Archive for November, 2009

Tao 39/Day 177 “The Master views the parts with compassion, because he understands the whole.”

November 28, 2009

Note to self – Call Noah and book a reservation on the ark.  It’s pouring rain for about the tenth day in a row, and I’m sitting in the park parking lot deciding if I’m crazy enough to hop out of the car and onto the trail.  Just as I’m about to head home, a young couple and their chocolate Labrador retriever come happily sloshing back to their Subaru.  I get out and announce, “Well, I guess you guys have talked me into it!” and the guy calls after me with a, “Yeah, not bad – It’s not like it’s minus twenty or thirty or anything!”

In fact, there are lots of runners out today.  We share a strange camaraderie as we jog past each other in smiling solitude.  – I suddenly feel liberated from yet another subtle set of adult fears (“No running in the rain – especially when it’s November – or you’ll catch your death of cold!”).  I’m immediately transported back to my garage after a Junior Pro football game as an eleven year old, with my mom literally peeling my freezing, mud-soaked uniform off me as I shiver happily and recount the big plays in our victory… The freedom I feel being out here right now brings a tear to my eye, and I release, with compassion, the me that got lost in so many meaningless rules for so long.

Joseph Campbell once wrote of an interview he’d come across about Igjugarjuk, an Eskimo shaman sent deep in the wilderness to fast til he’d seen a great vision.  Two lines attributed to the holy man have stuck with me ever since I read Campbell’s account. “You die a little out there”, and what the shaman heard the spirits of the icy wilderness say to him after he’d gotten his vision:  “Be not afraid of this universe.”  What an unbelievable understanding.  If I can understand the whole – the universe – as something to ‘be not afraid of”, then compassion for the parts of that whole will naturally arise.  The ‘parts’ of society, the ‘parts’ of a family, the ‘parts’ of my body – I run with them now with compassion – even the parts that seem the most incomprehensible or uncooperative.

As I continue to run, I become aware of how honestly average I actually am in almost every area of my life.   Even as an actor, there are so many others with so much more to bring to any given role.  Certainly as a singer, and a runner — there’s nothing particularly ‘unique’.  – But there is one thing I have come to understand – over and above the necessity of not comparing and competing but rather simply being myself.              Many reading this will know of singer-songwriter Marshall Chapman.  Some months ago she uttered a simple sentence to my sister that has stuck with me ever since I heard it.  They were talking about music and writing and singing and performing, and Marshall said, “It’s a great way to love people.”  Wow.  How ‘bout that?  What if that were the metric for assessing the validity of our individual (and international) enterprises?  “It’s a great way to love people.”  The one thing I have come to understand is that I don’t have to be afraid of the universe because love IS this universe.  I now know that ANY way of being authentically in the world is a great way to love people. Since all of us want and need love, there will always be room for my presence and my efforts, no matter how average they may be in any comparative sense.  As I head for the shower after running through these showers, may the compassion I feel right now for my own limitations be transformed into a love for other people with every ounce of those same limitations.  – What a great way to live as I go through this life…What a great WAY…

Tao 68/Day 175 “Not that they don’t love to compete, but they do it in the spirit of play.”

November 25, 2009

I’m positively giddy. Today’s meditation has me buzzing.  ‘Play’ is my favorite topic – the key to inner fitness and a spirit “in harmony with the Tao.”  Just silently repeating the word as a mantra works wonders as I start to play in this mid-morning rain.  Play adjusts my stride, my lean, play minimizes the jolt to my joints and maximizes my joy to the world.  When I pass a kilometer sign with the number ‘7’ on it, I play with it in my mind – turning it upside down and backward to make an ‘L’ that stands for nothing at all. Mud puddles morph from obstacles into temptations as I play past their edges.  I play with my awareness as well as my breath.  Each moment I play, my steps are lighter, my heart is fuller, and my energy greater.  I compete with my knees and my notions of limitation – playfully testing both without fear of failure.  The spirit of play is in harmony with the Tao.  The spirit of play is in harmony with the Tao.  – Hey did I mention that the spirit of play is in harmony with the Tao?!?  – The boys’ favorite superhero is currently Sportacus, an icon from Iceland and star of the kids’ program ‘Lazytown’.  His mission is to keep the town’s children happily active and eating their vegetables instead of opting for the candy and sloth offered by his nemesis Robby Rotten.  He accomplishes this via dazzling displays of gymnastic acrobatics – singing and smiling while saving the day.  His flips and his feats are the stuff of child-legend, and Liam and Logan like to instantly imitate his daring-do by diving off the nearest piece of furniture.  This has resulted in a couple of bumps and bruises, but mostly a lot of joy and self-discovery as they see who can somersault and eat their broccoli and brush their teeth with that certain je ne sais quoi.  They’re not imitating their hero when they do these things, they’re PLAYING the hero AS IF THEY WERE ALREADY THE HERO THEMSELVES.  I suddenly remember some of my happiest days as a six or seven year old, standing in the back yard and smacking a whiffle ball over the roof of our house.  Back and forth, over and over  — I WAS Willie Mays, and each time that ball felt the sweet spot of my whiffle-bat, I’d sing at the top of my lungs, “Oh the farthest hit today has been made!”  – When I ended up devoting my adult life to what a wonderful acting teacher termed ‘sophisticated, adult PLAY’, I know the choice was influenced by times like that one in the backyard and a thousand more besides.  – According to the Vedic tradition, the very structure of our existence is ‘Lila’ – a divine ‘PLAY.  So often the word is taken in our culture to belong only to the nurture of children, yet here it bespeaks the very nature of divinity in our midst.  Play can be deadly serious, up to and including the games of war.  The Tao doesn’t judge which games we play.  It allows any and all illusions to ‘play out’ based on our own (individual and collective) (un)consciousness.  All that is lacking to turn our nightmares into new visions is the light-heartedness, and the humble-headedness, and the lack of ego that flows from the spirit of play.  – May each of us find a way to get off the sidelines and into the game of our life!  More ‘knowing’ and less ‘knowing about’!  More playing the hero and less listening to the inner critic!  More time surfing and less time cursing the waves of our circumstances!  The gap between the novice and the master is less than that between the beginner and one who has yet to dive in.  Dive in!  The water is fine.  I oughta know – I just finished this run and I’m soaked to the bone!

Tao 16/Day 173 “When you realize where you come from, you naturally become tolerant.”

November 24, 2009

The ground is wetter than ever.  Last night’s winds have blown a couple of trees over.  One obstructs the trail, forcing a detour into tougher terrain.  A decent number of walkers are out to exercise their canine companions, but no more than four or five other runners currently care to brave these elements.  Nevertheless, the resulting silence and solitude serve me well, and — after another false start due to my still-tricky left knee – I find a good groove, without and within, and rejoice as I run with the Tao.  – I’ve recently viewed several stimulating conversations online via posts I’ve received from my Facebook community.  In them, scientists, artists, spiritual leaders and others discuss the cutting edges of music, neuroscience, ethics, religion and more.  Most are enlightening, some are electrifying, and all are contributing to the advancement of human understanding.  Yet today, in addition to the light they shed, I run with the realization that they are all swallowed up by the same silence that envelops me now on this magic path.  I realize anew that Life is indeed a reality that precedes all language, and I know that — no matter how astute our species becomes at equationing existence — such symbols can only point toward the final mystery, not encompass it.  By definition, it is as impossible for humans to stand outside Reality yet somehow language a ‘complete’ description of it as it is for humans to retain a God standing outside Reality yet somehow languaging that same description for us. – This “Life before Language” realization sheds some additional light on a related stanza (#4) of the Tao te Ching for my still-westernized mind.  “It (the Tao) is older than God.”  If I can just understand that the moment I give language to my Ultimate Reality is the moment I am dealing with something less than that Ultimate Reality, I can begin to taste the truth of this seemingly radical statement.  The notion of ‘God’ or ‘Ultimate Reality’ is bigger than my language, and concepts — even the most detailed and/or accurate ones.  As a human being I am still forced to settle – as demonstrated by quantum physics — for observations that alter what I’m observing by my very act of observing them.  Even my notion of ‘now’ is more to assist the subjective quality of my conciousness than to accurately describe the phenomenal world, because there is always a lag time, however slight, between what happens and my awareness of it as ‘now’ (as, for example, in the time it takes me to ‘realize’ that I’ve touched a hot stove and shout the consequences).  In other words, even the most present-minded of us, the moment we begin to experience and language a description of ‘now’, is living ever-so-slightly in the past.  – This is what we are.  This is where we ‘come from’.  What need then for arrogance simply because I may be a little farther down the path than my brother or sister in some regard?  Tolerance does not mean I become a doormat to bullies with narrow ideas and hearts open only to a particular tribe.  It does mean humility and compassion in all my interactions because I now know that no one can ever totally ‘know’ – at least not in the way we have previously languaged the word.  The Tao te Ching states that a person armed with such a loving embrace of uncertainty also becomes “disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king”.  – As I finish another run “immersed in the wonder of the Tao”, may this wisdom produce an affirmation of a life – and a world – more tolerant than any I’ve ever known.

Tao 54/Day 170 “Let the Tao be present in your life and you will become genuine.”

November 23, 2009

Maureen has gotten me a ‘runner’s outfit’ to cope with the continued cold and wet.  Black, stretchy sports shirt with matching skin-tight pants.  I look like an ultra-lean licorice stick topped by a large balding bobble-head.  I suit up, face the elements, and hit the trail.  Not fifty yards in front of me is an attractive young blonde standing knee-deep in the numbing lake wearing nothing but a summer dress.  If she’s willing to do that for a photo shoot, what kind of weather wimp have I become?  I laughingly exclaim, “With that kind of commitment, I hope you land the cover of a magazine!”, and she returns a teeth-chattering smile and a thank you.  – No excuses now, Greg.  Either turn around and go home or become fully present and accounted for.  I opt the latter, drop in to my breath, and slowly warm to the task at hand…Today’s lines inform the entire run.  Whether I’m drinking in the stillness that surrounds me, or pulling my left shoe out of some unseen, leaf-covered muck, the grace of becoming genuine is palpable.  The Tao is always present, but it is present to ME when I let it be present – with me becoming present too as a wonderful by-product.  – Isn’t it interesting that the quality mentioned in the Tao te Ching that comes from this process is ‘genuine-ness’.  Authenticity.  Not “Let the Tao be present in your life and you will become rich.”  Not “Let the Tao be present in your life and you will become famous.”  Not “Let the Tao be present in your life and you will become a high achiever”, or “an expert”, or “holy”, or “talented”, or “cured of all infirmities”.  Genuine.  Period.  Wow.  I realize anew that what most everyone is looking for, longing for, hoping for, praying for – more than security, more than wealth, more than recognition or religion or the rewards of relationship – is an experience born of a genuine and authentic life.  Whether my orientation is eastern, western, pre-rational, post-modern, pagan or pentecostal, a genuine life, by definition, cannot be faked.  It cannot be phoned in.  It cannot be approximated.  Or intellectualized.  Or sustained exclusively by emotion.  To become a genuinely authentic person is to experience all these qualities in an integrated and balanced way.  It has to be lived, and the suggestion here is that this can only occur when my personal ego (and that of the planet) is neither exalted, nor abased, but rather properly placed as a unique-but-connected part of the larger whole – a middle path, in other words, not of pride, or persecution of differences, but of presence.  –  I’m suddenly reminded of a story I read somewhere about a woman who went to visit the great Indian sage Ramakrishna.  Troubled that she could find no place in her heart for a love of God, he asked if there was anything in her life that she did love.  When she replied that she had a nephew for whom she felt total devotion, Ramakrishna is said to have comforted (and challenged) her by affirming that her love for her nephew was indeed her love for God.  – The insight here being that I’ve got to ‘connect it to my love’, whatever ‘it’ is and whatever my ‘love’ is, to be able to actually experience this notion of authenticity.  If ‘it’ is the Tao, and these lakes and these flights around this magic path are a legitimate ‘love’ of mine, and I can allow a connection between the two, I’ve got an entry point to becoming truly present…I finish this run intending that all who read these words will one day find where they too can connect their highest aspiration to their simplest love, and in so doing…become…authentic.  – Let the search begin!

Tao 73, Tao 19/Day 166 “The Tao is always at ease. It overcomes without competing.” “Throw away industry and profit, and there won’t be any thieves.”

November 20, 2009

I lope along now at a lazy pace while fellow mud-and-distance lovers – mostly ladies – take the lead.  The concept of overcoming, or ‘winning’ — with ease, without competing — goes against everything I was ever taught about how to be successful in life.  Yet my own journey on this path has confirmed its validity in a very visceral way.  I’m not competing with anybody out here, but that hasn’t prevented me from any number of ‘personal bests’.  On the contrary, it’s been the very means by which those ‘bests’ have become accessible (I put the word ‘bests’ in quotes because relishing in play rather than competition means not paying much attention to such things in the first place).  My breathing waltzes to longer rhythms, and I suddenly realize that I will cover the distance of a marathon one day soon.  This ‘realization’ is completely different from setting a goal of the same magnitude and then training or competing til it’s realized. As I reflect further, my awareness revisits a book I glanced at in a bookshop on my last trip to Vancouver called ‘Super Freakonomics’.  It’s a follow up to “Freakonomics”, an intriguing bestseller on why we people do what we do, from an economist’s perspective.  The authors boil down the essence of their work to one theme: People respond to incentives, but not in easily predictable or reliable ways.  This fact produces a tremendously powerful law of unintended consequences.  One example of this behavior they cite is the response to an explosion of horse traffic in urban centers in the late 1800’s.  Pollution, filth, and disease explode as well, and it’s not until the invention of the automobile (and the electric streetcar) that big cities see a marked improvement in these conditions.  Yet these same saviors eventually produced their own unintended consequences, of which we are all well aware.  As I continue to run with this reflection, I gain an additional insight.  Unintended consequences do not mean that it’s ‘wrong’ to have the incentives that produce them in the first place, just that it’s mistaken to ‘judge’ such consequences as anything other than the natural outgrowth of the previous incentives.  Any one ‘savior’ will eventually lead to the need for the next. – Which leads me to the last leg of today’s run and straight into today’s second couplet.  Western civilization is built on the ideal of progress.  Eastern wisdom says each ‘progression’ creates as many problems as it solves.  Modern science appears to be validating the Eastern perspective, at least when it comes to this ‘law of unintended consequences’.  – But is the Tao saying in Stanza 19 that humanity should therefore unequivocally reject industry and profit (and holiness and wisdom and morality and justice), because of their unintended consequences, or could it be that any and all of these pursuits can also be enobled if they are engaged in in a spirit of play rather than competition?  In other words, can we humans ‘overcome’ the way the Tao ‘overcomes’ – always at ease, without dividing our world into ‘competing interests’?  It again occurs to me that our biggest ‘problems’ stem again and again from JUDGEMENT.  If we could ever just follow our own angels, without turning everyone elses into demons, we’d find our way.  That’s a progress that can only come from realizations, not goals.  I am finding my health and my sanity on this magic path not by waging ‘a war on marathons’, but by making peace – without judgement – with myself.  – Who knew it was always this easy?

Tao 80/Day 164 “And even though the next country is so close that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking, they are content to die of old age without ever having gone to see it.”

November 19, 2009

It is a beautiful Remembrance Day in Canada.  Lots of sunshine, and the crisp autumn air smells like it was made fresh this morning.  I have an earlier opportunity than usual to circle the waters, and the path is crowded with other pilgrims taking advantage of the national holiday.  Because of the length (and difficulties) of my last outing, I start pretty slow and stay that way, wanting to add distance without causing conflict with my body if possible.  The trail is still slick with wet and muddy leaves, and lots of holiday horse riders are leaving their marks on the path as well, if you know what I mean.  Yet the mood of most is positively euphoric.  Whether its freedom from work or freedom from rain, the hikers and bikers and rowers and dog-walkers and fishermen and nature-gazers I pass are unfailingly spirited and polite.  The feeling that best describes my own well-being is ‘ease’.  I’m not tight, I’m not forcing anything, my breathing is long and loose despite the first signs of a cough and cold, and I’m wearing an old pair of glasses that don’t slip when I sweat.  The sights and sounds that surround me seem so distinct and clear.  Birds I haven’t heard in awhile are calling once more.  The sky is clear and spacious and the hills and water are alive with activity.  I pass a family silently watching a dozen or more geese perched on fallen branches protruding from beneath the lake’s seamless surface.  A single rower is eclipsed by a team of eight – each craft barely disturbing the murky mirror they glide upon.  My feet skip past the same terrain they’ve known since late last spring, still marveling at how this same trail changes every single day.  For maybe the first time in my life, I taste an experience of the meaning of today’s Tao-words.  I’ve always been a bit of a gypsy, reading maps and loving to travel since I went on my first trip to the Florida Gulf Coast with my grandparents as a precocious four year old.  Since then I’ve had the good fortune, whether through study or work or wanderlust, to live and work and visit all over the world.  London, Madrid, Quebec City, Vancouver, Johannesburg, New York, Los Angeles, Maui, Fiji, Romania, Greece, Ghana and many more– all with the sense that I’d never left home.  This openness to various languages and cultures and cuisines and climates has provided a wonderful window into what unites us all as fellow travelers around the sun.  But it’s not because there are no more mountains to climb that I’m finding myself so content as I trek round this familiar path today.  Rather, it’s because I feel I’ve reached a place of endless exploration.  Not in this natural wonder around me but deep in my natural self.  It was Thoreau who – having spent two years at his beloved Walden Pond – found words to encourage the mining not of the hillsides for coal but the soul for the gold to be found waiting there.  Working out of such a rich vein of ore could not help, according to this singular individual, but produce a metal incorruptible and lasting, as well as a peace that passes understanding. Where I once would have seen today’s Tao-words as signaling a spirit uninterested in life at best and quite prejudiced by it at worst, I understand today as I run through these woods the contentment that comes from being truly present to where I am, wherever I am.  May this presence prevail whether or not I ever again set sail for lands and seas and spaces unknown – for each place that I am now is home…Each place that I AM, NOW…

Tao 81/Day 162 “The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is.”

November 17, 2009

This is the kind of day after day rain you hear about in the Pacific Northwest.  Already my memory of the seven months of sunshine that greeted our arrival here is getting lost in these clouds.  Yet there always seems to be a window, if I’m paying attention.  Today it comes around two in the afternoon.  There’s plenty of time to run farther than I ever have before, and as I get underway it feels like today can be the day.  Could I really make it three times around these hallowed grounds?  Thirty kilometers?  Eighteen point six miles?  Whether it’s possible or not, I definitely won’t come close if I keep thinking about it.  I drop in to my breath and give renewed attention to putting one wet muddy shoe in front of the other.  What then comes up is a meditation on the two lines at the top of this page.  I have never felt wealthier in my life.  My cup is overflowing.  And all it really took was a sharing of these runs with anyone who wanted to come along for the ride.  Inexhaustible wealth, in any capacity, by definition, is wealth that can never be ‘given til its gone’.  As the Tao te Ching states of its subject in stanza five, “The more you use it, the more it produces.”  This tells me that the more I run and write and give, the more I will have (health, inspiration, and an ever-larger audience) with which to run and write and give even more.

This principle is spilling over into other areas of my life as well.  I was in our local grocery store a couple of days ago in the ‘ten items or less’ line.  While waiting for the person in front of me to complete his transaction, I noticed the older woman immediately behind me.  Her purchases consisted of a single potato, a single pear, a quart of milk, something in a package I can’t remember, and six eggs in a sawed-off egg carton.  Her gloves looked a little threadbare, and it was clear she was buying for one.

I debated momentarily whether the impulse I was having would be rebuffed or well received, then said, “Ma’am, would you be offended if I bought your groceries for you?”  She sputtered, asked me to repeat the question, and then replied, “Not at all.”  – It wasn’t much (about thirteen dollars or so) – I couldn’t have done it if it had been much more – but the effect was transforming for both of us.  When she said, “That’s the nicest thing that has happened to me in a long time” I almost could have said the same thing…

My run now becomes intermittently interrupted by bathroom breaks.  That’s never happened to me before.  Each time I stop and restart, I feel the windy cold sink a little deeper into my bones.  The sweat clinging to my layered shirts after each section I run magnifies the chill every time I slow down.  Eventually my second lap around the lakes becomes more walk than run, and I realize, at this pace, with this level of discomfort, that I’ll have to stop at 20k.  – Interestingly, there’s something about this whole process that heals something inside of me.  I become aware of my marriage, and how the years have accumulated burdens as well as blessings.  I suddenly feel like the slate has been wiped clean (from the ‘burden’ side), and resolve to tell Maureen that from now on it’s as if we just got married.  I also know I’ve got to tell her to never again let me be a hindrance to any of her own many generous impulses.  – I arrive home to find that my sister Ginger has emailed to share some breakthroughs she has had that these entries have helped with. – Now I get it.  ‘Wealth’ means, ‘I wouldn’t trade these days for all the gold in the world’.

Tao 9/Day 158 “Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.”

November 16, 2009

Feels like the coldest day of the year.  The rest of the family is still recuperating from the flu.  Whether from dumb luck or from throwing down daily double-doses of miso soup and multi-vitamins, I remain currently symptom-free.  Once again I tend to business close to home before finding a late afternoon opportunity to step to the path.

I’ve been telling myself that I need to get some runner’s sweatpants, but today the ol’ gym shorts will have to do once more.  Layered shirts and a Nike baseball cap aren’t quite enough to completely take the chill out of my bones, but I tell myself the cold will actually help my joints, and won’t hurt my muscles if I ease into things slowly enough and allow them to warm up properly.  – And surprisingly that’s exactly what happens.  By the time I’m a third of the way out, I know that this will be a great run, barring the recurrence of those sudden knee pains that cut short my last time out.

These entries are starting to generate a lot of different responses, from readers both known and that I’ve never met.  As I allow my breath to find its rhythm, I find my awareness handcuffed to two in particular.  One’s from a female friend of the family we met while in Alabama, the other from an old teammate of mine back in high school.

The football friend is appalled by what he is reading.  My reference to anything other than the Bible as a source of wisdom and inspiration gives him cause to call my Christianity into question.  There hasn’t been a single sentence that has served to support his situation.  Not one word that has warmed his heart.  No reference that has revealed an inch of common ground – all due to the fear that I’ve lost my way, and that he will too if he allows for the possibility that the doctrine he’s digested might benefit from a few additional nutrients not worded in quite the same as in his sacred menu.

The Alabama mama is a different story entirely.  Though from the same part of the world, the same basic culture, and the same basic value system, her response has been to make the blog address for these entries the home page on her computer.  Evidently, for her, these inquiries into inner fitness via running with the Tao are how she chooses to start each work day.  – You’d have to know something about me to know why I run with these responses today.  I am, by nature as well as by nurture, a diplomat to my core.  In addition to its positive aspects, this trait can also take various shadow-forms ranging from enabling and people-pleasing to keeping silent when I need to be speaking up.  In the past I have sometimes wanted to be well thought of even to the point of denying myself any number of ‘normal’ necessities in order to not be seen as selfish.  – Yet today’s couplet from the Tao te Ching states that caring about people’s approval is no more than a sure-fire way to be their prisoner.  And, such ‘caring’ doesn’t discriminate.  I’m made just as much a prisoner by reveling in approval as I am by recoiling from rejection.

I breathe til I find a place inside where I’m neither inflated by the acceptance of one friend nor deflated by the disapproval of another.  I know when I get there that my ego isn’t being activated, and that I can now release both hands from these ‘handcuffs’.  My breathing grows freer and freer.  The golden leaves covering the path today take on an added glow.  I feel amazing, and kick joyfully up the final incline and through to the finish. Today’s run is like playing Monopoly – and I just used my get out of jail free card.

Tao 52/Day 155 “Use your own light and return to the source of light.”

November 14, 2009

The Olympic flame for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver starts its cross-country odyssey from right here on the island today.  Better yet, Canada’s gold medal rowing team is scheduled to bear the torch across Elk Lake this afternoon!  What could be better than running with the Tao while basking in the glow of such a light?  Conditions are perfect.  The sun is chasing away a drenching rain, and the temperature has warmed after several chilly days in a row.  It feels good to get out, especially after being mostly cooped up for a week helping take care of Maureen and the boys as they battle a (so far) mild case of the flu.  I find a suitable pace, and quickly my awareness settles on a recent phone conversation with my sister.  Jill has just made, in her words, a ‘pilgrimage’ to tiny Hohenwald, Tennessee to spend some time with writer William Gay.  “Beyond brilliant” is how she describes work that has made him arguably one of the most anthologized authors alive.  Yet he lives in a run-down single-wide trailer, and the lunch he so graciously offers my sister is all he has on hand – a can of Campbell’s soup.  His generous spirit is also shining despite his deteriorating health, and when he praises Jill for “words he wished he’d written himself”, she feels like she’s been given her own personal gold medal straight from mighty Zeus…I hear faint strains of boisterous music now wafting over the water.  My pace quickens.  I feel like I could run two or even three lake-laps right now – especially when I pass the boathouse where the eight white-clad Olympians await a flame that is now running well behind schedule.  The sight of them inspires me to try make another round before the torch arrives.  – But just as I finish lap number one, my right knee flares up with a pain I haven’t felt before.  I try to ‘walk it off’ back toward the boathouse, but it won’t quit…So I’ve got to quit.  I amble back to the car, knowing that the opportunity of running with the Tao while running in sight of such a shining light may never come my way again.  I wonder if I can let go of myself enough to appreciate what I have been given today, rather than focus on what is now – and probably forever — beyond my grasp.  Wouldn’t that be the essence of perfect fulfillment in every situation?  Yes I put my highest desires out there.  Yes I let go of any attachment to them.  Yes I watch in wonder as they are manifested far beyond my ability to manifest them on my own.  – And yes, I let go of comparing the resulting abundance to someone else’s, or to some one-size-fits-all ‘standard’ (such as money) – for that is the moment I’m no longer fulfilled, regardless of where I’m currently located on the spectrum of life.  I can’t speak for William Gay, but I bet, if forced to choose, he’d still take the abundance he has over the abundance he hasn’t had.  “Let those who manifest money manifest it greatly, and share it greatly”, he might say.  “I’ll do the same with what I’ve been given.”

The Olympic torch is one of the most famous lights in all the world, yet it doesn’t compare to the light within each of us.  Its source is ancient Greece, yet even that great source pales beside the source of all light.  If I can use my own light and return to THAT source, I’ll have all the light and all the abundance I’ll ever need – whether I’m a great artist, a rich merchant, or a lowly lone runner stopped just short of his goal.  – As I watch the torch cross the lake on the evening news, I now see its flame as a hopeful reflection of that greater light – and I bask in the promise of both. What a warm, wonderful glow…

Tao 52, Tao 7/Day 150 “If you close your mind in judgements and traffic with desires, your heart will be troubled.” “Because she has let go of herself, she is perfectly fulfilled.”

November 13, 2009

I’m kind of embarrassed that several recent entries are starting with such a similar specific premise.  I’m ‘trying’ to get out the door in response to what feels like ‘the call of the Tao’, while my wife and kids are marching to their own drummer(s) – and wondering aloud, at various volumes, often simultaneously, why I can’t seem to hear their beat.  Today is no exception.  Maureen’s ‘encouragement’ as I head to the gym consists of, “I need to get in a workout too!”  Consequently, I cut my workout short in order to get back, make lunch for the kids, and help out around the house – only to hear her say she doesn’t feel well enough to get a workout in after all. – I start to stew…

Then, with the afternoon’s window closing, I say I’m going to go to the path.  Her response is something like, “Yeah, well I’ve got to go get groceries — it’s harder with the kids — and then they’ve got swimming lessons.”  Once again, I shorten my time on the trail (more on that below) so I can return home in plenty of time to accommodate her and Liam and Logan – only to find that evidently we don’t have to have more groceries right this minute, and that the boys in fact need a break from their swimming lessons today.  – I start to smile…Why the difference?  Well about that run –

The first four kilometers are a struggle the entire way.  My inner dialogue is consumed with whether or not I have enough time to make it all the way around the lakes and still get back home without disrupting anyone else’s schedule.  It saps my energy and drains my ability to remain present.  Then, the moment I do decide to turn around, this egoic ‘burden’ is immediately lifted.  It’s not just that I know I’m going to make it home ‘on time’, or that I’m ‘running downhill’ (even though there’s a long incline ahead).  It’s that I feel relieved of the burden of my desire to go longer, as well as my judgment of Maureen’s perspective that up til now has seemed to limit my options for maximizing today’s upside.  In other words, on a very subtle level, my heart was troubled because I was desiring and judging, and now I’m not doing that, so now my heart’s not troubled.

The lines immediately following those from stanza 52 above read, “If you keep your mind from judging, and aren’t led by the senses, your heart will find peace.”  I begin to have an embodied understanding of how these lines are related to the couplet from stanza number seven.  Mind-judgements and sense-led desires arise from identifying exclusively with the (egoic) self.  If I let go of that ‘self’, what would the mind need to be closed off from, and judging?  What sense-led desires would need to be ‘traffic-ed’ with?

Usually, we hear the phrase ‘let go and let God’ in relation to our relationships, or our circumstances.  For example, if I have a job interview that I’m nervous about, I just need to ‘let go’ of the thought that I can worry my way into the position, and ‘let God’ ‘worry’ about it.  Far less often do we hear ‘let go’ in conjunction with the notion of our idea of our very ‘selves’ – ie –  who we (think) we are.  I can let go of a lot of things, but let go of myself?   – What that might do (or undo) remains to be seen…Stay tuned…