Past Present

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

How bright these lights that shine now. Here. In this moment. Blinding us between staccato strikes of darkness that seem to last forever.

Each flash highlighting a simple frame, like a silent movie lit with the phosphorescence of an atomic blast, melting the film it is remembered on and leaving only hallucinogenic traces in the impenetrable darkness that follows, relaying an entire history in the nuclear ashes of our memories over a cup of coffee shared in lament.

Each flash an anchor to any given moment that we revisit again and again until it defines us. Until we use it to define ourselves to others.

A moment of passion. Of fury. Of compassion. Of hunger. Each playing out in fractional tales that seldom, if ever, follow the lines of the acts laid out in steady progression, to ultimately mythologize the story of our lives.

And we, faithful fanatics of Life, believe the tale that plays, act after act, each read after played, and believed as if written by the hand of god itself.

But they are lies.

It is our adherence to these false memories, these golden calf we cow-tow to with learned and obedient humility, that rob the true essence of their meaning.

We are not the sum of our experiences, the memories of which we redirect to fit the image we carry of ourselves, we are the sacred being that stands now at the burning edge of reality, creating life as we wish it to be, or living, true to form, blindly, those maligned memories meant only to keep us beating on the shores of yesterday.

It is always a choice.

We can choose to live in “almost now”, that sleight of mind, the mirage of now we allow to be influenced by the past, as Observer, or we can choose to live on that burning edge of Now, here, mindfully, in each moment, created second by second with an understanding that what we believe to be true is most often contaminated by who we believe ourselves to have been and, instead, to see our Self through the eyes of the Divine as Creators because this, whatever “this” is, has never happened before, whether it be that moment of passion or of fury or of love or simply opening the refrigerator door.

None of it could have happened in any version of the story without you.

I choose Now.


Image by Jana.

Who am I?

The Buddha was once asked if he was a god to which he replied “No.”
“Are you a wizard, then?”
“No.”
“Well, are you a man?”
“No” he said.
Confused by his answers they asked “So, what are you?”
The Buddha said, “I am awake.”

I can not claim that I am fully awake yet. I still lay in this bed I made and rub my eyes, trying to make sense of the world around me, but that simple answer, for me, begins to define the answer to my own question:

Who am I?

Over the last few years finding that answer has felt somewhat more critical because of the things I am trying to accomplish in life, and while I admit that I feel like I am no closer than when I began, I have begun to understand that it matters less than I originally thought.

Instead, I am finding that it is who I believe myself to be that is more important and that the expression of those beliefs is an expression of the things inside me that I give life to.

Those beliefs come from experiences and those experiences are interpreted through my previous experiences.

If I believe myself to be compassionate it is because I believe compassion to be of more value than indifference and yet indifference, selective and focused to achieve a positive goal, can have value as well. Much like not caring if I smashed my thumb with a hammer because that happens from time to time and does not mean I deserved it or am a horrible carpenter.

However, I would never describe myself as indifferent. In this way my views of Self are presented as more than expressions of those things I believe myself to be, they are expressions of who I hope to be, who I want to be.

So, who am I?

It really is simple. Much simpler than the explanation.

I am the sum and expression of my experiences, I am who I want to be, and I am who I believe myself to be.

I believe that I am on the right path. Making the right decisions despite their outcome because those decisions are based on faith and hope and love. I believe that everything will be okay. That my life will be everything I want it to be. All of those things require that I believe I am already the person I want to be regardless of how transitional my life may appear because that is how I become that person.

I may not be awake, but I am waking up.

——

Image: “Awake” by Martina Stipen

 

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Control

ship.at.sea
Life regularly spins out of control, beyond my ability to keep it in check. Road blocks appear from nowhere or I look around my self and realize that I have no idea where it is that I am going.

The truth is that I am so deep on my path that much of my future is already decided no matter what I do. Knowing that will not prevent me from continuing to alter that path by taking careful steps that improve life. Not just my life, yours, and truly, all life.

Maybe that’s expecting too much from myself but it is what I am working, and most often failing, at.

How easy it is for some people to do those things. Some seem born into it. Gifted from birth and then guided through life while I seem to always be restricted. Prevented. Partly because of decisions I’ve made in the past and partly because I was simply born into a world that lacked proper guidance. Most of the guidance I have received has been either internal, and therefore slow to process, or divine and therefore impossible to interpret.

But maybe that’s the plan. Maybe I’m supposed to learn slowly and to exert myself rather than have it made easy, to focus my efforts in the wrong places along the way in order to learn by mistake rather than by success.

I don’t know.

Honestly, I don’t care.

Why should I?

Life is a steady progression of difficult decisions for everyone. It would be delusional for me to think that I might be exempt from that fact and it would be a loss of faith to believe that I will ever be let down or led astray by the Divine. She has never done either, something I am always grateful for, so I have no loss of faith.

I’m human. So I am bound to doubt myself from time to time or feel completely unworthy of the goals I have set for myself or have fears. Human. Go figure.

In the end I know, despite the fact that I have very little control over what happens, everything will work out exactly as it should and I will guide positive change as much as I possibly can and accept whatever it is that is beyond my sphere of influence.

I may not control the ocean that heaves this ship with waves the size of mountains to force it in new directions, but I man the rudder.

I will always steer towards home.

In search of truth

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The further along the difficult path of spirituality I started long ago the more clear it has become that the answers I seek are less likely to be found among religion or spiritual teachings or gurus and more readily obtained through careful consideration of the mundane.

A single line of poetry in a obscure work, something a co-worker says without being aware of the implications, the flight of a red-tailed hawk as it rises and falls with the wind. These things all hold a higher value than the books of a modern day self proclaimed messiah or the doctrines of any antiquated or recycled movement.

The truth, though transient and subject to the interpretation and experiences of the observer, reveals itself in its own way and is a personal experience.

The Universe is constantly calling for us to join her but our own voices are so loud that we seldom hear her. My job is to recognize those truths when they are presented and to be grateful for the gift that they are, to quiet myself and the voices of the egocentric prophets and listen when she speaks, to filter out the untruths and find divine perfection in the world around me.

Those are my truths.

Find your truth. Live it.


Image: “Universe Speaks, We Listen” by Laura “Pelick” Siadak

Metta

In order that I may understand the path to peace:

Let me be able, upright, and authentic, impeccable with my word, gentle and caring.

Let me be content and easily satisfied, without pride.

Let me cultivate a boundless, limitless, unconditional love and compassion for all beings and all things in the world.

Let my prayer be:

“May all beings be well and safe, may they be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be, whether moving or standing still, without exception, whether large, great, middling, or small, whether tiny or substantial,

Whether seen or unseen, whether living near or far,

Born or unborn; may all beings be happy.

Let none deceive or despise another anywhere. Let none wish harm to another, in anger or in hate.”

Life is for the Living

I often talk about “Now” as being the only time we ever have without really addressing the bigger question: How much time do we really have?

That question can be answered in two ways:

Our true Self, the consciousness that resides within these temporary vessels, comes from the Source and returns to it after our time in this form is complete and while whatever happens after that is open for debate it is seldom argued that the Source, The Universe, God, whatever name you choose to call it, is timeless. Infinite. So we too are also infinite.

At least for a time.

Yet, it can not be denied that we, here, now, in our physical form, live in a space of linear time. We are born. We exist for a while. We return to the infinite. Time exists only in that brief existence between birth and death and the time we have is incredibly short.

While in this form we experience a physical reality. We touch, taste, see, smell, think, feel. We age. We laugh. We cry. We love. We experience pain and joy and suffering and gain and loss and, eventually, ultimately, we experience death.

When I look at myself in the mirror I can see the passage of time. The laugh lines and crows feet. The greying. The scars that serve as reminders of who I have been and the things I have done. The man I am becoming day by day. Minute by minute. Second by second.

That man I see is no more “Me” than the boy I saw at ten exploring the world. Or the young man on his own in his teens and twenties finding his way, losing himself, struggling to become. Or the self critical man in his thirties hardened by experience. Or the finally awakened man in his forties.

When I close my eyes I can see that I am all of those previous versions of myself.

And none of them.

I am more, and I am made more by my experiences. All of them.

Like I said, however, this time is short. Too short. Too short to experience all the things I want to experience. Too short to “get over” the negative things that have happened. Too short to learn all the things I want to learn. To laugh as much as I want.

It is long enough to experience amazing things. To learn from all my experiences. To laugh joyfully. To love deeply.

But only if I keep my intentions alive and maintain a balance.

I will never laugh enough if I don’t seek out the company of those who bring me joy or do the things that make me happy. I will never learn enough if I am not constantly aware of how limited my time here is and how important it is to always be learning. I will never love deep enough if I keep the people I love at arms length or withdraw or set myself to fail or if I never truly love myself.

The balance is found in how I live and the best use of my time here, Now, is to live as fully and fearlessly as I can.

Life is for the Living. Live, Now.

Life is a Journey

 

“People are hypocrites” she proclaims. “No one lives the life they want.”

I have said those same words myself, or something similar, though it probably contained expletives and self pity.

How do I tell her what I have learned in a single online conversation? How do I tell her that there was a time in my life that I shared that view? How do I explain that my change of view was both instantaneous and took many years?

I had the four bedroom house on an acre of land with a six car garage, a cabin on a private lake, a boat, motorcycles, off road 4×4, a recording studio in my basement, my own construction company, everything I thought I needed to be happy, and in a moment of human failure I lost everything.

Even though it initially brought with it a physical, as well was emotional, pain it also brought a proclamation of “FREEDOM!”, shouted in big screen fashion, it took many more years to understand that none of the stuff I gathered and lost over the years ever really mattered.

At the time of the “loss” it felt like I had been robbed of my entire world. Like I was condemned. Cursed.

Now, looking back with unclouded eyes, I can see that I was most miserable when I had everything I thought I wanted.

It took many miles to discover that what I was missing couldn’t be found on a piece of land or in a store or online or was anything I could carry in my pocket or drive or use in any way.

What I was missing was found inside and I found it only by enduring, surviving, and exploring with gratitude the journey that my life became.

I discovered is that the journey itself is life.

Not the prescribed “this will make you happy” copywriting on a box of sugar sweetened cereal or the dictated image of perfection programmed by hours in front of a screen that insisted I couldn’t be happy unless I owned the latest fashion or drove the newest car or smelled a certain way or walked a certain way or looked a certain way or spoke a certain way.

The struggles and joys and passions and pains and heartbreaks are each but a single step along the paths of our lives.

Today my journey brings me back to the acquisition of “stuff”, but not in the way it did back then. Today my intentions guide both my needs and desires as they apply to others. They tell me that the life I have led these past years, paying off old debt, finding myself and being true to that Self, exposing my underbelly to the entire world, ready to feast on it, without fear, was necessary. Essential.

Each step I have made has led me here to this place of love and gratitude.

Now, in complete surrender to, and acceptance of, a grace that I work to prove my worth of receiving, I push forward with plans left by the roadside long ago.

Plans to live. Fully. One step at a time.

Because life isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.

Travel far.

Intentions

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I’ve been posting this on my Facebook page for a few years now so I thought this year I’d share it here.

 

At least once a year:

Watch the sun rise.

Watch the sun set.

Stare at the stars in wonderment.

Witness the handle of the Big Dipper pointing towards the north star.

Follow caterpillars.

Witness butterflies.

Listen to birdsong.

Taste grass and leaves.

Pallet a flower.

Watch a bee find its way home.

And stop a car in the middle of the street with flailing arms and panic shouts.

We are not alone.

Never forget we belong

 

—————

 

Picture taken in Deadwood, SD.

 

Discover. Now.

Life is all about discovery.

When we are born we discover the most amazing things: the world develops before our very eyes and as we grow it expands as if we, ourselves, are the gods that create it moment by moment.

In our teens we discover complex emotions that threaten our very existence: rage, pain, immense joy and sadness, and, for the very first time, even though we may not recognize it for what it is, Love.

We go through school being taught pointless rhetoric: math, science, history. All the while being taught none of those things that could lead us to deeper paths; mindfulness, loving kindness, compassion. Those are supposed to be taught by our parents. Parents who never learned those things either.

Learn them. They will lead you farther than you imagine.

Later still, we discover that we wished we had learned more of those worthless ideas. Paid closer attention. What was that formula for finding the volume of a circle again? That will come in handy later. I promise you that. So pay attention if you can. But there’s more.

We discover the value of money. Of friendship and of hard work and of possession. We go into the world discovering fine food, good company, bright lights.

Oh… shiney.

Too often people don’t make it past those last discoveries. They base their lives on the hedonistic values of life: a big house, a nice car, good clothes, physical pleasure. Discovery ends. Life has been explored and all that it offers has been found.

Discovery continues despite that belief. Our friends die. Our loved ones leave us. Our investments fail us. We discover loss, suffering, disappointment.

Those discoveries become empty. Meaningless. Superficial. Life becomes meaningless. Emotions become an intolerable consequence. A side effect of life.

If we are insightful, or have a fortunate predilection for it, or have a loved one willing to force our awareness, or we are just plain lucky, or unlucky, we push deeper. Struggle harder to find meaning.

Our path of discovery narrows to two distinct paths: inward or outward.

The outward path leads us to medical discovery. To miracle cures. To pills that end our suffering. To gurus and healers and shaman. The path can branch over and over from here but it always leads us to the discovery of the inward path though very very few can make that transition.

If you find yourself at that transitional fork in your path I hope, I truly hope, you find your way to the inward path. Reach into that place and you will find a hand willing to lead you farther than you ever imagined. I promise you that.

The inward path leads us to ever deeper discovery: understanding, self love, honesty, acceptance, awareness, unity, Love. True Love.

Discoveries that lead us to higher planes of existence. Planes where loss and suffering are accepted as simply a part of life and where the value of a single breath, drawn long and slow while listening to and feeling the beat of our own miraculous heart connect us to the very soul of the Universe, is beyond measure.

What we discover there can never be fully expressed in words but in that place are experiences outside the realm of comprehension and yet understood as if we were once again children creating, moment by moment, the very fabric of our own distinct, yet combined, reality.

My wish for you is this:

Continue your journey. Never cease in your struggle of discovery, because even further beyond that point lay infinity: a point of chaotic generation and regeneration of life where the distance between infancy and eons are but fractions of moments of the life of a single drop of moisture on a spiders web and all that we have discovered between birth and true life, the life that always awaits, that bekons and welcomes all, are a single reflection on the surface of that dew that shimmers a while before dropping into an endless ocean that rises as mist to condense on the web over and over again.

In that chaos of constant re-creation resides the Divine where She rests on this, the Seventh Day, with arms wide and welcome, to bring us into Her embrace.

It is a place of constant discovery and awe and wonder where a word as simple and complex as “Love” or “Gratitude” can define our very existence.

Though I tend to speak of it in terms of enlightenment and higher planes of consciousness it is not some mythical place reached only through lifetimes of deep meditation and study. It does not require the use of psychoactive compounds or healers or teachers.

It is here.

It is Now.

It awaits your discovery.

Close your eyes and breathe.

—————

Image: “Infinity” by Tue Bengsston

Now

Now is all we ever have.

But in this moment,

here,

now,

I can’t help gazing into the future

to see us,

together,

there,

now,

looking back on us,

here,

encouraging us,

“Keep moving forward.”

We hold the keys to that future.

Unlocking that door

is worth the effort.

The day will come when we are together,

there,

now,

looking back at us,

here,

encouraging us

“Move forward.”

“All you have is Now.”