It’s going to take more, so much more,
than trying harder to make things work.
Noble efforts and courageous stands
have emotional appeal but will not bring us what we seek.
All forms of religion, government, economics, and education
must be compassionately given to hospice care.
New, unheard of, unthought of, undreamed of forms
are stirring within the womb,
pushing into the birth canal,
and needing room to grow,
space in which to bring new life.
What’s awaiting us,
there on the other side of thought,
is the “truly Real,”
I glimpse it, but faintly through the fog
of fears and hopes that swirl about.
There! I see it.
Now it’s gone.
And in its place the usual clutter
that claims dominion of my life.
What is the price of seeing?
Am I willing to pay that price?
Not right now, please.
A few more days and years
of patching things together,
holding on to diversions
that keep the existential fears at bay.
Not willing to open fingers stiff
from clutching what cannot be held,
afraid to let illusions fade away.
The Piper must be paid at last
so why not pay him now?
I cannot think my way to joy;
cannot create it from the patterns in my mind.
I can only clear a space into which it can lightly settle,
and begin to shine and glow and radiate
its warmth into the cold dark places
my mind has built in order to feel safe.
I see it, there it is!
Oops, it slipped away.
It will come again, soon sometime
Can you see it?
I want to be surprised today.
Surprise is the garden soil
from which joy arises.
Planning pushes wonder out of the way
and plants instead well-traveled ruts.
I see only what I expect to see
and hear only familiar sounds.
The world is what it’s always been,
and people behave as automatons,
saying and doing what they’ve
always said and done.
But surprise; that changes everything.
It hides in each and every moment,
yet I pass these moments with such speed
that surprise has no time
to jump out and yell its name.
I want to be aware today
of all the things I don’t expect.
What, this morning, will I see
I didn’t plan on seeing?
What sounds resound
I haven’t heard before?
What thoughts might come, unbidden,
and alter the very nature
of my life?
Some surprises, it is true,
are not what I would want to see.
But, strangely, these contain the paradox
of some unexpected thought.
Unpleasant intrusions force fresh ideas,
and birth creative actions.
Joy Itself is hidden in surprise.
A glass of cold water in the face
wakes me up and says, “Look here!”
I look, and wonder follows wonder
throughout the moments of my day.
I want to be surprised today.
As someone who has spent his life with words,
I find it somewhat disconcerting
to write so little anymore.
Am I becoming dull in later years?
Have I run out of things to say?
Do I no longer care?
Or is it that I want to see, at last,
things are they are instead of thinking,
writing, words about them?
I stood this evening in the twilight
and sang my prayer songs to the six directions.
Black Butte in the east was just itself.
Mt. Eddy to the west simply stood against the sky.
To the north the pines were still
but I saw a Spotted Towhee hurry to his nest
amidst the manzanita, and earlier I saw
the first swallow of the spring
dart across the sky.
The cabin to the south I saw
without thinking that I lived there.
The stars above me framed my little life
and wrapped me in their quiet Mystery.
I stood on the earth with shadows all about me
and stopped, for just a moment,
all my thinking.
I came inside and wrote these words, but
they’re just words, and unless I see
the Thing Itself, they are a waste of time.
If I must write, let my words be arrows
piercing through the fabric of my worn-out thoughts
and letting light, and perhaps beauty,
shine through the holes, like stars, from places yet unseen
into a world yet to be discovered.
Thirty-two years of marriage
to the woman who fills my heart
with hope and joy and love.
We celebrate in Ashland, Oregon,
in spring with buds on every side,
a creek running down the rocks,
walks in Lithia Park with curious deer
and gracious people all around,
poking up their heads into the sun,
emerging from a long night
and blinking to see familiar things,
things we thought might not reappear.
My hope this spring is more cautious
than all the other years, but it remains intact.
The future is more mysterious and uncertain;
where I will live, what I will do,
how I might find my place in the Flow of things.
All my roads now seem to be those least traveled by.
It’s not the same old, same old, any more.
What came before has faint relation
to what’s coming next.
Old maps are folded up.
(remember folded maps?)
No moving blue dot upon a screen
can tell me where I am right now.
So I must look to Sources long believed,
but seldom really trusted.
Unseen Realities, Deeper Truths,
Ground of Being waiting patiently,
knowing all roads lead Its Way.
Certainty has always been an illusion,
powerful and dominant,
but ever failing at the last.
Navigating uncertain times is what life
is truly all about.
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.
To train and tame the mind –
a task most futile.
Using the mind to train the mind?
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 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!
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,
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,
I may change the world.
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,
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 gate to bliss swings open wide.
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.