Friday, April 22, 2016
Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow. ~Steve Jobs’ last words
That these were Steve Jobs’ last words, or really anyone’s last words, captures our imagination. A message from the threshold of death, from one perhaps seeing something marvelous, unable to describe it, simply expressing wonder.
We might think that what is being seen is what is beyond, on the other side of death, what awaits us when we cross that liminal space. I thought that, too. But the more I contemplated this intriguing deathbed utterance, the more I considered that what he saw was not beyond death, unattainable by the living, but what has been here all along, what is here right now, available to us all in every moment.
Most of us live our lives in the virtual reality of our thoughts, of the stories we tell ourselves–about ourselves and the world we live in and those who live in it with us. What we experience is not real, but rather a reaction to what we are telling ourselves about what we perceive. This is why two people can be present at the same event, yet can experience the event is such radically different ways.
Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.” Our very perception is inextricably entwined with the beliefs we’ve chosen to embrace.
We can choose differently. Not just different beliefs, but to suspend belief. To see, as the Bible says, not through a glass darkly, but face to face.
How do we do that? Steve Jobs’ last words offer a suggestion. WOW–Watch, Open, Wait.
Observe what is happening right here, right now. We spend most of our time somewhere else in some other time. Meanwhile, we are missing our lives, our real lives. We can begin to awaken by watching...everything. Not everything you think is happening or should be happening, but what is really happening. This might be something external in your surroundings, or internal in your feelings or thoughts. Don’t assume or desire, but simply watch.
Be curious rather than judgmental about what is happening. Catch yourself before you start telling yourself a story about what is happening. Recognize fear or anxiety or resistance and breathe into it. Relax and allow your evaluation, whether positive or negative, to fall away. Open yourself to fully welcome the present moment, whatever it brings.
Pause before you jump to a conclusion or take action. Release the need to know or understand or have a plan. Waiting doesn’t mean being passive, but rather alert. It means not trying to control circumstances or direct a particular outcome. Allow the way to reveal itself to you in its own time. You will know what to do, if anything, when it is time to do it. Then doing will simply “happen.”
When we follow these steps, our spirits are filled with wonder and gratitude. Everything is a miracle. And the only response to that is...
Sunday, April 17, 2016
Monday, April 11, 2016
The Tao that can be understood is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of heaven and earth
The named is the mother of ten thousand things
Desireless one can see the mystery
Desiring one can see the manifestations
~Tao Te Ching
These are the opening lines of the Tao Te Ching, and are the essence of all the 81 verses that follow. I have been studying the original Chinese of this wisdom teaching for several years now, one verse at a time (and have contemplated translations for decades), but I keep coming back to these lines.
What can I say about them? Like the shadow of a tree is not the tree, like the swaying of grass in the meadow is not the breeze, like a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon, words can only suggest deep truth, but are not truth. Even these lines I so love are not truth, not even in the original Chinese which has a rhythm and poetry lost in even the best translation.
St. Augustine said “If you can understand it, it’s not God.” There is a profound perfection beyond our mind’s ability to grasp it. Indeed, the only way to reach it is to open beyond our minds, into the space between our thoughts. And even then, it is beyond our reach, because it can’t be reached but only received. No, it can’t be received because it is already ours. No, it isn’t ours because it can’t be possessed. It possesses us. It is us.
It is us when there is no “us.” It is our face before our parents were born. It is the darkness over the face of the deep from Genesis. And Brahman of the Vedas.
It is everything and nothing. It is beautiful.
Don’t try to analyze these lines, but let them enter your spirit without words or thoughts. Don’t seek meaning, but rest in freedom from desire. Let them reveal to you what cannot be named. Enter the gateless gate of mystery.
Here are the lines in Chinese. Whether you read Chinese or not, you might appreciate the beauty and rhythm of the characters.