There is nobody who can teach the way of no way. It cannot be learned either. Teaching and learning require someone. When there is no longer anybody, then the way of no way is evident and there is neither need for learning nor desire for teaching. ~Todd Jackson
I walk in beauty Butterflies dance before me Rainbows shimmer in my wake My footprints fill with crystal water and flashing fish As flowers blossom under fingertips Beauty breathes me guides me creates me I shine like the sun
As Buddha was walking down the road, someone approached from the other direction. This person was awed by the radiance shining from Buddha. Excuse me, but are you a god? No. Are you a king? No. Are you a wizard? No. Well, then what are you? I am awake.
That story has always inspired me. When I think about what I want most in the world, what I value and practice and aspire to, it is this state of being awake – fully present and aware, deeply experiencing and directly engaged with life in this moment.
I thought of this story recently when someone used the term “woke” in its current popular usage related to politics and social issues.
I was curious to hear this term used in a way. It seemed to me that it was being used to distinguish groups of people who take specific positions on political or social issues. The line is drawn between those who are woke and those who are not, with woke being the more desirable or the more derided, depending on who is using it.
Let me be clear that I am not commenting on the politics or cultural origins of this term. What I am commenting on is its use as a judgment or assessment of division, a means of attack, similar to the way we have weaponized other terms, like American or immigrant. And of course, the old standbys of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and more.
Awakening does not divide; it unifies. It does not judge; it accepts. It does not demand; it radiates. It does not fear; it embraces. May we all, like Buddha, be woke.
But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. ~Pema Chodron
Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world. ~Ramana Maharshi
A meditation teacher was describing two approaches to attaining enlightenment. One, he said, is like showing someone a picture of a cake and telling them “Go make this.” The other is like giving someone a recipe. I understood what he meant. He was suggesting that the instructions in the recipe would be more helpful than a photo with no directions. But something kept lurking at the edge of my consciousness, something that seemed a bit off.
So I sat on my cushion and contemplated this whole cake metaphor. And suddenly I knew what was bothering me. Both approaches describe a way to attain or produce something, something you don’t already have.
What if, instead, I don’t think in terms of making a cake, but rather in terms of realizing that I am the cake? I don’t need to make anything, produce anything, attain anything. I only need to remember who I am. I only need to allow my true nature to manifest and be expressed.
Does that mean that there is no purpose to practice or process? No, I don’t think so. Our practice is not so much about attaining enlightenment as it is about releasing everything that blocks our awareness of our natural enlightened state. I don’t need to get from here to there. I need to remember that I’m already where I want to be. I always have been. I never left.
In a temple in Thailand, there is a solid gold Buddha that was encased in a plaster statue for so long that its true nature was forgotten. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, its priceless truth was only rediscovered when it fell from a crane moving it and some plaster chipped off. When all the plaster was then removed, the brilliance and magnificent beauty of the golden Buddha shone forth.
Some speculate that the Buddha was covered in plaster to protect it from invaders. We do that too. We encase ourselves in layers of what we think of as protection, so many layers that we forget what is underneath. We pretend that we are in control. Safe. Until life drops us and some of that protection is chipped away. And if we dare to look, we see something shimmering in the darkness.
What then? Here is our choice. We can cover it back up, or we can begin to loosen the protection and strip it away, freeing ourselves from all our false imaginings. Until we see that there was nothing that needed protecting in the first place. For as A Course in Miracles teaches:
Nothing real can be threatened Nothing unreal exists Herein lies the peace of God
A conversation with a friend yesterday revealed an issue about commenting on blog posts if you are an email subscriber. If you subscribe by email, the blog post comes to your email inbox via a "do not reply" source through Google. That means that if you reply directly to the email, I do not get your response. My friend told me that she has commented on many blog posts in this way, thinking that if she replied to the email, her response would come to me. I never got any of them. I feel sad to have missed out on her reflections. I feel even more sad that she thought I had received her messages and just never replied to them! It occurred to me that other subscribers might have done the same thing. If you get my blog posts via email, please do not reply directly to the email. Your reply will disappear into the cybervoid. There are two ways I can receive your replies: If you want to respond privately to me, then please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (or any other email address you have for me). If you want to comment publicly on the blog, then click on the No Way Cafe link in the email. That will take you to the blog site where you can scroll down to the comment section at the end of the blog post. I did not know about all this until yesterday, so I'm sorry if I have missed messages from you in the past. I don't know who subscribes by email, and until my friend showed me her email yesterday, I didn't know how the blog posts were sent or what the post emails look like. Please know that I appreciate all of you who read the No Way Cafe posts, whether by email or on the site itself, and I care very much about your responses. I apologize for any confusion over responding to emailed posts, and I am sorry if I have missed any of your valued messages.
Solstice calls the light Through the darkness Through the cold Each day a few steps closer Each day a little brighter The earth warms to her touch And stirs in winter's stillness Buds quiver on bare branches Whispering welcome Welcome home
This beautiful chapter is about leadership, comparing a good leader to the sea, resting patiently in the lowest position, allowing all water to return according to its own path.
The sea is king of the hundred valleys Because it lies well below them
This passage blends two thematic images in the Tao Te Ching – water and valleys. The valley is open, receptive, guiding the water that flows through it, and nourishing all that grows in its embrace.
Water is the most common metaphor for Tao. Water’s power comes from following its nature, flowing in harmony with gravity, ever downhill around over or under all obstacles, returning to its source in the vast ocean.
Thus one who would rule others must support them from underneath One who would lead others must encourage them from behind
This reminds me of the Bible passage that says those who are first shall be last, and those who are last shall be first, thus describing the concept of the servant leader. When a leader understands this principle, the chapter goes on to observe that the people are neither burdened nor hindered. Good leadership embodies humility, not arrogance.
Because the sage does not contend No one under heaven can contend with the sage
I experience the validity of this passage all the time in martial arts. One of our training slogans is “Don’t insist. Don’t resist.” This holds true in everyday life, as anyone who has found themselves in a battle of will with a two year old (or a teenager) can attest. When we compete, we divide ourselves into winners and losers. In doing so, we all lose the opportunity for connection, for relationship, for peace.
Water does not contend, yet achieves its purpose effortlessly, in harmony with all nature. When we live according to our true nature, in harmony and humility, we open a channel for the energy of the universe to manifest through us. And nothing is more powerful than that.
Our deepest fear is not that we are powerless. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. ~Marianne Williamson