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.
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.
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.