Growing

January 25th, 2014

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

The One Who Knows

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?

Happy New Year!

December 31st, 2011

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

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

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

Writer (repost from 2005)

October 7th, 2011


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

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

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

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

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

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tao of the Self — Eight

August 21st, 2011

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

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

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

The Tao of the Self — Eight

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

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

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

The Tao of the Self — Seven

August 14th, 2011

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

The Tao of the Self — Seven

The Tao of the Self — Six

August 12th, 2011

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

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

– The Tao of the Self — Six

The Tao of the Self — Five

August 9th, 2011

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

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

The Tao of the Self — Five

The Tao of the Self — Four

August 7th, 2011

empty_vesle
Empty Vessel, Marilyn Coon

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

– The Tao of the Self, Four

The Tao of the Self — Three

August 6th, 2011

Not bragging about your talents prevents quarreling.
Not having extravagant things prevents stealing.
Not desiring other people’s things prevents confusion of the heart.

The wise person rules themselves
by eliminating needless desires and fulfilling their true needs,
by weakening false ambitions and strengthening their body.
If you don’t express arrogance,
then others will not feel threatened.
If nothing is done with the desire to harm others,
then your life will run more smoothly.

– The Tao of the Self, Three

The Tao of the Self — Two

August 5th, 2011

Anyone can see you are beautiful
If they see others as ugly.
Anyone can see you as good
If they see others as evil.

Therefore having friends and not having friends arise together.
Difficult and easy relationships complement each other.
Long and short friendships contrast each other:
High and low emotions rest upon each other;
Your voice and the sound of others harmonize each other;
Being in front of and behind others follow one another.

Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing to force relationships,
teaching not gossiping about others.
Thousands of conversations rise and fall without cease,
Creating relationships, yet not forcing them.
Working with others, yet not taking credit for their work.
Great work with others is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.

Tao of the Self. Two

The Tao of the Self – One

August 5th, 2011

The things we can express about ourselves
are not who were are.
Your name is only what people call you.
It barely gives a hint of who you are.
If you don’t desire something from someone,
you might see their soul.
Otherwise all you desire
is what they can do for you.
The person is the same
but if all you see is the name,
you will never know who they are.
If you are willing to look further
You begin to sense their mystery….

Tao of the Self, One

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.

Clearing

April 3rd, 2011

I think I spent the last month making a clearing in my life. I stopped posting on the blog every day, and spent more time reading and observing. I’ve been creating a space for a meditation garden, and now am to the point of putting in hardscape and selecting some focal points and plants. I still need to get the ground covering and create a “floor” for the “room”.

I’ve been clearing out old clothes, things I no longer want or need, and working on cleaning up my diet and trying to get back to yoga classes. Still not doing well at getting to the yoga classes, but I’ll get there.

I’ve started the spring veggie garden, and am clearing out dead branches, and one poor daisy tree that has completely died this winter. It’s a friend I’ll miss and I need to find something new to fill its space. Something that can grow as tall and graciously and provide the shade that the daisy tree used to. I still miss the large ash tree that I took out to create the meditation garden, but it had grown too large and was tearing up the rest of the yard and our patios. It’s hard to take out such a large and beautiful tree, but we just couldn’t justify the water it took, the fire risk, and the damage it was doing any longer. And now, there is a clearing for the new, for a place to meditate and enjoy some quiet space.

And I’ve found I need more quiet spaces in my life, more quiet time. As I get older I get deeper and quieter, like a large lake. For someone who is already pretty quiet, it hardly seems possible. But I’ve had a lot of rivers flowing in, and there still seems to be a dam keeping much from flowing out. So for now, a lake it is. If you flow like water, sometimes you end up in a quiet lake…

 

 

Open

February 10th, 2011

Keep your Heart Open

Keep your heart open even when you can’t have what you want. It’s easy to keep our heart open to life’s magic and all its possibilities when we have what we want. It’s more of a challenge, and more necessary than ever, to keep our hearts open when we can’t have what we want.

Even on the best journey, things happen. Plans change. Things shift and move around. This shifting and moving causes doors to close, relationships to end, blocks and frustrations to appear on our path. For now, that is what we see. For now, what we know is disappointment. We can’t have what we want, and it hurts. When that happens, our tendency may be to shut down, close our hearts, forget all we’ve learned.

Keep your heart open anyway. Consciously choose to do that. Yes, you can go away, you can leave, you can shut down, but you don’t need to. Now is a turning point. If you choose to open your heart, even when you can’t have you want, miracles will unfold.

For now, remember this. Even though you don’t have what want you right now, keep your heart open anyway. Later, you’ll see more. You’ll see how it worked out. How it needed to be just so.

– Melody Beattie,  Journey to the Heart


Powerful

February 4th, 2011

See how Powerful You Are

Although we know there is much in life we can’t control, we also know we have the power to think, to feel, to choose, and to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. We’re discovering our creative powers, and our power to love, including our power to love ourselves. We’ve embraced our power to grow, to change, to move forward. We know we have the power to claim our lives and take responsibility for ourselves in any situation life brings. Although life may deal us certain hard blows, we’ve learned to see beyond that. We see life’s beauty, gifts, and lessons, and its mysterious and sometimes magical nature.

Now, our journey has led us someplace else. We know we have powers; we know we have choices. And we no longer need to be right. Just free.

See how powerful you are!

– Melody Beattie,  Journey to the Heart

Resistance

February 3rd, 2011

We sometimes resist new lessons. And what we resist the most is likely to be what we most need to learn.

Our lessons usually come with inner conflict. The action we should be taking, the idea we should be learning is sometimes hidden behind a wall of resistance. There’s a border, a barrier we need to cross to get into the heart of the lesson. Most times, that barrier is within us. Lessons require us to let go of old feelings, old beliefs. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be lessons. We’d already know them. Sometimes, the very thing we feel guiltiest about doing, the place we’re most resistant to visiting, the person we’re most convinced we shouldn’t contact, or the behavior we’re tormenting ourselves most about is exactly what we need to be doing.

And more often than not, the lesson we’re learning is not what we think it is. We need to embrace the surprise element of life –  embrace the mystery of life as it unfolds, as the lessons appear, as we grow and change.

Do what you need to do to break through your
resistance. Often that means simply seeing your
resistance for what it is. Remember that the point
of greatest resistance is often the place of greatest
learning.

– Melody Beattie,  Journey to the Heart

Beginning

January 3rd, 2011

This is the moment of embarking.
All auspicious signs are in place.

In the beginning, all things are hopeful. We prepare ourselves to start anew. Though we may be intent on the magnificent journey ahead, all things are contained in this first moment of our optimism, our faith, our resolution, our innocence.

In order to start, we must make a decision. This decision is a commitment to daily self-cultivation. We must make a strong connection to our inner selves. Outside matters are superfluous. Alone, and naked, we negotiate all of our live’s travails. Therefore, we alone must make something of ourselves, transforming ourselves into the instruments for experiencing the deepest spiritual essence of life.

Once we make our decision, all things will come to us. Auspicious signs are not a superstition, but a confirmation. They are a response. It is said that if one chooses to pray to a rock with enough devotion, even that rock will come alive. In the same way, once we choose to commit ourselves to spiritual practice, even the mountains and valleys will reverberate to the sound of our purpose.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I’ve never found much that is spiritual in being preached at. Talked with, discussion, question asking, yes, but not when someone is preaching at you. Especially if they want you to accept some literal meaning of whatever they are preaching, instead of taking from it your own spiritual lessons. Religion is meaningless without personal interpretation and relevance to your own life. There are beautiful, wonderful, spiritual concepts in all religions, and then they are twisted up into this package that one must accept in whole instead of taking from it the parts that matter to you.

I guess that’s why I like the idea of Taoism. Here is a thought, an idea, a focus for meditation. Take it and see what it means to you. See how it applies to your life, to the world around you. Observe. And then, when you integrate that idea into your life, here’s another. And you can always cycle back to the previous ideas and refocus again. See the spiritual in everything, in the ordinary, even in a rock. And then the world does reverberate for you. One of the definitions of reverberate is “to have a long or continuing effect”. I think that is what most of us actually long for that is lacking in our lives. We don’t always feel that we can have a long or continuing effect. But Tao teaches that everything in life has an effect. The goal is to focus it so that you achieve the results you want. But if you are in Tao, then the only results that can matter are the ones inside yourself, since the inside reflects the outside and vice versa. So how you interpret what happens is as important as what happens, and that is what can make the difference in your life. There are lessons to be learned in all that happens. How we respond makes the difference.

I hope to respond with optimism, and faith, and resolution, and innocence. All moments are new beginnings.

(revised from the original post Jan 1 2005)

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.

Possibilities

November 26th, 2010

“An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing.” — Samuel Smiles

“There are many who are living far below their possibilities because they are continually handing over their individualities to others. Do you want to be a power in the world? Then be yourself. Be true to the highest within your soul and then allow yourself to be governed by no customs or conventionalities or arbitrary man-made rules that are not founded on principle.” — Ralph Waldo Trine

“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!” — Soren Kierkegaard

What new possibilities are opening up for you today?