Beauty

A couple years ago I discovered YouTube’s Britain’s Got Talent. When I have time I watch and listen while making breakfast or coffee. In sharing their talent, those auditioning reveal their beauty and at times, I cry. The poet John O’Donohue said the human heart cannot live without beauty.

Before YouTube, I read Nobel Laureate acceptance speeches looking for beauty. I also read things like the inaugural speech of the Czech Republic’s first president, Vaclav Havel. His honesty revealed his beauty. Though I sometimes grouse about the stupid things people do, I know of and see humanity’s staggering beauty. I always find it. For me, it’s important to direct my attention to beauty as doing so makes it easier to maintain clarity and resourcefulness—particularly in difficult times.

For the past two or three years I’ve been reading interviews of writers and writers writing about writing. The Fragrance of Guava: Conversations with Gabriel Garcia Marquez is lovely. Garcia Marquez said “I know my wife so well that I don’t know her at all.” In seeing his wife, he saw the Mystery in her. Now that’s beauty!

Not knowing how to love is what prevents us from seeing one another. What was it Thich Nhat Hahn said? “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.” This has been my experience—from both sides—the one ostensibly being loved and the one ostensibly doing the loving.

Its taken me so long to learn to love. So long to leave a child’s way of loving. I could lament this but don’t. Rather, I’m gratefully and utterly gobsmacked with my new capacity and experience of loving in a mature way, of experiencing the heart-touching and arresting force, or whatever it is, in and beyond my wife—that ever present ineffable something that I’d been oblivious to, yet, so desperately seeking. Phew!

This ineffable force is, of course, its own thing—yet, too, it infuses everything. To know this now is beyond my ability to express. Though books and film opened me, it is through another that the Mystery bequeathed me this boon.

Even so, I yet have impediments to the freedom that will ensue from loving myself more fully—from uttering my unequivocal “Yes” to the Mystery. It seems that I’ve had aspects bent on defining myself by others’ and my own ill-fitting invectives…

…rather than by the best of me. Hmm?

As for tears in my appreciation of others’ creative expression… Well, yes, there is an honesty in those tears; yet, too, my story and tears have also been a ruse. One that fooled me a long time. Recently, my story shattered: I now see that my tears were me feeling sorry for myself—for not yet having creatively expressed what I long to.

I either get my, now-shattered, limiting story… or I can do what it takes to do the things I say I want to do…

I bow to beauty of the forces rendering impermanence to my story…

Being Bold

                                                                                                                                          Jackson Pollock

“Change in society is of secondary importance; that will come about naturally, inevitably, when you as a human being bring about change in yourself.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Some scientists say the universe is expanding. Others say it’s contracting. Mystics see the universe as a dance of opposites. Easterners speak of Yin and Yang.

Concerned about global chaos? Be calm. Concerned about greed? Be generous. Concerned about hate? Be unafraid. Concerned about an insensitive world? Be gracious.

Concerned that governments and business are uncaring? Care for another and experience the love that ensues. Concerned about the world’s ill-will? Be kind. Concerned about evil? Do good.

​You lonely? Connect with another. Unhappy? Do things you love doing. Is the world moving too fast? Slow down. Complexity got you by the throat? Simplify. Too much in your head? Come to your senses.

Want to live boldly? Counterbalance things!

Wanna really be bold? Value, understand, honor, respect, care for, love, and support the self-confidence of girls and women. See them. Support gender equality at every opportunity.

Losing Our Minds and Coming to Our Senses

​Biologists tell us there are seven signs of life: moving, respiration, sensitivity, growth, reproduction, excretion and nutrition. Mystic Paul Richards suggests differently. Life is creativity, he says. No creativity—no life. There are gradations of life: more creativity—more life. He’s onto something more significant than we are wont to appreciate.

I’m not suggesting everyone sculpt, cook gourmet foods or write poetry but rather that we open ourselves to relationships with the Mystery’s muse forces beyond mind, body and imagination. In doing so our lives open to the Mystery’s Enchantment and our actions—from the nuanced to the overt—radiate something transcendent.

Life itself is Enchantment. It can’t be measured or sussed out rationally. It is instead experienced directly. Most of us deny Enchantment’s existence as we rarely allow ourselves to fully and directly experience our lives via our senses. Enchantment is not eschewing us nor does She limit Her visitations. Rather, it is our own unwitting bent on over-thinking our lives that precludes Her touch. Our penchant for thought is a form of collateral damage. A consequence of our personal histories. This can be changed. We can come to our senses.

I’m no one to talk. I jumped from the ship of my body as a child and roamed the ethers. Seemed more pleasant than consigning myself to feeling. My curiosity and interest in learning and understanding drew me to the refuge of my thinking mind and imagination. I can tell you that living at distance and living conceptually don’t render a good life.

I am only now beginning to know the lightness of Being which ensues from directly experiencing my sentience—the ups and the downs. I am only now knowing the life giving beauty of creativity. Only now perceiving Enchantment’s delight. Only now being disciplined enough to let go of dispiriting and disheartening habits of thought and action. Only now disciplining myself to creative ends.

How do we do this?

It’s giving ourselves over to magnificent music or getting lost in the myriad flavors and warmth of a meal, coffee or a glass of wine… It’s feeling the wind tousling our hair; basking in a lover’s touch, or feeling heartened in seeing the light in another’s eyes… It’s watching the way happy people move as they go about their day…, and seeing the angle of falling rain, and becoming entranced by the concentric circles forming in puddles…

Get out of the city. Go to the park. Nature is so compelling, so solicitous of our what’s real in us…

Reading is no substitute for direct sensory experience. At their best, words inspire and rouse us to come to our senses. Here are a few such words by poet William Stafford:
Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window.
No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held
for awhile. Some dove somewhere.

Don’t believe me. Experience life for yourself.

2016–Just Sayin’

​Many cars have GPS. You know how they work: they chart a course from our current locations to our destinations. They continuously calculate the relationship between our here and now and our desired there and then—and re-choreograph our movement when we veer off. We do this in our lives too. I’m curious whether the places we seem bent on going are actually the places we imagine them to be? I’m curious too about being goal directed by things out there versus meeting our deeper needs. Just wondering…

​GPS records our starting points. It remembers. No matter our present situations or seemingly similar destinations—because each of us have differing points of origin—we can never compare our experience, positions nor degrees of progress with others. What do we need in order to let go such comparisons? I wonder…

…The safest and easiest way to drive at speed through sharp or broadly sweeping curves requires fixing our sight on a moving point. Where we place this moving point depends on:

1) which side of the road’s centerline we drive on,
2) whether we’re on a multi-lane road,
3) whether the curve in front of us bends to our right or left.

In North America we drive to the right of the road’s centerline. Here on a road having one lane in each direction approaching a right bending curve, we need look to the painted line near the right edge of the road in front of us. We must fix our sight on a point on this painted line as far into the curve as we can see—and continue moving this point into and around and through the curve—and beyond as the road straightens.

Were we to look elsewhere instead, our systems would take us there. If we become aware of this change in course we would need to exert additional force to again move in our desired direction. Sometimes we right ourselves. Sometimes no.

As we coordinate our systems of attention and intent (navigating curves elegantly in our own ways) by seeing that moving point in front of us—and connect these with our mind, body and environment, we more graciously approach the contours our journeys bring—whose changing conditions we only discover by approaching and moving into and through them. In our connecting we join larger forces informing our motion, applications of effort and creativity.

—In this flow—we are the Mystery’s graceful escorts.

How and where will you look this year?

Boxing Day

                                                                                                                             Photo: Vivian Maier

​Boxing Day is celebrated the day after Christmas in nine countries and recognized in seventeen others. The story goes that Boxing Day originated in England in the Middle Ages. Masters gave Christmas Boxes to their servants the day after Christmas for they, the servants, had worked on Christmas. The servants then went on holiday taking their Boxes to their families. So too, at some point, alms Boxes turned up in local parishes where monies were collected and given to the poor on the day following Christmas. This practice became part of Boxing Day. In our times this day is celebrated by giving gifts to tradesmen, mail carriers, doormen, porters and others in service.

Though my country doesn’t celebrate Boxing Day the gesture and sentiments touch me deeply: An echo of my British ancestry perhaps. In my own life the gifts I give those working in the laundry, in the shoe repair, to the receptionist at the medical office, the checker at the market, and so on always gives me the greatest pleasure and joy—more so than other giving.

In our world those with advantage are borne on the backs of the less advantaged: Those having less expend their energies laboring for and enabling those with more. Lower class youth fight and die in wars benefitting the higher classes. In nature greater trees crowd out lesser ones. And so it goes ad infinitum in all kingdoms: animal, mineral, vegetable and fungi.

Life lives on Life! This is an integral design element of our Cosmos. Experiencing pressures and conflicts are inescapable artifacts of our Being—of living. Our Cosmos is annihilation and creation-based: it expands and contracts: Forces and countervailing forces form our basic Cosmic architecture. We experience the high and low pressures of these forces in a myriad forms constantly: Stress and pressure are inherent in living. Angst and suffering are not.

Angst and suffering issue from us elevating the status and value of one Life form above another—from elevating aspects of ourselves above others. We ourselves create angst and suffering. They are after-market add-ons. They are distinct from Cosmic design. They are a consequence of us failing to see into the Mystery’s realities. Yet nothing is hidden from us. Nothing.

My point is not about out there though. Rather, we’ve judged parts of our own selves as less worthy, less beautiful, less correct or relevant than other parts. We’ve given them the cold shoulder—we’ve tried to annihilate them. Yet we fancy others bits. Judging them better. Worthy. We like these things about ourselves. We expand them all the while forgetting they are borne by the disliked parts doing the heavy lifting.

Some say hierarchy is the problem. To me, hierarchy is structural. Its isn’t the problem. Rather, the rub lies in our failure to Love Life—the Whole of it—within ourselves—and the entirety of it out there. We love only the forces of the lovely. To remove angst and suffering we need also to express the love of kindness, compassion, generosity and graciousness within ourselves, and with others. We need to do so while in the throes of the forces of difficulty.

Our failing to Love comes from our failing to see into the Mystery. Our failing to see comes from failing to Love. A cyclic thing.

Let’s go on! Let’s arrange a belated Boxing Day Christmas Gift Box of Love for those inservice inside ourselves. Let’s interrupt the vicious cycle.

Joy Irrespective

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“I’m happiest when I’m happy.” — Shane Koyczan

As Bert Hellinger ended one of his classes saying “May you know joy irrespective of circumstance.” I wondered how the hell ya do that. Now nearly twenty years later I’m getting purchase on these abilities. There are people who’ve finished their lives—completed their ‘karma’. I’m not one of them: I do my work. I bring what comes. Thus my blogging arc on Happiness and joy.

In this series I’ve riffed on with inherently unstable writings—not for me, but for some there’s dissonance in what I write: I don’t mean not agreeing politically for I don’t give a rip about politics. We know that a state’s policies are insulated from its politics: policies continue on irrespective of who’s in office. We know too that political rhetoric is discordant and distracts us from doing what’s necessary. From seeking contexts from which change arises. Solutions are not in found political action.

The necessary changes we seek are those within ourselves—those urging us to think, feel and act differently. To be aware. Clear. To be relaxed and powerfully resolute while flexing and letting go of what we need leave behind. To go where we must to go. To do what we need to do. To be ourselves irrespective.

Dr. Milton H. Erickson said something to the effect that we need to attend to joy for life brings the other things. Our systems require the buoyancy of joy and happiness. We need to really want this buoyancy. This joy. We’ve become inured to pedestrian existences: We have forgotten to remember that we are the chefs at the French Laundry–yet living out macaroni and cheese lives.

We need to believe Happiness is possible for ourselves. We need to know what to do to capture joy and Happinesses’s attention. We need to understand how to do these things. Experiencing Happiness in our bodies reifies its value, its necessity. Though we have active imaginations susceptible to suggestion, direct sensory experience is called for—of necessity for we are sentient beings.

The cacophony of the world is intensifying, growing louder—becoming more discordant. More than ever we need mental and emotional composure—harmony. Internal consonance. We must sit fully and easily in our bodies while feeling vital, relaxed, peaceful, clear—powerful.

For this we need the leverage of Happiness. We need flirtations of joy and encounters with humor–for in their resonance, they and we, form formable partnerships of equanimity. This is an ‘on the ground’ thing inside ourselves. This is the difference that makes the difference. Nothing changes out there until things change on the inside. This requires disciplined doing. We can’t think our way through and into the leverage necessary to carry us onward in these times.

Want to change the—your—world? There are things to do immediately. Of course we will fail. Failure is but feedback. Discovery lies in here. Make these discoveries. Then do things differently. As these things become practiced pieces of our repertoire Happiness expands enabling us to do more out there—if that’s your bent.

1) Say what you mean.
2) Mean what you say.
3) Do what you say you will do.
4) Say what is so for you, when it is so, without blame or judgement.
5) Do the things you love to do.

“May you know joy irrespective of circumstances.” — Bert Hellinger

Gordian Knot

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Power… our misconception of it… humility… our misunderstanding of it… and modesty—false modesty… painting by the numbers… coloring within the lines… following the party-line… believing tall poppies are cut down first… gradations of coercion and associated fears… our intense silent resistances… our pettinesses… emotional protestations… our exuberant concurring opinions… we, ourselves, allowing our attentions to be co-opted by the news—and—us allowing ourselves the folly of swinging between states of lassitude and any- and everything else except that which makes the difference… When is enough enough?

America’s plentitude of shootings are but the ricochet of each of us individually, within ourselves, repeatedly shooting ourselves in our own feet.

What have we done? what are we doing to ourselves in breathing in and out cultural strictures wrought from a worldview born of and borne on grand misunderstanding, ignorance and agendas not our own…

Unwitting adherents we have been to conventions taught by wardens out there possessing religious, philosophical, social and political leverage…Leverage we ourselves surrendered.

Acts of terror out there are but the echo of our internalized wardens executing lock-down orders within.

Does it not seem that humanity’s story of all things no longer serves? Here’s an interruption to the story-line:

There is no I and Thou. There is no we and they, nor us and them. There is no subject/object. There is no God/Creation separation. There was no ‘fall from grace’. We’ve not forgotten what came before nor what follows. Dualism is a concept. An idea. A model expressed in a myriad disciplines and religions traditions. It is itself an agenda driven rational plausibility based on misunderstanding which has no currency beyond a peculiar transient moment in history—one for which we must suspend our disbelief to abide. It is a folly-bound sleight of mouth. It lives on providing illusory benefit to the few while offering others of us the ostensible shelter of our complacency.

Are not the shootings and terror sufficient to fissure the ramparts of our hearts and thus ready ourselves to take the Mystery’s hand?

At what cost is our adherence to our thought wardens and estrangement? Were we honest the answer we must give is “Everything!”

Here’s the “Everything”: Our existential and ontological inheritance is being consorts to the Mystery! Yet we deny ourselves. We falsely believe we are estranged from Her. We are not! We are expressions of the Mystery and possess the requisite capacities to interrelate, dance and co-create each moment of our lives with Her. To create worlds differently than what we’ve known. But we haven’t yet: We remain in the Gordian knot of our individual and collective stories—all the while pretending we have no sword.

​When is enough enough?

Not the Boss of Me

Have you had the delight of witnessing a two year old tell their mother “You’re not the boss of me!”? If so, you are indeed privileged. There is a knowing inside each of us that we are sovereign. Though we are irrevocable members of our ancestries and families of origin—all of our other belongings, e.g., marriages, employments, etc., are voluntary. Though we belong, we remain particular and individual—autonomous. We are neither owned by anyone nor are we another’s possession. We subordinate to no one. No form of life is superior to nor inferior to another. We stand sovereign though there exists ethnic, religious, familial, commercial, national and personal mores bent on telling us differently. Bent on treating us as subjects. And, we’ve internalized their stories.

Though we’re distant from this deepest knowing, no one is the boss of us. This reality and our knowing of it predates our upbringings and the training we’ve undergone in the world’s paradoxical hopes of getting us to forget what we know. To forget what and who we are. In our forgetting we rally-on, oblivious and unawares being good representatives and good embodiments of our learned stories—believing that the identities others have ascribed, or those we’ve made for ourselves, are actually who we are. They are not. Inasmuch, we falsely believe we know ourselves. The majority of us do not know who or what we are—nor do most of us believing that we know, actually know! This is spoiler alert #1.

The thing is we cannot know ourselves. We are an expression of the unknowable Mystery. Yet we can adjust our thinking, actions and expressive motion for our lives to become increasingly more resonant and reflective of the numinous Beings—the drops of the Mystery’s Universal Intelligence that we are. Paradoxically, we do this by learning what we can of ourselves through our direct sensory experience…and by being changed in the process.

In recent posts I’ve pointed to the non-negotiable geographies of ourselves and the importance of identifying and defending them. Like it or not, we are most aware of our non-negotiable areas when they’ve been breached. In such moments, we so want a good life for ourselves and feel most distant from it. Whether we use these words or not, we want a relaxed equanimity for ourselves—a safe, responsive, vitally alive and creatively expressive peacefulness within our skin—a good life.

Nowadays our world’s hegemony does little to mask the horrors it perpetrates in service to its ends. We do not go a day without seeing and hearing reports of terrorizing circumstances that others experience. Many of us fear such visitations.

Spoiler alert #2: The greatest perpetration of terror is not taking place out there in the world’s lovely cities nor in the geopolitically interesting corners of our world—Rather—the greatest terror is being perpetrated within ourselves by ourselves and is being rained down upon ourselves in each and every moment that we deny and refuse to be ourselves—in each and every moment that we deny and refuse to creatively express the promises we are here to fulfill—in each and every moment we that we deny and refuse to think and act graciously, kindly, compassionately and generously—and in each and every moment that we deny and refuse to claim our prodigious personal power—and every time we refuse to claim and defend what is non-negotiable within ourselves.

Letting go is itself a great power. It is time now, to acquire this power: It is right now, to let go of the personal arrogance of us thinking that we are small and inconsequential; to let go of arrogantly buoying the falsity of low self-esteem and self-worth; to let go of arrogantly denying our individual dignity, innocence, beauty, creative capacities and our robust strengths and power—and our capacities for clarity———and, for refusing to claim our unflinching capacities to Love.

I write not of politics but rather of Love. Happiness need no longer elude us. Claiming our personal power is a one of our happiness makers.

Know Thyself

                                                                                                              Photo: Vivian Maier Collection

​“Know thyself” is the most famous utterance of Priestess Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi. When the old Greeks got overly wrought in the morass of their thoughts clarity was difficult to achieve. Voila`! the Priestess saves the day for she liaised with the Mystery and was damned good at it.

​Pythia spoke the languages of the Goddesses, Gods and mortals of course. Her role was clear: to provide a human voice—a native tongue articulation to better enable the Mystery to capture human attention, engagement and creative self-expression. Though we are absent Pythia’s oracular voice today, the Mystery is still bent on garnering our attentions. As the great Irish poet philosopher John O’Donohue said “The Mystery won’t leave us alone.” Her intent is compliance: Ours. We are to fulfill the promises of our lives for Life requires an exchange. We’re to render our part in our own sovereign ways of course. The Mystery is persistent. But she won’t beg. Ante your part or live the consequences of an unfulfilled existence. Curiously, the majority remains oblivious to her. Nonetheless…

Whether we’re responsive to her Her or not, deep down we know we are well served to acquire self knowledge: part of this is identifying the topographies of ourselves— that ground within us that the forces of the Mystery have crafted and rendered non-negotiable. Sovereign. Inviolate. “Keep your hands off buddy! You won’t talk to me this way!” And get this: we, ourselves, did not choose which parts of us are not to be trespassed, sullied or messed with. We did not choose which lines in the sands of ourselves are not to be crossed. Its a “we were born this way thing”. The forces of the Mystery marked us, as all Life, as sacred.

One of our life tasks is to identify our non-negotiable ground. Then we are to defend these with Grace—and if necessary, with all requisite fierceness—but only this. There is to be no unnecessary force. Do no unnecessary harm. Do not be polite. Do not be rude. Stand in the Grace of your personal power and tend to your sovereign integrity. Its not a good/bad, right/wrong thing. Rather, there are actions and behaviors that are a fit for us and those that are not. Some people are a fit, some not.

Once we’ve identified our inviolate areas—those requiring our relaxed vigilant attention—we become clear on sentiments and actions expressed by others—on areas of our common ground—which, though ungracious, we can let slide. Let go of. Ignore. Drop. Turn the other cheek. For that other person needs in these moments your graciousness. Your kindness. Your generosity. Your compassion.

Typically we are unaware of our non-negotiable terrain. So too we are ignorant of the places where we can be honestly gracious and caring. Too often our non-negotiable aspects enter our awareness as they are being, or just after having been violated. Then, because we’ve been brought up to be nice we say nothing. Its only later, long after the sovereign territories of ourselves have been breached, overrun and occupied—long after being beleaguered and besieged—long after we’ve sheltered ourselves in our ostensible comfort zones which are too small for us—we yet say nothing. For we are inured to the ongoing battering of the rams on our facades.

Worry not. Should we not take well care. For in the Mystery’s largesse She ups Her ante rendering larger and larger breaches until we redeploy our attentions and take necessary action—those of preserving and restoring the vestiges of our shattered integrities.

More in my next post.

What are your non-negotiables?

What internal resources do you need to enforce them?

The Non-Negotiable

                                                                                                              Photo: “Hands” by Vivian Maier

​I sometimes wonder whether impediments to being ourselves, creative self-expression and choosing happiness ensue from our forgetting to identify and defend those terms of their lives that are non-negotiable, or should be: areas against which pop psychology informs that we must have boundaries and enforce them. Take for example a child speaking abusively to her or his parent: The parent need respond something to the effect: “Enough!! I love you!, and you will never speak to me in this manner again! Ever! Do you understand me? Never!

Saying these things are most effective when the parent is strong, and her or his voice and body language match the volume and intensity of the child’s speech, without the parent, her- or himself, being angry. Yet saying these things is a must. She or he need then enforce future breaches by imposing sanctions that are meaningful to the child. We need be loving, yet firm and fair in our resolve to honor ourselves and be treated properly. This is about self-love!

It is our own individual responsibility to monitor how others treat us. Each of us are autonomous and sovereign beings whether we appreciate this or not–whether our cultural mores reflect this. In the absence of us defending what we deem as non-negotiable, the defending of our dignity, and ensuring that we are treated respectfully, we are, in effect, endorsing, underwriting and normalizing the untenable diminishment of ourselves and our lives. We are then complicit in undermining our integrity and dashing the promise of being ourselves. In this we lower the probabilities of fulfilling the promise of our creative self-expression. We prevent ourselves from having a good life.

I’m a proponent of human decency—of being gracious, compassionate, kind and generous. Expressing these things gives rise to more ease and effectiveness in navigating life’s currents: they reflect our essential ennobling spiritual natures. We need be genuine in this—honest, aligned, congruent—or we are indecent—doing unnecessary harm to ourselves and others.

Pretense is trite and cheap. Graciousness, compassion, kindness, and being generous are not forms of politenesses. Rather, they are expressions of love. Politeness itself is an affront. An obscene one—sullying everyone. We see through such ruses though we pretend otherwise. Politeness never masks indifference, upset or other agendas.

I invite you to deplore and eschew rudeness too. Yet standing up for ourselves is never rude! Standing up for ourselves is imperative—without it no self remains. Standing up for ourselves by honoring what is non-negotiable for us—this is essential to our wholeness, our wellness. Attending to the stature of our dignity is our responsibility alone.

Of course be gracious to the fullest extent possible yet never at the expense of our own self-respect and personal dignity. There are times when the most decent and respectful thing we can do is clearly and powerfully interrupt and stop another when their speech or actions diminish, denigrate or demean us. Some circumstances warrant an unambiguous emphatic “Fuck you!” punctuated by walking away! And staying away if necessary. A “Fuck you” can be literally or metaphorically delivered depending on need. Yet avoid unnecessary harm at all costs.

Proviso: Our intent needs to be clear within ourselves: we are saying these strong things to disrupt and stop another’s unwanted and untoward behavior; it is neither our place nor role to diminish another person. We are to stop their behavior toward us! Nothing more. Nothing less. If our intent is aligned the other can hear and receive our message. If our intent is to indict, punish and diminish the person we only worsen our circumstance and their’s. We must clearly know our intent as it is the difference that makes the difference.

Wisdom holds “If you step on my tail, I will bite you.” Our job is to be powerful, strong and loving in our autonomous sovereignty as we relate well with others.

Caveat: It’s bad form to say “Fuck you” to a spouse or lover, close friend or colleague unless we require an inordinate amount of leverage to get ourselves to leave the relationship. Never harm unnecessarily.

More on this topic in my next post.

What are your non-negotiables?