Limbo can be the richest time

I’m driving lyft. Resurfacing from another life in Asia. A young woman got in the other night. She had suffered domestic abuse for the past few hours before ordering a ride. Then she got in my cab. Many of the passengers I never see their faces.

She didn’t like her job. She didn’t speak to her parents. She didn’t have anyone she trusted. She was crying as I drove her to her friend’s couch with her backpack. Leaving behind this harsh ex. The tears, she tried, and failed, to hold back, came midst many sniffles – the riffs of a really bad day.

For some reason, I told her a story about a woman I knew whose father had loved her with a full heart. He never doubted her strength within. Never.

That kind of love it will carry you. Shape you. I told her there was one like that in my life. A man who appeared in the midst of things and loved me that way. Saw that light in me. How he continues to show up in my life. In dreams. In words.

Somehow that trust is there inside. We are here to learn its wisdom. To heed its clued trail. I said, that in difficult moments, it helps to give oneself that kind of self-love. To focus on gratitude. Because if you can find it it can find you. And grow.

She cried. But, there it was complete strangers…come and gone in the night. Something transpired there. Something soft and kind. Then gone into the bustle of things.

Then tonight, a 94 year old grandmother got into the car and she told me about her husband whose right hip was shot off in Okinawa. He had dropped dead at her feet over a decade ago. She had 24 great grandchildren.

For years she had put on his shoe. She was close to her children and grandchildren. Especially her three sons. She said what she would give to have him back though. How she would cover him in affection.

She had very comfortable shoes on. She knew about the differences between English and Italian shoes. And she saw something of the march of fools. We both liked Eisenhower. She said Truman was wishy washy.

I told her about the mother of my Punjabi teacher.

How happy she was. How happy she died. One day she went to the bazaar with her granddaughter to buy some cloth. Her grandchild asked what the cloth was for. “My husband has died, and on Tuesday I too will die. My road here without him is finished now. I am happy. My life has been blessed.”

I always loved that story. People who die happy leaving no unfulfillment behind. We reached her granddaughter who was waiting to take her into a dinner of thanksgiving. “Good driver” she told her with a smile.

The grail

(This image quote by Joseph Campbell: so grateful for his wisdom)

…where condemnation has ceased the seeds of peace are sewn (and man, what a journey! everyone is on it). Either you take to it like Dionysus riding the back of his steed – unperturbed, resilient to being shaken, patient, invested in learning, undoing, enjoying the ride, mastering balance… or

you may risk the system swallowing you up, getting pulled into underripe stagnant waters, not vibrantly exploring the depths of being.

A man can be the most emboldened in the eyes of the world and yet be the most lost in it. That happens when you don’t listen to the demands of the heart.

For the heart knows and it will guide you If there is the courage to listen to the heart then resources are available within to be aligned with an inner voyage that draws one out of a programmatic life. One might have very little in the eyes of the world, but you may be alive to this heart wisdom. And so be very rich inwardly.

And the heart wisdom is not something you can read in a book. Though experience, inspired words, kindness and appreciation for silences awaken that sensitivity in you. It might flower in you out of relationship. And when it does you can no longer be a nationalist.

You are drawn to question and a process of undoing takes place in you. You may call it humanism, sensitivity, value for life, for the human being. Every man is sovereign of that kingdom, the journey is to fully inhabit it. Fearful perception may be the only barrier to dissolve.

To ride on the back of the windhorse of creative fancy, to live and learn in the realm of the pairs of opposites, to remain inwardly at ease, still, anchored, ultimately, in a happy self-aware laughter that grows, conscious of the vested powers of life, and to witness in the sorrow of the world, not a mislead cacophony, nor an unending chaos of reported self destructive forces mixed with wonderful possibilities, but to be innocent enough to see, to glimpse at root, in all, this self determination to outgrow deception.

To take comfort in, and to draw from that knowing, is the grail of a well lived life.

The right mirror

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 collaborative long spoon

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.

It is our emotional attention that wins the day.

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.

How the light gets in

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. 😉

Civilized and inspire.

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.

The direction now

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.”

Joseph Campbell.

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

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.”