Friday, October 13, 2017

Surrounded by Giants

Save for desert dwellers and inhabitants of the Arctic circle, most people on planet earth are surrounded by green and leafy giants - the trees. Environmentalists voice passionate support for their plant friends, but most of us take trees for granted, simply because because they are ubiquitous.

Do you know how many trees you pass on the way to the nearest store? Or how many populate the town or city in which you live?

These tall beings emanate an energy unique to each one, just as humans have distinct fingerprints and singular physical attributes. To tune into each tree-being and then multiply that being-ness by a few billion, it becomes clear...and overwhelming...that the protective force-field emitted by theses guardians of the earth is far more powerful than any nuclear weapon.

Without the trees' oxygen production we would suffocate. Without the respite provided by their shade, we would fry. Let us bow in reverence to the great plant-protectors that befriend us with a quiet and life-giving power.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Unbearable Politeness of Being

Theoretically, it is impossible to become enlightened and simultaneously act in a self-serving manner. Like the surgeon who uses dissolving stitches, analyzing one's own mind in order to understand its modi operandus dissolves egotistical motives; the ultimate metaphysical manifestation of courtesy.

How does one set about doing this in the fast paced western world of materialism?

The Dalai Lama and other great masters instruct students to critically examine the teachings and the teacher before buying into them. While this lazy American practitioner makes no claims as to a true understanding of the dharma, nonetheless it seems important to carefully examine doctrines for their relevance. Personal understanding, grounded in experiential knowledge, is the only foundation upon which to build. 

Conversely - or perhaps paradoxically - trust, faith and dedication are vital ingredients in following a path to realization. When one is a beginner, a worthy teacher must be found.

As one ventures into the newness of every moment, it is essential strike a delicate balance between common sense and the commitment to a goal that may seem elusive and mysterious. This applies not only to the spiritual path but every other endeavor in this conundrum called "life." Nobody has the magical formula but as long as there is breath there is possibility.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


What could be better than sitting on a shady terrace during sunny, cool California weather with an easel, canvas and paints on hand - that is, if one is an amateur, a professional, or another sort of being with artistic impulses.

Imbibing this glorious moment, entranced by the vibration of cerulean blue flowing off the tip of my paintbrush, I become aware of an intrusive sound that penetrates the rapture.

It's a jackhammer. It's Saturday. It's a lily-white upscale suburban neighborhood filled with people for whom order and neatness is the most prized value. It's a town whose city planners manage a budget colored black - as in profitable.

I pretend that the machine's noise doesn't matter; an unimportant annoyance in the background. This rationalization lasts for about15 minutes, but as the rata-tat-tat lingers on, my awareness begins shifting. The Complainer-in-Chief starts her internal dialogue about people who have no business disturbing the peace on a weekend, let alone the ubiquitous weekday drone of machinery used to keep my town in its impeccable Pleasantville state of orderliness. Trees that drop leaves or seeds face the death penalty, and city money that could be used for art or music in the schools goes to repave roads that need no repair.

Thankfully, the Complainer-in-Chief is governed by a higher power, the Awareness Squad, who steps in when the former starts becoming too self-important. The person running the jackhammer suffers far more consequences to his hearing and body organs than the artist on her hilltop terrace who is annoyed by the distant sound. The well-oiled organization of this township is a blessing and a boon when one contemplates the enormous suffering of human beings worldwide who lack clean water, food, or protection from inhuman humans.

When we count our blessings rather than our complaints, life takes on a sweetness that has no limits. There is no end to love. There is no end to compassion. There is no end to gratitude. Everything else has an expiration date.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

God's Will?

The horrors of abnormal weather systems, provoked by climate change, are vesting their wrath upon us. Interpretations abound as to the meaning of it all. For sure, Mother Nature is expressing immense displeasure at the treatment of her bounty. Human folly and short-sightedness are one cause, stoked by a capitalistic fervor born of the Industrial Era.
Or, if Darwin was right, human beings are overrunning their environment, thus precipitating a culling of the global flock through war, natural disaster, and human greed, among other less obvious causes.

Whatever the reason, certain people have an irrational perspective. This morning on CNN, a plus-size lady in a giant pickup truck was interviewed by a reporter. She lives on the Atlantic seaboard of Florida, which is in grave danger from an oncoming hurricane of never-before-seen proportions. Despite urgent pleas from the authorities to evacuate, she is staying put.

"Why?" queries the reporter.

"Because we always have stayed to ride out hurricanes," answers the over-consumer.

One small difference - this is a never-before-seen hurricane of historic proportions. Comparing it to its weaker siblings is not a valid point of reference. Yet the reporter doesn't seem to catch this illogical conclusion and continues:

"Aren't you afraid?"

Our GMO-brain-damaged citizen replies, "God will provide. He will keep us safe."

Here is where the hubris of this woman may be a fatal character flaw. How does she know what God wants? Did she have a visitation from one of his archangels to say that he personally is making an exception for her while deciding to wipe out dozens of others who, like her, will be in harm's way? And if those of her ilk are spared by God while he obliterates so many other good folk, then heaven forbid! The cretons will have inherited the earth.

So while the quintessential white woman of pick-up truck fame rests her trust in God doing her a personal favor, I would prefer a different prayer. May all human beings wake up from their slumber of indifference and make a change for the common good. Maybe then we won't need to pretend that we have God's unlisted phone number.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Background Noise or News?

To my housemates, the incessant background hum of CNN is a source of annoyance. Bi-weekly one of them will query, "Why do you keep on CNN all day? Isn't it a downer..." with an effect akin to the whine of a mosquito in the dead of night.

As a courtesy I turn off the telly or mute the sound when one of my co-inhabitants enters the room ... and in deference to all sentient beings within a 300 foot radiance, the volume is kept at miniscule decibels most of the time.

I myself couldn't understand this addiction to the near-ubiquitous CNN drone that began during primaries 18 months ago, but then came an epiphany. The study of human behaviour involves analysis of cause and effect. Big events have big impact, yet subtle and seemingly insignificant happenings inevitably trigger a landslide of outcomes. Thus, in order to predict future behaviours, an exhaustive study of past and present actions is imperative.

Right out of the gate, it seemed glaringly obvious that Donald Trump was a pathological liar and a card carrying narcissist with borderline personality disorder. Why people of sound mind chose to ignore the obvious is a mystery but provides a clue to my CNN habit.

Every day, even each hour, a new clue to 45's horrific modus operendus unfolds. To catch all the nuances, one must keep tuned in to track how events/words/tweets play a role in the collective wakeup.

Like a suspense novel, every new twist unfolds the plot. So now the question is, will this story have a happy ending or a tragic one? More accurately speaking, will the universe bend to the arc of truth in my lifetime? In my childrens? Or sometime in the ineffable future?

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Great Acts

Great acts are made up of small deeds. - Lao Tzu

According to legend Lao Tzu was keeper of the archives at the imperial court. When he was eighty years old he set out for the western border of China, toward what is now Tibet, saddened and disillusioned that men were unwilling to follow the path to natural goodness. At the border (Hank Pass), a guard, Yin Xi (Yin Hsi), asked Lao Tsu to record his teachings before he left. He then composed in 5,000 characters the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power).

Many of us feel an overwhelming sense of despair at the state of affairs in Washington, D.C.
We have a madman in the White House, a Congress filled with mentally challenged Republicans (minus a few), not to speak of an uninformed and ignorant swath of Americans who mindlessly follow, unaware that they are sawing the branch they sit on.

War, disease and hunger plague millions if not billions. Those of us living in prosperity pinch ourselves at our good fortune, fully aware of the blessings of the lucky few...and fervently wish that the evil eye continues to sheathe its glance. Some might pray for the rest of humanity to find abundance, peace and happiness. Some might donate life-giving funds or other material items to alleviate suffering. Nonetheless, the enormity of humanity's plight and the missteps of self-serving leaders trigger a sense of futility. Our life-affirming offerings seem like droplets in the ocean, disappearing into tidal waves of dysfunction.

This is why we need great masters whose panoramic vision spans the totality of existence and, with their clear vision, nudge us to proceed with courage. Lao Tsu's famous words of wisdom, "The thousand mile journey begins with the first step," or alternately, "Great acts are made up of small deeds," provide an antidote to the collective sense of disempowerment. Rooted in reality, his words of wisdom point out a truth hidden in plain view. Every state of being, every accomplishment, is merely the tip of the iceberg. Near-infinite acts/events form the foundation upon which positive outcroppings appear.

Understanding thus, how could we ever feel discouraged? The truth is that everything matters, whether we impact a billion people or just two. Patience, courage, wisdom and compassion become the tenets of day to day existence. As long as we never give up, any act large or small will propel us into a brighter future.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trees Speak

Many years ago I imbibed a weed-laced dark chocolate brownie in an attempt to kill the pain of radiation burnitis. The shopkeeper of the medical marijuana store had gifted me with this delight, perhaps taking pity on an almost bald, thin woman who could barely walk into his digs - clearly a cancer victim. He warned me to eat only half.

Ever the chow hound, even when half dead, I scarfed the first half of said treat before Michael and I had even reached the car. Our house was 30 minutes away and about twenty minutes into the drive home, having not felt any effect of the cannabis, I downed the second half of that yummalishous chewy, chocolatey pastry.

Gluttony always meets punishment as its bride. Afterall, isn't gluttony one of the mortal sins?

The cannabis of 2017 is not the cannabis your grandmother smoked or ate; in this case, my peer group are the grandmothers. Shortly after arriving home, the environment took on a different luster. Colors jumped off the wall; subtle and previously unnoticed house sounds became a chorus of machines; the plant world outside my windows danced and swayed with verdant alacrity.

After an indeterminate stretch of time, spread out on the couch and floating outside the normal realms of perception, lo and behold! A tree peered in the window and invited me to come outside to introduce myself.

Twenty-seven years ago, I planted 13 trees around the house. Those saplings were now tall, strong guardians of the property. The tree that beckoned me outside told me its name and I bowed in acknowledgement. Of course they already knew me, she who supplied their water and gave them first life in decades past. The next tree waited expectantly, much like a guest in a formal greeting line. After moving around the property making proper introductions, I slumped into a lawn chair and gazed at this tribe with a fair degree of astonishment.

Why had I not noticed that each tree was a living being with a personality and its own potent mode of perception? While I certainly took note of new leaves in the spring or branches in need of pruning, never had I addressed the gestalt of the tree.

Nature speaks to us if we listen...and this communication is a symbiotic bond that extends far beyond the reaches of time and space. One needn't be stoned out of his or her gourd to partake in the subtle yet powerful exchange. The only requirement is to stop the busy-ness and feel...listen...breathe.

Surrounded by Giants

Save for desert dwellers and inhabitants of the Arctic circle, most people on planet earth are surrounded by green and leafy giants - the t...