Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tweets to Still Your Mind

Some tweets I wrote to help me still my mind -  Koan-like in their nature .

    Ø  Heed the call. You know you've heard it.
    Ø  Silence. The mother of us all.
    Ø  My cat's purr is a dharma teaching worthy of a revered sutra.
    Ø  Yes, it hurts. It hurts a lot, but who said there is anything wrong with hurting?
    Ø  Why not now?
    Ø  What does the face of God look like? - Perhaps the question ought to be what doesn't it look like.
    Ø  If I am suffering, what am I leaving out?
    Ø  Why not this experience - right now?
    Ø  I am smiling gently and lovingly embracing this conditioning that is so often called me.
    Ø  We are already that which we seek. "Stillness, Silence, Spirit, God, call it what you like, it permeates all. It can never leave us.




It has been a busy week for the Supreme Court in the United States. We saw decisons on Affirmative Action (sort of) the Voting Rights Act,  and Marriage Equality.   I am coming to grips with the roller coaster of emotions.  You might have noticed it in some of the recent writing like "Racism" and today's poem "Equality".  Equality feels ufinished.  It started out as a list and meter that did not rhyme but then I reordered it and rhymed the lines and tinkered with the meter.  I am afraid it is feeling a little too sing-song but then perhaps that is appropriate since it is mostly celebratory.   And perhaps, given the topic, it is just as well that it is not quite finished even as far along as we have come.   Let me know what you think?


Tuxedos ,
I do. and,
I’d do it again.
Puckered lip kisses,
white satin dresses,
festooned celebration.

Electrifying music,
floral khakis,
heck anything that’s you.
A circle of dear ones
a trip to cancun
Party pics at the zoo.

Justice of the peace,
broom jumping,
in the rain.
Fondant and chuppahs
I do, all over again.

Towards lives loved together
not  simply how we are taxed
injustice and shame when they ushered me out
as your grip on the world relaxed.
No, in the end I rejoice. They begin to see
All anyone ever wanted was.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Flower


The green of the forest grows in your eyes

The summer's soft breeze is in your laugh

The strength of an oak rests in your thighs

The horizon's gentle curve lies in your calf


Mahogany's rich wood colors your hair

With a sparkle of grey theres a shimmer

The lips harbor kisses pursed in a prayer

Or curl with a smile and a glimmer


Your allure defies grand, father time

Your appeal is like water for thirst

Your grace expands beyond simple rhyme

Fields full of color to burst


That I mature beside such a fount oh so lovely

Nurtures my heart with a peace and great solace

Enveloped in a cocoon of your unending beauty

Is when life, here for me, blossoms best.
for CFN


It's dead you know.
We lynched that spectre.
Strung him up till he breathed no more
No longer to haunt us.
No more to lurk in the shadows.

Got indian legislators, hispanic mayors
a muslim in Congress, even a black president.
Well mostly black, his name is Iranian
and he can't prove that he's a citizen
but he's President after all.

This is post race society.  Get with it.
You climb to the top of the ladder in your own damn boots
Don't mind the bodies underneath you though
who have been the economic fuel for the growth of a nation.
After all, fuel is meant for consumption.

We can check off that box.
Racism killed.
It's all good now.
You can even go to old Chinese Dr. Nakamura for heart surgery.
That bean has definetly been counted.

Funny how the moment the electorate rose
Finally - " A Dream Advanced"
(Outvoted, what? by whom?)
Its wings were set ablaze.
You don't need white sheets and torches these days.

Illness and Surrender

I am bipolar.  I have been since my junior year in college.  Since then I have managed my illness; sometimes successfully and sometimes less so.   It is a source of pain.  Arguably the deepest cutting pain is for someone to think that I am "geting sick" .    Of course at times it has been a needed statement and the most loving of observations.  Still it is arguably my most painful phrase and greatest fear.  Why? 

True liberation is not fearlessness.   It's facing fear even though it's there.  It's an intimacy with fear.   It's the ability to hold fear close as well as anything else and not push it away.   So let's take a look.  Of what am I afraid?  To be crazy, to get sick, is to be out of control. Even those basic assumptions about what is real and what is not, what is a dream and what is not, all come into question in psychosis.  There is also the potential that I would hurt myself or others amidst a psychotic episode.  These are things of which to be frightened, especially given my value of love and compassion. Even as I write them I can feel the knot it creates.  I can feel mysefl saying --  not me, I couldn't be that way.  It is a drive to disconnect, to separate, to create a boundary by elevating myself by comparison.  It is an endeavor doomed to failure.   At the same time though, I begin to feel the tenderness of that raw spot.  It's heart breaking really.  How fragile it all is, how human it is to strike or to  lash out because we got hurt and because we didn't didn't know any better. Really underneath it all, we all want to know that we belong, that we're good deep down, that we are loved. What would happpen if we believed that all would be ok no matter what - not because of anything we did or didn't do but simply because we are.   We forget who we are.  We define our totality in such limited ways.  The confusion comes because we gloss the connections to all else that is ever present.  We are worthy simply because we are; we exist.   There is nothing outside of this moment that we are in that anyone needs.

Back to fear.  Back to psychoses.  Back to control.   Here is a list of my worries, and fears about "getting sick." 
  • That I've failed - have not done enough , have not tried hard enough
  • That I've let others down
  • That I will never come out of that fog
  • That I will harm someone or myself
  • That I will lose my job
  • That I won't ever be able to function again
  • That my partner will leave me
  • That I will say hurtful things to others especially those whom I love
  • That I will cause enormous pain for others around me
  • That I have not faced life with utmost integrity
  • That there is something wrong with me
  • That I am unlovable
Let's take a minute to explore failure.  I do not like to fail.  I have not done it often.   Failure is painful.  Why?  I take failure to indicate something about me.  It is hard to separate failing from who I am.  Failure, especially in those endeavors that are dear, seems to indicate something about me and it is further evidence of my inadequacy and not belonging.  Failure in areas that are important to me personally seems to send the message that I am not ok.  It is a judgement that I am not enough.   It is easy to equate success and failure on a given endeavor, as saying something immutable about us.   Each is magnified because they feel like they come from our unique expression. Success feels like a positive acknowledgement of our unique expression and rejection like the a negation of our expression. It that really true?  Of course what we forget is that both success and failure are always filtered through the eyes of the one making that determination. And ultimately true success is how life itself expresses itself through you and that is much larger than one's art  or what one does and how it is viewed by the world. True success in this more absolute realm is really about being an instrument of truth and love and that is a moment to moment endeavor that is not always measured by worldly success and is not measured by form.

  • When was the last time you failed?
  • When was the last time you "tried" your absolute hardest?
  • When was the last time you tried something new or that you were not good at?
  • When was the last time you succeeded at something?
  • When was the last time you were praised for something you did?
  • When was the last time you were castigated for something you did?
  • How did you feel in all of these instances?
  • What went into your successes and failures?  Does that belong to "you"
  • What would happen and how would you feel if you tried your absolute hardest and still failed?

On the other hand, failure (and success too) can be incredibly powerful gateways towards surrender.  I suspect when you truly realize there is nothing you can do, and yet you have not succeeded or you have succeeded but are still not satisfied,  then grace, spirit, divinity can aid.  Surrender can enter.   Don't confuse giving up with surrender though.  Giving up is very different than complete surrender.  Giving up often has a a quality of hope or frustration, as if registering your irritation with the heavens will fix the situation or with hope there is still the tiny part that holds out that it will be different. The quality of surrender is a kind of equanimity that simply says  "this is how it is."  There is a quietness about surrender.  There is a stillness to it.

Dante suggested that above the gates of hell was written "abandon all hope ye who enter here" but  perhaps these are not the gates to hell at all, but to heaven.  Perhaps it is only when we have abandoned hope of changing, improving or creating a better me or better world or a better heaven that grace that fill us with the capacity to act in its behalf.  That grace will give us the eyes to see the heaven that exists in the current, the perfection that is manifesting now.  This is when life truly  begins.  In this, perhaps my sickness is is my greatest gift and my biggest opportunity.   In this, my sickness offfers my greatest chance for surrender.

So what does surrender look like with respect to my mental illness.  I started to write "internalizing that I will never get better" and while this may almost seem right at first,  it is not. I do not know that I will or won't get better.   The statement "internalizing that I will never get better" truly means I am clinging to the idea that I will get sick which is hardly any better than the thought that I won't.   It means that the dark hole of not knowing is too hard and not being able to plan for it is so frightening I would rather resign myself to "getting sick at some other point"   To hang out in the realm of uncertainty is more challenging.  The truer reality is I don't know.  Real freedom lies in the discomfort  of NOT KNOWING.

Managing my illness has some different pitfalls that perhaps don't surface as much with some other illnesses.  The mind is often considered the seat of who we are. When the brain is declared dead, we are declared dead.  It's what we say distinguishes us from animals.  So, when that essential tool functions in ways that are societally problematic or when the mind seems broken or in need of help, it can be easy to blame oneself for the problem.  Did I not do enough?  Did I "think" the right thoughts?  Did I let too much stress into my life? Did I not monitor myself more carefully?  Fill in the blank --  thought ostensibly drives the behavior.  As I write this I am realizing that I imagine this must be a part other illnesses too but I don't wonder if the element of "well this simply happened" has more space to grow.  With the mind it is sometimes hard to separate "I" am not a function of my thinking.  It is very easy to blame oneself when the mind gets sick.

Managing my illness is different than surrender.  Surrender includes management and yet is larger than it.  Surrender does not  mean that I stop taking my medication or seeing the pyschiatrist or my therapist or stop listening to their suggestions.  I suspect it means fully and completely acknowledging the pain of living with my mental illness.  It also means the courage to not be complacent or passive about any part of my care.   It is comprised of truth telling and facing consequences. Too often I am inclined to accept the opinions of medical experts without letting them know how it is affecting me or what I want from life.   I suppose it means at its heart looking at the pain that bipolarity raises of not being enough, of simply being flawed or wrong and its implications in all areas. 

The funny part is of course that something is wrong and something is flawed.  That is the human condition.  And we often spend our lives in search of better "me's'" striving for perfection, striving for the perfect personality, acting this way so these people will like us or not judge us; acting in another manner to curry the favor of others, but no one is without flaw, no one is always correct, no one is without sin.  The beautiful part is that it does not matter.  Enlightenment has been defined as "without anxiety about imperfection"  I think that is a lovely description.  It is the perfection intrinsic to imperfection.  With that recognition comes authenticity, truth,  freedom and love. Relating from that recognition the whole to whole; not fractured insufficiencies endlessly comparing and competing in an dance of upmanship, would make for an interesting world.


Were you ever told "eat your peas" or "liver" . . . "there are starving children in the world?" (Even if you were not, for I do not actually recall my parents ever saying that), it is in the discourse in Western culture and many are familiar with it.  It is an attempt to elicit gratitude from children (as well as foist the value of peas and liver upon them).   I suspect few children felt truly grateful at that moment.   To me, authentic gratitude feels like sheer amazement or wonder. It is a kind of joy and deep thankfulness that a particular something exists. Of course that requires that we notice that that something exists and in our busy an hectic lives we often fail to notice.  So much goes by that we never notice.  We spend so much time doing and much less observing, much less noticing much less enraptured by the unending beauty in the world.

Artists notice. At its heart that may be the essence of art, noticing and elevating, so that others notice too.  Perhaps that is why so many true artists are not celebrated during their lifetime.  Society was not ready to notice what was obvious to them.  I've read that the exercise of simply writing down that which one is grateful for, can uplift the spirits immensely.  The times I have done it -- it has certainly been true.   if it at first feels contrived and method like,  the list never dries up.  Each of us has more blessings than we could ever count.

I suspect authentic gratitude helps because it is an opening to a wider perspective.  It is particularly useful when we have become too myopic about a problem and have lost sight of the context in which the problem arises. It may be the case that the problem hurts or seems sticky or causes us anxiety but is certainly not the only thing going on at that moment.  When we suffer we have identified with the clouds, forgetting that we are the sky.  Even identification with the clouds can be seen as part of  the sky.   There is nothing wrong with the identification, it simply happens. But often we worry that we are not being spiritual if problems or identification arise.  Or we become so focused that it the only part of life that is before our eyes.  Of course problems arise.  But they could never be the whole. Furthermore, how wonderful it is that problems arise.  How monotonous life would be without "problems"   I suspect they start feeling less like problems though, when you recognize them as the diverse and rich texture of life itself in its pain, glory, wonder, sorrow and joy and a million other nuances.

Through these eyes seeing is gratitude.  It cannot make sense to the mind which will fight to turn the problems and challenges into a theory of justice and at one level that is well and good.  There is nothing wrong with a good theory of justice.  At another level is an extremely radical question to ask: What can we include in our gratitude?  What must be left out?  What does that suggest?

Here are few things I am grateful for at this moment:

My sight
The fact that I am able  to type
The clicking of the keyboard keys in a clackety rhythm.
My beautiful partner
Loving and healthy parents
My loving child
Friends in many places: VA, Seattle, MD, Pennsylvania, New York, DC, Colorado, France
Three crazy cats
Amazing siblings
Wonderful in-laws
Meatless Meatballs
Bread in every form it can be ingested
Potatoes - I don't think I've ever met one that I didn't love
Pesto - perhaps my all time favorite.   For me, it is proof that universe is benevolence.
Long summer days
Baseball gloves
Pictures drawn by my eight year old
Well run meetings
Super moons
Sports bras
Sign language

and those were just the things that came to me in three minutes.

I would love to hear from you.  What is that you are grateful for?  Its fun to write down or say it out loud to someone near.  Really it is.  What are you grateful for in this moment. I dare you to try it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Saint or Sinner?

You may or may not agree with him.  He has been vilified in some circles and venerated in others but regardless of what you feel about him, arguably, he is a function of  A New Earth, and emerging consciousness in many  ways.  

We stand at a crossroads in human history.  Never before has the capacity to destroy so much life, so quickly, existed.  A sword might harm one person, a ballista a score, but with today's technology, millions can die in that same instant.  Hundreds of species are endangered because of human's authoritarian approach to planetary life; our water is polluted and the climate is rapidly changing; soon perhaps beyond human remedy.  All is not grim however, for at the same time, there is an emerging consciousness.  More and more people are recognizing their intertwined identity, more and more people are seeing the conditioning that has motivated them, more and more people are waking up to who they really are.  Change is happening rapidly and each day there is evidence (as there has always been) of the both the rigid structures of identity bound relations and of unity informed relating.  In one, the fragments of our identity compete in an unending and ultimately doomed attempt to try to make us whole in the other we simply see the wholeness that comes from being who we are - a manifestion of the whole.

Without judging Edward Snowden (as either a traitor or patriot, attention-seeker or principled whistleblower), he is certainly a man of 2013.  In this time we are witnessing the perhaps unprecendented dissolution of structures in astounding and sometimes very frightening ways. Change is often hard.  Uncertainty is often hard.   For so many years the nation state has been the organizing principle of our tribal identity, but increasingly as communication makes it possible for people to know and understand the lives of others thousands of miles away, land boundaries are becoming less meaningful.  Forces like the internet have the power to undermine the bonds of nation states for better or worse.   Boundaries and allegiances in general are shifting and being redrawn. 

It was always interesting when the news was centralized to watch what reporters would report upon. For instance, when an international plane crashed and the Brits talked about the Brits, the Americans talked about the Americans and so on.  But why should one's allegiance reside with where they were born rather than somewhere else?  In today's age of twitter, facebook,  and hundreds of other social media, meaning is not constructed the same way any longer.  The potential for a different construction of meaning and identity exists.   As the power of tribal identity wanes however, the interesting opportunity is to see if people simply redefine their tribe or if they align with humanity  something different or bigger?   Now, to seemingly elevate realignment of identity and not recognize  the legitimate moral and ethical strivings of  tribes and countries throughout history, or to fail to acknowledge and honor those who have fought and died to protect  ideals, is to demean the work of tireless states people who have tried to make a difference. 

Still,  there are other ways of organizing the world and new modalities of communication coming to be each day.  These,  among many other things,  are accelerating the redrawing of walls and maps and alliances.  New ways of being and seeing are becoming available to more and more people, and lest you think this is limited to  simply some crazy hippy progressive spiritual outliers,  think about multi-national corporations.  To whom are they beholden?  In so many ways they supercede the traditional nation state model.  Their profits in many cases exceed the GDP of many countries. Their interests lie across countries all over the globe.   Currently their power is mostly checked by nation states but a multi-national's leverage only increases  exponentially when the success or failure of an entire nation state seemingly hinges on the success of the multi-national.  (Think too big to fail). 

Similarly take a look at a number of  “recent hot” issues in the news – immigration,  Private Manning,  the world economy,  last year’s middle east spring.    Each of these topics is at some level about redefining existing structures. Each is about the re-negotiating “inside from outside”  or remaking boundaries.  Ultimately that is what is transpiring .    The world's stock markets collapsing showed us how intertwined the economies of the world are, Private Manning if he is to be believed acted to right wrongs in how the US was treating others and is doing it at the cost of his reputation and career. The middle east overthrew numerous dictators as people connected through social media and realized their collective power.  Congress is heatedly embattled in the most ironic of debates considering that nearly everyone in the US came as an immigrant and the few who are not were subjected to insufferable injustice.  Each of these is about identity and boundary. Each of these issues is about who we say is in "our circle"  Each calls attention to the pitfalls and potential in how we have circumscribed in from out, connections among and between and how we relate with each other.  The old ways are giving way to new ways of connecting with each other . 

The world is becoming increasingly porous or more precisely we are noticing the porousness that always existed.   Back in college I read an article by Donna Haraway called A Cyborg Manifesto.  It was a brilliant and eye-opening essay.   One thing I distinctly remember was  the notion of boundaries changing rapidly in modern society.  The notion that what separates tools from humans from animals has become less clear it it ever was.   She spoke of how distinguishing a hammer from a human is relatively easy but where does the human begin and the tool begin when you ‘ve  installed a pacemaker or mechanical heart or bypassed the ear for a computer chip that enables hearing or when medicines change the brain chemistry or when individuals consciously share blood and organs?  Animal organ transplants are not that far off. Where does the human begin there?   How can we then be so different from each other or from animals? 

Even facebook and the increasing degrees of comfort in public sharing through various social media can be seen in the light of transparency and changing structures.   Now, it is true that  people's facebook  pages are still a very controlled "image" that distinct selves present to the world to get feedback and often reinforce the very image of who they believe themselves to be, but on the other hand, on the continuum of tools that point in the direction of recognizing how transparent our personalities are, or tools that allow the recognition of the many and varied  roles we play, facebook and other social media can be incredibly illustrative.  Why do you post?  Who do you expect to see it? Why do you tweet?  What do you choose not to post? What do you choose to post?  Whose posts do you hide? What is the image you present?  Who among your friends agrees with that image?  What of you remains hidden? Why?

Many find the brave new world terrifying, which is why at the same time that many old structures are crumbling before our eyes many cling to old structures  for dear life.  I suspect the fight over marriage equality is an issue like that.  For those who are opposed to marriage equality, I don’t wonder if the issue has less to do with gay people marrying each other and more to do  with a deep, deep fear that there is so little in the world that seems stable and their desire to hold onto something.

We create structures to provide stability, to ground us.  Often we are lulled into believing they are permanent.   No strucuture is permanent.  No form is permanent.   No-thing is permanent.  Many of our old structures are crumbling  and as they do, it causes stress.  Of course when a structure collapses, like when the stock markets around the world  nosedive it can be scary.  That is a part of being human.  Fear is not the problem  its what you do with that fear that can be problematic.  It is also an enormous opportunity to see beyond the veil and understand what really matters and know the power that it is always present that communicates it’s alright, it's ok and which is itself the only constant.  

Call it what you will.  When every-thing crumbles what is left?  When the tethers are gone and the anchors lifted, what does movement look like?  That is the amazing discovery that can be unearthed amidst uncertainty and the unknown.   One potential approach besides fear is to be curious about it like a thrilling movie where you don’t yet know the plot.   Who knows? What comes next?



Today, I am a tree.
My long, gangly limbs arc upwards and embrace the heavens
my roots spiral down into the dark, damp, dirt
a ganglia of a million beautifully tangled connections.
I am here because you breathed life into me. We are one.
Yesterday, I was a mighty Peregrine gliding on tufts of swirling air and wind
I targeted my meal below in the grassy marshes.
Now I am that struggling pregnant woman on the train, face lit with discomfort
as I am forced to stand "on my own two feet" even after a too
long 16 hour shift at Sal's Cafe. No one will handout his seat
and I cannot afford another mouth to feed.
I have been the pith on the inside of the lemon
and the filament in the bulb in your Grandma Edna's attic.
I have seen worlds conquered and galaxies born.
As a snowflake, I once melted into my place exactly as fate requested.
As a rock, I held my ground for a thousand years till the rain and
sun and wind relieved me of my guard.
You know of which I speak - for we are both forged from the
particles of stars. In this blessed here - there is no other,
the whole universe has conspired to create this very moment.
I am - because you are, as if there's any difference.
This is the ground in which all arises.
Where did I learn that the boundary of "me" ceased
at my skin, or my gender, or my race, country, species or even my thoughts.
Perhaps I did so because it seemed easier to indulge the lie then to steadily face
the immense pain and sorrow of my helplessness when confronted by the horrors of
of a world swalllowed by its own starvation, avarice, war, murder, and rape.
But really there is only an ounce of difference between true helplessness and surrender
which is where the freedom lies.
And so, tomorrow I am the leaf -- willingly seduced at twilight by
the gentle wind into one final dance that lays me upon the altar of myself.
Twirl me where you will. I am given over in love and it rends my heart into an
infinity of nothingness that will once again nourish this
tree of life.

What An Itch Revealed About the Eternal

The other night I experienced the itchiest of itches. At first, I got up to get something to scratch it with but then I decided that it would be fun to simply sit with the itch. I noticed that what I was calling “an itch” was actually something a lot more fluid. At first the sensation of a kind of prickliness dwelled in one place on the surface, then it moved deeper. At one point it became a kind of pulsing and at another it disappeared altogether, only to reappear a little while later. Was it really all the same thing? As I brought my attention, awareness and curiosity to my itch, I recognized that it offered a wonderful opportunity to explore the meaning of impermanence, space, awareness and conditioning.

We are conditioned to chase pleasurable experiences and avoid discomfort and unpleasantness. Without being a biologist, I’m guessing that it’s hardwired into us and has been incredibly adaptive for surviving. When faced with discomfort or pain we often seek relief immediately. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with seeking relief from pain or discomfort. It is not masochism that we’re after. But what if our discomfort or pain had something to teach us about who we really are? What if instead of reflexively seeking relief from one’s discomfort, one became curious about it? What exactly is pain or discomfort anyway? Sometimes we do not have the luxury of being able to relieve our discomfort or pain. What happens then? I decided to look into what this simple discomfort could show me. For me, the itch became the opportunity to look deeply into reality. It was perfect because it was not so difficult as I imagine chronic or serious pain could be and I knew that I could stay with it and glean valuable lessons about fluidity and the changing nature of phenomena. Something as seemingly insignificant yet “stable” and consistent as an itch was a doorway for insight.

As I sat with the ever-changing itch I became less aware of it as an “itch” per se. A big space existed and in it was this “movement” which was traditionally labeled “itch”. There were sensations; pressure, tingling, sharpness, shifting. Soon the desire to scratch the itch disappeared and soon after the series of sensations I had been calling an itch disappeared altogether too. In a way it was a beautiful microcosm of our lives. The itch was born, lived for a while and quietly disintegrated into nothingness .

Our minds try to give the world a sense of continuity and stability but at some level nothing is as static as it seems; it is changing all the time. It is all born anew each moment but for our mind which strings it together.

So the itch was physically uncomfortable but could it tell me something about emotional discomfort or pain? When one experiences emotional pain what exactly is it? Does it stay the same over the course of five minutes? an hour? a day? The next time one is feeling emotional pain, what happens if one sits with it for a few minutes? Is it constant ? Do other thoughts/feelings enter one’s mind/body? what is the story that is being told? What is the texture of the pain? What is the mechanism by which it keeps going?

It seems that emotional pain must rely upon our minds re-telling the story over again and resisting what is going on right now. It is common to seek relief from the pain by re-hashing what "injustice" or "difficulty" or "problem" one is experiencing. It’s as if we think by re-telling the story it will come out differently, or we can soothe ourselves by dwelling on the details but does that really have the capacity to bring sustained relief? What if instead of circumventing the pain by telling stories about it, what if we focused on the pain itself? -- where it hurt? what it felt like? (not the story about it – but what it felt like in the body/mind) what it might be trying to tell you? What if you weren’t even trying to get rid of the pain but instead, just letting it be there? It is like somewhere we were told that pain is bad and therefore we must get rid of it. But is that really true? It seems to me that pain just is. What happens to one’s sense of self when one allows the pain to simply be there? Who or what is it that can watch the pain being felt?

Frequently when one experiences emotional pain one adds the layer of “I" should not be feeling this way” but where does that come from? Who says one should not feel that way? The fact is that one IS feeling that way and to argue with what is will always cause suffering. In fact, it probably is the definition of suffering.

Clearly emotional pain and discomfort are similar to the physical discomfort of an itch in many ways.
Observing the itch also offered me insight into addiction. Ultimately, addiction at some level, is rooted in a false sense of self. With an addiction, the addict identifies more with that which they crave, rather than see what they crave as something that passes through who they really are. I am reminded of how powerfully compelling behavior is often likened to “itching to do something”. Yes, one may want the object one craves but so what? What happens to YOU if you do not get it? (Now I am leaving aside physical addiction to something for a moment – but even in those cases, ultimately what happens to one if one does not get the object they crave? It may feel unpleasant or painful or may perhaps even be deadly but why is even that not ok? I do not mean that to be morbid. Who do we know/feel ourselves to be both in the absence of what we crave and in its presence? When I felt compelled to scratch the itch, somewhere I had dialed into the back of my brain a story about my discomfort. Perhaps it was that my discomfort would never end if I did not attend to this itch or that even if I managed to avoid scratching now I would certainly scratch later. Somehow the itch felt enormous and bigger than me and it crowded out all else. Really that is a flip-flop of reality. With addiction our sense of identity becomes so narrow that we define ourselves through our addiction and we are unable to relate to the world except through the craving. Dissolving an addiction seems like it would require a reimagining of oneself, a true recognition of ourselves.

Ultimately, we are the space that contains the itch and the pain. We are the observing of the itch and pain. In that space the itch came, morphed, and dissolved into the sweet no-thing-ness. So will we.
But to quote Eckhart Tolle– only the eternal in you can recognize the impermanent as impermanent.

Amy's Poem

When I speak to my friend now many years gone

Do not conclude that I’ve failed to move on

She possessed wisdom beyond twenty two years

To that I am drawn when darkness appears

A whisper aloud spoken soft in tones piano

Is joined with my voice in silence's daft echo

To corners of solace where world's get tuned out

And the voice of compassion need no longer shout

To Amy again, my troubles I send

And who else to trust but my very dear friend

The candle casts shapes on a wall just behind

Flames flicker, Smoke curls, as if to remind


That life does continue to sway and to dance

And only with movement do we each stand a chance.


A wick stands encased wrapped in blankets of flame

But though it seems trapped, no one’s to blame


The fire, as fire, is set there to burn

And wick without fire has naught but to yearn


True, leave it could not, that is not a wick’s lot

Can it rewrite its story command its own plot?


It can.  Tis true,  by being true to its being

For it's in that call that our essence finds freeing


For a fire’s to burn and wick’s is to stand

And each doing its part, is part of what’s planned


Let the whole world move through, relax, be alert

In the universe's dance there’s no way to get hurt


With perspective and motion you’ll view different sights

So in the end cower not from even the scariest frights


With vantage and movement  you’ll find different things

But from each chosen spot you can join that which sings


The flame, wax and wick belong to the candle

And each with the other, knows it can handle


The tasks of its calling, sums greater than each

That to glow with endurance alone’s out of reach


But together they make one complete whole

With each part playing its integral key role.


My troubles earlier sent, soon fade in the light

As darkness gives way to the candle’s soft light


My whispers and cries to my friend quietly

There are answers, and soothing. Amy’s answered my plea.


Thursday, June 13, 2013


Splat, drip, plunk, sploosh
raindrops careen hard into car's glass
crashing almost, alien.
The arc of mechanical arms swinging side to side
sweeping droplets off the clear, curved surface.
Flattened ovals pulled like shooting stars
across the transparent galaxy, trailing off.
To see, we look beyond you to the space
between your liquid origin's existence
and beyond even the path of
your arrival.
ever a digit, a beacon 
pointing towards the moon;
to where both the explosion of stars
and collision of raindrops
are but a bead
 in a wellspring
of unlimited potential
rippling forever

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers and the Dalai Lama)

A friend gave me this picture of the Dalai Lama sitting and talking with Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers. It is taped to the bulletin board at my desk, and  is a magnificent snapshot of joy and the epitome of contentment.  It is two masters simply enjoying each others company.  Its inspiration derives from its simplicity.  They are intently absorbed in a conversation that is making both of them heartily laugh.  It is both incredibly intimate and wonderfully public.  Cameras were clearly present (for we have the photo) but it appears as if, for each of them, nothing but the other person exists.

I remember a section in “Readers Digest” that I used to read as a young person called “Laughter, The Best Medicine”. Mostly I would find the magazine at my grandmother Yankee Doodle's house.   She got this moniker because when we were little she would sing us "Yankee Doodle".  The name stuck with me and my siblings until she died when I was in my twenties.  Only my siblings and I called her that, the other cousins did not.   At grandma's house, while reading "Readers Digest" there were two sections to which I always looked forward; one was the drama in real life and the other was laughter is the best medicine section.

Laughter is good medicine. There are many studies concluding that laughter as medicine is indeed good for people physically and psychologically. It boosts the immune system, relaxes the body and protects the heart.

When was the last time you laughed?

Our sense of humor, like our fingerprint, dna or retina are our own. What may make one person laugh often makes another cringe.    What we laugh at bears our individual conditioning.  It is both uniquely ours and simultaneously beyond us.

Have you ever wondered where laughter comes from? It is easy to think its our own that it belongs to us, but when you laugh do you choose to laugh or does it simply come. Why are some things funny to you and others not?  They may even be funny at certain times and not at others.  It is clear that certainly some of why we laugh is conditioning. Perhaps even most of it is conditioned.   Translated jokes often fall flat because the meaning is lost in the translation; a particular idiom in one language does not always carry over in another. If you have been conditioned in a particular way you are more likely to find some things funny. At the end though, laughter, like sorrow, passes through us. We cannot say exactly why something is funny it just is funny.

I often said that for me crying was always easy because it always simply felt like something bigger than I was moving through.  I believe it might be the same with laughter. Laughter is an amazing gift. In essence it is the ability to truly see something and celebrate its existence in a manner of speaking. It is a moment of taking off the mask that this life is so serious. It breaks down the subject / object construction. When you are caught up in laughter it is very easy to simply sense there is only this.   Boundaries become more porous amidst great laughter.

That is some of the beauty of the picture between the Dalai Lama and Fred Rogers.

What about the dark side of  laughter? Are some things just NOT funny? Are some things OFF limits?

Answer: It is often said that tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same coin. That said,

I don’t know – how would you answer that question for yourself? Are you trying to cede the authority over your own sense of humor? Do you want permission to laugh at something? What is holding you back from laughing? I would venture its someone’s approval or disapproval? What does that mean or suggest?

The last time I laughed was  Saturday at Star Trek. There were a number of places where I laughed out loud.   My laugh is quite boisterous.  My partner speaks of knowing she loved me when she loved my laugh.  I often laugh at parts that many others do not laugh or in anticipation of a joke that is about to come.  I am often amused by that observation.   Laughter sits in many ways at the nexus of some interesting ontologies.   It is both an incredibly private act; what makes you laugh is uniquely derived from the conditioning you've experienced but at the same time much of that conditioning is subject to societal and cultural influences.  On the other hand, jokes and humor rely upon shared perpsective and understanding.  Perhaps that is why jokes and what is funny can often be such a touchy subject.  "Inside joke" comes from the ability of jokes to circumsribe social roles, include and exclude and consequently influence how people feel.   Peoples feelings get hurt when some jokes are told.  Jokes are often used as a social navigation tool.  "We are like them - they will find this funny - those people over there they won't find this funny therefore I won't share it with them".  How often have you not shared a joke or limited who you shared it with  because you were afraid?

It is very easy to take a joke serioiusly.  It is very easy to take a joke to actually mean something.  A joke, if it reflects anything, reflects its teller's idea of themself much more than it reflects anything that might really be true.  That said, they can still hurt.  It is very hard to remember this in the moment.   The power of humor, and  jokes and laughter can be used for ill too so this is not subscribe to anything that makes you laugh is necessarily good.  Jokes can be incredibly mean spirited. Because  most people are not aware of who they really are, they are susceptible to others words triggering pain. Jokes can hurt immensely,  they can exclude and make one feel alone,  they can tap into our unresolved issues, hurts and deep seated fears.  Beacuse we carry the conditioning of culture and few have worked through the pain of the many, many messages in society that would hide or undermine who we are in our glory,  jokes can diminish and they can be used to exclude and ostracize.  But for all of that, it is important to note that ultimately joke's only have the meaning and power we give them and to note that they do not touch who we are in our core. 

If a joke triggers something in us, is that not a place where we are giving ourselves a substance that might not really be there?  Is it the case that we are taking ourselves too seriously? Is it not to be falsely duped by a mirage? It is a mirage that nearly all in culture and society ascribe to but a mirage nonetheless.  Though this may be difficult, notice what happens internally and externally  the next time someone tells a joke?  Does it exclude?  Do "you" belong to the inside experience in the joke or the outside?  How does that change (or not) your experience of the joke?  The joke can be your practice.

So if a joke ultimately means nothing does that mean that we have license to create and repeat mean jokes or that if something mean is said that I should do nothing, since its not real anyway?

Is that what your heart tells you to do?  Reality is capable of holding all.  It is only a dualistic mind that wants things to be one way or the other.  It is the dualistic mind that says well if its not real why should I bother.  It is the dualistic mind that reels in the freedom of not having a presription for what to do.   Reality often says "both and".   In the absolute,  "meanness"  does not exist,  but if you conclude from the that that action is useless, or that you can then be mean then you have missed the point. You are no longer in reality.  Reality asks a nimbleness of us it says it is all possible but that it might be is advisable that one take action after a joke that is mean spirited, even if that joke does not ultimately mean anything. 

Laughter is a truly amazing gift.   Laughter is a signature for our unique humor.    This is perhaps a tad blasphemous and certainly irreverent but I don't sometimes wonder if life itself is not a grand joke.  I don't in fact mean it the way that many might take it.  I mean it in the most generous way.  I mean it as something that is filled with such intense wonder, humor and joy.  I mean it as a great comedy show that is always producing amazing gaffes, fantastic ironies, jolting jokes and phenomenal twists.    If we could slow down for just a moment, and realize that its all going to be ok I suspect we might be laughing a lot more.  

Find the funny and laugh!