Thursday, December 26, 2013

According To Convention

According to convention, I am not simply what I am doing now. I am also what I have done, and my conventionally edited version of my past is made to seem almost the more "real" me than what I am at this moment. For what I am seems so fleeting and intangible, but what I was is fixed and final. It is the firm basis for predictions of what I will be in the future, and so it comes about that I am more closely identified with what no longer exits than what actually is!

- Alan Watts, The Way of Zen

* * *

The past is not just the past; it is also our shadow, our companion, our memories burnished gold, edited to fit the story we tell about ourselves. It is seed and source and it is impossible to ever say we are free of it. Experience is our tour guide. It warns of dangers, identifies patterns and says, "Look here, not there." Right on. We are the accumulation of choices we've made or not made and so become who we are. But that is only one way of seeing it. Useful, true, but also limited and limiting.

The fucked see the past as inescapably the future. Sins and omissions are forever the Mark of Cain and their days un-spool in a set pattern of declination, futility and remorse. At no moment are they able to move freely, without the weight of the past and fear of the future slowing them down, stopping them. We fucked fuckers identify completely with the past precisely because it is fixed and final. There are no surprises, no challenges. We know this shit and in the knowing we are made to feel we know our place in the world. Unfortunately, it is in what is unchangeable, is in what is dead and gone.

* * *

"Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Scrooge, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge." But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me."

* * *

You are here because at each moment along the way you chose to respond to the facts and inputs and circumstances and stimuli and wounds and scars and chances and opportunities of your life in the exact manner that you did. No doubt many patterns have repeated themselves and not always to your benefit. As these patterns repeat they take on the tenor of inevitability, fate and you quit resisting it. Laziness, wounded pride, fear of change, or worse, helplessness sews itself into your life and becomes the cloth covering your bones. Men's courses foreshadow certain ends, no?

But that is false, my best beloveds. Oh, it may unwind that way. In fact, it is the way most of us navigate our lives. But is is not inevitable. It is not fated. It is not necessary nor is it what your life is made for. It is simply what we choose when confronted by the enormity of eternity. We go small. We play for certitude - even if it is miserable - because it is knowable. I get that. I know that. I've done that, but I have to tell you, as knowable as it is, there is nothing worth having there. The good shit only exists in one place: the everpresent now, this very moment you are reading this. Not the word before, or the word after, but right now.

Who you are is happening right now.
The past is who you were and there's no fixing it, or keeping it
To unfuck your life you have to be present in it. Right now. And you have to choose to move and act within each moment from the core of your being, not the from the memory of how things were, or the falsity of castes.

You are free to choose.

Really.

* * * 

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.

"Am I that man who lay upon the bed?" he cried, upon his knees.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

"No, Spirit! Oh no, no!" 

The finger still was there.

"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?"

* * *

Boom.

__________

Sunday, December 22, 2013

So The First

So the first principle of the Zen cook is that we already have everything we need. If we look closely at our lives, we will find that we have all the ingredients we need to prepare the supreme meal. At every moment, we simply take the  ingredients at hand and make the best meal we can. It doesn't matter how much or how little we have. The Zen cook just looks at what is available and starts with that.

- Roshi Bernie Glassman, Instructions to the Cook

* * *

What fucks us is the mistaken assumption that there'll be time enough, that things will be better tomorrow, that the time's not right, the trial too deep, resources too few, that we can afford to postpone for a even a moment the business of being present in our lives because we promise we'll get to it - eventually. We excuse our mis-deeds, justify out lethargy and inaction, refuse the balm of being alive to the moment and so slide, slide, slide a bit further down a hole that we never notice is closing in on us. Why? Because we place the agency of our redemption, happiness, acceptance and solace in the future where we can never reach it.

That's why.

We are fools for this shit.

* * *

I found this the other day: The point is to gather your resources, do the best you can, and to pursue whatever it is you love to do with an intensity and a resilience and a passion. 

But we don't do that, do we? We judge our resources too puny, our training inadequate, our desire is more wish than fire and we sit on the riverbank and keep our toes dry. We fear failing, humiliating ourselves in front of others, being found to be unequal to the task. But, dude, living like this your life is a constant humiliation to yourself! Fail large my love. Face plant and face plant again. What else is there to do? What else is eternity for? Our lives are to be used, not preserved. We don't last forever. If we're lucky we get 7 or 8 decades. What the living holy fuck are you waiting for? 

You were made to find out what you can do with that strip of time, but you fear it, no? You fear that using what you have will either hurry your end, or leave you without anything to keep you warm at night. Right? Here's the news: a) your end is hurrying toward you anyway, so fuck it, and b) you were born with all you need to find out what it is like to be here - nothing more, nothing less.

Intensity, resilience and passion are the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of being alive, of being present, of being awake to love, to the genius of your love, your service, your faith and communion with this life. It is in you - that genius for life is in you right now waiting for you to recognize it and live by it. Everyday the glory is waiting to emerge from its debasement.

Isn't it time to be done with the fears that have held you still? You are the gold, the glory, the vital breath, the thing the universe has conspired to bring into being. Enough shitting on your gifts. Enough.

* * *

Everything you need is at hand right now. You need nothing more. There is no thing for you to wait on. Take a look at what is at hand. Do not judge it against anything else in this world. Look at what you do have and begin. It will be enough. It will be more than enough. Tend it. Respect it. Use it. You will need every ounce of your passion and resilience to make your way. It is unfair, unjust and unkind out here. It is also the only place where your love can find its expression and so answer and so overwhelm what is difficult, painful and sad. This is the way you unfuck what is fucked in your life. 

Stasis is not an answer. Stasis is practicing for the grave and of that, and that only, there is time enough.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I'm Leaving Pieces

I'm leaving pieces behind
Anywhere I go
Every time I go
I'm leaving behind my soul

I'm breaking into pieces
Every time I go
Leaving pieces of mine 

Every time I go


- Trixie Whitley, "Pieces"

* * *

Lately, the word "combinatoria' has been tracing lines in my head. It feels like the start of something. I'll say this: what is scattered and broken cannot be restored as it was, but can only become something new.

Kintsukuroi, baby.

* * *

I have long argued that the basic need for any last one of us fucked fuckers is to be complete - not improved or made better, but to be complete, completely ourselves and completely at home in the world so we can go see what our lives can do. Right on. Haven't changed my mind. That is still my first foot forward. But I have been thinking lately that there is another layer here, another idea that may belong here. I'm not saying it as fact or gospel, but simply as an idea to consider, test out, to see where it might go. It is this: our completeness is not a restoration, but an on-going process of shedding pieces, adding others, recombining the shards, patterns and impulses and desires into a wholly new thing that in turn will be pulled apart and be reconfigured and reworked into another new thing and that new thing is always the same: you.

Soul sculpture.
Invention.
The combinatoria of history, rhythm, color, sound, desire and its expression from moment to moment: a kiss, a broken hand healed, dinner made, words written, a child soothed, a foe defeated, dancing without music except for the low hum of your love, anger spent, holy silence, letting go, bearing witness, building - always leaning in, hunger, regret, forgiveness of sins, resistance, pride, service, ego, the unbearable lightness of being, transition, omission, spite, a song sung, a life lived out in the fullness of its time.

* * *

When the rains come, when things fall apart, when we fail ourselves we are being asked by life to get to the work of leaving behind what no longer works or serves the invention of each moment. Just or unjust, the breaking apart of the structures that have failed us is the necessary first step to learning where we can rebuild, what can be salvaged and re-purposed, combined with some other thing to make a new thing that could not have existed without the rains and the falling apart and the question asked: now what you gonna do?

There's beauty ahead. I promise.

Leave behind what no longer works. Your wholeness is a combination of additions and subtractions and it changes all the time. Believing it is set in stone leaves you unprepared for the inevitable transitions that will skate into your life. Lean in. Ride the leading edge and be an active participant in the changes.

The Baal Shem Tov walked into fields of grass and prayed for the scattered light of God buried in each blade to rise up and be restored.

Walk into the field of your life and pray that you can take what is scattered, incomplete, broken and use it to find out what you can yet be. It is the privilege of a lifetime to combine your spirit with your body, with your mind and see what you can make of it. Just remember: it is in combining, recombining, and re-imagining that you find your feet.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Thursday, December 12, 2013

If I Really

If I really knew what changed me... I don't know.  I've thought about it and thought about it. You don't go anywhere, because you always see yourself as something you're not. As long as you can say I'm better than they are, then there's somebody below you can kick. But once you get over that, you see that you're not any better off than they are. In fact, you're worse off 'cause you're believin' a lie.

- Peggy Terry as documented by Studs Terkel in Hard Times.

* * *

I'll say this: Studs Terkel is a giant.

* * *

What lies have you been believing about yourself, about others? What comfort have you found in refusing the reality in front of you? Peggy Terry was speaking about the easy hatred of blacks she never thought twice about until a black family fed her and her husband during the Depression, until she came North and poor southern whites were treated the same as she'd treated others. The lie cracked open in her. She continued: "And it was right there, in front of us. In the cotton field, chopping cotton, and right over in the next field there's these black people–Alabama, Texas, Kentucky. Never did it occur to me that we had anything in common."

The easy lie, the self-soothing lie is always the unconsidered impulse, the unexamined habit. It sits and fills your life with its delusion because you never challenge it, never demand proof of its assumptions. Racism is the obvious one, and maybe you're so fucked you're still stuck there. If that's the case grow the fuck up. Take a minute and consider all those truths you believe to be self-evident about life, about your life. Line them up. Demand answers. It is right there, in front of you.

Look.

* * *

The other thing about these lies, these comfortable delusions is you never get past them. You go nowhere. As long as you feed the lie, the lie keeps you stuck and fucked and going nowhere. Your lies tell you that you have no control over your life, but that others, circumstances, the way your mom and dad raised you, the woman who left you, the job you got fired from, the traffic cop who wrote you a ticket that day, the line at Starbucks making you late, your damn boss, your damn teacher, your damn car, the fucking niggers and kikes and spics and chinks, and the goddamned quarterback tossing that interception, the Republicans, the Democrats, the fat cats and the  International Monetary Fund and only needing 4 more credits to graduate, the price of gasoline, the price of milk and the shitty brakes on your car, and the cough you can't shake, the emptiness of your bed, the holes in your socks, the winter, the spring, the summer and fall and time moving either too slow or too fast all keep you from breaking out, from the life you thought you'd have. All those excuses ready made for your bullshit self-pity.

You don't get to pity yourself. Ever.

You don't get to use the externals and your meager perception of them as an excuse to not wrestle with the facts of your life and wring something worth being out of it.

You don't get to blame others.

You are always free to be responsible for your life. Always. In every circumstance. Even the unjust ones.

Ask the family who fed Peggy Terry.

* * *

William Blake tells me wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none can come to buy. And in the withered field where the farmer plows for bread in vain. Hard times - either on a macro-economic scale, or just inside your head, have a way of changing you, of challenging the easy beliefs that have held you and limited you for so long. No one wishes for difficulties, but they crop up and you might as well use them to your advantage. This is the challenge life is tossing your way: are you willing to use what is hard and difficult to break free of what has fucked you for so long?

Are you?

* * *

Boom.

__________

Friday, December 6, 2013

I Am Fundamentally

I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.

- Nelson Mandela

* * * 

I do not write this blog topically, politically, of the moment. I try to write with a thousand year stare, but the passing of Mandela opens me up to this moment and it is time to get back to business. 

* * *

Asimbonanga
Asimbonang' umandela thina

* * *

Everywhere around you is evidence of the need to let go of those things that have poisoned your life, that have stopped you, wounded you, made you fearful and small. You were not born for such things. You were born to venture this risk, to test the limits of what you know and what you can bear and find that there is always a bit more to do, a bit more to give, a bit more to love. Such is the way of being at peace with the world, at peace with yourself. What has fucked you has been a mistaken assumption about life, about your life and your place in the stream of life. It is not Life's concern that you believe you were entitled to anything. That is your business. Life is only concerned in what comes next. You can serve it or not, but that is the flow of things and you are part of it whether you believe it or not.

The answer is always to keep one's feet moving, to travel the road, to see what emerges. There was no visible path from Robben Island to the reconciliation of a nation, but it occurred. It occurred because one man kept his feet moving and so a nation moved with him. 

You don't need to move a nation. You only need to move yourself, to move with a sense of the possible in your life. There are many dark times that visit each of us. The way out of the darkness is earned by moving while it is still dark, by living by a light only you know: trusting it, tending it, living according to it. And if the external darkness does not change, you will still be living by that light and that is all, that is all, that is all.

There is no cure for life. It is a cluster fuck of beauty and broken-ness, of healing wells and prison walls and it is constantly moving, changing, finding new ways to combine and re-combine its parts to bring something new and emergent into view. Why fear it? Run with it. See what you can do with the wit and time you have available to you.

* * *

Asimbonanga means "We have not seen him."
Asimbonag' umandela thina is "We have not seen Mandela."

For 27 years this was true. He was hidden, but he kept his head pointed towards the sun, he kept his feet moving - even as they were in chains - and because of that we have seen him. Oh, how we have seen him.

Now it is your turn to show us what can be done with a life.

Get moving.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Monday, December 2, 2013

Unfuck Your Life

I am happier than this image might suggest.
Unfuck Your Life is now an e-book on Amazon. Follow the link and download a copy (it will be free on 12/3 and 12/4, so wait a day).

Don't worry if you don't have a Kindle. They have free downloads so you can read it on any device you have (PC, MAC, smartphone, etc.).

Let me know what you think. Leave a review on Amazon or send me a note here and if you find that it works for you, please re-post and spread the word. It's free and I hope it will do some good in
the world.

Thanks for everything,

Mark

__________