Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Truism Is a Truism

When it comes to the Holy Scriptures of any religion, the veracity of the Word as an utterance from God, Allah, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Joseph Smith or Ron Hubbard ad nauseum are highly suspect in my book.

If eye witnesses are notoriously unreliable in reporting what they perceive has transpired, under oath in a court of law, then apply the same logic to scriptures written by disciples tens or hundreds of years later. Exponentially more subjective, in no way can they be the infallible exclamations of God or a prophet.

Let's just say that if one finds wisdom in a religious text, take the money and run. In other words, if those admonishments make sense and bring a little sanity to your life, why not believe? The stronger the belief, the greater the impact on behavior (as long as vive la différence prevails).

With this long-winded introduction, the aphorisms that have guided my mindset for decades come from two sources: the Bible and Sufi wisdom:

"Be ye wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove."  
(Circa Christ)

"Trust in God but tie your camel first." (Sufi)

What words of wisdom are your guiding light?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Love Over Ego

Last night, after most of the Thanksgiving guests had departed, a few of the remaining folks had to deal with a First World Problem - severe stomache distension due not to malnutrition but gluttony. The best solution was to take to the living room couches and lie down so that the pressure on the over-stuffed abdomen would abate.

Since it took about three hours for the innards to slowly deflate, a wonderful conversation ensued as the only thing left intact were the vocal chords. As an old married-in-spirit woman with three grown children, I had in fact seen the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the love and resentment, that comes with that social unit called "family."

My friends were just embarking on their adult life as partners and parents, although with more wisdom than many at their stage of life. As we reflected on the ways in which couples engage, a thought occurred to me: the only reason that my husband and I had had a great marriage for thirty years was that in the end, our relationship was more important than our egos.

Every time we had a clash of ideas, beliefs, or life-strategies and began to dig in to our positions, a really ugly feeling would come over us. Separation. Distance. Anger. Judgement. Disallusionment.

None of the above were part of our marital vows, nor were these afflictive emotions part of the daily bliss that we experienced on a regular basis. We wanted out from that particular form of hell.

The solution? Go further into our egotistical POVs? Create greater and greater distance until a union began to dissolve into a civil war with a winner and loser?

By the grace of the All-That-Is, the overarching goal would eventually pervail - that harmony, love, peace, equanimity were far more valuable than being "right" or "dominant" (all territory the ego mind claims).

A bond among people, whether it be personal, societal, national, or global, only works for the highest good of all when the little-personal-petty-egos give way to the higher self. It's possible to materialize, only a nanosecond of a perspective shift. And voila! Freedom.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Calm Abiding

"Calm-abiding" is a phrase that Buddhist writers and scholars have employed over the ages to denote a state of mind that the words self-describe.

Today, depite an iffy oven whose real, accurate temperature is unknown to me - thus making the roasting of a 16 pound turkey a possible fiasco - calm-abiding permeats the air on my terrace of balmy Southern California weather.

The pressure is off. No longer striving to prove my housewifely or best-hostess-ever status, the dinner fixings have been happily pawned off to family and friends who are quite willing to contribute (and are state-of-the-art cooks). Thus, when I find myself in the kitchen making extra little doodad veggie treats, it is relaxing because my attachment to "enough," "more," and "overwhelm" has dissipated with age and neurosis fatigue.

Sure, the thought of an OLED 55 inch LG television that looks perfect from every angle does cause one eyebrow to lift slightly. A pause, a skip of a heart beat, a soul-searching thought. Do I jump into the fray and starting frothing at the mouth to grab my prize? Or let the craving pass and allow sanity to prevail, like a drug addict determined to stay sober?

Ah yes, calm-abiding. When it arrives on the doorstep of the mind, let it in and be at peace.

And one last thought. People of conscience, please don't call this Turkey Day, which causes the slaughter of millions of birds. It's THANKS GIVING. Especially thanks giving that you were not born a turkey in America this go-around.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Ubiquitous Back-seat Driver

If you are married or partnered in one form or another, a certain type of argument arises among couples of all nations and nationalities - if they regularly drive together in car.

Known as the "back-seat driver," the person sitting in the front passenger seat (an oxymoron unto itself) has as good a view of the highways and byways as the driver. And therein lies the problem.

The pair of eyes not in control of the steering wheel, brakes and accelerator feels disempowered, relegated to watching for potential mishaps with no ability to control them with the car's mechanisms. Thus, the only form of control left to the passenger is the vocal chords.

And this is where a couples' bliss ends. The sudden gasps, screams, or admonishments of the passive one have an unnerving effect on the driver. Depending on the temperment of said person, the response is either a calm, "I saw that, no worries darling," (not likely), "I know what I'm doing," (said with decided annoyance), or a loudly pronounced response, "You scared the hell out of me, I SAW that, STOP!"

If the couple has been together for a number of years, this third scenario is the most likely one, as the buildup of petty frights unrealized ends up in a detente most unpleasant.

A lovely Sunday drive ends up with two people sitting in stoney silence, sitting side-by-side in their automobile. A drive to their favorite restaurant becomes a dinner of polite remarks over tautly drawn lips.

As one of the best back-seat drivers on the planet, my revenge is sweet. For every ten thousand times I have gasped, screamed, or slammed my foot on the non-brake of the car's floor mat, my warnings have prevented at least three potentially fatal mishaps - begrudgingly admitted to by the male driver. 

So for all of you who despise the backseat driver in your car, please remember - that thorn in your side may end up being the golden wings of your salvation.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Paradox of Tribalism

The industrialized First World has been seeping into the belly of the Third World, fragmenting tribal identities along the way. Factories, city tenements and smart phones homogenize ancestral ties; steel, cement, and electronic chips sever bonds birthed from Mother Earth.

For many ethnic groups, modernization brings a terrible loss. The African phrase, popularized by none other than Hilary Clinton, says it all: "It takes a village to raise a child." Sprawling city landscapes of highrise/lowrise apartments isolate people from one another as walls replace open doors.

At this juncture, our "global village" more resembles a jigsaw puzzle in disarray than a small planet with a few billion humans with more in common than not.

But herein lies the paradox. It is none other than the culprit of tribalism that causes wars large and small. This cultural amalgamation often breeds a mindset that "the other" or "the outsider" is different, and thus not as human as the "insiders." The very traditions that root people are also the very traditions that can uproot anything different or out of place. Like noxious weeds that overrun a fertile field, tribalism fosters a tendency to obliterate the other in the interest of the collective cultural self.

As with all paradoxes, there lies within the extremes a mid-point wherein one finds balance. Couldn't we use our intelligence wisely, to find a middle path between honoring our unique traditions - while understanding that a well-spring of human activity pours forth from the same source?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

With the Wave of a Hand

The beauty of existence may shout out with pride: a glorious riot-red sunset, a sleek dolphin airing out over the ocean blue, an Amazion jungle-wonder of plants and birds. The list goes on and on, even now with the world war on Mother Nature.

Yet another wondrous display exists on an invisible level, or at least unknown to many a naked eye. The power of prayer, compassionate intention, the diligent work of hidden yogis and masters who work incessantly for the peace and prosperity of sentient beings.

Last night, I sat in the presence of one of those treasures of humanity; a Tibetan master of ancient age who has had the benefit of 80 plus years of intensive meditative training. Supposed to be absorbed in meditation, I sat with my eyes fixed at a space in front of me, knowing that to stare at the master was not the object of me own exercise.

At a certain moment, his hands started moving ever so gently, subtly, in mudric gestures. Catching this with my peripheral vision, I broke rank with my vow not to stare, and watched as his hands floated through the air in an intention unknown to my intellectual mind.

A jolt of love, intensified blood flowing through my viens, told me that something in those flowing hands was sending out an energy that could heal anything broken in my cellular memory.

This is a humbling experience. Having heard lore of this Lama's indefatigable energy in praying, meditating, helping thousands of people along the way, I think of my own discipline and intentionality.

While it may not be my destiny to have the same drive and will of such a gentle soul, at least I have a knowing of what such intention can do. The signposts are there. Now, walk the path.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Human Condition

A phrase oft used to describe a human plight, "She had to rely on the kindness of strangers" implies that the person had no family or friends who cared about her welfare - and luckily, had the good fortune of meeting compassionate others.

A twist of the phrase also evokes pathos: "She had to rely on the kindness of friends and/or family."

It could be argued that the most solid source of refuge is one's inner strength and connection to the source of life and Light. Yet, we are interdependent creatures, dependent on one another and Mother Nature for sustenance both physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. 

John Donne's great poem says it like it is, without shying away from a reality that is at once beautiful and wrenching:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Can You Really Tame a Tiger?

No. You can never really tame a tiger, because it is not in its nature to be domesticated. Even those lovely big cats, groomed from babyhood to perform for Las Vegas crowds, have drawn blood from their masters. Evidently, the king of the jungle does not take kindly to the role of indentured servant.

Same for our egos i.e. the jumble of thoughts that swirl through our heads incessantly and create a story of who we are and who you are. These beastly or saintly thoughts may seem to behave according to patterns, i.e. a negative thoughts will produce a negative result and positive thoughts will produce a positive result. And in our dream-like reality, a notion of control causes us think we are acting and behaving as if our thoughts are always real, right and true.

But like the beast of the jungle, our ego mind is inherently unreliable, a castle built on shifting sands. If we rely on this method of navigating the world, sooner or later life will maul us at the most unexpected moments.

A sense of humor is the most basic requirement as we view the circus of mental gyrations. If only we could see the foolishness of this play, we would laugh out loud and be free.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Golden Angel Wings

Close your eyes and image a rain shower, made not of water but of golden light droplets. As they descend around the physical, these glittering gold lights form into a pair of large diaphanous wings that attach to you from the center of the spine.

As if you were a giant angel, these golden light wings form a cacoon of protection permeating every nerve and cell in your body. As the wings float in the breeze, they also emanate beautiful energy into the very molecules of space around you, eventually making their way around the world and into infinite space.

Have a blessed day and vote for the candidates who care most about the welfare of sentient beings lest your golden wings vanish into thin air.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The I Ching Speaks

64: Nearing Completion

The situation is incomplete, but the chaos of the past is slowly giving way to order, and the goal is in sight. Nevertheless, you are still treading on thin ice — the way ahead is unobstructed, the goal is clear, but a cautious and careful attitude is essential, lest you slip and fall.

Nearing Completion is the last hexagram of the I Ching. It suggests that the ever-spinning wheel of life never reaches an absolute conclusion. Just as a hidden sadness resides in the heart of true euphoria, just as the seeds of great achievement often sprout first in a cauldron of adversity, so too no end is ever really complete without a new beginning stirring inside it. Though we divide life into categories in order to understand and master it, experience itself is seamless. With this reading, the 64-spoked, timeless wheel of change is ready to spin onward, ever evolving, ever staying the same.

A situation that is represented by this reading can be compared to that of taking a lengthy trek over a high mountain. At some point before reaching the peak, you can see in detail exactly how much farther you must travel. You will have a good idea what it will take to reach the top, because of the climbing experience you've accumulated thus far. However, when you do reach the peak, which has been in sight for quite a long period of sustained effort, you will have done only that. You will have reached the top — achieving your initial goal — but you must still descend the other side. This last critical segment is what remains before completion.

You may have little information and no experience of what it's like descending the other side of the mountain. All your attention may have been focused on the route up. The coming cycle may seem very strange to you, unlike anything that you have experienced before. The backside of the mountain is where all of the true mysteries reside. Proceed carefully, cautiously and alertly — then you will reach your goal.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I Got the Memo

Wandering through an upscale mall after dropping my wayward Mac at the Apple store for rehabilitation, I was seduced by a bright orange tee shirt hanging on a sales rack; its vivid hues beckoned me into its place of hanging. In a moment of frivolity, the shirt was purchased and then summarily hung in my closet of no return. It was rather nice in comparison to those Old Navy tee shirts, my faithful companions over the past ten years. 

Fast forward two days later. I venture into a grand Century City high rise for a business appointment, wearing the spanking new garb of choice - maybe a tad bright for the sober business world, but for an artist, a forgivable wardrobe choice.

As the uber-tight security person checked me in and ushered me a pass to the 48th floor, another woman ventured up to the desk; lo and behold, she too was wearing a bright orange tee shirt of bold design.

Surprised to see such display of color in this steel and marble environment, I remarked, "Hey, orange is the new black! Great color, isn't it?"

Without skipping a beat, she replied, "I got the memo."

Here I was, a 60's counter-culture girl disguised as an aging woman, and this lady caught me off-guard. She may have been wearing bright hippy orange but her response reeked of business world lingo. Nonetheless, it was business world lingo with a twist of humor. (They are human afterall?)

Floor 48: a large conference room overlooks half of Los Angeles and beyond, perched at the upper reaches of the skyscaper. As I wait for the appointed man in gray to arrive, his assistant appears, offering a cup of coffee. Lo and behold, she too wears that same bright orange, never-to-be-missed-in-the-woods color. She did not disappoint me, however, when my remark about the similar colors drew a smile and an "oh wow" response. Ever the chatterer, I related the funny remark of the lady in the lobby, who had "gotten the memo." We both laughed.

Then in walked the man in gray. Now totally convinced that the flow of the universe was rushing straight through me, I boldly asked Mr. Suit, why are you not wearing orange?

He replied with a straight face of easy grace, "I didn't get the memo."

The Chapel of My Mind

  Rest in the nature of mind The yogi coaxes Voice of the ages Delivered via screen and wit In the vast chapel of ...