What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the life line’s crease.
When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.
A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.
How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?
The poem I shared is titled, If You Knew.
It was written by Ellen Bass. From her book, The Human Line.
When do you feel your best?
When do you not feel your best?
What gives you energy, inspires you & lifts your spirit?
What takes your energy, leaves you uninspired & low in spirit?
When was the last time like you felt fulfilled, content & complete?
When was the the last time you felt unfulfilled, discontent & incomplete?
Take the time to answer the questions. Don’t formulate the answers, just allow them to present themselves. Quiet down, relax, & allow the answers to effortlessly appear. Write down the first thing that pops in your mind after reading each question. Don’t edit the answer. Don’t second guess it. Just write it down & accept it.
Notice. Simply notice all of the answers. Noticing is one of the most profound steps someone can take to transform their life. It’s effortless, but it’s daunting. For some it is scary. Because once they see what is going on, they will never be the same. They will forever be awake to what is happening in their life. They can no longer sleep-walk through their days & then wonder why they always feel tired, or always feel like year after year, they never reach their desired destination.
Begin to see what is there, & you will not only see that what is making you unhappy is being chosen (by you) repeatedly, over & over again — but you will also see that the peace, joy, energy, & inspiration is always there for the choosing as well.
Imagine a room in your house is buried with things that are unwanted, unsuitable for you, or unneeded at the present moment. Because of that, you will not be able to see the things that are the most appropriate for you; the things that are perfect for you in thismoment. It also doesn’t allow any room for anything new to come into your present life. That cluttered room is filled with the past. Past choices. Past solutions. Past desires. Things that no longer serve you.
Maintaining a jumbled existence doesn’t allow for room to play freely. It makes it difficult to see & choose what might serve you best now. Spaciousness (physical & mental) is the freedom that many of us are seeking. And it’s not found in more stuff, or more experiences. We have plenty of those! It is found in being spacious. Being clear. Being open. Being ready & available to what might come our way next.
One way to be clear, is to clearly see. To see what is already there, right in front of you. Be clear about it. Then begin to dig, & clear out what is behind it. Go deep. Don’t be afraid to excavate (figuratively & literally). Dig & clear out your stuff. It’s taking up space, & it’s blocking you. These blocks (stuff being held, be it mental or physical) impede your energy flow. They also block the light. This heaviness or tiredness that people feel is often because they feel weighed down by the things they are carrying unnecessarily. Physical & mental blocks (or baggage) are two sides of the same coin. Therefore, both need to be cleared out. Both need your attention.
Awareness is key. Without that, you are lost. You’ll be on the hamster wheel of life, wondering why you are always chasing after something (or being chased by something). Wondering why you are always falling short of your self-expectations, falling short of what you know you are capable of being or achieving. To meet your best self or your best life, you must first meet who you are now. Have you really met you? Or do you constantly avoid you? I know that sounds funny or silly — but I’m being serious. So many of us are moving through our lives so fast, & we are so busy with work or family or entertainment, that we haven’t really sat with ourselves. When I say sit with ourselves, I mean with open eyes & open arms. We haven’t said, “Ah. I see you! I see how you have been hiding. And I see that you are buried. I love you. And I am going to unearth you, unburden you. I’m going to set you free.”
It’s simply an act of self-love. And unconditional love of ‘the self,’ is unconditional love of all selves (all people). So self-love isn’t a selfish act, it’s a self-less act. There is no separate self, separate from the rest of the world. Also, your life is a mirror. When you see love & perfection (or hate & imperfection) in you, you see it everywhere. Meet yourself where you are today. See what you see & feel at this moment. At this stage in your life. Meet yourself where you are. Then develop the relationship from there. Your relationship to the whole world will improve.
Don’t be afraid of the light. Just as you shouldn’t be afraid of the dark. Shouldn’t isn’t the right word. What I mean is, accept it. Embrace it. Make peace with both light & dark. Find the balance & the harmony between the two, & you will find harmony & balance within yourself. Make friends with the unknown. Meet what scares you. Sometimes the thing that we are most afraid of, is the very thing that would serve us best.
[This happened on October 2nd, 2012. After the incident, I put a bandage on my finger & wrote this blog post. Since then, my finger rapidly healed. Everything is now back to normal. I’m as good as new!]
I sliced a piece of my finger off as I was making lunch on Tuesday. It happened shortly after I wrote down a few thoughts that came to me. This is what I wrote before I cut myself:
What we are really looking for, we can’t have — which is unconditional love.
It’s not to be had, possessed, learned, created or found — it is.
It is life itself.
There is no someone who loves. There is only love.
There is no someone who lives. There is only life.
When we see life as unconditional love, the search is over.
There is no longer someone looking for something.
There is only love. And love is no-thing.
Then, maybe 20 minutes later, I walked into the kitchen, began to make lunch — and whoops!
I mentioned it to someone later that day, I said, “Today I sliced a little piece of my finger off.” And their reply was, “Well, why did you do that?” It was so clear to me at that moment: ‘I’ didn’t do that, I didn’t choose that, I didn’t make it happen — it just happened. There was an energetic & slightly chaotic moment (while making lunch) & off the piece of finger went (sliced off during the use of a mandoline). It was a happening, something that happened in the the moment.
This was such an ah-ha for me. I reflected on several past experiences, were I may have been upset with myself for something that happened. And now, when I look back at it — how silly I was for being so hard on myself (or on others). There was no separate individual that made anything happen, or that chose to cause harm, or could have chose to avoid it. And that something that happened wasn’t personal. Not something bad just for some-one, that could have been controlled by the some-one it was happening to (or not happening to). It was simply a happening in the moment. Not good or bad, but simply happening. And there is no one, no separate individual, that could ever know why.
As I continue to move in life (as the construct known as time passes), it’s getting clearer to me how effortless life can be. When things happening are simply viewed as a ‘happening,’ all of the contrast is taken out. The suffering & the drama totally disappears. There is no one to blame; nothing to take personal. It simply is. Just as life simply is. Is there anyone that can explain life? Or any-one that can be responsible for life as we know it? Of course not. It’s just a happening.
Do you remember how the word ‘happening‘ was used in the 60’s? It was a performance, event or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art. And later people used the word loosely to mean any type of gathering or party. This to me, is a good definition of what is happening with all of us. We are an event, we are performing, we are a gathering, we are a party. It’s art. It’s play. It’s drama.
It’s all energy at play. Energy that appears to take any form. But don’t let the appearance fool you. Don’t get lost in the story. Stay awake. Stay clear. Remember that it’s all energy. And this energy is simply unconditional love. Embracing & allowing everything.
That is why there is no one that has control. No one that has the answers. No one that is responsible. No one that is separate. And whatever is happening, is transitory. Meaningless. No-thing. Just energy. Just unconditional love. Just is.
For some people the thought of that stirs up tension & anger, or endless questions, or maybe confusion, or sorrow — for others, it’s a relief. All the weight, all the meaning, all the effort, all the significance, has been lifted. So when something happens — there is no one to blame. The energy (in whatever form it takes) moves to handle whatever is next. Not a beat is missed. It’s perfect. It’s like dancing, or improvisation — just move to what moves you & allow the moves to come as you are moved. Can you imagine if you lived life like that? Does that not sound like fun? Does that not sound liberating? To me it does.
I’ve had numerous injuries over my adult life: from a major car accident while being a passenger (which resulted in knee surgery & lifelong damage to my spine) — to seriously injuring myself while making large-scale art pieces. All of the injuries were traumatic for me. But Tuesday’s injury (although much-much smaller, yet still significant) was the first time that the moment felt effortless & seamless — & totally fine. No problem at all. Like no-thing happened. And it was simply a level of awareness that made the difference. Somehow, awareness makes all the difference — all the difference in the world. So much so, that it completely changes the experience of it.
Stop to watch these videos. See what you might be unknowingly endorsing.
Compassion is the desire that moves the individual self to widen the scope of its self-concern to embrace the whole of the universal self.
– Arnold Toynbee
Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.
– Frederick Buechner
I can do no other than be reverent before everything that is called life. I can do no other than to have compassion for all that is called life. That is the beginning and the foundation of all ethics.
– Albert Schweitzer
Our task must be to free ourselves this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
– Albert Einstein
Compassionate action involves working with ourselves as much as working with others.
– Pema Chodron
WAYS YOU CAN HELP:
Abstain from buying products that are tested on animals.Any product that doesn’t print on its label Not Tested On Animals, probably does. Choose to buy products that don’t. Stop eating animals & animal products. Check all food labels carefully. Look for vegan or vegetarian food labels. Support your local plant-based restaurants. Volunteer at local animal shelters & animal sanctuaries. Adopt an animal, give a helping hand monthly, or work during their fundraising events. Donate to organizations that speak up for animals. Support organizations that rescue, care-for, & spread the message of compassion towards animals. Help with animal rescues. All kinds of support is needed: transportation; temporary animal homes; emails; phone calls; research; & much more. Contact your city council & government officials. Let them know that this is a public concern & is unacceptable. Write them, call them. Let them know this is important to you. Share what you know with everyone. Many people are completely unaware of what is happening with food production, as well as animal testing — let them know what is going on!
If we have the energy of compassion and loving kindness in us, the people around us will be influenced by our way of being and living.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
[The quote used as the title of this blog post is byMason Cooley.]
I was trying to explain the unexplainable this week. I was teaching meditation online, as I do from time to time, and it’s always such a strange thing to try to describe the indescribable, or explain the unexplainable. Saying things like: “Moving away from the idea that someone is doing something, or that someone needs to do something in order for something to happen.” and “If suddenly I tossed a ball your way, you would catch it without thinking. It would be effortless & thoughtless.”
We get so wrapped up in the ‘survival of I’ world. So imbedded, even lost, in the world of distractions, that we have drowned out the subtleties of life. Our innate & intuitive knowing, & our spontaneous effortless nature, has become a mystery to many of us. Beingness & awareness have become words to explore, instead of who we are as a whole.
No one does anything. No one makes anything happen. There are so many factors involved in everything. And forces beyond our comprehension.
If I think of the greatest things, or most significant things in my life right now. What I love most, what means the most to me, what is truly contributing or important to my life. If I make a list, not one thing on that list would be anything I would have control over. Nothing on that list would be something that I solely put together or chose for myself. They are things that happened for whatever reason. Things just fell into place.
I stumbled upon this John Frusciante video (posted below) a day or two after that meditation session. As I listened to John speak, it reminded me of so many thoughts that I had.
As John Frusciante was speaking, I felt such an affinity to so much of what he was saying. Many mental notes of past thoughts I’ve had ran through my mind… Nothing is new
Love is unconditional
Creativity births itself
They would pop into my mind as he shared his ideas.
John also exuded an energy like he had so much more to say, but that it couldn’t find its way out. Somethings can’t be expressed in a structured limited language. The written word can never fully describe what one can only feel or intuitively know. But as I continued to listen to John’s interview, I continued to jot down thoughts… We have no control
Get out of the way
Give up control
Embrace the moment (as it is)
Love who you are
Trust the unknown
Have compassion always
It’s never about you
Don’t take it personal
Allow life to flow
Spontaneity is the key
There is only now
Stop thinking start listening
Intuition is everything
Follow your feelings
Let yourself be moved
Don’t be afraid to risk (you have nothing to lose)
Understanding is overrated
Live without reason
It’s all so interesting. The paradox that life is. How simple life can be when we stop trying so hard. How effortless life is when we allow ourselves to be.
Just like we look at earth like it’s one thing, or the solar system, or our bodies — why not see that it’s all one thing? From the micro to the macro, it’s all the same force. Everything is moving, everything is being moved.
I love great conversations, like the one I posted on April 10, 2011 between Ram Dass & Terence McKenna in Prague. This week I found another interesting conversation I want to share with you. It’s between Benjamin Smythe & Rick Archer (Rick is interviewing Ben). Although, this conversation might be easier for those that are familiar with people like Ramana Maharshi, or teachings based on Advaita Vedanta (known in the west as Non-duality) — I think it’s a universal discussion about life that we can all relate to. It’s about the things that we are all passionate about (in one way or another), even if we have opposing views.
I’ve embedded the video for you to watch, & below that, I posted my thoughts.
Please note: the interview is almost 2 hours long. So watch it when you have the time. But please watch it so that you can hear both sides of the conversation before you read my comments below. (The bold sentences in quotation marks are from Benjamin Smythe, my comments on his points are underneath.)
“What does any of this have to do with that love?”
I love when Ben said that line in the interview. It reminded me of the one thing that is my saving grace. The one thing that unblindfolds me & allows me to see clearly. It’s a question that brings me to the truth.
“What is the truth?”
You can veer from it without suffering. You can stray for a while, but when the suffering starts to appear (& it always will), it’s best that you return to the truth. The suffering is a direct indicator that you have gone too far.
This “truth question” is especially effective in my relationships (be it family, friendships, or romantic partnerships). When I get upset with someone, or I am on the verge of calling it quits because of opposing views. When arguments or frustration arises, & the relationship begins to feel like work, like a struggle. That is when I gently ask myself: “What is true?” And without a second thought, the only truth in that relationship is the love. I remind myself that love is unconditional. This means that it’s impersonal. It doesn’t get its feelings hurt; it doesn’t have needs or desires; it doesn’t believe in right or wrong — it just is. Whatever it was that I was upset about really doesn’t really matter. And more importantly, it will always change — so why get stuck on it.
When I bring my mind back to love in its highest form (love that is unchanging), what is unimportant falls away, & the dust begins to settle. This allows me to be in the moment (with clarity), & I am able to be present.
“Ok. that’s great — but how do I care?”
Ha! I really liked that line. It’s so practical. I think in one way we can say, “Yes, we are all connected & everything is prefect, so let’s let everything be”. But then, on the other hand, “Yes, we are all connected & everything is perfect — now be the change that you want to see”. If you feel that you have a level of awareness, take responsibility for those that don’t & increase your load. They are connected to you, remember? Pay for them, clean up after them, forgive them, assist them, share with them.
Just like a messy room, it’s fine the way it is. It never has to be cleaned & it’s not wrong for being dirty. But when the dust piles up, & the critters take over, & it begins to smell, & it’s hard to keep track of what is in there. I would say that it might be more pleasant for everyone that has to use that room if it were kept in order — or if someone was responsible for it. And the one who is asking, “Who is the one that is responsible for this?!” is always the one that is responsible. Because that person has the awareness to see the mess as a problem. Often, the ones that create the mess, don’t see it as a problem. So when I say that person who sees it is responsible, I mean responsible to help raise the level of awareness for those around them, as well as to get their hands dirty & help clean it up.
“Violence is not relative!”
I know that violence is relative simply because the person committing the violent act has a different view of it than I do.
I understand what Ben is getting at and defending. But to me it simply boils down to levels of awareness & levels of violence. Stabbing, shooting, or bashing someone is extremely violent, most of us would abhor such an act, yet most of the population does it in inadvertently when they eat animals. The average person eats approximately 198 animals per year. These animals are killed & eaten simply for taste or profit, not because people were starving or left without a choice. In some minds, that would be considered extremely violent.
But more than hate crimes, prejudice, racism, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or murder committed by people — we cause violent harm to ourselves in grater numbers. Nothing to me is more rampant than self-hate & self-harm. Nothing. (I’m only referring to the violence in our lives.) The physical & mental abuse we put ourselves through is so numerous, it’s beyond my comprehension.
The violence towards another being usually happens because we first have violent thoughts about ourselves. If we were to get a group of people together & ask them: “do you hate yourself?” They would more than likely laugh & say, “Of course not!” Yet live in their heads & hear their thoughts (& watch their actions) for a day, & you will find out whether they do or not.
Self-imposed suffering is the greatest source of suffering in my opinion. And if we got passionate about resolving that issue, I’m sure it would have a domino effect on many other issues that stem from self-hate, such as the violent treatment towards other living beings. The bottom line for me is: if people truly understood the impact of what they were doing, they wouldn’t be doing it. Some of us really can’t “see”.
We all have this lack of awareness in various aspects of our lives. Some lack it more than others, but still, all of us have this “blindness” to some degree. It’s up to us to take responsibility for our own suffering, & at the same time, help to minimize the suffering around us — by doing what we can to help & by doing what we can to not create more abuse. (This includes abuse to the earth we live on, & abuse to the living beings that inhabit it.)
I see the points that both Benjamin Smythe & Rick Archer are making. I just wanted to add my thoughts. And yes, by all means, use a net if you can! Try your best to save even the beings that cause harm (including yourself). Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Trust love. Breathe easy. One day at a time. One breath at a time. Every moment you are alive is an opportunity to be more aware, an opportunity to care a little bit more.
I think this poem by Rumi wraps up this conversation perfectly:
Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense.
I think for the most part, I’m in alignment with the film’s general perspective & overall viewpoint (with the exception of a few views/statements in the film, especially towards the end). I plan to follow-up this blog post at some point with a post about awareness & emptiness so we can take the conversation further.
“When you say to someone ‘you’re history’ it doesn’t mean that you’re a part of it; it means that you’re obliterated. That’s what history means.” — Unknown
I think my Change the Meaning of the Past post (on January 8th, 2012) was too brief & too fast. I got a few comments from readers that it was hard to catch all that Alan Watts was saying & they also wanted more to read. Well, I can’t slow Alan down & I can’t transcribe the whole video, but I can write a bit more about the topic & post an additional video for you.
The Alan Watts video that I embedded in this post gives a bit more detail & has good pacing. It’s quite relaxed & fun to watch (especially Alan’s printed pants).
To me, the bottom line of what Alan Watts is saying is: THE PAST IS THE RESULT OF THE PRESENT. I could probably talk about that sentence for an hour. Actually, I know I easily could. But for now, I want to take it in another direction. (Because you can watch the entire 6 part video on Alan’s view that I embedded above, & get almost an hour of talk about that sentence from him.)
I want to share a different take on: being, living in the present, & staying out of past/future based thinking.
To me, suffering is only possible if your mind is in the past or future. If you are truly in the present, suffering is not possible.
But someone might say: I am in extreme physical pain from an illness (or physical injury). I am completely present. This pain is happening right now, & I am suffering!
My question for you would be: but are you comparing how you feel right now to a time when you were not in pain? Are you comparing how you feel or how you look, to the past? Are you comparing the predicament you are in right now to a time when you were not in it? Are you adding to this moment thoughts about the future? Thoughts based on fear? Like: what if I never get better? What if this gets worse? What if I am never the same? Why is this happening? What if I die? What if this takes a long time? What if I lose what I have over this? What if I never feel good again? — Also, let me ask you: what is your point of reference for pain & pleasure? Is it not based on the past? So in my opinion, it’s not the pain (illness, injury, or situation) that is making you suffer — it’s you. It’s your thoughts. Thoughts overrun by past & future based thinking.
Try it out for yourself today. Or better yet, try it out for yourself this week. Set aside a piece of paper. Every time you get stressed, or feel uneasy, or feel that unwanted emotions are arising — make a note of it. I want you to write down what what you are feeling & thinking. Go into detail. After that, I want you to write down what is happening in the present. Write down where you are & what is TRULY happening in the present moment. Not what you are thinking is happening, but what is really happening. Just note the facts. Don’t paint a picture of them. Just write down the basic facts without adding meaning to them. At the end of the day, or end of the week. Go back & see if those detailed thoughts & feelings about the situation matched the basic facts of the present moment. And if any of the fears that were noted in the detailed thoughts were as scary, as uncomfortable, or as painful as you thought they would be.
Alan Watts has a quote that ties in nicely to what I was just sharing with you: [Being free from the past] simply involves a change in your thinking. It involves in other words; your getting rid of the habit of thought whereby you define yourself as the result of what has gone before — and instead, get into the more plausible, and more reasonable habit of thought. In terms of which; you don’t define yourself in terms of what you’ve done before, but in terms of what you’re doing now. And that is liberation from the ridiculous situation of being a dog wagged by its tail.
Just remember: no past, no future, no problem! :) Stay present. See what is happening now as a gift.
[To watch the entire “Time and The More It Changes” video (in 6 parts) from Alan Watts,click here.]