From the Beginning
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 26, 2013 § 41 Comments
I stood at the window for a long time. Watching the snowflakes dancing past.
Seeing the frozen jewels glide past my window, falling into the white blanket beneath, I felt- for a moment- sadness. Those exquisite creations, each swallowed up in the drifts below. One after the other. Here and then gone.
And then I thought what it would be like to tumble downward like the snowflake. Falling without resistance, surfing the winds in a trajectory that belonged only to it. Surrounded by so many other dazzling partners.
I thought of the crystalline and fragile beauty of each individual flake. A singular beauty arising from the interrupted symmetry of their creation. Never to be repeated.
And something else took the place of my sadness.
To understand that we each exist as a unique creation of the One.
To accept the winds of the world and make our way without resistance.
To dance down our arc of time as a singular- but not isolated- being.
To use ourselves up, holding nothing back from life’s descent.
And then to return to the place where we began.
Melting into the snowy bosom of all that is and all that will be.
I stood at the window watching the snowflakes and I wept.
Not sadness anymore. Tears of a nearly unbearable gratitude.
Gratitude for the blessing given to me- and to each of us- the chance to live out the finite and exquisite dance of life.
The Murmuring Brook
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 7, 2013 § 29 Comments
I have tried to write of this before and backed off. I just don’t have the words. But tonight I must try.
Dimly lit room, warm against the black and cold night outside. The house is still. I sit in solitude and listen. Time stops.
I’ve heard this music a thousand times, returning to it again and again. My refuge, my sanctuary. Redemptive. Elusive. Rapturous. As beautiful as the blue sky of day.
More than a half century ago, Miles Davis summoned Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Jimmy Cobb, and Paul Chambers to the studio and they made this magic. And here I am, for the thousandth time, taken away by the absolute artistry of it all. Lifted up and away.
If ever I am lost, and I need to get home, I come here and listen- and give thanks for the courage of those artists and for all who came before and after. Those who give us in their artistic creation the understanding that beauty and truth do exist.
They bring me home. As they have done tonight.
In the Woods
January 3, 2013 § 29 Comments
Today in the woods- deep snow, air so cold and sharp it tingled. Finding a sliver of bright sun, beneath the sky of infinite blue, I felt the sun’s warmth on my face. Standing there, I allowed the spirit of the trees and the sun and that sky that went on forever to come upon me.
How is it that I could be given such a moment? A moment of peace beyond peace.
And then I know. That moment belonged to me because I belonged to it. In that moment, no sense of time, no duality, no thinking. Just being.
The simple magic of pure existence.
A Year of Living
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 18, 2012 § 29 Comments
Be like the forces of nature:
When it blows, there is only wind.
Tao te Ching, Chap. 23
It’s early evening. The cold air moves in. Storms approaching. Staring into the woods, feeling the wind as it dances across my body. Surprising in its shifts and gusts. Speaking to me, a portent of the storm.
The wind comes in infinite variety. I have tasted the salty wind coming off the ocean, stood against its force as it swept up and over a snowy mountain ridge, felt its faintest breeze across my moist skin on a steamy summer day.
God’s breath, Buddha’s touch.
Our existence is also infinitely varied. Sometimes in solitude, sometimes in the multitude. In motion or at rest. Speaking or silent. In one place or another.
But in all things, and in each moment, we should be like the wind. Present, always. Swirling around what stands in our way. Occupying our space in a strong and natural way.
And letting everything else simply fall into place.
A Great Disorder
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.
December 8, 2012 § 48 Comments
Sitting on the back porch, feeling the warm sun filtered through the pines. I am a stroll away from that great source of peace, the ocean. My precious dog, Sammie, is dozing at my feet. I know I’m blessed. And still.
It’s hard to describe. This feeling that keeps me away. Like a drug that leaves me numb and stalled and lost.
These past weeks I could not bear to look at the blog. Thinking of those with whom I felt a connection here, I imagined that they had left me- or worse yet, that they had come by and in my silence I had let them down. So I just stayed away.
But today, awash in the terrible sadness that I just can’t shake, I decided to stop waiting for the strength to return. To stop waiting for that moment when I might again write of peace and gratitude. Just come back in all your shakiness and doubt and then go from there, I thought.
So here I am.
Dying in Each Moment
November 20, 2012 § 42 Comments
“To live in the realm of Buddha nature means to die as a small being, moment after moment.”
Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
As the cancer consumed my father, he disappeared a bit at a time. First he lost the capacity to walk, then to read, to eat, to speak, and finally a coma-like existence. And then the shell that remained ended too.
This all happened many years ago. Yet in my memory, it is as fresh as yesterday.
In his final months a peace came upon my father. I do not know where it came from. He practiced no religion, held no faith in the transcendent. Most of his life he seemed at war with his very existence, deeply unhappy with himself and the life he felt trapped within.
But as he wasted away, my father changed. His resistance melted, acceptance emerged. Not just acceptance of his coming death- acceptance of the people around him and of life itself. He projected a warm and natural love. My father seemed ready to die, unafraid and open.
I cannot know the source of my father’s peace. But I now believe that somehow, some way, my father understood at the end what I know now.
We each die a little at a time, moment to moment.
I am not thinking here about the simple awareness of mortality. Something else.
The peace my father embodied comes to us only when we exist in the fullest sense. “No illusions in our mind, no resistances in our body,” as the Tao teaches. But this way of being cannot be separated from non-being. This communion with life itself is to embrace death itself. To understand finally that life and death are one.
Those final months my father gave me a great gift- a model of how life might be lived- and death embraced. A gift that took years for me to unwrap but which is mine now.