Monday, January 26, 2009

Conversation Three

Our lives are shaped by our expectations, not by our accomplishments.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

Now we get to the crux of the problem — If stopping to smell the roses is more important than just running right by them in pursuit of the trail's end, is that the end of the story? Do we just drift aimlessly through life enjoying the "here and now?"

What a goofy idea that would be! No, as i said before, "Choose a direction, set a goal, look for mile posts along the way, but don't lose sight of the path." That in no way implies wandering aimlessly. I don't believe even Eckhart Tolle lives only in the "here and now." He certainly understands its importance, he is certainly right about its fundamental importance to our lives, but he also sets goals, makes plans, and understands that some portion of his thinking has to be concerned with the future.

Here's a cheap analogy for looking at how to live in the here and now. It's the good old Pope-mobile. When the grand leader of the Catholic church is out and about, he moves around in his Pope-mobile. While in it, he is encapsulated in this big glass bubble; he can't get out of it, but from inside of it, he can see all around — ahead, behind, to both sides, up, and down.

But, while in this fine mobile, the pope doesn't just sit there with his head buried in his hands or in a book, or staring at the floor. He may be confined, with no way to get out, but he remains focused on life on the outside of the bubble as he continues to progress forward.

Likewise, we are absolutely encapsulated in the almighty here and now. We couldn't get out even if we wanted to. There is no way to go back to the past and no way to go to the future. There is no way to instantaneously transport to somewhere else either. But, in any case, even if you could, when you got there you would still be here now, just at that different time and/or place.

But (and this is the key!), this here and now, while it confines you in its grasp, is not a place or a time of confinement. It is infinite in scope, infinite in scale. It is the source of all that ever was and the unlimited potential of all that ever will be. It is eternity in length and infinite in size. From here and now you can look back to the past, look forward to the future, and look all around at what is happening with all of the other people in their own here and now.

To truly live life, you have to accept the fact that you only live in the here and now, while at the same time accepting that that here and now is bigger than all eternity. And you have to learn to keep your focus outwards and constantly move forward, just like the pope in is pope-mobile, whether in the professional world, your spiritual life, or however you choose to focus your life's efforts. (And i'll remind you once more, as i said previously, moving forward could mean giving up more, becoming less, and offering more of yourself to others.)

(It's worth pointing out here that stagnant water goes foul and becomes a health risk. Stagnant air goes bad and becomes unbreathable. A lack of movement breeds dis·ease.)

Which leads me directly to the first quote, although i no longer remember where i found it: "Our lives are shaped by our expectations, not by our accomplishments."

You can't move forward if your focus is on your accomplishments, what you did in the past, what is already done, completed, over. You can only move forward if you focus in that direction. And that direction has a very special lamp that is used to light the trail — your expectations. If you have no expectations your trail will be dark. If you have no expectations you will have no way to see the trail and, therefore, no way to move forward. You have to have expectations to move forward.

And, the size of your expectations, their grandeur, their breadth, their brilliancy, will decide how far you can see, how well you can see the pitfalls and the possibilities ahead. And with these insights, so is your life defined.

Yes, your current condition, your current position may be, and probably is, defined by your accomplishments. That is very true. But if that is all you are looking at, you're in danger of becoming stagnant, will all the problems that entails. I'm talking about your life, that never stopping flow of time and space, that never stopping here and now you live in, the one that is always moving towards the future. That life is shaped by your expectations, NOT by your accomplishments.

So, in order to make a life, a life worth living, you need great expectations of yourself. Once you have great expectations, everything else will follow. Everything else has to follow. To get to that stage, you have to work on your thinking.

Even as far back as the Buddha's time, everyone knew that as you think, so you will live. The compilers of the Dhammapada thought this was so important that they started the book with just these thoughts, and put it this way:

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.

"Look how he abused me and hurt me,
How he threw me down and robbed me."
Live with such thoughts and you live in hate.

"Look how he abused me and hurt me,
How he threw me down and robbed me."
Abandon such thoughts, and live in love.

Our thoughts shape our perceptions. Our perceptions change the world that we see. Change your perceptions and you change the world in which you live. Change your thoughts and you change your perceptions. It really is as simple as that.

Marcel Proust may have said it the best when he said: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." He is speaking directly to the same point; by having new eyes, a new way to view the world, you can and will make fascinating discoveries — about yourself, about others, about yor life, about Life. How do you find a new way to view the world? By changing your perceptions. How do you do that? By changing the way you think.

The Dalai Lama has a good analogy for how we view the world and how that affects our life. He compares our mental focus to that of a camera lens. When your focus is predominantly on yourself, you and your problems fill the entire lens; it's hard to see anyone else in the picture. However, when you pull back the focus, when you widen the lens and focus on the world, on everyone else, the picture is filled with other people; you and your problems no longer dominate the picture. It is in these conditions that your viewpoint changes and discoveries are made.

It's not easy, though, to widen that focus, to take yourself out of the picture. Joseph Campbell knew that when he pointed out once that you can't make an omelet without breaking the eggs. Or, at another time when he said that we must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

You have to have expectations, but you have to be flexible and know that "life happens." But, without those expectation, nothing happens. It has been said by a great many people that you can't hope to cross the ocean if you always stay safely tied up in the harbor. Or, that if you don't know what port you are headed for, no winds are favorable.

So, have grand and great expectations of yourself. Think great thoughts, thoughts that will naturally lead you to have larger than life expectations of yourself. Then look outward, look for the trail head that calls you. Don't look for an easy trail to walk, they seldom offer any scenery of consequence. Look for a trail that offers both scenery and challenge.

You aren't looking for any superficial search. No swimming on the surface. Swim deep. Dive down. Think thoughts that include words like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, and modesty.

Most self-improvement literature today talks only about how to get rich. How to make lots and lots of money with minimal effort. "The business runs itself." "Make money while you sleep." The journey i'm talking about is not about making money; it's about finding out who you are, how you relate to all the other people of the world, how you relate to Life itself.

Sure i want money. I'd love to have lots and lots of it. Storerooms full. I could give most of it away, use some to travel, save some for retirement, pay off the debts of family and friends. But, that's not the journey that gets me excited. That makes me jump out of bed with excitement when my cherry blossom tree is blooming. That draws me back to Shikoku in the spring.

In that journey, i do have extraordinary expectations. Unfortunately, in the more mundane professional world, this haiku might summarize my current expectations for myself.

What's it all about?
Sit and think. Expectations?
Plop. Wipe. Flush. Oh my.

:-) (sheepish grin)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Conversation Two

What is important is not the destination, but the act of getting there. The Path itself is the goal.
The journey of one thousand miles begins with one step.

The first quote comes from the book Japanese Pilgrimage and this was my first introduction to the henro trail on Shikoku. I can still remember walking around a bookstore in Tōkyō one Saturday morning back in the '80s looking for something in English to read when i stumbled across this book. I have probably read it a dozen times since then.

Whether we're talking about the henro trail, a career, training for a marathon, or life in general, it is not the destination that is important, but the path you travel as you move in the direction of that destination. Yes, in most cases in life we have goals that we aspire to. We are trained from birth to set goals and to constantly evaluate our progress as we move towards them. Goals can be good things.

But, if you fixate on the goal and your eventual arrival at it, at the expense of the path you traverse to get there, you are missing most of your life. What's that quote? Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans?

To me, this is just so obvious that it affects every aspect of my life and who i am. I train for a marathon all summer, but i really don't care what time i get at the race. The last two years, i didn't even run the race. Yes, i set time goals, but if i come in slower, i don't care. The training was what i valued because that is what gave me health, a wealth of beautiful mornings outdoors, and a great tan. :-)

I do meditate, but not because i have any illusions of enlightenment or amazing spiritual states. I do it because of the slow, steady progress i make in understanding how my mind works and because it allows me to see reality in a way that i couldn't before. Meditation is all about the slow, steady progress of letting go, over the course of a lifetime, not about getting somewhere and attaining anything.

And i look at a profession in the same way. I have to work to pay the bills. That means a third to a half of my days are taken up by my job (or, they were until i quit anyhow). A job, a profession, a career, is not about getting to a certain salary, a certain title, a certain position, and then knowing that you have finally arrived. I believe that most people who approach their careers with this attitude use other people to get there.

I work to make a living, i don't work for a living. That's two completely different concepts. And that could explain my professional problems. For me, working is a two-way street, a relationship of give and take. I do my best to improve the work i give you each day, and in return you do your best to improve the work you give me each day. It's the path that is important, not the job title i put on my door.

Life is a journey. You are born, and someday you will die. That much is certain. What makes it all worth it, what makes it interesting, what brings it all meaning, is what you do with each and every day that you live in between those two defining moments. If you just plod along on autopilot, getting up, going to work, going home, eating dinner, going to bed, ... and repeating that cycle every day, week after week, year after year, decade after decade, (life after life), what's the point?

I have said this a thousand times in my Shikoku journal, there is a world of difference between existing and living. You exist when you live solely for a goal and its accomplishment; when everything but the goal's accomplishment is inconsequential. You live when you set a goal, but derive your life's meaning from the work you do each and every day on the trail towards that goal. When you derive meaning and satisfaction from the small daily victories. When you go to bed each night knowing that what you did today, you did just a little better than you did yesterday. Or, when you didn't do as well, at least you were able to learn something of value from the experience.

You live when you appreciate each and every day for what it was — another chance to live; another chance to breath; another chance to love. How you live is what defines your life, not whether you accomplished one or another goal on any given day.

The path is the goal.

A while ago i gave a quote from the book The Warlord, and in it they talk about life, not as the process of getting somewhere, but as the continuous process of watching your essence unfold. You don't know what that essence is, you don't know where it came from, and you can't say with any certainty how it will unfold over the course of your 80-some years of life. But life is how you approach that unfolding and how you you relate your unfolding to that of everyone else.

In the bible, there is a nice verse that points to the same thing. "The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." You know the wind is there, it is obvious, and you know it came from somewhere 'over there' and is going in 'that direction.' But, you don't really know any more. You don't know where it came from or where it is going, only that it is here.

Life too, is exactly like this. You know you were born, back then. You know you're getting older, and are vaguely certain you can give some outlines of what direction you are headed in life; physically, intellectually, and spiritually. But you certainly don't know where you came from or where you are eventually going, even though you may have great stories and firm beliefs.

The only thing we have for certain is the path we walk from the day of our birth to our very last breath. The goal of our life is to walk our paths with intelligence, dignity, and humility. The goal of our life is to appreciate every day on the path, to work to improve ourself with each step, and to ensure that our path doesn't harm others.

Choose a direction, set a goal, look for mile posts along the way, but don't lose sight of the path. Don't let the flow of time overshadow the moments of your life. Don't lose sight of the individual paint strokes in your daily life in your eagerness to see the entire picture.

The path is the goal.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Video Interlude

Don't ever, ever, ever, say your problems are too difficult to overcome. Ever.

Ever! Meet Nick Vujicic.

A couple of visual, and sometimes amusing, versions:
# 1
# 2

The longer, motivational version:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Conversation One

Know yourself. Believe in yourself. Deny yourself. Be humble.
I'm fairly certain this came from a book on running marathons and that it is a quote from a well known Irish marathoner — although i don't remember his name.

In it's narrow sense, this is about how to run the marathon, do a triathlon, or any other endurance sport. You have to know yourself when you enter one of these races: your level of fitness, your capabilities at the time of the event, your strong/weak points, and where you stand mentally. Knowing where you stand isn't enough, though. You have to believe in yourself; you have to believe that you really are capable of performing at your best level. Even if you are in better shape than everyone else on the course, if you don't believe you can beat them, you won't. As Henry Ford has been quoted, if you believe you can or believe you can't, you're right. You 'gotta believe.

How do you get to your best level? You have to deny yourself many of the treats and luxuries that most non-athletes give themselves every day of the year. You have to watch your diet, you have to get more sleep, you have to give up a lot of your social life, you have to spend more time training and less time with friends and family, you have less time to read, watch movies, and on and on. Then on top of all this, you have to keep a sense of humility — you have to realize that you don't reach your peak in just a few months. The growth process, the maturation process, takes years; years of hard, dedicated work. Years of watching, talking to, and working with those who have already reached the peak; those who are better than you. You have to be humble and know that with hard work and time, your chance will come.

In a broader sense, however, i think this applies just as well to how to live a 'good' life. A life well lived is a life where you constantly push yourself to grow, to evolve — to transform yourself from what you currently are to something at a higher level. Some do this physically, some do it professionally, some do it spiritually, and some work on combinations of these at the same time. And, moving yourself to a higher level could mean learning to let go, learning to give up, learning to be less. A higher level doesn't always mean being bigger, better, and/or faster.

A great many people have told us that we need to know who we are. Socrates, in his famous statement, said an uninvestigated life is not worth living (i added the part about pulling the trigger later). Yeats, while being a more modern authority but certainly not the best of role models, said it just as well when he said that the only journey worth taking is the one through yourself.

One of my favorite teachers, though, was Lao Tsu, and he put it this way:

Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self needs strength.
He who knows he has enough is rich.
Perseverance is a sign of willpower.
He who stays where he is endures.
To die but not to perish is to be
eternally present.

And, finally, my favorite teacher, bar none. Mr. Zenji himself. Dōgen. He put it this way: "To learn the Buddhist Way is to learn about oneself. To learn about oneself is to forget oneself. To forget oneself is to perceive oneself as all things. To realize this is to cast off the body and mind of self and others. When you have reached this stage you will be detached even from enlightenment but will practice it continually without thinking about it."

I love that paragraph. You can read it in a few seconds, but to actually put it into practice takes years. Decades. A lifetime of work. Just for this one paragraph.

Do i know who i am? I'm confident that i have a good idea, yes. Are there blind spots? Certainly, there are entire blind corridors, but i work constantly to clear those up, and when new ones appear, i work on those as well. Professionally, i'm a complete and utter failure. Outside of that i believe that i lead a life of introspection that daily leads me closer to a better understanding of who i am; always looking for my answers on the inside instead of assuming someone 'out there' is going to provide them.

Do i believe in myself? Once again, professionally, no. Unless believing you don't have what it takes to 'get ahead' qualifies — but i doubt it does. Otherwise, absolutely. I truly believe that there is nothing that i can't do, if i want to do it. I won't be the best at it, but as i used to tell people when they asked if i was a good skier, i'm better than some and not as good as others. Physically, intellectually, spiritually — i can't see any limits to what i could accomplish if i chose to apply myself to something. Yes, i do believe in myself. Absolutely. In fact, it shocks me when i meet people who don't believe in themselves and their abilities.

I don't deny myself, really, because i already live a pretty simple life. If i had to guess, i would say i learned this lifestyle when i served on submarines just after high school. We were underwater for three months, back in the States for three months, and then repeat, and repeat, year after year. During this process, you learn to live with just the necessities. You learn to keep yourself entertained with little more than your mind and a book (Unfortunately i read some pretty trashy books back then, but my mind was certainly active when i read them. There was this one about a widow, .... oh, never mind). You learn to sit and think. You learn just to sit still. And this life translated very well and very easily into one of hiking and backpacking after the service. And into life in the Peace Corps in Africa. Outside of books, i don't need much in the material realm. Leave my hiking boots, a few good books, and my mp3 player, and i wouldn't lose a lot of sleep if i lost the rest.

Am i humble? Damn right, probably the most humble person in the US! :-) Sorry, i couldn't resist. I don't know.... i try to always keep in mind that there is something to be learned from each and every person i meet. That any encounter, no matter how badly it goes, offers me the chance to grow in some way, to investigate and improve some aspect of who i am. I don't remember exactly when it was, but it was certainly twenty-five years ago, or more, when i made the decision that in any situation, if either i or someone else had to give way, i would always be the one to do it; even if i thought i was in the right, had the right of way, or had the higher ground. With few major exceptions, i have lived that life all these years. Whether that's humble or not, i'll leave others to decide.

So, where do i stand on the question of "Who is doing the searching?" I have to believe that i'm on the right trail, that looking back and looking forward, the scenery seems to indicate that i'm on the right path and should stick with it. Are there days and situations where someone could look at me and say i'm full of it, that i'm not doing any of the above? Most likely, but i think they are rare. I do have one pebble in my boot that i need to get rid of, i know that, but it doesn't cripple me, it's just a rotten nuisance — one that i know i have to work on to get rid of.

Video of the day: Quest for Life - Discovering Your Human Potential

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Series of Conversations

Jim Rohn maintains (correctly, i think) that before you can make any change in your life, you have to investigate what he calls your "personal philosophy;" your view of the world, your view of life, your view of what's important. In his book The Five Major Pieces To The Life Puzzle, where he outlines the five principles that he thinks "have remained unchallenged in their capacity to produce life-changing results" throughout the ups and downs of his life, he starts with just this step.

As Jim points out, your philosophy affects your habits, your habits then affect your behavior, and your behavior affects every aspect of your life, including how successful you are. So, because i think too much, that of course led me to wonder what principles have been with me throughout my life.

A good place for me to start looking at the issue was on the top of the main page of my Shikoku Pilgrimage web site, where i have quotes that rotate every time you load the page. Each quote is there because i strongly believe in its truth and because it points squarely to how i view the world; how i view a correct approach to living in the world.

Even more important, though, is that with all the many thousands of quotes i have collected over the years, it is these eight that have always been at the top of that page. I have thought about adding more from time to time, but have always decided that the new quote just didn't add anything significantly new to what i was trying to say, so didn't add it. These eight, then, must come close to forming the core of my beliefs?

When i list them out here, it seems that they can be divided into five categories.

- Know yourself. Believe in yourself. Deny yourself. Be humble.

- What is important is not the destination, but the act of getting there. The Path itself is the goal.
- The journey of one thousand miles begins with one step.

- Our lives are shaped by our expectations, not by our accomplishments.
- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

- Do not search for the footsteps of the masters of old, search for what they sought.

- Always aim for the ultimate. Never look back. Be forever mindful of others. Keep your eyes always set on the Way.
- Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.

In short, the categories could be labeled:
- Who is it that is searching?
- Where are you going and when do you set out?
- What are you looking for?
- What are the pitfalls on the trail?
- How far do you take the search?

In a series of conversations with myself, i'm going to look at these quotes and try to be a little more specific about what they mean to me; to be clear about what they are saying to me and how they have affected the choices i have made in my life. If Jim is right, and your "personal philosophy" governs your life choices, what do these quotes say about who i am and the choices i have made? What do they say about why i am where i currently am in this life? What do they say about the choices i have to make going forward?

As guides, i'll use two very famous philosophers: Horton, who correctly points out that "it's just a straight plummet to certain death," and McDodd, who, when he said "Look at the wind! What do you think that means?," correctly pointed out that what we take for granted in our lives isn't at all clear to us when we investigate them carefully.

Hopefully, the results of the conversations will prove interesting (to me).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Integrity Wins Again

Today is a great day in US history.
A day when dogmatism, blind ideology, conspiracy, partisanship, hatred, and evil leave the offices of power.
A day of hope, of optimism, of anticipation, and expectation.
A day when leaders take charge and the dictators leave in shame. When those making the decisions understand that true leadership requires listening to others, as opposed to "you're either with me or you're against me."
A day when the concept that only one country, only one people, knows the "truth" is thrown in the garbage, where it belongs. Where other's views aren't wrong, aren't evil, simply because they don't agree with our's.
A new day of cooperation and collaboration, inside our country and with the other peoples of the world.
A day when the US no longer demands respect and moral authority while brandishing a gun, and stands tall with the natural authority inherent in the values this country was founded on: honesty, fairness, inclusiveness, uprightness, and integrity.
A day that signals the expectation that the US will soon be looked up to again with respect and envy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Whispered Truths

Whispering softly
the wind and the leaves
tell stories
of life
in far off places
right here
of times
long past
right now

The temple bell
to me
the sound
the valley
the trees
and hills
all who hear
into its

like a mist
the being
of those
who listen

in emptiness
i sit
to the bone
in the sound
that surrounds
and fills me
and am
of that

It can't be heard
as long as
there is
a listener
as long as
there is
a sound
out there
even though
it can be heard
by anyone
by everyone
who hears

What is it

From where i sit
everything becomes clear
become the wind
become the russle
of the leaves
in the trees
become the bell
become the sound
and know

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Way

I have written about this before, over on my Shikoku web site, but i've been thinking about it a lot lately. It comes from Malcolm Bosse's novel The Warlord, but it's certainly not fiction.

Whoever or whatever it is that gives such things,
     gives us our essence at birth.
The design of this essence then starts to unfold.
To watch it unfold is to live.
To watch it with confidence and good humor is to follow the Way.

I'll completely skip the first line because that would only open a can of worms. The 'whoever' or 'whatever' can be argued every which way, back and forth, front and back, until the end of time, and we won't come to an agreement.

But, it would be pretty hard to argue against the fact that when we are born, we are born with this unknown, unknowable, and amazing essence that gives us our life. What that essence is will probably always remain a mystery. A mystery that keeps people awake at night. A mystery that makes people wonder and think. A mystery that makes people fall in love. A mystery that can carry you to the highest of creative peaks.

The design of this essence then starts to unfold. And after you are born, no, after you are conceived, that essence begins to play out the role it was meant to play out for you. Your life begins slowly at first, and then picks up speed with each passing year. And with each passing year, that essence — your essence — unfolds a little more, like those long Asian picture scrolls that only lets you see a little of the picture at a time as you slowly unwind the reel.

To watch it unfold is to live. To live. To succeed. To fail. To fall in love. To be crushed by injustice. To see eternity. To live in a box. To create beauty. To be scared by ugly words. To accept all that comes to your life with no more animosity than the oak tree when the winds howl. To live is to watch that essence that brought you to life as it unfolds. Some people watch it with patience. Some people watch it with unease. Some with anger. Some with apprehension. There are millions and millions of ways to watch it unfold, and each one of us, in our own way, makes a life as we watch.

To watch it with confidence and good humor is to follow the Way. Yet, just to watch your essence unfold is not living life to its fullest. To watch it with confidence and good humor, no matter what comes, is to truly live — and that is to follow the Way. To accept confidently that each and every situation you face is your essence unfolding as it was meant to unfold, even if it doesn't make sense at the time. To smile at life's injustices. To laugh at the great unfairnesses, even as you fight them, if that is appropriate. To be able to laugh at yourself with a thunderous laugh. This is to follow the Way.

When life is lived on this trail, the trail of the Way, you live a life of unlimited potential. You live a life that knows no bounds and is constrained only by your lack of dreams. Dream big and your life will be full. Dream expansive dreams and your life will soar. Dream wild dreams and your life will be full of color and fulfillment.

Why then, do we settle for so much less than we can be? Be courageous. Live life with confidence and good humor.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pond Frogs

Mu Ku Jū Metsu Dō.
     What? You don't believe that's true?
           Ask Basho's pond frog.


           Did the frog jump in?
     Did the water really splash?
Sitting. Sound. Alive.


Did the frog jump in?
I've heard it was all a joke.
No frog. No pond. Splash.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I Hope You're The One

Marriage Proposal:
Looking for a hot guy? Don't bother. No gold-diggers either. To avoid mutual disappointment, PhDs need not reply. Women entrepreneurs need not reply (tradeswomen and peddlers excepted). Perfect men like Andy Lau and Tom Cruise won't be advertising on a blog, nor do i expect to find Zhang Ziyi or Shu Qi. Even if you were a goddess i couldn't handle you. I'm not expecting a cover girl to blow me away with your beauty. Just a sane healthy woman. Modern on the outside, traditional on the inside. Slightly demure would be ideal. Don't be too young. Don't be too complicated. Proficiency in folding laundry a plus — preferably pressed and folded like they just came off the store shelf.

Am i being too specific?

Let me introduce myself: I'm no longer young. Solidly middle-class. Drink, but don't smoke. Never studied much, i slacked and learned a few survival skills. Have traveled abroad frequently. Lived abroad for six years. I returned without accomplishment. Truly, I'm what they call a "Three Strikes Returnee" — No company. No stocks. No money. Morally, i'm about 50-50. I'm no angel, just too cowardly to do wrong. All in all , i'd classify myself as a constructive member of society.

If interested, please email.

I hope you're the one.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Just Thinking...

More thoughts run amok
Snow flakes swirling all around
Early morning storms


Black clouds to the south
Walking slowly northward, ahhh
Brighter days ahead

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sleeping On The Doorsill

I found this wonderful quote from Rumi on the web today:

For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn't decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.


A lot of people talk and write about that doorsill where the two worlds touch. One of them i have recently been revisiting is Joseph Campbell. He understands that threshold very well and i can't get enough of him. Try either his The Hero With A Thousand Faces or The Power of Myth. (His spellbinding interview with Bill Moyer is on Google Video if you have a few free hours some night.)

As Rumi says, it is when you reach the threshold that life takes on new meaning. On one side you are asleep; content to live an uninvestigated life, content to let habits run your life, content to accept 'truth' as what is learned from a book or in a class, content to do things because 'that's the way they're done.'

On the other side, truth is everywhere around you, at all times. You see truth in the rising sun and the black of night, you hear truth in a Tibetan chant and a beggar's request for coins, you smell truth in a bouquet of roses and in a fart on the train, you taste truth in the most delicious and the grossest of foods, and you can feel truth in the lightest of your lovers touches and in the aching pain of a broken body.

The inside and the outside. This side and that side. Me and us. Between these is that threshold, with existence on one side and life on the other.

Another way of looking at the threshold is to say that on the inside, people are looking at the deficiencies in their life and trying to find ways to overcome them. To fill the holes. To plug the gaps. To pay whatever it takes to get what they are missing.

On the outside, however, there aren't any deficiencies, only abundance. On the outside you see everything there is to be and to have. If you worked your entire life you couldn't accept all that is available and all that will be offered. There are no holes to fill, there are mountains to climb — willingly. There are no gaps to plaster over, only gaps that allow us to peer into a greater reality. On the outside life is vastly bigger than your ego can ever imagine.

But there's a catch to crossing that threshold. It isn't easy. Why? Not because it's hard work, but because to cross to the other side you have to accept that getting there means you stay where you are. There is nowhere to go — you are already where you need to be — you simply need to learn how to be, just be, right were you are. Once you understand that being, not becoming, is the key, the door opens and the threshold beckons.

Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean just sitting and staring at the wall and hoping for the best, although if done correctly, sitting in front of that wall will work. You can't just give up seeking all the while blindly assuming that if i'm here now all will be well. You have to be here now AND expand into everything that is in that eternity that is here and now. And even though you can expand forever, you will never get to the end. The search, the expansion, is never ending because as your consciousness expands, and the consciousnesses of millions of others expands, the consciousness of the universe expands. It is an ever-moving and ever growing target.

You are a part of a collective awakening, and have a part to play in life's growth, so don't go to sleep. Sit right here now, and expand past that doorsill into everything and more than you can possibly imagine. And fasten your seat belt when you sit down because it can be a life changing ride.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In Tahiti, Even Flies Help Tourists

Matthieu Ricard has an audio book out that i think each and every person in the world should listen to. Called, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill, he reminds us what we should be doing with our lives. He reminds us that whatever goals we choose for ourselves, they should be good for us, meaning they should contribute to our welfare & happiness and the welfare & happiness of everyone else in the world.

He also gives this amusing example of how our perceptions of the world can and do affect our happiness. During a visit to Tahiti, he was relaxing one afternoon with a friend while sitting under a shade tree. Not only was the scenery spectacular, but there was a fine mist blowing across them, and he was thinking to himself how beautiful the situation was at the time — even the trees, because of the mist, were providing a type of air conditioning. Then someone came up and asked them what the heck they were doing? Those were pissing flies in the tree. They eat the sap in the tree and then piss to get rid of the residue. As Matthieu points out, it takes no imagination to realize that their interpretation of reality changed immediately. Suddenly, the scenery wasn't so idyllic.

A former French cell biologist and now Tibetan monk and translator for the Dalai Lama (he's still French, just no longer a biologist), Ricard went through the same process of questioning what he was doing with his life. In this CD he challenges us to look at our minds, to study them deeply. He exhorts us to ask those deep questions that will convince us that we can change who we are and what we are doing with our lives — at which point we should sit on our butts and work to strip away the scum and mud from the surface of our minds.

When you do that, your pristine beauty then has the chance to shine through.