Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What I Learned


More than any captivating class or paper, course or major,
all nighter or postponed procrastination,
more than any hallowed  ground crossed by legion feet 
where pliant minds soaked in the genius of
sacred space and intellectual blossoming,
more than special dinners, flumes, turkey tetrazzini, trivia,
winter study, Bronfman movie nights, the dog house, 
Prospect late nights, Papa C's indulgences, or Mardis Gras queens,
the most enduring learning, that which altered my very marrow,
was the true meaning of friendship.
Formed in the trials of mind-bending, late night discussions,
shared vulnerabilities -- entrusted and soothed, 
and steadfast companionship unfazed by time, distance or sorrow.
These alchemized my heart
much like golden sun might project purple on a cow at sunrise and sunset
and renew wonder each day, infinite, and sustaining
thus changing forevermore how life is seen, loved, learned and lived.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Letter to a Beloved on Depression

Sweetie there is no trying. It is your IDEA that something is wrong with you or anyone else which causes the suffering. This isn't to say that it does not hurt or that it does not stink or that it is not achingly raw and excruciating, and it not to say that its in your head but that paradoxically the only balm that will "fix" us in the end is love that only we can give to ourselves. Nothing else will ever be enough because we are the ones who sacrificed that completeness, usually because it was all we could do to survive at that time. But please don’t hear those sentences and for a nanosecond go down the road of self blame. The "we" who sacrificed completeness, did so to survive at that time and it is probably less useful now though it causes much pain. The good part is that it need not be difficult to give ourselves that love. We literally just take it moment by moment. A favorite mantra of mine is "what problem do I have right now" not in five minutes, not tomorrow but literally right now. Not even one second from now but right now. Over and over again, it can bring clarity. Your brain may want to say but I feel awful or I can't pay this bill or my fiancĂ© didn't call or my best friend is too damn preachy, but look carefully. Are they truly problems right NOW. They may suck - true enough, they may really hurt, they may even be crippling but are they “problems” right now. Anyway, know that I love you and if I am being a pain just tell me. There will be no hard feelings or judgment. YOU know what is best for you.

It's not positive thinking or negative thinking that is the culprit. In a way, it is thinking at all. We believe that who we are is something we can think about but who we truly are is something that cannot be thought. Take a bowl for a moment.  We are like bowls. What is most useful is actually its space. Its functionality, its true meaning comes from a kind of absence. Our true selves are similar. Our true meaning comes from our absence. We are never what we "THINK" we are.  We project ourselves into the world , as good, bad, sick, healthy, smart, artsy, sad, goth, black, tall,depressed, lazy, struggling, dedicated, confident.  That image – that we often believe, is not who we are. Neither is the world. The world is full of more heartbreak than and joy than could ever be contained by a persons mind but again we are not our chemically balanced or imbalanced minds.

You will not think your way out of this, which is why I suspect the urge to strangle people who tell you to just think positively comes to the fore. As well meant as it might be, it demonstrates a keen lack of understanding of depression as well as insensitivity to how one feels.
By the same token I wonder if there is not some part of you that believes “you're just not trying hard enough” or that if you “just thought the right thoughts things would be ok”. They wont.  No thought will get you there. They won’t because at their heart things actually are ok. They are not ok because bad things don't happen. They do. It is not ok because the world isn't full of pain and suffering in heartbreaking magnitude. It is. It is ok because who you are IS the world and that heartbreak is yours, mine, ours everyone's to truly own and the real "space" of who we are is actually capable of holding it all - the pain the sorrow, the happy, the anger the guilt, the numbness. All of it. Who we really are can hold it all.

I am serious about this my beloved. Have you tried meditation? I am not saying this as some proselytizing zealot. You know me well enough.  I might meditate. I might not.  Like Walt Whitman Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Meditation is only a tool. It’s a tool that is useful to some people at some times. It is a way of creating some space between the mind which runs our lives and who we truly are underneath. It is a way of creating a space between our emotions which are derivative of our thoughts and who we truly are underneath. That "who we are truly are underneath" is so big it is far beyond positive and negative. It is not separate from that duality though.
People who believe that positive thinking is the solution will discover eventually that it doesn't work (or maybe they won't). We all feel pain.  It is the human condition.  In the meantime, be gentle with yourself and please do not beat yourself up over your reaction when you have been hurt.  I suspect many who ascribe to the positive thinking camp fail to recall the moments in their own lives when the opposite happens - which it inevitably will or does. Every thought, positive or negative is in some way not fully true.  How could it be?  Thought parses truth. Truth does exist though. However it is not something that can be spoken. It is something to be. And the most beautiful (though often paradoxically, hard part) is that one need not DO anything to be that truth.  We are so conditioned to do, so conditioned to think that we must earn our belonging, earn our existence, earn being loved.  We do not. They are ours for the recognition, simply for being.  Life wants nothing more than to express itself through you – all of you.

Spend time watching your own mind. It is an incredibly powerful way to connect to that which you truly are. In fact, that which watches the mind is not the mind. It is something bigger and grander though again not separate).
So if your next question is how do I "be" or how do I "be truth" I have a few thoughts - what if you were unapologetically you? What would that look like? You write a lot. It is an excellent way to process but in your case I suspect that part of why you write on facebook is because you want reactions because they then give you something to react to. You write on facebook for the same reason anyone does - in our hearts we want to be seen. In what spaces are you seen? Who does see you? Do you see yourself in your entirety? What if you created a blog?  What if you wrote with yourself as your main audience and others as an afterthought? It might not change what you wrote but would it change your relationship to the writing?
A second "thought"  and it is not my own but based in a number of spiritual practices is one I have already mentioned. Ask the question:what "problem" do I have right now? (not in five minutes or in a half hour but right Now. Problems only exist in time. They exist in a future in which we are worried about controlling the outcome.  That’s hard, because we can’t.  We can plan and prepare but we cannot control the outcome and when the future comes we will handle it then with the resources we have then. There cannot be a "problem" in the now. My third thought is to watch your own mind as much as you can (essentially that is what meditation is) Become interested in the fact that its saying all these different things all the time. (In that way,  your mind is no different than any other human’s on this planet. All of our minds think crazy thoughts).  Just listen to them for a few minutes even right now.  Some people are more honest about the fact their minds say these things. Everyone one of our minds is built to strive for security by scanning the environment. It is hardwired into us. It has served us well for many centuries. It is not bad, its just it’s not the only kind of intelligence that exists.  It serves a purpose.  Again it is not "bad" or negative" its just that there is a deeper consciousness, a deeper intelligence that beats ones heart, that breathes your lungs, that even thinks your thoughts into existence that knows what it is doing even when our minds don’t. You are closer than you think. When you say you feel like there is an alien species in your human skin you are more onto something you might be consciously aware of. I do not mean green skinned and big eyed extra terrestrials from the Andromeda galaxy but the fact that your brain probably tells you all kinds of crazy stuff, and you must think how can I think this or why does everyone else seems to think differently. They might. Who cares? Just because you think it or they think it does not make it less wrong or right. In a way it doesn't matter what they think or even what you think. YOU are not your thoughts. When you touch that you will have contacted the power of your own liberation and everyone else’s too.
When I say you will have contacted everyone else's liberation. I do not mean that others are consciously liberated necessarily. What is meant is that when consciousness finds freedom through any one of us it gives freedom to the world because in the end we are not separate.

Know that you are loved – in fact more so than could ever be articulated.

Your beloved

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Where is God?

God is an equation.
waiting to be solved,
A complex algorithm of fantastic proportions and complexity.
God is a flower
bursting through the sidewalk crack, slipping to life through
the unexpected hardness.
God is the dust particles
floating in the morning sun
wafting up your nose-hairs and tickling you to sneeze- fits
before settling too regularly on the book shelves.
God is the soft footfall of shoes on dark wooden planks
as a legacy of family and friends stream in to rest a cherished life.
If a white bearded man in the sky is what you see, then so be it ,
perhaps that brings you solace.
But would it really be better as scintillating minds or brilliant logic, phenomenal artistry,
thoughtfulness, kindness, warmth, caring or generosity, even love?
All pales in the real essence,
simply words, mere concepts like this poem,
like a single sentence in an epic oeuvre larger than a galaxy.
It is all God, the phlegm hacked onto the ground,
Sewage leaking from the pipes
The nasty smoke garroting her lungs

Perhaps it is no more sexist to call out the beauty of a part to the whole
than it is for language itself to describe the divine.
You will never get more God than the rock in your shoe or the hangnail on your thumb.
All means all after all.
Here is a blasphemy: worship the tough things.  The things you want to exclude.
God, God and more God.
The stubbed toe, earwax, yes, even war.
We desperately want to pick and choose.
To say this but not that.
We desperately want it  to make sense to our mind
And there is infinite beauty in that failure.
Let your heart break again and again if you truly want to know.
You say you don’t believe in God.
I believe you.
Too often that word has been used misused in the name of power and horror
but in the end, I say, if you have participated in this world
if you believe in this computer, or the food you eat or that  your own hands exist

then you have all the concrete evidence of God there will ever be.

Inspired by ah


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Belief That its Safer To Keep a Low Profile

Deeply, I have believed for many years that it is safer to keep a low profile than it is to risk speaking up. It is something so deep that it is not something I have examined and would say I actually wholeheartedly disagreed with if actually asked. But if you examine my actions and being the world, it is clear that under the surface I have lived trying to avoid detection and scrutiny for much of my life.  I do not rock the boat,  I do not speak my mind.  The other day at a museum I tried to control someone close to me because I thought they were speaking too loudly.   On another recent occasion I cringed when I sat next to a friend who was speaking on controversial subjects in a loud voice on the train.  "What if people judged me by association? "What if they thought less of me? "My mind is constantly spinning with the possibilities and calculations for how I am being perceived.  It runs an algorithm to calculate where I stand and how safe I am in relation to others.  The equation is weighted towards the past.  It is weighted towards a model of security in absence; security in silence, security through being small and non-existent.  It is easy to see why I was drawn to an orientation to the world that speaks of selflessness and the lack of a "self".  To leave the analysis there however, is to miss the point.  Real selflessness is actually beyond narrow conceptual logic. It is the recognition of the true lion's roar and that "I" am present in that which is much larger. It is all things, not simply quiet or risk averse or conflict averse or conversely the extraordinarily brave.  It is simply true unto itself.  It is not afraid of encountering another part of itself and therefore is beyond keeping profiles at all. Real selflessness sees that you are all of it.  Sometimes "it" may move under the radar and sometimes it may move like a trumpeter. The key lies in getting out of its way.  The key lies in unpacking the belief.


So let's take a look at some of the beliefs of that seem to be operating here:


1) Why would I believe that its ok to make myself small rather than own whatever was presenting itself in this form?

2) When may I have formulated this belief?

3) What does this belief protect me from?

4) What have I gained from holding this belief?

5) What do I lose by holding this belief?

6) What does this belief keep me from facing?


Answers:


1) Speaking aloud for myself  is not easy. I do not stand up for myself. Being small is easier because I think I will get hurt less if people don't know I am here.  I do not claim my presence in the world and am more comfortable being the person on the side making things happen. There are a few places of interesting exceptions, for instance I laugh loudly and can be a performer.    I have acted and I am not afraid of speaking to audiences.  In those arenas, I am not afraid to be bold, but most of the time when I am in public I act as if I prefer not to be noticed. 


1A) What is different about those situations and the others.  I am certainly confident in those situations and the confidence comes from something internal. It feels as though I have been "asked" in those situations to carry out something specific.  It is interesting to note that it does not feel like life is asking something specific in the situations in which I feel less confident, for that would be the source of the needed confidence.


2)When did you formulate this belief - I am not sure. Probably as a child.  I probably had a fair share of circumstances in which it was not safe to speak up. There are probably also accidentals of early childhood, race, disposition, geography that contribute to sense of safety.


3) What does it protect me from now? It protects me from failing.  It enables me to be loved by everyone or perhaps more accurately --  thought of fondly of by many.  I suspect it is truly -loved by few because  it diminshes the extent of real authenticity and subsequently "real" love.  It keeps me from the discomfort of "not knowing" If you don't stick your head out, its not as likely to get chopped off.   I have gained some degree of safety from this belief but traded away much.


4) What have I gained by holding this belief ?- the illusion of security. the illusion of safety.  The false belief that things are OK if others validate your existence rather than knowing from the heart that existence itself gives us intrinsic meaning that needs no validation. It has enabled me to excel at many things but prevented me from trying many others for fear of failure.


4) What do I "lose" by holding this belief: Freedom, Authenticity, Happiness.


5) What does this belief keep me from facing ? My self .  If I have a low profile then the shadowy parts don't have to get examined by me or by others. We can almost pretend they don't exist, but it also keeps me from facing my own power.  I want to be liked. Being myself might mean not always being liked.   My own power is simply authenticity.  It is not something grandiose, it is simply whatever gifts this body/mind is meant to bring to the world.  This belief keeps me from facing life in all its glory and misery.   When I relate to the smallness I feel like I will break but when I relate from the largeness of it all then all of life is a grand adventure of discovery and hide and seek.  Life seeking itself in every nook and cranny and celebrating all the while.


5A) What then is the power that is here?  What is meant to come into the world through me?  In many ways that is a question that is lived through the moment to moment life that is manifesting through me - it is not a question that is statically answered and put in the closet


5B) Who is "My Self" - Is it necessary to think in terms of boundaries - who I am is what is manifesting right now, right here in this space.


So much of my life I have spent shrinking myself, blending into the walls, quieting any aspects of myself that might be disturbing to others, but perhaps enlightenment is nothing more than full authenticity and wholeness.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

For Terry Beresford

 I don’t know whether it’s your sense of humor; feisty good-natured and smart,  or your indefatigable being which never tired in its thirst for understanding or your thoughtfulness and kindness and sense of purpose; always larger than yourself, always giving away the most valuable element any of us has, the heart of our self, our passion, that I will miss most.  You have touched the lives of so many, many people.  You have taught us so much.  I have thought lots recently about my mentor, who was mentored by you, and reflected that some rare people are truly born “ teachers”.  Here teacher is meant in its loftiest and most estimable sense.   They show. They enlighten. What is meant, is that some people are oriented to the world to bring forth knowledge and wisdom in themselves and others and their very existence coaxes that light out, nurtures it forth, wherever they are.  Like fire, ready to catch aflame logs in proximity and set ablaze each log’s own light, those people are a bonfire for many.  In a room of hundreds or one, they do it consciously, in their speech, actions, and writing but the most gifted of all do it with their very presence, carriage , manner, and attitude.  Those people are rare gifts.  I cannot help but think of the many logs who considered themselves warmed by your light and the many lives they in turn brightened because of your spark.  They are counted among my most dear.  And in some small way, even amidst this sorrow, I am able to see and hold the good alongside the grief of your passing.  Perhaps that is what I will miss the most;  how you nurtured that little light in all of us.  And how fitting it is, for light continues on far beyond where anyone can ever imagine or contemplate.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Room for Meditation

We've been sitting in this room with it's bell and darkness
Listening not to the sounds of technologies' voices nor to the sounds of rambling in our heads, droning with their incessant chatter.
The silence we follow is present in sound, present in darkness
Simply, fully present.
We've carefully carved this space out of the day's tasks that call.
Oasis amidst the jumble of distractions and noise all of which compost the silence too.
Different bodies, different minds pass through this space; tune into this silence and in doing so are reduced.
This is not the reduction of less than.
Not at all.
This is the reduction that fiercely and gracefully
robs you of everything that was never needed
And in so doing leaves more than could ever be imagined.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sincerity

I have been reading and re- reading a number of interesting books lately. One theme that I would like to reflect upon, enumerated in two excellent books The Open Path  and Emptiness Dancing is the importance of sincerity. It strikes me that indeed, that is very true, yet often overlooked. Sincerity is a wonderfully nuanced and complex word.  It packs a lot.  To me it evokes a humility and curiosity as well as an authenticity and devotion.  For  me there is a deep longing and yearning in sincerity.   Dictionary online defined sincere as free from deceit, hypocrisy, falseness.  These also ring accurate. Perhaps sincerity is our greatest yearning. The beauty of sincerity is that it is a process.  It is something which must be renewed time and again.  In the same way that authenticity is a process sincerity requires continuous renewal. One is not sincere and then done.  Sincerity is a quality of openness and discovery as one part of mystery encounters another part of mystery. When put that way it strikes me that it is synonymous with life itself, for what more is life than mystery meeting up with all of it of itself. To be sincere is to live in reality, is to see clearly, is to recognize all.    It is easy to overlook the mystery though. It is easy to let our jadedness and protective shells orient us to action. We forget our divinity. But really what could we even protect?  The lure of slumber is steadfast.  We believe it is easy to dull pain.  Sleep seems to beckon us.  It seems easier to avoid what we know deep down, to pull the wool over our own eyes; to live with our own hypocrisies,  to embrace the fallacious over the truthful.  But is it?  What is the cost to our own lives?  What is the cost to life itself?  What freedom is bought with any lie?  I think sometimes when I am less than relentless and ruthlessly truthful that its ok. It's better to tell a white lie than to hurt someone’ s feelings. Why would that be true?.  I think it could be a supreme failure to recognize who the other person ultimately is and it is an equal failure to see yourself. It is also exceptionally lazy (or more likely frightened way to approach relating). 


Relentless and ruthless in this instance do not mean that one is unskillful IF one needs to tell someone else something that one thinks may be hurtful.  We still approach it with three times the amount of compassion that it took to be "ruthless" about broaching it.  This is to say that if something is difficult to say to another I cannot avoid it but I say it from a place of wholeness.  The relentlessness and ruthlessness apply because my inclination is to circumvent those topics.   I do not like conflict.  Few do.  And those that seek conflict, look for power -- over.  We need to let Truth’s unrelenting power move through us.  If it is truth we will find the “right” words, if it is anything less we will simply have to "clean up" that which missed the missed the target. 


Parents often get anxious or concerned or angry with their kids when they lie to them.  We have seen it in countless movies. We may have experienced it in our own lives. Kids sneaking in late and lying about coming in before their curfew.  Kids lying about what they have had to drink or how they have behaved. Little ones lying about something that they have done or haven't done.  It is nearly cliche.  It strikes me that perhaps the most painful part about lying is that it severs our link with reality.  We knowingly choose something not real over something real.  Usually we do this in fear and sometimes we even try to convince others of this reality. This is the height of insanity though many do it often.  When we willingly sacrifice truth to lie we bind humanity.  We make it that much harder for the next person to feel the permission that always exists to surrender into freedom.  We make it that much harder for ourselves to recognize the freedom that always exists. We trade reality for fear of a consequence that may never happen.  We play a reproachful and bitter God.  It is no wonder we do not trust ourselves.  It is no wonder we do not trust each other.  It  is no wonder we are so dis-eased.  We wrestle with ghosts -- and lose when we lie, for ultimately the lie separates us from the very things we most need. To lie is to fail to accept the moment as it is, as such, it is perhaps the antithesis of enlightenment.



 I remember when my little one told a "lie". He was too young for the children's textbooks to actually call it a lie per se since the sense of self was not developed enough for the full recognition of a something to protect or of any kind of consequence from his actions.  At that point it was more like a creative exercise and arguably perhaps a primitive and rudimentary sense of trying to protect something.  Putting aside the motivation and challenges in childrens' lying, it is interesting to examine parents behavior.  It is interesting to remember my own sense of fear.  It is interesting how out of touch I became with the times I've lied or distorted the truth in my own life.   I was not alone in my internal freak out.  I suspect at one level it is about wanting to protect the child both from the behavior itself but that it is also  about a desire for genuine communication.  Lies stymie communication.  Every parent wants to believe they are trustworthy enough for their child to come to them with their problems and challenges. Not all are and certainly not at all times. They want to believe they make it safe enough for their children to be authentic and sincere.  Sadly, there is much that works to undermine that sense of safety in the world. 








What would it be like to truly be yourself with no fear of being judged?

What would it be like to truly be authentic and not worry about how you were perceived by others?

Does this change when you think of the reflections of those close to you?





Sincerity to me feels like a powerful driving force.  It feels like a force I can align "my life" with. It feels like it can propel and direct, guide and steer "this me" where it needs go.  It is both gentle and fierce at the same time.  It is gentle in that it is an ever open invitation to be in reality.  It is fierce because it never wanes and is always there whether we choose to befriend it or not. It is precious because it is the gravity that enables my heart's desire to live truth over and over again.