Saturday, August 30, 2008


Myth 2
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

A gung fu man employs his mind as a mirror—it grasps nothing and it refuses nothing; it receives but does not keep…
Bruce Lee

I have a little site-meter attached to this blog.
It reports on how people find me.
So, I can tell you that many people come here after a Google search for “Laura Croft.”
I have to chuckle.
I must be such a disappointment.

And now, today, I find I want to quote Bruce Lee.
Well, perhaps he’ll boost readership and lead to more disappointed seekers.

Why Bruce Lee?

For once again, my mind was feeling rather vacuous, quiet, and not so amenable to effort. Still, I was clearly awake and needing to look busy at work, so I thought I’d visit Seeker After Truth, the Mystics Reference Repository and do a random read.

There I found a long and thoughtful article written by Bruce Lee.
I also found an explanation (perhaps) of why writing entries here has become so difficult of late.

It was Bruce Lee’s mentioning of “physical loosening” that first caught my attention.
Last week at my Taoist group, a friend had mentioned she could see my hands holding onto these knotted ropes, and that I needed just to let them go.
It was simply an intuitive image that she saw.
But it alerted me to knots and there unwinding and dissolving.

Maharishi spoke of how stressing of the nervous system caused knots. Back in 1972, I thought "knots! - How can you get knots in neurons?" Alzheimers has shown us one way, neurofibrillary tangles they are called.
B.K. Frantzis in his book, The Great Stillness, writes about other kinds of knots. He writes about dissolving subtler and subtler, layer after layer of knots with his Taoist practice, deep within our psyches.
These knots must be dissolved if we are to grow, and if anything,
I have been “dissolving” lately.

So, Bruce Lee caught my attention during my random read:

To perform the right technique in gung fu, physical loosening must be continued in a mental and spiritual loosening, so as to make the mind not only agile but free.
In order to accomplish this, a gung fu man has to remain quiet and calm and to master the principle of no-mindedness (wu hsin).
No-mindedness is not a blank mind that excludes all emotions;
nor is it simply calmness and quietness of the mind…
it is the “non-graspiness” of the mind...

let the mind think what it likes without interference by the separate thinker or ego within oneself.
So long as it thinks what it wants, there is absolutely no effort in letting it go;
and the disappearance of the effort to let go is precisely the disappearance of the separate thinker…

Chuang-tzu, the disciple of Lao-tzu, stated:
The baby looks at things all day without winking,
that is because his eyes are not focused on any particular object.
He goes without knowing where he is going, and stops without knowing what he is doing.
He merges himself with the surroundings and moves along with it.
These are the principles of mental hygiene.

Yes, that’s it. I have been something of a wide-eyed baby of late.
Most evenings I sit in the backyard with my face raised towards the treetops.
I’ve no idea why I do this. It simply seems what I'm called to do.

It’s disorienting a bit, not in the sense that I’m spaced-out or non-functional.
I look at the trees. I throw the kong for Bennie. I pet and placate the cat.
But, all in all, I’m not doing much. And that’s what feels so strange – so empty.

From time to time I have the thought, “What are you doing?”
… Nothing. Sitting.
“Shouldn’t you be doing something?”
(I give myself a long and valid to-do list.)
Then, I’ll look back to the treetops.
It seems more important to simply, deeply experience not-doing anything.

There’s a silence here.
So I look at that.
And "Who is looking?"
No one apparently. "Oh, dangerous ground! No one!"

"Is that a thought or is that an experience?"
I watch some more. Now, maybe this is meditating, but it's not the way I’ve ever done before. It's not anything that I've been taught. Heck, there's nothing to this! ... simply sitting.

Ah, “mental hygiene.”
There you go!
Thank you Bruce Lee.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Drawing the Line

Mosaic II
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the authorities.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a
full moon in each eye that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world
is dying to hear?

The other day my family got into something of a heated political debate via email.
It doesn’t really matter now what the issue was.
In the midst of the swirl my nephew wrote, “It doesn’t affect me, so I don’t care.”
Last night, I realized, “I care and so it does affect me.”

Apparently, self interests are determined by where we draw the line between my self and Other.
Dealing with this very line is the real task of spiritual cultivation.
For instance, we may come to understand:

The heart of a mother is full of tenderness, but it is limited to her child only;
but the heart of the Saint is all inclusive,
it knows the how and whence of the origin of each one and the vicissitudes they have to go through.

Or, as in politics, we might describe the issue from a very different angle:

Know that the outward form passes away,
but the world of reality remains forever.
How long will you play at loving the shape of the jug?
Leave the jug; go, seek the water!


I found these poems and words at a wonderful site, Seeker After Truth.
It’s Sufi sponsored, but covers much Advaita and refers to itself as “A Mystic’s Reference Repository.”
I find it soothes my heart.

Enjoy exploring it. Meanwhile, I don’t think I’ll be writing here as much as in the past.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Is this how Buddha is suppose to look?

White Faced Buddha
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
The idea of enlightenment is tied up with our images of wise men and wise women. We have all sorts of preconceptions about how such wise beings are supposed to look, supposed to talk, and supposed to act… Based on our particular preconceived notions, we may try to sort out who among us is enlightened to greater or lesser degrees. We would like to match what we see with whatever standard we have created. But in doing so, not only may we apply inadequate standards but we may also be fooled…
Judith Lief

And too, we hold ourselves up to these imagined standards, which can sometimes cause confusion.
We might even talk ourselves out of awakening.

You may or may not have noticed, that I feel a bit disappointed in my Taoist practice for the lack of emphasis it puts upon enlightenment.

This de-emphasis has even confused me, for Taoism does have a strong tradition of seeking enlightenment and becoming one with the Tao.
In fact, I loved the Taoist term for such a person. They are called “real human beings.”

So, on the path that I have walked, there have been these “tenors” to the different teachings.
In TM, we were all dead set, busting a gut on becoming enlightened.
Maharishi assured us it was possible, though he was also handing out no guarantees as to a timeframe.
Next, came Taoism and the de-emphasis. I know my initial interest with Adyashanti lay in his invitation to “all seekers of peace and freedom to take the possibility of liberation seriously.” So, you might call that something of a backlash.
Well, now, I have been listening to Adya for almost two years and I’m beginning to believe that we have little if any control upon our own awakening.
To paraphrase both Adya and Eckhart Tolle, our practice and meditation only point us in the correct direction, so if per chance Grace should strike and our ego lets go for a moment, perhaps we’ll stay awake.

So, on I plod each day now. (Will She strike today?)
And in my plodding, not so long ago, I came across Numinous Nonsense.

That’s a great name, Numinous Nonsense.
It’s also a website written by Vince Horn.
Here, I found the most cogent discussion of the spiritual seeker’s relationship to enlightenment I have ever seen.

The discussion is introduced with this quote from Buddhist teacher, Judith Lief.
So, I invite you to go there (here) to enjoy the whole discussion.
I think the topic is important.
It impinges upon “spiritual materialism” – that No-No I have often been accused of. (I can also end on prepositions.)
It also addresses best attempts to avoid this trap while still staying true to the quest.

And as long as I am on the subject, I will takes this opportunity to mention that Vince also runs a site called Buddhist Geeks which offers podcasts on interesting subjects.
I found the recent discussions on dream practice with Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche very interesting.

I ordered Rinpoche’s book. Perhaps, in there I will find an explanation of my uncomfortable waking from sleep experiences. Or, an explanation of that dream I mentioned about flying.

So, that’s it for now. Don’t just sit there.
Click somewhere and learn something.
Maybe we can all have a bit of fun as we plod forward, waiting for Grace, free from spiritual materialism to whatever extent we can be. (Can you believe the term has made it into Wikipedia! How very funny and a bit strange.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mississippi John Hurt

Mississippi John Hurt
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
Yesterday, at the library, I discovered Mississippi John Hurt when I happened to pick up a CD, Avalon Blues.

His music and gentleness are my latest delight.

Flying at Night

Night Flying
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

Most of my life I have had dreams of flying, though not so much any more. When I was about nine or ten the dreams were so vivid that I thought perhaps I really might have the ability.
So one day after school I tried. I held my arms out a bit from my side and ran about the backyard, duplicating the little run skip hop up into the air that sufficed in my dreams.
I didn’t work.
I tried again.
And again.
Until I became vividly aware of just how earthbound I was. I could feel within my cells the density, the utter dross that comprised my body.
That moment was revelation as much as disillusionment.
I would not try again until I was an adult. (Yes, even when I should have known better.)

For you see, I loved flying. The dreams were wonderful.
And there are ways to release the dross, ways for your body to become composed of lighter elements.
And through the years my dream flying had improved.

Once, I even soared straight up through the midnight clouds, tearing through the wisps, through the stratosphere out into the vacuum of space, past the moon, towards a distant star that grew in size, larger, larger, until it was revealed as The Eye of God.
I flew right into the black, huge, dilated pupil of that eye, and then began to fall.
Accelerating through black nothingness, until with a crash that shook the bed,
I landed There.
I opened my eyes as the words, “That was no dream!” reverberated.

All my other flying was is dreams and in all the dreams in was Night.
I don’t know what it is with having to fly at night, but it was with this history that when yesterday, at the library, my eyes happened to light upon the words, Night Flying, I stopped immediately and picked up the book.

Usually, I study the cover first to see what a book’s about.
In this case I didn’t.
I specifically wanted to discover this book with the first words of the story.
So, I deliberately sat down and began.

First, there is a family tree:
Louisa Carmelina Stravona Hansen, 1862-1924, was at the top.
Five generations lay below. I studied the names and dates:
Gilda Meredith Franklin Hansen, 1885-1953.
Isodora Cooney Hansen, 1910 –1978.

This was a matriarchal tree. I don’t belief I’d ever seen one.
And I realized I could not complete such a tree for my own life.
Furthermore, my ignornace had never crossed my mind.

I turned the page:

Night Flying.
Chapter 1.

The Hansen women have always flown at night, even in bad weather. Aunt Eva actually prefers storms. She says she makes better time that way. Though she ends up on the east end of town and has to walk back along the railroad bed if the wind isn’t blowing in her favor...

Oh. I was going to like this story! How often have I had to walk back in my dreams, caught at the southern edge of town, at night and vulnerable.

My aunt Suki stayed out all night once when she was sixteen. She went to the county line at Madison. She wanted to see how far she could go.

“That’s the danger with young fliers, “ Mama says. “They don’t know when to turn back.” Suki was in bed for two days after with a fever and cramps.

Turns out the Hansen women have a rule about only flying at night and never being found out. As the story progresses, young Georgia in a fit of anger takes off in broad daylight.

It is not a bad day for flying, but over the water, the air currents are more fierce and less predictable. I attempt to head north, but the wind picks up and I’m blown further south. I make an adjustment. This is what Eva calls it when the weather forces you to change plans. “You have to always be willing to change your mind, Georgia. Don’t get rigid in your thinking about how it should be up here. There is nothing in the sky that can’t change in an instant.” I pull my arms down to my sides in an effort to descend, but within a minute I’m blown in the direction of the mainland. There is nothing I can do. I can’t fight the wind, so I have to wait for it to change…

Fear grabs hold of me as the image of Charlotte’s gravestone comes to mind. Cold slate like the color of the dam. Charlotte flew alone before initiation, and look what happened to her. “For the one who flew too high. Dear Lord Have Mercy.”

…If someone had told me I’d be flying alone over Lake Champlain in the daylight, I never would have believed them. There was no way this morning I could have know where the afternoon would bring me.

Like Charlotte. She woke up that morning with only one thought in her mind. Skating. Skating with her father. She dressed, brushed her teeth, and kissed Isadora goodbye without much thought. Without any knowledge that it would be the last time. It makes me shiver…
I breathe in deeply and try to recall Eva’s words instead. We were flying in a hail storm last spring and Eva told me, “You may not know what’s ahead of you, Georgia. The weather could be better. It could be worse. But you can’t get stuck in the place of fear. You have to feel the fear, let it pass through you, and keep going.”

And so goes this children’s story… I haven’t finished it yet.
But, good luck with your flying. I do so hope you dream.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Knocking from the Inside

Whitetail Deer
Originally uploaded by Broompl (Pete)

I’ve been living on the lip of insanity
Wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door
It opens
I’ve been knocking from the inside!
Rumi, translated Coleman Barks

I had dinner the other night with a young friend who related two stories that I’d like to share.

First, she mentioned that since her father’s death she has been doing paintings of his feet – just the feet, sticking out from under things. Painting after painting.

Oh! I thought, how appropriate.
But, then my next thought was, “Why? What is it about feet and death?”
I thought about my own father dying. I’d knelt down upon the sand and grabbed hold of his feet.
I’d hoped to latch onto his soul and not let him leave.
It hadn’t worked.

But, there was something else, something more universal about feet and the dead.
Then it hit me, “Ah, yes, the toe tag!” They tie your identity right to the big toe.
For a moment, I had this image of all the feet and toe tags lined up in the morgue.

Meanwhile, my friend was getting to her point.
She’d learned that in Japan there is the belief that when someone dies their souls, in the next world, walk upon the water. And the bottom of their water is the bottom, or the top (we had some trouble with the image’s topography) of the water that our souls walk on in this world.
As it works out, the soles of our feet can touch the soles of the dead.
And my friend had realized her feet were built just like her fathers. So, in painting him she was studying herself.

I looked at my thumb and index finger. After Pop died, with the body in the hospital, I had made a point of looking one last time at his hands and forearms.
I didn’t want to ever forget.
Now, I see how very similar we are. That knob of arthritis on my thumb, the flatness of the nail, they’re just like his.

I don’t know what I said, right there at the table.
But, I love the image of souls walking on the water and worlds interpenetrating.

Then, my friend wanted to know what I thought of pear trees.

“Only that a neighbor has one filled with luscious fruit that hang out over the fence and into the road. And I cannot take any, for they still belong to him, even though he doesn’t care. They’ll drop onto the ground and rot, but still I won’t pick any.”

Wrong answer. I knew that going in, but I go through this every year with the pears - forbidden fruit.

When my friend was a child she played alone for hours in the woods.
She’d meet deer and follow them. She would commune with the trees.
And then she had to “grow up.” She had to put the “fantasies” aside.
She was put on many medications. And this went on for years, until she was able to reclaim herself.
Back into her body, back into her strength.

The other day she was walking in the woods and came upon a deer.
It was the first time a deer had visited since those days “before.”
The doe walked across her path, stopped and looked at her.
She followed it into the woods, until it stopped at a pear tree ladened with fruit.
My friend thought, “So, you have brought me to the tree.”
And now she wanted my opinion on just what that pear tree meant.

I had no idea.
Pears? Do the specifics really matter?
Being led to a tree full of fruit, alone in the middle of the woods, by a deer was simply mythic to me.
I shook my head to clear out the astonishment.
Myths aren’t really told to us – they exist all on their own inside.

Deer have always been a supernatural animal.
Had she ever read The White Goddess, by Robert Graves?
A strange, strange book I read 30 years ago, about the power of sacred language and the Druids. Wasn’t there a white deer in that tale somewhere?

The White Goddess is about power, Nature, and the gods, as well as language, myth and poetry. I mentioned that with the Druids, poets stood right next to the king. Their language was that powerful.
I wanted to explain that once we start stirring the energy along the channels inside of us we start accessing the myths that reside there.
Our bodies spontaneously take on mudras and exotic dances. From our mouths come shouts and cries, and spats of poetry in tongues we do not know.
And this is why the deer returned and led her to the tree.
But, I couldn’t really get any explanations out.

Later, I would come across a young poet who knows, a Sufi who explains beyond any expression I might give:

Silence is a door to Allah – so is music
And both solitude and love are paths to Allah.
I am surrounded by doors, I can open none of them
For none of them are closed -
Nor can I go out to meet my Beloved
For He is here.
Tiel Aisha Ansari, Knocking from Inside

It’s all the inside, the poetry and myths and magic. Still we might insist that it is “out there.” And that is fine. It’s called Awakening.

Hearing Voices
"The poet doesn't invent. He listens." ~Jean Cocteau

Listen: what do you hear?
I hear a dead tree weeping in the rain,
sorrow hangs from her naked branches.
In the deep ocean, salmon sing of the return home.
Leaves whisper in the wind's tongue.
I hear cicadas in their strident triumph,
seventeen years of darkness ended at last.
Like a seashell lamenting the distant sea,
I empty myself and echo the world's voices
and call it poetry.

Tiel Aisha Ansari, Sol Magazine