June 15, 2013 – August 01, 2013
- Our life is like a dream which wakes us up to the life we are called to live—if we look at it with eyes that see. We read our life—interpret our life, what is happening in our life, what we are doing about it—as though it were a dream, that it may show us what there is to see.
We don’t have to do anything more than see what we are doing.
Seeing what we are doing transforms what is done, and aligns us with the soul’s way of doing.
All roads lead to the center, and we can start that journey anywhere, at any time, simply by being conscious of where we are and what we are doing.
Practice being conscious by looking at something—anything—until you see it. Look at it from all sides. What associations come to mind?
The object or image becomes your guide to awareness, to consciousness, to seeing into you as you look at the object or image.
When we see anything for what it is, we see ourselves. Everything mirrors us to us when we have eyes to see.
When we see ourselves, we adjust ourselves, we shift ourselves, we align ourselves with the soul’s way of being/doing.
- Magnolia 02 — Greensboro, NC, June 2013 — How much time do we spend not being where we are?
How much time do we spend being where we are?
What is it about where we are that makes it necessary, and easy, to not be there?
What is it about where we are that makes it necessary, and easy, to be there?
What can we do to reduce the time spent in the places where we are not being where we are, and increase the amount of time spent in the places where we are being where we are?
- Mallard Light — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, June 2013 — We must bear the burden of our choices and actions—consciously, with compassion. Everything depends on it.
We face courageously this present moment, and step confidently, boldly, into our future, to choose and to do, again and again.
We can do that only in the strength of our willingness to stand by ourselves and bear consciously and compassionately the outcomes of our choices and actions.
We have to have the freedom to live our life as we determine our life needs to be lived in each situation as it arises—and the freedom to bear well the outcomes, no matter what they may be.
Be not afraid to have yourself look you in the eye. Be not afraid that yourself will turn away, refuse to extend a compassionate hand and a warm embrace, and ban you forever to the merciless winds of the frozen tundra.
Be free of that fear, and face together what must be faced, bearing together the burden of your choices and actions—consciously, with compassion. Everything depends on it.
- Summer Days Panorama 01 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, June 11, 2013 — If you aren’t challenging the way people think, you are thinking the way people think.
If Gay people hadn’t challenged the way people thought about Gay people, people would still be thinking the way they thought about Gay people.
If Black people hadn’t challenged the way people thought about Black people, people would still be thinking the way they thought about Black people.
If Female people hadn’t challenged the way people thought about Female people, people would still be thinking the way they thought about Female people.
Challenging the way people think begins with challenging the way you think. It begins with thinking about your thinking. It begins with thinking again about the things you think about and asking hard questions about your fundamental assumptions about what is good, about what is important, about how you know what you think you know.
Put everything on the table and walk around the table. What is an inference and what is a fact? What is hearsay? What is opinion? What is a supposition? Conjecture? Theory? Belief?
Get to the bottom of what you think. When did you start thinking this way? Where does your thinking originate? Why do you think the way you think and not some other way instead? What makes you think the way you think is the way to think? Who thinks like you do? Who doesn’t think like you do? What makes you think like the people who think like you do? What keeps you from thinking like the people who don’t think like you think?
If you don’t challenge the way you think, you’ll continue to think the way you think.
If you think the way you think is perfectly fine and that everyone ought to think the way you think, look at your life.
- Get in there and do your thing—and don’t keep score, and don’t worry about the outcome!
- Groundhog Mountain Picnic Tables 02 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, VA, January 10, 2013 — We belong to two worlds. The first world is the invisible world which sent us out on our mission “to boldly go where no one has gone before,” and plopped us into the second world—the world of normal, apparent, physical reality.
We think the second world is the only world because it is the conscious world, the world of which we are conscious. We see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, smell it. It is the Real world.
The first world is unconscious because we are not conscious of it. It is not apparent to our senses and therefore, to our way of thinking, “Imaginary,” that is, Not Real.
All primal peoples understood the second world—the world of physical reality—to be grounded in and founded upon the first world. They had it right. The Real world is the unseen world which gives the world of our senses it’s apparent reality.
That’s a hard sell these days. “Seeing is believing.” So, okay, here’s a test to validate the world of invisible reality: “Believing is seeing.” Start believing the invisible world is Real, and start acting as though it is. See for yourself.
Here’s how. See yourself to be on a mission to the physical universe. You have come to explore physical existence and to establish connections between the worlds—to create a synthesis of the polarities of visible/invisible, real/imaginary, true/false, actual/illusory—to integrate the opposites and form a third world where the first two worlds are united into one complete whole.
You are the whole between worlds. The two worlds come together in you. You are the extension of both worlds into the other—the threshold of one world into the other. You make each real to the other.
The next time you come upon a problem in this world and you wonder what you are going to do and think it is yours to solve alone, remember your connection with the invisible world and trust yourself to it, to the world of your origin, and ask for its help and guidance in finding the way forward through the problems of life in this world. And see what happens.
The catch is you have to really mean it. You have to really trust yourself to the invisible world and you have to really follow its guidance—and forget about working things to your advantage and gain. You have to be willing to see what happens, to see where it goes.
This is the adventure, the journey, of life.
- Summer Days 05 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC, May 21, 2013 — There are five elements to a good photograph: Exposure, Focus, Subject, Composition, and Lighting. You need a camera that will let you control shutter speed and rate (how many frames per second), aperture, ISO, and focus. And the two most important elements of a photograph are your feet for getting you out of the house and into a scene. Play around until you get all of these aspects like you like them, and that’s all there is to it.
- Watch Out Little Mouse! — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, May 6, 2013 — Where you place the tripod, or where you stand, squat, sit or lie with camera in hand, tells the tale. And what determines that? How do you know where to put the camera? You cannot think your way there! You have to feel it to know.
Waking up is getting the feeling back into our life.
Getting the feeling back into our life requires us to trust ourselves to what we do not know.
When we trust ourselves to what we do not know, we get a life that is different from the one we would have if we lived in light of the advantages, calculated every step in terms of what’s in it for us and what we stand to gain and lose, figured the pros and cons, and ran a cost/benefit analysis before doing anything.
Which life is the best life? You have to feel it to know.
- Olena Puckett Cabin 01 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, VA, June 10, 2013 — We have a life to discover. This is our New World. We all have the life we fell into upon graduation from high school or college—the life that pays the bills, and votes, and serves on jury duty, gets the pets to the vet and fulfills the responsibilities. This is the Old World.
The New World is waiting to be discovered. It is our place to seek new shores—to find the life that is our life to live within the life we are living.
We get hints in nighttime dreams and daytime fantasies. Yesterday, as I was coming out of my after lunch nap (One of the best things I do for me), I had a vision that had impact. I was conscious and this was not a dream. I was piloting a space shuttle as it came out of orbit and the on board computer indicated a problem with the spacecraft and said the pilot capsule would eject in 5 seconds (I was the only one on board). I had 5 seconds to override the computer. I chose not to, was ejected and parachuted safely to earth, landing in a remote forest and now had the problem of finding my way to civilization.
I read this as a clear call to trust myself to the flow of my life and to not override, or interfere with, how things are unfolding—to stay out of the way. I’ll have work to do but have every reason to believe that I can trust myself to invisible hands to help me in the work of discovering the New World.
We are on a journey to the center of ourselves, to the core of who we are, of what is of essential value—without a guidebook or a map or directions. And can trust ourselves to invisible hands to guide and help us along the way.
The journey to the New World is the thrill of a lifetime. Saddle up your mule and come along!
- Goshen Creek 12 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, June 11, 2013 — It takes concentration and focus to be conscious, to wake up. You can’t take a pill. Or read a book. You have to practice. Regularly. Constantly. Your life is your practice.
Practice seeing what you look at. With eyes of compassion. You have looked at yourself in some mirror all of your life. How much of you have you seen? How much of you have you seen with eyes of compassion?
It is possible to see the Other World, the First World, through This World, the Second World.
Parker Palmer talks about “the thin places” where the First World is easily accessed. These are the sacred places, the holy places, the places to which people of all religions make annual pilgrimages. Tunnel View, Schwabacher Landing, Vermillion Lakes, Maroon Bells…
But you don’t have to make a long haul to find a thin place—you only have to open your eyes. You pass by them, walk through them, every day. Notice them next time.
Wake up to you. Wake up to the First World shinning through the Second World. To your LIFE struggling to come to life in the life you are living. To more than meets the eye.
You have the rest of your life to become who you are, and you don’ think your way there. You don’t think you up. You get out of the way. You allow yourself to be surprised. To show you things you didn’t know you were capable of. To show you you.
To be awake is to be amazed. To be awake is to be alive. To be alive is to be amazed. Stunned by wonder. Seeing everything for the first time, every time.
- Golden Ragwort Panorama — Roan Mountain Highlands, Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — Seeing is a function of looking. What we see depends on how we look, what we look at, what we look for. What we see depends upon what we are willing to be shown.
What we see depends on how inquisitive we are, how curious we are, how interested we are in what lies beyond what we think we know.
You can’t show some people anything they haven’t already seen.
Here’s your homework: 1) Look for something you have never seen. 2) Look for something you have never seen about something you have already seen.
This is your daily assignment for the rest of your life.
- Approaching Jane Bald 01 — Roan Mountain Highlands, Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — You have to start somewhere. I recommend that you start with—you.
Start with what you know and what you need to know, and what you need to know it.
Start with your own sense of balance, of stability, of security and safety. With your own sense of your limits. With what is important to you—with what has value to you.
You didn’t get here by accident, to these words on that computer screen. You’re no dummy. You may have stumbled your way from there (wherever you started) to here, but here you are. You may have fallen flat a few times, run into walls and off cliffs, but here you are. You cannot deny that you are here and that you did it.
An aside beckons. The church of our experience has told us “Jesus saves.” It’s all about Jesus saving us. We are nothing, worse than nothing, sinfully disgusting and hopeless to the nines (whatever they are), until Jesus comes along, dies the death we deserve and ushers us straight past the guards to Glory Land. Yea Jesus! Let’s have a round of applause!
Wait. The church keeps talking. The church tells us we have to “receive Jesus into our hearts.” What? Jesus needs an invitation? Jesus can get us into the Eternal Habitations, but he can’t get into our hearts? He stands at the door and knocks? But we have to open the door? We have to believe all that we have been told about Jesus is true for it to be true? It isn’t effective until we believe? WE hold the cards?
We save ourselves. But the church cannot allow that. If it gets out that we are responsible for our own salvation, what becomes of the church hierarchy? Who pays the salaries, and the mortgages on all the buildings, and the notes on the organs? So the church says we can’t even believe without the Holy Spirit’s help.
It goes straight downhill from here until nobody knows where the line lies between what we do and what we have to have done for us, but we are never off the hook. We are going to hell if we don’t believe but we can’t believe without the Holy Spirit’s help, and we are left dangling in some murky wasteland, left with “taking it on faith” that we cannot do what cannot be done without our willing engagement and participation which we can’t do without the Holy Spirit enabling us to “take it on faith.”
You can do what you want to with all of this, but I say we save ourselves by opening ourselves to the truth of our own experience and trusting ourselves to find the way to the threshold between worlds by relying on the hands that come to help us when we start walking.
You got yourself to these words on this computer screen and you didn’t do it alone. That’s the way it is going to be the rest of the way. You do the work and you don’t do it alone. And my place in all of this is to tell you what you already know, and your place is to take what you find helpful and to leave the rest behind.
- Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., Rhododendron Fence HDR 01 — Roan Mountain Highlands, Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — I’m here to help connect you with your life, with your work. These are one thing. Your life is your work, your work is your life—lived in the service of your gifts, talents, interests, joy, love, enthusiasm, delight, etc. All of which may have little to do with your job—with what you do to pay the bills.
Finding a job is one thing, finding your work and connecting with your life (Or finding your life and connecting with your work) is another.
People think that if we find a job, our life will take care of itself. The culture’s idea of life is not our life’s idea of life. The culture thinks if we do what we are supposed to do (support the economy) we will be content, because we are supposed to be content if we do what we are supposed to, and if we are not content it is because we are not doing what we are supposed to do.
So I’m here to connect you with your life, and I cannot do it without your full cooperation and participation.
I knew a guy who said he wanted my help in getting off drugs, and the first thing he wanted to know was why he should get off drugs. I told him I was not going to be any help to him, to come back and see me when he knew he had to be drug free.
If the first thing you want to know is why you should worry about being connected with your life, I’m not going to be any help to you. Come back when you know it’s your life or The Void.
Your full cooperation and participation mean you understand it is your life, or your death, that is at stake here, and I am speaking metaphorically, symbolically, not literally. You can be 98.6 and breathing on the physical level, and be deader than dead on the emotional/spiritual level.
We aren’t fooling around here and there is no time to waste. And nothing can be forced or hurried.
This gets us to the place of paradox and contradiction as a part of the basic structure of life. More than one thing can be true at the same time. I want to be the best father in all the world and I don’t want to be a father at all. Both things are true at once. We live within the tension of our polarities. We cannot think in terms of erasing one end (The bad end) in favor of the other (The good end).
This is another thing. Bad is good and good is bad. Things are not one way only. A little sugar is good, too much is bad. So, is sugar good or bad? The right kind of love is good, the wrong kind is bad. Is love good or bad? Life is like that.
Don’t think your life is a matter of doing what someone tells you to do. You cannot live your life keeping the rules, following directions and stepping in the black footprints. Your life is up to you. You make the calls. You feel your way along. We’ll get back to that later.
- Roan Mountain Panorama 01— Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — When we feel our way toward the life that is ours to live—the work that is ours to do—it is not emotions that are stirred but values. We feel our way to that which has value for us. We know what that is because it resonates with us, it speaks to us, it clicks with us.
We know what is of central value to us the way we know a forgotten name when we hear it: Not Mary, not Beth, not Joan—Lois!
We may have forgotten the core values upon which the life that is our life to live is based, but when we seek them—when we open ourselves to them—they sing to us and we dance.
What is important to us? How do we know? That’s what I mean when I say, “We feel our way toward that which matters to us—to that which has value to us.”
We may have to step back from all that is supposed to be important in order to hear, see, and understand what is actually important to us. We may need to reflect on our life—the life we have lived—in order to see what values keep shining through, keep revealing themselves as central and always present in the way we have lived.
Values lead us, ground us, send us forth, call us on. Values are the heart and soul of the matter. They are our heart and soul. When we live aligned with heart and soul, we live in ways which express the values that are central to our life—the life that we are called to live in the midst of the life we are living.
Find the values that are at the heart of you and you are on your mule, off on the adventure of your life.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Rhododendron Fern 02 — The trails of Rhododendron Gardens, Pisgah National Forest (Across the road and the TN/NC border at Carver’s Gap, TN), Roan Mountain, NC, June 20, 2013 — You have three primary roles in finding your way to the life that is yours to live, the work that is yours to do:
1) You have to be transparent to yourself.
2) You have to bring out your contradictions and polarities, make them apparent, experience them fully and bear the pain of integration and synthesis.
3) You have to get out of the way.
Being transparent to yourself is not kidding yourself, not playing games with yourself, seeing how you are and how you also are, and not trying to be better or different than you are and also are. You have to see you with compassionate eyes. This will show you some contradictions and polarities.
You have to be thoroughly aware of your contradictions and polarities, your paradoxes and ambivalence—without rushing to resolve them, disappear them, deny/ignore them and get them out of the way. You are here to make your contraries conscious—and to bear the pain of that transaction. This is the key to growing up, awareness, enlightenment, realization, nirvana… The right kind of pain is the path to peace.
You don’t want to pay the price of peace. You want to save yourself. You have to save yourself by not trying to save yourself—by not saving yourself. You have to get out of the way with your incessant search for solutions, and answers, and recipes, and happiness ever after. You have to not know what to do and be awash in anguish while you wait on the shift in perspective that perceives the opening.
When the door opens, walk through. Until it opens, wait in the darkness you are sure will never end for the light you are sure is never coming. Get. Out. Of. The. Way.
- Roan Mountain Flame Azalea 01 — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — I’m floating the idea of communities of innocence here, which are also communities of innocents.
The communities are themselves innocent, and are composed of members who are innocent, in the sense of having nothing to gain or lose at the expense of anyone else. The communities have nothing a stake in their relationship with their members and the members have nothing at stake in their relationships with each other.
All—communities and members—exist to be helpful with no strings attached. They are innocent in that they have no hidden agendas, or ulterior motives, and nothing up their sleeves.
Communities of innocence, communities of innocents, are transparent to themselves. They see themselves as they are and as they also are, and do not promise more than they are capable of fulfilling.
The communities help by being present for good in the lives of their members. The members help by being present for good in the lives of one another.
They are helpful by seeing, hearing and understanding—by looking, listening and inquiring about the quality of each person’s standing with the life that is his or hers to live, with the work that is hers or his to do—and seeing where the resulting conversation goes.
The communities exist without buildings or overhead, and are only as large as we need them to be—2 or 3, 5 or 7. And they come into being as you call them forth. You find one or two, four or six people who have what it takes for form a community of innocents, a community of innocence, and you sit down with them one at a time or all at once and see what they think about the idea. And see where it goes.
- Fir Forest 01 — The trails of Rhododendron Gardens, Pisgah National Forest (Across the road and the TN/NC border at Carver’s Gap, TN), Roan Mountain, NC, June 20, 2013 — You owe it to yourself to find out if living toward the life that is your life to live is as ridiculous, absurd, hopeless, useless, futile and foolish as you think it is.
Test it. Give it a good faith effort. See if there is anything to it. To the idea that you have a life that is different from the life you are living—a life that utilizes the best of what you have to offer—a life that actually requires you to believe you have something to offer—a life that pulls you forth, beyond what you think you are capable are, beyond who you think you are, to astound, astonish and amaze you and everyone who thought they knew you.
See if I’m not right when I say there is more to you than meets the eye—and that it is the very thing the world around you needs to wake up and become what it is capable of being.
How about it?
- Cloudland Viewpoint 01 — Cloudland Trail, Pisgah National Forest (Across the road and the TN/NC border at Carver’s Gap, TN), Roan Mountain, NC, June 20, 2013 — Don’t think it is about finding the Golden Egg and having it made, kicking back, coasting along, sitting on a rainbow, idling away your time, hanging out, sipping cocktails, eating chocolate, lolling poolside, etc.
You have work to do. The work is never done. The work is being you in each situation as it arises all your life long.
There is always more to you than meets the eye. More to you than you can imagine. More to you to be brought forth into the life you are living all your life long.
Stop thinking about stopping, propping your feet up, smoking cigars, playing golf, winning another lottery…
Start thinking about living in the service of your gifts and interests—about aligning your life with the life that needs you to live it—about finding out more of who you are and what you need to do about it each day… Start thinking about what you need to do to be who you are—not who you were yesterday, not who you have always been, but who you are becoming, who you need to be here and now—in each situation as it arises.
Surprise yourself. Live to be amazed. At you. Wonder what’s next. Be eager, excited, thrilled to find out.
- Goshen Creek 09 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, June 11, 2013 — You’re wasting your time with another book study. How many will it take? You’re putting off the work. You keep standing before two doors. One labeled “Your Life” and the other labeled “Lecture About Your Life,” and choosing to attend the lecture and take notes and talk about it in order to understand what you are to do when you at last open the other door, which you never do because there is always something else to understand.
Here’s one for you: Thinking is not the path to living. Living is the path to living.
Get in there and do your thing and don’t worry about doing it right.
Understanding follows living. Understand?
If you are going to talk about something, talk about your life—about your work to live the life that is yours to live within the life you are living. Articulating your experience helps understand your experience by helping you experience your experience. But first, experience. Then, talk. Talking is no substitute for experiencing.
- Limbs and Branches — Cloudland Trail, Pisgah National Forest (Across the road and the TN/NC border at Carver’s Gap, TN), Roan Mountain, NC, June 20, 2013 — Here’s all the instruction you need for the rest of your life: Replace anxiety with curiosity.
- Appalachian Trail on Roan Mountain — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — You cannot think your way into the life that is your life to live. You have to live your way there.
You have to trust yourself to the drift of your life and see where it takes you. You are a cork on the water in the current of your life. You don’t know enough to know what you are doing or where you are going, so you sense what is of value in the here and now of your living and serve that—and see where it goes.
The current of your life is recognized, is felt, by the degree of value something has for you. It’s the hot and cold game of childhood, with you sensing what is important and what is not, what has life about it and what is a cold, black, hole.
Go with life. Your life comes to life as you live toward life. It’s all quite magical and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Mary Poppins was completely into it.
- Used in Short Talks on Contradiction, etc., Day Hiker on the AT — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — It’s what we do that wakes us up—and what is done to us—and what we see being done around us.
Action confronts us with contradiction. We see, through the work to reconcile, integrate, synthesize, opposites. Polarities are harmonizing.
The blindest people are the ones who see most clearly. Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased Or Else don’t know a thing. You can’t tell them anything. They cannot be awakened. Yell at them—they cannot hear. They are standing in their own way. What they see keeps them from seeing. What they know keeps them from knowing. Shake the dust off your sandals, and leave the dead to bury the dead, and walk on.
If your contradictions don’t wake you up, you can’t be waked up. If you think disappearing/denying your contradictions is the path to light, you will live forever in deep darkness.
Pay attention to what you do—to what is done to you—to what you see being done around you. Square that with how things ought to be done. Sit down with what cannot be squared—with the incompatibilities—and see what it has—what they have—to show you. About you, about your life, about life, about the way things are.
Enter the struggle of reconciliation, integration, synthesis. Bear the pain. It will wake you up. Against your will. It will be great. You will love it. And hate it.
“And bit by bit/upon our pillow/comes wisdom to us/by the awful grace of God.” – Aeschylus
- Price Lake Laurel HDR — Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC, June 21, 2013 — Live with your arms open to your life—the life that is and the life that is to be (the one that is calling you to live it, waiting for you to live it—the one with your name on it—the one that no one but you can live).
Live to see what you can do with the time left for living.
Live to find out what you are capable of. Don’t die not knowing if you could do the thing you are afraid you might not be able to do.
Climb up on your mule and say, “Let’s go! Show me what you got.” And hang on for the ride of your life.
- Shaped by Time and Light 01 — Along the trails of Pisgah National Forest (Across the road and the TN/NC border at Carver’s Gap, TN), Roan Mountain, NC, June 20, 2013 — Saying what needs to be said is a step on the way to doing what needs to be done. We don’t do what needs to be done because we are not free to say what needs to be said.
Saying is seeing. Seeing is doing.
When we work to articulate what needs to be said—what is trying to be said—what is dying to be said—the truth is unveiled before our eyes.
Articulation is a form of sculpture. We shape truth to conform to our perception of truth through the act of saying how it is with us. When we settle for saying what we are supposed to say—repeating the blah-blah-yada of yesterday and all days prior to this one—we perpetuate the lie of corporate living.
Then we see like our family sees, like our circle of friends sees, like our church sees, like the primary group that dominates our life sees. And WE don’t see at all.
The work of articulating what WE need to say shows us the truth of our own life, the truth of our own perception.
We have to have a place—find a place—create a place—that allows us to say who we are. This is the work that enables us to do the work that is ours to do.
A community of innocence—of innocents—is a necessary step on the way to the life that is our life to live. It is not composed of any of Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased—or even Those Who Must Be Pleased. Just people who know how to listen with compassion and understanding to what we have to say. Viva la Revolucion!
- Rocks for Sitting — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — I have lots of bad memories that crowd in to haunt me, and hurl moods at me, which I would prefer not to deal with. These all involve things I have done that I regret doing, or things I didn’t do that I wish I had done. And they go all the way back to the very beginning.
I understand this may be a curse of aging and of retirement. We have more time to ourselves and less that we are having to take care of to consume our attention. So our mind wanders into the realm of regret and remorse.
Joseph Campbell had a similar affliction and spoke of it in one of his lectures.
I’ve found a way to push back the ghosts that may work for you if something similar ever comes your way. It’s worth a try. In the grip of such a memory, I catch myself drifting toward a mood, and say out loud, “I’ll just have to bear it (the memory)! It’s the only thing to do!”
We bear the pain and go on with our life. It’s the only thing to do!
- Tall Grass — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, June 11, 2013 — From my point of view, success is the degree of conscious correlation between who we are and what we do. It is the conscious, deliberate, intentional and willing embrace of ourselves and our life—and the conscious, deliberate, intentional and willing participation of ourselves in our life.
“What I do is me,” said Gerard Manley Hopkins, “for that I came.”
Carl Jung said, “We are who we always have been, and who we will be.” And, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
There is a little bit of us tucked away in all we have ever done. The trick is to see that, embrace it and serve it with conscious, willing, intention.
Jung also said, “Anyone who attempts to do both, to adjust to his group and at the same time pursue his individual goal, becomes neurotic.” We cannot be who we are AND make other people happy with us.
And so the need for a small community of innocence, of innocents, which supports and encourages each other in the experience and expression of who each is—for the good of each other and for the good of the whole.
- Summer Days 06 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC, June 10, 2013 — We cannot live well unconsciously. Living well is no accident—it is the conscious correlation between who we are and what we do.
When we wake up, we wake up to who we are, to how things are, and to what needs to happen—in each situation as it arises.
We have to know who we are—what is “us” and what is “not us.” We have to know what “our thing” is, and do it—as it is called for in each situation as it arises.
This doesn’t mean that we never do anything that is not “our thing.” It means we know when we are doing “our thing” and when we are not.
We have to see ourselves and “our thing” with eyes of compassion. And, we have to be who we are, doing “our thing,” in each situation as it arises with compassion. But. Compassion doesn’t stop us from doing what needs to be done. We do it with compassion, but. We do it.
- Cloudland Overlook 02 HDR — Along the Cloudland Trail of Pisgah National Forest (Across the road and the TN/NC border at Carver’s Gap, TN), Roan Mountain, NC, June 20, 2013 — Thinking and feeling lead us along, guide us, direct us to the way. We have to work out the right ratio between these potential polarities and have them become colleagues, collaborators, in the service of the life that is our life to live.
Thinking knows what to do by thinking about it, by reasoning it out, intellectually, logically, by running cost/benefit analyses, and calculating the risks, and examining the pros and cons, and computing various scenarios which take into account all the variables and contingencies, and coming up with what is obviously, indisputably, the best course of action.
Feeling knows what to do by feeling it. Feeling is not about emotions, as in being “carried away” by, or “lost” in, depression or anxiety or nostalgia or some mood of the moment. Feeling is our body’s way of recognizing and expressing true value. It is our body’s reaction to what is important. We feel beauty with our body, for instance. We cry or laugh in the presence of truth. We don’t think about doing these things. Our body reacts spontaneously, immediately, unconsciously to what matters to us. We know what is important by the way our body feels about it.
Feeling can drive thinking crazy. Thinking can make feeling want to throw up—or make us actually throw up when we encounter the intractability of logic that is carrying us in what our body knows to be the wrong direction.
We have to make peace between our body and our head, perhaps by feeling in our body what is important, what needs to be done, and giving our head the responsibility for doing it, for getting it done.
My body knows where the scenes are today. My head drives us there. My head doesn’t understand what makes one scene better than another today, or which will be “it” tomorrow, but my body knows. My body can’t be bothered with what is the best route, or the quickest, or the one with the most rest stops. My head is great with the details.
If my head says, “Well we can go this way or that way, they are both equally suited for getting us there,” my body may have a preference. We think and feel our way to the way that is the way for us, here and now, in each here and now that comes along.
We have to work out the right relationship between head and body in order to know what to do and how to do it in order to be who we are and do what is ours to do in the time left for living. There is never a dull moment on the mule.
- Mabry Mill in the Rain — Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, VA, June 10, 2013 — We have to know where we stop and someone else starts. We have to know what is our business and what is someone else’s business, and we need to tend our business.
A good bit of what is wrong with the world could be quickly reversed if we just knew what our business was and tended it.
Get a group of people together and they talk about everybody’s business but their own.
What is YOUR business? What do you need to help you with it? That’s where your focus needs to be. Not on what other people should be doing or not doing, but on what you need to be doing and what would be helpful to you in order to do it.
What is your business? What help do you need to do it?
- Cloudland View — Cloudland Trail Viewpoint, Pisgah National Forest, Roan Mountain, NC near Carver’s Gap, TN, June 20, 2013 — You cannot be intimate if you cannot be vulnerable. You cannot be vulnerable if you cannot trust yourself to take care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself does not mean invincibility, immunity. It means resiliency, compassion. There is no resiliency without compassion.
Resiliency without compassion is a rock being gradually worn away by water. Resiliency with compassion is the water giving way to the rock, the evergreen branch giving way to the snow, the earth giving way to the grasses of spring.
You begin to trust yourself when you have compassion for yourself—when you receive yourself well—when you understand yourself as your primary ally, “a very present help in time of trouble.”
You come packed with helpmates. There is a response to every occasion tucked away within you. You are the threshold to an entire invisible world of help without measure.
So, what’s with the adversarial relationship? How come you spend absolutely no time making acquaintances? Why the snobbery? The complete lack of positive regard? The cold shoulder? The refusal to be attentive and receptive to the entreaties of the world within? The staunch determination to do it (that would be your life) alone?
No wonder you can’t be intimate. You can’t be vulnerable. You can’t be helped. You can’t admit your need for help. You are going to will yourself forward. Tough it out. Like a mighty rock against a small stream of water.
You cannot trust yourself to yourself. You cannot trust there is more to you than meets the eye. You cannot relax yourself into your life, or into a relationship with other people.
You have to be alert, constantly vigilant, on your toes, thinking, planning, conniving, controlling… Because it all depends on YOU.
Well. It depends on ALL of you. And THAT depends on your trusting yourself to you—to the rest of you—and seeing where it goes.
- Green Heron in Flight 02 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, June 27, 2013 — If you are going to know anything, know what is called for in each situation as it arises—and do it if you are able. That’s all there is to it. It is never more difficult than that.
- Fir Forest 03 — Along the trails of Pisgah National Forest, Roan Mountain, NC, near Carver’s Gap, TN, June 20, 2013 — My point here is to make it clear to you that you have to do the work of connecting yourself with your life—and you can’t do it alone.
The work has nothing to do with what you think or believe. It has everything to do with who you are, what you know and what you do.
To bring this forth, who you are, what you know and what is yours to do, you don’t study, read books, attend lectures, go to seminars and workshops, take classes, earn advanced degrees, interview Gurus and Holy Ones… You say what you have to say in the matter.
You articulate who you are, what you know and what is yours to do. To do that, you have to have people who care enough about you to listen to you in the right way—who know how to listen in the right way.
Those people are hard to come by. That is why more of us are not busy connecting ourselves with our life. But. We can’t let that stop us.
We have to become what we need: the kind of person who knows how to listen. And then we only need to start listening.
We all need a group of 3 – 5 people to talk with—not as a group necessarily. They may not know—and never meet—each other. But they are your community of innocence, of innocents, with nothing at stake in you but their belief that you have everything you need to do what is yours to do, and that it is their place to help you realize that and to tell you to “get in there and do your thing—and don’t keep score or worry about the outcome!”
Your best chance of finding people who know how to listen is to become one, and start listening.
- Rhododendron & Fern 01 — Along the trails of Pisgah National Forest, Roan Mountain, NC, near Carver’s Gap, TN, June 20, 2013 — The work of connecting yourself with your life and living it is your practice. You don’t read a book and do it. You don’t take a course and do it.
People are always talking computer courses, or photography courses, but they don’t actually use their computers or their cameras. The want to be able to use them when they feel like using them, when they are ready to use them, when they are in the mood to use them. And the courses are completely useless to them because they have failed/refused to take up the practice of computers and photography.
You have to take up the practice of connecting with and living your life. It is a daily ritual, eternal and everlasting. You cannot nod in its direction and go on with your other life—the one you have in mind for yourself, the one you want to be your life, the one you wish were yours.
You have to connect with, and hand yourself over to, the life that is actually your life. You have to grow up and live the life that is yours to live against your will, whether you want to or not, because to not do it is to be deader than dead, and to create a wasteland where a vibrant, thriving, oasis is supposed to be.
So. You have to take up the practice of connecting with and living the life that is yours to live. Start with your resistance.
Sit down with your resistance to the idea of taking up the practice of living your life. Really. Sit down.
Bring your resistance into the center of your attention. Ask it to show itself to you as an image, object, or person. What comes to mind? Address it, him, or her directly. Say that you want to understand its, his, her motivation. What is at stake from its/his/her point of view? Explore its/his/her response to gain a clear understanding of its/his/her position. Work to negotiate a synthesis of its/his/her position and your own—you need to take up the practice of connecting with and living your life and it/he/she is opposed to that, is afraid of that. What can you do to help it/him/her be, not only comfortable, but also assist with that process? Find out. See what you can do.
Congratulations. You have just taken the first step in taking up the practice of connecting yourself with your life and living it.
- Goshen Creek 06 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, June 11, 2013 — We will either accept our adventure or not. We will either live the life that is ours to live or not. We will either grow up or not.
These are all the same thing. Our adventure is our life, and it will grow us up against our will.
The dragons and beasts the heroes all meet on their adventure all arise within. The Cyclops? The Cyclops is an inside job. We stop ourselves at every turn. We shout, “Enough!” and think about quitting. We terrify ourselves with the Dreadful Terrors, and flee from the specters we conjured up.
We know our life is not the one we are living, but this isn’t all that bad, and lethargy saps our energy and exhausts our will. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe when the children are grown. Maybe when the grandchildren are married…
Our adventure is at hand, our life is ready for us, our mule is waiting…
- Raven Rock — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, June, 2010 — If you are not living your life, you are living someone else’s life—someone else’s idea of the life you should be living.
If you are not living the life you must live, you are living the life you have to live to make ends meet, keep others happy and make no waves.
If you are not living in the service of your heart’s deep love, you are dragging through the week and watching the clock until closing time.
Keep living that life to pay the bills, but begin living the life that is waiting for you to live it—the life with your name on it—the life that only you can live. This is called walking two paths at the same time.
One path feeds your body, the other path nourishes your soul. Walking two paths at the same time is the way of life that brings you to life. You have put it off long enough.
- Rhododendron Gardens Trail — Pisgah National Forest, Roan Mountain, NC near Carver’s Gap, TN, June 20, 2013 — Having to have what we want places us at the mercy of our desires, interests, needs, urges, whims, and wishes—and bespeaks of a greater need: the need to grow up.
Two-year-olds melting down because life isn’t going their way is one thing. A thirty-two-year-old exhibiting the same behavior is another.
Our behavior is a mirror showing us—and the world—who we are. We can cover it up for a while, paint it over, pretend to be who we are not but. The facade wears thin from time to time. Melts down. And there we are.
There are moments when we will be transparent to everyone else, if not ourselves, whether we want to be or not. We have to seize those moments, and sit with them. What?
What is going on? Where does this insistence on having our way come from? Who is in charge of what we are doing here?
And, of course, we ask the compulsion to become an image, person, or object, and invite it to speak to us. And receive well what we hear, and work out the necessary compromises, and see where it goes…
Most clubs and groups of my experience are run by a few people who have to have things done their way and a lot of people who have to have someone tell them what to do. Both groups are getting their needs met at the expense of their growth toward maturity and grace.
Our work is to become aware of what we are doing and what that has to show us about who we are—and who we need to be. Everything we need for our own growth and becoming is before us at all times. All we need to do is look. And listen. In order to see and hear.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Olena Puckett Cabin, 04 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, VA, June 10, 2013 — It’s amazing what happens when you don’t try to make something happen. The catch is that you have to be open to what happens. You have to be receptive, accepting, capable of being amazed. You can’t be tapping your foot, rolling your eyes, wondering when it is finally going to become what you want it to be.
Your place is to receive well the world. To be a gracious participant in the production of your life without being in charge and in control of that production. You don’t orchestrate a thing beyond the quality of your participation in the unfolding of your life.
Here’s where you come in: You become conscious of, aware of, what is happening—especially aware of the contraries and polarities and opposites and opposition and conflicts among all the participants in the make-up of each situation as it arises. You enfold the situation in your awareness—your compassionate awareness.
This is true and that is true and that over there is true and all of it is mutually exclusive, and that is true, too. This clashes with that, and that, and that, and it’s a terrible mess, and we cannot imagine how it can possibly work out to anyone’s satisfaction… Bear consciously the opposites, the polarities, with compassion.
And when the door opens, walk through. Seize the moment. Say the word that needs to be said. Act in the service of what is called for once the shift occurs. You cannot force the shift, but when it happens, you assist what is obviously the thing that needs to be done.
The result will be a miracle. You can’t claim credit for it, but it would not have happened without you bearing consciously, with compassion, the contradictions, the disharmonies, and acting in the service of shift which things move of their own accord toward harmony.
Conflict works itself out when we are compassionately aware of the conflicting interests and do not try to make everyone happy or force our interest into being realized. Do not try to settle things before their time. Keep things in compassionate solution, suspension, and wait for the miracle.
- Round Bald 01 — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — Rumi said, “The soul is here for its own joy.” If he is right about that, it means that we are here for the soul’s joy. I take it that this would mean experiencing life in its fullness, as it is, and serving the values at the heart of life.
The soul would live through us. We bring the soul to life by living fully the life that is ours to live—serving the values at the heart of life through the way we live—and experiencing the entire spectrum of experience in so doing.
We save our soul by refusing to save ourselves from any life experience that comes our way. It is as though we are the bull and the soul is riding us for the full eight seconds of geologic time. The soul wants to get its money’s worth.
We break soul’s heart when we recoil from our own life, hold ourselves back, live reclusive, shallow, hollow little lives behind closed doors and draped windows.
Soul dances and sings when we live to be aligned with soul and exhibit the qualities and values of soul through the way we live our life.
Forget all the theology you ever heard and live at one with your soul in the experience of your life—serving the deep values and doing your thing—AND meeting your obligations to the structures of the physical world AND paying the bills. Soul will love you for it, and you will love you for it as well.
- Green Heron Bathing 02 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, June 27, 2013 — Our place is the easiest thing to lose—as in, “Where am I? What am I doing here?”
We get distracted by the 10,000 things. Lost in the moment of our living by trying to do too many things at once. Multitasking does not make for centered living.
We have to zone out from time to time in order to tune in and remember who we are and what we are to be about.
Give yourself a Time Out. Put yourself in your room and tell yourself you can’t come out for twenty minutes. Breathe.
Slowly. Count your breaths. “One,” inhaling into your belly. “Two,” exhaling by trying to touch your backbone with your navel. “Pause,” waiting between breaths. “Three,” inhaling… For twenty minutes.
BEGIN JULY 2013
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Roan Mountain Panorama 02 — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — It won’t hurt anything to think that the dead need us to redeem their lives, to carry them forward, to answer the questions they ran from, ignored, dismissed and left unanswered, to live the life they left unlived, to be for them who they should have been and failed to be. It doesn’t just end with their dying.
In doing our work, we do their work for them—the work they left undone—the work they never touched because they were preoccupied with “living their life” in a way that wasted their life. They missed their chance and need us to make it up for them.
We do that by taking up our life and doing it the way it needs to be done. We live for ourselves and for those who have gone before us. Or, we add to the burden our descendants will carry—or fail to carry.
Our burden—and the burden of those who come after us if we reject it—is to wake up. Be who we are. And do what needs us to do it in each situation as it arises—and do it as it needs to be done.
When we do right by our life and by the situation in which we live, we redeem the life and the situations our ancestors rejected and ignored.
Our situations are not too different from theirs. The eternal themes yearned to be acted out and made conscious in their lives as they do in our own. Guilt and Redemption, Sickness and Health, Disintegration and Integration, Life and Death, Death and Resurrection, Bondage and Freedom, Lost and Found…
The opposites and contradictions confront us as they confronted those who have gone before us. Who will reconcile them? Who will embrace them? Who will make them conscious? Who will bear the agony of mutually exclusive values and interests—until the shift happens, and the transformation occurs, and life can go on?
Our life is not too different from any life. When we live well, we redeem the failures of past generations, and relieve the dead of burdens unborne—and save those yet to be born from the weight of our own failures.
- Black and White — Dead tree at Pisgah Inn, Blue Ridge Parkway near Brevard, NC, November 1010 — It’s up to us. We are in charge of our own life—of living it or not living it. It is there, right here, waiting for us to give it the thumbs up, wondering what we are waiting for, but nothing is going to happen until we commit ourselves to the project.
We demur. We hesitate. We balk. We stammer. We hem and haw. We look away. We change the subject. Maybe later. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe some other time.
”We cannot come to the banquet/don’t trouble us now/we have married a wife/we have just bought a cow/we have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum/pray hold us excused/we cannot come” (Medical Mission Sisters from the sixties).
Our primary contribution is getting out of the way. If we but get out of the way, our life will take it from there. We stand blocking the path, blocking the way to the way. It all hangs on our standing aside, on our giving way, on our trusting ourselves to the current that will carry us to who knows what but why die not knowing?
- Path Along Goshen Creek — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, June 11, 2013 — We can only be so smart. Then, we have to be lucky. Eventually, our luck runs out. It’s how we live in the meantime that makes all the difference.
We have to live in the meantime as though we have all the luck in the world and it will never run out.
We have to see how much of who we are we can be in the time left for living.
We have to do as much as we can do of what is ours to do.
We have to wear our mule out.
Back up the way a bit, I said in one of these vignettes, “I understand our mule to be that which carries us through life and gets us where we are going. It is what gives us life and provides us with the wherewithal to get up and get back in the game. It is our incentive, our motivation, our joy of life, living and being alive. Our mule is our heart’s true love.
Know what your mule is. Ride it.”
We don’t have time to waste grousing about how unfair it is, and how it’s like “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” and how the inevitablities have us surrounded, and how useless, pointless, hopeless and futile it is.
We have a life to live yet! See how far into it you can go while there is still light! You will be creating ripples of good in your wake that will impact eternity! And you owe it to yourself to find out if I’m right about that.
- Round Bald Panorama — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — Carl Jung said, “It may be that in all the garbs, shapes, forms, modes and manners of life offered to a person, he or she does not find what is peculiarly necessary for him or her,” or words to that effect.
I take that to mean that the world cannot pay some of us to not be who we are. Some of us have to find what is “peculiarly necessary” for us and do the thing that is ours to do, no matter what, in a “Thy will, not mine, be done” kind of way.
The quest for what is “peculiarly necessary” for us is the only quest worth taking up. If we aren’t going to do that, whatever we do will be the equivalent of hanging out at the mall or going bowling all our life long.
- Summer Days 01 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, June 11, 2013 — You reach a stage in life (you may have to take my word on this) where good company is more important than good sex—where good sex becomes a loving embrace, fully clothed or not.
With good company being so important, eventually, I don’t know why we spend so much time thinking it’s all about good sex. Early on, we forsake company for sex. We throw company out of the window. “Whatever you say, honey, can we just go to bed now?”
I wonder how early we could entertain the idea of finding good company, or, more to the point, of being good company. I wonder how much energy we could invest when in the pursuit of becoming good company. Of being worth talking to. Of being able to receive each other well on every level of life. Of engaging each other in conversation straight from the heart about things that matter.
Where do we go to talk about aging? Oh, we talk of our aches and pains, and forgetting where we put the check book, and say, “It’s hell getting old.” But. Where do we speak of our unlived life, of the things we have failed to do, of things we hope yet to do, of how to truly LIVE on dwindling resources and diminishing physical abilities?
The people I know change the subject or laugh it off if I bring up any of these topics. I need to meet some new people. I’ll bet you do, too.
Our life would be so much different with a few more of the right kind of people in it. We have the best chance of attracting the right kind of people by being the right kind of person. We should receive more in the way of instruction about being good company. Of course, up to a certain point in our life, if we went to the lecture at all, it would be in hopes of finding someone to have sex with.
- Green Heron in Flight 03 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, June 27, 2013 — In the fairy tales, there is always someone who stands alone. The Fairy God Mother leans on no one. Merlin, Gandalf, Albus Dumbledore, Yoda, Obi wan Kenobi… are all without need of a guide. Guides need no guide!
That’s a joke. Never has there ever been more misguidance about guides! A true guide is always talking it over with her fellow guides. A true Council of Elders is an ongoing walkabout with one another in an atmosphere of imagination and creative thinking. The right kind of regular, recurring, conversation is at the heart of wisdom!
No one stands alone! We all need help with seeing, hearing and understanding! We all need the right kind of community to ground us, center us, focus us and remind us of what is important, of what is of true value, of what it is that we are overlooking, assuming, forgetting about this time.
Woe be the wizard or wizette without the support of the right kind of community!
Which gets us to who our confidants are. You have to pay attention to whom you pay attention, to whom you talk. You will never be wiser than the group you turn to for wisdom. Choose your inner circle well, but don’t think you can get by with out one. They don’t call them “fairy tales” for nothing.
- Roan High Bluff Viewpoint — Pisgah National Forest, Roan Mountain, NC, near Carver’s Gap, TN, June 20, 2013 — We know what our life is and what our life is not. And, if we don’t know, it is because we don’t want to know.
All of our blocks are in place because we do not want to do what we would have to do if the block were not there. Or, because we are trying too hard to do what we know does not need to be done.
Our blocks indicate a war within. We are at odds with ourselves over how we are to live our life, and cannot go on with our life until we work out a settlement, negotiate a compromise, and come to terms with our differences over how to live it.
We begin to come to terms with our differences by being clear about—becoming conscious of—what they are. On the one hand, what? On the other hand, what?
What are the polarities within? What we want is being blocked by something else we want. What are the conflicting wants?
Place yourself in the middle of the tension between the opposites, and bear consciously the pain, the agony, of wanting mutually exclusive things, and wait for the shift. You don’t cause, or produce, the shift. You wait for it. Patiently. Painfully.
When you have a problem that cannot be solved, become intently, and intensely, aware of the problem. And wait for the shift.
- Price Lake Reflection Panorama 01 — Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC, October, 2011 — One thing we know: Here we are. One thing we need to know: Now what? There are a lot of other things we know and need to know, but keep it simple—start with these two, and always come back to them. They are the Grounding Realities.
Here we are. Now what? Where do we go from here? How do we know? How do we decide? How do we make up our mind? What are we going to do, now that we are here?
We waste a lot of time, not asking and answering these questions. We engage in a lot of behavior to avoid them. Everything depends on what we do with them.
It’s up to us—and we don’t know what to do.
As a species, we have always been in this position. And here we are. As a species, we have made it to this point without knowing what we were doing. You and I don’t have to be in a panic to know. We all have gotten this far, not knowing. We did it trusting ourselves to instinct and intuition.
We followed our hunches, our inclinations, our interests, our inspirations, our dreams. We aren’t as alone as we are afraid we might be. Sit down. Be quiet. Listen.
We have plenty to work with. Guidance is available. We can trust ourselves to more than words can say—to more than meets the eye. After all, here we are. That should tell us something. All we need to know, really, to trust ourselves to sense where we go from here.
Whenever you find yourself at the end of your rope, up against it, at the bottom of a solid rock wall, not knowing what to do or where to turn, come back to the Grounding Realities. Here we are. Now what?
It will settle you down, enable you to trust yourself to more than meets the eye—than words can say—and listen.
- Big Creek 01 — Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC, November 2007 — Everybody who walks their own path with their eyes open (That is, conscious, with awareness), comes out at about the same place.
- Green Heron Bathing 03 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, June 28, 3013 — You can’t wake anyone up—including yourself—before their time. You can’t give anyone—including yourself—anything that is truly important. We all have to pay the price of awakening, clarity, consciousness, awareness, realization and peace.
The peace part comes with making our peace with the things we become aware of as we wake up.
None of this is delivered by the fairies, with rainbows and sparklers, and a cake for celebration. We work it into our life, bit by bit, over the course of our living.
There is always more to see.
We are always starting anew with where we are. What is happening? What needs to be done about it? How can we respond appropriately to the situation with the gifts that are ours to give?
There is never a script. We have never done this moment before. Forget applying what you did yesterday or last year. Live awake to each moment—spontaneously, extemporaneously, making a fitting response with what is uniquely yours to offer.
And all you want to do is read a good book, with no worries in the world.
Your life needs you to live it in each moment of your living, in each situation as it arises, all your life long. You never put your mule out to pasture. You never retire from your Real Life. You have the exact combination of gifts that each situation needs. It’s your place to make deliveries in the right way, at the right time.
Keeps you on your toes. Brings you to life. Wakes you up. Over the full course of your life.
- The Shape of Time 24 — Antelope Canyon, Page, AZ, May 18, 2010 — Robert Johnson, in his book “Inner Work”—which I cannot recommend too highly or too often—said, “You must find your own path. Go your own way, which is both terrifying and exhilarating. No one can any longer tell you THE way, because there is no longer one prescribed way, but only A way—your way, which is as valid as any other as long as you live it honestly.”
”Your way is merely A way—one way among many, yet unique and distinct from all others, springing from your own nature, a way that is inborn, not made, and waits to be discovered.”
”For each of us, that path is a solitary one, for ultimately we must walk it alone. No one else can tell us which final direction it should take, and no one else can walk it for us.”
I’ll take that as a starting place and say, it’s like this: I stand before you and say one thing, and John Calvin says something different, and Billy Graham says something different, and the Buddha says something else, and every one who has something to say in the way of guidance and direction to the life that is your life to live says something different—and you decide to whom you are going to listen, or you decide that you are not going to listen to any of them. But, YOU decide.
You are in charge of choosing your way, or of choosing it not. What leans you in one direction or another? What makes it easy for you to say Yes to this and No to that? As you explore these questions, you become reflective and introspective, and something stirs within and begins to wake up.
- Mesa Arch Sunrise 02 — Canyonlands National Park near Moab, UT, May 11, 2010 — Carl Jung said, “No one comes to consciousness without pain.” He means, no one grows up without pain. To grow up is to step into your pain—which is experienced as fear, as loss, as sorrow, as disappointment, as failure, as difficulty, as unknowing, as aloneness, as isolation, as all the ways that make things hard.
To refuse to grow up is to step back from your pain. “No pain, no pain,” is the motto of those whose life stops at sixteen no matter how long they live, whose day consists of a rerun of yesterday, last week, last money, last year, with the same conversations about the same topics with the same people and the same conclusions, and nothing is ever new under the sun.
Your pain is the Cyclops standing in your way. What are you going to do?
- Through the Window — Arches National Park near Moab, UT, May 14, 2010 — In one of my pastorates, there was a ninety-two year old person who expected me to bring her the latest gossip when I visited her. Her life consisted of inspecting the lives of others in order to find things worthy of her disapproval. That had been her life for ninety-two years. She had lived vicariously—one might say, predatorily—on the lives of those about her, and never had a life of her own.
In another congregation, there was another ninety-two year old person who read widely, kept abreast of current events, had an active presence in political and social issues, maintained a long-lived and on-going relationship with her Jungian therapist, and engaged me in lively conversation about her ideas, activities and her thoughts on life and death when I visited her. She had lived a life uniquely her own for ninety-two years.
We turn the first person toward being more like the second person only with her permission and her willing participation in the process of transformation. She has to see what she is doing and be interested in doing something different. Where does that willingness and interest come from? What instigates the urge to transformation, realization, awakening, and becoming who we have the capacity to be?
Some, it seems, turn to the light, and some turn away from it. All are called, but few answer the phone. And those that do, can claim no credit for doing it. And those that don’t cannot be blamed for not doing it. The difference between the two groups is just how it is.
- Wetlands Geese 16 — Guilford County Wetlands near Summerfield, NC, February 7, 2013 — God is who we understand God to be. If we never question, examine, deepen, expand our understanding of God, God remains for us who God was when we were six years old, or in the sixth grade, or when we quit going to Sunday school.
Whatever we say about God, locks God in place until we get to the point of being able to say something different about God. God is who we say God is. If God is ever going to be more than we have said God is, we are going to have to become capable of saying more than we have said.
We are going to have to open ourselves to the experience of life, and allow our life to lead us into the questions, and doubt, and “dark night of the soul,” which are necessary in order to change the way we think about God.
We have to grow up, or remain forever stuck with a view of God that was handed to us as children. But, growing up requires us to grapple with the disconnect between what we were told of God and what we experience of God as we live our life with our eyes open to how things are and how things also are.
To do so is to risk losing everything we have thought and to take a chance on gaining everything we will think. Where do you think you might be better off?
- Nesting Herons 01 — Audubon Swamp Park, Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, SC, May 13, 2013 — We are on our way, and we have to be on our way. We can’t be dallying, dawdling, lingering, and lounging around. We have to be on our way.
We find a comfortable place and we want to stay a while. We know how it is “out there,” on the trail, the path with our name on it. We know how it can be. And we want to huddle here by the fire, out of the rain and cold, and enjoy the pleasure of one another’s company.
We had rather talk about the way than be on it. We prefer to look up terms, and research the ways of the ones who have gone before us, and tell our stories…
We discover what to do by doing it. The pioneers weren’t trained. They hit the trail and learned what they needed to know along the way.
If you are going to talk, talk about what you are doing—just long enough to say what you need to hear—and get back to doing it, to living the life that is yours to live, to being on your way.
- Geese on the Wing 08 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, April 12, 2013 — We can opt out of living our life. Happens all the time in 10,000 ways. Dependency has a nice ring to it for some. When dependency meets co-dependency, everybody is happy going nowhere for life. This is the kind of thing Jesus had in mind when he advised, “Leave the dead to bury the dead.” And, “When they don’t receive you in one town, shake the dust off your sandals as a sign against them and go on to the next town.” He’s saying, “Don’t waste your time.”
Sounds harsh, but if you have ever come up against determined self-destruction or neglect, you know he knows what he’s talking about. But. They are your children, or your spouse, or your grandchildren, or your parents. You can’t abandon them. And you can’t save them. Now, that’s a spot to be in.
And, there is nothing you can do to ease your pain—so, bear it. This is the way they are, and it’s breaking your heart. You can’t reach them, and you can’t stand it. Stand it. Without protecting them from the reality of their choice. They have to help you help them. Require something of them. Insist on it.
And live the life that is your life to live—to the extent that’s possible—within the context of life with the King or Queen of Dependency. Do your thing—and don’t let them get by with telling you that their thing is doing nothing. And don’t let them stop you from doing your thing, from living your life. One refusal to live is enough.
- Geese on the Wing 08 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, April 12, 2013 — Go where you belong, stay away from where you don’t belong—to the extent that either are possible. If neither is possible, do what you can do to make your situation tolerable while you wait for something to shift.
We spend a lot of time waiting for the shift to happen. In the meantime, we pay a steep price to stay in some situations—and we would pay a steep price to leave those situations. We pay a steep price to wait for some shifts to happen.
We are going to pay some price. Pay the one with the best chance of a liveable future—with the best chance of giving you a positive return on your investment.
What do we need to survive the situation? What will make it possible for us to tolerate the intolerable? To outlive unlivable conditions?
When we are “up against it,” where do we turn? What do we do? How do we stand it, waiting for things to turn to the good? Where do we find our consolation, courage, resiliency, tenacity, determination, peace? Look around. Look within. Send out the relentless calls for help. Watch. Wait. For the shift to happen.
Who knows when the shift will come or what form it will take? We all know everything changes in time. When we have done all we can think to do, we wait it out. Like a seed in the ground waiting for spring.
- Owl Bathing 03 — Barred Owl in the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, April 17, 2013 — Photographers live from moment to moment—from one moment that is exactly right to the next moment that is exactly right—and work to put themselves in the right place at the right time. The wonder of it all is that the right time can happen in any place, so you can’t be thinking nothing much is going to be going on here, now because this certainly isn’t the right place.
Boom! As John Madden would say. The next step carries you into the right time, and there is the photograph in the grocery cart coming to meet you in the form of a one year old in the child’s seat, giving you the eye. And, like that, it’s over. Mom has wheeled the baby on past you to the frozen yogurt section, and the moment is gone. But, you got it, even though you didn’t have a camera handy to prove it. And you celebrated the moment as it should be celebrated, with joy and gladness everlasting, delighted that the camera has taught you to see.
- Goose With A Problem 08 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, April 23, 2013 — We think it’s about doing this, this, and this, so that will happen. We have life plans and career tracks in order to achieve our personal goals. That’s ridiculous. We don’t know where it’s going—or where it needs to go. All we know is what we want. And don’t what. What does wanting know?
I’ll tell you what wanting doesn’t know. Wanting doesn’t know the first thing about growing up. We grow up against our will. We grow up by being thrown into the ring with what we don’t want. But, instead of growing up, we spend all our time trying to tag out, or trying to get out of the ring, or trying to get away from the thing we don’t want.
It doesn’t matter. Whatever we do to escape the trials of this ring simply opens the way to a different ring. A bigger one. With more of what we don’t want in it. Drooling. Grinning. Waddling toward us from all sides.
We may never grow up, but we will never outrun what we don’t want. We do the Personal Growth that we are always talking about by turning around and facing all there is in our life that we don’t want to face, and grinning ourselves, and wading right into it, saying, “I’m going to wipe that smile right off your face. Show me what’cha got!”
Doing what we don’t want. Dealing with what we don’t want. Grows us up. That’s all there is to it. Growing up. We don’t live long enough to be Grown Up. We are always growing up. That’s the idea. To be always growing up. To be always dealing well with what we don’t want.
Living well is living well with what we don’t want. Refusing to let it have its way with us. Taking it in stride, and figuring out what to do about it, without losing our composure or flipping out or melting down. Just doing what needs to be done with the gifts we have and the resources at our disposal, knowing that after this, something else, and not letting it get to us because we understand the nature of the game, and are here to do well with what comes our way, allowing it to open our eyes, so that we might see what needs to happen and do it with the right attitude in each situation as it arises all our life long, and grow up along the way.
- Price Lake Reflection 02 — Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC, October 2010 — We embark on the Hero’s Journey when we engage the trials of life consciously, realizing what we are doing, and voluntarily participating in the process of living our way into human beinghood.
The Hero’s Journey is growing up. It is becoming who we are. The trials of life call us forth and require us to be who we are—who we don’t know we are until we see ourselves doing things we didn’t know we could do in response to this ordeal or that one.
The trials of life evoke, kindle, awaken, arouse, stir up, call forth the gifts that are ours, which lie latent until required by the situation which brings out the best in us. The trials of life elicit our response and make us be who we are.
Joseph Campbell said, “It took the Cyclops to bring out the Hero in Ulysses.” The “Cyclops” is another term for all that comes at us in a day. Our days bring out the Hero in us.
The next time you come up on something that makes you want to run away, stand tall and step toward the thing. You are Ulysses on your way to Ithaca, and nothing is going to stop you.
- Great Blue Heron 07 — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, April 29, 2013 — Wait a minute! I hear objection! “We are not heroes for mowing the lawn, changing diapers, staying awake with sick children, taking the car in for repairs, cooking dinner, washing dishes… WE are not heroes for living OUR life! We would have to live some other, some heroic, life in order to be heroes!”
James Bond has never changed a diaper. Cannot change diapers, one after another through the long years of diaper changing for one child, much less three children and certainly not five! Those of you who do that, have done that, have it all over James Bond!
I was a minister for 40.5 years, serving five congregations (two at one time) and have a friend who said, “I wouldn’t do what you did for five times what you made!” How many would? How many would do what you do, what you did? How many could live the life that you have lived? How many could you find to take your place for a while?
We get up every day and do what we do and think nothing of it, or, worse, think disparaging thoughts of it—dismiss it, discount it, despise it—because it doesn’t measure up, it doesn’t meet the standards of a heroic life, of a life worth living.
It’s time you had a talk with yourself. It’s time you saw yourself. It’s time you took yourself out to eat. And apologized.
You are doing, and have done, heroic stuff. You are your children’s hero, whether they know it or not (Nobody thinks of themselves or of anyone they know personally as heroic, because a hero is someone who does some great task, but what’s mowing the grass every week, every summer, for your whole life long? We have to re-think heroic in order to see the everyday heroes all around us).
Daily tasks, done the way they need to be done, makes us all somebody’s hero. Where would they be without us? Where would we be without them?
We are all on the Hero’s Journey. It’s time we realize that, and live consciously aware of the path we are on. Our life will take on a different tone as we see ourselves slaying dragons and dealing with the Cyclops and all the other obstructions and barriers that have to be overcome for the Journey to continue. Yea YOU! Ride on!
- Crabtree Falls Panorama 03 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Little Switzerland, NC, May 21, 2013 — We are to live our life as a true human being. Human beings are set apart by their consciousness—their being conscious of being conscious—their values, their heart, their instinct and intuition, and their ability to reason things out—to find the ground and center of their life and to live in light of it throughout their lifetime, working out the conflicts and integrating, synthesizing, reconciling the opposites in ways that take everything into account, and treat everyone with respect, and find the way together to solving the problems that impact us all. That was one of my best sentences ever.
To be human is to be aware of what we are doing, and to embrace consciously the task of being a human being—not a robot—not an automation—not an extension of some system or tradition or puppet of Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased—but a living, breathing, thinking, feeling, sensing, intuiting, seeing, hearing, knowing, doing, human being who is self-directed and self-reflective, and aware of how things are and how things also are, and what is happening and what needs to be done about it in each situation as it arises all our life long. That was another one.
- Summer Days 07 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, May 21, 2013 — Think of reason as more than logic—more than thinking. Think of reason as thinking about thinking—about awareness—about feeling. Reason is thinking about thinking and feeling. Reason puts it all together.
Consciousness is one thing. Flowers and leaves are conscious of the sun as they turn toward it. But. They are not conscious of being conscious. They are instinctively, thoughtlessly, doing what they know to do.
Human beings bring something new to the table. Human beings are, or can be, conscious of being conscious. We can be conscious of everything—and be conscious of being conscious of everything. The word for that kind of mega-awareness is reason.
Reason sees everything that is capable of being seen, inside and outside the human body—sees everything that is happening—and thinks of what to do about it, of how to respond to it.
Reason is the integrative tool of the human mind. Reason reconciles, synthesizes, coordinates, collaborates, blends, merges, makes One. Reason brings it all together.
The world has been waiting for reasonable people for a long time. We come along with the gift that saves, redeems, transforms, makes peace… And throw it away.
It gets in our way. It’s too hard. It asks difficult things of us. It keeps us from having what we want NOW regardless of the outcome—never mind the outcome!
Greed takes over. Greed is guiding our—humanity’s—collective boat on its path through the sea. Reason doesn’t have a chance when greed enters the room. We have the intellectual skills to figure out how to get what we want. We refuse to think about whether we should have it.
And here we are. Now what? More of the same stupid behavior? We can do better. If we will.
The turnaround starts with me and you. Practicing rational awareness. Thinking about our feeling. Taking everything into account. Putting it all on the table. Being aware of the table. Seeing what needs to happen never mind what we want to happen. And giving ourselves to the service of that which needs to be done. No matter what. What do you say?
- Mr. Snapper — Loggerhead Snapping Turtle in the Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, June 2013 — The Adventure turns on the slightest thing. You go looking for a table to set your coffee cup on and find yourself in the Himalayas—and you would have never considered the Himalayas, of all things, if it hadn’t been for that table!
That’s how it works. We don’t sit in our recliner, and think up an Adventure. We go out for a walk and bump into one.
We mean this and find ourselves over there doing that! We’re just doing what the moment requires and turning the key that unlocks our destiny!
So. Forget about your destiny, and give yourself to doing what the moment requires. And see were it goes.
- Orange Flame Azalea 03 — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — Joseph Campbell says our role is to humanize the systems that would rob us of our individuality and make cogs on wheels in a machine of all of us. He sees the world, and the cultures of the world, as a wasteland where everyone is living a life that is not authentically, genuinely, their own life, the life that is truly their life to live, but a life that they have been handed and told to live.
The challenge in that situation is to live as mavericks within the systems governing life in the world—to revolutionize the way things are being done by “defecting in place,” and living out of our own value system—living in light of and doing what is important to us as the unique and irreplaceable individuals we are—and transforming the world by refusing to buy into what the world is selling.
We walk two paths at the same time, and bring our own authentic life to life within the context and circumstances of our living. As “the influence of a vital person vitalizes” (Campbell), we rock the cultural boat, beach the ship, and create a new world by doing nothing more revolutionary than living our own life within the structures and systems of the old world—which is the only truly revolutionary thing in the catalog of revolutionary things.
- Mabry Mill in the Rain 01 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Meadows of Dan, VA, June 10, 2013 — There are inner voices we must submit to and follow, and there are inner voices we must denounce and deny. How do we know when to do which?
There are no infallible guidelines, but the surest one I know of is this: Go with uncertainty! The more convinced you are that you are right, the more you have in common with paranoia and schizophrenia.
If you are beset with self-doubt, you are likely to be on much safer grounds than if you are sure you are in the rock solid center of where you need to be.
If you are scaring yourself, you are probably okay, and good to go. But, if you think everybody is an idiot for opposing you, you might read that as a sign to cease and desist.
If you don’t blame them for saying you’re crazy, see why they would, and even agree with them, you’re probably on course and should see it through, or, at least wait a bit longer before deciding to take a different route.
There are no rules or recipes. When we take up the Journey, we take a chance, and hope for the right kind of help along the way.
- Maple Leaves — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, May 18, 2013 — My life as a photographer is a date with time and place. I walk around, looking for a place where the time is right. Every photograph is a flash of synchronicity—me arriving in the right place at the right time—and knowing it.
I’m amazed each time. Honored. Who woulda thought it? That I would be here, now, with a camera?
Every time is the right time for some place. The photographer’s obligation is to find the place this is the right time for, before it’s too late.
- Duckie 11 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, May 13, 2013 — Reverence is not a bad thing. Mothers deserve to be revered. And children. And fathers. And presidents. And queens. Immigrants. Workers. Life…
The list is long. Why the contempt? The impertinence? The rudeness? The disrespect? That is everywhere, these days.
What is revered (other than money)? What is honored, these days? Cherished?
Turn the tide. Live with reverence and deep appreciation for those you meet along the way. You will be presenting them with an experience of grace that has long been absent from their life. And transforming the world.
- Pink Lady Slippers — Blue Ridge Parkway at Crabtree Falls Trail Head, near Little Switzerland, NC, June 11, 2013 — There is no model for the way to do it. Live your life, I’m talking about. There is no model for the way to live your life. YOU are the prototype! Get in there and live it!
The people who keep handing you models, saying, “Jesus!” “The Buddha!” “The Dali Lama!” “Pema Chodron!” “Swamiguru Knowsitall!” are just slowing you down, delaying—or preventing entirely—your own awakening, your own coming forth, in your own life.
Nobody can hand you the way to do it. Live your life, I’m talking about. Nobody can hand you the way to live your life.
Never mind how someone else would do it. How would you do it is the question. Nobody else can live your life. They should be living their life. You have to live your life, as well as you are able, with the gifts and resources you have at hand.
So. What’s the problem? Really. What. Is. The. Problem? What is keeping you from living your life?
The Big Three Barriers have been traditionally identified as Fear, Desire, Duty. You might have a different take on things. That’s your forte, you know. Your own take on things sets you apart, identifies you as you. Seeing the way you see things, doing things the way you do things, is you, is who you are.
You might identify The Problem—that which is keeping you from living your life—as something other than The Big Three. Fine. Just know what it is. And decide what to do about it. And do it. And evaluate the results. And decide if something else needs to be done. And decide what it is. And do it. And evaluate the results… Like that until you get it down, and your life is yours from the ground up and the inside out.
Now we’re talking! That’s the way to do it!
- Green Heron On The Hunt — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, July 2, 2013 — In order to find the right answers, we have to ask the right questions. The rule applies generally, across the board, in all fields and disciplines, but particularly with regard to our inner development, to what we need to do to be who we are, doing what is ours to do.
If we don’t know what the right questions are, or hesitate—fail—to ask the questions that beg to be asked, it is an indication that we are not ready to hear the answer—to know what is being asked of us. When we come to a dead end and don’t know where to turn or what to do next, it is a sign that we need to wait until we are ready for what comes next.
We develop, unfold, emerge, at our own pace, in our own time. We cannot hurry ourselves past where we are. We have to sit with what we want—with how we want things to be—with how we wish things were until something shifts, and we are able to face how things are—in opposition to our preferences and desires.
The prophetic pronouncement of Col. Nathan P. Jessup (The Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good Men) bears down upon us all at certain points in our life: “You can’t handle the truth!” When that is the case with us, we would be wise to be aware of the situation and not press the issue.
We can arrest our development by trying to push ourselves beyond were we can be. When we give our bodies more than they handle, they give it back. We throw up, tissue is inflamed, our eyes become red, we have an allergic reaction, and learn the hard way to not do that any more.
As with us physically, so with us psychologically. We have to be ready before we can hear the answers to the questions that need to be asked. In the meantime, we have to know we are not ready. And wait—knowing what we are waiting for: To be ready to hear the answers to the questions that need to be asked. When we are ready for the answers, the questions will appear.
- Raven Rock Fog — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, May 2007 — Our work is always waking up to the time and place of our living, squaring up with how things are here and now, coming to terms with the facts of our life—with what is happening and what needs to happen in response, standing up and doing what needs to be done about it with the gifts we have and the resources at our disposal.
This simple process brings us forth to become who we are in the time left for living.
Our life calls us out, asks us to be present and accounted for, and to present ourselves with our gifts, talents, genius and do what needs us to do it right here, right now.
As we do that, we grow up. We face what is ours to face and do what can be done with it, using the gifts that are ours.
That is the Hero’s Journey, the Search for the Land of Promise and the Holy Grail.
We want some kind of magic to transform our life and give us what we want without requiring us to change. We block our way and want nothing to do with what waits to be done. We wait for some fairy godmother, some handsome young stranger, to deliver us. We’ll pray the prayer of Jabez, visualize what we want, and engage the power of attraction by thinking positively. We will do anything but the one thing it takes.
We refuse to grow up.
- Croaker — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, May 2013 — The trials which bring one person forth to meet their life, send another person packing. Some move so deeply into withdrawal that they disappear entirely, never to be seen again. Joseph Campbell would say, “Mystics swim in waters where schizophrenics drown.” Some of us meet our life experience in one way, and others of us meet our life experience in another way.
Victor Frankl observed people reacting quite differently to the same prison camp experience. There were people who lived compassionately and vibrantly in helping relationships with their fellow prisoners, and there were people who turned their faces to the wall, gave up and died.
Some people heard the Buddha and the Christ and became, in their own way, the Buddha and the Christ, and others walked by unhearing, unseeing.
People are different in these ways, and others. Why? How? What gives? We will never get to the bottom of it. Our work is to be as awake as we can be, and to share what we can share with others about the work to be awake—realizing that all are not where we are, nor will be, and let that be because it is.
Striving “to do no harm” is as helpful as we can be in some situations, with some people. Living as a compassionate presence recognizes the limits of helpfulness, and understands that noninterference is not the same as abandonment or neglect. Leaving alcoholics where they lie can be a way of waking them up, if they can be waked up.
- Dragon Fly 01 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, June 2013 — Elizabeth Warren is my hero. And Tammy Baldwin. And Wendy Davis. And Michelle Obama. And, well, the list is long of people who are doing it well, who are doing it right, bringing themselves forth with integrity and courage to meet the challenges of their time and place.
Who aren’t reading out of some book, or following some script, or doing what someone else would have them do, or imposing some ideology crafted in some think tank and embraced as God’s Way of Standing Our Ground And Taking Over The World.
My heroes are all individuals living in light of their own idea of what is important, and in behalf of thousands of people who are at the point of being moved past “marginalized” into “disappeared.”
The heroes are not fictional characters or mythical figures of a time long past, but living, breathing, awake and fully present human beings who see is happening, and what needs to be done about it, and do it in each situation as it arises—calling us to take our place alongside them in doing what we are capable of doing to work our way through the mess and make things livable and good for all.
- Black Crowned Night Heron (Juvenile) In Flight 02 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, May 15, 2013 — What do you think about? What do the things you think about keep you from thinking about? Think about your thinking. See where it goes.
- Black Crowned Night Heron (Juvenile) in Flight 01 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, May 13, 2013 — Eventually, we run out of luck. It’s how we live in the meantime that tells the tale.
Don’t let running out of luck eventually slow you down. Don’t be thinking it’s all hopeless, pointless, useless and futile because eventually we run out of luck. Live with the windows down and your hair blowing in the wind. Glad to be you doing what you love to do. So what if your luck runs out in the end?
It’s what we do with the meantime that makes all the difference.
- Fir Forest 05 — Rhododendron Gardens, Pisgah National Forest, Roan Mountain, NC near Carver’s Gap, TN, June 20, 2013 — Conviction, certainty, certitude and confidence are compelling. It is an easy thing to come under the influence of Those Who Know Best—and a difficult thing to defy their directions. They have reason, logic and a persuasive list of why things must be done their way on hand at every turn. Everyone would be crazy to not do it their way.
But, there is the dictum: “Often wrong but never in doubt,” to take into account.
Sounding like you know what you are doing and knowing what you are doing have different outcomes.
Before you hand yourself over to someone else’s direction, inspect their outcomes. Never mind what they say about themselves, about their achievements, accomplishments and successes. Don’t read their résumé—look at their life.
They don’t have a life. Their life is telling other people what to do. They sound convincing. That’s what they do.
The people who know what they are doing didn’t get there by knowing what they were doing. They got to the point of knowing what they are doing by not knowing what they were doing, but doing it until they figured it out.
They will tell you they don’t know how you should live your life, and they will encourage you to get in there and live it until you figure it out. Those are the people you need in your Inner Circle.
Give the Authorities On All Thing Life Related a wide berth. When they track you down, tell them you have to go feed the horses, and walk away.
- Bluets and Blackberry Leaves — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — The intuitive in me likes to explore new territory and hates to be bound to the map. Hates to be bound to anything—a schedule, a routine, dinner with the Mays on Tuesday. To be bound is to be in bondage, in prison. What if I get a notion to go look for photos?
A cruise ship or a tour bus are out of the question. Going on a trip with another couple on the back seat—or worse, driving—would be torture. My intuitive side knows what it needs to do when it needs to do it, and doesn’t want to get permission, or to have to return by someone else’s idea of when to be back.
My sensate side loves shapes and forms and textures. Rocks and feathers, rope, landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes, shadows, silhouettes… We have to touch things, stand, or sit, looking at things. Odors and tastes are show stoppers.
My feeling side wanders around in what is important, and favors compassion and grace over the overbearing imposition of codes, rules and laws.
My thinking side looks for contraries and contradictions and exceptions to codes, rules and laws, and admires things that make sense.
My introverted side likes silence and solitude.
My extroverted side likes striking up conversation with strangers and talking with people about things that are important to them.
We all seem to enjoy rocking chairs and lemon meringue pie.
- Heavy Seas 18 — Otter Point, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, ME, September 29, 2012 — I hate movies where the question that begs to be asked is not asked. Where the scene switches at exactly the moment when the thing that needs most to be said is not said. Of course, to ask the question and say the thing would transform the outcome and change the movie.
But. Everything turns on the question that begs to be asked, on the thing that needs most to be said.
Become aware of those things in everyday conversation. Ask the question. Say the thing. The outcome depends on it.
- Orange Flame Azalea 02 — Roan Mountain Highlands at Carver’s Gap, TN, June 19, 2013 — We separate soul from body by teaching our body to crave stuff not good for it. Tobacco, drugs and alcohol, food often and in large quantities… When our body goes off on its own, our soul retreats, retires, withdraws, disappears.
Living cut-off from soul is a tough life. Loss of Soul is the primary symptom fueling all of the culture’s other symptoms. Getting our soul back is our first order of business.
Talk about a life-style change! Whoa. That’s a 180 wide open on a dime. It’s a shock to everyone’s system. Better slow down first. Give yourself time. Let your body get adjusted to the idea of having your soul back.
Your body wants its ice cream and potato chips, and all the other items we inhale, eat, drink and do as soul substitutes. Your body isn’t going to like it.
Better ease back into it, one day at a time.
Start with looking and listening, seeing and hearing. Look at what you’re doing and at what you need to be doing. Don’t do anything yet. Just look. See. Listen. Hear. Get to know your soulless situation. Live in it with your eyes open. The path begins where you are. Here. Now.
- Summer Days 02 — Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, NC, June 11, 2012 — How symbolically do you live? What are the symbols that connect you with life—and with your life, with the life that is yours to live?
Your symbols find you. You can’t think them up, reason them out, declare them to be yours. You realize what they are. You wake up to them. You experience them. Boom! There they are!
Symbols express what cannot be said. Symbols are thresholds, doorways, windows, portals, flash points to realization and awareness.
When you see one of your symbols, you see who you are—you remember who you are. Our symbols ground us in the truth of our own being—they show us who we are.
To recognize your symbols, you simply become aware of the things, items, objects, images that have always attracted you, caught your eye.
You may have them sitting around your house. You may carry them in your pocket, wear them around your neck, on your hat.
Sit with them. Open yourself to them. Allow them to show you you. Let them speak, reveal, declare, make plain, bring forth.
Exploring the objects that have always meant something to us opens avenues to other worlds. We never say everything a symbol means.
No symbol can be dismissed with an “Oh, that’s just thus-and-so.” There are no definitions/explanations for a symbol. Only experiencing it.
You can tell when a symbol is not, or is no longer, a living symbol when you can explain it, define it, say what it is.
The cross? The bread and the cup? The baptismal font or baptistery? We can say what they all are in a short sentence or two. Dead symbols.
We are satisfied with the explanation and do not experience the mystery residing within the symbol that once was alive, but now is dead.
What more is there to the cross, for example? What else might be said, understood, experienced, felt, known, intuited, imagined, known?
Of course, when you go beyond the common understanding of a symbol now dead, you run the risk of stepping into heresy and blasphemy.
Heresy is the living offspring of a dead symbol. Every step forward is a step into heresy. All growth is heretical from some point of view. If you can’t bear them calling you a blasphemer and a son, or daughter, of Satan, you might just keep mending the nets.
- Sunrise, 10/20/12 — Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, October 20, 2012 — If we are going to grow up, we are going to have to come to terms with money. Money is a substitute for growing up. It’s a diversion, distraction, deflection. With enough money, who needs to grow up.
Money is the Cyclops, standing our path, with a wad of big bucks in hand, asking, “And, how much for YOUR soul today?”
The catch with money, of course, is that it is very handy for paying the bills—we have to make sure they are the right bills. We have to incur only those bills that are necessary for doing the work that is ours to do.
Money is good for paying people to do things we can’t do, or don’t want to do, or don’t have time to do because we are doing our thing and re-roofing the house is not it. But we have to keep good faith with our thing and use money to do it, or money will quickly become a source of fascination and endless delight—like the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden—that keeps us from doing our thing.
So. We have to know what we need money for—and not be fooling ourselves. How much money do we need to do our thing and pay the right bills? Spend your money in the service of the right bills, and see where it goes.
- Mosquito Hawks — Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, July 22, 2013 — We are at war with ourselves. This is the foundation of all our trouble. Once we are at-one with ourselves, integrated within, the world and life are a snap. It is not as easy as it sounds.
Our approach to dealing with The Other Side is denial, suppression, repression, ridicule, shame, condemnation rejection, isolation, excommunication, shunning and abandonment. Not exactly the ticket to peace and harmony.
We have to talk. With ourselves. We need each other.
Twoness is essential for oneness. One alone cannot be whole, only half. Takes two to be one. You could look it up.
We have something at stake in The Other. The Other has something at stake in us. That’s grounds for a negotiated settlement.
It starts with our becoming conscious of The Other. The easiest way to do this is to be aware of our conflicts—our ambivalence. We have to catch ourselves dismissing a conflict as “not a problem” because it “shouldn’t be a problem.” That is to say we feel that because we “shouldn’t feel the way we feel” (Like not wanting to go back to our family of origin, for example, for Thanksgiving) it isn’t a problem. So we go back home for the turkey dinner and suffer in ways beyond counting—often without knowing what the problem is because we have dismissed it as a problem.
We have to pay attention. We have to pull our contraries into the room, sit them down at the table, and listen as their air their grievances and state their case—WITHOUT TAKING SIDES! Without talking anyone out of feeling the way they feel! Listening, listening, listening, until we get to the bottom of how both—or all—sides feel.
Then we bear the pain of realization. We carry the conflict consciously. One the one hand this, on the other hand that. Without trying to find a solution or a resolution. We just bear the pain consciously in our body—feeling what it feels like in our body to be conflicted, ambivalent, at odds within.
That’s it. Consciously bearing the pain is going to—by itself—create an opening for the problem to shift, and things will change. Consciously bearing the pain that is ours to bear is transformative both within and without. The agony carries with it the seeds of its own release from suffering. I don’t know why no one has ever told you this before.
- Live Oak 03 — Magnolia Gardens, Charleston, SC, April 29, 2013 — What we fail to make conscious—be intently aware of—we trip over chasing after whatever it is we think we want. The things we ignore trip us up.
We eat things that don’t agree with us too close to going to bed and can’t sleep. And take pills to sleep which have their own side effect, which we treat with more medication, and, like that, our life spins out of control all because we failed to note that we have aged past rare steak at 9 PM.
Our body does not belong to us. We belong to our body. Things work fine as long as we remember our place in the order of things and live to serve ends that are not our preferred ends, and do the work that is ours to do—which may not be our idea of the work that ought to be done.
We live too loudly to listen. So. We have to stop from time to time and take stock. Look. Listen. See. Hear. Be aware of what we are ignoring.
Make being attentive your practice. Allow it to change your life.
- Green Heron Silhouette — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, July 2013 — We are corks on the water of life. The main current has us and will have its way with us and our place is to trust ourselves to it and to all that resides within, knowing that we have what it takes to do what can be done with whatever comes our way.
We are corks on the water. It’s hard to sink a cork. We can be taken under, but we pop back up again, like one of those cartoon characters that keeps getting run over by steam rollers and boulders, and smashed beneath falling pianos and anvils. We find a way as our life carries us along.
And within that overall scheme, we direct the flow of our own life energy toward—in the service of—the things that matter most to us. My camera and computer get most of my attention now that I’m retired and our children are grown.
We have different points of focus at different stages of life. We are not just a cork on the water. We are also a child playing with a hose, directing the water of our life toward experiences and outcomes that hold joy, delight and meaning for us.
The two metaphors are true at the same time, a cork bobbing on and a child playing in the waters of life. Be both at once, and enjoy the wonder!
- Sunrise, 10/31/09 — Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, October 31, 2009 — There are no rules for determining what you should do when. You make the call based on your experience and your sense of what is happening and what needs to be done about it.
You could be wrong. Oh well. You’ve been wrong before.
The same thing applies to changing your mind about doing something once you have done it or not done it. Maybe you shouldn’t have done it. Maybe you should do it. Get off the fence! Make a choice! Either do it or don’t do it! Or wait it out!
Waiting it out is one of the most underrated of all our choice possibilities. I recommend it highly. When you don’t know what to do, wait to see what you are going to do. You’ll know what it is when you find yourself doing it. Get out of the way. Stop fretting about it. And wait to see. How cool is that for always knowing what to do? “I’ll know it when I see it.”
We don’t know whether we are going to like something, or what is going to happen, or where we are better off. Stop trying to figure the angles and come out on top. Stop playing the percentages and living with your advantage guiding your way. Some things you cannot think out. You have to wait them out. Other things, you know.
What is happening? What needs to be done about it? What are you going to do? Waiting to see what you are going to do is one bright option. Not knowing. Just doing. Surprising yourself.
I’m NOT taking a boarder. I’m NOT having a pet. I’m NOT inviting one more responsibility into my life. I don’t care what you say.
We are all very clear about some things. It is what we are not clear about that ties us in knots. We solve the Gordian Knot by slicing through it—by reframing the problem—by understanding it differently—by allowing our perception to shift—by growing up. Some problems require us to grow up. That’s waiting a long time sometimes.
Everything clears up with time. Waiting to see is what I like to do best. “I’m waiting to see what I’m going to do about photos in the fall.” A plan will develop over time. In the meantime, I’m not worrying about it, wringing my hands, throwing up.
- Great Blue Heron 05/01/2013 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, May 1, 2013 — I am loving selling our house. It is absolutely hell. Just exactly what I need at this point in my life. I am so proud of myself for giving it to me.
We need our trials and ordeals. Trials and ordeals are the best things in the world. They are what it’s about. Our trials and ordeals show us who we are—require us to be what the situation needs us to be. Grow us up.
We would never volunteer for a trial or an ordeal. They are thrust on us from the outside. First Grade. Whose idea was First Grade? Yanking us from the comfort of our own little world and thrown into a room full of little tyrants who don’t care one thing about us. And told to be nice.
It all flows from there. A life filled with trials and ordeals. Dating. Calling girls. That was such an agony for me. Agony is the best thing in the world. We would never get anywhere without agony. Oh, how I agonized, looking at the telephone, sweating, forcing myself to do the thing I most dreaded. Good for me. I did it.
I took all the appointed steps into a different rendition of agony—into increasingly difficult rounds of trials and ordeals. Marriage. Parenthood. The Church.
Up until I met selling the house, parenthood was my outstanding accomplishment. Three daughters in four years through all their growing up and out of college, married and into lives of their own. My wife and I met every turn in that road as well as we knew how, and here we are. Selling a house.
It’s another round of trials and ordeals and agony. And I’m good for it. I read what I write here and take notes, and am doing what is needed in each situation as it arises. You would be proud of me.
- Sand Dunes, 10/29/2009 — Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Ocracoke Island, NC, October 29, 2009 — People say, “We have so much to be thankful for!” to ward off the steady press of all we have to be afraid of, all we have to be anxious about, all we have to wrestle with, worry about, figure out, avoid, escape, contend with… It’s a mixed bag, at best, and Brooks Vance’s advice to his wife hits the mark, “Don’t add up the liabilities, Louise, it’ll only depress you.”
Try not to think about it. Or, better, change the way you think about it. Don’t take any of it seriously.
The title of Paul Watzlawick’s book, “The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious,” carries the day.
”It’s all in a day.” Anything can happen a day, things to be thankful for and things to hate from the heart. How we see it, what we say about it, tells the tale.
I recommend keeping it close to the center. Don’t allow either the good or the bad to carry you away. Whatever it is is just what it is, and it is going to require things of you and have implications for your life, and you are going to have to take all of that into account, and make adjustments, and maybe live differently. So pick yourself up and step into it and do what the situation requires, what is appropriate to the situation, in each situation that comes along without having to have this and avoid that. Do what you are asked to do today and get ready for tomorrow.
Oh, but where is the JOY? Enjoy what is to be enjoyed without holding onto it past the time of its lasting. I enjoy the daylights out of sunsets, but the sun is going down. Let come what’s coming and let go what’s going. Because that’s the way it is.
Oh, but we don’t WANT it to be the way it is! There you are. The heart of the problem. I call that refusing to grow up. Having to have what we want and have nothing to do with what we don’t want. What do you call it?
- A new buisness card—one of twelve images — We think of living the life we have in mind for ourselves. Where do we want to go? What do we want to do? How can we be happy? How can we make more money? The questions about how to live our life revolve around what we want and how to get it.
All of this disappears instantly in the grip of what Joseph Campbell calls “a mythic vision” (That would be a vision of mythic proportions).
When we are picked up, spun around and slammed into the ground by an experience with what needs us to do it, nothing else matters beyond doing the thing. We know we have to be a teacher, or a writer, or a dancer, or whatever it is that is ours to be/do—and everything else falls into place around that. Everything else serves that.
Now, of course, no one we know has experiences like that. So we are left with looking at each other, saying, “What do you want to do?” “I dunno. What do you want to do?” Or, “Let’s go bowling, Dude.”
We have to put ourselves in the path of a mythic vision.
Native Americans would go on Vision Quests. We have to do something along those lines—but we don’t have to leave home to do it. We only have to be quiet on a regular basis, and pay attention at all times.
We have to mine our memory for what was a mythic vision that we discarded as a wild notion. We may have been gripped and allowed ourselves to be talked out of it.
Mythic visions can slip up on us, wink and disappear like a White Rabbit. If we don’t know what is happening, we can busy ourselves with getting our life to line up like we want it to and miss life when it taps us on the shoulder and calls our name. So we have to remember when we might have had a mythic encounter and dismissed it—and go back and try to recover a trail that has grown cold and overgrown.
Or, we can sensitize ourselves to the possibility of mythic visions coming to us even now, even yet, and spend quiet time attending what might be calling our name. It is never too late for the adventure to begin.
- The Watchman — Zion National Park, Springdale, UT, May 20, 2010 — We could immediately reduce the level of suffering in the world by simply bearing our own pain. Bearing our own pain means assuming responsibility for the things we are responsible for and doing what needs to be done about it. It means doing what is ours to do. It means growing up.
It means getting up and doing what needs us to do it whether we want to or not. What does wanting to mow the lawn have to do with mowing the lawn? We are perfectly capable of mowing the lawn—and mowing it well—without wanting to. And so on, down the entire list.
”But What About US? When Is It OUR Turn?” Does that sound like the Terrible Twos to you? “But I Don’t WANT To Mow The Lawn!”
Bearing our own pain means doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, the way it needs to be done, and trusting that things (the joy and the love and the good times, etc) will come our way in time. In the meantime, we bear the pain.
And reduce the amount of suffering in the world instantaneously.
- new business card series. 2/20 images — There are three things that separate photographers from snapshooters:
1) Photographers read the manual. And re-read it. Carry it with them in their camera bag. Know what their camera will do and how to get it to do what it will do.
2) Photographers practice, practice, practice. Photographers do not leave their camera on a shelf until they are in the mood to take a picture. What does mood have to do with anything? Pianists don’t wait until they are in the mood to play the piano. Dancers don’t wait until they are in the mood to dance. And they don’t put their piano or their ballet shoes on a shelf until they feel like playing or dancing.
3) Photographers wait. Wait on the light. Wait on the wind to stop, or start, blowing. Wait on the clouds to come or go. Wait on the tourists to get out of the scene. Practice, practice, practice, wait, wait, wait. That’s all photography amounts to. You can read the manual while you’re waiting.
- Used in Short Talks On Contradiction, etc., Green Heron in Flight 07 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, July 26, 2013 — If we were aware of our contradictions, we would have to change the way we live to take our contradictions into account.
If we were to integrate, reconcile, synthesize our contradictions, we would be more loving, generous and gracious—and less hostile, insufferable, biased, prejudiced, racist, belligerent, malicious and unkind.
If we were to recognize the incompatibility between what we say and what we also say—and between what we say and what we do—we would shift everything toward the center, and cut everyone more slack, and push no one beyond the margins of civil society, or over the brink of human decency, and out of the circle of our protection, benevolence and good will.
If we were to see ourselves as we are and as we also are—and sit with ourselves as we are and as we also are—until both were welcome in our presence, we would be better company, and all would be blessed by our place in their lives.
- A new business card series. 3/10 images — We act out what we do not know. It is as though we are shadow boxing ghosts from our past, or our parents’ past—ghosts long dead and buried and very much alive, taunting us with their subliminal reminders of things long ago, yet present always—haunting us with their grim humor, laughing and living on in the world of which we are unaware, though it intrudes constantly into our life in this world of normal, apparent reality.
James Hollis’ new book, “Hauntings: Dispelling the Ghosts Who Run Our Lives,” addresses these issues and offers helpful insight into ways we can reclaim our life and live as an integrated and consciously whole human being. Not a bad goal for the time left for living. It is available as a Kindle book on Amazon, or as a hardback, if you prefer.
- Price Lake Panorama 10/2011 — Julian Price Memorial Park, Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, NC, October 2011 — I’m working on getting consistently sharply focused images of birds flying, owls, herons and ducks. My camera isn’t built to do that—it’s forte is a single, still, shot, like a sunset or a waterfall. So, I accept the challenge and step forth to meet the day.
I don’t ask why. It doesn’t matter why. I have a mission—that is enough.
My work is practice, not achievement, accomplishment, success. I practice taking photos of flying birds. I don’t TAKE photos of flying birds. Occasionally, I get a photo that is sharply focused—often enough to encourage me in the work, in the practice.
It is not drudgery. I do not dread it. I look forward to it, enjoy it, relish it. I AM my work, it is ME. I don’t ask why. I do my work with pleasure.
I imagine Sisyphus approaching his day in the same spirit. It isn’t punishment if you embrace it, delight in it, voluntarily participate fully in its execution. Do it well. Do it right. Love it.
I forget, sometimes, where I am. I lose my place. I think I’m there to capture the perfect image, to cast it before you for your delight and amazement, and strut around the ring, showing off, taking bows.
When I rise up to take over the work for my own aggrandizement, the work rises up to wake me up, reminding me it’s about the practice—not a sharply focused image, but consistently sharply focused images. One after another. So that it becomes boring and I can do it thinking about something else, and have to quit and find something I can’t do and learn to do it in the time left for living.
Why? Don’t bother wondering. Trying to figure the why’s keeps you from doing what is yours to do. It’s a lazy person’s out. Your work is waiting. Shoulder to the stone now, laughing.
- A new business card series. 4/20 images — Zen is about direct experience. Eat the apple and you know that apple. Talk about the apple and you know about the apple. Maybe. Zen the thing!
Want to know God? Zen God.
When you Zen something, you know it without understanding it, without changing it, without tampering with it. Knowing something changes you.
Zenning is the way to do everything by doing nothing. It was originally called Taoing. When Buddhism met Taoism we got Zen.
The trick with Zenning is to have an outcome in mind without having to have it. Work toward the outcome without willing it.
All will be well with no will getting in the way.
You work the process with the outcome in mind. The outcome guides the process but it’s the process that matters. Plant the seed well. Wait.
Maybe it rains, maybe it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, haul water. If there is water. Maybe the seed doesn’t sprout. Maybe the plant doesn’t produce. You did your part. Let the part you don’t control be as it is.
You leave the harbor with a certain destination in mind. Comes up a wind that blows you to a different port. Be cool with it. Zen it.
Zenning something is doing what needs to be done—doing it well—without having to get it done.
The second baseman plays his position perfectly and his team loses the game. That’s the way it is. Play your position well. Let the game go.
This gets us back to my sharply focused photos of flying ducks, owls, and herons. The work is teaching me to do the work. Zen and the art of archery is also Zen and the art of photography. Zen and any art.
There is a lot of time between photos of flying birds. Long enough to forget what I learned the last time. It is all good practice.
- Green Heron with Tadpole — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, July 27, 2013 — I’m amazed that ruthlessness, viciousness and violence continue to set the tone and carry the day. The headlines haven’t changed in 10,000 years.
In spite of the fact that insight, intuition, awareness, compassion, good will and good faith have been steadily showing themselves to be in the best interest of all concerned. Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan still ride roughshod over us all.
That being the case, we are still called to be Jesus the way only we can be Jesus in the face of all that is Anti-Christ in every minute of every day. We are not to be Jesus the way Jesus was Jesus—he’s already done that. We are to be Jesus the way only we can be Jesus. That is our work—to bring Jesus forth in our life, and do Jesus the way we would do Jesus in the here and now of our living.
Or the Buddha. Or Gandhi. Or any of those who have known how to do it and have done it the way it ought to be done, the way it needed to be done, in the minute details of their life, in every situation as it arose, all their life long.
You can’t be Jesus (or Buddha, or Gandhi…) the way I would be Jesus (or Buddha, or Gandhi…). You have to be Jesus (or Buddha, or Gandhi…) the way YOU would be Jesus (or Buddha, or Gandhi…). And if you don’t know what that would be, they didn’t either. We have to live our way into it just as they did—living through the uncertainty, fear, disinclination, difficulties, hardships, trials and ordeals just as they did. Unless you can find someone who did it right easily, like eating cake, and laughing.
- Owl 01 — A new business card series. 5/20 images. — Moods are mirrors. In the grip of a mood, sit with it, explore it, get to know it, find out where it comes from, who its Daddy is, and Momma. Wonder why here? Why now? Why this mood in this situation?
Moods generally reflect the degree to which we are getting our way or not getting our way. What’s the deal with Our Way? How did Our Way become the be all and end all of our life? Since when has Our Way worked out all that well?
Why does Our Way have the power to determine our demeanor, frame of mind, state of soul? What does Our Way think it knows?
Our Way gets in the way, blocks the way—keeps us from being about what we need to be about, the way we need to be about it.
Our Way would dispense with all difficulties and have nothing but a free and open, bumpless road to glory as it defines glory.
Our difficulties bring us forth, calling us to rise to the occasion, against our will. We grow up against our will. Our Way is to not grow up.
Life calls us forth, grows us up, enables us to become who we are by doing what needs to be done the way it needs to be done.
Life is difficulties, trials and ordeals. What we call “really living,” isn’t living at all. That’s how much Our Way knows about the way—and is something else for us to contend with along the way.
- Yellow Swallowtail — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, July 29, 2013 — If you don’t develop an inner life, you are going to be dependent upon the things, people and experiences of your outer life to nurture and nourish you, reassure you and encourage you along the way. That’s a lot to ask, particularly if you are terminally insecure.
Ego-strength is an inner achievement. You have to be able to “stand on your own two feet,” and face the difficulties, trials and ordeals of your life by yourself before caring presence in the outside world can help you to reconnect you to the ground and source of your being in order to step back into your life and do what needs to be done there.
The ground and source of your being is not to be found in the outer world. I don’t live to take pictures. I live to see. The scenes work with me to develop me, but I will be okay when the aging process forces me to rely exclusively on inner seeing, because the outer is developing the inner, not substituting for it.
The outer world is not a distraction to keep us from facing and finding our way around in the world of inner being. The outer world is a mirror showing those who look, who and how they are and what they need to do to become more like they are in the time left for living.
Those who don’t do the inner work never grow up, and die having failed to live, though they be old and wrinkled.
- Emerald Isle Sunrise — A new business card series. Image 6/20 — We have to contain our own anxiety. We cannot allow it to spill out, to run over, contaminating our environment and ruining life for countless people. The anxiety we do not contain, the pain we do not bear, spreads out around us like a communal toxin for which there is no balm.
We reduce the amount of corporate pain and upheaval in the world by bearing the personal pain which is legitimately ours to bear.
We have to bear the pain of our panic, of our frantic, frenzied need for reassurance, for safety and security, of our desperate search for the comfort of Mamma’s lap, the protection of Daddy’s arms.
We have to stand alone in our own life, and face the realities that have to be dealt with, and live it. Everything rides on that.
In order to grow up, we have to stand up and step into our life just as it is, and do there what must be done, in each situation as it arises, all our life long.
In order to grow up, we have to do what we don’t want to do. No one ever grows up doing what he, what she, wants to do.
We need someone to save us from ourselves. No one can save us from ourselves. That work is ours to do alone.
What we do need, that we cannot supply ourselves, is the perspective of the right kind of company who can listen to our complaints and grievances, receive us with compassion and grace, and say to us what I am saying here.
”Yes. It is a bad old sorry world and unfair on many levels. Now, get in there and do your thing the way only you can do it, and don’t give up or quit just because it’s hard. All you have to do is what is hard. Now go to it!”
- Dragon Fly 04 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, Juy 30, 3013 — It takes the Cyclops—it takes trials and ordeals—to bring out the best in us. And the worst.
As long as things are sailing along smoothly under light winds and balmy skies, we are nice as can be—good company, extremely pleasant, and fun to be around.
Let the sail rip, the rudder stop responding, the wind pick up, the waves swamp the boat… Let’s see how you do under pressure—in the tension and heat of your trials and ordeals, when fear and anxiety have you by the throat, and you see nothing but hopelessness and despair in all directions. Then, who guides your boat on its path through the sea?
We do just fine with everything going our way, but let us encounter the end of our way—let us come up against desperation, torment and agony—let us experience the complete loss of everything important to us, the end of life as we know it.
Then, we discover sides of ourselves we didn’t know we had—for better or for worse. Where does the little, spiteful, resentful, cruel, sarcastic, vindictive, vicious SOB, or B, come from? Where has he, has she, been hiding during the good times? How did he, did she, take over the ship so easily, without so much as a threat of mutiny?
He, she, is just a glimpse of ALL we are capable of—of who we also are—come to light in the darkness and gloom of things not going our way.
There is also the gallant side, the big, gracious, kind side, and a ton of others as well. Here be the conflicts and contraries within that I talk about so often.
Invite them to the table. Hear them out. Bear well what they have to say. Your wholeness rides on your ability to attend well the divisions within, respect their voices and hear what they have to say.
Get to know them. They are you, too. And have a rightful place in your life. There will be a time when each has the response needed for—and appropriate to—that time and place. But their cue for action can’t hang on things going your way, or not. There has to be more at stake than your idea for your life.
All of you together have to be serving your life’s need for all of you. Get on board that ship and you can handle whatever comes along.
- Crabtree Falls — A new business card series. Image 7/20. — I don’t know the difference between accepting something, and making our peace with something, and coming to terms with something, and being okay with something, and talking ourselves into something that is inevitable and is going to happen whether you want it to or not.
Going to first grade. Seeing your first child go to first grade. Having to go to work. Having to work out your own problems. Aging… The list is long.
This is how things are, and this is what you can do about it, and that’s that. The people who wail in protest and take to their beds with their face to the wall are not going to fare very well.
Life requires shifts, adjustments and alterations on the part of those who are living. And what we call it isn’t important. That we do it is essential for everything that follows (that would be the rest of our life).
So, call it what you want to, but do it. Accept it, make your peace with it, come to terms with it, be okay with it, talk yourself into it. Make the shifts, adjustments, alterations that are necessary to continue making shifts, adjustments and alterations.
It’s called paying the price to ride the ride.
- Heron Overhead 01 — The Bog Garden, Greensboro, NC, July 31, 2013 — There are no shortcuts to truth—to the truth of who you are and what you need to do about it.
James Hollis, in his new book, “Hauntings: Dispelling The Ghosts Who Run Our Lives,” said: “The primary task of the second half of life is the recovery of personal authority, namely, to discern what is true for oneself and find the courage to live it.”
You cannot take an occasional hit of truth on the side, when no one is looking, to settle you down and enable you to live with all that is not true about you and your life.
You have to dive into truth—into the truth of who you are and what needs to be done about it in the time left for living—all the way to the bottom—all the way to the heart of who you are—and allow it to transform your life from the inside out.
But. You aren’t sure about that. You aren’t ready for that. It’s easier to take your pills, or drink two six-packs a day, or do whatever you do to take your mind off your fundamental conflict with living the way you are living. You have to wait until the pain is so great that you will do anything to be free of it, even go to the trouble of being who you are.
Quoting Hollis again, same book, “Without suffering, there is no call to consciousness, no showing up for the appointment we have with life… How unpleasant to realize that finally we all have to face what we fear.”
We have to be in pain before we have what it takes to embrace the pain of transformation, of reorientation, and take up the work, the journey, of becoming who we are.
The essence of that work is coming to the table with all that you currently are and all that is waiting to come to life in you and through you, and see what stays and what goes. You have never done anything harder. Or more necessary.
But, you may have to wait to have what it takes to see what all you might yet become. You might have to suffer a bit longer before you have what it takes to die to your old life and be reborn in the life that is yours to live.
One Minute Monologues 010In “One Minute Monologues”
One Minute Monologues 014In “One Minute Monologues”
One Minute Monologues 019In “One Minute Monologues”