part of the mind responsible for filtering sensory input, then we can temporarily shut off the ongoing process of interaction with the outside world. We will then be in a neutral place that is wholly turned inward. We are left with an absolute state, entirely without distinction or relativity. This is called nothingness, and it is the truth underlying all things.”

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Once you realize that the true Tao is to be found within yourself, you shift your attention. Then worship becomes recognition. Your own spirit arises, and you learn to tap into it on your own. If someone had told you what to look for, you might never be sure of your experiences. What comes from outer suggestion is not the true Tao.

Glimpsing the source leaves no doubts.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Tao is continuous, flowing, and changing, but there is no knowing it in a single view. We rely on composite images that we form in ourselves. For a beginner, glimpses of Tao will be random and fleeting. You will stumble on it from time to time, or you will see it in the brief spaces between events. For the mature practitioner, your composite view comes from training, technique, research, and the experience of self-cultivation. But even after years, it is impossible to take in the totality.

There is a way to know Tao directly and completely. It requires the awakening of one’s spiritual force. When this happens, spirituality manifests as a brilliant light. Your mind expands into a glowing presence. Like a lighthouse, this beacon of energy becomes illumination and eye at the same time. Significantly, however, what it shows, it also knows directly. It is the light that sees.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao


Invocation becomes declaration.
Worship becomes recognition.
When blessings mature,
One glimpses the source.

When one is young in Tao, all practices begin as external procedures. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand their significance — we don’t know what to expect. This is proper: Not daring to interfere with growth and discovery, those who follow Tao hesitate to go beyond technical instruction.

Take worship, for example. At first, an invocation is something external. You repeat it, but really, it means very little. You kneel down at the altar because you need something on which to focus. Once you realize that the true Tao is to be found within yourself, you shift your attention. Then worship becomes recognition. Your own spirit arises, and you learn to tap into it on your own. If someone had told you what to look for, you might never be sure of your experiences. What comes from outer suggestion is not the true Tao.

Glimpsing the source leaves no doubts.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I guess what bothers me most about religion is that it fails in its main purpose so much of the time. Religion to me was always about invoking a higher spirit, and retaining that spirit within yourself so that you could get beyond your own petty needs and wants, and really tune in to the world and to other people. It calls out, invokes, the best in us so that we can share it with others.

But this gets distorted and perverted into worshipping some other, giving that other power and then excusing yourself from having to make decisions about life, saying what happens to other people is just “God’s will” or assuming bad things happen to people because they aren’t holy enough. I look at the man just elected Pope, and see someone who is so caught up in the doctrine of the Church that he has forgotten why the Church is even there. He lives to force doctrine on others instead of making their lives better.

So in Tao, what is it we want to invoke, to call upon?

Something I learned in business school and process management was the concept of alignment. What creates friction and frustration in business processes is when the purpose of the business is not aligned with its processes. People become confused over whether to follow the principles they know are correct, or the processes they know are wrong, but are told to follow. I think that is what we want to invoke when we call upon the Tao – to bring ourselves into alignment with the Tao, with the natural forces of the world and the way things work, and in doing so, eliminate friction and frustration from our lives.

Stop working at cross purposes to what your inner spirit tells you is right. Invoke the Tao, recognize it within yourself, tap into the source within yourself. Have a cup of tea and a cookie, go out to the garden and smell the roses and the clean, clear air. Ah. Isn’t that better?

Now, go share that feeling with someone else, and spread it along…

The one that sings

Once in a vision
I came on some woods
And stood at a fork in the road
My choices were clear
Yet I froze with the fear
Of not knowing which way to go
One road was simple
Acceptance of life
The other road offered sweet peace
When I made my decision
My vision became my release….

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work — and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” — Wendell Berry via Kerrdelune

“As everything changes overnight, I praise the breaking of promises. Whatever love wants, it gets. Not next year, but now. I swear by the one who never says tomorrow, as the circle of the moon refuses to sell installments of light, it gives all that is has.” — Rumi

Choose what makes you happy this time, instead of what you think you’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to be happy in our lives. Settling for less will only make us unhappy, and if we are unhappy we cannot make the world any better. We can only release the light within us if we allow it to shine as brightly as possible, and that cannot happen if our souls are not rising and singing. We have to do what makes our souls sing. Sing as you travel over the obstacles in your path. — Me


“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being. Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are. Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.” -– Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 67

“One’s own self is well hidden from one’s own self; of all mines of treasure, one’s own is the last to be dug up.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

“If out of all mankind one finds a single friend, he has found something more precious than any treasure, since there is nothing in the world so valuable that it can be compared to a real friend.” — Andreas Capellanus

“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.” — Carol Lynn Pearson

“Success, happiness, peace of mind and fulfillment -– the most priceless of human treasures –- are available to all among us, without exception, who make things happen -– who make “good” things happen –- in the world around them” — Joe Klock

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” — Joseph Campbell

“Treasure each other in the recognition that we do not know how long we shall have each other.” — Joshua Loth Liebman

You’ve awakened something deep inside my soul
And every moment, every breath I feel it more
Your hidden treasure that you kept down deep inside
We make love freely as we watch the new sunrise
I’d live a thousand lives if every one I lived could be with you…

— Journey, “Kiss Me Softly”

Take a walk down by, take a walk down by the river
There’s a lot that you, there’s a lot that you can learn
If you’ve got a mind that’s open, if you’ve got a heart that yearns

If you listen to, if you listen to the water
You will hear the sound, you will hear the sound of life
There’s a million different voices, there is happiness and strife

Message in the deep, from a strange eternal sleep
That is waiting there, that is waiting there for you
Like hidden treasure

— Traffic, “Hidden Treasure”

Collection of the Day

My morning meditation consists of listening to music, reading from various books, surfing through Tao blogs and other things I run across as I ease into my day. Sometimes these thoughts and ideas come together with a single theme, some days they do not. Some days I share what I find here, other days I store these things up while I think about them until they build into a blog post or perhaps simply fade into my being. Some things spring unbidden into my head and I find I must simply write them down. Those are the best things. It is all Tao, and it is all good. Of course some mornings are busy so I don’t get a chance to post until later. Today is one of those days.

So here is the day’s collection ….


“Gifting” is the giving and receiving of love and energy between individuals in all of its possible forms: with words of affection, acts of service, quality time, physical touch. It is a process that requires you to be open to the world around you and find the strength in your own vulnerability. He writes:

“For your life to feel profound and full of love’s power, practice opening at all times, including times of hurt. Feel and breathe your heart’s deep hurt, and the hurt of others, without closing. Offer the openness of your heart to everyone, and especially to those who are wounding you. The only alternative is to close and live unfulfilled.” ~ David Dieda

How is man to live in a world dominated by chaos, suffering, and absurdity?
According to the mystic/philosopher Chuang Tzu: Free yourself from the world.

Chuang Tzu tells the story of a man named Nan-jung Chu who went to visit
the Taoist sage Lao Tzu in hopes of finding some solutions to his worries.
When he appeared, Lao Tzu promptly inquired,
“Why did you come with all this crowd of people?”
The man whirled around in astonishment to see if there was someone standing behind him.

Needless to say, there was not; the “crowd of people” that he came with
was the baggage of old ideas, the conventional concepts of right and wrong,
good and bad, life and death, that he lugged about with him wherever he went.
It is this baggage of conventional values that man must first discard before
he can be free.

“Free yourself from the world!”

You know that in all tombs there is always a false door?”
Renisenb stared. “Yes, of course.”
“Well, people are like that too. They create a false door—to deceive. If they are conscious of weakness, of inefficiency, they make an imposing door of self-assertion, of bluster, of overwhelming authority—and, after a time, they get to believe in it themselves. They think, and everybody thinks, that they are like that. But behind that door, Renisenb, is a bare rock… And so when reality comes and touches them with the feather of truth—their true self reasserts itself.”

— Agatha Christie

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Dr. Howard Thurman


Japanese characters for Shibui.
Unobtrusive and unostentatious, intrinsically good (can even be rich), patterns not regularly placed, often unfinished, creating interesting spaces. Simple, with an economy of line and effort. Nothing complicated could be called “Shibui”. Must have depths worth studying, after first noticed, must have design character, and be fitting exploitation of the nature of the material and the method. Should not be shiny or new looking, though small touches of sparkle can be used. Even if new, object should have dull patina that comes with loving care. If applied to color scheme, the large areas of color should be dark, rich and unobtrusive, but there  should be a small sharp accent color somewhere to give astringency and interest. The essence of controlled understatement, aimed to produce tranquility. A feeling of modesty and humility is necessary in striving for “shibui”.

“Shibui” is the essence of Japanese culture and is considered the ultimate in taste, for all but the very young. There are two strains of it: the folk craft school of thought and the aristocratic school of thought. In actuality, one can encompass both.

“House Beautiful” magazine, August 1960, article entitled “The Shibui Syndrome”.

“Like all transcendent qualities, the word Shibumi eludes definition. To the Japanese, those externals which soothe and satisfy the spirit are Shibumi. These things are instinctive, not shaped by reason and not easily put into words: but Shibumi suggests art appreciation, culture, ultra-refinement, quiet taste, and a great consideration for others. Nothing “too much” is in it, and the word is in itself a protest against ostentation. It confirms the traditional appreciation of serenity, introspection, modesty, formality, nobility, generosity, reserve and conservatism. As the antithesis of bizarre it is opposed to everything that is garish, loud, noisy or commercial hype.

No single word in the English language exactly describes Shibumi as the Japanese understand it. The artistic and sensitive foreigner would describe Shibumi as the acme of elegance and refinement, the result of years of training and the use of restraint in the highest sense. Japanese speak of Shibui in relation to customs, houses, rooms, decorations and art, persons, dress as well as the tone of voice. It marks the character of the proper order of things.

In short, all parts must be related to the whole, and the whole must be seemly to the place and circumstance. I have coined a word “appropriateness” (I know there is no such word in English, but it seems appropriate) describing a quality that is much lacking in our times and most people.

Shibumi is found in all the traditional and quality arts of Japan; that esoteric quality introduced into art by Zen Buddhism. It is the art that conceals art. ” —  W.G. von Krenner

“The concept of shibusa includes a range of related meanings that cannot be embodied in any other term, English or Japanese; the concept is unique. When attempts at translation were made, we received contradictory impressions: one person might say that shibusa means refined and subdued, while another might translate the term as rough or astringent. Eventually, however, after enough examples of shibusa had been gathered, we began to formulate an intuitive grasp of this standard of taste, even though we could not precisely define it. — David and Michiko Young

Shibui (渋い?) (adjective), or shibumi (渋み?) (noun), is a Japanese word which refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. Like other Japanese aesthetic terms, such as iki and wabi-sabi, shibui can apply to a wide variety of subjects, not just art or fashion.

Originating in the Muromachi period (1333-1568) as shibushi, the term originally referred to a sour or astringent taste, such as that of an unripe persimmon. Shibui maintains that literal meaning still, and remains the antonym of amai (甘い?), meaning ‘sweet’.

However, by the beginnings of the Edo period (1603-1867), the term had gradually begun to be used to refer to a pleasing aesthetic. The people of Edo expressed their tastes in using this term to refer to anything from song to fashion to craftsmanship that was beautiful by being understated, or by being precisely what it was meant to be and not elaborated upon. Essentially, the aesthetic ideal of shibumi seeks out events, performances, people or objects that are beautiful in a direct and simple way, without being flashy.

A certain love of roughness is involved, behind which lurks a hidden beauty, to which we refer in our peculiar adjectives shibui, wabi and sabi. .. It is this beauty with inner implications that is referred to as shibui. It is not a beauty displayed before the viewer by its creator .. a piece that will lead the viewer to draw beauty out of it for themselves. The world may abound with different aspects of beauty. Each person, according to his disposition and environment, will feel a special affinity to one or another aspect. But when their taste grows more refined, they will necessarily arrive at the beauty that is shibui.” — “The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty”, Soetsu Yanagi, Bernard Leach

“Throughout your stay in Japan you must have heard the word shibui uttered frequently. It is impossible to translate this word accurately into English. ‘Austere’, ‘subdued’, ‘restrained’, ‘sombre’ – these words come nearest to acceptable substitutes. Etymologically, shibui means ‘astringent’, and is used to describe profound, unassuming and quiet feeling. … this simple adjective is the final criterion for the highest form of beauty.” — “Folk Crafts of Japan”, Soetsu Yanagi

A shibui room brings out deep conversation; a shibui woman draws out a thoughtful man; a shibui man listens to a thoughtful woman; a shibui child is a rare child indeed. Shibui is marked by three main characteristics: wabi, sabi, and yugen.” — Richard R. Powell, ” Wabi Sabi for Writers”

Her life is a fine piece of Japanese pottery
in the Shibui style,
so crafted that to see the cup’s exterior
is to be privy only to its dull sienna clay
and to the flavored warmth with which you choose to fill it.

But drained of all your preconceptions
you may discover the bowl inside —
a high-glazed hyacinth blue
that rushes to your heart
and there remains, like an indelible message
you remember from a fortune told in tea leaves once,
like a wet jasmine flower
that you can never rinse away.

— Robin Morgan

Shibui allows viewer participation in the artist’s art. It’s particularly valuable in an age of highly finished and sophisticated machine-manufactured products. Shibui comes naturally, shows the hand of the maker, and triumphs gesture and the vagaries of process. While there are hundreds of ways to bring shibui into your life, if you think you might include the idea in your painting, here are seven:

Use the whole brush–right down to the ferrule.
Have more than one color on the brush at one time.
Hold the brush well up on the handle.
Work freshly and let intuition be your guide.
Feel the energy and direction of your subject.
Be not uptight, but relaxed.
Quit when you’ve connected and while the going is good.

— Robert Genn


Just think, if you had a life of a thousand years you would miss many things, because you would go on postponing. But because life is so short, only seventy years, one cannot afford to postpone. Yet people do postpone — and that at their own cost.

Imagine if somebody comes and tells you that you have only one day’s life left. What will you do? Will you go on thinking about unnecessary things? No, you will forget everything You will love and pray and meditate, because only twenty-four hours are left. The real things, the essential things, you will not postpone.

And love and meditation are the two basic essentials. Meditation means to be oneself, and love means to share one’s own being with somebody else. Meditation gives you the treasure, and love helps you to share it. These are the two most basic things, and all else is non-essential.

Everyday Osho — 365 Daily meditations for the here and now by Osho

Life is a constant series of opportunities. If we don’t reach out for things, if we don’t take advantage of what comes our way, then we cannot be in harmony with the essential nature of life. —   Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Don’t think that creativity is only for artists, writers, and musicians. Creativity is an essential element for everyone. Unlike the outer-directed creativity of making art, solving problems, or writing, the creativity that everyone can engage in is learning.  — Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

“The deep root of failure in our lives is to think, ‘Oh how useless and powerless I am.’ It is essential to think strongly and forcefully, ‘I can do it,’ without boasting or fretting.” — Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Risk is essential. There is not growth of inspiration in staying within what is safe and comfortable. Once you find out what you do best, why not try something else?” — Alex Noble

“It is essential to our well-being, and to our lives, that we play and enjoy life. Every single day do something that makes your heart sing.” — Marcia Wieder