Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I Dare You

I know I've said it before, many, many times, but I'm in one of those moods so let me paraphrase T.S. Eliot yet another time:

Only those people who have the courage to see how far they can go will ever find the limits of their abilities. Only those people who have the courage to test their limits stand any chance of understanding where their limits are. Only those who have the courage to take that first step over a limit they've looked at for years have the slightest chance of seeing that as soon as you do the limit moves farther away. Only those who have the courage live life anywhere near their potential. Only those with unbelievable courage sit on their butt long enough to see that emptiness on the other side of everything. Only those with unspeakable courage sit long enough to see everything on the other side of that emptiness.

Life take courage.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mōshiwake arimasen.....

I tried to think of some nice way to say I'm sorry, some story to write that would express it, but I can't think of anything to say other than Gomennasai. I'm sorry.

Lao is right, I over-stepped my bounds. I made a judgement that was no more than personal feeling generalized into some stupid, untrue rule.

I could write a lot about what being a Henro means to me, what being a Henro represents from my point of view, from inside my world. But my world is different than your world. My world and your world are not one and the same. So, there is no reason to expect that your definitions and mine are, could be, or should be the same.

Your ideas of what it means to be a Henro are as valid as mine. Everyone that walks the henro trail, for whatever reason, with whatever motive, has both the right and the ability to call themselves Henro.


m(_ _)m


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Shit Hits That Proverbial Fan


(running) Lao, what's the matter? What's wrong?



You are what's the matter. You are what's wrong. I just can not believe you.


You're an idiot. Impossibly stupid.


Apologize. Now. Then go write a blog post apologizing to the world.


Apologize! Now!


You don't get it do you. You really have no clue, do you.

Lao, what did I do? I'll apologize if you just tell me what I did.

What, you think it's that simple? Just spit out the words and then expect others to accept that as a sincere apology? Who do you think you are?

Lao. Please. Tell me why you're so mad.

I looked through the blog this morning and saw your post on "What Is A Henro." Who appointed you as God and the keeper of the henro trail? Who appointed you as the One who decides who is a Henro or not? Who?


Don't change the subject. Who gave you the right to judge other's motives and how they view their lives? Who?

I'm sorrry.


(dropping to hands and knees, forehead on the floor) I'm sorry.


I was wrong. I had no right. I was out of line. I'm sorry.

Then get your ass downstairs and write another post apologizing to everyone else.

(forehead to the floor again) Yes.

(scampering out the door and down the stairs....)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rising Above The Noise

(Click To Enlarge)

This is a picture taken from somewhere on the henro trail in the spring of 2011 and it symbolizes a lot of how i see my time on Shikoku.

Many of us don't realize how noisy and hectic our lives are. Day after day, all day long we are surrounded by noise and distraction. Car and truck traffic, horns honking, radios and TVs playing, the constant chatter of the other people around you, telephones, mobile phones, iPads, mp3 players, books, and on and on. The noise never stops and the ways we can find to distract ourselves is never ending.

We have become so used to it that we block it out and say it's quiet even when sitting on a train with people talking around you and an mp3 player playing in the seat behind you.

That's what life is like when down in the city of this picture. People always coming and going, traffic zipping here and there, trains running back and forth, wheels squealing as they turn corners, bells sounding as the crossing gates go down, dogs barking, arguments here, shouting there, TVs blaring in the corner of the ramen shop, kids yelling as they play in the park...

And there's little chance to escape all of that unless you look for those few islands of tranquility. There are always some around somewhere in town, standing out like small hills beckoning you to climb to the silence they offer. Those islands could be local hills and parks, monasteries, temples, churches, public libraries, or even a very special friends house. When you find your island, and experience the silence they offer, you immediately find peace.

Unfortunately, though, you sooner or later have to go back down, back out the door, and back into the noise. It's inevitable. Unless you stretch your view and allow yourself to look a little further in the distance. If you look long enough you begin to see that stretching all around the town is a ring of mountains. Encircling the daily noise is a ring of peace, a ring of solitude, a ring of sanity. But to get there you have to do some work. You have to climb above your daily life into a new world.

As you get closer and closer to that sanctuary the people and their machines thin out. As you get closer and closer to sanity the intrusions become fewer and nature's natural quiet slowly begins to predominate. When you get to the actual foothills, you notice that if you aren't alone there aren't a lot of other people around. This search for peace may be a common desire, but it seems that most people are not willing to put in the work required to find it.

The climb to high ground usually isn't easy. No, that's the wrong way to say it. It isn't hard at all, all that is required is that you commit to taking one step after another, always pointing uphill. While that may take a lot of work, it's not 'hard,' per se. If you are lucky, or smart, you may find a path that suits your temperament. Some people want to climb but can only tolerate slow, lazy, gradual switchbacks. Others may prefer, and can tolerate, the climb directly up the fall line. Most of us fall somewhere in between or switch between the two extremes as our energy waxes and wanes throughout the climb.

But once at the top, once away from the noise and hustle, the calm and quiet envelope you like the sweet smell of incense filling a small room. As your mind settles down and the thoughts begin to slow, the world opens and your sense of who you are begins to expand. Then you can sit down and look back on the world you came from and see it, not in the minute detail of your daily life, but as the grand mosaic it really is with everybody and everything interconnected, everybody and everything contributing to both the successes and failures of the society, with all of the individual communities smudged out leaving just "us."

As you look down from these heights you can understand the story of Indra's Net, of the interconnectedness of everything. You can see the futility of greed, anger, jealousy, and the problems these bring about. You can see the need for sharing, compassion, and love, and the solutions these could put in place. When you look down from these quiet heights of solitude you see the city, not the streets, buildings, and individual people. You see the oneness, not the duality.

And then, after letting the lessons sink in, you put your boots back on and make the climb back down to the market place and home.

Is who went up the same as who came back down? Are you coming down to the same old world? Or can you keep your vow never to go back as you smile and greet everyone you pass on your way back into town.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Unquestioned Ladders

It is infinitely better, in all respects, to spend your time ensuring you understand the questions than it is arguing about the answers. As the old adage goes, unless you are careful you could spend years climbing a ladder before you realize that you had set it up against the wrong wall in the first place.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I have a routine first thing each morning, like many people, of breakfast, coffee, listening to the news, checking the news headlines online, etc. Once that is done, i turn the radio off so i can read, and the first thing i always start with is an app on my iPad called "Transform Your Life: A Year of Awareness Practice," by Cheri Huber.

The app opens with a new quote each day, followed by a comment on that quote by Cheri herself and an "assignment" for the day. This is my second year through the app. Today's quote was:

"It is a great obstacle to happiness to expect too much."

Bernard de Fontenelle

To which Cheri wrote:

"Today, lower your expectations and enjoy the happiness of being with what is."

While i agree with the original quote completely, i don't know if i abhor Cheri's response or simply hate it with every fiber of my being. In either case, i don't like it.

It is an obstacle to happiness to expect too much; i would agree with that completely. But, not because expectations are bad in and of themselves. Expectations are great things. Expectations are what drive the world forward. If people didn't expect bigger, better, faster, healthier, safer, more efficient, etc., etc., outcomes in their lives then we would all still be living in the stone age and discussions on the lives of the Neanderthal would be moot because we would still be them.

Expectations are good things. Great things. What is bad is our fixation on them, our willingness to hang our lives on their fulfillment. What makes them horrendous is our willingness to define our success or failure, our happiness or despondency on whether that expectation was met. When we let this happen, sooner or later we are all doomed to failure and despondency.

The sane ones all have expectations and they put in the work that could, should lead to their fulfillment. But, and this is the reason they are the sane ones, if it isn't fulfilled, they don't take it personally. They analyze it, figure out what went wrong, and make a new plan. One option may be to drop that expectation because it turns out to have been unreasonable. Another option may be to reformulate your plan and try again in another manner. With other options in between.

But, to suggest that a good approach to life is to "lower your expectations" is absurd. (IMO. As always, IMO) Lowering your expectations across the board, as this seems to be suggesting, will lead you nowhere.

Even in in the world of spirituality, why would you sit if you had no expectations. Why bother? We sit, chant, visualize, pray, whatever you do, because we expect "something." Now i have to be very careful here because i could equally argue that sitting with expectations of results is absolutely contrary to what you should be doing. In fact that dooms you to failure. So it sounds like a contradiction here, i know.

What i'm trying to say is that we sit, not expecting results, but because we expect that someday, at sometime in our lives, we will find that the truth the Buddha talked about will manifest in our lives as well. We will get it. We will see it. We won't have learned anything, per se, we won't have obtained anything, nothing will be given to us by a teacher, but someday that "Ah ha" light will go on and the smile will appear. I will "know" that truth has manifested as Dave.

Yes, i agree with Cheri that having no expectations can lead to happiness. There are rare days where i do wake up and for some reason expect nothing of my life other than what it is right now. And while that lasts i am very happy. Those are nice days. And that's fine for Lao Bendan. But Dave always pops back up and reminds me that i am a complete professional failure and that he still wants more in life. Those days are terrible.

Still, i refuse to accept that a successful approach to life is to lower your expectations. No, no, no, and still no. What needs doing is to lower our expectation that our expectations will be fulfilled. Lower our expectations that their fulfillment is what will make us happy. Lower our expectations that our success or failure is decided by whether or not our expectations have been met.

But never give up expecting more of yourself and the world. Never give up expecting that we as a people can be better, more loving, more compassionate, more open. Never give up expecting that we can work towards a better world. Never give up expecting that you will finally give up all pettiness in your life, give up gossip, prejudice, ill will. Never give up expecting that you will come to respect and care for everyone. Never give up expecting that you will see that you are truth manifesting in bodily form and so is that person sitting across from you.

Expectations are great things.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cheated By My Best Friend

What do you do when you realize one day that you have been cheated? How do you react? How do you handle it when you realize that it was your best friend who cheated you?

Take a minute and think about your life, about who you are. No more than 60 seconds. Run through the list quickly just to get an overview. Gender, race, age, nationality, religion, political leaning, job, economic status, personality, hobbies, favorite genre of books, music, and movies, other likes and dislikes, etc. Got it?

Now take another minute and in a very abstract sort of way try to imaging all of the possibilities of who and what you could have been. Just let it sink in that the number of possibilities is infinite, that there is an unimaginable number of possibilities on who you could be, what your life story could have turned out to be. There is no way to even imagine all the possibilities of what you could still be if you decide to allow yourself to grow and expand. You can change anything and everything about your life. The possibilities are endless.

And then take a second to realize how small and restricted your life actually is compared to what it could be, if you chose to change.

Who convinced you that such a small life was what you wanted? Who sold you the bill og goods that included such a miniscule and limited package? Who convinced you that a limited life was the preferred life?

I'm sure you know the answer before i even say it. Your best friend — you, yourself. That is, your ego. You have been undergoing conditioning since the moment of your birth. Everyone you have ever known, unless you met a great, great teacher somewhere over the years, has consciously or unconsciously been conditioning you to accept limits, to live with restrictions, to wear blinders so that you can't see the vast, vast, vast reality beyond. And your ego soaks it all up and says "Sure, why not. I like this life."

Your best friend has convinced you that a small and restricted life is better than a life infinitely large and infinitely lived. Your best friend has convinced you that Plato's cave with its cozy campfires is a nicer place to live than a life outdoors, under the vast blue sky and the warm rays of a beautiful summer sun.

Your best friend is a coward, afraid to to lose what it already knows. Your best friend is a pervert, fixated on itself and loving no one more. Your best friend is a small minded cheat and a liar; fearful that if it doesn't keep up the stories you might realize, one day, that he is a phantom and you are, in reality, so, so, so much more.

Call a cheat a cheat. Call a liar a liar. Jump up and down and yell "Thief. Thief." Refuse to let him get away with it any longer.

Let yourself open, let the blossoms out. Let yourself see the infinitude of what you can be — of what you already are. Don't settle for the small story anymore, start living the 1,000-episode mega-drama, that is the first baby step on the journey to who you really are.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Just got back from pedaling my bike to the post office where i mailed yet another copy of the Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide. All the way there and back home again the only thing i could think about was the question "What is a henro."

I've wanted to add a page to the Henro website answering just that question for a long time but have yet to figure out what i want to write so it remains undone. It's not as easy a question to answer as many would think in my opinion.

If we threw away the "cool" Japanese word henro and in its place used the English translation pilgrim most of the problems would disappear, but very few people are willing to do that. OHenro is just too attractive. "I'm a henro." "I just got back from 8 weeks on the henro trail." "Ahhh, my dream is to be a henro as soon as i can save enough money. Maybe in a couple of years."

But what if did we use "pilgrim" instead? How many people would tell their friends that they dream of becoming a pilgrim next summer. How many people would tell everyone they just walked a pilgrimage? How many would identify themselves as pilgrims as they walked around the trail? How many really consider themselves pilgrims? I think the answer to all of these questions lies somewhere between almost none and an insignificant number of people.

Don't get me wrong, the henro trail is a marvelous tourist destination. It is a great place to spend a few months walking some spring. It is one of the best places on earth to "get away" and get your head straight. There are a great, great number of positive things that can be said about the henro trail.

But, and this is a big but, the "henro" trial is, when push comes to shove, when it's time to put your cards on the table, when the truth is told, a pilgrim's trail — a pilgrimage. And that's that's the first difficulty of adding a "What is a henro?" page to the website. How to write it without offending all those people who want to call themselves henro even though they aren't.

The second difficulty, though, is even more, well.... difficult. Even if everyone accepted that they were pilgrims, walking a pilgrimage, while on the trail, to answer the question "what is a henro?" would be to assign a meaning and purpose to your walk. And there are as many meanings and purposes as there are henro. How to write one or two pages that could possibly include and summarize all of those meanings, all of those purposes? It's seems impossible to me, but i still hope to write it someday.

For me personally, though, the answer is very simple and straight forward. The henro trail is a place and a time where i am able to lose the individual into the universal for hours and hours on end, while still, simultaneously, noticing that the universal is continually acting through my individual self.

For me, the henro trail is two months of walking meditation. Dave no longer exists, he has been subsumed into Ohenro. Time no longer exists; the only thing that is done is walking, eating, and sleeping. There is no need for clocks or calendars. The support system is in place, the maps are provided, people will watch out for you — all that has to be done is to progress from one step to another, day after day, week after week, from one month to the next. And when one of those steps lands me back in the compound of Temple 1, i tell OHenro thank you and welcome Dave back home.

Being a henro is balancing on that very narrow, infinitely wide line called Here and Now. Being a henro is learning to see that Here and Now is both calculable and unimaginable at the same time. Being a henro is learning to be, here and now, and to be Here and Now, simultaneously.

For me personally, being a henro is an opportunity to stuff Dave in the back pocket (close at hand if needed in an emergency but out of sight otherwise) and allow you to walk in Dave's shoes.

But how do i write all that on the website??