Unlock The Lock [on DR Thursday]

“The confidence of creativity knows that deep conflict often yields the most interesting harmony and order.” ~John O’Donohue, Beauty

To me, the most interesting moment of the story happens when Sisyphus has managed to chain Death to a post. No one could die. And, although suffering continued, famine raged, people begged Sisyphus to keep Death locked to the post. They’d rather have certainty than experience change. They’d rather suffer with what they knew than face the scary unknown.

Krishnamurti once wrote that people fear death because they are afraid to live.

Over and over we hear stories of soldiers or mountaineers or extreme athletes who felt the full force of living when they understood that they had little or no control over their life.  On the battlefield. Leaping off the mountaintop. Climbing without ropes.

There is an equation between releasing the illusion of control (locking Death to the post) and experiencing fully this crackling unpredictable life. Brad said it best, “Bored people are boring people.” Break the pattern. Step out. Go do something new. Julia Cameron called it an artist’s date. Get out of your comfort zone. Heed the call. Live a little.

Sisyphus did what we all must finally come to do: even though he knew it would mean the end of his life as he knew it. He walked over to the post, unlocked the lock, and set Death free.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAY NOW

 

 

k&dbw backs website box_ copy

held in grace series: pray now* ©️ 2010 david robinson

 

*Originally titled “John’s Secret. John was my framer and I gave him the wrong measurement for this painting; I was a quarter of an inch short. We had to release one end of the canvas and add a small spacer so the painting would fit the frame. Now you know John’s Secret. Don’t tell!

Sit By The River

photoThe back deck of the Minturn Inn overlooks the Eagle River. We sit in the sun and are mesmerized by the sound of the rushing water. It is liquid peace. In this moment I believe that people seeking to develop a meditation practice should begin sitting by a river. The water easily carries away all thought and worry.

The river is a great giver of perspective, a great deliverer of presence.

I am struck by this power of the river – and it is a power. We easily grasp nature’s power when a tornado levels a town or an earthquake devastates a city but forget that there is a flip side, a quieter side to nature’s ominous power. There is a vast quiet. In our world peace seems nearly impossible to achieve yet in less than a minute, sitting by the river, I am steeped in peace. That is an awesome power!

I once read (somewhere) that we have a vibrant internal compass capable of ringing true from false, right from wrong. If we make a choice that is out of our integrity, the compass spins wildly out of control, setting off an unstoppable inner monologue, a great inner debate. If the choice is in alignment, the moment passes unnoticed. True north is known by the absence of spinning. Inner quiet is an affirmation. Nature – including our inner nature – doesn’t lie.

Sitting on the deck, breathing in the mist and peace of the rushing water, I know that what’s most important in this life, the real art, happens in the quiet spaces, the moments that thought cannot penetrate, the spaces that require no definition or justification. They are the moments ripe with gratitude. They are the moments dripping with appreciation. I know that all the debates and disagreements and defenses are paper tigers. I also know that this peace is not the province of the river. It is, in fact, available all the time. The river simply reminds me to hush up and listen.

Release The Edge

photo-4

Usually, there is a lake….

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you dont give up. ~ Anne Lamott

Sometimes the fog hangs heavy all day along the shore of the lake. The sun tries in vain to penetrate the fog so the air glows. When, in combination with the fog, the lake is still, like it was today, it becomes invisible, inaudible; the lake disappears. Standing on the great rock barriers, staring into the void, it feels as if you have arrived at the edge of the world.

photo-5

looking the other direction

All of my life I have been fascinated by edges. What is the line between wild and tame? Most good stories require a stride beyond the boundary, a movement into territories unknown. And, at the end of the story, what was once known becomes unfamiliar. Every ending is a beginning. What is the line that distinguishes the known from the other place? A good dose of reason will assure us that most things can be understood but a walk through a spring meadow or a night spent gazing into the stars will remind us that understanding is illusive or at best illusionary. What do we understand?

Once, working with a group of teachers, we had a terrific discussion about beginnings. Where does a story or a life begin? There is always an easy answer, “Once upon a time,” a birth date, when two people meet, the day the crisis arrived on the doorstep. In fact there is always a multitude of easy answers, of possible beginnings, and none of them are definitive. Which beginning point is the beginning point? At what moment did success arrive? Or, when did failure begin? Does my life begin with my parents or their parents or…? Edges are esoteric!

There is a long tradition in the arts of Dances with Death. Paintings, dances, compositions, plays,…; Hamlet ponders life as he holds poor Yorick’s skull. It passes all too quickly. Most spiritual traditions carry the notion that life cannot be understood, valued, or fully appreciated without first grasping that this life-ride is limited. Living a good life, a fully appreciated life, demands a nod to the edge. It’s the ultimate paradox.

I’ve courted a bundle of trouble in my life because I rarely see the black-and-white of things. Where is the line between hope and hopeless? What wall delineates faith-full and faith-less? Like happiness, edges are made, not found. Ask a physicist if it is a particle or a wave and they will uniformly answer, “It depends upon where you place your focus.” Even in the era when people believed there was a hard edge to the world and finding it meant falling off, sailors supplied their ships and sailed toward the horizon to find it.

 Icarus reached for the sun.

Icarus

Be Kind To Each Other

Eating a celery stick loaded with peanut butter, Kerri paused and asked, “If there is going to be celery on this earth, why does it have to have strings?”

“That,” I said, “is an existential question and, so, an answer is above my pay grade.” She gave me THAT look and crunched another bite, saying, “Too many strings!”

When I stop and think about it, most of the questions I have are existential and, therefore, unanswerable.

On the drive to Florida I passed the time by reading billboards. Fast food, Strip clubs, lawyers encouraging me to get what’s owed to me, all interspersed between fiery messages warning that “Hell is real,” or that “The path to Heaven is straight and narrow.” I smiled when it occurred to me the billboard messages were a smorgasbord of easy answers. In this life we are peppered with advertisements, a litany of easy answers to the things we are supposed to lack.

This drive to Florida is different from all the others. In the past, we made the drive to visit Beaky. This time we are driving to say goodbye. So, I am seeing everything through a very different lens. Easy answers are attractive when pretending that life’s questions are not tough.

My billboard reminiscing reminds me to beware of the easy answer. Gaps are not easily filled. Meaning is never found on a prescribed path. Sustenance is not available at the drive-through. These things are glaringly obvious when someone you love dies. Life is made rich through the questions that have no answer.

It’s human to want an explanation. It is human to want to know why. On the roadside in Illinois, having just received the news, Kerri asked if I thought Beaky knew we were coming. Somewhere in Tennessee, Kerri asked if I thought Beaky in her final moment was scared. In Alabama, she asked what happened, why so fast, and why now?

photo-1After a visit with Beaky, when we were taking our leave, she always said two things. The first was “Be kind to each other.” That might at first sound like a billboard sentiment except that Beaky knew that kindness was not an easy answer to anything. Blame is easy. Judgment is easy. Kindness, extended to the self and to all others, is a constant practice, a way of life. Being kind in all situations, Beaky knew, was not easy and that was precisely the point.

The second was a family tradition of sorts. It was always the last phrase exchanged when taking leave of her: “Bye for now.” She was ever hopeful and that, too, was a practice – a life choice – and not an easy answer. It was a focus of the eye, an orientation to life.

So, from Beaky, I learned two practices : Be ever hopeful. Be ever kind. Beaky, bye for now.

Make No Sense

Untiltled Narrative by David Robinson

Untiltled Narrative by David Robinson

The cliché: life is a cycle. Order begets chaos and chaos begets order. Both are necessary. Just as spring is not possible without winter, order without chaos makes for only half a life. Safety without uncertainty makes for only half a life and a very boring life story.

Ann passed away last night. Her battle with cancer was long and nothing short of heroic. Kerri said, “She was such a bright light! Damn cancer. This makes no sense.” Too true.

Last night, John came back into our lives. We sat for hours talking of the events and changes of the lost years. He told us of the necessity to finally stop trying “to make things work” and how he stepped into the discomfort of uncertainty. Now, standing solidly in his uncertainty, he feels both lost and found. That is a great description of how change feels. We got the news of Ann’s death while John was visiting. We had a glass of wine and made a toast to her life. And then we made a toast to appreciating life in all of its textures. John said, “At the end of the day, all that really matters is a bottle of wine to share with friends.” Too true.

More clichés: rejuvenation necessarily begins in the province of disorder and the unknown. The journey back to self winds through miles and miles of uncharted territory.

Each journey is made beautiful by the monsters and masters we meet along the way. Both are teachers. Both bring gifts and force changes of direction. The Cyclops is as necessary as the sage and both serve new sight and the refocusing of the eye. Both are necessary to strip away our resistance to the cycles, to peel away the protective layers we pile on to life that obscures what truly matters.

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Greet The Day

photo-1Behind Beaky’s house is a retention pond. There is an alligator that occasionally breaks the surface and when it does I say, “Looking for poodles…” Kerri punches my arm and smiles.

The house is nearly empty; Beaky moved into assisted living almost 2 years ago and slowly her possessions have been packed or passed on to family members. It has been a quiet attrition, a gradual acknowledgment of the step into the next phase of life.

We stay in the house when we visit. We sip our coffee, sit in camping chairs, and watch the waters of the pond change with the progress of the morning sun. A cormorant comes each morning. It stands at the pond’s edge, spreads it’s wings, and drinks the sun. “It’s as if it is opening its heart to greet the new day,” Kerri says.

She tells me that the cormorant comes to the exact spot where, a year ago, her family gathered to spread her father’s ashes. A single cormorant came that day, too. In the middle of the rite, the bird landed, stepped into the setting sun, and spread it’s wings. Her father loved the pond. It was as if the spirit of her father came as the cormorant. It opened its heart. It greeted the sunset.

The news with Beaky is not good. I watched Beaky’s face as Kerri wheeled her from the doctor’s office. Beaky is no longer living, as she says, “indefinitely.” Her path is now definite (as I suppose all of our paths are truly definite even though we rarely consider it so). She looked relieved. She looked easy and quiet. Beaky said, “I’ve lived a good life! I’m ready.”

Now, as is true with abundant life, there is metaphor upon metaphor. There is the house. There is the alligator breaking the surface. There is the cormorant spreading its wings. There are cycles of life, passing moments, possessions never really possessed. There are stories made and stories lost. There is a family with an open heart, watching the progress of the sun, ready to greet the day.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

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I call this painting, "Canopy"

I call this painting, “Canopy”

 

Leave Your Ghost

from the archives. I call this painting "Demeter."

from the archives. I call this painting “Demeter.”

As Alan said, this year for me is a year of departures. First Tom, then Kathy, Bob, and Doug passed; mentors all. Earlier this month Casey, who lived a long season and once told me that heaven didn’t want him and hell wouldn’t have him, finally found his way out of this life and into his proper place in the mystery.

When I was a boy my favorite book was an old college text of my father’s on comparative religions. It was moldering on a shelf in the basement with other long forgotten books. Finding it was like uncovering buried treasure. I fell into it, reading and rereading it. Among other things, it helped me understand that religion was not fact but a cultural expression of universal experiences. Human beings have to deal with the enormity of existence (who am I?), birth (where do I come from), death (where am I going?), and everything in between (what’s my purpose?). Human beings deal with the enormity of existence like they deal with everything in life: they story it.

Since there has been so many significant departures this year I’ve been doing some reading about death and dying. Lately, I’m reading Deepak Chopra’s book, Life After Death. He weaves the book around a parable of a young woman who must confront Death. The woman seeks the help of rishi, a wise contemplative who lives in the forest. In one of my favorite sections of the parable, the rishi introduces the young woman to ghosts. The first is a toddler; the second is young girl. The woman soon recognizes that the ghosts are her past; they are the phantoms of various stages of her own life. The rishi tells her, “Every former self you have left behind is a ghost. Your body is no longer the body of a child. Your thoughts, desires, fears, and hopes have changed. It would be terrible to walk around with all your dead selves holding on.”

He teaches her that death has been with her every moment of her life. “You have survived thousands of deaths every day as your old thoughts, your old cells, your old emotions, and even your old identity passed away. Everyone is living in the afterlife right now. What is there to fear and doubt?”

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