June 10, 2016 § 17 Comments
Standing before the ocean, I felt the rhythm of the natural world.
The waves relentlessly marched towards shore. Forming their swells, then peaking and crashing. All the movement seemed forward and aggressive.
But I looked again as the waves broke. When the frothy wave reached its furthest purchase, it began its return, gently sliding back to the sea. Back to its source.
Crashing forward, sliding back. Forward, back. Repeated endlessly.
Opposed motion, each existing apart from the other, each dependent on the other. The advancing waves would cease if the retreating water did not return, just as the receding movement could not arise without the crashing wave that gives it birth.
This rhythm, this pattern, recurs across the sweep of our endless natural world. It is in the wind and the tide, the trajectory of the sun, the garden out back. It is embodied in our breath and in the coil of life’s journey.
I often lose this sense of connection and oneness. Falling away, I am lost and adrift.
But when I take and hold this communion, when the truth of this lives in my bones, I feel safe and at peace. As I did this day, surrounded by the natural world and the others I love.
Where Was I?
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 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.
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.
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.
The Nourishing Rain
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.
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.
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.
The Waltz in the Woods
March 19, 2013 § 31 Comments
Cold and gray this morning. The storm has moved on.
I sit at the wall of glass looking into the pine forest that encircles my home along the southern coast. I hear only the sound of the coffee brewing and the faint clicks from the keyboard as I write these words.
Right now the wind from the tail end of the storm is moving through the tall pines. Each tree moves rhythmically with the wind, first bending to the wind’s will and then swaying back to its upright posture. Yielding just enough to accommodate the gusts and then returning to its centered, upright way.
The wind ceases. The dance ends. The trees are nearly still now, just quivering a bit in the soft breeze that remains.
And then the wind comes up. The dance commences again.
This cycle repeats- still, then quivering, and then swaying- a choreography of wondrous and hypnotic beauty.
I have not written anything for more than two weeks. I have thought of writing every day. And every day I somehow wasn’t able to write- too busy, the idea for the writing unworthy, whatever.
But this morning, I didn’t think about writing, I just sat here and looked out the window. Wrote what I felt and what I saw.
Nature always models the way. Giving up resistance, the tree bends to the wind. But when the wind passes, she returns naturally to her centered existence.
The winds took me away because I resisted, I tried to think my way out. But when I ceased fighting those winds, when I stopped thinking about what I had to do, I found myself again- here, at the window, watching the waltz in the woods.