Writer (repost from 2005)

October 7th, 2011


“Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid,” by Jan Vermeer

She withdrew into herself,
First writing just for one,
Then touching thousands.
She incarnated ghosts, hurt, and joy
Into paper-and-ink stories of wonder.

One author said, “I can get rid of anything by writing about it,” meaning that the process of externalization could liberate him from the pain in his soul. That realization produced a delicious dichotomy; to free himself: or to hold on to both joys and tortures by remaining silent about them.

Writers write because they must: They need to express something from deep within themselves. They hear voices that others do not. They listen urgently, and they must communicate what they hear.

People feel Tao in the same way that writers feel something unique. In the process of listening for mysterious voices and expressing the wonder that comes is a magic akin to the perfection of Tao.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all. — Lord Byron

“I started with all the handicaps, incapabilities and helplessness. I didn’t talk when I was twenty. I taught myself by the act of writing.” –Anais Nin

“Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one;
it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order eventually to become that path himself.” — Henry Miller

Most people are separated from writing about the things they really feel deeply or even sometimes from knowing they feel those things at all. We live in a very shallow sort of society where we are rather actively discouraged from thinking about anything too deeply or expressing our inner thoughts and emotions, and most people come to internalize this and guard their own thoughts from any depth of feeling.

Yet we admire writers who are able to make us feel, and end up caring more at times about fictional characters than those in our own lives. Why? Because we see the depth of feeling displayed in those characters, while those in our own lives are trained not to show their own depths.

A lot of writers write because they can’t express these things in their own lives, so they create fictional characters where they can share their thoughts and feelings.

Tao is about a deep connection with the process of life itself. Once you experience that, you find it everywhere, in everything. It isn’t possible to be separated from it, although some days the feeling is certainly deeper than other days.

I’ve written for a long time for myself. I would like to write for others as well.

Annoyances and Irritations

September 28th, 2011

The light of the soul is bright, but dense clouds of human ignorance obscure it. Where are you in terms of your effort to make your life brighter?

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

For me, the thing that most dims my light shining in the world is annoyances. Little everyday annoyances, with myself or with other people or things. As Anton Chekhov put it, “Any idiot can handle a crisis – it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.” It is the day-to-day annoyances that get to me – my husband’s seeming inability to actually close a drawer all the way, my kids’ inability to see the floor as a space to walk on rather than a shelf for all their stuff, the stupidity of the things that are happening in our government, and nearly any demonstration of stupidity can tick me off, really, if I’m not in the right frame of mind. Then there is the meta-annoyance at being annoyed itself – I get annoyed that I am annoyed.

So when I feel annoyed, I am not the calm, rational person with perspective and far-sighted vision that I would like to be. My light dims with the clouds of annoyance and frustration and sometimes even anger. The “watcher” in me, who can usually sit back and observe everything with amusement, becomes caught up in these feelings and for those few moments, the fog creeps in…

“Never invoke the gods unless you really want them to appear. It annoys them very much.” — G. K. Chesterton

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” — Mark Twain

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.” — Isaac Asimov

“If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.” — Kingsley Amis

The Tao of the Self — Nine

September 13th, 2011

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

The Tao of the Self — Nine

The Mind of Absolute Trust

August 30th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

via On the Precipe

The Tao of the Self — Eight

August 21st, 2011

The easiest way to be yourself is simply to flow like water.
Water flows easily and benefits everyone without even trying.
It is lifted to the highest places and flows down to the lowest places
And so is like the Tao.

Consider what you let flow into the watershed where you live.
Consider the flow of the deepest feelings of your heart.
Consider how to flow easily with other people, and be good to them.
Consider the flow of the words you say, and their meaning.
Consider what flows from your government.
Consider the flow of the work you do and enjoy it.
Consider the flow in the timing of the actions you take.

If you are sure of who you are and don’t contest it with others,
there is nobody to blame.

The Tao of the Self — Eight

Have to include this version also since it is beautifully written:

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 8
translated by Red Pine (1996)

The best are like water
bringing help to all
without competing
choosing what others avoid
hence approaching the Tao
dwelling with earth
thinking with depth
helping with kindness
speaking with truth
governing with peace
working with skill
moving with time
and because they don’t compete
they aren’t maligned

The Tao of the Self — Seven

August 14th, 2011

We think of Heaven as eternal
And Earth as lasting a very long time.
Why do Heaven and Earth endure?
They don’t exist for themselves,
So they are able to last a long time.
So if we are wise, we will not think of ourselves alone,
But what we want to live beyond us.
We can move beyond self-gratification
And consider what is best for the long term.
By acting beyond our own self-interest,
We can fulfill greater goals
And live on through our actions.

The Tao of the Self — Seven

The Tao of the Self — Six

August 12th, 2011

valley_of_flowers_uttaranchal_full_view
The Valley of Flowers, in northern India’s state of Uttarakhand

Be open and empty, like a great valley;
Be receptive of the world like a mother is to her child.
Be open to all things, soak up the rain and the sunshine.
And accept the fog and mist that rolls in sometimes,
If you are always open to life, that spirit will never fail you.

– The Tao of the Self — Six

The Tao of the Self — Five

August 9th, 2011

The universe is impartial;
It doesn’t take sides.
Sometimes it is wise to be impartial;
And not choose a side.

Everything can change with a breath.
The shape of things change around you but not the form;
Your world may seem empty, and suddenly become full.
Words matter less than actions.
And acting from your heart matters most of all.

The Tao of the Self — Five

The Tao of the Self — Four

August 7th, 2011

empty_vesle
Empty Vessel, Marilyn Coon

If you imagine yourself as an empty vessel,
you can be used, but never filled.
Your spirit can create thousands of things!
Blunt the sharpness of your speech,
Untangle the knot of your emotions,
Soften the glare of your eyes when angry,
Merge with the dust when your work is done.
Your spirit can be hidden deep but ever present!
We do not know where we come from,
But so many things can come from within us.

– The Tao of the Self, Four

The Tao of the Self — Three

August 6th, 2011

Not bragging about your talents prevents quarreling.
Not having extravagant things prevents stealing.
Not desiring other people’s things prevents confusion of the heart.

The wise person rules themselves
by eliminating needless desires and fulfilling their true needs,
by weakening false ambitions and strengthening their body.
If you don’t express arrogance,
then others will not feel threatened.
If nothing is done with the desire to harm others,
then your life will run more smoothly.

– The Tao of the Self, Three

The Tao of the Self — Two

August 5th, 2011

Anyone can see you are beautiful
If they see others as ugly.
Anyone can see you as good
If they see others as evil.

Therefore having friends and not having friends arise together.
Difficult and easy relationships complement each other.
Long and short friendships contrast each other:
High and low emotions rest upon each other;
Your voice and the sound of others harmonize each other;
Being in front of and behind others follow one another.

Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing to force relationships,
teaching not gossiping about others.
Thousands of conversations rise and fall without cease,
Creating relationships, yet not forcing them.
Working with others, yet not taking credit for their work.
Great work with others is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.

Tao of the Self. Two

The Tao of the Self – One

August 5th, 2011

The things we can express about ourselves
are not who were are.
Your name is only what people call you.
It barely gives a hint of who you are.
If you don’t desire something from someone,
you might see their soul.
Otherwise all you desire
is what they can do for you.
The person is the same
but if all you see is the name,
you will never know who they are.
If you are willing to look further
You begin to sense their mystery….

Tao of the Self, One

Hide and seek

July 20th, 2011

Today’s lessons:

In this divine game of hide-and-seek
stop pretending
there is any place to hide.

___________________

Don’t say
that the deepest meaning
comes only from one’s mouth

Day and night
eighty thousand poems
arise one after the other
and in fact
not a single word
has ever been spoken

—Muso Soseki (1275 – 1351)

Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we become weak and faint. Without love our self-esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we can no longer look confidently at the world. We turn inward and begin to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves. With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it, and with it alone, we are able to sacrifice for others.

Chief Dan George

“To give your sheep and cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control them,” writes Shunryū Suzuki. I’d been looking for his exact wording as I faced my habitual compulsion of wanting to control the ways in which others act and think. And never mind others; as daily meditation reminds me, even my own mind defies control.

And still I try and come up short. Instead of making people (and opinions) small enough to fit my tidy box of preferences, Suzuki tells us to make the enclosure larger and larger. With boundaries expanded, the thing has room to move, to stretch, to grow, and be itself. In the process, O Miracle, the compulsion to control diminishes. “The best way to control people,” Suzuki writes, “is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in the wider sense.”

source: Suzuki, S. (2006, new edition). Zen mind, beginner’s mind. Boston, Shambhala, p. 19.

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.

Happy Summer!

June 21st, 2011

Welcome to summer!!

Customer Service (and its lack)

May 24th, 2011

We just got home today from one of the worst travel experiences in my life. We flew through Denver on United, connecting to Colorado Springs in order to visit my brother’s family in Pueblo and attend my niece’s wedding. It was less expensive than flying directly into the Springs or into Pueblo, and we’ve done it many times before with no problems or at worst delays. Going to the Springs on Thursday, we were delayed an extra two hours in Denver, but made it to Springs tired but happy to get in and see family, and enjoyed a wonderful weekend staying at the Pueblo Marriott, with a really good experience there, and visiting with family I hadn’t seen in twenty years in some cases. It was a great trip.

Until we tried to come home. There were several hours between our Springs flight and our Denver connection, so we didn’t anticipate problems. We got out of Springs late with about a half hour to connect. Then the troubles began. We ended up having to run sixty gates to try and make our flight. The airline knew we had just come in, and the gate attendant when we arrived assured us they would hold the flight. United’s policy is to close the doors ten minutes before a flight, but we were told the zone manager has the option to hold the flight for connections.

We got to the gate just as the doors had closed, running as hard as we could. Twelve people were standing there waiting, and United would not let us on the flight. I suppose they had already given our seats to other stranded passengers. And now we were the stranded, for not being able to run sixty gates in ten minutes. Our luggage was on the plane and going to San Diego. But we couldn’t get on the plane, since they had closed the doors.

I understand people miss connections, and airlines have to do what they can. But knowing customers have just come in a flight, and then leaving them stranded at the gate, is pretty inexcusable. Refusing to do anything for them when this happens is the totally unacceptable part. They wouldn’t book us a room, give us a voucher for a meal or anything. And were telling hundreds of other people in the airport the same thing, using the excuses that their United-Continental merger wasn’t complete, so they weren’t responsible for a Continental connection, or that it was our fault for not running sixty gates fast enough. We were all stuck, in dirty underwear in many cases and with no toiletries. But they didn’t care.

So we called Marriott, who booked us a room at the Residence Inn (using the United corporate rate code, which we found amusing.) We had a nice dinner at Applebees, who fed us efficiently and treated us well. We got breakfast the next day at Residence Inn, included with our room, deodorant, at a minimal cost, and free shuttle service to the airport. We got outstanding service — from everyone except the company that created the problem.

We traveled home today with many of the stranded — the mother with a young baby, who they had done nothing for. We had dinner at the Applebee’s the night before next to the man they had stranded from Grand Junction, who had now canceled his San Diego trip for business and now only wanted to go home. They couldn’t get him home that night either. The waitress told us that they heard these stories about United every. single. day.

And now, for want of a nail, the shoe has come off. We will never fly United again. We will never connect through Denver on a trip again. We are looking for a charity to donate our United miles to — all 70,000 of them. We will not use this company again.

I don’t blame the employees. The rules are set by the company, and the employees have little leeway. No wonder they stop caring after a while, and just do the job as best they can. I blame the management, the millionaires and maybe billionaires who run this company, set its policies, and every day, strand hundreds or even thousands of people. And don’t care. Not at all. Not even enough to hand out a package with some underwear, deodorant and a toothbrush, and eat the cost of a hotel room. Would that really be so difficult? Really?

I don’t give this airline long to survive. Others can do better — and do. Or at least care if they don’t.

Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870

May 8th, 2011

Mother’s Day Proclamation – 1870
by Julia Ward Howe

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Change Is in the Air

April 26th, 2011

“Just as the world around us changes and evolves, so do the circumstances and situations in our lives. We live in a universe that is alive, vibrant, and constantly evolving. Change is the way nature, the universe, and the Divine move us through each period of our lives and into destiny. We are led to our next lesson, our next adventure. There’s no need to deny change, to fear it or fight against it. Change is inevitable. Just as the earth is constant motion and transformation, so are we.

Take your place in the universal dance, the universal rhythm. Allow change to happen. Work with it as your life unfolds. Sometimes change comes in one smashing moment like a volcanic eruption. Other times it happens more slowly, the way the winds and rain sculpt bridges out of canyons.

Learn to trust your body– its signs, signals, warnings, and excited proclamations. We let the gathering clouds warn us of impending storms, and we learn to study and predict tremors in the earth. In much the same way, our body can function as a barometer for our soul and its place in the constantly changing and evolving universe.

You are open now, more sensitive than you’ve been before. Change is coming. It’s here. You can feel it in the air. You can feel it in yourself.”

– Melody Beattie, “Journey to the Heart”

April 3rd, 2011

http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=3863

Clearing

April 3rd, 2011

I think I spent the last month making a clearing in my life. I stopped posting on the blog every day, and spent more time reading and observing. I’ve been creating a space for a meditation garden, and now am to the point of putting in hardscape and selecting some focal points and plants. I still need to get the ground covering and create a “floor” for the “room”.

I’ve been clearing out old clothes, things I no longer want or need, and working on cleaning up my diet and trying to get back to yoga classes. Still not doing well at getting to the yoga classes, but I’ll get there.

I’ve started the spring veggie garden, and am clearing out dead branches, and one poor daisy tree that has completely died this winter. It’s a friend I’ll miss and I need to find something new to fill its space. Something that can grow as tall and graciously and provide the shade that the daisy tree used to. I still miss the large ash tree that I took out to create the meditation garden, but it had grown too large and was tearing up the rest of the yard and our patios. It’s hard to take out such a large and beautiful tree, but we just couldn’t justify the water it took, the fire risk, and the damage it was doing any longer. And now, there is a clearing for the new, for a place to meditate and enjoy some quiet space.

And I’ve found I need more quiet spaces in my life, more quiet time. As I get older I get deeper and quieter, like a large lake. For someone who is already pretty quiet, it hardly seems possible. But I’ve had a lot of rivers flowing in, and there still seems to be a dam keeping much from flowing out. So for now, a lake it is. If you flow like water, sometimes you end up in a quiet lake…