the greatest art is the art of undoing.
One thing changed my life above all else:
I made it a practice not to complain, not to judge or undermine. When I felt upset I looked within at my own lack of gratitude, and just saw a mirror of lack. It was never outside – it is always down to how I see. I no longer live in the reflection of that mirror.
When someone “appears” to upset me I sit down mentally and I make a list of all the things I genuinely admire and love about that person. And I focus on that and that alone.
My heart cannot contain those feelings and it explodes with meaning. And that is where you live when your eyes are open…when the heart is fully engaged.
The allegory of the long spoons is a parable that shows the difference between heaven and hell by means of people forced to eat with long spoons:
In hell the people are self-centered and full of fear and so they are unable to lift food to their mouths using such unwieldy cutlery. They starve. That is hell. Heaven is actually around them but they cannot see it.
In heaven, the same place, the same story, the diners feed one another across the table and are sated. It’s not a different place, merely a different way of being in the same place.
The story can encourage people to be kind to each other. It can awaken one to what it means to cherish one another.
There are various interpretations of the fable including its use in sermons and in advice to lonely people. But if you get it and live it, you live differently. It isn’t difficult or easy. It is just different and fearless.
John Lennon said:
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Life, as far as I can tell, means to honor all. To take care of each other. To collaborate rather than to compete. To nourish and cherish rather than to undermine and judge. And when we do that: happiness and supportive communities are the inevitable result.
Like this image with the old hag and the young woman, there is an optical illusion in the mind of man – one way of seeing gives reasons to justify and see meaningless thoughts, pain and sadness and the other sees happiness, it sees only the garden where we have weeded and only sublime flowers grow. So what we put our attention on is what we see and we may see either deceptively or with the eyes of a healed attention.
Life is a school. It never stops. Perhaps few graduate or appear to right now, but that is inevitable for all. The blocks to “graduation” or a deeper happiness is because we mistake learning for manmade knowledge and, while, there is nothing wrong with ‘manmade’ knowledge – it isn’t where happiness resides.
Happiness, sustained, unmitigated and ongoing happiness lies in uprooting fear and dropping it completely. And fear is lodged, or maintained, in beliefs that are negative and that reside like bacteria on the teeth, until we “brush” them away with the focus of a healed attention.
Wisdom is about understanding the human imagination and fully and deeply embracing happiness. There is a way to outgrow sorrow for ever. You don’t have to be like Buddha who walked away from the world and lived on a grain of rice a day.
You don’t have to be a teacher or go to a teacher, you just have to see how to live and love wisely, or put plainly: how to prune out the weeds of fear and negativity from the garden of your mind, how to see with gratitude and mindful of abundance (rather than inadequacy and lack).
The problem with teachers like Buddha and monks and holy people is that we believe, falsely, that to attain peace and to go beyond sadness, we have to leave the world, give up sex, all this nonsense. That we need all these holy books and regimens and spiritual egos, all the garb and pretention and prejudice. I’m not judging any of that as bad or wrong – but it’s utterly irrelevant to what matters. The form is not key, rather the functionality is key.
And it is nonsense to put fearful conclusions and “gurus” on pedestals in our minds, it creates the followed, the following and so followers. Wisdom starts, and ends, with oneself and how you see. And it is our emotional attention that wins the day.
If we fixate on fearful thoughts, on the ego and its manifold reasons to be upset and sad (whether in ourselves or an apparent other) and if we justify judging ourselves or another, we get that. Or to follow the metaphor of the image posted, if we see the ugly old hag, if we believe in death and decay, we get that.
And yet, there is another way to be, it is rooted in gratitude and loving and harmonious human relationships. It is rooted in seeing the best in yourself and others. It is grounded in love and kindness and it is not abstract, not fake, not formulated, not coerced or negatively manipulative. It is natural and intrinsic.
And when the mind is trained that way, to see in that manner, there comes a point of no return. A place within us where resistance to happiness and the beauty in man is gone.
Fear may be defined as “false evidence appearing real.” Love is real. Kindness is real. Gratitude is real. And, like a muscle trainer, when we focus only on these “muscles” and see beyond all apparent inadequacies in ourselves, and others, there flowers a world within us freed of judgment and blame.
For when judge another we actually only judge ourselves.
That is perhaps the most important sentence a human being can read. If he or she fathoms it fully and understands it, his world is going to bloom and sadness and upset is going to disappear from the sphere of their experience. Maybe a fraction of people get this. But it matters not. Only you have to get it. No one else.
One can observe fear and talk about it – talk about judgments that others make – and the right approach to such things can be helpful to growth – for example one judgment might be:
“Happiness is not perpetual. To be sad is human. To say you can be freed of sadness is an expectation that is too much to place on yourself – and if you have kids – it’s ok to be sad sometimes.”
Where is the judgment in that? Well, it concludes that sadness is inevitable. It rules and judges that we all must be sad sometimes and that that is ok.
But what if that conclusion, that judgment is plain wrong? What if it’s based on a projected premise rooted in a belief in lack and a fearful self-image that is actually false? And what if one sees the false as the false – is that a judgment, or something else, that does not condemn, not undermine or judge, but rather discriminate at a deeper and simpler level?
These are very important questions – how you answer them shapes the life you live, because if you look at the world and yourself and each other with fresh eyes, moment to moment, then you are freed of the past, freed of sadness and upset and a different way of being, based on gratitude and patience, on love and wisdom and meaning flowers in you.
And when you give your whole heart to that, your full emotional attention, the wasteland within you where the weeds of negativity and meaningless thoughts, of sadness and upset once grew and ‘nurtured’ a victim mentality, that wasteland is replaced by happiness and meaning and a garden filled with beauty and dynamism.
And there are no victims in that garden. There are only celebrators. For that is life: at its core, in its essence, it is to be celebrated. And there are no losers there, no winners either. Only happiness and connection. But it takes honing ones emotional attention and repeatedly not giving credence to the “false evidence that appears real.”
And that, that takes courage and guts and determination to know and live in gratitude, gratitude for beauty and harmony and abundance that is nascent and real in man. When we train ourselves to see that way then the wellspring of your authentic self is tapped and that is a treasure indeed.
That is when the Phoenix rises from the ashes of your old way of being. And we can ALL choose to live in such a way; choose to celebrate life.
In fact, that IS living, the alternative is evasion of fully celebrating this life and what is real and uplifting about it. You should not settle for the alternative. Not because I tell you that, but because you have a very happy song inside you that wants to sing. Let it sing. The world will thank you and you will be grateful for living that way.
A friend from Brazil visited India. He was hosted by Indian friends. A mutual friend invited me to join. We were taken to a roadside restaurant in the city.
It was dark and dingy and there was a lot of smiles and headwobbling. We were among friends but there were cultures and values meeting too. My Brazilian friend was not comfortable. It is a different culture and the guest is very honored. To the poor and the rich.
He was not blind. He said, without rudeness, “I am sorry but this is not a place I wish to eat. I will gladly pay for my food, but if we are to go together, and I would like that, to enjoy each other, I would like a cleaner lighter place to eat with more sattvic food and surroundings.”
Sattva is one of the three qualities of the chariot of life. There is heaviness (tamas) which gives sleep and weight. Then movement (rajas) which combined with heaviness yields momentum. Sattva is the capacity to see in the light and discern; the seer, the charioteer, the navigator.
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Do you see what is looking? Do you see this hidden responsibility for owning how you see what you see? Do you see how that might empower? Looking at the fear without a sense of identification?
A diver gets in the water with a whale shark for the first time. It is a gentle giant but you are humbled, afraid, awed. That great mysterious sea creature, and you. What do you see mirrored in that encounter? You float together in the depths.
Do you see without the seperation of you and I? Do you accept that communion that is beyond ideas?
That squalid restaurant lacked simple refinement. It was in the gutter of a low self worth. We went elsewhere. It cost no more. Just a shift in perception without condemning.
We bare false witness, we make an idol of our grasping. We feel trapped and resentful. The capacity for decision appears to be outsourced and beyond question. It isn’t. 😉
Civilizing means to be civil. To introduce civility.
This is the etymology:
c. 1600, “to bring out of barbarism, introduce order and civil organization among, refine and enlighten,” from French civiliser, verb from Old French civil (adj.), from Latin civilis “relating to a citizen, relating to public life, befitting a citizen; popular, affable, courteous,”
Essentially it means to relate oneself to the most loving way of being, the most aware and wise form of self-love. When one is related to that, one naturally sees everyone else in the same light and our conduct is inspired accordingly.
Inspire means to breathe in or blow into.
I’m going to launch a website soon with books about living the life of your dreams and insights into the end of suffering and how life evolves toward one certain end – towards a mind that is a light to itself and fully trusting, that understands that grace is what is given and joy and adoration are the natural state of man. It will look at the renaissance implied in Joseph Campbell’s wise words:
“Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end… The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth—that is the world as we know it that must pass away. What is the kingdom? It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence in our neighbors, in our enemies, in all of us.”
From: Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor
The work will incorporate the wisdom of humanism and show how the destiny of man is to outgrow war and external conflict and the limited identity that fear constructs when mindful and heart centered attention is absent.
“Wars and temper tantrums are the makeshifts of ignorance; regrets are illuminations come too late.”
When it is seen, and understood, that you are the light of the world then the world becomes a much brighter and happier place. For all.
beauty out of old clay
Dusk in the city,
down by the railroad track
In the abandoned alley between showers, I see the glow of red light and bruised glass,
I see the recycling of old tales in the shade of new night.
I see the danger that is not dangerous.
I feel this pull of new stories trellised like ivy against a concrete wall.
We reach for the sun as climbing vines lift their joy to undaunted sky.
I see a golden orb in the flash of the black child that runs away from his mother to greet me.
No less brightly than the star of day.
Those beautiful darling eyes.
I am a stranger but it matters not to him.
Nor to the homeless woman, clad in a blanket and the smell of forgotten promise and unwashed skin, who spits at a man no less coarse in the subway…
Barking like dogs, we can forget ourselves at times.
Corrosive, like rust that devours the dead pier,
we do this to ourselves.
Howl the poet says.
I prefer a quiet certainty.
That will gently unravel every disguise.
We pity the poor bastard who forgets himself and lets the tide carry him away.
What will break open the heart and lead you out of every wasteland?
Today I watched as Indian women in orange saris spoke Bengali and adored their princess bride.
And the men and the grandmother and the photographer filed together in a procession of ritual as old as far away hills.
I treasured the language of Kalidasa and the Cantonese that spoke across the aisle.
I know a man in a snow covered land who shuffles money from one account to another.
Can he see the light of the moon tonight?
Or the pale assurance of rain, the scented underscore that flavors time?
Is he intimate with the thief that stole his savior?
I have embraced the myths.
That is the currency of faith.
No tired beliefs.
Yes, excavate fresh beauty anew out of old clay.
You see the furtive earth is there to forever feed you.
Ah the harvest of the nourishing!
Everything in the world is hungry for water.
Everything in man is hungry for the kiss of betrayal.
Not more deceit of tired illusion.
The final betrayal which unshackles us from all wanton chains.
That shock when everything you felt so concrete is taken away.
And breathlessly you wander, liberated from your old self, in the garden outside Plato’s allegorical cave.
Everything in the world, “no matter what it is, all the so-called evil could be changed, would man, observing, distill it out.”
Someone I’ve treasured in my life was once a dancer and he left that life to study metaphysics. I never met him. He married, had a family and lived a very rich life and passed away, long before I came across his writings.
He grew a great deal in his life. He was warm and caring. He had a great teacher and he discerned deeply. Like me, he saw life as a great adventure.
He saw that there is a light that burns through the forms of the world that is born of a clear mind not limited by misperceptions. That light is equipped to burn up all fear: the fear that yields even the slightest of irritations and the deepest of sadnesses.
And everyone must have that light. We temporarily differ in how much we are given to treasuring it. It can be seen and if it is not there primarily in your focus, one day it will come. It comes and goes to the hungry. Like an optical illusion. Until one is firmly seated in that which was once hidden. And then, thankfully, there is no turning back then.
There is a yearning in man that is inbuilt and so natural. Somehow you come to this inner place where you cannot feed the meaningless thoughts any more. When clarity and determination kick in.
Each of us plays our part in the story of things. Everyone goes beyond judgment eventually. Free will determines when we get to choose that. Resistance can be seen and that is to be honored. The wise never believe in it though. To believe it would deny them their wisdom. The more clearly this is seen, the greater our gratitude; at least this is so for those in their right mind.
The man met with his dancer friends years after his new path had gripped him and found he had nothing to say to them, there was very little in common any more as that yearning for discernment was so incredibly strong in him. They may have been surgeons or street sweepers. It would have made no difference. Only the ears to hear qualified others to see the inner shifts in him, and themselves, for such sensitivity comes with that quality of reflection.
Those that resonated that way were alive to the same need to supplant deception.
He had outgrown the belief in the reality of lack and had dug down deep in himself to uproot the roots of suffering.
There is no degree or qualification for that. But it’s the only real curriculum there is.
Inspiration is no game. No idle fantasy. It has a life and a need for your most attentive ear. Sometimes it will remind you to be still. To be attentive to the quiet unraveling of things. Other times you might be drawn into the thick of things.
Aldous Huxley was widely considered one of the brightest intellects of modern times. When asked what little wisdom he had to fan the flames of hope in the world, he proffered: “Try to be a little kinder.”
You might add: Try to be a friend to yourself, to another, to the others. Try to be real and do not allow yourself to be a doormat to fear and judgment.
I have sampled this world, far and wide, met ordinary and extraordinary beings. It is part of the path of being human. If your heart is open and you are blessed with an attentive mind, surely such encounters with remarkable people will happen to us all.
But those who have stirred me to the very bone…they have ignited a love of patience and service. And perhaps the greatest blessing of such a focus is the reward of contemplation.
It comes to us all; the capacity to savor life, to enrich the lives of those we encounter. At times, it is not easy, not simple…but I do feel, I have repeatedly witnessed, when you are patient, doors of awareness do open.
Softly and most fervently do we come to the places in the woods and the smiles that replenish us.
It is a choice to savor, to persevere with what lifts you. But it is a service to each and every one, to have the guts to do that. And make, no mistake, the little I have seen, wisdom takes enormous guts.
To look at fear and discern, quite wholeheartedly and plainly, that,…that it is an imposter here.