Friday, January 31, 2020

I Am the Cake!

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

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Message to Email Subscribers

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 (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. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Winter Solstice

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

Friday, January 17, 2020

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 66

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

Be water, my friend.  ~Bruce Lee

Friday, January 10, 2020

No One Tells You

No one tells you
There is a sadness
When all is left behind
Although shed willingly
Touch lingers
A last caress
Of what was once a treasure
There is no going back
Nor would you want to
Yet there were moments
When happiness kissed your lips
And longing stirred your soul
When the dream sang sweetly
And illusion beckoned beauty

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Year of Perfect Vision

As already noted by many people, 20/20 represents perfect vision, making 2020 the year of perfect vision. I love that.

This year is an invitation to look with our inner sight, to see things not as we wish them to be, or imagine them to be, but as they are. To see through the stories, the judgments, the desires, the aversions, the memories of the past, the projections into the future, all the ways we distort reality. To see, as the Bible says, not through a glass darkly, but face to face.

And how do we do this? Not but looking outward, but by turning our gaze inward. By watching ourselves with curiosity and compassion, noticing how we get distracted, how we tell ourselves stories and then believe them, how we judge ourselves and others, how we allow fear to dictate our thoughts and actions, how we cling and grasp and push away, how we try to control the narrative instead of dropping the narrative, how we think we know what reality should be.

By noticing how exhausting all this is! And how futile. And how endearingly human.

Then comes the moment of surrender, when we release all our efforts to make better, to do better, to be better. When we see ourselves face to face and accept ourselves just the way we are. When we look without fear, and the perfection of all creation is revealed to us. When we see our own reflection, woven into creation’s radiant threads, loved and loving. So beautiful.

When we see with perfect vision, we see that indeed, we are wonderfully made in the image of God. All creation is Love’s masterpiece.

May we be inspired every time we write the date, or see it on our phones or calendars, to remember that this year is the year we require no artificial aids to sight. We are gifted with perfect vision this year. We need only open our eyes to see.

I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.  ~ “Amazing Grace”