When the Storms Come
May 2, 2013 § 37 Comments
The storms have come.
The waters rise in the wetlands surrounding my home here- dark pools amidst the tall pines. The drenching rain, cascading off the metal roof, creates waterfalls just outside the windows. You can feel in your bones the resonance of the rumbling thunder.
When that echoing thunder subsides, I go to the sea. Beneath the angry sky, the ocean is a roiling and foamy cauldron.
Some of these dark and stormy days I stand on the beach and scan the long arc of shoreline in each direction. Not another soul, for miles and miles.
I love the sun, the feel of it on my skin, the magic it creates shimmering across the water. But this gray and forbidding time, I love this as well.
Perhaps I sense that nature is showing me her turbulence and disorder, screaming her existence, and in that way, mirroring my own inner turmoil, offering her stormy kinship.
Or perhaps it is just the feel of that cold, sharp wind on my face and the freight train roar of the sea when it’s up and charging. I think, who could stand on this beach right now and not feel alive?
The sun will return, the sea will fall back into its rhythm. She will whisper again the message that helps me keep my footing. I will feel her strong but gentle pull, righting me to my center.
But when the storms come again, when her voice rises in that insistent roar, I will also feel nature’s message. Live, she demands. Live right here, right now. Live this one life you have been given.
Feel inside the scream of existence that I model for you.
When the storms come again.
A Year Ago
April 7, 2013 § 23 Comments
In Zen we do not look back- or forward. There’s just this moment, here and now.
But today, I consciously step out of that way.
Exactly one year ago yesterday, I posted here for the first time. No idea what would come of this. Doubted whether anyone would ever actually read what I wrote. Wondered if I would stick with it.
Unsure, doubtful, hesitant.
A year later. Still moments of doubt, still times when I drift away. But of this I am sure- the writing I have done here, and the connections that have arisen for me here, have enriched my life beyond measure.
I am in this work. I can feel myself in the passages. I feel also the presence of those who’ve come here. We have opened ourselves to each other. A vibrant and shared intimacy tumbles through these pages.
I should not feel pride, I know. But I do. A year ago, I took a step, hesitant and unsure. And then I plunged. Good for me.
I feel also a nearly overwhelming sense of gratitude- for the work, for the exquisite souls with whom I’ve stood here, for life itself.
And so in this moment, right here, right now, I feel the peace of the journey.
The Waltz in the Woods
March 19, 2013 § 31 Comments
Cold and gray this morning. The storm has moved on.
I sit at the wall of glass looking into the pine forest that encircles my home along the southern coast. I hear only the sound of the coffee brewing and the faint clicks from the keyboard as I write these words.
Right now the wind from the tail end of the storm is moving through the tall pines. Each tree moves rhythmically with the wind, first bending to the wind’s will and then swaying back to its upright posture. Yielding just enough to accommodate the gusts and then returning to its centered, upright way.
The wind ceases. The dance ends. The trees are nearly still now, just quivering a bit in the soft breeze that remains.
And then the wind comes up. The dance commences again.
This cycle repeats- still, then quivering, and then swaying- a choreography of wondrous and hypnotic beauty.
I have not written anything for more than two weeks. I have thought of writing every day. And every day I somehow wasn’t able to write- too busy, the idea for the writing unworthy, whatever.
But this morning, I didn’t think about writing, I just sat here and looked out the window. Wrote what I felt and what I saw.
Nature always models the way. Giving up resistance, the tree bends to the wind. But when the wind passes, she returns naturally to her centered existence.
The winds took me away because I resisted, I tried to think my way out. But when I ceased fighting those winds, when I stopped thinking about what I had to do, I found myself again- here, at the window, watching the waltz in the woods.
Flesh and Bones
March 5, 2013 § 43 Comments
Strength feeds strength, as weakness feeds weakness.
Weeks of drifting. A ghost of myself, neither truly alive nor fully present.
A malaise to match the gray, damp, chill that has hovered over my city. Shuffling through the grimy streets with my devoted companions- doubt, fear, and evasion.
Even as I got things done, I performed rather than existed. Not committed. Not engaged. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Busy, busy, busy.
This morning different. Meditation. A walk in the woods. Being present with those I love. Strength. The flesh and bones of true being shattering that pale, ghostly shell.
And then the sun came out. I bathed in its warmth, adored the way it lit up the snow and ice, lost myself in the blue sky.
But those were just extra things.
The light of my true self had already broken through. All I needed.
January 26, 2013 § 41 Comments
I stood at the window for a long time. Watching the snowflakes dancing past.
Seeing the frozen jewels glide past my window, falling into the white blanket beneath, I felt- for a moment- sadness. Those exquisite creations, each swallowed up in the drifts below. One after the other. Here and then gone.
And then I thought what it would be like to tumble downward like the snowflake. Falling without resistance, surfing the winds in a trajectory that belonged only to it. Surrounded by so many other dazzling partners.
I thought of the crystalline and fragile beauty of each individual flake. A singular beauty arising from the interrupted symmetry of their creation. Never to be repeated.
And something else took the place of my sadness.
To understand that we each exist as a unique creation of the One.
To accept the winds of the world and make our way without resistance.
To dance down our arc of time as a singular- but not isolated- being.
To use ourselves up, holding nothing back from life’s descent.
And then to return to the place where we began.
Melting into the snowy bosom of all that is and all that will be.
I stood at the window watching the snowflakes and I wept.
Not sadness anymore. Tears of a nearly unbearable gratitude.
Gratitude for the blessing given to me- and to each of us- the chance to live out the finite and exquisite dance of life.
The Murmuring Brook
January 24, 2013 § 24 Comments
We say, “Step by step I stop the sound of the murmuring brook.” When you walk along the brook you will hear the water running. The sound is continuous but you must be able to stop it if you want to stop it. This is freedom; this is renunciation.”
Sitting alone in the dead quiet room, I hear the bells.
I am blessed by an affliction that puts a ringing sound in my consciousness ceaselessly. When I listen for it, it is always there.
Sometimes it goes away. But it doesn’t really go away because the very moment that I think of it, the sound is there. It- the sound- is always there. But like the sound of the murmuring brook, I can stop it.
To stop the ceaseless tolling of those bells in my mind, I need to do only one simple thing- stop listening, stop looking, stop doing. Just stop. And be only and simply in the moment. In full acceptance of all that I am and all that is.
My affliction is like a murmuring brook I walk beside constantly. Always there. Ready to receive my renunciation. Ready to leave me in my freedom.
Such a blessing.
January 20, 2013 § 35 Comments
A cold, blue sky winter day. Sharp wind. But even from the warm shelter of my kitchen, I am drawn to step out. To take a few moments out there, outside. Reconnect.
Many years ago we built a small patio off the kitchen. A nook bordered with hemlocks, a floor of stone tiles. I have spent many hours right there, reading, sometimes writing, but mostly just being.
Today I throw on the topcoat and step into that sanctuary. And as I sit and feel the wind and the sun, the cold and the warm, I look down. And there it is.
The stone. Created so long ago, taken from its birthplace, cut into these shapes and brought here. Etched by the wind and ice, tinted by the sun and rain and the green moss that fills the channels between. A majestic work of art that its creator, God, Nature, the One, is still crafting, still shaping.
And as I lift my head, I see the trees, the sky, the light and shadows, the tumbling brown leaves. Beauty, perfection, peace.
Beneath our feet, just outside our door, in the woods, the mountains, or the city street- each precious vista, each precious moment. Waiting for us.
The beauty of this sacred world.
January 7, 2013 § 29 Comments
I have tried to write of this before and backed off. I just don’t have the words. But tonight I must try.
Dimly lit room, warm against the black and cold night outside. The house is still. I sit in solitude and listen. Time stops.
I’ve heard this music a thousand times, returning to it again and again. My refuge, my sanctuary. Redemptive. Elusive. Rapturous. As beautiful as the blue sky of day.
More than a half century ago, Miles Davis summoned Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Jimmy Cobb, and Paul Chambers to the studio and they made this magic. And here I am, for the thousandth time, taken away by the absolute artistry of it all. Lifted up and away.
If ever I am lost, and I need to get home, I come here and listen- and give thanks for the courage of those artists and for all who came before and after. Those who give us in their artistic creation the understanding that beauty and truth do exist.
They bring me home. As they have done tonight.
In the Woods
January 3, 2013 § 29 Comments
Today in the woods- deep snow, air so cold and sharp it tingled. Finding a sliver of bright sun, beneath the sky of infinite blue, I felt the sun’s warmth on my face. Standing there, I allowed the spirit of the trees and the sun and that sky that went on forever to come upon me.
How is it that I could be given such a moment? A moment of peace beyond peace.
And then I know. That moment belonged to me because I belonged to it. In that moment, no sense of time, no duality, no thinking. Just being.
The simple magic of pure existence.
A Year of Living
December 30, 2012 § 36 Comments
A year of putting aside the pointless pursuit of the targets of my ambition. Giving up the enticing numbness of repression and drift. Not stepping away when it feels too real.
Shutting down my busy mind. Switching off that self-lacerating judgment.
Holding a vision of that pure way of being- strong, centered, and present. A way beyond ambition or judgment- the place of gratitude, forgiveness, and acceptance.
Being with those I love. Seeking what’s real and intimate, not contrived and hedged.
And all these new and wondrous connections- the writers, poets, and artists, the depressed and joyful ones. These kind and generous beings, each one so precious to me.
Recalling also those moments of sublime experience- moments in the woods, at the sea, or simply sitting at this seat in my kitchen. Moments of communion with all that is and all that I am. Just the memory of them catches my breath.
But this year has also brought great pain and struggle. More than ever before. At times nearly unbearable.
Still, not going back to that other way. Having lived the truth, can’t ever go back to the lie.
Seeking now to embrace the pain- and the joy- that comes with awareness. Wide open, ready for what is to come.
I feel a stirring, a shift. I feel the New Year coming.