June 21, 2014 § 9 Comments
Foolishness and vanity took me there.
Stuck on a steep rock face. Looking down at a sheer drop of lethal dimensions. Looking up at thirty feet of brittle sandstone that came off in my hands in clumps at any serious pressure.
No way up, no way down.
I lost it. Molten anger. Screaming at myself- what the fuck where you thinking? Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Perched there, I settled and took a breath. I looked out at the stunning vistas before me, the mountains in the distance. Breathing, waiting.
Looking over my right shoulder, I saw something familiar. Nothing special, just a bush. But a green, living thing amidst the rock and rubble. Perched, like me, but different.
And I just knew. Twisting my body to the right, I held that bush to my chest and as I did, the rubbly ground beneath my feet slid away. And that rooted living thing held me.
Looking up, I saw the other bushes scattered amidst the rubble field. Using them as anchors for my feet and my hands, I scrambled my way up through that rubble field back to the rock outcropping above and walked the trail home.
The Tao teaches us that “the soft overcomes the hard.” Hard rock, soft plant. That day, on that rock face, I felt the lesson in my body.
Saved by Nature’s grace and a regained posture of openness.
Feeling a gratitude beyond words.
June 17, 2014 § 6 Comments
I am just leaving the airport, headed to Tassajara, the great Zen Buddhist monastery in the mountains east of Big Sur. Thinking of the precious time ahead in that sacred place.
The rental car’s GPS demands that I turn left, which I do, and I find myself in a parking lot. I explode in rage, screaming at the machine and at myself. You are so stupid, why did you listen to this ridiculous machine?
I finally gather myself, take a breath, exit the parking lot, and drive on.
Patience and impatience.
Patience seems to demand so much energy and will. It feels like such a very hard thing.
Impatience in contrast seems to come easy. The trigger is pulled and out it spills, without conscious effort or will.
But this is not right.
First, the impatience that slides into anger takes enormous energy. The shaking body, the racing heart, lungs propelling the screams. This form of impatience takes great effort and leaves us wasted.
And patience, that thing we think of as so difficult to sustain, actually demands no effort at all. That is, to be patient, truly, is to give no effort or will to the circumstances. To just let it be.
Each moment of challenge and difficulty, when we are consciously striving to be patient, we are actually still locked in our impatience.
Only when we let all that go, stop trying to push away the rage, stop grasping for patience, only then might we come to that exquisite place where acceptance reigns.
Effortless patience. The quiet and still source of infinite power.
May 24, 2014 § 12 Comments
I have written often of struggle and effort. I have seen my life as a constant state of struggle to achieve and hold some particular way of being. Finding what I suppose to be peace but then feeling it slip away.
Never mind, try harder, I think. You will get there.
But this seems all wrong to me now. The effort and struggle, which I saw as worthy, even ennobling, is actually taking me away from what I seek. As though I am swimming towards a boat that moves further away the harder I stroke.
I must simply accept that I will sometimes be anxious, angry, or sad. I will feel lost and unworthy. My busy mind will fill my head with colliding illusions. This will not end.
What must end is the judgment that I attach to those feelings- and hence to myself. The sense of dissatisfaction I feel in those turbulent moments, the weight of trying to will my way back to that imagined other place, and the corrosive sense of failure that I attach to my efforts.
Each moment exists just as it is, perfect in its imperfection, as exquisite in its pain as in its joy.
And so I will put away the illusion of my quest.
Let the weight of my task fall away.
Stop seeking and simply let what I seek arise.
April 6, 2014 § 21 Comments
I am alone in this moment.
Empty house. Solitude.
Not lonely, not disconnected or isolated. Just alone.
I have been in crowded rooms, surrounded by familiar faces, and yet nearly undone by a sense of loneliness and disconnection.
Solitude helps me to settle, to center. From that place I can feel the connection to all things- the woods just outside the window, the cloudy evening sky, the bird sailing on.
And the connection with all those who have been truly with me, those who share this sense of unity, those who allow themselves to be open and vulnerable. The tender filaments of true human connection.
Feeling connected can come in solitude and it can come in company. Not a matter of physical presence. Spiritual presence.
When I am here, really here, fully and spiritually, I am never isolated, never apart.
Alone, yet never alone.
March 11, 2014 § 24 Comments
What you don’t have, what you didn’t do, what you did do, what you broke, what you hurt, what you lost, what you gained.
All the pain, all the joy, all the longing, all the intimacy, all the fear and the worry, the cold and the warmth, the isolation and connection.
That angry exchange, that exquisite feeling, that ride down the mountain, that moment of sorrow.
Every single thing. Each past moment.
All of that- done and gone.
We sometimes dream of the power to go back; we imagine that we might change what we have done or failed to do. Make things right.
But to have such power would be our greatest curse. Just adding cascading, infinite layers of second-guessing and regret.
The inescapable reality- and our great gift- is that each and every moment that passes- with all its pain or joy- is now over and gone.
And thus we are blessed to begin again.
February 2, 2014 § 29 Comments
Ever tried. Ever failed.
Try Again. Fail again.
Some writing comes easy, especially the exposition of the critical- the writing that comes from the head. But what is the worth?
Most writing now painful and difficult. Hours spent at the computer staring at the screen without a single keystroke. And so many passages, fragile and aborning, killed off with a slashing delete.
You seek to capture a feeling or a thought that it true and important, or you inhabit a world of your imagination, and then you take that precious and evanescent wisp and try to reify it in the form of words.
But it all falls apart like a clump of moist sand coming undone in your hands. You reach down and try to gather the sand but it’s now scattered across an endless beach. And so you go back, seeking again that place where the feeling lived but you stagger through a maze of spaces, lost.
And so you begin again.
The exquisitely painful work beckons, as irresistible as it is impossible.
Words piled on words. A lifetime of writing.
Yearning only to fail better.
December 31, 2013 § 17 Comments
Just before dawn the black night lingers. The light from within transforms my windows into a set of hazy mirrors.
The last day of the year. An ending that promises a beginning. Resolutions to make the new year different from the old.
All a crippling illusion.
Resolutions are our pretense that we shall soon bring forth change. Shuttling between imaginations of the old and the new, judgments of the bad and the good. Living for the shimmering portent of a change that never comes.
If we say that we resolve to live differently in the coming year, we are already lost. Such resolution is existence deferred.
Our life is here and now. Each precious and unique moment.
I lift my head and in the time it has taken to write these words, the dawn’s glimmer reveals the natural world beyond the still mirroring windows. I see fresh snow blanketing the ground and dusting the bushes. Tree trunks etched against a gray sky.
This is all there is- yet more than enough.
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.
October 14, 2013 § 8 Comments
The sea is nearly flat this evening, rhythmic undulations moving slowly to shore, small waves peeling across in a soft roar. I take the ocean kayak out, paddling to the horizon. Along the way, a massive sea turtle pops it head up to see the intruder. A bird dives into the sea ahead of me, emerging with its glistening dinner.
When it feels right, I stop paddling. Allowing myself to receive what is all around. I dip my hand into the cold, clear water. Hear the muffled roar of the break now far away.
As the kayak drifts, my vistas evolve. The endless sea stretching to the horizon becomes the shore and the final brilliant display of the setting sun.
Isolated and connected, alone but in harmony with all. The bone deep sense of wonder and peace sets in.
After a time, I paddle in, pausing at the break, not wanting it to end right then. When it’s time, I push into the small but perfectly formed wave and ride to shore. I imagine that my kayak especially likes this part.
Splendor. From standing on the shore preparing to launch to standing in the same spot preparing to leave, and each moment in between.
I want to exist like this, in each moment, in every place, for all of my life.
October 7, 2013 § 29 Comments
It is dark, long before the dawn. I move through the house, not needing the light to navigate this familiar space.
A steady nourishing rain is falling. I hear its hum. And then the wind comes up- the rain hits the house with its strong staccato beat. I open the window for a moment and feel the cold, wet air on my face.
And right then- in that moment- all the punishing duality disappears. There is no me and the rain, no me and the house, no me and the many things that I must do.
A moment of just being.
I am home.