Thinking but not Writing

March 22nd, 2012

Ok, I was going to think more and write more this year… the thinking is going well, but I don’t get around to the writing part. I need to do more of that.

What do you do to get yourself to write more often?

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.

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.

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

Cherish

February 2nd, 2011

Cherish Today’s Lessons

“I’m brokenhearted about my divorce”, the man said. “I’ve spent four years searching for a new wife, trying to recreate my family, trying to jam the pieces of the picture back in place. All I’ve gotten from my desperate search is more pain and anguish. It’s hurt other people. It’s hurt me. I’m tired of trying to manipulate other people to meet my own needs, to postpone my own grief.”

Some of us may be desperately trying to recreate the life we once had. Desperation attracts desperation. Pain attracts pain. And so the downward spiral goes. Yes, loss hurts. Sometimes life hurts, too. But loss can’t be negotiated. Becoming obsessed with putting the pieces back in place is an understandable reaction, but it won’t work. Yesterday cannot be superimposed on today. We need to go one step further.

Feel the obsession, and let it go. Feel the desperation, then release that. Come back to the lessons of today. They’re different from the lessons of yesterday, but just as valuable.

We face many losses along the way. People we love disappear from our lives; we may lose a career, money, or something else we valued. We can lose our dreams, too. But looking for quick replacements as a way to avoid feeling pain about the loss won’t work. And we’ll miss the lessons. Before we can go on, we must feel our sadness about what we lost. Losses demand acceptance.

Eventually life will send you new people and
new dreams. Cherish this time to grow and learn.
Cherish what the universe is teaching you now.

– Melody Beattie,  Journey to the Heart

Transcend Your Limitations

February 1st, 2011

Transcend Your Limitations

You’re free now, free to take the journey of a lifetime. Free to experience life, in its newness, its freshness, its magic– in a way you never have before.

The only limitations on you are the ones you’ve placed on yourself. Your prison has been of your own making. Don’t blame or chastise yourself. Life has created certain challenges for you. The purpose has been to set you free, to provide you with lessons, experiences, circumstances that would trigger growth and healing. Life has been provoking, promoting, urging you to grow, stretch, learn, heal. Life has been trying to break you out of your prison.

Set yourself free. Let yourself go on a journey of love. Take notes. Be present. Experience. Learn. Love and laugh, and cry when you need to. Rest when you’re tired. Take a flashlight to help you see in the dark. But most of all, take yourself and go.

Go on your journey of joy.

– Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart

The Marriage of the Princess and the Dragon

December 30th, 2010

The Dragon and the Princess

Because of the mishaps of her parents, a young princess named Aris must be betrothed to a fearful dragon. When the king and queen tell her she becomes frightened for her life. But recovering her wits, she goes out beyond the market to seek a wise woman, who has raised twelve children and twenty-nine grandchildren and knows the ways of dragons and Men.

The wise woman tells Aris that she indeed must marry the dragon, but that there are proper ways to approach him. She then gives instructions for the wedding night. In particular, the princess is bidden to wear ten beautiful gowns, one on top of the other.

The wedding takes place. A feast is held in the palace, after which the dragon carries the princess of to his bed chamber. When the dragon advances towards his bride, she stops him, saying that she must carefully remove her wedding attire before offering her heart to him. And he too, she adds (instructed by the wise women), must properly remove his attire. To this he willingly agrees.

“As I take off each layer of my gown, you must also remove a layer.” Then, taking off the first gown, the princess watches as the dragon sheds his outer layer of scaly armour. Though it is painful, the dragon has done this periodically before. But then the princess removes another gown, and then another. Each time the dragon finds he too must claw off a deeper layer of scales. By the fifth gown the dragon begins to weep copious tears at the pain. Yet the princess continues.

With each successive layer the dragon’s skin becomes more tender and his form softens. He becomes lighter and lighter. When the princess removes her tenth gown, the dragon releases the last vestige of dragon form and emerges as a man, a fine prince whose eyes sparkle like a child’s, released at last from the ancient spell of his dragon form. Princess Aris and her new husband are then left to the pleasures of their bridal chamber, to fulfil the last advice of the wise women with twelve children and twenty nine grandchildren.

As in a dream, all the figures in such a story can be found within us. We find the scaly dragon and the attending princess, the wise grandmother, the irresponsible king and queen, the hidden prince, and the unknown one who cast his enchantment long ago.

What this story reveals from the start is that the journey is not about going into the light. The forces of our human history and entanglement are tenacious and powerful. The path to inner freedom requires passing through them. Receiving grace, opening to illumination, becoming wise has not been easy even for the masters. It is described as a difficult purification: cleansing, letting go, and stripping away. Suzuki Roshi called it a “general house cleaning of the mind.”

It is painful to cast of our own scales, and the dragons guiding the way are fierce. It requires the inspiration of angels; it requires diving into the ocean of tears.”

via The Marriage of the Princess and the Dragon-A Dharma Story « Metta Refuge.

The Dance of Awareness

October 4th, 2010

Awareness in life is not hoping you learn to dance — it is recognizing that you already are dancing. Life is the dancer, you are the dance.

2004:

It is true that being aware of how things happen makes one’s words more potent and one’s behavior more effective. But even without the light of consciousness, people grow and improve. Being unconscious is not a crime; it is merely a lack of a very helpful ability.

Knowing how things work gives the leader more real power and ability than all the degrees or titles the world can offer. That is why people in every era and in every culture have honored those who know how things happen.”Tao of Leadership

When I first started blogging about the Tao back in 2004, I was at the beginning of developing my full sense of awareness. But of course developing awareness isn’t something you can ever really finish; it is always a continuing process. Some moments allow us to be more present and aware than others, some people in our lives allow us to be more present with them than do others. This summer I had the amazing experience of being with a friend where we were both totally and completely aware with each other over several days, and it was a life changing experience for both of us.

I can still find it difficult to be around those who lack awareness, as I said when I posted this in 2004. I am pretty forgiving most of the time, though, and see it as a way to practice loving kindness towards those who are less aware. I often take the bodhisatva path of trying to wake others up, and walk with them for a while, but I usually revert to Tao eventually and am content to simply walk my own path.

2005:

Too many people seem to walk through their lives in a daze, not aware of what is going on around them at all, lost in their concerns over what has happened or will happen. We all need to be awake and aware to the possibilities of the Now –- and the consequences to the future of lacking that awareness.

I blogged a great deal about Tao in 2005, including most of Deng Ming Dao’s wonderful 365 Tao, which I sometimes give to friends who are in conflict. I have a good friend who is reading this right now, and I think it is beginning to help her. I credit this book with helping me the most with my own personal inner changes. If you want to see my real changes, it is in the contrast between the posts from that book and the political articles I was posting. In that year, I felt all the anger I had felt over our country’s situation shift into taking action to do something to change things. I worked a lot on political issues, but lost the anger I had felt and let it shift into movement. I began to understand that Tao is not only about acceptance of what is, but using the power of Tao to help create new or different situations. We are not helpless victims, we are the creators of our own world.

2006:

A person with true self-acceptance is “a person with full awareness of self in body, mind and spirit. This person’s center of consciousness (Hsing – “Heart Flower”) is in full bloom, ready to receive power from above, openly relating to and being reflected by others.”

It may seem clever to know and accept others
Yet accepting oneself is the way to Wisdom.
It may feel powerful to overcome others
Yet disciplining oneself is true Strength.
It may be noble to honor others
Yet respecting oneself is deep self-esteem.

Tao Mentoring

It has taken me a long time to fully learn to accept myself as I am. And it is a process I’ve repeated many times over. Each time I come to believe I finally accept myself, I find something I still want to improve. Meeting this balance between accepting myself as I am and knowing that I have even more room to grow is always interesting. It means not being complacent with where I am at, but always knowing there is more to know, more to see and feel and do, and that is ok.

But I think the key is really respect. Self-respect is not simply about accepting who you are right at this moment, but also respecting yourself enough to continually challenge yourself. Not allowing yourself to become complacent, thinking you are already the best you can be, but knowing there is more you can do and always being ready to learn and grow and change, truly opening yourself to the possibilities of life that are all around you.

This was one of my favorite posts, and one I return to often. I truly believe the key to being able to help others lies in acceptance of ourselves. In 2006, I developed the ability to really create change through simply being myself. I also blogged a lot about art journaling, and using art as a means to learn about yourself and perhaps visually see the inner processes that are usually hidden within us. It was a very helpful time for me, opening me up to new experiences and ideas and a great community of art bloggers.

2007:

We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips we lay on ourselves never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of the eye from being fully awake.” — Pema Chodron, Start From Where You Are

In 2007, I blogged about yoga, including Rolf Gates’ wonderful “Meditations from the Mat”, and Buddhism, including much of the wonderful Pema Chodron . I spent a lot of time exploring different paths, but still found Tao to be the one that I kept returning to (well, return is the way of the Tao…) I did a lot of traveling and exploring, worked a great deal on politics, and really felt that our political community was moving towards creating change.

2009:

How much of the day are you aware -– just basically aware of what life is presenting -– rather than being lost in waking sleep, in being identified with whatever you’re doing, almost as if you didn’t exist?

To what extent do you blindly drift from one form of comfort to another, from one daydream or fantasy to another, from one secure place to another, in order to avoid the anxious quiver of discomfort or insecurity? How much of your energy is used to fortify a particular self-image, or to simply please others in order to gain approval, instead of devoting your energy to living a genuine life?” — At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos Ezra Bayda

Oh soul,
you worry too much.

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

Jalal ad-Din Rumi

For me, spiritual growth has come in strange ways and from strange places, and I think that is how authentic spiritual growth progresses, from within, as we turn through the limits of our own being and try to become more. We find ourselves turning again and again within the limited space of ourselves, and finally realize that there is an enormous amount of space outside of ourselves. We then create mobius strips and Klein bottles, trying to bring this outside space within ourselves, an impossible task at first. We see the beautiful poetry of Rumi as he struggles with spirituality, the magnificent stories and tales of mythology, religion, and literature, all trying to move in these same paths.

And then one day, a small hummingbird sits in front of your nose, flapping its wings, and looks at you curiously, or you gaze into a flower and finally really see it, or someone says something that catches your ear and your mind at just the right moment, or a quiet meditation brings you to the place within yourself that just knows, simply knows, and you smile. You get it. You get that Mona Lisa smile on your face and just — become yourself.

And it happens over and over. We find ourselves, we lose ourselves, we find ourselves again, at another place on the spiral. The helixes divide, and come back together. And life goes on.

2009 for me was about realizing “there is nothing to achieve” — we are already within ourselves everything we want to be or could hope to be. Everything else is just ego. It’s the point where I really became comfortable in my own skin, even as I watch that skin age.

And then — my wonderful friend came along and exploded my world again with this question:

“How open to change are you?”

My boat strikes something deep.
At first, sounds of silence, waves.
Nothing has happened;
Or perhaps everything has happened
And I am sitting in my new life.
-– Rumi

2010:

Dogen reminds us that to raise the mind of compassionate awakening is none other than the whole of daily activity with no concern for one’s self, no thought of outcome, no sense of self-gratification. It means that whatever is, is the best that there is at this moment. Just this, wholly this, only this.

Engaging in the Way, in the life of continuous practice, means that we are constantly awakening with each new moment. Awakening is not a single event in time. Rather it is a continuous event through time. Basho wrote: Let me be called a traveler. He did not mention any destination. Just a traveler.”
- Joan Halifax via Whiskey River

“Being present in the motion, moment after moment, provides that secret chamber of awareness and gives the writer the chance to notice what is passing by before it is gone.” — Richard R. Powell, Wabi Sabi for Writers

So you may have noticed a lack of posting here lately. Well, much of my work has moved elsewhere on the Internet — into Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr — but much of me is now just off living my life, living in awareness, being where I am and with who I am with and doing whatever I am doing, but always Being. I made a vision board a year or so ago with the words “Go. Do. Be” on it, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I keep growing, moving, changing, becoming, being. Others may notice, or not, it doesn’t matter. I may change the world, or those around me, or not, it doesn’t matter. What matters, for all of us, is Awareness and Being.

That’s all there is, really. The rest is ego. Life dances. You are the dance, not the dancer.

Beauty

September 1st, 2010

“This is the spirit that Beauty must ever induce, wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight. For the unseen all this may be felt as for the seen; and this the Souls feel for it, every soul in some degree, but those the more deeply that are the more truly apt to this higher love- just as all take delight in the beauty of the body but all are not stung as sharply, and those only that feel the keener wound are known as Lovers.

These Lovers, then, lovers of the beauty outside of sense, must be made to declare themselves.

What do you feel in presence of the grace you discern in actions, in manners, in sound morality, in all the works and fruits of virtue, in the beauty of souls? When you see that you yourselves are beautiful within, what do you feel? What is this Dionysiac exultation that thrills through your being, this straining upwards of all your Soul, this longing to break away from the body and live sunken within the veritable self?

These are no other than the emotions of Souls under the spell of love.”

— — Plotinus, The Enneads

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???

Eloquence

April 16th, 2010

“Eloquence is a painting of the thoughts.” — Blaise Pascal

“Not only is your story worth telling, but it can be told in words so painstakingly eloquent that it becomes a song.” — Gloria Naylor

“O, let my books be then the eloquence and dumb presages of my speaking breast.” — William Shakespeare

“True eloquence consists in saying all that should be said, and that only.” — François de la Rochefoucauld

“Silence is one great art of conversation. He is not a fool who knows when to hold his tongue; and a person may gain credit for sense, eloquence, wit, who merely says nothing to lessen the opinion which others have of these qualities in themselves.” — William Hazlitt

“Persuasive speech, and more persuasive sighs, Silence that spoke and eloquence of eyes.” — Homer

“In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and watch how the pattern improves.” ~Rumi

The Millions: In Our Parents’ Bookshelves

March 1st, 2010

With the Kindle you don’t know what the person next to you is reading, or how far along in it they are, or whether their copy of the book is dog-eared or brand new (because it’s neither).

One of the most prominent losses in this regard stands to be the loss of bookshelves. A chief virtue of digital books is said to be their economical size—they take up no space at all!—but even a megabyte seems bulky compared to what can be conveyed in the few cubic feet of a bookshelf. What other vessel is able to hold with such precision, intricacy, and economy, all the facets of your life: that you bake bread, vacationed in China, fetishize Melville, aspire to read Shakespeare, have coped with loss, and still tote around a copy of The Missing Piece as a totem of your childhood. And what by contrast can a Kindle tell you about yourself or say to those who visit your house? All it offers is blithe reassurance that there is progress in the world, and that you are a part of it.

Of the bookshelves I’ve inspected in my life, two stand out as particularly consequential. The first was my mother’s, which was built into the wall of the bedroom where she grew up. When I would visit my grandparents in the summer I would spend hours inspecting that bookshelf. The books were yellowed and jammed tightly together, as though my mother had known it was time to leave home once she no longer had any room left on her shelves. In the 1960s novels, the Victorian classics, and the freshman year sociology textbooks fossilized on the bookshelf, I got the clearest glimpse I ever had of my mother as a person who existed before me and apart from me, and whose inner life was as bottomless as I knew my own to be.

And then there was my wife, whose bookshelves I first inspected in a humid DC summer, while her parents were away at work. The shelves were stuffed full of novels—Little House on the Prairie, The Andromeda Strain, One Hundred Years of Solitude—that described an arc of discovery I had followed too. At the time we met, her books still quivered from recent use and still radiated traces of the adolescent wonder they’d prompted. In the years since, on visits home for the holidays and to celebrate engagements and births, I’ve watched her bookshelves dim and settle. Lately they’ve begun to resemble a type of monument I recognize from my mother’s room. They sit there waiting for the day when our son will be old enough to spend his own afternoons puzzling out a picture of his mother in the books she left behind.

It remains to be seen how many more generations will have the adventure of getting to know their parents in just this way. One for sure, and maybe two, but not much beyond that I wouldn’t think. To the extent that bookshelves persist, it will be in self-conscious form, as display cases filled with only the books we valued enough to acquire and preserve in hard copy. The more interesting story, however, the open-ended, undirected progression of a life defined by books will surely be lost to a digital world in which there is no such thing as time at all.

via The Millions: In Our Parents’ Bookshelves.

I love books, and love to walk in other people’s homes and see packed bookshelves — it lets me know we have much in common. Why do we need huge TVs and no books? The comfort of a real book is something I never want to lose, and the mass of them on my shelves makes me feel I am at home.

Insurmountable opportunities

February 21st, 2010

“We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.” — Walt Kelly, “Pogo”

“There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.” — Kin Hubbard

“Imaginary obstacles are insurmountable. Real ones aren’t. But you can’t tell the difference when you have no real information. Fear can create even more imaginary obstacles than ignorance can. That’s why the smallest step away from speculation and into reality can be an amazing relief. ” — Barbara Sher

I’ve been confronted with many insurmountable opportunities lately to find new information and do new things, visit new facilities for pet therapy work, explore new people, etc. It’s been a distracting year so far but a fun one. I’m really hoping to get back to a more regular blogging schedule though.

Luminous

February 13th, 2010

You are you. But somewhere deep down you want to become a Buddha or a Jesus and then you go around in a circle that will be unending. Just see the point of it — you are you. And the whole, or existence, wants you to be you.

That’s why existence has created you, otherwise it would have created a different model. It wanted you to be here at this moment. It did not want Jesus to be here in place of you. And existence knows better. The whole always knows better than the part.

So just accept yourself, If you can accept yourself, you have learned the greatest secret of life, and then everything comes on its own. Just be yourself.

There is no need to pull yourself up; there is no need to be a different height from what you are already. There is no need to have another face. Simply be as you are, and in deep acceptance of it, and a flowering will happen and you will go on becoming more and more yourself.

Once you drop the idea of becoming somebody, there is no tension. Suddenly all tension disappears. You are here, luminous in this moment. And there is nothing else to do but to celebrate and enjoy. — Everyday Osho

“To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself.” — Mark Twain

“A book should be luminous not voluminous.” — Christian Nevell Bovee

“The dancer’s body is simply the luminous manifestation of the soul.” — Isadora Duncan

“Life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning” — Virginia Woolf

“It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it.” — Arthur Conan Doyle

“Words become luminous when the poet’s finger has passed over them its phosphorescence.” — Joseph Joubert

“There is then creative reading as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In some photographs the essence of light and space dominate; in others, the substance of rock and wood, and the luminous insistence of growing things…” — Ansel Adams

“Thou dost not know thy own destiny and dost not know that it gets its worth from thee — otherwise the luminous ruby is only a piece of stone.” — Muhammad Iqbal

“Painting is by nature a luminous language.” — Robert Delaunay

“Strange to say, the luminous world is the invisible world; the luminous world is that which we do not see. Our eyes of flesh see only night.” — Victor Hugo

“Our dreams are luminous, a cast fire upon the world.
Morning arrives and that’s it.
Sunlight darkens the earth.”
— Charles Wright

“Luminous is this mind, brightly shining, but it is colored by the attachments that visit it. This unlearned people do not really understand, and so do not cultivate the mind. Luminous is this mind, brightly shining, and it is free of the attachments that visit it. This the noble follower of the way really understands; so for them there is cultivation of the mind.” — Anguttara Nikaya

Fueki Ryuko

February 9th, 2010

Fueki Ryuko — ‘Constancy and change.’ The enduring patterns in the ever changing stream of nature. Sometimes understood to be the eternal truths that poets try to communicate.

permanence and change“,
synthesis between tradition and innovation
Fueki Ryuko 不易流行(ふえきりゅうこう)

fuga no makoto is a result or product of the dynamism of two colliding forces: fueki ryuko, which is another important teaching of Basho.
Fueki simply means “no change” and refers to values of a permanent and enduring nature.

Ryuko, on the other hand, means “changing fashions of the time” and refers to newness, innovation, originality or unconventional values that would break with old ways in a revolutionary manner.

For instance, Beethoven created new and innovative music, ushering in a new age and setting a new trend. However, he did not do so without first having been steeped in classical music of an old tradition. Thus he had fueki ryuko and left legacy of permanent value.
None of us is Beethoven, but all of us can become a little Beethoven! Fueki ryuko is an abbreviation of senzai-fueki ichiji-ryuko (eternal no-change and temporary fashion).

When fueki and ryuko collide and interact in a dynamic explosion of creative haiku writing, the result could be like a newly born baby taking after both parents but different from both. And there is a single ultimate value that lies beyond fueki ryuko, and that is nothing but fuga no makoto.

– Susumu Takiguchi

“”Fueki ryuko”… is one of the essential principles of what I call Basho’s dialectic poetics. It should be given much greater significance than was originally perceived. This is because it now applies to almost all aspects of modern Japan where the balance between fueki, or permanent values, and ryuko, or changes, is shaky. A similar situation is also seen elsewhere in the world.

The two words can be interpreted in more ways than one. Fueki, for instance, can represent unchanging tradition while ryuko can represent changing fashion. Since the two are contradictory there should be a kind of creative tension generated between them. This tension should keep haiku fresh, creative and interesting. If people cling to tradition and neglect newness (or atarashimi) inherent in fashion, then haiku could become stale, imitative and boring. If, on the other hand, people indulge in newness without tradition, haiku could become gimmicky, incomprehensible and nonsensical. Needless to say, fueki should be genuine fueki, and ryuko should be genuine ryuko. And here starts one of the most important arguments, “What makes fueki and ryuko genuine?”" — Susumu Takiguchi

When a haijin (a writer of haiku) writes a haiku about something wabi sabi she will often attempt to capture both its transient beauty and the abiding qualities within the beauty, what haiku masters in years past called, Fueki Ryuko. Such haiku stimulate feelings of favorable melancholy. The most successful haiku of this type produce a clarity of perception in which the reader sees the subject of the haiku for what it is. There is a release of any desire to repair or arrest the effects of time, experience, or age. Everything is just right the way it is, defects and all. — Richard R. Powell

More on fueki ryuko here.

Sharing Our Visions

February 6th, 2010

“Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” We can imagine that among those early hunters and warriors single individuals — one in a century? one in a thousand years? — saw what others did not; saw that the deer was beautiful as well as edible, that hunting was fun as well as necessary, dreamed that his gods might be not only powerful but holy. But as long as each of these percipient persons dies without finding a kindred soul, nothing (I suspect) will come of it; art or sport or spiritual religion will not be born. It is when two such persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumblings or with what would seem to us amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision — it is then that Friendship is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude… In this kind of love, as Emerson said, “Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth?” — Or at least, “Do you care about the same truth?” The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.” — C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

One of the formative lessons every writer (and editor) learns is that the adjective is the uranium-235 of language. Adjectives are to be treated as highly radioactive material: when used correctly, they can light up a city; used with laze, stupidity, and excess, they can turn you and your work into the artistic equivalent of Chernobyl. — Brian Donohue

It is well established that listening to action words such as lick, pick and kick activates the brain areas that control the tongue, hand and foot. Pulvermuller’s research goes a step farther, suggesting that the brain’s action system does more than respond to meaning — he believes that it contributes to it.

To test this theory, Pulvermuller ran a study in which he stimulated different parts of the action system using TMS while volunteers listened to tongue, hand and foot-related words. The level of TMS was enough to increase the neuronal activity, but not enough to knock out the region. He found that stimulating the hand region made people quicker to comprehend hand-related words, such as stitch and pick. The same was true for foot-related words, such as kick and run, when he stimulated the foot area of the brain. “We found it wasn’t just a one-way flow from the language system to the motor system. People actually use these brain areas to understand the word,” he said.

Showing that we use our “foot area” to know what “kicking” means may sound like a trivial advance. But it demonstrates scientifically what great writers have instinctively known all along: that we don’t just understand words, we feel them.

Words have effects, sometimes very physical effects. In sharing our visions of what we want our world to be like, in developing our friendships and other relationships, we have to consider the words we use with others and make sure they are the ones we intend. We also have to understand how others may be using their words to manipulate us. Remember that action words can strongly affect other people and that they affect you, too. If you want a peaceful, calm, Taoful world, then use peaceful, calm, Taoful words. And be aware when others are using words that create strong reactions in you. Realize you can control those reactions and think about your response before automatically becoming angry or annoyed. And that responding in a calm, peaceful way will change their responses to you in return.

The Way of Elegance

February 4th, 2010

“Something is elegant if it is two things at once: unusually simple and surprisingly powerful. One without the other leaves you short of elegant. And sometimes the “unusual simplicity” isn’t about what’s there, it’s about what isn’t. At first glance, elegant things seem to be missing something… Elegant ideas—products, services, performances, strategies, whatever—all have some degree of these four elements: symmetry, seduction, subtraction, and sustainability. ” — Matthew E. May

“For me, elegance is not to pass unnoticed but to get to the very soul of what one is.” — Christian Lacroix

“Be patient, do nothing, cease striving. We find this advice disheartening and therefore unfeasible because we forget it is our own inflexible activity that is structuring the reality. We think that if we do not hustle, nothing will happen and we will pine away. But the reality is probably in motion and after a while we might take part in that motion. But one can’t know.” — Paul Goodman, “Five Years: Thoughts During a Useless Time” via Whiskey River

“Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future.” — Coco Chanel

“Desires are many, needs are few. Needs can be fulfilled; desires, never. A desire is a need gone crazy. It is impossible to fulfill it. The more you try to fulfill it, the more it goes on asking, asking, asking….Once you start learning how to choose the peaceful, a small room is enough; a small quantity of food is enough; a few clothes are enough; one lover, a very ordinary man, can be enough of a lover.” — Osho, “Everyday Osho”

“Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one’s self?” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common – this is my symphony.” — William Channing

What if deep poetry flowed through your day-to-day life? What if writing that poetry was a path to enlightenment? Basho, the grandfather of haiku poetry, named this path, “the Way of Elegance” because it connects you to grace and fills your life with subtle beauty….

One of the key concepts on the way of elegance is “furyu.” Basho discovered in his life of reading and thinking and wandering and teaching and writing that all of these things contributed to Furyu which literally means “in the way of the wind and stream”. It is putting yourself in the traffic, launching yourself into the action, not necessarily as a player, but deliberately, as the eyes and ears and taste buds and sense of smell. Furyu is a powerful tool that shows you what you like, and also what you love.

When a person has followed the Way of Elegance for a while she reaches a state where all she wants is to attend to quality moments with focused acceptance. Such a stance is hard to amintain; her family and friends will push her to distraction, pressure her to be normal. If you see her in this situation, enter her sabi, show her your wabi. Encourage her to follow furyu with you.” — Richard R. Powell, “Wabi Sabi for Writers”

“Furyu” is composed of two characters meaning, “wind” and “flowing.” Like the moving wind, it can be sensed but not seen. It is both tangible and intangible in its suggested elegance. And like the wind, furyu points to a wordless ephemeral beauty that can only be experienced in the moment, for in the next instant it will dissolve like the morning mist.

“The simplicity of wabi-sabi is best described as the state of grace arrived at by a sober, modest, heartfelt intelligence. The main strategy of this intelligence is economy of means. Pare down to the essence, but don’t remove the poetry. Keep things clean and unencumbered, but don’t sterilize. (Things that are wabi-sabi are emotionally warm, never cold.) Usually this implies a limited palette of materials. It also means keeping conspicuous features to a minimum. But it doesn’t mean removing the invisible connective tissue that somehow binds the elements into a meaningful whole.” — Leonard Koren, “Wabi-sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers”

As a human being, I can only say that the future is yet to be made. Let us go forth and make it, but let us make it as beautifully as we can. The degree of elegance is determined by our will and the perfection of our own personalities. — Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Literate

January 14th, 2010

Literature builds literate people who take inspiration from what they read and echo back strains of other authors’ beauty in their own writing. In this way, we have an ongoing song woven of books and thoughts and ideas that resonate with chords of insights, like a great opus of language rising to crescendos, subsiding into harmonies, and pulsing onward with the bright sound of synergy.” — Richard R. Powell, Wabi Sabi for Writers

Those who can read the patterns of life are the truly cultured.

Every person who has followed Tao has been a person of culture and refinement. Not only does Tao require study and intelligence, but it also demands the subtle mind of a sensitive person. You will not find that type of mind in the unthinking brute or the insensitive lout.

The wen person is someone who can read not just human language, but the languages of nature as well. There are patterns and secrets throughout the world — the rings of trees, and tracks of animals, and the traces of water down the sides of a valley are as clear as any scripture. The person who follows Tao does not blindly go through life, but is able to read it on every level. Those who follow Tao are those who know the many languages of life.

A person who can read literature in this extended sense cannot help but develop great character. After all, to follow Tao requires patience in adversity, great compassion, and understanding of the balance between action and stillness. We all need to experience more and more, strive to know life on deeper and deeper levels, and give consideration to all that happens to us. Such understanding must be ongoing, and those who revel in wen never tire of exploring what is around them. They always read the patterns of life.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao