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.

Meditation Garden — Inspirations

January 7th, 2011

meditation garden from http://www.talesoftheearth.com/

Because of their abilities to heal, sacred landscapes provide inspiration for the design of gardens in therapeutic health-care environments. Gardens designed for contemplation and healing are likely to be most effective and responsive to the needs of its users when the elements of the sacred landscape are applied. The following design elements constitute such a landscape:


Being of favorable context -
it is sited to take advantage of positive attributes,
and mitigate negative effects
receiving auspicious life-forces
given by the earth, sun and moon;
It is contained – a distinctive form in space,
a distinct space surrounded by form;
It is coherent – clearly defined and ordered
to help things make sense;
It is composed – enabling one to pay attention;
It has clarity – made simple in format
to help develop concentration and insight.
It is an artistic expression of contemplation -
quiet and light inside,
enabling one to listen to the heart sing.

Being of favorable context, the sacred landscape is located in an auspicious setting. It mitigates potentially negative effects, and takes advantage of the environmental attributes of its location, gifts offered by the earth, waters and skies, the sun, moon and stars.


“At a true site…there is a touch of magic and light.
How so, magic?
Here the breath gathers and the essence collects.
Light shines in the middle and magic goes out on all sides.
Try to understand!
It is hard to describe!”

So, I’m thinking of turning an available space in my back yard into a meditation garden… anyone have interesting inspirations, ideas for what should go into a meditation garden space, etc? I’m thinking California natives for the plants, and looking for good ideas for seating, lighting, arranging the space, etc… all thoughts, ideas, comments, photos of nice spaces, etc welcome!

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.

Meditation

August 20th, 2010

Getting into some new meditation CDs and doing some guided meditations — anyone have any favorites that have been good for you?

Shrutam Deva Maya Sarvam

March 18th, 2010
shiva-parvati-side0r

Make a practice of meditating on the joy you feel when you think of someone you love. This is your personal gateway to ananda. Each person you love or have loved is a doorway to the divine. When you think of them, it is as if you are thinking a mantra, a name of God. When you unite with them, even by cherishing their memory in your heart, you are practicing a kind of bhakti, love yoga.

Dogs are masters of this dharana. When a dog sees someone they love, they don’t hold back. They levitate with bliss, it rises in them and they leap. Lately, part of my practice has been to meditate on the uninhibited joy dogs express. Teachers are everywhere in our environment, and in the connections we have with all other living beings. Who are your teachers?

Morning Inspirations

March 4th, 2010

“If your spiritual aspirations produce socially beneficial qualities in you such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then they can be considered something more that a mere psychological defense. In contrast, if you are overcome by qualities such as impatience, distractibility, impulsiveness, demandingness, conflict, discord, and scorn for others, then you are growing weeds, not fruit.”
- Raymond Richmond (via Mike Garafalo)

I think I’ve been a bit distractible and impatient lately.Time to get back to patience and self-control for a while…..

“If you make room for the energy you wish to bring into your life, there is a much better chance of receiving it. Make a space at your table, both literally and metaphorically. Expect the fulfillment of your heart’s desire, and let your home reflect it.” — Beth Owl’s Daughter

I like this thought — that I ought to make room in my life for what I would like to show up in it. Not so much law of attraction, but just to clear the space for what I want in my life. Plus I enjoy physically clearing space when I’m trying to create new things. We just took out our front lawn in anticipation of putting in a more drought-tolerant, native landscape. So here we are actually clearing the space for something new to come into our lives.

“The symbolism we encounter in art and in our dreams serves to bridge the individual to the universal., the microcosm of our inner life to the macrocosm of existence… Symbolism adds to the beauty and the mystery of art and life. It captures the essence of our experiences. ” — Fred White, The Daily Writer

This gets to something that I encounter a lot — how to explain the things I am thinking to other people in a way that is universally understandable. So much of our individual experience is only relevant to our own lives, or the lives of those close to us, to the touchstones we have created for ourselves. To make those experiences understandable to others, we need a language or symbology we can use to translate it for other people.

Sometimes the imagery of religion or spirituality is confused with some mundane reality, and people get frustrated that they don’t have those exotic experiences that others describe. But many times, the reality is that the metaphorical language or symbols actually describe a rather common experience that anyone might feel, and people think they are missing it only because they didn’t get that particular symbol, like missing a joke because you don’t understand it.

The trick is to elevate this experience to an artistic level, rather than just the mundane level. It may not reach as many people as describing it in mundane terms, but it becomes a more enriching and transcending experience because of the symbology. We want to understand the everyday, but we also want to be inspired by the extraordinary. When you truly see the extraordinary in the everyday, your entire life is elevated to that new spiritual level. What great artists try to do is to inspire that experience in others, so that they too can “get” that the everyday is actually the spiritual experience. Georgia O’Keefe didn’t paint flowers, she painted her experience when looking at flowers.

Conduit

December 9th, 2009


Wassily Kandinsky. The Blue Mountain


Marietta Ganapin. Untitled (Blue Mountain by Vasily Kandinsky), 2004 Paper collage

Both yoga and art aim at the same thing, that is, to re-establish our personal connection with the world around us according to our own inner creativity. To render body and mind a conduit through which the creative energy can flow freely, unimpeded by outer restrictions, in the trust that this energy, being a part of the universal energy, is ultimately pure and joyful. — Dona Halleman

This is the work of sauca, “to render body and mind a conduit through which the creative energy can flow freely”. It is a noble endeavor. The asanas do much of the work for us.They cleanse the organs, the central nervous system, and the mind, while strengthening the muscular-skeletal system. Much can be accomplished through the asanas, but not all. For each of us, sauca is a journey of discovery. What works for you? Dairy, no dairy; meat, no meat; lots of sunshine, very little sun; lots of stimulation, or quiet solitude; long ambles, or power walks. We each find our own way to health and balance. Once again, we are on the path that leads to truth, and the means for determining the truth is our own individual experience. What practices render you a conduit through which the creative energy can flow freely? — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat.

Marietta Ganapin is an avid museum and gallery visitor, and her relationship to specific works of art is highly personal and reverential. Her creative method is an expression of her spiritual connection to artwork that she loves. After having viewed the work of art–whether a painting, a sculpture, or decorative object–many times, she then gathers scores or even hundreds of gift-shop postcards or museum brochures which reproduce it. Using a hand-held hole punch and scissors, Ganapin creates a palette of color, pattern and form by repeatedly cutting specific areas of the reproduced image. These hole punches and cut-outs are then used as the building blocks of her designs. With great care and attention to detail, the artist transforms these elements into intricately detailed mandalas. At first, the viewer is dazzled by the obsessive and precise execution in these colorful and beautiful works. Slowly, recognizable details from the source material reveal themselves: a shank of hair in Roy Lichtenstein’s Stepping Out reads as a yellow arabesque in the concentric composition; the eyes and lips of a statuette of the Egyptian god Amun become a ring of dimensional, abstracted forms within the inner rings of the mandala structure. Yet the resultant artworks transcend mere appropriation. Ganapin’s labor-intensive execution and reverence toward her subject parallels the devotional activity of a Buddhist monk creating a sand mandala. As Ganapin has noted, “A symbol of healing, wholeness, totality and spirituality, the mandala inspires contemplation and meditation. For me, what more fitting framework than that of the mandala in reinterpreting other works of art.”

Rational

July 2nd, 2009

berns_rational_thinking
The Myth of rational thinking

Greg Berns doesn’t want you to make a decision by yourself. He doesn’t trust you.

People don’t make rational decisions, he contends, and you are likely to muck it up. Don’t be offended by his reasoning, though. He says that there are biological reasons why we all get it wrong….

Economists had long assumed that with proper information or instruction, people would make good financial decisions, systematically and without emotion.

“We know from studies that people don’t make rational decisions,” Berns says. “The problem with economic models is that they assume a certain level of rationality by people, that people will maximize their benefits.”

Add into the mix that most of us don’t know that we are irrational, says Emory economist Monica Capra, who is a member of the center. People believe they themselves are rational, even if everyone else isn’t she says.

“The purely rational economic man is indeed close to being a social moron” — Amartya Sen, “Rational Fools”

“Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.” — Oscar Wilde

“Insanity — a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.” — R. D. Laing

“The human race is in such a dreadful state that no rational person can talk about it without resorting to seditious and obscene language” — Henry Louis Mencken

“It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.” — Bertrand Russell

“Of all the ways of defining man, the worst is the one which makes him out to be a rational animal.”
– Anatole France

The intellect is inherently dualistic. It makes distinctions and creates new connections between concepts and calls that “meaning.” This type of analytical thinking is extremely limited in the face of Tao, which is not fully rational, nor fully quantitative, not fully describable. Though most followers of Tao are learned, they also realize that the intellect is but one aspect in what must be a multifaceted approach to Tao.

It is said one must give up education, not because we should be dumb, but because we mut seek a level on consciousness beyond the intellect. We must study, but not to the point that emphasis on experience and meditation is lost. If we can combine the intellect and direct experience with out meditative mid, then there will be no barrier to the wordless perception of reality.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

The sage never tries to store things up.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.

– Tao Te Ching, Eighty-one

Moksa becomes relevant when one realizes that behind one’s struggle for security, artha, and pleasures, kama, is the basic human desire to be adequate, free from all incompleteness, and that no amount of security or pleasure achieves that goal. So when a mature person analyzes his experiences, he discovers that behind his pursuit of security and pleasure is a basic desire to be free from all insufficiency, to be free from incompleteness itself, a basic desire which no amount of artha and kamam fulfills. This realization brings a certain dispassion, nirveda, towards security and pleasures. The mature person gains dispassion towards his former pursuits and is ready to seek liberation, moksa, directly.

– Swami Dayananda Saraswati

Arete

April 10th, 2009

The most articulated value in Greek culture is areté. Translated as “virtue,” the word actually means something closer to “being the best you can be,” or “reaching your highest human potential.” The term from Homeric times onwards is not gender specific. Homer applies the term of both the Greek and Trojan heroes as well as major female figures, such as Penelope, the wife of the Greek hero, Odysseus. In the Homeric poems, areté is frequently associated with bravery, but more often, with effectiveness. The man or woman of areté is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties: strength, bravery, wit, and deceptiveness, to achieve real results. In the Homeric world, then, areté involves all of the abilities and potentialities available to humans.

[ since arete also means a sharp mountain ridge or peak, this also implies this is the origin of the idea of peak performance]

Nurture the darkness of your soul
until you become whole.
Can you do this and not fail?
Can you focus your life-breath until you become
supple as a newborn child?
While you cleanse your inner vision
will you be found without fault?
Can you love people and lead them
without forcing your will on them?
When Heaven gives and takes away
can you be content with the outcome?
When you understand all things
can you step back from your own understanding?

Giving birth and nourishing,
making without possessing,
expecting nothing in return.
To grow, yet not to control:
This is the mysterious virtue.

– Tao Te Ching: Chapter 10
translated by J. H. McDonald

“Always do the right thing. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”
– Mark Twain

Embracing the Way, you become embraced;
Breathing gently, you become newborn;
Clearing your mind, you become clear;
Nurturing your children, you become impartial;
Opening your heart, you become accepted;
Accepting the world, you embrace the Way.

Bearing and nurturing,
Creating but not owning,
Giving without demanding,
This is harmony.

– Ta Te Ching 10,
translated by Peter Merel

Maude: “Vice, Virtue. It’s best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live life fully.”
– “Harold and Maude”, Collin Higgins

Carrying body and soul and embracing the one,
Can you avoid separation?
Attending fully and becoming supple,
Can you be as a newborn baby?
Washing and cleansing the primal vision,
Can you be without stain?
Loving all men and ruling the country,
Can you be without cleverness?
Opening and closing the gates of heaven,
Can you play the role of woman?
Understanding and being open to all things,
Are you able to do nothing?
Giving birth and nourishing,
Bearing yet not possessing,
Working yet not taking credit,
Leading yet not dominating,
This is the Primal Virtue.

– Tao Te Ching 10,
translated by Gia-Fu Feng

“The Tao has no place for pettiness, and nor has Virtue. Pettiness is dangerous to Virtue; pettiness is dangerous to the Tao. It is said, rectify yourself and be done.”
– Chuang Tzu

“The Greeks invented the idea of nemesis to show how any single virtue, stubbornly maintained, gradually changes into a destructive vice. Our success, our industry, our habit of work have produced our economic nemesis. Work made modern men great, but now threatens to usurp our souls, to inundate the earth in things and trash, to destroy our capacity to love and wonder.”
– Sam Keen

“As far as I’m concerned, I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue.”
– Albert Einstein

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”
– Winston Churchill

“There is…an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents…. The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provisions should be made to prevent its ascendancy.” — Thomas Jefferson

“I cannot love anyone if I hate myself. That is the reason why we feel so extremely uncomfortable in the presence of people who are noted for their special virtuousness, for they radiate an atmosphere of the torture they inflict on themselves. That is not a virtue but a vice.”
– Carl Jung

“Moral education… is not about inculcating obedience to law or cultivating self-virtue, it is rather about finding within us an ever-increasing sense of the worth of creation. It is about how we can develop and deepen our intuitive sense of beauty and creativity.
– Andrew Linzey

“Genuine honesty, assuming that this is our virtue and we cannot get rid of it, we free spirits – well then, we will want to work on it with all the love and malice at our disposal and not get tired of ‘perfecting’ ourselves in our virtue, the only one we have left: may its glory come to rest like a gilded, blue evening glow of mockery over this aging culture and its dull and dismal seriousness!” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Desire

April 7th, 2009


Desire — Justin Simoni

That was no beast that stirred,
That was my heart you heard
Pacing to and fro
In the ambush of my desire.
To the music my flute let fall.

– “Neither Spirit Nor Bird” (Shoshone Love Song), trans. Mary Austin

The Tao is infinite, eternal.
Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.

The Master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.
She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.

– Tao Te Ching: Chapter 7
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Heaven and Earth last for ever.
Why do Heaven and Earth last for ever?
They are unborn,
So ever living.
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is detached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.

– translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English

Transcending the ego is equivalent to transcending suffering. Your ego, which is your false self, keeps you identified with your mind. The ego keeps you tied in thinking about your past and it also makes you think about the future. The ego wants you to be anywhere other than where you are at this moment. The ego makes you believe that something is lacking in this current moment that is keeping you from being at peace. Maybe you believe that you need a new car or a dog or a shirt in order to feel better. There is nothing wrong with purchasing any of these things or wanting any of these things but if you believe that they will make you feel better then the desire is probably ego-based. Unfortunately, under the rein of the ego you will never be at peace and you will never transcend suffering.

The ego is the source of desire. When you remove desire you can remove the ego. This is definitely easier said than done; however, just being aware of the impact your ego will help to remove its grip in your life.

The next two hindrances are raga (attachment, desire) and dvesha (aversion). Within these are the more specific hindrances of attachment to pleasure, or sukha, and aversion to pain, or duhkha. Sukha and duhkha in themselves are simply natural human reactions. Sukha and duhkha become raga and dvesha when attachment is present, for it is in the attachment to pleasure and the aversion to pain that we get into trouble. — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

“The man whom desires enter as rivers flow into the sea, filled yet always unmoving — that man finds lasting peace.” — Bhagavad Gita

So much desire in the world today
So much of everything you can’t give it away
You could be happy but you’re feeling so bad
About what you never have
Because you can’t look at nothing without wanting it
And you know that’s the truth

There’s always some scene you think you got to break into
Or a new sensation to intoxicate you
Ain’t it a drag
Staring through the glass at something doesn’t touch you really
Or bring you laughter or roses or stroke your hair so tenderly

Desire
Stealing you away from me
Desire
You’re living in a dream
Desire
Is getting the best of you…

Who was it told you
You have to have everything you see
Same one who sold you that last fantasy
Roll up your sleeves and use those hands for something
That’s gonna work for you baby
To fill your arms and your heart with joy

Desire, Boz Scaggs

Baggage

January 22nd, 2009

excessory_baggage_meryl_smith_3
Meryl Smith, Excessory Baggage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Tao Te Ching, 26

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

– Tao Te Ching, 24

Internalizing

January 5th, 2009


Knowledge by Luis Cabrera

People think they don’t have to learn,
Because there is so much information available.
But knowledge is more than possessing information.
Only the wise move fast enough.

The amount of information available today is unprecedented. In medieval times a few volumes could form an encyclopedia of all known facts, or a despot could control his subjects simply by isolating or destroying a library. Now information is available to us in tidal proportions.

Some people take a lethargic approach to this enormity. They feel that if there is so much at hand, they do not need to actually learn anything. They’ll go out and find it when they need it. But life moves too fast for us to rely on this laziness. Just as the flow of information has increased exponentially, so too has the pace of decision making accelerated. We can’t be passive; we have to internalize information and place ourselves precisely in the flow.

It has been stated that the average human being utilizes 10 percent of his or her mental capacity. A genius uses only 15 percent. So we definitely have the capacity to keep up — if we unlock our potential. This requires education, experience, and determination. One should never stop learning, never stop exploring, never stop going on adventures. Be like the explorers of old. What they acquired for themselves will always surpass those who merely read about their exploits.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Forget about knowledge and wisdom,
and people will be a hundred times better off.
Throw away charity and righteousness,
and people will return to brotherly love.
Throw away profit and greed,
and there won’t be any thieves.

These three are superficial and aren’t enough
to keep us at the center of the circle, so we must also:

Embrace simplicity.
Put others first.
Desire little.

–Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 19

Renounce knowledge and your problems will end.
What is the difference between yes and no?
What is the difference between good and evil?
Must you fear what others fear?
Nonsense, look how far you have missed the mark!

– Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 20

Without opening your door,
you can know the whole world.
Without looking out your window,
you can understand the way of the Tao.

The more knowledge you seek,
the less you will understand.

The Master understands without leaving,
sees clearly without looking,
accomplishes much without doing anything.

– Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 47

One who seeks knowledge learns something new every day.
One who seeks the Tao unlearns something every day.
Less and less remains until you arrive at non-action.
When you arrive at non-action,
nothing will be left undone.

Mastery of the world is achieved
by letting things take their natural course.
You can not master the world by changing the natural way.

– Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 48

The more knowledge that is acquired,
the stranger the world will become.

– Lao Tsu, Tao te Ching, 57

The master seeks no possessions.
She learns by unlearning,
thus she is able to understand all things.

– Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 64

Knowing you don’t know is wholeness.
Thinking you know is a disease.
Only by recognizing that you have an illness
can you move to seek a cure.

The Master is whole because
she sees her illnesses and treats them,
and thus is able to remain whole.

– Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, 71

I’ve always had a tremendous love of learning – learning new things is one of the greatest joys in life for me. These days, I sometimes joke that I don’t have to know anything because Google knows everything. But I still love to learn things for myself.

And yet, I also understand the admonitions of Lao Tsu about giving up seeking knowledge to seek the Tao. There is a point where we have worked so hard to understand something, and then, we seem to gain an instant insight and it all falls into place. I have found this while studying many different subjects, while dealing with difficult people, while trying to learn about myself, while trying to understand the world, and while studying the Tao. When we give up seeking to understand, suddenly, we simply do intuitively “get it”.

I always liked the expression, “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” Being an engineer, I have always had a real problem-solving bent, and greatly enjoy figuring out a solution to a problem. But life itself simply has to be lived – there is no special knowledge that will suddenly make your life wonderful. You simply have to decide life is full of wonder and go from there.

Tao is simply about how things work and how they change. That’s all. Once I understood that and stopped looking for more words to describe the feeling of Tao to me, I “got it”. I still like to understand how things work and how things change, but I no longer ask why they do – I just “get it”.

Changing it up

November 30th, 2008

The blogroll will be changing again as political stuff falls by the wayside and I find new interests to pursue. I’m going back to some old interests as well — you’ll see more artists linked here, and hopefully more of my own art popping up again. I’m going to restart the art journaling and try to bring back some of my creative spirit, which has lain dormant for some time while I helped to create our new political change. Whatever small part I did in keeping people focused and informed on politics, it seems to have been enough, along with the work of so many others who did way more than I did.

Also of course a big return to the Tao focus. I’ll be looking for more new sources of inspiration, more Tao bloggers, and maybe reposting the older Tao posts. Return being, after all, one of the major themes of Tao philosophy.

Let me know if there are things you would like to see here, too. I’m more than happy to research areas of interest for anyone, and post what I find here. I seem to be great at finding things of all sorts. Never figured out what to do with that skill, but I has it. Would’ve made a terrific researcher, I suppose, in just about any field.

Positioning (repost)

November 9th, 2008

Heron stands in the blue estuary,
Solitary, white, unmoving for hours.
A fish! Quick avian darting;
The prey is captured.

People always ask how to follow Tao. It is as easy and natural as the heron standing in the water. The bird moves when it must; it does not move when stillness is appropriate.

The secret of its serenity is a type of vigilance, a contemplative state. The heron is not in mere dumbness or sleep. It knows a lucid stillness. It stands unmoving in the flow of the water. It gazes unperturbed and is aware. When Tao brings it something that it needs, it seizes the opportunity without hesitation or deliberation. Then it goes back to its quiescence without disturbing itself or its surroundings. Unless it found the right position in the water’s flow and remained patient, it would not have succeeded.

Actions in life can be reduced to two factors: positioning and timing. If we are not in the right place at the right time, we cannot possibly take advantage of what life has to offer us. Almost anything is appropriate if an action is in accord with the time and the place. But we must be vigilant and prepared. Even if the time and the place are right, we can still miss our chance if we do not notice the moment, if we act inadequately, or if we hamper ourselves with doubts and second thoughts. When life presents an opportunity, we must be ready to seize it without hesitation or inhibition. Position is useless without awareness. If we have both, we make no mistakes.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

I’ve been thinking a lot about this one. One of the comments my yoga teacher often makes is that yoga is about creating “steadyness of mind”. I think this is what this passage means. We have to steady and quiet our minds, creating awareness. Then, when opportunities are presented to us, we can easily know what needs to be done and take action.When your mind is confused or distracted with conflicting ideas or feelings, it can be impossible to know what to do. But Tao trains us in quieting and steadying the mind, just as yoga does. The two are very effective together.

I think I would like to learn other techniques for this as well. I know the medications I take have a great effect on steadying and quieting my mind and my thoughts, which is very helpful. My gardening becomes like this for me as well, as I get into an almost zen-like state of seeing what needs to be done and doing it, without doing so much that the overall effect is ruined. Not that I have a zen garden, it’s far more of a cottage garden. I don’t care for the over-manicured look of most meditative gardens, really. I prefer a natural look.

People often remark these days on how calm I am; how so little seems to upset me. Oh, sure, I can get upset when it matters. But little things don’t bother me. I am learning to trust Tao to work things out, and start to look for what comes to me when my plans are upset. Often I’ll find just what I’m looking for when things seem to have gone awry. So I’ve learned that sometimes Tao is telling me that what I need may be different from what I have planned, and learn to be less upset.

I suppose a lot of people would say their belief in their God is like this, but it’s different for me. I don’t look to a god, unless you could consider everything in life some part of god. For me, it is all a connected whole. I don’t see myself as separate from god, or other people as any better or worse for what they believe in. Perhaps I’m more Hindu in that, just accepting all gods as part of the pantheon. But I go further in accepting all spirituality as basically the same. What I don’t accept in religion is the imposing of one’s beliefs on others.

So, I guess I am learning to stand more quietly in the stream, hoping to catch more fish. Hey, last night I caught a pretty great salmon, all nice and cooked and brought to my table in a tasty sauce. The fishing doesn’t get much better than that.

(originally posted on Friday, January 14th, 2005 )

Mudita — Empathic Joy

April 22nd, 2008

from Wikipedia:

Mudita is a Buddhist (Pali and Sanskrit) word meaning rejoicing in others’ good fortune. Mudita is sometimes considered to be the opposite of schadenfreude.

The term mudita is usually translated as “sympathetic” or “altruistic” joy, the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it. Many Buddhist teachers interpret mudita more broadly as referring to an inner spring of infinite joy that is available to everyone at all times, regardless of circumstances. The more deeply one drinks of this spring, the more secure one becomes in one’s own abundant happiness, and the easier it then becomes to relish the joy of other people as well.

The traditional example of the mind-state of mudita is the attitude of a parent observing a growing child’s accomplishments and successes.

Mudita is also traditionally regarded as the most difficult of the brahmaviharas to cultivate. To show mudita is to celebrate happiness and achievement in others even when we are facing tragedy ourselves.

The “far enemies” of mudita are jealousy and envy, two mind-states in obvious opposition. Mudita’s “near enemy,” or quality which superficially resembles mudita but is in fact more subtly in opposition to it, is exhilaration, perceived as a grasping at pleasant experience out of a sense of insufficiency or lack.

Somehow, I am still working on this one. I received some excellent news from a friend this week, and it was a bit hard to just be happy for him. He’s one of those friends who has cut me off to a great extent, though not as completely as others, and sometimes I simply miss those people very much. The saddest part of bipolar is that people are often so unforgiving of things that happened during a manic time, in a way that is hurtful. And even when they do forgive, the closeness that was there is lost and can’t be recovered.

Still, I am happy for my friend and wish him all the best. He has all that I ever wished for him and all that I tried to show him how to attain – so I should simply be pleased with that. But intentions are often misunderstood, especially when they are expressed by someone in a hypomanic state, as I’m sure anyone who has dealt with bipolar disorder knows all too well. Even those fun shopping sprees can have repercussions we don’t expect later on. It’s good to not be in that state anymore!

So while I don’t work to “just be normal” anymore, now I think I work beyond that even, to try to come to a place where I can be glad even for those who do not wish me well. And finding joy even for those who cannot let me be a part of their lives is a difficult, but necessary, step for me.

You go, girl!

April 13th, 2008

Man, I wish I was still in this good of a shape…. I do pilates and yoga, but was never a runner. I can sprint pretty fast, but distance running just never was a good thing for me. Run, Joan, run!

Marathon Matriarch Is Still in the Race – New York Times

She keeps a home for her husband, Scott, who was her college sweetheart and is now a marketing executive. She keeps an eye on her 20-year-old daughter, Abby, a sophomore at nearby Bates College, and her 18-year-old son, Anders, a high school senior.

She confers with neighbors on how to replace an old neighborhood bridge that was recently closed. She makes speeches and appearances.

And she runs an hour or two a day in preparation for the women’s United States Olympic marathon trials next Sunday in Boston, which raises questions:

Why would a 50-year-old woman (51 next month) want to run 26 miles 385 yards against potential Olympic medalists?

Why would she compete as the oldest of the 160 or so starters? (The next oldest are four 46-year-olds.)

Because she is Joan Benoit Samuelson, the matriarch of American distance running, the winner of the first Olympic marathon for women in 1984 and a pioneer in bringing acceptance to women’s distance running.

In a recent interview at her home, she said she would be running “just because it’s an Olympic trials and I qualified. But if the weather turns up terrible, I might not run and just race in the Boston Marathon the next day.”

The first three finishers in the trials will qualify for the United States team for the Beijing Olympics. Can Samuelson make the Olympic team?

“Oh, God, no,” she said. “It’s just me against me. I want to run 2:50 at age 50.”

If she averages 6 minutes 30 seconds a mile, she will reach her goal of 2 hours 50 minutes. Her career best is 2:21:21, but that was 23 years ago over Chicago’s flat course.

“This will be my fourth Olympic trials,” she said. “I qualified for all of the previous six, but in 1988 I just had Abby and in 1992 I had a full mother load with two small children. But I’ve always had the urge to run.”

Samuelson said she used to run 120 miles a week. “Now I’m down to 70 or 80,” she said. “That’s all I can do.”

Faith (Repost)

February 24th, 2008

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

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

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

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

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trickster

February 23rd, 2008

I am beginning to understand that there is much of the trickster in my personality. I’ve always identified with Loki, and often use humor to try and defuse situations (not always successfully, like any trickster…)

I’m currently reading Lewis Hyde’s “The Gift” right now, but I think his “Trickster Makes This World” will be in the reading stack soon. (It’s been on my wish list for a few weeks now).

Lewis Hyde

“An important part of any sacred activity is marking a boundary between the sacred and non-sacred. It’s important to build a container so the action is conducted inside sacred space,” he noted. “So, when you get to a character like the Trickster, you now have somebody who is the critic of the boundary, whose position is that all boundaries can be become too rigid and too impermeable, causing the life to dry up inside the container. So you need, both … some way to make the container and some function that is smart about how and where to break it. The Trickster is the sacred boundary crosser. And it’s not just that he crosses boundaries, he does it as a needed sacred function. If all you have is sacred forces who are maintaining their fiefdoms then you can end up with a fragmented heaven. Trickster gets a commerce going among the various sacred powers.”

Speaking of “heaven” – Hyde related in his book the story of C.G.Jung when he was a twelve-year-old schoolboy in Basel, Switzerland, admiring the glorious cathedral in the town square.

Said Jung, “I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the sight, and thought: ‘The world is beautiful and the church is beautiful and God made all this and sits above it far away in the blue sky on a golden throne and … Here came a great hole in my thoughts, and a choking sensation. I felt numbed, and knew only: ‘Don’t go on thinking now! Something terrible is coming …’”

For several days Jung struggled with the thought of whether or not God, who controls all things, could allow him to think a thought he shouldn’t think. Finally, having worked himself around to believing that God wanted him to have the forbidden thought, he relented: “I gathered all my courage, as though I were about to leap forthwith into hell-fire, and let the thought come. I saw before me the cathedral, the blue sky. God sits on His golden throne, high above the world – and from under the throne an enormous turd falls upon the sparkling new roof, shatters it, and breaks the walls of the cathedral asunder … I felt an enormous, an indescribable relief. Instead of the expected damnation, grace had come upon me. I wept for happiness and gratitude.”

Hyde said he was indebted to C.G. Jung, particularly one of his students, Marie-Louise von Franz, and their work with the idea of Mercurius. To the medieval alchemists, Mercury was the metal symbolizing duality – metallic yet liquid, matter yet spirit, cold yet fiery. Mercury was the metal uniting all the opposites. This Trickster energy was known to the Greeks by way of Hermes, the messenger god; in the Roman pantheon, Hermes becomes Mercury.

“C.G. Jung was a fabulously smart guide,” Hyde continued. “The Jungian insight is that the psyche is a community of forces and you need that whole community of forces working together. The pathology is when one member of the community begins to dominate in an individual, so some other part – your Warrior, say, or your sense of justice – gets muted. Or if we’re speaking of a group rather than one psyche, it’s when somebody begins to take over through display of one singular force. In a healthy community, every force will have a counter force. For example, Hermes steals the cattle from Apollo, but at the end of the story, Hermes and Apollo are friends. They find a way to relate. They need each other. You can’t have a boundary crosser unless you have someone who cares about the boundary. Hermes needs Apollo to be able to play with the rules and Apollo needs Hermes to keep things lively.”

To help people come back to a place where they’ve been trapped or lost requires them to become a ‘Hermeneut’ of their own life. They have to be helped to understand that there is an active learnable role to play in relating to the story you tell about your own life, the story you’ve inherited, the story you’re going to create as you live your life. Most Americans are passive recipients of the story that the media wants them to live by and only when you realize it is a story are you able to make different choices. You can interpret the story and be converted – from a passive object of commercial pitchmen into an actor living a life that you yourself create.”

Hyde said he believed a lot of Americans were “numb.” I liked the quote he used from child psychologist Donald Winnicott: “It is a joy to be hidden, but disaster not to be found.”

To explore within ourselves all the limiting behavior we’ve been taught takes a kind of “imaginative amorality,” the author said. It’s not an immorality, but an archetypal motivation in our own psyche to “play with the rules rather than observe them.”

Peace be with you

February 21st, 2008

On a day when I am not at peace with myself or my surroundings, Ascender comes along and kicks my cage door wide open. I was going to write something about how I am feeling today, but I think I’ll just link to her good wishes instead. Please click on her link below to visit all the bloggers she lists; I don’t have the time to fix all the linky love at the moment here.

Namaste, to all.

Studio Lolo tagged me with this ‘peace and love’ meme; to spread the word to send loving energy and thoughts to the places and people that need it. Rather then tagging others I hope to pass on some urls of my virtual pals who could use some of your loving energy and thoughts. Please leave some virtual peace and love to some people who could really use it right now.

Red Moon at the loss of her daughter

The Daily Warrior successfully fighting ALS for 16 years

Studio Friday is closing down. Stop by and show her some love for her dedication all these years.

Check out these bloggers who address peace and love almost everyday: 3191, a poetic justice, another poster for peace, anti-war us, Art For A Change, Art of Mark Byran, Artists Helping Children, Blog Like You Give A Damn, Blood For Oil, bricalu, Buddha Project, Change Me, Changing Places, Crafty Green Poet, No Blood For War and Profit, Inhabitat, kamurawayan, Light a Candle, Military Families Speak Out, Miniature Gigantic, Paris Parfait, Peaceful Societies, Pinwheels for Peace, Poets Against the War, rambling taoist, smile, smile, Take it Personally, The Peace Train, Treehugger, Visual Resistance, We Are What We Do, Betmo, Bloggers For Peace

Shakti

February 19th, 2008

I was reading Sally’s latest article in Yoga Journal today, “Waking Life”, which is excellent, by the way, and decided to check out her web site. She has a number of other excellent articles posted there, including this one which appealed to the engineer in me. Surrender is probably one of the most difficult concepts on Yoga for me (or any spiritual practice).

Sally Kempton, meditation teacher, Swami Durgananda

My favorite surrender story was told to me by my old friend Ed. An engineer by profession, he was spending some time in India, at the ashram of his spiritual teacher. At one point, he was asked to help supervise a construction project, which he quickly found was being run incompetently and on the cheap. No diplomat, Ed rushed into action, arguing, amassing proofs, bad-mouthing his colleagues and staying up nights scheming about how to turn the tide. At every turn, he got resistance from the other contractors, who soon took to subverting everything he tried to do.

In the midst of this classic impasse, Ed’s teacher called them all to a meeting. Ed was asked to explain his position, and then the contractors started talking fast. The teacher kept nodding, seeming to agree. At that moment, Ed had a flash of realization. He saw that none of this mattered in the long run. He wasn’t there to win the argument, save the ashram money, or even make a great building. He was there to study yoga, to know the truth—and obviously, this situation had been designed by the cosmos as the perfect medicine for his efficient engineer’s ego.

At that moment, the teacher turned to him, “Ed, this man says you don’t understand local conditions, and I agree with him. So, shall we do it his way?”

Still swimming in the peace of his newfound humility, Ed folded his hands. “Whatever you think best,” he said.

He looked up to see the teacher staring at him with wide, fierce eyes. “Its not about what I think,” he said. “Its about what’s right. You fight for what’s right, do you hear me?”

Ed says that this incident taught him three things. First, that when you surrender your attachment to a particular outcome, things often turn out better than you could ever have imagined. (Eventually, he was able to persuade the contractors to make the necessary changes.) Second, that a true karma yogi is not someone who goes belly-up to higher authority, but a surrendered activist—a person who does his best to help create a better reality—all the while knowing that he’s not in charge of outcomes. Third, that the attitude of surrender is the best antidote to anger, anxiety, and fear.

I often tell this story to people who worry that surrender means giving up, or that letting go is a synonym for inaction, because it illustrates so beautifully the paradox behind “Thy will be done.” As the god Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, surrender sometimes means being willing to get into a fight.

A truly surrendered person may look passive, especially when something appears to need doing, and everyone around is shouting, “Get a move on, get it done, this is urgent!” Seen in perspective, however, what looks like inaction is often simply a recognition that now is not the time to act. Masters of surrender tend to be masters of flow, knowing intuitively how to move with the energies at play in a situation. You advance when the doors are open, when a stuck situation can be turned, moving along the subtle energetic seams that let you avoid obstructions and unnecessary confrontations.

Such skill involves attunement to the energetic movement that is sometimes called universal or divine will, the Tao, flow, or in Sanskrit, shakti. Shakti is the subtle force—we could call it cosmic intention—behind the natural world in all its manifestations.

Surrender starts with a recognition that this greater life force moves as you. One of my teachers, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, once said that to surrender is to become aware of God’s energy within oneself, to recognize that energy, and to accept it. It’s an egoless recognition—that is, it involves a shift in your sense of what “I” is—which is why the famous inquiry “Who am I?” or “What is the I?” is central to the process of surrender. (Depending on your tradition and your perspective at the time, you may recognize that the answer to this question is “Nothing” or “All that is”—in other words, consciousness, shakti, the Tao.)