October 5, 2015 § 20 Comments
Perhaps it was the busy, busy schedule of tasks, spooling off into infinity.
But no, that wasn’t it.
Perhaps it was the way that the turbulence of my mind kept spinning yarns of my own unworthiness.
No, not the problem. Not really.
Maybe it wasn’t me at all. It was all the others, the ones who let me down, who failed to give me what I deserved and desired. Their fault.
Seriously? That decrepit excuse again.
So what happened to me? Where did I go?
Not me, not them, not it.
The problem all along is the very idea of “problem.”
Here or there. Strong or weak. Loved or unloved.
What is the problem?
Resistance and struggle. The hopeless desire to somehow be- or to have been- something else, somewhere else, someone else.
Release yourself from the struggle.
And when you can’t, let that go too.
I am here, now. That’s all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.