Thursday, August 31, 2017

Knowing water


On October 4th, 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite. It was the size of a basketball, weighed 183 pounds, and orbited the earth in 98 minutes. So began the "Space Age".

I was ten years old. When the United States entered the space age, so did I—by becoming a junior scientist. I could not go into space, but I could study the elements. I studied the chemistry of the water molecule—two hydrogen atoms bound to a common oxygen atom. At room temperature and normal air pressure, these two elements were gases. Eventually I ran a direct electrical current through an sulfuric acid solution, and collected hydrogen and oxygen at two electrodes inside separate test tubes. This was one of my life's greatest moments.

But did I really know water? The power of water was just an abstraction. The Pacific Ocean was only thirty minutes away, but I had never stepped into those vast waters. My mother was afraid of water—be it a rain storm or the ocean—and I was my mother's child.

Not until I was married did I learn to swim. The body is lighter than water, it will float if you don't struggle against it, becoming stiff and thrashing yourself down until you take in gulps of something quite alien to your lungs. Water is hard. Fall into a pool and water demonstrates its solidity. Water is seductive. As you swim, it takes on the feeling of a sensuous substance enfolding you within its body. Eventually, you feel free—like a fish or a soaring eagle. Moving and flowing in a pool is its own self-sustaining pleasure.

After some months in the pool, I braved the frontier: the roaring Pacific Ocean. I became a beach bum. Sun and surf, day after day. Throwing my body into the waves. Catching a wave of salt water that carried this finite human body to the soft sandy shores of Corona Del Mar not far from Newport Beach. I took in life from the vast water. I had discovered water as way of being, at an entirely other level from oxygen and hydrogen.

Meanwhile, more and more satellites orbited the earth. I knew that water was going to be important to people someday living on other planets. Would they make their own water from hydrogen and oxygen? Would they know water as a way of being? Would they even care?

Image source is from NSSDC Master Catalog Display: Spacecraft.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Purification of Consciousness

During forty seven years of life, I've practiced meditation and purification of consciousness. It's the most difficult and rewarding of tasks. Purification of consciousness is attained by uncovering the innate stillness and peace of mind -available via simple frequent moments of meditation during the minutes, hours and days of our lives. Take time today to stop the busy mind - thereby uncovering the peace and joy already within yourself. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Home Bound

It's hard to go home even if you long for it. To long for something but be afraid to grasp it is a human experience. What's left there to avoid though? Only what you left behind. Be brave and find your way home; home is where the heart is.

Touching Ground

Touching Ground

“Too often, people think that solving the world’s problems is based on conquering the earth, rather than touching the earth, touching ground.”
- Chogyam Trungpa*
Long ago, while walking home from grade school, among the dairy farms of Los Angeles County, I invented a game with myself. While walking on the sidewalk, I started paying attention to the dark lines between the slabs of concrete. Keeping attention, on these lines one after another. Soon, I noticed my attention flying away toward daydreams or solving problems at school or home. Over and over in my mind, I'd return to the dark lines between the concrete slabs. How long could I stay concentrated on those lines? That was my first concentration practice.
Almost 60-plus years later I still play that same game, but using the feeling of my feet on the ground instead. I contemplate, how long can I stay feeling my feet touch ground?
Students, professionals, and business people now spend the majority of their working hours looking at luminous screens, while ignoring the numinous quality of "nowness". Computers and handheld devices are becoming the "place" of work and play. Always connected, we are increasingly at work or play through electronic screens. We do not "touch ground" – instead, we are imagining ground though our screens.
While a graduate student in Philosophy, I wondered where to find wisdom… for I did not find it in academic philosophy. It dawned upon me that Buddha found, lived, and expressed wisdom. Fortunately, a special visitor from Tibet paid a visit.
Chogyam Trungpa showed up to speak in Jacob Needlman's philosophy of religion class. This was the early 1970's. Trungpa was newly arrived in San Francisco - fresh from the publication of his first book, Born in Tibet. Dressed in a blazer, turtle neck shirt, and a can of Coca Cola in hand. Not my image of an Eastern guru! An unforgettable moment.
Years later, I met with four cousins - sons of my father's step brother - at my father's funeral reception. They had all emigrated from the Azores Islands as teenagers. One told me about working the farmlands bare foot. They felt the earth all day long. Apparently, the pre-colonial native people of the San Francisco Bay area, the Ohlone, walked barefoot all day long with feet naturally callused.
The "horse stance" is basic training in Qi Gong. Stand with legs somewhat apart and let the body drop down toward the earth. Eyes looking into the horizon. Hands slightly in font. Feeling feet on the ground. Just standing. The horse stance may look easy, but the inner attention is extremely difficult to stabilize. Over and over one forgets to stay with feet feeling the ground - as attention flies into dreams and thoughts. With much practice, we start standing firm and still on our feet in full presence.
Getting up in the morning is a most honest time. We are not trying to please anyone yet. Just waking up. Stumbling around a bit. A moment of presencing. A great time to practice and get stronger in presence.
The present is an infinitesimal slice of time's vast ocean of past and future. Our ground begins and ends right here and now. This is where we assemble and clean up our life. For as Trungpa suggests, "Nowness, or the magic of the present moment, is what joins the wisdom of the past with the present."
By being grounded on this earth we become more present to one another by expressing love, care, and compassion. The "other" is also part of "the ground". It is "all one". They are "us" and we are "them". But how do we stay touching the ground? Practice, practice, practice. The "hard" part is to let it be easy. Over time there's a growing sense of joy at being grounded. We naturally want that - and that allows the fullness of life to unfold.
A good society, an enlightened society, naturally spends time touching the earth, touching ground. No need go anywhere, except the journey to here and now. Start today: spend an hour each day touching ground. If we all did this, a good society would emerge like daisies in a green field of spring grass. The earth itself would be our healer.
So right now, right here, as I write and as you read - let's feel ourselves touching ground.
-------------------------
* Taken from from the last paragraph, Chapter Eleven of Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tree of Life

After my mother's passing, I began drawing images of the tree of life. It's one of the two trees mentioned in the biblical Garden of Eden story - the tree of life & the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Mother was my first tree of life. I did not know that while she lived. We often know what we have until it's gone.


I'm reminded of the following lines from Joni Mitchell's hit song "Big Yellow Taxi"

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot




Saturday, August 26, 2017

Touching Ground (Inspired by Chogyam Trungpa)


“Too often, people think that solving the world’s problems is based on conquering the earth, rather than touching the earth, touching ground.”
- Chogyam Trungpa*
Long ago, while walking home from grade school, among the dairy farms of Los Angeles County, I invented a game with myself. While walking on the sidewalk, I started paying attention to the dark lines between the slabs of concrete. Keeping attention, on these lines one after another. Soon, I noticed my attention flying away toward daydreams or solving problems at school or home. Over and over in my mind, I'd return to the dark lines between the concrete slabs. How long could I stay concentrated on those lines? That was my first concentration practice.
Almost 60-plus years later I still play that same game, but using the feeling of my feet on the ground instead. I contemplate, how long can I stay feeling my feet touch ground?
Students, professionals, and business people now spend the majority of their working hours looking at luminous screens, while ignoring the numinous quality of "nowness". Computers and handheld devices are becoming the "place" of work and play. Always connected, we are increasingly at work or play through electronic screens. We do not "touch ground" – instead, we are imagining ground though our screens.
While a graduate student in Philosophy, I wondered where to find wisdom… for I did not find it in academic philosophy. It dawned upon me that Buddha found, lived, and expressed wisdom. Fortunately, a special visitor from Tibet paid a visit.
Chogyam Trungpa showed up to speak in Jacob Needlman's philosophy of religion class. This was the early 1970's. Trungpa was newly arrived in San Francisco - fresh from the publication of his first book, Born in Tibet. Dressed in a blazer, turtle neck shirt, and a can of Coca Cola in hand. Not my image of an Eastern guru! An unforgettable moment.
Years later, I met with four cousins - sons of my father's step brother - at my father's funeral reception. They had all emigrated from the Azores Islands as teenagers. One told me about working the farmlands bare foot. They felt the earth all day long. Apparently, the pre-colonial native people of the San Francisco Bay area, the Ohlone, walked barefoot all day long with feet naturally callused.
The "horse stance" is basic training in Qi Gong. Stand with legs somewhat apart and let the body drop down toward the earth. Eyes looking into the horizon. Hands slightly in font. Feeling feet on the ground. Just standing. The horse stance may look easy, but the inner attention is extremely difficult to stabilize. Over and over one forgets to stay with feet feeling the ground - as attention flies into dreams and thoughts. With much practice, we start standing firm and still on our feet in full presence.
Getting up in the morning is a most honest time. We are not trying to please anyone yet. Just waking up. Stumbling around a bit. A moment of presencing. A great time to practice and get stronger in presence.
The present is an infinitesimal slice of time's vast ocean of past and future. Our ground begins and ends right here and now. This is where we assemble and clean up our life. For as Trungpa suggests, "Nowness, or the magic of the present moment, is what joins the wisdom of the past with the present."
By being grounded on this earth we become more present to one another by expressing love, care, and compassion. The "other" is also part of "the ground". It is "all one". They are "us" and we are "them". But how do we stay touching the ground? Practice, practice, practice. The "hard" part is to let it be easy. Over time there's a growing sense of joy at being grounded. We naturally want that - and that allows the fullness of life to unfold.
A good society, an enlightened society, naturally spends time touching the earth, touching ground. No need go anywhere, except the journey to here and now. Start today: spend an hour each day touching ground. If we all did this, a good society would emerge like daisies in a green field of spring grass. The earth itself would be our healer.
So right now, right here, as I write and as you read - let's feel ourselves touching ground.
-------------------------
* Taken from from the last paragraph, Chapter Eleven of Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Oh Holy One! Hear my prayer, my plea!


Oh Holy One! Hear my prayer, 
    my plea!
You who are the greatest.
You who are so beautiful, 
    so beautiful.
Be with me and my beloved one 
    all my days of life.
Let peace be everywhere on earth.
Grant me enough wisdom to 
    follow your still quiet voice -
today, tomorrow, and beyond.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Unknown Unknowns - Donald Rumsfeld testimony





“There are known knowns – 
these are things we know we know. 
There are known unknowns….
these are the things we know we do not know. 
But there are also unknown unknowns; 
these are the things we don't know we don't know.” 

Donald Rumsfeld
Former United States Secretary of Defense [1]




[1] Engineering: A Very Short Introduction. David Blockley. Oxford University Press. © 2012. Page 98. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fabric of the Universe


Modern quantum physics suggests that 
uncertainty is woven into 
the fabric of the universe. 
Each of us reflects the 
wholeness of all that is
Can't be certain 
we'll be here tomorrow.  
Statistically, chances are good 
for being correct when saying, 
"See you tomorrow morning." 
That's not absolutely determined. 
So be humble. 
Nothing is certain - 
not even death and taxes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Breath of Life


A long time ago, I killed a mouse in the kitchen by dropping it into a bucket of water. Thinking that would drown him. But it kept swimming back up to the surface. The mouse eventually drowned. At the moment of death a white mist came out of its mouth into the water. That was the mouse’s last breath - as if “seeing” his life spirit leave the body. One of the most memorable experiences in my life. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Body-Mind-Spirit


We can create many models of the human experience. 
Here's a model based on three concepts:
body, mind, and spirit. Here presented in the form of a Venn diagram*.



Monday, August 07, 2017

Everything and Nothing

Where do we start counting? Is it at number one? Not really. It starts at nothing; i.e. zero. The number zero is between the positive and negative numbers on the number line. This is quite beautiful. Zero is neither negative or positive. Most people usually begin with the number “one” - they also don’t think of negative or positive numbers. Zero and negative numbers had to be in invented to deal with the mathematical mapping of our daily reality.  So, we start with nothing and move on to more or less than nothing.

Everything has a beginning within imagination. Something may happen. Energy changes forms, shapes and states. Energy can be everything and nothing. Out of a mysterious void something emerges. Here and now we are!  Amazing, amazing. The way up and the way down are the same. To have a beginning implies that there will be an end. Today, begin by being here now!


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Sometimes in the middle of the night


Sometimes  
     in the middle of the night  
     or in the daytime   
     when all is quiet   
     including the mind  
Comes  
     a glimpse of immortality  
     between in breath and out breath   
     between thought and vision  

Fields of light and love  
     endless, deep, safe, eternal