A Barefoot Meditation

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Keeping it all in perspective…

This came to me as I walked out shirtless and barefoot through a warm mountain sunset and listened to the elk speak their ancient language to each other.

Farewell Summer…Farewell, Dad

About this time last year I sat beneath the shade of a tree in my front yard and devoured Ray Bradbury’s long awaited Farewell Summer (sequel to his outrageously popular Dandelion Wine).  It is a beautiful book–an allegory about youth and aging, life and death, and the passing seasons.

I called my father later that day.  “Hey, dad,” I said, “I think you’ll really enjoy this book.”  I am a book lover and often get too enthusiastic about sharing them with other people.  My father, quite a reader himself, didn’t always enjoy the same things I did but would sometimes humor me by reading one of my recommendations.

On a warm evening a couple of weeks later, my cell phone buzzed.  I squinted at the little screen: my brother, Isaac, calling.  We didn’t talk often–usually exchanged text messages a couple times per week.

“Hello?” I said.
“Hey, Jake,” he said and silence stretched out between us for several long seconds.
“How are you doing, Isaac?”
“Ah, man… brother… Dad died,” he said finally.

The roof and walls seemed to collapse around me in that moment.  I felt as if I had somersaulted into outer space–blind-folded…all the oxygen squeezed from my body.  How could this be?  Last time I talked with him, my father seemed healthy and more peaceful than ever.

But it was.  Like a window suddenly slamming shut on a clear late-summer sunset, my father was gone.

The next few days blurred past on fast-forward.  My wife and I flew back to Idaho and sat with my grieving family.  Together we visited dad’s little cottage–the unfinished project-house he had lived in for several years.

Like my father’s life, this house had been a source of major frustration for him.  He was a fine craftsman–an artist, really–and his sense of perfection drove him to tear everything down to the studs.  Not satisfied with a respectable veneer, my Dad struggled hard with life.  The answers which brought comfort to most men did nothing for him.  Making a living, owning fine things, being a popular person–none of these were his top priorities.  Sometimes his own lack of material ambition bothered him.  I could see that as I walked through his house for the last time.  He had short motivational notes taped to the mirror and the refrigerator.  For the first time I finally understood how hard he had to work at life–things most would take for granted didn’t come easily to my father.

After spending time in his bedroom, looking at his stacks of books and a vase of dried lavendar, I wandered into the kitchen.  The counters were covered with sawdust and tools.  On a chair, I saw his backpack–the same one he used to bring with him when he stayed overnight at my house.  Unzipping it, I pulled out a towel and noticed a book packed in between his folded clothes and shaving kit.

I tugged it free and turned it over.  Farewell Summer lay there in my hands.  I took a deep breath and straightened up.  For just a moment sure I felt Dad’s arm around my shoulders, I let the tears fall where they may.  How absolutely fitting was it that he and I shared this book?  The last one he ever read spoke of life’s beauty, of acceptance, of inevitable change and of death.

One year later, I write these words filled with gratitude for the many lessons my father taught during our time together.  Like seeds dormant until their time has come, these realizations continue to sprout in surprising ways.

I learned from him that Life is, Itself, the deepest meditation, the highest art, the grandest journey…

So, farewell summer…farewell, Dad.  I loved our season together.

 

Light and Shadow Dancers: Tao 28

Tao #28

Be aware of your masculine nature;
But by keeping the feminine way,
You shall be to the world like a canyon,
Where the Virtue eternal abides,
And go back to become as a child.

Be aware of the white all around you;
But rememb’ring the black that is there,
You shall be to the world like a tester,
Whom the Virtue eternal, unerring,
Redirects to the infinite past.

Be aware of your glory and honor;
But in never relinquishing shame,
You shall be to the world like a valley,
Where Virtue eternal, sufficient,
Sends you back to the Virginal Block.

When the Virginal Block is asunder,
And is made into several tools,
To the ends of the Wise Man directed,
They become then his chief officers:
For “The Master himself does not carve.”

I am reading through the Tao Te Ching (The Way of Life).  This is a set of eighty-one simple poems ascribed to the ancient mystic, Lao Tzu.  There has been much debate about the actual person of this teacher–and who it might have been who penned the words which were eventually compiled into what is known as the Tao Te Ching.  Regardless of that, I am inspired by the powerful paradoxes and glimpses of the Unspeakable, Un-Boxable contained in these short poems.

#28 speaks of the universal reality of light & darkness.  Most of us have been brought up with an understanding of a great cosmic struggle–a war between “good” and “evil”.

In this teaching, Lao Tzu reveals that the Way of Life transcends the apparent conflict.  He shows us that consciousness is indeed comprised of both light and shadow, triumph and “shame”.  By “becoming as a child”, we greet the experience of everything with fresh wonder.  No longer must we endure an inner war–the battle of contradictory forces.

brilliant art of M.C. Escher

Look at the yin-yang symbol.  See how the dark and light are entwined?  See how they roll together within a circle–that sigil of infinity and eternity?

By embracing everything, we return to the innocent simplicity of childhood.  We shed our judgments of how life must be, and surrender to the flow of All That Is.  Dancing, spinning, tasting and testing–we emerge as masters of the paradox.  In this is a whole new power and freedom and peace.

Are you willing to imagine yourself as both a still valley and a bursting volcano?  Such is The Way of Life.

Pssst… I can read your mind.  You’re wondering “…how does this make any difference in my life today?”  It’s all very practical, really.  When we loosen our perceptions, lighten our grasp…blink our eyes into a new way of seeing, all of life becomes a grand adventure.  Yes, I showed up in a man’s body, but I cannot be defined as merely male.  Yes, I am delighted by the work I do in the world, but I am not only what I do.  I am free (as are you) to observe everything with amazement.

“I’ve come to just treasure the experience of life…all of it…in all its raw, windswept, sunrise-laden, barefoot shit and splendor”

Useful as Nothing

Tao Te Ching

~ 11 ~

Thirty spokes will converge
In the hub of a wheel;
But the use of the cart
Will depend on the part
Of the hub that is void.

With a wall all around
A clay bowl is molded;
But the use of the bowl
Will depend on the part
Of the bowl that is void.

Cut out windows and doors
In the house as you build;
But the use of the house
Will depend on the space
In the walls that is void.

So advantage is had
From whatever is there;
But usefulness rises
From whatever is not.

We live in a world which values usefulness.  Doing is emphasized over being; material substance over spiritual properties.

As I meditate on Tao, a new understanding of no-thing emerges.  The walls of the house are useful because of the empty space they enclose.  A bowl improves our lives because of its capacity for emptiness.  All the spokes of a wheel converge around a hollow hub.

Why do we fear silence…stillness…nothingness?  We focus on building useful house walls, bowl-sides and wheel spokes and often forget that these are good, but they are nothing–not useful–without the empty space.

Each day of our lives will be multiplied in joy and usefulness if we find and celebrate the inner space of silence, peace and true power.  During a recent interview with Matt Kahn, he said, “…if you want to know the answer to any question in life, go ask a tree.  It will answer you with silence.”  Yes!

How do you experience this nameless, formless Tao presence?  I’d love to share in your meditations–comment below.

Conversation with a happy mystic

Right-click this picture and save the link as MP3 to download recording

I invited Matt Kahn to join me on the “Thank God It’s Friday” show this week.  Years ago someone gave me a cd of his program titled Earth Angels.  I have listened to it probably 100 times and have been deeply affected by the simple, powerful wisdom he shares.
Matt is a mystic.  That word might immediately conjure a picture in your mind much like the one at the top of this article–some solitary figure sitting on a mountaintop, basking in radiant silence.  From the moment Matt came on the air, he was quite different from what you might expect.
I hope you’ll take the time to listen to my conversation with this unusual young man.  He tells the story of his extraordinary experiences as a small child which have led to a life of sharing universal wisdom.
Like modern teachers Echkart Tolle and Byron Katie, Matt cuts through the complex traditions of religion and opens a window of insight which is simple, immediate and feels like a deep breath of pure mountain air.
click to visit Matt Kahn's siteI so enjoyed the light-hearted presence Matt radiates.  We discussed material from his soon-to-be-released book, “Effortless Freedom”.  I offered him questions from the audience about life, addiction, resentment, and spirituality; he responded with laughter and spontaneous expressions of wisdom.  You are now invited to enjoy this conversation via MP3 download:  Click here to listen online or save to your audio device.

Breathing Life

Right-click on this picture & select “Save As” to download the MP3 of “TGIF” radio show from 7/29
 

 My guest, Harmon Hathaway,  is a breath of fresh air.  He’s been helping people correct physical problems since the 1960’s.  He founded the American Yoga Foundation, is an author, speaker and international teacher.  He runs a 130-acre retreat in the Catskill Mountains.  Over the years he has worked with many professional athletes and entertainment notables.  You might expect someone with his experience and credentials to take his work very seriously.  In fact, I found Harmon to be full of friendliness, humility and good humor.

Mr. Hathaway talked about:

  • The triangle of body, speech & mind
  • Breathing without dogma
  • Using our body as a natural barometer for insight
  • How to use breathing & alignment to correct physical problems.

Rather than just talk about concepts and theories, Harmon walked the “Thank God It’s Friday” radio audience through basic alignment and breathing exercises.

You are invited to download and listen to this interview with a wise old master of healing. 

Right-click on the button below and “Save as” MP3

Practical Philosophy … an Inspired Life

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right-click/"save target as" on this picture to dowload the MP3 recording of this inspiring show

I was offered the host position for “Believe In The Moment’s” great Friday show titled: Thank God It’s Friday.  I accepted with pleasure!

My first guest, Brian Johnson, author of Philosopher’s Notes, conscious entrepreneur, author, speaker, philosopher and world traveler discusses how to bring universal wisdom into practical life. Brian has founded several successful companies including his most recent, PhilosophersNotes.com.  His first book, A Philosopher’s Notes: On Optimal Living, Creating an Authentically Awesome Life and Other Such Goodness, Vol. 1, was published in 2010.  Brian appears in a soon-to-be-released movie, Finding Joe—which explores the wisdom of Joseph Campbell and the modern hero’s journey.

Enjoy this recording… <<< right click and save as MP3 to download this to your phone or MP3 player

P.S. … right near the end of the show, Brian gives a simple, practical approach to meditation.  He has not missed a day of meditating in over 3 years and has studied the topic deeply!

P.P.S… Click on this picture of Brian’s book below to check out his fun and inspiring take on philosophy, optimal living and all sorts of other goodness