- Alone, Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC — July 13, 2012 — 22 If we followed the Dali Lama around all day, we would be dead of boredom by breakfast. That’s because he arises for meditation at 4 AM and it doesn’t pick up from there. Compare his life with our idea of how life ought to be. We go for excitement, thrills, parties, fun, drama, entertainment, distraction, diversion. The Dali Lama has a different idea of how life ought to be. Do you think his life is ever going to fit us? That we can ever possibly come close to fitting into his? We’re talking apples and doorknobs here. We think, some of us do anyway, that the Dali Lama is IT for wisdom and enlightenment, but we could never step out of our life into one that was even a close approximation of his. We cannot be who he is. We are separated by the chiasm between cultures. Cultural differences are extreme and cannot be dismissed. We can’t be wigging out and wringing our hands because we cannot be who the Dali Lama is. We cannot be who the Dali Lima is! We have to be enlightened and wise in our own way. The Dali Lama has to be enlightened and wise in his way. He has his work to do and we have our work to do—and it is not the same work. The Dali Lama could not live our life. His life would not fit into our world. Most of us could not survive in his world. We have to recognize the differences and let them stand—and work to live as enlightened beings in our world as well as we are able, and let that be that. 07/14/2012
- Black Eyed Bee, Blowing Rock, NC — July 6, 2012 — There is no Plan for our life. There is only the drift of the current of our life in each situation, a current that changes its direction and flow in response to what is happening then, there, calling us to trust ourselves to it and see where it goes. May we be so bold! Doing it this way in one situation and that way in the next, without pausing to explain, defend, justify or excuse our actions—living the contradictions and letting our light shine! 07/14/2012
- Linville Falls 06, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC — July 13, 2012 — 21 We drift through our life like an unmoored boat on the sea. I don’t care how specific your career goals and your life plan are, you are adrift in the current of your life. When you are blind-sided and spun around a few times and whacked a good one and knocked off track and given a big juicy wet one right on the kisser by life at its worst and meanest, it’s just the current showing you its stuff, offering you the opportunity to wake up and trust yourself to it instead of fighting it until you’re exhausted and sink in a whirlpool of despair and despondency. These are great water metaphors. Don’t miss the connections that exist among water, life, and the unconscious. It’s all one thing. We are afloat on the sea of unconsciousness in our little boat of conscious awareness, looking for meaning and purpose and life, all the time surrounded by it, wondering where it is and how to find it, struggling to direct our boat to what we think may be it, when all we need to do is trust ourselves to it and allow the current of our life to carry us to life, into being alive to the experience of life with its spins and whacks and smooches opening our eyes even more, even more, to what all there is beyond words, beyond imagining, “This too! This too!” that is calling forth who we are—who we also are—in the encounter with each moment, with each situation as it arises, birthing us again, laughing, shouting, “Come on in! The water’s fine!” 07/15/2012
- Manor Porch Panorama BW, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — July 13, 2012 — 20 We live with demands, not preferences—requirements, not inclinations. THIS! Not THAT! Or THAT! Not THIS! HERE! Not THERE! Or THERE! Not HERE! NOW! Not THEN! Or THEN! Not NOW! We think with a magic stick we would have it made. Conjuring up this, disappearing that. Or conjuring up that, disappearing this. We think we know what it takes, we just have to figure out how to get it. Well. Is it better to succeed or to fail? To be lost or to be found? To be out of work of gainfully employed? To be healthy or to be ill? To have needs or to have nothing we need? It has taken every step to be where we are. Which steps would we not take in the future? Avoiding what would be losing what? Gaining what would be losing what? Every asset has its liabilities. Every liability has its assets. We shout NO! too loudly and fail to receive the gift concealed in the delivery. We shout YES! too loudly and are blindsided by the “What were you thinking?” tucked away in the package. I’m recommending here preferences and inclinations, not demands and requirements. Trust your life. Work with it. See what you can make of it. See what it can make of you. Left to our own devices, we would never volunteer for the experiences that deepen, expand, enlarge us—that grow us up—that wise us up—that make us soft and compassionate, gracious and beautiful—against our will, perhaps, but with our best interest needing only our cooperation to redeem the challenge and bless the world. 07/16/2012
- Magnolia 04, Greensboro, NC — June 2012 — 1 Our calling is not our call to make. Captain Jack Sparrow in “On Stranger Tides” said, “I have no say in it Gibbs—it’s the pirate’s life for me. Savvy?” What do you have no say in? Horses? Some of us have no say in horses. Cameras? Some of us have no say in cameras. I know a woman who knew she was going to be a teacher in the third grade. It’s not that clear for all of us, but. We all know what we love. What we cannot live without. Where we come to life and are alive. It is up to us to do what we love often, to nurture, nourish, our connection with what has heart for us. That is where our heart comes to life with the life that is life and guides us in the way of life—and we have to listen to what that is, to feel our way to the way of heart and life. We have to cherish and serve what is life for us. For our trouble, we get life in return, life not in the 98.6 and breathing sense, but life in the what life is all about sense. Being alive life. The camera restores me to life. Who can make sense of that? Why try? Just do what restores you to life. And see where it goes. This is the path to adventure and life. You’re wrong if you don’t walk it. Savvy? 07/15/2012
- Dugger’s Creek Falls 02, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville Falls, NC — July 13, 2012 — 19 Where are you most yourself? Who you are? At-one with you? Free to do what you feel needs to be done when and how you feel it needs to be done? Where is it just you and the moment you are living, with you reading the circumstances and choosing your response to them without advise and direction from Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased? Kayaking in white water can be that kind of place, where it’s just you and the kayak and the rocks and the rapids and you have to do what needs to be done the way it needs to be done at the time it needs to be done and nobody is shouting instructions about what and when and how. Where do you shoot the rapids in your life? Just you and the kayak? If you don’t have many places like that, my hunch is that you’re dying to get together with “just you,” and see what happens, see where it goes. We die with too many directors, too many over-seers, too many people who must be pleased. If I were a therapist dealing with mood disorders, my first question would be, “How many people do you have to please in a day?” My second question would be, “How much time do you have with ‘just you’ in a day?” We have to have something like a kayak and white water in our life where our responsibilities, duties and obligations to the larger world are peeled away, and it is just us and the moment we are living, and it’s up to us to live it as we determine it needs to be lived. So, my third question would be, “What are you going to do to reduce the amount of people in the first question and increase the amount of time in the second question?” That would be the end of the session. Your life would be in your hands. 09/17/2012
- Blue Ridges, Blue Ridge Parkway, Thunder Hill Overlook, NC — July 13, 2012 — 18 We can see our life as an adventure, or as a trial, or as punishment. I vote for adventure. Once we say, “Adventure!”, we make it that by allowing ourselves to be charmed by the life that is our LIFE to live—we have to allow it to catch our eye and follow where it leads. We cannot be off limits to our life and have a chance. We have to believe that we have a LIFE, even yet, even now, and offer ourselves to it, swear to it our loyalty and allegiance, til’ death do us part, as in a heavenly marriage, and then align our life with its service. This is the adventure, making that work. Look at you. You have kids, a house note and a lawn to mow AND you have a LIFE to live amid all your duties and obligations. Work it out! This is hero stuff. Indiana Jones didn’t have a better script. We have to engage our life as full participants in the work of birthing ourselves in our life, in bringing forth our LIFE in our life. And we have to bear—endure—the pain of the birthing, the coming forth. This little shift in perspective, seeing you and your life and your LIFE and embracing the challenge of the adventure of merging it all together in one grand crescendo of being in the time left for living, will transform your world—will transform THE world. Go to it! You don’t know how much time that is—you have none to waste, thinking about it! 07/17/2012
- Turk’s Cap Lily on Black, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville Falls, NC — July 13, 2012 — 17 There is no hurry and there is no time to lose. We have all the time it takes and time is running out. If we go too fast, we will miss something for sure and if we don’t get there quickly it will be gone before we arrive. When to speed up? When to slow down? Master that and you have it made! This is the nature of the spiritual quest, the Hero’s Journey. It’s a judgment call all the way. It is the judgment that is the heart of the matter. Listening to ourselves. Deciding for ourselves. Making up our own mind about all of the important things, like when to speed up and when to slow down. No one can tell us what to do and everything hangs in the balance and it’s all up to us. Our life is in our hands. I’ll tell you how it works with me and photography. I’m always having to live to redeem what I screwed up in the past. Today is tomorrow’s past. I’ll live the day after tomorrow redeeming what I missed today. You miss a lot on the spiritual quest. You say, “Damn!” a lot on the Hero’s Journey. Can’t be helped. You don’t get good judgment in a bottle, or a book. Your only hope is to get better at it as you go along. That means taking the plunge today and living to redeem it in some tomorrow. The Linville Falls picture that I posted several days ago is redemption for the one I missed two years ago. The difference wouldn’t likely mean anything to any of you, but it was a burden to me, and I lived to redeem it. So, take your best shot is what I’m saying, and take it knowing that you can live to redeem it if it needs to be redeemed. You’re learning to see here, and hear, and understand, one step at a time—and there is no time to waste, so start making those judgment calls right now and let time make them better. 07/18/2012
- Roan Mountain View, Roan Mountain Highlands, Cherokee National Forest, Carver’s Gap, TN — June 16, 2012 — 16 We could avoid a lot of suffering simply by enduring legitimate pain. Pain that is not endured is passed along to others and comes back to us as suffering. We cannot grow up without enduring the pain that comes with waking up to the truth of how things are, squaring ourselves up with that truth, and doing what we can with it, about it. We are terrified of what may be asked of us, of what may happen to us, of not having what it takes, of coming up short, of being a failure, a disappointment, a laughter and a blight on our ancestors’ record. And the way that is The Way asks us to step out on our own, follow our strongest sense of what needs to be done, endure what must be endured and take our lumps as people on a mission, with a LIFE to live, allowing nothing to stop us or even slow us down. That’s what I call a life plan. 07/18/2012
- Cornfield Sunrise 04, Dinkins Bottom in Yadkin County, NC — July 06, 2012 — 15 We don’t want to wait for what is ours to do, for the gifts that are ours to give, for who we are to be revealed to us. We don’t want to wait for our life to show us what it needs from us. We can’t stand the suspense and want to know NOW what we are about so we can get on with it, KNOWING what we are doing and not have to wonder if this is it, if that is it! The pressure of waiting, uncertain, on edge, anxious, afraid—what if we miss it—is too much! We will do anything, believe anybody who sounds convincing, do what anyone who seems to know what they are talking about tells us to do—just to be rid of the uncertainty, just to be done with the waiting! Wait. Think of waiting as yeast working in the dough. Does the dough get impatient? Wondering what is going to become of it, thinking maybe nothing, that time is running out, and maybe it better settle for being flat bread and be done with it? Think of waiting as wine fermenting. Can it not stand, there in the dark, not knowing if it is Cabernet or Chardonnay, Merlot or Zinfandel? Waiting is a test of our mettle. If we can’t pass the waiting test, we have no chance when the Cyclops grabs us by the neck. Wait. Watch. For what? A white rabbit. Some slight movement of soul. A hint of interest or fascination floating through the air. For something to catch your eye, which you might miss or dismiss, looking, as you are, for the fireworks and flashing lights announcing The Way for all to see and applaud, ooou and ahhh about, be jealous of. 07/20/2012
- Summer Green, Blue Ridge Parkway near Doughton Park, NC — June 29, 2012 — 14 Things are going to work out according to their own drift and timing. Wait. Watch. Assist what needs to be assisted in each situation as it arises—but do not get in the way! Let nature take its course and see where it goes. This doesn’t mean don’t water the garden, or the lawn, during a dry spell. “Letting nature take its course” means trusting yourself to the situation as it unfolds without interference, without trying to artificially force outcomes or force your will in the matter, but always ready to assist nature (as in watering the garden) with what needs to happen. This puts you in the position of determining what needs to happen—and you have a stake in the outcome, you have interests which you think need to be served. How do you separate yourself from the situation? It’s an issue with parents and children, determining what is helpful and what is intrusive. There are no rules here. We have to be sensitive to our tendency, one might say our “natural” tendency, to exploit the situation to our advantage, and to the need of the situation to flow “naturally” toward an outcome that is favorable to the situation. Our interests are not the only interests. When do we “stand our ground” and when do we stand aside? We decide, but we must decide. We cannot always do one or the other. What is called for here and now? That is our question to answer in each situation that unfolds before us all our life long. 07/20/2012
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Around the Bend, Blue Ridge Parkway near Mt. Jefferson, NC — June 21, 2012 — 2 Jesus said, “Everyone has ears to hear. Why don’t they hear?” He said, “You people hear what you want to hear! You see what you want to see! You believe what you want to be true! You adore plastic and think money will make your life easier! Easy? Ha! I’ll talk to you about easy! Pick up your cross and follow me! How’s that for easy? There is nothing easy about doing what needs to be done, but it is life. The mother who changes her baby’s diaper when it needs to be changed, the way it needs to be changed, even in the middle of the night when she is dead tired and needs to sleep—who knows when to step aside from her needs in order to do what needs her—does not have it easy, but she is alive to the moment of her living and life comes to life through her way with life. Those of you who talk about The Way, The Way, are standing in the way of The Way! Get out of the way and there is The Way! There is nothing wrong with any of you that growing up won’t fix. You want to have life delivered to you made to order, as you like it, the way you want it to be—and your life needs you to be its host, treating it as an honored guest, going where it wants you to go, doing what it wants you to do, never mind your preferences for sleeping late and having someone else do your chores. You have to work out the contradictions, the discordances, the discrepancies between what you want from your life and what your life wants from you. That work is called growing up. It’s the only thing that stands between you and The Way.” — or words to that effect. 07/21/2012
- Queen Anne’s Lace 02, Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC — July 13, 2012 — 13 We think our value is linked directly to our achievements, accomplishments, acquisitions and success (which is always understood in terms of achievements, accomplishments and acquisitions), and are in a panic-driven rush to “make our mark.” The rest of the natural world spends its time waiting to see what needs to be done and then waiting for the right time to do it. Nature doesn’t get in a hurry and it doesn’t delay when the time to act comes up. Nature doesn’t try to force its way. No pushing and shoving. It bides its time until resistance becomes futile and the river bursts through the log jam, or the daffodil pushes through the asphalt. And nature doesn’t do it exactly the same way twice. You think spring is spring and fall is fall until you look closer. Dogwoods were a mess this spring. They were great last spring. Five years ago, the False Hellebore were superb in one location, now they are better just down the road. Don’t get locked into doing the same things in the same ways. Dance with the circumstances. See what is called for, when and how, and assist its coming forth as a partner in the process of being alive. Watch, wait, do what is needed when the time is right. Your life will be a work of art. A new definition of success! 07/22/2012
- Boone Fork, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — July 13, 2012 — 3 Our place is to put money in its place. The revolution is putting money in its place—granting it no more value in our life than it deserves. The culture makes money the highest value. “Wealth and privilege, kid, wealth and privilege.” We put everything into making more money, but what do we do with it? Fritter it away on entertaining pastimes and talking to our buds about how much money we have or what entertaining pastimes we would spend it on if we did have it. Money is good for only one thing: Paying bills. We have to incur the right bills. Bills fall into three categories: Maintaining and enhancing life—food, clothing and shelter kinds of things. Distracting and entertaining ourselves with things that promise life but do not, because they cannot, deliver. Bringing ourselves to life by serving that which is LIFE for us. LIFE is more than being 98.6 and breathing. You know where you come to life and you know where you are mostly dead and dying. The things that promise life to us but cannot deliver actually drain us of life, rob us of life, exhaust and deplete us. We need to be incurring the bills that restore and refresh, enliven, vitalize and energize us on the deepest level of soul/heart/being. So, look at your budget. How much of your money goes to soul/heart/being restoration and recovery? Spiritual growth requires us to put money in its place—using it in the service of that which is life itself. 07/22/2012
- Dugger’s Creek Falls 03, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville Falls, NC — July 13, 2012 — 4 It hangs by a thread and turns on a dime and we need each other—the right kind of others to have a chance, and that’s where it all goes to hell. Why are the right kind of others so hard to find? The person you married didn’t show any signs of alcohol abuse or cocaine addiction or abject worthlessness on your wedding day. How were you to know? Predators rarely come off as predators. People who take advantage of you, who exploit you, who violate your boundaries and kill your soul are the nicest people, or can appear to be. It’s hard enough when everything is what it seems, and how often is that the case, for how long? Which leaves us exactly where with exactly what to count on? Is it any wonder that we are hollow-eyed and haggard? We need a friend—friends—who are the right kind of friends, who know how to be a friend—the relational equivalent of a safe place, a panic room, in which to gather ourselves, ground ourselves, orient ourselves, stabilize and recover. And we are easy marks for those who say, “I’ll be your friend.” Finding the right kind of others becomes another life task that we have to work out for ourselves in order to do the work that is ours to do. The work is enhanced by taking up the practice of being the right kind of other, offering what is needed and being a source of compassion and grace in the lives the people we know. Providing what we need increases our chances of finding it. And, if it doesn’t, we’ve made someone’s world a better place by the way we carried ourselves in it. If you have to settle for something, settle for that! 07/23/2012
- Goshen Creek, Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC — July 2012 — 5 You have to believe in your LIFE—in the LIFE that transcends your life, that is bigger than you are, that is more than anything you are capable of imagining, that needs you to live it. And you have to trust yourself to it, step into it and say, “Okay, let’s go!” And see where it takes you. This is called the leap of faith. Nothing can happen until you take the risk and make the jump—with everything on the line and nothing held back. It isn’t like you have something to lose here. You only have something to lose by not jumping straight out into nothingness, trusting your wings to work. 07/23/2012
- Boundary, Blue Ridge Parkway, Doughton Park, NC — June 2012 — 6 We bring forth who we are to meet the day, or not. Generally, we are more concerned with playing our cards right to get what we want—or avoid what we don’t want—than getting out of the way and allowing the qualities that are best suited for the situation unfolding before us to come forth as blessing and grace. As we walk through our day, we don’t encounter much in the way of blessing and grace—and we don’t think about standing aside so they might emerge in our own life. “Stand Your Ground” is more important to us than standing aside. Certainly more important than standing down. Standing down is for wimps and wienies. Never mind that Jesus said, “Put down your swords!” We say everybody should have a gun and use it, with a high capacity magazine attached! Show them they can’t push us around! And even if we don’t carry a gun or have one, we have an attitude and carry it: “Everybody Back Off! Here We Come!” With nothing in the way of blessing and grace to offer, extend and leave behind. 07/24/2012
- Black Birch, Blue Ridge Parkway, Rocky Knob, VA — 7 We have to make peace with our helplessness and vulnerability. We cannot think/believe that we are, or ought to be, able to defend, protect, out-think, out-maneuver, ward off or out-run the things that could be the end of us, from a gun totting idiot over the edge to a rouge meteor on the prowl to a happy little cancer looking for a home in our body. A lot of things could go wrong. There is no immunity. Life is a fragile affair. Makes it all the more precious, don’t you see? Instead of spending our time cowering in some corner, afraid of all the possibilities, we have to gratefully receive the moment, this moment, of our living because of all the moments that have been or will be, how many have had, or will have, US in them so what do we mean wasting any of them, throwing any of them away, refusing to do right by even one of them because we are afraid of the end of them? LIVE NOW! is the lesson. What are you waiting for? Take your fear and helplessness by the hand and lead them gently into life, rejoicing in what joy you can find, celebrating what is to be celebrated, relishing what is to be relished, and living with all the vitality and enthusiasm your life deserves for as long as life is possible. Please don’t wish you had listened to me. 07/24/2012
- Zen Moon, Price Lake, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — April, 2009 — 8 Live like it matters! That’s my best advice. Live like your presence in the world has an impact on the world, carries weight, leaves a wake—because it does. The quality of your presence in the lives of others is something you can do something about—and has the potential of meaning more than anything else you can do. James Joyce said beauty consists of three qualities: Integration or wholeness, harmony, and radiance. Put yourself on the table and walk around the table. Become transparent to yourself so that you see, become aware of, all that you are and also are and are capable of being/becoming. Be aware of all that is Not You but people expect you to be, or you require it of yourself to be who you think you have to be to be a success, or to have friends and be liked. Separate who you are from who you are not and consider just the I, the No Longer I, the Also I, and the Not Yet I. See how these elements all relate to you, all contribute to your life in the world. Hold them together in the oneness that is you. You just integrated the whole. Keep it before you. Do not allow its disintegration. Hold you together, with all your disparate parts contributing to the truth and beauty of you. And live with harmony. Harmony is bringing forth each aspect of you as it is appropriate in the situation as it unfolds. You are an entire orchestra. All the sections contribute to the life, the composition, you produce. Let them come forth in their time in a beautiful expression of the harmony of being dancing with time and place. Radiance is your own personal wonder, awe, delight, amazement, pleasure and joy at the production of you in your life, in the world. You can’t give enough of you in the right way to the world, and you love the experience of the expression of you in the here and now of your living. Wholeness, Harmony, Radiance makes for Beauty. You grace the world with the blessing of your presence every moment of every day. Work to become the work of art you are in the time left for living. Not to exploit it, but to give it away—the gift of your life to the world. Beautiful presence, beautiful life. You. 07/25/2012
- Sun on Black, Blue Ridge Parkway — September 2008 — 9 Don’t sell out! One of the myriad manifestations of the Cyclops is the Well-Paying Job That Eats Our Life Alive. How much for “them” (the signers of your paycheck) how much for you is always the question. How much time for them, how much for you? How much of your life for them, how much for you? No formula applies. It’s a judgment call—like all the important calls of life. Hold something back is my best recommendation. Don’t sell your soul. Easier said than done. Make your soul real—my soul comes in the form of a third grade girl with eyes of hope and confidence, believing in me to deliver the goods and give her what she needs to live the life that is hers to live. It’s a long story, but the child is real for me and is Psyche, the carrier of my soul. I don’t put Psyche off. I don’t tell Psyche, one day, later, I’ll get back to you, right now “I have married a wife, I have bought me a plow, I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum, please hold me excused, I cannot come,” but one day, “I don’t know when, but we’ll have a good time then.” Make your soul real and stand between your soul and your commitments, obligations, duties and requirements in the world of apparent reality, and choose in each moment whom you will serve. Keep a running count of the moments, and make sure your soul gets its fair share. It is the fundamental, foundational, agreement of a life well lived. 07/25/2012
- The Pond, Robeson County, NC — November 2008 — 10 Silence is crucial. How often do you go there? How long can you stay there? What do you do there? Awareness is crucial. How extensive is your field of awareness? Outward and inward, around you and within you? What blocks your awareness? What shuts it off? What shuts you down? Awareness is fueled by interest and curiosity and inquiry. You develop it with practice. Practice wondering about things, poking around in things—internal and external things—so that all of life becomes transparent to us and we become transparent to ourselves, seeing things as they are and what to do in response throughout our life. So, see what’s what and what it leads to. Presence is crucial. “Be here, now,” you know. How present can you be in each moment of your life? You can’t be aware without being present, but you can be aware of not being present, and bring yourself back to here, now. I mentioned inquiry. Question everything. See how many questions you can ask in a day, to yourself if no one else is interested or available. Answers are only good for more questions. Questions carry you into awareness, into presence, into silence. Don’t go anywhere without your questions. They will serve you well even if, especially if, they create a little trouble along the way. 7/26/2012
- Hydrangea Variations 09, Greensboro, NC — June 2012 — 11 One of the Buddha’s foundational principles was mutual interdependence. We need each other. We all face the same problem: Bringing ourselves forth within the context and circumstances of our life. This is the Hero’s Journey. We need each other to have a chance. How much help have you received in your life—the right kind of help offered in the right kind of way? And how much resistance, hindrance, opposition, obstruction? It’s hard enough with everything going our way. People ought to be doing their thing in a way that doesn’t interfere with other people doing their thing, but helps, assists, enables all things, everybody’s things. It’s starts with us, committing to living our own life and helping (the right kind of help in the right kind of way) everyone else live their own life, urging mutual support and encouragement all the way around. 07/26/2012
- Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta — September 2008 — 12 Let come what’s coming and let go what’s going. If you are going to practice anything, practice that. Practice standing still, letting come, letting go, without running to something, or away from something, or after something. This doesn’t mean you don’t have preferences or don’t do what you can to maintain life like you like it. It means when your circumstances take a turn, you take the turn, too. This is not easy in a culture whose root beliefs are contrary to the way things are. From the culture’s standpoint, if something is wrong in our life it’s because something is wrong with us. We aren’t doing something right if something is wrong. We can control our circumstances by dancing the right dance. Listen. To. Me. There is much that is beyond our control. If we are going to have a chance in the heaving waves of the wine dark sea, we are going to have to find the source of stability and calm within ourselves. We cannot be micromanaging our circumstances 24/7/12 in the effort to guarantee nothing goes wrong. Peace is a perspective, not a political achievement. James Joyce talked about “proper art” being that which stops us—“esthetic arrest,” he called it—in the experience and contemplation and enjoyment of beauty. “Improper art” sends us running to the thing or from it, in desire or fear. We are all artists. Our life is our art. We have to learn our craft. We have to learn the difference between “proper” and “improper” art. In the calm created by letting come what’s coming and letting go what’s going, we perceive the beauty and wonder of it all, all the coming and going, and are “arrested”—staggered, really—by the experience of being alive to witness the wonder of life, and, from that point, look at all things anew, barely breathing, continually amazed, lost in the art, making art, alive, in awe of the whole idea—in awe of the whole. 07/27/2012
- 26 Multnomah Falls, OR—September 2009 — The things that would be most helpful are the things no one can help us with. Growing up would be helpful across the board, in all situations and circumstances. Wising up would be helpful. Waking up to how things are (and also are). Squaring up to the discordance between how things are and how we want them to be. Standing up and doing what needs to be done about it. If we could give the world those five things, we wouldn’t recognize the place tomorrow. But. The world is quite safe. That kind of radical transformation is quite out of the question. It takes a certain drift of spirit and soul to carry us into each of those areas. We have to be leaning in their direction to have a chance. No one can force us there against our will. And yet. Each of us goes there against our will. Interesting, don’t you think? We have to distance ourselves from our agenda, our desire, fear, laziness, greed and sense of duty in order to Grow Up, Wise Up, Wake Up, Square Up. And why would we want to do that? Why would we want to do what we don’t want to do? Some of us just can’t seem to help it. That’s the best I can do. Some of us are predisposed to what I think of as The Transcendent Orientation. Predisposed to transcend the normal, popular, cultural point of view and move toward, shall we say, Transcendence Itself? Move toward what we do not know. We can at least say that much. We are torn from our social, religious and political moorings and are adrift in currents carrying us to distant shores, or maybe just to an endless stream of currents, we don’t know. And what would be most helpful to us would be a Community of Innocence concerned only about assisting us in the development and maintenance of a healthy point of view, which is the foundation of a healthy way of life, which is the most any of us can hope for cut off, as we are, from the culturally approved standards of living. 07/28/2012
- 62 Ocean Isle Sunrise, NC — September 2008 — In the company of the right kind of people you have it made, as much as you can have it made, because the right kind of people will grow you up, to the extent that you can grow up. The more grown up you are, the more you have it made. The right kind of people help you with that by forcing you to hear what you are saying, and asking you what makes you think that what you think is so, and raising questions you don’t want to ask—much less answer—and challenging you to face your demons, recognize your inferences and presumptions, your biases and prejudices and the perspective that protects you from seeing things as they are. The right kind of people will enlarge your point of view and open up new worlds for you to explore by the quality of their relationship with you. The wrong kind of people coddle you and cuddle you and keep you safe from the truth of your narrow way of life. The wrong kind of people keep things the same, unchanging, unexamined, unquestioned forever. The wrong kind of people maintain the world as it has always been, saying the same things, reading the same lines from the same script like a sit-com that becomes increasingly boringly bad over the seasons of its run. If you want to never see anything you haven’t already seen, think anything you haven’t already thought, hear anything you haven’t already heard, understand anything you haven’t already understood, spend your time with the wrong kind of people. 07/29/2012
- 74 Ranger Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN/NC—October 2008 — Drugs and alcohol are a safe haven for a lot of folks. Numbness is not distance. Our addictions, including shopping and religion, numb us, distract us, but do not distance us. Awareness is distance when we combine it with acceptance, trust, and giving ourselves over to our circumstances. We can retreat to awareness. Waking up is facing up is squaring up is doing what can be done and letting that be that. If we are not letting that be that, we wake up to that. Waking up is waking up to the Five Barriers to peace, harmony, wholeness, grace, and compassion: Desire, Fear, Duty, Greed and Laziness. When we need to numb ourselves it is generally because we are in the grip of one or more of the Big Five. Waking up wakes us up to the truth of how things are and what needs to be done about it. It gets us to the bottom of what we have to face up to, look in the eye, and have it out with—what we have to release our attachment to (Yes, Virginia, we clutch too closely that which is killing us)–in order to give ourselves over to our circumstances and trust ourselves to the resources and gifts that are ours and the drift of our LIFE to carry us on. We have to achieve Working Distance between ourselves and our circumstances in order to be the blessing we are by living the LIFE that is ours to live within the context of the life we are living. We cannot be caught up in the 10,000 things and be a source of peace, grace and compassion within them. Maintaining Working Distance is not an individual operation. We need the right kind of relationship with the right kind of people to remember who we are and what we are about—to find the center and live from it—to be stable, grounded and whole. We have to have the right kind of life support to have the right kind of life. Waking up gets us busy with the work required to do the work that is ours to do. 07/30/2012
- Sunset at the Lighthouse, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia — September 2009 — 59 We worked hard, giving ourselves an environment conducive to our development, only to sell out for glass beads and silver mirrors—and Carnival mirrors, at that. We carved out for ourselves a safe place and proclaimed “Freedom from oppression,” but. We forgot about greed and laziness. Where would you go to be free from those things? We know all we need to know to live the most whole, the most aware, the most fulfilled life in the history of the species. It isn’t a matter of not-knowing. It comes straight down to not-doing. We know about tobacco. How many of us smoke? We know about the dangers associated with obesity. How many of us can lie on our backs and see our toes without lifting our head? We know about the importance of exercise. How many of us walk farther than to the car or to pick up the morning paper? We know about the advantages of silence and meditation. Well? We know about the disadvantages, one might say the side effects, of prescription and other kinds of drugs. Well? We want a better life, a better body, we just don’t want to pay the price of having either. We talk about spiritual development, about the spiritual quest, about the Hero’s Journey, about becoming who we are, finding our work and doing it, living at-one with our LIFE, our soul. What are we doing about it? What would our soul say to us if it had the chance? Give it the chance. Sit down at your computer, or with a pen or pencil and a piece of paper and get out of the way. Let soul write you a letter. See what soul has to say. If you’re up for it. And if you’re not up for it, what does that say? 07/31/2012
- Beech Trees, Guilford College Woods, Greensboro, NC — October 2008 — That which is necessary is beyond right and wrong. But. We have to be right about what is necessary. We have to do what needs to be done, regardless of what our parents, or the preacher, or society, or culture might think. Jesus is a wonderful example of what is going on here. Jesus lived with himself on the line—and it is a very fine line between seeing how things are and doing what needs to be done about them no matter what (Healing or picking and eating grain on the Sabbath, for example) and doing whatever we feel like doing and saying, “I just had to do it.” An apocryphal text highlights this. Appearing only in Codex Bezae, following the story about eating grain on the Sabbath in Luke 6:4, we read: “On that same day, seeing a man working on the Sabbath, Jesus said to him, “If you know what you are doing, you are blessed, but if you don’t know, you are cursed and a transgressor of the Law.” And if you think you’ll just play it safe and take no chances, and not trust yourself to know if you are right or wrong, there is that happy little parable about burying your talent. Hiding your gift. Refusing to be who you are because it might get you in trouble. We are here to make trouble! We cannot be afraid of it! We use our gift, our gifts, in the service of the best we can imagine—doing what we deem to be necessary in each situation as it arises for what we determine to be the good of the situation. We deem, We determine. We decide. We do. It is in light of this burden to be who we are no matter what, doing what is ours to do, serving what we perceive to be the good in each moment, regardless of the outcome that Jesus smiles and says, “Pick up your cross daily and follow me.” We take our chances and live with our life on the line. It’s the key to being alive. 08/01/2012
- Crescent Beach, Ecola State Park, OR—September, 2008 — 6What are you interested in? That’s where it starts. The Hero’s Journey, the spiritual quest, the search for the Holy Grail and the Promised Land. It starts with what interests you. Without interests, we’re dead, just waiting for the undertaker to make it official. The best thing you can do for yourself is deepen, expand, enlarge your level of interest in life, living, being alive. Our interests bring us to life, engage us with life, carry us into life. But. Don’t limit yourself to your starting place. Don’t build high, thick walls around your interest and refuse to allow yourself to be interested in any other thing. Do not specialize. Let your interests have their way with you. Allow one interest to pass you off to another, to several others. But also be willing to dig in where the treasure lies. Become increasingly better at what pulls you in that direction. See where it goes. We live to see where it goes. There is no getting everything in place, all lined up, locked in place, there for you to enjoy forever. You don’t have forever. Nothing does. Something is always coming and something is always going. Life is not static. The only static thing is death. Life is fluid, vibrant, moving, changing, transforming, inviting you to dance with it all the way, sending you interests to awaken you to the dance. Don’t just sit there unmoving. Allow them to take you by the hand and lead you along the way, delighting in their company and relishing their gifts. And see where it goes. 08/02/2012
- Atlantic Moonrise, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC—October 2008 — It’s about your life. It’s about aligning yourself with your LIFE, not just any life, but the LIFE that is yours to live, utilizing and applying the gifts that are yours to give—your perspective, proclivities, knacks, tendencies, outlook, attitude, etc.—in serving the good of your context and circumstances in each situation as it arises throughout your days on the earth. It’s a problem because we are looking for the advantage, and seek to exploit each situation as it arises for our own personal good at the expense of the good of the situation. Whose good is the good we call good? Generally it is our own good. How much of what we want is needed to do what is ours to do? We don’t pause to consider the question. We strive to get as much of what we want as possible, thinking that’s the whole point of life. We have to rethink the whole point of life. The whole point of life is to live in the service of that which has need of us, doing what we can imagine doing with the gifts that are ours for the good of the whole. This is not a burden. It is a joy, in that aligned with what is ours to share and do, we are one with ourselves, which is the deepest good there is. At one with ourselves, we are at one with all selves and all that is beyond self. Purely sublime. It’s all the pieces of the orchestra playing together in the production of a masterpiece. For that to happen, we all have to be doing our part. For each of us to do our part, we have to realize we have a part, and live to identify with it and bring it forth in our life—bring our LIFE forth in our life. This is our life’s work, being alive in our LIFE in the time left for living—not by trying to orchestrate the parts of everyone else, but by listening to, looking for, and living out our own part, living our own LIFE, and letting that be that. 08/03/2012
- Lake Brandt at Reedy Fork, Greensboro, NC—November, 2009 — 35 I’ve taken to asking people what they are interested in. “Money,” comes up often. “Money for what?” I ask. They have no idea. I press them. “If you had all the money you needed, what would you do?” “Travel,” is a frequent response. “How much would you need to begin travelling now?” They don’t know how much money they need to begin traveling now. Tells me they don’t want to travel—they just don’t know what else to say. We want to pile money up. We don’t want to spend it. We are afraid something will happen and we’ll need money. Money soothes fear. We don’t live because we are afraid of what might happen. Fear shuts down life. Our life is dying to be lived and we are afraid of living. We are only safe when we are dead. Forget being safe. Focus on being alive. Remember the scene from Star Wars, with Luke in the helmet learning to use his light sword? That’s you in the helmet learning to live your life. You can’t see. The left side of your brain is no use. You will never figure it out. You cannot think your way into living. “Listen to the Force, Luke.” “Trust the Force, Luke.” Call it the Life Force that needs your cooperation to live in and through you—and can direct your life if you live open to that possibility. Our work, our practice, is learning to align ourselves with—assist—the Life Force that lives within us and would live through us in our life. Gene Gendlin’s work on Focusing and Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi’s work on Flow both speak to the practice of aligning ourselves with our LIFE. The challenges we encounter as we attempt to shift into living aligned with the Life Force while wearing the helmet require us to develop certain skills. The skills include listening/hearing, looking/seeing, sensing/feeling, inquiring/searching/seeking, probing/wondering/imagining/creating… Right brain stuff bringing us to life in the LIFE waiting to be lived in us and through us in each situation as it arises. 08/04/2012
- The crucifixion of Jesus received no notice. It was the hope of resurrection and the promise of a better life on the other side of death that got the attention of his fans. The Buddha made no impression by being enlightened. It was the hope of accumulating merit and escaping the eternal rounds of suffering that made him famous. The life Jesus and the Buddha lived was indistinguishable from 10,000 other lives of their day. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Be a light unto yourself.” Ho-hum. 08/05/2012
- Cades Cove Methodist Church, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN/NC — October 2008 — Doing right by the situation as it arises is a lot less dramatic than you think. It is a life of complete invisibility. The work to sustain, maintain, enable, encourage is the real work of transformation that goes unnoticed like the seed in the earth, the yeast in the dough. Nothing appears to be happening. It’s all very boring. And, all the while, magic is going on. That is the impact of a life well-lived. Doing right by each situation as it arises is offering cups of cold water to those who are thirsty, a kind word to those who are discouraged, safe presence to those who need to restore their soul, innocent goodness (innocent in the sense that it is good for nothing, for no reason, without a gain in mind, seeking no advantage, no pay-back, no gory for itself) as a blessing upon all—things that are done without doing anything, without being noticed by anyone, yet benefiting everyone. Being what the situation calls for shifts the future and saves the world—and you get no credit for the impact you have. We have to believe in the value of life lived well without the drama, the attention, the lights and the headlines, the money and the raves. Very counter-cultural—and essential to the well-being of all. 08/05/2012
- Sunset, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Bodie Island, NC — The culture takes all that we know to be true, all we know to be valuable, away from us and hands us a box of smoke beautifully packaged as a replacement. This is the story of the Garden of Eden. What we see is not what we get. But, the culture is convincing, and we believe our eyes, not our heart. The Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, the Search for the Land of Promise and the Holy Grail is the work to find our way back to our heart. Our heart is the stone the builders reject, and it is the pearl of great price. It is the wellspring of living water and the threshold to the land flowing with milk and honey. All of these old metaphors are verbal descriptions of that which cannot be said. Being at one with the Tao. Enlightenment. Nirvana. The Still Point of the Turning World. These phrases attempt to capture the essence of the experience of living from our heart, seeing with our heart, hearing with our heart, understanding with our heart and doing what our heart needs us to do. And the culture—and the handmaiden of the culture, the Church, the Religion of the Culture dressed up in fine regalia to awe and entrance the masses, blowing smoke—does a quick heart transplant on each of us shortly after birth, replacing true seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, doing, being with Blah-Blah. And we wake up somewhere in mid-life needing to get our heart back—needing to restore ourselves to our soul. We are here to help each other with that task, but a word of warning. The way back to the Garden of Eden winds through the Garden of Gethsemane and across the face of Golgotha. Just saying. 08/06/2012
- The Relic, Down East, NC — We cannot hope to transform what we will not be intimately related with. We cannot be intimate if we will not be authentic. We cannot be authentic if we will not be vulnerable. You see where this is going. We want to be safe, protected, immune, off-limits to all that is ugly, mean and stupid—AND change the world. Kiss that happy fantasy good-bye. The world is changed, if it is to be changed, by the quality of our relationship with the world. We cannot build high, thick, walls, mount loud speakers along with the razor wire on the top and broadcast instructions for change 24/7/12, and think we are doing anything. We have to live in the world if we want to impact the world. We have to live in caring ways in the world if we want to impact the world. We have to care about what we would change, and it may not change, not in our lifetime, anyway. We may feel like we are wasting our time. We may be wasting our time. If you want to be productive, go to work for Apple—they are booming. Who don’t we love in a way that they would know we were loving them? People are always saying they don’t hate gays, but the gays can’t tell the difference. People are always saying they love their enemies, etc., but their enemies, etc., can’t tell that they are being loved. If you are going to love me, show me by the quality of your relationship with me, by the way you listen to me without advising, directing, correcting, chastising, converting, condemning… Become involved with me! Care about me! Be authentic, genuine and real with me! Be vulnerable with me! Let me see who you are! Let me change you as much as you want to change me! And live that way with everyone you know. Or stop talking about how much you want to make a difference. 08/07/2012
- Still Life, My very own light fare table, Greensboro, NC — August 07, 2012 — A friend said recently, “We all need more of what we need and less of what is harmful and hurtful. Compassion and gentleness should be what we all strive for.” And, what would be keeping that from happening? We are here for each other, to help as we are able in the work of being a calming presence where people might come to hear themselves think, to find their center, to be balanced, righted and restored. That isn’t beyond any of us. But it takes being balanced, righted and restored ourselves to do it. We can’t be listing and be of help. Much less, sinking. Where do we find what we need to be who we need to be in the lives of one another? This is our task. Not to guilt ourselves to death over not being who we need to be, but to find what we need to be what is needed. What would be helpful, where is it to be found? Our questions to ask, and answer. 08/07/2012
- Peyto Lake Photographer, Banff National Park, Alberta—We are always being torpedoed and sunk by what we don’t want to hear—by what we don’t want to know, face up to, square up with, deal with, come to terms with, do something about. It would be so nice if things were like we want them to be! There is no such thing as Global Warming, the very idea, how silly is that, in our little world. There are no Domestic Terrorists in our little world—let every American have all the guns they want. We have such a nice little fantasy world that takes no notice of That Other World until it’s too late and we are body slammed and steam rolled again by what we refused to see coming. What do you think waking up wakes up to? How. Things. Are. And. What. Needs. To. Be. Done. About. It. We think enlightenment, and realization, and self-actualization are about flipping a spiritual switch and making all our dreams come true. The Law of Attraction asks nothing of us whatsoever. Thinking the right kind of thoughts. How convenient. Life as we want it to be for the low, low price of thinking the right kind of thoughts. We don’t have to change the way we are living or do anything we don’t want to do—and we certainly do not have to take That Other World into account. All our talk about waking up just deepens our trance state and makes us all the more susceptible to the shock of body slams and steam rollers. So. What is it that you don’t want to hear? Face up to? Square up with? Deal with? Do? What you refuse to acknowledge in your little world slams into it as a Desolating Sacrilege from beyond, an Abomination of Desolation, a wake-up call from That Other World, winking at you, laughing. 08/08/2012
- Dry Docked, Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia — We think if we could just get the disarray in order we could enjoy our life. However, our life does not exist apart from the disarray. The disarray is the “field of action” (Joseph Campbell’s term) that brings our life forth. We are who we show ourselves to be in facing up to, squaring up with, and doing what needs to be done about the disarray—not in reading a book and ordering drinks at the table by the side of the pool. The book, drinks, table and pool may well be necessary assists in our being able to deal with the disarray, but the disarray is where we show ourselves to be who we are. The quality of our life in the disarray tells the tale. Anybody can appear to be whole and charming at a table by the side of a pool. How do they come off in the field of action, is the question. Who are they, then? There? 08/09/2012
- View from Left Field, Greensboro Grasshoppers NeBridge Bank Park, Greensboro, NC — August 8, 2012 — It would be one thing if we got to choose our choices. It’s another thing entirely, given that we don’t. Don’t come at me with all that guilt and shame and going to hell stuff! Not with the choices I’ve had to work with! Give me my choice of choices and THEN heap the mean, low and evil load on me, but not until then. Until I get to choose my choices, I’m going to hold that I’ve done better with the choices I’ve had than any had anyone right to expect me to do. I would have chosen different parents to start with, and a different point of origin—and would have picked up steam from there. I’ve had what I consider to be the bare minimum amount of support and encouragement along the way—and how many of us struggle along with way less than that? And they send us to hell? How dare they?! Now that we have them in their place, it’s time to put us in ours. Our place is dealing out kindness and compassion, grace and peace to one another and all others. It’s amazing that we are doing as well as we are. We all need a “Nice going—keep it up!” and we all need to give one to the people who need one, which would be everybody we know. Hold back on giving people a hard time and give them the benefit of the doubt instead. See where it goes. That’s my best advice. Today, anyway. 08/09/2012
- Linville Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, NC — July 13, 2012 — We look for meaning the way we looked for Easter Eggs, moving inside if the weather turned bad, and our minds on something else, and wonder why it’s so hard to find. Could be because nobody talks about the price we have to pay to live meaningfully, what we have to give up, what we have to accommodate—or how easily potential meaningfulness is set aside as having no value on the cultural scale of things. The cultural point of view is toxic to our system but it is pervasive and highly persuasive, and who can withstand its appeal? Even the Holy Scriptures, which purport to be the voice of soul, promise the same things the culture offers in making its case for God: safety, security, abundance and prosperity—just a different path to the same goal—and that with complete disregard for the life holy people have lead in all religions throughout the ages: “Foxes have holes but the Son of Man (read: the True Human being) has nowhere to lay his head”—a dismissal justified with it all being made up to them in the afterlife, which also reflects the cultural idea of what it means to have it made. Religion is of the culture, not of the soul, and exists to insulate us from God more than to introduce us to God. The spiritual path is to find our way back to the voice of our own soul, to recognize the conflicts between culture and soul and to work out the ratios, how much for one and how much for the other. A meaningful life hangs in the balance. 08/10/2012
- Dune Walker, Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley National Park, CA — We have to find our own way—with the help of those who know how to be helpful to those who are finding their own way. We have to find our own way because no one knows what resonates with us but us. We cannot take anyone’s word for what is, or is not, our way is, because we are the only one who can recognize it when we see it. We have to discover it for ourselves. We have to find our own way. We cannot allow someone else to tell us how to live our life, what to believe, how to think. We have to find out for ourselves what to believe, how to think, what to do, what works under what conditions and what does not. We have to find out for ourselves what is important, what has value, what grips us with a passion that is the heart of life itself. No one can give us their way, or give us their way for us. We have to find our own way. If they can’t understand that, they are in the way—and we have to understand that. And find our way to the people who know how to be helpful to those who are finding their own way. 08/11/2012
- Grazing, Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, VA — May 13, 2012 — Self-discipline and self-control are essential aspects of self-discovery and self-development. We live to be who we are within—to bring forth the gifts that are ours to offer to—each situation as it arises without exploiting any situation to our advantage. What we get is who we are. We get to enjoy the experience and expression of who we are within the time left for living. The context and circumstances of our life brings out the best in us—when we get out of the way, when we stop trying to force our way, and trust ourselves to the drift of our life and see where it goes. This is hardest to do, perhaps, when nothing seems to be happening—when there seems to be no flow at all to our life—when we seem to be in an eddy, circling, circling, far from the mainstream, going nowhere. This is a test of self-discipline and self-control, and a test of our faith in ourselves and in the life that is our life to live. Will we wait it out? Like seeds in the earth? Yeast in the dough? Trusting ourselves to the transitions of our life? Giving ourselves in good faith to the task of doing what needs to be done in the here and now of each moment, and seeing where it goes? 08/11/2012
- Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, WA — September, 2009 — Wake up to what is good and do it. Good for whom, is the question. Whose good is served by the good we call good? Takes being awake to know—to see, hear and understand—and to do what is good because it is good when there is nothing in it for us. How good are we when there is nothing in it for us, is the question. How good are we when it doesn’t matter if we are good or not, is the question. How good are we when no one is watching or keeping score, is the question. We walk through situations every day crying out for goodness. Do we keep walking, is the question. Or do we stop? See the situation as it is, recognize what is needed, and offer it? How many situations could we transform in a day—if we took to offering kind words, gentle presence, support and encouragement? I believe in cash encouragement. Tipping well, for example. Or if several of us got together in a Cash Mob kind of way and offered to provide a scholarship or two for music, or art, lessons with a local piano teacher or artist. Ways to be helpful are all around us. All it takes is looking to see. 08/12/2012
- Available Seating, NewBridge Bank Park, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Who were playing an away game with the Rome Braves when this photo was taken. These seats are filled when they are at home. It’s the baseball place to be) — August 8, 2012 — If Jesus had had access to the metaphor (another reason for not closing the canon), he would have used a smoothly functioning restaurant as a setting for a parable about the kingdom of heaven, which is another term for the spiritual realm, or the invisible world. When we are living in synch with the invisible world, we function in this world like a smoothly functioning restaurant. All elements in the restaurant understand their primary duties, but stand ready to assist as needed in all other areas. The wait staff have their individual sections, but offer help to each other, filling glasses or replacing dropped silverware. Each waiter carefully attends their dinners, offering what is needed in each moment as it unfolds, without weighing what is in it for them or whether a larger tip awaits this action but not that one—responding spontaneously and graciously, one might say compassionately, to the need of the moment in creating a welcoming atmosphere and an experience of pleasurable dining. We are the wait staff. The world is our dining room. 08/12/2012
- Green River Canyon, Canyonlands National Park, UT — May 2010 — We are certain that wealth, prosperity and privilege are in our best interest. We cannot conceive of our best interest apart from being wealthy, prosperous and privileged. What else could life hold? Come with me for a moment. Imagine that we are all on a star ship escaping a meteor on course to destroy the earth. We have everything on the ship required to sustain life but we have no resources to waste and we have to share what is available. We are headed out of the solar system to explore the possibility of livable planets thousands of light years away. None of us will live to see the end of the journey—nor will our children or our grandchildren. How will we pass the time? Of what will our life (in the sense of what life is all about) consist? What becomes of wealth, prosperity, privilege there, where equality is essential for our life together? What will be in our best interest there? Here’s one for you. The earth is a star ship moving rapidly through space. None of us will live to see the end of the journey. How we manage our limited resources and how well we live together makes all the difference. What is the actual value of wealth, prosperity, privilege here, now? What do we need to be alive in the what life is all about sense? What is in our best interest? 08/13/2012
- Polly Woods Ordinary, Blue Ridge Parkway, Peaks of Otter, VA — May 28, 2012 — An Inn in the woods where Polly Woods met the Ordinary needs of travelers, food and a place to sleep.—Our life becomes meaningful as we find and develop our art, our gift, our life—the life that needs us to live it. It is too easy to live without having a life, without being had by the life that is our life to live—without being seized by a vision of mythic proportions and hurled into a life that we would never have imagined living. Ah, but. Those visions are few and far between. We keep it that way by dismissing everything that comes along as being “not us.” Of course, it’s “not us”! That’s the nature of mythic visions! “Where did that come from?” we are apt to wonder. “What am I thinking?” If our friends aren’t surprised by our behavior, it isn’t much of a vision. Noah built an arc. Jonah fought a big fish. That’s what their life did for them. What ours does for us is still to be seen. But. If we open ourselves to it, it won’t be like it was, and it won’t be like we thought it would be. That’s what an adventure is, you know. Hang on. Enjoy the ride. 08/13/2012
- Hi Jo, Thanks for inviting me into this part of your world. I’m sorry you are passing through the ache for that which cannot be, the truth of grief and mourning. And I am glad your friend lived a life worthy of being grieved and mourned—may it be so of us all! My best advice is to be real with that which is real to you—and do not make anything less real than it is. Embrace the grief of your friend’s death as you would embrace her in life—and live to keep alive in your own life that which stands out most for you in her life. This way, we keep one another alive long past our own living, and continue the blessing and the grace throughout all eternity. I love you, Jo—and wish the wellness that comes with seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, doing, and being your way through the long years of the far distant future. 08/14/2012
- Borax Wagon, Death Valley National Park, CA — This will flash some of you back to “20 Mule Team Borax,” an early version of 18 wheelers delivering borax from the mines to households across the country. — We cannot allow ourselves to be led by our wants, by what we want to happen in each situation as it arises. We have to be able to see past what we want to what needs to happen regardless of what we want. The formula for the kind of life that will transform the world is: Right Seeing, Right Hearing, Right Understanding, Right Knowing, Right Doing, Right Being. Right Being is the product of the rest. Being follows seeing hearing, understanding, knowing and doing. We cannot just “be who we need to be” (which is who we are). We have to work our way into being sources of transformation against our will all the way—yet allowing ourselves to be led along the way by our allegiance to what needs to be done even though, like Jesus in Gethsemane, we want mightily to not do it. We become who we are through many dark nights of wrestling with the angel of death and getting up the next morning to do what needs to be done. This is the magic elixir of life that brings life forth in the Wasteland—the water of life for a parched and barren planet—from us to the world, one apparently insignificant situation at a time. 08/14/2012
- Hwy 52 Falls, near Fancy Gap, VA — May 3, 2012 — How many points of view are there? How many ideas of the Good are there? How long does it take for an idea of the Good to be recognized as good by all parties? Longer than most of us have to wait. We can’t let that stop us from living in light of our idea of the Good while we wait for the rest of the world to catch up. Somebody has to give them the idea that there is more to the Good than they think. No one has the Good figured out, plotted, mapped out and in place. Back in the days of Women’s Lib, the Buddhists looked around and noticed that in their temples worldwide, the women were doing women’s work and the men were doing men’s work and the women were doing most of the work. Enlightenment doesn’t wake you up to everything. We are always needing to be enlightened, awakened, shown how things are and how they need to be. Of course, that’s what got Jesus crucified. Jesus had a radically new conception of the Good: “Treat everyone as your neighbor. As yourself.” Funny how some people don’t want to wake up, or have their idea of the Good challenged. Jesus didn’t have time to wait for his idea to be acceptable before presenting it. He lived it out and called for its ratification in the time and place of his living. That’s the way it goes with those on the cutting edge of new ideas of the Good. But without them, nothing changes. We can’t wait for everyone to get on board—for everyone to grant permission, nod approval. We have to get out there and call for them to catch up—knowing that by the time they do, we’ll have a newer idea of the Good and they will have to catch up again. Or, maybe, pass us—which would be even better! 08/14/2012
- Boone Fork Cascade, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — It is discouraging to come up against things we can’t do anything about. Give us Money! Give us Power! Give us Guns! Give us Bombs and Missiles! Give us Standing Armies! Give us Three Wishes! Give us Magic Wands! And, if you can’t give us any of the things that would really help us rearrange the world to our liking, Grant Us Immunity! All of it just puts off the inevitable. At some point—no matter how much stuff we have gathered about us to effect our will and keep us safe—we come up against it. There are things—bad things—we can’t do anything about. What will we do about being impotent, helpless, and at the mercy of a world full of really bad things? How well will we carry on? Toward what? What will we live toward when we cannot live like we want to? Here’s what I’m selling: We live toward who we are in every circumstance, every situation. We live to bring forth who we are in every here and now of our life. We live to meet the damn Cyclops on his terms in all of his myriad manifestations as our Best Self. Life cannot do anything to us that we cannot bring our Best Self forth to meet. For what? For the doing of it. Because that is what we are here to do—to become who we are, to bring ourselves forth within the circumstances that call us forth. We are not here to run from life and hide behind all of the things we hope will protect us. WE are the magic wand we wish we had! We step forth to meet the Cyclops vulnerable, exposed, with nothing but our Best Self on our side. And when the Cyclops laughs and says, “Is that the best you can do?”, we say, “Yeah.” And smile. 08/15/2012
- View from Sharp Top, Blue Ridge Parkway, Peaks of Otter, VA — May 28, 2012 — Live until you die, that’s what I say. Die living. We are not here to be dead. We are here to be alive. Don’t put it off until you have all your bases covered and there is nothing to worry about. Live every chance you get. This doesn’t mean be stupid. People somehow equate being alive with being stupid, e.g., “Goin’ 90 miles an hour down a dead end road.” Being alive is being connected with the things that are life for you, that bring you to life, infuse you with life, and cause you to forget the passage of time. When something like that comes along, don’t dismiss it. Don’t put it off. Don’t say, “Maybe later, come back another time.” How many things like that do you think there are for you? How many chances do you think you’ll get to be alive, to be at-one with life itself? How long between chances? What do you mean, saying no to life? What are you thinking? Oh, don’t tell me. Let me guess. Responsibilities. Duties. Obligations. And all the things that could happen if you take a chance on life. Listen. To. Me. Work it out. If you stand between what you love, what is life itself, what is calling your name on one side and what everybody thinks you ought to do on the other. Work it out so you can go with your heart. If it blows up on you and everybody says “I told you so,” you can say you took a chance on life and you’ll do it again every chance you get. To not take a chance on life is to be stuck with death—with “nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town.” You’re going to be dead a long time. Live while you can—doing the things that are life, and bring you to life, and bless you with life. And you know what I’m talking about, or will, when it winks at you and asks you if you want to go for a ride—for the ride of your life. 08/15/2012
- Sunrise: Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park, OR — We have to do what it takes to do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises. We can’t do what it takes whenever we feel like it and think we are doing anything. We have to be up for every situation, ready for the challenges we find there. Ready for the Cyclops. He’s certainly ready for us! Here he comes again, ready or not—preferably, from his standpoint, not. He loves it when we’re not ready. We have to have what it takes to do what it takes. And where do we get that? I’m glad somebody asked. I was beginning to think I would have to do all this by myself. We get what it takes to do what it takes by getting out of the way of what it takes. We interfere with what it takes by having opinions and preferences and moods and inclinations and judgments—and by being lazy and having our mind on other things. We have to be with it to do what it takes. We have to be in the game. In the moment. Alive to what is happening and what needs to happen and what we need to do about it. Usually, we are off in some other world, wishing we lived somewhere else, with a better life and better choices. We don’t care about having what it takes to do what it takes. Whatever. Meh. We’ll bring our A Game to the game when the game matters to us. Meanwhile, we’ll let the kids fix their own breakfast. Again. Or, we’ll do it like we are not there. Because we wish we weren’t. Again. 08/16/2012
- Yellow Poplar, Blue Ridge Parkway near Groundhog Mountain, VA — May 17, 2012 — We are generally so frustrated, so depressed and dejected, over our lot—things aren’t going our way—we aren’t where we want to be, or think we ought to be—we can’t get a break—we don’t know what we ought to be doing with our life—or worried because we are (or a child or a parent is) on the edge of being unable to pay our bills, and what are we going to do if this happens, or that does—that we hardly ever take a free breath. “The world is too much with us, late and soon.” William Wordsworth knew us well. It may be some comfort to know it’s been this way with everyone who wasn’t buffered, insulated, and secluded—or in denial—in every age. It is not easy being us, or those like us. Never has been. Never will be. And here we are. This is it. This is the context and circumstances of our life. If we are going to be alive, we are going to have to be alive right here, right now. Come with me. I have a plan. It’s called walking two paths at the same time. Living in three worlds at once. There is the world of the daily grind. You know the one I’m talking about. There is the world of our soul’s true joy. This is the one where the life we are built and called to live could blossom unrestrained. And there is the invisible world of magic, wonder, and incredible possibilities—the world that is the source and foundation of the normal world of apparent, tangible, reality. We have to learn the art of living as a resident of all three worlds. This world is not the only world—and we cannot live in it as though it is! Our place is to remember the other worlds and pay them homage—honoring them and finding ways to make them real in this world. How do we give our soul the opportunity to dance with its true joy? How do we, not only acknowledge, but also live as thresholds to, contact points with, the reality of the invisible world? Giving ourselves the task of working this out will enliven us and transform our relationship with the world that is “too much with us.” Magic still happens! 08/16/2012
- Field Corn, Rockingham County, NC — August 16, 2012 — Children comfort themselves with stuffed animals, dolls and blankets. What do you comfort yourself with? Where do you go to be comforted? We do not live well without comforting sources of peace and well-being. It starts out early in the day for me with the cup I use for coffee, and ends with a different cup I use for wine. I have a chairs that rock. I have walking shoes and hiking boots and a camera. Being out with my camera restores my soul. What restores your soul? How often do you go there, do that? We are up against it steadily. We need sources of strength and encouragement. And we cannot make something up. You can’t go to Wal Mart and buy any mug off the self and take much comfort in it. Learning to know what is comforting and what is not is an essential aspect of listening within, of knowing what works for you and what does not. Our comforting amulets are personal, individual. We are known by what we know to bring peace and joy to our souls. We have to attend our souls to know that. Eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands see, hear, and understand soul first and foremost—how things are with soul and what needs to be done about it. If soul is going to be our guide, we have to put ourselves in position to be guided. We have to look, listen, inquire if we are to see, hear and understand. As you undertake this work, you are bringing yourself forth—seeing, hearing, understanding yourself. And living with yourself in ways that are good for you. If you cannot live lovingly with you, you can’t live lovingly with anyone. And the world is dying for those who know how to live lovingly with one another. 08/17/2012
- NC Wetlands Panorama, Guilford County near Summerfield, NC — August 16, 2012 — “I love you” means, when I say it, “I will treat you lovingly no matter what—no matter how you act or how I feel. I pledge to you loving treatment, which implies being well received, with kindness, tenderness, gentleness, honor and respect—listened to, heard, understood—not attacked, chastised, criticized, belittled and/or condemned. Loved. You know.” The world is dying to be treated lovingly, but it wants more from us than it can have—and so we have to draw loving lines and say firmly and finally, “No!” when no must be said. And the world will tell us, as it always does, “But if you loved me, you would take care of me the way I want to be taken care of!” To which we reply, “No I wouldn’t,” and leave it at that. 08/17/2012
- Fall Pond, White Mountains near the Swift River and Kangamangus Highway, NH — The problem with good ideas is that people have different ideas about what is good. The people driving the tanks have an idea that is different from the idea the people have who are running from the tanks. The Tea Party Fringe has an idea that is different from that of the people the Tea Party would displace, oust, eject, remove from view. It’s a problem. How are we ever going to get people with such extreme differences in their idea of what is good to agree on what is good? How are we ever going to live together with such different ideas about what life together should be? “You like to sleep with the window open, I like it closed, so good-bye, good-bye, good-bye!” Hmm. The US was founded by people who wanted a place to do it like they thought it ought to be done. Now, we can’t agree about how it ought to be done. Throw into the mix the people who stand to lose big money (banks, for instance) if we change the way it is being done (more regulation and enforcement, for instance), and they will bankroll anybody who will see that it is done their way. How can we agree how it ought to be done when there are Large Forces at work making sure it is done like they want it to be done? In other words, a fair conversation and negotiation about how it ought to be done is off the table. Great. “Of the people, by the people, for the people” doesn’t mean what it is purported to mean. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can’t top this for absurdity. “Look, this is absurd!” How’s that for a start? “Mommy, he’s not wearing any clothes.” The enchanted ones have to perceive the fraud—and stop buying into the idea that their good is of concern to those who talk about being good for them—and begin to see one another as allies and not enemies. Those who talk about “Them” are Them! WE have to talk about WE, meaning all of us, because WE ALL are in the same boat and have to get along. 08/18/2012
- An Inviting Scene, Blue Ridge Parkway near Doughton Park, NC — June 2012 — I don’t care about what you like or don’t like—tell me about your passion. Tell me what grips you, seizes you, and won’t let you go. Tell me what stirs you to action—what you cannot not do. I know guys who come alive in Lowes or any auto parts store in town. I have no business in either of those places, but they love being there and love what they do with what they find there. Rebuilding an engine is some guy’s truest love. My other wife is a camera, and my other wife is getting used to the idea. This is what I’m talking about when I ask about your passion. What rivals your obligations, duties and responsibilities? What interferes with your other life—the life you are expected to live by those who do only what is expected of them? And if you can’t come up with anything, what are you doing to keep your passions at bay? What are you doing to hold back the waters of life that are trying to flow? If you were to let yourself go, where would you go? If you don’t know where your life is to be found, where do you think it may have been found once when something interfered—pregnancy, perhaps, or the war? What of that can be reclaimed even now, even yet? It is ridiculous to think that we can be alive without being passionately alive—without loving life and being deeply in love with some aspect of life. If we are not so alive, it isn’t because we are deficient somehow, dispassionate, reasonable, logical, practical. It is because we are holding back, afraid, perhaps, of what might happen if we let ourselves love our life, the life that is ours to love. What would our parents think, or our children? How would we explain that our other wife, or husband, is a camera? 08/18/2012
- Smoky Sunset, Clingman’s Dome (Parking Lot), Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC/TN — The life that is waiting for us to live it—the life that IS life for us—isn’t likely to be glamorous, wealth-producing, or celebrity-status-establishing. People aren’t likely to be impressed. They may not even notice. But. It’s a life that transforms the world. It works like this: Everyone of us has a future that we impact for better or worse. We don’t get to have no impact on the future. We impact the future by virtue of our place in it. It may not be a difference that makes much of a difference but it makes a difference, and it has the potential of making a significance difference—for better or worse—in the lives of at least some of those who share it with us. As we wake up to how things are and how they also are, and what needs to be done about it with the gifts that are ours to give—living the life that is our life to live—we improve our chances of impacting our future in the right kind of way—in the way that is the right kind of better and the right kind of worse. Better, you understand, is also worse, and worse is also better. The impact of our life, whether it’s the life that is our life to live, or just the life that we find ourselves living, will be better or worse (better and worse, actually). Better for some will be worse for others. Our place is to live in ways that produce the right kind of better and the right kind of worse. The impact of a True Human Being—an Awakened, Enlightened, Human Being—produces and impact upon her or his future that is the right kind of better and the right kind of worse. That is what we are after—not to make everyone happy but to make everyone blessed, whether they know it or not, by virtue of the impact we have on their life, for good and for ill. 08/19/2012
- Soy Bean Field Panorama, Guilford County, NC — August 16, 2012 — An introvert, that would be me, talking to extraverts, that would be most of you, is like AM talking to FM. When you find yourself saying, “What is he talking about?” don’t blame you or me. It is the nature of the interchange. Introverts can only talk to introverts. Extraverts can only talk to extraverts. When we try to crossover it falls flat. You have to know what I mean before you can understand what I’m saying, and in order to know what I mean, you have to look at the world through the eyes of an introvert—which is a real trick if you’re not one. What I say comes out of my experience with the worlds of my experience, the visible world of normal, apparent, physical reality, and the invisible world of misty, obscure, spiritual reality. I also speak more from a right hemisphere orientation than from a left hemisphere orientation. The left hemisphere favors rational. logical, practical, sequential, laws, rules and recipes. The right hemisphere is comfortable with “sometimes it’s like this and sometimes it’s like that.” And “feel the music and dance.” So, if you find yourself thinking I’m talking nonsense, I am, except to the people who think I’m dead on and it’s about time somebody said so. There are fundamental differences in the way we see, in the way we perceive, reality—both physical and spiritual. It is as though we are speaking in different languages and faulting ourselves or the other for our failure to understand. We understand the way we understand, and we don’t understand something presented to us in another way. So, giving me the benefit of the doubt, we could say that I know what I’m talking about, I just can’t talk about it in a way that makes sense to a lot of you. However, the photos should work around the table and across the board! 08/19/2012
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Rangeley Lake Reflection, Rangeley, Maine — A healthy point of view is the foundation of a healthy way of life, and that starts with our being transparent to ourselves, aware of where we start and others stop, aware of and doing the work to reconcile our various contradictions—including the one that exists between what we can want and what we can have—and the work of recognizing and coming to terms with what our limits are, and doing what can be done with the context and circumstances of our life to bring forth who we are as a blessing and a grace unto all. The work comes down to seeing how things are and what needs to be done about it and doing it. The work is done on two levels at once. The work is individual and personal, and the work is political and international. It is not enough for black people (and by extension all persons of all races, ages, genders, and religious and sexual orientation) to be who they are, doing the work that is their individual work to do. They must also be on equal standing with all other people, enjoying the full rights and privileges of life in the world. We all work with each other to help with the work that belongs to all of us on individual and political levels. We cannot allow voting rights to be taken away from U.S. citizens—and “born in the U.S.A.” should be a basic guarantee of citizenship. We cannot vote for people who espouse the restriction of rights for other people. We have to join one another in the work to establish, maintain and safeguard the rights of all. We cannot allow those who talk about THEM to divide us. Those who talk about THEM are THEM—the rest of us are WE, and ours is the joint work of providing liberty and justice for all. 08/20/2012
- Storm Cloud Panorama 02, NewBridge Bank Park, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Greensboro, NC — August 8, 2012 — Money is not the highest value. It is not even in the running. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Compassion, Grace, Goodness, Gentleness, Self-Control, Loyalty, Honor, Respect, Authenticity, Transparency… The list is long of higher values. We sell out for money. It’s like selling our birthright for a bowl of oatmeal. The revolution is putting money in its place. The revolution is seeing to it that money has no more place in our life than it deserves. We don’t have to wait for some revolutionary leader to step forth. We each do the work of revolution in our own way. We can start with giving our gift away instead of trying to exploit it for our own personal gain. We can look for ways to be good for others for nothing—innocent goodness, with nothing in it for us. We can stop thinking of our value in terms of how much we earn, or are worth, and start thinking of it in terms of how much love we generate, express, exhibit in a day—how lovingly we live each day. It isn’t how little we can spend and how much we make that adds up to a life well-lived, but much of the values that are valuable we can bring forth in each situation as it arises, and in all of our relationships, throughout our lives. 08/20/2012
- Used in Short Talks On Contradictions, etc., Sea Oats at Sunrise, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — We have an interior life that is more complex and interesting than anything we can generate or arrange in our external life of normal, apparent reality—but it takes attending it to know. Our interior life is home to the “still, small, voice” of pace and timing, direction and guidance. Who takes time to listen, or knows what to listen for, or trusts themselves to what is heard? Our interior life is home to all of the conflicts and contradictions that work their way into our external life in surprising and sometimes disconcerting ways. Why do we shoot ourselves in the foot or wind up in another dead-end relationship again? Carl Jung said, “We cannot hope to be whole without an engaging, vibrant Shadow,” or words to that effect. Our Shadow is part of the Inner World. We think it is something to bury, lock away, escape—not something to engage, appreciate and consult on a regular basis. We think conscious, rational, logical, intellectual reality is the only reality, but it is a small boat afloat upon a dark and heaving sea of unconscious reality that has been in existence long before consciousness came onto the scene. There is more to us than any of us know, but we act as though we know all there is to know—certainly about ourselves—as though the life we proclaim to be our life is our only life but. Heraclitus observed, “You would not find the boundaries of the soul no matter how many paths you traveled, so deep is its measure.” That is how deep WE are. You’d think we would at least be splashing in the shallows, wondering what lived beyond. 08/21/2012
- NC Wetlands Panorama 02, Guilford County near Summerfield, NC — I seek to be known, and I hunch we all do, but we have to understand that it is not the “being somebody” in a celebrity kind of way that gets the job done. The life that needs us to live it is the life that makes us known—to ourselves and to others—by bringing us forth and showing us who we are, which is not always who we think we are. We often do not think we have what it takes to live the life that is ours to live (“Not me, take Aaron!”). And are surprised to discover that we do have what it takes after all. All this time, we’ve had our eye on some other life, on some other prize, when the treasure we sought was tucked away inside our own hearts all the while. The life that needs us to live it is not far off, across the ocean, that we should drop everything and go looking for it. It is as close as our heart. We have to be who we are—that is fundamental—but we do not know who we are until we meet ourselves for the first time, so to speak, in living the life that is to be lived, that waits for us to live it. We have to live so as to bring out the beauty within us for all to see. We think, “What beauty?” We only have to get out of the way and there it is. We are as amazed as everyone else is. We didn’t know we had it in us. There is more to us all than meets the eye. 08/21/2012
- Pines, Near Sunset Beach, NC — Human sacrifice was one of our earliest strategies for appeasing the gods and having things go our way. We were close, but missed the mark. We cheat the gods when we sacrifice someone else’s heart. Human sacrifice is about sacrificing our own heart in the service of the gods—which has always been understood to be in the service of ourselves. Whatever we did for the gods was payment for what we expected to receive from the gods. We gave in order to get. Dying in the service of the gods has to be understood as dying in the service of ourselves. Ours is the task of living the life that is to be lived—the life that needs us to live it. We sacrifice ourselves in that work, in a “Thy will, not mine, be done,” kind of way—and receive in turn life, “pressed down, pouring over, spilling out.” But, there’s a catch. It isn’t like anything we had in mind. “The gods must be crazy.” 08/22/2012
- Soy Bean Green Panorama, Rockingham County, NC — August 16, 2012 — Cats know their business, Humpback Whales know their business, and we know ours—it just takes us a while to know what we know. It’s the scene in Star Wars with Luke learning to use the light sword. We are in the helmet learning to live the life that is to be lived. “Listen to the Force, Luke.” We don’t know of anyone who listens to the Force and therefore can help us listen to it. The would-be Obi-wans we know could only read to us from some light sword manual. We have to teach ourselves if we are going to learn. When you “listen to the Force,” what are you listening to? When you consult yourself, how do you hear what yourself says? How does your self communicate with you? When you get the “Uh-oh” feeling, what do you get? How do you get it? What’s sending us the “Uh-oh” signal? Who’s there? What’s going on? When we have an “intuition,” what do we have? How do we have it? Put the helmet on and go live your life, listening to the guidance that is trying to get through to us in each situation as it arises. 08/22/2012
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Highway 163 from Mexican Hat to Monument Valley, Arizona — It is not just a matter of learning to listen to our self, it is also one of listening to—of being able to hear—what we have to say. Jesus said he came not to bring peace, but a sword. The peace that comes with reconciling ourselves to how things are is first the sword of division. William Alexander Percy wrote: “The peace of God it is no peace/but strife closed in the sod/yet children/pray for but one thing/the marvelous peace of God.” Justice at the expense of peace is resentment and hostility. Peace at the expense of justice is disgrace and pretense. We have to work it out. Working it out is dancing beautifully with our conflicts. Peace AND Justice! Peace AND NOT War! How do we make it work? Compromise and negotiation. Transparency and integration. We make it work by bearing the pain of the full truth of how things are—within and without. Division, conflict, contradiction, irreconcilable differences and the like make it seem like war or divorce is the only solution. Integration is the only solution. We have to integrate the opposites. Our conflicts deepen us, enlarge us, expand us, bring us forth, enable us to engage—and love—ourselves—if we approach them in the right way. We have to square up to how things are and how things also are. On the one hand this, on the other hand that, and on the other hand that over there. If you are going to believe in anything, believe in the value of conflict beautifully danced—and learn to dance beautifully with your conflicts. 08/23/2012
- Cornfield Sunrise 03, Dinkins Bottom, Yadkin County, NC — July 6, 2012 — Waking up is a matter of seeing what we don’t want to see and doing what we don’t want to do. We wake up against our will. Drawn by that which we cannot resist in a “Thy will, not mine, be done” kind of way. Of course, we do resist it, but we also seek it, hunger and thirst for it and refuse to let go of that which will not let go of us or give us any peace. None of which makes any sense, and leaves us exactly where we have always been: Sitting on our ox, looking for our ox—swimming in the sea wondering where the ocean is. The difference between seeing and not seeing, having and not having, is the difference between getting a joke and not getting it, the difference between observing the shift of an optical illusion and wondering what people are talking about happening when they look at it, the difference between being in love and not having a clue about what it means to be in love. It is not a matter of having anything explained to us. It’s just a matter of waking up to what is always there, and not there at the same time. Our life—the life that is our life to live, the life that is to be lived—is always at hand. Carl Jung said, “We are who we always have been, and who we will be.” The oak is in the acorn. The acorn was yearning to be what it is before it was born—and it was never anything else, even then. So. What do we do? There is nothing to do. What does an acorn do? Or a squealing pig? 08/23/2012
- Desert Afternoon, Death Valley National Park, CA — Here’s my take (my spin) on the difference between fate and destiny: Fate is what you are born into and cannot do anything about. The time and place of your birth. Your parents. Your birth order. Your gender. Your sexual orientation. Your physical characteristics… The facts that define and limit your world constitute your fate. Your destiny is what you are called to do with your fate. Your destiny is your fate in the sense that you are gifted with these gifts and not those, that you are called to do this with them and not that. You don’t get to choose your destiny any more than you get to choose your fate. Your destiny chooses you. If you don’t choose it back, you are locked into your fate. If you choose it back, your life becomes an adventure wherein you take your fate and see what you can create with it with the gifts you have to work with. Perspective is the most important gift. All of your gifts are gifts to the world. Showing the world how to see is the best thing you can do for it. It begins with seeing, yourself—with your seeing and with your seeing you and everything that constitutes your fate. You change your fate into your destiny by the way you see both. Perspective is the magic wand we wish we had. The Philosopher’s Stone whereby base metal is turned into purest gold. We are not stuck with one perspective, point of view, way of seeing things. It shifts as we take up the work of asking, seeking, knocking, probing, pondering and poking around. Ask questions and ask questions of the answers to your questions. Do not allow people to shut you up! Ask the questions that must be asked, that beg to be asked, and see where it goes. This is the foundation of the spiritual quest, the Hero’s Journey, and the threshold to the unfolding of your destiny. Stick around. There is more to come. 08/24/2012
- It’s Never Been This Dry, according to Billy Simms, Miller at the Glade Creek Mill, Babcock State Park near Fayetteville, WV — August 24, 2012 — If you are going to believe in anything, believe in your destiny—in the work that is yours to do, the life that is yours to live, the gifts that you are to bring forth as boon and blessing—and work to realize it in the time left for living. We have lost the sense of our individual value due to bad theology and worse preaching, and believe there is nothing for us to do but pray for forgiveness and hope to go to heaven when we die. WHEN WE DIE??? There is LIFE to be lived! Which we neglect—reject—with our belief that everything we touch turns to sin and nothing we do matters. Our life is of essential value to the transformation of the world, and it is waiting on us to live it—to be who we are for the good of the whole. When we are all doing our part, the whole world is blessed. But, we have to believe that we have a part, a destiny, a calling—and do it, live it out. Our destiny is doing our thing and seeing where it goes, where it takes us and what happens along the way. This is the Hero’s Journey—and it waits for us all. 08/24/2012
- New River Trestle 02, near Fayetteville, WV — August 24, 2012 — We integrate who we are and who we also are and engage the world as one on the way to oneness with herself, with himself. Or not. Fragmentation and disintegration remain attractive options for a high percentage of the planet’s population. There are people past counting who willfully refuse to live on terms other than their own—and actually take their own life or turn to the wall in any number of ways and slowly pout themselves to death because things aren’t more to their liking. Making the best of it is not in their repertoire, and the rest of us have to do what we can without their help or cooperation. But. We have our own work to do, and like the story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, we have to know where we stop and they start—what can be done, and cannot be done, and must be done—and turn our attention to the work that is ours to do—over the objections of those who think it is our obligation to try to save them by cottoning to their whims and wishes all our life long. Our work is integrating who we are and who we also are in sharing the gifts that are ours with a world dying for the very things we have to offer. To spurn the work, and reject the gifts, and refuse to be who we are for the good of the whole in each situation as it arises is to create a wasteland where life should be, and deepen the delusion that nothing we do matters. 08/25/2012
- Glade Creek Panorama, Babcock State Park, near Fayetteville, WV — August 24, 2012 — The church of my experience was big on talking about grace and love and little on being gracious and loving. And when it was gracious and loving it was directed to “us” and not to “them.” “They” had to become like “us” if “they” wanted to enjoy the benefits “we” had to bestow. But, the closer you examined those benefits, the less beneficial they came to be. It was a fine line between “us” and “them.” You could become “them” just by asking questions. Certainly by developing a point of view different from the officially sanctioned point of view. And hell was always in the wings, to be hurled as a threat to keep everyone huddled together in the very center of “us.” And we repeated the adages of “usness” like trance-producing spells to keep us all centered in the certainty of “us” and immune to apostasy, heresy, blasphemy and idolatry—none of which could ever hope to be privy to grace and love. You had to deserve grace and love in order to be treated graciously and lovingly. Yet, grace, in my book, is unmerited benevolence, undeserved kindness and love. Funny how it gets redefined and redirected, with all the fun removed, in a place where no fun is allowed except under the most stringent restrictions—which are out of place in an atmosphere of grace and love. All of which is a long way of saying, show me what you have to say. I’m going to believe what I see of you, how I feel about you, years after what you said has been long forgotten. 08/26/2012
- Sharp Top from the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Peaks of Otter, VA — 08/26/2012 — We would do better if we knew how. We don’t get enough of the right kind of help, and to top it off, they blame it on us, as though it is all our fault. We would do better with better instruction and encouragement. You should have seen my parents, and my grandparents—particularly on my mother’s side. You would never think of blaming me if you knew where I came from, and what I’ve had to deal with along the way, and how little in the way of helpful help I’ve had. I’m certain the same could be said for you. And if not, we need your name and address so we can send the blamers straight to your doorstep when they come along looking down their long noses at us, saying we are the ones. 08/27/2012
- Still Life with Clouds and Silo 01, near Bedford, VA — August 27, 2012 — We have a life to live beyond, in addition to, to some extent instead of, the life we are living. This is the test, to see how much of our other life we can live in the time left for living. Carl Jung said, “There is within each of us another whom we do not know.” The other one has a life to live too, and we only have one body to share. It’s a problem. It’s our place to get to know as much of the other one of us as we are able—to invite the other one of us into our life, and make room, accommodating, integrating, reconciling our two lives, so that “the other and I are one.” This is the work of being a True Human Being. The Other within holds the key to our soul, knows the deep secrets we are dying to get to (like who we are/also are, what is important, where lies the path to the saving perceptions and the like) and is our Guide to All Things Good. It would be well with us to work out things with our Inner Other but. We have our own ideas about where we want to go, what we want to do, who and how we want to be. Take a look around. We are where we are, and things are as they are with us, as the result of doing what we wanted to do and living the way we thought our life ought to be lived. This is the best we could do. Maybe you are just fine as can be with how things are with you but I’m thinking I could have done better sharing the decision making with The Other Who Lives Within. If you are with me here, we have the rest of our life to form the alliance and figure out how to live together for the good of the whole—and the good of the world. This is the adventure we’ve been hoping for. The Hero’s Journey begins NOW.
- Sandstone Falls Panorama B, New River Gorge National River, near Hinton, VA — August 26, 2012 — Taking everything into account, seeing everything as it is, putting everything on the table in each situation as it arises, walking around the table, considering the table—what would enable you to set everything you have ever heard aside and allow what is important to come to the surface and do what needs to be done the way it needs to be done including what would be best for you personally? We do not just automatically set ourselves aside for the sake of some other need. Other needs are not automatically more important than our own needs. Some needs are more important than others in different situations. Jesus never did the same thing twice. Would he raise the dead or leave the dead to bury the dead? Would he condemn an innocent fig tree and forgive a guilty woman? Each situation is unique and immune to the imposition of policies and standard operating procedures. We decide in each moment what to do here, now. What would you need to do what is needed? To assess, determine, decide, do? I would suggest airing it out. Talking it over with someone who has no interest in the outcome. Who is not there to sway you one way or another. Who simply listens with understanding, asking questions to clarify their understanding of your perception of the situation but having no stake in your choice. Do you have anyone like that in your life? Are you that kind of listening presence in anyone’s life? Everyone needs what no one has, Who is going to make the first move to be what all of us are dying for? 08/28/2012
- View from Long Point, New River Gorge National River, near Fayetteville, WV — August 25, 2012 — We are doing everything we can think to do, everything we think needs doing. To do any better, we would have to see better. To see better, we would have to see past all that stands in our way, preventing us from seeing the situation as it arises, the moment as it unfolds, before us. Everything stands in our way. All that we have ever seen, and heard, and thought before. Our ideas stand in our way. Our ideas about good and bad, right and wrong. Our ideas about what should be done and should not be done. We think we are doing right when we do what we have always thought was right—when we do, again, what we have always been told is right. Sometimes, what is right goes against the grain, stands apart from the crowd chanting, “Do what we say! Do what we say!” Sometimes, we have to take the bold risk of doing what we sense is the right thing even though everyone we know is telling us it is the wrong thing. Our opinion about what is right can keep us from seeing, knowing, doing what is right. A prejudice is a pre-judgment, judging something as right or wrong before the time of action. Our prejudices and our inferences and our assumptions and our long-standing convictions and certitude have to go. We have to set them aside and step into each situation as an innocent servant of the good, looking, listening, seeing, hearing, sensing, feeling—open to what is happening and to what needs to happen—ready to do what needs us to do it with the gifts that are ours to bestow as a spontaneous act in the service of life and light and peace—ready to step aside and allow the good to shine through where we stood as blessing and grace upon us all. It’s hard work, but more than worth the effort.
- Long Rural Highway 02, Virginia State Highway 40 near Smith Mountain Lake Dam (That’s Kudzu about to collapse on the highway and consume all hapless travelers, coming soon to a housing complex near you!) — August 26, 2012 — Believe whatever you want to believe, but don’t let your beliefs, or your principles, or your ideology keep you from seeing and doing what needs to be done. Ideology is no guide. We cannot allow our principles to depict what we do. We have to go where ideology and principles cannot follow: Into what needs to be done no matter what! Of course, we have to be right about what needs to be done. That’s where the problems arise. But, ideology and principles put bras on African and South Pacific native women. A beautiful example of people with eyes to see not seeing. What needs to be done in a situation cannot be imposed on the situation but must be allowed to come forth from the situation. What needs to be done is organic, not artificial. The situation calls for its own solution, apparent to those with ears to hear, eyes to see. What we want to happen in a situation may not be what needs to happen. We have to approach it with no agenda, no designs, but in a good faith commitment to discern the good and do it in a “Thy will, not mine be done,” kind of way. The trick is getting out of the way of the way of that which needs to be done when we are the ones who say what needs to be done. There could be a bit of conflict of interest at work here. Living truthfully means living in light of what we know to be true, transparent to ourselves, aware of how we are living, seeing things as they are and doing what needs to be done about it—in each situation as it arises. It’s all too much for us and so we find ourselves saying, “Just tell us what to believe, Preacher—and what to do!” Never mind that Jesus said, “Pick up your cross daily and follow me!” The Preacher will tell us what to believe, and do, about that. 08/29/2012
- Cattails and Sharp Top, Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway, VA — August 27, 2012 — How do we talk to someone who refuses to hear what we have to say? How do we guarantee good faith commitment to the good of the whole? The big things are out of our hands. We can do everything right and still be trumped by the stupid refusal to cooperate on the part of those whose cooperation is essential to the creation of an environment conducive to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” of everyone else. We are up against it. Helpless. Vulnerable. At the mercy of the merciless hoards. Left only with “Father, Forgive them, they know not what they do.” That’s being generous to a fault, don’t you think? Giving them way too much the benefit of the doubt? “Know not what they do”??? They damn well ought to know what they are doing! Or, at least CARE about whether they know what they are doing or not! They cannot be careless with the lives of others in their hands! “Father, Wake them up to the impact of their living on the lives of others!” Now, that would be a prayer worth praying. “Father, Forgive them” leaves things nicely as they are forever, unchanged and unchanging through long generations of snatch and grab, power to the meanest, most vicious and ruthless among us, who have no business exercising power over anyone ever. A nice little religion of the status quo if there ever was one! Words of Jesus, or words of the church of the status quo? That’s the trouble with thinking the Bible speaks for God. The Bible says what someone says God said. Who stands to gain from what God has to say? Who benefits from a manifesto that keeps the people in their place? At the mercy of the merciless power wielders who “know not what they do” ho, ho, wink, wink, as if? How do we wake people up who have no interest in waking up? Who have nothing to gain from waking up? Who are quite content to exploit every situation for their good at the expense of the good of others? We see how things are and say how things are without mincing words. We play the game under protest, or we quit playing that game and find another way of supporting ourselves and those we love. Tough calls, hard choices. But. Playing along, hoping for a change of heart in those who have no heart is a “sickness unto death.” 08/30/2012
- Sunflowers, Blue Ridge Parkway near Peaks of Otter, VA — August 26, 2012 — We do what can be done to limit the intrusion of ruthless invasion and tyranny in our life and recognize that ruthless invasion and tyranny form the backdrop of life and has since the beginning of life. The natural world is hell on earth. You don’t want to be a peaceful little earthworm with Robins about. Civilization sets some limits but laws only offer recourse, not immunity, and we have to make the best of it more often than not. I wonder if we could wield a weapon, defending ourselves against ruthless, invasive, violence—without becoming ruthless ourselves. Harry Potter broke the most powerful wand in the world. Frodo, with Gollum’s unintended help, dropped the ring of power into the fires of Mount Doom. Those who wield power become victims of power. Hope seems to reside in vulnerability and innocence. What are we do make of it? Do not trouble yourself with making anything of it! Joseph Campbell says the clear directive of life is: “Get in there and do your thing—and don’t keep score or worry about the outcome!” Or words to that effect. We like to think that we “do our thing” best if we are left alone by the ruthless invaders and tyrants of the world but. Again quoting Campbell: “It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses.” So, who’s to say? And it doesn’t matter anyway, what anyone says. The ruthless invaders and tyrants are part of the landscape in which we “do our thing,” that is, do the work that is ours to do—like it or not. We cannot think in terms of protection and immunity. We have to think only in terms of “doing our thing” in each situation as it arises for the good of the situation—and “not keeping score or worrying about the outcome.” The protection and immunity we need is against dismay and despair over having no protection against ruthless invasion and tyranny. We need a cultural environment in which people have the freedom and the help they need to wake up and “do their thing,” that is, the work that is theirs to do, without discrimination and injustice. The Bill of Rights is a good beginning point for the right kind of environment. We have to elect the people who will defend these rights and expand them, not erode them in the service of an ideology that is little more than ruthlessness in thin disguise. 08/30/2012
- Courthouse and Tavern, That would be the Appomattox Courthouse and the Clover Hill Tavern, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Appomattox, VA — August 27, 2012 — Just as “The wand chooses the wizard,” so our life chooses us. It is not so much a matter of finding our life as it is realizing what it has always been. We don’t make up something new—we give shape and form to the core characteristics that have shaped and formed us. The important things don’t change. I have always been one to look out windows, pondering, probing, wondering, imagining, curious. I have always been one to wonder where a road goes, and take it to find out—the map is consulted only to find my way back home. I still do that with actual roads, but now I also pick up a word or phrase that has some interest for me, some energy about it, and write it down, and see where it goes. Seeing where things go is more important to me than having things, achieving things, acquiring things, amassing things, owning things… My work is roaming around, looking, seeing, listening, hearing, inquiring, seeing what I can make of things—particularly contrary things, contradictory things. Holding things in creative tension, seeing where it goes. What good is that? That is an illegitimate question to ask of our work. Our work is justified by its value to us—not to anyone else. No one can judge the value of our work but us, and its value is its value to us, what it means to us. Our work is good for us. If it benefits others, fine. If not, fine. Gerard Manley Hopkins said it well: “What I do is me/for that I came.” 08/31/2012
- Blue Ridge View 02, near Peaks of Otter, VA — August 26, 2012 — I’ve probably said here before that the Buddha recognized three things as the cause of suffering: Fear, Desire and Duty. I’ve added four more things to the list: Greed, Laziness, Arrogance and Stupidity. You could actually group the first six items on the list under Stupidity. In addition to being the root of suffering, Stupidity and its six manifestations prevent the coming forth of ourselves into our life—which plays right into suffering. This leads smoothly into one of the 10,000 Spiritual Laws: We can do what is hard or we can do it the hard way. When we stupidly refuse to do what is hard in bringing forth the life that is our life to live into the life we are living, we suffer. When we live to avoid legitimate suffering, we suffer. Stupidity sinks the ship, or beaches it. I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be better if people were less stupid about it. But, there is no saving them, or ourselves, from the impact of our choices. Things have to play themselves out. Think you could have prevented the Civil War? World War II? Any war? Any exhibition of Stupidity? In the grip of the consequences, we have to do the work of waking up, squaring up, growing up, and doing what needs to be done in the situation we are in—always looking for the opening, for the shift in the circumstances, that will allow us to break free of the chaos and take up the work that is ours to do—bringing forth the life that is our life to live within the life we are living, which transforms that life and brings peace and hope to life in it. This is the work of the yeast in the dough, the seed in the earth—life coming to life within some stupid choice, transforming the choice and making it the ground of all things good, which does come out of Nazareth after all.
- Virginia Countryside 03, near Bedford, VA — August 28, 2012 — Every one of us wakes up in a really bad situation from time to time. In every situation, we can live in ways that make things better and we can live in ways that make things worse. The problem is we have no way of knowing which effect what we do is going to have. Very few of us try to make things worse. A large percentage of us do. How to get better at reading the circumstances and mediating peace is a book we all need to read. This is a book we all write out of our own experience. Reading situations, seeing what is happening and what needs to happen and what we can do about it, spontaneously, off the cuff, on the fly, in the moment of our living—and doing it—and seeing where it goes, always ready to see and do again in the dance of life throughout our life is the art of life. This is what we are here to do: Develop and practice the art of life. The primary rule governing our proficiency in the art of living is: No Imposition Allowed! We bring forth, we do not impose! No principles, no policies, no ideology, no doctrine, no agenda (except the agenda of no agenda), no formula, no recipe, no map, no blueprint—just listening, looking, seeing, hearing, trusting, experimenting and learning over time how to read the external signs and signals and how to hear the internal voice of the intuitive guide and trusting what we think we see and hear in acting for what we think is the good of the situation and seeing where it goes. In this, there are no guarantees, no certainties, no assurances. This is the nature of adventure. The moment of our living is an adventure with life, with learning the art of living, with knowing better how to live in the strange and unfamiliar environment of relationships and divided loyalties and conflicts of interest and contradictory aims and values. We are thrown into it, are up against it, and have no idea of what to do about any of it. This is the script of every action-adventure—and it is our own life. We work it out. We learn from our experience. We experiment. We play. We practice, practice, practice. All there is is practice! Look until you see what you are looking at! Listen until you hear what you are listening to! Do what you think needs to be done until you get really good at knowing what needs to be done! Live the adventure! In each situation as it arises! 09/01/2012
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Sandstone Falls Panorama C, New River Gorge National River, near Hinton, WV — August 25, 2012 — Where do we go to be centered, grounded, focused on how things are, and also are, and what needs to be done about it? Where do we go to speak truthfully about what we are up against and what we can imagine to do about it? What are you up against these days? What are the conflicts and contradictions you are struggling with? Where do you go to talk this out? We need a sounding board as much as we need anything. A sounding board is a compass, a dousing rod, a sextant, a lifeline, salvation. Of course, we have to be doing the work to benefit from a sounding board. The work is waking up, squaring up, growing up, getting up and doing what needs to be done. If we’re not doing the work, we’re just shooting the breeze, loafing around, hanging out. We don’t need a sounding board for that. Most of the people I know have no idea of the work that is theirs to do. They are praying for forgiveness and waiting for Jesus to take them home. Or, they are thinking, “What can we do to sock it away, retire early, have it made?” We should be seeking the work that is ours to do and doing it in the time left for living. That’s where a sounding board comes in. Nothing beats a sounding board for finding our life and living it—finding our work and doing it. But, we have to be looking for a sounding board to help us with the finding. 09/01/2012
- Boardwalk, Blue Ridge Parkway, Peaks of Otter, VA — 08/27/2012 — No one grows up because they want to. No one thinks growing up is just dandy and they wish they had thought of it years ago. No one grows up because they think a little maturity would be good for them, or because they’ve tried everything else and that didn’t work, so let’s see what growing up will do for them. We grow up against our will. It is not our idea. We do not volunteer for it, or say something on the order of, “I think it’s time I grew up,” and begin, like that, to live a considered life. But we think we can be spiritual because we decide to be. So we pick up a book or two on spiritual growth, or maybe hire a spiritual director, and attend lectures with “soul” in the titles. Hear this: We do not think our way grown up and we do not think our way spiritual. The two are one, and we get there by having no choice in the matter. By being shanghaied by our life and forced along routes we do not choose in the company of those we would not select to ports of call we cannot imagine. That’s the spiritual journey for you, the Hero’s Journey, the Quest for the Holy Grail, the Search for the Promised Land. You don’t do it in the comfort of your recliner, as you feel like it, when you are in the mood, in charge of your choices and know what you are doing. 09/02/2012
- This Dogwood Can’t Wait!, Abbott Lake, Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway, VA — August 27, 2012 — Our work—the work that is ours to do—which is our life—the life that is ours to live—brings us forth and is the source of our maturity and our spirituality. These are one thing. We are as mature as we are spiritual and we are as spiritual as we are mature. A Buddhist monk who throws tantrums and demands to have his, or her, way is far from being the Buddha. If we choose to pick something up, jogging, say, we can choose to put it down. The life that is ours to live is not ours to choose. “It’s the pirate’s life for me, Gibbs. I have no say in the matter” (Cap. Jack Sparrow). “The pirate’s life” has its equivalent for each of us. We “have no say in the matter.” We do not choose to say, “Thy will, not mine, be done.” We are compelled to say it. We must say it. We say it against our will. We have no choice. Waking up is recognizing how things are—seeing into the heart of things and knowing there is nothing to do but acquiesce to truth. We face up to how things are. We take the life we are living in one hand and the life that is ours to live in the other and work it out. The work to work it out and do the work that is ours to do will grow us up, bring us forth, and develop our spirituality. We don’t become spiritual by changing our vocabulary and attending lectures and reading the holy books, but by living the life that needs us to live it. We can burn incense and ring bells, pray, meditate, and sit Zazen but spirituality goes deeper than the things that are ostensibly spiritual. We can speak the lingo and wear the robes, but a hat and boots do not make us a rider. Riding does not make us a rider. The horse knows. Wanting to be spiritual by taking up spiritual practices is like wanting to be a Buddha by shaving your head. There are no shortcuts to spirituality and maturity. We get to the-two-that-are-one the long way around—by doing the work that is ours to do, living the life that is ours to live. And we cannot do that just because it’s raining and we are bored and think, “Why not?” 09/02/2012
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Glade Creek Falls 01, Babcock State Park near Fayetteville, WV — August 24, 2012 — The Buddha did what was his to do. Jesus did what was his to do. There is a theme here. You and I have to do what is ours to do. We can’t just make something up: Snowboarding! I like snowboarding! I’ll do that! We have to do what needs us to do it with the gifts that are ours to give. We have to intuit what is ours to do, douse what is ours to do, open ourselves to what is ours to do, be seized by what is ours to do—and do it. Spirituality is the lived realization of the life that is our life to live, the grounding characteristic of a life doing the work that is its work to do. Spirituality is a by-product of living the life that needs us to live it, of doing the work that needs us to do it. Spirituality has nothing to do with doctrine, ideology, belief, or religious practices. Spirituality has everything to do with the alignment of being with doing, so that what we do is who we are: Integration. Wholeness. Harmony. Spirituality has everything to do with faith—understood as trusting ourselves to who we are and seeing where it goes—trusting ourselves to the life that is ours to live and seeing where it goes. It all comes down to doing the work that is ours to do. We have to do the work. There is no substitute for doing the work. This sounds like such a simple formula: Hand ourselves over to our True Life and enjoy the bliss of peace and harmony. Not so fast. Things are complicated by the choices that are forced on us by our circumstances. There is nothing like a forced choice to limit our freedom. One forced choice seems to lead to another and, like that, we are as much in bondage to the life we are living as the Israelites in Egypt were in bondage to theirs. Each of us is Moses to our Israel side. We set ourselves free from the life we are living in order to submit to the life that is ours to live by facing up to how things are and working out the conflicts, integrating the contradictions, reconciling ourselves to our life and our life to ourselves—and repeating the process anew in each situation as it arises all our life long. 09/03/2012
- Peers House, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Appomattox, VA — August 27, 2012 — The plaque in front of this house reads: “From this spot was fired the last shot from the artillery of the Army of Northern Virginia on the morning of April 9th, 1865” Lee surrendered to Grant on that date, effectively ending the Civil War, though occasional skirmishes continued into June of that year. — History is a downer. Truth is a full body slam. We need someone to help us put our experience of life in a perspective that allows us room to breathe—to help us spin it, if you will, in a way that enables us to remain relatively balanced and reasonably well-defined instead of decimated, devastated and disintegrated. All history has the potential of overwhelming us with hopelessness, despair and depression—personal, national, international, natural… It is a bleak picture that can be painted with the brush of truth. We need a perspective that enables us to look truth in the eye, recognizing it for what it is without needing to pretend otherwise—no denial, diversion, distraction allowed—and without surrendering to the apparent uselessness of standing against the currents of time. How we live in the face of all that is true matters. That it matters is also true. The wonderful old values matter even though it would appear that they don’t stand a chance. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, goodness, self-discipline, grace, mercy, justice, loyalty… The list is long. These things stand against greed, corruption, injustice and their kin—and we must stand there with them. In the stories of darkness and death beyond imagining in World War II, there are lights shining brightly. England’s courage. Denmark’s providing escape for the country’s Jewish population to Sweden (and destroying its own naval vessels) prior to German occupation… That list is long as well. These things matter! WE matter! The way we live matters! WE are a light by virtue of the way we live our lives. We may well be the brightest light in somebody’s darkness. We cannot think that we have no impact for good, that we carry no weight, that we do not count. When our perspective begins to turn on us, we need to have a perspective adjustment, in order to pick ourselves up after another full body slam and step back into our life filled with Cyclops’ and do what we can with them all. If you are going to believe anything, believe what you do matters! And live as though it does! Your whole life long! 09/03/2012
- Virginia Countryside 02, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, VA — August 27, 2012 — Each of us is capable of responding as needed to the situation as it arises—of doing what is needed, of being who we are needed to be. But, there is a catch. We have to grow up to do it. We have to be bigger than we are. More gracious than we are. More confident and self-assured and self-reliant than we are. More trusting of ourselves to know what is right when we see it—to know what is called for when we see it. And to care less about avoiding or arranging certain outcomes than we care about being what the situation needs us to be whatever that might me and wherever that might lead. As it currently stands, situations are useful only for levering other situations into position for our personal advancement and exploitation. We use this moment to get to that one, or to avoid that one. We arrange situations to our liking by doing what this situation requires to advance our purposes, goals and agenda in the world. This is called living with our best interest in mind—or, on a national level, serving our national interest at the expense of the interest of every other nation on earth, even of the earth’s interest, of all things. We live to sacrifice every interest but our own. The height of immaturity and self-centeredness. We have to grow up. Everything depends on it. 09/04/2012
- Sandstone Falls Panorama A, New River Gorge National River near Hinton, WV — August 26, 2012 — We are up against the Facts of Life as a stream is up against its channel. We work our life out within the context and circumstances of our living. Our life shapes—as it is shaped by—the facts that restrict our choices and require things of us, like it or not. We work things out over time. We don’t have a plan that we impose on our lives. We live to see what we can get by with, what we can do, what happens and where it goes. We want things to be different than they are and get depressed and anguished and angry because they are not more like we want them to be. That’s like a stream getting depressed and anguished and angry because its banks are granite instead of sand or mud. The facts that constrain us are the facts that constrain us. How can we bring forth who we are where we are how we are? We have Ideas for our life, for the life we want to be our life—things we want to happen, how we want them to happen and by when. We would do better to have an idea of the life we are built to live—the life that needs us to live it—and to live to serve that idea no matter what. 09/04/2012
- Roaring Fork Falls Panorama 01, near Mt. Mitchell State Park, NC — September 05, 2012 — We have to get in there and figure it out—taking our lumps, collecting our fair share of embarrassing oversights and dumb moves, and amassing an accumulation of experience to consult for guidance and direction over the course of our life. We just want to know what to do. We want to go straight to perfection. Forget laying the groundwork. Forget paying our dues. Bring on the bliss and glory! Time to wake up now. We have to become proficient in what remains of our life in figuring out what to do with the time left for living. We could start with learning to read the instruction manual. We all came with a manual, you know, on what we do best. Got shelved somewhere around kindergarten when Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased decided we should color inside the lines and trees should never be read “because that isn’t how trees are.” It went downhill fast from there. Overnight we learned not to trust ourselves. Well, who do you think is the Keeper of the Manual? That would be ourselves. So, we have to reestablish connections and learn to rely on our intuitive sense of what resonates with us—rebuilding the internal structure that guides the external life. This means we have to get in there and figure it out, and stop worrying about getting it right, now. Getting it right comes with time spent figuring it out. 09/05/2012
- Crabtree Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, NC — September 05, 2012 — The greatest adventure goes over into drudgery and boredom. Drudgery and boredom are the Cyclops’ two favorite weapons. Anything to get you off the path, out of your art—your life—and into fretting about your art—your life. When we start thinking about our art, our life, we stop doing art, living our life. We begin to pick it apart. Dismantle it. Search for what is wrong, for why it isn’t working, for the reason nothing is happening and we aren’t pumped, excited, thrilled to be doing our art, living our life. Sitting Zazen is the heart of Buddhist life. How boring is that? How long can you just sit there, breathing? How long do you need between sitting sessions to feel as though you’re accomplishing something, getting things done? We have to deal with time on our hands. We have to deal with time in which nothing is happening. There are long stretches between takes—between the action shots, between the times for acting. When the actors aren’t acting, what are they doing? When the artists aren’t arting and the livers aren’t living, what are they doing? What do we do between scenes? Between the times our life needs us to do our thing? We wait. And we do what needs to be done even there. We do what’s next. We ride it out being who we are even there, bringing ourselves forth even there, living even there—between the times—as life there needs to be lived. Kayaking is not all running the chutes and taking the falls and missing the boulders in churning water. The stream flattens out, slows down, bores us out of our minds. Use the time to recover from the past and store up for the future. Receive the moment as you would the thrilling ones. It is all our practice. We practice being who we are wherever we are, whenever we are, however we are. It’s all the same. This moment is the place of our coming forth as we need to come forth to bless and grace the moment. 09/06/2012
- Sandstone Falls Panorama, New River Gorge National River near Hinton, WV — August 26, 2012 — We cannot approach our spiritual life as though it is an extension of the way we live in the physical world of normal, apparent, reality. We have to shift gears. Slow down. Breathe. The physical world runs on Chronos time, the time of day-timers, calendars, clocks, schedules, anniversaries and all that makes up a day. The spiritual world is Kairos all the way—the right time, the opportune time, the choice time, the time the tomato is ripe and the time the tomato is rotten, the time to act and the time to refrain from acting. We can say we are going to be spiritual by the end of the month, or the year, or the decade, but our spirituality and our maturation come in its own sweet time. There are no cram courses we can take to speed things along. We speed things up—to the extent that they can be sped up—by slowing things down. Walk slowly. Sit quietly. Notice everything. See what you are looking at. Look closer at what catches your eye. Ask. Seek. Knock. Inquire. Probe. Poke, Ponder. Stop. Look. Listen. Wonder. Wander. Stop pushing to know everything—to know what you don’t know. Know what you do know, and what you think you know. Knowing what you need to know will come in its own time, its own way. Our Unconscious—Psyche, or Soul—doles out what we need when we need it, much like Manna from heaven. Want to make Psyche laugh? Give her a schedule. A time limit. A due date. And tap your foot. She loves it when you tap your foot. And scowl, or pout. She’s rolling on the floor now, begging you to stop before she gets the hiccups. 09/06/2012
- Food for the Journey, Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, NC — September 05, 2012 — There’s a hot bumper sticker driving around these days: Socialism Works Until You Run Out Of Other People’s Money. I was a minister for over 40 years. I made my living on other people’s money. Every church and religious organization I know of does the same thing. Those CEO’s whose bonuses are more than the Gross National Product of most Third World Countries? They make the Big Bucks off other people’s money. Bankers. Hedge Fund managers. Insurance moguls. Financial Industry wizards and their entourage. Members of Congress. Members of the Armed Forces. Teachers. Lawyers. Firemen and Police. The list is long of those who make their living off of other people’s money. If we got rid of the Socialists in this country, we wouldn’t have a country. So. What’s the point of that bumper sticker? Poor people have no business getting their hands in the pockets of those WE have our hands in. We cannot talk spirituality without talking politics. How we live is who we are. What we do is who we are. We cannot be all holy and divine and gushing with the spiritual virtues as long as those who are the very least of our brothers and sisters are struggling for survival at the bottom of the financial barrel. The primary difference between those at the top of that barrel and those at the bottom is resources, connections, the right kind of help and good luck. Start the rest of us out where most of the poor and marginalized started out and most of us would be where most of them are. Everybody in this country deserves the freedom—and financial assistance is freedom—to see what they can do with the gifts they were born with. Hungry school children shouldn’t have to subsist on junk food. Their parents shouldn’t have to work two jobs at a minimum wage that cannot pay the rent. No one can be free to be who they are until everyone is free to be who they are—because who we are is dependent upon “liberty and justice for all.” We become who we are through helping one another be who they are. Our place is to give each other a hand—and that would be all others. Our place is to help each other to a place where we free to develop spiritually because our physical needs are being met. We have to create the political climate that supports and encourages spiritual development. Your vote is your hand and the least of your brothers and sisters need a hand, need our help. Being spiritual is being helpful. 09/07/2012
- Crabtree Falls 02 Detail, Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, NC — September 05, 2012 — Being who we are means doing what we do not want to do. It is not all peaches and cream, being who we are. It is hell. “Thy will, not mine, be done” means we become who we are against our will. Integrating ourselves is war with ourselves. To the death. And resurrection. The story of the Christ coming to life in Jesus is the story of the Christ coming to life in every person. Follows the same plot. Practically the same narrative. We save ourselves the trouble by saying it’s about Jesus—that Jesus was THE Christ, THE ONLY son of the Lord God Almighty. Gets it off our backs, sonship, daughterhood, but it is our cross to bear all the way. The story of Jesus becoming the Christ is the story of our becoming the Christ—the particular manifestation of the Christ that is unique to us. If the Cyclops has an infinite number of manifestations, preventing the emergence of the Christ, the Christ is capable of an infinite number of manifestations, coming to life again and again in each one of us on the Hero’s Journey that we are each called to take up and spend what remains of our life completing. All those Bible studies about THE Christ is another method the Cyclops uses to untrack us from our task, our Hero’s Journey, of becoming the Christ ourselves. We think we are doing what THE Christ would have us do when we are actually being faithless to the cause of the Christ we are capable of becoming, denying the Christ within by serving THE Christ without. Our work is to integrate ourselves with ourselves, to become who we are in partnership with who we also are. This was Ulysses work in the Odyssey (Homer’s work, actually, if we read the Odyssey as Homer’s autobiography), and it was Jesus’ work in the Gospels, and it was the Buddha’s work as well. So we can find in the Odyssey and the Gospels and the stories of the Buddha for clues and encouragement for our own work. But. We have to be clear about the work that is ours to do. We are becoming the Christ by being who we are in partnership with who we also are.
- Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley National Park, CA — Making the Unconscious Conscious is aligning ourselves with the beat of our own drummer. It is discerning the cues and the clues of our Soul’s drift and synchronizing our life with its leanings. Soul speaks a symbolic language which we have to perceive and interpret in order to translate into the life we are living. Soul knowledge is not intellectual, logical, rational—it is not something to be thought and said. It is not information we seek in order to stun and impress with our grasp of the intricacies of the spiritual world. We are seeking to import the right ratio of being and doing into each moment of our life—into each situation as it arises throughout each day of the time left for living—so that the world might be blessed by our presence and awakened by our life and join us in the work of soulful living.
- Grapes 01, Shelton Vineyards near Dobson, NC — September 09, 2012 — It’s all practice. Our life is our practice. Our practice is our life. It doesn’t matter how you feel about how it’s going, be aware of it, be conscious, be alert, be present, be awake to what is happening and to what needs to be done about it and do it. And don’t think that is going to do the trick for you, turning things around, changing your luck, getting your groove back. It’s just practice. You are practicing seeing what is happening and what needs to be done about it even when it is not going so well, and won’t no matter what you do. This is not about getting things to go well! This is about the practice of seeing what is happening and doing what needs to be done about it even though that is not going to do any good! Print this paragraph out and paste it onto your bathroom mirror, your bedroom mirror, and your refrigerator. The Dali Lama said, referring to the Chinese occupation of Tibet, “When that which is happening has the momentum it is likely to continue to happen no matter what you do in response,” or words to that effect. But this doesn’t mean your response is useless, pointless, futile. The Dali Lama got out of the way. It didn’t stop what was happening, but he avoided a worse outcome by taking flight. When you meet an elephant on the path, get off the path! Do what you can do, but don’t expect it to disappear the elephant! Do not limit yourself to doing only those things which disappear your problem! Maybe you cannot disappear your problem, but you still have choices, options. Pick your best one and take it for a ride! It’s all practice! Practice choosing! Practice riding!
- Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, CA — Do what you would do and make the necessary adjustments to get it like you think it needs to be. You are your own guide to what is right as you deem it to be. So. Sit with your next choice to make until you are clear about what you would do, about what you think needs doing. Do it and make any adjustments that need to be made. If you want to call in those who can broaden your perspective, bringing up for your consideration things you might not see on your own, that’s fine but. When you get it all on the table (to your satisfaction, or to the extent that is possible), then YOU sit with the table until you are clear about what you would do. Listen within. How does your body feel as you consider the table? Let your body take the lead. Being comfortable in your body about a choice is a strong signal that you are clear about what needs to be done, about what you would do—that you are on board with yourself. At-one-ment with you is always a good place to start. This is not to say you won’t have to make adjustments. One thing leads to another. People have weird reactions to your not doing what they want you to do. There are always things to deal with but. Getting you aligned with you is the first step to wholeness, harmony and transformation. Practice that until you get it down. You’ll amaze yourself. Why would I lie? 09/10/2012
- The Vineyard, Chateau Morrisette Winery near Floyd, VA — September 10, 2012 — How’s it going? How do you know? Fooling ourselves is what we do best, you know. No—telling ourselves what we want to hear is what we do best. No—shooting ourselves in the foot is what we do best. No—Well, my point is that self-assessments are difficult to make. We can think it’s hopeless and why go on, or we can think we are the captain of our own ship sailing straight to glory, and be wrong on both counts. So. How do we know how it’s going? Listen to your body. Look in the mirror. Notice how you spend your money and how you spend your time—particularly what you spend your time thinking about, and ask yourself, “What does thinking about what I think about keep me from thinking about?” And listen for as long as it takes for the answer to become clear. It’s important that we do a life inventory, evaluation, from time to time. When you look at your life, how do you feel? Emotionally and physically? What physical sensations are you aware of in your body? Listen closely to what they have to say. Let the predominant physical sensation stand out. If it were an object or an image or a scene—so that in showing me the object, image or scene, I would know exactly what it feels like in your body? Sit with the object, image, or scene and ask it to speak, to say what it has to say. Listen deeply, completely. Receive well what is offered. Then ask it what it would like to happen, what it would like for you to do. Receive that well and thank it for its forthrightness and its trust in you. Tell it you need time to process the information, to live with what you have heard, and promise you will continue the conversation soon—and keep the promise. Learning to commune with your body, with your physical senses, is learning to commune with Soul. It is taking prayer to a deeper level. Creating a partnership with the Invisible World. Sharing a life for the good of the whole—the whole that you are and the whole the world is. Sharing the journey of a lifetime. Happy trails! 09/11/2012
- Grapes 01, Chateau Morrisette Winery near Floyd, VA — September 10, 2012 — Carl Jung said, “Within each of us, there is another whom we do not know.” This Other within was, for Jung, the Self, the organizing center of the Unconscious, the Psyche, the Soul. He thought that it is our life task (the Hero’s Journey) to know this other and collaborate in living our life together—within the terms and conditions of the world in which we live. When we are being “true to ourselves,” we are being true to this invisible core of the Unconscious. We can be “untrue to ourselves.” We can have ends and agendas that do not belong to the Self within. We can live in ways that are at odds with the inner Center. Soullessness is the result of cutting ourselves off from our Soul, from our Center, in living a life of our own design. We begin the work of finding our way back to the Center, to the Self within, by waking up, coming to our senses, and opening ourselves in good faith to the direction and guidance of the invisible world. The bad news is this isn’t a strategy for getting what we want. We hand over what we want. Our place is to effect in the physical world the qualities and values of the spiritual world—to incarnate the heart of the Spirit of Life, giving flesh to Spirit in concrete acts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, grace, mercy and all the values that reflect and express life at its best. This is our destiny—to incarnate, reflect and express the heart of life—with the gifts that are ours to give. You do this in your way, as only you can do it. I do it in my way, as only I can do it. We do not do it the same way. We do not live the same life. We live our own life but not serving our own agenda. We serve the agenda of the Self within, bringing forth the values that grace and bless the world. 09/11/2012
- Roaring Fork Falls 01, Pisgah National Forest near Mt. Mitchell State Park, NC — September 05, 2012 — Listening is wondering, is paying attention, is being awake, attuned to the moment of our living, is sensing what is happening externally and internally, is knowing the impact events are having on our body, is feeling physically what is happening and what needs to be done about it. It’s like playing tennis. You don’t think what to do and do it. Your body responds to the events as they unfold on the court and does what needs to be done in response. A flock of birds in flight moves with the grace of a single organism—is even more graceful that a single bird could be removed from the flock. In the flock something besides thinking is directing the flight of the flock as it does what needs to be done in response to what is happening. You leave the house and know you’ve forgotten something, you can’t remember what. You can’t think your way to what it is but you can think down the checklist: Car keys? No. Glasses? No. Grocery list? No. Umbrella? No. CHECKBOOK! How your body feels between No and Yes is the signal your brain is waiting on. This is the feeling we follow to the Promised Land, overriding it only when circumstances require a detour or a change in direction, like if we turn back to get the checkbook and notice the house is on fire. On one hand, we are always looking for the advantages and thinking of how to exploit a situation for our personal benefit. On another hand, we are getting the Yes/No sense from our body. If we continually, habitually, override the Yes/No sense for the sake of what we take to be advantageous, we cut ourselves off from the guidance that is available to us and have nothing but what we take to be our self-interest to carry us along. It’s a balance we have to strike, when to override, when to follow—a call we have to make, knowing that we are making a call, being “wise as serpents” in one situation and “innocent as doves” in another. Tricky, but an art we must master over the course of our life, listening our way along. 09/12/2012
- Yellow, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC — September 12, 2012 — It can be terrifying to encounter the reality of the invisible world. It’s a test of your mettle—to see if you have what it takes to be a partner in the work to be done. Trust works both ways. Your Invisible Other has to trust you not to cut and run at the first sign of resistance to your doing what needs to be done in the visible world. You have to trust your Invisible Other to provide, or help you find, what you need to do the work that is to be done—the work that is your work to do. It starts with your Invisible Other going “BOO!” and seeing if you bail. It might come as a dream, or a nightmare. Terrifying figures of darkness. Here’s what you do. In your dream, or resetting the stage in your imagination after you wake up. Walk right up to the terrifying specter and demand to know what it wants. Ask it straight out: “What do you want from me?” Fold your arms, set your jaw, tap your foot. And receive well everything that comes. When it is your turn, be clear about what you want: Support, stability, safety, insight, courage, guidance…whatever you think will be helpful to you in the adventure you are about to embark on. You want to know you can rely on your Invisible Other to help you find what you need to do what needs to be done. It is not legitimate to ask for fame, fortune, glory, and easy living in high cotton. This is what the two of you are going to work together to do with what remains of your life in the time left for living. It’s as though your Invisible Other is Obi-wan Kenobi, or Yoda, and you are Luke Skywalker with the helmet on learning to live your life. You have to pay attention, open yourself to your feelings, and sense what needs to be done, and do it. You sense what needs to be done like you sense that you forgot something, and you know what to do the way you know it was the checkbook. And it takes practice, practice, practice to develop the art into full-fledged True Human Being-hood. 09/12/2012
- Footbridge, Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway, VA — August 28, 2012 — When it comes to working out our alliance with the invisible world, we are not helplessly at the mercy of forces quite beyond us, compelled to do their bidding as those possessed, entranced. We walk in to the negotiations as full partners in the unfolding of what remains of our life in the time left for living. We possess the power of NO! We aren’t doing anything we don’t agree to do—and no one can make us. This is a point often lost in Orthodox Christianity. God has the power to send us to hell but God cannot force us to do anything we don’t agree to do. The selling point of conventional Christianity is that if we don’t agree, it’s hell to pay. That’s extortion, pure and simple. It’s a shakedown. It’s the process of obtaining favors through fear and threats. A Mob tradition that a God worthy of the title would have no truck with. We need a better motive for throwing in with the invisible world than if we don’t we’ll be sorry. Fulfillment, wholeness, completion, peace of mind, and an interesting, meaningful life are the things I would offer you in return for your good faith commitment to the work of unfolding what remains of your life in the time left for living. And if you weren’t buying, I’d move on, looking for those who can see the inherent value and goodness in what I have to say. We are full partners in the work to bring to fruition—to life in the physical world of normal, apparent, reality—the gifts we have to give in the service of giving concrete existence to spiritual qualities and values—through the quality and value of the life we live. No one can force us to do anything we do not agree to. The invisible world needs our allegiance, our loyalty, our alliance—and it offers in return help along the way. There is a catch. The help we receive is help for the work that is our work to do. It is not help for our agenda, our plan, our idea for our life. It is not help to do what we want to do. It is help to do what truly needs to be done. But we are completely free to spend ourselves in the service of what doesn’t need to be done if we want to. We’ll just be on our own with nothing to guide us but our own sense of greed, or our own sense of fear or duty, or our own variety of laziness and stupidity. And if we decide to go our own way, we always have the option of waking up to the futility of having only our wants and wishes and fears to drive us—and can choose at any time to avail ourselves of the partnership that is always at hand, awaiting our participation. And if we agree to the deal, we still get to say NO! whenever we need to, without negating the partnership, all along the way. We’ll just have to work out the details regarding to what we are willing to do in the service of what needs to be done. 09/13/2012
- Persimmons, Greensboro, NC — September 12, 2012 — We are full partners with the invisible world in the work of bringing life forth with the gifts we have to give in each situation as it arises in the time left for living. I’m good for sentences like that. It’s one of my gifts. I’m happy to share it with you. My Aunt Lois could Tat like crazy. Christmas ornaments. Baby booties. Gave it away. At the end of her life, she sold some of her work at craft fares and was amazed at what it brought in—and was more comfortable giving it away. Bringing life to life in the time left for living is what we do through the way we respond to the moments, the situations, of our life. It takes the right perspective to respond in the right way. Spirituality is a perspective. It is a point of view. It is a way of looking at things—a way of receiving things, receiving them well, as they need to be received. It is an art to receive people well, to receive situations well, to receive our own moods and shortcomings well—to receive our life well. We have these expectations, you know, these standards, these ideas of how things ought to be. When Jesus said, “Don’t judge,” he meant don’t know what to expect—be surprised—be gracious, gentle and kind—give everyone and every thing the benefit of the doubt, and see where it goes. It takes practice to pull that off. Start with yourself. See how gracious, gentle, kind and receptive you can be with yourself. it’s easier to treat others like that when you can treat yourself like that. Start with the voice you use in doing Self Talk. The tone of voice. How you say what you say. Work on sounding gracious, gentle and kind when you are talking to yourself about yourself. When you get that down work on your vocabulary. You’ll be a humane being in no time. That’s the idea, you know, for all times and places and circumstances. A humane being. All of us. Wow. That would be revolutionary. Which is the other idea. But, one thing at a time. 09/13/2012
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Yellow Three, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC — September 13, 2012 — Somebody has to be the grown up here. That would be you. And me. We have to be the grown up in this situation. In each situation as it arises. This is a problem because we are all still growing up. No one is ever Grown Up. It is a process without end. The Spiritual Quest, the Hero’s Journey, is the process of getting ourselves grown up, of maturation, of being able to consistently come forth with a response appropriate to the occasion—of being able to rise to the occasion, every occasion—of being able to take the Cyclops in stride and deal with whatever he throws our way, without missing a beat or losing our place or being out-done or overwhelmed, or falling all to pieces. Integration is putting all the pieces together into a harmonious whole. This is growing up. Maturity. The Heroic Achievement. Spiritual Development. It is the work of the Mandala, the sand paintings of the Buddhist Monks and the Native American tribes of the southwest U.S. Symmetry. Balance. Harmony. Wholeness. Completion. We engage our opposites, our conflicts, our contradictions and bring them together in the creative tension of life—of our own personal life. We grow ourselves up by being the Grown Up we are becoming. The process completes us, and we oversee it, direct it, produce it, act it out by consciously, deliberately, intentionally being what the process enables us to become. I don’t remember who said it but we are sculpting ourselves and are at once, at the same time, simultaneously, the sculptor, the chisel, and the marble. Tricky. And interesting. And the most meaningful way you could ever hope to spend the rest of your life. 09/14/2012
- New River Gorge Bridge, New River Gorge Historic River near Fayetteville, WV — August 25, 2012 — We have to take care of business and we have to take care of the baby. Business is all that is required to hold life together—including our own rest and recovery. The baby is the Unconscious, vulnerable, easily dismissed and ignored, completely dependent on us for its care and tending—and its coming forth into the world of space and time. If we take care of our responsibilities in both of these areas, we will be due a “well done, good and faithful servant” or two, along with high fives, accolades and a ticker tape parade. It helps to know—and remember—what we are about: Business and the Baby. And to reflect, at various points in the day, on how we are doing with each, and what we might do deepen our awareness of what it means to tend both. 09/14/2012
- Roaring Fork Falls 03, Pisgah National Forest near Little Switzerland, NC — September 05, 2012 — We work it all our in relation to what is happening in our life—to what has been happening all along the way from then to now. And, we will continue to do that, to work it out in relation to what will happen in our life from not until then.
It is all quite accidental in the sense that anything could have happened—nothing had to be what it was/is—and yet, no matter what happened in our life, we all would be pretty much where we are in our work with coming to terms with the invisible world—with making our peace with how things are and also are—with aligning ourselves with the Unconscious and becoming an increasingly conscious partner in forming the alliance between Consciousness and Unconsciousness in working to do the work that is ours to do in the time left for living.
We are all here, now—you are reading what I am writing in the virtual company of all the others who are reading what I am writing—as a natural extension of the work we all have been doing on our own up to this point. Me writing and you reading is just the next step on the way to wherever it is we will be when we get there—but wherever that is, it will be only a step on the way to somewhere else. There is no landing, no arriving, no settling into some status quo where nothing ever changes and we all think what we are supposed to think—what is the Right Thing To Think—finally having figured it out—until we die.
It is all an unfolding, an emerging, a birthing, an awakening, an ever-deepening, expanding, enlarging realization of how things are and what our place in it, with it, is. And it is all something we realize, something we work out, in relation to what is happening in our life at any given point. Our seeing is the result of what we are grappling with in our life. We wake ourselves up by coming up against something or other all the time.
We think we are awake now, but then, we come up against something else, and, in working through that encounter, we wake up to things we never considered back when we thought we were awake. Where we are going is a dance with where we are and where we have been—a dance of awakening, of realization, of awareness, of consciousness becoming Conscious of itself and Unconsciousness, and how it is all a Great Marriage of wonder unveiling itself before our eyes. I’m glad to be a part of that with you—and I look forward to the dance, and the Marriage, going on and on with us all. 09/15/2012
- Yellow Two, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC — September 12, 2012 — Here’s a morning prayer for you, and for all of us: May we see with right seeing. May we hear with right hearing. May we understand with right understanding. May we know with right knowing. May we do with right doing. May we be with right being—in each situation as it arises throughout the time left for living. In this way, may we transform our life, all of life and the cosmos we influence with our presence, one situation at a time, as a blessing and a grace upon all who come our way—all without a plan, a timetable, or an agenda—serving only what needs to be done with the resources and gifts at our disposal: Seeing, Hearing, Understanding, Knowing, Doing, Being. Transforming. Making well. Making whole. Making peace. Amen. May it be so. 09/16/2012
- Virginia Foothills, near Stuart, VA — September 11, 2012 — Futility, uselessness, pointlessness, hopelessness and the like are the Cyclops Ace In The Hole. When he throws those at us, we stop. Fold it up. Drink heavily and pray for death to hurry. The questions, “So what? Who cares? Why try? What’s the use? What’s the point? What difference does it make? What good would it do?” are the Killer Questions. They take the life right out of us. When we take them up, the Journey ends.
The antidote is to believe and reply, “Even though it’s useless, pointless, hopeless, futile and coming to a very bad end, how we live in the meantime makes all the difference!” Then we smile at the Cyclops and continue the Journey.
We need one another to remind us that how we live makes a difference. By reminding one another, we make a difference and become evidence of the truth we espouse. We make a difference by the quality of our company, by the nature of our presence in each others life.
Think of the people in your life who have made all the difference to you and then tell me that how we live doesn’t matter. How they lived mattered. How you live matters. If you are going to believe anything, believe that—and live as though it is the rock solid truth and ground of your life, because it is!
How you live makes all the difference—the way differences need to be made. It won’t effect the outcome. You’ll still die, lose your teeth and your hearing and all the other stuff that goes. But it will redeem all those losses and render them much more insignificant than your life, because how you live will transform the meantime and make it a place of life and love, goodness and grace for all who come your way. 09/17/2012
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc. Sharp Top Reflection, Abbot Lake, Peaks of Otter, Blue Ridge Parkway near Bedford, VA — August 28, 2012 — We are seeking ourselves—to be reunited with the heart of who we are. It is not a quick and easy trip. We assist it when we learn to distinguish between our impulses.
We can be drawn to a lot of things, any of them could have the integration of our opposites—the reconciliation of our contradictions—or the realization and expression of a gift of soul at their core. Not all of them do.
All of the addictions are eddies circling eternally far from the central flow of our life. We can want what we have no business having. The holes we fall into can wake us up but pushing people into holes was never the Buddha’s—or Jesus’—way.
We assist the work of soul by listening to our impulses and discerning which are saying, “Sugar! Beer! Babes and Hunks!” and which are saying “Here is the way that is truly the Way for you here, now.”
How do we know? Practice, practice, practice. And listening to our dreams. And being alert to the drift of our life over time—to the themes and the interests that are reflected in our choices and pattern of behavior. And being particularly sensitive to symbols that attract us in our dreams and waking life.
For instance, for some time now, I have been fascinated for some time now by the idea of magic wands as a way of disappearing evil and entrenching good. Well. I’ve worked imaginatively with the symbol of a wand and have come to realizations I would never have managed otherwise. So notice your symbols and work with them. Play with them. See where they lead you.
They will lead you to yourself. It’s where we’re going, you know. 09/17/2012
- Crabtree Falls 03, Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, NC — September 05, 2012 — Keep watching. Keep listening. Hoping to see what you are looking at. Hoping to hear what you are listening to. And watch everything. Listen to it all.
There is no recipe, no formula, beyond see, hear, understand, know, do, be and stay out of the way. The path meanders. The Journey drags on. We want to hurry things up. “How much LONGER?” “When will we BE there?” This is always as there as it gets.
The process of becoming ourselves, of being who we are, is far from systematic, with ordered, sequential steps from preschool to graduate degree. No one can tell you what to do when, what books to read in what arraignment, what to master and what to ignore.
Watch. Listen. Over time, a pattern will develop, something will emerge, a shift will happen, you will begin to sense a drift of soul, an impulse toward this and away from that—none of which could be predicted but all of which is “right down your alley.” And you will find yourself being moved through your life in accordance with how things need to be in each moment, in each situation as it arises. And all you did was watch, listen, and stay out of the way. 09/18/2012
- Roaring Fork Falls Detail 02, Pisgah National Forest near Little Switzerland, NC — September 05, 2012 — All we need is a sounding board—someone to hear us to the truth of who we are and how things are with us. By listening carefully to what we have to say, those who hear us deeply enable us to hear what we have to say—and therein lies the transformation.
Seeing and hearing lead to understanding, understanding leads to knowing, knowing leads to action, to doing, and doing results in being—We are what we DO. This is quite different from believing and thinking and saying all the right things while our behavior gives lie to our fine words. We become who we are, not by believing and thinking and talking but by doing what needs to be done, the way it needs to be done, when it needs to be done.
Action/doing/living transforms us—and our acting, doing, living is transformed when we see, hear, understand, know how things are with us and what needs to be done about it. Everything rides on having someone listen us to the truth of who we are and how things are with us.
So, I propose that you look around and find two other people who are doing the work you are doing, or interested in doing the work you are doing. I think three is the minimum number for the kind of listening that is required. One person talks and two people listen. The roles are passed around until everyone has been heard and has heard themselves speak from the depth.
Together you form a listening team that would meet once a month or so for a couple of hours. Parker Palmer’s book “A Hidden Wholeness,” in which he talks about “circles of trust,” would be a worthy guide. And I have posted “Ground Rules For A Community of Innocence” on my Blog (outlandspress.blogspot.com) which offers some guidelines.
The trick is finding people you can trust, who respect one another’s boundaries, and who won’t pry or try to keep the conversation going beyond the time you meet together. If you form a group and would like to email me about process and procedures, I’ll be happy to write you back.
A listening team is a logical next step in the work to see, hear, understand, know, do, be—and I hope you can find a couple of other folks who will join you in the work of transformation. 09/18/2012
- Sweet Gum Leaf, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC — September 18, 2012 — What we talk about to our listening team is how the work is going. We become who we are at the expense of who the others in our life want us to be, wish we were—at the expense of who WE want us to be, wish we were. We need the help of those who understand and offer the right kind of help in the right kind of way to have a chance.
We talk about the obstacles without and within and what we are doing, what might be done, to deal with them. We talk about the Cyclops in all of his manifestations. We talk about the difficulties involved in walking two paths at the same time—the path our life in the visible world requires us to live and the path our life in the invisible world requires us to live.
We talk about our dreams and what we understand them to mean, what they seem to be asking of us, saying to us. One reason for meeting once a month is to give ourselves time to collect dreams and work with them, think about them, ponder them before talking about them.
We talk about the symbols that have become significant to us. Carl Jung says “A true symbol appears only when there is a need to express what thought cannot think or what is only divined or felt.” This means the symbol chooses us—we don’t choose the symbol. The symbol offers itself to us as a way of helping us explore the world of the path, the Journey, the world that is opening before us as we take up the work of exploring it.
We might use Internet collections of quotes by Carl Jung as a starting point for what we have to say. Quotations that “click” with us would be a good place to start rummaging around in our exploration into who we have been and who we are becoming. You will find that as you begin talking you’ll have more to say than you think—because saying it brings it up in ways that thinking about what we have to say cannot. As we say it it comes forth. As we think about it, it just shakes its head, wondering when we are going to start talking.
A listening team is a big step. It makes it official, our work to become who we are, against all odds—to see what’s there, what’s there to us, and what’s there to the invisible world. We are saying to ourselves, “Okay. Show me what you got.” So an early thing to talk about is the fear of finding out.
It’ll be great. Let the Revolution begin! Let it begin with you! 09/19/2012
- Glade Creek Mill Panorama, Babcock State Park near Fayetteville, WV — August 25, 2012 — The “Click Factor” is the organizing principle of life. We move toward what resonates with us on all levels of life. Flowers move toward sunlight. Amoebas move toward food and away from toxins. It is a principle that directs life across the spectrum.
Human beings have developed to the point of being able to think what is good and not have to rely on feeling it. We have created ethical and moral principles, codes, rules and guides to supplant the Click Factor in guiding our behavior and directing our lives. We are paid high salaries to do things that would not Click with anybody under any circumstance. And, we lose our soul in the bargain.
Soul doesn’t understand money. Soul understands Click. If it doesn’t resonate with Soul, Soul has nothing to do with it. We recover our connection with Soul—we find our way back to Soul—by rediscovering the Click Factor and moving toward the things that resonate with us and away from the things that do not.
You might practice strengthening your Click sense by going to restaurants that serve food which Clicks with you in stead of going to the same restaurants you always go to. Go with what you are in the mood for—unless you are on a diet that rules out every good thing that can be eaten!
Practice looking for the Clicks as guiding lights in your life, follow them and see where it goes. 09/19/2012
- Narrow-Leafed Sunflower, Price Park, Greensboro, NC — September 15, 2012 — We have to know when to stand our ground and when to step aside. When you meet an elephant coming toward you on the path, get off the path. Make a new path. There are things we cannot do anything about. Give them a wide berth. Walk on.
But, don’t take my word for it. Jesus said it first: “When you come upon those who have it in for you, get out of town!” Or words to that effect. Jesus got out of enough towns to know what the deal was there at the Garden of Gethsemane. He could surrender to the Romans, or surrender his integrity or take up arms and join the resistance movement, which would also be surrendering his integrity. His “put away your swords” was his choice that had only one possible outcome—but his integrity remained intact. Sometimes the elephant chases you down. But it’s a rare elephant that goes to that kind of trouble.
Most of the time, standing aside, putting down our sword, letting things play out, is enough to keep the work going that needs to be done in spite of the opposition. We “go on to the next town” and hope to find receptivity there. Eventually, we run out of options and join our ancestors, hoping we left behind enough to provide light and encouragement for others on the way.
We need light and encouragement because it is a judgment call all the way. When to press forward and when to ease up, when to turn around, when to get off the path. What to do when, where, how—maintaining our integrity AND doing the work that is ours to do with compassion and kindness, grace, mercy and peace… Hoping to find those who can receive what we have to offer in the time left for living, and pass it on. 09/20/2012
- Rural Road BW, Near Smith Mountain Lake, VA — August 27, 2012 — We have to do the work, the work that is ours to do, that needs us to do it. AA is right about working the program. The program I’m talking about is our life, living our own life, the life that is ours to live.
We think it’s automatic. With enough money, life just flows we think. There is nothing automatic about life, about being alive in the deepest sense, about living the life that is our life to live. It takes complete concentration, rapt attention, intentional awareness, deliberate focus.
Who are we? What are we about? Anybody can spend their life looking for a party and letting the good times roll. There is more to us than that. There is a life in here that is desperate to get out—into the life we are living. The life in here can’t wait to transform that life and bring it into alignment with who we are capable of being and what we are capable of doing for the good of the whole—for the good of every living thing.
It’s our place to mediate the integration, the alignment, of the life we are living with the life that is our life to live. It is not automatic on any level. We have to learn—and use—all of the Right Brain tricks in order to assist the birth of what is coming to be, which would be us in our own life.
Anything poetic, symbolic, imaginative, metaphorical and creative assists that work, and anything literal, logical, rational, factual, actual, tangible and concrete obstructs it. The problem is that we live in a logical, rational, factual world. We have to learn to live in this world as citizens of that world—of the invisible world of symbol and metaphor.
I dreamed last night I was in a cafeteria line and the people around me kept dropping their food. I took that to mean my needs will be met but I’ll have to put up with a lot of absurdity along the way. I may have missed the point of the dream—if so, there will be another one, maybe tonight. My point here is to play with your dreams. Don’t take them literally. See where it goes. The same thing applies to all of the symbols that are meaningful to you. 09/20/2012
- Bamboo, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC — September 18, 2012 — “We only want two things, Jim,” says one of my AA buds. “Smooth and easy. That’s the initial attraction of alcohol. It smoothes things out and makes thing easy. At first. Apparently. Then it smashes you and everything you ever thought was good. Smooth is a washboard road in disguise. Easy is hardest thing you’ll ever do.”
Spoken by one who knows.
Forget smooth and easy! Do what’s hard! Bear the pain! Don’t run from the pain! Don’t hide from the pain! The upset! The agony! Discomfort is a natural, legitimate, part of life—especially of the life that devotes itself to seeing, hearing and understanding—to seeing what needs to be done and doing it in each situation as it arises.
To live properly is to be and do what our life needs us to be and do in each moment. The only thing consistent about us is the good we are striving to do. In rising to the occasion, we morph into whatever the moment requires. We become in our response to the moment whatever we need to be in that moment—standing firm in one moment and standing aside in the next.
The only thing that is always wrong is failing to be who the situation needs us to be. The only thing that is always right is offering what is needed out of what we have to give to the here and now of our living.
Rigidity is dereliction of duty, and disastrous. Inflexibility has catastrophic consequences. We think we always have to be the same way in every moment, that we must be “in character” in every situation and never think of doing anything that is “out of character.” That is true only if our “character” is capable of an infinite degree of transfiguration.
Forget smooth and easy! Life is another evening at the Improv! We do not recite lines, we read situations and bring ourselves forth to meet whatever we find there, for the good of all. 09/21/2012
- Goldenrod, Price Park, Greensboro, NC — September 18, 2012 — We have to hand ourselves over to our circumstances and trust ourselves to have what it takes to find what we need to deal appropriately with whatever comes our way. We spend too much time dreading the awful possibilities, developing anxiety reactions anticipating the unknown, making elaborate plans to counter all imaginable contingencies. The truth is we’ll have to wing it.
Winging it got us where we are, winging it will get us where we are going. We navigated all of the major turning points in our life not knowing what we were doing. We made it all up. Our screw-ups are all attributable to our attempts to apply some intelligently designed over-lay to situations that were developing before our eyes. We pulled out a rulebook with black footprints included like an Arthur Murry Dance Manual and tried to walk through our life following directions.
Our best moves were completely uncalculated. They were driven by instinct and intuition, and caught everyone, ourselves included, totally by surprise. And here we are. Worried about tomorrow and ten years down the road, as though we won’t be able to figure it out. As though the well is dry. As though we are flat out of luck with zero chance of handling anything even slightly out of the ordinary. And have to sit home in the dark with our hands folded in our lap taking shallow breaths to keep everything as it is or it’s over.
We are afraid of tipping the fragile balance we have somehow achieved with our life and losing it all in a single catastrophic stroke. We owe it to ourselves to find out if it is going to be as bad as we are afraid it will be. The Cyclops creates the fear within to stop us in our tracks and bring the Hero’s Journey to a halt. Into the fear! The Journey will make Heroes of us all! 09/22/2012
- Persimmons 03, Greensboro, NC — September 22, 2012 — The hardest part of photography is waiting. You wait on everything. The light mostly. But then, there is waiting to find the scene, and waiting on the tourists to get out of the way, and waiting on someone to bring the coffee. I’m still waiting on that one.
The people who can be photographers can wait. Even “The Eye” has to be waited on—or, better, “The Eye” has to wait on “the eyes” to hand over control and start seeing what “The Eye” would have them see.
It’s wait, wait, wait and then take fast photos while the light lasts, which is never long enough. It’s amazing how quickly the earth turns, the clouds move, the light disappears. You have to be ready. You have to understand how things work. You have to be willing to forsake sleeping late and dining leisurely at an hour most convenient for you…
In this way, photography is a macrocosm of life. Life is waiting. Waiting on the time to be right. Waiting for the right things to line up in the right way. Waiting for the opportune moment. Then, using the in-between time to reflect on how you did, what you could have done differently, how to do it better the next time, and practice, practice, practice—if only mentally rehearsing the situation you are anticipating.
Rehearsal is a major component in a well-lived life. It doesn’t get nearly enough press or credit. Nobody can be expected to nail a scene—lived or photographed—without preparing for it beforehand. Improv is the result of 10,000 hours of practice on some scene. Improv draws from an expansive repertory of scenes mastered. Life is not accidental—certainly not a well-lived life. Practice. Practice. Practice. Wait. Wait. Wait. That’s the formula, waiting, yes, to be applied. 09/24/2012
- Katahdin 01, near Millinocket, ME — September 23, 2012 — We spend our life looking for the Big Find, the Big Break, the Right One… It’s all “out there.” To be had. To make ours. And be fulfilled. Happy. Satisfied. Forever. And ever. Amen.
Here’s one for you. It isn’t “out there.” It is “in here.” It is “who we are” that we translate into visible, tangible expression “out there.” We bring the “in here” forth into the “out there.” We articulate the wonder of us into a form that benefits, graces and blesses the “out there.”
We do not become something “out there”—famous, say, or wealthy—that transforms something “in here” into loveable, acceptable, charming and cherished. We interpret the “in here” in a way that transforms the “out there” into more like it ought to be than it is.
We think we are not who we ought to be. We are victims of a super sales job. It’s the “out there” that isn’t what it ought to be! We are here to straighten out the structures and format of the world at large, and the world tells us we are the ones who need to be straightened out—that it is all our fault that things are the way they are.
Thinking we are to blame, we forsake our calling to come forth as we are to redeem and make right, and live out our life thinking there is nothing here to redeem anything or make anything right. All the Wizard within needs is a faithful disciple to make a few waves, turn over a few apple carts, stop tiptoeing on eggshells and wake the world up to the truth of its own misdirection. We are the One we are waiting on. So now, what are we waiting on? 09/24/2012
- Katahdin 02, near Patten, ME — September 24, 2012 — Our life is not our life. Exploiting every situation to our advantage is not always in our best interest. Our life has a life of its own. Our situations are calling us to life, to live, in ways beyond what is reasonable and customary. We may have to cut against the grain of one world to drift in the current of the other world.
When to do what, where and how is always a problem. We have to work it out. Our tools for the work are eyes that see, ears that hear, a heart that understands and the courage to get up and do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises.
Experience does not provide us with prefabricated over-lays to apply to situations that may appear to be similar to previous situations. Experience teaches us to shut-up, sit down and pay attention to what is happening and what needs to happen in this situation—never mind what is supposed to happen according to the dictates of Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased.
It is so hard to make it in this world without resources and support—yet, we ignore the primary resource and support, and spend our time looking for gold in “them thar hills,” carrying Fort Knox with us, within us, every step in in the search for wrong treasure.
Jesus talked about living water and the bread of life and we still think it’s “out there” in heaven after we die. We have to “die” all right—to our idea of what has value and how to avail ourselves of it. Life, “sifted out, pressed down, pouring over” is a simple matter of seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, doing, being—of attending the life that needs to be lived within us—of bringing forth the “gold” that is striving to come forth as blessing and grace within the situations of our living.
This does not imply preaching any doctrine. It is solely about living the life that is our life to live within the life we are living for the true good of all. We write the book on how to do it by doing it. Nobody knows but us what clicks with us. Nobody but us can tell us when to do what where and how. We are our own baby to birth and bring forth, champion and serve throughout the time left for living. And it all starts now. 09/25/2012
- Katahdin 03, West Branch of the Penobscot River, Lower end of the 100 Mile Wilderness, on the Golden Road near Millinocket, Maine — September 25, 2012 — The wilderness tends to separate us from all that is false and pretentious about us. The moose and the racoons don’t care who you are, so what’s with the posturing and the affectation? There is no one to be impressed in the wilderness, or to be pleased.
When it’s just us to be pleased, how do we live in ways that are pleasing? How do we decide what to do when we don’t have to do anything? Left to our own devices, what do we devise?
The wilderness gets us down to us. How long can we stand our own company before we need the distractions of civilization to save us from ourselves? What is it about us that we need to escape? How can we hope to be whole if we cannot embrace ourselves?
The entire spiritual enterprise—all of it, I mean—comes down to our relationship with ourselves. There are a number of us. There is the I, the Not I, the Also I, the Not-Yet I, the No-Longer I, the I I Wish I Were, the I I’m Afraid I Am, and the I I’m Called To Be—just to mention the ones I’m most familiar with. It is our place to be on friendly terms with all of the I’s we are.
Our work is to be okay with ourselves, to enjoy our own company, to work out the conflicts and share the joy—within ourselves and with all the other selves who are a part of the world with us. It’s easier to do that with them if we are doing that with us. 09/26/2012
- Low Tide 04, Stonington, ME — September 26, 2012 — Play with your life! Have fun with what you’re doing. Why not? Does not having fun with what you’re doing make more sense?
The title of one of Paul Watlzlawick’s books is “The Situation is Hopeless, But Not Serious.” We would do well to lessen the degree of seriousness with which we deal with hopeless matters.
Aging, for example, is hopeless. If we live long enough, we’re gong to lose everything. But it isn’t serious. We can enjoy our food without being able to bite into it. Honey, yogurt and oatmeal can carry us a far piece. It’s all in how we look at it, in the weight we ascribe to it.
So it is with a lot of things that weigh us down. Hopeless is not necessarily serious. It’s possible to be hopelessly playful, and have what fun we can with the things that come our way. See what you can do to make me right about this. 09/26/2012
- Compass Pond, Lower end of the 100 Mile Wilderness, along the Golden Road, near Millinocket, ME — September 25, 2012 — We uphold, support, encourage one another in ways that bring the other forth, that bring out the gifts the other possesses—perhaps to the surprise of all of us!
We are here, in part, to be good for one another, to be safe, caring places for each other to be. We are nurturing, nourishing sources of life bringing life to life. Or not.
Mostly not, in my experience. I have my ideas of what I need to do and other people have their ideas of what I need to do, and there is a wide disparity between my ideas and theirs. I am me best when I am mostly alone, yet, none of us can do it on our own. We need the company of the right kind of people to have a chance. We are not doing a good job as a culture of producing the right kind of people.
The bullies run the show. On all levels. Get a little power and force your way, seems to be the way the world turns. Nothing but power plays and struggles and wars as far as the eye can see. Tell everybody else what to do. Make them do it or be sorry. That is not what we need.
So, we have our work cut out for us. It starts with finding the people who can help us find what we need to bring forth who we are. Those people are pearls of great price. May we all become them in the process of finding them! 09/27/2012
- Peaceful Scene, Deer Isle, ME — September 27, 2012 — We are all apprentices of the Wizard within. The real magic trick is aligning our will with the will of the Wizard within. Boom! As John Madden would say. Transformation!
The trick with aligning our will with that of the Wizard within is seeing with eyes of compassion. We think we understand when we see with arrogance and contempt, wielding our will with the fervor of fanaticism—laying waste to all countryside’s in the name of what we call good—waking up too late, if at all, to the wanton destruction we unleashed in the service of the wrong ends.
And so it is that the power of transformation does not reside with the powerful, but with those who see into the heart of how things are with hearts that beat at-one with the heart of all creation—and act to bless the world with peace and grace, and whose kindness and tender presence is never forgotten.
- Katahdin 05, At the Gorge, West Branch of the Penobscot River, lower end of the 100 Mile Wilderness, off the Golden Road near Millinocket, ME — September 25, 2012 — Receive the gifts. Gifts are always coming along. A piece of coconut cream pie that is well beyond the ordinary. Driving along a tree-covered lane. And, for me, a faint odor of cow pens on the wind (What IS it about cow pens? Something else we will never get to the bottom of—but evidence of something within I know not of enjoying things without with which I, personally, can make no connection. And, I’ll bet it is the same with you, though probably not with cow pens).
Gifts are everywhere for those attuned to the shifting nature of the moment, awake to what is presenting itself to you now, looking for someone with eyes to see, to see and acknowledge and appreciate.
Do not let a gift of time and place get by unseen, unacknowledged, unappreciated. Relish them all and hold them in your memory as one might cherish the grace of absolute goodness. 09/28/2012
- Sieur de Monts 01, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 28, 2012 — We cannot be conscious—and we cannot take up the work of making the unconscious conscious—without being transparent to ourselves. That means seeing ourselves in action. It means knowing when we are fooling ourselves, kidding ourselves, telling ourselves what we want to hear, and letting ourselves off the hook.
Being transparent to ourselves is being aware of ourselves non-judgmentally. It means being interested in what we are doing, and why we are doing it and what it has to say about us at this particular point in our life. What do our actions say about us? We read our actions as the book on who we are and what we need in the present moment of our life.
Seeing what we are doing is a way of listening to what we are saying with our life. Waking up to what we are doing is a way of waking up to what is going on with us on a deeper level, and opens the door to further inquiry and introspection—which may, or may not, lead us to change the way we are living, but it will certainly lead to knowing better how things are with us, and lead us to wonder what we can do about it beyond what we are already doing.
It all starts with our being transparent to ourselves and seeing where that leads. Awareness is the foundation of transformation. And transformation is a long, okay, endless, series of shifts from who we are to who we need to be.
It’s also called the Hero’s Journey. The first step is knowing. The second step is knowing what to do about what we know. The third step is doing it. Then we repeat the cycle. If you think that’s easy, take it for a walk around the block. 09/28/2012
- Sunset Silhouette 04, Penobscot Bay, Deer Isle, ME — September 27, 2012 — It is not about thinking. It is about seeing, hearing, and understanding. It is about grasping. It is about getting it.
We do not think our way into getting a joke. It comes as a flash of realization, of awareness, of comprehending. When we see, we say, “Now I see.” See?
The only things that can bring about seeing, hearing and understanding are looking, listening, and inquiring. The people who don’t ask questions have a smaller chance and a longer way to go than the people who ask questions.
Good questions lead to better questions. Bad questions lead to dead ends that are worshiped as The Answer. Answers are only good for more—and better—questions. An answer that doesn’t lead to more questions is no answer. It is death in disguise. Explanations are jokes on those who relish explanations. They think they see and those who see are laughing at the idea that anyone thinks they see.
We are not after answers. We are after seeing, hearing and understanding. Movement into the heart of realization, awareness, comprehension, life. 09/29/2012
- Heavy Seas 07, Otter Point, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 29, 2012 — If you are going to pray for anything, pray for courageous curiosity. That’s my recommendation. Courageous curiosity asks the right question at the right time. That’s the critical component in the Hero’s Journey. We don’t know what we need to know, so we have to ask. Innocently. Unknowingly.
We can’t ask what we think is the right question. We ask what we intuit, what we sense, to be the right question. We don’t know what the right question is. What do you want to know? Ask the question. See where it leads. The Journey turns on such instinctive acts of courage. 09/29/2012
- Harbor Scene 02, Penobscot Bay, Deer Isle, Stonington, ME — September 27, 2012 — The path opens before those who start walking, but it isn’t the path they have in mind. The adventure we get is the one we are ready for, but it isn’t the one we want. When we ask for help, we have to mean it—we have to be ready to receive the help that comes, but it always comes from the most unlikely sources, with the most godawful strings attached. We have to give up our idea for our life and align ourselves with our life’s idea for us.
These are the reason’s the Hero’s Journey is only for heroes. The rest of the people pass and wait for something more their style to come along, which never happens, but they get to comfort themselves with their dreams of how they wish things were, of how things might have been, with the right kind of magic at work in their life.
Magic is everywhere all the time, but it doesn’t meet our standards, and we aren’t impressed. We want the Real Deal with our wishes, wants and dreams being served even as they change into bigger and better wishes, wants and dreams. A new genie every fifteen minutes, a different fairy godmother every night—that’s the kind of magic it would take to make us happy.
Here’s one for you: It isn’t about our happiness. It’s about our living an interesting, meaningful life that asks hard things of us and pulls us forth against our will, birthing us before our eyes, leaving us astounded at the wonder of us. The catch is that we have to let go of our dreams of us to wake up to the wonder of who we are.
Dreams are always smooth and easy. The road to wonder is often difficult and “long, with many a winding turn.” And is often not taken by those who prefer a less tortuous way. 09/30/2012
- The Dingy, Stonington Harbor, Deer Isle, ME — September 27, 2012 — How do we know what’s helpful and what is not helpful? That’s the best trick in the book of tricks. Not only is it difficult to discern helpful from not helpful at the point of initial inspection, but the matter is further complicated by the fact that what is helpful on one level can often be unhelpful on another level. For example, not going to school or to the dentist can be helpful short term and unhelpful long term. So, what is helpful can be unhelpful and what is unhelpful can be helpful. As they say in the deep south, “It all depends, honey.” The “honey” is what makes that a deep south phrase.
We render this massive complexity manageable with two life-essential strategies. 1) We don’t take it seriously, which enables 2) We approach our life with an orientation of experimentation and playfulness.
We cannot experiment freely if we are not playful. What is helpful, what is unhelpful? What is good, what is bad? What is right, what is wrong? “It all depends, honey.” Sometimes it’s this way, and sometimes it’s that way. Sometimes it’s like this, and sometimes it’s like that.
Sometimes, we have to go with what appears to be helpful and say, “Oops. Never mind. I’m so sorry,” when it becomes evident that we misread the signs and need to get ourselves backed out of there and turned around as soon as possible.
We explore. We experiment. We play. And see where it goes, looking for what is helpful and what is not helpful all the way. 09/30/2012
- Fog on Cadillac Mountain 03, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 29, 2012 — We’re just playing around with our life, seeing what works and what doesn’t. Seeing what we need more of and what we need less of. Seeing what resonates with us, clicks with us, calls our name. Seeing where it goes. 09/30/2012
- The Knife’s Edge, Katahdin Range, Baxter State Park near Millinocket, ME, taken from the Abol Bridge on Golden Road overlooking the west branch of the Penobscot River at the lower end of the 100 Mile Wilderness — September 26, 2012 — We are known by the company we keep, by the people who constitute our family, to whom we may, or may not be, related. Many of us have mothers and fathers we wouldn’t spend any time with if they weren’t our mothers and fathers—and feel as though something is wrong with US for feeling the way we do about them. Well. Chances are, they aren’t good for us on any level.
Toxic personalities can be next of kin. Who are the people who encourage us? Support us? Sustain us? Listen to us and actually hear what we have to say? Without messing with our life? Without fixing us, lecturing to us, advising us, prying into our business and remaking us according to their idea of who we ought to be? Spend time with those people.
Spend time with people who stretch you, deepen you, expand you, enlarge you—in an atmosphere of compassion, kindness, tenderness, respect and trust.
You have your best chance of finding those people by becoming one of them. Like attracts like. When we become who we need, we increase our chances of finding what we need—not by searching for it but by having it just show up.
Of course, the toxic personalities in our life will try to block our development in the direction of health and wellness. “Don’t even pause to wipe it off,” or bother to “shake the dust off your sandals” as you walk into the life that is your life to live, and into the company of those who can help you live it. 10/01/2012
- Katahdin 11 BW, Baxter State Park near Millinocket, ME — September 25, 2012 — When it isn’t working, trying harder isn’t going to work either. You have to know when to put it down, walk away, give it a rest. Timely breaks make all the difference. And different approaches. Experiment. Play. You stop playing when you try to win.
We call them “games” when there is a winner and a loser, but they are not games. They are contests. Games go easily over into contests, particularly in the hands of those who have to win. With games, the rules are vague, and perhaps nonexistent. With contests, the rules are clear and everyone has to play by them, only it isn’t playing that is going on.
Contests are work, and everything is one the line. We have to win or be consigned forever to the ranks of Those Who Did Not Have What It Takes. Which is ridiculous. We all have what it takes to do what is important.
The Super Bowl is not important. Nothing we win is important. Who we are is important. Being a True Human Being is important. Nobody can be more of a True Human Being than anybody else. True Human Beings are all the same. Completely equal in their Human Beinghood. One.
Of course, this makes being a True Human Being play, not work, and certainly not a contest. Who can get there first? Fastest? With the most Style Points? Those on their way to True Human Beinghood shake their heads over these questions and those like them, and walk away, saddened that no one knows how to play and that everyone thinks keeping score matters. 10/01/2012
- Walk Through, Inn on the Harbor, Stonington, ME — September 30, 2012 — The words are there in the hearts of the hearers before the speaker speaks them. No one can hear what they have never felt, sensed or thought before hearing it. Words, like seeds, have to fall on fertile ground. Bob Dylan said, “The songs are there. They exist all by themselves just waiting for someone to write them down.” But. The song writers and the speakers get all the credit.
I can only say things that resonate with you. You can’t hear, and probably won’t have anything to do with, anything else. One of the 10,000 spiritual laws is: “You have to know what I mean before you can understand what I say.”
My place in your life is to articulate what you already know to be so but have either never been conscious of it (Have not known what you know) or never had an environment in which it was safe to say—and think—what you have always sensed to be how it is. I simply assist you in the work of consciously forming ideas to create a philosophical foundation to support you in the production of the art of your life.
YOU are the artist. I simply remind you of that and get out of your way. 10/02/2012
- Maine Sunset 01, Deer Isle — September 27, 2012 — Our work is aligning ourselves with our Self—with the Heart of Who We Are. This Vibrant Core of Life and Being is the Buddha Nature, the Christ Within. We are all the Christ when we are At One with the Heart of Who We Are. Thus comes to realization Jesus’ prayer that “they may be One even as we are One.” At One with our Self we are At One with the Self of each one, of everyone.
Religion, of course, gets in the way. Everyone is warring over whose idea is the Right Idea, whose way is the Only Way. When we stop having to be right and start listening within, we all hear the same thing. All of our hearts beat in tune with compassion and kindness, tenderness, gentleness, mercy, respect, justice and peace. We all appreciate a cup of cold water on a hot day, and are thankful for the hand that offers it to us regardless of the ideas the head the hand belongs to holds.
Our work is to live beyond religion in alignment with the Heart of Who We Are. We have to listen to do that. And hear, and see, and understand—so that we know what is called for in each situation as it arises, and offer cups of cold water to all who are thirsty, and love our enemies, and our neighbors, and ourselves—regardless of race, or creed, or nationality, or gender, or sexual orientation—one Heart beating in tune, in sync, with all Hearts, returning to the Great Oneness from which we all come. 10/02/2012
- Sieur de Monts 02, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 27, 2012 — Our work is facing ourselves, listening to ourselves, accepting ourselves, coming to terms with ourselves, squaring up with ourselves, reconciling ourselves with ourselves, working things our with ourselves, finding the way forward with ourselves, living at-one with ourselves.
Our tools in the work to be who we are are instinct and intuition. We live in the service of what resonates with us, clicks with us, winks at us, calls our name. We pay attention to dreams and inclinations and strong emotional responses.
We are always saying something to ourselves, somehow, some way. It’s time we began to pay attention. Our Self has been wanting to get up with us from day one. All we have to do is welcome what is trying to reach us and make our peace with the fact that there are two of us sharing one life. It will be interesting all the way! 10/03/2012
- Cascade on Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 28, 2012 — Much of the work of growing up is bringing our budding maturity to meet the rampant, indulgent, immaturity of the masses. This is ridiculous. And the greatest hindrance to our own continued awakening and development—the Cyclops secret weapon. Idiots everywhere.
What good is being awake if you can’t wake up anyone else? We would be better off in a lot of ways if we could just take our place before the Telly and laugh on cue with the canned stuff in the sitcoms! Well. It isn’t an option.
We don’t get to choose our choices, and we cannot unwake ourselves anymore than we can wake up the rest. We are left with bringing our budding maturity to meet the rampant immaturity of the masses, knowing how the awakened ones all have felt being awake in a land of sleepwalkers. Compassion and kindness, kid. Compassion and kindness. 10/03/2012
- Low Tide 10, Deer Isle-Sedgwick Brdge over Eggemoggin Reach, Maine — September 25, 2012 — We are a bundle of vulnerabilities and need an atmosphere in which we are safe to be who we are while we experiment with becoming who we are built to be. You know what our chances are. Fat and slim. I don’t know what we do about that but. We start with being aware of what we need and how difficult it is to find—without despairing or sinking into gloom or giving up.
We are the champion of our own soul. We can’t be groveling about because it’s difficult. Of course, it is difficult! It would be called the Slacker’s Stroll if it were easy. It’s called the Hero’s Journey for a reason.
Our role is to find a way for our soul to do its thing. I drive the car and carry the equipment, but my soul knows where to place the tripod and how to frame the photograph. Every time I set up the tripod, I think, “This is weird. Why here and not a foot front or back, right or left?” It’s HERE. That’s all I know, or need to know. Someone else is in charge of HERE and NOT THERE.
We are born into a hostile environment. I don’t know why. We will never get to the bottom of it but. Our role is to give our soul a chance. Not to flail about, whining and moaning because it is “so hard,” while our soul rolls its eyes, shakes its head, and wonders what it ever did to wind up with us.
We bring soul to life in the life we are living. That’s our place in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t matter what the odds are, or how much easier it would be in the right environment. Here we are, and we have work to do. 10/03/2012
- The Beaver Dam Pond, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 29, 2012 — We have to be interested in what interests us. Photography interests me, but that’s not the end of the matter. I have to take the photos that interest me. It is a betrayal of something deep within if I take a photograph that does not interest me. It is a lie of soul.
Think of your own life and look around you at the lives of others in this culture—which is too fast becoming a world culture—and ask where are we not guilty of such lies of soul? We have to stop the betrayal of Self. We have to start becoming interested in what interests us.
The entire religious establishment throughout time has been focused on separating us from ourselves. Thought crimes have led beyond excommunication and banishment and shunning—to inquisitions and burnings at the stake and drownings. There is nothing like a few public executions to restrict free thinking and have everyone singing sweetly out of the same hymnbook.
There are no experts. No one can tell us what we are interested in. There are no formulas or recipes or doctrines for the work of soul. No one knows what she, what he, is doing but. We all have done something and we all know what happened when we did it, so we have experience/knowledge of some sort. We know something of what is the way and something of what is not the way. We know something of what works and something of what does not work. That is enough to find the way through the darkness in the company of our own vibrant heart and soul. 10/04/2012
- Sunset Silhouette 08, Penobscot Bay, Deer Isle, near Stonington, ME — September 27, 2012 — Everybody and every situation are potentially helpful assists in our journey—even those that are evil or agony-producing. How we see what is before us—how we view what is happening to us—is the magic that transforms our experience and assists us along the path.
We have to seek the help we need. What is helpful? Everything is helpful in its own way, but we have to see what we need to make use of it. Only the refusal to be helped, to receive the help that is being offered by whatever is before us, cuts us off from what we need on the path.
Even the Cyclops is helpful. Joseph Campbell said, “It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses.” It all is exactly what we need—“everything is grist for the mill”—but it takes eyes to see to see how it all can be helpful to us on our way.
In order for us to get this to work like it can work, we have to live meditatively, mindfully, open to all the possibilities—without an agenda or a plan, and with plenty of flexibility with regard to our schedule and our destination. Something is always coming along to upset our carefully plotted map for the rest of our life—but it shifts us toward the life that is our life to live, if we are alert to it, open to it, and agreeable.
There is magic in the air, and if we have not worked to develop rational immunities, it will carry us to a life like none we could devise on our own.
- Katahdin 13 Panorama, Abol Pond, Baxter State Park near Millinocket, ME — September 25, 2012 — Carl Jung coined the phrase “synchronicity” as a way of talking about “meaningful coincidences.” This happens at the exact moment that that happens, and the meaning of the two events coming together at this particular point in your life changes everything for you.
I think of synchronicity as help coming from the strangest, most entirely unpredictable, location at the precise moment you need it most. It happens a lot to those who are attuned to, and enlisted in the service of, the needs of soul.
We aren’t helped “magically” toward ends that we have determined to be valuable, that is, we are not given what we want. We are helped “magically,” I would say, “syncronistically,” toward ends that our soul/Self has determined to be valuable and which we have aligned ourselves with (in a “thy will not mine be done” kind of way).
When we serve soul/Self, things happen that are beyond explanation. And so comes to pass Sheldon Knopp’s observation, “We can experience more than we can understand and we can understand more than we can explain,” or words to that effect. 10/04/2012
- Bass Lake Fall 01, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 5, 2012 — We are as one in the work to be who we are. The shortest distance to the center is the long way around. The spiritual masters who have devoted their lives achieving harmony, awareness and balance have never changed a diaper, can’t drive, and don’t know the first thing about grocery shopping and cooking for a family of five. Give them your life and see how long holiness lasts.
I’m saying we’re all at about the same stage of spiritual development. Those who appear to be more serene don’t have the responsibilities and duties the rest of us have to weigh them down—and the rest of us cannot gauge our degree of spiritual maturity in comparison with those who don’t have our life. Apples and doorknobs here, folks.
We circle the center. Circumambulation is moving slowly around a sacred center. It’s how we live our life, circling closer to who we are over time, but not bagging the quarry with a weekend seminar or a sweat lodge experience.
We all are equidistant from ourselves. The work is to be who we are, not who someone else—our parents, the church, our partner, spouse, children, etc.—would have us be. Begin with what interests you, resonates with you, clicks with you, stirs something within—and see where it goes. 10/05/2012
- Price Lake Fall 01, Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 5, 2012 — When we are alone, we can believe the strangest things about how things are and behave in the weirdest ways. When we are caught up in Mass Mind, we can believe the strangest things about how things are and behave in the weirdest ways. Hard questions are the only protection against encroaching idiocy.
We have to know that we don’t know—that we don’t have a clue—and that certitude and conviction are the twin monsters carrying all thinkers to their untimely demise. Just because things look we say they look doesn’t mean they are what we think they are or mean what we say they mean. There are always other interpretations!
Reasonable people can look at the facts in any situation and fail to agree about what meaning to ascribe to them, and what to do about them. Reasonable people can, and usually do, disagree. Whenever you have agreement in any group for any length of time, the group is either not thinking clearly or it is not free to question the conclusions of the group.
We have to foster conflict and disagreement—that is the key to creativity and maturity. When anyone’s word is taken as the Last Word, it’s all over. The Dali Lama doesn’t have the last word on anything. Neither do any of the gurus who write and speak with such assurance about things nobody can know anything about. Jesus himself said he didn’t have the last word (“You’ll do greater things than I did”). No one is the Authority, the Expert, the One Who Knows. And those who claim to be create pain and suffering for everyone else.
Question everything! Take everything with a “grain of salt.” Adopt Missouri’s “Show me” attitude. Probe, explore, inquire, experiment, examine, ask, seek, knock… The way opens before those who abandon all their solid convictions about what constitutes the way. 10/06/2012
- Sieur de Monts, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 27, 2012 — We throw our lives away in a lot of ways. Everything about the culture—any culture, every culture—is designed to take our minds off the emptiness of our lives. “Give them bread and circuses (that would be the gladiators killing one another in the coliseum) was the Roman solution to The Problem.
We have a bevy of addictions to choose from: Television being high on a lot of lists. Shopping, sex, drugs, alcoholism, religion and work are also there. Prosperity is not the solution to all of our problems. Throwing money at emptiness is a laughter. Meaning is one thing money can’t buy.
What we need is counter-cultural from the start. Reflection. Introspection. Self-examination. Asking what do we need instead of what do we want (What does wanting know?). Hearing, seeing, understanding how it is with our soul, what our soul is asking of us, how we need to change our life in order to live aligned with the heart of who we are.
The answers to the questions of soul do not come in the form of a computer printout with a sequential list of things to do to be soulful. We work it out with our soul over time by learning its language and sitting with it in meditative contemplation—reading our dreams and our emotional reactivity, our moods, interests and inclinations.
Soul is saying something to us all the time. We have to take the time to attend the inner dialogue that is waiting to happen—and see where it goes, which will be far more engrossing than anything we have been able to devise on our own. 10/06/2012
- If I were going to sit down with a group of three of you, I’d ask you what brought you to the group and what would it take to bring you back. We would have to know what you are looking for, what you are seeking. We would have to name the hunger. So. What would bring you there? What would bring you back? 10/06/2012
- Low Tide 05, Stonington Harbor, Deer Isle, ME — September 26, 2012 — Reasonable people can look at the facts and disagree about what the facts mean and about what to do about them. This means conflict and disharmony are integral aspects of the makeup of the way things are—and essential to our own development and the maturation of our perspective.
The maturation of perspective IS the spiritual journey. The way we see “the facts”—that would be how things are and what needs to be done about them—changes over the course of our life. We do not see things the way we once did—or the way we will see them, if we keep seeing our seeing and thinking about our thinking and looking at things from different points of view.
There is no one right way to see—to interpret what we see—to say what it means and what needs to be done about it. There is the way we see here and now, but that may well change by the time we get to then and there. But. We have to live now on the basis of how we perceive and interpret (really one thing—perception IS interpretation) what is happening in the current situation and what we think needs to be done about it. And. That means we can be more compassionate, receptive, kind and considerate about points of view that conflict with our own—and use the opportunity for conversation with the opposing points of view to enlarge and deepen our own.
We do not have to kill our enemies. Loving our enemies means listening to them and allowing conversation with them to transform the way we perceive/interpret how things are and what needs to be done about them. But. We still have to protect ourselves against the intrusion of toxic personalities even as we wonder about the nature of our own vulnerabilities and what we might do to reduce them—and thereby reduce the toxicity of those who threaten our stability and our integrity. 10/07/2012
- October Morning, Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC — October 5, 2012 — Mandalas (A Hindu word meaning “magic circle”) are, as you might guess from the meaning of the term, generally circles, but they also come as rectangles, “quadrangular mandalas.” Mandalas, in whatever shape, are a means of putting ourselves back in harmony with the heart of who we are.
As we create or contemplate mandalas as circles representing wholeness, or as quadrangles with their four corners—a number traditionally associated with wholeness and completion—we participate in the restoration of “a lost inner balance” (Marie Louise von Franz), and recover our “loss of soul” that primal peoples understood as the basis of illness and ennui.
It may be that being born into the physical universe is enough of a shock to our interconnection with the invisible world to warrant the work of reestablishing contact with “the regulating center of (our) soul” (von Franz), but some birth environments can be so harsh as to guarantee that work will need to be done.
If we are born into a culture and/or a family where respect for individual differences is non-existent, it will be as though our soul is surgically removed at birth, and we will spend a lifetime trying to restore the lifeline. For many of us, this becomes the essential task of life in the time left for living.
I have come to recognize my photography as mandala work. Each photograph is my attempt to reestablish the lost harmony with the heart of who I am, to recover my alignment with and allegiance to the soul/Self within. von Franz writes, “The contemplation of a mandala is meant to bring an inner peace, a feeling that life again has found its meaning and order.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. 10/07/2012
- Rough Ridge Bridge 02, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 5, 2012 — Physical limitations are real limitations. We do not get help from the invisible world to Zot the Cyclops in any of his manifestations from our path. We have to work it out, living from the heart of who we are within the terms and conditions of life in this world.
But this is good. It keeps our feet on the ground. It prevents us from drifting off—as a number of Gurus, spiritual leaders, and media ministers have done in our lifetime. Our spirituality is no free pass to glory. We have to deal daily with the aggravations and restrictions of normal life—and do it in a way that exhibits and expresses the values and qualities at the heart of who we are.
This is the work of a true human being. We live with a foot in each world, visible and invisible. We walk two paths at the same time. I yearn to drift leisurely from one photo-worthy scene to the next and I tackle soap scum in the shower and debris in the gutters, shop for groceries and prepare meals, deal with dental issues and keep an eye on my cholesterol numbers.
We have to work it out. We have to do the work. There is no escape from the regimen of getting up each day and finding ways to fit that world into this one. We want to be excused, to be delivered, to be free of the burden of this world, but it is this world which calls forth the specific expressions of grace and compassion that world is good for. That world needs this world to form and shape its blessings in discernible and wondrous ways.
That world needs us in this world to bestow its gifts in ways that redeem and transform the experience of life in this world—and we want to escape the experience that calls for what we have to offer. We pray for the Cyclops to be Zotted, for our way to be swept clean. We don’t want to do the work of blessing and grace. And that world waits for us to wake up to the truth of how things are, so we might do what can be done about it in the time left for living. 10/08/2012
- Sieur de Monts 05, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 28, 2012 — Those who belong together find their way together IF they listen to their inner guides and trust their instinct and intuition. We find what we need to live out of the heart of who we are in our relationships with those who are looking for what they need to live out of the heart of who they are. The right kind of company forms the right kind of community that brings forth the individuals who comprise the community in their full integrity and uniqueness.
There is no forsaking oneself for the sake of the whole in the right kind of community. The whole serves the individual selves who constitute the whole. The right kind of community understands each individual to be the savior of the world, and creates an environment in which the individuals are honored, respected, and enabled to be who they are and present their gifts for the good of all people everywhere.
As we work to become ourselves, we find our way—one might say magically—into the company of those who are working to become themselves, and together form a community that assists us in that work and calls others to join us in it for the transformation of all of life. If this sounds grandiose to you, prove me wrong by giving it your best shot and seeing where it goes. 10/08/2012
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Lobster Buoy, Goose Cove, Penobscot Bay, Deer Isle, ME — September 27, 2012 — The joke is on us when we fail/refuse to wake up and be fully present in the moment of our living—attuned to what is happening beyond what we think is happening or expect to be happening. Waking up is seeing beneath the surface, into the heart of how things are, knowing what is going on and what needs to be done about it.
When we refuse/fail to live this way, it’s no wonder that things turn out like they do. “We do it to our own self,” as they say in the deep south. Or, as Jesus would say, “You all have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand—why don’t you use them!?!” Our only pertinent rejoinder is: “We could use a lot more help than we get.”
We could be around people who are awake, for one thing, or, at least, who are working to be awake. Most of us have never seen an awake human being. Most of the people we have ever known are cows following a worn path from the barn to the pasture and back to the barn. We cannot be expected to be more awake than the people we spend our time with.
Part of the work to wake up is finding people to help us in the work of waking up. Who can see things from more than one (the usual and customary) perspective. Who can live in the tension of contradictions and contraries. Who can imagine a number of alternative responses to events and circumstances. Who keep the door open to new ways of thinking. Who see possibilities and options wherever they look. Who ask, seek, knock, poke, probe, ponder, examine, explore, experiment and never tire of digging for gold in the most unlikely places.
May we all have who we need to help us become who we have the capacity to be throughout the journey that never ends!
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Fog in the Valley 02, Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC — October 5, 2012 — We are at the same time completely vulnerable and capable of exercising inordinate influence upon the events and circumstances of our life—and upon the people whose lives intersect ours. To a considerable extent, we are the pivot upon which the future turns. And we cannot remember where we put the car keys, and worry ourselves awake all night about nonexistent termites gnawing away at the foundation of our house.
One tendency does not rule out the other. We are a bundle of contradictions. Our place is to see to it that we do not cancel ourselves out—that we do not allow our vulnerabilities to keep us from offering the blessing and grace of our presence to the time and place of our living.
Live the contradictions! You know what to say that completely diffuses an explosive situation and you don’t know where you put the car keys. We are vulnerable in some places and flirt with omnipotence in others.
Knowing we have strong tendencies in both directions keeps our vulnerabilities from sinking us into despondency and prevents our near omnipotence from rising us to the heights of arrogance and egotism. Who we are in any moment is neatly balanced by who we also are, and we offer our gifts with the humility of those who know how easily we could have left them with wherever the keys are.
- The Canoe at Fish Creek, Penobscot Bay, Deer Isle, ME — September 27, 2012 — We have a set of “every day” stainless steel flatware at our house that we have used for years. Eight pieces of everything. About half the spoons show signs of garbage disposal experience. One of those has been banged up so many times that its days of useful service is over. If I use it at all it is to stir my morning coffee. Why that one spoon?
We used them all equally. They all had the same chance of falling into the disposal and having someone turn it on with the spoon inside. Why was that particular one singled out to receive damage far beyond what the odds would predict?
We will never get to the bottom of it. That’s just the way it is.
Your life is like that. Things happen you don’t deserve. You get more than your fair share of disposal experiences. Don’t sit trying to figure it out—trying to get the gods or the universe on your side. Sacrificing virgins. Giving your last penny to the church. Rubbing a rabbit’s foot (How can that possibly bring you luck? It didn’t do the rabbit one bit of good!). Thinking positively so as to attract prosperity.
The things that happen to us are just the things that happen to us. They are not portioned out according to some fairness scale, some Who Deserves What Now schedule. Our place is to deal with it without losing our place—without getting untracked, off the beam, lost among all those wandering without hope, or purpose, or meaning in their life. “Don’t even pause to wipe it off or wonder about it!”
It’s just something else the Cyclops puts in our way to keep us from living aligned with the heart of who we are, allied with our soul in the work to bring it forth within the terms and conditions of our life no matter what they are, being sources of blessing and grace in all circumstances, rising to every occasion, leading the revolution, transforming the world.
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