January 2nd, 2010

All great discoveries are made by amateurs.

It always happens that when you start new work, you are very creative, you are deeply involved, your whole being is in it. Then by and by, as you become acquainted with the territory, rather than being inventive and creative you start being repetitive. This is natural, because the more skilled you become in any work, the more repetitive you become. Skill is repetitive.

So all great discoveries are made by amateurs, because a skilled person has too much at stake. If something new happens, what will happen to the old skill? The person has learned for years and now has become an expert. So experts never discover anything; they never go beyond the limit of their expertise. On the one hand, they become more and more skillful, and on the other hand they become more and more dull and the work seems to be a drag, now there is nothing new that can be a thrill to them –- they already know what is going to happen, they know what they are going to do; there is no surprise in it.

So here is the lesson: It is good to attain to skill, but it is not good to settle with it forever. Whenever the feeling arises in you that now the thing is looking stale, change it. Invent something, add something new, delete something old. Again be free from the pattern -– that means be free from the skill –- again become an amateur it needs courage and guts, to become an amateur again, but that’s how life becomes beautiful.

Everyday Osho — 365 Daily meditations for the here and now by Osho

A great painting, drawing, photograph, sculpture, or tapestry, can profoundly stir our emotions, heighten our perceptions, and stimulate our imagination—often inspiring us to create our own works of art. Contemplating works of art, then, is an excellent way for writers to pique their aesthetic perceptions. Images powerfully rendered—think of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco, “God and Adam,” or Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”—seize our attention, heighten our fascination with the subject that so fascinated the artist. For Michelangelo it was God’s paradoxical nature as both transcendent power and a compassionate parent, not just to Adam but to all humankind: the mortal hand almost touches the Almighty one; actual contact would have constituted idolatry. For Munch, the distinction between subjective and objective reality collapses in this moment of primal, nightmarish fear: reality is what our minds—awake or asleep or somewhere in-between, make of it.

A work of art presents a vision of nature or a statement of the human condition. A painter or sculptor uses images to embody ideas and experiences much as a writer uses words for the same purpose. Art—whether it employs paint or clay, sounds or words—transforms the abstractions of human experience into shapes that can be readily apprehended by the senses. The Daily Writer by Fred White

An interesting contrast here between the thought of being an amateur and also contemplating the work of experts (great works of art).

An amateur is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science, without formal training or pay. An amateur receives little or irregular income from their activities, and differs from a professional who makes a living from the pursuit and typically has some formal training and certifications in the domain. Translated from its French origin to the English “lover”, the term “amateur” reflects a voluntary motivation to work as a result of personal interest in the activity.

What strikes me the most is that amateur derives from the word love, so the real trick here is loving your work. Even experts can find new things in their work if they truly love what they are doing. Osho’s point of looking for something new within the work, looking at it with an amateur’s eyes, a lover’s eyes, keeps the familiar from becoming stale. A lot of times when I feel stuck, I start looking around to see where there there is something I love, be it a nearby object, person, or project, and I find a new source of inspiration. And if I find I’m no longer loving something, an outfit I’ve tired of, a possession I don’t care for so much any longer, then it is time to let that thing go.

I think this is also the attraction of a new love — we are looking at the world with different eyes, with our lover’s eyes, and seeing the world, and ourselves, in a new way through their eyes. This becomes tremendously exciting, and then we are swept away into a new world full of possibilities we hadn’t considered before. Our existing life begins to seem stale, but then we find we can incorporate those new things into the existing patterns, change them up until they feel new again and fresh.

I hope you can look at your world with an amateur’s eyes today, a lover’s eyes, and see it as the masterpiece it truly is. And if you don’t like what you see, that you can have the courage to change it up and make it what you want.


January 1st, 2010

Travelling Light.jpg

The moment you are illuminated, the whole of existence is illuminated. If you are dark, then the whole of existence is dark. It all depends on you.

There are a thousand and one fallacies about meditation prevalent all around the world. Meditation is very simple: It is nothing but consciousness. It is not chanting, it is not using mantra or a rosary. These are hypnotic methods. They can give you a certain kind of rest — nothing is wrong with that rest; if one is just trying to relax, it is perfectly good. Any hypnotic method can be helpful, but if one wants to know the truth, then it is not enough.

Meditation simply means transforming your unconsciousness into consciousness. Normally only one-tenth of our mind is conscious, and nine-tenths is unconscious. Just a small part of our mind, a thin layer, has light; otherwise the whole house is in darkness. And the challenge is to grow that small light so much that the whole house is flooded with light, so that not even a nook or corner is left in the darkness.

When the whole house is full of light, then life is a miracle; it has the quality of magic. Then it is no longer ordinary– everything becomes extraordinary. The mundane is transformed into the sacred, and the small things of life start having such tremendous significance that one could not have ever imagined it. Ordinary stones look as beautiful as diamonds; the whole of existence becomes illuminated. The moment you are illuminated, the whole of existence is illuminated. If you are dark, then the whole of existence is dark. It all depends on you.

Everyday Osho — 365 Daily meditations for the here and now by Osho

Writing can be a deeply fulfilling spiritual experience, as well as an intellectual and artistic one. Consider: You are using words to convey your deepest thoughts and feelings, either to yourself by way of a diary, to your loved ones through letters, or to the whole world through poems, stories, essays, reportage, plays. Regardless of genre, you are wielding that most powerful, mind- and spirit-enhancing tool that civilization has ever invented, the tool of language, and you are doing so in ways that illuminate people’s lives, sometimes improving their lives in practical ways, while at the same time aesthetically delighting them.

The Daily Writer, Fred White

These are the two books I’ll be meditating on and blogging about this year. If you’ve read the blog for long, you’ve seen the 365 Tao series I wrote in 2005. Writing that series of posts changed my life into a deeply spiritual Tao-based way of existence. I’m sure these books will make their own changes in my life as well, and I hope in yours as you read my posts here.

May 2010 be the beginning of a new decade that is brighter and more illuminating for us all.


August 23rd, 2009

Haven’t been writing much, so just wanted to get some thoughts down today. I’ve felt a bit uptight and anxious ever since being on jury duty, which threw me out of my routines and also required some heavy thinking. I overheard a conversation between the witness and the defendant’s family out of court, and so had myself excused from the case. I spent a lot of time deciding that was the right thing to do, but still felt a bit bad about it, as if I had somehow shirked my duty. In the end I’m sure it was the right thing, since it so strongly affected how I felt about the case, and there was a possible life sentence involved, so I would have had to feel pretty sure about things to be on that jury.

Anyway, it was quite difficult to be my usual calm and inspirational self when I was going through all of that. I shy away from discussing my personal problems and foibles here much anymore, since I did so much of that the first couple of years I wrote here, and then spent much of the Bush years bitching about politics. These days my thoughts turn more to the philosophical, the uplifting, and always the return to the Tao. But turmoil and upheaval are a part of life and the Tao as well, and the darker side of our lives and thoughts cannot be simply ignored, even if they are harder to face at times and require more effort.

As my family returns to school and work, and my time frees up once again for myself, I expect I will get back to my meditation and writing and have a bit more to say. There is a new stack of books here next to me which look like interesting reading and blog material. Older books are being sent on their way through Paperbackswap, which is a great service if you aren’t already using it. I am a great fan of reuse and this is one of the best services available online for trading books.

I am also posting on Facebook, although the format there limits one to little more than trivialities, quick thoughts and photos. I’m enjoying following friends’ travels and adventures, and occasionally there are moments of real connection. Haven’t succumbed to Twitter yet, but who knows. I still don’t feel these social networking tools provide the depth of what one can do with a blog post, but they seem to do a nice job of providing the feeling of connection, if not the depth. For me, that is never quite enough, but the intensity of my feelings and connections runs pretty deep, and tends to be what gets me into trouble. So perhaps a lighter means of communication is good for me anyway.

But I find this shallowness interferes with the depths of my thoughts, and I miss that. So I do intend to write more here again, perhaps moving more into an exploration of the darker side of my thoughts again.

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one sees the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source
but differ in name; this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.

– Tao Te Ching One


June 25th, 2009

“He thought intelligence a function of the individual and that groups of persons were intelligent in inverse proportion to their size. Nations had the brains of an amoeba whereas a committee approached the condition of a trainable moron.”

–  John Updike, in his story “Bech Swings”

“It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.” — Arthur C. Clarke

“I would like to take you seriously, but to do so would be an affront to your intelligence.”
– George Bernard Shaw

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun”
– Pablo Picasso

“Intelligence is the ability to avoid doing work, yet getting the work done”
– Linus Torvalds

“Intelligence is not to make no mistakes, but quickly to see how to make them good.”
– Bertolt Brecht

“I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing.”
– Socrates

“The intellect is not a serious thing, and never has been. It is an instrument on which one plays, that is all.”
– Oscar Wilde

“Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun.” — George Scialabra

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.”
– Tao Te Ching


April 21st, 2009

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

– Tao Te Ching, 64

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reading in San Francisco

March 24th, 2009

“The great thing about collecting words is they’re free; you can borrow them, trade them in, or toss them out. Words are lightweight, unbreakable, portable, and they’re everywhere.”

Poemcrazy, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge

Garden writing is often very tame, a real waste when you think how opinionated, inquisitive, irreverent and lascivious gardeners themselves tend to be. Nobody talks much about the muscular limbs, dark, swollen buds, strip-tease trees and unholy beauty that have made us all slaves of the Goddess Flora. ~Ketzel Levine

Off to the SF MOMA! I can see it from my hotel window right now. I also overlook the Yerba Buena Gardens, which are gorgeous. Pics later, maybe (forgot to bring the computer cable, duh.) Also very tired from shopping yesterday, and hardly bought a thing. But had a good time, anyway. I did get a cute litte tiny Japanese-made notebook with a neko (cat) on it, which will be handy for collecting words. Here’s my poem from yesterday afternoon while sitting at the Samovar Tea Lounge drinking Schizandra Berry Herbal Infusion Tea and eating cracked wheat rooibos shortbread, a lavender butter cookie, and an oat crumble

Samovar Tea Lounge
In Yerba Buena Gardens
Berry Tea and Cookies!


February 9th, 2009

“In nobler books we are moved with something like the emotions of life; and this emotion is very variously provoked. We are so moved when Levine labours in the field, when Andre sinks beyond emotion, when Richard Feverel and Lucy Desborough meet beside the river, when Antony, “not cowardly, puts off his helmet,” when Kent has infinite pity on the dying Lear, when, in Dostoieffky’s “Despised and Rejected”, the uncomplaining hero drains his cup of suffering and virtue. These are notes that please the great heart of man. Not only love, and the fields, and the bright face of danger, but sacrifice and death and unmerited suffering humbly supported, touch in us the vein of the poetic. We love to think of them, we long to try them, we are humbly hopeful that we may prove heroes also. ”
Robert Louis Stevenson

All parts of ourselves both give and receive. They function on a principle of reciprocity inherent in their very character. If our senses are so noble, shouldn’t we be as well? ”

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. ”
– Dead Poet’s Society

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

“Academic chairs are many, but wise and noble teachers are few; lecture-rooms are numerous and large, but the number of young people who genuinely thirst after truth and justice is small.”
— Albert Einstein

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. ~Lin Yutang

“There is no more noble occupation in the world than to assist another human being – to help someone succeed”
– Alan Loy McGinnis

“Dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education; dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen?”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

“We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.” — Abraham Lincoln

“Safeguarding the rights of others is the most noble and beautiful end of a human being.”
– Kahlil Gibran

“When a work lifts your spirits and inspires bold and noble thoughts in you, do not look for any other standard to judge by: the work is good, the product of a master craftsman” — Jean de la Bruyere

“All that is noble is in itself of a quiet nature, and appears to sleep until it is aroused and summoned forth by contrast.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.” — Dodie Smith

“In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge. The young they keep out of mischief; to the old they are a comfort and aid in their weakness, and those in the prime of life they incite to noble deeds.”
– Aristotle

OK, people, go do some noble deeds now!!

I’m off to a hot shower…