Archive for March, 2010

Tao 47/Day 284 “Without looking out your window, you can see the essence of the Tao.”

March 20, 2010

“Without looking out your window, you can see the essence of the Tao.”  I’ve reached my final entry in this exploration of inner fitness.  It comes on the heels of another week-long layoff.  My left knee is gimpy and my chest is again congested, but springtime and afternoon sunshine more than compensate for these hurdles, and soon I’m out the door…What is the essence of the Tao?  Just because the Tao te Ching says I can see it without looking out my window doesn’t mean I can articulate what it is that I see when I see it.  Indeed, the best answers to this question may be akin to those given in response to notions of beauty (“It’s in the eye of the beholder”) or even pornography (“I can’t tell you what it is, but I’ll know it when I see it.”).  Stories are about the closest that language comes to conveying the sense of such things, and as I run today in sacred silence – save for the sound of my breath – a series of images arises in my mind’s eye that grace-fully carry me all the way around the magic path once more.

These images are actually memories of a story ESPN did of a young man who decided he would walk every eighteen-hole round of every tournament of the 2008 Professional Golfers Association tour.  Not that big of a deal, you might think – except that this thirty year old was born with Cerebral Palsy, and was told by doctors that he would never walk a single step in his entire life.

Enduring multiple surgeries to break and reset his legs before he even entered first grade, this embodiment of the Tao, progressing from walker to crutches to finally just a single cane, developed a love of golf as he grew to adulthood – a love that his parents enthusiastically supported   Bracing himself with his cane, his one-handed swing is now good enough to consistently score around 105 for eighteen holes.

One image in particular stays before me as I run.  It is one the cameras caught from behind of this hero where he’s simply walking down a beautiful fairway.  And falling.  And getting back up to resume his quest.  My lungs and knee don’t bother me at all as long as I see him in front of me.  I fly around the magic path, light as a feather, but even though his gait is halting and arduous, he remains out in front of me, uncatchable, unstoppable.

The thing that inspires me the most about this guy is his humility.  The image in my mind’s eye that keeps me going today is the same one that embarrasses him as his story starts drawing more and more media attention.  He’s not ashamed of who he is or how he is; “It just feels embarrassing sometimes” is all he’ll say, through tears.  – And my own rush up to meet his…The essence of the Tao carries within it the seed of transformation.  Once we find that seed, we can use it any way we want.  Once we become aware of that essence, we naturally want to use it to allow and embody and demonstrate the perfection that is present in every moment and every circumstance we encounter, regardless of outward appearances and challenges.  I cannot say ‘what’ it is, only ‘that’ it is – because I have seen it.  – And sometimes I have seen it not because of anything I have done, but because it has been shown to me by someone who never had any intention of doing anything other enjoying a round of golf.  – I finish this, my final round, in a state of amazement – as good a phrase as any to describe the indescribable.

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Tao 3/Day 282 “The Master leads…by weakening their ambition and toughening their resolve.”

March 15, 2010

“The Master leads…by weakening their ambition and toughening their resolve.”  Today I’m completing my ‘run’ (via air travel) from Victoria to California and back again.  The majority of the ‘magic path’ on this particular trek has consisted of a weekend Hay House conference in downtown San Francisco.  A diverse and extremely talented group of people allowed me the privilege of joining them to receive some world-class coaching on what it takes to successfully bring one’s passions, experiences and expertise to a wider audience.  By the end of the conference, I’ve established some wonderful friendships — as well as a growing conviction that a bestseller may not be in my immediate future after all (I was also proud of myself for resisting that nine dollar can of cashews so prominently displayed next to the flat-screen t.v. in my hotel room)…

The flight home is delayed for almost an hour due to some required mechanical maintenance, but — when passengers are finally allowed to board – I’m seated next to a pleasant, attractive lady also headed back to the island.  She consults with companies on the need for values-based leadership, and it’s clear that she walks her talk.  We hit it off immediately, and proceed to enjoy an animated conversation for much of the flight.

I end up sharing with her what I call ‘the nutshell’ – that brief sequence of events, part autobiography and part personal philosophy – that encapsulates what I understand of how I came to be at this current point in space and time.  I start with the initial move to Los Angeles after college, the early on-camera successes, the later off-camera difficulties, and how – through it all – my underlying spiritual commitment to becoming more authentically myself never wavers.  I touch on the years running the flea market, the joys of fatherhood, the challenges that eventually led to the decision to come to Victoria, and my out-of-the-blue resurgence as an actor and writer as a result of that decision.

I also tell this kind stranger about my experiences at the conference.  Several moments stand out, but one in particular is the result of participating in an exercise to determine current core values.  I’ve done versions of this kind of thing in the past, and at first felt that I readily resonated with the words “Create, Spirit, Freedom, and Connect.”  “However”, I told Jenn (we’d finally introduced ourselves) “as the exercise continued, I found myself writing down four completely different words:  humor, health, clarity and resilience – and ‘resilience’ is a word I’ve never previously resonated with in this way.”  I finish by mentioning the Tao te Ching and its connection to this running/book/blog effort, as well as Maureen’s business efforts to serve others in the autism community, and remark how I could never in a million years have been able to muster an ambition for what has nevertheless become the bulk of my everyday life — which I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

Her smiling reply to all this was so simple, and I’ll never forget it.  “Well, it sounds like your life has been a journey that mirrors what you’re now trying to share with others.  The whole impact of your story is the move from ambition to resilience.”

The plane lands, we say our good-byes, and I head for home in the pouring rain knowing — with a depth beyond any I’ve ever experienced – that the Master has indeed been leading, every breath and every step of the Way.

Tao 11/Day 276 “We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable.”

March 10, 2010

“We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable.”  After such a mild winter, I’m surprised to see the smattering of snow and hail that floats past my springtime window today.  Nevertheless, I bundle up and head to the lakes – only to find the sun magically out in force again, and the temperature perfect for short sleeves.  “Only on an island” I smile to myself…Shuffling along for the first few hundred yards until I’m warmed up, I somehow quickly manage to find a gear I haven’t used in quite awhile, and take off.  My lungs prove to be a match for my legs, and I cover the first half of the territory in record time…I’m so into the run that I barely notice the white stuff that has started falling around me again.  When I finally do, it is with a dreamy, appreciative reverie.  “That’s not precipitation – those are cherry blossoms the wind is tossing from the trees to the trail in honor of my efforts!  What a mistake to have once thought it was only hail.”  I laugh at the limits of my powers of observation, and keep flying around the rest of the magic path until I’ve finished a really fast first lap.  Slowing to a brief walk, I down some water and a Cliff bar, hungry for more…Not two kilometers in to my second time around, and the weather suddenly shape-shifts again.  The temperature drops considerably, the white stuff fills the air – and this time I’m shocked out of my previous reverie and into a recognition that it really is indeed hail and not cherry blossoms that are falling.  How did I get it so wrong before?  Tiny sharp beads of ice start stinging my noggin and bouncing off my glasses into my eyes.  My oneness with the task-at-hand vanishes, I’m cold and growing wetter, and I’ve still got two-thirds of a lake-lap left to traverse.  As I struggle to find a way now to simply finish, an insight struggles to find a way to the surface of my consciousness…Ever since Don Quixote, western ‘impossible dreamers’ have been ‘tilting at windmills’ – ie – trying to project onto a changing, increasingly complex, scientific/empirical reality a sense of story that gives humanity a place in the universe equal to our past sense of preeminence.  But the truth of what we now observe far surpasses our previous attempts to maintain such a ranking.  Some say that that fact is in itself the new story — that the former position we told ourselves we occupied in the universe was ultimately no more than ego and hubris, keeping us from seeing things as they really are.  – Yet the need for the former type of story persists.  Why?  Because it seems that that is still ultimately what makes the ‘inner spaces’ of our individual experiences ‘livable’.  When I was running under a shower of falling cherry blossoms it was effortless.  Running in a hailstorm was nearly unbearable – and ego and hubris were mostly absent from both.  No matter what kind of house ‘out there’ that we discover and build toward, our inner spaces still resonate with imagination as much as observation…I can’t fathom a time when ‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves To Make Our Inner Space Livable” won’t be just as necessary as scientific experiments designed to help us understand more than the four percent of this universe we currently comprehend.  – For can we really live for long – especially with each other — without an inner story that matches our outer observations?  Can we really last without the laws of physics being infused with the love of the Tao (which the Tao te Ching claims “is in the very nature of things” – Stanza 51)?…We may ‘do’ science to find out how the universe works, but we ‘do’ imagination to connect our experience of ourselves to that universe.  By equally cultivating our ability to both observe and imagine, we stimulate the energy of appreciation – the most life-enhancing vibration there is…As I dig down and find the imagination/inspiration to finish today’s run, I’m left to wonder, “What kind of house are we building?  – And are we imagining enough space within ourselves to make it livable?”

Tao 5/Day 273 “The Tao doesn’t take sides…The Master doesn’t take sides;”

March 6, 2010

“The Tao doesn’t take sides…The Master doesn’t take sides;” – Whew!  These words suddenly make me feel like I’m ‘hitting the wall’ as I approach the final stretch of entries in this running-and-writing ‘marathon’ on inner fitness.  As I sit here in my car at the lakeside parking lot waiting for the rain to subside, I start to wonder if I’ve really got what it takes to finish this experimental, experiential, literal-and-metaphorical journey.  – When the sun finally does peek through the clouds, I decide there’s only one way to find out, and exit toward the magic path once more…

’Not taking sides’ is a tough one.  It gets blamed for more short-term hard feelings than just about any Tao-trait that immediately comes to mind.  So many people in my world interpret the phrase as implying passive neutrality, lukewarm-ness, and/or a refusal to get involved in or passionate about life.  In the intimate relationships I’ve known or known about, the word ‘love’ itself is very often interpreted primarily as ‘blind loyalty’ – ie – ‘if you really love me you’ll take MY side, REGARDLESS’, or ‘the fact that I always take your side – whether you want me to or not – counts for more than any-and-everything else I may-or-may-not say or do’.  There is a ‘right’ side and a ‘wrong’ side in these human equations, a ‘good’ side and a ‘bad’ side, and – if I want to stay on someone’s ‘good’ side — I have to choose the ‘right’ side…right?  The Tao’s nature when it comes to such intimacies, on the other hand, is of a completely different order.  Here is the expanded version of the couplet that begins today’s entry:  “The Tao doesn’t take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil.  The Master doesn’t take sides; she welcomes both saints and sinners.”  – In other words, when it comes to intimate relationships, ‘I can be fully present for and supportive of you, without having to judge what you have judged and without judging you for doing so  – even if you then judge me for not giving energy to your judgements and how attached you are to them’.  This is the opposite of neutrality, the antithesis of being lukewarm – and such a challenging level of presence and maturity for me sometimes!…My current ‘practice partner’ is my three year old.  Logan is in a place right now where he is constantly expressing his love:  “I love you, Dazzo (what both boys call me), and I love Mommy, and Liam, and I love myself, and the moon, and Teddy (his teddy bear) and I just love everybody!”  – But, when I occasionally put him in time-out:   “Bad Dazzo! (even though I’ve never used that language with him)  You’re a bad Dazzo!”  If, at those times, I calmly and firmly say “No son, I’m not, and neither are you, but you’ve got to stay here til I tell you to get out because we don’t hit our brother in the head”, then it isn’t long before “Dazzo, I’m ready to say sorry” is sincerely spoken, and the love litany resumes as if nothing ever happened.  My love for him is never disloyal, no matter how much I don’t ‘take his side’, as long as I stay present…The colors are so vibrant on the path today.  So is the light.  This is what filmmakers call ‘the magic hour’.  As I finish today’s moving meditation, I’m not winded at all.  No thoughts either, AT ALL.  ’Amor Fati’ – the ‘love of my fate’ – is all I’m feeling right now…Just because the Tao ultimately doesn’t take sides doesn’t mean I can’t play the ‘role’ of my life to the hilt…Let me feel every emotion, knowing that in any game of life – even the game of intimate relationship – there has to be the ‘the other side’ to have a game at all.  – And let me give thanks for that reality as much as for any personal ‘win’ I might log along the way.  – I head home feeling like I’m ready – finally ready — to finish strong.