The Nail on the Head


Of my favorite things few come close to two of them: 1) Finding good music I have not heard before 2) Discovering the meaningful work of an author I was previously unaware of. This week a writer unknown to me named Dan Millman came across my path. Dan’s a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor. His story goes that after an intensive, twenty-year spiritual quest, his thoughts formed into something he calls the “Peaceful Warrior’s Way”. He is an insightful man and his thoughts about life hit the nail on the head for me.

Life has three rules: Paradox, Humor, and Change.

– Paradox: Life is a mystery; don’t waste your time trying to figure it out.

– Humor: Keep a sense of humor, especially about yourself. It is a strength beyond all measure

– Change: Know that nothing ever stays the same.

So be gentle with yourself; show yourself the same kindness and patience you might show a young child – the child you once were. If you won’t be your own friend, who will be? If, when playing an opponent, you are also opposing yourself, you will be outnumbered.

There is no need to search; achievement leads to nowhere. It makes no difference at all, so just be happy now! Love is the only reality of the world, because it is all One, you see. And the only laws are paradox, humor and change. There is no problem, never was, and never will be. Release your struggle, let go of your mind, throw away your concerns, and relax into the world. No need to resist life, just do your best. Open your eyes and see that you are far more than you imagine. You are the world, you are the universe; you are yourself and everyone else, too! It’s all the marvelous Play of God. Wake up, regain your humor. Don’t worry, just be happy. You are already free!

Finding new expressive material that can help me gain new insight makes me feel like a kid  who received the birthday gift he wished for. I am grateful for the work of Dan Millman and look forward to knowing him better through his writing. Dan’s webiste can be found here:

Be happy now,
without reason;
or you never will be at all.
Dan Millman

Nobility of Spirit


In a quiet moment after my morning meditation I began thinking about those people who have most influenced my spirituality. A prominent person on that list whose writing I began to read about a decade ago is religious studies scholar, Huston Smith. He was raised by Methodist missionary parents and became a minister. Later for more than ten years each he practiced Vedanta, Zen Buddhism and Sufi Islam.

Huston Smith studied long, walked many spiritual paths and is considered one of the foremost authorizes in the world on the common threads running through all religions. He has said of these commonalities, “If we take the world’s enduring religions at their best, we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race. ”

Huston Smith lost his oldest daughter Karen about ten years ago and I remember clearly reading about it. Later in 2009 John Blake of CNN wrote:

Smith… was struggling. He said his daughter’s illness forced him to call upon the spiritual traditions he had studied for much of his life.

He thought about the “Five Remembrances” that some Buddhist monks chant each day: I will lose my youth, my health, my loved ones, everything I hold dear and, finally, life itself by the very nature of being human.

Smith said those remembrances told him that the transient nature of life does not mean people should love others less but more. Smith then recalled a quote from Buddha: “Suffering, if it does not diminish love, will transport you to the furthest shore.”

Karen died one night as Smith sat beside her bed. Smith sobbed uncontrollably. He said that at the moment of his daughter’s death, he had trouble believing in what he had long written about: God’s “justice and perfection.”

Yet even when he was doubled over in anguish beside his daughter’s bed, she seemed to be reaching out to him. As he sat alone with Karen’s body, in the moments after her death, he suddenly stopped crying.

He could somehow sense her presence in the room.

“The sensation was so palpable I almost turned around, expecting to see her,” he said.

“Nobody wants to learn from a child how to die well, but I learned it from Karen,” he said.

Smith traveled around the world to study under some of the most famous spiritual masters. But it was his daughter who became one of his greatest teachers.
“She taught me nobility of spirit,” he said.

My daily meditation practice has returned to be what I do most mornings while the coffee is brewing. There’s something special about my not fully awake mind that’s yet to be crowded with thoughts of the day that makes this time the best for contemplation. I am grateful for the inspiration to return to meditating. It does me a lot of good!

Quiet the mind,
and the soul will speak.
Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

Wildly and Dangerously Free


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colors,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach (boat) of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
“Beannacht” (Blessing)
from “Anna Cara:
A Book of Celtic Wisdom”
by John O’Dononue

Only recently have I discovered the writings of John O’Donohue and I thankful for the finding. He was a contemporary Irish poet, author, priest, and philosopher who lived only fifty-three years. His eloquent words are akin to prayers, just the kind that touch me deepest.

It is a strange and wonderful fact to be here, walking around in a body,
to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you.
It is an immense privilege… We are here.
We are wildly and dangerously free.
John O’Donohue

My Imperfectly Human Best

1043876_210391202449050_1194153786_nNow that my physical youth is mostly gone, it’s interesting to read what others wrote while young. Usually at the time a youthful writer puts down their thoughts with the belief that his or her vantage point can only be understood by someone about the same age. I once thought that but I was wrong. Much of my writing when I was in my teens and 20’s is remarkably still true here in my 50’s.

If you’re young you’ll find the following by an unknown writer to be quite meaningful I suspect. If you’re older, I have little doubt you’ll relate to what follows as I did. It reminds me that what was once felt as a young person, is still very much alive inside me today.

…at some point, you’re gonna sit in your bed all night and cry about everything that’s happened to you that day. you’re gonna have a day where everything goes perfect. nothing is ever going to go as it’s planned. you’re going to have a best friend then find out that they talk s#it about you behind your back. you’re going to meet the most amazing person in the world, fall in love, and then get left behind and forgotten about a month later. you’re going to go on vacation and miss everything about it when you leave. you’re going to have the best day of your life. you’re going to have moments where you feel like nothing could bring down and everything is perfect. you’re going to go to parties, and get taken advantage of. you’re going to get drunk and say something that you regret saying. you’re going to have someone who you share everything with, then slowly fade away from each other and eventually never talk again. you’re going to take pictures and think “what was I thinking?” a year later. you’re going to go on the most amazing trip and meet the most amazing people ever and then never talk to or see them again. you’re going to fall in and out of love. you’re going to tell someone something and it’s going to spread around. you’re going to read something that breaks your heart, but you can’t stop reading it over and over. you’re going to miss someone everyday but not do anything about it. you’re going to have awkward moments where you see someone and remember everything you’ve been through together. you’re going to be a bitch [bastard] to someone but not realize how much it affected them. you’re going to have to act like you don’t care when really, you’re heart-broken. you’re going to kiss people and regret it later. you’re going to miss a lot. don’t slow down. don’t have regrets. don’t live in the future. live for right now. smile. you’re young. and only getting older. don’t let anyone stop you.

The person I was at five, fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five, forty-five and fifty-five years of age is still very much within me. Life has molded me into a composite of all my ages. There is enough insight gained to know the secret to some measure of contentment is to hold on tightly to the good and let go of the bad as quickly as possible. My silent motto is “learn what is to be learned and move on”. Doing my imperfectly human best at that, my heart, mind and soul has become filled with a wealth of wisdom. Life is still hard, but it is good. I am grateful to realize what matters most is inside me and nowhere else.

Knowledge is like an endless resource;
a well of water that satisfies the innate thirst
of the growing human soul.
Therefore never stop learning…
because the day you do,
you will also stop maturing.
Chidi Okonkwo

We’re All Just Wandering Souls

1096582075_a6747a9a9fSomething happened yesterday where my feelings became hurt more so than in a long while. I presented myself to another person in a way I thought was honest and caring. My comrade found great offense in what I said. This was unexpected. I thought I had acted in an authentic and thoughtful way. Profusely I apologized for offending him, but my apology was not accepted. Over time I hope it is, but whether acceptance happens or not is out of my hands.

The gist of my thoughts this morning are not about specifically what happened. Rather, I am thinking of the realization once again how pain teaches. A moment’s painfulness can be a positive teaching that lasts for a lifetime. Pain not embraced will carry forward negatively and the clinging will bring only more pain. Learning to feel my pain then giving it the attention it demands has become a rich source of wisdom.

Pain is a great teacher, it constantly reminds us to work on our ego and get back to our presence. Pain is the attention seeking activity of our body, signaling to our mind that we need to pay attention… When we give attention to a particular area, that attention becomes energy for that area which aids in healing it.

The moment we lack attention, then pain invariably happens. Therefore, pain is actually the absence of attention, so the solution to get out of pain is by giving your presence. …if we look deeply within, every pain is because of our internal investment of our ego. Wherever we have invested our ego, we will suffer. Teo Siew Yong

Today I feel no animosity toward my friend who reacted with anger toward me. We’re all just wandering souls trying to find our way. The words spoken I found hurtful have been felt and I have moved past them. Mixed in was a piece of truth I needed to hear, no matter how it was presented. And it is that gift of insight I am grateful for.

“Turn towards me”, my pain whispers. “Just for a moment. Do not be afraid. I am made of you.”

“But I don’t know how to turn”, I reply.

Pain responds, “Feel me upon you, relax and fall into me; then my power to hurt you will be made small”.

After being given example after example over time, you’d think I would no longer be impressed at the amount of wisdom to be found in pain. I am grateful to have grown and matured enough to usually be able to embrace pain’s teaching and move on. The still fascinating part is how my accepting pain causes it to depart so quickly.

World’s use is cold,
World’s love is vain,
World’s cruelty is bitter bane;
But pain is not the fruit of pain.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Before the Throne of Beauty

mother-natureOne heavy day I ran away from the grim face of society and the dizzying clamor of the city and directed my weary step to the spacious alley. I pursued the beckoning course of the rivulet and the musical sounds of the birds until I reached a lonely spot where the flowing branches of the trees prevented the sun from the touching the earth.

I stood there, and it was entertaining to my soul – my thirsty soul who had seen naught but the mirage of life instead of its sweetness.

I was engrossed deeply in thought and my spirits were sailing the firmament when an hour, wearing a sprig of grapevine that covered part of her naked body, and a wreath of poppies about her golden hair, suddenly appeared to me. As she realized my astonishment, she greeted me saying, “Fear me not; I am the Nymph of the Jungle.”

“How can beauty like yours be committed to live in this place? Please tell me who you are, and whence you come?” I asked. She sat gracefully on the green grass and responded, “I am the symbol of nature! I am the ever virgin your forefathers worshipped, and to my honor they erected shrines and temples…” And I dared say, “But those temples and shrines were laid waste and the bones of my adoring ancestors became a part of the earth; nothing was left to commemorate their goddess save a pitiful few and the forgotten pages in the book of history.”

She replied, “Some goddesses live in the lives of their worshippers and die in their deaths, while some live an eternal and infinite life. My life is sustained by the world of beauty which you will see where ever you rest your eyes, and this beauty is nature itself; it is the beginning of the shepherds joy among the hills, and a villagers happiness in the fields, and the pleasure of the awe filled tribes between the mountains and the plains. This Beauty promotes the wise into the throne the truth.”

Then I said, “Beauty is a terrible power!” And she retorted, “Human beings fear all things, even yourselves. You fear heaven, the source of spiritual peace; you fear nature, the haven of rest and tranquility; you fear the God of goodness and accuse him of anger, while he is full of love and mercy.”

After a deep silence, mingled with sweet dreams, I asked, “Speak to me of that beauty which the people interpret and define, each one according to his own conception; I have seen her honored and worshipped in different ways and manners.”

She answered, “Beauty is that which attracts your soul, and that which loves to give and not to receive. When you meet Beauty, you feel that the hands deep within your inner self are stretched forth to bring her into the domain of your heart. It is the magnificence combined of sorrow and joy; it is the Unseen which you see, and the Vague which you understand, and the Mute which you hear – it is the Holy of Holies that begins in yourself and ends vastly beyond your earthly imagination.”

Then the Nymph of the Jungle approached me and laid her scented hands upon my eyes. And as she withdrew, I found me alone in the valley. When I returned to the city, whose turbulence no longer vexed me, I repeated her words: “Beauty is that which attracts your soul, and that which loves to give and not to receive.” “Before the Throne of Beauty XXVI” by Kahlil Gibran

Kahlil Gibran’s work has been deeply meaningful to me since my introduction to it back in my “hippie days” in the 70’s. More than most things, his words have stayed with me, inspired me, taught me and helped me through my most difficult times. I am grateful to Gibran for his writing that has brought me a better understanding of my sorrows and joys, has made the unseen seeable, has allowed the vague to be more understandable and allowed what is silent to be known.

Beauty is eternity
gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity
and you are the mirror.
Kahlil Gibran

Image by Tusi Roy

Patient Teacher

forest starkIt has been said that life is the most patient teacher. You will be presented with the same experience over and over until you learn the best way to deal with the situation. This is not because life is cruel. Rather, it is because things have a way of coming back to haunt us when we don’t deal with them. One form of intelligence is the ability to learn from mistakes. When you are presented with a painful experience, take the time to think about how you can avoid it in the future.

Young, carefree, innocent
You sing, laugh and dance
Taking in all Gods’ glory
At every single chance.

Grown up
You ignore the wonders
that you cherished as a child
Gone is the carefree, honesty and mild.

You walk around with blinders on,
Into the race of money and greed.
Not caring who gets hurt
Just to fulfill your selfish needs.

Stepping over the line of morals
to have wealth and material things
Ignoring all Gods gifts
Like the first rain in Spring

Keep that little child inside!
Hold her close to your heart,
We’re only here for a brief time
Then with this world, we must part.
From “Carefree” by Nordica D. Lindgren

Some days to simply say “I am glad I’m alive” and mean it is the greatest gratitude I can express. “I’m glad I’m alive!”

Saying thank you is more than good manners.
It is good spirituality.
Alfred Painter

Peacefulness Within

Christmas-Presents-dIt’s Christmas Eve and I feel genuinely happy for the second year in a row. Little outside of me has changed. I still have my share of issues, troubles and things to sort out. However, what is inside me has grown to be mostly mellow and calm. There is a peacefulness within that allows me to be more fully present in the moment than ever before. And that is the gift I am most grateful for.

Love Was Born at Christmas

It has been a lot of years since I can remember having the spirit of Christmas alive and frolicking within as I do this year. It could easily be true I have never been this happy at this time of year.  The little boy who lives inside me is enjoying reports of Santa’s progress in my direction.  The grownup within is dazzled by the feeling inside that sparkles and shines brightly like the lights of the season.  My eyes see Christmas. My ears hear the music.  My mouth tastes the food.  My nose smells the trees.  My touch feels bows and wrapping paper.  My heart is soft and childlike, yet touched deeply in mature ways.  Santa is coming.  Christ-mas is near.   

Eva K. Logue
A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
It makes no noise at all,
But softly gives itself away;
While quite unselfish, it grows small.

Emily Matthews
From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another
The warmth and joy of Christmas, brings us closer to each other.

Christina Rossetti
Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.

Phillips Brooks
The earth has grown old with its burden of care
But at Christmas it always is young,
The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
And its soul full of music breaks the air,
When the song of angels is sung.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on Earth, good will to men!

Helen Lowrie Marshall
The merry family gatherings –
The old, the very young;
The strangely lovely way they
Harmonize in carols sung.
For Christmas is tradition time
Traditions that recall
The precious memories down the years,
The sameness of them all.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox
When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow,
We hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago,
And etched on vacant places
Are half-forgotten faces
Of friends we used to cherish,
And loves we used to know. 

Calvin Coolidge
Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.
To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.

Augusta E. Rundel
Christmas… that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance.
It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.

If only for a day, the world will be just a little safer, a little more peaceful and life will arrive with a little more kindness.  Even the bad guys and criminals are not quite as busy on Christmas.  For every gift ever received I am grateful.  For every hardship and lack that taught to appreciate them I am even more thankful. Merry Christmas!

Were I a philosopher, I should write a philosophy of toys,
showing that no thing else in life need to be taken seriously,
and that Christmas Day in the company of children
is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive
Robert Lynd

Too Much Work and Not Enough Play

rudolphEleven days off work has turned out to be one of the best experiences I have had in ages. Once again I am reminded that too much work and not enough play dulls my senses and washes the color from my life.  In the spirit of that statement I have taken the liberty of re-posting today from a Christmas past.

Originally Posted on December 22, 2011

Yesterday day at work I recited to someone an alternate version of a favorite Christmas song he had never heard.  With it fresh on my mind, I tried it out on two others who it turned out had never heard it as well.  So today it is getting shared here for the “betterment of posterity”.

I have no exact memory of how old I was, but my favorite uncle taught me this alternate version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” when I was still in elementary school.  It took him teaching me on and off for a full weekend before all the words were indelibly stamped in my brain where they have remained now for fifty years.  Here goes:

Randolph, the bow-legged cowboy
Had a very shiny gun
And if you ever saw it
You would turn about and run.

All of the other cowboys
Used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Randolph
Join in any poker games.

Then one day the bank was robbed
And sheriff came to say
“Randolph with your gun so bright
Won’t you guide my posse tonight?”

Then all the cowgirls loved him
As they shouted out with glee
Randolph the bow-legged cowboy
You’ll go down in history!

There are many alternate versions of Christmas carols and poetry of the season, but none I enjoy more than this slightly twisted version of “Twas the Night before Christmas”.  It is a reminder of what the season is truly about.

Tis the month before Christmas, we’re all going nuts;
With so much to do, there are no ifs, ands or buts.
Buy presents, hang tree lights, pop cards in the mail,
Send gift packs, thread popcorn, find turkeys on sale.

Decorations need stringing up all through the house.
And you haven’t a clue what to buy for your spouse.
School concerts, receptions, open houses with friends,
Long lineups, short tempers, tying up the loose ends.

With all our mad dashing, we’re reeling from shock;
Let’s stop for a minute and really take stock.
It’s crassly commercial, the cynical say;
If that’s true, that our fault… it’s us and not they.

Take time for yourself-though hard as that seems—
Enjoy your kids’ laughter, excitement and dreams.
Take a moment out now, don’t get overly riled,
Instead make an angel in snow with your child.

The shortbread can wait, and so can the tree;
What’s important to feel is a child’s sense of glee.
The holidays aren’t about push, rush and shove;
They’re for friendship and sharing and family love.

Hear the bells, feel the warmth, light up with the glow
Of a message first sent to us so long ago:
Peace, love and goodwill, and hope burning bright.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Now is the time of heightened goodwill, of giving, of loving one and all.  It is a time of celebration of children; the ones we adults used to be, the ones we brought into the world and the one who was born in a manger over two thousand years ago.

Aldous Huxley wrote:  Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.  Without doubt that phrase was abundantly true about me during much of my life.  This year I have more Christmas spirit than I probably have ever had and the reason is two-fold and simple:  I have more love in my life than ever before and my gratitude for living is at an all time high and growing.

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
Charles Dickens