Monday, September 27, 2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Discovering Your Master

A couple of things to consider as the day, and weekend, winds down.

There are some things that just can not be changed and we must simply learn to accept them.

Do you think you can take over the
universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.

The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.

So sometimes things are ahead and
   sometimes they are behind;
Sometimes breathing is hard,
   sometimes it comes easily;
Sometimes there is strength and
   sometimes weakness;
Sometimes one is up and sometimes

Therefore the sage avoids extremes,
excesses, and complacency.

Tao Te Ching

Avoid extremes, including the extreme of complacency. Being complacent with where you are and what you are will bring you no closer to who you really are. Accept that there are extremes, accept that the extremes are self-defining, but then avoid them and walk the middle way.

This doesn't mean, though, that one should always avoid the edges in life, always hiding safely in the middle and amongst the masses. NO! NO! and NO! I believe that the only way to grow, and the best way to find meaning in life, is to spend a great part of that life on the outer edges of our envelope, in whatever area we have dedicated our life. It's at that outer edge that you find Life, it's at that outer edge where numbing and debilitating routine and habit are nowhere to be found. It's at that outer edge where you can glimpse, from time to time, that unknown reality just beyond reach.

Some people look for that edge on their zafu. Others in a sports uniform, others in a lab coat, others in books in libraries. There are countless ways of living on the edge. But, in every case, before you start that search you have to prepare yourself first.

Love yourself and watch -
Today, tomorrow, always.
First establish yourself in the way,
Then teach,
And so defeat sorrow.
To straighten the crooked
You must first do a harder thing -
Straighten yourself.
You are your only master.
Who else?
Subdue yourself,
And discover your master.


Mischief is yours.
Sorrow is yours.
But virtue is also yours,
And purity.
You are the source
Of all purity and impurity.
No one purifies another.
Never neglect your work
For another's,
However great his need.
Your work is to discover your work
And then with all your heart
To give yourself to it.


Some of the work we need to do in this life is internal, that search for our master, that journey towards who we are. No one can do it for you and you can't do it for anyone else. Discovery often entails long, lonely expeditions into the unknown, whether those are physical or mental expeditions, whether it is a trek outside towards the North Pole or a trek inside during a long silent retreat.

Only the strong survive, those who give all of themselves to the search. But that doesn't mean the weak are forbidden from searching, no. Everyone starts out weak at some point in their lives, it's just that the driven ones understand that it all begins with the decision to straighten yourself — to straighten your way of thinking, to straighten your body, to straighten you attitude, to straighten your emotions... to straighten every aspect of who you are.

Once you do that, once you commit with all your heart that you will do whatever is necessary, then discoveries will be yours.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dancing Dichotomy

Really, really, really crappy weather today (the Fog) so except for one quick excursion to the grocery store for some beans, tofu, and garlic to add to dinner, i locked myself in the house all day to stare it down, wait it out, and dare it to offer its best. While doing so a good portion of my recent posts all tumbled together as i sat and did some reading.

T.S. Eliot offered this a few days ago: "Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance."

And while i didn't write anything about it (even though i should have), i mentioned that i was reading Geshe Tashi Tsering's book Relative Truth, Ultimate Truth, in which the discussion is about understanding and simultaneously living the dual aspects of who we are: the relative white, male, educated, US citizen (in my case) and the ultimate awareness that is all.

And then, Dōgen offered this: "Determination to see all things as the really are, free of preconceived ideas, results in emergence of true practice."

These may all seem to be unrelated but in hindsight they appear to me to follow a very clear and distinct path. Eliot was right, there is only the dance. On the relative level that means life is dancing with you, all the time, everywhere, non-stop. Your job throughout your life is to figure out how you want to participate in that dance, on what level, with what level of sincerity, in what types of activities, with what level of acceptance and/or denial. At this level, there is a you and there is the dance.

But that's only half of the dichotomy. On the ultimate level there is no you, no me, no others, no life; there is nothing but the dance. There is only the dance and that dance is everything. It is all that every was, all that is, all that every will be, now, then, to come. It is all of that and none of that because in that dance, there is no now, then, or to come. There is no was, is, or will be. There is only the dance, manifesting as me here, you there, and Joe Blow over there. How it manifests is completely beyond our control, it just is. That is the dance — and you can get a ring side seat to watch it perform if you find somewhere to "sit," peak through those cracks between two thoughts, and then simply let yourself die.

But how in the world are we supposed to do that. Life is just too damn messy and it plays too many games with our heads. One day the weather is clear, the next it's drizzling, and then the Fog settles in for a stay. Some people make you happy others piss you off to no end. Some days you're content with what you have others you want the whole world. Some days you could run a marathon others you can barely make yourself crawl out of bed, and if you didn't have to go to the bathroom so bad you wouldn't.

It takes practice, lots and lots and lots and lots of practice. But, as Dōgen said, when you persist, when you take a vow to continue the search, to continue peaking through the cracks, when you swear on your parents grave that you will not give up, that you will persevere and endure until you can see all things as the really are, free of preconceived ideas... then, true practice appears.

And as Czeslaw Milosz said, this is when you are finally able "to see, purely and simply, without name, without expectations, fears, or hopes."

It's this true practice, this pure practice, this simple practice that all this lead me to today. I was reading Ajahn Sumedho's The Four Noble Truths again (for about the two-thousandth time). Being that he was a teacher of Phillip Moffitt, i then switched to Moffitt's book Dancing With Life, which is based on Ajahn Sumedho's teachings on the Four Noble Truths.

In Dancing, Moffitt says:

"Even under the best of circumstances, life is challenging, and much of the time it is difficult. It is always uncertain, constantly changing, and mostly out of your control. Whether it is taking you on a wonderful ride or stepping on your toes, life will move you with the rhythm and in the direction of its own unfolding, irregardless of your best intentions. Life dances and you must dance with it. This is the necessary price and mysterious gift of being incarnate – alive in a body.

"If life is going to dance with you, then what kind of dance partner do you wish to be? Can you have a conscious, peaceful relationship with your own life's dance as characterized by a sense of ease, empowerment, and meaning? Certainly it is possible to affect the course of your life. Hard work, discipline, and self-development enable you to be a better partner when life comes to dance, but finding a way to be at ease with the dance itself is a crucial skill in finding freedom and meaning in life."

Necessary price and mysterious gift? What an interesting phrase. I read the book early last year, but did no more than read it, just to ingest the contents. At the time i didn't try to think about it, to reflect on what was being said, to digest the contents. I didn't try to figure out how to apply what Moffitt was pointing out to my life, to my personal dance.

I think i'm ready to do that now. I think i'm going to spend the next four months working through the book again, slowly this time, one section, one Truth, at a time, taking a full month for each to digest the teachings and then to sit and watch how the "nutrients" pass through my system.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Exposing Yourself In Public

In yesterday's post i said that the life of a henro is simple: get up, walk, Be, go to bed. Not that it should surprise me in any way, but i noticed today that Dōgen explains how a henro should approach life on the henro trail a little better than i ever do. ;-)

In the Yuibutsu Yobutsu (Only A Buddha Can Transmit To A Buddha) chapter of his Shōbōgenzō, he says:

One should have no goal of enlightenment but train for training's sake alone. When we see a man we should just see a man, not a set of discriminative values. When we look at the moon and flowers, it is just the moon and flowers we should see, not some distorted picture created to conform to a preconceived idea.

Experience spring as spring and autumn as autumn. Accept both the beauty and loneliness of both. Even though change in the seasons and within nature itself is inevitable some do not accept this, and try, by all means available, to avoid it. The pure in mind, however, do not isolate these thoughts, but realize them also to be part of themselves. One may falsely believe that it is oneself that hears the birds sing in the spring and sees the leaves fall in autumn. This is not the case.

The state of no mind, or undefiled mind, can neither be self induced nor is it innate. This means that the four elements and five skhandas are neither part of ourselves nor others. Although it is commonly believed among ordinary people that the mind moved by the moon and flowers is the true mind, in actuality this is untrue and contrary to the Dharma. Determination to see all things as the really are, free of preconceived ideas, results in emergence of true practice.

(my underline)

That's it. When i say the job of a henro is to simply walk and Be, i'm not suggesting that a brain dead robot henro is the ideal. No, i'm saying what Dōgen said in that sentence i underlined above. And when done well, meaning intentionally, with a pure heart, and to the best of your ability, the result is true practice, a true pilgrimage, not just a walk around the island so that you can have a blog saying "been there, done that," like that goofball Dave who runs the shikokuhenrotrail website.

Don't avoid anything. Don't specifically search for anything. Just walk for walking's sake alone. Accept Life as it is and as it comes to you. Expose yourself to Life in all it's goodness and badness. Dare to be vulnerable to all experiences that come to you. Don't run towards them and don't run away from them.

The purpose of the walk is no more and no less than walking out of the shell of who you were and into the world of who you are. That only happens if you are willing to be exposed, and willing to accept the resulting experiences for what they truly are and not for what you think they are.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Longing To Be

Sitting quietly
Longing with all that i am
To be and no more

Someone sent me a few pictures of the henro trail on Shikoku this evening (thank you) and it has made the ache in my heart to go back so strong i don't know how i'll sleep tonight. If you haven't been a henro and walked all or part of Shikoku's trail it may be difficult to understand the feeling, but i get endless emails throughout the year, year in and year out, of people who have been there, and write to say nothing more than that they now understand and that they too can't wait until their next chance to go over.

Here's where it all begins, at Temple One.

The trail starts there, at a nondescript little temple on the edge of a residential neighborhood. If you're lucky the cherry trees have started blooming, bringing their beauty to your first day and offering their shared happiness with new beginnings as you set out to discover the person hidden under years and years of routine and habit.

Interestingly, though, the tools you will use to chisel through those layers of routine and habit are just other routines and habits. However, the new routines and habits will be guided by a constant mindfulness, as opposed to the complete blindness that allowed the original layers to obscure your life. Mindfulness of each step you take, each breath you take, each morsel of food you put in your mouth, each swallow, each sunrise, each sunset, each word spoken to you, each word you speak in return. Mindfulness of as many of each of the seconds that will pass through your life during the walk as you are capable of watching. This mindfulness is a powerful tool and will transform your life.

From this small temple you walk morning to evening, day after day, for a month and a half, sun, rain, hot, cold, hungry, starving, thirsty, tired, sore, happy, angry, depressed, ecstatic, with a half dozen other people, with a dog, alone, uphill, downhill, on flat endless roads, in the mountains, by the sea, through the woods, through rice fields, through farmers yards, through residential areas, through small villages, through major cities, morning to evening, day after day for a month and a half.

The life of a henro is simple: get up, walk, Be, go to bed. Every day. This becomes a habit very quickly, more quickly than you realize, and the habit becomes so strong that when you don't walk you feel as if something is wrong.

It can be hard, it can be a struggle. But there are handrails along the way, and as in this picture they are well worn from decades and decades of use. As you walk around the island you don't have to worry about where to go or how to go. Your job as a henro is simply to trust that the handrails take you to the next temple and to follow them as you walk along.

Some handrails are metal, some are sidewalks, some are 4 lane highways, some are guardrails, some are people you meet on the side of the road, some are people serving you coffee or tea, some are people pressing a gift can of juice or a few hundred yen into your hands, some are impromptu maps someone unexpectedly hands you, some are street signs or highway markers, some are silent fingers pointing the way from inside a car that has slowed to a crawl as you, too, crawl slowly along another highway in the heat of the day. Handrails are everywhere on Shikoku.

And after what seems like three weeks, the month and a half nears its end as you approach Temple Eighty-Eight. It is here where you say goodbye to the one companion that has been by your side every step of your journey. Someone who has shared in every adventure you have had, been with you when you were so happy you shouted in joy out over the valley, been with you when you were so tired and sore that you cried on the rock by the sea, been with you when you realized that the person who started the walk is no longer with you, that you have changed, that you have become someone new. And that companion was Kōbō Daishi himself, in the shape of the walking stick that you purchased at Temple One, and which you will surrender here at Temple Eight-Eight so that it can join all the other walking sticks that have made this same journey.

And you sit there and wonder about all those other people that have also made this walk, and you wonder who they were, and why they walked, and what they saw, and who they met, and where they stayed each night, and what they endured, and what made them happy and sad, and about everything they experienced. And if you're lucky you see that while countless millions of henro have started walking at Temple One, with few exceptions, only one makes it to number Eighty-Eight — and that One is you, and her, and me, and him, and us, and everyone else.

While the henro trail is comprised of 88 (or 108) temples, the Henro, the pilgrimage, is singular. And for the lucky ones, while who they were may have consisted of numerous pieces as they set out on day one, as they walk away from Temple Eighty-Eight on their way back to Temple One to close the circle, the realization that they too are singular has become a new habit that can carry them home.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Truth & Nothing But The Truth

Have spent the past few days working my way through the first half of Geshe Tashi Tsering's book Relative Truth, Ultimate Truth. Most likely i won't get through the whole book until late next week; it's a tough slog through the philosophical differences between the Maibhashika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra, & Madhyamaka schools of Buddhism (from the Tibetan Buddhist perspective).

But there were are few things of note this morning, both on the same page.

First was:

"The Sautrantika scholars cite certain phenomena that can be fully expressed by language, such as space or selflessness. Space is the mere absence of obstruction, nothing more. And because it is neither more nor less that that, language is able to express it. Thus, it is a conventional truth. Selflessness is the lack of an intrinsic or inherent self, nothing more; cessation is the absence of suffering, nothing more. These can all be fully expressed by language; hence they are conventional truths."

This made me stop and think just for the definition of space. I don't see space as "the mere absence of obstruction." In my view, space is everything and everywhere. In one place it is empty (unless you get technical and talk to a physicist), in another it is manifesting as a human body, in another it is manifesting as a building, or a book, or a tree, or a cup, with the space inside that manifesting as tea, and so on.

I don't see space as some inherent "thing" making up the universe into which everything else manifests and functions. Space is simply the label we have given to everything that is "out there," in whatever form, or no form, it is making itself available to our perceptions at any given moment and place. Hmmmm....

It will be interesting to see how this definition changes, if it does, as i work into the Cittamatra and Madhyamaka schools. I'll also have to go back and try to look somewhere (i don't know where yet), but i think Dōgen would agree with my definition. But, that's probably where i got it anyhow. :-)

A few paragraphs later he goes on to make sure the reader has a clear understanding of something that i think is very important:

"Please don't think that this school is saying that concepts are essentially bad; it is saying, however, that concepts by their very nature obscure the truth. We couldn't make sense of the world without concepts. Imagine a world without labels. There would be no language, no communication, no transfer of knowledge such as this; spiritual attainment would be very difficult. ... The most important thing a child can learn is language, which will enable her to make generalities about the world around her. As adults, however, we need to see the uses and traps of the conceptual mind—something so few of us do."

A very difficult lesson to learn, remember, and effectively put to use throughout our days. What percentage of our daily thoughts are nothing but our version of the truth, traps ensnaring us and obscuring the real truth behind them?

And lastly, for those who love that wonderful person who is Pema Chodron, BetterListen! is offering a free hour and a half download of her CD Practicing Peace In Times of War on their web site. Complete the purchase process and they will mail you the download link. Enjoy it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Visiting The Wild Land

Having mentioned his name yesterday, i couldn't skip the chance to pass on some of Musō Soseki's poetry today. Especially when i admitted to so liking the words of Ryōkan yesterday and don't want Musō to think my preferences are waivering.

I posted one of my many, many Musō favorites in a post some time back. That poem was called Time For A Walk and i think it should be required studying for all monastics everywhere. I think, but won't dig it out, that i posted another one even further back in time, but i'll just post it again below here simply because i like it so much.

The first poem is called Beyond The World and comes from the book Sun At Midnight:

This place of wild land
     has no boundaries
          north south east or west
It is hard to see
     even the tree
          in the middle of it
Turning your head
     you can look beyond
          each direction
For the first time
     you know that yoru eyes
          have been deceiving you

Where is that wild land with no borders? For beginners like most of us it's on our zafu and nowhere else. For those with better eyesight it could be anywhere and everywhere they find themselves.

A land is wild when the laws and customs of other people have not been imposed on it. A land is wild when the "normal" expectations of "civilization" don't function there, when the normal self imposed rules, beliefs of right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and not acceptable, holy and secular, spiritual and mundane, your's and mine, .... don't apply.

This wild land could be anywhere and when you find it there are no borders, no boundaries — there just is. There are no delineations of any type. There are no categories, boxes, or filters. What is, simply is. Or maybe, is not. How can there be a north, south, east, or west when everything is one, when there is only Being. In this land, you look beyond all directions because there are no directions to look at in the first place.

There is no tree in the middle? Where is the middle? What is a tree? Who decided that? In the wild land, there is everything and there is nothing; no more and no less. Outside of the wild land we categorize that object and call it an oak tree, and we say it's half way between there and there so it stands tall in the middle. Clear you mind of all those distinctions and where did the tree go? Let go of you, and tree, and here, and there and then where do you stand?

My lesson is learning to keep these new, improved eyes focused even while talking to someone i would typically hate. Keeping these eyes focused when i'm stuck in rush hour traffic. And as i learn to do that, i come to see that my "regular" eyes have been deceiving me for a good many decades. Sadly. Unfortunately.

The second poem points to the same way of looking at the world as Ryōkan was pointing to in his poem about cherry trees.

The sounds of the stream splash out the Buddha's sermon.
   Don't say that the deepest meaning comes only from one's mouth.
Day and night eighty thousand poems arise one after the other,
      and in fact not a single word has ever been spoken.

Stop and notice the messages found in nature. Stop thinking 'I'm in here and nature is out there.' Notice the message that nature is offering at all times, non-stop, for all to hear. Melt into the stream and understand the world from that perspective.

"[I]n fact not a single word has ever been spoken" — any more than that and too much has been said, even though the streams and the cherry trees talk all day and all night long.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stupid Thieves

My three favorite Japanese have always been Kūkai (aka, Kōbō Daishi), Dōgen, and Musō Soseki, with the order of their preference changing not only day-by-day, but hour-by-hour. If i could turn back the clock of time i would have gotten a PhD in Japanese history or religion with a focus on Mr. Soseki himself (but that's a topic for another life). He's a fascinating, fascinating character.

In addition to those three, though, i have to admit to days, weeks, and months lost in the writings of the likes of Ikkyū, Basui, Bankei, and Ryōkan. Especially that late 18th, early 19th century monk, poet, and kid at heart from Echigo Province, Ryōkan.

I have read, reread, reread again, and reread countless times again the book of his poetry One Robe, One Bowl, appropriately titled because that is just about all the material possessions he ever owned. By far my favorite poem from the book has always been:

How can we ever lose interest in life?
       Spring has come again
And cherry trees bloom in the mountains.

So simplistic yet containing a vast message. Here we see someone whose focus is on Life and not making a living, someone for whom the beauties of nature are far more valuable than any material possessions, no matter how beautiful or expensive. I'm not saying that making a living is bad, it's obviously something that has to be done, or that owning things is bad, that's obviously nonsense.

The point Ryōkan makes with his life is that even though we do have to make a living and we do buy and own "things," these should not be the focus of our lives. The real value in our lives is found when we stop and notice Life, when we listen to the message expounded by the cherry trees blooming in the mountains, or the day lilies blooming in the front yard, or the fullness of the September moon, or the smell of the freshly bloomed rose, or the chill of an early autumn evening.

What Ryōkan is trying to point out, i think, is that while it is easy to lose interest in "making a living" and wonder just what it is all about, how could we ever lose interest in Life, in all its variety, all its attractiveness, all its beauty, all its wonders? When understood for what it is, for what we are, that would be impossible, as pointed out by the blooming cherry trees each spring.

Ryōkan goes on to emphasize his point in my second favorite poem:

The thief left it behind—
       the moon
At the window.

Imagine coming home some night to find your house cleaned out, everything you owned having been taken by thieves in the night. Then imagine that the only thought that comes to mind is how the poor thieves had not been able to take the most prized possession in the house — the moonlight streaming in a window. Imagine that you didn't have to try to get over your anger, to try to feel sorry for the thieves, but that truly the only thoughts that came to mind were feelings of pity for their loss. How would this mindset affect your life? How would this attitude change the way your life looked from the outside? What would this frame of reference do for your mental health?

The thief left it behind—
       the moon
At the window.

No anxiety, no anger, no worrying, no sadness, no loss of sleep, no depression, nothing..... but look at that moon, oh how beautiful it is.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Meaningful Life

I haven't posted much recently, even though i would like to. In a sense, i feel that i've run out of words. I sit down at the computer (or more accurately, i lay down with the computer on my lap) and my fingers just dangle there at the end of my hands doing nothing; zippo; nothing comes out of them. And then on other days i feel that there's too many words i want to say; so many, in fact, that my fingers get confused and don't know where to start.

To make matters worse, i have always been a proponent of the concept that it's infinitely better to keep your mouth shut and have people "think" you're a fool than to open it and prove it for them. But i spent the entire day today at home with the radio and CD player off, doing nothing but reading and reflecting. It was a gloriously peaceful day.

Part way through the day one of those completely unpredictable thoughts popped into my head from god knows where and for reasons unknown but which would be interesting to figure out. The thought was a remembrance that sometime last year i had posted a very nice poem by Czeslaw Milosz. I remembered the gist of it, but not the poem itself so i went back and dug it up.

I found the poem in a post i had called "Death & Dying On The Border" and it is just as beautiful today as i remember it being when i first read it over a year ago.

This Only
A valley and above it forests in autumn colors.
A voyager arrives, a map led him here.
Or perhaps memory. Once, long ago, in the sun,
When the first snow fell, riding this way
He felt joy, strong, without reason.
Joy of the eyes. Everything was the rhythm
Of shifting trees, of a bird in flight,
Of a train on the viaduct, a feast of motion.
He returns years later, has no demands.
He wants only one, most precious thing:
To see, purely and simply, without name,
Without expectations, fears, or hopes,
At the edge where there is no I or not-I.

"At the edge where there is no I or not-I." That borderland where meditators go to die. That lost colony to which you can only go if you agree to kill yourself before crossing the border. And all who go there go willingly, even enduring years of effort just to find the border. And the good news is that you don't have to go anywhere to get there. That borderland is right under your zafu and that lost colony is right where you sit each and every day.

The road there runs, as i have said many times, right down that path found between two thoughts. When you first sit down the path may not be seen, it may be completely invisible. As time passes, though, that first gap makes its appearance, slowly widening with each mindful, quiet, minute that passes until, after a while, the path opens, wide as a summer prairie in the US midwest and as inviting as the eyes of the most beautiful of seductresses.

It's when you climb through that gap and reach the silent center of who you are that you are able, as Czeslaw says, "to see, purely and simply, without name, without expectations, fears, or hopes." And ohhhhh the beauty you see. Being, in all it's glorious splendor.

In the Burnt Norton chapter of that magnificent Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot puts it like this:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.

"Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance." There is only the dance, nothing more. Some call it the Tango, others the Fox Trot, others Walking to the train station, others Reading a magazine, others Washing the dishes, others breathing...

The dance of life, in whatever form you are participating at the current moment, is only possible because of that still point, that silent center that you get to between two thoughts. It's not "out there" or "in here;" it's not danced today, yesterday, or tomorrow. It's danced now, and only now.

Eliot continues from above with:

Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

When you are lost in the past and future you are barely conscious. Maybe enough to breath, to walk, to eat, and to do those mind numbing routines that you call Existing, but not enough to really Live. Enough to live life, to experience being in all it's glory. To be conscious, to Be, is not found in time, it's found in that borderland, that lost colony.

I remember reading recently in an online blurb for Phillip Moffitt's book Dancing With Life the publisher's comment that the book would be of interest to anyone who is searching for a meaningful life. I think that is what the person in Czeslaw's poem was searching for. I think that's what all of us are searching for, but the person in the poem had seen where that might be found.

Get out of your routines, get out of your rut, get out of the jail that you currently call You and reach for that still point, that silent center, that place where you can see, purely and simply, without name, without expectations, fears, or hopes. It may seem impossible when you first step on the path, but it's when you dare the impossible that the path opens up. As Osho said in that same post of mine last year:

"...[U]nless you can help a person to have a glimpse of the impossible, and you create a desire in him to long for the impossible, to desire the impossible, to be passionately, intensely in love with the impossible, you have not helped. If you can create this desire, he has a meaning."

In love with Life. In passionate love with the thought of the impossible. Coming to the realization that it's not impossible if you only quit searching, if you simply give up and be who you are, if you stop pretending to be something that you aren't.

Get to this place and you will have found a meaningful life, whether you've read Moffitt's book or not.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Walking On Water

Two stories from Anthony de Mello's The Prayer of The Frog speaking to the way we go through life blind to the truth and deaf to the help that others willingly offer at no charge:

A man asked Bayazid to take him on as a disciple.

"If what you seek is Truth," said Bayazid, "there are requirements to be fulfilled and duties to be discharged."

"What are these?"

"You will have to draw water and chop wood and do the housecleaning and cooking."

"I am in search of Truth, not employment," said the man, as he walked away.

One of the biggest pitfalls many of us fall into is separating our spirituality from the rest of our lives. Spirituality is those minutes and hours sitting on our zafu; the rest of our time is what we have to do to support those few spiritual moments. If that's what it looks like then you've bought the wrong book or put the wrong CD in the CD player. Go back to the store and 'fess up — admit that you had a fit of stupidity when you made the original purchases and ask if you can exchange them for the book/CD package about cutting wood and carrying water, about washing the dishes and cleaning the house, about going to work and filing papers, about grocery shopping and filing the car with gas, about going to the bathroom and wiping your butt, about dealing with the idiot who works in the next cubicle. Go back to the store and ask for the package with a picture of the Buddha on the front cover and a picture of a concentration camp on the back.

Until we see that every bit of our life, 100% of it, is included in the miracle of who and what we are, we are still reading the wrong book, listening to the wrong CD, watching the wrong movie. Dogen calls it the One Bright Pearl, and you have to be ready and open when someone shows it to you and asks what you see.

A man took his new hunting dog out on a trial hunt. Presently he shot a duck that fell into the lake. The dog walked over the water, picked the duck up and brought it to his master. The man was flabbergasted! He shot another duck. Once again, while he rubbed his eyes in disbelief, the dog walked over the water and retrieved the duck.

Hardly daring to believe what he had seen, he called his neighbor for a shoot the following day. Once again, each time he or his neighbor hit a bird the dog would walk over the water and bring the bird in. The man said nothing. Neither did his neighbor.

Finally, unable to contain himself any longer, he blurted out, "Did you notice anything strange about that dog?"

The neighbor rubbed his chin pensively. "Yes." he finally said. "Come to think of it, I did! The son of a gun can’t swim!"

Our frequent imperviousness to the truth could be funny if it weren't so frustratingly inexplicable.

And for those who have forgotten this lesson....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Get Naked Or Go To Sleep

Sometimes the deception isn't intentional. Sometimes it's not that we've had inklings yet collude with our egos to ignore it and continue pretending to be who we are not. No, in some cases we may be completely clueless, we may have no idea that there is another reality to be investigated. No, the correct way to say that would be, we may have no idea that the reality we have lived our whole lives in is a sham, a fake, make believe, a ruse perpetuated by our egos to keep us in the dark so it can party all day and all night.

Yet, with each breath you praise the real you, with each twinkle of the eye as love strikes between two thoughts you sing praises, with each wordless sigh at the beauty of the setting sun you shout your praises to the heavens. And as you begin to notice these praises, you may not know it but you have started to unravel the deception and begun the process of waking up. Waking up to you, and me, and us, and we. Waking up to who you are, to who we are. Waking up to life itself.

By day I praised you
and never knew it.
By night I stayed with you
and never knew it.
I always thought that
I was me—but no,
I was you
and never knew it.

Translated by Shahram Shiva

I find the next Rumi Ode a bit uncharacteristic. I don't know if i've just never run across these sentiments before of if there are translating differences between Shahram Shiva and Coleman Barks, whose translations i read almost exclusively.

Rumi is almost always compulsively inclusive. Everyone, everywhere, at all times is invited to join him in his celebration of love for this, for it, for that which we are. Yet in this Ode, Rumi says, 'if your not one of us, go away, go back to sleep and we won't bother you.'

If you haven't seen that the clothes you wear aren't you, go back to sleep. If you haven't seen that the thoughts you think aren't you, go back to sleep. If you haven't seen that your religion, your politics, your philosophies, your mythologies, and all that other nonsense isn't you, then go back to sleep. If you haven't seen that the labels you have given yourself or have accepted from others aren't you, go back to sleep. If you haven't seen that you aren't a man or woman, an American or a Chinese, old or young, thin or fat, tall or short, beautiful or ugly, educated or illiterate, smart or stupid, an introvert or an extrovert, happy or depressed, spiritual or a 5-day-a-week pub crawler, meditator or TV watcher, Buddhist or atheist, this or that, one thing or another....then go back to sleep.

If you haven't seen that you are sleeping your way through the only life you will ever live, if you haven't seen that the fire of Love that burns in the hearts of those who are truly alive fuels a passion for Life that is unimaginable to those with eyes still closed, if you haven't seen that that your eyes are still closed... then roll over and go back to sleep. We won't bother you.

Only those willing to get completely naked, to shed each and every misconception about who they are, can claim to be fully awake. And until you get naked, you aren't alive; living, maybe, but not Alive, with a capital 'A.'

Go Back to Sleep

Go back,
go back to sleep.

Yes, you are allowed.
You who have no Love in your heart,
you can go back to sleep.

The power of Love
is exclusive to us,
you can go back to sleep.

I have been burnt
by the fire of Love.
You who have no such yearning in your heart,
go back to sleep.

The path of Love,
has seventy-two folds and countless facets.
Your love and religion
is all about deceit, control and hypocrisy,
go back to sleep.

I have torn to pieces my robe of speech,
and have let go of the desire to converse.
You who are not naked yet,
you can go back to sleep.

Translated by Shahram Shiva