The One Who Knows

January 24th, 2012

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?

Today’s Lessons

July 18th, 2011

Get up and do something first thing in the day.

Be active.

Be motivated by love.

Don’t be silent anymore.

Simplify life — remove whatever and whoever does not inspire, inform, add personal value and friendship, or provide a needed service

Clean it up, and make it easy to keep clean.

There will always be more things to learn and do as the day progresses, but you have to start somewhere.

You Learn

December 2nd, 2010

You Learn

You learn.

After a while you learn the subtle difference

between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning

and company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts

and presents aren’t promises,

and you begin to accept your defeats

with your head up and your eyes open

with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

and you learn to build all your roads on today

because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans

and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn

that even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,

instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure.

That you really are strong.

And you really do have worth.

And you learn. And learn.

With every good-bye you learn.

- Jorge Luis Borges

via whiskey river.

What today is supposed to be about

August 28th, 2010

Destiny

June 25th, 2010

I don’t really think about having a destiny, or that anything is pre-destined. But it is amazing to me how often I can put a thought out there now and see it realized, seemingly through no action of my own. I have come to believe that the universe does take care of us, if we can trust it to do so. This isn’t so much a metaphysical belief as a Tao realization — by acting in accordance with nature, and with my own nature, I do help create the circumstances for what I want to be able to happen. And it is when I am not in accord with nature, or not listening to my own nature or that of others, that I most struggle to get what I (my ego, that is) want.

So perhaps a truer definition of destiny would be that it is what we find happening in our lives if we simply relax and allow life and our own nature to flow. When I can relax and trust that things will work out well, they typically do. And even if they are not working out well, if I’m relaxed and calm I’m certainly better able to deal with a situation. So, even if the universe isn’t on your side, why not believe that it is? It certainly isn’t out to get you, in any case. And a neutral attitude towards things, rather than a positive one, doesn’t really help to get anyone on your side. So being positive, approaching life as if good things are going to come your way, is not merely a Pollyana state but one that helps to create a better Destiny…

“Your destiny shall not be allotted to you, but you shall choose it for yourselves.” — Plato

I have to agree with Plato here.

“Destiny is something not be to desired and not to be avoided. a mystery not contrary to reason, for it implies that the world, and the course of human history, have meaning.” — Dag Hammarskjold

And Dag, it is good to believe your life has meaning.

“Almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of “Pssst” that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer.” — David Foster Wallace

I like this because it reminds us to be open to the unexpected, to allow good things into our lives even if we weren’t expecting them. On the other hand, don’t buy watches or jewelry from these people.

“No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.”
– Francois Muriac

My friendships certainly do leave their marks on me and my life. My loves, even more so. And I still love them all…

“Time draweth wrinkles in a fair face, but addeth fresh colors to a fast friend, which neither heat, nor cold, nor misery, nor place, nor destiny, can alter or diminish.” — John Lyly

I see new colors in my friends all the time, and I mostly ignore the wrinkles. If anything, they add character.

“We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate. It’s just that providence had other ideas as to how we would get there. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfills the dream in ways we couldn’t have expected.” — Ben Okri

I don’t think I’ve ever had a straightforward path to my dreams, but they usually end up realized in some way. And I do like solving the riddles of my life…

Your thoughts on destiny???

Complete

May 27th, 2010

I no longer dream of having someone to complete me.
I dream of someone to be completely with…

“A project is complete when it starts working for you, rather than you working for it.”
— Scott Allen

“To accuse others for one’s own misfortunes is a sign of want of education. To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.”
– Epictetus

“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” — Terry Tempest Williams

“Individuals we consider happy commonly seem complete in the present and we see them constantly in their wholeness: attentive, cheerful, open rather than closed to events, integral in the moment rather than distended across time by regret or anxiety.” — Robert Grudin

“A miracle is nothing more or less than this. Anyone who has come into a knowledge of his true identity, of his oneness with the all-pervading wisdom and power, this makes it possible for laws higher than the ordinary mind knows of to be revealed to him.” — Ralph Waldo Trine

“Love is the outreach of self toward completion.” — Ralph W. Sockman

“The little dissatisfaction which every artist feels at the completion of a work forms the germ of a new work” — Berthold Auerbach

Getting along and going along

May 14th, 2010

There is every possibility your life is destined for something you don’t know anything about at all.

There is every possibility that you aren’t always right.

There is every possibility your ego is completely misleading you as to what you really want in your life, what your heart knows you need.

If you stop fighting the tides of your life, and enjoy whatever happens, life gets a lot easier. This doesn’t mean just giving in to what happens, it means moving with it, maintaining your plans and dreams for the future while recognizing the reality that it may not always go just as you pictured it, or happen right when you want things to happen.

When you decide to move with life, though, rather than fight it, things suddenly become much simpler and you’ll find a flow to your life that is amazing. Stop fighting yourself and your own pace, stop trying to speed up other people or slow them down, stop hurrying your kids to grow up or wanting other people to change. You can no more stop the snow in the winter than you can the blazing heat of summer, you can only change your location or your attitude about snow or heat, or adjust your surroundings and circumstances to deal with them.

If you can accept what is, completely, then you are in the position to change it if you need to, sometimes just simply by changing your attitude towards it. Once you stop seeing someone else or something else as difficult, and realize the difficulty is within you, then you can begin to deal with it and come to terms with it.

When you decide to work with others to accomplish their goals and plans, your own become less important. And suddenly, your ideas become more important to others; since you are cooperating with them, they will cooperate with you, and everyone’s life flows more easily. It is when we fight against other’s desires and plans that we run into trouble. When someone else sees you as a normally cooperative person, then when you do object to something, it is even more powerful. If you always object no matter what, then you’re just seen as difficult, and people won’t listen to you.

But mostly you have to be yourself, you have to be genuine. When others see you as coming from your heart, they will pay attention. If you can give advice out of love, rather than in an attempt to control, it will have a greater impact. If you can lead with your strengths, with your deepest wisdom and your heart rather than from your fears or your ego, people around you will grow and change.

And so will you.

True Vows, and True Love

February 13th, 2010

All the True Vows (via Hecate)
by David Whyte

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

“Dreams are illustrations… from the book your soul is writing about you.” -– Marsha Norman

“The truth is, we are meant to be bountiful and live. The universe will always support affirmative action. Our truest dream for ourselves is always the Goddess’ will for us.” — Julia Cameron

You are just perfect the way you are, and you already have everything you want — you just have to say yes to it and open the door.

When you stop fighting against the flow, the flow stops fighting you, too.

Love is not giving in to all someone’s whims — love is bringing out the best in someone, teaching them to love what is difficult for them. Love what is difficult to love in yourself, and in others, and it will help you to bring out the best in yourself and in others, as well.

Believe in the possibilities

December 1st, 2009

To everyone who reads here:

As we enter the magical season of Christmas, Solstice and the beginning of the New Year, my wish for you is that you come to believe more in yourself, in the possibilities of your life, and have the courage and strength to follow those possibilities where they may take you, without fear of failure, or doubt about where the path may lead.

Namaste.

How have your dreams been of late?

August 8th, 2009

Wrote this comment in response to Casey’s post today on Personal Tao and invite you to answer his query as well:

My dreams tend to follow my day to a large extent — last night was planning to go to a barbecue this evening with a friend, and dreamed about that friend. I also was doing a talk for the Humane Society and the other speaker was a man who I’ve heard talk about the chaparral and fire prevention, so I dreamed about fires. Haven’t had any very unusual dreams lately.

I think my spirit is pretty settled. When it is changing, I tend to dream about houses. When there’s lots of construction going on, I know things are at work. If the house is large and there are parties going on, I know I’m in a good place with myself and others. ;^) If I’m dreaming about other people’s houses, then I’m usually working on something in that relationship, or worried about them for some reason.

I really know things are wrong when I dream about black cars. For some reason, they pop up in really troubled times. I dream about animals when I’m getting some kind of spiritual message — often wolves or dogs or sometimes birds.

Old posts on dreams and imagination:

Imagination
Sleep
Golden Dreams
These Dreams
(more later — must run off to a barbecue…)

Vision

April 21st, 2009

Peace is easily maintained;
Trouble is easily overcome before it starts.
The brittle is easily shattered;
The small is easily scattered.
Deal with it before it happens.
Set things in order before there is confusion.
A tree as great as a man’s embrace springs from a small shoot;
A terrace nine stories high begins with a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet.

– Tao Te Ching, 64

To me, the true visionaries are not visionary because they see something that doesn’t exist, but because they see something that does exist and what could be made from it, even if at first it is only a small fragment of an idea. Perhaps that’s just the engineering point of view, but I think a lot of people get stuck because they can’t grasp that we have to go from where we are.

A lot of times when I am feeling stuck, I have to step back and realize how much of what I’ve wanted in my life I have already accomplished, and that it is simply now my ideas of what I can do have become larger, or perhaps taken a different focus. And yes, there are lots of days I wish I could go back and be younger or do something differently, but it is the choices I’ve made that brought me here. It may not be what I originally envisioned, it may not yet be what I envision for the future, but it is an accomplishment of many visions over the years. Some days my life seems to fall apart into bits and pieces, and I just have to work on that one small thing. When I was very very depressed, a day’s accomplishment might just be to get a shower and take care of myself, but I had to feel that it was enough, then. Now, I want to accomplish larger things, but they are all still in fragments in my head.

What I will make from here on I don’t yet know. I can envision many possibilities, but which ones will play out I can’t say. I keep thinking that I have time now, I have money, I should be accomplishing more than I am. But then again, I have learned how to simply be, and that is something I could not have accomplished in the past. Perhaps now I have the resources to learn to go and do in ways that are more appropriate to my being.

“They consider me to have sharp and penetrating vision because I see them through the mesh of a sieve.”
– Kahlil Gibran

“In the night we stumble over things and become acutely conscious of their separateness, but the day reveals the unity which embraces them. ” — Rabindranath Tagore

“Art arises when the secret vision of the artist and the manifestation of nature agree to find new shapes.”
– Kahlil Gibran

“A vision is not just a picture of what could be; it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more.” — Rosabeth Moss Kanter

“The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
– Cecil Beaton

“The ultimate function of prophecy is not to tell the future, but to make it. Your successful past will block your visions of the future.” — Joel Barker

“Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.”
— Bruce Barton

“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” — Oscar Wilde

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” — Henri Matisse

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”
— Camille Pissarro

“A narrow vision is divisive, a broad vision expansive. But a divine vision is all-inclusive.”
— H. H. Swami Tejomayananda

“The books first turn up as fragmentary pictures in my head, usually, disconnected scenes that I then have to explain to myself, and eventually the reader. They don’t turn up all at once, of course, or my head would explode… If I knew how the books were going to end before embarking on them, there would be little reason to write them, after all. Dag says it best, in Passage: “The most important thing about quests, he decided, was not in finding what you went looking for, but in finding what you never could have imagined before you ventured forth.”” — Lois McMaster Bujold

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Dream

April 15th, 2009

Oh yes. I could do that, too. My voice coach in college wanted me to try out for the San Francisco Opera, but I never did. I wish I had her courage.

Everyone has talents. Everyone can do things you can’t imagine. We are all extraordinary, really.

Go Susan.

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

“We are too cynical,” Amanda said, addressing Boyle after her performance. “Everyone was rooting against you.” It was as if Amanda expected this one moment where art conquered all, where the sincerity of song and execution softened every heart, to allow us to believe we had somehow been purged of all our cheap, superficial ways. Susan sang, and shrugged her shoulders and tossed her gray locks, and now we were changed, changed utterly by this transforming performance. Now Piers and Simon and Amanda and you and me, we were all going to move forward with openness and acceptance in our hearts for all kinds of people in all kind of packages. As if by approving of this one dorky but brilliant outsider, this world would be granted forgiveness for all the meanness, bullying and tawdry acceptance of the third rate that is its usual fare.

But instead of changing us, Susan Boyle’s explosion into fame is much more likely to change her. Already she has appeared on Scottish television with her hair seemingly darkened and somehow forced into submission. Please please please, Susan! The vintage women of the world beg you: Don’t lose a pound. Don’t buy a new wardrobe. No highlights! No Botox! Don’t touch chin one, or chin two.

Remember Ella Fitzgerald, and just keep singing.

Journeys and Artists

February 2nd, 2009

thejourney
“The Journey”, Kathy Ostman-Magnusen

“This journey is long but there are prayers being told to smooth your fantasy pathway,” my Wind did say. “A toast to you as well! I send sunshine; and the mist of rainbows wherever you go.” And with that the Wind went on its way. “I’ve much to do,” quite breezily he said. “And after that I must go out and play.”
– Kathy Ostman-Magnusen

Jessie at Diary of a Self-Portrait is longing for an artist’s journey to India. She’s just made a very difficult choice, giving up her studio, but may not yet fully realize this is the first step in her new journey. It’s going to be an interesting year for her! Sunshine and Rainbows to you, Jessie, sunshine and rainbows… and now, I must go out and play!

Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will –whatever we may think.
– Lawrence Durrell

“Your journey never ends. Life has a way of changing things in incredible ways.” — Alexander Volkov

Every perfect traveler always creates the country where he travels.
Nikos Kazantzakis
nikos kazantzakis

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
– John Steinbeck

The ultimate truth of the journey and its final rewards are still for each of us to face alone.
Deng Ming-Dao

I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.
Lillian Smith

What’s the point? Why all of this walking? It is simply because Tao only can be found in the journey that is in the walking. Tao, true, real, permanent, nameless Tao cannot be found in any book, or in any school.
Bill Bunting

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”
— Matsuo Basho

“The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases”
– William Hazlitt

“What people forget is a journey to nowhere starts with a single step, too.”
— Chuck Palahniuk

One ship sails East,
And another West,
By the self-same winds that blow,
Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
That tells the way we go.

Like the winds of the sea
Are the waves of time,
As we journey along through life,
Tis the set of the soul,
That determines the goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

-– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Dreaming freely

January 25th, 2009

I dreamed I was getting my high school diploma again — including all kinds of weird symbology in the dream — but the ending was the best. Diploma in hand, knowing everything I know now, strolling into the late afternoon dappled sunshine streaming on me with all my knowledge and with my youth and with no obligations at all — it was a feeling of complete and total freedom. I had a few more dreams after that — it seems I was an amazing photographer who could show people visions with my pictures, and there was also a spider who laid golden and silver eggs, and lots more cool things.

And then of course I woke up to the house and the husband opening the door to let the cat in and walking in on me and shattering my peaceful feeling of happiness. Sigh.

I need to remember that freedom to just be myself when I’m awake, too.

Baggage

January 22nd, 2009

excessory_baggage_meryl_smith_3
Meryl Smith, Excessory Baggage

I dreamed last night that I was trying to follow a woman with graying hair, who seemed to be a bit older version of myself in a way. She moved too fast, though, and I couldn’t keep up with her. I kept having to pick up various bags I had been dropping, and eventually lost track of her.

Perhaps it is time to stop picking up the bags when they fall, to let go of my baggage to become the woman I am meant to be.

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
– Charles Dudley Warner

I think the label of “artist” is loaded and has a strange sort of baggage attached to it. People say, “I’m not an artist! I can barely draw a straight line” and I always cringe when I hear this. What’s so interesting about a straight line anyway? It is not an exclusive club, this artist thing. It’s just a bunch of people who like to play, to make things, to dream up ideas, to color, to sing, to build, to string words together. Don’t we all? I think it helps to remove the labels. — Andrea Scher

Although Patanjali wrote 196 sutras concerning yoga, only three of them pertain exclusively to the asana. The first concerns the means — firm, relaxed postures; the second concerns the end — effortless oneness with what is. The sutra above speaks to the first stumbling block most of us encounter in our practice: we try too hard… we come to yoga with cultural baggage that says we are not enough and never will be. We must improve, we must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we must try harder and make some progress. With more effort, we think, and a little more strain, we will get more out of the posture. The mistake is believing we can get where we are going through effort. Patanjali defines success as effortlessness. Floating in the center of our postures, the center of our experience, we succeed by moving into harmony with the moment, our limbs, our breath, our awareness. — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

The heavy is the root of the light;
The still is the master of unrest.

Therefore the sage, traveling all day,
Does not lose sight of his baggage.
Though there are beautiful things to be seen,
He remains unattached and calm.

Why should the lord of ten thousand chariots
act lightly in public?
To be light is to lose one’s root.
To be restless is to lose one’s control.

– Tao Te Ching, 26

Standing on tiptoe, one is unsteady.
Taking long steps, one quickly tires.
Showing off, one shows unenlightenment.
Displaying self-righteousness, one reveals vanity.
Praising the self, one earns no respect.
Exaggerating achievements, one cannot long endure.
Followers of the Way consider these
Extra food, unnecessary baggage.
They bring no happiness.
Therefore, followers of the Way
avoid them.

– Tao Te Ching, 24

Leader

July 1st, 2008

Jiang. Leader;military general, to take, to hold.

The quality of the leader determines the quality of the organization.

A leader who lacks intelligence, virtue, and experience
Cannot hope for success.

In any conflict
The circumstances affect the outcome.
Good leaders can succeed in adverse conditions,
Bad leaders can lose in favorable conditions,
Therefore, good leaders constantly strive to perfect themselves,
Lest their shortcomings mar their endeavors.

When all other factors are equal,
It is the character of the leader that determines the outcome.

Deng Ming-Dao, Everyday Tao

___

A good thing to think about when deciding how you want to vote for our next president, and look at the results of the last seven years.

We face a coming time of upheaval and crisis. How we choose our leaders during this time is important, and will set the course of this country for the next century. What direction do we choose to move? Forward, with vision and strength, reaching out to the world to help through the coming difficult years, or inward, closing down, alienating our allies, hardening our enemies with weapons and strong words rather than weakening our enemies by being the shining city on the hill that reaches out to its neighbors, its friends and says, “Come, join us, live with us in peace and harmony. We will fight together with you to weaken the enemies that threaten us, but to all who come to us with peace, we are your friends and will support your efforts. Your religion is not our enemy, your nation is not our enemy, and we will not take your nation from you. We will let you make the choice to live in peace with us, and share our wealth with you. Tell those who fight us that we wish to make peace.”

That’s the America I want to live in. Not one that rewards its wealthiest, but supports its weakest. Not one that hoards the wealth of the world to those privileged few who use our armies to enrich themselves, but the America that shares its greatness and wealth and knowledge with the world.

We built this Internet. We use it to speak with everyone in the world we can reach. We shared it with everyone, without limits, without control.

We are the music-makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems.
..
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Arthur O’Shaughnessy

Is our American dream dying, moving into fascism and repression, or are we going to reignite that wonderful, real American spirit, not the fake one that the rich and powerful use to try and manipulate and oppress us?

We are the ones who get to decide. Especially you, who are younger than me. My generation is polarized, divided between those who already have but want still more, and those of us who know we have far, far, more than we could ever possibly need, and want only to share our wealth, our knowledge, our experience and our riches with the entire world.

We built you this Internet, children. It is our last, best possible gift to you. Please, use it wisely, tell your friends that they can make this the next, greatest generation of Americans the world has ever seen. We want you to be loved, admired, looked up to and blessed for the rest of the your lives by the entire world. We do not want you to be scorned, sneered at, ruled by a smirking leader who says like “Who cares what you think?”. We want you to pick strong, courageous leaders who can make this country great in the eyes of the world again.

I am only one voice, I am only one small person here sharing my hopes and dreams for the two wonderful people I have helped to bring into this world and raise. I do not want them killed in a senseless war to lead to wealth for a group of rich people who think they own this earth. I want them to live in a free, happy, open, giving and renewed country. I want a society where everyone knows their basic health is assured and their needs met, where those who have are willing to share, and the “have mores” are not the “base” for a president that promises them even more riches, but are the endowers of great foundations again and the saviors of the world from its medical and societal problems.

I want my kids to be able to walk anywhere in this world and be surrounded by friends and strangers who smile and thank them for being Americans, for being the best hope and strength of this entire planet.

That is my small little dream.

What’s yours?

Getting It

May 7th, 2008

Nice thoughts on creating life versus getting stuff from Christine Kane.

Creating vs. Getting | Christine Kane

The laws of creativity apply to everything – not just to works of art.

The gift of practicing art is that it teaches the creator how to create, and how to be a creator. Over and over again, the artist learns the process of making things – including the obstacles that arise, the futility of forcing the flow, and the joy of allowing inspiration. This practice has been nothing less than revolutionary in my own life.

That’s because I grew up learning more about Getting than I did about Creating. And I’m not alone in that. Most of the life lessons we’ve all learned are about Getting.

We gotta get rich, get approved, get things from people, get a job, get a life, get laid, get publicity, get someone to do something, get approval, get high, get married, get a loan, get good grades, get a clue, get into college, get up, get down, get out.

Get it?

Getting is an epidemic. It makes us grab at life. It takes us out of the present moment. It makes us powerless. It forces us to manipulate our own spirits so that we can manipulate the situation. Getting requires that we use our precious creative power to get, rather than to use it for its primary purpose, which is to Create. When we misuse this power, we become contorted. We block the flow. The focus is on “out there” rather than “in here.”

When we become Creators, we turn the whole thing around. Everything becomes an inside job. We experience true power. We create our lives.

Unclutter Your Mind (repost)

March 20th, 2008

This is one of my early Tao postings, from November 2004.

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Beginners acquire new theories and techniques until their minds are cluttered with options.

Advanced students forget their many options. They allow the theories and techniques that they have learned to recede into the background.

Learn to unclutter your mind. Learn to simplify your work.

As you rely less and less on knowing what to do, your work will become more direct and more powerful. You will discover that the quality of your consciousness is more potent than any technique or theory or interpretation.

Learn how fruitful the blocked group or individual suddenly becomes when you give up trying to do just the right thing.

Tao of Leadership

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I think a lot of people are running around with cluttered minds these days. We worry about what to do about the direction the country has taken, we worry about how best to deal with personal situations in our lives, we worry about work, way too much. Perhaps the way to unclutter our minds is to stop worrying and start taking more direct action. Talk to the people around you, find out their real concerns and help them find some answers. Take your own problems and solve the ones you can, without worrying about whether you are creating the optimum solution. Get out of your head for a while and take a walk somewhere full of nature.

For me, my uncluttering spot is in my garden. I go outside and wander in the garden for a bit, and find myself feeling better about things. No matter what worries and concerns I have, they are small compared to a day full of sunshine and flowers and growing things. It helps living in San Diego where I can almost always count on a beautiful sunny day.

I think Americans really have a disease about getting things right, though. We want to live in the right house, drive the right car, send our kids to the right schools, live the right moral values. Yeah, sure we do. But how many people do you know who are simply happy with their lives? How many don’t worry about having enough money, even though we are among the richest people on the planet? Do you hear many people saying, “I have enough, I think I’ll just relax this year and not work too much?” No, we just go on with our disease, not realizing that if we stopped caring about having the right things and living the right way, our lives would be so much easier and better.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve come to focus on what is left. What’s left of my life, where I would like to go, what I would like to see, how I would like to live. Not what other people think is right, or even what I may think is right, but the things that are left out of most people’s lives. Beauty, simplicity, artful living instead of filling our houses with cheap crap. Time spent learning and growing instead of watching TV or spending yet another day working at jobs we hate to buy more stuff we don’t need. Why can’t America be about spreading fun and laughter instead of spreading war and trying to control everything? We have enough, people. Let’s learn to enjoy it, instead of wanting more. Unclutter our minds, our houses, our lives, and let’s learn to live again. Let’s share a new American dream – one about making life fulfilling again instead of filling our gas tanks, bellies, and houses full of crap.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 90; scientific visionary, acclaimed writer of ’2001: A Space Odyssey’ – Los Angeles Times

March 18th, 2008

Thank you for so much, Sir Clarke….

Arthur C. Clarke, 90; scientific visionary, acclaimed writer of ’2001: A Space Odyssey’ – Los Angeles Times

Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who peered into the heavens with a homemade telescope as a boy and grew up to become a visionary titan of science fiction best-known for collaborating with director Stanley Kubrick in writing the landmark film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” has died. He was 90.

The British-born Clarke, who lived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for decades, died early today after experiencing breathing problems, an aide, Rohan De Silva, told the Associated Press.

Clarke, a former farm boy who was knighted for his contributions to literature, wrote more than 80 fiction and nonfiction books (some in collaboration) and more than 100 short stories — as well as hundreds of articles and essays.

Among his best-known science-fiction novels are “Childhood’s End,” “Rendezvous With Rama,” “Imperial Earth” and, most famously, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“It’s better to be recognized for one thing, especially something of which I’m quite proud, than not to be recognized at all,” Clarke told The Times in 1982.

Although he never intended to write a sequel to “2001,” he wrote three: “2010: Odyssey Two,” “2061: Odyssey Three” and “3001: The Final Odyssey.”

Clarke, who was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 1986, won innumerable international awards for his fiction and scientific writing.

Faith (Repost)

February 24th, 2008

In spite of knowing,
Yet still believing.
Though no god above,
Yet god within.

There is no god in the sense of a cosmic father or mother who will provide all things to their children. Nor is there some heavenly bureaucracy to petition. These models are not descriptions of a divine order, but are projections from archetypal templates. If we believe in the divine as cosmic family, we relegate ourselves to perpetual adolescence. If we regard the divine as supreme government, we are forever victims of unfathomable officialdom.

Yet it does not work for us to totally abandon faith. It does not follow that we can forego all belief in higher beings. We need faith, not because there are beings who will punish us or reward us, but because gods are wonderful ways of describing things that happen to us. They embody the highest aspects of human aspiration. Gods on the altars are essential metaphors for the human spiritual experience.

Faith shouldn’t be shaken because bad things happen to us or because our loved ones are killed. Good and bad fortune are not in the hands of gods, so it is useless to blame them. Neither does faith need to be confirmed by some objective occurrence. Faith is self-affirming. If we maintain faith, then we have its reward. If we become better people, then our faith has results. It is we who create faith, and it is through our efforts that faith is validated.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

The point of faith is to become better people. Not to force your religion on others, but to better yourself. Not to strengthen your religion or return it to its traditions so you can glory in the past, but to allow yourself to face the world as it is now, and deal with life as it is now. Tao doesn’t encourage us to live in the past or long for some past glory days of Taoist rule, or go around converting everyone to Taoism, or to force our governments to meet some holy standards of justice. Tao tells us to live our own lives in harmony with natural forces. The “faith” of Tao is to know that if you follow its principles and move in harmony with the Tao, your life will naturally become better.

And it does. That’s the beauty of it. It works. Just as Christianity does if you truly follow its teachings, and don’t reinvent your own interpretations of it to suit your misogynistic tendencies. Just as Buddhism does, if you follow its logic. Just as Islam does, if you follow its true tenants and don’t use them as ways to control the women in your society, or enforce the power of the Mullahs over the people to their detriment. Just as any faith does, once you get past the “rules” you’re “supposed” to follow and understand the heart of what it is trying to tell you – to treat other people well, to better yourself before complaining about others, and to live your own life in accordance with what you believe, and not impose that on other people around you.

For the unified mind in accord with the tao all self-centered striving ceases. Doubts and irresolutions vanish and life in true faith is possible. With a single stroke we are freed from bondage; nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing. All is empty, clear, self-illuminating, with no exertion of the mind’s power. Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination are of no value. In this world of suchness there is neither seer nor other-than-self.

To come directly into harmony with this reality just simply say when doubt arises, ‘Not two.’ In this ‘not two’ nothing is separate, nothing is excluded. No matter when or where, enlightenment means entering this truth. And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space; in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there, but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes. Infinitely large and infinitely small, no difference, for definitions have vanished and no boundaries are seen. So too with Being and non-Being. Don’t waste time in doubts and arguments that have nothing to do with this.

One thing, all things: move among and intermingle, without distinction. To live in this realization is to be without anxiety about non-perfection. To live in this faith is the road to non-duality, because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.

Words! The tao is beyond language, for in it there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today.

–Hsin Hsin Ming (Verses on the Faith Mind)
Attributed to Chien Chih Sengtsan, ca. 600 C.E.
Translated by Robert B. Clarke