Prudence

I woke this morning into a mind of fear;
that I will end up cold and lonely, ill and homeless.
In the pre-dawn dark these primal fears
attach themselves to thoughts
and circle like Sonoran desert vultures.

Then courage slowly blooms
as the warming sun appears.
It dances with the ever-changing winds,
and declares that it can handle whatever
these winds might bring.

As I contemplate the imaginary future,
I realize one thing alone is certain –
that I will die.
So, do my plans include that fact?
Or do they circle round and round
the Maypole of illusion and construct facades
and spin the story that I have a stable place to be?
I don’t. I’m living on land that’s not my own
and I really have no home here.
Or they spin the story that I can go on forever.
I can’t. This body, though working fine,
is not mine and I really have no home here.

Since death is certain, and growing ever closer,
how then shall I live?
Preparing for my death might be
a worthwhile occupation,
not a morbid shutting down
and investing in a cemetery plot;
but a wonderful expansion into pioneering territory.
I have always traveled uncertain roads,
why stop now?

What if prudent choices were not the measuring stick
my family conditioning insists to be the case?
What if I can fill my remaining days
with open-ended, eyes wide open wonder;
with my arms spread out in trust that I am competent
to walk along a road to unknown destinations?
.
Prudent living is a delusion.
It sounds wise at 4 AM,
but in the sunlight of the heart
it pales before the wonder of it all.

Operating System

To train and tame the mind –
a task most futile.
Using the mind to train the mind?
How odd.
Just who is doing the training,
and who decides what tame might be?

Forgive me, but I must say
it’s very like a, (gasp), computer.

The original Operating System of my Soul
is hardwired in my very nature.
It is the Essence of me, my Spirit.
But it has been clouded by viruses and malware,
downloaded over decades,
dozens of programs running concurrently,
each trying to override the OS.

In my attempts to modify and fix
the myriad software Apps the culture
has, in stealth, implanted in my brain,
I seek out and install yet one more App –
one that claims it will fix it all
and get things running right.
It doesn’t.
It simply pushes its way in,
and fights to run the show itself.

Still, the wonderful OS remains intact,
if buried – still in control,
waiting beneath it all.

Happiness will come, not from
another App, but from
a reboot, restart, return
to the beginning.
Move the icons to the trash.
Become a blank slate again
and see the world afresh.
We all dream of a “do-over.”
It can happen!

Moments

You know, I still don’t know
exactly what to do.
… But that’s not true.

I may not know the grander goals
of human kind, or the cosmic
purpose of it all,
but, if I am honest, I do know
how I want to live the next
few moments of my life.

I’ll cook a careful meal
a few moments at a time.
We’ll eat it carefully,
together, a bite at a time.
I’ll wash the dishes with care,
dry them and put them away.
Then I may write a word or two,
another chore, a book to read,
Qigong, conversation …
My own version of, “chop wood, carry water,”
is all I really need to know.

I do know what to do,
right now, right here.
The trick lies in knowing what not to do.
Stop distracting, diverting,
ruminating, calculating,
worrying, planning,
idling, frittering,
and all the myriad things
an insane mind can conjure …
without these things, I always know
exactly what to do,
at least for the next few minutes –
and really, what else is there?

One moment at a time,
who knows,
I may change the world.

Philanthropy

The illusion of control is everywhere
and no one really understands
the transformation that is coming.
Everything is changing
and everyone is scrambling
to keep the status quo.

Philanthropy has become the rich man’s way
of staying in control –
“I have the billions, and I will decide
the ways they trickle down –
to my foundations, institutions,
my tentacles of power –
untaxed, of course.”

Long ago another man, not rich at all, said,
“Give it all away and follow me,”
and talked about the power
of the “widow’s mite.”
Yet another man, a continent away,
said, “Control is an illusion – clinging to anything
will always lead to suffering.”

Philanthropy may trickle down
and do a bit of good,,
But the truth of life is never gauged
by the amount of money given.
The truth of life is always told
by just how much is kept,

The Riddle

I want to be like John Muir,
climbing to the top of a pine in the wind,
just to feel its dancing energy.
I want to see myself as strong,
and brave and iconically admirable.
You and I know though
that I am often small, timid
and jump at the shadows
of my mind.

The mind is just as wild
as the world outside my door.
Simply waking each morning brave enough
to walk into the wilderness of thought
is Muir-like, really, heroism aplenty.

I can dance with the wind and snow outside
and delight in its power and grace,
but first the mind must be faced, subdued,
and tamed into submission to my Soul.
Inside is where the danger truly lies.
Sphinx-like, the mind stands guard
and bars the gate to joy.
It does not want to let us pass.
It must stand aside, however,
if at last we solve its riddle.

This is the riddle it poses:
“Who am I?”
The answer:
“No one.”

The gate to bliss swings open wide.

Purpose?

 

 

Occasionally I drift in what might be called,
a “purposeless fog,” wondering why I’m still alive.
Not wanting to die, but neither wanting to fill the days
with distractions and diversions
just to navigate my way
from morning until night.
(A retired person’s plight!)

Sometimes I step too far away from life,
being not so much a monk,
but more a misanthropic codger,
muttering in my beard.
Then my deepest Self steps in and wakes me
to who and what I truly am;
and I am reminded of my love of life, of people,
and of a longing for community.

I’m not sure exactly what to do, and that is fine.
Not knowing is a healthy place to be,
for it keeps me from impulsive actions.
Though winter has brought me isolation,
I find my spirit moving outward, looking forward
to a spring in which a brand-new bud will open
into something unexpected, something lovely.

I’ve been changing, growing all my life
and I trust that process isn’t going to stop.
The later blossoms often bring the greatest beauty.

Self?

 

When I am a fearful self, I remember
that this “self” is an illusion.
My true Self is not afraid
of life or death or change.
Transformation is its nature.

When I doubt myself, I remember
that this “self” is an illusion.
My true Self cannot doubt
for it is made of Light and Energy.
It belongs to the “really Real.”

My brain constructs a thousand “selves,”
and a million fantasies they believe.
Hidden deep within this brain lies
its authentic function –
not to construct a self, but to express
and be that Self in every moment.

I cannot teach my “self” to live without fear,
nor can I give to it the confidence it lacks.
I no longer try.
I simply stop believing what I tell my “self”
about my “self,” and let the whole illusion
drop away.
I become my Self again.
And this is where I choose to live.

Storms (2/5/21)

 

 

There’s often a bravado to my words,
expressing what I wish I felt,
instead of what I feel.
Raised during that brief, isolated, and unrepeatable
slice of history when comfort and convenience
slipped, unnoticed, into the collective mind
masquerading as, “certain inalienable rights,”
the child within my mind remains ill-suited
to the true pleasures of Life.

I enjoy my nourishing food while he glances
nervously around, wondering if it will be there tomorrow.
I walk delighted with my nose to the wind while he wonders
if it will snow, and if it does,
what he will do.
I watch the snow spiral down in beauty while he worries
about being snowed in and what he will do
if the car won’t start.
(Not that he has places to go, but you never know…)

I chop wood and walk the mountain trails while he frets
about how tired he may get
and shouldn’t I take better care
of this aging body, “not as young as it used to be.”
I bask in the warmth of the heater at my feet while he thinks,
“the power may go off at any moment,
then what will we do? I need the light and heat.”
(Why do you think I chop the wood
and keep the oil lamps filled?)

If you read my words you may see a contented man,
but notice also please the child inside
who lives a tenuous frightened life.
I can’t change him. Lord knows I’ve tried.
Best I can do is love him, accept him,
and relieve him of the need to run my life.
Rest, child, I’ll handle this.

(When my inner child becomes too active, I sometimes read John Muir or Thoreau. They help me, “get a grip.” When worried about the temporary inconveniences I benefit from reading Muir’s essay, Snow Storm on Mount Shasta.)

Paying Attention (3/2/21)

Each morning when I wake, I ask
that, today, I might pay attention,
not to thoughts, desires, hopes, or dreams;
not to fears, complaints, or trivia.
I want to pay attention to what’s Real.

I was at U.C. Berkeley in the 1960s,
but I didn’t pay attention.
Chaos swirled around me and I focused on assignments,
differential equations and semiconductors,
statistics and first-generation computers.

I worked for the Navy for four years,
but still didn’t pay attention.
Viet Nam was far away and I was in a research lab,
perfecting guided missile radars, playing bridge
touch football and ping pong
during long government lunch hours.

I went to graduate school in theology
and continued in my ignorance for awhile.
Church attendance, offering plates,
keeping people happy and pleased with me,
managing the institution.
But it started to fray around the edges.

I started to fray around the edges.
The American Dream was propped up
and patched with advertisements, smoke, and mirrors,
and for the longest while I continued to rely upon it
and benefit from its delusions,
but the fraying continued until I came apart
and had to stand apart.

I live in a nation torn apart by forces inside
and out, and I no longer believe its dream.
A pandemic of hate and fear and ignorance
fueled by clear-cut clinical insanity;
followed by a health pandemic;
and we are staggering from our sleep
wondering what the hell has happened.
We look around for someone who will tell us
that we can go back to bed and once again
pull up the covers, sleep, and dream.

The dream is over.
It’s time to stay awake.
A virus might be cured by science and reason,
but insanity and hate cannot be cured by votes and laws.
The best intentioned politics will never save a country.
Only a gradual awakening, one person at a time,
will build a future based
not on any dream, no matter how enticing,
but on what’s Real.

I want to pay attention,
not to a dream, but to Reality;
not to life as a right, but as a gift;
not to liberty, but to the freedom of interdependence with all of Life;
not to the pursuit of happiness, but to contentment in each moment.

That is why each morning when I wake, I ask
that, today, I might pay attention to what’s Real.

(No sooner had I finished this poem than I came across a powerful and potent article by Fred Bahnson in Emergence Magazine It is an important read.