Tuesday, March 30, 2010


In order to really grow and understand fulfillment, we must occasionally (at least) expose ourselves to the mind-blowing extent of our true freedom. It's a way to keep a healthy mental balance, if nothing else.

Consider the fact that a person is free to abandon anything and anyone in life...even life! My name, circumstances, job titles, relationships, belief systems, habits, responsibilities...I am just as much none of these things as I consider myself to be all of them. It's the hidden and sometimes terrifying truth.

What this does on a practical level is to remind me of the things I am secretly wanting or am unwilling to change. Everyone gripes about their chop-wood-carry-water responsibilities, but most of us have them because we want them. If we really don't, best to get to a place where one can be honest with oneself and the world. Less suffering, that way.

That place, of course, is where you and I admit our freedom...from time, concept, all that apparently is. That place is the barest and most transparent of shelters, and all things share it. It's called "I Am". That's it. That's all we really know.

From here, I can look out on the vast space of being, and understand that all things are added or subtracted by me. Not the "me" that I use in the world, but the Me that is All. From that view, all action is pure and equal. Clarity is all there is.

What it feels like...your house was just effortlessly cleaned, top to bottom, in a flash. Your boss just walked in and grated you permanent paid vacation. Your dreams turned out to be real and your nightmares just became food for your dreams. There is no deadline in life. Grief is not The End. The biological necessities are manageable, and if not, oh well. Delight is as good a reason as any. Standing in the current, feeling it both come and go, is where it's at.

In other words, a tremendous space for joy and love opens up. Creativity lifts its beautiful head and opens a new set of eyes.

Freedom is an agonizing choice only because being free automatically takes away the system of evasion, denial and blame, and puts a responsibility of a different order exactly where it belongs--here, now. What do I value here, now? What am I doing here, now? Do my actions support my values? If so, that nagging sense of inauthenticity goes away. Life in the consensus world becomes much easier.

Most of all, admitting freedom is admitting the unknown, the as-yet-unmet, the potential I can't even name. It's where old patterns die and creative being begins. It takes heart to stand there and let go of oneself, but it grants a new security, an endless one. It's "the wisdom of insecurity", as Alan Watts and countless sages have pointed out forever.

Staring at endless potential and feeling it as oneself is not as intimidating as it may seem. The point isn't in what we put on the eternally disappearing surface of life...the pictures and stories we paint there dissolve like ripples in a pond. The point, the joy, lies in the fact that we can, and do! We are forgiven our "mistakes", which are nothing more than opportunities to uncover the real depth and breadth of ourselves. This original compassion grants us an eternal blank canvas, clean page, clear stage in which to become more and more true to ourselves, each other and the art of living fully.

Yes, we are all artists. :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Several times over the past week, I've made attempts to write about Trust. I want to explore it, because without it, we may as well be dead. I suppose that sounds rather extreme, but as far as I'm concerned, I have all the evidence I need to point to the misery of lives lived in fear.

Most people I know won't admit that they are afraid. The fact is, we are taught not to trust the world, each other, our instincts, skills or intelligence. There is a vague sense of threat imposed upon all of us in this society almost from the cradle, in which the pain of impending loss is magnified and exploited for profit and power on many, many levels.

As a result, we live in a near-constant state of anxiety, a sort of mild paranoia. I could give you multiple examples, but I'm sure you don't need them to understand what I am talking about. The anxiety gives rise to anger, to evasiveness, to denial; it seems that we are experts at self-distraction, running away, and deliberate ignorance. But it hurts terribly--that's the thing.

So feel trust with me, for a moment. What is it? Is it placing conditional confidence in a person, an object, a situation "out there"? Is trust a decision to have a relationship with some element of life until such a time as it lets you down? If so, then what? Broken promises, dashed hopes and failed expectations are part of being human, part of the growth of our mental/emotional body.
If you decide to make someone or something else responsible for your safety and happiness (or believe that you are what "causes" the security, happiness or empowerment of another adult), what you are doing is contributing to the atrophy of your true confidence.

Is trust an ability to accurately predict? Is it self-control? Is it control of our environment? If so, we're all screwed...no, that's not it. Is trust some kind of guarantee that we will get all the love we need, all the security, sensation and power we deserve? No, no and no.

The truth is, there is nothing you can add to yourself--no lover, no form of insurance, no future padding that makes confidence happen, that "builds" trust within you. At its very root, trust is a natural capacity of consciousness--the ability to open, to let go, to fall with no guarantees. It is an "interior" condition that requires no exterior object to function.

As a matter of fact, the very thought of "placing trust" in someone or something is a divisive act. If you want to know the basis of Trust--if you want something to trust in--look around. This, my loves, is IT. All of what you sense exists in perfect confidence that you are bringing it to being this very instant, even as it shapes you.

Unclench your fists and your heart, and let go. Don't try to hold anything up, back, or away. You know how to move out of the path of hungry carnivores, manic imperialist governments and scary guys in the alley. You are capable of feeding yourself, taking practical care of your health and perhaps helping "others". You have intuition that runs like sap through every cell in your body, and lets you know when things are out of balance...it has a firm-but-loving voice, is eminently sensible and thoroughly creative. If you relax and pay attention, you can feel its current as it flows through, carrying images and messages extremely relevant to only you.

If trust had physical characteristics, it would resemble water in its adaptability, flexibility, power and allowing. Trust shapes itself to circumstances and is always appropriate. It seeks to fill the hollows and follows the lay of the land. It changes form, but doesn't go away. It flows around resistance and meets itself on the other side; it carves, transports, and deposits. It eases a most basic thirst. It could be likened to the moisture necessary for growth. Emotionally, it's a bit like a fluid forgiveness that precedes events, and washes them clean when they're done.

What is it that I'm trusting now? Not the ego's counsel, though I trust it will almost always have a say! What I trust is trusting itself, an active shifting into openness, receptivity, and clear seeing. Deliberate attention is required, because certain patterns of thought stick like sediment, and (at least at this point in my life) clot up in undesirable ways if I ignore them. But the barest acknowledgment creates an opening, begins the shifting process. Most deeply, I become trust, turn into love...another word for that letting-go.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Innocent Eye

~If I fail to see what I am (and especially what I am not) it’s because I’m too busily imaginative, too “spiritual”, too adult and knowing, too credulous, too intimidated by society and language, too frightened of the obvious to accept the situation exactly as I find it at this moment. Only I am in a position to report on what’s here. A kind of alert naivety is what I need. It takes an innocent eye and an empty head (not to mention a stout heart) to admit their own perfect emptiness.~ (Douglas Harding, On Having No Head.)

The winter here was unusually warm, and people unusually frozen inside--or so it seems to me. My "herd" (generally speaking) has adopted a sort of permanent startle response, standing outlined in the dark headlights of a future they can no longer predict or feel comfortable with. There has been much anger and grief and dread.

The calendar above my desk says that Spring has arrived, but honestly, the sweet joyousness of the season has been missing. This morning I tried to map out a personal renewal, a way to realign with the natural flow that I know is still there, but which seems so elusive in such a stagnant pool of angst. I wanted to pick up my house and shake all the darkness out of it, tear out some walls, make a bunch of new windows. I needed fresh air.

I feel like an alien.

In the past, such a thought was negative or lonely. Today, it is a positive affirmation of the power to recognize change even when everything and everyone seems "stuck", even when I have neither the financial means nor the desire to make the outer layers reflect some kind of difference. There's only one way to effect a sea change, and that is to embrace the viewpoint of my Alien--a being perpetually new to this place, unconditioned by the people, news and politics of the day.

She happens spontaneously--often enough that I have come to regard my alien-self as the Healthy One, the natural and aligned one. Somehow, this creature is unaffected by my concept of time, age or repetitive stupidity. She thrives and remains unabashedly curious and appreciative of absolutely everything. She is incapable of self-pity. It is impossible to addict her to anything, as any opposite state is just as viable and worthy of attention.

So this morning, as if in response to some line in the sky, this Alien opens her eyes on the heels of that old thought, and looks out at the raw material of the world, the reality of the moment. Wow. There is a distinct freshness, all of a sudden, a sense of eternity-without-stalling. Again, I realize that home is ever-present, and it is my thinking that gets stuck, my feeling that gets frozen. The silent presence suddenly in residence has full access to all the learned skills, all the acquired tools and concepts, all the mental/emotional stuff of this past winter (and any other season). She regards it like she regards everything within and without--as a gift, as something to create through, something to flow into and out of.

She feels like a very wise child, absolutely comfortable in these surroundings...which change so much that the term "unfamiliar" is meaningless. She has no concern about retaining or letting go. It is what it is, even adorned with glittering thoughts and imaginative perspective. She is as comfortable with the use of this technology as my son is with the controls to a game console...the technology of dream and create, of crawl and fly, turn and inspect; an effortless glide in and out of context, using the startlingly dense body/mind/spirit richness of the inner and outer worlds. Oh, yes.

This intrinsic, mysterious being is not a heap of gray matter from which the rest of the body dangles; the mind, body and environment are inseparable. There is no fear. What I am gazing at are the myriad cells of her larger body, doing whatever it is they must do. She looks at me, at the chattering and enchanted fool, and holds me equal in every way to her completely open silence.

Just this morning, I fretted over my work, the shape of my hips and the state of my house. I tried to imagine my own freedom. How pale this peripheral vision is under the direct and unflinching gaze of innocence! Tonight I know my vocation, and always have. My hips are exactly meant as a resting-place for two appreciative hands, as well as small grandchildren. My house is a happy, shifting state of shelter upon which I am not meant to depend. And I am as free as Spring on her green and rainy wave across the land.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Staying Alive

There are Secret People on the beach.

They generally have no official address, and hide within heaps of driftwood or in thickets that blanket some of the cliffs. After dark, they make hollows in the sand or beds of leaves and sleep, only to fade back into town during the day, before any tourists arrive.

Sometimes they build fairly elaborate shelters against the wind or rain, digging spaces out between two large logs, adding a roof made of limbs, complete with stumps for seating and a fire pit at one end. Occasionally, they are so well-camouflaged that a bedroll, some clothes or other signs of occupancy are allowed to remain. Other places are more open, torn down or added to by kids from Kansas or Arizona during the summer, repaired in the evening, reclaimed by the ocean in the winter.

I drive to the beach in a car, since it's too far to walk there. Mail comes to a house that I say is "mine". But I am one of the Secret People, too--just as much as the nomad Rainbow children, the alcoholic panhandler, or the ousted spouse-turned-poet.

I seek shelter from the wind, also; I lie on my back in the cool sand, and stare at the blue sky through bleached and twisted branches that someone else placed so carefully. I know that we are all hiding, on some level, especially while I'm writing to you from deep inside this analogy where my body can't be seen...but my heart is evident.

Home is a powerful word. Palace or ditch, it isn't just about shelter from the elements. It's a representation of what we think we want or need, a result of building materials collected along the way. These mental/emotional sticks, stones and tools are given to us by our (generally) well-meaning tribe, along with detailed training on the best way to build and maintain security.

is at the bottom of it all, isn't it? Staying protected, away from suffering or harm? Staying alive? Most of us are steeped in threat, trained to imagine our own demise so that we may guard against it. The business of guarding and protection is a serious one, indeed; we grow up patrolling our inner borders while trying to figure out how to acquire new territories, places and people in which we can somehow belong. The blueprints and instruction manuals all say that a mix of blood, sweat, tears and the correct work will result in a secure and peaceful place, a home defended effortlessly by God or Human Right, from which we will reign supreme in our little world...a world we have earned.

This idea could be titled "The American Dream", "Family Manifesto" or "Single Parent's Guide To Success". Like me, you probably have a copy tucked away somewhere in your bodymind. But anyone who has lost home, family, health, way of life or any other deep attachment (in spite of all your dedication) has come face-to-face with a universal reality that demolishes all our guides and construction materials in one fell swoop--laughing in the face of our grief, dervish-dancing upon the remains of our physical and emotional investments. Then it departs, as storms do, leaving us wailing or railing against fate or gods or rotten luck.

When this happens (it always does, sooner or later), we stand on a cusp of being so deep and profound, so perfectly all-encompassing that we tend to completely miss it. There is a moment of clarity when the heart of Truth is most evident, even while we are lashing out in pain.

So what do we do? We rebuild, usually the same design on the same spot, because hard work, blood, sweat, tears...etc., etc. Because no storm is going to outsmart this human! Because no blank is going to take blank away from blank! Because I don't know what else to do...because this is how it is.

After many rebuilds, we become our own cynical voice, patronizing the younger folks with a shake of our heads and "This is just how it is," without even knowing how it really is. We pretend a wisdom that is actually despair and confusion in disguise. We pass on our well-worn copy of whatever version of the Book we carry, maybe adjusted a bit for new technology.

We face the truth of our existence over and over again as if there is no escape, as if it haunts us through everything, as if we must constantly be punched awake. We fear this Reality thing like no other because we can't control it, predict it, tame it or use it to our advantage. It refuses to behave according to physical or spiritual law; it defies explanation or ownership and leaves no apparent proof that it was ever there at all! Yet we feel it, and react, generation after generation.

The Truth seems harsh and unforgiving when we compare our fragile, feeling selves to its unimaginable size and scope. It seems to taunt and test. All of its lessons seem to involve some form of suffering. Why? Is it just to prove that "what doesn't kill me will only make me stronger"? Is it to remind me that I can only appreciate light by way of darkness? That I am but a speck in the eye of Gaia, an insignificant cell of a process I will never understand? Yes...and no.

Looking up at the changing sky through a driftwood roof, I consider my complete and total lack of security. I have no weapon against human predators except my instinct to fight any violation of the boundary of my skin. There is nothing--not even my life--that can't be somehow taken from me. There is nothing I can do or say that will not go the way of my footprints at the water's edge at this moment. Existence, as they say, is terminal, is fleeting, is a mere flash. Pointless, says a footnote in my instruction manual...right next to *see Depression, chapter thirteen, Overcoming Life with the Correct Medication.

That didn't work very well for me.

Truth has a frightening reputation, and there is only one thing it asks of us. We must take it, claws, teeth, storms and all, as a lover. We must stop fighting and thrashing long enough to feel how it is there, faithfully, pressing the crumbling walls at every opportunity. Something completely unexpected happens upon the realization that the shelter I built, supposedly to protect this "I", is made of fear--and fear is the very substance I have mistakenly adopted as a form of identity and protection.

So the truth, which we equate with death, will have me upon physical cessation. Why not meet it on its own terms, suspending disbelief and my violent opinion, while I'm still breathing? Easier said than done...but post-storm comes a space, that silence before damage assessment and control, that point of contact due to the temporary inability to toss up another wall. Ahhhh. I recognize it, dry off my face, and let it have its way with me. I am swamped with clarity, with the seeing of all my thoughts thrown out of typical context and made more beautiful for the tossing.

Now this is being alive.

For a while, I walk as my lover does, watching the tides pull down the sand, the stones, the driftwood. There is an abundance of freedom and something like oxygen to my lungs--but it nourishes my soul. It is an essence, a truth only experienced upon my willingness to open, to give, to take. Some universal perfection blossoms through my body, through the senses--I say "perfection", because without a sheltered sense of self, I find my being exactly at home, quite contrary to what I was taught to expect and fear. I don't dissolve in a heap of babbling insanity, I don't stop feeling responsible or capable. I do, however, feel at ease, at rest, like a child, like an ageless being generating a human experience. There is no such thing as insecurity or weakness or defense. None is necessary.

I return to the house I live in without the shell I have been carrying. I am terribly in love, grateful for the solid roof, the old couch, the three blankets on my bed. To whom am I indebted? The open sky, the unexplored, the unexplainable spaciousness and constriction of Who I Am. I feel the people in the house move through me in precisely the same way I feel waves, wind, copper chimes or sadness as they explore this locus point. I feel the degree of vulnerability and tenderness deep within various members of the family, buried under layers of frustration, anger, boredom and seeming disregard. I am painfully in love.

I say "I love you" to all of them, in turn, and they say "I love you, too", embarrassed, defensive, cynical or distracted--not joyous, not tender. Too frightened, too immune to such nonsense. But the Secret People within them hear me and dance a little.

I am painfully in love...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wild Places

The photo above was taken yesterday, at a place called Cascade Head on the Oregon coast.

It barely hints at the beauty I was immersed in, so I know I'm going to have to write about it, when it settles into my interior long enough for me to dredge up the (really inadequate) words. I want to take you with me, somehow, to that wild place where meaning is made. I want to show the true intelligence and healing power of this world.

I've never been a sign-carrying activist, but being here in such a fantastic array of life makes the importance of honoring and respecting it quite obvious. A human would have to be truly calloused to walk through this without feeling some kind of love.

On that note, I'm posting this love letter from my journal:

I was a dream of green hills rolling into and around each other like otters divine, a reasonless playing of fir-and-aspen crested ridges and congealed volcanic falls. Survival has nothing to do with this being; my flowing waves of life and death are what they are. And so, people sometimes come and tear every last green thing from this earth for miles and miles.

Clearcuts can be a shock to a system humming along on forested autopilot on a bright, distinct morning--especially when encased in automobile, where the telltale thinning of bird and insect chatter can't be heard and unbuffered wind can't be felt. One moment was the swaying conifer dance and the flash of doe or squirrel through a shaft of light; the next, a great basin of barren mounds receding as far as I could see. The landmarks are suddenly red, gutted roads and abandoned piles of forlorn slash. I am astounded at the thoroughness of this forced stripping, the complete disregard evident in beer cans and lunchtime trash. Did any of the people involved in this rape stop and look behind them when they left the scene? Did anyone feel some kind of violation?

I quit the car and walk in the absence for a while, until the angry questions cease and heart opens.

Here I am, stretched out post-attack, beauty spilled in the rivulets running unchecked down exposed flanks. Ferns shrivel in the direct sun and water pools like sweat in the hollows of stumps. But I am...I am, patient, unafraid dignity, steady redirection, quiet recovering of grace in the chaos, no matter what shadow of mine pretends an ownership of this sovereign queen. I am the hungry, booted feet and hands gloved for the saw, and my thoughtlessness, if that's what it is, cannot diminish this living fact I pretend not to notice.

Nothing can cut the sweetness and power of this being. I travel the length of the scar in awe, in prayer, in teaching, in seeing, and come away healed as She always was, dreaming otters back to life.