Friday, December 29, 2006

No Such Thing as a True Story

I received a small book for Christmas, Awakening Loving Kindness, by Pema Chödrön. One chapter in it is entitled “No Such Thing as a True Story.” She begins by recalling that in Taoism there’s the saying, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.” And then explains that another way to say this is, “As soon as you begin to believe in something, then you no longer see anything else.”

Well, now, this is interesting to me. I believe in a lot of things. And so I started thinking before I read another word. Pema Chödrön however took the discourse in another direction.

“Holding on to beliefs limits our experience of life. That doesn’t mean that beliefs or ideas or thinking is a problem; the stubborn attitude of having to have things a particular way, grasping on to our beliefs and thoughts, all these cause the problems… You want to have something to hold on to, you want to say, ‘Finally I have found it…’ This is a human thing. But in Buddhism there is a teaching… It says, ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha.’ This means that if you can find Buddha and say, ‘It’s this way; Buddha is like this,’ then you had better kill that ‘Buddha’…”

So how does one do this? Pema admits that the approach sounds pretty aggressive. But, she describes it as requiring the ultimate of non-aggression. It requires one to “look ones beliefs straight in the face, honestly and clearly, and then step beyond them. That requires a lot of heart and kindness.”

“When you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha, means that when you see that you’re grasping or clinging to anything whether conventionally it’s called good or bad, make friends with it completely and utterly. In that way it will let go of itself.”

She then tells the story of a god who knew that people love to believe things to be true. So, the god to provide a teaching and have a bit of fun created a large hat. It was brilliant blue on one side and flaming red on the other side. He then walked straight down the middle of a road that had many people working in the fields on either side. All the people stopped work and stared in amazement at the god. Afterwards amidst much talk and excitement, “Did you see the god!!” the people compared stories. It was then they discovered that some thought god wore a blue hat while others were equally convinced that god wore a red hat. Walls were built. Arguments, rock throwing, name calling ensued.

“Then the god appeared again. This time he stood in the middle and turned to the left and then he turned around to the right, and everyone started to laugh.”

May we remember this lesson in the year to come. May we remember it as individuals living amongst our family and friends. May we remember it as a nation as we live in a world increasingly violated by those who believe in God.

And may we also remember these words of Adyashanti:

“…the goal of Buddhism is to create Buddhas, not Buddhists, as the goal of Christianity is to Christs, not Christians.”

I also invite you to click on the picture and read about it. I really like it.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Spirit

Christmas is almost here.

Christmas Spirit
Originally uploaded by markcveitch.

Since a picture is worth a 1000 words and I have no words to share just now, I thought I'd post some nice photos from the folks at Flickr.

If you click on the image you can see a larger view and read the photographer's comments. You can also (if you have the time) explore the links offered up by this person. It leads to words within worlds... and alot of beauty.

My love to you, and have a very Merry Christmas.


Proud Mary

proud mary
Originally uploaded by Elan Photography.

orphan tree

orphan tree
Originally uploaded by Veronika Lake.


Originally uploaded by imapix.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest and There's No One Around to Make A Buck Is It Still Christmas?

Caught in the Snow

Caught in the Snow
Originally uploaded by creativity+.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Words of Christmas and the Baby

Originally uploaded by abhayah~.

Becky and I celebrated our twentieth Christmas early this year because soon she’ll be off to other climes with someone else she now calls, “Baby.”

We three have given one another a rather surreal year. And while I’m not sure if “surreal” is the most appropriate word to use, we could certainly start there if we agree to throw in pain, rage, turmoil, fear, insanity, sailing on the water, learning about love and blessedness as well.

Nothing has been easy. Not even last night, though we knew that we were now arriving at our own version of “Peace on Earth.” Still, emotions were at such a pitch twice we had to stop and recompose, forcing Baby finally to ask, “Are we going to do this every year?” Those were just the words we needed. They broke crying off into bashful laughter.

Then this morning, I came across these words by Jeanette Winterson. She’s a poet and of course much better with her words than I. These particular ones are from her December comments and they seem to put the events of “we three’s trials and tribs” into a larger context of the Season. So I pass them on to you. Perhaps you’ll find something of yourself amidst her sentiments.

Jeanette Winterson: ….it doesn’t matter what God you worship, if any, what matters is how you approach the spiritual life – what TS Eliot called, ‘a condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything.’…

Some people find that any religious poem or piece of music or painting feels closed to them, but that is usually because the piece has become too overlaid with ideology, or stolen for some false purpose, or that we ourselves lack the courage or the patience to see though the wrapper… [But]… if Christmas is to have any meaning – and it should – let it be its own message, and not one of fake sentiment or religiosity. The birth of Jesus is about new life, new beginnings, new possibilities, and it happens not when everything is going well, or in a 5 star hotel, or when we’ve just won the lottery, but in there with the animal feed, in the stable, cold and dark and unprepared for. This is a no-frills moment. Anyone can be generous and easy when everything is perfect – but a new chance, for yourself or others, just doesn’t usually happen that way.

Change, when it comes, is often uncomfortable and not at all how we imagined it. The clichés and the sentiment aren’t present in the Christmas Story – we added all that later. An unmarried mother gives birth in a stable – try that now and the tabloids would be after you as unfit, the child would be taken into care and Joseph would be named and shamed – and given a DNA test.

It is an uncomfortable story, and one that is worth a close reading. The moment, when it happens, is never easy, and the miracle we say we long for brings as many problems as it solves, because it demands an entire re-configuration of who we are.

(... And if you still have a few moments to doodle round the blog, return to the photo I selected here. Click on it and view it large sized on the Flickr website. I love the little shed reflected in the red bulb. And the snow flurries coming down... lovely world is captured here. Enjoy!)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

When Your Heart Bursts

Azalea & Bath Paint
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao.
I wanted a photo to illustrate some words of Adyashanti's that I came across today regarding the relationship between student and teacher. When I got to this particular part I burst into tears. Why? ...I think it was desire. So, here is what I read:

Adya: Most people come to satsang to hear what I have to say. I ought to give them popcorn and coke and send them off to the movies. It would be cheaper, and the seats are more comfortable.

Q: So why should we come here to satsang?

A: Because your heart wants to burst open, your mind wants to crack, and you are ready to die for freedom.

... probably you haven't had as strong a reaction as I did. But anyway, there it is.

I went on with my day too. I "had" to work on my "paintings." One result, I'm posting this picture which is the photo I posted earlier today (see the next entry below this one) now transformed by what I put it through.

It's curious to me.

I printed the photo out on special paper and then did my chop and squiggle thing and then scanned it back into the computer. It looks diferent now. The picture has "gone through me." Both it and I were transformed a bit. The change is visible in the image. You'll have to take my word about myself, about a heart that wants to burst and a mind that needs to crack... and as for the dying... that happens on its own if you do the first two right.

Azalea & Bath

Azalea & Bath
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao.

The silence inside of you
is the sound of your knowledge collasping.
Remember, it is you who said,
"I want to be free."


We were getting ready for a birthday party when I decided to snap some photos of Pat's garden in the winter. This is one version of the results. Later, we would have a bonfire in that very same garden.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Twist Again

I went to a party this weekend and found myself a bit dismayed by a conversation a few of us had after our rousing game of charades. In the living room we sat around the fire as one woman tried to explain that she no longer knew what hope was. To her the world is peopled by deeply flawed humans, basically no different from the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages. Another woman spoke of her total distrust of government, yet another of how we now all carried deep seated anxiety. Yet, we all agreed that human beings have a remarkable capacity for goodness. This last point brought to life perfectly when I noticed that while we all talked doom and gloom, at the other end of the house they danced to “Twist Again, like you did last summer.” Tears came to my eyes. Such dear women, approaching and past 60-oh-my-god years old, could still dance in simple delight.

I gave no reply Saturday night. I simply listened. Today I’d like to offer these comments from Eckhart Tolle.

A question to Eckhart Tolle: Do you believe that humanity is ready for this transformation [into a “New Earth”]?

Tolle: Yes. I see signs that it is already happening. For the first time there is a large scale awakening on our planet. Why now? Because if there is no change in human consciousness now, we will destroy ourselves and perhaps the planet. The insanity of the collective egoic mind, amplified by science and technology, is rapidly taking our species to the brink of disaster. Evolve or die: that is our only choice now. Without considering the Eastern world, my estimate is that at this time about ten percent of people in North America are already awakening. That makes thirty million Americans alone, and in addition to those people in other North American countries, about ten percent of the population of Western European countries are also awakening. This is probably enough of a critical mass to bring about a new earth. So the transformation of consciousness is truly happening even though they won’t be reporting it on tonight’s news.

Is it happening fast enough? I am hopeful about humanity’s future, much more so now than when I wrote The Power of Now. In fact that is why I wrote that book. I really wasn’t sure that humanity was going to survive. Now I feel differently. I see many reasons to be hopeful.

Another Question….In your vision of a new earth, the purpose of life involves what you call awakened doing. What do you mean by this?

Tolle: …awakened doing has three modalities, depending on circumstances and the nature of the activity. They are acceptance, enjoyment, and enthusiasm. If there is neither acceptance, enjoyment, or enthusiasm in what you do, you are out of alignment with universal purpose. You are creating unhappiness, that is to say suffering in one form or another. One way of defining the ego is simply this: a dysfunctional relationship with the present moment. What I refer to as the “new earth”—the outer forms created by awakened doing—arises as more people realize that their purpose is to allow consciousness to emerge through whatever they do.

From An Interview with Eckhart Tolle
by Kathy Juline
Reprinted from the October 2006 issue of Science of Mind magazine and posted on the Eckhart Tolle website. Go there for more.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fair is Fair...

Soon, hopefully, you will be reading about Bennie.
However, I didn't use a picture of him when composing that entry... for shame.

This is Bennie. All Boy. Nine months old.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dog's Rule

Charlie With Pine Cone
Originally uploaded by luckyrob.

Rule Number One (almost) in the training of a new puppy is that they shouldn’t growl at you as they eat their food. To my great dismay my pup, Bennie, broke this rule. In fact he was downright hostile when protecting a rib-bone. The solution that I found online having Googled “growling over food bowl” was to divide his dinner up into four identical servings which I presented to him in identical bowls. I'd put one bowl down, let him eat, then pick it up and give him the next. What Bennie was to learn through this exercise was that whenever I took one delight away it was to give him yet another. In time, Bennie trusted me and my intentions enough that I could feed him in a single bowl. If I came near while he was eating he wasn’t worried. He didn’t growl. Now, he even trusts me enough to come on his own accord and curl up against my belly while he chews his precious rawhide delights.

Now, why do I bother to mention all this? Because sooner or later Life and the Powers That Be will snatch out from under each of us that which we hold to be most precious in our life. Sooner or later, we all will know loss.

Maybe we will be lucky and the loss will fall within the realm of "the natural order of things." We expect to lose our parents. We don’t expect to lose a child. We expect to lose our partners… if they are older or no longer deserving. But, how much more painful if we are betrayed by infidelity or disease. We expect to lose our physical prowess… but only as we slowly age. We feel betrayed by the accidental and uncalled for-be it aberrant gene or the drunk driver that crosses the median headon into us.

But, have we really been betrayed, tricked, or forgotten by "On High?"

I don’t think so. Or at least no more so than Bennie when I whisk the bowl out from under his nose, or pry his jaws apart to remove a plastic bottle cap he's found. I have a bigger picture in my mind than little Bennie does. And by and large (though I do have my slip-ups) I act in his best interests whenever I take away his latest, greatest love.

I have to have the faith that Life/God - That all pervading Intelligence that plays and displays Creation- is at least as caring as I am for my dog. And if God doesn’t choose to guide my development by dividing my dinner into equal portions placed on identical plates … well, maybe He’s giving me credit for having a bit more brain to work with than Bennie has been blessed with.

And maybe, He’s simply encouraging me to develop the simple love and trust a little dog can have.