Of Love

January 14th, 2014

I have been in love more times than one,
thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting
whether active or not. Sometimes
it was all but ephemeral, maybe only
an afternoon, but not less real for that.
They stay in my mind, these beautiful people,
or anyway beautiful people to me, of which
there are so many. You, and you, and you,
whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe
missed. Love, love, love, it was the
core of my life, from which, of course, comes
the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned
that some of them were men and some were women
and some – now carry my revelation with you -
were trees. Or places. Or music flying above
the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun
which was the first, and the best, the most
loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into
my eyes, every morning. So I imagine
such love of the world – its fervency, its shining, its
innocence and hunger to give of itself – I imagine
this is how it began.

– Mary Oliver

The mysteries of change forever unresolved…

January 13th, 2014

“Often, change doesn’t come trumpeting itself in. It comes in quiet, barely noticed ways. No bolts of lightning and grand entrances here. Just a subtle relaxation into the body. A tiny shift towards where you are. An old belief, an outdated story, seen for what it is. A new path emerging in the darkness. A vague, unspeakable hope dawning in the first light of the day you imagined would never come. Everything the same, everything different, everything always resting in motion, and the mysteries of change forever unresolved.”
– Jeff Foster

Drifting (2006)

January 30th, 2012

Give up learning, and put an end to your troubles.

Is there a difference between yes and no?
Is there a difference between good and evil?
Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense!
Other people are contented, enjoying the sacrificial feast of the ox.
In spring some go to the park, and climb the terrace,
But I alone am drifting not knowing where I am.
Like a new-born babe before it learns to smile,
I am alone, without a place to go.

Others have more than they need, but I alone have nothing.
I am a fool. Oh, yes! I am confused.
Other men are clear and bright,
But I alone am dim and weak.
Other men are sharp and clever,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea.
Without direction, like the restless wind.

Everyone else is busy,
But I alone am aimless and depressed.
I am different.
I am nourished by the great mother.

Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu – chapter 20

20. Wandering

What is the difference between assent and denial?
What is the difference between beautiful and ugly?
What is the difference between fearsome and afraid?

The people are merry as if at a magnificent party
Or playing in the park at springtime,
But I am tranquil and wandering,
Like a newborn before it learns to smile,
Alone, with no true home.

The people have enough and to spare,
Where I have nothing,
And my heart is foolish,
Muddled and cloudy.

The people are bright and certain,
Where I am dim and confused;
The people are clever and wise,
Where I am dull and ignorant;
Aimless as a wave drifting over the sea,
Attached to nothing.

The people are busy with purpose,
Where I am impractical and rough;
I do not share the peoples’ cares
But I am fed at nature’s breast.

– Peter Merel translation

Why should you care if people agree or disagree with you?
Why should you care if others find you attractive or not?
Why should you care if you win or lose — what’s the point of the game?
Call bullshit on all that.

Let other people get themselves worked up.
I’m not going to give myself away.
A baby doesn’t know how to smile, but it’s still happy.

Let other people get excited about stuff.
I’m not going to hang on to anything.
I’m not going to fill my mind with ideas.
I’m not going to get stuck in a rut, tied down to any one place.

Other people are clever;
I guess I must be stupid.
Other people have goals;
I guess I must be aimless.
Like the wind. Or the waves.

I’m not like other people.
I’m getting right with Tao.

– J. Garon translation

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 Year of the Water Dragon

January 23rd, 2012

Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Wishing you fortune)
Sun Tai Geen Hong! (Wishing you good health)
Man Si Yu Yi! (Wishing you a thousand wishes)
Sum Sung Si Cheng! (Wishing you your heart’s fulfillment)
Bo Bo Go Sing! (May every step be higher and higher)
Gong Xi Nimen Fa Cai! Congratulations, may you make a fortune)

Censorship

January 17th, 2012


http://america.post911timeline.org/

Emperors uphold censorship,
But extreme repression leads to extreme reaction.
Individualists believe in freedom,
But extreme expression leads to extreme reaction.

The emperors of China and Rome punished any expression that displeased them. Whether it was dissent, unpleasant news, or a portrait that disgusted them, they were ready to destroy the perpetrators without hesitation. Today, there are democracies but no less a tendency to punish dissent, manipulate information, or castigate artists. Those in power should be careful: Push the people too far, and they will rebel.

Artists from early on have tried to push the limits of their expression. Driven by the desire to create, they have sought to strike down every boundary. But as long as they do this in a social setting, they should not outpace their audiences. Those who create must be careful: Challenge the people too much, and they will rebel.

So there are two extremes. The desires of the powerful, who feel that censorship is a just tool, and the tendencies of the creative, who feel that they should have no limits to their freedom. Those who follow Tao avoid these extremes. They avoid becoming the ruler, for such a position is fraught with danger, hypocrisy, and disappointment. Neither will the become the grandstanding artist; to arouse others is like wise dangerous. If they must rule, they use compassion as their standard. If they do create, they find satisfaction in self-expression. Above all, they avoid any extreme that will take them from Tao.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Censorship is the systematic use of group power to broadly control freedom of speech and expression, largely in regard to secretive matters. Sanitization (cleaning or decontamination) and whitewashing (from whitewash) are almost interchangeable terms that refer to particular acts or campaigns of censorship or omission which seek to “clean up” the portrayal of particular issues and facts which are already known, but which may conflict with a presented point of view.

In a modern sense, censorship consists of any attempt to suppress information, points of view, or method of expression such as art, or profanity. Censorship is commonly used by social groups, organized religions, corporations and governments. There are also groups which specifically oppose censorship.

Censorship, unlike acts or policies of sanitization, refers to a publicly set standard, not a privately set (or government-enforced but unannounced) standard. Censorship does not attempt to cover up material made by an organization, but rather to restrict or abolish defined types of material produced by private citizens.
Wikipedia

As the Internet was taking flight in the early 1990s, John Gilmore, one of the co-founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading online civil liberties group, is credited with having coined the infamous phrase that “the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” Gilmore’s view has since been regularly invoked whenever there are failed attempts to limit the dissemination of information.

Beginning with a string of cases dating back to the Paul Bernardo trial in the mid-1990s, the Internet has undermined court-ordered publication bans in Canada with surprising frequency. The latest incident occurred last month when a U.S. website posted evidence from the Gomery inquiry that was subject to a publication ban. The ban was lifted within days, however, as Judge Gomery acknowledged what had become obvious to all – supposedly secret testimony was readily available to anyone with Internet access.

While these events seemingly affirm the notion that the Internet is beyond the reach of governments and courts, my recent trip to China provided a powerful reminder that unfettered Internet access is far more fragile than is commonly perceived. China, which boasts the world’s second largest Internet user base, is currently home to more than 94 million Internet users, yet their Internet is far different from ours.

These differences are not immediately obvious. My hotel in Beijing featured high-speed Internet access much like that offered in hotels throughout North America. Logging onto the network was a snap and I quickly found that bandwidth speeds were comparable to those found at home.

It was once I sought to access common news sites that I found myself face to face with the “Great Firewall of China.” Google News, a popular aggregator of news stories from around the world, would not load into my browser, apparently blocked by a filtering system that employs 30,000 people to regularly monitor Internet traffic and content. Similarly, while the BBC website would load, attempts to access news stories on that site yielded only error messages.

My frustration increased when I attempted to download my own email. While I was able to access my Canadian-based mail server storing my messages, the download was short-circuited midway as I suddenly lost the connection. Although I initially thought that perhaps the error lay at the Canadian end, when the experience repeated itself, it became clear that the Chinese system was filtering my email messages and cutting off the connection. Michael Geist, Face to Face with the Great Wall of China

“You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police. Yet in their hearts there is unspoken – unspeakable! – fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts! Words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home, all the more powerful because they are forbidden. These terrify them. A little mouse – a little tiny mouse! – of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.” — Winston Churchill

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. — John F. Kennedy

“Senator Smoot (Republican, Ut.)
Is planning a ban on smut
Oh rooti-ti-toot for Smoot of Ut.
And his reverent occiput.
Smite. Smoot, smite for Ut.,
Grit your molars and do your dut.,
Gird up your l–ns,
Smite h-p and th-gh,
We’ll all be Kansas
By and By.”

– Ogden Nash, “Invocation,” 1931

Tell congress to knock it off. No Internet Censorship! No SOPA or PIPA.

Patterns

January 2nd, 2012

“The pattern, and it alone, brings into being and causes to pass away and confers purpose, that is to say, value and meaning, on all there is. To understand is to perceive patterns. To make intelligible is to reveal the basic pattern.”

— Isaiah Berlin, British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian, (1909-1997), The proper study of mankind: an anthology of essays, Chatto & Windus, 1997, p. 129.

“When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it — they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experience. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem.

The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

— Steve Jobs, Wired, February 1996

Pattern and creativity
Are the two poles of action.

It is wise to plan each day. By setting goals for oneself and organizing activities to be accomplished, one can be sure that each day will be full and never wasted.

Followers of Tao use patterns when planning. They observe the ways of nature, perceive the invisible lines of destiny. They imagine a pattern for their entire lives, and in this way, they ensure overall success. Each day, they match interim patterns against their master goals, and so navigate life with sureness and grace. It is precisely this ability to discern and manipulate patterns unknown to the ordinary person that makes the follower of Tao so formidable.

When unpredictable things happen, those who follow Tao are also skilled at improvisation. If circumstances deny them, they change immediately. To avoid confusion, they still discern the patterns of the situation and create new ones, much like a chess player at the board. The spontaneous creation of new patterns is their ultimate art.”

– Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Time to create some new patterns in my life. Coming back to this space is one of them. So what do you do when you want to create new patterns in your life?

The Tao of the Self — Eleven

November 8th, 2011

Join thirty spokes to share one hub;
The center hole is just as useful to make a wheel.
Mold clay to create a vessel;
The space within is just as useful as part of the vessel.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
The holes and the space within are as useful to create a room.
We can benefit from what we have
But not having can be just as useful.

The Tao of the Self — Eleven

The Tao of the Self — Ten

October 7th, 2011

Carrying your spirit, embracing your body, mind and soul,
Are you able to live without separating them now?
Concentrating your spirit and becoming tender,
Can you be as open as a child?
Clearing your vision,
Can you see without flaws now?
Loving others, can you lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you accept Heaven’s gifts
as well as you accept your losses?
When you can see clearly in all directions,
how can you still be unknowing?
Giving birth to your ideas and nourishing them,
Bearing them into the world but not possessing them,
Doing your work but not demanding it from others,
Developing yourself and inspiring others,
This is the Primal Virtue.

The Tao of the Self — Ten

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 — Nine

September 13th, 2011

There’s no point pouring more into your cup when it is already full.
If you oversharpen your knife, the edge becomes blunt more quickly.
If you have too much stuff, it’s difficult to protect and take care of it all.
Being arrogant about your wealth and accomplishments leads to reproach.
When you’ve accomplished what you set out to do, retreat into yourself.
This is the way that leads to contentment.

The Tao of the Self — Nine

The Mind of Absolute Trust

August 30th, 2011

The Mind of Absolute Trust by Sen-ts’an (Stephen Mitchell translation)

The great way isn’t difficult
for those who are unattached to their preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion,
and everything will be perfectly clear.
When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction,
heaven and earth are set apart.
If you want to realize the truth,
don’t be for or against.
The struggle between good and evil
is the primal disease of the mind.
Not grasping the deeper meaning,
you just trouble your mind’s serenity.
As vast as infinite space,
it is perfect and lacks nothing.
But because you select and reject,
you can’t perceive its true nature.
Don’t get entangled in the world;
don’t lose yourself in emptiness.
Be at peace in the oneness of things,
and all errors will disappear by themselves.

If you don’t live the Tao,
you fall into assertion or denial.
Asserting that the world is real,
you are blind to its deeper reality;
denying that the world is real,
you are blind to the selflessness of all things.
The more you think about these matters,
the farther you are from the truth.
Step aside from all thinking,
and there is nowhere you can’t go.
Returning to the root, you find the meaning;
chasing appearances, you lose their source.
At the moment of profound insight,
you transcend both appearance and emptiness.
Don’t keep searching for the truth;
just let go of your opinions.

For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt,
you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free,
with nothing left to hold on to.
All is empty, brilliant,
perfect in its own being.
In the world of things as they are,
there is no self, no non self.
If you want to describe its essence,
the best you can say is “Not-two.”
In this “Not-two” nothing is separate,
and nothing in the world is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places
have entered into this truth.
In it there is no gain or loss;
one instant is ten thousand years.
There is no here, no there;
infinity is right before your eyes.

The tiny is as large as the vast
when objective boundaries have vanished;
the vast is as small as the tiny
when you don’t have external limits.
Being is an aspect of non-being;
non-being is no different from being.
Until you understand this truth,
you won’t see anything clearly.
One is all; all
are one. When you realize this,
what reason for holiness or wisdom?
The mind of absolute trust
is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace, for in it
there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow.

via On the Precipe

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