10/05/2012 — 12/27/2012
- Bass Lake 05, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 5, 2012 — We only have to take the first step, the rest of the way will open before us as we start walking. We do not have to have the journey plotted and planned. There are no guidebooks or schedules or maps. We don’t know where we are going or how we will get there. We only have to take the first step with our ears and eyes open to what meets us along the way—and to our body’s response to the meetings.
We know Psyche through Soma. Body and Soul are One. Our body’s reaction is soul reacting. Our body is the receptor of soul’s leanings. Our body knows soul, and is soul. Every time we fail to consult soul in favor of our own idea of how our life should be, our body keeps score. We only have to decipher our body’s messages to know what soul has to say.
So, we take the first step and listen to our body, allowing our body to guide us toward one thing and away from others. This works like choosing what you are going to wear, or what shoes you are going to buy. What fits is not enough. What do you feel like wearing? What style do you feel suits you? What do you feel when you feel these things? That’s reading your body.
What do you feel when you feel “Yes!”? What do you feel when you feel “No way!”? What do you feel when you feel, “Uh oh!”? That’s reading your body. Take the first step with your ears and eyes open to what meets you, and read your body’s signals as to what the next step needs to be. And see where it goes.
- Beech Trees, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 28, 2012 — The natural world spends most of its time doing nothing. Sleeping, preening, waiting for the next thing to come along, waiting for the time to be right for something. In the natural world there is often a long time between times. The earth lies fallow all winter.
We, on the other hand, think constant activity is a sign of mental health and that if we are not “involved” something is wrong with us. We might slip into a depression if we slow down. We are not allowed to withdraw from the active life. “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Quietude invites imbalances of the worst variety. If you are going to sit, you have to watch TV. You cannot look out the window.
There are natural rhythms that know nothing of clocks and calendars, schedules and timetables. Things are happening when nothing is happening. The seed in the earth, the yeast in the dough, are doing their thing, in their own time, in their own way. Why should human beings be different?
We have our own rhythms. We move from activity to dormancy to activity dependably, reliably. But, without periods of inactivity, we have no time to process our experience, to reflect on it, to gain insight and prepare for the next round of action. Makes us crazy. Separates us from meaning and purpose. Cuts us off from ourselves.
We cannot be whole, integrated, at peace without being quiet on a regular basis.
- Hues of Dawn, Thunder Hill Overlook, Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC — October 11, 2012 —
How do you regain your balance? Your symmetry?
How do you find again the center?
How do you ground yourself again in you?
In the things that are valuable to you? In the things that are true because you know them to be true whether anybody says they are or not?
How do you come back to what is important to you?
Once you have been, you know, pummeled. Whacked. Garroted. Run through. Done in. A time or two. Separated from all you ever knew was meaningful, and dear, and worthwhile, and beautiful. How do you come back from being treated the way we can be treated from time to time through no fault of our own, like the spoon slipping into the disposal again?
Here’s what I’ll bet. I’ll bet you can’t do it alone.
And here’s something else I’ll bet. I’ll bet too many of us are too alone for too long.
We have to work on that. On finding ourselves the right kind of friend. How come there aren’t enough of the right kind of friend to go around?
Who is hogging them? Come on, now. Fess up. Send us their names. We have things to say stored up for decades. Damn, we need to talk to the right kind of listener.
What would you say, do you think, if you could?
- Treetops, Just down the street, Greensboro, NC — October 10, 2012 — If I could give you anything—and I so wish I could—I would give you listening to yourself, listening to your life.
YOU are the book! Read it! YOU are the song! Sing it! YOU are the treasure! Share it!
We’ve been ignored, dismissed, discounted, disregarded, banished, expelled, excommunicated and shunned so much we’ve gotten in on the act ourselves. We’ve “gone over to the Dark Side” and joined the ranks of our abusers! We don’t give ourselves credit for anything good. We don’t think we have a thing to say worth hearing. So we watch television when we aren’t numbing out on something else.
When we wake up, we wake up to us. To ourselves. To who we are and who we are being asked to be in the time left for living. We have one day less than we had yesterday. What exactly are we waiting for?
- Two Swans, Bass Lake, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 11, 2012 — There are two things for you to do right by. You and your life. You get those two things down and everything else will fall into place.
You betray yourself and your life and you’ll never get the rest of it in place. You cannot sell out and have anything to show for it.
Now we must pause for a clarifying statement. It does not matter what you have done—how may times you have ignored your Self/Soul or how many times you have betrayed you and your life. The past is nowhere close to being as important as your future is. It does not matter where you have been. Everything rides on where you are going. The journey is fueled by your doing right by you and by your life.
The two are one. You and your life are one thing. Who you are is what you do—is how you live. When you do right by you, you do right by your life. When you do right by your life, you do right by you. And the book is never closed. You get to write a new page in the next moment.
So this isn’t like an alcoholic who has been sober for six years drinking a beer and saying, “Well, it’s all over now. I may as well have a couple of six packs.” We have a beer and we start over again being sober right now. Doing right by ourselves and by our life right now. See how it works?
Our focus is doing right by ourselves and by our life no matter what just happened. What just happened isn’t close to being as important as what is just about to happen. No matter what just happened, your call to make is what is just about to happen. Make that call with doing right by you and your life in mind.
And if you don’t know what it means to do right by you and your life, listen to you and your life. They are dying for an opportunity to address the matter with you. Tell them you are here to do right by them (If you mean it) and are looking for them to guide you in doing that all along the way. And then listen. Look. Watch. Wait. Tuned in to the inner signals and outer signs. Be alert, aware, awake, and attentive. See where it goes.
- Bass Lake Fall 09, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 11, 2012 — Life is not for pickling, placing in a jar and kept forever in the back of the refrigerator next to the grape jelly that has been forgotten about and unused for years.
We are not here to get things in place and keep them there, immobilized in a state of lasting perfection.
Life is for living. Everything seeks to be itself. And there is more to everything than anything can ever be. It is as though we are all—every living thing is—here to explore being here. To explore being. To explore here. Not to wall ourselves in, seal ourselves off, keep things as they are supposed to be forever.
Things are supposed to be expanding, deepening, enlarging us and our way with things. WE are supposed to be expanding, deepening, enlarging ourselves in our relationship with each other and all things. Following our interests and seeing where they take us.
Ah, but. Fear and duty. Desire and laziness. Greed, arrogance and stupidity. Stand in the way. Keep us from being alive in the time left for living. We close ourselves off. Take no chances. Thankful it isn’t worse yet. Dead before we die.
Where are you stuck? You’ll die there if you don’t get moving. Where are you refusing to change? Refusing to think differently? Refusing to be different? Refusing to expand, explore, ask, seek, knock, grow? Where are you holding back, saying, “Not me! Take Aaron!”? You’re blocking wonder. Trust yourself to your life and let it show you what you are capable of. Stop telling it you are afraid of falling, and fly!
- Maple Leaf Medley, model from the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC — October 12, 2012 — Here’s some homework for you. No kidding. You think listening to yourself and your life is easy? Used to be easy. Back when there was nothing else to do. Track down a Wooly Mammoth once every month or so. That was about it. Lots of time to listen to yourself and your life. Nowadays, we can’t catch our breath for people with ideas about what we should do. Listening to ourselves and our life is not on the back burner, they are on the back forty. To get to them, we have to mean it. That means homework.
Find a comfortable place to sit and look around. See what catches your eye. Anything will do as long as it catches your eye. Stands out from everything else. You become interested in it, in this particular thing, for no particular reason.
Now say all you can think of to say about this thing. Write it down if that would help keep you focused. After you can’t think of one more thing to say about the thing, think of one more thing.
Now, become the thing. Say things about yourself from the thing’s point of view. Use first person. “I am…” “I did…” “I wish…” Etc.
Now identify all the ways the thing is like you in your actual human form, and how you are like it. What are the things you have in common? How could looking at your life as an actual human being from the standpoint of the thing alter the way you see your life? How would the thing approach living your life? How would the thing live your life differently from the way you live it?
How can thinking about the thing help you live your life? What does the thing have to offer you and your life? What would the thing say to you about your life? About how you are living your life? What advice would the thing have to offer? Ask it for its advice. See what it says.
You are bringing your imagination into play here. How do you think the spiritual life works—how do you think the invisible world communes with you—if not through your imagination? If you want to be spiritual, you have to be imaginative. If you want to be wake up, you have to consciously enter Dreamtime. That’s how it works. I wouldn’t kid you about this.
- Maine Moon, Deer Isle, ME — September 27, 2012 — You don’t get to you directly. You have to take an oblique approach. The shortest way to the center is the long way around. We circumambulate ourselves as we might walk around a holy object, slowly spiraling inward, over the long course of time.
Why so long? Because at the center we are not a fact like a fireplace or a toad. We are an idea, a proposal, a suggestion of sorts, hoping to become concrete and actual in “the field of action.” We discover who we are as we bring ourselves forth to meet the day.
But who is it we bring forth? Takes hearing to know. And seeing. And understanding. And loving. And trusting.
Our relationship with ourselves is like any good therapeutic relationship. A therapist or mentor doesn’t have a plan for our life, a recipe, a shortcut to being us and living successfully. She, or he, doesn’t hand us a print out or lay out some Arthur Murray black footprints for us to step carefully into all the way to success and glory. We become who we are in a relationship that allows us to be who we are in ways that are appropriate to the occasion.
Carl Jung said, remember, “We are who we have always been, and who we will be.” We only need relationships which enable us to see/know who we are and assist us in aligning ourselves with ourselves, consciously, with compassion aforethought.
We love ourselves into being. And allow ourselves to show us who we are. We provide an accepting, nurturing, protective environment and trust ourselves to lead us to ourselves over time.
- Sieur de Monts 07, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 28, 2012 — We court ourselves, flirt with ourselves, fall in love with ourselves—yet, too often we cannot bear to be in the same room with ourselves. This is a problem.
Every experience of being in love is about the need to be in love with ourselves. The lover is a projection, a mirror, in which we see—and are attracted to—aspects and qualities that lie latent within us and need to be brought to life. The other is not the point. WE are the point. The other is a handy reference to inner attributes that are trying to come forth in our life as lived characteristics. We see ourselves in the other and become what we love about him or her.
Well, fine. But what about the other? It all depends on the other. Is the other capable of joining us in the work to bring each other forth in our individual life and in our joint life together? Can the other help us create an environment in which each is safe, respected, honored, seen, heard, well received, and encouraged to experience and explore his/her interests and become who he/she is? If so, make a pact and live a long and happy life together. If not, thank him/her for waking you up to you and look for the kind of partner you need to be the person you are.
Regardless of how it goes with the other, your work is to bring forth what you admire about the other in yourself. To love in you that which you love about him/her, and to serve those qualities with the same kind of courtly love that bound knights and their ladies in medieval Europe.
- Bass Lake Fall 10, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 11, 2012 — We unfold like a rose, like a lotus flower, blooming, and follow the light all our life long. Nothing to it, except, of course, the bit about arranging our own cooperation with the process.
We have our ideas, you know, about how things should be. We stand in the way of our own becoming.
Whoever heard of a stream refusing to flow to the sea? Of a Giant Sequoia who decided, instead, to be a mountain range? Natural things are glad to be what they are. Only human beings—so far as we know—aspire to more than they have any business being.
The Garden of Eden story would have never been told by a rabbit that wasn’t making fun of people. “If they had really wanted to be wise,” the rabbit would say, winding up the story for her children,” they would have embraced who they are and reveled upon waking each day that they were themselves!”
We are our primary obstacle to happiness—refusing, as we do, to take what is ours to do and do it—wanting something better, something easier, something with a greater payoff attached, something with fame and glory strutting in its wake. Our problem with our life is that it isn’t good enough as it is. We want something finer.
The rabbits are holding their sides, tears streaming out of their eyes, laughing.
- West Branch of the Penobscot River, Lower end of the 100 mile wilderness, Golden Road near Millinocket, ME — September 23, 2012 — There is much to hinder our development—and much to assist it. The future turns on how we respond to what meets us along the way, on the degree to which we look to be hindered (“I KNEW this wasn’t going to work!”) or assisted, (“I KNEW I would find the help I needed if I kept looking!”).
We can look at the things that would stop us as tests of our mettle, imagination and creativity. Or, we can see them as good excuses to quit.
The future turns on the way we are turned and fulfills our expectations just like we knew it would. We always get the adventure we are ready for—and are looking for. We set ourselves up for what comes our way through what we say about what we have.
So attend the attitude that is expressed in your comments about your present life situation—in how you feel about your life. This is the attitude you have to work with in forming your future. Nothing is going to happen to change your attitude. You have to change your attitude in order for something to happen. You have to shift from being hindered to being assisted. And see where it goes.
- Linville River Fall, Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville, NC — October 11, 2012 — Who is the most alive person you know? The answer better be YOU. Our work is to be alive in the time left for living—by doing the work that is ours to do, bringing forth the gifts we have to offer in service to what needs to happen in each situation as it arises.
We can’t do that without being alive to the situation, to the time and place of our living—looking, listening, seeing, hearing, knowing, doing, being. We cannot be lost in some fog of disappointed expectations, numbed out in some cloud of drug-induced euphoria, just getting by, given up and hopeless like a limp piece of seaweed being carried by the tides of fate waiting to be washed ashore.
There is more to us than that. We don’t even know ourselves what we are capable of. It’s time we found out. We find out by handing ourselves over to the inner guides and saying, “Okay. Let’s see what you can do.” But there is a catch. We have to mean it. And we have to do our part.
We have to develop our gifts. We have to practice our art. We have to work at seeing, hearing, and understanding how things are in each situation as it arises. Knowing and doing what needs to be done about it. And being who we are, offering what we have to give for the good of those who can benefit from our presence in their life.
We can’t be holding back, tentative, afraid, looking for what’s in it for us. We get to be alive in the time left for living. You can’t buy that off the shelf at Wal Mart or Macy’s.
- The Falls, West Branch of the Penobscot River, Lower end of the 100 Mile Wilderness, Golden Road near Millinocket, ME — September 23, 2012 — Our instinct and intuition guide us to the gold when reason and logic live in their service. When reason and logic take over the journey, it goes all to hell. Our place is to get out of our heads and into our hearts—to know what heart knows and give head the task of living with what heart knows at heart.
I wanted a typewriter when I was 15 and fell in love with a camera when I was 18. Head had to work out the details, but I knew early on what loved. Here I am, taking photographs and writing—and four of my five books on Kindle include photos—but not coming close to paying even one bill, much less making a house payment. Head has to work that out—paying the bills AND doing what my heart knows has to be done.
My head has no idea of what has to be done. My head reads the signs and the maps that point the way to the views my heart wants to photograph. My heart has no use for signs and maps, and would never remember to fill the gas tank, or stop to eat, or carry water for the trip. Head has it’s part. It gets us there and pays the bills. Heart says where to put the tripod and when to move on to the next scene, or when to stop the car and turn around to photo something we just drove past.
We cannot think up what needs to be done. “What do you want to be?” is not even the question (What does wanting know?). “Who are you?” is the question. “What is your art? Your gift?” are the questions. “How are you going to work who you are into your life?” is the question.
Heart (Instinct and intuition) gives us who we are, gives us our art, our gifts. Head figures out how to work that into our life. The two become one in the seeing/knowing and the doing. Our place is to give each its due in bringing ourselves forth in our life as a blessing and a grace upon all of life.
- The Window, Stonington, ME — September 26, 2012 — If it isn’t helping you with your life—that is, with the life that is your life to live, not the life you are living (unless you are living the life that is your life to live), it’s wasting your time. If it isn’t helping you with your life it’s helping you avoid your life. It’s providing you with a surrogate life, a stand-in life, a replacement life—which, of course, is a lie. You are either living your life or you are living a lie. The Hero’s Journey is the transition from lie to life—and we need help with that work.
Most of what passes for religion is no help with the transition from lie to life. Religion attempts to give us its idea of our life—to tell us how we are supposed to be living. Religion tells us what our life is to be—as though it knows.
The Jewish authorities tried to tell Jesus what his life was to be. Jesus said, “You have heard it said but I—I—say unto you.” We have to tell the people who would tell us what our life is to be, we have to tell them what our life is to be: “I say unto you!”
Where do we get that strength, that confidence? It comes from the core. From the heart. We live from the core, from the heart, if we live at all.
I grew up in the deep south, a child of parents who grew up in the deep south, children of parents who had grown up in the deep south. That can’t be good.
“You listen to me, boy! I’ll tell you who you are supposed to be!” That was the way boys were reared in the deep south. And girls. No one had a mind of his, of her, own. Their life was taken away from them at birth and they were handed the life they were supposed to live.
Of course, it didn’t work, and we were all afflicted with symptoms of dissociation, of disconnection, of fragmentation and disintegration—which makes ours the work of integration, integrity, authenticity and genuineness. We need all the help we can get. We get precious little.
Where are the models of integration, integrity, authenticity and genuineness? Where are the sources of wholeness and completion? We are thrown back onto ourselves, to our core, our heart. We find the way that is our way by listening to ourselves.
And we have to listen carefully because there are a lot of voices within, pretending to be the One Who Knows. So, we take tentative steps in the direction we take to be the Right Way, and see how it goes. It’s a slow process, and it helps to be patient and to trust ourselves to figure out the path to ourselves over time. With enough time, even our mistakes will show us the way.
- Bass Lake Fall 12, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 11, 2012 — There is nothing like ideology—the idea of how things are supposed to be—for screwing things up. All of the fanatical religious outlooks are sure their way is the Right Way For Everyone And No One Can Do It Differently Or Everyone Goes To Hell.
The fact that there are so many different ideas of The Right Way For Everyone should tell them something.
The Real Truth is that we all have a way that suits us—a way that is different from everyone else’s way—and that is what we have to find: Our Own Way. The beam with our name on it. When we find it, all we have to do is STAY ON THE BEAM!
- Compass Pond Panorama, Lower end of the 100 Mile Wilderness, along the Golden Road near Millinocket, ME — September 23, 2012 — What do you need money to help you do? If you won the lottery and could suddenly pay your way out of debt, what would having money free you to do? I don’t want “travel” here. Travel in order to DO what? What is it that is yours to DO? As Linda Conn would say, “Are you picking up what I’m laying down here?”
We live to DO, to ACT. We do not live to BE, as in happy. We ARE what we DO. Back to the Gerard Manley Hopkins quote: “What I do is me, for that I came.” What did you come to do?
What is your gift to bring forth, to serve? What is your art to perform? What is your magic to bestow?
The world you live in has let you down by not asking these questions regularly and often throughout your life, so that you have had to think about them forever. Well. You have the time left for living to think about them.
If you don’t know how to answer them, it’s not a problem. Make some guesses. Experiment. Explore. Tell people you are looking for what is yours to do. Tell them they will just have to excuse you as you find your way—and search for your way.
Maybe you know exactly how to answer them. Hoist the anchor, raise the sails and be gone with you in the service of what is yours to do. You have delayed long enough. Off you go!
Maybe you’ve been doing what is yours to do for years. Take a bow. Commendations and high fives from all of us to you! We wish we had had you for a mentor from the start. All our best to you as you play things out and bless the world. But we have some catching up to do, and have to get started.
- Cone Manor Porch, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 5, 2012 — I don’t care what you believe. I care what you do. Believe anything you want to believe but DO justice, exhibit mercy, show kindness, tenderness, generosity while you are bringing forth the gifts, the art, the magic, the work that are yours to DO in the time left for living.
Believe whatever it takes for you to do what is yours to do—for you to do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises as only you can do it, with the gifts, art, magic that are yours to bestow upon the rest of us and all sentient beings.
Do your work. That’s all I care about.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Bass Lake Fall 07, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 11, 2012 — The Forty plus years I spent in the ministry were an ordeal for me as I worked to reconcile, integrate the contradictions and contraries between how I saw things and how I was supposed to see things—between who I was/am and who I was supposed to be (Which I air out to some extent in my book of poetry, “I Call this Poetry,” in the Kindle Store on Amazon.com). And it was exactly what I needed to bring myself forth. Our ordeals birth us and kill us all at once.
Marriage does that to us. Parenthood does that to us. Paying the bills while being who we are does that to us. Life is an ordeal and to be alive, we have to bear the pain.
We have to face what must be faced (How things are and how things also are), and square up with what is being ask of us and what we need to do about it—and do it—in each situation as it arises. We do not live long enough to live past our ordeals.
Now I’m taking up the work of dying consciously and making my exit as graciously as that can be done with awareness aforethought. I don’t have a terminal illness (as far as I know), and may well live into my nineties (An age my mother is approaching). But it doesn’t matter how long I live, the work is the same: To die well, to die consciously, to die with awareness—squaring up to all that goes into living until we die, knowing we are going to die. It is, perhaps, the final ordeal. We cannot be sure about even that.
The point is that our ordeals birth us, enliven us, awaken us, deepens us, expands us, enlarges us and enables us to be who we are. Don’t be trying to avoid them or get rid of them. Embrace them and take them on in the spirit of those who are determined to receive what they have to offer, the blessing of curse, and work out who we are amid the resistance and opposition that makes us whole.
- Pamlico Sound Clouds Panorama, Cape Hatteras National Seashore near Ocracoke Island, NC — October 19, 2012 — The experience of Ordeal is a necessary aspect of our work of bringing ourselves forth and doing what is ours to do in the time left for living because we grow up against our will. WE grow up. No one can do that for us. No one can be us but us. It is ours to do alone.
This is the meaning of Jesus’ “Thy will not mine be done.” We hand ourselves over to the will of—who? What? There are a lot of theories. The truth is—from my perspective—it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter who/what we consult, confer with, collaborate with in guiding our boat on its path through the sea. What matters is that we hand ourselves over to That Which Knows More Than We Do. We trust ourselves to, well, ourselves—our core, our heart—to that part of us that is connected with every self that has ever been or will be.
We grow up by growing into the More from which we spring and to which we return and which we serve with our life in the time left for living. And all of this is purest agony and deepest joy.
In the New Testament, Paul says, “I have run with perseverance the agone—the race—that was set before me.” And, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the agone—the race.” The agone, the agony, the race is our life, the life that we live and the life we bring to life through the way we live.
We bring it forth by way of ordeal and agony. We grow up against our will—doing what needs to be done, what needs us to do it, when we would prefer to sit by the sea and read the afternoon away. We become who we are in spite of ourselves. Happens every time.
- Quokes Point Creek, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 20, 2012 — We do what we can imagine doing with each situation as it arises, and then do it again in the next situation—without trying to force our way or compel something to happen that has no business happening. That is, without having inflexible ideas about how things are supposed to be.
I’m writing this from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which are barrier islands of sand which Atlantic currents, wind and waves have been shifting/moving along the coast for as long as there has been a coast. But, people with technology and money in their pockets entered the scene with ideas of how things were supposed to be and spend enormous amounts of money in the service of the latest technology keeping things in place, restoring beaches and dunes that are then removed by the next hurricane—building bridges, rebuilding roads—working against the natural order of things in order to make things the way the people want them to be.
Native Americans would have done it differently. As would the early practitioners of Zen. A Zen craftsman would have asked: “What does the shape of this tree lend itself to becoming?” We take our technology and turn the tree into whatever WE want it to become.
Technology is our way of remaking the world in our image, in the image of how we think things ought to be. Why listen to what needs to happen when we have the power to transform everything into what we want it to be?
The old magic was seeing/hearing/doing what needed to be done in accord with the wisdom of the moment and the drift of the time at hand. The new magic is bulldozers and dump trucks rearranging the face of the earth to some developer’s sense of where the greatest profit lies.
We cannot live our life in light of the greatest profit. We live in an exploitive age. If a profit can be made, a profit will be made. Profit at any price is the motto of the Movers and Shakers. But our profits cannot buy what we forsake in our pursuit of prosperity.
We have to find our way back to the old magic. Seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, doing, being—all in light of what is happening and what needs to happen according to the wisdom of the moment and the drift of the time at hand—as servants of the drift and direction of life in the time and place of our living.
- Sunrise 01, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 21, 2012 — The magic still works but it doesn’t work like we want it to work. What good is that? In order to see the good in it, we have to change our idea of the good. That’s what growing up will do for you.
Maturation is changing our idea of the good. It takes a lot of living to understand that there is a good beyond that which we call good—and to align ourselves with it, and live in light of it.
We want the magic to work our will upon the earth, or, at least, within our lives. But the magic works only as we align our will with the will of our core, our heart, which is at one with the core, the heart, of all who have been or will be. At the level of the heart, we are all one—and the magic works when our will disappears in the work to do what needs to be done in the situation as it arises, regardless of the implication that has for us personally.
The problem is that we do not read the situation, or look there for what is needed, for what is being asked of us. We look to exploit everything to our own advantage—and the magic disappears.
To get the magic back, we have to grow up, hand ourselves over to our life—to the life that is our life to live—and see where it goes, trusting the magic all the way.
I have a friend who says: “Being lucky has a lot to do with reading the signs, whatever presents itself as cues and clues. Luck is a close kin to wise.” To be lucky and wise is to follow the cues and clues, even when they lead us away from where we want to go. When we live like that, the magic stirs to life and life is transformed.
- Seafarer, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore approaching Ocracoke Island, NC — October 20, 2012 — You have everything you need to bring yourself forth—to bring forth your life—within the life you are living except confidence and courage. You’ll have to fake it there.
”Fake it until you make it” is an AA motto. It means we almost have everything we need. I think we are born with the confidence and courage we need, but they are stripped from us shortly after birth by the environment we are born into.
Abusive, toxic, environments separate us from ourselves, from our instinctive, intuitive, selves, and force us into walking a cultural or familial tightrope—thinking our way through life, which becomes a mine field of sorts because in an abusive situation one never knows when a line is going to be stepped over and hell comes calling. So we begin to live rationally, logically, trying to figure out and avoid all of the potential pitfalls instead of relying on our instinctive, intuitive take on things, and become increasingly separated from the seeing/knowing side of ourselves.
Getting back to that is the real work of growing up. And we have to “fake it until we make it”—fake the confidence and courage required to act on what we think we know, but can’t be sure until after the fact.
Even though our environment is no longer the abusive, toxic, one of our early years, the wounds are still open and we walk with a limp, unsure when things might change back, with hell coming for regular visits. It takes confidence and courage to fake confidence and courage.
But, that is all that stands between us and living instinctively, intuitively, toward the life that is ours to live, bringing it forth—and ourselves with it—in the life we are living. It’s our work and it will wait until we are ready for it. After all, it’s been waiting all these years already!
- Sea Oats 07, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 22, 2012 — Our instinct, intuition and interests lead the way. Our place is to pay attention and to know what’s calling our name.
When I walk into a scene with a camera, I cannot begin to think my way to a photograph. Where I place the tripod has nothing to do with where I think the tripod goes. If you ever sign on for a photo class, ask the instructor how she, how he, knows where to put the tripod. The most important things cannot be taught.
You—YOU—have to feel it. YOU have to know this is it, and that is it, and that over there is it—but not there, there, or there. Same thing goes for your life.
No body can tell you how to live your life any more than they can tell you how to know where to place the tripod. You are the one. Your task is to know what you know—and to trust yourself to your instinct, intuition and interests, and see where it goes.
- Cape Hatteras Sunrise Day One, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 21, 2012 — Pay attention to what you are aware of. That’s my best advice. We are aware of all we need to know to respond appropriately to our circumstances in each situation as it arises—which is all that can be asked of anyone ever. But. We dismiss, discount, ignore and override without noticing what we are doing, all that we are aware of that doesn’t serve our agenda. If it is not important to our purpose, it doesn’t register with us, and we live as though it does not exist.
One of the 10,000 spiritual laws is: Be Present With What Is Present With You. Or, Pay Attention To What You Are Aware Of. Or, See What You Look At… You see why there are easily 10,000 of these things. They are all different ways of saying the one thing that is the foundation of all of them: Wake Up!
When we wake up, we see how things are and what needs to be done about it—which includes doing nothing about it for the time being.
”For the time being” is a wonderful deep south expression which means, “This is how it is for now, but things might change at any moment.” When our oldest granddaughter was four or five, if she was asked to do something she didn’t want to do, she would say, “Maybe later,” or “Maybe tomorrow.” I love the gentleness and softness of all these phrases, which draw lines without kindling resentment or a harsh response in return.
Waking up does not mean doing what is expected. It means recognizing what is expected—what is supposed to be done—and placing that on the table with all the other possible responses, and seeing what needs to be done here and now. “Maybe tomorrow,” is a quite appropriate to a number of occasions.
Pay attention to what you are aware of and see where it goes.
- Used in Short Talks On Conflict, etc., Sunset Day 1 04, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 21, 2012 — If we do not allow challenges to our preferred way of doing things to come to us from the inside, they will come to us from the outside.
As a nation, and as the Culture of the West, and as the First World Country that we are, we have experienced failures of internal cooperation. When the FBI and the CIA and local law enforcement agencies do not share important information, it plays into the hands of the bad guys. Same thing with the Armed Forces. Same thing with the departments of large companies. Same thing with the various aspects and facets of our own makeup.
We have to talk. We have to share information. We have to be receptive to information that is being shared. We have to be attentive to what we are aware of. We have to know what we know.
We have to listen to everything on every level. What are we saying to ourselves? What are we missing?
Right seeing, right hearing, right understand hinge on right interpretation. We can look at the facts but if we are misinterpreting them, dismissing them, discounting them, we are not seeing them. We have to SEE the facts in order to respond to them appropriately, and we have to arrange honest, transparent, conversation among the contraries within—the contradictions and ambivalences, the conflicts of interest and values, the competing points of view—in order to work out what we are going to do and who we are going to be in each situation as it arises.
It’s a lot to be aware of, and we pay a high price for refusing to take the time and make the effort to be attentive to all of the voices within and without.
- Sunset Day 3 05, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 23, 2012 — It cannot be difficult to live in sync with ourselves. We make it harder than it needs to be. It is not far away that we should make long pilgrimages to the shores of our soul. It is not hidden away on some mountain crag that we should spend years searching for the right mountain and then for the right way up the mountain and then for the right sequence of chants and prayers and for the right votive offerings to be made in strict compliance with the prescribed methods of presentation in order to win an audience with our soul.
We do not need all the hoops and hoopla to connect with the core, the heart, of who we are and what we are to be about. We only need to pay attention and do what we know needs to be done—never mind what is supposed to be done or what Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased tell us to do.
We know. We only need to listen and to trust ourselves to what we think we hear. And trust ourselves to find our way out of any mistakes we might make on our way back to the center of ourselves, to the heart of who we are.
- Sunset Day 4 01, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 24, 2012 — We are what suits us. Another of the 10,000 spiritual laws. We are what we practice doing. We are what we do.
But. We like to whine: “I can’t HELP it! This is just the way I am!” But. In the middle of a fight with our spouse, the phone rings with an important call from our boss. Do you think we talk to her in the same tone of voice we were using with our spouse? We cut it off. We cut it on. We are more in charge of “the way we are” than we like to think.
We are what suits us. The truth is, we are just fine with “the way we are.” We see no reason to make any alterations. We would like for things to be different without anything changing. The Hero’s Journey is about transformation. The fundamental transformation is in the nature of that which suits us.
As I age, sugar is not as acceptable to me as it once was. “Mr. Dollar,” said the Health Fair Nurse. “Cancer cells like sugar more than you do.” Sugar and fried food and salt and cheese, etc. once suited me “to a T” (whatever that means), but no longer, and so I am not the way I used to be.
We do not have to be the way we are. We can be any of a large number of ways. We are what suits us. We are what we practice being.
Practice compassion. Practice drawing compassionate lines. Kind lines. Firm lines. Practice tenderness, kindness. Without becoming submissive, compliant, passive.
Practice seeing, hearing, understanding. Practice interpreting events and circumstances in different ways—seeing things from different points of view.
Practice all of the qualities that characterize a true human being. Here’s a hint: ALL of the qualities characterize a true human being. A true human being possesses all of the qualities available to any human being. The true human being applies them appropriately, as they are needed, in each situation as it arises.
Sometimes it is this way and sometimes it is that way. Sometimes it is like this and sometimes it is like that. The situation calls forth who we are in response to what is appropriate to—what is needed by—the situation. We are what is called for. We do what is needed. We are what we do.
If you are going to practice anything, practice that.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Sunset Day 1 03, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 20, 2012 — There is contradiction at the core. Yin and yang at the very heart of things.
There is the way things are and the way things also are, and that is the way things are. This is true and that is true—and they do not cancel each other out, neutralize or negate each other, but deepen, enlarge, expand each other. So that each benefits from the opposition of the other.
The center of things is not one big blissful YES, but Yes and No cooperating in the creation of a developing, evolving, choreography of being—that is harmonious and whole in its integration and integrity, in its respect, reverence, and high regard for the opposite aspects of its own nature.
We are not one way only. Static. Frozen. Dead. Perfection. We are dynamic. Fluid. Flowing. Alive.
There is conversation at the core of life. Dialogue. Movement. Dance. One way of seeing, saying, doing, being is embellished by different, by opposite, ways of seeing, saying, doing, being. We achieve clarity by seeing things from different sides, from all angles. We are One because we are Many. Because we are different. Within and without.
Long live the opposition! By virtue of which we become who we are for the good of the whole!
- Sunset Day 5 02, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 25, 2012 — It isn’t so much what we don’t know that steamrolls us but what we dismiss, discount, deny, ignore. We know enough. We need the courage, the maturity and the grace to act on what we know. The only thing standing between us and where we need to be is us.
- Silver Lake 03, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 25, 2012 — Depression is a number of factors coming together to ruin your day, week, year, life. One of those factors is the distance between how things are and how you want them to be. Things aren’t going your way, and you see no way for things to begin going your way any time soon, or ever. That’s one element.
Another element is all-or-nothing-thinking. If it isn’t good it’s bad. It’s awful. It’s intolerable. And no one should have to put up with it.
Another element is a lack of grace and compassion—a judgmental disposition that dispenses rulings and sentences with no grounds for appeal. There are never extenuating circumstances. Things are what they are. Citations should be written, fines levied, punishment administered, the guilty brought to justice.
Another element is the absence of a sense of humor. “This isn’t funny!” “Don’t be making jokes about this!” If you laugh, it gives the powers in charge of dispensing misery all the excuse they need to double up on your portion. Besides that, it makes light of a completely serious situation, and we must take serious things seriously!
Another element is the propensity to think there are serious things.
This doesn’t begin to deplete the list. You know first-hand of additional elements that form the point of view we call depression, because you have experienced them in yourself or a friend or family member. Expand the list to include all of the elements you know contribute to the depressive point of view. And be acutely aware of when those ways of seeing crop up in your own orientation to life. And take counter measures immediately, talking yourself out of the drift you’re taking and into one that is good for your soul.
- Sunset Day 5 09, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 25, 2012 — We help each other along the way and stay out of each other’s way. That doesn’t sound too difficult, but it must be because how many of us do it?
What are you trying to do? How are you trying to do it? How well is it working? — Who asks us those questions? They tell us what to do. They tell us how to do it. They tell us it is going to work, don’t worry about it.
This is our life—as far as we know it is our only shot at life—and they are telling us how to live it. They are telling us they know more about living our life than we do. And so the old prayer: “Save us, O Lord, from those who would save us!”
What is happening? What needs to be done about it? What are the barriers, the opposition, to that? What are the aids, the assistance, to that? What do you need to do what needs to be done about what is happening?
We have to think through the questions—and the questions raised by the answers—regularly and routinely. It helps to have someone to talk to who knows how to listen. The road to hell is jammed with people who do not know how to listen. Not being heard is hell itself.
Our role is clear. We have to learn to listen and hope it catches on.
- Migration, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 22, 2012 — We are so intent on forcing our way onto our life that we do not listen to what our life has in mind for us, is saying to us. We have to dance with our life, align ourselves with our life, live in sync with our life, swear allegiance to our life, be loyal to our life, allow our life to take the lead.
Our place is to figure out how best to do what our life needs to have done. We find the tools and the resources, and do the work, but our life knows more than we do about what it is to be. We have to learn to read the signs and follow “the cues and the clues” in order to find the treasure that is the work we came to do, the gift that is ours to give.
Ours is the stuff of all the great adventures, bringing ourselves forth in the service of our life for the good of the whole. It is a tale of epic proportions that we are writing, or would write if we would pick up the pen and get to work.
- Sunset Day 5 14, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 25, 2012 — The deal with depression is that it stops you. Sits you down. Sends you to bed. Anger is much to be preferred.
Be angry even if you can’t do anything about the blockades and barriers in your life. Seethe. Rage. Show them a thing or two, the blockades and barriers. Show them what you CAN do—anyway, nevertheless, even so (Here’s one for you. Why can I get by with “anyway” and “nevertheless” with my spell checker and cannot get by with “evenso”? Life is funny that way. What it allows. What it forbids. We have to work with it. Acquiesce. We will never understand some things or be happy to have them in our life).
If it’s raining and you want to take photographs of fall, you have to take photographs of fall in the rain or find something else to do. Of course, the rain and wind are knocking leaves off the trees and bringing an end to fall even as you wait for a better day. Are you going to be depressed or angry?
I recommend anger. Verbalized anger. Speak it out. Do not hold it in. Let the rain know you are angry, and let your anger lead you to action. Take close-ups of wet leaves. On the ground. Or clean up the basement. Turn the anger-energy into something helpful.
And let those around you know you are not angry at them. You are angry at the rain. You can be very focused in your anger. It does not have to spill over into all of your life.
Anger’s energy is a gift that leads to action. Depression’s depletion is a curse that leads to lifelessness and gloom. Riding an angry horse is much better than trying to talk a dead horse back to life.
- Hanging Out on Hanging Rock, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC — October 28, 2012 — We have to consult ourselves—our Deeper Self—on a regular basis and learn the language of soul. Soul speaks in metaphor, and has been known to say the exact opposite of what it means just to test us, to see if we are paying attention, to see if we get it, to see if we can be trusted to be in genuine dialogue—as opposed to being a yes-person and not really having our heart in what we say.
Soul demands authentic conversation. We are full partners with soul in the bringing forth of our life. We work it out together, what soul wants and what we can give ourselves to in a fully committed kind of way. This is like Jesus wrestling in Gethsemane. We are that involved with soul in conversation. And soul is going to test us to see if we have what it takes before soul invests time and energy in our reclamation.
Soul is a right brain kind of communicator. Maybe that’s because the right brain was all we used for the first ten million years (I’m making that number up—it was a long time) of history (Including pre-human history). So, soul is a right brain communication expert, but doesn’t do well with logical, rational, verbal, left brain stuff. So we have to learn to talk with our right brain.
Metaphor. Symbols. Strong emotions. Images. Physical sensations. Symptoms. Dreams. Day dreams. Flights of fantasy. Automatic writing. Imagination. These are all aspects of the realm of soul, and soul speaks to us in these ways. We have to listen and interpret and intuit. We have to make sense of what we are hearing and seeing.
There is no hurry, and there is no time to waste. See what you dream tonight, and see what you can do with it.
- Sunset Day 5 13, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 25, 2012 — God is an inkblot. Everything is. What we know of anything is what we project onto the “thing,” and then confuse with the “thing itself.”
Everything—including God—is a projective device, which tells us much more about ourselves than about the world outside of ourselves. Our needs are nicely laid out in all of the things we say about who God is. Our idea of God is a mirror reflecting us back to us.
Not that we are almighty, invincible, absolute and error-free, but that we aspire to be. That would be our idea of having it made. When we talk about God, it is as though we are telling someone what we see in an inkblot. Our description reveals us to someone with ears to hear.
We have to develop those ears—and listen to ourselves talking—in order to know what we have to say and who we also are on a level much deeper than who we pretend to be.
Reconciliation begins with recognition and acceptance—compassion and understanding. We cannot love our enemies without loving the enemy within—the side of ourselves we cannot acknowledge or permit ourselves to be—even though she/he may be the best part of us.
- Swan Quarter Mooring B&W, Swan Quarter, NC — October 19, 2012 — The people I admire the most were all engaged in working their lives—not just working their jobs, but working their lives. They were not looking for smooth and easy. They were looking for what needed them to do it—not in the workaholic sense but in the “where might my gifts be best applied” sense.
They were not interested in short-cuts, in wealth and prosperity, in kicking back and having it made. They were interested in bringing life to life about them—in engaging life—in embracing life in “the field of action.”
One of the women who stands out for me was a teacher in the county Jr. High and helped her husband run a truck farm in her, as if, spare time. And she did it all exactly as it should be done, challenging her students to think beyond doing what their parents had done, beyond living as they had always seen life being lived around them, and extend themselves to their full capabilities.
She modeled for them the kind of life she wished for them, and was revered by all who knew her as a source of goodness and grace in their lives. She gave life to those who came her way by calling their life forth and inspiring them to respond to her life by living lives of their own.
She was a wonderful example of Joseph Campbell’s observation, “The influence of a vital person vitalizes.”
As we live the life that is our life to live, we bring life to life in ourselves and in those about us—and our influence lives on in those we influence for good beyond our powers of calculation. May it be said so of us all!
- Oak Leaf Medley, From my walk around the block, Greensboro, NC — October 29, 2012 — Adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, acquiescence, acceptance… Our work requires all this of us. Knowing when to stand our ground and when to stand aside is crucial knowing. Our most important battles can be those we lose.
The most important battle of my life was lost with our then two-year-old daughter over eating her green beans. I said, at the critical moment. “Okay. You don’t have to eat your green beans.” That will redeem every negative item on my personal record.
”You have to know when to hold ‘um/know when to folk ‘um/know when to walk away/know when to run…”
Instinct and intuition lead the way. We cannot think our way into the knowledge that is essential to our development as a true human being. We have to listen within, and trust what we hear, and stand our ground, or stand aside, in the critical moments upon which the future turns.
- Sunset Day 5 10, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 25, 2012 — We influence what we can influence, and that’s that. Don’t put everything you have on having an impact, making a difference. Maybe yes, maybe no. Put your marbles on living your life—on bringing you forth—no matter how that might be received in the world around you.
Letting life determine the quality of your life is giving the Cyclops the victory lap. We have to live well no matter what! We have to bring our best to bear on each situation as it arises regardless of the impact and outcome.
I don’t care how well you live, you cannot keep your 5 year old daughter from getting leukemia, your 10 year old son from being killed in a drive-by shooting. All of the important things are out of our control. What we do control is how we live with being out of control.
It’s just another test the Cyclops throws at us to stop us in our work to see what is happening and do what needs to be done about it with the gifts that are ours to give in each situation as it arises no matter what all our life long.
Picking ourselves up and stepping back into the work of living the life that is ours to live, bringing ourselves forth by the way we respond to what comes at us in a day, each day, is the work of being human in an inhumane world. We humanize life with the unique qualities of humanity—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, tenderness, goodness, faithfulness, loyalty, generosity, grace, compassion and all the rest—because that’s what humans do. And what sense would it make for us to NOT do that?
If we are not contributing to the humanization of the world we are contributing to its brutality, and its cruelty and its godforsakenness. In bringing ourselves to life, we bring God to life. Look me in the eye and tell me that is not worth doing.
- Ocracoke Lighthouse 05, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 24, 2012 — The Native American saying, “It’s a good day to die,” means, for me, “Live like there is no tomorrow.” “Live like this is the last day of your life.”
This doesn’t mean quit your job and go sit on the beach all day. It means give your best to the day. Be acutely attuned to every little thing. Be alive to—be alive in—every single moment. Miss nothing. Enter each situation fully “present and accounted for.” Be alert to what is happening and to what needs to be done about it—and offer what you have out of the gifts that are yours to give toward that end.
If we lived each day like that, we could all die at peace—having done what was ours to do at the time it needed to be done. We can practice this approach for tomorrow in what is left of today!
- Molasses Creek, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 23, 2012 — When we step into our fear in doing what needs to be done, we may not receive a reward commensurate with our risk. What we get out of it may be only having done it and survived. We serve purposes other than our own.
We carry an entire psychic world with us wherever we go, and live not only for ourselves and what we might consider to be ours, but also for past generations. This is a category of immortality that doesn’t get any press. Each generation lives to redeem the lives of previous generations. We carry each other along long after death.
We have dreams that are not our dreams. Moods that are not our moods. Motives that are not our motives. And undertake actions that are called for by interests and needs that are not our interests or needs. Putting things right somehow on levels we cannot imagine.
Or not. This scenario is the best I can do with dreams and experiences I have had and inquiries I have made. Maybe we are all individual cells, coming and going with none but ourselves to consider. I take comfort in knowing I am not alone in my living and dying, but carry the hope of the species with me into each day, and my actions have the potential for impact for good far beyond anything I could arrange on my on in the daily routines of my life.
- Path Through Fall, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Greensboro, NC — October 28, 2012 — We walk on two paths at the same time. We manage our life in the “real world” or normal, apparent reality, and we bring forth our life—the life that is ours to live—and the gifts that are ours to give from the invisible world of psychic reality.
Primal peoples always understood the visible world to be grounded upon and sustained by the invisible world. Symbols were ways of implying things that could not be stated directly or explained fully, and their world was a symbolic world with foundations sunk deep in mystery.
Then came Galileo with his telescope and Christopher Columbus sailing off the edge of the world—and back. And it was gone, like that, in a flash of reason. The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment laid waste to the gods and goddesses and the myths and legends. And brought with them nihilism and emptiness.
Life was far from meaningless before reason came along, but now we have to have a reason for living, and we’re fried. If we don’t find our way back to the invisible world, our eyes will look like Little Orphan Annie’s in no time.
We have to learn to walk two paths at the same time—to live with one foot in the world of reason and the other in the world of instinct and intuition, wild hunches and abounding creativity. We have to live out of the left and right sides of our brain.
Living left-brained is easy. That is what education is all about. Living right-brained is where the work comes in. We have to teach ourselves to see the world in a right-brained kind of way.
We could take art classes and music lessons. We could read poetry and write it. We could meditate and take photographs. We could experience the world and stop trying to understand it, predict it, manage and control it.
We could think and play like children before we taught them to think.
Gotta do something to find our way to the other path and live linked up with the invisible world.
- Maine Skyline, near Millinocket, ME — September 23, 2012 — As we increase the distance between our way of living and the way of the natural world, it will increasingly seem as though nature is out to get us.
We build homes on floodplains and then wonder where all the water comes from, or on the Outer Banks and complain about hurricanes, or on high cliffs overlooking the ocean and ponder why all the mud slides.
When we try to live where we have no business living—where we don’t belong—there will be repercussions. We will pay a price.
The Mississippi River built the Mississippi and Louisiana deltas. And we built a levee system to keep the river away from the deltas we now call home. The river is not a drainage canal living with our convenience in mind, and now it has global warming (That Which Is Not Happening) on its side, and those 100 year floods are going to come much more frequently.
Walking on two paths at the same time means being aware of everything on both paths at once. Quite the trick, but one we need to be mastering. Knowing what is happening and what needs to happen is taking everything into account. Listening to all the voices on both paths. And deciding what to do based on everything we can know, sense, intuit, feel, hunch in every situation as it arises.
Such is the nature of The Revolution. We all must become shamans, living in two worlds at once.
- View from Hanging Rock 03, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC — October 28, 2012 — The Way is the way to the center of our Self/soul, to the heart of who we are. We are all cooking up ways to the Way, borrowing from and modifying the ways others have found to the Way and adjusting them to suit ourselves—our own unique style, shape, rhythm, character and form.
If I gave you all my recipe for White Bean and Chicken Chili, or Baked Cheese Spaghetti, you would alter it to suit your taste, or never make either. None of you would make either precisely as I wrote it down because I can’t write it down precisely. I can tell you the ingredients I use, but I don’t use them all every time. Sometimes, I use something new. My recipe is a general direction. You have to decide all the important specifics on your own.
The same principle applies to everything I say here. You have to mold it to fit you. You look for what catches your eye, for what clicks, and you adjust it to make it a better fit, a louder, more distinct, click.
There are no Masters. There are only Disciples sharing their ideas and experience of the journey with other Disciples—providing encouragement and good company along the way to the Way, which is the heart and center of each unique individual seeking the deep truth of who she, who he, is and what she, what he, is to be about.
- Cosmos 02, Mountain Glory Farm, Patten, ME — September 24, 2012 — Reasonable people can, and do, disagree about what the facts are, what the facts mean and what to do about the facts. This should give us pause but. Reasonable people cannot even agree about that. You see were that leaves us.
We have to work things out. Or go to war. We seem to have a reliable preference for the latter.
How do we work things out that go to the heart of what is important and we all, or a lot of us, have different ideas about what that is?
Put Ann Colter and Hillary Clinton in a room. How long before they work things out? Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann? Democrats and Republicans? Israelis and Palestinians? The list goes forever.
There have to be fundamental agreements. Al Qaeda would never come to the table. North Korea? Never. And they might not meet the requirement of “reasonable people.” How would we determine that? Enforce that?
It’s out of hand. Working things out is beyond us. We can’t work things out with our partners or our children or our parents. Or ourselves.
When you come to a block, be as conscious as you can be of the block and see where it goes. This calls for personal meditation. Sit with the impasse. Open yourself to it. Regard it with compassionate awareness. See what happens, what stirs, what moves, what occurs to you. See what you see.
Work with the block, with the impasse, over time. This is you working it out with you, with yourself. You do the same thing with dreams that catch your attention. Talk to the dream. Talk to the impasse, the block. Invite it to talk back.
You cannot hurry the process but you can be with it, invested in it. Do not rush it and do not quit the work because nothing appears to be happening. Wait it out. There is nothing more important to do with your time. The future is here, aborning.
- Sunset Day 5 08, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 25, 2012 — Money gets in the way. Of the Way. Money is the Cyclops’ favorite weapon. He buys us. He pulls out a wad and asks, “How much for your life?” and starts handing over the big bills.
It’s a fine line between enough money and too much, and we don’t know when we cross it. We know that we crossed it when we look around and think “This is ridiculous.” We know that we crossed it when we have no time to call our own because we are too engrossed in making and spending money. To what end? The question has no meaning. Making and spending money is its own end.
How much do we need to do what is ours to do? What IS ours to do? Money makes it easy to ignore not knowing.
Money provides compensation for not knowing what is ours to do—and for not doing it. Money is distraction, diversion, denial—a wedge separating us from our Self/soul, rewarding us for not asking, not seeking, not knowing who we are and what is ours to do.
We buy our life back by giving money away. Start tipping well. Provide cash encouragement to those who are living in the service of their gift and struggling to pay the bills. Send a kid to college. Or technical school. Underwrite an art teacher in a local elementary school. Or middle school. Or high school. Or all three. Fund a spiritual center with different leaders in residence throughout the year. Listen to your heart/soul/Self for guidance and see where it goes.
- Layers, Pamlico Sound near Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 19, 2012 — Our ambition gets in the way of The Way. We have our ideas, plans, dreams, objectives and agendas. Big ones. Compensation, perhaps, for living less of a life than we are cut out for, but the danger is that we will want a life that is larger than the one we are asked to live.
The trick is to trust ourselves to our life—and to let it be enough. The life that is ours to live, I’m talking about, the life that calls us to live it.
Two professors stood out for me in my college career. One drank himself to death because he was teaching English Literature in a small school in the deep south where no one cared much for Shakespeare. The other brought Plato and Aristotle to life in philosophy courses taken by students who couldn’t spell “philosophy.” One wanted to be more than he was and the other was quite pleased to be who he was. They both were positioned to make all the difference in the lives of those who passed through their classes. Only one did.
We cannot be dissing our life. It holds blessing and grace for us in the form of meaning and purpose—not wealth, fame and glory—and waits for us to give it a chance to make us glad to be alive.
- Leaves of Fall, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC — November 2, 2012 — When people ask me what I write about I tell them “Spirituality from a Jungian perspective”—seeing the unconscious as the origin of our spiritual sense. It isn’t Christianity as you have ever thought about it, but goes to the heart of who Jesus was, who we all are and are asked to be.
All of the old themes (From bondage to freedom, death and resurrection, guilt and redemption, lost and found, etc.) and many of the old metaphors (The promised land, the water of life, the cup of suffering/salvation, the bread of affliction/life, etc.) still ring true from the slant of a different interpretation/perspective. But. It certainly isn’t for everyone. Only those who can no longer think along familiar paths have any business blazing new trails—and they can’t help it!
What I have to say cannot be heard by all ears, and no one has any business leaving a path that nurtures and nourishes them, and no one has any business staying on a path that does not nurture and nourish them—but must blaze their own way to The Way, finding what help they can for the work of reformulating, and exhibiting, their understanding of who they are and what they are to be about.
I see myself as offering tools for that task. I cannot do anyone’s work for her, for him, but can offer new ways of conceptualizing that work, and suggestions for what might be helpful. Jesus said, “You have heard it said but I say unto you…” That is the place of all those whose specialty is the gift of Hermes/Mercury, the Greek and Roman Messenger of the Gods, the God of Meaning and Interpretation—which change like quicksilver depending upon perspective, time and circumstance, so we are always saying: “You have heard it said but I say unto you…” Sometimes it comes out, “You heard me say that, then, but now I’m saying this!”
What I have to say has no place in the lives of those who cannot make sense of it, but it may be “the water of life” for those who are no longer able to find meaning in the old formulations. May that be the way it is with you!
- Sunset Day 5 05, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 25, 2012 — What’s your specialty? Your knack? Your abiding interest? Your gifts are directly connected. Sit with the things you like to do and do often and well until the gifts they bring forth in you are clear before you.
Your work is to live increasingly in the service of your gifts, so that they become obvious to everyone. The irony is that they may already be obvious to everyone and hidden from you.
As you bring forth your gifts, consciously, intentionally, you bring forth you. You were born that you might become visible, individual, unique and valued in the world of normal, apparent reality. The irony here is that the pearl of great price is easily mistaken for glass and the chief cornerstone is easily rejected by the builders. Don’t let that slow you down!
Do your thing. Your work. Do not hide your light as though it is nothing. Bring forth your gifts. Live the life that only you can live the way only you can live it in the time left for living. And trust that to be enough.
- Sea Oats 9, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 23, 2012 — You cannot hope to know who you are and what you are to be about—the life that is yours to live—without reflecting about it and being open and receptive to all that occurs to you when you do. You don’t get to choose who you are or what you are to be about. You get to be receptive to it, realize it, serve it.
Our place is to live aligned with, as allies of, and loyal to who we are and what we are to be about. To know what that is, we have to listen and we have to interpret correctly what we hear, what we perceive.
We tend to hear what we want to hear, so we have to become “transparent to ourselves,” knowing ourselves in order to know ourselves—listening again to what we think we have heard in order to see how else we might hear it.
Awareness, awareness, awareness means listening, listening, listening and looking, looking, looking. We do not rush quickly to embrace what we take to be our work. We walk around it. Sit with it. See how it feels. Ask for a guiding dream. And wait for assuring, or objecting, signs.
This is our life we are talking about. No point in being flip, casual or careless here. Look closely. Listen deeply. And then move carefully, attentively, into your best guess about the direction to take, being sensitive to the need for adjustment and alteration all along the way.
- Fog on Cadillac Mountain 04, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — September 30, 2012 — We have no time for reflection because we make no time for reflection. Used to be, that’s all we had, time for reflection. Taking Walkabouts and exploring the Dreamworld were all that were left to do after finding food and eating it. So we designed a culture to entertain us, distract us, disengage us from the Other World so that it would leave us alone with its barrage of directions and morning memos. And we lost the ground of our being.
Reflection is the path to the heart of soul. We cannot find our way back to the source of who we are without doing the work of doing nothing but being open to the presence of the invisible world.
It’s boring. It’s uncomfortable. It doesn’t serve our purpose. It’s a waste of time. It asks hard things of us. We had rather watch movies about someone else’s life than to go to the trouble of being alive in our own. If we had what it takes to be present and engaged with the Other World, we wouldn’t have created this wonderful culture as a diversion to all things spiritual.
It isn’t easy, going home—back to who we are—to “the face that was ours before we were born.” We have to sit quietly to get there. And be open to what meets us in the silence, and calls us to the adventure at the center of all the legends of lore.
- Reflections 02, Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC — November 02, 2012 — Becoming who we are is becoming the individual we are. We are as unique and unrepeatable as our thumb print. So why the rush to erase our distinctiveness and be like the crowd? Why become invisible?
I understand the need to disappear. To disappear is to get away. To escape. To avoid the gang, and the noise that goes with it. We all need to disappear from time to time in order to reconnect with ourselves, find the center, be grounded in what important, in order to reappear as those who are clear about who we are and focused on what is ours to do.
To be invisible is to blend in, to live unseen by being part of the scenery, camouflaged, concealed, out of sight. Individuals are not invisible. We stand out and are known for who we are—without shutting people out or cutting them off because they are not like us. The idea is to be not like us.
”Define ourselves while staying in touch” is the family systems motto. Tricky. Just try going back home “defining yourself and staying in touch.” What would your mother say, or your father, or your siblings, or your dear Aunt Jane? You have to be like they expect you to be or pay the price.
Can you pay the price with grace and compassion and continue to define yourself without losing touch? Without withdrawing, slamming doors, driving off, disappearing?
We have to time our disappearances. I disappeared this afternoon with the camera. It was great. But I can’t just walk away any time. I have to pay the price, face the music, just like you do, for being who I am in situations where it would be a lot easier to be like they are—like they expect me to be. We can’t do it the easy way and be who we are. We should know that by now.
- Ledge Falls, Nesowadnehunk Stream, Baxter State Park near Patten, ME — September 26, 2012 — We set our expectations too high or too low. We think too much of ourselves or too little. We give ourselves too much credit or too much blame. We never simply allow things to be what they are without evaluation, judgment, appraisals and ratings. The pendulum swings between inflation and deflation, between exuberance and the blues.
This puts us in perfect position to dismiss the life that is ours to live as either being beyond us (“Oh, I could never do that!”) or beneath us (“Is THAT it?”). No judgment. No evaluation. Just doing what needs to be done. Just living the life that is to be lived.
We all have a niche where we shine (The grandchildren think you are the best grand-parent ever), a specialty that is exactly what is needed in more situations than we can imagine (Your perspective opens the way for kindness and mercy where, otherwise, they would never be). We cannot refuse to share our gifts because they don’t lead to fortune and glory.
We ground ourselves in the center of who we are, live out of the heart of the life that is ours to live, and allow the path to unfold before us each day, bringing us situations and circumstances that need what we have to offer—and see where it goes.
- Around the Block 07, Greensboro, NC — November 6, 2012 — We can take this happiness thing too far. “Whatever makes you happy” is no way to choose your life. “Whatever makes you happy” will not grow you up, or make you good company, or provide you with what you need to do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises whether you want to or not.
If happiness comes, fine. If it does not come, fine. What we are looking for is a life we can be proud of having lived. A life that we can hang on the wall with Odysseus’/Ulysses’ life, with the Buddha’s life, with Jesus’ life, with Tevya’s life, with Atticus Finch’s life, with Eleanor Roosevelt’s life, with Rosa Park’s life, with Helen Keller’s life, with Amelia Earhart’s life, with Hester Prynne’s life…you get the idea…and know it belongs there. What we are looking for is the life that is our life to live whether it makes us happy, whether it is the one we would wish for, or not.
We would not be likely to pick out life—the one that is our life to live—out of a pile and say, “This is the one I want! This is the life for me!” Our life chooses us as surely as the wand chooses the wizard. And we learn to adjust to it, accommodate to it, like it, over time. It grows on us, until, at the end, we wouldn’t trade it for anything. You might say we grow to be happy. We don’t necessarily start out that way.
So, lay the happiness requirement aside, and look at the givens. This is what is happening, and this is what needs to be done about it, and these are the gifts you have to work with. See what you can do within that framework, without worrying about being happy, and see where it goes. Prepare to be surprised. Actually, prepare to be tickled pink. It’ll be great. You have to trust me in this.
- Where The Orcs Live, Blue Ridge Parkway near Cumberland Knob, NC — November 5, 2012 — We take inventories and make assessments all along the way. Where are we pushing, forcing, our way? Where are we resisting, opposing our way? When do we move forward, when do we hold back? When do we stand our ground, when do we step aside?
There are no rules, recipes or general principles to guide us. We feel our way into each situation as it arises. We live by instinct and intuition, not by commandments, directives, laws, decrees or edicts. What we do now, in this situation, may be the opposite of what we do then, in that situation—even though they may seem to be the same to a casual observer.
We cannot be casual observers. What is happening? What needs to be done about it? What gifts do we have to used in the service of what needs us to do it? We take inventories and make assessments all along the way.
Our life needs us. Our life is not something we create, produce, on our own—as though it is our call to make, how we live. We live to serve our life, to bring forth what needs to come forth in the here and now of our living. What is called for in each situation as it arises? What needs us to do it? In what ways might we rise to this occasion and offer what we have to give?
We live in the service of transcendence and transformation—transcending all we have ever been by becoming what we are capable of being, transforming ourselves, our circumstances and the lives of all those impacted by our living by the way we live our life. And. If you think this is grandiose and ridiculous, take the Dollar challenge: Get out of your way. Get on your side. And give yourself a chance to show you what you can do.
- Sumac, Blue Ridge Parkway near Cumberland Knob, NC — November 5, 2012 — It took a long time for me to gain enough experience to be reasonably ready for what came my way. I spent the first 30 years of my life being in a steady state of unreadiness. I was unready to learn to swim long after my father was ready for me to learn to swim. And ride a bicycle. I was unready for Algebra. I was unready to date when the time for dating arrived according to every other boy my age. Yet, I muddled through.
I made just enough in the way of adjustment and accommodation to get to my thirties—and I learned along the way, not so much how to be ready, but how to deal with being unready. I developed skills at recovery and regrouping that have served me well over the years and bought me time.
There are some things we just have to be old enough to do or to understand or to master, and no lecture is going to help us, only time and experience. Carl Jung said there are no solutions to the big problems of life—we just have to out-grow them.
Growing up changes things. And growing up cannot occur before its time. We cannot be lectured, or punished, or shamed, into growing up. But we can assist the process by being quietly aware of ourselves awash in our life. Quiet awareness of—and acceptance of—the way of things, of how things are, spurs growing up like nothing else does. And we don’t do anything but see with compassion and refrain from helping the butterfly (that would be us) from the chrysalis.
We become what is needed—what we need—over time. In the meantime, bear the pain! And trust that you are in the smack dab middle of the path even though there doesn’t appear to be a path, only inky black hopelessness everywhere you look. Hang on, hang on, muddle through!
- Creek in the Woods, River Park, Rock Hill, SC — November 3, 2012 — What guides our boat on its path through the sea? Is it better to make no mistakes or to not worry about making mistakes? Is it better to “throw caution to the winds” or to “look before we leap”? No matter what rules we live by, there will be situations and circumstances in which the rules we live by do not apply. Then what?
You’ve heard me say, “Fooling ourselves is what we do best; No! Shooting ourselves in the foot is what we do best. No! Telling ourselves what we want to hear is what we do best. No! Letting ourselves off the hook is what we do best. No!…” When we are the one we have to rely on for knowing what to do, we’re in trouble. Yet, who else is there? Our mother? Father? Best friend? Who would we trust ourselves to? Who would be more reliable than ourselves in finding the way that is truly our way through the choices and options that spring up, that lay themselves before us, along the way?
Our life is our call to make but. What determines what we say yes to, and no to? What guides our boat on its path through the sea?
How did we get here, now? By knowing what we were doing? Or by being lucky? By following instinct and intuition, or by always doing the smart thing? By mixing it up, sometimes instinct and intuition and sometimes the smart thing? How do we know when to do what? None of us has it down.
You wouldn’t consult any of us about what you should do with it all on the line and come out any better than rolling dice or flipping a coin. We don’t know what you should do. We don’t know what we should do. There are no completely reliable guides.
We are on our own with the life we are living. We consider our options, consult our experience, listen to our feelings, gather as much information as possible, put everything there is to be aware of on the table and consider the table, bring as much intelligence and wisdom as we have to bear upon the choice we have to make, pray to be lucky, hold our breath, cross our fingers, determine to make the best of the outcome and leap into the unknown. And, yes, that’s the best I can do.
- Blue Ridge Farm Fall, near Rocky Knob, VA — October 15, 2012 — Can you imagine Jesus or the Buddha saying, “You people are in my way! I have big things to do! I have plans! Dreams! I have to save the world! Enlighten humankind! I can’t be wasting my time with the lame, the halt, the blind, the poor, the hungry, the hopeless! Begone! All of you! I have work to do!”?
That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? You can’t separate saving the world and enlightening humankind from seeing, hearing, understanding and being with whomever is before us in the time and place of our living. People are not in the way. They ARE the way.
How we treat one another—how compassionate, kind, generous, gracious, tender, merciful, just and fair we are—tells the tale. The quality of our presence and our attention is more salvific and enlightening than anything we can say, any advice we might give.
If you are going to practice anything, practice being the kind of person who saves the world and enlightens humankind without saying a word.
- Long View BW, Blue Ridge Parkway near Cumberland Gap, NC — November 5, 2012 — You have to work you into your life. We spend most of our life removing ourselves from our life. Not doing it our way. Doing it someone else’s way instead. We do it the way our parents want it done, the way our teachers want it done, the way our preachers want it done, the way our bosses want it done until we have no idea of how we want it done, or feel guilty for wanting it done differently from the way all our Life Directors want it done.
It is no accident that the Gurus and Masters of Lore were solitary individuals. It is hard to be an individual any other way. But. You cannot hope to be a true community until you can become a true individual.
Only an individual can listen another person into her or his own individuality, perspective, way of seeing/doing/being. Communities that erase individuality—and churches are particularly bad about this—create a tribal mentality that rules out any chance of individual development, maturity, growth. No one there can think, see, do, or be different from anyone else there, and the way WE do it is the way it is to be done.
No one can move beyond the community without being expelled from the community, and the community cannot grow past the limitations of its founders—which makes Amish of all of us on one level or another.
What do YOU think, see, feel, intuit, sense, believe? How would YOU do it—live your life—if you had the freedom to do it like you feel it needs to be done? Our life is an experiment in how to live it, in how it needs to be lived, from birth to death. Different circumstances require different responses—heretical responses, perhaps, blasphemous responses. Each new world requires new ways of living. Can you dance with your life? Will you? Do you dare? To the music only you can hear?
- November Afternoon 01, Wright Dairy, Rockingham County, NC — November 8, 2012 — Our life is an experiment in finding the things that stir us to life, and doing them. We are lethargic, depressed, dying and dead to the extent that we are living someone else’s life—the life someone else demands that we live.
Joseph Campbell said the Wasteland is where people are living inauthentic lives—lives that are not their own life—where people do more of what they do not like to do than what they like to do—where our life is determined for us by the culture, or the church, or the organization, or the job, or the role, and not by our own heart and soul.
By mid-life, we all should have had enough of this kind of existence. We all should be ready to see what we can do with the last half of our life, whether Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased like it or not.
What is the life you have not been allowed to live, or that you have not allowed yourself to live? If you can’t begin living it now all at once, how can you begin to live toward that life, one step at a time?
- Around the Block 02, Greensboro, NC — November 6, 2012 — We labor under the illusion of optimal and dream of the best of all worlds—and are disappointed and despondent when our life doesn’t match our dreams for our life. It never will.
We can always imagine a better world than the one we go to sleep in each night and wake up to each morning. We cannot allow our dreams for our life to get in the way of our living.
A dream is only good for getting us going. After that, we have to forget the dream and see what we can do with our life. We cannot be comparing our reality with our dream of reality. We will come out on the short end of that stick every time.
I dreamed of moose and moon rises in Maine. The dream got me to Maine. There I found rain and overcast skies. Dreams are always crashing into the rock face of Reality Mountain. We have to make the best of it. I took photos of fog on Cadillac Mountain, the ferns and trees of Sieur de Monts, and the heavy seas of the North Atlantic—in the rain, under overcast skies.
We stand before our options, unable to choose because we don’t know which choice will be the best for us. We do not know where we will be better off. Get used to it. Go with your best bet, with the choice that feels and looks like a good one, and work with it toward the best it can be.
Someone else will have it better, and someone will have it worse. You can’t expect ideal. Don’t hold out for it. If it comes your way, fine. I have some ideal—for me—photographs, but I didn’t camp out, waiting for them. I turned a corner, and there they were, a surprise, lagniappe for showing up. I turned the corner looking for the dream that got me there, and there was the ideal photo I never imagined.
Let your dreams get you going, and live to be surprised.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Around the Block 05, Greensboro, NC — November 6, 2012 — How do we understand this—whatever it might be that destroys what we have told ourselves about reality, crumbles our foundations, fragments our structure, our constructs, our schematics, our blueprints, our design, our doctrine, all the things that hold life together for us? How do we make sense of this? How do we explain this?
The people who have a way of reconfiguring their configurations when the unthinkable happens, when the contradictions and discordances, and dichotomies, and cacophonies roll through the land leaving nothing but chaos where there had been order—the people who can take the complete loss of everything in stride, saying, in effect, “Wow, that was a surprise, but not a problem. What else you got?” are the people who have it made.
Everybody else is in trouble.
The work is to make sense of existence in a way that allows for the work of reworking when the complete opposite of everything we have told ourselves about how things are knocks down our door and says, “You forgot about me, didn’t you?”
The facts are always coming around to call into question what we have done with the facts. And we have to take up again the task of explaining—interpreting—what the new facts mean in a way that allows us to make a life for ourselves in a new world, in light of new facts.
We have to develop a fluid explanatory system that takes contraries in stride and enlarges our hypotheses in light of realities we never imagined. We have to be able to live amid the crumbled structures of the Old World in ways that accommodate the strange ways of the New World.
We start by being aware of how we make sense of our world and playing the game of handing all of it over, living as though we are explorers on a new planet, observing, wondering, imagining how things work there and seeing how we need to adjust ourselves to new ways of living in order to thrive there in that environment, because the old is always passing away and the new is always coming over the hill to disrupt what has been our life.
- Shadows 03 B&W, Wright Dairy, Rockingham County, NC — November 6, 2012 — We are here to be who we are and to help each other be who she or he is—to assist each other with our life without interfering with our life. To see how things are, and what is happening and what is trying to happen, and what needs to happen, and what needs to be done about it, and do what we can about what needs to be done with the gifts that are ours to give—in each situation as it arises.
Now there is nothing about any of this that is too hard for us. So, what’s the problem?
- Katahdin 07, West Branch of the Penobscot River at the lower end of the 100 Mile Wilderness, off the Golden Road near Millinocket, ME — September 25, 2012 — We each must bring forth who we are as a blessing and a grace upon our life and those who share our life with us in the time left for living. They will not all view it as a blessing and a grace. We cannot allow their opinion of us, reaction to us, freeze us in place, making us as they think we ought to be.
And, we cannot be any way at all—who we wish we were, for instance, who we think we would like to be. Carl Jung said, “We are who we always have been, and who we will be.” I enjoy crafting ideas and images. Always have. Always will. I cannot lay that about me aside and take up shoeing horses or repairing automobiles or building pianos.
Carl Jung also said, “There is within each of us another, whom we do not know.” This other is our Best Self, our Core Self, who we are called to be increasingly like, who we are called to become over the course of our life. Our work is to know and be who we are and who we also are.
Joseph Campbell said, “We know when we are on the beam and when we are off it.” We have a gyroscope of sorts inside. We know when we are in balance and when we are out of balance, when we are centered and when we are off center, when we are in and out of sync with our Self. We only have to pay close attention to what we know—to know what we know—and live in light of it. This is not hard, but. It takes a while to get it.
We have big ideas. Or little ones. And work hard to be more, or less, than we are. We have the rest of our life to get the ratio right. Time spent with our Self is time well spent.
Fall Flood Plane, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 5, 2012 — Our life is not ours to live alone. It is all up to us but. Just try sitting in a corner manufacturing encouragement. Talk yourself into being encouraged. Or, here’s a better idea. Talk yourself into a different perspective—a different point of view—a different way of looking at things. And write down the dialogue. And send it out to the rest of us. Because we’ve given that a spin a time or two, and we woke up the next morning with the same old ideas in place.
We need one another to have a chance. Make that the right kind of others. If I had remained under the influence of my family of origin—or certainly under the influence of my mother’s family of origin—you wouldn’t recognize me. We have to have the right kind of others in our life, who offer the right kind of help, delivered in the right kind of way. And we have to help them help us.
We help them help us by receiving what they have to offer in a way that makes full use of the gift. The people who have been the most help to me had no idea they were helping me. They were talking about themselves and I applied what they said about them to me. Or I overheard conversations they were having with someone else and took what they said and applied it to my own situation at the time.
When you are open to being helped without officially being the helpee, everything and everyone becomes a potential source of assistance. It’s amazing. Help is everywhere for those who can be helped. And nowhere for those who can’t be.
To be helped, it helps to know what you need help with. What are you working on? What isn’t working? Where are you stuck? What are you seeking that you aren’t finding? What form does your help need to take?
What’s so hard? About living your life? About working you into your life? What would help? What do you need? Where might you find it?
Clarity is always a good place to start.
Go sit in a corner and ask yourself what you need help with, and keep asking questions until you are perfectly clear about the help you need. Then get out of the corner and into your life and see how long it takes you to find it. I’m betting less than a week.
Ps. As I have turned this post over in my mind, it has occurred to me that we are helped most often by honest conversation from the heart about things that are important to us. Who talks with you in this way? Speak with them often!
- Around the Block 04, Greensboro, NC — November 6, 2012 — We wake up with the same ideas we went to sleep with. This is not called growing up. We are imprisoned in our view of things, with complete freedom to move about the country, traverse the world, looking out through windows without bars, living behind doors with no locks, free to think the way we have always thought for life.
And so the need for revolution.
It takes a shock to the system to transform the system. The bread of life is the bread of affliction. The cup of salvation is the cup of suffering. This is true not only in the life of Jesus and the lives of his disciples. It is true in your life and mine, in the lives of all of us, across the board, around the world, through all of the ages and epochs of time.
The Greek poet Aeschylus is credited with having written: “He who learns must suffer/And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget/Falls drop by drop upon the heart,/And in our own despair, against our will,/Comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
“Those who seek to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life (for the sake of the truth of their own wisdom—for the sake of that which is greater than they are—) will find it.”
We grow up against our will. That which opposes us, blocks us, inhibits us, challenges us transforms us and brings us forth. Joseph Campbell said, “It took the Cyclops to bring out the hero in Ulysses.” The bread of affliction is the bread of life. The cup of suffering is the cup of salvation. Savvy?
- Sieur de Monts 03, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — October 2, 2012 — Enlightenment doesn’t mean you can’t be stupid. It is said the Buddha died from eating bad pork. How enlightened is that? The Dali Lama doesn’t know anything about hitting a curve ball. Or backing an 18-wheeler.
This enlightenment stuff is way over-rated. Getting something on one level doesn’t mean you get everything on every level. Sometimes, you may find yourself in the basement, or in the attic, and not know what you’re doing there. So what? You can still find your way back to the kitchen. Once you get there, you’ll probably remember why you were in the basement, or the attic.
When you wake up, you wake up to how things are (and also are—which is how things are), and what needs to be done about them, and what skills and gifts you have that might be useful in doing it. My shorthand version of the enlightenment process is knowing this is how things are, and this is what can be done about it, and that’s that.
Do what you can and see where it goes. Wherever it goes, the same formula applies. Do what you can there and see where it goes. If you get this, you are enlightened. Doesn’t mean you can hit a curve ball.
- Farm in the Valley, Blue Ridge Parkway near Air Bellows Gap, NC — November 6, 2012 — There is a thread of purpose meandering through your life, through all of life. And that is a statement of faith if ever there was one. A thread of purpose meandering through our life can be experienced but it cannot be proven, or explained, or understood. And it can be dismissed, discounted, denied and ignored.
If you are going to believe anything, believe there is a thread of purpose meandering through your life. And do not waste one precious second of living formulating a body of doctrine to enhance your belief, defining what’s behind the purpose, for example, and why it’s like this and not like that, and what we have to do make that which is behind the purpose happy so we can exploit it and get what we want from it.
Lay your purposes aside and align yourself with the purpose beyond our purposes meandering through your life.
Why? you say. What’s in it for you? you say. This is the hard part. You have to be at the end of your rope before you have what it takes to hand yourself over to something as obscure as hidden purpose. You have to be out of options, with nowhere else to turn. That’s why you’ll never be able to sell this idea on street corners to the general public and create, say, The Church of Sacred Purpose.
There is nothing in it for you. Except life, and hope and meaning and, well, purpose. But it is not your purpose, not something you can make up, like making a bundle and retiring before you are 40.
The purpose you are seeking to align yourself with is mystery. You will not live to see it laid bare before your eyes. But it will bring you to life in your life, and you will sing songs of joy and gladness from your heart, and it won’t matter to you what it all means or where it is going because it is meaning itself that carries you along, laughing. Alive.
- Sunset Day 5 03, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 25, 2012 — You have to pay the bills. That’s your first order of business. Put simply, you have to find a Day Job.
”Oh, but my ART! My ART!” If you don’t pay your bills, you can’t do your ART, your ART! “Oh, but how can I be true to myself and sell myself out for a job just to pay the bills?” Don’t let being true to yourself be the easy out in refusing to do the work required to pay the bills.
Here’s what you do. Decide what you can do to pay the bills, then go down the list and decide which of the jobs you can do to pay the bills leave your integrity mostly intact. Then do the work to pay the bills. AND keep an eye on your ART, your Art.
Work your ART, your ART into your life, into what is left over of your life after doing the work to pay the bills. First the bills, then your ART, your ART. Chances are, it’s first the bills (Maybe, if we are lucky—if you get what I’m saying here) and then it’s PARTY TIME!
If someone asks us to go partying, we never say, “Oh, but my ART! My ART!” We say sure. Funny how your ART, your ART takes a backseat to everything but working to pay the bills. Don’t you think that’s funny? Aren’t you laughing? At yourself? For doing such a good job of fooling you?
Suck. It. Up. Pay the bills. Then do your ART, your ART. Then, with whatever time is left over, do all the other things that crowd your ART, your ART out of your life.
Chances are, only your parents are still reading this. I lost you at the end of the first paragraph. How’s an adviser going to advise with none to take his, or her, advice? So, I’ll just confirm your parents in their sense of things, and let them take it from here.
- Around the Block 14, Greensboro, NC — November 13, 2012 — We have to know what is important, and do it. Nothing is more important than knowing what is important and doing it. But. How do we know?
All of Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased tell us what is important. We have to decide if they are right. We have to decide if what we are told is important—what we have always been told is important—is important.
Here’s the catch. What is important changes with time and circumstance. What is important at a certain time in our life, or in a certain situation, is not important at a different time, in another situation. How do we know?
We have to pay attention. We have to be aware. We have to notice the shift in time and circumstance. We have to live with our eyes open, seeing what we look at, and knowing what is going on. And we have to take a chance. We can be wrong about what is important.
Here’s another catch. What is important to us at a particular time and in a particular situation, may not be important at all—and it may be essential. Sometimes we override what is important to us for the sake of what is important, and sometimes we ignore what everyone proclaims to be important for the sake of what is important to us. How do we know when to do what? Re-read the paragraph immediately preceding this one.
Everything turns on our knowing and doing what is important, and we can be wrong in our appraisal of things. This is the human condition. Do not run from the responsibility, the duty, of standing your ground, evaluating the situation, and deciding for yourself what is important here and now—in each situation as it arises—and doing it. This will grow you up, wake you up, and carry you to the center of the path with your name on it faster and more surely than anything else, though it may take your whole life long.
- Sieur de Monts 22, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — October 2, 2012 — Listen. See what you hear. See what else there is to hear. See what comes to you when you listen. See what comes from you. See where it takes you. See where it goes. Listen. See?
- The Orchard BW, Mountain Glory Farm, Patten, ME — September 27, 2012 — We think life consists of acquisition, attainment, achievement, accomplishment, awards and recognition—and we burn ourselves out in the pursuit of these things. Life does not consist of burning ourselves out.
Life consists of living, of being alive to the time and place of our living, to the here and now of living, in each moment of life.
We look without seeing, talk without listening, eat without tasting, touch without feeling, medicate our bodies without noticing what they are saying to us, dead to our senses—how alive is that?
We experience without experiencing—without reflecting, examining, exploring, imagining, wondering—dead to our experience. How alive is that?
We are waiting for something good to come along to transform this old life that nobody would think of living. Waiting for Godot. To gift us with life in all its splendor and glory. Ignoring the splendor and glory of dust motes in sun beams and yellow leaves dropping from Maple trees in the fall.
- November Afternoon 02, Wright Dairy, Rockingham County, NC — November 8, 2012 — We have to walk two paths at the same time, live in two worlds at once. We belong to the world of normal, apparent reality and have to pay the bills. And, we belong to the invisible world of unconscious, spiritual, reality and have to find and stay on the beam.
Joseph Campbell said, “We know when we are on the beam and when we are off it.” We know when we are living the life that is our life to live, and when we are not. We know what brings us to life, and what is death in disguise. The problem is that the beam rarely pays the bills.
We have to live in this world in ways that honor the requirements of life in this world even though our heart and soul are of the other world. The place of conscious awareness is that of working it out.
Working it out means making the polarity real and consciously integrating the opposites in ways that allow us to live as responsible citizens of each world. We know what that means for the world of physical reality. Our life is structured by that world and we tend its needs daily.
We have to learn what it means to be a responsible citizen of the other world. It means sitting quietly on a regular basis, listening, reflecting, open to what comes to us in the silence. It means listening to our dreams and our physical symptoms—talk to your back pain and invite it to talk back. Assume you are overweight for a reason. Explore what that reason might be. Engage in a dialogue with yourself and listen with acceptance to all that comes.
We begin building a relationship with the world of invisible, spiritual reality by listening to what it has to say to us, and adjusting our life to better take it into account. Robert Johnson’s book “Inner Work,” and Parker Palmer’s book “A Hidden Wholeness” are two guides I’ve found helpful for finding ways of approaching the invisible world.
We are the contact point between the two worlds, and we have to live there consciously in order for the connection to happen. We’ve waited long enough.
- Sunset Silhouette 01, near Stonington, Deer Isle, ME — September 28, 2012 — You don’t have an unlimited supply of Life Energy. How do you plan on spending it? I recommend that you find out what your life needs from you and spend it in the service of your life. Not in the service of your wants/desires. Want what your life wants you to want. That’s my best advice.
I get blank expressions whenever I advise it. People know what they want, and their life is the horse they ride to glory—to the glorious realization of their wants and desires.
Everybody knows what they want. Nobody knows what they ought to want. They think they know. They think they ought to want what their mother wanted them to want. Or their preacher. Or their best friend…
Nobody has an idea of a life that is separate from their idea of their life. Ask them to tell you about their life and they will tell you what happened to them, or what they have done. You may get a long list of medical problems, ailments, afflictions and conditions. You won’t get anything about the life that is there waiting for them to live it, with the gifts that are still theirs to give in the time left for living.
Life is something that happens to us or something we do with our time on the earth. It is not something that calls us away from our idea of it into its service, against our will, wants, desires and better judgment.
So, waking up is always the first order of business. The question is not, “What must I do to get what I want out of life?” The question is, “How do I find my way to the life that is my life to live past all of the attractive alternatives and exciting offers that keep coming my way?” The question is, “How do I wake up?”
- Around the Block 13, Greensboro, NC — November 13, 2012 — Life is not what happens to us, it is what we do with what happens to us. It is what we bring to life in dealing with, in working with, what happens to us in light of what is trying to come to life within us and through us into our life.
Life is two things. Life is 98.6 and breathing and all that goes into keeping us breathing. And. Life is what we breathe for, what we breathe to do and be and bring forth. It is the beam, the foundation, the ground, the source of the experience of being fully alive. It is the meaning and purpose that enable us to live with anything that happens to us, doing with it what can be done as we exhibit there, in the time and place of our living, what it means for US to be ALIVE in this world exactly as it is.
All we know of life and being alive is buying some new technological toy, some new car, some new house, some new something to delight and entertain us for a while and take our minds off the emptiness of our life.
The life that is waiting to come alive in us and through us and fill our living with meaning and purpose, waits for us to wake up and allow it to seize us with vitality and exuberance and purpose, and we go shopping.
We wake up by realizing that our life is the stuff of myth. Of mythology and psychology. The two are the same ology. All of the old mythological stories are stories about us, about our psychological development, about our coming to life beyond being 98.6 and breathing.
The stories of Jesus and of Ulysses are the stories of what happens to those who live to be awake and to align themselves with the life that is theirs to live. As we take up that work, we become who Jesus was, who Ulysses was, and as it was with them, so it will be with us, and we can make connections between the life we live and what happens to us and the life they lived and what happened to them. And we take courage, and go forth to embrace our destiny. May it be so with us all!
- Sieur de Monts 04, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, ME — October 2, 2012 — It’s about growing up. Waking up. Wising up. And that road never ends. We are never grown up. Awake. Wise. It’s always about growing up. Waking up. Wising up.
It’s about seeing, hearing, understanding. It’s about having eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that understands.
And there is nothing in it for us. We don’t get anything out of it beyond growing up, waking up, wising up, seeing, hearing, understanding.
There is nothing beyond being alive to have, or know, or do, or be. Being alive is about growing up, etc. As we engage in, embrace, the process of growing up, etc., we come to life. We cannot be alive without growing up, etc.
What we get out of life is being alive. That’s what we are here for. Do not waste a second of the time left for living not being alive.
- Stone Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway near Doughton Park, NC — November 6, 2012 — There are 10,000 (The Taoist number for infinity) ways of taking our mind off our business. Or of taking our mind off our search for our business.
Our business is the beam, the center and ground of our life and being. It is what we are here for, what we are here to do, what we are here to be about. It is our calling, our work, our task.
There are 10,000 ways of losing the way, of stepping aside from the path, of forgetting what we are to be doing, of losing focus, of taking our mind off our business or off the search for our business.
Know what your business is and do it. Know what business you are in and be in it. How do you talk about your business? What business are you in, understood in the way of the second paragraph?
I’m in the business of asking questions and questioning the answers. I’m in the business of asking, seeking, knocking. I’m in the business of poking around and probing into assumptions, inferences and convictions. I’m in the business of reframing, reinterpreting, transforming traditional ways of seeing and bringing new ways of thinking about things—understanding things—to life. I’m in the business of finding all of the tripod positions—that would be all of the ways of seeing something, anything, everything—and wondering which is the most appropriate for the here and now of our living.
What business are you in? What are your favorite ways of taking your mind off your business?
- Sunset, Day 3 02, Pamlico Sound, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC — October 23, 2012 — There is how things are, and how things ought to be, and how we wish things were. How well we consciously integrate these three aspects of life tells the tale.
Seeing how things are—into the heart of how things are (Not just that your mother is not standing up to your father, or did not, but that she could not because she had no ground to stand on)–and how things ought to be, need to be (Not how they should have been—wouldn’t it be nice if we all had the parents we needed, and they had, and their parents had? They didn’t. We didn’t. Here we are. Now what?)–and how we wish things were (That we all had our own ground to stand on and did things the way they need to be done everywhere, all the time)–brings forth what can be brought forth to heal what can be healed and redeem what can be redeemed and transform what can be transformed in each situation as it arises, and lets the rest be, because it is.
We will never have the parents we didn’t have, or know how things would be if we had. But here we are. Now what? None of us ever out-grow having had parents. But here we are. Now what? And parents are just one facet of all of the influences and impacts that have helped shape our perspective. But here we are. Now what?
Recognition, realization, reflection. Awareness, acceptance, authenticity. Seeing, hearing, understanding. Compassion. Grace. Kindness. Mercy. Tenderness. Vulnerability. Honesty. And, perhaps, in time, forgiveness. There is much to be acknowledged before forgiveness. Much to see and sit with. We have to name the demons before we forgive them. And some aren’t worth our time.
”As you go into the world to seek and live your life, the birds of the air will paste you with their droppings. Don’t even pause to wipe it off.”—Native American instruction to tribal youth, relayed by Joseph Campbell
- Bass Lake Fall 11, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 14, 2012 — We wake up by examining, exploring, investigating what we assume to be so. What makes us think that the way we think is the way to think? The trick is to begin thinking about our thinking.
One way to do that is play around with Uncritical Inference Tests. Do an internet search for the term and instead of playing Solitaire, work through a test or two each night. It’s a way of sharpening your thinking skills, and catching yourself in the act of confusing what we think about the way things are with the way things are.
We wake up when we move out of a literal, concrete, right or wrong, good or bad, absolute way of thinking into a figurative, metaphorical, abstract, symbolic way of thinking. This is the shift from the left hemisphere to the right hemisphere. It is a shift that increases the number of ways we can see, interpret, understand a situation and the number of ways we can respond to it.
How many ways can you think of to think about your situation? Your father? Your mother? Your family of origin? Your partner? Your children? Your job? Your life? Put what you always say about these things on the table (that would be an imaginary table), and see how many different things you can say about them, how many different ways you can see them. Stretch/expand your explanatory style.
Step aside from The Facts for a moment and see how many different ways you can interpret, understand, perceive the facts. Sit with the facts and see what stirs, what shifts, what comes to mind. This is called playing with the possibilities. It is one way new life comes to life and cracks appear in “the cosmic egg,” which would be your representation of your life, world, universe.
We don’t grow without seeing things differently. We don’t change without changing our outlook, perspective, point of view. This is not a walk in the park we are taking. It is the Hero’s Journey. It asks hard things of us, like thinking about our thinking.
- Long View, Blue Ridge Parkway near Air Bellows Gap, NC — November 6, 2012 — Our pattern of life IS our life. When the pattern is disrupted, say by our graduating from high school and moving off to college all in the blink of an eye, or losing our job, or encountering a major illness, or the death of a parent, child or partner, our life crumbles around us and we grope about in the darkness with none to guide, lost and without direction.
No wonder there is such binge drinking, partying and drug abuse in college. We cannot face our lostness, our no idea of where to turnness, our what to do nextness. We don’t fare better with any of the other loss of life experiences. When our pattern of life is taken from us, we do not replace it smoothly and easily with a replacement pattern.
We need a recovery room, a decompression chamber, a year or two with people bringing us meals and speaking softly to us. The emotional trauma is the equivalent of being hit by a steam locomotive on the physical level. At the very least, we have to be conscious of that and deliberately take up the work of putting the pieces back together.
Dreams, which often serve to compensate for our conscious attitude, may be terribly threatening and chaotic if we are failing or afraid to consciously face up to the facts of our situation. Our dreams would be saying, “This is how it is with you! Wake up to it!”
We wake up to it by feeling it to its foundation. We have to be as lost as we are in order to take up the work of integration, reconciliation, wholeness, harmony, oneness and peace—and creating a new pattern of life.
Drawing, painting, coloring, creating mandalas may be particularly helpful. I’ve said before here that I see my photography (a quadrangular mandala instead of a round one as they usually are) as a way of harmonizing my own disparate parts and creating a ground, or foundation, of integrated wholeness—peace for my soul, and perhaps yours as you view them.
However we do the work of recovery, consciousness is the key. Awareness—seeing what must be seen, knowing what must be known, feeling what must be felt. And out of the depths of that darkness, light, and life, and peace. Until the next disruption. Then we do it again, and become really good at it over time.
- Around the Block 09, Greensboro, NC — November 9, 2012 — To live aligned with the voice of the Inner Self is to live quietly attuned to the “cues and clues” that arise within. We know more than we know we know, and so we must attend the inner knowing.
Reflection, examination, introspection, exploration and abounding curiosity are bents and leanings we must develop if we are to be Self-guided instruments of our own growth, being and becoming.
In order to know what we know, we have to feel what we feel, sense what we sense and perceive what we intuit. We are saying something to ourselves in each situation as it arises, at each turn in the road, each place filled with opportunity and chances to be missed or recognized and taken.
Let things settle, be still, become quiet—and see what stirs, occurs. We may find ourselves saying things we would never have thought to say, or doing things that surprise us. Who would have guessed it? It is the beauty of who we also are that even we can be surprised by the wonder of us, and led down paths we could not have predicted, and into the company of those who bless us with grace beyond imagining. All because we gave up control and got out of the way.
- Used in Short Talks on Contradictions, etc., Lincove Viaduct Fall 01, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC — October 5, 2012 — We are known by what we say yes to and what we say no to, by when we say yes and when we say no. We define ourselves by our choices. What we want, you might say, determines who we are.
It would be a good and helpful thing, then, to think about what we want, about what guides our boat on its path through the sea.
It is best to not fool ourselves, I think. We cannot fool ourselves and be transparent to ourselves, and we cannot make any distance along the path to who we are without being transparent to ourselves—without seeing, hearing and understanding how it is with us—without knowing who we also are and what we are about.
So. We sit with ourselves and listen. And reflect. We observe ourselves in action. We catch ourselves in contradictions. We wonder with ourselves, “How can we say this and do that?”—Not in an accusative, judgmental, way, but inquisitive, curious, investigative way. We are trying to understand who we are (who we also are), uncovering our motives and agendas, getting to the bottom of who we are (and also are).
The journey is an inward journey to the center of our soul. We are the path we walk, the gold we find. We know ourselves by exploring what we say yes to, and no to, all the way along the way.
- Lower Cascades Panorama, Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC — November 12, 2012 — You have people in your life, or have had people in your life, who you like to see coming and hate to see going. They make things better. They have redemptive, healing, qualities, and we are renewed, restored, by spending time with them.
You’ll have to make your own assessment about your people, but my people receive me well. No judgment, no condemnation, no correction, no unsolicited advice, no lectures or instruction. They listen to me with compassion and look at me with soft, kind, eyes. And they laugh a lot. They don’t set themselves up as the way it ought to be done. They aren’t prudish, holy and pure. They have their foibles and failings, and don’t pretend otherwise. And they are as accepting of mine as they are of their own.
They make all the difference in my life and in the lives of a large number of people. And, they don’t make any difference at all in the way the world works. The headlines are as bad as ever. Wrong seems to get worse over time. Joblessness, the economy, poverty, war… And regardless of the headlines, no matter how bad it is, there are those who make all the difference in our life.
And there aren’t enough of them. We need to make it our practice to become like them in the lives of others—as a way of honoring those who have brought us to life.
- Low Tide 02, Stonington, ME — September 26, 2012 — The tide goes out and the tide comes in. Waiting is the hard part. Between the tide being out and the tide being in can seem like forever. And between the tide being in and the tide being out can seem like no time at all.
The trick is letting come what’s coming and letting go what’s going. “This, too. This, too.” Either coming or going, either in or out, our work is the same: Being awake to the time at hand, present with what is present with us, alert to what is happening and what needs to happen and what we can do about it.
At times, waiting is all that can be done. We wait for the time to act. For the moment to be at hand. The propitious moment, the favorable moment, the moment that is ripe, the time that is right for what we have to offer, the gift that is ours to give.
The farmer doesn’t sew seed on rocky soil, or thorny soil, or swampy soil, just anywhere, just any time. The farmer waits for the right time, the right place. Waiting is the hard part.
Everything is easier when we are conscious of it. When we are waiting, it helps to know we are waiting, and to wait consciously—for what, perhaps, we do not know. An opening. An opportunity. A chance. A space. A shift. A shift in the times.
With every illness I have had, I have known when the corner was turned, when I started coming out of illness into life. The shift can be subtle, but can be seen, felt, by those who are looking, waiting, for some sign, some indication, some food for hope, some reason to be encouraged.
In the darkness, we wait for the first hint of light. Biding our time, trusting ourselves to the coming of the shift, preparing ourselves—readying ourselves—to do what is to be done when the time is right and the moment is at hand.
- Wetlands Sunrise Panorama, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC — November 23, 2012 — We each pick up the thread that runs through out life and follow it out in our own way. Or not at all. Some of us live as bulldozers all our lives, forcing our way to goals we deem worthy, plowing through stop signs and dead ends, with no regard for what needs to happen, in the service of wants that we will into being, regardless of the impact, in spite of the results. Or as puppets, robots, dancing to someone else’s tune, marching to someone else’s orders.
But. There is a thread running through the life of each one of us, a thread of truth, arising from and leading to the core, the source and goal of life and being—ours to find and follow through life and to life—past more attractive alternatives, or safer options, all along the way.
The path lies beneath the feet—and unfolds before those—who trust themselves to the thread and start walking.
- Wetlands Cattails 04, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC — November 23, 2012 — We pass through time looking to make our mark, but it is not through achievement, accomplishment, attainment and acquisition that we do so. It is done in being who we are.
Our mark is our signature. It is our Self shining through—seen in how we do what we do, in who we show ourselves to be through the process of living our life.
The wisdom of Delphi advised “Know thyself,” and “To Thine Own Self Be True.” Living aligned with the truth of our own being is to live with integrity. It is to bring forth who we are to meet what we find in each situation as it arises. This is the ethical principle, “the categorical imperative” running through every moment, in all conditions of life.
Be who you are at the core, at the center, of that which is deepest, truest and best about you. And, how do you know what that is? Wake up.
”We are who we have always been,” said Carl Jung, “and who we will be.” It only takes waking up to know who that is, and be who we are, consciously, intentionally, in the time and place of our living. As we do so, we discover that we are exactly what the situation needs us to be, a boon beyond reckoning, which we receive in the act of giving it away.
- Enjoying the Wetlands, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC — November 23, 2012 — There is distraction and there is focus. To know the difference between the two is to be focused. To forget the difference between the two is to be distracted.
Where is your focus? Where does your focus need to be? What is distracting you from where your focus needs to be?
What is your business, here and now? What are you about? What do you need to be about?
When we “return to the center,” or “find the center,” we refocus on the business at hand. What are we doing? What needs to be done? What needs us to do it?
What are the sources of distraction at work in the time and place of our living? If I am looking for a photograph in a scene where the mosquitoes are swarming, I can forget the photograph. The mosquitoes are going to win the day.
If I’m trying to write—or read—in a room with a TV blaring away, I can forget writing, or reading. I have to deal with the distraction before I can get back to the business at hand.
Removing the distractions is essential to recovering our focus, to remembering who we are and what we are to be about. We move from disintegration to integration by bringing ourselves into focus, remembering our business, and being true to ourselves within the conditions and circumstances of our life in the time and place of our living.
- Ginkgo biloba 01, Charlotte, NC — November 23, 2012 — Waking up is growing up. We cannot be awake and immature. Maturity is a function of consciousness, of awareness, of awakening—seeing, hearing, understanding. Enlightenment.
Immaturity is unconscious. Maturity is conscious. The spiritual journey—the Hero’s Journey—is maturation. Growing up. Waking up.
Immaturity is taking someone else’s word for it. Maturity is seeing for yourself.
Immaturity is doing what they tell you to do. Maturity is deciding for yourself what is called for in the situation as it arises.
Immaturity is believing what they tell you to believe. Maturity is believing what you believe is suitable, fit, proper, appropriate, right, good, and worthy.
Immaturity is thinking what they tell you to think. Maturity is thinking what you think, feeling what you feel, seeing what you see, hearing what you hear, knowing what you know—and choosing what to do about it out of your own sense of what needs to be done.
Immaturity is doing what the rules say do. Maturity is rising to the occasion and doing what is called for never mind the rules.
We grow up by taking chances on ourselves and learning to be true to ourselves over time. Which means mistakes are the teacher and seeing is the lesson.
- Reeds 02, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC — November 23, 2012 — It’s illegal if it breaks a law of the State. It’s immoral if it runs counter to the officially sanctioned codes of the day—the Thou Shalts and the Thou Shalt Nots of popular or orthodox religion, for example. It’s unethical if it is contrary to our own sense of how our life ought to be lived—if it is out of sync with the truth of our soul.
To be ethical in the deepest sense may require us to be immoral and illegal. My soul says “Get the picture!” The sign says “No Trespassing!” If the fence isn’t electric and there are no dogs barking, the picture is mine, to my wife’s everlasting chagrin.
The same thing applied to all of those Jim Crow laws, and to all of those laws infringing on the civil and human rights of gay people, and to all of those laws dehumanizing immigrants desperate for work and help without their papers. We are called beyond where we are supposed to go.
The clash of oughts and shoulds and musts and must nots are at the heart of the Hero’s Journey. Each of us has to make up our own mind about what we are going to do and who we are going to be in the time and place of our living. We do ourselves no favors when we live in the solid center of who our friends and family expect us to be. The more like them we are, the less like us we are.
Who guides our boat on its path through the sea?
- Beech Trees, Guilford College Woods, Greensboro, NC — Spring 2008 — We have to bear the pain. Growing up is developing a tolerance for disappointment, anxiety, insecurity, uncertainty, and their relations (In the deep south a “relation” is someone who may be kin to you but no one remembers exactly how, like your grandfather’s second cousin on his mother’s side. Maybe).
We just deal with it. It will not be made right—or made up to us. There is too little in the way compensation and consolation to my liking—but what are we going to do? We pick ourselves up and go on. Cussin’ helps as much as anything. Seriously. Studies have shown we can bear pain longer (as in a hand immersed in ice water) if we give the experience a good cursing than if we “grin and bear it.”
So dust off some expletives and have at it. Then, pick yourself up and go on. If you spend too much time thinking about what just happened, you won’t get out of the way of the next thing coming along, and before you know it, you have become the Cyclops’ all day succor.
I’ve been looking for a way to use that line for years.
- Used in Short Talks on Contradictions, etc., Wetlands Cattails 08, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC — November 23, 2012 — The pain we bear is the pain of contradictions. We want this and we want that, but this and that are mutually exclusive options, so we have to choose. Or choice is forced on us, or taken from us, and what we get is NOT what we want.
Life runs contrary to our wishes, and we are left with doing what we can with something we don’t want anything to do with.
We bear the pain of reconciling contradictions, of integrating opposites, of making peace.
We make peace not only between warring children but also between ourselves and the way things are, between our wishes for the world and the way the world works.
The trick is transcendence. We transcend the either/or stalemate by imagining, envisioning, a third way as a marriage of the two opposites.
But, there is a catch. The solution is apparent only from the perspective of the struggle. We cannot solve a problem we are not engaged in, that we are not pained by. Transcendence is a function of immanence. To be a part of the solution, we have to be a part of the problem. We have to bear the burden in order to transform it, transcend it—and we are changed by the process of effecting change.
We want a magic wand and WE are the magic wand! The magic happens through us, and to us. We work with the contradictions and things change—and we are one of the things that change.
If you can live with that catch, you have it made.
- Mile Post 244, Blue Ridge Parkway, Doughton Park, NC — November 5, 2012 — The dumbest piece of advice in the Bible is “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you!” The Evil One—however you understand that metaphor—loves defiance. In Jungian psychology, the Shadow just deepens—becomes increasingly dark and devious—when we put on the pure and righteous act and “have nothing to do with evil.” It isn’t that easy. It isn’t easy at all.
In the first place, we have to recognize that the Devil, the Evil One, the Shadow is not a thing apart from us. The Pogo Cartoon revelation is on the mark: “We have met the Enemy and he is us!” What to do about it is the question.
We work it out is the answer. We wade right in. We play it out. We see it through. Darkness and Light, Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Good Guys and Bad Guys—this is who we are to the core, and we have to make it work.
Other Biblical injunctions are much more to the point: “Make friends with your accuser on your way to court!” “Love your enemies!” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!”
William Blake, in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” said, “Without contraries is no progression.” Is no transformation. Is no movement, no life.
Rumi’s poem, “The Guesthouse,” lays the blueprint for peace and cooperation before us. “We”—all of “us” within—need the perspective and the strengths of each other. Just as the eye can’t say to the ear, “Who needs you?,” or the foot to the elbow, so the Light cannot say to the Darkness, “Begone, Thou pit of wickedness and filth!”
In another poem, Rumi points out that “Darkness is the cradle of Light,” and if there is only light, all are blind—and deep and endless is that darkness. It behooves us to initiate a parlay. Have a talk. An ongoing talk. A conversation.
Invite the Devil to the table. Listen to him to the very heart of all he has to say. See what you have to say in response. See where the conversation goes. The rule for both of you is to be honest, authentic, genuine, real. Don’t strike a pose. Don’t play a part, a role. Don’t say what you think the preacher, or your Sunday school teacher, would have you say. Say what is yours to say. We seek the truth by being truthful all the way to the core—and seeing where it goes.
- Fall Lane, Anne Springs Close Greenway, Dairy Barn Access, Fort Mill, SC — November 24, 2012 — We find the thread of truth running through our life—the truth of who we are—and follow it out in the time left for living. In so doing, we become who we are. We do more of what is us and less of what is not us. We spend time with the things that bring us forth, that bring us into focus, that clarify us, identify us and make us real.
The watchwords for those on the trail of truth—the truth of who they are—are authenticity, genuineness, integrity (as in doing that which is integral to who we are—living in ways which reflect and express what is deepest, truest, and best about us).
The truth of who we are is a magical transformation wherein we remove our stiff, lifeless, manikin-like exterior and exhibit the living being at the heart of our life and is who we are called to be, and capable of becoming.
This doesn’t mean we abandon all of our roles and cease doing everything that isn’t us. It means we work it out. We bring ourselves forth within the conditions and circumstances of our life. And when those conditions and circumstances will not permit our metamorphosis, working it out may mean finding ways to leave those behind and move into new ones which will assist our birth in ways that are truly helpful—like being open, accepting and understanding.
The rest of our life is where we work out being who we are within the givens, within the facts, of life. This is the Hero’s Journey. It waits for each of us to take it up and see where it goes.
- November Afternoon 04 B&W, Wright Dairy, Rockingham County, NC — November 9, 2012 — We have to work it out over the course of our life. This is the Hero’s Journey, working it out.
We have to work out who we are, over against who we wish we were and who we think we ought to be and who we are told to be and who we are invited to become. We have to find the thread of truth—the truth of who we are—running through our life and align ourselves with it, at the cost of all other claims upon us.
We have to work out who we are within the framework of all other claims upon us—within the terms, context and conditions, time and place, of life as it is.
We take the fact of who we are in one hand, and the facts of life we find waiting for us when we come forth from the womb in the other hand, and we spend our life working to get the two sets of facts together—to integrate who we are with how things are.
This is the Hero’s Journey, becoming who we are in the time left for living, while taking all the claims upon us into account.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Grazing 02, Anne Springs Close Greenway, Dairy Barn Access, Fort Mill, SC — November 27, 2012 — I don’t know what you will find that helps you work it out—who you are and how to be who you are within the terms and conditions, the time and place, of your living—but sitting helps me, and walking slowly, and silence, and solitude, pondering, reflecting, writing, listening, looking, hearing, seeing…
The more you see and hear the more aware you become. The more aware you become, the more aware of contradictions you become. How we integrate, reconcile, the contradictions tells the tale.
Even if I live for long years to come, I’ll die working the camera into my other life. The camera is a harsh taskmaster, caring nothing for the schedules and convenience of other people, even close family members who think Christmas Dinner (etc.) takes precedent over every other thing.
So I have to work it out, belonging to both worlds, reconciling the contradictions, finding the thread of truth (of who I am and what is asked of me) in each situation and following it into the next situation.
Do not be disheartened at the difficulties involved in making it work. You have to be your own advocate, your own champion, flying your own colors, swearing allegiance to and keeping troth with your own true life—with the thread of truth running through your life. And you have to do that taking claims upon you into account. How much for you? How much for them? How much for the rest of your other life? You decide in each situation. You work out the ratios. You make it work as well as it can work—the nature and scope of the Hero’s Journey.
- The Swinging Tree, Guilford College woods, Greensboro, NC — April 2008 — My friend Ogi Overman said in a comment below that, for him, “the Hero’s Journey is a quest for true humility.” He’s right again.
True humility is complete integrity of being. True humility does not pretend to be more than it is, and true humility does not pretend to be less than it is. True humility is content to be just what it is in each situation as it arises. And that is the essence of a true human being.
A true human being is truly humble, and truly proud to be who she, who he, is in the time and place of her, of his, living, regardless of the conditions and circumstances and context and nature of her, of his, life. Our goal, the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, is to be who we are, where we are, when we are, how we are. As we do that, in each situation as it arises, we exhibit why we are, and grace the world with our presence.
Of course, this is the best trick in the Big Book of Tricks, so we join Ogi in the quest for true humility, and see where it goes!
- Hemlock Islands 02, Penobscot Bay, Deer Isle near Stonington, ME — October 1, 2012 — As I get older, I need less imposition and more leeway. It may be compensation for having a job—I was a minister for 40.5 years—that required complete availability/imposition and very little leeway. But, I like nothing between me and the end of the day.
You hear that phrase “at the end of the day” a lot. For me it means bedtime. When I cut out the lights and go to bed, that’s the end of the day. And I like a clear path from getting up to going to bed. Guess how often that happens.
Our life is spent making adjustments to our preferences and priorities to take reality into account. Reality. The facts of life. How things are. House guests. Dentist appointments. HVAC repair. The list is long of things that come belching and sneezing into our life, knowing we have no choice but to move over and make room.
Imposition is reality. And it doesn’t matter what job you have. It is the Chief Fact of all of the facts of life. We are imposed upon from start to finish. And have very little—not nearly enough—leeway.
Which makes people who take you into account, understanding your tics and proclivities and allowing you the privilege of being who you are, how you are, no matter what, a joy and a delight to be around.
There are waitresses who sound genuinely happy to bring me Chicken Nachos without the nachos. Friends who honor need for quiet mornings and suggest coffee or tea after 2 PM. Dear ones who know I’m “just that way” where distance and availability are concerned or when the light is right and I have to disappear with the camera. It is wonderful to find people who grant leeway when I’m being an imposition. May I be more like them when the situation calls for it than I am naturally inclined to be!
- Beech 03, Guilford College Woods, Greensboro, NC — October 2008 — Carl Jung said, “Every relationship has its optimal distance, which, of course, has to be found through observation and experimentation”—in other words, through experience. We learn by experience what is too close and what is too far, and it’s different with different people, and it’s different in different settings and situations. It takes an awake brain to figure this out. And this is just the distance portion of the equation!
It’s no wonder relationships are such tricky things to tend. We have to pay attention. Be awake. And talk, talk, talk. And guys can’t do any of those things. Unless it comes to hunting, fishing, baseball, football or NASCAR.
So guys have their work cut out for them. Caring about relationships as much as they care about hunting, fishing, etc. Wow. That would be better than Viagra for a lot of the women I know. Caring attentiveness. How come there isn’t a pill for that?
But let me get off the sexist wagon. I don’t know of anyone, male or female, who isn’t a sucker for tender, kind, attentive presence. If you are going to give me anything, give me your undivided attention. I may as well ask for the moon and all stars.
Take this horse for a ride. See how long you can remain attentive to another person—how carefully you can hear what she or he is saying—how “with” the other you can be without taking the topic away from her or him and turning it into your own.
Practice listening. Attentive listening. Listening with your full, directed, focused attention. Notice when you drift off, or when you get defensive, or when you become uncomfortable and change the subject or take over the subject.
Reflect on what happened. And practice extending the focus.
We will save the world by attending our relationships, finding and maintaining the optimal distance, and listening each other to the truth of who we are.
- Wetlands Cattails, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC — November 24, 2012 — I don’t remember if Obi-wan Kenobi ever actually said, “Trust your feelings, Luke,” or “Trust yourself to the Force, Luke,” but he could have, even should have. It’s the key to finding and following the thread of truth that runs through our life.
Trusting our feelings IS trusting ourselves to the Force—IS trusting the Force—whatever the Force is behind it all, conscious, unconscious, mystery, being, life… It goes by a lot of names, and it is known through our feelings. Our sense of its presence and its preferences, its leanings and its direction.
And, we can feel like another beer or another evening with cocaine. Our feelings can trick us. Remember your first marriage? But, our feelings lead us out of all of the dead ends they lead us into. We are left with trusting our feelings to know when something isn’t working and to get ourselves walked out of wherever it is that we don’t need to be. And it may turn out, in the long run, that our wrong turns were the rightest things we ever did, because without them, where would we be? Even our bad choices can lead us, in a round-a-bout way, to the Way with our name on it. IF we trust our feelings.
There is that within us which knows more than we do, and it is our place to know what we know, by sitting quietly, regularly, and listening. We have to get ourselves out of the way to know what we are feeling—and to be able to discriminate between feelings, so that we can tell an ill wind from a good one, and say what needs to be said, and refrain from saying what does not need to be said—instead of just saying anything that comes to mind (And the same goes for doing).
We have to sit and listen in order to hear. We have to sit and look in order to see. Sitting quietly, listening, looking, feeling is the path to the path with our name on it.
- Low Tide 07, Edgar M. Tennis Preserve, Deer Isle near Stonington, ME — October 2, 2012 — I say the same thing over and over because I only have one thing to say: Wake up! Do your thing! Get out of the way so your thing can come to life through you!
The same thing needs to be said because people keep not hearing what I’m saying, saying, “We’ve heard that before! Why do you keep saying the same thing?” When does hearing happen is the question. As long as we can keep from hearing what we have heard, we don’t have to do anything about our thing.
We let anything, everything, keep us from doing our thing. Any excuse will do. “We don’t know what our thing is!” “Our life is too hard!” “We can’t do anything with this sorry old life!” “We could do our thing if we had a better life!” We keep ourselves safe that way.
The things that keep us from doing our thing are: Fear, Desire, Duty, Greed, Arrogance, Laziness and Stupidity. We have to live beyond these things in order to do our thing—we have to risk everything. We put ourselves on the line. We stop imposing our ideas of our thing on our thing.
Our thing is not necessarily what we think our thing is or what we want our thing to be or what we are told is our thing. We have to sit before, stand before, all the things—waiting, watching, looking, listening in order to see, hear, and understand what ours is.
Just like “the wand chooses the wizard,” our thing chooses us—we don’t choose our thing. We have to get out of the way and allow our thing to come forth in the manner of an immaculate conception, a virgin birth.
Finding our thing is finding the thread of truth that runs through our life. Our thing is what our thing always has been, and will be. We have to sit, stand, before ourselves, and see ourselves with fresh eyes in order to see the thing that has always been ours.
When we begin to do our thing consciously, with intention, with loyalty and devotion and allegiance, we develop an identity, a foundation. Then, we become who we are, and are centered, focused, grounded, whole, complete, integrated, at peace, clear and unmovable.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Foothills of Katahdin, Baxter State Park near Patten, ME — September 24, 2012 — Here comes something else I’ve said before and keep saying because it is the central issue in the whole process—the process of waking up, growing up, standing up, squaring up to the truth of how things are and how things need to be and doing what must be done about it in each situation as it arises whether we want to or not, whether we feel like it or not, whether we are in the mood for it or not, at any time during the day or night, in all weather conditions.
We have to face up to our own conflicts, ambivalence, contradictions, inconsistency, hesitancy and uncertainty. We have to bear the pain of living in the tension of wanting mutually exclusive things, of being on both sides of the fence, of being torn between what we want and what we also want and what we have been told we ought to want.
We have to live the contradictions—knowingly, consciously, with full awareness—and be the redeemer, the mediator, the reconciling agent/influence between and among the opposites at war within, transcending animosities, integrating incompatibilities, healing deep wounds, bringing peace, becoming whole in the time left for living.
Which begs the question: Just how do we do this? You aren’t going to like the answer: You play with it. You get in their with it and stir things up. See what comes to mind. Fiddle around. Monkey around. Experiment. Explore. Probe. Wonder. Imagine. Create. Stop taking the serious things seriously. See what you can do. See what happens. See where it goes.
There is no recipe, no formula, no plan, no procedure for doing what must be done. Each of us has a way that is ours alone, a way that has only our name on it, a way that is as individual and unique as we are. And our way to the way is just as individual and unique as the way is.
Wade into the mess! Into the rolling boil of discordance and discrepancy and dissonance—with eyes that see, ears that hear and a compassionate heart that understands and accepts—and see what you can do.
- Greenway Boardwalk, Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC — November 24, 2012 — It IS all about you—each one of you. It is about the life you are living and the life you are asked to live. It is about who you are and who you are asked to be. It is about you becoming the you you are built to be.
At this point in your life there are three true things: The life you have lived. The life you are living. And the life you have yet to live.
It is the place of the conscious, aware part of you to enter into an alliance with the unconscious, knowing part of you—a collaborative partnership in which you bring into being the future that needs you to live it—that no one but you can live, and co-create by living in such a way as to bring it forth.
This is the meaning and purpose of your life: To live the life that is your life to live—to bring yourself forth in the life you are living, however difficult that may be. If you are going to opt out of something, opt out of sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Do not opt out of bringing forth the life that is yours to live within the context and circumstances of the life you are living. That’s the Hero’s Journey! Why would you want to miss that—no matter how hard it is?
- Ginkgo biloba 02, Charlotte, NC — November 24, 2012 — Most of our experience with community is being swallowed up in one. The communities of our experience have existed to disappear us into the community—to make us like everyone else. That’s more of a commune than a community.
A community is a loose confederation of individuals who exist together for the sake of each other. The Judges of the Old Testament is a good example of this, calling the people together to deal collectively with a threat to their joint welfare and then disbanding and returning to their individual ways of life once the threat was no longer a problem.
Community exists for the sake of the individuals within the community, not the other way around. We need help with our life. We need help coming forth. We need help knowing and remembering that we have what we need if we will only get out of the way and trust ourselves to the Knower/Guide within. We need a nourishing, nurturing environment in which to experiment and explore and discover our interests and proclivities and gifts and abilities—in which to discover who we are and bring ourselves forth into our life.
Not exactly what any community we know of has in mind. So, we have to create our own. The church as it ought to be. A listening post. A place where people are listened to the heart of who they are—and helped to find the thread of the truth of who they are running through their life.
We’re back to Eugene Gendlin (“Focusing”) and Parker Palmer (“A Hidden Wholeness”) as guides to what is helpful and what works to create it with a small group of people who have what it takes to be what each person needs.
Speaking of small groups, Jesus said “Wherever two or three are gathered…” I think three is necessary to keep two from becoming a couple, and much more than that is too big to work for the good of each—it gets to be political early on, with people siding with people against other people, and people “hiding out,” not coming forth… Keep it small, keep it honest, with no group secrets and everything said to everybody, and you’ll wonder how you made it this far without it.
- Old Saddle Mountain Baptist Church B&W, Blue Ridge Parkway near Cumberland Gap, NC — November 6, 2012 — We can trust ourselves to know what to do about not knowing what to do. We can trust ourselves. If we trust ourselves and get into a fix, we can trust ourselves to get out of the fix. And the experience of the fix may be just what we need to avoid some future fix.
I’m saying, cut yourself some slack. Ease up. Your Self, your unconscious Knower, is the most reliable helpmate you could wish for. It takes trust, though, to find out that I’m right.
Trust is another word for faith. Faith in ourselves is equivalent to faith in God. God acts in us and through us, right? There is no way to find the line separating where God stops and Self starts. God is our better half. When Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ Jesus living in me,” he is talking about the Knower within. We’ll never find the line where Christ Jesus stops and the Knowing Self starts. The difference isn’t enough to butter a piece of bread with, as they say in the deep south.
I’m saying your Self can be counted on for guidance and direction in all matters pertaining to LIFE. We are not alone. But. It takes trusting this is so to know that it is. It takes faith in the reality of our Self. And allegiance and loyalty to the service of our Self. And alignment and affinity with the drift of the Self. To bask in the wonder of Selfhood.
It will not be confirmed intellectually, rationally, logically. Only experientially. We have to trust ourselves to know our Self is trustworthy. To trust ourselves is to give ourselves over to our Self, knowing that what our Self has in mind for us may not be anything like what we have in mind for us.
So. Who are you going to trust to know what’s in your best interest? You, or your Self? The answer to this question tells the tale.
- Ledge Falls 02, Nesowadnehunk Stream, Baxter State Park near Patten, ME — September 26, 2012 — There are two basic avenues to meditation. One is the Hindu/Yoga/“Transcendental Meditation” approach, which is to empty our mind of everything. We are told to ignore all of the voices (“Monkey Mind”) clamoring for our attention and focus on our breathing and our mantra, driving all other thoughts away.
When we find ourselves straying into grocery lists and happy fantasies about winning the lottery, we bring ourselves back to the moment at hand by focusing on our breathing and our mantra. Completely focused. Completely at peace. Completely present.
The other way of meditating is to become interested in all of the voices we hear, paying close attention to them, being fully aware of them. In this approach, we listen to what we hear, reflect on it, evaluate it, assess it, weigh it and determine whether to follow or not.
My recommendation is to understand meditation as listening/hearing, looking/seeing, attending/realizing—and pay attention to the voices without thinking that means do what they tell us to do, listen to the voices without thinking that means to obey them.
Like an investigative reporter, we get to the bottom of what we hear. We ask the voices to tell us more. We receive with acceptance what they say but ask probing questions about what they mean. We make inquiries. If they are harsh, judgmental, belittling, we ask them what is their point and what do they want and why aren’t they being more helpful in heading off the things they attack us for.
We hear what we have to say—ALL of what we have to say, and ask if any voice has anything else to say, and take it all under consideration, turning it over, exploring what we have heard, inspecting, reflecting, imagining, wondering, thinking, etc. And see where it goes.
- Steele Creek Trestle, Anne Springs Close Greenway, Old Mill Access, Fort Mill SC — November 24, 2012 — Doing what needs to be done in each situation as it arises places all other values at risk. The Ten Commandments are the first things to go. We cannot keep God happy and do whatever the situation calls for—unless we understand that God is happy with us doing whatever the situation calls for—that God does whatever the situation calls for!
The parables of the vineyard owner, the good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the unjust steward, the wise and foolish bridesmaids say God is free. Even Jesus gets into the act, forgiving a guilty woman (the one “taken in adultery”) and cursing an innocent fig tree—the one that had no figs because “it wasn’t the season for figs.”
God, and Jesus, and we are all free to do what needs to be done in the situation as it arises, never mind what ought to be done, what is supposed to be done, what has always been done—or what ought not be done, ever, for any reason, no matter what. Everything is on the table. We are free to act as we deem it necessary to the situation as it arises.
The idea that we have dishonored God and God is scandalized at us and is going to punish us all unless we repent and toe the line itself misses the mark. We have dishonored God by refusing to draw our own lines and live out of our own sense of what needs to be done, when, where and how.
The failure to live open and alert to the time and place of our living, so that we know what is happening and what needs to happen and use our gifts to assist the coming into being of what needs to be results in a deadening that is deader than dead. So that we become like cows following the worn path from the pasture to the barn and back to the pasture—never getting out of line or out of order, and calling that being alive.
“Leave the dead to bury the dead,” said Jesus. “There’s nothing but the dead and dying in my little town,” said Simon & Garfunkel. We are dead when we are afraid to be alive, afraid to risk being wrong in the service of what we think needs to be done because of what might happen if we do.
We have to take a chance on God. This is having faith in God—taking a chance on God—trusting God to be on our side when we take a chance and do what we think needs to be done (Healing on the Sabbath, for instance). We have to take a chance on God to be on our side when we act on our own authority in doing what needs to be done in each situation as it arises.
None of this, “God said do it this way,” and “God wants it done like this or else!” God wants us to do it like we think it needs to be done! God wants us to live, not like God wants us to live, but like WE think life needs to be lived in the moment of our living! No timid, hesitant, fearful, frightened followers! Leaders! Disciples who are not afraid to be like the Master in following no Master!
We lead the way in making our own way, and we have no followers because they get the idea and make their own way. LIFE requires freedom to act, to be, to do, to see, to feel, to know, to ask, to wonder, to imagine, to create…To find our own way to LIFE, living, and being alive!
- Neighborhood Lights 01, Ridgeway Drive, Greensboro, NC — December 4, 2012 — No one can tell someone else how to do it, how it’s done. We make our own connections, come to our own realizations, find our own way to what works and does not work for us.
Everything I write here, I write for me, to remind me of what I have found to be true. I need reminding because I’m forever forgetting. I have to remind myself of what I know because there is no one to remind me, because there is no one who knows what I know.
I know a lot about photography, but it is information that is pertinent only to me in my particular situation, with my particular interests and my particular equipment. I could talk to you a lot about photography, but it wouldn’t mean much to you if you aren’t taking the photos I’m taking, and what would the point of that be?
We have to get in there and do our thing and figure it out as we go—learning, learning, learning to be open and alert, awake and alive to each situation as it arises. Seeing with fresh eyes every moment. Finding new ways to respond to what is being asked of us. Asking, seeking, wondering, experimenting, exploring, probing, poking around in all of it and being surprised again and again by the expansion and transformation of what we thought we knew.
- Oak Leaf Hydrangea, Greensboro, NC — December 4, 2012 — Our plans too often run counter to our soul’s design. We can want more than we have any business having. What is the life that needs us to live it, is the question. Not what do we want to do.
Our life needs us to do the things that we are uniquely equipped to do. What do we need to do what we are needed to do?
We need to wake up, grow up, wise up, square up to the truth of how things are and who we are and what is ours to do about how things are, and suck it up and do it.
Never mind the big ideas, and the high ideals, and the dreams of hitting the big time. Settle into who you are and what needs you to do it with the gifts that are yours to give, and have at it. There will be enough good in that, enough meaning in that, enough enjoyment in that to see you through your days—to put a smile on your face and a light in your eyes. Things hitting the big time forsakes in the service of The Pose.
- Neighborhood Lights 02, Ridgeway Drive, Greensboro, NC — December 5, 2012 — Being happy is way over-hyped. Satisfaction and peace lie on a level beyond happiness. Happiness is empty calories, a diversion—not transformation. We can be happy with how things are and nothing changes.
It isn’t about happiness. It isn’t a question of being happy. It’s a matter of knowing how it is and doing what must be done about it with the gifts that are ours to give—in each situation as it arises.
We serve and share the gifts—the qualities and proclivities—that are ours to give in the time and place of our living. We can not do that and be happy, but we cannot fail to do that and be at peace in our soul, with our soul.
- Bass and Violin Shop 01, 523 North Cedar St., Greensboro, NC — December 5, 2012 — We can trust ourselves to figure it out over time. If you live with a mess long enough it becomes apparent what needs to be done. Get in there and do your thing and make adjustments when it becomes apparent that adjustments need to be made. Why aren’t we told that?
Why are we given all those lectures and all that sarcasm and that “Here, get out of the way, I’ll do it for you, you’ll never figure it out!”?
Here’s what I know: I know we have what it takes to find what to do about anything that blocks our path. I know there is a creative well of imagination, insight, understanding, guidance and direction within—and we only have to ease back on the anxiety and trust the inner wizard or wizette to work it out through us.
We have to be attentive, alert and aware—fully present and accounted for, listening and attuned to the Source, but the Source can be counted on. We will get it over time.
We can trust ourselves to what, we do not know, in finding ways to deal with whatever comes our way. We have an Invisible Friend who knows good stuff, waiting for us to ask for a little help from our friend.
- Boardwalk at the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC — December 04, 2012 — When we live aligned with the thread of truth running through our life several words describe or experience. We live with integrity—in ways that are integral to what is deepest, best and truest about us.
We live with authenticity—there is nothing fake about us. We are genuinely who we are, where we are, when we are, how we are. No “putting on a happy face.” No pretending to be who we aren’t. No posturing. No positioning.
We are awake/aware. We are conscious of how what we are doing, or being asked to do, reflects or obscures who we are and what is deepest, truest and best about us.
We are at one with our life. The truth of who we are and the truth of what we do is one truth. Our life resonates with us. We belong where we are, doing what we are doing. We are at peace with ourselves, in accord with our own sense of who we are, and how we are, and what we need to be doing.
All of which begs the question: “How do we get there?” Eyes that see, ears that hear, a heart that understands. We get there by looking until we see, listening until we hear, asking until we understand. We pay attention. We become aware of how things are and what needs to be done about them. We take chances. We experiment. We play.
We notice when something catches our eye, and we notice when we dismiss something that has caught our eye. We look closer at the things that catch our eye. And see where it goes.
We live with an ear tuned to the pulse of our life, with an eye on what’s what. And do what needs to be done with the information at hand.
- Brass and Violin Shop 05, 523 North Cedar Street, Greensboro, NC — December 5, 2012 — Our life is a life-long experiment in how to do it, in how to live our life. We figure it out along the way. We figure out what works and what does not work—under what conditions and contingencies.
It’s all in flux. Life is movement. Movement is change. Ebb and flow. Rhythm and vibes. Feel and sense and timing. We can’t spell it out. Write it down. Orchestrate it. Choreograph it. Say, “In this situation do that, in that situation do this.”
Live it! Dance it! Sing it! Play it! Play with it. Break the rules. Redraw the lines. Ignore the lines. See how it goes. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work. Just don’t try to freeze it in place. Stop the action. Keep it exactly like it is forever. Let it go.
Let come what’s coming and let go what’s going. Everything that comes, goes. That tells me we shouldn’t be taking things so seriously. It’s all on the way out—it’s all becoming something else. What we take so seriously today, we won’t be able to remember tomorrow.
Lighten up. Laugh more. Play more. Walk in the rain more. What exactly do you have to lose in loosening up?
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Ginkgo biloba 03, B&W — Green Hill Cemetery, Greensboro, NC, December 5, 2012 — The writer writes what needs to be written, the singer sings what needs to be sung, the poet poets what needs to be poeted, the doer does what needs to be done.
Walking through graveyards carries us past the tombs of unknown soldiers, clowns, CEO’s, genuine human beings, social butterflies, drunks, believers, sinners, saints and reprobates… Representatives of all of humankind walks above and lies below the world’s burial grounds. They were who we are.
And if some of them figured it out, it doesn’t mean much to us. We are left with having to figure it out, again, on our own. Even if they left writings which spell out what they got when they got it and how they managed to do it, reading it makes no sense until we get it somewhere else and know what they mean, and so can understand what they are saying, and respond with, ‘Yes! Amen! That’s IT!”
If we are lucky, we live, we see, we hear, we understand. We know how things are and what needs to be done about it. We do it. And we become as fully human—as completely, wholly, one with the truth of our life—as possible in the time we have for living, and we die.
Immortality is achieved when we become who we are. Loving what is to be loved. Relishing what is to be relished. Celebrating what is to be celebrated. Mourning what is to be mourned. Bearing what is to be borne. Doing what is to be done. Being who we are, where we are, when we are, how we are—bringing ourselves forth in response to each situation as it arises and offering there the gifts that are ours to give in the service of what needs what we have to give.
We live our life and die. We are as alive as we can be when we are as awake, as aware, as conscious of living as possible. The contradictions bring us to life. The struggles wake us up. The resistance and opposition enlarges us, deepens us, expands us.
Don’t throw any of it away. See what you can make of all of it. You are making a life of your own. Your life. When it is over, that is what you have done. You are your work. Live so that you are forever proud of how you did it.
- Reedy Fork Sunset 06 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Greensboro, NC, December 8, 2012 — Find your own voice! Sing your own song! Dance your own dance! Do your own thing! If you dare.
It’s amazing how much opposition and resistance to individual expression there is. Break-a-way musicians and painters have a hard time of it. That isn’t the way music or art is supposed to be!
Don’t even THINK about living your own life!
And so the need of a community of support and encouragement. Two or three buds who cheer you along. Mid-wives of the spirit, bringing you forth, birthing you into the life that is your life to live.
You’d think it would be easier. You’d think everybody would be into who she, who he, is. Not! Everybody is into who everybody is supposed to be. Into doing it right. Like it is supposed to be done. According to the failproof standard of public opinion.
The norms! The norms! The norms have to remain in place! Without the norms, where would we be? Civilization would crumble! We would be back to the Dark Ages, or the caves, in no time!
Just try to talk them out of the absurdity of that position!
All of which is to say, you have your work cut out for you on a number of levels when you take up the path that leads to the heart of you. Hostility, disapproval, and obstruction will come at you from all sides. All because you want to be who you are. It’s insane, but real. So get your determined face on, and “when the birds of the air plop you with their poop, don’t even pause to wipe it off!”
- Reedy Fork Sunset 01 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Greensboro, NC, December 8, 2012 — If you can think, you can pray—and you don’t have to have any of it figured out. You don’t have to know if it works or not (It doesn’t work on cavities or stopped toilets or lost checkbooks. Nothing seems to work on lost checkbooks), or what the magic number of people praying has to be before it works on whatever it might work on.
You don’t have to know who you are praying to (Okay, to whom you are praying). People of every possible religion pray, and have claimed to have benefited from the experience. Prayer isn’t limited to the purview of a particular religion or outlook. We can pray without knowing who is listening.
We know we are listening. That’s enough. It is enough to say what needs to be said straight from the heart about the things that matter deeply to us. It helps just to know what we need to say, and to say it, and to hear ourselves say it.
The catch is that the prayer has to say all we have to say—all we can imagine to say—about what we have to say. We have to put all of it on the table, out in the open. We have to speak the truth, straight from the heart, of what is important to us. We cannot hurry when we pray, or recite the worn phrases of some church’s prayer book, and call that praying. We express ourselves when we pray. We bring ourselves forth—and meet us anew each time.
There are five automatic, spontaneous, prayers from the heart that every human being has prayed across all ages, epochs, religious orientations, and points of origin. They are: Help! Thank You! I’m Sorry! Wow! I Love You!
When we pray these prayers, we know where we stand. We know what’s what. We know how it is with us. And there is nothing like this kind of clarity for making our peace with how things are and with providing us with orientation and direction for what needs to be done about it with the gifts that are ours to give and the resources available to us.
Prayer has always been therapeutic—a source of healing and guidance for people throughout their lives. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the Hero’s Journey, and we would be wise to rely on it for what it has always provided its practitioners—an accord with their circumstances that transforms what can be transformed and accepts what must be accepted and rejoices in what joy and gladness, peace and wonder, there may be at every point in our life.
- Bass and Violin Shop 07— 523 North Cedar St., Greensboro, NC, December 5, 2012 — It is very difficult for a child to become more mature than her or his parents without leaving home on some level, usually physically. I had to escape the entire culture of the region (the deep south, US) to have a chance. Too much of “the way it’s supposed to be” is death.
Another term for the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, the Search for the Holy Grail, and Enlightenment is Maturity. Waking Up is Growing Up.
The world is awash in immature guru’s and masters, but they all are an embarrassment to the title. They claimed the title without doing the work. They wear the hat and the spurs but they never saddled a horse or roped and branded a steer.
The work is in the service of maturity. As we grow in maturity, we grow in wisdom, insight, grace, mercy and peace, and our spirituality deepens. But. It’s hard to be more mature than our environment—our context and our culture—allow.
Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased don’t want any challenges to the way they declare to be the way. A child is blessed if her, or his, parents are consciously working to develop their own maturity, individuality, personhood, humanity.
The greatest gift you can give someone else is the conscious, and conscientious, pursuit of your own maturation, awareness. You cannot be aware without being aware of the impact of your living upon others. To know what needs to be done is to do it.
We hide from what needs to be done in 10,000 ways, which is the essence of immaturity—refusing to see, hear, and understand. We maintain the protective shield of immaturity by reciting the hypnotic spells of our culture: This is the way to see, hear, understand!
All of that is challenged when one person has the courage to wake up and see things as they are. The child who said, “Look, Mommy! He’s not wearing any clothes!” changed the culture the Emperor strutted through in one short second.
- Winter’s Leaf — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 9, 2012 — John A. Redhead, a longtime minister at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, is credited with saying, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren.” Every generation has to find its own way to God—to the God of that generation—to the God that generation is capable of understanding to be God. The God of the ancestors will not do.
My frustration with the church throughout my ministry was its failure to understand this basic truth. The church keeps throwing at its people the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as though there is no 4,000 year disconnect between here and there and no 2,000 year gap between here and the time of the Roman Empire.
We train new ministers each year who could be taught to reinterpret the ancient symbols in light of today’s understanding of how things are, but they are taught to teach what the symbols meant 2,000 or 4,000 years ago. it won’t work, and hasn’t worked for generations.
If the people don’t hear what they are hungry for from the church, they will find it somewhere, or wander lost, looking for that which is not to be found.
The first thing the people need to hear is that they are free to question everything they have heard from the church, and required to rethink all that they have been told to think of things religious. We put everything on the table and walk around the table, reevaluating and reinterpreting all of it.
This is the parable of the net of fishes where the fishermen sort the catch into categories of useful and useless and keeping only that which will be helpful in finding and living aligned with the heart of the thread of truth which runs through our life.
This is where we are, and this is what we need help with, and what we get are people telling us what is not helpful and what we do not need to hear.
- Neighborhood Lights 03 — Ridgeway Drive, Greensboro, NC, December 7, 2012 — We are all crazy in our own unique, idiosyncratic, ways—and need the grounding influence of caring presence to reassure us that, crazy as we are, we are nevertheless just fine and a very welcome addition to the human community. The problem with this in my experience is the pronounced lack of caring presence. I don’t know what to do about that.
Be aware of it, I suppose. Call attention to it. Invite others to join you in doing something about it by practicing the art of caring presence.
Caring presence is seeing, hearing, understanding and accepting one another as each is. No condemning, no converting, no chastising, no criticizing, no suggestions for improvement, etc. Just seeing, hearing, understanding and accepting one another as each is.
Practice being sources of that in your daily interchanges. Become really good at it. Invite others to join you in the practice. You will have a hard time having a more significant impact in the lives of the people you meet than paying attention to them in caring ways.
- A Leaf Among Leaves — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 10, 2012 — When you stop looking, you stop seeing. When you stop seeing, it’s all over. You may be 98.6 and breathing, and your blood pressure and pulse rate may be normal, but. You’re deader than dead. Because you stopped looking.
How many places have you been where people had stopped looking? Where people let someone else do their looking for them, telling them what to see and how to see it? Telling them how things are and what to do about it? How long did it take you to escape?
Some of us are still escaping. Still trying to remember how to look for ourselves—how to see what we see, think what we think, feel what we feel, sense what we sense, know what we know, and trust our knowing to be such that it does not discount or dismiss what it does not know, but looks it over to see what it might see even there.
Learning to look until we see and then, to look at what we see until we see what we don’t see, and then, to look at that… Well, you can see how this approach to living would change the way life is lived around us, or would, if we looked at it.
- Reedy Fork Sunset 04 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Greensboro, NC, December 8, 2012 — We have to do the work of finding and bringing forth our life—the life that is ours to live, that only we can live—within the life we are living. Everything, in terms of meaning, purpose, peace, harmony, wholeness and satisfaction, rides on our doing the work of finding and doing our work.
We get very little guidance and direction toward this end. No one seems to know anything about it. The cultural norm is solidly in place where our life’s goals are concerned. We are to get a good job and “go shopping,” enjoying the things money can buy, and playing golf or bridge long into our happy retirement. That’s all anyone knows about being alive.
We have to figure out all of the important stuff on our own. It starts with asking questions and questioning the answers. There has to be more to it than beer and football, trips to the mall and vacations at the beach. What are we going to do with ourselves in the time left for living?
Our Self has some ideas if we will only stop long enough to listen. Our life is a collaboration between our conscious, thinking, rational self and our unconscious knowing, feeling, sensing self. We take up the process of making the unconscious conscious by recognizing and treating the unconscious as our full partner in the creation of the life we produce together.
We all have an invisible friend—the Self at the center of our soul. And we would do well to learn the language of the unconscious (“Inner Work” by Robert Johnson is one place to start), and take up the practice of feeling, sensing, intuiting, the drift of instinct toward what resonates with us and away from what repels us.
The more interested we become in the work of finding and bringing forth our life—and working with our inner Self toward that end—the more meaningful coincidence will guide us toward the help we need to become who we are. It only takes believing this is so to discover that it is.
- On Being A Mallard 01 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 9, 2012 — Some of us are luckier than others. We all have something to deal with. Some hand to play. The Kenny Rogers song by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers takes us to the heart of the matter:
”You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.”
How do you know is the question. You have to play a lot of poker is the answer.
No book can tell you what you need to know. No sermon. No lecture. No advice column. No carefully prepared list of do’s and don’t’s. You have to live it to know it.
If you want to know about being a cowboy, get on a horse that’s never been ridden, round up some cows and brand them. Do cowboy stuff.
And exactly when in that process, in that long line of doing cowboy stuff, do you become a cowboy? There is no exact point. You can’t say. It seems like you’ve always been a cowboy. Life’s that way.
If you want to be alive, live it. Your life. Exactly as it is. Beginning right now. Live open to everything about it. Don’t shut yourself off from anything. The pain and boredom? Embrace it. The uncertainty and fear? Invite it in. Live the whole thing with your eyes open to it all.
Don’t leave any aspect of your life unexperienced, unlived, unknown. Your life is waiting on you and you have to go through the Cyclops to get it. Well?
- Hooded Mergansers 03 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 12, 2012 — It isn’t about making and spending money. It’s about being comfortable enough not to have to worry about where our next meal is coming from so we can devote our attention to developing and bringing forth the gifts that are ours to give in service to the common good.
We have to tend our gifts, do our work. And our work is not making money. That’s our job, which may, or may not, use our gifts. Our work uses our gifts, gives our gifts, is our gift, our art.
Our work is finding and doing our work. Forging the alliance with our unconscious. Collaborating with our invisible partners in the creation of the life that is ours and theirs to live. Trusting ourselves to the source of instinct and intuition in finding our way to the center of the thread of truth running through our life, and following it to the heart of ourselves and the life we are capable of living.
This is not easy stuff. It’s the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, the Search for the Promised Land and the Holy Grail. It is what legends are made of. Our life is a legend waiting to be lived.
You aren’t going to laugh at that, are you? Spit on it? Dismiss it? Turn and walk away? Back to making and spending money?
- Grazing — Anne Springs Close Greenway, Dairy Barn Access, Charlotte, NC, November 24, 2012 — We are just along for the ride. We stew over it like it is all ours. We puff up and strut when it goes our way. We shuffle through depression when it doesn’t. Like what we think matters. Like our way or not our way is the whole ball of yarn. Here’s one for you: If it coincides with our way, fine! If it runs completely contrary to our way, fine!
We just do the driving and carry the equipment. Someone else tells us where to go and where to place the tripod. If it is raining, what do we care? We let someone else worry about it. We just do what we’re told.
All we have to do is listen. See what catches our eye. Read the signs. Pay attention to our dreams and the least likely of all the possible messengers of the gods. Follow the drift of our soul and see where it goes.
The only difficult thing is getting out of the way. Stop trying to direct the action. Get our hands off our hips and the pout off our faces. And do what we are told.
The trick here, of course, is the conflict of interest. Who says what we are told? We do. How can be sure we are hearing what our unconscious knower is saying or if we are putting words in her, in his, mouth? How do we know when we are out of the way and when we are calling the shots?
We have to be honest. Genuine. Authentic. Real. Vulnerable. Open. Present. Attentive. Awake. Aware. Alive to what’s going on—to what’s what. We have to look in the mirror regularly and see what we look at.
Besides. we hold the cards. We can say, “This is what I think I’m to do, and I’m going to do it unless you stop me.” Or, “I have no idea of what to do so I’m going to sit here and read this book until you make the next step clear and urgent.”
It’s important not to go beyond the next step. We never get the plan. It’s never mapped out. We are on a need to know basis and the next step is all we ever need to know.
- View from Hanging Rock 04 — Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC, November 7, 2012 — We are what we do. Cowboys do cowboy stuff. Sailors do sailor stuff. Poets and artists do poet and artist stuff. What we do is who we are.
If we spend most of your time watching TV, we’re a TV Watcher. If we spend most of your time shopping, we’re a Shopper.
I know people who have cameras who never take photos. They are not photographers. I know people who have pianos and never play them.
When you have time that is all yours, what do you do? There you are.
- Hooded Merganser 08 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 13, 2012 — We have to be clear and correct about, well, about everything. What’s happening and what needs to happen and what can happen and what we need to do about it.
Being clear and correct about what we need to do, and don’t have any business doing, is essential. People will have us doing everything in a flash. People are that way. We are not here to do for them what they need to do for themselves. Where do they stop and we start is the question.
I was a minister for 40.5 years. During that time, I observed people in action, and non-action. Every church I served could be neatly divided into two groups, those who over-functioned and those who under-functioned. Those who were responsible for every little thing and those who were responsible for nothing. The church, in this way at least, is a reflection of all organizations everywhere.
Your family is like that. Someone tells everyone what to do and someone doesn’t do any of it. Here is the all-weather rule for getting someone else to be responsible for her or his responsibilities: If you want someone to function better in relation to you, function worse in relation to her or him.
Fail people in critical ways. Forget to wake them up for an appointment that they value. if you want people to begin functioning, you have to stop over-functioning. Become helpless, forgetful, absent-minded. Excuse yourself in a thousand ways. Apologize profusely. Promise to do better and don’t do anything.
It was said about me throughout my ministry that no one accomplished more by doing less.
You have to fail/refuse to do what is not yours to do. You have to know what is yours to do and what is not yours to do, and you have to not do what is not yours to do. And you have to be willing to pay the price of it not being done. You are going to pay some price, it may as well be that one.
Be clear and correct about what your responsibilities are and take care of them. Only them. I can hear the objections already: “But SOMEBODY has to __(fill in the blank)__!” We call this co-dependency. The over-functioning person needs to be surrounded by under-functioning people in order to feel needed, loved, cared-for, important. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, everyone is growing up. Against their will. Which is how it happens every time.
- Reedy Fork Sunset B 01 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Greensboro, NC, December 14, 2012 — The massacre of innocents in Connecticut is a wound exposing a wound demanding treatment and bringing to mind the prophetic lament, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.”
The wound of “my people,” our people, our culture, is deep. We are bereft of meaning, purpose, hope, heart, soul, foundation—adrift on “the wine dark sea,” with nothing but the ideal of a higher standard of living to guide our living.
We live for more money and more things to buy, and live with a hole inside that money and things cannot fill. And some of us cannot hide from the hole as well as others of us, or have too little money to make a pretense of all being well, and cease caring about anything but making somebody pay for our misery.
Make the innocents pay. They are easier targets. Trusting. Believing. Loving. Hoping. Kill them. Show them what’s what. Why make them wait to find emptiness on the end of the line?
Ironic, that it is about at their age that we would have had to have gotten to their killer to counter the culture’s shallow song—if we could have—and given him something he didn’t get from those who were healing the wound of their people lightly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. And “Here’s something to believe in and here’s hope for your soul and your life,” when there is neither.
So. What to do? Make guns hard to get, and ammo. Really hard to get. Give kids the arts early on and make the arts a constant presence in their life through high school and college, and beyond. The arts and foreign languages. Teach children poetry in foreign languages.
Honor the children. Let the deaths of the innocents be the beginning of our understanding of how essential it is that we honor the children, all children, and stop using them, seeing them, thinking of them, as slaves for the next economy, or for the current one. Stop training them to buy, spend, amass and consume from the womb—as though having money and spending it is IT, it isn’t.
Wake up to the importance of living our life in the sense of bringing it forth, not in the sense of collecting experiences, or being “somebody”—as in celebrity status, fame and fortune—but in the sense of being alive to our own gift, our own self, and the value of our own being.
- Reedy Fork Sunset B 04 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC, December 14, 2012 — We are all standing in some line. Some are more terrible than others, but in each one we get to the end of the line, and that’s that.
Religion makes the line, the terribleness of the line, and the end of the line its marketing point. Buddhism talks about the line being suffering and offers the release from suffering to its adherents. Christianity talks about the end of the line really being a threshold to either a much worse experience or to the joys and delights of eternal rapture. Every religion makes much of the line, the terribleness of the line, and the end of the line.
I say we are all standing in some line and it is how we live there that makes all the difference.
We mediate the awfulness of the line by the way we receive it and respond to it. We transform, redeem, the line by transcending the line and bringing to life there the wonder of grace, mercy and peace to heal, restore and make well.
Some would say that it is an abomination to even think of healing, restoration and wellness within the agony and anguish of desolating realities. Why heal, restore and make well what is only going to die?
It is how we live in the meantime that makes the difference. The human thing is to engage in the practice of life as long as we are alive—to live as fully as possible until we die—to be alive and engaged in the work of life in the face of death and devastation, and to live toward the good that is good no matter how bad it gets.
- December Shoreline 01 Detail — Lake Brandt from the Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC, December 14, 2012 — We have to square up to the discrepancy between how things are and how things truly ought to be (Determined by a show of hands by everyone through the ages of time). We have to work our way through it. We have to make our peace with it. We have to do our own work. We have to bear our own pain. No one can do this for us.
When we don’t bear the pain that is legitimately ours to bear, or do the work that is ours to do, it’s hell for everybody to deal with. I was talking this over with a Bud of mine, who replied:
”And the “hell for everybody” is unbearable pain through which we once again find our own way to peace, but. It goes back to everyone needs a place or two where he or she is listened to the truth of his or her own life. Birthing rooms, healing rooms. Every person needs someone who loves them enough to listen them to the truth of their life. There is a quote on my desk at work that says something like “every child needs someone who is absolutely crazy about them.” We each need someone who loves us enough to listen us to the truth of our own life. Instead we want to all fix the problem, or give directives, or put our hands over our ears and not offer a place of attentive listening.”
The work that is not done in making our peace with the discrepancy between how things are and how things ought to be, and the pain that is not borne, set up a negative feedback loop making things chaotically crazy and completely out of hand. We simply have to do the work that is ours to do and bear the pain that is ours to bear.
- December Shoreline 01 — Lake Brandt from the Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mill Park access, Greensboro, NC, December 14, 2012 — We all have to bear the pain of the discrepancy between how things are and how things ought to be, and we all have to do the work of making our peace with the pain and the discrepancy. Here is one approach to that work.
Sit before an imaginary table and place on the table how things are—as fully and completely as possible. Now place on the table how things ought to be. Observe the table and how you react to the things on it.
Now place your reaction to the things on the table on the table, so that you have how things are, how things ought to be, and how you react to the discrepancy between how things are and how they ought to be all on the table.
How do you react to your reaction? Engage in an imaginary conversation between your initial reaction that is on the table and your observation of that reaction and the way that reaction is impacting how things are and how things ought to be.
Does your reaction improve how things are? Narrow the discrepancy? Offer any thing in the way of compensation or consolation? Help the situation in any way? Does your reaction inflame the situation? Make things worse?
How does your reaction need to be modified to offer what needs to be offered, to do what needs to be done, in response to the discrepancy between how things are and how things ought to be?
Joseph Campbell describes the discrepancy—the space—between how things are and how things ought to be as “the field of action,” and says that “the field of action” is where we are born to live—that that is where our life has whatever impact it is going to have, for better or worse. He challenges us to step into “the field of action” and live there as those who would bring to life there the gifts we have to give to heal what can be healed, and redeem what can be redeemed, and soften what can be softened, and make better what can be made better—doing what needs to be done in response to how things are to make things more like they ought to be than they are, here and now, in the field of action.
The burden right seeing, right hearing, right understanding, right knowing, right doing and right being is always ours to bear in bringing grace, mercy, compassion and peace to bear upon the terrible realities in the field of action.
- Bur-Mil Pier — Bur-Mil Park, Lake Brandt, Greensboro, NC, December 15, 2012 — Nothing heals like compassionately attentive listening. Have you been heard—compassionately, attentively—lately? How long has it been?
We want so badly for someone to care enough about us to see us, hear us, know us—and in knowing us, to help us know ourselves.
We see ourselves in, through, the eyes of others. How they see us becomes, in time, how we see ourselves. If we are never seen with compassion, with caring attention, we will not see ourselves that way.
If you want to change the world, see it with compassion, with caring attention, one person at a time. Start with the next person you see.
- Bur-Mill Moon 01 — Bur-Mil Park, Greensboro, NC, December 15, 2012 — If you place me in an anxiety-producing situation, I will become anxious. Acton-Adventure-Thriller movies? Out of the question! Sporting events where the outcome matters to me? Instant tension. Family situations in which everyone is holding her or his breath and tiptoeing on eggshells? I’ll have to go for a walk.
Joseph Campbell was on the track team at Columbia and returned to watch a track meet later in life, reporting that he couldn’t witness the event without being stirred uncomfortably and did not place himself in that kind of environment again.
The Holy Master-Gurus are above and beyond it all because they stay away from it all. Someone else worries about parking and shopping, preparing the meals and making everything come out on time.
There is no immunity from stress-provoking situations. We have to avoid them to be calm and serene. Little blue pills or a long drag of whiskey straight from the bottle are ways of avoiding stress-provoking situations. Just avoiding them works for me.
But I can do that. I’m retired. Except, of course, family dynamics follow one even into retirement—so I take the camera and go looking for photos. We cannot expose ourselves to situations that stir us uncomfortably without being stirred uncomfortably. There are no magical mental or emotional shields. We do not outgrow the impact of our mother’s angry outbursts. The Buddha ran away from home. So did Jesus.
So, cut yourself some slack and don’t ask of yourself more than you are capable of doing. Recognize your limits. Draw your lines. Maintain an emotionally comfortable distance between you and the turmoil-producing life experiences whenever that is possible, and give yourself to them in short bursts when you cannot stay entirely removed.
Peace and sanity mean distance from chaotic and insane situations. And, while physical distance does not always equate to emotional distance, it helps to avoid track meets if the outcome matters.
- Lake Brandt Reflection — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 14, 2012 — We live to express the truth of ourselves in each situation as it arises, but. There is a catch. The catch is it can be not so good for us or for the situation as it arises to express the truth of ourselves.
I am an abused child. I tend to say “somewhat abused” because I was never burned with cigarettes, or beaten to bleeding or unconsciousness, or locked in a closet with nothing to eat for days…etc. But, abused is abused, and one of the things you learn early on as an abused child is to disappear—to not show them anything of who you are—to hide, deny, and never ever express the truth of yourself in any situation, no matter what.
It can be not good for you or for the situation to express the truth of yourself in the situation, but. We live to express who we are in the situation as it arises. We cannot be alive without expressing ourselves, and to live our life is the whole purpose of our life. To live OUR life—not some other life, not somebody’s idea of our life, not some life someone hands us off the rack and tells us to live, not some life the culture tells us we are cut out for because we are black, or gay, or female, or an immigrant, or poor…etc., but OUR life.
So, we have to learn to read situations and know what is appropriate to individual situations—and know when and where and how and how much it is appropriate to reveal who we are in the then and there of our living, but. Abused children grown up to be adults don’t trust themselves to know how to read a situation. It backfired too often on us as children. Intuition and instinct told us one thing, but we missed a sign, or didn’t know our father was in the next room, listening, and that was that.
We have to trust ourselves to know what’s what, but we don’t trust ourselves to know what’s what. This is a problem. We live to express who we are but we are afraid to express who we are. There is no fix here. We can only keep living with our eyes open and trust ourselves in small ways in situations where we are as safe as we can be except for flashbacks. And we have to have the right kind of people in our life.
Everything depends on the company we keep. The right kind of company makes all the difference. We increase our chances of finding the right kind of company by practicing being the right kind of company ourselves, for others, and seeing where it goes.
It is slow going. There are no shortcuts to the Promised Land, to the Grail Castle. It takes as long as it takes. Are you coming or not is the question. You’ll never get there if you don’t start walking. The rest of us are going slowly, too, so there is no chance of your being left behind. Come on! Come on!
- December Shoreline 03 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mill Park, Greensboro, NC, December 15, 2012 — You wouldn’t bring a dog to a cat party. You can trust yourself to know what’s what more than you might think. You know where the lines are most of the time—what is, and is not, cool. So what’s the problem? Perfection? Always wanting to be right? Never wanting to fall in public?
Trivante Bloodman, a Mississippi State freshman point guard on 3 losses in the Maui Invitational Tournament, said “Sometimes you have to fall to get back up.” A wonderful example of exactly what he was talking about. And an invitation to us all: When you get a chance, take it! And, if you fall, what of it?
Learning to read situations and offer what is needed out of what you have to give, in response to what appears to be happening, is a matter of doing what we think is called for and making adjustments over time.
We have the rest of our life to learn to ride a bicycle. What’s with being afraid we’ll lose our balance? Or our way?
Learning to read situations as they arise and respond appropriately to them is like learning to drive a stick shift. Screw up a thousand times if that’s what it takes to get it down. Once you have it, it’s yours.
So throw the grade book away, and get in there and do your thing, and see where it goes. Don’t stop until you get to the Grail Castle in the Promised Land!
- Flight of Geese — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mill Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 15, 2012 — It is easy for us to be crowded out of our own life. Maintaining our boundaries is constant work that gets old quickly, and there is no one here but us to do it.
Too many people think we are here for their everlasting convenience and are miffed when we have a different idea. Miffing people is what we have to learn to do best.
We cannot be an “I” without drawing lines, marking borders, building fences and saying what “I” will do and will not do. This is the work of soul as much as finding our own path and walking it at our own pace, or finding our own song and singing it.
There is an Old Testament commandment that didn’t make the top ten, but should have: “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark.” The corollary, of course, would be, “When they come to take away your landmark, do not allow it.”
Being clear and correct about where we start and our neighbors stop is essential for a long and happy life together. An assortment of “I’s” make a “we,” when we honor the boundaries, borders, landmarks, lines which set us apart and define who each is. In order for that to happen, each of us has to do the work of knowing what our business is, and what it is not—and honoring our own limits in kind and compassionate, firm and relentless, ways.
- Coming In Collage — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 14, 2012 — “Live your own life” doesn’t mean “Do what you want to do.” What does wanting know? “Live your own life” means “Do what is yours to do, whether you want to or not.” But that doesn’t mean “Do what you know you ought to do.” It means “Do the particular configuration of things which no one can do better than you.”
”Live your own life” means “Live the life with your name on it.” It means “Live the life that is waiting for you to live it.” It means “Live the life that no one but you can live.”
Of course, you don’t have a clue about what that is. And so, the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Quest, the Search for the Holy Grail and the Land of Promise (A.K.A “The Promised Land”) is about finding and doing what is yours to do, living the life with your name on it, living your own life.
You think you’re too old. Your life has passed you by. How old was Sarah? How old was Abraham? Age has its advantages. They expect you to do crazy stuff when you are old. You can get by with things when you are old. Grab your life by the mane and jump on. It will be the ride of your, well, life.
Give your life a chance. Your life understands the saying, “When you get a chance, take it!” Your life is just waiting for you to say, “Okay, show me what you got.” But you have to mean it. You have to cooperate. You have to get with the program. You have to be willing to be about your business, the business that is uniquely, especially, yours.
You have to be willing to live your own life when you tell it, “Okay. I’m ready. Let’s go!” Why die without living?
- Pied Billed Grebe at Sunset 01 — Reedy Fork from the Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park access, Greensboro, NC, December 19, 2012 — Live the Revolution! It’s the only way to pull it off, living it, in each situation as it arises.
When we Live the Revolution, we do what needs to be done in response to what is happening and/or what needs to happen in each situation as it arises, and not what would be good for the economy, or what the culture and its representatives (That would be our parents, the church, most of our teachers and friends, our employer, etc.) tell us what ought to be done.
Which means, of course, we will probably never eat another potato chip or high fructose corn syrup or 10,000 other things which have no point beyond making us feel better about having lost the point—and we will begin living in light of what WE determine to be the point: Bringing forth who we are for the good of the situation and beyond.
When we Live the Revolution, we see what we look at and do what is called for from the heart of the truth of what is happening and what needs to happen in the here and now of our living.
When we Live the Revolution, we live the life that needs us to live it—the life that no one but us, with our particular configuration of experience, insight, intuition, instinct, understanding, gifts, talents and abilities, can live. We are who we are, who only we can be, for the good of the whole—even though that might appear to be bad for the whole and is unappreciated, or even condemned, by enough of the whole to make it appear to be the whole of the whole.
To Live the Revolution, we have to trust ourselves a lot, and to trust ourselves a lot, we have to have—and trust ourselves to—the attentive, loving support of a community of those who are also Living the Revolution and can provide the right kind of company in the right kind of way.
The Revolution is Lived by revolutionaries who see, hear, and understand—who know what is called for and serve it in each situation as it arises for the good of the whole in spite of what the whole may think its good is. This doesn’t mean imposing, through violence and coercion, our idea of the good upon the whole. It just means living in light of our understanding of the good, and seeing where it goes. Live the Revolution!
- December Shoreline 05 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park access, Greensboro, NC, December 19, 2012 — Play with the possibilities. You don’t know what is possible until you begin to play around with what’s what. Play connects your imagination with what’s what and you’re off. To no one knows where.
It’s the adventure of life being lived through your imagination. It’s the Revolution. Imagine that.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Hooded Merganser 09 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 14, 2012 — It takes our wounds to wake us up. Nobody wakes up with everything going her, going his, way. Of course, wounds can send us over the edge as easily as they can wake us up. They can cause us to quit as easily as put us to work, working things out, making things work, doing the work required to make things more like they ought to be than they are…
Wounds aren’t magical. They are thresholds. To what or where depends entirely upon the heart and mind of those who step over them going somewhere, doing something.
What do we mean to do about our woundedness? How we bear our pain tells the tale.
We have to wrestle with the contradictions, with the questions that must be asked and cannot be answered. And, if someone (who doesn’t understand) answers a question for us, we have to question the answers!
For a wound to work, we have to work the wound! We have to get the good out of it! The good of it calling into question all of our pet assumptions and reassurances and convictions that if we do our part as it is supposed to be done nothing bad will happen to us or those we love.
The good of a wound is to strip us of all of our false assurances and wrong-headed constructions about the nature of spiritual reality. That’s waking us up. And calling us to take up the work of working things out and making our peace with the discrepancy between how things are and how things ought to be—stepping into “the field of action” to do our thing in the service of the common good, no matter what the circumstances.
- Earth Shadow — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil access, Greensboro, NC, December 18, 2012 — We’re here to get to the bottom of it, of us, of ourselves. To see what’s what and what needs to be done about it and do it. If we do it correctly, that will keep us occupied, invested, interested, engaged, etc. for a lifetime or longer.
It starts with making inquiries. What matters? You can start anywhere. What is important? Who says so? What makes you think they know what they are talking about? Why does it matter to you what they say?
Questions have a life of their own, particularly when you question the questions and question the answers. They will lead you a merry chase and help you clarify things along the way, like what matters, what’s important, how do you know, what makes you think so, and what are you going to do about it.
A ready candidate to the inquiry method of making a meaningful life is the Inner Critic. You know the one I mean. “Why listen to Jim Dollar? What does he know? Why try anything? Nothing you ever do is going to help you or anybody else in any way. You’re wasting your time. Nothing is ever going to come of you or anything. Nothing ever does any good. Why try? Who cares? What difference does it make? What’s the use?”
Interview her/him. “Where did you come by your beautiful disposition? What experiences led you to discount, to dismiss, everything, including experience? What did being negative ever do for you? Etc.
Interviewing the Critic separated you from her/him, so that it is no longer you against you, but you against the Inner Idiot determined to keep you chained to her/his ideas of you and your future. A play thing for one who has never played in her or his life, except with you and your future. Ask all the questions and question all the answers and stop giving her/him the attention she/he never deserved.
Then take the skills you’ve learned in turning her/his questions into your own internal investigation of the Pest Within, and ask the questions which beg to be asked everywhere (remembering to ask the questions that beg to be asked of the answers). See where it goes.
See how close to the bottom of it you can get in the time left for living. See what you can make of it, of what’s what and what needs to be done about it, and how much you can do. It’s an exercise worthy of you, and you become increasingly worthy in its pursuit.
- Great Blue Heron 01 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, December 16, 2012 — A sure sign of your closing in on maturity is the degree to which you can let come what’s coming, and let go what’s going, and be with what is. Being with what is—without having to have it stay or go—is a milestone.
So much depends on our knowing how to be with what is with us at any point in our life. “Everything that comes goes,” said Joseph Campbell and countless others before and after. And we can rarely prevent or hurry the process.
The Carl Jung quote about “none of the important problems can be solved, they can only be out-grown,” points to the reality of timing, of things coming and going in their own time, at their own pace. “Shift happens,” according to flight attendants who tell us to be careful opening the overhead bins upon landing. It happens throughout our lives. When we can’t do anything else, we wait it out. The shift will happen. The opening will occur. Things will change. You can count on that. Be ready. It will not always be as it is, for better or worse—for better and worse.
It is enough to be with things as they are in their coming and their going.
- Abstract Sunset — Reedy Fork, Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil access, Greensboro, NC, December 19, 2012 — It comes down to eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands. Seeing, hearing, understanding. That’s all there is to it. Taking the time to see, and hear, and understand.
Sex is seeing, hearing and understanding. So is walking, reading and riding a bicycle. So is photography. We cannot do anything the way it needs to be done apart from seeing, hearing and understanding.
When we see, hear and understand, we see, hear and understand how things are and how things ought to be and what needs to be done about it. This is called clarity.
Once we have clarity, we lack only courage. If we see clearly enough long enough, we will eventually become courageous enough to do what needs us to do it in the field of action (Joseph Campbell’s term, and maybe James Joyce’s before him. I’m not clear about that). Clarity creates courage.
Clarity creates the change it envisions. Clarity produces action. We can only fail to take up the Hero’s Journey by refusing to know what is being asked of us. That’s why we don’t often look, or listen, or inquire. We know what knowing means, and keep our head down, our eyes closed and our fingers in our ears.
- Parker Creek — Pamlico Sound, Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC, October 28, 2012 — The first thing to see, hear and understand is our body. What’s it doing? What’s it saying? What’s it trying to tell us? How is it trying to tell us? What is it asking of us?
When head and body are out of synch, we are a collection of symptoms looking for relief. Our body knows. Head’s first order of business is to know what the body knows. When we attend our body, we find our most powerful guide.
Our body understands rhythms and timing, routines and diet. Our body knows when it is time for what. Our head is clueless about these things.
We cannot give our body US American for breakfast, Chinese for lunch and Italian for dinner without paying a price.
“Eat when hungry, rest when tired,” is advice from someone who understood the principle of listening to the body, and allowing it to direct our way along the path of life, to life.
- Leaving Swan Quarter — Hyde County, NC, October 21, 2012 — We have to do our part and help others help us to stay on the path and follow the thread of truth which runs through our life to the heart of who we are.
You would help me help you with your photography, for example, by reading your camera manual and knowing how to get it to do what you need it to do. You would help your physician keep you healthy by eating less and walking more.
You could make eating less and walking more a New Year’s resolution. Eat less and walk more every month than you did the previous month. And stop eating entirely all the things you know you have no business eating. This is helping people help you.
And stop having to see results! Stop having your behavior depend upon the impact of your behaving! Start doing what is good for you whether it does any good or not! Start being good for nothing! Particularly with your diet and exercise. Eat smart! Exercise regularly!
And find your rhythm—your rhythms, and honor them. The tides ebb and flow like clockwork, like a metronome. Our body has its own rhythms, which we violate without thinking. Start thinking, sensing, feeling, knowing, honoring the rhythms which carry us through our life, or would, if we allowed them to.
Pay attention to your tastes and interests and the things that catch your eye. You are being invited down all manner of roads which you ignore in favor of the structure you impose on your living. Examine that structure. How is it helping, hurting? Where does it get in the way of the life that needs you to live it?
How do you think you need to help your helpers help you? How do you get in your own way and fail to live the life that needs you to live it? Well? Who can do what needs to be done about that?
- Silver Lake 04 — Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, NC, October 25, 2012 — At the center of ourselves, we are Everyone. Everyone who is, or was, or ever will be. We cannot be a Self alone. We are a Communal Self. We exist in relationship at the core. In Right Relationship.
Right Relationship is our source and our goal. It is where we originate and where we end up. In between there is recognition, awareness, realization.
No one achieves True Human Being-hood as an individual achievement of strength, will and wisdom. We are nurtured and nourished into that for which we were born and to which we are called by those who love us to the truth of who we are. It is grace and compassion all the way.
Psyche/Soul is personal but it is not private—it is not individual. It is all of us participating in and creating the uniqueness of each of us—saying, in essence, “Come on! You can do it! You can make it! After all, you are one of US!”
We all become an “I” in relation to a “You,” a “Thou”—to all of them, actually. One of them represents all of them. It takes two to make one. We birth each other, both as midwife and as Virgin Mother.
We are all born of a Virgin. Psyche is Mary the Mother of God in the person of You and Me—all of us, actually. God become flesh, made real, actualized in True Human Beings. The Divine Essence of Life and Being dwelling in us, seen in us, visible and apparent in us as we become the Self we are in Right Relationship with other Selves.
It is the Christmas story that we are living out when we find out way into the company of those who can receive us well and bring us forth into the Eternal We as the I we are born to be.
If I still did that kind of thing, I’d put $20 on your not having the foggiest notion of what I’m talking about—and another $20 on it working out in your experience exactly as I’ve laid it out here when you view it from the Other Side.
- Hanging Rock — Hanging Rock State Park near Danbury, NC, October 28, 2012 — Our life is to live, explore, experience. Our life is our art. Art is not competitive. We do not live to win. We live to be awake, aware, alive—experiencing and exploring our life.
Living to win misses the point. The biggest, the best, the fastest, the most whatever is a distraction unless it’s accidental, unless it’s a by-product, a side effect, of the central focus of experiencing and exploring our life—and we are not impressed, because so what?
Buying, spending, amassing and consuming as though these things are important misses what is important, namely: seeing, hearing, understanding, knowing, doing, being. We see, hear, understand what is happening and what is called for. We know what to do about it. We do it. And we become who we are—who we are capable of being—thereby.
This process can be applied to any context, any circumstance, any situation. Wherever, whenever, however you are, no matter what the terms and conditions of your life, you can see, hear, understand, know, do, be—living, experiencing, exploring your life as one who is awake, aware and alive. And that is all that can ever be asked of any of us.
- Two Geese Flying 02 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Park access, Greensboro, NC, December 18, 2012 — Jesus took the gifts that were his to give and did what he could imagine doing with them. That’s all the rest of us are asked to do.
Jesus lived out of his own integrity, so that the way he lived was integral with what was deepest, best and truest about him. His life was a mirror of his soul. What he did was who he was, who he was was how he lived. That’s all the rest of us are asked to do.
Jesus lived aligned with his own sense of how things were and how things ought to be and what he could do about it in each situation as it arose. That’s all the rest of us are asked to do.
Jesus identified himself with the thread of truth running through his life—in which he saw reflected the qualities and character of his own heart and soul being expressed in his acts and interests—and consciously brought forth those qualities and that character within the context and circumstances of his life. That’s all the rest of us are asked to do.
Jesus bore the pain of his life in the time and place of his living, stepping into the “field of action” that exists between how things are and how things ought to be, healing what could be healed, redeeming what could be redeemed, bestowing justice where justice cried out to be experienced, and touching all who could be touched with kindness and compassion, grace and peace . That’s all the rest of us are asked to do.
The spirit of Christmas lives forever in the lives of those who offer the gifts that are theirs to give in the time and place of their living. May we all so live forever!
- Pied Bill Grebe Sunset 02 — Reedy Fork, Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 19, 2012 — What robs you of your peace? What restores your peace? How often in a day, in a week, are you at peace? What can you do to be there more often? To stay there longer?
- December Shoreline 04 — Lake Brandt, Bur-Mil Access, Greensboro, NC, December 16, 2012 — We have to be clear about the differences between where we belong and where we have no business being. It’s a matter of knowing where we stop and other people start—where our world stops and other worlds start.
I have no business playing card games. Or board games. Or any games where there are rules and a winner. I could get you to as much of the bottom of it as I have gotten, but you wouldn’t be much better off for it. I don’t think it matters why our boundaries are our boundaries and limits are our boundaries and limits, so much as it does recognizing that we have boundaries and limits and knowing what they are.
This restricts us, confines us, walls us in, and off. We are not free to go just anywhere, do just anything. This realization and its acceptance—our acknowledgement of it and accommodation to it—is a turning point on the path to maturation. We are who WE are and not who someone else is, and not who we, or someone else, might wish we were.
We have to work the differences out in ways that allow them to stand. In ways that do not erase the differences, but respect them, honor them, hold them in high esteem. It is as though we are all visitors in a foreign country as we walk among our friends, and family, and family of origin. We cannot expect of them, or they of us, that they would be as we are, or we, as them. So, what’s the problem?
We forget that it is as though we are in a foreign country, and live as though differences are bad things and should not be allowed. “If you loved me you would be like I am,” is not as healthy an orientation to the other as “If you loved me, you would let me be as I am and let you be as you are.”
Love works things out and lets differences stand, reveres differences as that which pulls us forth—against our will, perhaps—and grows us up, expanding us, deepening us, broadening us, and enabling us to be ourselves within a cacophony of selves becoming a symphony of selves, to the glory of self-hood and the wonder of being alive together for the good of all.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradictions, etc., Wetlands Flyover 01 — Four Mile Creek Greenway, Charlotte, NC, December 26, 2012 — You do it your way and I’ll do it mine, and we will all wake up at about the same time. So, what’s the advantage of one way over another? What’s the advantage of having the advantage? What’s having all the advantages ever done for anybody?
Having the advantage, or all of the advantages, is over-hyped. It isn’t about the advantages. It is about being dead or alive.
There is only one thing to avoid: Being Cookie Cutter People. Cookie Cutter People’s way is not their way. It is the way that has been handed to them. The way they have been told to live. The way of making money and spending it and having a good time. It is the way of the Wasteland.
Joseph Campbell says the wasteland is where people—I would say Cookie Cutter People—are living inauthentically, doing what they are told to do, what they are supposed to do, never doing anything out of the ordinary, unexpected, unusual. Never doing anything that catches their eye, strikes their fancy, calls their name.
What’s the advantage of not being like them? Of not being one of the Cookie Cutter People? Of not living in the Wasteland?
What’s the advantage of being alive? Of being awake, aware? Of looking Life in the eye and saying, “Let’s see what you got!”? Of facing the contradictions, and bearing the pain, and doing what needs to be done as it needs to be done in each situation as it arises—never mind what is supposed to be done or what Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased think of us or react to us?
If you have to sell being alive by talking about the advantages of life over death, you’re talking to the wrong people. They are already dead. Move on, move on. Look for someone who can hear what you have to say about the Way of Life and the Way of Death because they know what you mean, and need only to be affirmed and reminded of the importance of living their own life in the time left for living—whether it is to their advantage or not.
- Mother and Child B&W — Founder’s Park, Trade Street, Charlotte, NC, December 26, 2012 — I survived my childhood and youth by telling them what they wanted to hear. The Big People. My father was actually called “Big James,” not because he was all that large, but to distinguish him from the other James, my mother’s nephew, who was not all that little, but was a few years younger than my father.
The Big People ruled my world, which is how it worked in all of the worlds of the people my size in my experience. We survived by telling them what they wanted to hear—by saying what we were supposed to say. By not having a mind, or a thought, or an opinion of our own.
Try to get away from that when you step into adulthood. Finding my own voice, stating my own views, and getting my own feet under me were the tasks of learning to be a self among other selves. Here’s how it worked. I decided at some point during my colleges years just to go ahead and get it over with—to stop living in dread of what would happen if I said what I thought, but to say it and let the world end.
The world didn’t end. And I developed the strategy of being, what might be called, utterly transparent about a lot of things in order to dispel the ghosts in my mind threatening me with resplendent doom if I said a word. Nothing much happened.
Well, there were some protests and objections. A few people left some of the congregations I served. But. A new world opened.
Speaking truthfully about what I thought, felt, believed, wondered, etc., led me to pursue what I thought, felt, etc. down strange trails, into the company of hundreds of books none of the Big People of my childhood and youth would have ever recommended—or read. It was an enlightening experience which continues to unfold before me, as I wonder my way along to wherever it is that I will be when I get there.
We grow ourselves up by trusting ourselves to ourselves—to whatever oversees interest, enthusiasm, curiosity, wonder, joy, delight and the like—and being willing to see what happens, to see where it goes.
- Lake Brandt Greenway 01 — Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 27, 2012 — Our solutions to our problems create more problems when we do not listen to the original problem and see what it is asking of us. Listen and See need to be the First Responders to every problem, but they have been relieved of duty in favor of Push and Shove and Rush and Hurry.
We can’t sleep so we take a pill. The pill becomes routine and we become lost in side effects. What would not sleeping say if we listened to it? We don’t have time for such foolishness. We are in a hurry to get to sleep.
We fix depression without attending it. We don’t want to encourage it. We just want to get rid of it.
We go to war to show our enemies a thing or two and teach them a lesson they will never forget. Right. War has lessons for the victor as well as for the vanquished, which neither ever learn.
Guns? Solution? Guns were supposed to solve the problem of bows and arrows. They created the problem of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads. Guns are great for creating problems guns cannot solve.
Listen and See! Listen and See! Listen and See! With, of course, everything on the table. The solution often requires of us things we are not willing to relinquish—leading to Carl Jung’s observation that “None of the important problems can be solved, they have to be out-grown.”
When we have a problem that can’t be solved or fixed, we have to grow up. It’s the only way to take care of things, and the first thing to be dismissed. Life is so hard because we won’t do what is hard—grow up. And there is no fix for that for sure.
- Reedy Fork Sunset C 03 — Lake Brandt Greenway, Bur-Mil Park Access, Greensboro, NC, December 27, 2012 — What? You think your life is going to knock on your door and ask if you want to come out and play? You think if you keep sitting by the fire, drinking hot chocolate and eating cookies, your life will call you up and suggest a more pleasant way of spending your time, when you are in the mood for it and only for as long as you feel like it?
Our LIFE requires a Hero’s Journey—and it doesn’t even make THAT easy! WE have to show some initiative! WE have to go in search of our life! We have to track it down, grab it by the shoulders, look it in the eye and say, “Here I am! What can I do for you? When can we get started?”—and give it a shake or two just to show that we mean business.
The five magic words for the Journey are: Identity, Integrity, Initiative, Clarity and Courage.
We have to know what our business is and what it is not. We have to know where we belong and where we do not belong. We have to be clear and correct about what is happening, and what needs to happen (also called how things are and how things ought to be), and what we can do about it with the gifts that are ours to give—in each situation as it arises. We have to live there (in each situation) in ways that are integral with what is deepest, best and truest about us—whether it does any good or not. And we have to keep it up throughout the time left for living.
Remember the process and apply yourself to it and you will be a Hero on a Journey in no time.
One Minute Monologues 013In “One Minute Monologues”
One Minute Monologues 005In “One Minute Monologues”
One Minute Monologues 001In “One Minute Monologues”