Archive for December, 2009

Tao 49/Day 207 “The Master has no mind of her own. She works with the mind of the people.”

December 29, 2009

Nothing like wearing all my Christmas presents to the magic path.  Maureen got me a new black runners cap, ‘breathable’ black gloves, and a black-and-red ‘Fuel Belt’ featuring four high-tech holsters holding four mini water bottles and a tiny pocket to carry my car key and a packet of energy goo.  – I feel like a grandma that got talked into wearing a hot pink mini-skirt and matching go-go boots to chaperone her granddaughter’s high school dance.  Real runners should be wearing this stuff, not me!

It takes a while to breathe into that place where every layer of my existence is in synch with the moment-and-task-at-hand.  “How many layers is that?” I suddenly wonder.  Both sages and scientists have sought to understand and identify our complete existence.  Language labels get attached to these efforts and leak into the broader culture — taking root in such a way as to suggest certainty (like “We’re composed of Body, Mind, and Soul”, or “We can now measure our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual I.Q.”) — but nobody seems to know for sure.  Design scientist Buckminster Fuller declared years ago that “Unity is plural, and at minimum six-fold”, and modern masters of meditation maintain a similar perspective.

But, whatever number it actually is, there does seem to be a couple of common threads among those who have actually experienced the delights of these deeper-than-your-everyday layers.  Chief among them are the lessening of the notion of “I, Me, and Mine” in favor of a more connected reality, and – more importantly to an artist or storyteller of any stripe – an understanding of reality in terms of metaphor and symbol rather than concrete materialism.  – In other words, the deeper inside you go, the more all of life comes alive as a subjective metaphor for Something Otherwise Inexpressible.  The experience is that of a grand play that requires all roles to be filled, with rich rewards awaiting those who learn to say a heartfelt and enthusiastic ‘YES!’ to their part.  This ability to say ‘yes’ to life is a function of what I’ve been calling inner fitness.  If I say ‘no’ to life, I’m isolated and my part gets reduced even more.  If I say ‘yes’ — without that sense of play – I may be brave but I’ve also resigned myself to fatalism.  Not much room in that for transformation.  If, however, I can say ‘yes’ to where I am, however that seems to look, and at the same time see that place as no more or less than a role for which an ending is never really written in stone, I can come to experience the STORY of my life — and of all life – far differently. Where before my mind may have seemed incapable of considering any perspective but the ‘right’ one that I was taught, I now know that wherever my physical or mental or emotional boundaries are at any given point is a perfectly good place to play, but not to STAY.

I don’t know how far I can go on this magic path.  All I know is, by conceiving the journey metaphorically, by engaging it in a spirit of play, and by realizing my connection to others as a critical component of the experience, I’ve just completed back-to-back runs that have carried me almost as many kilometers as my chronological age!  No need for anyone to duplicate my ‘training schedule’.  Look inside, run with the Tao, and experience the story of your own life in all of its uniqueness – whatever path you may currently find yourself on.  Blessings and peace and Happy New Year!

Tao 4/Day 203 “It is hidden but always present. I don’t know who gave birth to it.”

December 26, 2009

“What a perfect meditation for this sunny, cold Christmas Eve!  I can’t wait to run with it – until I actually get to the park. “Pretty chilly down there, huh?”  I remark to two ladies finishing a post-walk stretch. “No, it’s wonderful.  Besides, you’ll be through before you know it!”  – They aren’t the only angels I’ll encounter this auspicious day.  Once I’m on the path, I see an elderly cherub finishing her morning hike with the help of a cane.  “Guess I’ve put this off about as long as I can” I playfully grimace as I jog past her.  “Good for you!” she replies with an encouraging smile.

I breathe into today’s couplet, and am soon reminded of Jesus.  – Not the baby in the manger, but the teacher recorded in The Gospel of Thomas as saying:  “The Kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the earth, but men do not see it”.  This sounds to me almost exactly like today’s Tao-wisdom.  In fact, the more I run with it, the more today’s Tao-wisdom starts to sound like the essence of the Christmas story, too.  – For it seems that to discover what is hidden-but-always-present is to bring to birth an awareness of the present moment itself — in my own life and in the world.  This moment reveals the Kingdom of Heaven, everywhere, however briefly it may last.  My ego is what keeps it ‘hidden’.  That doesn’t mean it’s not here.  Just that I don’t ‘see’ it when my ego is active.  When I do experience the Christ (consciousness), it is a cause for great joy.  And such joy is available to everyone, without exception.  – My pace is quick and effortless.  I remind myself over and over, “it is hidden but always present”.  I look (inside) for ‘it’, as well as in the trees and people and dogs and colors and sounds that surround me.  As long as my attention is pointed in this direction, the normal ‘baggage’ I usually carry gets (thankfully) left at the curb.  I finish one loop, take a break for some water and a Nutragrain bar, and decide to go again.  – Who gave birth to ‘it’?  A literal, lowly virgin?  Lao Tzu says he doesn’t know.  Evidently a certainty about such things is not a prerequisite for experiencing them.  Like the blind man pressured by religious authorities to give credit for his healing to their God rather than one they couldn’t control, I too “don’t know who he is, all I know is once I was blind, and now I can see!”  – I’m deep into my second lap around the lakes now.  I’m slower, and I’m sore-er, but I’m still present.  I marvel at how dogs with not much more hair than I have are able to happily splash around in these frigid waters.  For that matter, how does that 68 yr. old I just read about in the newspaper swim in the ocean without a wet suit this time of year?  “I’ve got a beautiful life!”  he exclaims in the article.  I finish a second lap, take another break, and am off yet again.  Splashing in uncharted waters myself now – I too have a beautiful life!  – Two and a half kilometers later, I’m approached by yet another angel.  Also female, she’s a young lady on her first trip around the magic path, and she’s asking for directions.  I can’t tell her what I know in a way that she will understand – her being so new to this territory — so I offer to run with her until she can recognize the way home for herself.  She agrees, and, by the time we part company, I realize that we have ‘rescued’ each other.  She’s no longer lost, and I’ve been carried by her company within sight of my car.  – I guess a fifteen and a half mile run — or any other hidden-but-present miracle of the season — requires angels to bring it to birth.

Tao 23/Day 200 “Open yourself to the Tao, then trust your natural responses; and everything will fall into place.”

December 22, 2009

Today is the winter solstice, northern hemisphere-style.  Few anticipations fire me up like the prospect of ever-increasing daylight.  True – the changes are so small as to go unnoticed for a while yet; but just the knowledge that it’s happening is enough to banish the irrational impulses that have me wanting to get the boys ready for bed every evening at the stroke of five-thirty.  What it doesn’t banish is this bone-chilling wind that greets me as I drive the short distance to the path…I carry a pocket-copy of the Tao te Ching with me, and sit with it in the car before embarking.  “If you open yourself to the Tao, you are at one with the Tao and you can embody it completely” it whispers from Stanza 23.  “If you open yourself to insight, you are at one with insight and you can use it completely” it continues — raising its voice to make sure that I’ve heard.  “If you open yourself to loss, you are at one with loss and you can accept it comple-“-Yeah, yeah, I get it! Open myself, I get it!!…“We’ll see”, the silence answers…So, what are my ‘natural responses’ that I am to trust as I open myself to and run with the Tao today?  Well, for starters, somebody must’ve turned up my metabolism somewhere between leaving the car and starting to run, because I’m now barely a mile in and already I’m heating up like a furnace.  The toboggan comes off (they call it a ‘toque’ around here), the windbreaker gets unzipped – I must look like Albert Brooks in that scene from “Broadcast News” where he’s flop-sweating at the anchor desk.  Then comes the feeling of wanting to quit less than half-way through.  This is the same feeling I’ve had the last few times out, but each time before I’ve dropped in to my breath and managed to ‘finish what I’ve started’.  The same pattern is being followed today.  My legs are sore, my steps on the magic path heavier than normal, but I soldier on.  It occurs to me that maybe I’m not eating enough food or getting enough sleep to run three 10k’s every week.  Whatever it is, it’s not working…And then, again, as has so often been the case out here, an insight finds me.  This time it’s an inversion of the opening couplet from stanza 36:  “If you want to expand something, you must first allow it to contract.”  I haven’t even run as far as the first time I started writing about this process, but I immediately stop running and start walking.  It’s a ‘natural’ response – I’m open to the Tao, and I’m allowing this task-at-hand to contract.  As I now walk with this meditation, I become energized to a startling degree.  It’s clear that, on an unconscious level, I’ve wanted this process to unfold in an ever-expanding fashion – two steps forward, no steps back.  But that’s not the Tao.  I mean, it’s the day of the winter solstice, for goodness’ sake!  The whole northern hemisphere is in a state of maximum contraction, and here I am trying to pound out the same runs with the same attitude as if it were the Fourth of July!   Of course I need to stop and reflect in the midst of this effort!  I start to laugh at the ego of it all…Now a dog comes up to me, wanting me to pet him before his human companion catches up.  Then follow several pleasant exchanges with others out enjoying the first official day of winter…I now find myself at the last long hill.  With an unforced joy, I begin ‘sprinting’ to the top — interval training, Tao-style.  At the finish, the sun is again shining, and I smile with the realization that, indeed, being open to the Tao allows everything…to fall into place.

Tao 66/Day 198 “All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power.”

December 20, 2009

“What if what I’m born to manifest in this life turns out to never be more than a begging bowl when it comes to the marketplace?”  – How much attention to allot to this question is the question that begins today’s run.  How it got here begins with last night.

Our neighbors are moving.  They’re the only new friends that we’ve made since arriving, and now they’re going back to the States.  Though the reasons are many, the bottom line is that a child is having real problems adjusting to life away from their former home, and – as the mother says with a brave smile – “you’re only as strong as your weakest link, right?”  – This rueful rhetorical question stays with me.  When I mention it later to Maureen, she resists the use of such a category as ‘weakest link’.  I reply that I (and I’m sure our friend) do too – but that I understand the sentiment.

For there are many times, if I’m being honest, when it seems like all my decisions and actions are driven not by high aspirations, or the insights and experiences and possibilities of the present moment, but by whoever’s Achilles heel (physical, emotional, psychological or otherwise) requires the most immediate attention.  Life as one big triage unit, with all of us the walking wounded, each taking turns playing doctor or patient.  At this stage of life, it seems like I play doctor most of the time.

And yet I know of impermanence.  How I too was a baby, and shall be an old man.  As I run through this forest now soaked from the fall rains, I know that come summer they’ll be dry as a bone.  There’ll be plenty of opportunity to play the weak link.  This realization of mortality alone is enough to bring humility to any impulse to question life’s fairness.  If I have been blessed (and I have) with good health, or even some skills considered ‘world class’, that doesn’t mean I’ve got a free ride while others who’d never be picked first for ANY team get to fight over crumbs.  – So I can grasp the humility required to share life’s blessings.  I can even anticipate embracing my inevitable physical decline with a measure of acceptance and grace.  But now I’m back to the begging bowl – that symbol for centuries in the east of a life devoted to spiritual realization, and therefore unable to even feed itself, except by begging.  Add to that my culture which serves up a cocktail of self-reliance and materialism that, when wed to traditional understanding, produces proclamations that doing what I love – indeed that love itself – is the key to earthly as well as heavenly riches, and I’m left to wonder:  Is this an evolutionary leap forward in spiritual understanding?  Or am I abandoning humility by expecting prosperity to automatically accompany insight?  – My legs feel heavy and my joints are aching as I trot the final few kilometers. It seems like I’m stuck on a plateau of ‘averageness’ out here – not the weakest link, but certainly not the master of this or any other domain.  Then, out of nowhere, I get a vision.  In my mind’s eye, I see a begging bowl suddenly blazing with a golden glow.  I somehow grasp that the evolution occurring on the way to a truly global spirituality is not in the teaching but in the understanding of man.  If I follow my bliss, WITH HUMILITY, I indeed will construct a golden bowl.  One that returns both blessings to me and more to any giver than what they put in – like streams flowing to the sea…Humility lived as the power to re-circulate or humbly hold in reserve the waters of life.  I head home hoping not just to go with the flow, but to keep the flow going  — to become one with this wonderful Life.

Tao 70/Day 196 “If you want to know me, look inside your heart.”

December 18, 2009

Seems like it’s getting harder and harder as winter progresses for me to sustain the openness to the Tao this effort requires.  Not just because external conditions are harsher.  My internal landscape is infested anew with expectations.  Expectations that the holiday season brings, expectations that each entry now needs to meet a certain standard as judged by my inner critic, expectations that – even though Lao Tzu repeats certain themes over and over in the Tao te Ching – I should have an original insight every time I run the magic path.  “Chop wood-carry water, become enlightened, chop wood-carry water” is for others; my existence/experience/example is supposed to be DIFFERENT.  But today’s run isn’t different.  The air is cold, but not overly so.  The ground is still wet and muddy, but not impassable.  Skies are cloudy and grey, but not depressing.  In reality, the novelty of this enterprise is wearing off, and ‘real life’ is once again clamoring for the energy and effort I’ve needed to pursue this personal passion without pause.  – I pass a woman who looks to be in her mid-seventies running in the opposite direction, and suddenly wonder if I will still be running (or doing anything else) with the Tao twenty-five years hence…I now become aware of another great friend and teacher.  Rex once told me in an improvisation class that “no matter how despicable the character you’re playing may seem to be, you can find a part – even the despicable part – of that character inside yourself.”  In other words, we’re all human beings.  We all move through this world carrying the genetic attributes of our ancestors, the accidents of our various births, the impressions of our environments and experiences, the random acts of cruelty as well as kindness we endure or perpetrate – and in truth there is nothing we are not capable of, for good or ill, given the appropriate choices and incentives and circumstances.  One of the most profound expressions in all the Tao te Ching speaks marvelously to this reality in Stanza 27:  “What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?  What is a bad man but a good man’s job?  If you don’t understand this, you will get lost, however intelligent you are.  It is the GREAT SECRET.”  (emphasis mine)  – But, whether ‘good’ or ‘bad’, can any of us really know anybody else?  As I continue my run I find myself contemplating my primary relationship with my wife.  Even though we were both well into our adulthood when we met, and even though we both had been previous participants in the distresses of a divorce and were so careful to emphasize honesty and compatibility before committing this time to each other, even then – we had no idea who each other was, and certainly no idea how we each would respond to the vagaries and realities of the story that is our life together.  – Yet the author of the Tao te Ching states – like my friend Rex – that I CAN know another person.  Not only that, but I can know another person from a completely different culture, a completely different part of the world, and a completely different era in history.  Lao Tzu asserts that if I want to know who he is, all I have to do is look inside my own heart.  Jesus said basically the same thing – that in fact the entire ‘kingdom of heaven’ is to be found and known within me…As I finish this latest round (in the never-ending round of life), I realize where I’ve gotten off track.  My lack of openness to the Tao lately is a direct result of not looking inside my heart lately.  For there, too, is the place where I find not only who others are, but who I am as well.

Tao 58/Day 193 “Thus the master is content to serve as an example and not to impose her will.”

December 14, 2009

“If a country is governed with tolerance, the people are comfortable and honest.  If a country is governed with repression, the people are depressed and crafty.   When the will to power is in charge, the higher the ideals, the lower the results.  Try to make people happy, and you lay the groundwork for misery.  Try to make people moral, and you lay the groundwork for vice.”  – These are the lines from Stanza 58 of the Tao te Ching that precede today’s meditation-in-motion.  They suggest that I cannot impose my will – on this page, on my family, on my work, on my own body, on my country, on the world, on anyone or anything – without inciting unintended consequences.

Yet the temptation to do just that is always so great.  “I know what’s best here, I can see where those with less vision or experience are going astray, I can’t just do nothing, I can push myself even harder, I can fix this by whipping everybody into shape, I can tell whatever power that created this cosmic mess where they went wrong, I can make my kids turn into model adults, I know my wife-or-husband better start acting like I want them to or I’m outta here, people ought to be vegetarians, or Christians, or for God’s sake at least non-smokers-so we’ve-got-to-pass-laws-to-make-‘em-BEHAVE!  That’ll make ‘em moral!  That’ll make ‘em happy!  Then I can finally relax and be happy too!!!”  – No, it won’t, and no, I won’t.  Whatever example I was trying to live will instead be lost in the effort to force others to live by it as well.

Where then can I find inspiration, in the face of such powerlessness, to remain an example?  If what I do is not going to ‘change things for the better’, why bother changing myself?  How can I be an example, and be CONTENT to SERVE as an example, when everything’s going to hell in a hand-basket?  The Tao te Ching strongly suggests that I am not “doing nothing” when I am “being something”.  And that ‘something’ to be is ‘present to my own life’.  If, as the first order of business, I am looking outside myself and judging all that is ‘wrong’ with the world, I can’t be truly content.  If I am looking ‘at’ myself, and seeing only what seems to be missing compared to others or what seems to be superior to others, I can’t truly serve with the example I do have.  If, on the other hand, as the first order of business, I am looking ‘inside’ myself, and then allowing that stillness to form the basis of all my perceptions about myself and my relationships and my world, then I can increasingly experience the present moment in my life, which produces both an example and a contentment that others may want to know more about once they come in contact with it.  “Being something” may seem at first like “doing nothing” – but the results are far from nothing, and don’t carry the baggage of unintended consequences.  – As I find an opening to once again run around this magic path that I love, may I release once more the notion that this effort is anything more than a contented example of prioritizing inner fitness and allowing the results to speak for themselves.  I’m not trying to change the world.  I’m trying to be present to my own life.  That prioritizing of presence and inner fitness has already changed my world in so many ways.  Whether it does the same for anyone else or not is up to them…And the Tao…If it does change their world, I’ll be waiting…Ready…Doing nothing at all…Nothing but running with the Tao…

Tao 31/Day 191 “Peace is his highest value…His enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.”

December 12, 2009

This is a violent universe, physically and humanly speaking.  From the earliest Big Bang to the latest star-collapse, from millions of degrees Fahrenheit to absolute zero, extreme violence – by our standards — is the norm.  The titanic eruptions that still blast out of the depths of this microscopic cul-de-sac we call Earth seem absolutely tame in comparison to what the Hubble telescope et. al. has allowed us to observe elsewhere.  – Likewise the violence enacted to sustain what we call ‘life’ on this planet.  Whatever its ‘original origination point’ (which itself is a ‘western’ concept), life as we know it is maintained, destroyed, and renewed by feeding on itself.  To paraphrase Joseph Campbell, “Life lives on life, and one of the primary requirements of a properly functioning mythology is to bring the human psyche in accord with this unalterable, terrible fact.”  – Small wonder then that violence seems practically programmed into our human DNA.  When we tap in to our most violent impulses, self-preserving, self-serving or otherwise, we’re doing little more than mirroring the universe that we see when we look outside ourselves.  — But when we look, as the Tao te Ching suggests, ‘inside’ ourselves, we find values that have to do with more than just the physical laws of nature as they are currently known.  Somehow, when we get still enough for long enough, there arises a sense that this stillness is more real than the violent movement of the physical world, and that the connectivity we feel is a deeper reality than all our seeming separateness.  Whether this is ever proved ‘true’ or not in any absolute scientific sense, it has prevailed in our human imagination long enough to foster values that place violence toward the bottom rather than the top of our species’ spiritual-mental-emotional food chain.  — So what’s all this got to do with running around a lake on yet another cold and dreary winter’s afternoon?  At first blush, I don’t know.  There’s nothing to suggest this particular meditation in the thin sheets of ice now covering broad sections of the water, nor in the surrounding bare branches and brown grasses and grey skies.  I suppose the best I can come up with is simply, “Tis the season”.  Whatever the reason, I find myself asking, “What is MY highest value?”  The Tao te Ching states that, for a master, the answer to that question is ‘peace”.   But, whatever value I choose, the lines at the top of this page also suggest that recognizing the same value in other people – particularly my ‘enemies’ – is a sure way to manifest that value myself.  In other words, if peace is my highest value, realizing that my enemy is a human being like myself (that values peace) will lead in fact to actual peace.  Focusing on similarities rather than differences produces the realization of values that remain elusive when differences are prioritized.  – An inspiration now floods me as I race toward the finish of this latest trip around the magic path.  It’s a simple idea of ‘running with the Tao for peace around the world’.  It seems preposterous, yet totally in keeping with my highest values.  I’m running, and meditating, and writing – alone for the time being – for peace.  Whether anyone feels initially opposed to or in favor of such an idea is irrelevant, as is my own hesitation to frame these activities in such a light.  The world around me may have no current use for such an enterprise, but that doesn’t make such a world an ‘enemy’.  This human world is made up of human beings just like me.  And if that is really true, they want peace, too…Badly…Maybe even bad enough to one day make a run for it…all the way around the world.  Peace on Earth!

Tao 33/Day 189 “Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

December 10, 2009

I’ve been tricked. The sun bouncing off the garage door had me believing it was warmer.  Now I’ve barely begun my run, and already my hands and ears are numb. What was I thinking leaving my cap and gloves at home?  Several ‘real runners’ are out today though.  Two guys from the opposite direction zip past while casually discussing “thirty-one minutes”.  I sense they’re referring to their own 10K training times.  Even though such strength is impressive, their ability to leave me in the dust somehow doesn’t leave me particularly inspired to go and do likewise.

Then, on the backside of the lake, past a maple sapling anonymously decorated with purple garlands and gold-covered Christmas ornaments, I see another real runner coming toward me.  This solitary young man looks to be around six feet six inches tall.  He’s decked out in runner’s gear from head to toe, and appears to be almost lazy as he pads forward – even though his soft stride and perfect form are propelling him around the lakes much faster than I’m traveling right now.  As we exchange a smile and a nod of solidarity, I instantly start adjusting my stride.  Then, as we continue in opposite directions, I unconsciously begin to make subtle changes in how my feet are hitting the ground.  I bring my elbows in ever-so-slightly closer to my ribcage, and start propelling myself forward with less effort and more enjoyment.  To top it off, my mood suddenly feels strangely elevated.  In other words, just a few seconds in the presence of a real master – in this case, of running – has an immediate, transforming, and lasting effect on my own efforts around the magic path.

What a perfect example of ‘true power’!  Without ‘doing’ anything except mastering himself in a particular arena, this fellow made me better in that same arena. The same happens in other endeavors.  Truly great ballplayers are often said to ‘make their teammates better’.  Great teachers evoke a thirst for knowledge in their students.  Great leaders of all stripes inspire a level of commitment and achievement that goes beyond just their own exhortations and instructions.  This phenomenon is also occurs in the presence of a ‘spiritual master’.   Something is transferred just by being in the presence of an authentic, masterful spirit.  We’ve historically downplayed this reality in the West – partly because we are soaked in a religious tradition that insists such power is unique and ‘other-worldly’ – belonging only to a god…‘our’ god.  But in fact such mastery is latent and available in varying degrees to all of us.  Recent research has confirmed that laughter is ‘infectious’, and that enthusiasm, love, and other states can be activated in a person just by being in the presence of someone else exuding such energy.  What other power could be ‘truer’ than this?  To be able to awaken and transform the consciousness of another person without forcing or ‘doing’ a thing!   I contemplate how much time and effort I’ve expended in my life either directly or indirectly trying to alter my circumstances, or the behavior of those around me, with all the good intentions in the world (the road to hell being paved with such good intentions).  And, to be sure, I’ve been ‘strong enough’ in many instances to prevail.  But now, as I finish feeling better than when I started, I resolve to let go of such strength, and rely instead on cultivating true power – the only kind that doesn’t corrupt.

Tao 25/Day 187 “For lack of a better name, I call it the Tao.”

December 7, 2009

My nephew is a freshman at a prestigious liberal arts university.  He is currently studying Eastern Religions.  Last time I communicated with my sister, she told me that Jonas – having become aware of my writings – had asked her if I was now a ‘Taoist’.  – This question returns to me now as I layer up, brave the cold, and see if I can run my way to an answer for him before my view of the sun is eclipsed by the earth once more.

What do I (or any of us) call “It”?  “God”?  “Allah”?  “Jehovah”?  “Brahman”?  “Great Spirit”?  “Source”?  “Divine Mystery”?  “Higher Power”?  “The Big Empty”?  “The Great Hoax”?  Regardless, the writer of the Tao te Ching demonstrates a phenomenal humility by prefacing what he calls “It” with, “For lack of a better name”.  Here is a man (Lao Tzu) whose spiritual insight has served as a touchstone for untold millions over the past twenty-five hundred years – yet he refuses to even assert that he knows with certainty what the subject of his understanding is to be called.  Wow.

There’s actually ice on the magic path this late Sunday afternoon, as well as numerous tree limbs blown down by the howling wind.  Yet it doesn’t seem to bother anybody very much.  Couples with their hardy kids, fishermen, lake-frolicking dogs, and more than one female runner either older, bare-headed, or in shorts(!) keep me from thinking I’m doing anything particularly noteworthy (or nuts) by being out here.  I pass a photographer – oblivious to everything but the tiny fungus he focuses his lens upon that clings to a fallen, rotting log by the path.  – “There”, I realize out of nowhere.  “That guy is experiencing “It!”  Wow!  – A deeper question now gushes up to occupy my awareness as I run.  “When or where was the last time I EXPERIENCED “It”?

I instantly recall that I was jolted awake a little before six this morning by my three year old son Logan.  He’s finally caught the virus that has been holding his Mommy and older brother hostage.  In bed with him to monitor his fever, I’d felt him heating up, so I got the bubblegum-flavored children’s Motrin and some water.  The medicine went down, the water went down, and the vomit came roaring back up – soaking both of us, as well as the bed sheets.  Though he cried with gusto at first, it wasn’t long before his fever broke.  I dozed on the couch while he and Liam watched early morning t.v., then made breakfast before taking Liam for a swim while Maureen monitored our brave little man.

Upon returning from the Commonwealth Community Center, it was immediately apparent that Logan had again taken a turn for the worse.  More meds had not stopped his fever this time, which was pegging 103.5 degrees.  Maureen dashed upstairs to fill a bath tub with tepid water while I prepped to hop in with Logan…The insight in this entire recollection is not how brave he was to stay in that bath with me til his fever broke, even as he cried how cold he was the entire time.  The insight is that I experienced “It” as I was carrying his hot body up those stairs when – feeling miserable – he nevertheless leaned in and gave me the sweetest kiss, as if to let me know that no amount of illness was capable of dimming his love for me or his light in this world. WOW.  – As I finish another amazing run in this cold, beautiful darkness, I realize my answer to my nephew’s question.  From now on, if anyone insists on labeling me, they can do so, with my permission, by calling me not a Taoist but a Wow-ist.  For — for lack of a better word, that’s the best way to describe how I now experience “It”, more and more, every day.

Tao 29/Day 184 “There is a time for being ahead, a time for being behind.”

December 3, 2009

Bounceback.  The temperature has dropped drastically, and I’m off to a late start.  This far north, we’re already losing sight of the sun well before five p.m.  Since circumstances have eliminated the chance of going long on the path today, I’m naturally able to stay away from all my recent ego-thoughts concerning such possibilities.  I don’t have the time to over-ponder my pace.  I don’t have to conserve energy or do anything right now but run with the Tao.  As I adjust my cap, rub my heart, and take off in the opposite direction I usually travel, I hear a new mantra – see not how far but how fast you can go.

The cold soon becomes a strange ally.  The ache in my chest as I breathe it in deeply feels oddly exhilarating.  The trail is much drier.  My footing is surer.  My lungs are a freight train as I run through these woods.  There’s less pain in my body – it must like this freedom.  – Either that, or I’ll never make it if I keep up this pace…I cannot believe that just two days ago I ended up faring so much worse in so much warmer conditions.  – It must be much more than my own puny ego that was holding me back from a great run that day… It must be that sometimes it just happens – the planets align, the moon gets full, and forces far greater than those I can personally muster come tell me to hang on and enjoy a great ride…Or else the opposite…Sometimes there’s just a time for being ahead, and, sometimes, a time for being behind.  Today’s Tao-couplet could’ve come from any tradition.  It’s almost verbatim Old Testament wisdom, Ecclesiastes-style.  The fact that it’s both so widespread and so ancient does not necessarily make it pertinent today.  The fact that it resonates so strongly inside me right now as I run is a better barometer.  The Buddha is said to have told his disciples not to believe anything they were told that did not accord with their own reason and experience.  We’re told in our culture we can do or be anything.  Nothing’s off-limits, everyone is a star.  And yet, as I look (in my mind’s eye) all around me now, I see so many examples still so far from that ideal.  And many of these examples have almost nothing to do with how in synch someone is with the ‘law of attraction’.  Now, to be fair, to be sure, there are many as well who are in fact ‘living the beautiful dream’.  Just today, as example, it was announced that an old roommate of mine has been nominated for a Grammy award as writer for best country song.  Such an honor will certainly put his career in the stratosphere.  But, again, you’ll just have to take my word for it that, at least in his case, the honors haven’t come from banishing self-doubt, or constructing vision boards, or mastering forgiveness, or dedicating his career to the glory of God, or anything else we’re sold in today’s spiritual marketplace as the reason why everyone else is successful while we’ve yet to heal ourselves of our debts, or our diseases, or our poor relationship choices, or any other external malady that seems to have befallen us and won’t go away.  My friend has worked, and he’s worked, and when no one believed in him and he didn’t believe in himself and his bills started piling up and his family responsibilities kept growing – he kept showing up and kept working.  – And, oh yeah, he’s got a great God-given talent, and he was born thirty miles from Nashville.  As I finish my run feeling wondrously high, I realize anew that I am a co-creator at best.  There is a life that I’m living, and a life that is living me.  If I can make peace with that fact, I can experience life’s riches regardless of whether I’m running ahead or behind.