Taste It Fully

ice circles on the lake

ice circles on the lake

We heard the angry barking of crows before we saw them. They were haranguing an owl. It flew into a tree only a few yards in front of us. For several moments, through the ruckus of the crows, we stared at the owl and it stared at us. Time stopped. Nothing else existed. The owl’s eyes, our breathing, the crow’s chorus.

For our wedding gift, H and Teru sent several collections of poetry, “Manuals on marriage,” they wrote in the note that came with the poems. Kerri and I are savoring the poems, reading one or two aloud to each other every day. They are a source of warmth and inspiration during these cold dark winter months. A poem cannot be rushed or read merely. It must be slowly tasted. It is meant to be entered like a meadow; to be experienced. Try to make sense of a poem and you will miss it. Just like life.

She said, “inner quiet is low maintenance,” and I laughed. Yes it is. The trick is in getting quiet. It is not something that can be found or achieved. It is not a place or a state-of-being. It is what happens when you stop looking for it. Like the hermit says to Parcival when the Grail Castle suddenly reappears, “Boy, it’s been there all along.”

For years Sam the poet was afraid of his poems. Like all great art, his poems, his art, revealed the artist, and so he kept them locked up, un-tasted. He came alive and supremely dissatisfied when he finally unleashed his poetry. He let himself want more but also refused to let himself experience more; one foot on the gas, one foot on the brakes. To taste fully one must be willing to be tasted.

A snippet of a poem (a koan imbedded in a poem), RELAX by Ellen Bass:

The Buddha tells a story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs halfway down. But, there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice – one white, one black – scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.

Taste your moment. Taste it fully.

I wrote in my black and red notebook a simple recognition. The field of possibilities cuts both ways: in your despair you must remember that anything is possible. In your joy you must remember that anything is possible. Tiger above (the past), tiger below (imagined future). Do not reject your moment or attempt to hold on to it – both are methods of missing the moment. Taste it regardless of the circumstance. Taste it fully.

 

 

 

There Is Wisdom In Dancing

TODAY’S FEATURED THOUGHT FOR HUMANS

There is wisdom in dancing

To restate an old notion: knowledge is not wisdom. And, often times, our reliance on knowledge blinds us to wisdom (for instance, passing a test has little or nothing to do with learning). My mentors taught me that the toughest thing in life to master is relationship. The reason: relationship is at the heart of everything we do whether we acknowledge it or not. Life IS a relationship. Education, business, art, spirituality, leadership, management, self love, economics, agriculture, kindness, gratitude… are all relationship skills. Wisdom is found in the fields beyond your thinking. Get onto the floor of life and dance.

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Listen To Your Teachers

my yoga companions

my yoga companions and a belly-belly

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog and BabyCat (aka Slim, Sumo, Belly-with-a-Mouth) join me for my morning stretch and yoga. I need only walk to the yoga rug and my practice mates come running. I suspect they are not invested in the quieting of their minds or keeping limber. Their attendance on the rug has a simpler, more pure agenda: attention and pets.

Our preparation looks something like this: BabyCat wraps himself around my ankles and purrs. Dog-Dog jumps with enthusiasm and nearly knocks me over. With a Sumo-sized kitty warming my ankles and a circus dog leaping all around me, my gentle, quiet practice begins. As I drop forward to touch my toes, Dog-Dog rolls over for what we have lovingly dubbed a “belly-belly.” Clearly, Dog-Dog is an opportunist who sees all things as an opportunity. He is, therefore, a very happy spirit.

BabyCat is more strategic. He waits patiently until I move into a downward-dog pose so he can inhabit his favored spot and nibble my hair. It is counter-intuitive but true that BabyCat is more vocal than Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog. As a strategist, BabyCat complains a lot. He is an adherent to the philosophy of the squeaky wheel getting all the grease and BabyCat knows how to squeak the wheel. He is, therefore, as a necessary prerequisite to wheel squeaking, never satisfied.

photo-3My yoga companions have served to make me more mindful though it took me a while to recognize the teachings of my rug mates. At first I thought of them as distractions: they are very demanding of my attention. I thought they were getting in the way. I contemplated shooing them from the rug but, in truth, they made me laugh and what could be better for any healthy practice – for a healthy life – than laughter. It occurred to me that I’d rarely laughed in the many, many previous years of my practice. I was missing the essential ingredient and nearly banished it from my life-rug!

Next, I had to learn to move slower with much more intention so as not to topple or step on the squeaky wheel. I became much more present and aware of even the simplest movement. Awareness is a muscle and BabyCat is a gifted instructor of the fine art of awareness.

As an opportunist for fun, the Dog-Dog believes every pose is, in fact, a bridge to run under or an invitation to wrestle so I’ve had to learn how to root myself in every moment of my practice, particularly the in-between moments. I cannot afford to be ungrounded, even for a single moment, or the master Dog-Dog will have me sprawling on the floor. Saul-The-Tai-Chi-Master would be proud of my new capacity to remain grounded while in motion. Dog-Dog is an excellent teacher!

Perhaps their attendance on the rug with me has a more complex agenda after all: they recognized that their human needed to welcome more laughter into his too serious practice (life), he needed to find a deeper, easier grounding. And, in my predisposition the think I am higher up the chain of consciousness, I foolishly believed I was giving my love and attention to them but the opposite has been the case all along.

Feel The Thunder

An untitled  watercolor I did years ago

an untitled watercolor from the archives

I am sitting alone in the back room of a coffeehouse. The room is dark because the day is dark with rain. It is hot and very humid. The building shakes with thunder and the voices in the front room drop to a whisper. I imagine the voice of the thunder inspires awe or at least a library-esque respect. After the rumble subsides, the volume is restored. People laugh again and talk in a tumble over each other until the next rumble quiets them.

I came to work. Good coffeehouses have always been productive places for me though today I’m distracted by the thunder. Like the other patrons, the angry sky has me on alert. It is nearly impossible to focus on my thoughts when the sky has so much to say. The truth is, I want to listen to it. I want it to stop all motion, to interrupt all the little things I deem important. I want to pay attention to what it has to say.

I remember listening to a recorded lecture of Joseph Campbell. He said that the voice of the thunder was probably humanity’s first experience of the godhead. In other words, when the sky talked, people listened. Long before the weather channel replaced the oracle, connectivity between human action and the elements was assumed. Our actions mattered. The gods communicated their pleasure or displeasure with us via sunshine or tsunami. Calm seas and good sailing were signs of approval. It is a marvel in the age of humanity blowing a hole in the ozone, pouring tons of carbon into the atmosphere, having created a Texas size floating trash site in the ocean, exhausting aquifers, etc., that we can in all seriousness debate whether or not we are having an impact. I wonder if in the age of the weather channel as oracle we have so disconnected from “our nature” (our connectivity) that the debate is less about impact and really about whether or not we matter at all. If we do not recognize that our actions have impact, that the smallest action ripples through the lives of others, how can we possibly expect our existence to matter? Mattering requires the understanding and experience of connectivity.

When was the last time that you felt connected to the bigger whole? In the end of the day, mattering (spirituality by another name) is a very practical thing. It is to feel connected. When was the last time you stopped and listened to the thunder? When was the last time you felt its rumble in your chest, or noticed how quiet you became when it spoke?

Do What Is Most Natural

IMG_0817The snows have come. The temperatures are grindingly low. Sitting at my desk, staring out the window at the world’s hibernation, I had a few thoughts about transformation. Actually, just before coming to the desk I flipped open the Bibles of Mankind for my random-thought-of-the-day. Today I landed on the Tao and specifically, this line: “By a transformation they live. By another transformation they die.”

In our births and our deaths we are all experts at transformation. In fact, in our progression through the many bodies we will in habit, the many phases we will navigate during the span of our singular life, we need not think about transformation or try to achieve it. Transformation is what we do. It happens. Track the progression of any life from infant to old age and you will witness a remarkable transformation.

I’ve just completed the first full cycle of seasons in my new home. Because it is all new to me, I’ve had the eyes to see the nuances, the profound changes in the trees, the lake, the rhythms of life including the migrations of geese. Nothing is normal (yet) so everything is special and alive. The cycle of the seasons, like the continual movement through the long body of life, is an ever-present transformation. The seasons do not try to transform; they are transformation.

People think they need to intend transformation. We seem to think we need to work at it to achieve it and somehow do not transform if we don’t marshal the process. Consciousness, like the body and the cycles of the seasons, transforms whether we intend it our not. That is the nature of consciousness. That is the natural movement of awareness.

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'Dancing In The Front Yard' by David Robinson

‘Dancing In The Front Yard’ by David Robinson

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Play For The Light

Photo by Wes Morrissey. See more at rocknfish.com

Photo by Wes Morrissey. See more at rocknfish.com

I’m hanging out listening to the handbell choir practice. I meant to bring my ipad so I could write while hanging out but I forgot it so I had to go old school and find a pen and some paper. The pen was easy but the only paper I could find was the back of an old church bulletin. I opened the bulletin and found the language for the communion celebration, “…he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it saying, ‘Take this and eat. This is my body, given for you….”

In reading the words I was thrown back in time (a meditative handbell soundtrack is very useful when being cast backwards in time). Many years ago, just after I moved to Seattle, the Makah tribe attempted to revive their traditional whale hunt. The entirety of their traditional ritual life stems from the hunt – the whale is their central god much as the buffalo is central to the worship of the plains tribes. In the early 20th century the Makah voluntarily suspended the hunt because European whaling techniques had devastated the whale population. Consequently, with no central ritual, their community fell into disarray. The revival of the hunt brought intense opposition and a media circus of epic proportions.

At the time, I was taking a masters degree in systems theory with a focus on Cultural Mythology and Transformational Art and, so, was enrapt by the collision of cultural perspectives. Through one lens, the hunt was an unnecessary slaughter of a whale. Through another lens it was a communion meal; the hunter is deemed worthy and chosen by the god (the whale), the god gives his life to nourish the people (spiritually and literally), and the people, in turn, perform the rituals of rebirth that bring the god back to life. It is a cycle of death and rebirth, the god nourishing the people and the people revivifying the god through their rituals and attention to life.

The central word is “communion;” to commune with the divine – regardless of faith tradition. And, in the end of the day, when the shopping is all done, isn’t that what this season is about? Does it matter how we mark the return of the light, the winter solstice, the return of the god to eventually bring life to a barren winter landscape (I’m writing metaphorically, too), the fulfillment of a prophecy, as long as we truly experience communion with something bigger than ourselves? It is an awesome responsibility to revivify the god – especially when the return depends upon how we live our lives and perform our rituals.

The handbell choir is working extra hard. Although they play each month, this preparation is for something special. They play with a sense of stress and excitement and desire a perfection that they usually do not entertain. This performance matters more than the others because they know, just like this time last year, they are playing for the return of the light.

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Rap With B-Cat

Baby Cat daydreaming

Baby Cat daydreaming

It occurs to me, as I sit in the studio on this cool spring morning, that there is a fourth member of my household that has yet to be introduced. We have a cat, an elder statesman, a worthy companion and sparring partner for Tripper-Dog-Dog-Dog. He has a name that no one uses because, early in his life, he became a rap star and dumped his given name. He is now known to all the world as Baby Cat.

When I first met Baby Cat I called him Sumo. He is a very large cat, a formidable kitty. Late at night I have more than once thought there was a burly intruder in the house but it was only Baby Cat pacing as he worked out his latest rap. It is an understatement to say that he is heavy on his feet. Sometimes the room bounces when he leaps from a windowsill.

photoBaby Cat is teaching me about clarity of intention. He leaves no doubt about what he wants (food or pets) and is relentless until he gets it. Truly, he is relentless. He does not know the word “try.” Baby Cat gets. He meets me every morning and guides me to his bowl. If I deviate, he wraps his hulk around my feet or herds me like a shepherd. If physical action is not enough to direct me to his bowl, he begins a verbal assault that would make his mother blush. He wants what he wants and he wants it now. Black and white. In addition to Sumo, I also call him Terrorist Kitty because he resorts to biting ankles as a last resort. Yoda would be proud of Baby Cats force of will. Were he not a rap star I’m certain that he’d be a Jedi. Actors would be well served to study with Master Baby Cat.

Baby Cat is teaching me about simple contentment (yes, like all things true, it is a paradox: intention and contentment are bedfellows). He shows me how to linger in sunny spots or stare out the window for hours, just because. He has reintroduced me to the fine art of daydreaming. He joins me every morning as I stretch and do a bit of yoga, shamelessly positioning himself in the optimal petting zone close to my feet and gives himself over to my affections. And, because he is so capable of presence and pleasure, I’ve found that my morning yoga has transformed. It is no longer a discipline, something I do that is good for me; it has become a practice of simple attention and loving. I am more capable of presence and pleasure. I rest in it. Like Baby Cat, my body tells me what it needs, and I breathe.

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