Monthly Archives: March 2010

Center (repost from 2005)

From a bud, only a promise.
Then a gentle opening:
Rich blooming, bursting of fragrance,
The fulfillment of the center.

True beauty comes from within. Take a flower as an example. In the beginning it is only a bud. It does not yet show its loveliness to the world, it does not attract bees or butterflies, and it cannot yet become fruit. Only when it opens is beauty revealed in its center. There is the focus of its exquisiteness, there is the source of its aroma, there is its sweet nectar. In the same way, our own unique beauty comes from within.

Our glory has nothing to do with our appearance or our occupation. Our special qualities come from an inner source. We must take care to open and bloom naturally and leisurely and keep to the center. It is from there that all mystery and power come, and it is good to let it unfold in its own time.

Just as a flower goes through stages — bud, open, bloom, pollinate, wither, fruit, fall — each of us will go through the obvious stages of birth and death. We aren’t of a single character throughout our lives. We change and grow. Our identities unfold and bloom. Unless we attain the center and keep to our progressions, we cannot ever reach true independence in our lives.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Sometimes it is difficult to be patient with ourselves and especially with others, allowing them the time to grow and develop in their own way. We push ourselves, we push our kids, trying to make people be more mature than they are ready to be, or make ourselves do tasks we aren’t really ready to take on right now.

As a gardener, I know I can’t push the flowers to develop any sooner than they are ready to, or make fruit develop any faster. As a process management specialist, I know it takes time to understand the requirements of a project, to really fully develop the idea and the design of the programs, and to thoroughly test their functionality. One of my favorite project management aphorisms is, “No matter how many women you put on the project, it still takes nine months to make a baby.” People try to rush through their work, and then wonder why they have so many problems. They try to have a relationship right now, pushing for sex and/or marriage, when maybe it would be better to let the relationship develop over time and unfold naturally.

We are impatient people. We want it all, today, right now. We fuss and fume if we have to wait in line for a few minutes. We have drive-through food, drive-through banking, drive-through pharmacies, drive-through liquor stores, and would probably have drive-through sex if we could. Well, lots of people do have sex in their cars, I suppose.

How many people do you know who are off-center, off-balance in their lives? Probably most of them, working too many hours, not getting enough sleep, always complaining they don’t have enough time. Neglecting themselves, neglecting their families, and then being surprised when the divorce comes or the kids are surly teenagers who won’t talk to them and are off doing drugs or drinking.

We need to seek our center, find our peace, know ourselves and those around us as well as we can. We need to take time for ourselves, for each other. We need to open gently, to unfold, to bloom. We need to see the beauty not just in that bloom, but in those buds, in the faded petals, in the withered center, and then in the fruit of our efforts. Then we will fully understand our lives, and appreciate them, and those of others as well. Look at the beautiful blooms and admire them, yes, but admire also the form and grace of all the phases of life. Then, your life will be rich and full.

__________________________

My life has changed a bit since I wrote those words five years ago. Then, I was learning the Tao, taking it in, especially through the wise words of Deng Ming Dao. Now, I seek out others who know the Tao and get most of my inspiration from them, and try to inspire others as well. I’ve found my center, and am not easily thrown off balance, and when I am, I can recover pretty quickly.

But I still try to rush things at times, still find it difficult to patiently wait for things to develop as they should. I know how I think I want things to be, and am impatient when they aren’t yet that way. After all these years, I am still trying to learn patience. Perhaps I’ll have to turn to Buddhism to learn to truly live within the moment, though Tao has always pointed the way.  Or perhaps I’ll visit my garden today, look at the beautiful flowers blooming, hear the birds singing and remember… until I forget again.

At least I’ve learned to be patient with myself, and to love myself even when I am impatient.

Meow?

funny pictures of cats with captions

Sorry, not a lot to say lately — follow the FB, twitter or google reader share if you miss me!

I am not uninspired, but my thoughts are not gelling enough to post. I’ve had kids home on spring break, and it’s quite distracting.

Yes, We Did — and Yes, We Will

I’m glad to finally see the health care bill pass. While it isn’t exactly what the progressive community wants, it’s certainly a big step forward, and will provide health care for millions of people as well as make health care better for the rest of us. So it’s a big win.

And there were a lot of doubts about getting this far. I’ve learned one thing about Obama — he will make every effort to keep his word and do what he says he will do. He has great integrity, and that is certainly what I saw in him when I started working with the political community to get him elected. I’m glad for the work I did over those years, sad for the friends I alienated in doing so, but their lives will be better, too. Even if they don’t appreciate that. But I’m glad for the friends I’ve made, and how deeply those friendships run. I’m glad to have the life I have now, with true, deep friendships and relationships, and I would not have those things if I did not follow my heart and do what I know is the right thing to do.

These days, I’m starting to get kudos for the work I do in pet therapy. The thing is, I don’t do any of the things I do for the ego gratification, for the good feeling of people praising me for what I do. I do what I do because it’s simply the right thing for me to be doing. It’s the Buddhist idea of “right work” — once you know it’s right, you simply do it. There is no ego involved.

I think for many of us who worked so hard on the campaign, on the years of political activism, we don’t feel much except great relief that it is finally showing results and the job is getting done. We know we still have years of struggle ahead to continue making the changes this country needs. Some may feel pride, some are experiencing great joy today, but for those who really understand and believe in change, we know the real work is still ahead, and this is just the first big step. A huge step, and it marks the beginnings of a new age in America, yes — but there is still so much to do.

Yes, we did.
Yes, we will…..

“Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made … And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.” — Barack Obama

Ostara (repost from 2005)

Ostara.jpg

Why have holidays? Today, they are simply a tradition, but once, they meant survival. The holidays were kept so people would know what to do and how to survive, and celebrate doing so. If you just made it through a hard winter, congratulations. Go find some eggs in the forest and perhaps a few rabbits to kill, and let’s eat. But how do you remember it’s time to find eggs and rabbits? You have a holiday about eggs and rabbits, and make up a nice story to go with it that you will remember.

And so we get into the complicated pagan traditions of celebrating the Equinox, mixed with the complicated tradition of hunting for eggs and rabbits, mixed with the Christian church coming in and appropriating pagan holiday festivals and adapting them to the Christian religious celebration calendar, and you end up with Easter.

In the Roman Catholic Church, there are two holidays which get mixed up with the Vernal Equinox. The first, occurring on the fixed calendar day of March 25th in the old liturgical calendar, is called the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or B.V.M., as she was typically abbreviated in Catholic Missals). ‘Annunciation’ means an announcement. This is the day that the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was ‘in the family way’. Naturally, this had to be announced since Mary, being still a virgin, would have no other means of knowing it. (Quit scoffing, O ye of little faith!) Why did the Church pick the Vernal Equinox for the commemoration of this event? Because it was necessary to have Mary conceive the child Jesus a full nine months before his birth at the Winter Solstice (i.e., Christmas, celebrated on the fixed calendar date of December 25). Mary’s pregnancy would take the natural nine months to complete, even if the conception was a bit unorthodox.

As mentioned before, the older Pagan equivalent of this scene focuses on the joyous process of natural conception, when the young virgin Goddess (in this case, ‘virgin’ in the original sense of meaning ‘unmarried’) mates with the young solar God, who has just displaced his rival. This is probably not their first mating, however. In the mythical sense, the couple may have been lovers since Candlemas, when the young God reached puberty. But the young Goddess was recently a mother (at the Winter Solstice) and is probably still nursing her new child. Therefore, conception is naturally delayed for six weeks or so and, despite earlier matings with the God, She does not conceive until (surprise!) the Vernal Equinox. This may also be their Hand-fasting, a sacred marriage between God and Goddess called a Hierogamy, the ultimate Great Rite.

The other Christian holiday which gets mixed up in this is Easter. Easter, too, celebrates the victory of a god of light (Jesus) over darkness (death), so it makes sense to place it at this season. Ironically, the name ‘Easter’ was taken from the name of a Teutonic lunar Goddess, Eostre (from whence we also get the name of the female hormone, estrogen). Her chief symbols were the bunny (both for fertility and because her worshipers saw a hare in the full moon) and the egg (symbolic of the cosmic egg of creation), images which Christians have been hard pressed to explain. Her holiday, the Eostara, was held on the Vernal Equinox Full Moon. Of course, the Church doesn’t celebrate full moons, even if they do calculate by them, so they planted their Easter on the following Sunday. Thus, Easter is always the first Sunday, after the first Full Moon, after the Vernal Equinox. If you’ve ever wondered why Easter moved all around the calendar, now you know. (By the way, the Catholic Church was so adamant about not incorporating lunar Goddess symbolism that they added a further calculation: if Easter Sunday were to fall on the Full Moon itself, then Easter was postponed to the following Sunday instead.)

Incidentally, this raises another point: recently, some Pagan traditions began referring to the Vernal Equinox as Eostara. Historically, this is incorrect. Eostara is a lunar holiday, honoring a lunar Goddess, at the Vernal Full Moon. Hence, the name ‘Eostara’ is best reserved to the nearest Esbat, rather than the Sabbat itself. How this happened is difficult to say. However, it is notable that some of the same groups misappropriated the term ‘Lady Day’ for Beltane, which left no good folk name for the Equinox. Thus, Eostara was misappropriated for it, completing a chain-reaction of displacement. Needless to say, the old and accepted folk name for the Vernal Equinox is ‘Lady Day’. Christians sometimes insist that the title is in honor of Mary and her Annunciation, but Pagans will smile knowingly. — Mike Nichols

Whew! Sure gets complicated when you take on other people’s traditions! And all that just so we would have some idea when to gather eggs and find bunnies, and learn when to plant crops once we started agriculture, and now it’s a big Christian holiday. Wow.

And of course, it’s all about rebirth, since spring brings everything back to life as the sun rises higher in the sky and th eweather warms up again. So where does that whole resurrection myth come from? Again from Mike Nichols:

Another mythological motif which must surely arrest our attention at this time of year is that of the descent of the God or Goddess into the Underworld. Perhaps we see this most clearly in the Christian tradition. Beginning with his death on the cross on Good Friday, it is said that Jesus ‘descended into hell’ for the three days that his body lay entombed. But on the third day (that is, Easter Sunday), his body and soul rejoined, he arose from the dead and ascended into heaven. By a strange ‘coincidence’, most ancient Pagan religions speak of the Goddess descending into the Underworld, also for a period of three days.

Why three days? If we remember that we are here dealing with the lunar aspect of the Goddess, the reason should be obvious. As the text of one Book of Shadows gives it, ‘…as the moon waxes and wanes, and walks three nights in darkness, so the Goddess once spent three nights in the Kingdom of Death.’ In our modern world, alienated as it is from nature, we tend to mark the time of the New Moon (when no moon is visible) as a single date on a calendar. We tend to forget that the moon is also hidden from our view on the day before and the day after our calendar date. But this did not go unnoticed by our ancestors, who always speak of the Goddess’s sojourn into the land of Death as lasting for three days. Is it any wonder then, that we celebrate the next Full Moon (the Eostara) as the return of the Goddess from chthonic regions?

Naturally, this is the season to celebrate the victory of life over death, as any nature-lover will affirm. And the Christian religion was not misguided by celebrating Christ’s victory over death at this same season. Nor is Christ the only solar hero to journey into the underworld. King Arthur, for example, does the same thing when he sets sail in his magical ship, Prydwen, to bring back precious gifts (i.e. the gifts of life) from the Land of the Dead, as we are told in the ‘Mabinogi’. Welsh triads allude to Gwydion and Amaethon doing much the same thing. In fact, this theme is so universal that mythologists refer to it by a common phrase, ‘the harrowing of hell’.

However, one might conjecture that the descent into hell, or the land of the dead, was originally accomplished, not by a solar male deity, but by a lunar female deity. It is Nature Herself who, in Spring, returns from the Underworld with her gift of abundant life. Solar heroes may have laid claim to this theme much later. The very fact that we are dealing with a three-day period of absence should tell us we are dealing with a lunar, not solar, theme.

Well, whatever one celebrates, It’s spring, and that means new life, warmer weather, and gardening! Yeah!

The Lover of Myth

“Therefore, even the lover of myth is in a sense a philosopher; for myth is composed of wonders.” — Aristotle

“That is the substance, this the shadow; that the reality, this the dream.”
— E.S. Phelps

“We can do magic in these times
Be what we want to be
We’ll all be rock ‘n’ roll stars
Immortal on TV ”

— Joe Jackson

“Myth is an attempt to narrate a whole human experience, of which the purpose is too deep, going too deep in the blood and soul, for mental explanation or description.” — D.H. Lawrence

“Old myths, old gods, old heroes have never died. They are only sleeping at the bottom of our mind, waiting for our call. We have need for them. They represent the wisdom of our race.” — Stanley Kunitz

“If you dream the proper dreams, and share the myths with people, they will want to grow up to be like you.” — Ray Bradbury

“Today the function of the artist is to bring imagination to science and science to imagination, where they meet, in the myth.” — Cyril Connolly

“The role of the artist I now understood as that of revealing through the world-surfaces the implicit forms of the soul, and the great agent to assist the artist was the myth.” — Joseph Campbell

“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.”
— St. Thomas Aquinas

“At the moment I am looking into astrology, which seems indispensable for a proper understanding of mythology. There are strange and wondrous things in these lands of darkness. Please, don’t worry about my wanderings in these infinitudes. I shall return laden with rich booty for our knowledge of the human psyche.” — Carl Gustav Jung

Shrutam Deva Maya Sarvam

shiva-parvati-side0r

Make a practice of meditating on the joy you feel when you think of someone you love. This is your personal gateway to ananda. Each person you love or have loved is a doorway to the divine. When you think of them, it is as if you are thinking a mantra, a name of God. When you unite with them, even by cherishing their memory in your heart, you are practicing a kind of bhakti, love yoga.

Dogs are masters of this dharana. When a dog sees someone they love, they don’t hold back. They levitate with bliss, it rises in them and they leap. Lately, part of my practice has been to meditate on the uninhibited joy dogs express. Teachers are everywhere in our environment, and in the connections we have with all other living beings. Who are your teachers?

Silence

My Silence

My silence bridges the gulf between my life’s success
and my life’s failure.
My silence does not magnify my defects.
Nor does it connive at them.
My silence transforms my defects into strength indomitable.

My silence is a climbing flame that warms my world of despair.
My silence is my inner light.
No problem of mine can defy solution.
My silence is a selfless distributor of joy to ever-widening horizons.

In my silence I become a man of sterling character,
a prolific writer, a voracious reader, a divine lover,
a profound inspirer and a triumphant liberator.

In my deep silence I never become a victim to ignorance,
the greatest calamity that can befall any human being.
In my growing silence I am convinced that even as a man on this earth
I shall be able to reach heights, transcendental, divine.

Excerpt from “Songs of the Soul” by Sri Chinmoy

Silence II

Silence is not a lack of words.
Silence is not a lack of music.
Silence is not a lack of curses.
Silence is not a lack of screams.
Silence is not a lack of colors
or voices or bodies or whistling wind.
Silence is not a lack of anything.

Silence is resting, nestling
in every leaf of every tree,
in every root and branch.
Silence is the flower sprouting
upon the branch.

Silence is seeing and singing praises.
Silence is the roar of ocean waves.
Silence is the sandpiper dancing
on the shore.
Silence is the vastness of a whale.
Silence is a blade of grass.

Silence is the healer dreaming
the plant, the drummer drumming
the dream. It is the lover’s
exhausted fall into sleep.
It is the call of morning birds.

Silence is the star kissing a flower.

Silence is a word, a hope, a candle
lighting the window of home.

Silence is everything –the renewing sleep
of Earth, the purifying dream of Water,
the purifying rage of Fire, the soaring
and spiraling flight of Air. It is all
things dissolved into no-thing–Silence
is with you always…..the Presence
of I AM

– Elaine Maria Upton

“Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.”

— Jalal ad-Din Rumi

“Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.” — Margaret Lee Runbeck

“In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” — Mahatma Gandhi

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

You are the One which is aware
of the awareness of objects and ideas.
You are the One that is even more silent than awareness.
You are the Life which precedes the concept of life.
Your nature is silence and it is not attainable,
It always Is.

‘This – Prose and Poetry of Dancing Emptiness’
– Sri H. W. L. Poonja (Papaji)

Vacation from my vacation

Came home from the wine country and San Francisco with wine, chocolates, a sore foot and knee from a trip on an unlighted stair, and an upper respiratory infection. So, sorry I’m not posting much but the Cipro is kicking my butt and I’m sleeping it off. More later…

Morning Inspirations

“If your spiritual aspirations produce socially beneficial qualities in you such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then they can be considered something more that a mere psychological defense. In contrast, if you are overcome by qualities such as impatience, distractibility, impulsiveness, demandingness, conflict, discord, and scorn for others, then you are growing weeds, not fruit.”
– Raymond Richmond (via Mike Garafalo)

I think I’ve been a bit distractible and impatient lately.Time to get back to patience and self-control for a while…..

“If you make room for the energy you wish to bring into your life, there is a much better chance of receiving it. Make a space at your table, both literally and metaphorically. Expect the fulfillment of your heart’s desire, and let your home reflect it.” — Beth Owl’s Daughter

I like this thought — that I ought to make room in my life for what I would like to show up in it. Not so much law of attraction, but just to clear the space for what I want in my life. Plus I enjoy physically clearing space when I’m trying to create new things. We just took out our front lawn in anticipation of putting in a more drought-tolerant, native landscape. So here we are actually clearing the space for something new to come into our lives.

“The symbolism we encounter in art and in our dreams serves to bridge the individual to the universal., the microcosm of our inner life to the macrocosm of existence… Symbolism adds to the beauty and the mystery of art and life. It captures the essence of our experiences. ” — Fred White, The Daily Writer

This gets to something that I encounter a lot — how to explain the things I am thinking to other people in a way that is universally understandable. So much of our individual experience is only relevant to our own lives, or the lives of those close to us, to the touchstones we have created for ourselves. To make those experiences understandable to others, we need a language or symbology we can use to translate it for other people.

Sometimes the imagery of religion or spirituality is confused with some mundane reality, and people get frustrated that they don’t have those exotic experiences that others describe. But many times, the reality is that the metaphorical language or symbols actually describe a rather common experience that anyone might feel, and people think they are missing it only because they didn’t get that particular symbol, like missing a joke because you don’t understand it.

The trick is to elevate this experience to an artistic level, rather than just the mundane level. It may not reach as many people as describing it in mundane terms, but it becomes a more enriching and transcending experience because of the symbology. We want to understand the everyday, but we also want to be inspired by the extraordinary. When you truly see the extraordinary in the everyday, your entire life is elevated to that new spiritual level. What great artists try to do is to inspire that experience in others, so that they too can “get” that the everyday is actually the spiritual experience. Georgia O’Keefe didn’t paint flowers, she painted her experience when looking at flowers.