Sunday, December 24, 2017

A little holiday perspective

Driving to work last week I saw two signs in a nearby yard.  The first read, "Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to GOD except through HIM."  
The next sign situated in the same yard along the walkway, read, "NO TRESPASSING. KEEP OUT."
Of course, after I laughed aloud at the ironic signage, I was struck by what it unwittingly revealed. All too often religions espouse a monopoly on what is "right" or just and cling to it with closed fists, minds and hearts.  In one yard, two signs provided a perfect metaphor for how the story of Christmas, with it's little family looking for a place to rest and deliver a child, is all to often overlooked.  
There is no room at the Inn. 
"NO TRESPASSING. KEEP OUT!"  
How often do our beliefs, ideologies and misplaced moralities ward off travelers who are merely looking for refuge or safe harbor?  How often do we think ourselves in possession of the truth and find our minds and hearts hardened toward an open embrace?  This year has challenged many of us, politically, socially and personally.  We have watched our collective shadow parade across the social screen with all the pomp and circumstance of a bad reality television show (is there another kind?).  We have retrenched and barricaded ourselves behind values, platitudes and ideals, while climate change, environmental degradation, racism, misogyny, prejudice and greed run amuck.  All of this brought to mind Carl Sagan's words following the Voyager expedition forty years ago to photograph the planets of our outer solar system.  At the very end of the expedition, just as NASA had decided to turn off the cameras to conserve energy, Sagan convinced the powers that be to turn the cameras around and photograph the Earth from that great distance.  The resulting grainy image revealed a small, pale blue dot in a ray of solar light.
 Of this blue dot, Sagan wrote:
"From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."
With this in mind perhaps we will reconsider our sharp adherence to beliefs, whether Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Non-dual, Agnostic, Atheist, Republican, Democratic and the list goes on.  Let's reconsider this KEEP OUT! I'M RIGHT,YOU'RE WRONG model of self preservation.  Conceivably, we could open our hearts and minds and make room in the inn for a new vision of humanity.  One that welcomes and stewards the living things and preserves this miraculous pale blue dot, spinning through the vastness of space. Our common home.  

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Kwaanza, Shab e Yalda, Solstice or whatever your family celebrates, with the deepest meaning and spirit of the season.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

death, words and connection

Death comes unbidden, like a salesman in the night marketing unwanted wares.  My soul's companion and dearest friend for two-decades died this year.

At first grief fell like a torrential downpour, wet with tears.  Next, it arrived in a series of emotional tsunamis leveling everything in its wake. Eventually it settled into the ebb and flow of feeling. Loss is simply there, like a familiar friend who sometimes draws close enough to hold my hand and walk with me awhile before leaving and lifting the heavy mist of sorrow.

With my sister's passing, all creativity ran dry.  My verbosity and delight in words simply stopped.  I gave away my paints, put my loom in storage and my notepads gathered dust.

I simply had nothing left to say.

Words, my long time companions, simply proved insufficient to this part of life's journey. They separate totality into this and thatsubject and objecthere and thereyou and me.  Words provide a conceptual framework but are incomplete by design. Silence is better suited to the paradoxical simultaneity of life and death, in all it's disguises.

Silence.

And yet words can also connect.  Syllables reaching out from the individuated bias of personal experience toward the warmth of understanding in others.

A verbal thaw has begun. Words melt toward union... toward connection... toward life.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Truth

The resolve is to tell the truth.
And the deeper truth.
And the deeper truth.

Stop looking

Stop looking.
Not in the next moment when you have what you are looking for.
But now.
In this moment.
And you will discover that all you have ever sought is what you have been all along.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Flight

I have been unable to write.
All words seem an unnecessary distraction,
inadequate to the expansion back of them and woefully deficient.
Loss, grief, confusion, joy, bliss, expansion, contraction, heart ache... all pass through the web of experience ... some linger longer than others.
Such is the dance of the human.
Perhaps if I add a few words here,
the words will break free and give my heart room to breath once more.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Nearly there

 "Yell into the belly of the Earth", she told me, "she will listen and ease your aching sorrows". I yelled until I was hoarse. I was twenty-one. Burdens fell from careworn shoulders and we were sisters ever more. 

The other day a friend entrusted me with a Kabbalistic myth. In the telling, 144 souls were created at the dawn of time. Those 144 souls eventually splintered into the multitudinous fragments of sentient life on planet Earth. Now I look out upon the mosaic of life and believe that my kindred spirits are my clearest reflections of the original soul from which we sprang.  

Now she travels the final steps along the sharp, stony terrain of cancer, I walk with her, my heart aching.  I see ahead a field, beautiful and inviting, with tall grass, clear skies, shade trees and a small bubbling creek nearby. There are ample places to rest.  She is tired.  I say, softly, lean on me, we're nearly there.

This grief has settled in and it's not what I expected. It's not the sharp, growling grief of suffering, but a sweet, tender sadness held in generous arms of love.  Of course, even in my sister's departure I am held.
I love you Michelle.
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Only love, only love

Words.
Insufficient, awkward, clumsy tools with which to communicate.  They have all but dried up.  Each one spilling forth is incomplete and one-sided, ill-suited to its task.  Drawing water from an infinite well, they cough wet sand on the surface of things, unable to match wholeness with anything other than division.
Ah yes, but these are what we have.
My beloved heart-sister, one of the greatest loves of my life, is leaving form and I, with deep tenderness, am breaking open, admitting that I know nothing and yet am so generously known as everything.
She freely shared her love with me, year after year, until my own well was discovered to have been full all along.
The heart never grows tired of loving, no matter the cost.  It pours love like an inexhaustible river filling the parched places so long tended by words alone.
Now, I have no words to offer at this parting.  Each one spills out, empty and inadequate. The heart simply breaks and love spills out, flooding life, every where I move until there are no divisions, only love.
Only love.
In this great truth, there are no partings.
Only love.
Only love.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

And then You are like this

And then You are like this:

A small bird decorated 
With orange patches of light 
Waving your wings near my window, 

Encouraging me with all of existences's love -- 
To dance. 

And then You are like this: 

A cruel word that stabs me 
From the mouth of a strange costume You wear; 
A guise You had too long tricked me into thinking 
Could be other -- than You. 

And then You are... 

The firmament 
That spins at the end of a string in Your hand 
That You offer to mine saying, 
"Did you drop this -- surely 
This is yours." 

And then You are, O then You are: 

The Beloved of every creature 
Revealed with such grandeur -- bursting 
From each cell in my body, 
I kneel, I laugh, 
I weep, I sing, 
I sing. 

-Hafiz

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Good News

Beauty everywhere,
Care in every detail.

We imagine ourselves separate,
Alone.

While all the world is
Conspiring,

in
Simple Wonder...

Nothing is excluded.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

sister's eyes

The first time I met the Dalai Lama at 23, I had anticipated looking into his eyes and seeing how beautiful he was.  But when I looked in his eyes for the first time, and each subsequent time, I was utterly overwhelmed by how beautiful I AM.  It literally knocked all the human babbling straight out of my mind and cracked my heart wide open.  He offered a clear mirror with my own beauty reflected.  I have met with many clear seeing eyes who do this.  Children often do it. Nature does this.  And occasionally we have loved ones who do it as well.  I just spent an amazing week with my beautiful sister, beauty reflecting back and forth, exploding with joy, wonder and heart cracking splendor.

This is the gift that we can bring to every moment.  The gift of clear seeing.  At core we are all infinitely beautiful.  When this is seen we discover ourselves already in Eden, inraptured through and through, by a radiance in which everything is included.

Vancouver Island with my sister

 So much beauty, there are no words.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

nature-walking

When walking alone in nature for long periods of time something wonderful happens.  

The mind, generally so full of it's own diatribe, begins to   s  l  o  w   down and the senses atune to the rhythm of life all around.  

In the trees overhead, an avian fillabuster worthy of parliamant is in full force.  The wind whispers of her ongoing love affair with tree and cloud.  The bees buzz, matchmakers for flowers, busily dancing from bloom to bloom. Squirrels scurry amidst branches, hurriedly racing from perch to perch.  

As the mind settles it's inward churning, a subtle shift takes place.  The listener, as a distinct other, no longer exists.  There is no "me" and nature, there is just T H I S... this grand arising, exactly as it is. The "me" is simply another note played through the unique instrument of self. A note in the vast and  indescribably beautiful symphony of life.  

Monday, July 4, 2016

laugh

Since everything is but an apparition
Perfect in being what it is
Having nothing to do
With good or bad
Acceptance or rejection,
One may well burst
Out
In laughter.

14 cent. Tibet
Long Chen Pa

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Open your eyes

"That which I am seeking 
I already am."
Imagine you are standing in the sunlight with eyes squeezed shut looking for the light.
Open your eyes.

This Is It.

When you find the "Doer"
call me.
But I don't expect to hear from you.

"Madness!" you say,
"Of course there is a me."

But have you ever gone looking,
for the paradox in plain view?

It's too immediate to notice,
too simple to believe.

There is no where to go
and no one to get there.

This.
Is.
It.

No More Leaving

At 
Some point
Your relationship
With God
Will
Become like this:

Next time you meet Him in the forest
Or on a crowded city street

There won't be anymore

"Leaving."

That is,

God will climb into
Your pocket.

You will simply just take

Yourself

Along!
--Hafiz

We Might Have To Medicate You

Resist your temptation to lie
By speaking of separation from God,

Otherwise,
We might have to medicate
You.

In the ocean
A lot goes on beneath your eyes.

Listen,
They have clinics there too
For the insane
Who persist in saying things like:

"I am independent from the
Sea,

God is not always around

Gently 
Pressing against
My body."

--Hafiz

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

spring

Newness.
Spring is afresh with new life.  Flowers, buds, sprouts... the world all around is painted in brilliant hues and I am basking in the view.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

a paradox

Life is paradoxical.

Something in the mind wants to control it, to understand, predict, plan and otherwise navigate life with gusto.
In it's effort to stay safe, the mind plans and worries, frets and paces, thinks and judges, moralizes and intellectualizes, but Life is... life.
There is pain and pleasure, unbelievable beauty and unimaginable ugliness, sickness and health, fullness and scarcity.
It's not an oscillating pendulum, forever swinging between dual points of interest, it's paradoxically all of it at once.

We spend years trying to make life safe.  The beautiful irony is that it's not safe and it's not unsafe.  It just is as it is.

Our willingness to be with, and as, that paradoxical truth IS what all the great teachings were pointing to all along.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

We can't love the rain if we're not willing to get wet

I have noticed something about life... everything changes.

We arbitrarily decide which weather we are meant to have...sunny, playful, loving, stress-free, affirming, fill in the blank... and then we worry about the forecast.  We plan and prepare, we fret and watch for news, for signs, for disaster.

Listen.

It's gonna rain.
It's gonna storm.
There may be hurricanes and floods, blizzards and tornados.  It's life.  There will be ups and downs.  The kids will drive us nuts and they will surprise us with their brilliance.  People will amaze us and disappoint the holy shit out of us.  Our health will be smooth and it will be rough.  We will laugh our asses off and we will crumble to the floor crying.  There will be birth and there will be death.

It's all here.

We wait for summer to set in and for the clouds of life to disperse forever.  Some of us call it enlightenment, others success.  Some call it the right relationship, others a hefty bank account.

The sun will shine and the birds will sing and the flowers will bloom. It's a fact.  The skies will darken, clouds will storm and the leaves will fall.  It's a fact.

Life is the whole experience and we can't love the rain if we aren't ready to get wet.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

longing


Longing.

Have you ever noticed that much of our life seems to be spent reaching toward the next moment in a misplaced attempt to escape or appease a persistent feeling of longing?
Instead of sitting tight with the longing itself, we look for an explanation. "I'm not satisfied in this relationship." "I need to find my life's purpose".  "Do I even have a purpose?"  "Maybe if I can just clean up the shit pile from my childhood or get my ass back in therapy." "If I had more money I'd feel safe."  "If I was truly loved I'd know contentment." "If I were enlightened all of this aching and suffering would be replaced with the 'peace that passeth understanding'." 

Longing scares the holy shit out of us.  We run like hell away from NOW.  Where are we going?  Toward the next promised something, in hope of release?  News flash...it's another NOW.  It's just longing in a new dress.  

Even once we get that promised relationship, or new house, or bigger pay check or mind blowing spiritual experience, we inevitably come face to face with the evanescent quality of life. Everything is fleeting.  The NOW is constantly changing form.

We could pause here.  It's where we are anyway and there's no actual way of escaping.  (God knows we've tried) But we don't. We blame the relationship, the bills, the job, ourselves or our fleeting taste of enlightenment and seek again.  

So? Stop...now.

Our seeking is our suffering.  Our resistance takes a thousand forms... thinking, worrying, controlling, planning, jaw grinding, contracting, self helping, do-gooding, psycho-babbling...  It all amounts to the same thing. Resistance in disguise.
So let's try something different.

Stop.  Here.  Now.  Make an about face. Greet the longing with open arms.  Scary shit I know but we're braver then we think.  There's really no escape.  We are right here any way.  Right now.
Listen.  
This longing is asking only one thing of you.  
To be met.  
Here nothing is denied. 
So meet it.
This is where all your spiritual practice is pointing.

Longing unmasked is love

And love has taken a thousand disguises and a thousand more, all of them, no matter the appearance, are loves' invitation to love.  

In that passionate embrace even the God's shudder in ecstasy.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Meditation

When the topic of meditation arises, I often hear, "I don't meditate", "I've never meditated", " I can't meditate"or "I AM a meditator" which often means, "I sit for x number of minutes every day which makes me subtly superior".  Once upon a time I meditated several hours a day, year after year, quietly sequestered from the hustle and bustle of the world.  Then something changed.  I asked what am I training for?

Meditation, as it's commonly referred to, is a practice composed of mental exercises and some degree of physical control, for the purpose of reaching a heightened state of awareness or a more relaxed condition.  It's easy to make meditation into a destination... an aspiration to attain some conceptual ideal or the means to get there.  Where?  I don't know…there?  Enlightenment? …some preferred future HERE? But meditation is a training tool and not a merit-based-goal earned through time spent sitting like a pretzel contemplating the belly button of the universe.
So what is all the training for?  Have you ever tumbled head over heart into natures beauty, astounded by the intricacies in each detail?  Have you ever laid awake beside your lover and watched the gentle rise and fall of his or her breath?  Have you held a new born baby in your arms and taken in the fresh newness of life with every sense at your disposal? Or become lost in the act of writing, creating, playing, loving and more?
These are all forms of meditation.  Formal meditation practice is meant to strengthen our muscle to be present. It's like learning to play the piano, we practice regularly to improve our playing. The play may be more formal and systematic BUT it's still playing the piano.  The same is true of formal meditation.  We are practicing conscious engagement with life AS IT IS right now.  If the internal landscape is bumpy, we are present and aware of the quality of bumpiness.  If it's blissful and spacious, there is a YES and release into that. Meditation is a no-fail business.  You are just showing up.  When resistance to this moment diminishes, so does the internal noise.  It's not a goal.  It's the natural byproduct of presence.  All the observed benefits of meditation naturally flow from a YES to this moment, as it is and exactly as you are.
And like all practice, meditation IS strengthening our capacity for YES.  After years seated cross-legged and contemplating my navel from every mystical tradition available, I asked the question… What is all of this training for?  And the answer came.  Life.  Living. And the secret of life is... to live it! 100%.  And that YES makes all the difference.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Tripping Over Joy

What is the difference between your experience of Existence and that of a saint?

The saint knows that the spiritual path is a sublime chess game with God and that the Beloved has just made such a Fantastic Move that the saint is now continually tripping over Joy And bursting out in Laughter and saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.”      ― Hāfiz

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

This is it: Seizures and Truth

The whole spiritual search has lost its luster. After a while the enlightenment carrot starts to look like…well… a carrot, no different than any other carrot, the pursuit of another ideal in one form or another. Oneness chasing oneness is another case of conceptual bullshit.  Utter and complete. Every attempt to experience oneness/enlightenment/liberation is a movement away from it and toward a conceptual world of twoness...the illusion of illusion.  It just doesn’t matter. Our western conditioned minds, raised on autonomy, the pursuit of happiness and platonic thought, divide body and soul into oppositional constructs, only to provide some arbitrary point of reference.

Today, while at work, I had a seizure.  This one was accompanied by hours of disorientation, loss of words, heart fluctuations, dizziness and the typical emotional aftermath.  Hours later, as I sat with the vulnerable uncertainty of life, I realized I am no longer interested in concepts.  I don’t give a damn for the spirituality vs. matter debate.   I couldn’t begin to care if there is “other” or if the whole show is the creation of a mind intent on separation.  In the final hour does any of that matter?  Does any of that offer peace in the quiet hours when you lay awake before dawn and all pretense of self is suspended?  No.  It’s all noise. 

I breathe.  I need air.  I stand.  I need gravity.  I move.  I need energy.  I eat.  I need all the life forms from which my food comes.  This human body did not evolve in isolation, intellectual or otherwise. I need other as plant, animal, human and more.  It is ludicrous to postulate about spirit AND form.  It’s mental bullshit.  It is all LIFE as ME, as YOU, as air, as earth, as cosmos, as seizure, as heart arrhythmia, as us, as whatever is here.  Right now.  In truth, we don’t know what is going on here; we only know that something is.  That’s the best we can say with any measure of clarity and honesty. 

Given THAT how do we meet THIS moment?  Do we try to adapt it to fit some imagined version of how it should be? Do we try to manifest something else or employ some other resistance to THIS? Do we wonder how a more enlightened version of ourselves would handle it?

I sit, disoriented, dizzy and emotional, offering a tender yes to this, utterly awed by the unresolved, uncertain and unknown nature of life.

The whole liberation thing can by cleared up pretty simply:
Love what is. Or don’t.  Doesn’t make a lick of difference.
This is still it.