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.
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.
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.
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.
February 5, 2013 § 43 Comments
Wandering through the museum, appraising the creations scattered along the walls, I found myself before the Rothko and everything stopped. Anchored in place, rooted in the moment. That breathtaking moment.
Taking a different path that morning, I walked into the woods in the crisp morning air. I stopped, stood dead still, hearing only my breath and the faint rustle of the wind. I saw the trees arching into the infinite blue sky. I took a breath and everything fell away.
I remember seeing her standing in my office doorway, so many years ago. The way she stood, her dark hair and luminous brown eyes. Her arresting and vulnerable beauty. I knew we would be together, I knew.
In the intervening years, I have often returned to the Rothko, walked those woods countless times, and lived my life with the woman who stood that day in my doorway. All familiar to me now.
But when I return to that painting, when I step into those woods, it is like the first time. Filled with wonder, overcome with gratitude- undiminished.
We often think that these feelings- the feelings of the new- in time must leave us. We imagine we must settle for the faint shadow of those intense first moments. But those feelings don’t leave us- we walk away from them.
If we are open and ready, if we stop striving to recover something we think we lost, if we simply exist in our moment- before the art, amidst the woods, in the arms of our lover- the familiar is anew.
And so when she leaves me, I still watch her walk away, all these years later, hoping that she might turn around so that I could see her face once more- knowing I will feel again and again what I have always felt- from the beginning.
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.
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.
December 11, 2012 § 19 Comments
A. A violent order is a disorder; and
B. A great disorder is an order. These
Two things are one. (Pages of illustrations.)
Wallace Stevens, “Connoisseur of Chaos “
My expectations explode against hard reality.
I end up not where I am supposed to be.
Nothing unfolds according to plan.
Just once, could things happen as they are supposed to happen? Just once, could what I seek come my way as I imagined?
In Zen we say that all things exist in disorder but against a background of perfect harmony. I have tried in so many ways to see and feel that harmony. I have even pretended to grasp it. But I don’t. I feel no order or harmony- just swirling and cruel chaos.
Where is this harmony? How can it be mine?
All this grief and questioning and doubt, I now understand, arise from one simple mistake. I keep supposing that I can control what will come. I imagine that when I do X today, then Y will happen tomorrow. I seek to impose order upon the disorder. And when I fail, as I must, I rage against it all.
The harmony, I know, is right there. Waiting for me. The key to that ecstatic existence is right here. Simple acceptance. Undiluted, sure, steady acceptance of all that is and all that I am.
I know these things. And I know that I am moving closer and closer to that way of being. Substituting that simple truth for that simple mistake. To be purged of rage, filled with gratitude and acceptance.
Closer and closer.
November 17, 2012 § 21 Comments
What are the words that might capture the brilliance of this morning? If they exist, who could find them?
I experience first the air. Crisp air that fills my body with its energy as I breathe it in.
The white heavy dew lying across the fields. The trees, stark and strong against the sky, standing mostly denuded but with a few clinging leaves that the emerging sun lights up like golden lanterns.
Closing my eyes, I feel the stillness, the quiet- and then a light wind across my face.
And that sky. A blue that the greatest artists could never recreate. Existing above and around me, going on and on, with a beauty that I cannot possibly describe.
In this place and in this moment, I think- who could doubt the magic and wonder of existence? What gift greater than just to be here, now?
But then for a moment, it feels like too much, more than I can bear. So I breathe- I return to myself- and I know once again.
Not too much. It is all just right.