Friday, October 18, 2019

You Are a Gift

You are a gift to me
Yes you
You might call me enemy
And ascribe all manner of thoughts and actions to me
All of which I do not find in my own heart
No matter
I see you only with love
And gratitude for what you teach
You challenge me to practice on the razor's edge
My faith grows deeper, stronger
So hate me if you will
It's all transformed to glory
I bow to you
My friend
With love

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 64 (Part 1)

This uncharacteristically long chapter comprises several parts that may at one time have been separate. It reminds me of the book of Proverbs in the Bible, which contains many pearls of wisdom that can be considered as stand alone verses. Because of its length, I’m going to break discussion of this chapter into two posts.

Some key lines from the first part:

Peace is easily sustained

This is an interesting pronouncement in a world where peace has been elusive, from families to nations, across millennia. To me, this speaks to our natural state of alignment and harmony, easy to maintain if we refrain from interfering. The history of conflict at all levels and at all times in this world, has almost always been caused when we have shifted out of alignment because of fear. A Course in Miracles teaches that this fear results from our mistaken belief in separation, from each other and from God. Fear makes us want to control outside circumstances that are beyond our control. Inner conflict is then manifested externally.

What has not yet happened is easy to prepare for
Manage things before trouble arises

These lines remind me of the old adage “A stitch in time saves nine.” It also reminds me of how our practice prepares us for the unexpected. If my balance is improved by practicing tai chi, for example, I am less likely to fall if I miss a step or trip over something. If my inner alignment is rooted through practicing meditation, I’m less likely to be buffeted by an unanticipated challenge.

A long journey begins under the foot

This wisdom is often phrased as “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The character in this line, however, is actually the character for “foot” and the following character means “under.” This gives me a slightly different sense of this proverb. No matter where I’m headed, my present location is always exactly under my feet. No matter how many steps I take, I am always in the same “place,” that is, over my feet.

It’s like breathing. I will breathe my way all through my life’s journey, but the breath that matters is the one I’m taking right now.

No matter how you interpret this line, I think the point is that, to use another saying, “no matter where you go, there you are.” The present moment, standing on this ground, breathing this breath, is where I exist.

As I said, this chapter is more like pearls on a string rather than one big pearl. I hope these lines offer something helpful for your contemplation. I will continue the chapter in the next post.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Place We Never Left

Each moment
Is a doorway
An open door into the infinite
An invitation to enter 
The mystery of eternity
Time -- an endless hall of doors
Each moment
We walk through ... or we don't
Either way there is another door
Until we leave time altogether
And see all doors as one
Disappearing as soon as we step through
Into the place we never left

Monday, September 30, 2019

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 63

Act without acting
Engage without engaging
Know without knowing

These opening lines present the paradox of Tao, especially the first line which returns to the theme of non-action. People sometimes misunderstand this concept to mean that we all should sit around binge watching our favorite show instead of going to work, taking care of the kids, paying bills, pursuing hobbies, and all the things that make up our day to day lives.

How do we act without acting? We act without acting when we have a sense that action is happening through us but not by us. When we are fully present and respond naturally to our circumstances rather than trying to force other people or circumstances to conform to how we think things should be. This ability to respond naturally results from an inner alignment and harmony with reality.

Big small many few
Respond to injury (hatred, bitterness) with Te

This, to me, is the central and essential practice of the Tao Te Ching. First, all injury (by whatever name you want to call it) is the same, in the sense that every injury gives us a choice of how to respond. Second, our response to any injury can be the same, meaning that no matter the nature of the injury, we can respond from that place of alignment and harmony. In that case, the response is not a reaction from a defensive/offensive perspective. Rather, our response is an allowing of grace (Te) to manifest through us.

A Course in Miracles teaches that everything we do or think or say is one of two things: an expression of love, or a call for love. Everything.

When we have misperceived ourselves as separate and in conflict, we often call for love through anger, judgment, fear, manipulation. When we correctly perceive ourselves as connected and in harmony, it is easier to allow love to express itself through us and out into the world.

Let me be clear. No, the Tao Te Ching is not teaching us to go hug a serial killer. It is teaching us to practice compassion as we make sane choices about our safety and boundaries. Then, just like the arrows Buddha turned into flowers, injury is transformed into the gift of grace. Effortlessly. Action without acting.

Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. ~Buddha

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Deflecting Conflict

I was chatting with my martial arts teacher after class last week about how we learn in martial arts to deflect force rather than trying to overpower force with force. As with many lessons in martial arts, this one teaches us how to handle conflict in the rest of our lives as well. I related to him this story which he thought was a great example, so I will share it with you too.

A few years ago, I was walking along a neighborhood street after dark. Up ahead there was a group of young men. As I passed them, one of them said something vulgar and sexual to me. I walked on past without reacting, but they started to follow close behind me. They were looking for trouble. There was no one else on the street.

So I did what any self-respecting martial artist would do. I turned to face them. And I said,

“When an old lady like me gets a compliment from a handsome young fella like yourself, it’s a good day!” And I gave them a big smile.

Well, they weren’t expecting that. They all stopped in their tracks and looked confused. Then, after a pause, the one who had spoken to me softened his stance and simply said,

“God bless you.”

“God bless you too,” I replied.

All the tension evaporated. We all nodded at each other, turned, and went on our way.

Friday, September 20, 2019

In the Mercy Seat

The forest welcomes me
With energy delight
Joy in the green
Thunder speaks of God
As rain embraces me
I am in the mercy seat
I am in the mercy seat

Monday, September 16, 2019

Releasing Something Every Day

When engaged with learning, every day something is acquired
When engaged with Tao, every day something is released
~Tao Te Ching

Learning in our everyday lives is a process of acquiring knowledge, information, skill. There is nothing wrong with that. “Learning” in our spiritual lives, however, is a process of “unlearning,” letting go of whatever it is that blocks our awareness of and engagement with the present moment. It’s not always easy. We can be very attached to the very things that hinder our full experience and enjoyment of life – for example, judgments, opinions, beliefs, stories.

For me, I can see that in the past, I became attached to identities. When I have gone through major life transitions, one of the hardest things has been giving up who I thought I was in whatever stage I’m transitioning out of. As I look back over my life, I can see how quickly I latched onto a new identity, a new story. This was especially true in my younger years.

Okay, if I’m not going to be a back to the land hippie, I’ll be a pianist. That didn’t work out, so I’ll be a lawyer. That worked out for many years, and along the way I added some other identities. I’m a mother, a teacher, a martial artist, a blogger, a grandmother, and more. Each one has a story. As I’ve gotten older, some have changed or dropped away. It’s not as traumatic as before because my attachment is not as deep rooted or desperate.

In addition to the external identities, I have had inner ones as well. I am a good person, an ethical person, an intelligent person, a spiritual person, a person who sometimes has mystical experiences. These identities all have stories too. These identities are all just stories.

We all function in the world in various roles. It can’t be otherwise. But when we hold onto these roles as identifying who we are, when we latch onto them because letting them go is terrifying, then we create our own closed universe within which we are trapped. Any perceived threat to our identities is then met with resistance and defensiveness. We can no longer engage with Tao because we are fully engaged with our self-created misperception of reality.

Who am I when I drop all the stories, when I release all the identities? Who am I when I quit judging, when I question my beliefs, when I cease to hold my opinions in such high regard?

I am you.

Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go. ~Hermann Hesse