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The middle way is wide open, but it’s tough going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. When we feel lonely, when we feel hopeless, what we want to do is move to the right or the left. We don’t want to sit and feel what we feel. We don’t want to go through the detox. Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken the bravery that exists in everyone without exception, including you and me.

…Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It’s restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.

~Pema Chödrön~

TreesatJackson

Q: What is the Buddha?

A: Your Mind is the Buddha. The Buddha is Mind. Mind and Buddha are indivisible. Therefore it is written: “That which is Mind is the Buddha; if it is other than Mind, it is certainly other than Buddha.”

Q: At the moment of Enlightenment, where is the Buddha?

A: Where does your question proceed? Whence does your consciousness arise? When speech is silenced, all movement stilled, every sight and sound vanished–THEN is the Buddha’s work of deliverance truly going forward! Then, where will you seek the Buddha? You cannot place a head upon your head, or lips upon your lips; rather, you should just refrain from every kind of dualistic distinction. Hills are hills. Water is water. Monks are monks. Laymen are laymen. But these mountains, these rivers, the whole world itself, together with sun, moon and stars–not one of them exists outside your minds! The vast chiliocosm exists only within you, so where else can the various categories of phenomena possibly be found? Outside Mind, there is nothing.

~Huang-Po~

Canyon

My mother said don’t go near anyplace other children have drowned;
my father said death wasn’t the worst thing: it was waking up crippled
from falling to the rocks below, a broken back or head injury but alive,
knowing forever from your permanent bed you’d done it to yourself.

But don’t you think you have to find out on your own? Don’t you think
it’s essential to crawl down the sharp walls where one misstep hurtles you
into unthinkable pain? Don’t you think – and this isn’t a prank — that unless
you flirt with the river of sorrow happiness will never find its way?

So I wandered down through a broken, bony forest to the edge of the canyon,
and I looked straight down into the dark waters, became addicted to the view
at the edge. It would be so easy, I thought, to drift over the falls of air and through
the hidden portal to those dirty little shallows where they’d finally find my body.

I sat quietly looking into its face, the smell of damp stone rising
entwined with the soft gurgle of the winding flow and the wet transience
of impersonal traces. Yes, here is my suffering now: I could not escape
the dungeons of my self-belittlement and the same sad repetitive ends.

Until one day I slipped, came so close to the flowers of the funeral home
that my body lost all feeling in anticipation of the cut, the nothingness,
and I scrambled upward as if startled by the unseen snake on a ledge,
as if eye-level I’d barked at it, my own destruction; saw it whole and coming.

Scared me enough, I guess, to live. I stopped looking down there, letting that
slippery thing dominate. Let it slither through on its own. I’d seen it now
and jumped aside, saw how new the mountains were ahead, felt the way the sun
crosses entire valleys in a day and how any river, even sorrow, is only a part.

~Dan~

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I was sitting in a bar near Kihei on Maui with two beautiful Hawaiian women — sisters. The place was loud with rock ‘n roll and blues, and we drank a few beers.

“I think you need a Hawaiian name,” said one. “‘Daniel,’ you know, could be ‘Kaniela.'”

“Hmmm, yes he looks like a Kaniela,” said the other sister after a moment’s thought, “but maybe….” She paused, her dark eyes drilling down to something more important.

She asked: “So who were you named after?”

“Well, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, from the Bible,” I replied, speaking from the shy child inside me.

“Yes, I thought so,” the second sister said. I knew this one less well than the first, but she was very intuitive (they both were) — and willing to take a few risks. “And what was Daniel from the Bible like?” she asked.

“He was a soothsayer. He was an interpreter of dreams. He was a courageous man, but he wasn’t just a courageous fool. He could see into things.” I said something like this, although I cannot remember exactly.

“Then you are not Kaniela,” the second sister continued. “That is just a phonetic transcription of Daniel. You are Kaniala.”

The first sister, said “Yes, that’s right” and smiled.

“And what’s the difference?” I asked, in my introverted, mild embarrassment.

“Kaniela is just a name,” the second sister told me. “Kaniala means ‘caller to the path.'”

And so it is. I smiled, too. It was right.

My Hawaiian dictionary has long paragraphs on both kani (a cry) and ala (a path). I look at these words, associated as they are in my mind with the feminine beauty of the Islands and with my own personal journey to fulfill my purpose, and am ever so grateful to the sisters.

What a gift

that we should hold for one another

a deeper name

even as we know

no name will ever do.

~Kaniala~

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As I scanned in more photographs from my family of origin’s past, I thought about how magical it is to have these memories present, however rearranged in my mind by time’s passage.

I cannot describe exactly the feelings I have looking at these photos of my mother, grandmother and uncle, grandfather, father and brother — and me, the youngest son. They are like things dredged out of a canal; an archaeological dig. They bring up everything that happened in the past. They bring up all the incongruences of childhood. They define a time, many times, and they raise the question of why they have come back now into my life. I look at them as if they were shards of pottery pulled from the earth, and it is my job to find them all, to reassemble them into a whole.

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A few months ago my brother and I cleared out some boxes from storage that my parents will no longer be needing. In one of them was a ziploc baggie stuffed full of hundreds of old negatives, some from as far back as the teens and nineteen twenties. I bought a new scanner today and brought a few of the negatives back to life. This is my favorite, a picture of my mother and her younger brother. It must have been taken some time in the twenties. My uncle died many years ago from complications of a heavy equipment accident, but my mother is still in good health for someone her age — 95. She is still the sweet person she ever was, just a little forgetful, and once in awhile she has trouble speaking.

For some reason looking at this photograph I feel some sadness. Maybe it’s the look in their eyes — like all kids complaining about having to stand there and wait for the shot, and maybe also feeling too old to have their arms around one another; possibly not liking each other or the guy taking the photo all that much at the moment. And maybe that’s all my own projection, just reflecting the passage of so much time and my capacity to create a story. I imagine the photograph was taken in early summer, about June perhaps. There are some stakes in the background, probably bean poles, and when the photograph is enlarged you can also see some small roses growing there. I can almost feel the warmth of the day in the soft light illuminating their faces. The slant says it’s evening. Undoubtedly, this was their yard and my grandfather took the picture. But discovering it, bringing it up onto my screen almost felt as if somehow I had taken it myself, as if it had been in my body waiting like a dream to show up now, today.

Time really doesn’t exist, does it? Only this timeless stuff: this memory, not even my own, waiting in a drawer year after year until it is ready to be played over again.

I am startled by the depth of my feelings.

~Dan~

PS: You can see a recent picture of my mother at the end of this post on my other blog.

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I seated myself opposite him on a cushion. He handed me tea, but did not speak a word. So we sat for a long while. There was no sound but the singing of the kettle on the hot coals. At last the Master rose and made me a sign to follow him. The practice hall was brightly lit. The Master told me to put a taper, long and thin as a knitting needle, in the sand in front of the target, but not to switch on the light in the target-stand. It was so dark that I could not even see its outlines, and if the tiny flame of the taper had not been there, I might perhaps have guessed the position of the target, though I could not have made it out with any precision. The Master “danced” the ceremony. His first arrow shot out of dazzling brightness into deep night. I knew from the sound that it had hit the target. The second arrow was a hit, too. When I switched on the light in the target-stand, I discovered to my amazement that the first arrow was lodged full in the middle of the black, while the second arrow had splintered the butt of the first and plowed through the shaft before embedding itself beside it. I did not dare to pull the arrows out separately, but carried them back together with the target. The Master surveyed them critically. “The first shot,” he then said, “was no great feat, you will think, because after all these years I am so familiar with my target-stand that I must know even in the pitch darkness where the target is. That may be, and i won’t try to pretend otherwise. But the second arrow which hit the first–what do you make of that? I at any rate know that it is not ‘I’ who must be given credit for this shot. ‘It” shot and ‘It’ made the hit. Let us bow to the goal as before the Buddha!”

The Master had evidently hit me, too, with both arrows: as though transformed over night, I no longer succumbed to the temptation of worrying about my arrows and what happened to them…

~Eugen Herrigel~

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When I found this doorway, I stood back. It was too perfect to enter. It held the promise of too much paradise. I was not “wealthy” enough to open such a door. I could feel my own resistances, my own judgments about who I am and what I deserve. It symbolized too much. Now, looking at this and other photographs that represent “a way in,” I can see that each is only a mirror, only a glass. I cannot reach for the latch without asking, “Am I ready?” Is this really who I am ready to be?

No one of us knows for sure — not just what is on the other side of the door, but really what is yet on this side of it. We carry the unfinished, the uncompleted. We are still as dark to ourselves as we are light.

We are never ready for our own perfection. And yet…and yet…my hand goes forward, asking the Limitless what I may find just beyond.

Dare I discover myself? Dare I knock?

I cannot help it if I am this (crazily) curious.

~Dan~

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In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.

You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,

but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.

~Rumi~

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I have been to El Santuario de Chimayo north of Santa Fe many times. A very old church, it is always a quiet, sacred place, even though there are many tourists.

You can’t escape the meaning, if you know — and you do know — there must be a spiritual aspect to life. It is full of the lives lived in the high desert and hills of what is now New Mexico. Lives lived in the privacy of canyons where there is only the thinnest dirt track to follow and under a sky from which no one can hide. It matters little what “faith” is represented by the church or how homely the setting, which includes a few nearby restaurants where you can buy souvenirs — a French word, meaning “remember.” You see the sanctuary and you become quiet, quiet in spirit. Mortality is here, full of generations. All the stories of families are here: the fights and reconciliations, furtive trysts and endless partings, accidents of fate, childbirths, child-deaths, a hundred — a thousand differing pains, men and women in love, despair or both; the lost ones and the found growing old equally as they come to this same place still believing. Your ears buzz with the the celebratory noise of marriages and the silence of losses, of funerals, of innocence, of all the living fables of trust and betrayal — and finally, especially, healing — everything, united in one place where the pigeons now roost in the rafters and the dry leaves of the trees rattle in the wind like so many lessons about this strange state of simply being alive. You cannot come here without thinking about who you are, about relationships past and present, and what you yet must do in your life. You are dust here. You are the art of dust. And you cannot stand here for long without acknowledging that there is something unfathomable at the center, a deep acceptance of you so much greater than your own acceptance of life or suffering. There is only an ocean that fitfully laps in a dry, cold space at the edge of a tiny village called “the human.” And by this you know you are home.

It can’t be photographed or written down, no matter how good you are. It is the medicine.

~Dan~

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He halted suddenly and heard his heart in the silence. How far had he walked? What hour was it?

There was no human figure near him nor any sound borne to him over the air. But the tide was near the turn and already the day was on the wane. He turned landward and ran towards the shore and, running up the sloping beach, reckless of the sharp shingle, found a sandy nook amid a ring of tufted sand-knolls and lay down there that the peace and silence of evening might still the riot of his blood.

He felt above him the vast indifferent dome and the calm processes of the heavenly bodies; and the earth beneath him, the earth that had borne him, had taken him to her breast.

He closed his eyes in the languor of sleep. His eyelids trembled as if they felt the vast cyclic movement of the earth and her watchers, trembled as if they felt the strange light of some new world. His soul was swooning into some new world, fantastic, dim, uncertain as under sea, traversed by cloudy shapes and beings. A world, a glimmer, or a flower? Glimmering and trembling, trembling and unfolding, a breaking light, an opening flower, it spread in endless succession to itself, breaking in full crimson and unfolding and fading to palest rose, leaf by leaf and wave of light by wave of light, flooding all the heavens with its soft flushes, every flush deeper than other.

Evening had fallen when he woke and the sand and arid grasses of his bed glowed no longer. He rose slowly and, recalling the rapture of his sleep, sighed at its joy.

He climbed to the crest of the sandhill and gazed about him. Evening had fallen. A rim of the young moon cleft the pale waste of sky like the rim of a silver hoop embedded in grey sand; and the tide was flowing in fast to the land with a low whisper of her waves, islanding a few last figures in distant pools.

~James Joyce~

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“As I grow familiar with my dreams I grow familiar with my inner world. Who lives in me? What inscapes are mine? What is recurrent and therefore what keeps coming back to reside in me? These are the animals and people, places and concerns, that want me to pay attention to them, to become friendly and familiar with them. They want to be known as a friend would. They want to be cared for and cared about. This familiarity after some time produces in one a sense of at-homeness and at-oneness with an inner family which is nothing else than kinship and community with oneself, a deep level of what can also be called the blood soul. In other words, the inner connection to the unconscious again leads to a sense of soul, an experience of an inner life, a place where meanings home…

Friendship wants to keep the connection open and flowing. The first thing, then, in this noninterpretive approach to the dream is that we give time and patience to it, jumping to no conclusions, fixing in it no solutions. Befriending the dream begins with a plain attempt to listen to the dream, to set down on paper or in a dream diary in its own words just what it says. One takes especial note of the feeling of the dream, the mood upon waking, the emotional reactions of the dreamer in the dream, the delight or fear or surprise. Befriending is the feeling approach to the dream, and so one takes care receiving the dream’s feelings, as with a living person with whom we begin a relationship.”

~James Hillman~

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I heard someone from a block away singing the blues, playing on the electrified one string of his guitar. The song belonged to itself, a feeling more than words or notes. When it stopped, it left behind a blind man with a “got Jesus?” hat sitting on a box where a moment before there had been some kind of total rapture.

“How ya doin’ man?” he asked. There were others on the street, but he knew by my steps that I was the one walking toward him. “I’m okay,” I replied, “now.”

He smiled and waited, as if it had been me that started the conversation. But I didn’t have anything more to say. He heard my fingers drop two dollars in the bucket; not enough to pay for the kind of blues he sang, blues that circle the whole world, sung only by the most passionate of souls.

“God bless you.” he said gently, as if that was maybe the first and last time I’d ever hear those words. There was an other-worldly, in-slow-motion feeling abut the moment, as if I had died in my sleep and needed someone to point my spirit toward home, and that’s exactly when he’d shown up, in that part of the dream.

“Thank you,” I replied as I slowly passed by. He nodded, smiled.

~Dan~

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The cup is not only the shape, the color, the design but also that emptiness inside the cup. The cup is the emptiness held within a form; without that emptiness there would be no cup nor form. We know consciousness by outer signs, by its limitations of height and depth, of thought and feeling. But all this is the outer form of consciousness; from the outer we try to find the inner. Is this possible? Theories and speculations are not significant; they actually prevent all discovery. From the outer we try to find the inner, from the known we probe hoping to find the unknown. Is it possible to probe from the inner to the outer? The instrument that probes from the outer we know, but is there such an instrument that probes from the unknown to the known? Is there? And how can there be? There cannot be. If there is one, it’s recognizable and if it’s recognizable, it’s within the area of the known.

That strange benediction comes when it will, but with each visitation, deep within, there is a transformation; it is never the same.

~J.Krishnamurti~

TreeatDawnPhoto by Jordan Howell

Least effort is expended when your actions are motivated by love, because nature is held together by the energy of love. When you seek power and control over other people, you waste energy. When you seek money or power for the sake of the ego, you spend energy chasing the illusion of happiness instead of enjoying happiness in the moment. When you seek money for personal gain only, you cut off the flow of energy to yourself, and interfere with the expression of nature’s intelligence. But when your actions are motivated by love, your energy multiplies and accumulates — and the surplus energy you gather and enjoy can be channeled to create anything that you want, including unlimited wealth.

~Deepak Chopra~

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