The One Who Knows

January 24th, 2012

Talks & Essays

The fact is there is no escape from the pain of losing what we love and inevitably become attached to. No escape from the fear, confusion, anger and broken heartedness that comes with the territory of human relationship or simply being Life in the form of a human body. There is no escape from the fall, no escape from the hard landing and no escape from that dark bottom of the well where we find ourselves at these times. When the outcomes of these encounters are painful or even “disastrous”, is it possible to see them not as failures but rather potential dharma gates of deeper compassion, understanding, forgiveness and loving kindness? Is it possible to really meet these times, no matter how agonizing, with an open heart? To meet even the heart that shrinks in pain and fear with gentle attention even when it seems that every fiber in our body and mind want to just get away? This is the heart of our practice and unless we want some artificial, dualistic, imaginary practice we must learn to work with them as such; facing all of this on and off the cushion and meeting these moments that at some times seem to stretch on endlessly with an awareness that allows whatever is there to simply be there. If there is sadness, be there with it as long as it needs your presence. The same with fear, worry, anger, rage, feelings of rejection and failure, broken heartedness and loneliness. This is not about thinking our way out, but rather about learning our way into these seemingly awful times through the power of attention. This is a fierce practice that requires a fiercely loving heart; a loving heart that can hold and contain even the heart that’s broken.

How is it for you when … you figuratively find yourself at the bottom of the pit of your agonizing life situation and you are alone? You are destitute. You are deeply grieved and grieving. At these moments even though we may have people who care for us, we are cut off, unreachable, solitary and destitute. And how can it be otherwise? It can be helpful to talk with friends, a therapist or teacher, but can anyone really reach us when we have lost a child, a partner, a loved one, received a devastating medical diagnosis? When we find that our mind or body is not the immortal and invulnerable something we had thought it was? When we suddenly realize that we are “old”? When we realize that we may not see old age? May not see our children grow up? When the self-image that we hold onto so tightly and identify with so completely or the future we envisage and so desperately hope for is completely shattered or called deeply into question? We want so desperately to be comforted. We want so desperately to be held in a way that just makes it go away; makes it somehow all ok, as though simply because it is painful and frightening it is not ok. And in a certain way it really is not ok. How could anything that so completely throws us down the well be ok? Life makes no mistakes and at some point if we are to truly be alive and free regardless of our life situation, we simply must learn to live beyond the limited images and hopes to which we so desperately cling. As Joko Beck once said, “The one thing in life we can truly count on is Life being exactly how it is.” For some losses, disappointments, betrayals, devastating life changes there is nothing that will make the pain go away and nothing that will mend the rupture that we find ourselves to in fact be. We are that pain, and trying to get rid of it creates a conflict in the mind between what is and what should be that only makes the fire burn more searingly.

The key to working with our “having tumbled down condition” is to see that even at the moment of impact things have changed already and that this moment is not what we think it is. In fact, it is not what we “think” at all! Thinking is always “old”; just a bit behind the curve of life, if you will. Have you looked closely enough, deeply enough? Have you let your situation speak to you its’ complete truth without your assumptions, presuppositions and images of how it should or could be? How will you know if and when this situation and what it stirs up is finished with you, rather than when you are finished with it? Can you see that thinking about whatever is present in your life right now is quite different from what is actually here right now? Have you really become so completely attentive that there is no “you” there observing and hence no separation at all? Are you willing to not feel better too quickly and to follow this pain right down to its roots? This is demanding and austere practice, but if you have not done it then there is more work to do; if you have done it, there is probably still more work to do. And there is no one, absolutely no one, who can do it but you. It is important to have companions on the Way and someone who can encourage you onward with the confidence of having walked this Way before, but only you can do the work of your life. To go so completely into this moment that “you” disappear: What is that? Then, who are you? Are you the one who suffers, or are you the One who Knows?

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?

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.

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

My Favorite Liar | Zen Moments

January 14th, 2010

What made Dr. K memorable was a gimmick he employed that began with his introduction at the beginning of his first class:

“Now I know some of you have already heard of me, but for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar, let me explain how I teach. Between today until the class right before finals, it is my intention to work into each of my lectures … one lie. Your job, as students, among other things, is to try and catch me in the Lie of the Day.”

And thus began our ten-week course.

This was an insidiously brilliant technique to focus our attention – by offering an open invitation for students to challenge his statements, he transmitted lessons that lasted far beyond the immediate subject matter and taught us to constantly check new statements and claims with what we already accept as fact.

Early in the quarter, the Lie of the Day was usually obvious – immediately triggering a forest of raised hands to challenge the falsehood. Dr. K would smile, draw a line through that section of the board, and utter his trademark phrase “Very good! In fact, the opposite is true. Moving on … ”

As the quarter progressed, the Lie of the Day became more subtle, and many ended up slipping past a majority of the students unnoticed until a particularly alert person stopped the lecture to flag the disinformation.

Every once in a while, a lecture would end with nobody catching the lie which created its own unique classroom experience – in any other college lecture, end of the class hour prompts a swift rush of feet and zipping up of bookbags as students make a beeline for the door.

On the days when nobody caught the lie, we all sat in silence, looking at each other as Dr. K, looking quite pleased with himself, said with a sly grin: “Ah ha! Each of you has one falsehood in your lecture notes. Discuss amongst yourselves what it might be, and I will tell you next Monday. That is all.”

Those lectures forced us to puzzle things out, work out various angles in study groups so we could approach him with our theories the following week.

Brilliant … but what made Dr. K’s technique most insidiously evil and genius was, during the most technically difficult lecture of the entire quarter, there was no lie. At the end of the lecture in which he was not called on any lie, he offered the same challenge to work through the notes; on the following Monday, he fielded our theories for what the falsehood might be (and shooting them down “no, in fact that is true – look at “) for almost ten minutes before he finally revealed: “Do you remember the first lecture – how I said that ‘every lecture has a lie?’”

Exhausted from having our best theories shot down, we nodded.

Well – THAT was a lie.

via My Favorite Liar | Zen Moments.