November 17, 2013 § 12 Comments
I feel the anger rise up- and I breathe.
I sense my busy head at work, slamming one thought into another, spinning, spinning, spinning- and I breathe.
Hard things, tough, gut-wrenching things rise into my consciousness- and I breathe.
If we use our practice only to evade the fear, to dance away, to push down the thoughts, we gain nothing spiritually, only perhaps a temporary physical reprieve from the symptoms of our fear. This is a false and brittle sense of peace, the illusion of peace.
To be truly at peace is to be beyond the reach of anger, anxiety, or fear. It is to be at the center. Strong, open, and ready.
Right now, as I look out my window, I see the cold rain falling. I want to step out into that rain. I don’t want to stay inside or wear a raincoat. I don’t want to avoid or pretend to manage the rain.
I want the rain to fall upon me.
I want to exist in this way.
July 17, 2013 § 25 Comments
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.
Tao te Ching
I spent much of my life in rage at the unredeemed world. And I tried in countless ways to control those around me, to shape their lives and choices. I could not simply accept things as they were. I could not accept that others needed to choose for themselves.
But the world spun on. And those I cared about made choices that sometimes came crashing in on them. I failed, I thought. Failed to bring forth meaningful change. Failed to protect my family and those I loved.
To accept things as they are sounds weak and passive. Giving up without a fight.
But acceptance is the simple recognition that you cannot control others and you cannot control what will come. This recognition frees us to focus all our will and all our energy, all of our being, on the one thing that truly belongs to us. Ourselves.
And with that focus you become strength embodied. You exist and move through the world with the boundless power of presence. You reside at the center of the circle.
Acceptance is the first stone on our path.
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.
December 18, 2012 § 29 Comments
Be like the forces of nature:
When it blows, there is only wind.
Tao te Ching, Chap. 23
It’s early evening. The cold air moves in. Storms approaching. Staring into the woods, feeling the wind as it dances across my body. Surprising in its shifts and gusts. Speaking to me, a portent of the storm.
The wind comes in infinite variety. I have tasted the salty wind coming off the ocean, stood against its force as it swept up and over a snowy mountain ridge, felt its faintest breeze across my moist skin on a steamy summer day.
God’s breath, Buddha’s touch.
Our existence is also infinitely varied. Sometimes in solitude, sometimes in the multitude. In motion or at rest. Speaking or silent. In one place or another.
But in all things, and in each moment, we should be like the wind. Present, always. Swirling around what stands in our way. Occupying our space in a strong and natural way.
And letting everything else simply fall into place.
October 10, 2012 § 32 Comments
Away, away, away.
When I felt the closeness growing, I pulled away from her.
When the big book opportunity came, I slowly drifted off.
When this work- right here- began to feel big and meaningful, I retreated into my busy schedule- stopped writing. Not enough time, I said. I’ll get back to it- later- when I have the time.
What is this? Why do I step away from what feels good and right?
I know the pattern. Always asking myself- what’s the point? Be with her, write the book, stay with this blog- or not- what’s the difference? Nothing will really change.
But I never ask this of the less important pieces of my life. Only when I’m standing at the threshold of something real and authentic and true, do I trigger this cascading, self-crushing analysis. And the answer is always the same. No point. No difference.
What lies beneath this terrible and self-destructive way of living? I sense fear and doubt, feel the weariness. But when I really sit with this, I know the source- my oldest and most constant demon. He whispers- who are you to aspire to an authentic life? You lack the heart for it. You’ll always back away because you know it’s not for you. Not you. Unworthy.
But no more.
This is my life. Each moment a chance to live- truly and forcibly. With great heart and presence.
So I’m throwing myself into what I know is good and right for me. Embracing what comes. And saying this here and now- to myself and to you- this is who I am.
Not stepping away. Not ever again.
September 23, 2012 § 54 Comments
I have been away. Not in the ordinary sense. Away as in disconnected from my sense of self. Lost.
Last night was the worst. I awoke in the dark with a rock sure sense of my unworthiness. This blog, this book idea, this whole thing- all a big hoax. I had nothing to say, really. What was the point of it all? I composed in my head the final post, called it “Done.” Thinking the pain would subside once I embraced my unworthiness.
Somehow I returned to sleep and awoke this morning feeling different. Like a fever had broken. The doubt and fear weren’t washed away but I thought- when the darkness has run its course, it will go. You will find the strength again and carry on.
Struggle, I now understand, comes to me in two ways. When great loss comes, or when my busy lethal mind beckons, I feel the battle rise. But I am aware and ready. I know that I will falter. But I also know who I am. This is good struggle.
But when I lose my sense of self, it’s different. Nothing but the demons of anxiety and self-loathing battling against my blunt desire to be free of those horrors, a desire for relief in any form, at any cost. In this battle, no peace can exist for me- only numbness.
Before the fever broke this morning, I was in the pit of bad struggle. Fighting a battle that I could never win as I wasn’t really there.
Good struggle, even in its most daunting moments, is a great blessing. A reminder that we are here- fully conscious of our self- seeking that way of being that is the great treasure. A struggle that never ends and never should.
August 30, 2012 § 19 Comments
He only earns his freedom and existence
Who daily conquers them anew.
I am staring at a narrow log bridge spanning a raging mountain stream. Covered in ice and snow. Three hours from the trailhead. The wind howls. I think, if I slip and fall, I probably won’t make it back- hypothermia.
I step on the bridge.
I am staring at my beloved. The room is warm and safe. I have something important to say. Something hard.
I ask about something else- anything else.
Physical fear is powerful but it is linear, simple- if I fall, I die.
The fear that inhabits our relations with others is different- messy, not simple. It percolates up from a cauldron of guilt, anxiety, and self-loathing. Fearful, we endure relationships that make us feel small and lost. Or we let those we love drift away. This fear separates us from our sense of self.
That day in the mountains, I was seeking something on the other side of the bridge. Something important. The spiritual experience that day brought me. And so I stepped out- with care and with commitment- focused and fully present.
Each moment is like that icy bridge. Calling us to find the strength to step out in this strong and present way. Calling us to overcome the fear.
It is difficult, often we falter. But what awaits us on the other side is something with value beyond measure. A life that is authentic, true to our sense of self. Without separation from those we love. The place where we become who we are, truly.
August 27, 2012 § 86 Comments
A little more than four months ago I began writing this blog. All to pre-promote a book project. Instrumental. Means to an end. Nothing more than that.
Something happened. I found myself drawn to this writing. Drawn like never before. I felt what every writer feels- the thirst for the work. The writing itself. Not a means to anything.
Something else happened. People. People came and read what I wrote. Many of them left messages. Many of them came back, again and again. They brought me energy and strength, filled my pages with their kind and thoughtful responses. They let me see their work- their amazing, stunning work.
Generous, brilliant, loving people. Great, great writers. People struggling with illness, depression. Artists of every medium- the camera, pen and ink, the canvas. Exceptional athletes seeking outer and inner fitness. Wanderers. Mothers and fathers. Buddhists, Christians, Pagans. Beautiful, romantic voices. Flowing, rhythmic poets.
Their voices sometimes filled with joy, sometimes with anger, sometimes with aching, nearly unbearable, pain. But always real, always present.
My work is intertwined now with theirs. I feel surrounded by their spirit. Not alone.
They are with me now. And I am with them.
August 23, 2012 § 53 Comments
I often refer to “peace.” I say that peace is “always there.”
Sounds good and works so seamlessly when life’s ordinary ups and downs knock you sideways. Stuck in traffic and late for an appointment? No problem. Just take a breath and feel the peace of acceptance.
But when you confront real loss, the kind that takes your breath away- a child dies, a parent disappears into dementia, a marriage unravels- what does it mean to say that you should seek the “peace that is always there”? How exactly does that work? What possible consolation could exist for such loss?
I don’t know the answer. But this I believe.
If I can spread my arms wide and hold that terrible loss in my embrace, if I can stop all the avoiding, all the thinking, and just let that howling grief come in, I will feel for a moment nearly undone. Standing on the edge of a terrible precipice.
But it will be there- in that horrific and unfiltered embrace of loss- that acceptance will come. Not made up acceptance. Not “all things work out for the best” kind of acceptance. Not happiness, not even contentment. And certainly not free of the loss and pain. But free of all the resistance and all the pretend consolations. Free to find and hold my strength again. Free to go on.
It’s a hard kind of peace. But when unspeakable loss comes crashing in, it’s the only kind I know.
August 13, 2012 § 45 Comments
The first mile of my run is always the hardest. Before I find my rhythm, before my mind clears. Painful, labored, difficult.
But soon I’m just running. I am aware of my surroundings- I hear the birds, feel my foot strike the ground- but I’ve shed the dualistic and busy way of thinking of the first mile. No me and the birds, or me and the ground- just me, running. Feeling strong and sure.
I am drawn to simple, elemental sports. Running is the paradigm. But also snowboarding- a board, the mountain, and gravity. And surfing- a board, the ocean, and waves. To be just running, just boarding, just surfing is to be in that transcendent place where you are fully engaged physically but somehow utterly at peace.
You do not have to be on a wooded trail or a mountain to find this feeling. It does not come from the place or the nature of the activity. It is available to each of us in each moment, wherever we are, whatever we are doing.
When we lose the dualistic way of thinking, our mind clears and we settle into whatever we are doing. Just reading, just cooking, just being with the other person. The peace comes upon us.
So wherever you are, whatever you are doing, just be there.