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12/31/2010

Thank You Tree Good Bye


Thank you, tree. Goodbye. Were you a Christmas tree? A Yule or Solstice tree? Or simply an excuse to sparkle? Names fall like needles. Go back to the forest now. Become the smallest parts of yourself. We all do that. Remember your seed, closer to earth than light. Now grow downward, into darkness. 

12/30/2010

New Year's Resolution: Give Up Angry Politics


I've noticed that the rage of the political Right and the rage of the political Left are one and the same energy. For some folks, political anger is the only rush: the rest is numb.

Whenever I become political - and sooo progressive - two things happen in me. First I become right: as in righteous. Which means I stop listening to anybody who has a different view. Second, my heart contracts. Love becomes less important than being right. I tune into a global wavelength of anger that feeds my outrage, making me more and more like the people I despise. I guess this is why Jesus said, "Love your enemy." He wasn't so much giving us a way to address our adversary as to save our own hearts from poisoning themselves. After all these years of being in "the peace movement," I really ought to take him up on it.

I've written nearly a hundred newspaper editorials where I've lambasted the political right, their corporate fascism, and their wars. But I was merely preaching to the choir, and alienating the opposition. No one changes any minds by being outraged, or right. Political anger doesn't solve anything: it just polarizes.

This is where I thank Charles Dickens. Re-reading Dickens teaches me the role of literature in getting one's head unstuck. Though Dickens never preaches religion or politics, Christ-like compassion pervades all of his stories: and it is a dynamic, active compassion. Dickens shows us a society crippled by unbearably corrupt banks, courts and politicians: a system that simply won't be reformed in any foreseeable future. Yet every day, apparently powerless people redeem the poor and the outcast with acts of human care, often heroic in their anonymity.

At the still center of the smallest act of kindness is a healing that redeems the earth. What changes things is not our moral outrage, but allowing our hearts to flower and act in the grace of the ordinary.

So I have decided to do my work outside the political system. The world yearns for anonymous sacraments of kindness that have nothing whatsoever to do with politics! The Kingdom of Justice is not built out of political angst, but apolitical movements of the heart, aimed at gathering communities rather than splitting them in two. This year, I resolve to drop the rituals of political anger, and disengage from the rhetoric of both Left and Right.

Peace to you, my friends, and happy New Year in this time of fresh beginnings, which we celebrate simply to remind ourselves that every moment, all year long, can be a moment of awakening.

12/28/2010

Crossing

Paths meet.
At the other side of the Crossroads
which is which?
Or would you rather wander in a desert
imagining that God has chosen
you alone?

12/27/2010

Distance

The crack of the pine at midnight
where a deer leaps in the woods.
Winter rain against my window.
A seal's cry over miles of still water.
Fifty silent Christmas's ago,
my mother's voice.
Every perception arises in the Self.
Every motion is returning.
Distance is the last illusion.

12/24/2010

He Accepts & Welcomes You

"No belief is required to travel with the Buddha. You can come to him with all your skepticism. He accepts and welcomes you, and he says, Come with me." - Osho.

Precisely the same is true of Jesus. No belief is required to walk with Jesus. He accepts you as you are and says, "Walk with me. I don't want to lead you, I want to walk beside you, and be your friend." Jesus is a Presence, not a belief. The dogmas and creeds invented by Church councils, hundreds of years after his birth, have nothing to do with this friendship.


12/22/2010

Counting

Why do you count?

What would happen if you stopped counting?

the hours the years the days until christmas face book friends hits runs errors heads calories beats miles blessings breaths beads mantras reps of surya namaskar hail mary's stars sheep votes...

How many more? More than what? More than this? Could there be more than this?

What if you count til the end and the number is one?

12/21/2010

Abolish Grades


Improve schools: abolish grades.

Do you grade your own children? Is your child a “C”?

Grading is degrading. Future schools will regard grading with horror, like slavery, or frontal lobotomies. Grades either make children feel unworthy, or inculcate that false superiority which spawns the arrogance of class.

With a 740 on my verbal SAT, I attended an Ivy League college. The kid next to me got a 340 and became a mechanic. When my car breaks down, I have no idea how to fix it. I tow it to his garage, awed by his superior intelligence. The grades we got in school mean absolutely nothing.

 


Grades encourage inside-the-box thinking, the box being a standardized test. Standardized tests produce standardized citizens, risk-averse and suppressed in creativity. Grading pits students against each other, reinforcing an ethic of me-first narcissism rather than cooperative problem-solving.

Like child abuse, grades demand submission to the elite and powerful. Teachers who define success by grades are simply bullies. No teacher is worthy of that title who does not dream of ways to evaluate students without grading them.

Our children are incomparable, each intelligent in a thousand ways but usually graded in just one. Grading establishes a dysfunctional hierarchy where few are rewarded, most are stifled, many are shamed.


Where is that courageous school that carefully evaluates students without grades, where intelligence flowers without bullying by the corporate testing industry, where the heart’s creativity is valued along with the intellect?

12/18/2010

Alone


Are you alone?

Then Be alone.

You were alone from the beginning of time. You are alone until the end of time, which is now.

If you are perfectly alone, you are not alone.

With every fiber of your being, embody aloneness. Let each atom encircle a magnitude of aloneness. Rest as the majestic body of limitless star-clustered aloneness, and you will never be alone.

12/12/2010

Blended Honey


The bee knows how to avoid the thorn, alight on the blossom, and steal the nectar without getting stuck. The bee makes honey, not from one flower alone, but many. There are many flowers in our garden: we are free to make honey from them all. We are citizens of the whole earth, and all religions are our birthright.

Winter Morning Meditation

Breathe out slow, root sunk in dark earth.

Silent pause, the still deep seed.

Not-doing in-breath, green heart gift

Sprouting sunrise.

12/07/2010

Deconstructionist Christmas Parable

BOOK I
Chapter 1
I found Santa floating face-down in the cold water.

Chapter 2
I found Santa floating face-down in the cold water, again. He had been drowned in the darkest hour, just before dawn.

Chapter 3
It happens every morning, and Christmas is coming.

Chapter 4
My overweight, perpetually confused, crossed but brightly blue-eyed Siamese boy-cat does not appear, at first glance, to be a sociopath. In fact, he is timid and clumsy, and he flees at the slightest movement. Yet every morning before dawn, he drowns Santa Claus in his water bowl.

BOOK II
Chapter 1
Santa is Chester's favorite toy: an old cotton finger-puppet the size of a mouse.

Chapter 2
As I bow down sadly with a sigh to remove Santa from Chester's bowl at precisely 7 AM every day, I feel like Nietzsche.

Chapter 3
I wring Santa dry and lay him on the rug. Chester loves Santa. Once again the game is on, the game of paradox...

Chapter 4
... love and death, the gentle, the cruel, batting Santa Claus across the floor, tossing him in the air all morning, all afternoon. You might think a cat would realize, after walloping a limp mouse-sized body for hours, that its soul would not need dispatching. Yet in that hour when the whole world relishes the consolation of perfect oblivion, Chester silently and tenderly takes Santa in his teeth, steals to his water bowl, and drowns him.

BOOK III
Chapter 1
I found Santa floating face-down in the cold water. Eternal recurrence. Or maybe it's Camus I must reread, The Myth of Sisyphus. Some philosopher, any philosopher.

Chapter 2
As Christmas approaches and the nights grow longer, the national economy collapses, barbarians draw close to the gates of the empire, and the windows of human intercourse are closed by an invisible bureaucracy, I sense a parable here. Santa, floating face down. I feel like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, pointing at his pile of mashed potatoes and muttering, "This means something!"

Chapter 3
I rise from my bed and go down to the kitchen in Wintry darkness. The electricity is out. The heat is off. The muffled report of bombs shakes the ground as soldiers at a near-by Army base rehearse for perpetual war. Do I dare light a candle and gaze into Chester's water bowl?

Chapter 3
These events perhaps, like these words, are random bursts of the quantum vacuum, particles of the absurd, shards of a lost equilibrium flung backward and forward in time toward their final rest in entropy.  Why attribute motive to the repeated behavior of an imbecile? Why teasingly string random moments into a fantastic necklace of illusory causation, events that would otherwise spill and clatter in all directions across the cold empty floor of eternity, with the sound of fleeing glass slippers?

Chapter 4
I am hungry. I am hungry for meaning. Aren't you? Let us construct it, even if it isn't here. Out of mashed potatoes, if necessary. Ah, "necessity." Even that we must imagine. Let us imagine that there is a cause, an effect: that each Now follows another. Let us call one the past, another the present, another the future. Let us imagine there is a story.

BOOK III
There is another version of Book III, but it has been lost. Or burned by monks in Alexandria, about 300 CE. The lost ancient manuscript of Book III - this gives our parable weight - written by a prophet from the East, perhaps Bactria, who journeyed across the deserts of Persia to lay that vellum masterpiece, along with a bowl of frankincense, at the infant feet of the doomed king. We must imagine this too.

BOOK IV
Chapter 1
Perhaps someone will say, "We Americans are all guilty of drowning Santa Claus in the waters of Matter." But that is a Gnostic vision too lofty for me. I need something simple, childish, full of hope.

Chapter 2
How about this? "Santa only seems dead, but he rises again each Christmas dawn."

Chapter 3
That really sounded stupid.

EPILOGUE
It's up to you. Tell me what this story means. I am hungry.

12/05/2010

Intuition as Intentional Practice


No one can teach Intuition: it arises gracefully in each of us. Yet we can create an opening conducive to intuition's grace. Intuition is the mysterious work of Sophia, divine Mother Wisdom, in us.

 

INTUITION AS INTENTIONAL PRACTICE
Every religious tradition honors and names Intuition: Prajna (Buddhism), Ritam-Bara-Pragyam (Yoga), Hochma (Jewish mystics), Spiritual Discernment (Christian scripture), The Inward Teacher (Quakerism), Sense of the Heart (Colonial Puritans)

1) Intuition is PRESENT.
Let your breath center you in the present moment. Intuition seldom works when intellect is in the past or future.

2) Intuition is NOTICING.
Intuition is inductive, not deductive. It arises when we pay attention to concrete details in the moment. Intuition speaks through the language of little things, using them as symbols. Intuition seldom deduces from philosophical belief systems or abstract concepts. So set aside your beliefs and just pay attention. Find an enriching place, perhaps a spot in the woods or near water. Notice little things: sounds, colors, bugs, pebbles, twigs.

3) Intuition is RECEPTIVE.

The analytic mind is yang, aggressive, penetrating an object to take it apart and look at its pieces. The intellect is one arrow in our quiver: one useful tool. But intuition is another tool. It is yin. To use it, we lay aside the intellectual tool. Let awareness rest in itself, yet remaining alert and open to the environment. Allow little things to come to you: don't grasp or analyze them. Let creation reveal itself, in its own quiet voice.

4) Intuition is NON-VERBAL.

Analysis arises in the verbal sections of the brain. Intuition arises in the non-verbal. Then it may move into the verbal cortex to become poetry or prophetic speech. But it begins in the non-verbal layers of the cortex. Intuition expresses through symbols, melodies, physical objects. Intuition loves silence. A natural way to enter this silence is just to listen. Listen to the most faint or distant sound. Listen to the silence after the faintest sound. Listen to the silence between sounds. When your mind is listening, it is not thinking in words.

5) Intuition comes from the HEART.

Listening to the silence of Now, receptive to little things, let attention sink from the head to the heart. Sink into heart-space through your breath. When you are ready, visualize whatever the question is that you are posing. Don't verbalize, but visualize, seeing yourself in that situation.

Which job should I take? Which college should I attend? Should I marry this person or remain single? Should I stay here or move to that part of the country? These are very practical and specific questions. We can use intuition as one tool for gaining a clearer answer.

Intentionally enter the intuitive space, as described above. Then visualize yourself in each of the two choices. Remember that this is not a moral decision about good and bad. It is a choice between what is best for YOUR personal growth and creativity.

The path that is not right for you produces a sensation of  CONTRACTION, INERTIA and HEAVINESS in your heart-space. The right path signals your heart with a sensation of EXPANSION, ENERGY and LIGHTNESS. Your heart feels a sigh of relief.

Intuition just means consulting your body-soul. It is your body-soul's natural meditation.