24. Earth Demonstrates in Protest

September 14, 2017

Mother Earth is trying to tell us something. Did you know, as children and tradtional Native Americans knew, that the earth itself is alive? And it has a consciousness that although different, is directly connected with our own? Metaphysics, quantum physics, and cosmologists have shown us that what a human consciousness thinks and feels affects the earth itself, the weather, each other, and may reach beyond our solar system. I believe the Earth is staging a massive demonstration in protest against our treatment of it and each other.

In the last few weeks there were an incredible number and intensity of disasters in the United States. In two horrific hurricanes, millions of people lost everything they had in life but but the clothes on their backs and whatever they could carry in their hands. In Mexico another massive 8.2 earthquake devastated cities and left people homeless and helpless. In all of these disasters, people in the millions have been suddenly left without the most essential needs of life, water, food, or shelter.

Along my own stumbling way, I’ve learned a few lessons from life. One of the most valuable ones, though hard at first to accept, is this seemingly paradoxical truth:
“Hidden within every bad thing that happens, every tragic experience, suffering or loss, there is a blessing.  Look for it. 

So now when some incomprehensible event happens, I begin at once to look for the blessing. I might not find it right away, but when I do, it does help soothe the sorrow by making it no longer meaningless.

One blessing I can’t help seeing now is the outpouring of human compassion and help to the people of Texas and Florida from all over our country. I know of course, it would have been far better for no one to have had to suffer so much. But when I look for the  blessing, it presents itself clearly:
Times of despair give all of us a shocking wake-up that calls on us to give a damn. It gives us an opportunity and a challenge to care.

When we do good things for someone else, give even a little something to someone who needs our help, it feels good. It feels good to do something good, and for some of us that’s a fascinating experience, perhaps one we haven’t felt in a long time. Maybe ever since we grew up and started measuring our own worth by success and money.

To give help is to give love, unselfishly, without expecting a payback, just for the sake of the feeling itself and the experience of it. As more people wake up and discover how good it feels to do something good, more people will recognize this as an option, instead of the loneliness and bitterness of hatred, greed, power, control, abuse and manipulation of other human beings, which seems to be “the way of the world” these days. It’s the lifestyle of the new “Great America” standard practiced, proliferated, and promoted by the misbegotten “president” of our country now. (With apologies to the rest of the world, I ask that you please understand that the people of America did not choose him.)

The truth is, you own your own life, and your own mind. Each day of your life, you choose and create the life you have at any given time. We all do. That’s the way it works, whether we’re aware of it or not.  The choice is always yours, and yours alone, to be who and what you are.

This is the best opportunity in the history of our country and possibly the world, to wake up and choose differently. I urge you to try it … You’ll like it. Do something good just for its own sake, and experience for yourself how good that feels. How wonderful it feels. Try kindness and get hooked on it as a habit. It’s a fabulous high.

P.S. Please do not give money to the Red Cross, as they are one of the lowest net of money or services actually distributed the people they advertise. They keep almost 97% of your money for “administrative expenses” even though all of the actual work is done by unpaid volunteers. DONATE  INSTEAD  to legitimate agencies that are specific and local to the people you wish to help: the city, county or state Office of Emergency Services, or a genuine certified organization like World Food Programme or Doctors Without Borders. Thank you.

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23. The Way

August 19, 2017

The book I’m writing is about lessons and learnings, wounds and scars. Wounds can heal, but scars are forever a reminder of the lessons we learned, or failed to learn, as my Dad used to say, “the hard way.” And yet, all of it has meaning and purpose, mostly unknown to us, often invisible at close range, and usually only seen looking back from a distance. Then, if we blur our eyes just a little, the patterns can be seen, apart from the confusing colors, shapes, and lines of cause and blame.

The soul always has a plan that the mind can’t see, and those who follow the soul’s illogical calling, arrive safe and sacred at the goal our life intended. Most of us who stick too close to what the world expects, may not get there, unless we are rescued by grace from our mistakes and given another start. I’ve noticed that God doesn’t like “why” questions, and apparently disregards them as nonessential.  It seems to come down to this:

There is a path — find it — and walk through light or darkness, sun or rain. Teach and learn from each other, for all have a gift to give. This is what you came here for.

We are not given to know the why of things. There was a poem,  given to me once, in a space between two lives – the time between an ending and a beginning. I don’t remember the first part of the poem, but the last part went:

I asked for directions
at the side of the road.
I was told, “Go on;
there is no other way
to go.”

22. Writing From Within

August 11, 2017

What I’m writing is a memoir, but has become something of an epistle of faith. When I look across my history and the history of my family now, I see patterns and meanings I didn’t see then. There was purpose in all of it, and there is purpose now.

I’m not leading, I am led. The book is being written like a letter not from my outer, ego view, but more as if spoken from some inner voice and seen by inner eyes, uncontrived and unplanned. Whatever comes to me that rings true and real, I write it down. If it has value, it will stay. Everything else, eventually, will be discarded. These things take care of themselves. All of my poetry came this way – as gifts of grace, never as the product of conscious effort, craft, or intention. I trust the soundless voice that speaks, much more than I trust my own limited and confused intellect.

When I was in my twenties, an artist and a fledgling poet, I said to God “Make me your instrument.” Maybe God will finally do that, or maybe that’s the One who placed the desire there to begin with. Either way, the prayer has not really changed much as I have made my mistakes, learned, and relearned. By myself I can do very little of real importance or significance, but when I’m driven to the page by that unnamed voice, something clear and clean and beautiful emerges into the light of ordinary day. In that moment, the ordinariness, the stories, the simple truths of life become what they have always been, but unseen: they become sacred. My response to this can only be wonder, awe, and gratefulness.

21. The North Shore

July 20, 2017

In a few weeks I’ll head up the coast to Mendocino County for a writers conference. This is part of a new and deeper commitment to my work, and it’s the next of many crossroads in my life. I haven’t been there in years now, but this place has been a refuge and a soul-renewal for me before.

The first time I came to the North Shore was when I had to leave the man I had loved for seven years and had expected to spend the rest of my life with. The second time was when I failed my first firefighter physical agility test. The third, when cancer obliterated my well-laid plans for a future, redirected my path, and ultimately was a gift of new life. The fourth was when 9/11 happened, and all of us were plunged into a bottomless pool of grief, fear, horror, and shock, and there have been others sojourns since then.

Mendo rocky banner

Each of the times was different, but the seeking was the same– a space for shelter and healing. The outcomes would be the same:  redemption and a silent reassurance. Each time the gift I needed was given:  Reboot, restart, new beginning.

Every time I go back to Mendocino County’s rugged headlands and redwood forests, it’s a sacred journey. The wise and patient dignity of the ancient trees – the grandfathers, I call them – seeps into my soul and comforts me. The rocky headlands with white-frothed breakers crashing, and the sweet fresh salt air, fill me with awe and exhilaration, and I can feel the strength and power of the earth itself.

The ocean is always a source of absolute wonder. It never changes, and never ceases to challenge and embrace the shore. They are lovers, they are one thing, each eternally joined to the other part of itself. Even as the shoreline moves, the sea never lets it go. The shoreline changes and is changed again and again by that embrace, sometimes caressingly, sometimes violently crashing onto the rocks, wearing them away with time. Along the Mendocino headlands, some of the unspeakably beautiful places I shot breathtaking pictures of,  and walked out on  – one of them, a thin sandy bridge of rock, terrifyingly high above the crashing surf below — the next time I came to Mendocino, was gone. Just completely gone. I looked for it. I couldn’t tell for sure where it had been; nothing resembled it anywhere anymore.

Life is exactly that. Ever engaging us, either embracing us with tenderness or challenging us with force, and we’re always changed and changing through our engagement with it, and this is how it’s meant to be. Life is the ocean and we are the shore, but all of this is only one thing. We are life, and the path is the ever-moving but never separated shoreline.

My advice to you as my fellow travelers here:  See deeply.  Miss nothing.  Take pictures with your camera but also with your eyes, and save them forever in your mind. Don’t let anything beautiful slip by you without being celebrated, for this moment is sacred and will never come again.

20. Hungry For Life

June 30, 2017

It has been said, and I believe it’s true, that we are spiritual beings having a physical life. But it’s not a vacation.

We come here both to teach and to learn. There is a reason for everything, and in everything that happens, there is a lesson. Sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t. Either way, some of it still gets absorbed into our worldview by a part of our consciousness, and the way we have known our world changes. Like a kaleidoscope, with every turn, the colorful little pieces shift and tumble around each other, and the pattern changes and changes and changes.

Life is not supposed to stay the same. When we think it is, we’re probably not paying attention. We are sleep-walking in a dreamless sleep, while life goes by unnoticed. This too is a choice we have, to each his own way. And it is true that ignorance is bliss. It’s easier, and some say happier, to not think too much, and not need to know. There’s much less stress, very little challenge, and it’s pretty safe living under a rock, “Happy as a clam.” But too much bliss is always an unexplored life, bland as vanilla pudding. It’s perfectly happy for some of us, but boring for others. Some of us are drawn to harder things, greater things, somehow.  We’re hungry for life. We engage with life. We seek it and it finds us.

Those ones of us are often called, even by our best friends, “different.” We tend to take on more challenges, we have more victories and more defeats. We love more, we usually hurt ourselves more, and we make more mistakes. But we have the best, most interesting adventures, and we learn marvelous things along the way. We have more problems, more joys, more life.