Monday, July 30, 2018

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 46

This chapter contrasts the effects of discontent and satisfaction. It begins with vivid imagery using horses.

When the world is in alignment with Tao
Horses work in the fields 
When the world is not in alignment with Tao
War horses are bred outside the city

Two very different roles for a horse to fill – one associated with peace and the abundance of harvest, the other associated with conflict and destruction. Literally life and death.

We think of this in terms of external peace and conflict, but we can also think of this in terms of whether we have peace or war inside of us. For whatever we have within is the energy we will offer to the world. As the saying goes, as within so without.

Many of us are looking outside ourselves at the world around us, which appears to be in such turmoil, and we want to contribute in some way to peace. But Adyashanti says that even if our words speak of peace, if there is internal struggle, what we transmit is conflict.

Internal struggle is always rooted in desire, wanting something or someone (including ourselves) to be different, wanting reality to be different. Reality might be pleasurable or painful, but our suffering comes from our unwillingness to acknowledge reality as it is. This is the basis of desire and discontent.

There is no greater fault than having desire
There is no greater misfortune than not knowing contentment
There is no greater curse than obtaining your desire
Thus those who know contentment are always satisfied

That third line reminds me of the saying to be careful what you wish for! When we get what we desire, it sometimes isn’t what we thought it would be. Or even if it is, it isn’t long before we want something else. We think that our dissatisfaction comes from not having what we want, but perhaps our dissatisfaction comes from wanting.

My favorite translation of the last line is “He who knows enough is enough will always have enough.” My artist sister made me a beautiful rendition of this version that I keep on my desk. (See photo at top of post.)

So which horse will I ride today?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Dancing in the Flames

Fire flames dance
Flame fingers beckon
Take my hand
And come with me
Dancing in the flames 
That burn us free

Friday, July 20, 2018

Awakening Through Book Titles

In a recent discussion with a friend about books we found insightful, I mentioned three by Adyashanti  – Falling into Grace, The End of Your World, and Emptiness Dancing. Then I realized that these three book titles are a perfect description of awakening.

Falling into Grace

When I was growing up, we used to go to a recreational area on the Tennessee River called Pickwick. There was a cove with a waterfall accessible only by boat. From the boat you could swim over to the base of the cliff to the side of the waterfall, where there was a knotted rope you could use to climb up to the top. It was not an easy climb over slippery rocks and mossy footholds.

Once at the top, you could look out over the boats floating below. From this ledge, the cliff seemed much taller than it did from water level. This was the “oh s- - t” moment when you would realize what you had done. There was only one way down and that was not climbing back down the way you had come up. The only way down was to jump.

So you stood at the top of the cliff wondering why you had wanted to do this in the first place. What looked so enticing from below now was terrifying. You worked so hard to get to this point and now all you had to do to get where you wanted was to step off solid ground. Gravity would do the rest.

This is where we sometimes find ourselves when all our practice and effort gets us to the point when there is nothing left to do except let go. And that becomes the hardest thing of all. We read books, meditate for hours, go to workshops, chant and beat drums. We call ourselves seekers and embrace the journey. But when life says, “You are here! You have arrived. Seek no more. Just let go,” we balk.

Because on some level, you know that if you just let go and fall into grace, it will be ...

The End of Your World

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, we call a butterfly.

We are so afraid that if we let go, our world will not be the same, we will not be the same. We will not be in control. We will be in free fall. And that is the key word – free. Here is the secret: you were never in control. Once you step off the cliff in surrender, the fear is immediately gone and you know that everything is all right, no matter what. You realize that you haven’t lost anything but delusion and the fear that goes with it. And that changes everything.

Nothing is the same. You are not the same. It is extraordinary. And immensely ordinary. It is everything. And nothing. You feel exhilarated, and relieved. It is liberating, and you are ...

Emptiness Dancing

You plunge into the water and come up laughing and sputtering. You look around at the boats and the waterfall and the people. Can they tell that everything has changed, that you have changed? No one seems to notice that everything seems fresher, the colors brighter, the water cooler. You have released everything that you held onto, emptied yourself of all your fears and stories and limitations. Life is exquisite. Every moment is a gift, an invitation to dance the divine dance.

You climb back onto the boat. Your mother wraps you in a towel and slathers sun screen on your face over your protests. Dad opens the cooler and everyone reaches for sodas and fried chicken.

It is all so deliciously normal, in a way you have never noticed before.

Nearby there is a splash. A face pops up out of the water. Eyes full of wonder search until they meet yours. You smile.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Start with “I don’t know.” Why not just start with where you’ll end up anyway? ~Adyashanti

I was never a legit Trekkie but I did enjoy and was inspired by two of the series – Next Generation, and Voyager.

Each series had a crew member characterized by intellectual and logical prowess – Data, the android in Next Generation, and Tuvok, the Vulcan in Voyager. Occasionally they were confronted with a question they could not answer.

“What is the composition of the gasses in that nebula?”

“What is the origin of that ship speeding towards us on an intercept course?”

“What dimension did these aliens just emerge from?”

When unable to answer, Data or Tuvok would simply reply “unknown.”

Lately, when feeling that urge to understand what cannot be understood, to describe what cannot be described, to have certainty where none exists, I have interrupted my endless mind loops with a simple word – unknown.

My mind hates that. My mind is useful for many things, and I appreciate its contribution to my life. But minds are wired to know, to identify, to categorize, to understand, to store and retrieve. Confronted with mystery, our minds continue to search for an answer. That’s fine if the mystery is about what is making that scratching sound in the attic, but it doesn’t work when the question is beyond the limits of mind, when the answer is not only unknown, but unknowable.

Not one to give up, the mind solves the dilemma by latching onto an answer. Then a problem arises when someone else’s mind latches onto a different answer. Which answer is The Answer?

How can we know? We can’t. As one teacher says, we cannot think our way to truth. Thinking is always one step away from truth. Truth just is, regardless of what we think or don’t think. When we drop everything we think we know, there it is, shining like a light that has been uncovered, shining as it always has been and always will.

But as soon as we try to think about it, or understand it, or explain it, it disappears again, not because it isn’t there but because our efforts to hold it in our minds block our inner sight. As the song says, how do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?

Someone recently joked that I’m like Oprah. (Really, they were joking.) Oh no, I replied. Oprah’s monthly magazine ends with a column titled “What I Know for Sure.” Oprah knows something for sure at least twelve times a year. I don’t know doodley-squat ... ever.

Footprints lead to the shore of the sea
Beyond that point no trace remains

Thursday, July 12, 2018


At night
When darkness makes the edges soft
And thins the veil
The boy wept
I miss home, he cried
We are home, his parents soothed
No, my home before, now sobbing
His parents stroked his back, perplexed
You mean our old house?
No, not that one, the one before!
There was no other
You were born in that house
No! he wailed. The one BEFORE!
His parents understood at last
And cried with him

Friday, July 6, 2018

Water Moves the Color

I am participating in a four part Art and Meditation workshop. That doesn’t sound like such a remarkable thing until you know that I am a bit phobic about art. I joke (but not really joking) that my sister got all the artistic talent in the family. She is indeed a wonderful artist and my home is graced by several of her lovely paintings.

I feel about a blank piece of art paper the way some people feel about a blank screen when they are trying to write. So if you really understand how reluctant I am to do anything even remotely artistic, you will marvel at my willingness to try out this workshop. I marvel at it myself. The meditation aspect was the hook – THAT I’m comfortable with. And so I went.

And here is what happened....

The director of the workshop, Margaret, began with all of us in a sitting area. So far so good. I can sit. Tables and shelves in another part of the room were filled with all kinds of art supplies. I tried not to look. Her presence was calm and her words aimed to reassure. This was not about producing a certain product using specific techniques. This was about exploring, playing, discovering, allowing. Blah, blah, blah. Anxiety nipped at my heels.

Then, in giving us a brief orientation to the materials, she used the phrase “Water moves the color.” My soul phone rang and I hesitatingly answered. Hello? As we settled into meditation, those words held out their hands, inviting me to dance.

After a period of silence, we moved into the art area. I felt excited and a tiny bit brave. I picked a large piece of watercolor paper taped to a board and sat with it flat on the table in front of me. I closed my eyes and moved my hands over the paper. It wasn’t so scary if I couldn’t see it. I chose a few colors and squeezed the paint out beside the paper.

No brushes, I decided. Just my hands, water, and color. I cupped my hands into the water container and soaked the paper until it was saturated. Then I stuck my hands in the paint, closed my eyes again, and let my fingers dance in the puddles. There was color everywhere. I picked up the board, tilting the paper this way and that.

And guess what...water moved the color! Across the ridges and into the valleys created by the wet paper. It was amazing. But the water wasn’t done. I laid the board on the table again, and over time, as the paint and paper dried, shapes and lines emerged that could not have been predicted. It was like the water itself was painting. I was simply a witness to its own creative dynamic. It was all a beautiful surprise, one I neither envisioned nor controlled.

Just ... like ... life.

To learn more about Margaret and her soul enriching offerings, click here to visit her website. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 45

This chapter reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:12 – For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. We think we see clearly, but when we look through the fog of our own judgments and beliefs, our hopes and fears, we see illusion yet think it real. We try to make sense of the paradox of our perceptions, seeking the safety of certainty instead of the mystery of truth.

Great perfection seems imperfect
Yet its use is not impaired

Great fullness seems empty
Yet its use is not exhausted

Great truth seems wrong
Great skill seems clumsy
Great eloquence seems awkward
Great richness seems poor

The repeated use of the character for “seems” suggests that things are not always as they appear. Or, as the saying goes, don’t believe everything you think.

This is especially true of the second couplet above. The fullness that appears empty is the unlimited potential of the formless, undifferentiated Tao, the source of the entire manifested universe.

In martial arts we practice wuji stance, or empty stance, as pictured above. From this perfectly aligned, relaxed stance, all movement is possible. The internal circulation of qi (energy) is unrestricted; the potential for outward expression of power is unlimited.

We can cultivate this same “stance” in our lives, by finding our inner balance and alignment. When we are fully present with an attitude of open awareness, we engage with life as it truly is, as we truly are. We see face to face.

Every object, every creature, every man, woman and child
has a soul,
and it is the destiny of all
to see as God sees, 
to know as God knows,
to feel as God feels, 
to Be
as God
~Meister Eckhart