Friday, February 28, 2014

Exercise In Your

Exercise in your search as much discernment as you can; the spiritual path demands more intelligence, more sober understanding, more subtle powers of discrimination than any other discipline, because the highest truth is at stake. Use your common sense at every moment. Come to the path as humorously aware as possible of the baggage you will be bringing with you: your lacks, fantasies, failings, and projections. Blend, with a soaring awareness of what your true nature might be, a down-to-earth and level-headed humility, and a clear appreciation of where you are on your spiritual journey and what still remains to be understood and accomplished.

- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

* * *

Do you not know yet? The answers you have been seeking litter your life like fallen leaves. I promise you that if you have asked a question, if you have tried to understand your life then at some point along the way, at hundreds of points along the way the answer has been given to you. It is with you now: at your feet, in your hands, on the nightstand, in the kitchen, the backyard, on the roof, at the end of block, half a world away. It is everpresent everywhere. We refuse to see it though because it is plain and ordinary and blends in; we cannot see it because our eyes are blind to it, our ears dumb, our hearts silent. We want answers with a capital "A" motherfucker and all of the answers are lowercase. There is no Grand Unifying Theory for the meaning of life. You are the meaning. You get to find out what it means to be you in this place and at this time. That's the meaning. How that is discovered and expressed, well, that is where things explode into the limitless forms of life.

You continue to look for a match to light the fuse when everything is already lit.

Look. Right now and you will see this is so: you are alive. That is the answer.

* * *

The paths we take must be our own. Tibetan Buddhism places a great emphasis on being a disciple, on following a master and learning that through a true master all the Buddhas speak. It rankles me. I do not want to be a disciple of any man. I will not follow. I will search on my own. This is a great divergence between the East and West. But it is not nearly so neat and clean as that. Those are false dichotomies.

Here is what is: when you find a teacher or a master he or she is simply the outward expression of your own inner desire to learn. You must have a discipline in order to focus your energy and effort, otherwise it is all scattershot and nothing sustains you. You know this to be true. Think about when you have poured your energy into a project, or goal and accomplished it. There were no distractions possible because you were focused and present and acting out of a well of strength and compassion for yourself. Now think about all the times you've half-assed it and the half-assed results that came. So, we can agree that discipline, a vow you make to yourself to practice and become skilled at any endeavor, is the groundfloor of unfucking your life. We can also agree that the teachers we encounter, the ones who make our lives uneasy at first, are there because there is something that rhymes between us, and they help us to draw out of ourselves our true nature.

But do not for one second think this is all holy roller bullshit. Quite the opposite. It is earthy, salty, flecked with anger and blood and disappointment and laughter and solace and love and sex and broken bones and all that we are heir to. And that, my beloveds, is what is truly holy.

The highest truth is our common ground. The highest truth, the most sacred thing is that PB & J in your hand. It is being here, right now, as you are, where you stand. Yeah, man, you've got baggage - who the fuck don't - and you've been told that baggage is your doom. Yes and no. Yes, if you point to it endlessly and beat your breast crying mea cupla, mea culpa. No, if you recognize it as simply the cost of the journey: the cuts, bruises and scars that are a necessary part of being alive.

Look, there is more to do. You fuck yourself when you think you've done it all or that you are incapable of doing anything. There is more to do, more to see, more to understand, more to accomplish and it will always be so. Life is not interested in stasis, but in transformation and there is no end to the transformations you are capable of - both within the brackets of your life and outside of it as well. Whitman thought his body would make a fine manure in which to grow flowers or melons. Buddhists believe we live again and again. Who is to say there is a difference between them?

Your job, my friend, my fucked fucker, is to pray to your higher self that you may keep your feet on the ground and laugh and cry and fuck and shit and fart and make breakfast for your family and kiss babies' feet with gentle raspberries and feed the hungry and fight the power and forgive trespasses and plant trees and grow food and get drunk and tell your father you forgive him and tell your brother you love him and tell your sister you have her back and mow your neighbors' yard for the hell of it and punch an asshole in the nose and build up a life well lived, drained to its lees as an offering to the fire inside you. The spark of life is made of the same things as stars, is born from stars and is everpresent everywhere.

Lift a rock. Split a stick and you will see.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I've Wasted Time

I've wasted time I've wasted breath
I think I've thought myself to death
I was born without this fear
Now only this seems clear
I need to move I need to fight
I need to lose myself tonight.

- Kongos, Come With Me Now

* * *

Independence is the only worthy goal in life. Autonomy, self-reliance, the indescribable wow of running your own life free of crippling fears, free of any expectations other than you own is the only goal. This then is the unfucked life: engaged, responsible to itself and freely shared with others. Independence does not mean isolation or aloof detachment - those are just other forms of dependence (I need you in order to measure myself and stand apart from you.) Smug bullshit, too. No, independence of thought does not equal a life separated from one's time, but rather fully connected to it by choice - not a default interaction of "norms" but a self-chosen path of discovery, of a desire to see what it is like to live your fucking life to its lees.

You waste your time and you waste your breath letting someone else do it for you.

* * *

You were born to find out what it means to live. The privilege of a lifetime is to live it. When fear (the loss of health, the loss of money, the loss of love) seeps into you your life is bounded by those fears, a keeper is placed on your soul: dream this far, but no further, terra incognita - there be dragons here. Color within the lines and someday you'll own a home as big as a house. It is sweet and it is seductive to let others who have come before you, who have built institutions to house their desires, to determine the course and flow of your days. You don't have to do any thinking.

Look around you. Look at the room you are in. Look at the people nearest to you. How much was chosen and how much given? How much is you and how much is an anonymous other? or your parents? or your beloved?

You were born to find out what it means to be you, what love means to you, what desire and spirit and God and No-God and strength and weakness and will and sacrifice and laughter and invention and fuck you and delight and murmurations and sex and work and children and family and community and art and music and black coffee and history and fire and drought and flood and the sun going down and death and great white whales and pools among the rushes that scarce could bathe a star and exactitude and famine and war and tribalism and touch and tomatoes from the backyard and the smell of ink and the smell of grass and prisons and violence and stupidity and intolerance and violas and pollution and cancer drugs and traffic laws and hot showers and not enough to pay the rent and fear fear fear and the dome of the sky and light years and dinosaurs and extinction means to you. For, my sweet friend, we are all heading towards extinction. So what will you do in the meantime?

It is not for nothing that we live. Our deaths do not nullify the effort it takes to live. In fact, it validates it, imbues it with meaning and value and import - not to us alone, but to those we interact with. If by our example, if by our independence we can help those closest to us, those known to us, those who might know our works to be kinder, gentler, more independent in their lives then it is a damn fine life we have lived regardless of how much money we die with.

Do not confuse independence with isolation. It is the opposite. It is a life freely given to its time.

* * *

You were born without fear. It is something you learned from the people closest to you. Their fears became your fears and you have lived in tension with those fears ever since. Let them go. You need to move on your own. You need to fight for your voice. You need to lose the self others expected and become the one you are.

And then you give it away.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Friday, February 21, 2014

Jesus Said If

Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is inside you, what you bring forth will save you. If you don't bring forth what is inside you, what you don't bring forth will destroy you."

- The Gospel of Thomas

* * *

Simple really.

* * *

Listen, you know the answers. They exist in your veins, in the way you turn your head to catch the flight of a hawk, how you sleep, the verbal tics you've accumulated, in the way you think of your beloved, your preference for your grandmother's meatloaf, if you fold your socks or not, your fear or delight in new places, how you are a morning person, how you can't understand morning people, the way you respond to illness, if you pray, what you believe about your life, all life, if you believe at all. The answers are inside you, are you. If you are fucked it is all blocked. Nothing moves. The answers are doubted and so stabled. You have learned to trust pain more than love. You have learned to belittle yourself and your gifts. But that does not change the unchangeable truth: by the fact of your existence you are the answer you have been waiting for.

Sigh no more.
Wait no more.
Your freedom is in your hands.

* * *

Your life, like any life, has before it the task of realizing itself, of finding and expressing its essential truth. If your life is fucked it is because you know the truth but have not expressed it. You know its contours, can feel it like a pebble in your shoe, but have not brought it into the light of day where it will have to find its place in the world. We hem and haw and doubt ourselves, doubt that what we have to offer is worthy of the effort, doubt that anyone will understand, doubt that we'll be accepted if we bring forth what is inside us. Ladies and gentlemen, fuck that. It does not matter if others don't dig what we have done. There are but 2 requirements here: it must be yours and it must not limit anyone else. After that, fuck 'em.

What is inside you, the essential truth of your life, must find expression in the world or it will fester and rot inside you. What was to bring joy will only bring sorrow for its unborn, untested potential. If you are a painter and do not paint you will come to loathe art because it is easier to disparage others' efforts than to confront the fact you have made none. Your actions either save you or destroy you.

Sigh no more.
Wait no more.
Your freedom is in you hands.

* * *

I am in the habit of writing three pages in longhand each morning before I do anything else. No coffee, no shit, no shower, no shave until I get these three pages down. It isn't art. It is the pen hitting the page and not stopping for air until the three are done. It is my meditative practice. If I miss a day, if I make an excuse - my child is sick, I slept in, I'll be late for work, etc, the day falls off the rails. It sucks. Doing the pages late at night isn't the same. I need the morning to clear my thoughts, steady and ready myself for the rest of the day's work. It allows me to do this and all the other writing I do. It frees me to open up and bring forth all that I dream, all that I desire, all that I know in the marrow of my soul. If I miss a day, if the chain gets broken, there is no mea cupla, mea culpa. There is only starting a new chain. Meditation isn't the art of never being distracted. It is the art of always returning, of being willing to be present, to start again.

Friend, if you need to start again, then do so. If what is inside you hasn't found its way into the world yet, do not despair. Begin again. The past is instructive, but not determinative. Begin again. You know now the traps and snares and can move past them. Begin again. What you bring forth will save you.

Me and Jesus promise.

* * *

Sigh no more.
Wait no more.
Your freedom is in your hands.

* * *

Boom.

__________

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Too Lazy To

Too lazy to be ambitious,
I let the world take care of itself.
Ten days' worth of rice in my bag;
a bundle of twigs by the fireplace.
Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment?
Listening to the night rain on my roof,
I sit comfortably, with both legs stretched out.

- Ryokan

* * *

The trap is there for all to see, yet we are willing set foot in it: pretense, pride, profundity. Go any way along the road to find out and you will trip and fall into the onerousness of spiritual pride, an arrogance of the Little Jack Horner variety - "My, what a good boy am I." Your hard won truths are Scout badges on a sash. You have come a long way. You have earned those stripes.

Now let it go. It is just another cul de sac. Let it go.

Why chatter about delusion and enlightenment? There's all this rain falling.

* * *

The goal of life is to live it, not count the number of angels on the head of a pin. We fucked fuckity fucks distract ourselves from the matter at hand - our life/our death - with minutia, soporific entertainments and a wildly false and outsized sense of our accomplishments. If the path I describe is a spiritual one, it is not a religious or faith-based one. If it is a spiritual one, it is not one of any attainment other than being present and engaged with your life. This is not shortening the field (nirvana as a touchdown), but of leaving it open ended, endlessly open to what comes next and next and next until your next breath is your last breath. There is no goal other than living your life with whatever wit, kindness and forgiveness you can muster.

Being smart is of little use.

Being kind is better.

* * *

In For The Time Being, Annie Dillard makes the case that every generation of mankind has thought themselves the ultimate expression, the most important of any who had come before or would come after. Every generations' crises of faith and politics and power and economics was the most dire, the most exalted, the most profound and each has been proved wrong by the next generation. So it goes. Let the world take care of itself. Societies rise and fall. Empires are built only to disintegrate under the gangrene of mediocrity and self-importance.

You cannot cure the world of its ills. You can only cure yourself and that is enough to change the world. Greatness is not a spectacle to be worshiped, but a humility born of letting go of ideas like greatness and pride and accomplishment. The only thing you are to accomplish is a life well-lived: were you kind while you had the chance? did you love without hesitation? did you forgive those who did not understand you, who wanted you to be like them or do their bidding? did you respond to the circumstances of your life with a willingness to create, love or suffer and so build meaning into those circumstances - no matter how difficult, unjust or unfair?

Well, did you?

If you are reading this, it is still possible, but you have to let go of the traps and snares of ambition and accomplishment. It is all process, a ceaseless process of life being transformed by life, of you transforming your life by passing through the stages of searching for answers, seizing on others' ideas, finding your own, wearing that knowledge like armor and then and then and then and then finally finally finally sitting comfortably, with both legs stretched out.

Did you hear the rain last night?

* * *

Boom.

* * *

PS: Ryokan's name was Daigu Ryokan, meaning "Great Fool."

* * *

Boom, again.

__________

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Starting Here What

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you wanted from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life–

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

- W. Stafford, "You Reading This, Be Ready"

* * *


There are no models, no forms, no myths to live by to order your life, to provide meaning to your life. None. They are gone. The stories remain and it is easy to dip a toe in those waters and feel all shiny and new, but the truth is all that is a self-soothing lie. The myths that bounded the lives of those thousands of years ago lay scattered at your feet, as disconnected from you as the bottom of the ocean.

You are on your own.


You have to write a new story.

* * *

What do you want to remember? What do you want to carry with you wherever you go? Your losses? Your easy victories? The love you share? Adversity overcome? What? It matters how you answer this, for in answering it you prioritize your values, the things you draw meaning from. From those priorities flow your days. Except, for most of us fucked fuckers, we are not conscious of what we carry or why. Conflicting demands eat up our time as we try and sort through which story we will live by, which uniform we'll put on, which form will fit our function. In that maelstrom, we meet with the struggle to make ends meet, love to last, impulse to become discipline, process to become products and we fail and fail and fail and so switch jobs, lovers, attention from one thing to another and none of it, none of it, none of it feels like it belongs to us, to our lives. We soldier on and wonder where a glimpse of peace might be found.

It is because the stories we've been living by no longer work. They died a while ago and we exhume them and reanimate them in film and story and believe they still course and thrum in our veins. It leads to disaster for they were made for a different time, a different place - East or West is immaterial - and they are not of us now.

Except there are traces that remain, remnants of those old stories that persist, questions that have not been answered: how am I to live in the enormity of time? what is the use of a life? why this life and not another? where is the source?

You reading this, be ready, for the answers are at hand, in your hand, and always have been. Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts? It will not, for it cannot. Starting here, right in this room, when you turn around the road will unfold itself for you, but only if you are willing to go it alone, to be responsible for the story you tell by the doings of your life. Absent that responsibility, you are forever trying on the roles and masks and uniforms of others who are long dead. Those were the things they made to fit them in their time. They are beautiful, no doubt, no doubt, but they are not yours.

You have to write this new story. You have the chance to be the ancestor to generations to come who builded up a story, a myth to order time, to reduce to perfect order the spit of time you had to live. In their turn, they'll have to walk away from your work, but that is as it should be, as it must be.

Life is not one and done, but forever renewing and transforming itself. If you are fucked and stuck it is because you are telling a dead story, one that does not suit this time and place. It is easy to see that all stories are one story, that archetypes flow through generations and generations and generations, but they must be adapted, altered, transformed if they are to survive, just as you must be transformed if you are to be what you may yet be.

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now?

* * *

William Stafford wrote that poem 3 days before he died. He wrote another the next day, and a last one the morning of his death. He wrote every day of his life, without exception, for 43 years. Over 9000 poems emerged from that efforts. He was a CO during WWII.  These were the things he carried into evening.

The myth you are looking for is in your veins. The freedom you crave, the love you desire, the life you would live is here, right now. When you turn around from this brief interval reading this page, your life will take hold. You just have to live by the light in your head and no other. It may take you 43 years of daily effort to get there, but you'll be home at last in this world.

Scout's honor.

* * *

Boom, my love. Boom.

__________

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Is A

What is a maze
Whose walls no one has ever touched or seen,
Whose wall are rearranged with every step,
A labyrinth whose walls are built of air
But they may was well be built from quarried stone

- G. Schnackenberg, "Bedtime Mahabharata"

* * *

We buckle in traps of our own design. From stony ledge to mossy green, we are held and tortured by thoughts that are more solid than stone. Stuck, we thrash about and blame others, blame fate, blame those nearest for our entrapment, our stuckness, our fuckedness. The bite of the trap, over time, becomes familiar and we lose the sensation, the pain of the disconnect between who we are and what we have become. We settle. We get paid by the hour to settle and seethe and get two weeks off each year where we drag the trap with us and never once leave behind or challenge the assumptions that lock us in place.

The world can be a shit-dog awful place, but we do greater harm to ourselves than any other agent. Others may threaten your body, may break it, may even end its wanderings, but it is only you who can kill the spirit that makes those wanderings worthwhile.

* * *

What, my beloved fartlet, do you do each day to steady yourself, to calm yourself, to gird yourself, to care for yourself? What practice do you engage in to clear your mind so that the difference between shit and shine-ola is self-evident? How do you flush the toxins of your narrow thoughts out? How do you remain open to what may yet come, what may yet be made of your life?

The labyrinth is made from unexamined thought, from an unexamined life, from thought turned to quarried stone.

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend
of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to
Howth Castle and Environs.

Your life is fluid, not static or solid. It moves and courses from stony ledge to mossy green, a commodius vicus of recirculation that is never the same thing twice. Yet we dig our heels in, cross our arms and scream, "No!" We prefer solidity to a river's run because we prefer certainty to uncertainty. We have dropped the ancestral, evolutionary necessity of being on our toes, ready to act in the moment. We builded up walls to protect ourselves and the walls became prisons, traps, snares: an intricate labyrinth of air that rearranges itself with each step so we never, never consider its value, its utility, its worth to the life that is dying inside us.

Poor choices in relationships. Poor choices in the work we lay our hands to. Poor choices in how we decompress (aggressive recreation or dolorous intoxicants). This poverty is born of our thoughts, our unexamined, unchallenged thoughts, which, by precedent, are really the thoughts of others on how you are to spend your days on this planet.

How you spend your days, is how you spend your life, so says Annie Dillard, and she is right.

How are you spending your days, love?

* * *

The maze that surrounds you is of your own devising. Nothing any outside actor does, nothing any circumstance presents to you fucks you more than you fucking yourself. It is the last of man's freedom's to choose his response to the facts and tasks of his unique, individual life. Ossified thought is how you got here. The way out is to practice something each day that restores fluidity and motion to your thoughts. It doesn't matter what it is - meditation, gardening, cooking, writing, painting - anything will do as long as it comes from what is essential inside you. Do it each day. Everyday. Focus on the process and not the outcomes and from swerve of shore to bend of bay, from stony ledge to mossy green your life will move again and once moving, you'll never look back.

Now, go.

* * *

Boom.

__________