I finished the post last Sunday.
It was titled “Running. To 10.”
~ 50 minutes of prep.
The cursor lingered over the “PUBLISH” button.
My index finger hung over “ENTER” on the keyboard. (Pulse quickening. Typos? Is this Good Enough?)
I eased back my finger. (Your gut. It’s usually right.)
I sent an email copy to Rachel who’s home on Fall break.
“Blah. Blah. Blah. Dull. Re-run. Tired. Been there. Done that. One trick pony. Is that all you got?”
Carpet-bombed by my own offspring.
“Don’t you think that’s a bit harsh?”
“Dad, you asked. If you didn’t want to know, you shouldn’t have asked.”
I laugh. (I built this creature. Chip off the ol’ block.) [Read more...]
To the as-yet unborn,
to all innocent wisps of undifferentiated nothingness:
Watch out for life.
I have caught life.
I have come down with life.
I was a wisp of undifferentiated nothingness,
and then a little peephole opened quite suddenly.
Light and sound poured in.
Voices began to describe me and my surroundings.
Nothing they said could be appealed.
They never shut up.
- Kurt Vonnegut
I get a late jump. Need to drive to the City. I look down at my gas gauge. It’s bobbing on the wrong side of 1/4. Storm expected by mid-afternoon. I can’t be caught on freeway without petrol. I cuss. I should have filled up on the ride home last night. I clench my teeth: WHY do I repeat this scenario? Again and again. I glance down at my watch, and hope for light traffic. I can’t be late. Not today. I pull into a Mobil Service Station.
A late edition Ford Explorer pulls up. Mid-30′s? Pharma Sales? Office Manager? Her make-up, black dress and heels…all poorly camouflaging weariness. Her shoulders are slumped.
Today’s Look: Fatigue. Single Mom? Poor night’s sleep? Did you need to drop Jimmy off at daycare?
$’s whirring on the pump meter. $4.47 a gallon. “Come and listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed. Poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed. Then one day he was shooting for some food, and up through the ground come a bubblin’ crude (Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.)” I digress. $63.47 and still guzzling. Beast is insatiable.
She puts the pump back in the holster, gives the gas cap an extra twist and trudges back into her car, heels clopping on the asphalt.
You couldn’t have put more than $15 in the tank. Money tight? Stretched into big house, one size too large?
Traffic is flowing. GPS flashing a clear runway to Triborough Bridge. Making good time.
You picked out the dress with your Mother. Your Father cried as he walked you down the aisle. Bridesmaids, flower girls, quaint church. Pachelbel’s Canon in D. A beautiful spring day in May. Church Bells singing. Hope springs eternal. [Read more...]
“The Master, addressing the assembly, said, “Brothers, it is the beginning of autumn, and the end of summer. You may go east or west, but you should go only to a place where there is not a single inch of grass for ten thousand li.” After pausing for a while he asked, “How does one go to a place where there is not a single inch of grass for ten thousand li?”
Later this was related to Shih-shuang, who said, “Why didn’t someone say, ‘As soon as one goes out the door, there is grass’?”
The Master, hearing of this response, said, “Within the country of the Great T’ang such a man is rare.”
-The Record of Tung-Shan
Michael Brown prompted the wheels to turn last night.
And the wheels on the bus go round and round.
“The thing is, I could choose to replace the tape with a new one.”
But what tape is playing?
And what tape will be playing?
The Good Enough tune?
The Patience beat?
The Acceptance rap?
The Gratitude melody?
Or does a sharp gust of wind blow it over.
And scramble it all up.
Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over.
— Marjorie Celona, Y
“What are we supposed to be looking for?” Stanley asked him.
“You’re not looking for anything.
You’re digging to build character”…
[Stanley] glanced helplessly at his shovel. It wasn’t defective.
He was defective.
— Louis Sachar, Holes
They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind,
“Who are you really, wanderer?”
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
“Maybe I’m a King.”
- William Stafford
Related William Stafford Posts:
“Often when you take on the voice of a great writer, speak his or her words aloud, you are taking on the voice of inspiration, you are breathing their breath at the moment of their heightened feelings, that what all writers ultimately do is pass on their breath.”
I paused and reflected on the “great” writers that I have read. Marilynne Robinson immediately came to mind. She has the ability to transport me to another place and time – - writing with such grace, such beauty and such humanity. She’s won literary “hardware” for her three major novels.
- Housekeeping. Nominated for the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and winner of the Hemingway/PEN Award for first fiction novel.
- Gilead. Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and winner of the National Book Circle Critics Award for Fiction.
- Home. Winner of the 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction award.
Soon after I read Goldberg’s thoughts on great writers, I came this excerpt from a Chicago Tribune article shared at Lit Verve where the writer asks Robinson about Rev. John Ames, a congregational minister in Gilead, Iowa and the main character in her novel Gilead: [Read more...]
“We yearn for silence, yet the less sound there is, the more our thoughts deafen us. How can we still the noise within?…In Vipassana you concentrate on sensation in stillness, sitting down, not necessarily cross-legged, though most people do sit that way. And sitting without changing position, sitting still. As soon as you try to do this, you become aware of a connection between silence and stillness, noise and motion. No sooner are you sitting still than the body is eager to move, or at least to fidget. It grows uncomfortable. In the same way, no sooner is there silence than the mind is eager to talk. In fact we quickly appreciate that sound is movement: words move, music moves, through time. We use sound and movement to avoid the irksomeness of stasis. This is particularly true if you are in physical pain. You shift from foot to foot, you move from room to room. Sitting still, denying yourself physical movement, the mind’s instinctive reaction is to retreat into its normal buzzing monologue — hoping that focusing the mind elsewhere will relieve physical discomfort. This would normally be the case; normally, if ignored, the body would fidget and shift, to avoid accumulating tension. But on this occasion we are asking it to sit still while we think and, since it can’t fidget, it grows more and more tense and uncomfortable. Eventually, this discomfort forces the mind back from its chatter to the body. But finding only discomfort or even pain in the body, it again seeks to escape into language and thought. Back and forth from troubled mind to tormented body, things get worse and worse. Silence, then, combined with stillness — the two are intimately related — invites us to observe the relationship between consciousness and the body, in movement and moving thought.”
~ Tim Parks, Inner Peace
This essay by Tim Parks is worth reading in its entirety. You can find it at this link. Parks references his book Cleaver in the essay. The book was chosen as a Sunday Telegraph Book of the Year. It is one of the funniest novels that I have read. You can read my review of Cleaver at this link.
I was enjoying my evening after a long day. Finished dinner. Moved on to catch up on reading. Hand – Eyes – flicking and scanning. I lock on a post from Perpetua / The Seeker. She shares her favorite meditation from an Anthony de Mello retreat: “Did you enjoy your last hour?” This statement is actually an examination of conscience at the end of the day before I go to sleep. It is a discernment of moral values and ethics. Anybody can do it. Try it. If you do not believe in God, then leave God behind. Just think about it, mediate on the question.”
So, if it’s working for The Seeker, I need to get it going. I meditate.Did you enjoy your last hour? Did you enjoy your last hour? Did you enjoy your last hour? [Read more...]
“And now here’s the thing. It takes a time like this for you to find out how sore your heart has been, and, moreover, all the while you thought you were going around idle terribly hard work was taking place. Hard, hard work, excavation and digging, mining, moiling through tunnels, heaving, pushing, moving rock, working, working, working, working, panting, hauling, hoisting. And none of this work is seen from the outside. It’s internally done. It happens because you are powerless and unable to get anywhere, to obtain justice or have requital, and therefore in yourself you labor, you wage and combat, settle scores, remember insults, fight, reply, deny, blab, denounce, triumph, outwit, overcome, vindicate, cry, persist, absolve, die and rise again. All by yourself? Where is everybody? Inside your breast and skin, the entire cast.”
- Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow (1915 – 2005) was a Canadian-born American writer. He was born in Lachine, Quebec and died in Brookline, MA. For his literary contributions, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts. He is widely regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest authors. Bellow grew up as an insolent slum kid, a “thick-necked” rowdy, and an immigrant from Quebec. As Christopher Hitchens describes it, Bellow’s fiction and principal characters reflect his own yearning for transcendence, a battle “to overcome not just ghetto conditions but also ghetto psychoses. The author’s works speak to the disorienting nature of modern civilization, and the countervailing ability of humans to overcome their frailty and achieve greatness (or at least awareness). Bellow saw many flaws in modern civilization, and its ability to foster madness, materialism and misleading knowledge. Principal characters in Bellow’s fiction have heroic potential, and many times they stand in contrast to the negative forces of society. (Source: Wiki)
Imagine if for the next twenty-four hours you had to wear a cap that amplified your thoughts so that everyone within a hundred yards of you could hear every thought that passed through your head. Imagine if the mind were broadcast so that all about you could overhear your thoughts and fantasies, your dreams and fears. How embarrassed or fearful would you be to go outside? How long would you let your fear of the mind continue to isolate you from the hearts of others? And though this experiment sounds like one which few might care to participate in, imagine how freeing it would be at last to have nothing to hide. And how miraculous it would be to see that all others’ minds too were filled with the same confusion and fantasies, the same insecurity and doubt. How long would it take the judgmental mind to begin to release its grasp, to see through the illusion of separateness, to recognize with some humor the craziness of all beings’ minds, the craziness of mind itself?”
“But I think it is very useful, and indeed more accurate, to call it “the mind” instead of “my mind.”
- Stephen Levine
Stephen Levine, 75, is an American poet, author and Buddhist teacher. He was born in Albany, New York, Levine attended the University of Miami. He spent time helping the sick and dying, using meditation as a method of treatment. He is the author of several books about dying, Levine and his wife Ondrea spent one year living as if it were their last. For many years, Stephen and Ondrea have been living in near seclusion in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. They are both currently experiencing significant illness which prevents them from travelling and teaching. One of the most significant aspects of Stephen’s work and one for which he is perhaps best known, is his pioneering approach to working with the experience of grief. Over 34 years, Stephen and his wife Ondrea have counselled concentration camp survivors and their children, Vietnam War veterans as well as victims of sexual abuse. Although Stephen acknowledges that our experience of grief is perhaps at its most intense when a loved one dies, he also draws our attention to grief’s more subtle incarnations. “Our ordinary, everyday grief,” accumulates as a response to the “burdens of disappointments and disillusionment, the loss of trust and confidence that follows the increasingly less satisfactory arch of our lives”. (Source: Wiki)
And you wait. You wait for the one thing
that will change your life,
make it more than it is -
something wonderful, exceptional,
stones awakening, depths opening to you.
In the dusky bookstalls
old books glimmer gold and brown.
You think of lands you journeyed through,
of paintings and a dress once worn
by a woman you never found again.
And suddenly you know: that was enough.
You rise and there appears before you
in all its longings and hesitations
the shape of what you lived.
- Rainer Maria Rilke
“We’ve all led raucous lives,
some of them inside, some of them out.
But only the poem you leave behind is what’s important.
Everyone knows this.
The voyage into the interior is all that matters,
Whatever your ride.
Sometimes I can’t sit still for all the asininities I read.
Give me the hummingbird, who has to eat sixty times
His own weight a day just to stay alive.
Now that’s a life on the edge.”
― Charles Wright
Charles Wright, born 1935, is often ranked as one of the best American poets of his generation. Born in 1935 in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, Wright attended Davidson College and he served four years in the U.S. Army, and it was while stationed in Italy that Wright began to read and write poetry. His many collections of poetry and numerous awards—including the Pulitzer Prize, the Griffin International Poetry Prize, and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize—have proven that he is, as Jay Parini once said, “among the best poets” of his generation. Yet Wright remains stoic about such achievements: it is not the poet, but the poems, as he concluded to Genoways. “One wants one’s work to be paid attention to, but I hate personal attention. I just want everyone to read the poems. I want my poetry to get all the attention in the world, but I want to be the anonymous author.”
“When you run after your thoughts, you are like a dog chasing a stick: every time a stick is thrown, you run after it. Instead, be like a lion who, rather than chasing after the stick, turns to face the thrower. One only throws a stick at a lion once.”
“Milarepa (1052-1135) was a great Tibetan Yogi who lived an austere life on the bare hillsides of the Himalayas, eking out an existence on donations and the few plants — principally nettles — that grow in that harsh environment. His name means “The Cotton-Clad One,” and he generally wore just a thin sheet, using the heat generated by meditation practices to keep the fierce Tibetan cold at bay.”
I hope that non-Canadians get this too…
“Every day mind is getting out of bed, eating breakfast, going to work, coming home, going to bed. It is laughing and crying, being anxious and joyful. Everyday mind is walking and talking, sitting down and standing up. It is the mind of suffering, conflict, anger and hatred, love and devotion. How can everyday mind be the way? Everyday mind, we say, is too mundane, too ordinary, and so we want the opposite, we want the magical. It is our very search, our lust for the miraculous and magical, that hides from us the truth that simply to be, simply to know I am, is already the miracle that we seek. Everything, as it is, is perfect, but you must stop seeing it as if in a mirror, as if in a dream.”
~ Albert Low
Albert Low, 84, is a western Zen Master, an internationally published author of 11 books, and a former human resources executive. He has lived in England, South Africa, Canada and the U.S. and has resided in Montreal since 1979. He was born in London on December 16, 1928. He left England with his wife Jean in 1954, and emigrated to South Africa. There he was employed by the Central News Agency where he eventually, he became the senior personnel executive. In 1963, he left South Africa as he could not agree with the apartheid policy and moved to Canada. He settled in Ontario and was again employed as a personnel executive, this time with a large utility that was at that time called the Union Gas Company. Eventually, he wrote a book based upon his researches: Zen and Creative Management, which has since sold more than 75,000 copies. During his time at the gas company, he continued to give talks and seminars on the subject of management, organization and creativity — the latter a subject he has spent considerable time studying, and which is very closely connected with Zen practice.
“The thing that blinds us and deafens us is the ceaselessly moving mind, the preoccupation we have with our thoughts. It is the incessant internal dialogue that shuts out everything else. That is the problem with trying to take a preconceived photograph. Before you even walk out of the building, you blind yourself. All day long we talk to ourselves. We preoccupy ourselves with the past, or we preoccupy ourselves with the future, and while we preoccupy ourselves, we miss the moment and miss our lives. Looking, we do not see. It is as if we were blind. Listening, we do not hear. It is as if we were deaf. Loving, we do not feel. It is as if we were dead. Preoccupied, we do not notice the reality around us. How can we be present? How can we taste and touch our lives? The answer to these questions is not outside yourself. To see this truth requires the backward step, going very deep into yourself to find the foundation of reality and of your life. To see it is not the same as understanding it or believing it. To see it means to realize it with the whole body and mind. To realize it transforms one’s life, one’s way of perceiving the universe and the self, and of expressing what has been realized…When you practice the Zen arts, practice your life – trust yourself completely. Trust the process of sitting. Know that deep within each and every one of us, under layers of conditioning, there is an enlightened being, alive and well. In order to function, it needs to be discovered. To discover this buddha is wisdom. To make it function in the world is compassion. That wisdom and compassion is the life of each one of us. It is up to you what you do with it.”
~ John Daido Loori [Read more...]
Most days I cling to a single word.
It is a mild-mannered creature made of thought.
Future, or Past.
Never the other, obvious word.
Whenever I reach out to touch that one, it scurries away.
—Laura Kasischke, opening lines to “Riddle” from Space, in Chains
Laura Kasischke was awarded the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry for Space, In Chains. She is currently a Professor of English Language at the University of Michigan. She attended the University of Michigan (MFA 1987) and Columbia University.
Words, questions, music, thoughts. All in a hypnotic cadence. Making it hard to step away.
Source: Thank you Whiskey River
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 want 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?
- William Stafford (The Way It Is)
“There is nothing to fix, nothing to do, nothing needs to be better, nicer, or in a certain way, all that stuff is just thoughts, there’s no need to take any interest in it. How things are is just fine. Rest. Rest on the inside.”
Post inspired by today’s windy, stormy day. (Outside and in the office.)
Thinking too @#$%^&* Much…
I got off to a late start this morning. Reading posts. Watching videos. (Now, in addition to these cat videos that I can’t seem to stop watching, I’m watching Mimi’s and LaDona’s video posts – they’ve figured out how to post videos – watch out world, these ladies are Game On.)
It’s hot. (Cursing that I got off to a late start. Maybe I can go half-way today. Oh, here we go again. Rationalizing away my exercise before I’ve even started. You are sad sack, Pal.)
Today’s theme: I see. (I think.) (Too much.)
(Thoughts move from light to dark. Huh? Why now? Find myself losing pace and losing oxygen…gulping air.)
Eckhart Tolle begins whispering to me: "Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking…Don’t try to stop them. Just watch them. Still your mind. Watch them float gently down stream."
(I can’t do this. I’m blocking. I’m resisting. I’m trying to turn them away and replace with sunny others.)
Pace moves to a crawl. Legs feel heavy. I feel HEAVY.