04/29/2011 – 08/16/2011
- 04/29/2011 — Be aware of what you throw away.
Notice every time you dismiss something that catches your eye,
or reject something that appears to be useless or repulsive.
Every variety of light is the perfect light for some subject.
The work of photography is finding the subject
that is suited for the light
we have to work with.
Everything has a hidden side.
Your task is to find the blessing.
- 04/30/2011 — Photography is about going back to the good places,
looking again at what you have seen a hundred times already.
Don’t think you have seen anything worth seeing just
because you’ve looked it over once or twice.
Anything worth seeing once is worth looking at again.
See what happens.
It’s our arrogance that lets us get by with thinking
we know what we will see,
and it won’t be much.
We have to allow ourselves to look again. Again and again.
- 04/30/2011 — What we see is a function of how we look,
of what we look at,
of what we look for,
of the filters we place between ourselves and what’s there,
before us, waiting to be seen.
We have to be receptive to receive what is being offered to us.
- 04/30/2011 — We walked our way, as a species, to where we are today.
Walking is what we do.
Why don’t we do more of it?
The Aborigines restored their connection with soul
by taking walkabouts,
not necessarily going anywhere—
just finding themselves again.
We get lost when we don’t walk.
Lose our direction,
sitting at home.
Drift away from soul driving
five miles an hour above the posted speed limit,
thinking we are going somewhere.
We live faster than we can process,
than we can accommodate,
than we can adjust ourselves to.
We are built for walking.
Two miles an hour,
We don’t walk,
and wonder why our lives are unlivable.
- 05/01/2011 — Every pursuit has it’s rules.
Horseback riding is done in certain ways.
So is getting dressed.
There are no exceptions.
You don’t play basketball the way you play chess.
God is approached via The Rules for Approaching God,
though they aren’t the ones you’ve been told about.
We’ve been handed the wrong set of rules for doing a lot of things.
We spend our lives figuring out what the rules really are.
Horses and cameras will straighten you out in no time.
Too bad more of life isn’t that way.
- 05/01/2011 — Dogwood trees and May Apples have their business—making the most of what they need of the things that come their way.
Their focus is narrow: light, water, pollination, reproduction.
Wars and weddings and who wears what to the Oscars all go unnoticed.
There are worlds within worlds, each with its own
rhythms and necessities.
May we be as right about what we think is important
as Dogwoods and May Apples are about what is important to them.
- 05/01/2011 — The soil is not deep along the Blue Ridge Parkway,
the rocks are numerous,
the Black Berry vines are thick and persistent.
It takes a resilient spirit to make it under these conditions,
a strong back,
a stout heart.
Life is hard.
We prefer easy.
Quick and easy.
Joseph Campbell said,
“It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses.”
The Appalachian wilderness could do it, too.
Any life could do it if we took what it handed us
and didn’t rush to denial and diversion.
Bear the pain!
Square up to the discrepancy between how things are
and how you wish they were!
Walk out the back door and milk the cow!
Every day at the same time!
- 05/02/2011 — Folks are still farming in the region along the Parkway,
Life is the most persistent force in the universe.
Life does not quit.
Life finds a way.
If we are going to be alive,
that’s the attitude we have to adopt.
We cannot sit around,
waiting to be pleased with our lives.
We have to step into them just as they are
and find a way,
make it work.
Photography reminds me of the task that is mine,
Stepping into a day
and finding the photograph
no matter what.
Any light is the perfect light for some subject.
I have to find the subject
that is coming down the runway
in this light, saying,
“How ‘bout me, honey?”
We have to find the gold in this damn gift from the gods.
- 05/02/2011 — Fall is one of the reasons I would stay here
given a free ticket to anywhere.
National Parks (three),
A conversation with one of the granddaughters
had me replying to her question
about what heaven was like,
saying, “I’m not going to heaven.
I’m going to stay right here.”
“But Pops, everybody wants to go to heaven.”
“Not me,” I said, “I’m not getting on the bus.”
“Mom,” she yelled out,
“Pops says he’s not going to heaven!”
Things went downhill from there.
Point is, North Carolina is close enough to heaven for me.
Who needs pearly gates and angelic choruses?
A walk in the woods is much to be preferred.
People with their attention on heaven,
miss what is all around them.
- 05/03/2011 — The spiritual journey
is never more difficult than growing up.
Growing up is changing our minds about what is important.
Shifting our point of view,
Evaluating our values.
Doing what needs to be done in each situation as it arises.
How long do we put off the inevitable?
Doing our taxes.
Mowing the lawn.
Cleaning the bathroom.
Dodging the odious things in life is not conducive to spiritual growth,
but too much that passes for spirituality
raises itself above the odious without engaging it.
Acceptance that does nothing about what needs to be done is denial.
Those who are spiritually grown up
wade right into the doing.
If the baby’s diaper needs changing,
we change it when it needs to be changed,
the way it needs to be changed.
Size up the moment and do what needs to be done.
That’s as spiritual as it gets.
- Middle Cascade, Hanging Rock State Park, near Danbury, NC—There is how things are and there is how we wish things were. We live with the discrepancy. The more conscious we are of the discrepancy, the fewer symptoms we have, but the more we suffer. There is no escape from legitimate suffering. It’s when we try to escape, via diversion, distraction, denial, addiction that our symptoms mount and the real trouble begins. My recommendation is swearing. “Swear like a sailor,” the saying goes. And here’s the important part: Laugh at yourself swearing. It’s great. You’ll love it. It’s the best way I know of through legitimate suffering. All the real gurus swear and laugh. You could look it up. 05/03/2011
- Cone Manor, AKA Flat Top Manor, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC—There is an inner world—you know the one, where dreams come from, and intuition lives, and imagination creates wonders, and instinct guides with hunches and holy nudges—and an outer world with its stop lights and check-out lines. We would do well to develop our awareness of the inner world to the degree that we develop our awareness of the outer world. We think the external world is the real world. The inner world is “all in our heads,” to be discounted, dismissed, ignored. The entire length of the spiritual journey is the distance from the left side of our brain to the right side. 05/03/2011
- Lower Cascade, Hanging Rock State Park, near Danbury, NC—It comes down to you and your life. We spend our time focused on our life, trying to arrange things there like we want them to be. Our context and circumstances consume us in a “Not that! This!” kind of way. Streams, on the other hand, have more of an internal direction. A stream’s context is just the conditions under which it flows. It must flow, to hell with the circumstances. What must we do, to hell with the circumstances? Dogwoods bring forth their blooms, bending and stretching to find the light. They must bloom. You are the thing. What is trying to come forth in you? Forget the things on your list. Bring YOU forth, however you can. 05/04/2011
- Wright Dairy, Rockingham County, NC—It’s all up to us and we cannot do it alone. We need the right kind of company to have a chance. All the heroes on all the journeys have help with golden threads through the maize and sorting the beans and figuring out the name. No one does it alone. But, as Shel Silverstein says, “Some kind of help is the kind of help that help is all about, and some kind of help is the kind of help we all can do without.” Finding the right kind of company is a trick. The key is being the right kind of company ourselves. The rule is: Be what you need! You know what to look for that way. Makes it easier. Glad to be of help. 05/04/2011
- Upper Cascade, Hanging Rock State Park, near Danbury, NC—May you see things as they are. May you be clear and correct about what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. May you have the courage to do it. Amen! May it be so! 05/05/2011
- View of Grandfather Mountain from Raven Rock Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock and Boone, NC—The key to vitality, exuberance, enthusiasm and LIFE is to look closer at the things which catch your eye. We dismiss, discount, ignore too easily the things that catch our eye. The rule is: Don’t do that without first looking closer! Examine the interest, no matter how faint. Give it the full benefit of the doubt. Let your first assumption be that something knows more than you do and is trying to get your attention. You are here to take instruction, to be guided, to be led along the way to the treasure, the precious jewel, the heart of life itself. On your own, you are a leaf being blown by the wind—maybe this, maybe that, maybe that over there. We have to trust ourselves to something. My recommendation is that we trust ourselves to the white rabbits that wink at us, and nod, and sometimes call our name. 05/05/2011
- View of Grandfather Mountain from the Fire Tower Trail, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC—Jesus is a white rabbit but. All white rabbits are not Jesus. Takes going to know. We don’t live the life that is ours to live, the life that we are made to live, the life that is our destiny (which is not the same thing as fate, by the way), by thinking about it and then doing it. Destiny unfolds in the doing of it. We have to trust ourselves to it to know. Jesus is destiny, our destiny, which means Jesus is different for each of us. We all follow a different Jesus. Tell that to your Sunday school teacher only with EMT’s on hand and at the ready. If you ARE a Sunday school teacher, oops, oh well. 05/06/2011
- View of Grandfather Mountain and setting moon reflected in Price Lake, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC—Our life is the hero’s journey. Finding our way to the life that is our life to live, and living it, is on par with the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and the Search for the Holy Grail. It is epic stuff that we are about. If we think otherwise, it is because we have not allowed ourselves to be gripped by the mythic vision and hurled against our will into the destiny that is ours to fulfill. 05/06/2011
- View of Grandfather Mountain and Price Lake at Sunset, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC—We are here for more than hanging out until we die. We are here to unfold, emerge, come forth—to discover who we are and what we are capable of—to dig ourselves up, bring ourselves out. We do it by following the white rabbits and by challenging ourselves to do the things that intrigue us, attract us, beckon to us, test us. We cannot pass up a test because it’s hard, or threatening, or fearsome. “It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses,” says Joseph Campbell. And, it takes the darkness to bring forth the light. It’s a lot more interesting than hanging out, waiting to die. 06/07/2011
- View of Grandfather Mountain and Price Lake from the Sims Pond Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC—Don’t wait unless you have to, that’s my best advice. I had to wait to take up photography until the daughters got out of college and I could afford to buy film. There are good reasons to wait, but too often we don’t wait for a good reason, we just wait because it’s easier that way. We put things off until it’s too late to do them. This view of Grandfather Mountain is no longer there—grown up and over with trees in the way. You waited too long. What else are you not doing for no good reason? Life is passing you by! Start doing the things that you don’t want to die having not done! The days are flying by! 05/07/2011
- View of Grandfather Mountain and Price Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC—We can look at a Trillium, or a waterfall, or a sunset and either see it or not see it. Walking through a scene is no guarantee that you will relish the scene. Walking through wonder does not mean you will be awestruck. In order to see what is before you in each moment, you have to see what stands between you and seeing. What are you “seeing” that keeps you from seeing? Where are you instead of being here, now? Only you can bring yourself into the moment and be present with the moment. There is much to take the moment from us, but a moment unseen, unlived, is like, well, death. 05/08/2011
- Jesse Brown’s Cabin, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Boone, NC—The National Park Service has a slogan: Your Safety Is Your Responsibility! It doesn’t stop there. Our life is our responsibility. We think life is automatic, natural—that if our vital signs are normal and everything is operational life should flow. Not so. We can be 98.6 and breathing and deader than dead. How to be vibrantly alive in the time left for living is our problem, and our responsibility. We bring ourselves to life by connecting with that which is life for us. We know what brings us to life and what kills our soul. We know where we belong and where we have no business being. Are we waiting for someone to make it easy for us? For someone to invite us to be alive? Our life is our responsibility. 05/08/2011
- The Old Mill of Guilford, Guilford County, near Oak Ridge, NC—We have to shape ourselves to accommodate the facts of our life and we must not do that all glib and smiley. We must consciously bear the pain of accommodation—without being sour, bitter and doleful. It is an art, living truthfully, consciously, honestly. One that we are not taught to develop. We are taught to pretend it isn’t so. All of the things we don’t like about our lives are so much better than the things someone else has to tolerate, we have no business complaining. So, we dismiss our complaints. Deny the weight we carry. Put on a happy face, and lie our way through life. When we fake it this way, our body keeps score—or someone in our family bears the weight of our denial. Weird how that works, but real. The spiritual law is this: Pain will be borne, consciously or unconsciously. How well we bear it is an indication of how well we live. 05/09/2011
- Greensboro Skyline Panorama, Greensboro, NC—What is important to you? What are you doing about it? You know how you aren’t doing enough of what’s important to you because you are doing something else that is important to you? This is called a values conflict. It’s when we set aside something we love to do in favor of something we love to do. Something has to go, and it does. Now here’s what I want you to do for me: Bear the pain of that conflict consciously, with full awareness. Suffer the conflict! Suffer all of your conflicts! Do not dismiss them, deny them, discount them, distract yourself from them. Enter the dichotomy: This, or this, or that over there? Do NOT allow your conflicts to cancel each other out and do NOT allow one love to erase and disappear another love. Love things that cannot exist side-by-side. Maintain the tension, bear the pain, consciously for as long as it takes for something to shift. This is where the magic happens. You can’t predict what or when or how, only that. Bear the pain and see where it leads. My best advice. 05/09/2011
- Flyfishing in the Davidson River, Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard, NC—Lethargy keeps us in place with its deadly questions: “So what? Who cares? What’s the use? What difference will it make? What good will it do?” Instead of following the white rabbits on the adventure of our life, seeing where they take us and what we can do with our lives along the way, we watch TV, read about the lives of movie stars, and go shopping until we die. We lack incentive, motivation, ambition. We are as good as dead. What will it take to get us moving? Where comes the kick in the rear? We dream of magical interventions (winning the lottery) and dismiss the simple magic of moving our body out of its accustomed routine into new patterns of life and giving the white rabbits a chance. 05/10/2011
- Spring Hills, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Boone, NC—We need a sounding board as much as anything—a place to air things out, to talk our way to clarity and vision and direction and peace. The best therapists offer this kind of safe, caring, space and invite us to explore our unrest, discomfort, conflicts, or the sense of things being not quite right somehow. We talk ourselves to the truth of how things are, and what needs to happen, and into the courage to do what needs to be done. The right kind of conversation restores our soul—restores us to our soul—by allowing us to talk our way to what needs to be said, seen, realized, understood, done. Who do we know who invites and allows this kind of search for the truth that is at the heart of our lives? We may need to meet some new people. 05/10/2011
- An Oak Limb in the Fog on the Fire Tower Trail, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC—Think of your soul as a child who wants to see, taste, touch, smell, hear, feel, dance, inquire, explore, play, laugh, run, hug, tumble, roll, and not keep score. Give your soul what it wants for a minimum of thirty minutes once a day for the rest of your life. I’m as serious as I can be. My soul is laughing. And dancing. At the very idea of you doing that for your soul. At the very idea that I have a soul that is mine and you have a soul that is yours. My soul thinks that is very funny. But my soul is that way. What way is your soul. I have to stop now. My soul is laughing so hard I can’t think. 05/11/2011
- High Falls, DuPont State Forest, near Brevard, NC—You cannot be spiritual and spend most of your time being rational, logical, reasonable, intellectual, left-brained. Soul is a right brain experience. Our right brain divines the path to soul. We dowse soul as though it were water (which has always been a metaphor for soul/psyche). We are as dead as we are spiritually because we think we can think our way to being spiritually alive. Nope. We have to live our way there by trusting ourselves to our right brain and seeing where it takes us. The child we are within leads the way to soul, and is soul. Stop thinking and go play! 05/12/2011
- Dogwood in the Fog, 2011, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Rocky Knob, VA—My soul likes to play a game called “Get the camera and let’s go looking!” Going looking is one of the things my soul loves to do. It’s always up for it, and always calling out, “Stop the car! Turn around! Let’s look closer at that!” So, the soul and I are always out there looking for something to see. My hunch is that all photographers share the same soul. We all share the same soul for all I know. How many souls are there? How many minds are there? We talk about being “like-minded,” well how many different minds exist among us? We share the same sky, the same galaxy, why not the same mind, the same soul? Soul mates, all. We should pretend that is the case, and act like it is. That would make for a better world in a lot of ways. 05/12/2011
- Swamp Iris, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We are never more than a perspective shift away from enlightenment, from waking up, from seeing things as they are and also are, from being healed, and whole, and saved (that is restored to ends worthy of us) and well. Seeing is everything. And hearing. And understanding. And living aligned with that which has need of us and the gifts we bring to each situation as it arises. The perspective entails comprehending what it means to say “Thy will, not mine, be done.” Who is the “Thy”? It doesn’t matter. Call it God. Call it Tao. Call it the Great Mother. The Sacred Source of Life and Being. Calling it anything is problematic because once you call it anything you’ve laid the foundation of creating a doctrine of the thing you call it and you have gotten away from “Thy will, not mine, be done” and started serving your idea of how things ought to be. Bad idea. 05/13/2011
- Pink Dogwood, Greenway Park, Greensboro, NC—When we aren’t trying to make happen what we want to happen or keep from happening what we don’t what to happen, what are we doing? How do we spend our time when we aren’t on a mission? Gardening? Yard work? Sewing? Cooking? Reading? Writing? Walking? These pursuits “between causes” could have “soul value” in the sense of being refreshing and restorative on a spiritual/emotional/psychological (Where DO those lines lie?) level. And, they could be a better indicator of where life is found for us than in the things we do to “wrestle life into submission.” We might be pouring life energy into the wrong things. 05/13/2011
- Lake Townsend from the Laurel Bluff Trail, Greensboro, NC—We live to serve the center, the core. Everything else is busywork. It may pay the bills, but if they aren’t the right bills, we’re kidding ourselves. If we aren’t paying the right bills, we are living the wrong life. The right bills serve the center, the core, bring forth who we are and also are, and help us do what is ours to do. Finding our way to the center is the quest for the Holy Grail, the spiritual journey, the search for home. We can be distracted from that task by the glass beads and silver mirrors that mesmerize and promise eternal bliss, but we will not be satisfied until we are one with the core in a “Thy will, not mine, be done” kind of way. 05/14/2011
- Swamp Iris, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—Your work is to find the work you believe in, and do it. This may not be work you are paid to do. Lois Hamilton was paid as a bookkeeper, but she believed in Tatting. Tatting kept her going. What keeps you going? You have a happy fantasy of winning the lottery and quitting the work you get paid to do because you don’t believe in it but. What will you do then? Drift around? Hang out at the resorts, on the cruise ships? Pass the time merrily until you die? Your work is to find your work, and do it. 05/15/2011
- Mallard Drake, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—Evil comes in two forms in my way of looking at things. Evil is a shortcut to the good of those taking the shortcut at the expense of everyone else’s good. And evil is anything that interferes with our idea of the good. Sometimes the two are one. 05/15/2011
- Tulips, Blowing Rock, NC—Every test along the way comes down to “Whom do you trust?” Will we trust ourselves to our idea of the good: “No Lord! This should not happen to you!” Or will we trust ourselves to the work that is ours to do, the life that is ours to live no matter what: “Thy will, not mine, be done!”? Laying aside our work, our life, in favor of our idea of the good is an ongoing temptation, and the nature of every test along the way. We never get beyond thinking we know what we are doing—thinking we’ve got it now—thinking if they would just do it our way it would be a quick run to glory—thinking there is a place to be and we have the map. There is never a better good than doing the work that is ours to do, living the life that is ours to live—and we can do that anywhere, in any context, any circumstance, any time, any place. There is no good place for doing the work that is ours to do, for living the life that is ours to live. One place is as good as any other to live in the service of the good that is good. 05/16/2011
- Lenten Rose, Greensboro, NC—Fear and laziness keep us stuck in place, miserable but not quite cold enough to get up and get a blanket. We aren’t what you would call real happy with our life as it is, but what good would it do to try to change things? And we might make things worse! There could be dragons waiting beyond the city limits sign! Better to stay where we are, complaining. Actually, it’s better to find what we’re made of. Joseph Campbell says “It took the Cyclops to bring the hero out in Ulysses.” Fear and laziness keep us from finding the hero within. See what you can do with your life in the time left for living. Forget playing it safe! Go for interesting and meaningful every chance you get! Bring on the dragons! See what you can do with them! 05/16/2011
- Greensboro Grasshopppers Poster, NewBridge Bank Park, Greensboro, NC—We are here to do what is ours to do, to live the life that is ours to live. We think it’s about doing what we want. It’s about aligning ourselves with what wants us. We think money is about doing what we want to do. Money is about buying the tools that assist us in doing what is ours to do, in living the life that is ours to live. We never get a day off, or take a holiday from, being who we are called to be, from doing what is ours to do. Our work—to the extent that it is truly our work, the work we are called to do—is our life. If our life is empty, meaningless, boring and stale it is because we are not doing the work that is ours to do. Our work is interesting, meaningful work but. It probably isn’t what we have in mind. It probably isn’t what we want to do. There you are. The only thing standing between us and life is us. 05/17/2011
- Boone’s Trace, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Boone, NC—Communities of innocence are innocent in the sense that the community doesn’t have an agenda it is trying to serve at its members expense. The community doesn’t try to talk its members into being this way and not that way, except to the extent that it says “Be who you are and also are!” and does its best to assist its members in doing that. Communities of innocence listen us into hearing what we have to say. They are therapeutic in that they serve the self-development and self-determination of their members, connecting us with who we are and also are and helping us live that out in our lives, but they are not therapy groups. They do not advertise or charge for their services. They exist to serve the cause of wholeness, integrity and peace. Your best chance at finding one is to start it by being the kind of person who offers the right kind of help in the right kind of way to those who come your way. Listening them to recognition and awareness, not telling them a thing. 05/17/2011
- Davidson River, Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard, NC—We don’t know what our work is, what life is our life to live, by thinking about it. It isn’t a left brain process. We know what our work is, what our life is, instinctively, intuitively. The right side of our brain is clued in from the start. We know what we are built for and we don’t have the faintest idea. Both are true at the same time. Get used to paradox, contradiction. That is the fundamental nature of reality perceived through two different ways of seeing. What we see, you know, depends upon how we look. 05/18/2011
- Catawba Crossing Poster, Catawba River, near Rock Hill, SC—The spiritual journey comes down to being who we are and also are, and fulfilling our destiny by doing what is ours to do, living the life that is ours to live. We complicate things by having big ideas and dreams of glory. The life we have in mind for ourselves is not the life our self/soul has in mind for us. What we wish were ours to do has little in common with what is ours to do. You see the problem. We are divided within, at odds with ourselves over who is going to guide our boat on its path through the sea. The story of how we resolve the conflict is the stuff of epic poems, Star Wars, and the Lord of the Rings. It’s enough to keep us awake nights, wondering how it is all going to turn out. 05/18/2011
- Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We want what we have no business having. That is as succinctly as you will ever hear, okay see, The Problem presented. All of our aches and agonies can be traced back to this fundamental kink in our makeup. This heron has its business. We have our business. The heron has no aspirations or interest in anything that is not its business. We are a wiggling, wanting, ball of aspirations and interests in everything we can imagine that is not our business. Our life work is saying “Yes!” to that which is our business and “NO!”—maybe, “NO! DAMN IT!”—to that which is not our business. Or, as it is sometimes phrased, “Thy will, not mine, be done!” 05/19/2011
- Lake Brandt Sunset, Greensboro, NC—We think being smart is the solution to all of our problems today. Not! Being lucky is the solution to our problems! We cannot be lucky if we don’t take chances! We are here to align ourselves with our business and do it, but we aren’t sure what our business is. So, we have to guess! Guess and go! Only do it in good faith. Good faith is the hinge upon which it all turns. You can’t do just anything and say you are guessing it is your business. It has to be your best bet. You can’t get by with saying, “Oh, maybe this, maybe that.” You’ll never have the right kind of luck if you don’t go through life making your best bet about what is and is not your business. 05/19/2011
- Wright Dairy, Rockingham County, NC—All we have to work with is the moment and the gifts we bring to the moment, the resources available to work with the moment. What are we trying to do? See what can be done in light of our mutual interests, ours and the moment’s. We place all the needs on the table—what needs to happen here and now in this moment as it unfolds? Then we walk around the table, or sit considering the table, until something stirs, separates itself from the pile, and shows itself to be what obviously needs to be done. Then, we do it. We do not step into the moment to show the moment who is boss. We step into the moment to assist the moment with what needs to happen in that moment. We are not separate from our lives or from the moments of our living, any more than a stream is separate from its channel. Our moments carry us where we are going, as we serve them with the gifts we bring to each one. 05/20/2011
- Fishing Shacks, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia—I’ll go to great lengths and unreasonable expense to put myself in a scene—to have a chance at a photograph. This is, at once, brilliant and stupid, my shame and my glory. I do not know where the line lies between an addiction, a compulsion, and a calling. I cannot begin to explain, justify, defend or excuse what I do for a living—and I don’t mean what I do to EARN a living. I mean what I do to have a life, to be alive. This makes me one with all of you who know what I mean, and quite to be pitied by all of you who have no idea of what I’m talking about. I have to go look for a photograph the way Columbus had to go look for India. 05/20/2011
- Ramsey Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN—The Bible is a treasure trove of metaphorical truth which we miss entirely in our hysterical insistence that everything has to be factual, literal, actual, tangible and concrete in order to be real and true. Abraham left home, left everything that was familiar and comfortable, and wandered in the wilderness in search of the Land of Promise, which he never found. We are Abraham on our own journey to the Promised Land, a destination we will never reach in this physical universe, which is the full realization of who we are and also are, and of our destiny, our work, what is ours to do, the life that is life for us, that is ours to live. The Promised Land does not have latitude and longitude any more than the Garden of Eden did, but it is what we are born for, where we are going. It is who we are, what we are about, what we are called to undertake in the time left for living. 05/21/2011
- Bass Lake in October, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC—That which has always been thought of as God is experienced as outside of us, beyond us, in a “more than words can say” kind of way. This is called transcendence. The experience transcends us and our world of normal, apparent reality. Anything can be the threshold to transcendence—dogwood blossoms, a waterfall, the birth of a baby, an expression of adoration and wonder on a child’s face… The list is endless. The experience is timeless. And then, like that, we are snapped back into our present circumstances, left with the memory of the transcendent moment and the dream of its hoped-for return. 05/22/2011
- View of Grandfather Mountain from Price Lake, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC—Our scenes are our scenes. Other photographers have better scenes to work with and will take photographs we will wish we had taken. Our work is to take the photographs that are ours to take—to take them as well as they can be taken—and let that be that. Doing our best with what is ours to work with and letting that be that is the real key to successful living. Other people have better options, more resources. Ours are ours. We get up each day and step into our lives exactly as they are and do what can be done with them—live them as well as they can be lived—and let that be that. Squaring ourselves up with our scenes, our lives, and doing our best with them and letting that be that is to be as successful with our photography and with our living as anyone has ever been. Anyone. Ever. 05/23/2011
- Lake Louise, Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park, Alberta—Loss of soul in ancient societies was the loss of conscious, self-determined, existence. The person would be “taken over” by forces beyond her, or his, control. Addiction might be a modern equivalent, and religion is as addictive as alcohol or gambling. “You have heard it said, but I say unto you,” said Jesus. And he asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” What do we know of God that we haven’t heard from someone else? How much of what we say of God comes from the common pool of religious platitudes and how much comes from our own experience and point of view? We can lose soul talking about soul when we only say what is being said around us, when we only think what we are told to think by “those who know best” (Truman Capote’s phrase). 05/23/2011
- Private residence, Blue Ridge Parkway, VA—Our part entails cultivating all the old values—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, self-discipline, grace, compassion, tenderness, hospitality, etc.—and living in ways which express them appropriately throughout our lives. Hospitality means being open and receptive to a wide variety of ideas, perceptions, perspectives, ways of seeing and doing things. It is the opposite of smugness and arrogance, and it is one of the necessary ingredients in developing eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands. It means knowing we don’t know half of what there is to know and more than half of what we think we know. Makes us a lot more fun to be around. 05/24/2011
- Otter Point, Acadia National Park, near Bar Harbor, Maine—There is how things are and there is how you wish things were, and how you live with the discrepancy makes all the difference. My recommendation is that you live consciously with it. That you consciously bear the pain of the discrepancy, taking solace in the good aspects of how things also are—that are exactly like you would like for them to be. So, there is how things are, and how things also are, and how you wish they were. That is how things are. Live consciously in that tension. Do not relax it with denial or addiction. If you square up to the truth of how things are, all that you are told that is not true will be unable to stand the heat, and will have to leave the room, and your load will be immediately lighter. You may have to laugh. 05/24/2011
- Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—The Bog Garden is five minutes from my house, and I sit at the pond there often, waiting for a photograph, watching life play out before me. There is a goose with a broken wing, making out as she, as he, can. Three families of ducklings slowly being decimated by a large loggerhead snapping turtle—the balance of nature, you know. Green Herons, Blue Herons, Kingfishers, geese, ducks, frogs, sunfish…an entire pond world. Life at that level finds a way without the drama of life at our level. A goose breaks a wing and drags the wing, doing what geese do. A duck family loses three ducklings to the turtle and now there are five instead of eight doing what ducklings do. If it rains, the pond world does what it does in the rain. If the water level drops dramatically in a drought, the pond world does what it does in a drought. Each species has its business and goes about its business as well as it can imagine no matter what. What is your business? It’s important to know, and to be about it, no matter what. 05/25/2011
- Dawn, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, NM-AZ—One of the advantages to being old is you can repeat yourself with abandon. I can’t remember the last time I said something new. If I haven’t said this to you, I’ve said it to someone, maybe recently: Jacob Bronowski said, “If you want to know the truth, you have to live in certain ways.” He meant that you have to live truthfully, that is, with a spirit of free and open inquiry—not living trying to prove the validity of something you believe to be true. You can’t make up your mind about what is true and then try to find evidence supporting your contention. That isn’t living truthfully. It’s living with an agenda, stacking the deck. Living truthfully is knowing what you don’t know—to the extent that’s possible—and being up front about it. It’s being as ignorant as you are and asking, seeking, knocking your way to eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands. 05/25/2011
- Moonrise, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, AZ/NM—There are forces in nature that do not have our best interest at heart. Tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, breast cancer and anacondas, just to mention a few. The idea that the universe is a friendly place and is here to help us toward wealth and prosperity is a happy fantasy that ignores the facts. The universe does not care about us so we better! We better care about ourselves and one another! We are all we have! That being the case, start noticing how often you set yourself aside. You cannot do that and live truthfully. Living truthfully means, among other things, embracing the truth of you, being true to yourself, bringing yourself forth into the time and place of your living—not repressing, suppressing, denying yourself and stuffing yourself into some dark corner because you are not suitable for the light of day. Whose side are you on? The anaconda’s? 05/26/2011
- Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We have to have the freedom of our own life. If you have symptoms, ask yourself where the constraints are. Where are you being held captive by the life you are living, prevented from even thinking about the life you wish you were living, the life you could, maybe, one day live? We can be held hostage by legitimate responsibilities (I thought fatherhood would never end, then I thought work would never end), but the most abusive guard at the prison with no bars is our fear of what might happen if we walked away. We are, too often, our own jailer. Symptoms suggest constraints. Gather yourself and name them all. Become conscious of all that is keeping you bound to a life that is not conducive to being alive. Do not become hopeless and despondent! Part of the work of living truthfully is facing the truth of how it is with us. The wonderful thing about truth is that it has another side: How it also is. Facing how it is, opens us to how it also is. There be doorways and thresholds you haven’t begun to imagine. Life has not given up on you. Don’t you give up on life. 05/26/2011
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Lupine, Guilford County, near Oak Ridge, NC—When your problems become overwhelming, go sit for a while in a field of Lupine. It won’t do anything about your problems but. It will bring a little solace to your soul. Our soul needs to know, needs to be reassured, from time to time that our problems are not all there are. There are also Lupine. The Lupine do not cancel out the problems. The problems do not cancel out the Lupine. They exist together as eternal contraries in our experience. We integrate the contradictions of our lives, reconciling what can be reconciled and holding in suspension the opposites that will forever be “also true.” Many of our problems have no solution and will be with us for a long time as “also true.” The goose with a broken wing has such a problem. Once we come to terms with the life-long nature of such a problem, a subtle shift occurs within—call it a perspective shift—and the problem is no longer the problem it once was. We have, without trying, changed our mind about the problem, and that changes everything. 05/27/2011
- Hooker Falls, DuPont State Forest, near Brevard, NC—Don’t miss a side trip. The Path gets all the press, as though it is some kind of interstate super highway to glory. The side trips are the glorious part of glory. We can’t get there if we keep missing them, turning them down, on our high horse with our nose in the air and our manual on how to get to glory tucked under our arm. It’s the side trips that make going worth the trouble. The side trips are the interesting part, the things we remember along the way. You lupine in the previous photo was a side trip. I went to get a photo of the Old Mill of Guilford. I got there about 5 and the light would have been right at 7, but then, who is going to cut down all the overgrowth between me and the mill? Summer is already in the way! On my way home, I took a side trip. Saved the excursion. That’s the way it is with side trips. And then, there are the side trips on the side trips. This is great. Who cares if we ever get there? Why pass up glory on the way to glory? 05/27/2011
- One and Two, Triple Falls, DuPont State Forest, near Brevard, NC—If you are going to do right by some living thing, do right by your soul. Your soul is, to paraphrase the National Park Service doctrine about your safety, your responsibility. You have to learn the language of soul and live aligned with soul. This is integrity. Living aligned with soul. Soul doesn’t communicate, commune, with words but with emotional charges, popping us from time to time with something akin to an electrical jolt. Any strong emotional reaction, either positive or negative, is soul saying, “Listen to me!” Of course, we have to interpret what soul is saying, and there could be a little conflict of interest at work here so. Good faith is the foundation of our relationship with soul. “If you are not here with us in good faith,” said Rumi, “you are doing terrible damage.” Practice living in good faith with soul and with all who come your way. It is a simple act that will change the course of history—yours and the world’s. 05/28/2011
- Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, Transylvania County, near Brevard, NC—Look around you. Note everything that has a human origin. All of it is just made up. Everything you see was just made up in someone’s head. It all came right out of someone’s imagination. Pianos? Someone imagined a piano, if you can imagine that. Everything we have created over the history of the species originated in our imagination. That being the indisputable case, what is more real, concrete, or the imagination that imagined concrete into existence? Why do we think the world of concrete and steel is the Real World and anything to do with our imagination is frivolous and inconsequential? Why do we dismiss imagination and emphasize the left brain to the exclusion of the right brain at every opportunity? God lives in the right side of our brains. The length of the spiritual journey is the distance from the left side of our brain to the right side of our brain. I’m making all this up. That doesn’t mean you can just throw it away.
- Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., Dawn, East Fork Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Brevard, NC—Bearing consciously the pain of contradictions (This is how things are and this is how things also are and that over there is how things also are) is the critical key to spiritual growth (which is indistinguishable from just plain growing up). The trouble with bearing consciously the pain of contradictions is that they get increasingly extreme. We cannot do it apart from an environment which supports us in the work and provides a safe place for us to do the work. Schizophrenics cannot tolerate contradictions and create them constantly, which, as you can see, does them no favors. We avoid the path of schizophrenia in part by avoiding, denying, ignoring contradictions. “That cannot possibly be true if this is true!” A safely understanding environment helps us see how this and that can be true at the same time, how what is good can also be evil, and vice versa. AND it helps us act in wonderfully bold and contradictory ways. May we all find our way to that kind of environment! 05/30/2011
- East Fork Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Brevard, NC—We are here to do right by ourselves and by each other, and conflicts of interest abound. My good is often your bad. Your good is often my bad. How do we do right by everyone in the room, in the world? We have to work it out. One important aspect of working it out is recognizing early on what can be done, and cannot be. There are people whose good is the only good, who must be coddled to or else. These people are abusive and toxic to our souls. I recommend giving them a wide berth. You will never receive better advice. We desperately need the presence of those who understand and honor the nature of LIFE—the importance of doing right by ourselves and each other, and working out the differences, the conflicts of interest, to everyone’s, more or less, mutual satisfaction across the board and around the table. When you meet people like that, make them your friend. 05/31/2011
- Skinny Dip Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Brevard, NC—Suicidal thoughts and impulses may indicate that something needs to die but that something is definitely not ourselves. The thoughts are not to be taken literally, but metaphorically. They generally come upon us at the transition points in our lives (adolescence, divorce, job loss, kids leaving home, etc.), and point to the fact that the way we have been living needs to be “laid to rest.” We have to die to our idea of how life ought to be lived—we have to change our minds about what is important—so that we might live the life that we are being called to live. So that new ideas and new perspectives may emerge. Our thoughts and fantasies of suicide indicate that we are at a transition point, that we are being asked to grow beyond, to move beyond, where we have been and live in light of a different goal, a different purpose. Our life is calling us forward and we are being asked to let go of the past and let the adventure begin. The Hero’s Journey, you know. 05/31/2011
- Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Meadows of Dan, VA—I keep saying this because it’s my central operating thesis. You’ve heard it before, so you can skip this one. But you’ve probably heard the next one before, too. That’s how things are. Did someone say, “That’s how things are”? What a coincidence. I was just thinking about that. There is how things are and there is how we wish they were, and how we live with the discrepancy makes all the difference. We can always imagine a better world than the one we live in, and everything turns on how well, and to what extent, we square ourselves up to the disparity between the world we live in and the world we dream of. The work to square ourselves up with this disparity, this discrepancy, is called spiritual growth. It’s also called growing up. Spiritual growth is growing up, and you can’t grow up without becoming spiritual in the process. Growing up is squaring up, is waking up, is getting up and doing what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. That’s all there is to it. 06/01/2011
- Garden Creek Baptist Church, Stone Mountain State Park, NC—This is the way things are. This is what you can do about it. And that’s that. Trying to avoid legitimate suffering by refusing to recognize, accept and live in a world that is not how we wish it were is the source of all our suffering. “Where there is a will, there is a way!” we say, re-doubling our efforts to make the world and our life how we want them to be. What does wanting know? Remember your first marriage? You wanted that, a lot. Sin is wanting what we have no business having, wanting the wrong things, wanting unrestrained, undisciplined, unbounded. But we cannot want what we do not want. The word for this is stuck. We want what we want and are determined to have it even if it kills us. Our wanting is part of the way things are, and we can’t do anything about it. And that’s that. Well, not quite. We can do something about it. We can be aware of it. We can know the degree to which we are enslaved to our reckless, wanton, wanting. Consciousness is freedom but. With consciousness comes suffering consciously. What will it be? 06/02/2011
- Cathedral Rock, Yosemite National Park, CA—A sermon should do two things. It should help you with your life and help you with your relationship with God. No! Wait! These are not two things! These are one thing! Your life IS your relationship with God! We cannot use God to help us with our life, as though they are two different things—to pave our way and pad our pockets—to deliver to us that which we want and deliver us from that which we do not want. We must use our life to align ourselves with God, with that which has always been called “God,” which may have no connection whatsoever with that which is popularly and currently and fashionably called “God.” Religion as it has devolved narrows God down to that particular religion’s idea of God, which is then proclaimed at the expense of all other ideas of God. Religion at its best, as it always existed until we got our hands on it long about the Age of Reason, perhaps a bit before, expanded our experience of God beyond all ideas, and dogmas, and doctrines. Ah, those were the days, when life and God were one thing. 06/03/2011
- Looking Glass Rock, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Brevard, NC—Our work is finding our work and doing it, finding our life and living it. We facilitate the search by learning the language of soul. Soul speaks in metaphor, relishes paradox, loves images, approaches us playfully, through imagination, instinct, intuition, paradox and irony. Soul loves the role of devil’s advocate and is always compensating for over-developed states of ego-consciousness, so that if we dream we are a pig wallowing in the mud and are horrified by that image, we might wonder if we are not a bit too pristine and pure in our actual life. If we relish the image, it’s a different matter and we might look at the extent to which we allow ourselves the freedom of personal expression in our actual life. The same dream can have quite different meanings at different stages of our life. Soul speaks a language that is quite context and situation specific. Soul is very much here-and-now, present and real—which is where the work to find our work, to live our life, is always carried out. 06/04/2011
- The Tetons reflected in Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, WY—In becoming who we are called to be, we never get far from who we already are. It’s just a slight shift in perspective that takes a lifetime to pull off. The work is to be ourselves, to integrate who we are and who we also are, to reconcile the opposites, square up to the conflicts, welcome all sides to the Guest House (Rumi) and enjoy the party. Harmony, wholeness, completion, genuineness, authenticity, integrity, oneness, peace—these are terms that describe the end result of the work that is ours, work that is facilitated, made possible, by grace and compassion for ourselves. And this is the work that takes a lifetime and beyond to complete. But, we’ll never get it done if we don’t get started! 06/04/2011
- Twilight, East Fork Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Brevard, NC—The Hero’s Journey consists of doing what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. The Cyclops that stands in our way is always the next thing that we don’t want to do. Do we have what it takes to get up and do the thing without the boost of a Powdermilk Biscuit? Can we step into our lives day after day and do there what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, the way it needs to be done? We long for a different life, a better life, a more thrilling, fun, life, an easier life. All we get is this old stinky life with our name on it. Do we have what it takes to live this life the way it needs to be lived? Do we have what it takes to live this life that only we can live better than anyone else could live it in our place? We want to tag out and take to the hammock, while the Hero’s Journey waits to be trod. 06/05/2011
- Wright Dairy, Rockingham County, NC – (Duplicated Photo) Our work is our work and not the things we get paid to do. We do the things we get paid to do to buy the tools and the goods (food, clothing, shelter you know) we need to do our work. Our work is our destiny, what we are built for (You wouldn’t want me doing your small engine repair), what is ours to do. Life has a way of separating us from our life, from what has life for us, from our work. The 10,000 things are offered as substitutes for the things that bring us to life and are life for us. There is little to assist us in the work that knows our name, but there is enough. Something stirs within us, something catches our eye. We move toward the thing that moves us and find just enough help to keep going in the service of what we live to do. Trust yourself to the faintest glimmer of hope still smoldering within. Blow gently on the coals. Believe in the fire. 06/06/2011
- Valley View, Yosemite National Park, CA—We walk into a scene, looking. We step into our life, looking. Hoping to see what is there. Hoping to see things as they are. Hoping to see what truly needs to be done and what we can do about it. We bring with us what we have to offer to the scene, to our life, hoping to find a way to offer what we have to give as a grace and a blessing upon the scene, upon our life. We are not here to plunder the scene, to pillage our life, to loot, ransack, rifle and move on to look for more treasure elsewhere. We are the treasure we bestow upon the scene, upon our life. We are here to give what we have to offer for the good of the world. Our perspective, our presence, can transform for good or for ill. Our challenge is to tread lightly and leave kindness in our wake. 06/07/2011
- Zabriskie Point Panorama, Death Valley National Park, CA—Not one of us is here, now, as the result of careful planning and minute attention to detail. Yet, not one of us can deny that here we are right now. We don’t know where we will be tomorrow or in 5 years but that doesn’t stop people from asking, “Where will you be in 5 years?” Like 5 years ago we could have told them we would be here, now. The other thing is that we all have come through some bad stuff to get here. We never thought we would make it. But here we are, now. These two facts will be true throughout our future. We won’t get there by planning it out and we will get there by dealing with some bad stuff. We have done it already. The fact that you are here, now, is proof enough that you have done in your past what you will need to do in your future. You can trust yourself to the care of that which has delivered you to this point in your life. If that’s not having it made, I don’t know what is. 06/08/2011
- Great Blue Heron, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—Whoever gave birth to the idea that the universe is a friendly place and has our best interest at heart and will assist us toward happiness and prosperity if we will just get out of the way with our negative thoughts, never sat pondside. The Bog Garden is a study in ruthlessness. It’s like being at Wal Mart when the doors are opened for the After Thanksgiving Sale. Baby ducks are pushed out of the brood for not being quite right somehow. Herons gobble fishes. Snapping turtles eat anything slower than they are. Pecking orders are established and verified with malice and without mercy. Nature’s way. Bullies win. Civilization comes along to give the rest of us a chance. The soft values, compassion, kindness, generosity, altruism and the like, have to have advocates, have to be championed. A balanced budget is not the highest value, particularly when the tax rate is not equitably distributed across all income levels. The bullies have to be stopped by people like me and you. 06/08/2011
- False Kiva, Canyonlands National Park, UT—Perhaps Primal Peoples worshiped here—its purpose is as obscure as its origin. We all know how nice it would be to have help from on high in dealing with the deep needs of life, like food and water and encroaching Bullies. We all need a sanctuary where we can express our fear and anguish, and invoke the benevolent powers to intervene in our behalf. Where do you go to find what you need? Carl Jung says whenever we encounter something mysterious, we project our own assumptions onto it. We tell ourselves things about it that make sense of it. We create a religion and talk about “the man upstairs.” Jung also says, “In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” He is speaking of the unconscious realm. We project outward what is inward, and seek “out there” beyond the cosmos, the source of consolation and reassurance—that ever-present help in time of trouble—that dwells within. 06/09/2011
- South Toe River, Carolina Hemlocks Picnic Area, Pisgah National Forest, near Burnsville, NC—If we replaced the founders of the country with the current set of politicians in Washington, all the English would have had to do is send over a boat load of lobbyists with about a tenth, maybe less, of the money they spent on the Revolutionary War and we would still be a British colony. Complaining about the lack of heart and vision doesn’t change anything. How do we replace the current spirit of politicians with the spirit of the founders? The Dali Lama said, about the Chinese occupation of Tibet, “If what is going on has been going on for a while, it will likely continue to go on,” or words to that effect. Momentum carries us with it. You can’t stop a tsunami, or a glacier. Well, used to be you couldn’t stop a glacier. We’ve stopped a few in our time, sad to say, but. The point is how do we get people to be who we need them to be? When the horse has the bit in its teeth, you hang on for the ride and hope for the best. Like the Dali Lama said, “You ride it out,” or words to that effect. 06/09/2011
- Kiva Ladder, Mesa Verde National Park, CO—Nature’s timetable leaves a lot of time between the times for action. If you have a pet, you know what I’m talking about. There is a lot of sleeping and lying about going on. The animal world doesn’t live by the clock or keep a full social calendar. Migrations happen on a more or less fixed schedule. The search for food and water is on-going. Sex happens when it needs to. Beyond that lies waiting. Between the times for action, we wait. But. When we wait, we get bored. We cast about, flip through the channels, look for some entertainment, some diversion, some distraction to take our minds off waiting, and miss the time for action when it comes upon us because we are distracted by the 10,000 diversions we have created to fill up the empty time. All time is not empty, but it may as well be because we fill all of it artificially and cannot tell “the fullness of time,” the time that is “right,” from “ordinary, empty, dullsville, boring” time. We have lost the art of waiting. Don’t even know that we are waiting. We think life is passing us by when it is waiting for the time to be right to call our name. 06/10/2011
- Hwy 163, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah—I watched a Great Blue Heron attack a mother duck and three ducklings today for no reason that I could intuit other than they were in an area he/she had decided belonged to him/her. And he/she had the power to draw a line. Lines are everywhere. Invisible as See-Me-Nots. Without knowing it we are over the line and have to be slammed to the floor a time or two to be reminded to not cross the line. This is crazy. Whose idea was this? We should all get memos upon arising each day that carefully spell out the do’s and don’ts and leave no questions unanswered. Until that happy day dawns, we are stuck with walking unwarned into some damn heron’s favorite stretch of real estate and taking our lumps. May we not take it personally but understand it’s the stupid way of the world, and do our best to be kind to the mother ducks and ducklings who stray across our lines. 06/10/2011
- Julia Lake, DuPont State Forest, near Brevard, NC—No one ever had a problem with things going her or his way. It’s when things don’t go our way that things go quickly from bad to worse. Things don’t go our way and we respond in a way designed to get things to go our way. This is called The Struggle for Supremacy. It is sometimes called Flailing About in Helplessness. It comes from not being clear about the nature of things. Let me explain it to you. It is all useless, pointless, hopeless and coming to a very bad end. And how we live in the meantime makes all the difference. If you can understand that, you have it made, as well as you can have it made. Things will not go our way and how we live with that makes all the difference. Practice living well with that. You will save the world, and your mental health will be dramatically improved. 06/11/2011
- Mouse Creek Falls, Smoky Mountains National Park, NC—Yes and No are all we have to work with. We walk into each day with only Yes and No at our disposal. How we apply them determines the outcomes of our days. The process is complicated by our ambivalence about many things. On the one hand, Yes, on the other hand, No. We have to come to terms with our ambivalence—not so as to get rid of it, but to bring it forth, relish it, delight in it, explore it. All of our decisions would be better decisions if we didn’t rush past ambivalence on the way to decision. Splash around in ambivalence! Let the magic work! The magic is the heart of life. We don’t know what to do with our Yes’s and No’s. We’re lost with nothing but Yes and No to work with. Everything depends on the magic, and the magic requires us to be as ambivalent as we are for as long as it takes for the magic to work. So, sit with ambivalence, bring it forth, explore it, inquire of it, listen to it, live it. Put everything on the table and consider the table. Walk around the table. Listening. Looking. Waiting to see, hear, understand and know, in light of the whole shebang, what is Yes! and what is No! 06/13/2011
- Midnight Hole, Big Creek Campground area, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC—Our lives unfold, emerge, in a dance with our circumstances and our proclivities. The place of consciousness is to bring ourselves forth in light of what we know of ourselves at any point in our living. We are mostly unconscious, hidden away, known and made conscious by the one who knows us best—that would be us—within the context of our life. Think of our context as fate—what we are born into, the givens, the things we can’t do anything about, the time and place of our birth, for instance, the constraints and opportunities that define our days. Think of our self, the person we are capable of becoming, as our destiny—who we show ourselves to be through the process of living our lives. We embrace and bring forth our destiny within the confines of our fate. Or not. We can succumb to our fate and be who we are told to be by our circumstances and Those Who Know Best (Truman Capote’s term). Our task is to unfold ourselves and redeem our circumstances as a boon to the world. The Hero’s Journey. 06/14/2011
- Roaring Fork Falls, Pisgah National Forest, near Burnsville, NC—I’ve been retired from the ministry (Presbyterian Church USA) for four and a half months, and have realized in that time how much time I spent bridging gaps, reconciling differences, healing breeches and disruptions in relationships between me and members of the church and among church members. It was exhausting and ongoing work. It has eased up a bit without an entire congregation to stay in touch with, but it doesn’t stop. There are still family differences to take into account and my own internal riffs and snits to oversee and mend. The work of reconciling differences, within and without, is the work of being consciously human. We do not lay it aside ever. We work to integrate ourselves within and to integrate ourselves with our closest relationships and to integrate our group with other groups, our nation with other nations, so that the interests of all are respected and cared for. It is exhausting and ongoing work. And it must be done. 06/15/2011
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Flame Azaleas on Roan Mountain, NC/TN—We live such discordant lives! We are torn between a myriad of emotions and values! Conflict abounds! Contradiction and ambivalence prevail! And our work is to integrate the whole, to reconcile the opposites, make peace, serve wholeness, make one… Makes us crazy. Wears us out. Sends us into neuroses and addiction. All of which adds to our workload. Now we have more opposites to reconcile, to make this square with that! Carl Jung says the mandala is the soul’s way of soothing itself, holding itself together in torn and broken world. Life is, well, modern art, all jagged and off-center and out of sync, layers of contrasting colors, loud, ugly. Soul yearns for peace, oneness, wholeness, completion and takes refuge in creating/coloring mandalas—making complimentary what could be contradictory and negating. Photography, for me, is mandala work, using a rectangle or a square instead of a circle, to bring the elements of the photo together into a harmonious whole, grounding and soothing my soul, making peace. 06/16/2011
- From Round Bald, looking toward Jane Bald and beyond, Roan Mountain Highlands, NC/TN—Nothing makes us happier than busting our butts in the service of that which needs what we have to offer and needs to be done whether it is convenient, easy, fun and enjoyable or not. We think happy is an extension of convenient, easy, fun and enjoyable. We will not be happy until we change our mind about what constitutes happiness. We are in the mental, emotional, physical state we are in because we will not, under any circumstances, change our mind about what is important. Our life has been banging us against the wall of unrelenting reality all our lives long, and we have been just as unrelenting in our insistence that what we say is important IS important! The first lesson of the spiritual journey, which is the journey to wholeness, which is the journey to maturity, which is growing up, which is seeing things as they are, being clear about what truly needs to be done, and doing it—the first lesson of that process is: How we see things isn’t how things are. This is also stated as: How we wish things were isn’t how things are. We have to change our mind about what is important a lot along the way. 06/17/2011
- Roaring Fork Falls, Pisgah National Forest, McDowell County, near Little Switzerland, NC—The visible world is not the only world. Life is lived on two levels, in two worlds, the visible and the invisible. We do not live in “filling the world and subduing it”—in erecting edifices of concrete and steel—in “making our mark” in the world of normal, apparent reality. When that is the case, we weep along with Alexander the Great when there are no more armies to defeat, no more peoples to add to the list of the conquered. We live as partners, collaborators with—envoys, extensions, expressions of—the invisible world. We take our cues from the invisible world, find our guidance, our direction, in the invisible world. Disconnected, cut off, from the invisible world, we are a flag with no pole, a ship with no rudder. You would think we would nurture and nourish the relationship but. The visible world is replete with seductive pleasures. “You can’t keep them down on the farm once they’ve seen Gay Paree!” We are off after the lights and the action, the achievements, accomplishments, acquirements, acquisitions and success of the visible world, addictions that do not satisfy. 06/18/2011
- Rhododendron on Roan Mountain, Carter County, TN—Our challenge and our calling is always to live the life that is ours yet to live, within the context and circumstances of our existence—to bring forth who we are here and now—to present ourselves to this time and place so as to express the gift that is ours to give in redemptive, healing, ways, and thereby bless the world, though it may not be seen by the world of that time and place as a blessing. Got that? It means the world of your experience is likely to resist your bringing forth who you are and is not likely to receive well the gift you have to offer for its own benefit, salvation. You cannot let that stop you. It’s just another test along the way, the Cyclops in one of his many configurations. We don’t get a lot of cooperation in the work that is ours to do—being a source of blessing and grace in the time and place of our living—and just enough encouragement, often not from the sources we are looking to for that, to stay on the path. So, buck up! Know as much of who you are and also are as you can know at this place in your life, and bring it forth into your life, for the good of those who are capable of being blessed and graced by the gift of you! 06/19/2011
- Jane Bald, Roan Mountain Highlands, Carter County, TN—We live to integrate the two worlds, visible and invisible—to bring forth the invisible world into the visible world of normal, apparent, reality. The visible world is a life support system, providing the physical means for physical life, but the invisible world is the source of vitality, enthusiasm, exuberance—“the wellspring of living water”—which brings us to life by providing us with meaning and purpose and the wherewithal to serve and know what is good. We cannot allow the physical world to supplant the invisible world by offering counterfeit purposes, surrogate goals in the form of forbidden fruit and corporate ladders of success. We have to nurture and nourish our connection with the invisible world by developing eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands. Sees what? Hears what? Understands what? More than words can say! We seek out the “thin places” between the two worlds in art, music, nature and in our relationships with one another where experiences with numinous reality (which we call sacred) remind us of the truth of the other world and call us to look, listen, inquire and serve in a “Thy will, not mine, be done” kind of way. 06/20/2011
- Flame Azalea on Roan Mountain, Carter, County, TN—It is easy to be distracted by, to be overwhelmed by, the events and circumstances of our life in the world of normal, apparent, reality. No connection is easier to lose than the one with the invisible world. Yet, it is only a perspective shift away in any time, any place. Every moment is a threshold to the other world for those with eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart that understands. We only have to open ourselves to the all-ness that is before us in any situation to see what else is there. Stuck in traffic, we can see that we are part of the great river of life, with everyone going her, his, way, yet also participating in the same experience of life that all people in every time and place have experienced, and serving ends quite beyond us that we don’t know anything about, locked in, as we are, to what is important to us. As we begin to wonder what is important and how we know, we are close to asking that of our inner guide, our invisible twin—close to being conscious of the partnership that transforms our ordinary life into a magical tale of epic proportions. Let the wonder begin! 06/21/2011
- Sun up, East Fork Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, near Brevard, NC—We are not here as a tourist walking through our life, liking this, not liking that, wondering what’s for dinner and what’s after that. We have business here. What’s your business? What truly matters? What are the things that you are to be about, that you are here to serve with your life? What is satisfying? What is interesting? What is meaningful? No one can answer these questions for us. They are our questions to answer for ourselves. We would not trust anyone else to order our desert for us, or sweeten our coffee for us. Why do we trust anyone else to tell us what to do with our lives? Our life is our responsibility. We cannot do just anything with it, as though it does not matter how we live. “Maybe I’ll go snowboarding today, or lie in the sun with a good book.” The day is not ours to do with as we please! We have work to do, bringing ourselves forth as a blessing, a grace, a gift to the world. We cannot be casual, indifferent, clueless. We have to take up the work of knowing what our work is, and doing it, in the time left for living. There is no time to waste. 06/22/2011
- Flame Azalea, Roan Mountain Highlands, Carter County, TN—It is important to know what is important, and what is not. It is important to know what our business is, and what it is not. Ah, but. These things change with time and circumstance. One here and now is not another. What is important here, now has no value there, then. Our business is like the wind that blows where it will, but. It is always our business to know what our business is, what is important, what truly needs to be done, in each situation as it unfolds—and to do it. Formulas, rules, recipes, laws, conventions are no guide. They are shortcuts at best, evidence that we will work harder to avoid the work that is ours to do than doing the work the work requires. Listening, looking, seeing, hearing—and responding courageously to what is being asked of us in each here and now that comes along. How do we know? We have to risk being wrong! We have to take a chance with everything on the line! What is being asked of us? What is important? What is our business—here and now? 06/23/2011
- Willow Flats, Grand Teton National Park, WY—Play like a rookie. That’s my best advice. Everybody wants to be seen as an Old Pro. Everybody one-ups everybody else, wants to know more than anybody else has ever known. Know nothing. That’s my best advice. Look at the world as though you have never seen the world. Listen like you have not heard the first thing. Ask, inquire, of everyone about anything. Hunger and thirst for understanding—for RIGHT understanding. Everyone can teach you something if you consider them with eyes that see, ears that hear, hearts that comprehend. Everything you know can be known differently, has other sides, can be seen in other ways. Be open to what the world has to show you. Be receptive to what the world has to give to you. Be eager to learn it all all over again fresh every day from the ground up just like a rookie. 06/28/2011
- Haden Valley, near Canyon Village, Yellowstone National Park, WY—We are born with everything we need. We have what it takes but. It takes nourishing and nurturing our connection with what it takes—with the resourcefulness and resolve that comes with us out of the womb. Apart from a nourishing, nurturing, environment—and the creation of that environment is as much our responsibility (Whose side are we on?) as it is that of those whose charge we are. We cannot place the burden of a failed environment entirely on the shoulders of others—we have a part to play in the crafting of a life of soul. We have to learn the language of soul, tend to the affairs of soul, live soulful lives. When we take care of our relationship with soul, that relationship provides us with all we need to do what is ours to do—to do what truly needs to be done—in each situation as it arises but. That is not what we have in mind. We want more than soul has to offer. Soul can only provide us with an interesting, meaningful life. We want the lights and action, you know. The stuff sold by Madison Avenue, glass beads and silver mirrors and promises of happiness ever after. Given a choice between happiness or interesting and meaningful, go with interesting and meaningful. You will be as happy as can be if you do. Of course, it will take a while. You have to trust me here. 06/28/2011
- The Beaver Pond at Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY—A week in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks with two daughters and their husbands and five granddaughters has given everyone ample opportunities to field hard grounders and routine fly balls and decide what to do in the situation as it unfolds before them. Just like the people who do that kind of thing for a living, no one has thrown her, or his, glove in the dirt and stormed off the field exclaiming, “If you are going to keep hitting me those hard ground balls, I’m quitting!” When we put on the uniform and step onto the field, we expect hard ground balls coming our way. When we get out of bed each day and step into our life, we expect things to be dished out to us that we do not order or see coming. We field the hard grounders and do what the situation requires in every situation that arises—deciding what needs to happen in each here, in every how, and assisting its happening in ways that serve the true good of all. This is the work of grace and maturity, and it is what constitutes the spiritual journey, one situation at a time. 07/02/2011
- Rainbow at the Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park, WY—The things we like about the people we like are the things that set them apart, that stand them out, that identify them—characterize them—for who they are. We like their uniqueness, their individuality, their special flavor. We don’t go for bland, tasteless, dull, boring, paper doll people. We prefer the company of those who have a style, and a perspective, all their own. Then we work to be like everybody else. We want to look like everybody else, think like everybody else, believe like everybody else and do what everybody else is doing. We take our cues from the crowd, shed our unique colors and hues and blend in, become invisible. You want to help me here? What are we thinking? The Wasteland is where everybody is doing what they are supposed to do (Joseph Campbell)–thinking what they are supposed to think, believing what they are supposed to believe, saying what they are supposed to say. That is the land of death and decay. Don’t live there. Don’t even visit. Hone your own point of view. Cut your own path. Make your own way. Find your own life and live it. Do not throw away the time that is left for living striving to be approved by Those Who Know Best (Truman Capote) And Must Be Pleased! 07/03/2011
- Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., String Lake, Grand Teton National Park, WY—We wake up when we see how things are and how they also are. We grow up when we square ourselves up (reconcile ourselves) with the contradiction between how things are and also are and how we want them to be (how we wish they were). We wise up when we align ourselves with the core, the center, and live in ways which exhibit/express who we are and also are in serving what truly needs to happen in each situation as it arises. This is all there is to it, waking up, growing up, squaring up, wising up. It all comes down to laying ourselves aside in a “Thy will, not mine, be done” kind of way but. We are the ones who say what is “Thy will” and what is “mine”—we don’t take anyone else’s word for these things. We are the ones who conceptualize the “Thy”—who say who or what the “Thy” is. We live on the basis of our evolving understanding of what constitutes life—of what being alive and really living are all about. It is our task to be as alive as we can be in the time left for living. May we hold nothing back in that work, and amaze ourselves in increasingly wonderful ways! 07/04/2011
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., The Teton Range at Sunrise, Grand Teton National Park, WY—When we run from what is hard about our lives and escape in our addictions, distractions and diversions, we reject the hero’s task and miss out on the miracle of synthesis. The perennial conflict between how things are and how we want things to be requires us to bear the pain of the contradiction while we work to work things out until a shift occurs. The shift may happen in our external situation and it may happen internally. Internally, the shift is called “accommodating ourselves to reality” or “growing up.” Carl Jung says that none of the important problems in our lives have a solution—we don’t solve them or resolve them we simply out-grow them. This is the hero’s work, wrestling with our problems until the shift happens and circumstances change or we change. This shift is the miracle of synthesis, of reconciliation, of integration, of wholeness and completion. It happens in the experience of those who have what it takes to look their life in the eye and say, “Show me what you got.” Who can see into the heart of how things are and how things also are and accept that that’s how things are. These are the people who are there with their eyes open when the shift occurs, who can smile or laugh and say, “How about that. Who would have guessed it? Wow!” 07/05/2011
- Sun Star, Black Sand Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, WY—One of the characteristic features of human beings is that we aren’t interested in anything we can’t exploit. We turn everything into our advantage but. What’s the advantage of having advantages? We turn everything into money, but. What do we turn money into? Addiction? Distraction? Diversion? More money? We are living a life that has nothing to do with the life we are called to live. Who does the calling? We do. We call ourselves to live a life we aren’t interested in living because we cannot exploit it for our own advantage. We are divided this way. At odds to the core. We want what we have no business having, and know it when we go to the trouble of thinking about it. So, who is guiding our boat on it’s path through the sea? We are. That’s why we go in circles, capsize, sink. And that makes the spiritual journey the work of aligning ourselves with ourselves, making peace within, squaring up with who we are and also are, reconciling ourselves with our invisible twin, and living consciously together the life that is left to be lived. Amen! May it be so! 07/06/2011
- Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, WY—The only people who go to hell are the people who believe in hell. Joseph Campbell, and T.S. Elliot, talk about The Wasteland. The Wasteland is dry and tasteless and barren. It is where people go through the motions of living but are dead. It is the place Jesus talked about when he said, “Leave the dead to bury the dead.” They are dead because they have no life of their own. They do what they are supposed to do, what somebody else tells them to do. They think what they are supposed to think, believe what they are supposed to believe, vote for who they are supposed to vote for. They never have an idea or an inclination of their own. They never say anything they haven’t been told to say. They paint by the numbers and stay carefully within the lines and all of their paintings look exactly alike. They carefully step in the black footprints laid down by their ancestors and do not deviate in the slightest from how things have always been done because that is they way they are supposed to be done. They are afraid to do it any other way because they have been told they will go to hell if they do. They are in hell because they believe in hell. They have sacrificed their life in the here and now in the hope of avoiding hell in the then and there, that is, after they die. But their lives are hell. Don’t let anything stand between you and the life that is yours to live, particularly the idea of hell. 07/07/2011
- Mormon Row Barn, Grand Teton National Park, WY—How alive can we be in the time left for living? We owe it to ourselves—and to that which knows what it means for us to be alive—to find out. Carl Jung says, “There is within each of us an unknown other whom we do not know.” This Unknown Other knows what it means for us to be alive. Our work is to know what he, what she, knows—to align ourselves with his, with her, will for our life (which is to embrace our Destiny)–take up the Hero’s Journey (which is the Spiritual Quest)—and discover what we are made of and what we are about. Our work in the time left for living is to find our life—the life that is truly our life, the life with our name on it, the life we are built and called to live—and live it. We are Odysseus, Ulysses, Jesus and the Buddha, searching for the life that waits for us to live it. We only have to believe that it is so and act as though it is to discover the wonder of the gold in the worthless stone we had taken our lives to be. Knowing/believing the truth of the value of the life yet to be lived sets us free to live it, transforms us and the world. Amen! May it be so! 07/08/2011
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Yellowstone River, Yellowstone Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, WY—We work out all of the discrepancies, reconcile the opposites, integrate the contradictions, come to terms with the discordances, square up with the conflicts, make our peace with how things are and how things also are… This is the Hero’s Task, which is also called the Spiritual Journey, which is also called Growing Up. The tools for the work are awareness, compassion, humor, playfulness, kindness, and the right kind of conversation with the right kind of people. We do not get far in this work without the help of a community of the right kind of people. I call this kind of community a “community of innocence,” because it has nothing at stake in us—it does not seek to exploit us, or any of its members, in any way. It simply receives us well, listens to us attentively, asks us questions that enable us to say what we have to say, and tells us what it has learned through its experience that may be helpful in our situation. That’s it. What we do with all of this is up to us. Progress along the path cannot be hurried. We proceed at our own pace, in our own time, waking up as we are able. The community of innocence does not try to hurry us along, but accompanies us kindly, with compassion, having nothing to gain and nothing to lose. 07/09/2011
- Sunrise, Yellowstone National Park, WY—We only have to find our life and live it while doing what it takes to maintain, sustain, our life in the world of normal, apparent, reality. Life is lived on two levels. Physical and spiritual. Life on the physical level is food, clothing and shelter. Life on the spiritual level is meaning and purpose. We have to live on both levels at the same time. As it stands, life on the physical level gets all the press and life on the spiritual level is thought to be what we do in church, with the praying and the Bible study and the rule keeping and the “Our God is better than your God” putdowns to all the other ways of thinking about God. We gotta grow up. Spiritual is connection with the truth of who we (also) are and what we (also) are about—with our destiny, with the life we are born (destined) to live—within the world of physical reality. It is what we are here for. One way of cluing into what that might be is to ask for a dream. No kidding. Before going to sleep, ask for a dream: “What area of life is my genius/gift best suited for?” Take what the dream gives you. See where it leads. The basic strategy for the “spiritual journey” (which is finding and living the life that is ours to live) is to see where things lead. Start with the area of life your genius, or gift, is best suited for. See where that takes you. In so doing, you launch yourself on the adventure of your life. Happy trails. 07/10/2011
- Below the Beaver Dam, Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY—There is the way things are, and also are, and there is what we can do about it, and that’s that. Either we can take it or we can’t. The hero’s task is to do all that can be done about the way things are and also are and let that be that. Squaring ourselves up with life’s inevitables and refusing to allow the things we cannot do anything about stop us from doing what can be done about the things we can do something about is the high calling of being human. Anybody can say, “No, I am not going to live on these terms.” Everybody can imagine a world that is better than the one they live in. We are asked to live in this world just as it is and work to make it better for our being in it. What say you? 07/10/2011
- Lewis River Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY—We don’t have to worry about what we should do to become more spiritual or make progress on the spiritual journey. We only need to do the next thing well and see where it leads. We only need to attend the next situation as it arises and assist its coming forth in ways that are unique to us, that come natural to us. The work that is ours to do, the life that is truly ours to live, are commensurate with the gift, with the genius, that are ours to use in the service of the good of all. The work finds us as the wand chooses the wizard. We don’t go in search of what is ours to do, maybe this, maybe that. We simply do what needs to be done here and now in ways that utilize the gift we have to give and see where that takes us. The gift, genius, work, life will be a boon to all, but their real import is to wake us up, bring us forth, introduce us to ourselves. We are here to be who we are and also are for the true good of all, and we live our way to this end by doing the next thing that needs to be done as we can do it and going where that takes us. 07/11/2011
- Hayden Valley, near Canyon Village, Yellowstone National Park, WY—We are on our own here. It is all up to us. And we cannot do it alone. We need the right kind of help from the right kind of company. We need the supportive presence of the right kind of community to have a chance. All of the heroes have help. Where would Harry Potter be without the people who keep coming forward to assist him along the way? Or Frodo? Or Luke Skywalker? Or Jesus? But the right kind of help is hard to find. We increase our chances of finding the right kind of company by being the right kind of company ourselves. The kind of company I have in mind is a community of innocence with no interest, investment, or stake in its members—it doesn’t need us, we need it. We need it to listen us to the truth of who we are, to hear what we have to say and to ask the questions which lead us into the struggle of articulation and deepen our own understanding of what we have to say by helping us make conscious what is true and what is also true about our situation in each moment of our lives. Awareness, consciousness, is our only tool in the work to be who we are (and also are), to see what needs to be done and to do it. Communities of innocence are our hedge against the darkness. We create them as much as find them by being what we need and attracting those who are looking for what we are looking for, so that we help each other along the way. 07/12/2011
- Before sunrise, Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park, WY—We live too much in the pursuit of some idea of what life has to offer and too little in the service of what life needs us to do. We are trying to get “our fair share” instead of simply offering what is ours to give. We have lived all these years with little or no sense of our gift, our genius, our life, our destiny. It’s time we got to work on these things and find our life and live it in the time left for living. Let’s start with destiny. Destiny is not fate. Fate is how things are. Destiny is what we do with how things are. Fate is all we cannot change about our lives—when and where we were born, who our parents are, our genetic makeup, the “facts of our life.” Destiny is what we are called to do within the terms and conditions, the “facts,” of our life. Our destiny transforms our fate. If we turn our back on our destiny, all we are left with is our fate, and who wants that? So. How do we get to our destiny? Eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart that understands. We intuit our way there, feel our way along. We don’t buy a ticket, or a map, or a book of instructions. We begin by believing we have a destiny, a path with our name on it, a life that is our life to live. If you can’t believe that, I won’t be much help to you. You have to help me help you by believing in yourself and your life and your ability to come alive in the time left for living. Think about it. I’ll get back to you. 07/13/2011
- Lodge Pole Fence, Buffalo Valley, WY—There is a problem with aligning ourselves with our destiny, finding the life that is our life to live and living it in the time left for living. None of this is a left brain pursuit. The culture is a left brain culture. Our fundamental assumptions are left brain assumptions. It is though we only have one brain and it is the left hemisphere. Spirituality and destiny are right brain matters. This means that there are no formulas, recipes, directions, instructions, etc. that proceed in a linear fashion, with a step by step outline from kindergarten to a graduate degree. There are no black footprints on the spiritual journey. We don’t find the life that is our life to live the way we find Wrigley Field. We have to learn a new approach. The first thing we will notice is that there is no way to measure progress. There is no way to gauge success. There is no way to rank us according to our level of achievement in developing an affinity for our destiny. The first will be last, you know. This is no way to run a business. This is not a business. You cannot market Destiny Finders, Inc. like it’s preparation for the SAT. All of which leaves us up in the air and in the dark about what to do and how to do it. Well, not quite. I have some ideas. For now, get used to the idea that the search for our destiny and the life that is ours to live is a great walk-a-bout in the Outback. Signs are everywhere, pointing to something. We have to learn to read them and remember how to play. 07/14/2011
- Cunningham Cabin, Grand Teton National Park, WY—The Hero’s Journey and the Spiritual Quest is the trek to the Land of Promise and the Search for the Holy Grail. We are looking for the life that is ours to live in the time left for living, and the courage to live it. If you were looking for “fortune and glory,” this is as fortunate and as glorious as it gets, living the life that is ours to live. There are no shortcuts (Long is short, short is long)–it is a lifelong process that is interesting and meaningful all the way, and provides us with just what we need to do what truly needs to be done in each situation as it arises. Don’t think in terms of outcome and arrival and getting there. Think in terms of vitality and movement and the dynamic flow of life. There is no static mode of being. Death is the only steady state. Living is like taking “a ride on the wall of death” (Check out the Richard Thomas song), but it is not being dead. And hints, clues, signs are everywhere. Everything is a key that opens some door. The Way meanders and winds and wanders, loops, reverses itself, covers the same old ground so that we might see what we missed before, so there is no hurry and there is no time to waste—and here is as good as there, now is as good as then. The path opens before those who are open to the path, and it starts when you open your eyes. 07/15/2011
- Linville Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—The Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, leads to you, to who you also are, to the Invisible Twin within. We cannot get there directly. It is a round-a-bout and curious way that leads us home. We have to leave home to find home. This sounds like doubletalk, like I’m being deliberately abstruse and obscure like some ancient text. This is because poetry is more appropriate than direct discourse when we are talking about soul stuff. We talk in seeming circles because the left hemisphere cannot comprehend what words cannot say, and this is a right hemisphere journey—a round-a-bout and curious way—all the way. We circle around the center like a 3 D labyrinth. There is no straight path. Carl Jung said “We are who we always have been and who we will be.” We already are who we are and who we also are, the trick is waking up to that, knowing it. It takes a lifetime of living with our eyes open to master the trick. It’s like growing up. We don’t grow up just because our parents tell us, “Won’t you please grow up!?” We don’t grow into who we also are just because we are in the mood for something different and think we’ll try spirituality for a while. There is a lot of coming to terms to do on the trail that winds to the center of the Self. We have to set ourselves aside to find our Self. Oops. I did it again. 07/16/2011
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Rough Ridge Bridge, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—Waking up is squaring up is growing up. Waking up to how things are is waking up to how things also are. Recognizing the opposites without denying them or pretending they don’t exist is living in the tension, the polarity, of contraries, and to live there is to integrate the opposites, to reconcile them—if not to each other, then to ourselves. WE adjust, WE adapt, WE accommodate ourselves to the oppositional facts of life. This is squaring up, growing up. Carl Jung says none of the important problems in life can be solved, they can only be out-grown. Growing up is another name for the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest. Enlightenment is coming to terms with how things are and how they also are—which is not how we wish they were. William Blake said “Without contraries is no progression.” We grow through our agony over the contradictions that block our way to how we want things to be. The agony is the price we pay to wake up, square up, grow up, get up and do the things that truly need to be done in spite of what we wish we were doing instead. This is the cross we pick up daily in the work to be like the master by following no master. 07/17/2011
- The Lower Beaver Pond, Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY—We grow up against our will. We do not easily accommodate ourselves to a life that is not on our terms, or we accommodate ourselves too easily—handing ourselves over early on, surrendering compliantly to the dictates of Those Who Know Best, going where we are led, doing what we are told to do, all our lives long. For the sake of peace and harmony. we make no waves, rock no boats, just go along. To grow up we have to have a will and have to experience the agony of setting our will aside in the service of a greater will, which is, strangely enough, also our own. The struggle is within, with ourselves, over which good we will serve with our lives. This is the Transforming Ambivalence out of which we are born into the life that is our life to live, acquiescing in a “Thy will, not mine, be done” kind of way. Who is the “Thy” we experience as “other”? My theory is the “Thy” is “Also Us,” our Invisible Twin within, the unconscious part of ourselves who knows more than we do about who we are and what is ours to do. It is our place as conscious ego to reconcile our perspective, our take on things, with that of unconscious psyche/soul/self—physical with spiritual—and live in this world in full partnership with that world. What enlightenment is all about. 07/18/2011
- Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park, WY—The way that is our way competes with the 10,000 ways hawking happiness, promising prosperity, boasting of bliss and everlasting ease of living. It’s the story of the Garden of Eden. We think there is something better than paradise, and will trade what is ours in a flash for what we had rather have. What keeps us on the way that is our way past the Sirens’ song offering so much more? Eyes that see. Ears that hear. A heart that understands. How many times would Adam and Eve be fooled again before they wise up, having heard the serpent’s spiel enough to know better than to listen? We wake up over time. It takes every step we have taken to be where we are. If we could be somewhere else, we would be. And when we awaken, the task is the same: To be alive as we can be in the time left for living. And, now we know more about what it means to be alive than we ever knew before, so we won’t make all those wrong turns and have all those false starts. The path to where we are going always begins under our feet. We only have to see things as they are (and also are), be clear and correct about what needs to be done in each situation as it arises, and have the courage to do it. It will be great. Let’s go! 07/19/2011
- Barn on Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park, WY—In finding our way back home, to the treasure, which is our self, we have to set our self aside. Your left brain should be flipping out about now. We get to us through us, past all the resistance and obstacles we put in our own way. We are our best friend and worst enemy, and our work is to integrate, to reconcile, to live aligned and in harmony with ourselves. Our two tools for the work are awareness and compassion. Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” is a wonderful synopsis of the work that is ours to do. The path to peace with ourselves requires us to develop the gift that is ours to give (It is not the one we wish were ours to give) and develop our sense of what truly needs to be done now in each situation as it arises (It is not what we have been told should be done or what we want to do). In doing these things, we will be developing our relationship with our Invisible Twin and finding our joint way together to the life that is our joint life to be lived in the time left for living. This is epic stuff we are about and has close parallels with all of the adventure stories about the Hero’s Journey. It is our own Odyssey we are embarking upon. It will not be like a quick trip to the grocery store. 07/20/2011
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Grand Prismatic Spring, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, WY—We have to grow up, and the longer we wait to begin the work, the harder it gets. Growing up is waking up, facing up, squaring up to how things are and how things also are and how we wish things were. It is seeing clearly what truly needs to be done in each situation as it arises and having the courage to do it. It is knowing what our gift is, our genius, the thing(s) we do best that no one can do quite like we can do it (them), and offering that, presenting that, as our gift to the world no matter how often the world refuses to acknowledge or receive it. It is living in ways that do not try to exploit our advantage but seek to serve the good of the whole—which includes our own good, but not at the expense of everyone else’s. It is drawing lines where they need to be drawn, knowing where we stop and others start, and refusing to do for others what they have to do for themselves. It is living amid the opposites and contradictions without trying to erase them, but working to integrate them, reconcile them, while respecting them and understanding the role they play in deepening, expanding, enlarging us all and, yes, growing us up, even against our will. This is our work to do. No one can do it for us. It’s up to us. Now is as good a time as any to step into it and see what we can do. 07/21/2011
- Sunrise, Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY—At some point, we have to let our life come to us. “Here I am! If you want me, come get me!” Of course, we have to mean it. This is no game we are playing. We are in or we are out. What’s it going to be? Our life is not lived on our terms. This is the hinge upon which our future turns. Are we up for it or not? Don’t be flirting with your life with eyes on some other, finer, life. Shirley, you’ve lived long enough by now to know you don’t know what you’re doing—even if your name isn’t Shirley. Your best bet is trusting yourself to your life and seeing where it leads. So, when you say, “Come and get me,” you have to be ready to go wherever it takes you no matter what. Whose side are you on is the fundamental choice. Be clear about it. Our life is as responsible for finding us as we are for finding it. It is not all up to us—to run here and there, “Maybe this, maybe that!” We wait and watch for that which resonates with us, winks at us, calls our name—and ask when it does, “Are you the life that is mine to live, or shall I wait for another?” And, perhaps we won’t have to ask. Our life may grab us by the neck and hurl us into living it. It’s hard to say anything definitive about The Mystery of Being. 07/22/2011
- Summer Wetlands Panorama, Guilford County, NC—Photography is mostly waiting. We wait to get to the scene. We wait to see what is to be seen. We wait for the light. We wait for the tourist to get out of the way. We wait for the wind to calm. We spend very little time clicking the shutter. Life is that way. We spend lots of time between innings, between plate appearances, between homeruns and no hitters. We wait to see what needs to be done and what we are going to do about it. We wait for inspiration, for revelation, for insight, for motivation, for encouragement, for direction… One of the toughest things about photography is to be burning the right light looking for a tripod position. At some point we have to take the picture that’s there in the light that is right whether it’s the right tripod position or not. The right light makes a bad photo a good photo. The right tripod position is nothing in the wrong light. Life is that way. When the time for acting is upon us, we can’t wait to be sure that we know what to do. Do something NOW! when the time is right without having everything all figured out, planned to a “T,” polished and in place. Who knows what is going to happen next? We live to see where it goes, where it leads! When the time for acting is upon you ACT! Take the picture that is there when the light is right! See where it leads! 07/23/2011
- Before Sunrise, Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park, WY—If you start with whatever is important to you and honor that with your time and attention, it will lead you to something else that is important to you. Keep serving what is important to you and allow yourself to be passed along from one important thing to the next. One important thing will lead to another, and you are just along for the ride in the service of what is important. Over time you will develop your ability to rank things in their order of importance and increasingly serve things of greater importance. Serving what is important will also grow you up by forcing difficult choices on you. You cannot do what is right for you and what is easy for you. What will it be? A word of warning: This exercise fails if you remain stuck with things you like to do but are not important, that do not call you out of your “comfort zone” into doing what needs to be done in the service of what is important. If you think being comfortable is more important than doing what is important, you may be live out your life with the sofa and TV. 07/24/2011
- Sunrise, Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY—Jesus came asking, “Who do YOU say that I am?” and “Why don’t YOU judge for yourselves what is right?”, but we let THEM tell us what to think, believe, say and do. Those Who Know Best direct our lives. No one directed Jesus’ life. Jesus thought and acted out of his own authority all the way to the grave. Jesus did what he thought needed to be done in each situation as it arose, healing on the Sabbath, associating with the wrong kind of people, touching the Unclean. We go where we are led and carefully color within the lines. What do we know to be true—what do we know to be right—that we did not hear from someone else? What is it about our lives that is OURS? We even allow THEM to tell us what questions we can ask, and get permission before we do any new thing. How alive is that? Never risking disapproval? Never taking a chance with our own preferences and interests? Never trusting ourselves to what resonates with us? Never going where THEY tell us not to go? Who shame us with, “What would Jesus think?” What would Jesus think of THEM shaming us in his name, and in so doing desecrating all that is holy and untamed? 07/25/2011
- Canon Village, Yellowstone National Park, WY—We are over 4,000 years removed from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and over 2,000 years removed from the God of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus sets the tone for us by seeing God with his own eyes and not with the eyes of traditional religion. Jesus’ God was alive in the moment with Jesus, and that God’s spirit was like the wind, blowing where it would. There is no nailing that God to the wall, locking that God into a cold cell of dogma, chaining that God to doctrines and decrees. Jesus introduces us to the God of our own experience, our own perceiving and calls us to have the courage to wake up, open our eyes and see—and live toward as much as we can intuit of God in each moment of our living. To do this, of course, we have to live truthfully. We cannot be kidding ourselves about who we intuit God to be, and asking us to be, in the here and now of our living—and kidding ourselves is what we do best. No, telling ourselves what we want to hear is what we do best. No, letting ourselves off the hook is what we do best. No, shooting ourselves in the foot is what we do best… We are the work that is ours to do. May we have what it takes to do it as it ought to be done! 07/26/2011
- Cunningham Cabin, Grand Teton National Park, WY—We don’t find the path with our name one it, or live the life that is our life to live without taking chances. This is a problem. We fear being wrong worse than we fear dragons and giants. Our fear of being wrong IS a dragon and a giant with whom we must deal. All of the old epic themes are a part of our work to be who we are, where we are, when we are, what we are, why we are, how we are (and also are). This is heroic stuff we are about, so we can’t let the fear of being wrong, of looking stupid, of everyone knowing we don’t know what we are doing, etc. stop us from taking chances. We make our best bet about what is our business, and what is not our business, and live toward (and away from) that guess and see what happens—see where it leads. Here’s the all-weather rule: Notice what catches your eye and look closer. Always look closer at what catches your eye. See where it leads. And don’t be in a hurry. This is your LIFE we are talking about, finding and living the life that is truly your life to live over the course of the rest of your life. Just do here and now what you can do here and now and tomorrow will take care of itself. What are you thinking? That you can find out what it is you are here to do, get it done and retire? You are here to DO what is yours to do! Not to get it done! “Are you picking up what I’m laying down here?” (Linda Cohn). 07/27/2011
- Sunrise, Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY—We are on our own in doing something about our lives, and we are not alone, but we have to avail ourselves of the right kind of help. The wrong kind of help is everywhere. It is up to us to choose our advisers and supporters. It is up to us to attend the helpers and guides sent to us by our Invisible Twin (If you are going to have an invisible friend, make her or him a really good one, I say). We are on our own in finding our way through the truth of how things are to the truth of how things also are. Everything is exactly as it seems and nothing is as it appears to be. (Your left brain can’t handle that, so you are going to have to learn to see and hear and understand with your right brain—but bring your left brain along for when you need what it has to offer.) In learning to discern the helpers who are helpful, you are creating for yourself a community of innocence who can receive you well and listen you to the truth of how things are and also are and what you need to do about it—without telling you what to do! There is no advising or criticizing or sympathizing (or proselytizing) in a community of innocence, just very deep listening with the right kind of questions and a good bit of the right kind of laughing. It’s a very safe place without answers, except for those you come up with on your own. Just what you need for the work that is yours to do! 07/28/2011
- Barn on Mormon Row, Grand Teton National Park, WY—The Hero’s Journey, Spiritual Quest, Search for the Promised Land and the Holy Grail, and the Work that Is Ours To Do (These are all the same thing) depend upon our learning the language of the invisible world, of our Invisible Twin, of the Psyche/Soul. This world speaks to us through our body, in our dreams, by way of coincidence and Synchronicity, and calls to us with white rabbits and strange notions. We have to be alert. The foundational rule of the Hero’s Journey, etc. is: Pay Attention! If we are going to be alive in the time left for living, we have to be awake. We have to look until we see. Listen until we hear. Ask questions that lead us to more questions. It’s by our questions that we are saved. If you don’t have any questions, you are walled in, closed off, sealed up, and may be dead—but there is hope for you if you are still reading this. Read on. We have to Pay Attention, Be Awake, Ask Questions and Take Chances all along the way. Start with your body. Listen to it. Let your physical sensations, headaches, shivers, sneezes, pain, etc., lead you to listening to what they have to say. A good guide for this kind of exercise is “The Power of Focusing,” by Ann Weiser Cornell. A tool for the journey. 07/29/2011
- Lewis River Valley, Yellowstone National Park, WY—The help we receive from the invisible world does not make things easy. It makes things possible, doable. It enables us to do what is hard. The Hero’s Journey (the Spiritual Quest—it’s all the same) isn’t about doing what is easy. It would be called the Slacker’s Stroll, then. The Hero’s Journey is about doing what is hard. The help we get along the way helps us do what is hard—not avoid it, dodge it, escape from it and hide. Doing what is hard grows us up (What the Hero’s Journey and the Spiritual Quest are all about). No one ever grew up doing what was easy. No one ever produced anything that has never been—which is exactly what the life that needs you to live it does—by doing what was easy. Easy is out of the picture. Hard is everywhere you look. But that isn’t a problem, because you have all the help you need to do it. You just have to wade into it. When the water reaches your upper lip, it will begin to part just enough to allow you to survive while you deal with what is hard. It isn’t all that bad, once you get used to it. Doing what’s hard is what you’ll do best before it’s over. And the world will be transformed by your work, and your life will be interesting and meaningful—which it would never have been if you had lolled poolside the whole time, ordering fruit smoothies. 07/30/2011
- Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park, WY—We grow up against our will—if we grow up at all. Growing up is another name for the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest. It is the only thing standing between us and life as enlightened, compassionate, healed and whole human beings. Don’t let the terms “healed” and “whole” fool you. We walk with a limp and carry the scars of those who have been through hell to be where we are. Jesus in the wilderness and Gethsemane and on Golgotha, you know. We find our equivalents in a thousand places. But. Don’t let that scare you. The alternative is much worse for everyone. The refusal to grow up is the source of all of our problems today, any day. We have to do our part for there to be any hope at all. Our part is waking up, facing up, squaring up to the conflict within over not wanting to do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. Our cross to bear is doing what needs to be done whether we want to or not. If the dog throws up on the carpet, you clean it up. You don’t wait to want to. Your life is like the dog throwing up on the carpet. Get the paper towels and the bowl of water and go to work. There is work to be done that only you can do. The real work is recognizing that and saying, “Okay. Let’s go.” The first step on the Hero’s Journey. 07/31/2011
- Buffalo Valley Road, approaching Grand Teton National Park, WY—You are the magic you seek. You want help with your life, direction, courage, stability… The list is long. You are the source of all that you need. All you have to do is trust it to be so and, this is the hard part, GET OUT OF THE WAY! The conflict is within. We are Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort but our situation is more difficult because in our case, neither must die. In our case, we have to work it out—not in a once-and-for-always kind of way, but in an ongoing, unending, constant and continuing kind of way. We do that by making the conflict conscious and bearing the pain of negotiation and compromise all the way. The key ingredient is good faith on the part of all parties. Rumi said, “If you are not here with us in good faith, you are doing terrible damage,” or words to that effect. We negotiate, not for what we want to happen but for what truly needs to happen. We seek the truth of how things are and how things need to be. We lay aside everything that interferes with the search for and service of truth—the truth of how things are and the truth of what needs to be done. We acquiesce and let it be. “Thy will, not mine, be done”—with the “Thy” being the Transcendent Reality beyond our personal good, gain, benefit, perspective and ideas of how things ought to be. It’s a trick to pull this off, but when we do, magic happens. 08/01/2011
- Schwabacher Landing, Grand Teton National Park, WY—When we reach the end of a rope, we always cast about, anxiously wondering, “What am I going to do?” This, believe it or not, is a very good place to be. At this moment, our lives crackle with possibilities and are as magical as they will ever be—because comes the answer to the question we don’t expect to be answered (the “what am I going to do” question): “Whatever you want, honey.” Sometimes this is phrased, “Whatever you say, honey,” and sometimes, “Whatever your little heart desires, honey.” “Honey” seems to be always there. In a pickle, we make the call. We do what seems to us to be the best of all our options and, here is the important part, we see where that leads. We are always being led. This is what we have to realize. We think we are here to settle down, to get cozy and comfortable and enjoy our life. No settling down. No getting things just right, propping our feet up, and smoking cigars. Life is movement. We live on the move, being led along, passed along from one thing to the next. So, in a pinch, we decide what’s next. Here’s the good news: We don’t have to know what we are doing. Everything leads somewhere. We do what seems like the best thing to do under the circumstances and that will lead to different circumstances, and we do what seems like the best thing to do there, and magic begins to happen. Things we could not predict or imagine carry us along to waypoints (not destinations) we would not have chosen, and it’s awesome, wonderful, magnificent, better than anything we could have ordered off the menu, and we couldn’t be more alive. Amen! May it be so! 08/03/2011
- Dugger’s Creek Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—It’s always safer and more comfortable to stay stuck. We may be depressed and empty, but we know what to expect. There is nothing unknown and anxiety-producing about our situation. The future is the past forever, and we don’t have anything to worry about that we aren’t well practiced in worrying about. No new worries is worth every sacrifice. So embrace those dull routines! Nail shut those doors! Repeat the mantra: Nothing New Or Out Of The Ordinary Ever And Ever Amen! Otherwise, the risk will be unbearable. Open the door to your future, step over the threshold and “Beyond This Point There Be Dragons,” or worse. Stay with the drudgery and the boredom. Do what is expected of you. Do not have a fresh idea. Do not flirt with the possibilities. Do not imagine a better world. Do not wonder what you could do if you tried. Do not dream of flying. And, above all, do not under any circumstances follow the white rabbit anywhere. Living to be alive in the time left for living will jeopardize the life you have worked so hard to order and arrange. What would all those plastic people, with their worn script of clichés and platitudes, do without you to play your part in their world? Go back to your duties. Find your place. Read your lines. Be safe. And if it begins to feel a little like being dead, well, that’s a small price to pay for the everlasting peace predictability provides. 08/03/2011
- Linville Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—What we see is a function of how we look, and where we look and what we look at. We have to be looking if we want to see—not looking for anything in particular, but looking at everything, open to what may be hiding there. There is more to everything than meets the eye. The entire world is an ink blot, concealing and revealing at the same time—reflecting our projections back to us, laughing at us, saying, “Can you see me now, Mr., Ms., Know It All?” When I tell people “Christ is a metaphor,” they hear me say, “Christ is JUST a metaphor,” as though metaphors aren’t real and that I’m taking something away from Christ by suggesting the image is a metaphor. Metaphors are more real than real. Metaphors are the heart of reality itself. Metaphors are divine. Holy. Sacred. But. We’ve lost the ability, the art, of seeing beyond the thing we are looking at to what else, to what all, is there. We go for explanations, eschew mystery, and our lives are too shallow to splash. We look but we do not see. To see, we’re going to have to change the way we look. See? 08/04/2011
- Fern on Black, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—We can be no more gracious and compassionate than we are mature. Grace and compassion are the hallmarks of maturity, indicators of our having what it takes to bear what must be borne and to deal with what comes our way. May it be so with all of us in time! 08/04/2011
- Summer Grass 01, black and white, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—How we do it makes all the difference. If you get the how down, the what will come around in time—and if it doesn’t it won’t matter. The teachers you remember you remember for how they were with you, not what they taught you. Give the people in your life a how they will never forget. 08/04/2011
- Summer Grass 02, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—If you play second base, you spend a lot of your time waiting for the ball to be hit or thrown to you. Most of your doing is waiting. Your life is like playing second base. You are waiting to offer what you have to give to the situation as it unfolds around you. It helps to be clear about what you can do and cannot do so that you don’t try to play all the bases, and the outfield, and pitch just to prove your value to the team. 08/04/2011
- Summer Grass 03, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—One of the things photography has taught me is that the moment does not last, or return. The moment is precious and fleeting. We cannot be flip or casual or think that one time is as good as another. The sunlight on the summer grass will not last long. Do not let the good leave unacknowledged, unwitnessed, unwelcomed. 08/04/2011
- Summer Grass 04, the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC—When we are “in the groove,” we meet the moment with exactly what the moment needs and live without effort toward ends all recognize as worthy. Then something shifts and we are back into pushing and pulling and resisting being pushed and pulled, and live with the memory of “the groove,” and the dream of its hoped-for return. 08/04/2011
- Hidden Falls, Grand Teton National Park, WY—No one can tell us what our work is. We find it for ourselves. It is a solitary quest made in the company of unlikely helpers and guides. Our life has a drift about it, a flow, toward some things, toward something, and away from others. I’ve never been interested in engine repair. Carl Jung said, “We are who we have always been, and who we will be.” The themes are there, the tune is familiar, a thread runs through it all. What are the recurring themes in your life, the abiding interests, the things you find yourself doing in each stage of life? You’ve been living the life that is yours to live all along. Live it consciously now, intentionally bringing it forth as fully as you’re able. Everything you need to know is in the moment with you. It only takes waking up to know that it is so. There are no secrets. All is in the open, waiting to be seen. What’s to be seen is a function of seeing, of how we see, of how we look, of what we are thinking when we look, see. What’s to be seen is a function of our degree of openness to what is to be seen, of our receptivity to what all is there. To see properly, we have to be able to play well, to dance well. Seeing is dancing, is playing, with life. Those who don’t laugh can’t see. 08/05/2011
- Peach Orchard, Springs Farm, Fort Mill, SC—May we be open to the presence of truth flowing through our lives, coming to us out of nowhere, when we least expect it, showing itself to us in the most unlikely places, beckoning to us from people who would never be type-cast as those where truth resides, undoing everything we have ever thought to be truth, saying, “These old wineskins can’t hold the new things I have fermenting for you!” May we risk everything in the service of truth that is nothing like anything we have ever heard, and live in the wonder of the surprising nature of truth as those who have nothing to lose, with the wind of the Spirit that blows where it will forever in our hair! Amen! May it be so! 08/06/2011
- Peach Orchard, Springs Farm, Fort Mill, SC—We think we have to get it right, but we have no idea what would be right, so we take ourselves out of the picture and follow the lead of those who sound like they know what they are talking about. We do what Those Who Presume To Know Best tell us to do. And miss the point. The point is not being right. The point is putting ourselves on the line. The point is saying and doing what WE think is right. The point is making OUR best guess about what is right and doing that and seeing where it leads. Seeing where it leads is the point. Don’t worry about getting it right. Do what you think is right and see how right you are. And see where it leads. If you are wrong, it will lead to being right next time or the time after that. Let them say about you as they say about me: “Anybody that guesses as much as Jim Dollar does is bound to be right some time!” We are practicing finding our own way, hearing our own voice, reading our own intuition, following our own instinct. So what if we are wrong? It’s practice! We’ll get better at it with time, and we’ll learn to trust ourselves along the way. 08/07/2011
- Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, near Brevard, NC—Taking the photos that have been taken 10,000 times is good camera practice. The scenes are worthy or they wouldn’t be popular. They draw us back because that intangible “something” is in the air there and they are good places to be with, or without, a camera. But. We cannot settle for them. We cannot think photography is nothing but them. They open our eyes to what else is to be seen. They sensitize us to the numinous all around, winking at those who have eyes to see. May it be said of us all that we did! 08/07/2011
- Flame Azaleas, Roan Mountain, Carter County, TN—There is here, where we are now, and there is there, where I was when I took this photo. Within the shifts and spins of our here there is the same kind of recurring “there” that exists on Roan Mountain every second week in every June that rolls around. Within upheaval and change there resides consistency and regularity—constancy amid chaos. There is something calming, centering and grounding about the return of flame azalea blossoms in June on Roan Mountain, like the swallows at Capistrano and the Buzzards at Hinckley Reservation (Who could make that up?). There makes here a better place in a number of ways. 08/07/2011
- Pisgah National Forest, McDowell County, near Little Switzerland, NC—The best we can do is rarely the best we can do. Generally, it’s the best we want to do, the best we feel like doing, the best we are in the mood to do. We get by with less than our best nearly always. We have to disappear for our best to come forth, to get out of the way, to stop interfering with our spontaneous response to the situation as it arises. Once we start thinking, willing, scheming, planning, strategizing, weighing our options and looking for the most advantageous route this situation to the destination of our choice, our best goes on the back burner or out the window. Our best comes forth when we live instinctively, intuitively, without an eye on what’s in it for us. Ah, but. How do we get ourselves out of the picture? That’s the best trick in the entire Book of Tricks. To live without ourselves in mind, beyond awareness of our good, our gain, our advantage, our interest, our desire… How do we get to the point of living in light of the good of the situation as a whole, in light of the good of the whole? Slowly, I would say, incrementally, over the long sweep of our lives, if we get there at all. 08/08/2011
- Skinny Dip Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—You look at the desert menu or you stand before a display of best sellers at the local bookstore. You are pulled toward some selections and pushed away from others. Think of your life as a desert menu or a list of best sellers. Some things have a positive charge, others have a negative charge and the rest don’t move you either way. Notice the charges, positive, negative, neutral, as you go through your day. See if you jam or override the signals, resisting, forcing, criticizing, interfering, insisting on what you are supposed to do, like, feel, think to the exclusion of your inclinations. Observe the extent to which you mess with your life. Live as a hidden observer of your own living. See where it goes. 08/08/2011
- The Path Around Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—If money were manna and we gathered just enough for our needs of the day, how much would it take? Of course, money is not manna and we don’t know how many days there will be, so we have to pile up as much money as we can imagine while we can against the time when none is coming in and all is going out. But. The question remains: How much does it take? Food, clothing, shelter, lights, water, gas, entertainment… It all adds up quickly. To how much? How much do we need to meet the demands of life in the world AND do the work that is ours to do? The research I’m familiar with suggests around $75,000 a year for a family of four. Teachers average around $35,000. Two teachers married with kids have to have a second job to make it. You see what the economy and culture are doing to us. The stress of not having enough money even though we are gainfully employed to meet the legitimate expenses of running a household robs us of our perspective and burdens our soul. The cumulative impact of not having enough money to meet all of the needs we are responsible for meeting weighs us down and keeps us from being alive. Something else to square up to. Another Cyclops in our path. How do we make more and spend less? How do we find the financial resources we need to do what is truly ours to do on the two levels of life (Food, clothing, shelter and soul)? The first task is to find the help we need to live the life that is ours to live. Do not stop looking! 08/09/2011
- Beaver Pond, Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC — We quit too easily, we stop too soon in the work to bring forth our gift, our genius, in the service of our destiny, the work that is ours to do. “It’s too hard!” we say. “We don’t have enough help! We can’t do it!” Heart is the easiest thing to lose. The questions that stop us, which we always us as an excuse to not do what is ours to do—So what? Who cares? What’s the point? What difference does it make? Why try?–have to be answered with questions that set them on their heels and send them running: So what if I can’t say so what? Who cares if no one but me cares? What’s the point of having a point? What difference does it make if nothing makes a difference? Why not try? Then we pick ourselves up and turn back to the task of finding what we need to do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises, offering our gift for the good of the whole, anyway, nevertheless, even so! 08/09/2011
- Mud Cracks at the Mud Volcano, Yellowstone National Park, WY—Things are not what they appear to be. The work is getting past appearances to the heart of the matter. What we see are reflections of projections of how things are with us that we cannot admit to ourselves. The old saw applies: We hate in others what we cannot see in ourselves. It also works like this: We love in others what we cannot see in ourselves. Attraction and repulsion are indicators of projection in action. Something in here is projected out there and reflected back to us with an emotional charge, positive or negative, that stirs our emotions and gets our attention. Anything with a charge to it requires a closer look. Where are we hiding in the object of our affection/aversion? Let’s say you fall in love. We are always falling in love it seems. Falling in love is what we do best. When we fall in love it is not about the honey or the hunk we fall in love with. It is about us, ourselves. What do we see in the other that is hidden, lying latent, in ourselves? What are the qualities we admire in the other beyond her or his physical charms? Those are the qualities that are missing from our repertoire and are the very ones we have to work to bring forth in ourselves. We have to become like the other is in these ways. The same strategy works with repulsion. Those are the qualities that are hidden in us, that everyone knows is there but us, and it is up to us to become conscious of the ways they are seeping through to taint our relationships. The world is an inkblot. In seeing it, we see ourselves. Then the work begins. 08/10/2011
- Dugger’s Creek Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—We live too loudly to listen. Listening requires being quiet. Finding the center, the space with enough distance from what is happening to consider what is happening in order to hear what is to be heard and filter through the range of available responses to find one most appropriate to the situation as it arises. Those of you old enough to remember the TV show The Honeymooners know the non-stop loudness of the dialogues between Ralph and Alice that kept things in a rolling boil and ruled out any possibility of kindness, compassion, understanding and wisdom coming to the fore. Our lives are like their dialogue. It is our responsibility to slow down the pace, to turn down the volume, to create the space necessary for the reflection and perspective that are required to make appropriate response to what is going on in our lives. We have to sift things out. We have to think things through. Our life is not a ping pong game. It takes consideration and inquiry, exploration and examination, to get to the bottom of things, see what’s what, and develop a healthy and insightful sense of what is happening and what would be a helpful response. Living lives that are loud and fast is no way to find the way with our name on it and the life that is truly our life to live. You control the speed and the volume. Ease off on the accelerator and turn things down. 08/11/2011
- Blacktail Ponds, Grand Teton National Park, WY—There is no correlation between how things are and how we want things to be. We can imagine a better world than we can live in. This is good in that it propels us beyond the world wolves or ostriches are capable of creating but. It’s bad in that we have a very difficult squaring ourselves with the world as it is because we wish it were different in 10,000 ways. This how things are. Good is bad and bad is good. Wolves and ostriches don’t have to work things like this out, and most of us refuse to but. It’s ours to do, to square up with how things are, like it or not. To make our peace with it and go on with our lives as well as we are able toward ends worthy of us. Values have nothing to do with what we like or don’t like or how we wish things were or how we want things to be. Good faith, for instance, requires us to live in good faith whether we feel like it or not, want to or not, are in the mood for it or not. So does compassion, and kindness, and generosity, and civility, and every last one of the rest of them. Values require us to live in certain ways no matter what—something else wolves and ostriches don’t have to worry about but. Living aligned with the high values make true human beings of us all and that redeems how things are no matter how they are. Put a true human being in the fat smack middle if the worst situation in the book of terrible situations and that situation is immediately improved. A true human being doesn’t bail, or quit, but lives forever aligned with values worthy of her, of him, to the true good of all, no matter what. 08/12/2011
- Little Switzerland Tunnel, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—The things we hate about our lives are the things that bring us forth, bring us out, unfold us and require us to be who we are—against our will, in spite of ourselves. We rise to the occasion—to the occasion we despise—and do what needs to be done, and are deepened, expanded, enlarged in the process. We are better people for the things we have had to accommodate, adjust to, fold into our lives. So. The next time you find yourself resenting this, deploring that, look closer for the qualities this or that brings out in you, requires you to exhibit, express, in response—and how those qualities are your deep strength, existing as a blessing and a grace upon all who come your way, making the world a better place for your being in the world, wishing you were disappeared from this world and plopped into another, better, world, where you didn’t have to do anything you didn’t like to do. 08/13/2011
- Path to Cone Manor, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—We find the way by wandering around, looking closer at the things that catch our eye, noting when we are on the beam and when we are off of it, letting what has life for us draw us from one thing to the next, until the realization dawns that this approach doesn’t lead to the way, but is the way, and has always been the way. 08/13/2011
- Flow of Fog, Sunrise at Thunder Hill Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—When we live tight, fearful, grasping, forcing lives we miss the things that must be seen with a relaxed, open, presence—and we wonder where this “beam” is, this “path” is, we are supposed to be finding. Frantic to find what must be found, we are like the woman wearing her glasses looking for her glasses.
- Country Road, Blue Ridge Parkway near Fancy Gap, VA—We think religion, enlightenment is the way to better, smoother, easier lives. How easy did Jesus have it? Or the disciples? Religion, enlightenment doesn’t do anything for us in terms of lightening our load. Religion, enlightenment, helps us carry our load. It does not make our life easy. It helps us do what is hard. If it doesn’t, it isn’t real religion, enlightenment. Ask anyone who knows. They will tell you real religion, real enlightenment, helps you live your life the way it needs to be lived. It doesn’t give you some easy, soft life that anybody could live, that nobody would need religion or enlightenment to live. Your life needs you to live it the way only you can live it. It doesn’t need you bailing out of it in favor of some life anybody could live, blindfolded. 08/14/2011
- Two Apples, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—We are here to live our life, the life that only we can live, the life that needs us to live it. The problem is that we want to live a different life. How do we want what we ought to want and not what we want? This is the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, the Search for the Holy Grail and the Promised Land. And, it is the task of maturity—what growing up is all about. Get this one down, and you have it made, as much as you can have it made, being saddled as you are with what you ought to want and not what you really, truly, naturally want with all your heart. But that’s it. Your life is never any more difficult than coming to terms with what you don’t want. This doesn’t mean that what you have (which you don’t want) is what you ought to want. We can have some terrible things to deal with that nobody would ever ought to want. It does mean, however, that what we ought to want is tied up somehow in this unwanted situation. Like, for instance, we ought to want to get ourselves up and into dealing with the damn thing we don’t want to deal with, instead of running, hiding, denying, pretending, making believe in a Delta Dawn Kind Of Way that we can have the live we want if we can only find the magical recipe, formula, secret to immunity against all that is unwanted. We have to wade into the Unwanted and do what we can with it. This is the Hero’s Task, the Spiritual Journey, Growing Up: Living our life in the midst of the unordered, unasked for, unwanted stuff that comes our way. May we all have what it takes to do what is ours to do every day all our life long! 08/15/2011
- Electric Peak, Gallatin Range, Yellowstone National Park, WY—The way things are includes our emotional reaction to the way things are. We take it ALL in and decide what can be done about it, and do it, and let things play out as they will, which creates a different configuration of how things are, all of which we take in and decide what can be done about it, and do it… In this ongoing dance with life, how well we do our part makes all the difference. 08/15/2011
- Leaving Roosevelt Lodge (on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs), Yellowstone National Park, WY—I would love to have someone tell me what to do and be right about it, wouldn’t you? To lift the responsibility for decision and outcome from my shoulders so that I would know I had done the right thing, the thing that truly needed to be done, the thing that was without doubt the thing to do? That would be great. And, there are those who rush to fill the bill. Who believe they know what’s best for all of us. And, because they are convinced, they are quite convincing, and we would love to be relieved of the burden of knowing which orange juice to choose, for example. So we lean toward handing ourselves over. There’s a test I propose these people pass before we trust them with our lives. Have them choose your dessert for you. Have them make your coffee. That should tell you something about how much they know what they are doing. If they cannot be trusted in small things, they most certainly cannot be trusted in large ones. Like it or not, our lives rest squarely upon our shoulders. And if the cumulative weight of decision making wears us down, we have to find the things and places that restore our soul and allow ourselves to enjoy them often. What are they for you? How long since you availed yourself of them? How regularly can you work them into your life? You have to be the help you need. The care and tending of your own soul is the chief responsibility on that long list of responsibilities. Soothing your soul lightens your load. This is the best advice you’ll get the entire rest of the day. 08/15/2011
- Price Lake Morning, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC—Soothing our soul is a gentle art seldom practiced and in great need of being revived. Addiction is the fast tract to distraction, diversion, denial—which hides us for a while from the press and stress of life, but does nothing to help us live amid the maddening swirl as a calming influence, a blessing and a grace. We can only live that way in the service of soul—tending to the needs of soul and the affairs of soul in an environment that is a soulless wasteland. Our first order of business is becoming an advocate, a champion, of soul. Where in our lives are the places soul loves? How often do we go there? How long do we stay? What are the grounding, centering practices that we pursue? When are we most attuned to soul? How conscious are we of the presence of soul—the drift of soul—the preference of soul—throughout our day? In what ways do you honor, revere, love soul with the way you live your life? What are you thinking? That you can live any old way at all AND enjoy the company of a healthy, vibrant soul? 08/16/2011
- Thunderstorm at Sunset Panorama #2, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC—Carl Jung said, “We are who we have always been, and who we will be.” We aren’t working to become who we are not, but who we are. Joseph Campbell said that the wasteland is where everyone is being someone else’s idea of who they are supposed to be and no one is living her, or his, own authentic life. The search for the Holy Grail and the Promised Land—the Hero’s Journey and the Spiritual Quest—is the search for our own voice, our own life, so that we do our own thinking and feeling and deciding and doing and believing—and the life we live is not what we are told to live but what comes forth from our own heart and soul. The Path is the path of True Human Beinghood. Human beings who are true to themselves is as true as it gets. 08/16/2011