Friday, July 31, 2009

In Season

Berries have their season of freshness.
Flowers have their season of blooms.
Fruit has its season of ripeness.
Everything has its own world line.

The Tao holds all seasons of freshness.
The Tao holds all seasons of flowering.
The Tao holds all seasons of ripeness.
Season upon season upon season.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Travel Guide

When the way is clear,
we move forward at a steady pace.

When the clouds move in,
we go more slowly.

When the fog is too thick to see the path,
we slow to a crawl.

When darkness is upon us,
we sit and wait.

Act on what you know.
Wait for what you don't know.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reflections of a Spiritual Life

Our religious life reflects our spiritual life.

When our spiritual life is sick, our religious life is full of fear, and our actions betray it.

We become judgmental, arrogant, intolerant. We condemn. We demonize. We exclude.

When our spiritual life is well, our religious life is patient and giving and kind.

We become compassionate, accepting, complete. We contemplate. We discern. We build community.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Guidance Systems

Too often, we allow our religious life to steer the course of our spiritual life.

As we grow older, we find things go better when we allow our spiritual life to guide our religious life, instead.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Desperate Choices

Faith is a choice. And because it is a choice, we can put off making it if we want to. Why make a decision about something until we have to?

Without faith, though, how can we see that we have a spiritual life? And if we don't recognize our spiritual life, how can we live and appreciate it?

Faith is that choice to see, not just look.

But again, why make a choice about something until we have to?

Most of us don't -- until we find we are powerless to control our world.

At that point, it's more of a discovery than a choice.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Discernment and Faith

Discernment has to do with how we decide what we decide.

Discernment comes when we reach a crossroads that isn't on our map -- when there's no clear way forward. When we can't get the answers we need from outside ourselves, we have turn to the only other place available to us -- inside.

This is discernment. Its fruits are the answers that arise from within us when we seek insight.

But where do the answers come from? How do we know we can trust them?

We don't. This is why we invented faith.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Answering the Knock of Distractions

When a distraction presents itself at the gates of our mind, the interruption can be a welcome guest or an unwelcome one.

In a world where cause and effect are not always clear, and coincidences are not always as coincidental as they appear, it pays to pay attention to that interrupting knock, though -- at least to see who or what is standing outside.

Sometimes, distractions are the only ways insight can enter in.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Making Ripples

Every pebble on the shore of a lake holds within it an infinite supply of ripples.

This is where you come in.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Kitchens of Stars

The elements that make up everything we see and hear and taste and smell and touch were cooked up inside the furnaces of stars.

So were we.

Did the stars know what they were doing while they were baking the matter that would become our world, our skin, our hair? It seems doubtful.

What are we making with our lives that we're likewise unaware of?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Helping the World

If you want to help the world become a better place, don't start with the whole world. It's too big.

It's much easier to help one person have a better life. In helping that one, you help the whole world.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Internal Compass

East and west and south and north. Where we have come from imprints itself on us in many ways. The experiences we have traveled through leave a residue we cannot wash away. Where we arrive after all of these many steps depends on where we have been.

We are always arriving somewhere. Where we go next is up to us -- whether we realize it or not.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Turning Point

The earth turns into plants
then into animals and then
back into dirt once again.

The ocean evaporates
into clouds then turns into rain
then into streams and rivers
then into the ocean again.

See? Every turn is
another starting point.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Hard Gift

What a hard gift it is to be hurt by a friend.

Sometimes, this is the only way to understand forgiveness -- the forgiveness we give even when we haven't been asked for it.

Sometimes when the wounds go deep enough, we also have to discover how to forgive ourselves for letting go of a hurtful friend.

When we can forgive our own mournful soul its many hurts, we can forgive any hurtfulness. When we can forgive any hurt with an open and honest heart, we become free of fear.

When we become free of fear, compassion rushes in to fill the void.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Stop Worrying About Your Name

We cannot control what other people think of us. We can try to influence what they think by the way we treat them, but we don't get to decide how they actually see us.

We can only control what we think of ourselves. And the only true way we can control what we think of ourselves is to become who we want to think we are.

To become who we want to think we are, we start by discovering who we are. We do this by looking back at ourselves -- to see ourselves as another might.

This is how the universe begins.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Growing Older

I am amazed at how much deeper life becomes the farther I swim out into it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Unselfishness and Selflessness

To be unselfish is to put the interests of others before the interests of my "self." Unselfishness is a way of navigating the complexities of the "selfs" of the world. It grows out of our separateness.

To be selfless is less about the interplay between my "self" and the "selfs" of others and more about the absence of "self" altogether. Selflessness grows out of our oneness.

Unselfish and selfless. We are both -- just as we are both separate and one.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Five Pains

First is the pain we create for ourselves.
Second is the pain we create for others.
Third is the pain others create for us.
Fourth is the pain others create for themselves.

The first teaches humility.
The second teaches justice.
The third teaches forgiveness.
The fourth teaches compassion.

The fifth is the pain of not learning.
It teaches nothing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Bending Tree

The tree that bends withstands the storm.
The reed that bends withstands the river.
The dancer who bends withstands the dance.

The bending river wears away stone.
The bending fire clears away forests.
A bending soul wears away adversity.

When you let go of controlling the world,
the door of your cell swings open before you.

Monday, July 13, 2009

What the Grave Takes Away

A few weeks after my father died in the fall of 1980, I remember looking at my hands and thinking about his hands. His surgeon hands. His piano-playing hands.

I thought what a loss it was that they were no longer in the world.

The world survived his passing, though -- and with barely a notice beyond his circle of family, patients, friends, acquaintances. Such is the realm of time and space. Life goes on.

Learning to live with that is another step toward wisdom.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Illusion or Reality?

Is the universe an illusion? It depends on how you define illusion.

If you mean it is temporary, then yes, it is an illusion.

If you mean it doesn't really exist at all, then no, it is not an illusion.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Open Me

Open my eyes so I may see.
Open my ears so I may hear.
Open my hands so I may help.
Open my arms so I may embrace.
Open my mind so I may comprehend.
Open my heart so I may care.
Open my life so I may be who I already am.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cracking Shells

Crack open the shell of a peanut, and you will see something no one else has ever seen before.

Crack open the shell of your life, and the world will gain a perspective it has never had before.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Mystery of Life

What a mystery it is to be alive.

What a terror, a blessing, a dream, a curiosity it is to wake up each morning and realize we're still in the world.

What a painful joy. What an amusing bewilderment. What a brilliant darkness, an opaque light.

No wonder we keep showing up for it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Feeding the Hungry

When we feed the hungry among us, we are also feeding the Tao. When we feed the Tao, we are also feeding ourselves.

All are one in the Tao.

When we clothe the ragged, comfort the sick, or visit the imprisoned, we are also attending to the Tao. When we attend to the Tao, we are also attending to ourselves.

All are one in the Tao.

How do we know this? By how we feel when we feed, clothe, comfort, and attend to others.

And by how we feel when we don't.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

That Still, Small Voice

I spent the first half of my life looking for spiritual truth outside of myself -- seeking it from preachers, the Bible, my parents, Sunday school teachers, and others who claimed to know what God wanted of me.

After discovering that the ground of others' faith wasn't necessarily as solid as I'd been led to believe, I've spent my later years treading my own interior landscape and listening to that "still, small voice" I find there. It has proven to be a much more reliable guide.

At least for me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Four Things Everchanging

Four things are everchanging,
yet always staying the same.
The surface of a lake.
The wind across grassland.
The flames of a fire.
The sky on a cloudy day.

So, too, is a life lived
in balance with the Tao.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Long Lives of Rivers

Rivers live long lives. Rocks live long lives. Rivers live longer lives.

Rivers last because they are metaphors of forgiveness. When they encounter the hard edges of stone, they let go of their natural course and find another way down.

And yet, they carry away with them the rocks that block their current, one grain at a time. It is long work.

This is why rivers endure.

And forgiveness.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Freedom of Religion. Freedom from Religion.

I'm less interested in religious freedom than I am in spiritual freedom. Spiritual freedom doesn't have to be codified as a human right. Spiritual freedom takes place between our ears and in our hearts. It is a private affair until we choose to make it public.

That's often when religious freedom becomes an issue for us.

Friday, July 3, 2009

On Sparrows

Sparrows peck at the dirt under a tree and fly away into its branches like escaping criminals when I walk past. Which is more stunning? That the Tao sustains them in their daily life? Or that they exist at all?

How miraculously small we are.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ask. Seek. Knock.

Ask and you'll receive. Seek and you'll find. Knock and the door will burst open for you.

When Jesus made these claims, he wasn't talking about the material world of time and space. He was talking about our spiritual lives.

When we ask for spiritual insight, we receive it. When we seek spiritual truth, we find it all around us. When we knock on the door of the Tao, we discover there is no door.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Pearls of Pain

All pain, no matter where it comes from, contains within it a pearl of great value. The greater the pain, the more precious the pearl.

However, we must believe the pearl is indeed in our pain, and we must look for it. Otherwise, we'll never gain its benefit, and our suffering will become a gift we never unwrap.