Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Simple Message; Love is a Noun

Rumi

        I have read a lot about ego and tend to write about it frequently, maybe sounding on occasion as if I have conquered it, but it continues to control much of what I do;  writing for instance.  Something I have tried to do recently is to sit down and just let things flow rather than think about what I am writing and how it might be received.  The best writings I’ve read seem to be of this nature, and touch me not because they are witty or nicely phrased or grammatically correct, but because they appear to come from the heart of the writer.

       When one is moved to write, it is important to write…to get one’s body used to the habit of sitting in front of a computer or desk with a tablet and resisting all the urges that arise to get up and do something else….anything else!  But much of what has come out of me is obviously coming from my mind and comes across as preachy and ego driven, regardless of my good intentions.  The truth is, I have been experiencing a level of peace recently that is unprecedented in my life.  I write about bliss because I experience it regularly, and it is so wonderful I want to share it.  I write about love because I feel it like I have never felt it before.  At times it is almost overwhelming…I don’t know how to express it! I try to share it by writing about the things I have learned that helped get me to this point and which I know could help others end their suffering, but it comes out sounding like philosophy…mind stuff….as opposed to the love and hope I am attempting to express.  Some may see past my words to the truth I am attempting to share, but others turn away at the signs of ego that still come through.

       Yes, despite my amazing, consistent experiences recently, I still struggle with ego.  This is the darkness which separates us from everything good.  I don’t think it ever rests, though it may fade to the background on some occasions.  I think the important thing is to be aware of it, to be ever conscious of its presence and tendency to take over given the slightest opportunity.  It is not an “evil force”, rather simply a collection of thoughts, and we can minimize its effects by learning to not identify with it…which is a life-long habit that is not easy to break completely.  What I intend to share is what truly comes through this “hole in a flute” from beyond my mind;  if something slips through that originates in this “hole”, I hope all who may read it can let it pass just as we let unwanted thoughts pass through our minds to drift on down the stream.

       The message I want to share is a very simple one and requires few words…in fact it is probably best expressed through other means…through demonstration for example.  I find this happening as well, and it may ultimately be farther reaching than writing about it, but for the moment, it also seems important to share it in writing.  Maybe this is for my sake more than anyone else’s, but hopefully, someone other than myself will benefit.

       The message is this:  Love isn’t a verb…it is a noun.  We don’t “love”, we ARE love.  When the mind is quiet and all our fears and doubts and judgments and opinions disappear, and we realize we are not just our stories…name, age, sex, race, background, education, family connections, political affiliations, religious beliefs, etc…our hearts just naturally begin to open and expand just as sails fill in a fair wind once the lashings are removed.  This simple realization brings us into alignment with the universe…it brings us home, and unlimited resources are suddenly ours.  Love fills us without any effort on our part and begins to overflow in every direction.  Creativity begins to flow through us and the impossible happens;  old problems suddenly have new solutions and new problems don’t exist, abundance occurs where there was need, beauty replaces ugliness, hope takes the place of despair, light displaces darkness and a whole new world begins to form!  This is the New Earth, this is heaven, this is our true state, this is the peace we all spend our lives searching for.  This is yours…now.  This is all there is!  It’s that simple!

Listen

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Gardens and Community

 

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I read recently that most hunter/gatherer peoples spent an average of about four hours/day working on the essentials of life—gathering food, erecting or maintaining shelters, making clothing, etc.—and the rest of their day playing or otherwise enjoying themselves!  When did we jump off that boat and start swimming upstream?  Some of the principle reasons they enjoyed this kind of freedom are they cooperated and owned very little in the way of individual possessions.  Somewhere along the line, we drifted into our own places, started gathering stuff about us, buying vehicles so we can even travel in our own space and working at least 8 hours/day (double that of hunter/gatherers!) to keep ahead of our debts!  In the process, we have isolated ourselves in our homes, glued ourselves to TVs and other electronic devices where our only “communities” are nothing more than images and/or words…and now sounds on a screen!  I joked with a friend recently saying that while it is nice to see and hear loved ones on our computer screens, it is an experience similar to that of visiting a strip club….you can look, but you can’t touch!…which seems a bit like self torture to me!

 We have gained a few things…like more privacy maybe…from our move away from community, but if you consider it even briefly, it becomes clear we have lost much more than we have gained.  In short, we have burdened ourselves with debt, buried ourselves in stuff, and in our quest for more and more, have separated ourselves not just from each other, but from everything around us!  For a great example of this process, you might read, Ancient Futures;  Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World by Helena Norberg Hodge (see also the documentary film “The Economics of Happiness”).  I recently spent three months living at an ashram and despite the fairly rigorous schedule and restrictions typical of a religious retreat, I had an amazing time and realized that I thrive in a close-knit community environment.  I suspect many, if not all of us would respond well to increases in our sense of community.  Churches and other organizations fill some of our needs in this area, but getting together a few times a week is not the same experience as living close and working together toward common goals, sharing resources and even meals at times and enjoying harvests and other special events as a community.  Babies attended without touch and affection will fade away and die.  Despite the image of the “rugged individualist” we often try to project, we humans are social creatures…we need contact, we need a community in which to blossom.

 The interesting thing about many of the “problems” we get ourselves wrapped up in and stress over is that as we are killing ourselves worrying about possible solutions, they are quietly solving themselves!  I am ecstatic to see the growing number of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture…small local membership farms) and inner city community gardens around the country, the popularity of programs like WOOFing (volunteering and learning at organic farms around the world), the increasing interest in permaculture and the move toward small, self-sustaining communities of which there are now over 1,000 in North America (see www.ic.org).  Large numbers of people are realizing that most of the problems we’re facing today are directly related to the sense of separateness that has developed along with our quest for “independence” and emphasis on personal gain.  More and more are discovering (or re-discovering!) the great satisfaction and joy that comes not just from producing and consuming wholesome food and developing sustainable ways of living, but also from working together and serving something bigger than themselves…and being part of a community.  I just read a slogan for a city’s community garden program that states “Gardens build community!” It is hard to imagine a more powerful tool for positive growth than people working together with their hands in the dirt, raising wholesome food for all to enjoy!

 I’m not suggesting that we can all meet our needs and those of our families working just 4 hours a day, but the “work” we do doesn’t need to feel like work.  We can’t all “go back to the farm” or become hunter/gatherers again, but there are some very helpful steps we can all take in that direction and for those inclined to step away from the consumer-driven life, there are some great options available.  Initial steps could be as simple as learning how to sprout and growing live foods on your windowsill or counter.  Success with this might lead to container or tower gardening or small hydroponic systems, or backyard or rooftop gardening if you have the room.  Involve everyone you can, share the knowledge you gain, form a community garden or your own intentional community;  join an existing community that is growing its own food. Properly-designed gardens take less water, require fewer chemicals (or better yet, NO chemicals) and much less of our attention and energy to maintain than lawns and can also shave a lot off our grocery (and health care) costs!  There is no reason for anyone anywhere to go hungry!  What are we waiting for?  Just garden!  Find your community!  Find yourself!

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Creative Expression….a Universal Flow

GreatBlueHerononOysterbed

One thing I’ve noticed developing in me as my heart opens is a tremendous appreciation for creative expression….in all its many forms.  I have always enjoyed good writing, fine art work and inspiring music, but now my heart leaps when I hear a beautiful voice or stand before a wonderful splash of color on a canvas or read a mindful piece of writing!  I sense the universe expressing itself through artists, craftsman, writers, gardeners and culinary specialists and feel tremendous hope…and bliss!  The finest expressions we witness don’t simply come from “creative minds” and long hours of practice any more than a beautiful wild flower simply developed through a long series of genetic adaptations…..they come through the flute and originate in the breath of the universe…the source of all creation.  If you doubt that all is well or feel the universe has given up on us, open your heart and look around!  Use all those fine senses we’re blessed with and witness the beauty around you!

One beautiful series of paintings I recently fell in love with is titled, “Vanishing Florida” and while I appreciate the message the artist is conveying and love her work, my heart tells me there’s a more positive perspective than that expressed in the title.  As in most parts of the world, there appear to be many reasons here to be pessimistic about our future.  Despite a growing awareness of the situations we have created for ourselves, the human race in general seems to be hell-bent on slashing and burning and paving over every bit of our natural surroundings in our quest to satisfy our insatiable greed….and in the process destroying ourselves.  I love Florida for many reasons, but one of the top ones is that it’s so apparent here that nature is irrepressible!  Even as the lines of condos stretch further and further down our coast lines and more and more land is drained for new subdivisions and highways, there exists an incredible array of natural life forms all around..adapting and continuing on.  Pelicans play in the updrafts created by high rise condominiums;  Osprey build nests next to busy roadways; Egrets, Ibis, and Heron and Anhingas hang out around nearly every retention pond;  huge Barred Owls sit in oak trees watching over neighborhoods; hawks hang out on power poles watching for the movement of squirrels and snakes amongst the shrubbery of backyards; Armadillo bustle around lawns and ditches rooting for bugs; Tortoises burrow under the cover of landscaping and if a plot of ground is left alone for more than a few months, nature takes it over completely!  We humans certainly have the means altering the landscape, fouling our own nest, doing ourselves in and taking some other species with us,  but we will never really be able to suppress nature.  As George Carlin suggested in one of his last monologues,  ‘when humans have all destroyed themselves, Earth will simply shake us off like a bad case of fleas and carry on!’

The thing is, we don’t have to destroy ourselves or continue to spoil our nest!  That same Nature is in each of us…in everything! If you focus for just a moment, you can feel it!  Stop for just a few seconds and sense the aliveness in your hands, in your feet…in your whole body!…that tingling vibration that is an indicator of life in every cell!  We ARE Nature!  When we allow it to express itself freely through us, anything is possible.  Our minds have a tendency to distract us from this realization and our thoughts often create dark bogs we think we will never be able to extract ourselves from, but the nature in us is just as irrepressible as it is here in Florida!  Shake those negative thoughts off like a bad case of fleas, open your heart and experience the beauty all around you! Feel the creative powers of the universe begin to flow through you…and dance!  All is well, all is well, all is well!

grassonOysterbed

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Finding Bliss

boardwalk If you read my earlier post, or even the header and tag line on this site, and already have a set of beliefs you are living by, you might be thinking this doesn’t apply to you…that you already have it all figured out and that you are reading this just to see what this crazy loon is going to come up with next!  Don’t let me scare you away, but if you are reading this, there could be a chance that something you’ve seen or read here resonates with something inside you…or in other words is something that you already know at some level.  It shouldn’t be frightening to us, but it is sometimes a shock when we first start to wake up from the dream most us exist in and remember we are more than just a mind trapped in a physical body.  Please don’t be alarmed….there is nothing new here.  There is no intent here to plant strange ideas in your mind and somehow lead you away from whatever path you are on. The only purpose for this writing is to help us (myself included!) remember where that path leads, and to help us focus not on the pointing finger, but on that to which the finger is pointing…to our natural state, and bliss

How do we know we are more than simply minds trapped in bodies?  Ask yourself this;  How do you know that everything you can experience with your senses is temporary?…that all this around us, including these bodies, will soon pass?  What is the basis from which you judge these things to be temporary?  One of my favorite authors/teachers suggests that if the entire world were blue, we would not recognize the color blue.  We perceive the universe as being a universe of contrast where there is an opposite for everything…at least everything that can be named—darkness/light, hot/cold, dry/wet, misery/bliss, etc.  If we haven’t experienced cold, we can’t recognize warmth; if we haven’t experienced darkness, we can’t see light; if we haven’t suffered, we can’t experience bliss;  and if something in us isn’t eternal, we would have no understanding of temporal.  The idea that some part of us is “not of this world” is the basis of every religion and/or spiritual path that exists and the “common ground” from which these words are coming.

We humans are of many different shapes, colors, backgrounds and beliefs, but one thing we have in common (with a few exceptions) is that we all have minds with which we are strongly identified.  One of life’s greatest ironies is that we are joined by (among other things) the existence of our minds and at the same time separated by our identification with our minds.  That separation, from each other, from nature and from our true selves, is the source of every “problem” that we perceive.  On the flip side, the solutions to our problems (personal and global) lay in the dissolving of that sense of separateness and realizing our unity…our oneness.  How do we accomplish this?  Since the same “force” (which is referred to using many names) animates everything and everyone on earth, we should be able to sense and connect with it anywhere, in anyone at any time, but because the active mind and our identification with it is a very effective screen obscuring our perception of this force, we are challenged with the task of going beyond the mind; a task which can only be accomplished through quieting the mind…finding the off switch.

The discussion of where this is all leading may appear to be very philosophical and complicated, but the means of getting there are very simple; so simple in fact, they are often overlooked or laughed off.  If they aren’t laughed at, they are sometimes shunned out of fear.  We are all familiar with the adage, “An idle mind is the playground of the devil” which comes up often when the subject of quieting the mind is broached.  However, an idle mind is an unfocused mind that could latch onto any thought that might drift through whereas a quiet mind is totally focused and (ideally) free of thought altogether.  The good news is that everything stated here is immediately verifiable, and you don’t have to even “google it!”  Finding the off switch to your mind can be accomplished by simply swinging your focus to something the mind can’t wrap itself around…like your own breath.   The breath is no thing…it simply is.  How can you describe it?  We can talk about the rate of it, the depth of it, the force of it, we can hold it for a short time and otherwise exercise some minimal control over it, but we can’t really describe it…yet it gives us life.  One conscious breath is all that is needed to begin opening the hole in the flute that you represent—“conscious” suggesting that your awareness is focused on whatever the subject is.  Test it now!

If you are not presently engaged in some activity that requires sight, close your eyes.  It is helpful to sit, but you can try this in any position at any time.  Take a deep breath through your nose and focus on the flow of the air passing in through your nostrils.  Note how it feels as the air passes through the hairs in your nostrils, how your chest and abdomen rise as the lungs fill, how it flows out effortlessly, passing back through your nostrils as the chest relaxes and then notice the slight pause at the end of the exhale before the cycle is repeated.  Go ahead…try it now!  If you’re so inclined, try focusing on several breaths…. I’ll wait.

 Well?  Did the world grind to a halt while you were away?  Did you lose your mind?  Did evil thoughts come flooding into your mind like dirt into a vacuum?  My guess is that it wasn’t a bad experience at all for you…in fact it might have been a fairly pleasant one!  If you were comfortable with this, start now doing it whenever you think about it…whenever you become aware that your mind is running wild again and desire even a moment of stillness.  It is an incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating exercise.  Don’t worry about or be watching for something to happen, simply enjoy the stillness.  When the mind drifts away, which it will very quickly at first, gently swing your focus back to your breath…again and again.  If you do this regularly through out the day…while sitting in traffic going to work, sitting at your desk, while walking, etc….you will gradually become more and more aware of what is going on in your mind most of the time, and you may notice that you are feeling less stressed and anxious.  Congratulations!  You have located the off switch to your mind and survived its activation!  Doesn’t it feel great?!!  The peace you seek has begun with you!

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I Am Bliss!

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I lived at an ashram/yoga retreat in the Bahamas for a few months recently and we (staff and some guests) would all rise every morning at 5:30 and be sitting in the temple by 6:00 meditating.  At about 6:30 we would begin a half hour of daily chants…a long series of mantras put to music.  One of those mantras went like this

 “I am bliss, I am bliss, bliss absolute, bliss I am!”

 Even in the Bahamas we had a number of cool nights and mornings, and of course not everyone was always wide awake or happy about being up before the chickens and sitting in satsung.  I remember looking around the temple and laughing at the apparent irony in all the people bundled up in winter clothing, sitting there appearing grumpy and half asleep, staring at the floor singing, “I am bliss!”  At the same time I sensed the truth in the words—that bliss is our natural state and often felt it as I sang!  I am there now!

 Yes…I am in one of my favorite places in Florida and I love the warmth of the gentle spring sun, the happy sound of palm fronds frolicking in a light sea breeze, the songs of Cardinals and Mockingbirds and the joyful cries of gulls and Osprey sounding all around me, the soft scattered clouds highlighting a brilliant blue sky, but that is all surface stuff!  Other surface stuff should be causing me depression and anxiety!  I am jobless, my funds are dwindling, I am alone, I have no idea where I am going or what I will be doing next week, let alone 5 years from now, and I have nothing except an old truck, a few tools, some clothes and a bit of kitchenware with no real home to leave it in.  Now that I’ve listed all those reasons, I AM feeling a bit nervous! LOL!

 What I really want to do though is dance…after I share the bliss with you!  Why?  Because I have finally realized that the ultimate purpose of absolutely everything we engage in (even if we don’t realize it) is to find the bliss…to find our way back to our natural state!…and when we do, there is nothing else we really need.  How do we find bliss?…by quieting the mind.  Yes…as long as we’re in the physical world, our forms require food, water, shelter, and in some climates, some kind of covering.  These needs seem to require constant thought, but they come fairly easily to most non-human life forms…why not to us?  Jesus said, “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  Most of our bodily processes…healing, constant reconstruction, etc. take place without us even being conscious of them;  why do we think the external world is any different?  Where do we get the idea that the whole world will fall apart without constant effort on our part, endless input from our minds…and lots of stress?  Have you observed lately the kind of stuff that occupies your mind most of your waking hours?  I heard a speaker recently suggest that 80 to 90% of the thoughts we have today are the same ones we had yesterday, and the day before that and the day before that….endless repetition of mostly nonsense!  Don’t take my word for it!  Observe your own mind…for even a few minutes!  Really!  Start now……….

Ok…did anything useful come through?  Did you notice anything new and exciting?  Did any solutions to your problems reveal themselves?…solutions to our collective problems?  If my mind is any kind of example….and I think it’s safe to say it is!…while thought is sometimes enjoyable and it can be fun to relive some of the best moments of our lives or to look ahead and dream of things being better than they are at this moment, and while it is sometimes necessary to focus for short periods on situations that require our attention, most of the really useful material that comes through does so without any effort on our part!  If you read the biographies of great writers, artists, composers, mathematicians and others who have produced works of lasting value, I think you will find that most of them would say much the same thing…that their best work was produced without any real effort on their part…that it seemed to just flow out of them!  Einstein didn’t sit around for hours and hours thinking hard to come up with solutions;  he took long, quiet walks in natural surroundings.  Do you think Handel could have produced the Messiah in 21 days if he had sweated over all the technical details, questioning himself at every turn?  My understanding, and now my personal experience, tells me that the most important thing we can learn is how to get out of our own way!…how to live every moment of our lives as an open channel, a hole in a flute that the beautiful music of the universe can flow through!  What do we gain from learning this?  Everything we could possibly need…and BLISS!

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