July 23, 2013 § 7 Comments
When I was young, I wasn’t a great athlete but one thing I could do- I could run. Fast.
As a young boy, I remember summer nights dashing across the lawns of our neighborhood, the darkness accentuating my super-human speed. Later, I remember running the curve on the cinder track, leaning into the turn, feeling as though the air was holding me up. And then long runs through the hills of Vermont, feeling stronger as the miles unspooled.
Running has always felt natural to me.
I haven’t had that feeling since an injury eight months ago put running out of my life. It’s not clear that it will ever be resolved in a way that will bring me back.
I tell myself, and those around me- no worries. I can always bike and swim and so on. But somehow those consolations wear out and the sense of loss returns.
So last evening I went to the ocean and felt the cool and foamy surf surge over and around my damaged ankle. I watched the neighbor boys body surf with a naturalness and abandon familiar to me. Then Sammie, our dog, joined in- bounding along and through the waves. I looked to the horizon, felt the offshore breeze that was standing the waves up, smelled the salty air, and heard the roaring surf as it pounded to shore.
And standing there, I understood.
When I try to think my way to some form of calculated consolation for loss, I will always come up short. But when I am just in my moment, as I was last evening, there is no need for consolation, no sense of loss, no worry about what’s to come. I’m just there.
Although looking back, and for just the slightest moment, I was somewhere else- a boy flying across the yard on a dark summer night.
The Salty Sea
July 20, 2013 § 14 Comments
The Posture of Pain
July 19, 2013 § 14 Comments
As I recall and ponder the dark moments in my life, I can see that although each one was uniquely poisonous, one thing ran through them, one constant tying them all together. In each such moment, whatever the particular form of my darkness, I was always either looking backward or forward in time.
In those dark moments of self-loathing, I needed to look backward, seeing in the wake of my life the countless failures and missed opportunities. Similarly, to feel real anxiety or deep fear, I had to conjure what was ahead and imagine just how unprepared and unworthy I would be.
The appraising gaze back and forth along time’s arrow. The posture of pain.
And so I understand. Stay here, right here, in this present moment.
So simple, and yet such a struggle.
July 18, 2013 § 7 Comments
In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.
Tao te Ching
The First Stone
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.
July 16, 2013 § 20 Comments
I have often disappeared from this writing, only to resurface a week, or even a month, later with a story about my unsteadiness, or my trance-like existence, my failure to live the truths I know. I accept the kind words of those who stuck with me. And I resume my writing.
But I now understand that those stories have a mythological quality. It just isn’t true that all that time when I wasn’t here I was adrift and emotionally absent. I spent a good portion of those times with family and friends, reading, swimming, traveling, just sitting and being. Times of struggle, times of absence from those I love, sure, but also times of presence and joy.
So why do I create these mythologies? Why do I feel the need to distort the past in this way?
These stories, I now understand, serve a purpose. They become a way of expressing a lacerating self-judgment, the vehicle for a profession of my unworthiness. A way of expiating some pointless guilt I have about not writing.
I need to be here when it feels right and to be elsewhere when that feels right. I need to be as consistently present for others as I can be. But as I move from here to there and back, and as I falter inevitably in my effort to be present consistently in the lives of those I care about, I must lose the idea that this movement and this faltering are somehow a badge of my unworthiness.
This bad history- and its judgmental baggage- have got to go.
Breaking the Trance
July 9, 2013 § 32 Comments
If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
Tao te Ching
I have spent myself in the pursuit of perfection. Trying to think my way to the perfect choice, trying to maneuver myself to the perfect outcome. And beating myself up when I inevitably fall short.
And so because I cannot find the perfect words, I disappear from my writing. Because I cannot construct the perfect relationship, I disappear from those around me- until all that’s left is my solitary sense of inadequacy.
I say, “I’ve been away.” But I’m not away, literally. I’m here- and not here. Like so many people, I often exist in a trance- speaking, acting, doing and yet absent.
Right now, I feel myself drawing strength from the certain knowledge that my life begins again in each moment. Each moment I can choose. I can return to myself. Be present and strong.
Moment by moment. Again and again.
What the Tree Knows
June 4, 2013 § 29 Comments
To see the grandeur of the forest, to witness the grace of the soaring bird, to appreciate the beautiful simplicity of the stone wall- these are all great gifts that have come to me, again and again. An exquisite blessing.
But I have also felt something else, something more.
When I am at one with the natural world, when I lose my sense of separation and duality, everything that is false and fearful drops away.
I know what the tree knows.
I see what the soaring bird sees.
I feel the warmth of the rock in the sun.
I am as alive, as strong, as present, as I can be.
No longer simply possessing a sense of self, I am myself.
Evening on the Porch
May 5, 2013 § 20 Comments
Sitting on the covered back porch in the evening. The rain is pounding out its staccato beat as it slides off the metal roof hitting the deck beside me.
The forest has darkened in its recesses. The tall pines slightly and rhythmically swaying. The beat of the rain rises and falls.
The green of the leaves has a less vibrant but somehow richer color in this muted light. The pieces of sky I see through the trees are glowing with the last light of day.
The wind, the rain, the rustling pines.
Whatever troubled me, whatever busy thoughts occupied me, all wash away.
Just sitting here. Alone and not alone.
Feeling the natural rhythm of life in this place.
Feeling the immense peace and gratitude.
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.