Thursday, December 31, 2009

At What Age?

At what age do we stop letting our children win the foot race and start running our best to push them to run their best?

At what age do we let go of the strings we've pulled since they were infants in our arms?

At what age do we step back and let them fail?

At what age do we let go of our ideas of what they should do and be?

At what age do we stop caring about what others think of them?

At what age do we stop worrying about what we think they reveal about us?

Just how old do we have to be?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Shelf-Life of Happiness

Happiness has a shorter shelf-life than pain.

Over time, pleasant memories fade
into a solitary image -- a snapshot in the yard
with a water hose in the middle of summer.

Painful memories push deeper as they grow older,
like the long, heavy roots of an old tree.
They are bearing the heavier load.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chopping Off Heads

Why do I chop off someone's head and jam it on a pike (metaphorically, of course) when I know deep inside that I'm raising my hand against myself whenever I raise it against another?

Why is it so hard to feel connected to others in certain situations? Why is it so hard to see our oneness? Why is it so hard to see that we are so much more than we think we are?

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Questions You Cannot Answer

Waiting for an answer when you already know the answer is the same as asking a question you cannot answer.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Three Paths

We each follow
three paths in our lifetime.

The first is the path
of our parents and ancestors.
This is the way things were.

The second is the path
of our friends and peers.
This is the way things are.

The third path is the path
of our children and grandchildren.
This is the way we want things to be.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Winter Solstice

On the shortest day of the year,
the sun sits motionless on the lip of winter.
A new season begins as another year ends.
The universe continues its unfolding
like an endless bolt of cloth.
To ask why is useless, but
it's still a worthwhile meditation
on such a long, clear night.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Beach of Sand

A beach of sand.
A mountain of boulders.
An ocean of rain.
A lifetime of moments.
The Tao of ten thousand things.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Forgiveness and Apology

Forgiveness is something I do in response to someone else's behavior.

Apology is something I do in response to my own behavior.

They are mirror images of one another -- forgiveness and apology. They teach us both about ourselves and about others.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Which Is Harder?

Which is harder to take,
the first step of a journey or the last?

Which is harder to believe,
the first sentence of a book or the last?

Which is harder to surrender,
the first faith given or the last faith found?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Piece of Wood Floating

A piece of wood floating down a stream
follows the current around rocks and over
rapids and shoals and past gravel bars.
It has no mind of where it is going.
It has no will to chart a different course.
It simply floats along effortlessly
on a watery surface always changing.
It bangs into boulders sometimes.
It drags and scrapes over tiny, hard stones.
It drifts across the warm, still body
of a long pool in the middle of the day.
After miles and miles of streams
and rivers and ocean tides, it lands
on a far shore, worn smooth to the touch
and bleached a pure bone white.

Monday, December 21, 2009

On Being Human

The human condition is such a strange experience -- to be swept along in this surging river of sight and sound and taste and smell and touch.

Our interior landscapes can be even richer and more turbulent than the physical ones we inhabit. If we tried to take in everything contained in just one moment, the flood would surely drown us.

That's why we have consciousness. Consciousness is one of the ways we limit the universe so it doesn't overwhelm us. Consciousness only lets in as much as we can handle.

Time is another way we keep from being overwhelmed. Time is like peering through a narrow window.

The best mystery for me, though, is that we're here at all. What an intense thing it is simply to be.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Going Extinct

We are impermanent. As a species, we will become extinct some day. The last of us will die, and there will be no more human beings.

All that we ever were will pass away into temporal dust, and the universe will continue its unfolding as if we had never existed at all.

Impermanence is the natural way of all of the ten thousand things. There is a season for everything, as the writer of Ecclesiastes promises.

This is our season. The best we can do is to experience it fully.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Split in the Woods

I follow a path into the woods.
The path gets narrower, overgrown.
The woods grow darker the father I go.

Then suddenly, the path splits.
One to the left. One to the right.
I look at the two paths and where
they each seem to be heading.
I think about where I am in the world
and calculate where each path
might eventually take me.

Then I look down each one
as far as I can see,
and then I make a choice.

Then I ask myself,
did I just make a choice?
Or did the choice just make me?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Unanswered Question

What does it take to live in the ocean?
It takes being part of the ocean.

What does it take to live under a mountain?
It takes being part of the mountain.

What does it take to live on the moon?
It takes being part of the moon.

What does it take to live in the Tao?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why Go to So Much Trouble?

A wall is harder to build than a house.
A sword is harder to sharpen than a scalpel.
A fence is harder to repair than a friendship.

So why do we go to so much extra trouble?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Boundaries of the Ten Thousand Things

We push the boundaries of the universe whenever we try to see the edge of it.

We multiply the ten thousand things whenever we try to see the smallest thing.

For this reason, there is no edge, no smallest thing for us. There will always be more.

It is as if we bring the universe into being just by looking for it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Five Mountains

One mountain is for climbing.
It is the one in front of you.

One mountain is for distance.
It is the one you are standing on.

One mountain is for silence.
It is the one you are deep within.

One mountain is for questioning.
It is the one you will never reach.

One mountain is for rest.
It is the one you know like the back of your hand.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Work of Circles

A circle can be the boundary of what it contains.
Or it can be the barrier to what remains outside.
Or it can be the open space where edges meet.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Time Tricks

Time plays an interesting trick on us as we travel through it from one edge of our life to the other.

It pretends to pass faster as we get older.

If we pay attention to each moment, though, we discover that time passes slower and slower as we get closer to being fully present in the moment -- this moment right here.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dreaming or Awake?

When I wake up in the middle of the night,
am I awake or am I dreaming I'm awake?

When I fall asleep in the middle of the day,
am I sleeping or am I dreaming I'm asleep?

When I dream I'm awake, which am I?
Dreaming or awake?

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Have Already

I have already made all of the mistakes I will ever make.
I have already walked all of the miles I will ever walk.
I have already seen all of the mysteries I will ever see.
It is the passing of time that makes it seem otherwise.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When I Do Not Know

When I do not know what to do,
the hardest thing to do is nothing.

When I do not know where to go,
Sitting still becomes an act of passion.

When I do not know what to say,
waiting for an answer becomes my task.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Birthday Present

Growing older in body.
Growing older in bed.

Growing older in mind.
Growing older in stupidity.

Growing older in spirit.
Growing older in wisdom.

Growing older in selfishness.
Growing older in innocence.

Growing older in divinity.
Growing older inside my own skin.

Seen from a distance,
growing older looks awful.

But it's not.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We can see the birth of stars.
We can see the death of stars.
We can see stars in different stages of their lives.

But we cannot watch a star blaze into being,
grow up through star adolescence into
star adulthood and on into star old age
and death. Our own lifespans do not allow it.

So it is by speculation that we know
what we know about the lives of stars.
How many other things in our own lives
do we know what we know by speculation?

And what is speculation but another form of faith?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Spider Spins a Web

A spider was spinning her web one day when a fly came to call. "What a lovely pattern," said the fly. "May I take a closer look?"

"Of course, my dear," said the spider. "But be careful where you step, for I haven't quite finished, and some of the strands are still wet and weak."

The fly buzzed round and round the delicate design and finally lighted on one corner. "My feet seem to be stuck," he said as he struggled to fly away again.

"So I see," said the spider. "Perhaps you'd like to stay for dinner, then."

"Do I have a choice?" answered the fly.

"You did," said the spider, "until you decided to land."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

If You Are Hungry

If you are hungry and I give you something to eat, I feed us both.
If you are sick and I comfort you, I comfort us both.
If you are naked and I clothe you, I clothe us both.

If you are thirsty and I deny you water, I deny us both.
If you are weak and I strike you, I strike us both.
If you are cold and I strip you, I strip us both.

Your deficits offer me a chance to help us both.
If I don't take it, we both feel the loss,
but mine is the deeper pain.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Neighbor, Enemy, Friend

My neighbor can be my enemy,
or my neighbor can be my friend.
If my enemy can be my neighbor
and my neighbor can be my friend,
can my enemy be my friend?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Enlarging the Tribe

We are a tribal species. We build walls, set borders, and mark boundaries to set us apart from those who are not like us.

Sometimes we do this because we are afraid of those we do not understand.

Sometimes we do it because we must protect ourselves from those who would overrun us.

Sometimes we do it because we don't like how others live their lives or cook their food or raise their children or worship their god or make their music.

Sometimes we do it because we want things to go our way.

Sometimes we do it because we are addicted to the familiar.

Whatever the reason, though, it's important to remember that our true tribe is larger than we could ever imagine.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nothing Lasts Forever

Nothing lasts forever
because there is no forever.
There is only the present.

The eternal now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Be Still

Be still in your body,
and you will find rest.

Be still in your mind,
and you will find peace.

Be still in your spirit,
and you will find silence.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Silencing the Birds

If I clap my hands near a tree full of noisy starlings, they will fall silent.

But what noise can I make to silence the chirping in the tree of my mind?