The foundation of Spiritual Reality is Emptiness/Stillness/Silence/Solitude—which are essential for Clarity. Emptiness is emptying ourselves of fear, desire, duty, agendas, opinions, beliefs, ambition, and all of the things that interfere with our being here, now. It is the space between breaths. Where connections are made, and awareness and realization come to life. Stillness/Silence/Solitude (Marianne Moore said, “The cure for loneliness is solitude”) create the space necessary for hearing/seeing to happen. We have to separate ourselves regularly from “the noise of the world,” in order to know what’s what and what needs to be done about it in the present moment—in each situation as it arises—all our life long. Our spirituality depends upon and flows from Emptiness/Stillness/Silence/Solitude/Clarity. Nothing happens until that does.
The ground of spirituality is experience—not belief, not faith, not tradition, not the Bible, not theology, not doctrine, not dogma. We encounter the Sacred, the Numinous, the Ineffable in nature, art, music, and resonance with some aspect of wonder at work in our life, synchronicity, perhaps, a dream, a conversation, a poem… Something touches us, we touch something, and become the moved in response to the Mover, the knower in response to the Known, and things shift for us, in ways we could not designed, created or produced. And we become the seeker/servant of More Than Meets The Eye.
Jesus is an inkblot; God is an optical illusion. So is the Tao—an ink blot, and an optical illusion. So is the Buddha. What we see depends upon how we look. Now we see it, now we don’t. Now it’s like this, now it’s like that. Sometimes it’s this way, and sometimes it’s that way. Everything is a mirror, showing us ourselves. Or not. Projection, reflection, it’s all the same to eyes that see. Eyes that see, see into the heart of things, and know how things are and how they also are, and what is happening, and what needs to happen in response, and what we need to do to assist with what needs to happen in each situation as it arises—which is what knowing what’s what is good for, that is: Doing what needs to be done. Spirituality sees/hears/knows/does what is important, what needs to be done.
Prayer is the soul’s expression of, response to, the truth of its own experience, the truth of the way things are and the way things also are, its experience of the oppositional nature of truth, of what it is to be alive in the time and place of its living, of the experience of life, living, and being alive. It is the mediative, mindfully aware, attitude/perspective/environment in which we go about our life.
Don’t think that you can say anything about Truth that won’t be opposed—and deepened, enlarged and expanded—by something else you say about Truth. Truth is more than facts. Is more than words can say.
Truth is true only so far as it goes. Nothing is so true that it never clashes with a contradictory truth. “Yes, but…” is always the response by those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that understands. And, if you are one of those people, you are saying “Yes, but,” about now.
When our heart is in what we are doing, we are one with the center. But, perspective shifts with time, and we see things with new eyes, and do things differently in time. There is more than one way to see things, do things. Things do not stay the same forever. We do not think the way we have always thought, or do what we have always done. Those who see things clearly, see things differently over the course of their life. Changing our mind about what is important is one of the skills we have to develop on the spiritual journey—is the essence and nature of the spiritual journey—is the journey.
To see what needs to be done, and do it in the way it needs to be done, at the time it needs to be done, is to be “on the beam,” and “in sync with the Source.” We may do things differently next time. The beam is not rigid, unchanging. “The spirit is like the wind that blows where it will.” The Source is fluid, dynamic, alive. And, “A path that can be discerned as a path, is not a reliable path” (Martin Palmer).
We interfere with our ability to see by having plans and agendas, and imposing them on our life—by willing what we want, by wanting what we have no business having. We have to separate ourselves from ourselves in order to see ourselves, hear ourselves, know the disparity at the heart of ourselves—which is the disparity of Adam and Eve—the dichotomy at the center of existence, “On one hand, this, and on another hand, that.” We are, at once, who we are and who we also are. And we walk two paths at the same time—really, more than two paths. We do that by walking this path while keeping our eye on the other path. All of the time.
When we enter into, or create, situations that have never existed before, we have nothing to guide us in knowing what to do, and we avoid the discomfort of not-knowing by making up rules and policies that don’t fit, and saying what nice rules and policies they are, and forcing everyone to abide by them. It takes time to figure out what is required in response to the impact of a new thing. There has to be leeway for flexibility, and making things up as we go.
There is “in sync,” and there is “out of sync.” Out of sync may well be in sync with ultimate sync-ness, and it will take time to see that it is so. A child growing up can be out of sync with her, or his, parents’ ideas of how she, or he, should be. The child has to be willing to be seen as out of sync in order for ultimate sync-ness with the child’s own heart to shine through. Harmony, oneness, is everywhere—though it may not always be apparent. “Yes” to this is “No” to that. “Yes and No” are like “In Sync and Out Of Sync.” And like “Good Luck” and “Bad Luck.” And all the other dichotomies there are. Leading someone, I forget who, to say, “All of our dichotomies are false dichotomies.” There is wholeness at the bottom of the pie.
The art of life is knowing when to give ourselves over to the Great Sea of Life, and allow it to carry us where it will—is knowing that we are afloat upon the Great Sea of Life at all times, in all places, being carried about as it will, so that we do not “give ourselves over to it,” so much as “recognize what is going on,” and “give ourselves over to that,” in a “Thy will, not mine, be done,” kind of way (With the “Thy” being the Great Sea of Life).
The sage does things as they should be done. Which is to say that things are usually done as they should not be done. Which is to say it is better to do things as they should be done, than to do them as they should not be done. We are partial to the sage. Wisdom is preferred over folly. Why then do we persist in folly? Why do we nor make it our life to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, where it needs to be done, the way it needs to be done, because it needs to be done, with nothing in it for us beyond the joy of doing it, and the satisfaction of having done it using the gifts/daemon/genius/shtick/virtues/talents/etc. that came with us from the womb (Our original nature)—in each situation as it arises, throughout the rest of time? There is nothing beyond this to seek, or do, or want, or get, or attain, or acquire, or have. This is Lived Spirituality: Who we are connected with the conditions and circumstances, the here and now, of our life in the physical world. Living in balance and harmony, Mythos with Logos, Psyche with Soma, Soul with Body, day by day, situation by situation, all our life long.
Don’t worry about it, just live your life, the life that is yours to live, in the time and place of your living, and let that be that. Let your detractors be your detractors, and your critics be your critics, and your supporters be your supporters, and your fans be your fans… Let those who are against you be those who are against you, and let those who are for you be those who are for you, and don’t be undone, or impressed, or distracted by any of it. Live on! Live on!
We know enough. We don’t have to know everything. Live toward the best you can imagine based on what you know right now, in light of what is called for in the situation at hand. What more you need to know will become apparent over time.
We work with the givens (With our original nature and the resources available to us) in doing what needs to be done, which is perceived by those with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that understands, in each situation as it arises.
It takes a lot of looking to be able to see, a lot of listening to be able to hear, a lot of asking, seeking and knocking to be able to understand. It takes a lot of living to be able to be awake, aware and alive. Don’t wait until you have it down. You won’t live that long.
Stepping aside, and letting life have its way with us, is a test of faith, of our capacity to trust ourselves to life unknowing, confident only that stepping aside is the right thing to do at that point in our life.
Oneness is the fundamental presumption. As is emptiness. As is nothingness. Quick! Which is it?
It is said, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” What isn’t said, but is also true, is that those who don’t live by the sword, die by the sword, or by those who wield the sword. Existence is violent. “Life eats life.” Peace hinges upon the cooperative, unilateral, good will of all concerned in the work to produce and maintain peace. If you think that’s easily arranged, try pulling it off in your family of origin.
What is this “No!” to violence from those who say “Say Yes to life!” and “Everything moves in oneness,” and “Nothing in the world is separate, unworthy, or lost”? Violence, harmony, impartiality, indifference—all is a part of the path. When to be violent, and when to be non-violent, is the question. Both violence and non-violence have their place in the field of action. To embrace all is to embrace ALL. It is to say, “Yes!” to “No!” And to do what needs to be done, regardless of what that might be.
Respond to your circumstances by doing what is called for in the situation as it arises! That’s the plan for the rest of your life
The sage doesn’t worry about it, but the sage knows about it.
What do we want? What is it that we cannot get enough of? What is the need that goes unmet, and sends us forever crashing into the limits of our life? What are we after? How does that interfere with what is being asked of us? With what is important? With what needs to be done?
Trying to have more than we can have—or have any business having—ravages the countryside, and rends the hearts, in every country.
When do we have what we need? When can we be content, satisfied, rest easily, not worry, trust ourselves to our life, assured that we will always have what it takes to deal appropriately with our circumstances?
The way that is the way is not the way to what we want.
To have all that we want is to have more than we have, always.
Balance and harmony are not achieved, done and that’s it. They are not steady states of being. Life is movement. Compensation. Adjustment. Readjustment. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We live in the service of what needs to happen here and now, without preconceived notions of what that might be. Sometimes disruption. Sometimes chaos. It is ad-lib all the way, and we are surprised to find ourselves doing what we do, having done what we have done, in the work of balance and harmony.
The sage doesn’t have to have things be different than they are, but has eyes to see what is possible, and assists in the movement-to-the-good that is a potential in every moment. We live toward the best we can imagine in the situation as it arises, and let nature take its course.
Some futures are better than others. Some things are to be preferred over others. All states of being are not equal. It matters how we live, and what we live toward.
Those who are alive, are alive in and to the time and place of their living. They see what is possible, and do what needs to be done in the service of a good that is greater than their own good. They do what is theirs to do without thinking about what they stand to gain or lose, or who is watching, taking names, keeping score. Whose advantage is served in doing what is right, now? It doesn’t matter. “Just do it.” Right in terms of what? In terms of Truth, Justice, Equality, Freedom, and the true good of all concerned. Balance and harmony, Kid. Balance and harmony.
Some things have no business being. The child molester cannot be allowed to be himself, herself. The alcoholic, the psychopath, cannot be allowed to be who they are, as they are. Control and interference have their place, else why try to control the controlling power of those in control, or to interfere with the interference of those who interfere?
The trick is that each thing has to be itself in caring relationship with each other thing being itself. We are to be true to ourselves in caring relationship with others. We are to meet our own needs and express who we are, without interfering with anyone else’s ability to meet her or his own needs and express who she, who he, is. This does not make for peace and harmony, and easy living around the table. The Yellowstone caldera blows, being true to itself, spewing discord and chaos for thousands of miles. No one thinks, “How wonderful the smooth accord of natural things.” “This” means “That.” And “That” has implications for all concerned. Working it out means bearing the pain of life. It does not mean having our way. “Smooth and easy” does not come around often or last long. We have to “let come what’s coming and let go what’s going,” all our life long. Understanding that and letting it be because it is, is the real achievement of the Hero’s Journey.
The catch is that all things must be themselves in relationship with all other things/selves. That’s the rub that results in the mess. The fox’s way of being clashes with the rabbit’s way of being. Everything has its own idea of how things ought to be. Everything has to make its own peace with how things are, and respond in ways appropriate to the occasion. And bear the pain of the consequences. Bearing the legitimate pain of life throughout life is a lost art, and a necessary art to recover. Nothing happens until that does. We have to do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises no matter what!!! Like it or not.
Whose good is served by the good we serve? Whose good should be served? How good is the good we call good? Good for what? For whom? For how long? The debate over what is good here and now, and what needs to be done about it, is the quandary of the ages. Who is to say? We are, and we have to be right about it, and that is the pebble in the shoe on the Hero’s Journey.
Once virtue becomes desirable, it ceases to be virtuous and becomes destructive. Seeking some end, we no longer listen to the moment, or offer what is being called for in the situation as it arises. We serve our agendas, follow our plans, assume the outcome will be what we want it to be, wonder what happened, where the mess came from, and look for someone to blame.
We are free to do what we want—to live like we feel like living—as long as we can get away with it. When we can no longer get away with it, we have to adjust our living to take the limits into account. All paths walked with awareness lead to the center. Awareness leads to the center, not the path. Awareness is the path. The center holds the tension of all the contraries/contradictions/dichotomies/incompatibilities/mutually exclusive polarities. It is a hell of a place to be. We have to be able to bear the pain to live at the center and maintain the tension that keeps the whole in place. Wholeness is as much sorrow and sadness as it is joy and gladness. Hold the tension! Bear the pain! In a “This, Too. This, Too.” Kind of way.
Receiving what comes without judgment, conditions, expectations, agendas or opinions, opens us to the possibilities inherent in each situation, and enables an appropriate response.
Live with direction and preference, and without judgment, will or opinion! And do what needs to be done, anyway, nevertheless, even so! And let what needs to be, be!
The inner stillness permits perception into the heart of things. Knowing how things are enables us to understand what is called for within the situation as it arises, and allows us to offer what is needed in the moment of our living. Emptiness, stillness and silence are the way of the Hero’s Journey. Clarity and direction arise and flow from there.
To be in accord with what is needed in the situation as it arises, we only have to get out of the way with our judgment, will and opinion.
Those who know, know they cannot say what they know. They don’t know, did not come to know what they know by hearing it said. The light comes on of itself in the darkness of not-knowing, not-seeing, not-hearing, not-understanding, empty, still and silent, waiting for the light to come on.
Every step forward is tentative, uncertain. Certainty and conviction are false turns leading to dead-ends. Do not go there, or follow those who do. Mistakes are the way of the Journey. We learn what to do by learning what not to do and doing something else instead until we find what works—knowing it may not work next time. All knowing is tentative, conditional, specific to this here and this now, and things are always shifting, changing, calling for something different in the next here and now, or the one after that. Rules, recipes and roadmaps are of no use on the Hero’s Journey. A Guidebook that starts out, “Listen to yourself all the way, and when listening to yourself (Your heart, your body [symptoms], your dreams) leads to a dead end, keep listening to yourself to get out of there and back on the path,” is the best guide there is. Keep consulting it to remind yourself of the importance of remembering to listen to yourself.
Live the contradictions! Dance with the contradictions! Embrace the contradictions! Reconcile the contradictions! Integrate the contradictions! And bear the pain of the contradictions that cannot be reconciled or integrated.
The “transcendent function of the Psyche” (Carl Jung’s term) is also the transcendent function of the conscious ego in sync with the Psyche. The conscious ego recognizes the fact of co-existent, and mutually exclusive dichotomies, and bears the agony of “This” and “That” (the polar opposites) being true at the same time—and transcends the awful truth of contraries at the heart of life, by acknowledging that truth and choosing to live in light of it, by acting in ways that lean toward one extreme “here,” and toward the other extreme “there,” as the situation and the circumstances dictate. We decide which values will be served as is appropriate to the occasion, and do not decree “this” to always be Right, and “that” to always be Wrong. We walk two paths at the same time—sometimes multiple paths at the same time—by walking on This path and keeping our eye on That path simultaneously, never forgetting what path we are on and what path(s) are also valid and necessary to life here and now. Knowing that “sometimes it is like This,” and sometimes it is like “That,” and sometimes it is like “That Over There, and Over There…”
Step into your life with your eyes open. What’s hard about that? Besides the pain, I mean. We have to get used to the pain, and to bearing the pain. The Hero’s Journey is the Sisyphean Task of rolling the rock up hill, following it down hill, to roll it back up hill forever. We bear the pain to bear the pain and keep on going forever. That is the nature of the Journey, bearing the pain, growing up, maintaining our jolly perspective and our hope, and our determination, and our joy, and our good cheer through it all—doing the right thing in the right way at the right time with the right attitude in all times and places, no matter what.
Keep the horse from stopping to eat grass, and it finds its own way home.
There is no nice little trustworthy formula for living, “If you do this, that will happen.”
The essence of bad religion is, “If you do this, that will happen.”
What does it mean to “live successfully”? Who is to say? You are! But you can only say it about your own life. And you will have to change your mind over time.
The sage has to insert herself, insert himself, between the strongly opinionated, the powerful, the influential—those who know how the people should be living—and the people. And the sage has to protect the people from themselves. And protect himself from the people. Crucifixion is always in the hands of the people, who never know what to do with it, and who use it to kill those who say what they do not wish to hear, instead of understanding that we all must die to ourselves in order to live to do the good that must be done, often at the expense of ourselves, in each situation as it arises throughout all the times and places of our living. We die in the service of the Journey. And grow up thereby. Resurrection always follows the right kind of dying. Only to die again and be resurrected again, on the Sisyphean Task of doing what needs to be done, here and now, forever.
We are to do what needs to be done in the situation as it arises, in every situation that arises, as long as there are situations that arise, no matter what, like it or not. Whose idea was this, anyway? It was nobody’s idea. It is just how things are. The Tao of Life and Being. The trick is that when we give ourselves to the Sisyphean Task of doing what needs to be done anyway, nevertheless, even so, magic happens. Joseph Campbell talked about doors opening where no doors exist, and help coming for out of nowhere just when help is most needed. “Where you stumble and fall, there is the treasure,” he said. And, “That which you seek is found far back in the darkest corner of the cave you most don’t want to enter.” Giving ourselves to the Task is the secret to the joy of doing it and the satisfaction of having done it, that no one can give us, but that we must discover for ourselves. You are going to have to take my word for this. You will never believe it until you experience it for yourself. And no one will believe you when you tell them about it. That is another burden of the Journey. Oh, well. Walk on! Walk on!
There is that which needs to be done which needs you to do it—which needs you to bring forth who you are, and what you have to offer. Do not withhold yourself from that which needs to be done. Trust yourself to it. It will lead you to life. It is the only thing that will.
Turn yourself over to your life—to the circumstances of your living—and see where it goes. Relax yourself into the moment, and trust it to guide you along the way, as you do what needs to be done, moment by moment, situation by situation. We do not benefit from the help that is at hand because we do not open ourselves to it, or because we have our own idea about the kind of help we need and turn down what is being offered.
“Leave them alone and they will come home, wagging their tails behind them.” Or not. Either way, you avoid the pitfall of making things worse by trying to make them better by the time you think they should be better. Just “leave them alone”! And see what happens.
There is that which is to be desired, and that which is to be avoided. There is the way of doing things, and the way of not doing things. There is right, and there is wrong. And, wrong is a step on the way to right. The wrong way leads to the right way. And, there is no absolute right or wrong. And, “everything moves in oneness.” But we can’t sit in the shade, and passively let the movement happen without us. And, the movement happens whether we participate in its happening or not. So, don’t waste your time trying to make sense of things. Strive to perceive what needs to be done, and do it, what needs to be not done, and don’t do it. Even though that will change with time, and you will be saying something else, perhaps even, the polar opposite in time to come. Here and now is the thing. What is right and needs to be done right here, right now? Do that. Without thinking you are creating a precedent that must be locked into place for all time to come.
Living roots that are set deeply in solid ground provide a foundation, a connection, which allows us to be constantly open to the flow of opportunities and follow them wherever they go. It is a fluid, being-in the-way-of-things, which is not the same thing as being in the way. We have to get out of the way to be-in-the-way, on-the-way.
It is all hopeless, pointless, useless, futile, absurd and coming to a very bad end (We all are going to die!)—and how we live in the meantime makes all the difference.
An eye for the lights and life of Gay Paree disrupts the natural order! And, yet, everything is a part of the path, even Gay Paree. Don’t try to make sense of it. Let doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done (etc.), lead you along the way all the way!,
Governing a large country is not like cooking a small fish, in that the fish doesn’t have to cooperate with—and has no voice in—its cooking. The willingness of the people to be ruled in accord with what needs to happen in the situation as it arises—and not have to have the things the people of neighboring nations have—makes it possible to govern a large country like cooking a small fish. But where do you find citizens who are like small fish, willing to be cooked any way at all?
We live best when we don’t know how other people are living. We live best when we know how other people are living.
What is there to gain? What is there to lose? What is more important, gaining or not-losing?
Ordinariness is another term for emptiness, for the kind of nothing that is the source of everything. Just being ordinary transforms the world without doing anything. An ordinary original human being would be extraordinary.
What is the value of doing what needs to be done in the situation as it arises? What is the value of seeing things as they are, taking what is available and doing what can be done with it? What is the value of not seeing? Not doing? Not knowing?
Misfortune, success, euphoria and dismay are part of the nature of things. Our experience is our experience, and our response to our experience is our response to our experience, and none of it means anything beyond what it means to those who are impacted by it, and how their response impacts life as it is lived about them. And it is all a part of the path. There is no figuring the angles and devising formulas for this meaning that and when that happens do this as a way of gaining the advantage and coming out ahead. There is only doing what needs to be done because it needs to be done, and not because it is the way to success, fortune and glory.
Regarding everything as difficult means understanding that there is no effortless way, and that we are called to expend our effort in the service of what needs to happen whether we want to or not. If you think that’s easy, hop in the saddle, and tell them to open the gate.
Midwives assist in birth as it is happening. They do not beat virgins into delivering. We are midwives of our own future. How we live out our role makes all the difference.
The sage does not expect anything to be easier than it is. No agenda, no opinion, is the way of sagehood.
What are we trying to make happen? What can happen? What needs to happen? What is happening? How can we assist what is happening in the direction of what needs to happen?
In any situation, 10,000 futures are possible. How we live reduces the likelihood of some possibilities and increases the likelihood of others.
One thing’s doing is another thing’s undoing. One thing’s ordered grace is another thing’s traumatic disruption. Dinner for the lion is not something the antelope would bless.
Live without worrying about succeeding or failing, gaining or losing. Let come what’s coming and let go what’s going. Enjoy what is to be enjoyed. Grieve what is to be grieved. Do what needs to be done. Come to terms with how things are. Let your life be your life. Let your options be your options. Let your choices be your choices. Let your future be your future.
Cleverness knows how to manipulate means to achieve its ends. Simplicity observes what is happening, perceives what is trying to happen, and assists what needs to happen. Offering the right help in the right way at the right time is the essence of wisdom. You can’t improve on that.
Cleverness does this so that will happen. Simplicity does this so this will happen because this needs to happen whether that happens or not.
What can be done about what needs to be done is all that can be done, which is not the same as what has always been done. It takes the vision of a sage to see what can be done in any situation in order to do the work of redemption and transformation and bring the new into existence out of the old, one step at a time.
In remaining below, the sage receives what the situation has to offer and brings forth the baby struggling to be born.
In any moment, the sage simply offers what the moment needs out of what she, what he, has to give.
The sage does not calculate, strategize, manipulate, control. The sage observes what is happening, asks what needs to happen, and how she, how he, might assist its happening. You wouldn’t want a sage running your business. Do not hire one as a CEO. Making the share holders happy is not the sage’s concern.
We have to know what we are trying to do, and whether it can actually be done, and if it really needs to be done.
Of what does life consist? Where is life to be found? What brings us to life, makes us alive? What do we need in order to be alive? What’s with all this other stuff in our life?
Some things are clearly better than others. Every living thing prefers one thing over another. The lion’s life is the buffalo’s death. There is no happy state in which everyone has exactly what is needed at no one’s expense. But, compassion keeps things reasonably tolerable much of the time.
Compassion lets things be, and lets things become what they might be, and says, “No!” to what should not be, and “Yes!” to what should be—in each situation as it arises.
To see what needs to be done and to do it—to be right about what is important and to serve it: That is all there is to it. Anything else is just talk.
The resistance can come from without, or from within. Don’t let your principles, or your interests, keep you from doing what is important, what needs to be done!
We want more than we can have, more than we have any business having, and cannot adjust ourselves to living within the limits of our life, within what our situation in life allows. “Our reach must exceed our grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” “You’ll never keep them on the farm once they’ve seen Gay Paree!” What guides our boat on its path through the sea? Being better off for going? Going to see what happens? Going because we can’t think of anything better to do? Going because going needs to happen and we don’t know why? What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Who knows what we should be doing instead? How do we know they know what they are talking about?
The meaning of life is to be alive in the time and place of our living. What does it mean to be alive in the time and place of our living? Answer that question correctly, and you have it made. On the other hand, you may be crucified.
What is our life asking of us? What does the moment require? At times, our life is at odds with the moment. The flow is not always smooth. Disruption and chaos are also part of how things are. We take it all into account, and do what needs to be done.
Are we right about what needs to be done? Time will tell. We may be wrong. Maybe something else needs to be done. We may blow it. Life is like that. We can blow it. When we blow it, we need to do what needs to be done about that, and the cycle repeats, perhaps with a better outcome.
Sometimes we are punished for doing it the way we do it. Sometimes there is a price to be paid for doing it our way, and a price to be paid for not doing it our way. Whose way is going to be the way for us? Whose way is going to be the way we do it? Who is going to live our life? If not us, who? Okay, whom?
The roots of tomorrow’s right are grounded in yesterday’s wrong.
Trusting the inner knowing, and letting things have their own mind is the essential act of faith. If you are going to believe in anything, believe in the power of things to become what they need to be, particularly when assisted by those who do nothing to force their will on the way things are, but constantly look for what needs to happen, and help it come forth in the right kind of way.
We are to our life as an artist is to the canvass. If you think the artist is the source of the painting, you should talk to an artist. Or become one. Wait! You are one!
What is to be gained by being the favored one? What is to be lost by being the disfavored one?
People who are not afraid of dying are not afraid either because life has no value, and they do not care if they live or die, or because they know what is truly important, and are willing to sacrifice their life in the service of that good.
We have to carve wood the way we carve wood, not the way someone else carves wood. We have to live our life the way we would live our life, not the way we think our life ought to be lived—not the way we think someone else would live our life, or have us live it. We take the photo we see, not the photo someone else sees, not the photo we ought to see.
With nothing to live for, there is no reason to live. Therefore, finding value in life is the foundation of life. The spiritual quest is the search for what is important, for what counts, matters, makes a difference—has meaning—in our life, if no one else’s.
How much can we put up with, and still be who we are? Where do we draw the line? I don’t know how much time you think you have left to live, but how much of it are you willing to spend being not-you, doing what is not-you, associating with those who are not your kind of people? Where, and how, and how often are you drawing lines, saying “No,” and giving yourself to the things that have your name on them?
We have to know when who we are is running afoul of who we must (pretend to) be. We have to play parts, assume roles, do what must be done—and we have to be true to ourselves. We have to be who we are. We have to know when something is a role, a part, and not-us—and we have to compensate ourselves for all of our not-me roles by stepping out of the part as often as possible, and giving ourselves to the things that are us all the way.
Who knows why? Why this and not that? It doesn’t matter why. We have to step into the What and deal with the way things are, regardless of why they are that way, or of why we have to deal with it, or of why we have to live with all that we have to live with, or of why this and not that… What is required, here and now? What is being asked of us? What needs to be done? What next? What now? It is enough that we answer these questions without being lost in the questions that cannot be answered. Choosing the right questions to ask is the path of wisdom and life even before we answer them.
Creating intentional communities of innocence—innocent in that they have no agenda to serve, no need of us, no interest in us beyond existing to help us see, hear and understand who we are and what is being asked of us by the time and place of our living—enables us to find what we need to do what needs to be done within the context and circumstances of our life, and helps us be fully alive in the time and place of our living.
Where are we most alive? How often do we go there? Where are we mostly dead? How often do we find ourselves there?
How often do we do the things that bring us to life? What prevents us from doing those things more often?
How often do we engage in the things that please us? How conscious are we of being pleased when we are being pleased? How often do we deliberately give ourselves the gift of life, the pleasure of being alive?
It is the way of things to think that the way we do it is the way it is to be done. Every living thing has its idea of how it is to be done, of how to do it. We all think it is better to be this way than that way. It is better to do it like this than like that. We all think we know what we are doing, and that the others should do it our way. How often do we step back, stand aside, and consider what we are doing, how we are living, from the standpoint of emptiness/stillness/silence? Just seeing. Just hearing. Just knowing. And see what happens.
We achieve balance by being connected with all things, and caring about all things equally—with no agenda, will or opinion, but with direction-that-can-be-changed and preference-that-can-be-laid-aside. Thus balanced, we are able to go in any direction, and do anything, in order to assist what needs to be done.
We can make too much of balance, and erect it to the position of unquestioned status quo. In so doing, we lose the balancing influence of subversive vitality. Creation and birth are chaotic upheavals, and disruptions of balance and order, which maintain balance and order.
Symmetry, harmony, balance, order and stability are ways of talking about opposition, dichotomy, contraries, conflict and contradiction. The difference lies in perspective. Things are what we perceive them to be—what we say they are.
Joseph Campbell said, paraphrasing the Bhagavad Gita, “Get in there and do your thing, and don’t worry about the outcome!” That is as succinct a summation of the task before us as you will ever find. What is our thing? What is our original nature? Who are we apart from who we think we ought to be? What is ours to do? What is our life to live? How do we know? How can we be sure? Emptiness! Stillness! Silence! Are the way to Clarity.
There is no highest good. Sometimes, we are the water. Sometimes, we are the rock. There is a place for the softness of water and the hardness of rock. We are to be what is called for in the situation as it arises.
There is no highest good. It is a circle. A mess. Everything impacts and influences everything else. Different goods come to the fore in different circumstances.
It all comes down to being alive in the time and place of our living. Alive is all there is to be.
Chaos is order from a different perspective. Order is chaos. All is one. Everything moves in oneness, and there is winning and losing, joy and sorrow, resentment and resistance, disillusionment and despair, hope and resiliency. Opposites. Contradiction. Extremes. Symmetry. Harmony. Balance. Dichotomy. One.
Oneness is duality, polarity. Yin, yang. Oneness is Twoness.
Those who are impartial cannot be partial to being impartial, and must be able to be partial as the occasion requires. We have our preferences, our chosen way of being in the world. Only the dead don’t care. And the dead can also care too much for their idea of what is important, and refuse to consider other options, even though they may need consideration. Preferences, not agendas, is the key.
Desire-less-ness is not the highest good. If we don’t care what happens, one thing is as good as another.
Impartiality is not the highest value. Life requires investment, caring, living in the service of that which matters.
Live the contradictions! Eschew certitude! Embrace conundrum! Relish paradox! Honor ambiguity! Keep everything in solution! It is the way of life!
Order or upheaval, it all depends on your point of view. Harmony is only harmonious from a particular perspective. How foxes and rabbits relate is a beautiful way of maintaining the harmony of balance within the food chain. Rabbits can be excused for failing to see the beauty of it.
People are easily bored, and create their own excitement by fighting to the death over things that don’t matter.
See into the heart of things, and live like you want to!
Carl Jung said, “There is no ‘how’ of life, one just does it… Follow your nose! That is your way!” And the KISS slogan of Alcoholics Anonymous applies: “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
We are not after a steady-state of tranquility and contentment with the way things are. We are after dynamic, vital, engagement with the way things are—not passive acceptance and bland acquiescence! Passionate engagement! Active resistance! Viva Revolution!
There are those who resist resistance. “What we resist, persists,” they say. That is a dictum that applies to unconscious symptoms. We have to assist, accept, and embrace what comes from the unconscious, get to the bottom of it, reconcile ourselves to it, and consciously integrate it into our life. On another level, the status quo needs to be resisted, and the tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot—even as we work to understand what is behind our tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot!
Nobody is where they are. Everybody is on the way to somewhere else. Where would you like to be right now?
What is there to be upset about? How things are is how they have always been. Something is always coming. Something is always going. Nothing lasts. We assist this and resist that without knowing what is best, or how it is going to work out. We live toward our best guess of what needs to happen, and let that be that.
The more we try to make something like we want it to be, the less there is to like about the way things are.
Nothing is the origin of all that is—but it is a special kind of nothing, filled with possibilities.
There is no lasting advantage. We live toward the best we can imagine, doing what needs to be done in each situation as it arises, and let that be that.
We would always be better—or worse—off somewhere else, in some other situation. But, here we are, now, and something needs to happen. What will we assist? What will we resist? What will we do, here, now?
We do not know where the line lies until we cross it. No one can be so wise, so careful, as to know when the line is coming up before it is crossed. Wisdom is living with our eyes open, and stopping when we go too far.
Settle into your life. Assist its unfolding, and allow it to carry you where you need to be. Trust yourself to the next step, with everything hanging in the balance, and always on the line.
There is only life, living, and being alive. There is only seeing, and hearing, and understanding. When we see, and hear, and understand, we see, and hear, and understand what needs to be done in the moment of our living. When we do what needs to be done, the way it ought to be done, when it ought to be done in each moment of our life, that’s it. You’re done, take a nap. If that would be appropriate for the moment.
Right seeing, right hearing, right understanding, right knowing, right doing, right being arise in the moment of our living, when we are open to the possibilities contained in each situation. Sometimes, right action is no action at all. Sometimes, nothing can be done but to wait for another situation to develop in which something can be done.
Doing is the source of being. When we do what needs to be done in each situation as it arises, we become who we are born to be, who we are called to become.
Grace and disgrace, fortune and misfortune are the functions of perspective, of selecting aspects of our experience, emphasizing this, and dismissing that, and failing to take that over there into account. What we see is the result of how we look. So, look for “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, whatever is excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). Look for what is joyful, and open yourself to the wonder of the experience of being alive.
There is no right way of seeing. Everything is unimportant, without value, from some perspective. The idea that only the constant and eternal matter is just an idea. Sex is great, though it does not last. So is ice cream.
When we stop looking at things as steps on the way to something else, and can be content with simply being where we are, doing what needs to be done just because it needs to be done—watering the flowers, for instance, or feeding the birds—the world is not threatened by us, nor we by the world.
Power, wealth, privilege and honor are not the highest values. There is no advantage to having all of the advantages.
We seek enlightenment, thinking it is going to do something for us.
We make it all up. When it seemed that sacrificing bulls and virgins worked, we sacrificed bulls and virgins. We have to trust something even if it is nothing—the great emptiness from which everything arises. So, we make up what is trustworthy, and trust ourselves to it. Of course, it works for a while. When it stops working, we have to make up something else.
We perceive the mystery, the magic—and having done our part, can relax into its presence and trust ourselves to the wonder of its unfolding.
May it be said of us that we danced beautifully with what life brought us.
May it be said of us that we did what needed to be done in the moment of our living—that we offered what we had to give to each situation as it arose.
It takes a revolution, or the threat of one, to move things along.
Throw yourself into doing what needs to be done as well as you can make those things out, and take the next step as well as you can make it out, and so on, all the way. Don’t worry about the rest of it.
Those who are into seeing constantly call into question what is seen. Makes them a pain in the collective neck. Often, they are dismissed, discounted, or ignored. Sometimes, they are crucified, or burned at the stake.
Everything is equidistant from perfect union with the Divine, bliss, oneness, transcendence, absorption in the Absolute—whatever it is that we think we are after. If you leave here and go there, or there, or there, you are no closer to “it” (however you think of it). “It” is right here. Right now. Seeing it or not seeing it has nothing to do with its proximity or its availability to be seen. See?
One thing leads to another. If we stick with what we think is important, it will lead us to what is important. We can begin with anything because everything is equidistant from what is important, and everything will lead us there if we live with our eyes open.
Where do we get those open eyes? Now they are open, now they are not. Are. Not…
Sometimes things work out like we want, and sometimes they don’t. There is no strategy for having our way, or for knowing what should happen, or how things should be. We live, as we are able, toward the best we can imagine within the givens of our circumstances, and let that be that.
There is no strategy for having it made.
We are always confusing what is with what seems to be. We are always talking about what seems to be as though it is.
Things are what they are, and what they also are. Everything comes with everything else attached. Nothing can be taken at face value. All is one. But, as they say, not the same one.
“You can’t keep them down on the farm—or on the path—once they’ve seen Gay Paree!” The farm/path has so little to commend it. It is so plain, so commonplace, so mind-numbing, tedious and dreary. It’s more of the same old same old. Today is like yesterday and tomorrow. We get up and do what needs to be done. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the life in that? Show me a sage who ever had a good time! Show me a saint who knew how to live! The sage is the most boring, lifeless human being in the history of human beings! May as well be a rock, or dead! The saint does not have a life, and is afraid to be alive. Emptiness is the sage’s companion. Fullness of life and joy of living are the friends of fools. So. We have to be a different kind of sage. A saint of an unusual hue. Bring on Zorba the Greek, or Tevya from Fiddler on the Roof! Or Chauncey Gardner. They can teach us a thing or two about sage-hood and saintliness—about farms and paths!
There is a time and place for everything. It’s all a part of the path. So don’t rule out Gay Paree. Jesus was called a glutton and a winebibber. Don’t be afraid to eat and drink. No one is taking names. Who are you trying to please? Whose side are you on? It is your life to live all the way. Who do you think knows better than you how to do it, or what needs to be done? Live to know what you know, and trust yourself to know what you need to know to find what you need to do what needs to be done!
The requisite attitude is one of attentiveness, awareness, openness—to the possibilities, to the circumstances, to the situation as it arises, to what is happening, and needs to happen, and can happen. From right seeing comes right doing and right being. And, of course, from right being and right doing comes right seeing. It’s a circle, you know. It’s all one, with one thing leading to and flowing from another. World without end. Yin/yang forever. Amen.
Right being comes from the center, and is not a steady-state (death is the only steady-state), but a momentary alignment with the heart of being, from which right action (and right seeing is an aspect of right action—it’s a circle, you know) springs, flows.
Right being, right doing, are not steady-states. Life is not a steady-state of being, but a fluid, moving, interchange between the dynamic core, center, heart of being, and the moment-to-moment experience of life, which is the experience of the requirements and possibilities of existence in this moment right now.
How much life is exhibited in our living? How alive can we be in the time left for living? How in sync with the dynamic heart of being can we be within the context and circumstances of our life? The answer changes as each situation presents us with different options and possibilities. We can be more alive in some moments than others. Being alive is not a steady-state of being.
How do we know what to do, what needs to be done, when to do it and how? How do we make sense of our life? Of life? How do we know what is truly valuable? In light of what—toward what—away from what—do we live? How do we evaluate the validity of what we hold to be valid? We answer these questions, again and again, over the course of our life, over the course of the life of the species, in conversation with one another, out of our experience with life. The answers change with the time and place of our living.
We have to recognize and honor the stages of development at work in each age of our life. We have to live in ways appropriate to the time and place of our living. Young adulthood is different from middle adulthood, is different from old adulthood. We have no business living at 60 as we did at 20 or 45. We have to do what needs to be done in each stage of life, and move on to the next stage, letting go what’s going and letting come what’s coming. This is the natural order of things.
It is not enough to do “what happens naturally.” It was “natural” to own slaves and treat women and homosexuals as inferior. What is “natural” is not always so good. What the fox does to the rabbit is natural, but not good for the rabbit. What is good on one level, from one perspective, is not good on another level, from a different perspective. Whose good is served by the good we call good? Whose bad?
Good is not a steady-state of being. Being is dynamic. Vibrant. Alive. There is no steady-state of being.
We can hope to be guided by a sense of the ought-to-be-ness of things which leads us in responding to the circumstances of our life, if we approach our circumstances with eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that understand.
It is the arrogance of those who think they know in the service of their ideas of how things ought to be that obscures the good, and violates the sacred nature of what truly ought to be.
Those Who Know Best And Must Be Pleased screw it up for everyone.
Whom can we trust to know and do what truly ought to be done? We bring it forth out of the communal search for the good in conversation, reflection, realization, and experimentation over time.
There is no harmonious accord in the natural world. Planets collide. Stars explode. Volcanoes erupt. Earthquake, fire, flood, famine, you know. Dinosaurs become extinct. People wage war… Uncontrolled chaos is more apt a description for what passes for “the way things are” than “harmonious accord.” It’s a mess out there. We bring what peace there is to life through the quality of our engagement with life—by the way we live.
The sage lives the contradictions, and does not try to reduce things to a harmonious whole. There is no static, steady-state, of being.
We give up this to get that. One thing rules out another. Trade-offs and compromises characterize the work of life. The way things are live in tension with the way things also are. We live on the boundary between yin and yang. Sometimes this, sometimes that.
Negotiation and compromise, kid. Negotiation and compromise.
Some things must be forced, like a nail into wood. Some things cannot be forced, like the ripening of a peach. It is important to know what we are dealing with.
The oneness, the wholeness, is not harmonious but contradictory, oppositional, dynamic, discordant and interdependent. Yin/yang at the core.
You cannot “follow your bliss” without caring about your bliss—without being attached to your bliss. Detachment is not a steady-state. Attachment to the right things, detachment at the right time.
Pace and timing, Kid, pace and timing. And luck. Don’t forget to be lucky. And remember that luck is dependent upon the way we see what is happening. Good luck is always aligned with our wants, wishes and desires. Bad luck is always contrary to what we would like to have. Change your mind about what is important, and you luck will always be good. And when something does not go your way, think of it as the luckiest day of your life—and live as though it is, and it definitely will be. That is how to always be the luckiest person alive.
How often do you do what makes your little heart sing and your little toes dance? How long has it been?
What excites you? What stirs you? Calls your name? How often do you do those things?
Look closer at whatever catches your eye.
Notice every time you dismiss or discount something that calls your name.
The way is the way of being in relationship with the way things are, not the way of achieving things or having what we want.
Joseph Campbell said that primal societies always understood that the invisible world is the foundation of the visible world. Grounded in the visible world, we have no support, and are left to our own devices. Grounded in the invisible world, we are at one with our life, and able to offer what we have, in doing what is called for in every situation as it arises.
There is no static way of being, no steady-state. Everything is on the way to something else, somewhere, else. We cannot make things what we want them to be for long.
All paths walked with awareness lead to the center, where all are one (“But not the same one”).
There is nothing to do but wake up, nothing to be but awake, nothing to have but awareness.
In any situation, what we need for living appropriately in the situation and offering what is called for by the situation is available to us. Help is available if we open ourselves to it, and avail ourselves of it. It may not be what we want, or have in mind, but it will do quite nicely.
Our task is to know what is important and to do it. That is the Great Work. Everything else will fall into place around it. Or, as Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all that you need will be yours as well” (or, words to that effect).
Speaking of God, we are responsible for knowing the Sacred, the Numinous, the Ineffable through the way we engage the experience of being alive. Art, music, nature, beauty, creativity, curiosity, and exploration have always been avenues to wonder, amazement, awe, and encounters with More Than Words Can Say. We are seeking the experience of the moved with the mover, the seeker with the sought, the dancer with the dance.
When your emotions are aroused, positively or negatively, delay your response. Take a long walk. Think things through—wait to be settled, centered, clear. The old Taoist practice of “waiting for the mud to settle and the water to clear,” is always an appropriate response to attraction and repulsion.
Do not allow the world to create your response to the world. Live in the world out of your attachment to, and awareness of, the core of what matters most. Respond to the world out of that attachment.
Of all the possibilities for response to the situation, which is on the beam for you? What does it mean for you to live on the beam in this situation? The beam runs through all situations, though we may be distracted and lose the way in any situation.
Doing what we think is important with awareness is the only way to get to what is important. Knowing what is working, and what isn’t working leads us to the center. If we want to find the path, we only have to be sensitive to the difference between what works and what doesn’t work.
“It works.” “It isn’t working.” That’s all we need to know. We find what works by knowing what doesn’t work. We find the way by knowing what is not the way.
If we don’t know whether something will work, we only have to give it a spin. Everything becomes clear with time, even to those seeped in denial. Start walking with awareness and the path will open before you—and if the path you think is the path turns out to not be the path, sit with emptiness, stillness and silence until something arises that beckons you, and start walking. If that turns out to not be the path, sit with emptiness, stillness and silence until something beckons you and start walking… And so on, for the rest of the time left for living.
We can wake ourselves up or, if we live long enough, our life will do it for us. We can always opt for dying in denial. It’s always easier to be dead than alive. And the light comes on of its own accord. We live waiting for the time to be right for waking up.
There are two worlds, the visible world and the invisible world. Within this world, there is that world. Within that world, there is this one. We live in this one on the basis of that one. We pull that one into this one. We find what we need to live in this one on the strength of our association with that one. This is called Walking Two Paths At The Same Time.
All of the epic hero stories are about us, our gift, and our life. We struggle to bring forth our gift (our art, our genius, our daemon, our shtick ), within the context and circumstances of our life the way Ulysses struggled with the Cyclops. The context and circumstances of our life are the Cyclops standing before us in each situation as it arises.
Five synonymous terms for “Gift” are “Art,” “Genius,” “Work,” “Life,” and “Destiny.” Our Gift is our Art is our Genius is our Work is our Life is our Destiny. The world around us has no conception of Art, Gift, Genius, Work, Life, Destiny. Wealth, Prosperity, Profit, and Money are the things it understands. We are not here to convert the world, to wake the world up. We are here to be awake, to be alive, and to do our work. If the world wakes up, fine. If not, fine.
Live as much of the Life that is yours to live as can be lived—share as much of the Art, the Gift and the Genius that are yours to share as can be shared—within the context and circumstances of life as it is, and let that be that.
It comes down to this: Wake up! Grow up! Square yourself up to the difference between the way life is and the way you wish it were! Get up and do what needs to be done! The way it needs to be done! Because it needs to be done! In every moment, each situation as it arises, whether you want to or not, whether you feel like it or not, whether you in the mood for it or not. And let that be that.
I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing.
I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.
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