Thursday, April 29, 2021

Who Asks

 


Who speaks to me
In quiet words
Whispered in my soul
Who guides me sure 
Across my days 
With wisdom kind and pure
Who comforts me
And lets me see
The wonders beyond fear
Who finds me
No matter where I go
And stays beside me near
I know not
And yet I do
So why need I to wonder
The answer given
Is the same each time
Who asks, my heart,
Who asks

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Expanding Our Sphere



A minister was giving what I call an “audition sermon” at a church, in hopes of being called as their pastor. After the sermon, members of the congregation were invited to ask questions. Like many churches, this one was becoming smaller and grayer as the members aged. One person asked the minister what he would do to “grow” the church. He responded, “That depends on what you are willing to risk. Everyone like you is already here.” 

This is true for many of us in our individual lives as well. We seek the comfort of familiarity – with people, events, ideas, beliefs. We shun whatever causes us discomfort. Pause for a moment and consider what might fall in that category. Take an honest inventory. Something might surprise you. 

For example, I found that in certain circumstances, I was more concerned by what other people think than I realized. Even more, I was concerned by what I thought they might think. Since I generally see myself as someone who boldly marches to the beat of my own drum, I felt a little disappointed. That disappointment also caused some discomfort. I can also get impatient with people who do not behave the way I think they should. And I can feel awkward, and sometimes envious, around people who have what I describe as an “artist’s eye” on the world, a perspective that often seems mysterious and incomprehensible to me. 

My list can go on indefinitely, but what all these things have in common is that they create in me a sense of unease, dissonance, misalignment, distress – sometimes insignificant and hardly noticed, sometimes overwhelming and threatening. 

They are all on the edge, or beyond the edge, of my sphere of acceptance. We mistakenly believe that if we can exclude those things from our sphere that cause us discomfort, we can rest in peace within our safe boundaries. But this is what I’ve found. None of those rejected things actually cause my distress. It is the rejection itself that is the problem. It is my struggle with reality, trying to make reality conform to my desire, that creates the conflict that disturbs me. And a struggle with reality is always doomed to failure. Every time.

So what happens if I stop defending the borders of my sphere and instead allow my sphere to expand to include whatever arises in my awareness? Nothing is denied. Go back to my list. Can I allow within my sphere my occasional concern with what other people think? And my related self judgment? Can I accept that I am sometimes impatient or awkward? Can I recognize my absence of control over what other people think or say or do? And my attendant frustration? If I’m unable to embrace what I reject, can I embrace my rejection? 

Expanding our sphere of acceptance to include what is, as it is, doesn’t mean we like everything. In fact, our dislike and can be within our sphere too. It just means that we are not denying reality. And that is when true peace is possible. 

A moment of radical acceptance is a moment of genuine freedom. ~Tara Brach

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Who’s That Old Lady?

This is a “joke’s on me” story. I love martial arts. I have practiced various martial arts over the years. These days, it’s taiji, sword, and staff. I recently took a video of myself practicing a sword form. In my head I looked like this:



When I watched the video, my first thought was “Who’s that old lady with the big butt flapping that sword around?” 

Ah, reality. I had a good laugh at myself. What a great opportunity to truly see and embrace things as they really are. And still love life. 

On the other hand, there is no harm in enjoying our fantasies. When my daughter was young, she liked to wear a pink T shirt on her head and pretend she had long hair. She wanted to wear it to go shopping one day, and asked me if people would think she had long hair. No, I said with a smile. They will think you have a pink T shirt on your head. 

She paused for a moment, then flipped her pink “hair” around her shoulders and said confidently, No they won’t. And off she skipped. 

Note to self – no more videos! 

Friday, April 16, 2021

New Growth

 


Like a child holding its mother's hand
New growth confidently emerges at branch's end
Dancing with joyful abandon
Safely held

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 81



This is it, the last chapter of the Tao Te Ching. I began this series on the 81 chapters of this ancient text almost five years ago. Wow, that is hard for me to believe. The intention for the series was to share some reflections on each chapter based on my decades long love of this wisdom teaching, which led me to spend several years delving into the mystery and beauty of the original Chinese characters. What I’ve tried to offer is not another translation of each chapter – there are already so many of those – but rather some insight or application that has arisen in my own life through my engagement with the text. 

So here we are, at the end which does not feel like the end. The motion of Tao is cyclical, manifesting and returning, rather than linear. It ends where it begins. This is the way. 

With that in mind, I’m drawn to the very end of this chapter, which, at least to me, sums up the arc of wisdom throughout the Tao Te Ching

Heaven’s Tao benefits yet does not interfere
Sage’s Tao acts yet does not contend

Here is our model for living in awakened moments. The energy of the universe is like the sun, providing light and warmth to all without regard to merit, without judgment, without manipulation. The ten thousand things of creation evolve and unfold according to their nature. We don’t have to look far to see how interference, no matter how well intentioned, often leads to unexpected and undesired results. This, in turn, requires more and more manipulation, layers upon layers of course correction to restore balance, which is never truly achieved and must be artificially maintained. 

We can think of examples in our communities and in our own lives where we sought to make some improvement or to bestow some benefit that did not turn out the way we imagined. Think kudzu. For more entertaining examples, think of all the science fiction tales based on time travel that wreaks havoc with history’s trajectory, or medical breakthroughs that unleash unanticipated devastation. It’s no accident that Star Trek’s “prime directive” prohibited interference with the natural development of alien civilizations. (And yes, some of the best storylines in Star Trek involved the violation of the prime directive!)

Yet non-interference does not mean non-engagement. The sage acts. The key is in the absence of striving or contending. Appropriate actions arise naturally and effortlessly when they are in harmony with the movement of Tao’s intrinsic energy. Ordinary people sometimes act in extraordinary ways, and we call them heroes. When asked about their actions, they often say that they didn’t think. They just instinctively responded to a perceived need. I’m thinking of a man I read about recently who, in the moments after his outside wedding, saw a boy drowning in a canal. Leaving his bride and the photographer wondering what was going on, he raced to the water’s edge and without hesitation jumped in the water and pulled the boy out. 

Not all examples are so dramatic. I’m thinking of a friend who baked cookies for me when I was having a really bad day. When presented with the cookies, I burst into tears of gratitude. Her gesture was perfect and exactly what I needed. She thought nothing of it, but to me it changed everything.

When we self reflect, we can often see that most of our effort and striving happens in our thinking minds, when we are struggling with what is, wanting it to be something different, wanting someone else to be different, wanting ourselves to be different. When we contend with reality, we will always lose. But when we loosen our rigid grip, when we release our insistence, when we allow awareness to open unimpeded, our way becomes clear in its own time, and we follow its path with effortless energy. 

Thus we come full circle in this ancient wisdom teaching. The first chapter of the Tao Te Ching ends with the character for doorway or gate, inviting us into the mystery of an awakened life, lived fully in harmony with the natural expression of creation. This last chapter reveals how life unfolds when we walk through the door.

The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~T. S. Eliot

I hope you have enjoyed this series. You can access the entire series by clicking on the label Tao Te Ching chapter series below, or over in the right column under the list of labels.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 80



This chapter starts with a description of a small country with few people. They live simply and in harmony with nature. (This chapter could have been the model for the back to the land movement of my younger years. Reading it brought back wonderful memories of living in a shack in the mountains of Montana!)

The people in this chapter enjoy their tasty food, appreciate their beautiful clothes, live contentedly in their peaceful homes, and are happy in their everyday life. The Chinese characters in these lines raise the question of what comes first. For example, do they enjoy their food because it’s tasty, or is their food tasty because they enjoy it? Are they content because their homes are peaceful, or are their home peaceful because they are content? 

In other words, are these positive qualities inherent in the objects, or are the qualities a result of the relationship the people have with these objects? If I have an attitude of appreciation and contentment toward my surroundings, I am more likely to enjoy them and be at peace. But if I am generally dissatisfied and always wanting something different, I am going to see my life as lacking and never good enough.

Studies have shown that only 10% of our happiness in life is related to our circumstances. That’s not very much, especially when you think how typical it is for people to hold their happiness hostage to something outside themselves. I’ll be happy when I get a job, when I retire, when I have kids, when my kids grow up, when I find a partner, when I finally get that partner out of my life, and so on. 

If only 10% of our happiness is dependent on all those things, then what is the true basis of our contentedness in life? Yes, our attitudes, our habitual thinking patterns, our choices in outlook – this is what really dictates the quality of our life experience.

So what can we learn from the people in this chapter? It seems that they are content with living simply and in harmonious relationship with each other and with their environment. Does living close to nature enhance this sense of well being? Some of us might be familiar with the Japanese custom of forest bathing. I can attest to my own experience of spending time at my cabin. My kids will tell you I am a much nicer person (!) when I spend a weekend sitting by the creek in the woods. 

But whether you spend time close to the earth or not, we all have the power to choose our outlook on life, to be grateful, to care, to be content.

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have. ~Socrates

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Touch

 


Touch
Touch this
This too
Touch everything that comes within your reach
Touch it with compassion
Touch it gently
With the vastness of your being
Touch it sweetly
With the love that sings your soul


Friday, March 26, 2021

Speaking the Blessing of Gifts

 


I’ve had two conversations with people recently who both, for different reasons, could not see or appreciate the gifts they were blessed with. They saw themselves as lacking in some way, lacking achievement, lacking purpose, lacking direction, lacking skill or talent. 

This was remarkable because they are blessed with beautiful gifts that are so apparent to me, gifts that have so deeply enriched my life and I know the lives of others. One, for example, manifests the gift of compassion, with a heart that is big enough to care deeply, and a willingness to attend lovingly and without hesitation to the needs of those around her. 

The other manifests the gift of connection and welcome, hospitality. She connects people not only to herself, but to others. She welcomes diversity to her table and makes all feel at home. She is a gardener of friendship and tends her garden with creativity and care. 

I was surprised that they could not see themselves as so richly valued and valuable when that is how I see them. It occurred to me that that might be true for so many of us. We measure ourselves against very narrow rubrics of success and often overlook the gifts that bring the most benefit. We do not automatically see the impact we have on others unless someone points it out to us. We don’t know what we bring to the table unless someone tells us. 

We often hear people at memorial services speak openly and gratefully about the person who is no longer there to hear, who perhaps died not knowing what they meant to someone, or how they helped or made someone’s life a little better. Why do we feel so compelled to speak of someone’s gifts after they are gone, and so hesitant to speak of them to the person while we have the chance? 

We are all blessed with gifts, as varied as we are, but all are precious. We share these treasures, knowingly or unknowingly, by our very being. What a gift we could give to others by speaking the blessing of their gifts – naming the gifts, describing them, giving examples, expressing gratitude. 

Don’t wait. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could help each other recognize:

I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness. ~Walt Whitman

Monday, March 22, 2021

Have a Yes Day with Life



My grandson and I watched the movie Yes Day recently. In the movie, a couple decides to reconnect with their kids by having a day of saying yes to whatever the kids want. Comedy ensues.

The movie made me more aware of how often I say no. Maybe I forego a chance to be kind to someone, or an invitation to do something fun. Perhaps I resist a nudge to write about something uncomfortable, or reject an opportunity to have a candid discussion about a sensitive topic. There are times I avoid examining my own conduct or thoughts or assumptions. And how many times have I said no to forgiveness even when I know that my own happiness would be enhanced? 

We say no to life when we want things to be different, or people to be different. When we deny or repress feelings that are distressing or painful. When we struggle to control things beyond our reach, or try to force people or circumstances to conform to our desires. When we want ourselves to be better, smarter, enlightened, and condemn ourselves when we fail in our attempt. 

How would my experience of life be different if I woke up tomorrow and said yes to whatever the day presents? If I remained open and curious instead of judgmental or anxious? If I allowed the day to unfold naturally instead of trying to plan or control every minute? If I watched for miracles instead of problems? If I was grateful instead of complaining? If I accepted myself just as I am? If I embraced each breath and touched every moment with compassion? 

A yes day with life. Let’s see what happens.

For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes. ~Dag Hammarskjold

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 79

 


A sweet little chapter with a turn the other cheek message. It begins by observing that even after a conflict is settled, some resentment often remains. So how can we bring true peace to a situation? 

Using contracts as an example, the chapter says that the sage holds up her end of the bargain, but does not try to force the other party to perform. When I taught contract law, my students would express their highest aspiration to draft a contract that would hold up in court. How surprised they were when I would reply that if they were in litigation over a contract, they had already lost no matter what the court decided. 

What I meant was that once a conflict arose and an adversarial process was initiated, both parties had lost the benefit of the relationship they had entered into. The cost and delays of litigation would never replace the benefits they had initially bargained for. 

So, I told my students, their highest aspiration should be to negotiate and draft an agreement that the parties will honor, one that will provide a basis for good faith efforts to resolve any disagreements that might arise without resort to lawsuits.

Of course, we can’t control other people’s behavior, in contracts or in the rest of life, but we can focus on our own behavior, on honoring our commitments, on doing the right thing, on being honest and having integrity, without regard to a quid pro quo. 

My favorite line in this chapter says that “heaven’s Dao is without preference.” Like the sun that graces all with its light and warmth, like the rain that graces all with its nourishment, Dao plays no favorites of worthiness or punishes those without. It offers its life giving energy to all without discrimination. Likewise, we can offer our compassion to all who cross our path, regardless of what they have done or not done for us. 

Having no preference is a great description of wu wei, a thematic principle in the Tao Te Ching. Sometimes mistakenly interpreted as passive non-action, it is better understood as a ready responsiveness to whatever life brings us. If I have a preference, then I might try to force people or circumstances to bend to my will. Instead, if I greet whatever arises without judgment or reactivity, I am free to respond appropriately and in harmony, rather than in conflict and struggle. 

This concept is impressively demonstrated by taiji master Adam Mizner, who responds to any attack with great effectiveness by using whatever energy is directed against him to defeat his attacker. He describes his approach as having no preference. (If you are interested, take a look at this short video.)

In the same way, we can maintain our own inner balance and peace, no matter what we are faced with in life, not by trying to force our will on what is beyond our control, but rather by honoring our own integrity and responding to what is, instead of what we want it to be.

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. ~Rumi

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Truth Is Ever True

 


Your belief does not make Truth true
Truth is ever true and can be nothing else
All else is false and cannot be made true by thought
So believe or do not believe
It does not matter
Truth shines ever radiant
Seen clearly by the soul
Unencumbered by mind's need to know

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Eyes on Me


If you have ever trained a dog, one of the commands you might have taught is “watch.” The idea is for the dog to lock eyes on you, without being distracted by anything else, and wait for your next instruction. 

Over and over again, the universe teaches me this lesson. Something will happen and I will get distracted, maybe disturbed, turning my attention to the situation in order to change something, or more likely to “fix” something. Basically, wanting to control something outside of myself. Or perhaps just wandering off in my mind along paths of various narratives, rehashing the past, rehearsing the future. 

I am no longer attending to the present moment, open, listening, receptive to inner guidance, ready to respond. My eyes are elsewhere. I am restless, perhaps in distress. My soul asks for help. Again. And the universe answers. Again. 

Watch. Eyes on me. Only me. Wait for your way to be made clear. Be at peace. 

The way is not in your thoughts. It is in your heart. It sings in your soul and resonates throughout your entire being. You will know it. 

But only if you watch. 

Your spirit knows who you are and what you're here to do. The heart is your inner knowing, the part of you that transcends mere emotions or intellect and sees and knows the path you need to follow. ~Marnie Pehrson Kuhns


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 78


Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water
Yet nothing is better for overcoming what is hard and stiff

As we approach the end of the Tao Te Ching’s 81 chapters, the text returns to the theme of water. Water is the most common metaphor for the energy of Tao. It flows naturally, humbly seeking the lowest level of the vast sea of unity. You cannot push it or grasp it. It yields to force, yet its power cannot be denied. It follows its own nature, moving effortlessly through its cycles of manifesting and returning, unconcerned with obstacles, sustaining and nurturing all life. 

Everyone knows this
But few can practice it

So if we all know this, that our best model for living is the nature of water, then why is it so hard to practice? In martial arts, one of the hardest things for me to learn has been to yield, to allow my partner to defeat himself with his own use of force. As the chapter says, I understand the principle of yielding to overcome, and yet in the moment, my instinct is to attack, to try to overpower. How well do you think that works for an old ninja granny? Even if I were a buff young martial arts master, there would always be someone stronger, more skilled in using force than I am.  

We can see how this instinct arises in all kinds of situations, not just martial arts. Think of all the times during the day when we experience the urge to control, to manipulate, to react, to coerce. As I sit here writing, I don’t have to look back very far to remember a moment of judgment, irritation, frustration, disappointment. And within all these moments is the desire for things to be different, the desire to make them different. 

What is it, then, driving that urge to use force, even when we know that it is not advantageous? Fear. Fear is what takes hold of us and leads us to abandon our greatest strength. Fear might be disguised as anger, righteous indignation, anxiety, duty, allegiance to a cause. Whatever its appearance, fear tells us to fix something outside of ourselves to feel better inside ourselves. 

Practicing the wisdom of this chapter asks us to breathe into the discomfort, to tolerate the distress, to be still when fear is telling us to react. To soften our hearts and yield in patience until our way is made clear to respond with integrity and compassion. To ask ourselves, “What would water do?” 

Be water, my friend. ~Bruce Lee

Friday, February 19, 2021

Bless and Release



Sometimes we have a challenging encounter with someone. Sometimes we have an ongoing challenging relationship with someone. It’s hard to be at peace or to keep an open heart when someone hurts us, irritates us, enrages us, or frightens us. It’s easy to justify our judgment, our feelings, our reactions. After all, this other person said or did (fill in the blank).

We want the other person to see things our way, to admit that they are wrong, and thus of course, to acknowledge that we are right. We want them to behave differently, to be different, to be better, to be the way we want them to be – and thus to alleviate our own discomfort and distress. 

We want them to see us the way we want to be seen, and to love us the way we want to be loved. And we blame them when they don’t. 

Sound familiar? It does to me. I don’t have to look very far to find someone who occupies my thoughts as I try to go to sleep, thoughts that spin off stories of past wrongs and rehearsals of future engagement. It’s exhausting. And distracting. It clouds my view, and pulls me out of balanced alignment. It disturbs my peace.

I just read something that helps me break through my own stuckness. The Way of Mastery reminds us that we cannot control what someone else thinks or says or does. We know that and yet....

Instead, we are encouraged to bless the other person and “release them to have the perceptions that they would choose.” It’s like the catch and release method of fishing. We “catch” the person on the hook of our judgment, and then “release” them with a blessing. Or we could flip that around because we are really catching ourselves on the hook of our judgment and releasing ourselves through offering a blessing!

And if we need some guidance about how to offer that blessing, The Way of Mastery suggests, “I love you always, in the ways that you will allow, and to the depth that you will accept.” 

This blessing has given me some relief in a relationship that I have found difficult over many years. It breaks the mental thought cycle of frustration and hurt feelings, and creates space to breathe. I feel liberated from my own habitual discontent and futile efforts to make things different, which of course means making the other person different. Instead it makes me different. It restores peace, if not between us, at least within my own spirit.

Until I’m caught again. Bless and release. As many times as it takes.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Love on Valentine’s Day



Valentine’s Day. Flowers and candy. Balloons. Romantic gestures. Declarations of love. And then there was my day.

I woke up this morning to my nine year old grandson wishing me a Happy Valentine’s Day. He got snowed in with me on Friday. We have watched movies, played in the snow, baked cookies, read books, and played way too many games of Jumping Monkeys. 

Then I got a call telling me that the group home where my two autistic sons live has been without power for over 24 hours. My sons hadn’t been able to call me because their cordless phone wouldn’t work. The regular staff had not been able to get to work, and I could not get the relief staff on the phone. 

I checked the utility’s website – no power expected for two more days. Two more days in the dark with no heat. 

So love kicked in. I called my daughter who was just sitting down to breakfast. She dropped everything, dug her car out of the snow, and drove to my house to pick us up. We dropped her son off at a friend’s who was happy to help out, and headed to the group home. When we got there, we found the guys agitated but overall in good shape. 

I decided to bring them home with me. My daughter helped the relief staff find necessary items We packed them up and headed back. We had to stop at the store to get enough food for several days. One son was scared to walk on the ice in the parking lot. I watched as my daughter took her 35 year old brother’s hand in hers and guided him safely inside. She maneuvered everyone through the shopping and back out to the car. 

Returning to my house, she helped unload the car and get everything put away before going to get her son and driving home, now on roads icy with freezing rain. 

From the time she left her breakfast on the table until she was back home was over six hours. Not the way she planned to spend her day. But I heard not one word of complaint. Nothing except a willingness to help, with patience and grace and kindness.

Wow. That is love. Forget the flowers and candy. This is the love that counts, that makes my eyes tear up with relief, my heart break open in gratitude, and my knees weak with humble blessedness. 

May all of us give and receive love today and all days. Real love. Offering kindness to loved ones and strangers, receiving help when needed, remembering what is important, and appreciating all the ways that love shows up in our lives.

Monday, February 8, 2021

A Touch of Compassion



Touch. Many people are expressing a need for touch in this time of pandemic social distancing. We miss being touched. We miss touching others. 

We think of touch as an external, physical connection. But touch can also be internal, emotional, energetic. We can touch with the heart of compassion. Absolutely anything that arises in our field of awareness can be touched with compassion. 

This is easy when we are naturally drawn to an experience that “touches” our heart – a child in distress, a friend in need, an animal suffering. We instinctively reach out to comfort, to soothe, to support. But what happens when something does not attract our sympathy, when something arises that we draw away from or judge or fear? 

Can I touch with compassion someone who cuts me off in traffic, for example? Perhaps. How about someone who is mean to me or to someone I love? Harder. What if I am watching something on the news that leaves me in despair or sparks outrage? Sometimes impossible. What do I do when compassion is not forthcoming? 

Easy. I touch my resistance with compassion. I touch my judgment of others with compassion. 

Maybe I judge myself for my compassion fail. No problem. Touch that judgment with compassion. Our own hurt places, our shame, our insecurities, our painful memories, our regrets, our embarrassment, our self criticism, our anxieties and fears – yes, all these can be touched with compassion. Whatever arises is what is calling to us for acknowledgment, acceptance, compassion. 

And if I am unable to feel any compassion for these dark places? If I am unable to even look at them, much less touch them? Yes, you are catching on. Touch that inability with compassion. 

Touch. Touch connects, softens, comforts, heals. And it opens. It opens us to the next layer that asks for compassion. And the next. Until compassion pours forth from us like the gentle rain that falls on everything without regard to merit. Nourishing, cleansing, spurring growth and beauty. 

So give it a try. For five minutes watch comes into your awareness. Whatever it is, touch it with compassion. See what happens.

Compassion is revolution. ~bumper sticker

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Shadow Crows

 




Shadow crows
Darting through the fog
A raucous symphony
In the mist

Monday, February 1, 2021

There Is No How


[Note: I started to write a new blog post titled "There Is No How." After typing the title, I tried to save it, but my computer told me I already had a file by that name. Turns out I wrote a blog post by this title three years ago. I went back to read it and there was the post I was planning to write. Apparently I don't have any new ideas! So here it is again.]

Quit trying. Quit trying not to try. Quit quitting. ~zen saying

I want to be awakened. I want enlightenment. How do I get it? Where are the instructions? If I read this book, practice these techniques, listen to this podcast, attend this workshop, devote myself to this teacher, read another book, breathe a certain way, think a certain way, meditate a certain way, chant a mantra, go to a retreat, read another book – will I achieve my goal? Will I pass the test and get my certificate? Will I be enlightened then? 

How do I do this? Just tell me how. Please.

You want the secret? Okay, here it is. There is no how. Take it from one who has tried everything listed above. And more. 

But then how... 

There is no how. There is no way to get from here to there, because there is no there. There is no journey because there is nowhere to go. There is no technique, because there is nothing to do. There is no way of teaching because there is nothing to learn. 

Umm....

I know. Right? The brain can’t grasp this. Truly, the brain can’t understand this, because our brains think. That’s what they do. Sometimes they do it really well. But you cannot think your way to enlightenment. Because enlightenment transcends thought. Oh, and also because enlightenment doesn’t exist. 

What??

Well, it doesn’t exist in the sense of a static state. It is dynamic, offering an opportunity in every moment to enter, as A Course in Miracles calls it, the holy instant. The holy instant reveals all eternity to us in the perfect bliss of oneness. 

Missed it? That’s okay. Here is another moment. And another. 

I’m trying, but...

Don’t try. 

Then how...

Just allow. Take a deep breath and surrender. Let go of everything. It only takes a moment. Because a moment is all there is. 

Do or do not. There is no try. ~Yoda

Do or do not. There is no how.  ~Universe

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Someone Who Cares



A few nights ago, my grandson called me. He was crying so hard I could not understand the words he was gasping through his sobs. I thought something horrible had happened. Trying to stay calm, I asked him to tell me again what happened. 

“Mom...put...lettuce...on...my...taco,” he wailed. 

Um, really? 

My anxiety melted into relief, and okay, maybe a bit of chagrin at what I saw as an over the top reaction.

“I...just...wanted...to...talk...to...someone...who...cares.” 

Bam, and there you have it. It wasn’t really about the lettuce at all. Of course his mother loves him very much, but at that moment she was the perpetrator of the taco debacle, so he sought solace from someone he thought he could count on to care. He wanted what we all want, to be heard and to feel unconditionally loved. 

How thankful I was that I had not spoken the teasing remark that had been on the tip of my tongue. Instead, I offered a listening heart with an abundance of compassion poured out over his hurting soul. Satisfied, he calmed down and we said our goodbyes. I don’t know what happened with the taco, but he had been fed with what really mattered. 

A Course in Miracles teaches that everything we do or think or say, everything, is either an expression of love or a call for love. Only two possibilities. So simple. How would our lives be different if we saw everything through this lens? Love – given, asked for, received. An eternal exchange of an infinite commodity. Like breathing. Inhaling and exhaling endless compassion.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.  ~Mother Teresa

Friday, January 15, 2021

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 77



This chapter contrasts two cultural approaches to wealth. In a broader sense, it speaks to nature’s intrinsic seeking of balance and harmony. And in an individual sense, it speaks to our own internal alignment and equilibrium. 

The first approach is compared to stringing a bow. The top point of the bow is pulled down while the bottom point of the bow is drawn up. This allows the string to be looped over both ends of the bow, creating the balanced and uniform energy and alignment necessary to shoot the arrow. 

This reminds me of the instruction often repeated in martial arts – “not too tight, not too loose.” Or, as Goldilocks observed, “just right.” 

Some Native American cultures practice a tradition of ritual giving away of wealth. At certain times of the year, or at certain ceremonies or celebrations, those who have more give to those who have less. There is no fear of lack because the givers at another time will be receivers. Harmonious balance is valued and maintained. 

A different approach is followed in cultures that allow and even encourage individuals to accumulate unlimited wealth while others live in poverty. Imbalance necessarily results, and legal supports are applied to maintain the unequal structure.

This approach reminds me of the billionaire Rockefeller who was asked by an interviewer how much more money he needed before he would have enough. “Just a little more,” he replied. 

Without judging these two approaches as good or bad (especially in the simplistic way I’ve described them), we can still see that one is more closely aligned with nature. Certainly imbalances occur in nature, but eventually nature will self-correct and restore equilibrium. 

Because the Tao Te Ching aligns its teachings with nature, and values balance and harmony, the sage is described as one who would not hoard abundance but would offer her abundance to those who do not have enough. 

Because the sage does not desire more 
He thus sees what is truly valuable

Perhaps the message here is not so much about advocating a particular economic system, but rather suggesting that our own internal nature, like nature in the broader sense, seeks harmony and balance. Always wanting more leads to chronic discontent, and also anxiety about holding on to what we have. When we are out of alignment with our best values, we suffer internal conflict and stress. 

So the question for us is how to restore our internal balance and live in harmony and peace with who we are. This always starts, I think, with a willingness to observe ourselves honestly, to inquire within ourselves how our thoughts, words, and actions reflect internal harmony or imbalance. Internal harmony is characterized by peace and integrity, openness and expansion. Imbalance is characterized by struggle, contraction, separation, and tension. 

Cultivating internal awareness without judgment, and with compassion, allows our true nature to self-correct and then manifest in all its glory. We don’t need to fix ourselves; we just need to be ourselves. We are by nature light bearers, bringing love and healing to a fractured world. We are, as Barack Obama once said, the ones we’ve been waiting for.

So take a breath...and another. And remember who you are.

Practice remembering
One breath at a time
It is enough
 ~(this was dictated to me through non-dominant handwriting)

Monday, January 11, 2021

Another Way

 


There is another way
You won't find it in a book
Or at a workshop
You won't find it by following someone else
Because no one can take you there
There is no map and no direction
It can't be taught or learned
You cannot find it anywhere
Because there is nothing to be found
Yet the moment you give up 
     everything you want
          everything you hold onto
               everything you think you know
The moment you give up searching
At that moment of total surrender
It will find you

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Bringing Peace to Opposition


The world is divided into people who think they are right. ~Tara Brach

It took me a few seconds to understand that there was no more to this sentence. Each side of the divide claims the higher ground of being right, being righteous, being morally superior, being more ethical, being smarter, being better. 

This morning I drew three cards from a deck loosely based on the Yi Jing (I Ching), translated as the Book of Changes, a Chinese “oracle” that goes back thousands of years. I put oracle in quotation marks because we often think of the term oracle in connection to fortune telling. This is not a book that purports to tell the future as much as, at least to me, it sometimes offers insight into the movement and direction of energy in present circumstances.

The first card I drew is called Inner Truth, and is described as the wisdom of the heart, the wisdom that penetrates illusion. This wisdom draws us down from the busyness of thought in our mind, where illusion is generated, into the quiet intuitive awareness of awakened consciousness. Inner truth is revealed in stillness, a silence that allows us to hear the whispered guidance of spirit.

The second card is titled Peace. Peace results from inner alignment and balance, an attunement to the vibration and movement of creation. This inner alignment and balance is our natural state, which we experience when we cease to struggle and allow our natural harmony to emerge.

The third card is Opposition, which describes, as you would expect, conflict. This conflict could be external, between people, communities, nations. To me, however, the most basic and significant opposition or conflict, the one we most often overlook, is the one we experience within ourselves, which is then expanded and reflected by the conflict we experience with others and with our circumstances. 

What I see when I put these cards together is a way of approaching an experience of conflict or struggle. When I perceive a situation as a vying for rightness between competing sides, I have a choice. I can get drawn into the combative tension, or I can step back into a quiet place of stillness and listen for inner guidance. This inner wisdom can penetrate all illusion and align me in peace. From that state of peace, I can respond rather than react. What that looks like in any particular situation is unknowable in advance. I will speak or act (or not speak or not act, depending on the guidance) from an awakened heart of fearless compassion. 

I’m glad I drew these cards this morning. It seems like a good way to start the year, with a reminder that any resolution of conflict begins with an awareness of the struggle within, and ends with compassion, extended internally and externally, in whatever form that takes. I can allow inner truth to bring peace to opposition. I can be a repairer of the breach. 

You shall be like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called repairers of the breach. ~Isaiah 58:11-12