The Spring Clean

All that keeps life from being spacious
I’m putting into a box
And taking to the curb.
Let someone else use it.

The hand-me-down furniture that I never wanted,
Clothes that don’t fit—especially that old robe,
All the old knickknacks and souvenirs from the journey,
It’s all got to go.

Just give me a sunlit room
Freed from all but the essentials.
And from this place
I will view creation anew.

Nukunu Larsen on The Dark Night of the Soul

Excerpted from the Podcast, Buddha at the Gas Pump #267

I often talk about the three stages of fear. There is the tangible fear–“I’m scared of dogs.” We can see what it is and we’re scared of it. But there is a more neurotic fear–where we have fear of fear! And often this fear is a by-product of suppressed emotions. This is when we have to ask ourselves “What kind of motion or action am I repressing?”  And then there is also an existential fear–when we don’t know who we are.  When we are longing to know who we are.  This includes the fear of death and the fear of life.  Both are existential.  We have the fear of death because we do not know who we are. This existential fear can lead to a Dark Night of the Soul.

The dark night of the soul.

I’m reminded of the Sufis.  They say you come to a state in your life when you realize that the whole of your life is meaningless. At this point you’ll either commit suicide or wake up!  And as Warner Earhart says, “If you don’t see that life is meaningless you miss the point.” So the deeper and deeper you go into life, you start seeing that you’re never going to find the meaning of life here!  When you see how meaningless life is in a profound way–your mind stops! You stop your desiring–otherwise you will desire into the future all the time. But if you start seeing life for what it is–hopeless, and that it doesn’t lead anywhere–then you can come into an awakening.

I want to tell you an authentic story.  I had an old friend who looked around one day and he said, “My God, my life is so meaningless and has been so wasted.”  And he felt like killing himself. So he brought a rope and was going to hang himself. And then he remembered that his father had also committed suicide–and thought “I can’t do it!”  So he laid in his bed for three days looking at the ceiling.  And then it came! His mind stopped! When the door closed and he could think of nothing left to do–his mind stopped.  And that is when he obtained his liberation.

I very much encourage you to listen to the Buddha at the Gas Pump Podcasts.

Stopping the Mind

One of the things I’ve always been curious about is how to stop the chatter that’s constantly in my mind. You know, that constant stream of thinking, evaluating, commenting, and back story conversation that’s always going on in the back of the mind? I’ve read many books on the subject and most call this condition “Monkey Mind.” Experts like Thich Nich Hanh stress the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Others talk about present moment awareness. But I think I may have hit upon something that works for me in achieving this goal. It’s nothing new; but like a pre-owned car, it’s new for me. I’m giving up believing in the power of my own mind.

At some point, the real you–not the personality you–must give up believing in the unceasing image streams created by the mind.  Instead it must be replaced with an awareness that most everything the mind produces is little more than scenery –like grass and clouds–passing by.  Nothing produced by the mind should be taken at face value as real or true.  And that’s a new thing for me–this questioning and dismissing of thoughts and ideas. The mind constantly judges people, places and things as good or bad, right or wrong, and useful or not.  Upon introspection, these things cannot be logically proven as true–and many, if not most times, can be logically disproven as false. The mind stream appears real.  Its information appears certain and true.  But if one stops and reflects about most any thought–this certainty crumbles and is easily contested or disproven.  Therefore, I’ve concluded the mind is not to be trusted.  Consulted yes, trusted no!

At the same time, the mind is always ruminating about the past and future.  It is uncomfortable in the present moment and looks often to the future as a means of escaping present unpleasantness.   The mind resists attempts at being presently focused–because when this happens the mind is essentially turned off–or at least uncomfortably (from the minds point of view) paused.  This pausing of the mind happens as one gives single focus to the people, places, and things before it.   Mind (Ego) does not like to be stripped of its power and authority–it seeks full control of the consciousness. This must be gently resisted again and again until the mind’s insistence is silenced.

It now makes sense why Buddhists insist upon present moment awareness–which includes paying attention to the breath, mantras, or whatever.  Focus in the present moment stops the reliance upon the mind. As the false and unreal messages of the mind cease, peace begins.


Take the Plunge!

Today I met a friend who said “Hey I heard that Michael took the plunge!” She was referencing a marriage I had performed the other day between Michael and Lori.  They had been dating for six years and finally decided to tie the knot. Even though most of us thought it was high time they did this–it was the second marriage for both of them and they were a little skittish about the whole thing.  That got me thinking about the phrase…Taking the plunge.

I like the word plunge–it’s an onomatopoeia. The very word suggests the sound one makes when jumping into deep water.  PLUNGE!

So much of life is about taking the plunge–marriage, new jobs, work opportunities, all sorts of things. Everything we have that’s worthwhile is the result of someone somewhere “taking the plunge!”  I work at a university where someone “took the plunge” and donated their fortunes.  Even tree’s budding in the spring risk a little something as they blossom.  Taking the plunge is having the courage to do something  new and different–perhaps outside of your comfort zone.  Sometimes it’s starting something or doing what needs to be done instead of what you want to do.

I’m glad that Michael and Lori took the plunge.  The truth for them and us is that there’s no future in the past and a good life is about knowing when to take the plunge–and having the courage to do it often.

Three Administrative Fables

Let those who have ears to hear–and eyes to see–listen and read these stories of administrators and learn.  May you have the courage of interpretation!

Fable 1: The Rock

Once there was a powerful Administrator who served an even more rich and powerful king.  (This Administrator was so powerful that he could command that his title always be capitalized.) This Administrator called in his lowly wage earner (but faithful) servant and said:

“Bring me a rock!”

The servant replied, “Oh great and powerful Master, what kind of rock do you want me to bring you?”  To which the Administrator replied,

“Just go and bring me a rock!”

So the faithful servant went outside in the cold looking for just the right rock.  When he found a suitable one, he brought it before the Administrator who looked at it and said:

“That’s not the rock!  Go once again and bring me a rock!”

My understanding is that the servant is still bringing the Administrator one rock after another and has been doing so for several years. (I told you that you would need ears to hear what is being said!)

Fable 2: The Three-Legged Hog

Once a vacationing family was traveling in the back woods when they happened upon an old retired administrator sitting in a rocking chair upon the front porch of his cabin with a three-legged hog laying prostrate on the porch in front of him.  The visitor began speaking with the old man and asked,

“What happened here?  How come this hog has only three legs?”

The old administrator said, “Now this here hog ain’t like no other.  Once when we were asleep in the cabin, the stove caught afire and if it hadn’t been for the screeching of this hog, we’d all have been burned to death!”

“So, did the hog lose his leg in the fire?” asked the visitor.

“Naw” said the old administrator, “He didn’t lose it in the fire. But there was a time when all of us were in the car when the motor stopped leaving us on the train tracks.  The train was bearing down on us and we would have surely died if this here hog hadn’t butted the car off of the tracks.  Yes sir, if it t’weren’t  for him, we’d all have died!”

“So,” asked the visitor, “Did he lose his leg to the train?” ”

Naw,” said the old administrator, “He still had all his legs after that.”

In exasperation the visitor asked,  “Exactly how did this hog lose his leg?”

“Well now.” replied the old administrator.  “A hog that good–it wouldn’t be right to eat him all at once!”

Fable 3: The Devil and the Administrator

There was once a failing administrator who was worried about losing his job.  He was staying late on the job one night and reminiscing in his mind about the times when he had been successful and no one dared to question his power or authority.  As he pondered losing it all he said in a heavy sigh, “I’d give anything to be the successful administrator I once was!” As soon as he said that he heard a giant POOF sound.  As the smoke cleared he perceived a familiar figure.  The devil asked, “Did you say you’d do anything?  It just so happens that I can help you”  “How?” said the administrator.  “Well, it will cost you your soul, the soul of your wife and the soul of each of your children.”  With a puzzled look the administrator looked at the devil and said, “I don’t get it, what’s the catch?”

So good reader, take heed for there is much to learn before one can hope to reach these sublime heights.



Comos upon Cosmos

The Hubble telescope has transformed the way we humans see the universe. We knew it was large and expensive but none of us perceived the vastness and enormity of it all.  We are learning that there are billions of galaxies along with billions of individual stars within these galaxies.  The matter that makes up all of this is incomprehensible. Our planet is truly an imperceptible speck in the cosmos. Hubble serves as a metaphor for more than galaxies and planets.  It serves as reminder that there is a cosmos in everything we see if we’ll stop and think about it.

There are trillions of snowflakes that combine to make a beautiful winter scene, trillions of grains of sand that form the beaches of the seashore, and billions of blades of grass that combine to make a verdant landscape. There are billions of people who create nations, cultures and traditions–and billions before them that created a rich history from which we all derived.

There is infinite variety in music, art, literature, philosophy, religion and science.  The art that lines the walls of the Louvre in Paris is but a mere representation of the greatest art that has ever been produced.  Were every single art work removed from its spaces, there are just as many that could replace them–and infinitely more that have been lost to the ravages of time.

There is infinite variety in the way we understand our relationship to the cosmos.  Uncounted philosophies and religions all point to a grand and unified cosmos that can never be fully understood or imagined. We believe that all of this came from a singular source of infinite particles–though where all it came from and how it was produced  is anyone’s guess.

Finally, there is an entire cosmos that exists in the loving relationship between two people–and just as much wonder and awe. We are a cosmos living among an infinity of cosmos about us.



Sparks of Illumination

The other evening at a lovely lady’s house one of the guest spoke of going to a concert and suddenly getting caught up in the glorious tingling thrill of joy and delight. Her eyes sparkled and she told of it. Everyone could see her tears of reminiscence and knew what a genuine joy she spoke of. Then she fell silent, her eyes closed, and I heard myself saying, “That’s it! That’s the joy of the experience everyone calls enlightenment.” Some speak of it as illumination–sparks from the child within. First we recognize those fleeting moments and acknowledge them for being the Light of Life they are. And so acknowledging them, we are faithful to the pennies of such moments and eventually find ourselves trusted with the dollars of them. Greater moments come. And greater. We look around one day to find we are living in the continual confirmation of the Joy we have faithfully anticipated. (excerpt from The Child Within Us Lives! A Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Metaphysics by William Samuel)