Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Courage to Live

Normally, one thinks of courage in terms of facing a battle head on. It could be a soldier leading his men through known enemy territory; an explorer sailing off to prove the earth is round; a schoolmate stepping in to prevent a bully from victimizing another on the playground.

At the most basic level, it takes courage to live life. Every second of the 24-hour cycle we humans, birds, animals and all manner of beings wake up to face "time" with no guarantee that all will go well. In most cases, people who commit suicide have lost all courage to endure the vicissitudes of life and can't see a way forward to keep on keeping on. Blame it on Prozac, haywire brain chemistry or severe trauma, nonetheless the conclusion is, "Get me out of here."

According to the Stoics of ancient times:

“Remember that the door is open. Don’t be more cowardly than children, but just as they say, when the game is no longer fun for them, ‘I won’t play any more,’ you too, when things seem that way to you, say, ‘I won’t play any more,’ and leave, but if you remain, don’t complain.” (Discourses I.24.20)

It is easy to imagine how starving refugees, sex slaves, the severely ill or injured and so on and so forth might wake up having second thoughts about being on the planet. But what about those fortunate sentient beings who have shelter, food, clothing (or fur) and yes, even love, who wake up with dread of the coming day?

This is where the notion of courage enters. To face the unknown, which is one second later than now, a contemplative thought must enter the mind: change is inevitable, a continuum of bad to good - good to bad. Like a surfer riding the waves, the only way to keep one's equilibrium is to maintain balance. The secret is knowing that in between the extremes, there is a center point of neutrality wherein lies equanimity. Whether through meditation, yoga, prayer, therapy or all of the above, the imperative of the human being is to find a balance within a whirlwind of ever-changing circumstances.

If it were easy we would be eternally sunbathing in the oasis of our quiet minds. Since it seems that our inner and outer worlds don't always provide an idyllic picture, it is up to us to keep working on ourselves, always choosing to see clearly rather than allowing a dark shadow to cover our bliss.

is - mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.  

Friday, May 18, 2018

Man and Dog Under Bridge

While driving through a bridge underpass, I spotted a homeless man and his dog taking refuge from the blazing California sun in this fume-filled, gritty resting place. His complexion was grayed by a thin layer of dust, bony limbs crouching next to a bag of rags; most likely all he owned in this world.

Beside him stood his dog, tethered by a leash. This being was mid-size in stature; a mongrel but a pretty one that looked partially blonde lab and an unidentifiable breed that made him more delicate than the run of the mill lab.

The dog was having his dinner, calmly crunching on dry dog food pellets out of a shiny metal dog bowl. He looked as satisfied as any well-loved home pet eating his meal at 5:30 PM, the favored dinner hour of Americans. He looked like all dogs who are treated with care and consideration. not bothered by his unconventional place of dining. Yet, his owner was a homeless man who looked as if he had not eaten much in a number of months or years.

Sobs arose in my throat as I cut a sharp left onto the onramp of the 101 freeway, leaving behind two beings that would continue to live on in my imagination. The man had nothing in this world but his dog, who was eating with elegance, simplicity, and style. The compassion of that man and the kindly demeanor of the dog were more than I could bear.

How people live. How animals live. How we treat each other for better or for worse. An unfathomable riddle.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Looking for Love in War

When one becomes embroiled in a battle, whether it be a personal affair, a lawsuit, or an actual war, what is the cause for this eruption of disharmony?

At the most basic level, one could boil it down to a fear that one's needs are not being met, or that they are being threatened. Along with food, water and shelter, saftey is a key emotional and physical component that us humans -   and all creatures - require for a life well-lived.

While we all strive for harmony, it is conflicting perceptions that make us feel something will be taken from us if we do not fight to justify our position.

At the root of this miserable life-style lies the culprit: ego, that aspect of mind that spins a story and then commands its host (us) to do what the ego deems right and justified. Whatever opposes us also has an ego-driven story, spun from the bowels of deception as well. Thus, phantom fights phantom in an unreal world that appears so real.

Only when we become aware of that which drives the ego - that which can demystify "the story" and uncover the fear and its antidote love that lies hidden below - can we hit the source, the motherload, of all-that-is. Rich beyond all riches, the life source with never-ending solace and love. And then we rest in peace.

The Snake and the Rope

A man walks into a dark room and thinks he sees a snake coiled in the corner. Frightened, he runs to get a weapon of choice to vanquish the...