19 August 2011

So Beautiful or So What?

So Beautiful or So What
I’m going to make a chicken gumbo
Toss some sausage in the pot
I’m going to flavor it with okra
Cayenne pepper to make it hot
You know life is what we make of it
So beautiful or so what
I’m going to tell my kids a bedtime story
A play without a plot
Will it have a happy ending?
Maybe yeah, maybe not
I tell them life is what you make of it
So beautiful or so what
So beautiful
So beautiful
So what
I’m just a raindrop in a bucket
A coin dropped in a slot
I am an empty house on Weed Street
Across the road from the vacant lot
You know life is what you make of it
So beautiful or so what
Ain’t it strange the way we’re ignorant
How we seek out bad advice
How we jigger it and figure it
Mistaking value for the price
And play a game with time and love
Like pair of rolling dice
So beautiful
So beautiful
So what
Four men on the balcony
Overlooking the parking lot
Pointing at a figure in the distance
Dr. King has just been shot
And the sirens long melody
Singing Savior Pass Me Not
Ain’t it strange the way we’re ignorant
How we seek out bad advice
How we jigger it and figure it
Mistaking value for the price
And play a game with time and love
Like a pair of rolling dice
So beautiful
So beautiful
So beautiful

18 August 2011

Presence ~ Power ~ Now

My life grows in




Over and over the sensational thought comes:

How  did I miss this?  How did I not see this before?

Enlightenment:  not as a place finally reached or a level finally achieved.  More like a mirthful "duh"...realizing I was "there" all the time. Like discovering God was sitting right next to you the whole four hours you were wailing and gnashing your teeth, on your knees, beseeching "Please, please come..."

Yesterday morning I overheard a bit of conversation between two young women at a nearby cafe table. I was meeting a friend of my son's for the first time, a young woman new to the area with some pressing issues in her life situation. I was primed for listening and primed  to play the elder sister adviser.

In the eavesdropped conversation, I heard my own words from 25 years ago; the voice was different but the inflection was almost identical. What a breath catcher!  What an attention grabber!

Before I knew it, I was standing at their table..."Excuse me. I hope my interruption is not obtrusive. I just heard one of you say something that I said, almost verbatim, many years ago. This moment feels like a chance to take the hand of my younger self and share guidance...  Like a friendly time-warped 'pssst'..."

They were both extremely gracious young women. As our conversation unfurled in shimmering strands, they invited me to sit.  I declined because another young friend was waiting.  We shared a powerful, vibrant few moments more together before I finally took my leave and joined my son's friend. Judging from the temperature of the food on my plate, I was detained longer than I realized. The encounter happened outside of Time.

Later, as I was pulling away from the curb, one of the young women ran out of the restaurant and across traffic to ask one more question and ask for contact information.

In contrast to the singular nature of Now and Presence,

the not-Now has a million faces and gimmicks.  A popular egoic strategy lately, as I spend more and more time in Enlightenment looks something like this:

In my temporary guest lodgings, I share communal space with a middle-aged woman, her elderly father and several little dogs. One morning, I woke up to find a pissy mood bumping around inside me, looking for something to attach to.

As I drifted into wakefulness, I tried unsuccessfully to get clear on why I was in a bad mood.  Was it the elderly father?  Was it the dogs?  Was it jealousy or self-pity or arrogance?

Over and over I mentally approached a possible/likely notion but the closer I got to it, the less distinct it became. It was as though the bad mood could only exist in an unlit, shadowy, unexamined corner.

I didn't want to change the bad mood or understand it or heal it. There was no judgment. I just wanted to see it clearly and call it by its own name -- rather than allowing it to masquerade as me.

By the time I sat up and put my feet on the floor, there was nothing.  Nothing but the vast unruffled light-drenched vibrancy of Now.

And by the time I stood up, mind was frantic:  This is crazy! Freedom from mental suffering cannot be this easily achieved. Wait a minute!  Let's look at this again...there must surely be some perfectly good grounds for misery...  For several minutes, for example, from edge of bed to bathroom...through peeing, teeth brushing, face washing....I swing between Being and trying to get a closer look at that bad mood.

Finally, I decide to let it go and return to Now. But before I can take a full deep breath -- usually a reliable device for returning to Now -- my mind panics again.  Yikes! What was it Tolle said? What chapter contained the instructions for return?!  Damn!  I don't remember my way back to Now!

There, in the mirror. My eyes...  I catch my eye. Eye contact reminds me

There is the noise in my head and there's the One who is the awareness of the noise in my head. The one who looks out/in at me through the baby's gaze in the mirror.

In that instant, I am home again.  On the other side of the glass. I am God again. It is Now and I am free.

15 August 2011

In the Baby's Gaze

I am living somewhat nomadic again. Living in places and spaces where I do not receive mail. Sleeping in places and spaces where I receive mail and my stuff is in cardboard boxes.

New keys coming and going on my key ring. Learning security codes and lock-up procedures that I won't need this time next week.

Being introduced to people who are "neighbors" to you and "strangers" to me. Struggling to formulate a response when they ask "Where are you from?" or "Where do you live?" [Note:  That isn't true. I don't struggle. I pull out my old standby:  "The Earth is my home."]

Cooking less and eating simpler because I'm negotiating someone else's kitchen, i.e., "Where do they keep their spatula?" vs  letting the apple and granola bar in my backpack be dinner tonight.

Talking less because most of the humans around me are in a hurry on their way to their usual places...and I am passing through at a decidedly more leisurely pace. There just doesn't seem to be enough time to say everything we need to say.  So we say little.

And talking more because stories about travel and new places and new things always seem to take longer to tell. And I always seem to be drinking wine or Cosmopolitans while telling the story.

There are momentary lapses in geographic orientation. Some mornings I wake up and for a full 5 seconds have no idea where I am. It's a very trippy feeling....

There's also the incomplete familiarity of driving down a street, in a town where I once lived,  but unable to find my way to Point A, B or C from where I am. Ten years ago I could have driven the route with my eyes closed.  Or, perhaps I did, which is why I can't find my way today.

My lifestyle is nomadic again and I am feeling like Sojourner.  Feeling somewhat how I felt when I started this blog.  For one thing, sojourning still brings out the "reporter" in me. I become very observant and want to share my observations.

Earlier today, I stopped for gas at a station I used a lot last year. The cashier on duty was familiar to me. She is a middle-aged blonde woman who has always seemed sullen and impatient. Today, she seemed different when I went in to leave my debit card as security on a fill-up.  When I returned to retrieve the card, she was absolutely beaming.

Making full-on eye contact and wearing a big smile, she asked "Have you seen "The Help"?

"No," I replied.  "I read the book last year.  Have you seen it?"

"Oh, yes!" she was bubbly now. "It's great.  I loved it.  I saw it with my girlfriends.  Go see it!  It's great."

"Well, I'm half-hearing the controversy...  I know there's quite a bit of controversy surrounding it..."

"Oh, pi-shaww!" She handed me my receipt and made a dismissive gesture. "Just go see it.  It's great."

Day before yesterday, a forwarded email offered links I could follow for "a Black perspective" on 'The Help'.  I did not follow any of the links.

Two or three times in the week before, Black friends confiding about current struggles in their lives pointed to how White people contributed to their hardship. Each time the conversation turned that way, it felt like I was entering a lucid dream. Like I could see and hear things but knew my fingers would pass right through if I tried to touch or grasp anything.

I've experienced some thought and feeling reaction to recent "race talk" and the social buzz in the air around the film "The Help" (which is just more masked--or unmasked--"race talk").

But nothing lasted long enough to trigger a blog post. The thoughts and feelings didn't gain traction in my mind and pretty quickly floated away.  Forgotten until the next mention of the movie or some other race-tinged comment by friends or media. 

Today "disinterested" seemed like the right word. I am not interested enough in my thoughts and feelings about race and racism and etc. to share them with the world through this blog. I am disinterested.

But when I did a Google Image search on "disinterested" --thinking I would blog about my disinterest -- I did not like the results. The faces in these pics looked sad or pissed or bored or repulsed.  None of those faces looked like my face.

I stood before the mirror in this room where I slept for the first time last night. I thought about race and racism and media and controversy and I stared at my face.  I watched my face while I thought about race and racism and media and controversy.

It was my eyes that my eyes kept returning to. What's in those eyes, I asked myself. What is that look? 

The words "baby's gaze" came to mind.

So I Googled "baby's gaze."

The images in this post are some of my favorites from that Google harvest.

Sojourning...with a baby's gaze.

That is the practice.

05 August 2011

Beyond Naming

Brain Storm by Thomas Dodd
A few minutes ago I noticed I was grinding my teeth.  "What's going on with me?" I wondered.

What seemed at first to be "anxiety" turned out to be more like sadness or guilt on closer inspection.

Some very good things have happened today and, as far as I can tell, they are happening without any effort on my part.  So the unconscious chatter in my mind ran along the lines of  "Undeserving!" and "You lazy piece of shit!" and resulted in teeth-grinding and a general feeling of malaise.

Wow (again).  Ego is relentless....  Tireless in its efforts to weave a dark, dramatic cocoon for me to live in.

Of course, that's like saying "My lungs are relentless about oxygen intake!"

Lungs do what lungs do, eyes do what eyes do and ego does what ego does -- create suffering.  

It was when the message began to shift from "You worthless piece of shit" to "I feel bad; I need a cigarette" that a little bell rang inside me. One of those mindfulness bells that Thich Nhat Hanh talks about.  

"Wait a minute....  I don't need a cigarette. In fact, I actually don't want to smoke.  Who said 'I need a cigarette?'"

Just because I think it, doesn't make  it true.  
Doesn't make it false, either. Just makes it a thought.

A few days ago I was returning from a rich three hours at piano in the home of a generous acquaintance.  The Bay Area A.M. fog was just beginning to lift; the sun shone high and strong. It was another one of those situations -- good things happening without my control or contribution. 

Within minutes, my thoughts turned to self pity:  "I don't have a home with a piano...my mother didn't encourage my artistic yearning when I was young....I lost too many years trying to be what she wanted...I'm out of time now to make my dreams come true...how pathetic!--an old homeless lady begging for practice time on somebody else's instrument..."

I  was feeling bad. "What's going on with me?" I wondered.  

I looked at my thoughts.  I became aware  that I was believing my thoughts, i.e., taking my identity in that moment from the stream of thought.  "Oh, this is how I feel...this is who I am."

"No" said the wise and loving heart of Practice.  "That is not who I am.  That IS what I'm thinking but it is NOT who I am."

It is true:  awareness of Thought as Thought automatically removes identification with the thought. It's not that I stop thinking what I'm thinking. It's more like I abandon the thought and become Awareness.

If I think of my life as a house, it's as though after an eternity of staring at the floor and feeling cramped, I have recently looked up and discovered that there are no walls or ceiling, no doors to lock or blinds to draw... There's nothing wrong.  Nothing very good (or very bad) is happening;  things just are the way they are.


01 August 2011


Sitting in the sun
eyes closed
following my breath
because my hand cramped and I had to lay down the guitar
and that scared me

I was freaking out, imagination running like wild fire
thinking about
hating myself for years of neglect

and I went
my attention went to my breath
breathing, the journey of breath in my body.
Almost immediately, I touch Life Source, Presence
the undefined Now.
Just from going to Breath.  To say "placed my attention" implies too deliberate a gesture. It is more like acceptance or surrender.

Acceptance of everything:  my thoughts
the sound of a distant helicopter overhead
and my thoughts about the sound
of a helicopter approaching overhead.

Surrender to Now
whatever that is.

Ego resists. And I surrender to the resistance. And the resistance disappears, as gently as darkness disappears in the presence of light.
But it always returns.  Ego persists in resistance
and I surrender again
when resistance surfaces again.
It is astounding, how ferociously ego resists complete surrender to unmediated Now consciousness.

A child frets in the garden next door.
An insect buzzes in my left ear.
The sun is extravagant warmth on the back of my neck.
I surrender. I accept.

I am in the "out beyond ideas" field that Rumi speaks of.
With God, out beyond ideas of God.

In that moment, flooded with awareness of the vastness of the cosmos
I feel a breeze playing against my cheek and open my eyes; the treetops are rippling in time to the breeze and I think of how a honeybee feels the subtle undulation of flower petals against its wings.
And suddenly I am a honeybee and the tree is a flower.

This amazes me for a moment -- and then it is no longer amazing.  It simply is.

And then, in an instant the whole thing is gone:  the perception, the amazement....

Back to Now