quote du jour ~remen

Originally posted on pathwriter:

How tempting to let the enemy go and flee. To put the struggle behind you as quickly as possible and get on with your life. Life might be easier then but far less genuine. Perhaps the wisdom lies in engaging the life you have been given as fully and courageously as possible and not letting go until you find the unknown blessing that is in everything.

~Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings

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Good thoughts heal…

MP900444180sun offering


A friend of mine who is in AA gave me a good quote when I described my problems with envy:  “Bless them. Change me.”

She also reminded me of a Buddhist truism: “You not responsible for first thoughts.”  This helped me a lot because I have a mind conditioned by the past causes and conditions whose first thoughts are about my lack of what it appears others have. Naturally, this is not easy to admit and easy to have shame about, but that truism removes my embarrassment of and frustration with my “story,” created in  childhood, that I am not enough and do not have enough, but others do.


Light Comes After Dark

Suffering Ends, Wisdom Begins | April 23, 2014


When it’s time to suffer, you should suffer; when it’s time to cry, you should cry. Cry completely. Cry until there are no more tears and then recognize in your exhaustion that you’re alive. The sun still rises and sets. The seasons come and go. Absolutely nothing remains the same and that includes suffering. When the suffering ends wisdom begins to raise the right questions.


—Seido Ray Ronci, “The Examined Life”

An Unpopular Theory

Originally posted on Walks with Yogi:

“What is commonly called ‘falling in love is in most cases an intensification of egoic wanting and needing.”

~~~Eckhart Tolle

I have to admit that I was always attracted to men for whom looks mattered a lot.  Even in old age, I tend to fall for that.  I was never beautiful, but was still considered reasonably attractive, maybe even pretty, and since I was  young, I caught the attention of a few of those types of men.  My looks mattered to me a lot, so we had that in common. As a child I learned:  The beautiful princess could love the ogre, but even the ogre would not love less than a beauty.  The difference was they did not hate their bodies or looks; their focus was on how  hot women were or were not, while I hated my body and sought their approval.  I did not apply the same…

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Addiction to Control

The mind must be monitored and inventoried like an alcoholic in recovery or a Washington lobbyist: It never goes away until it gets what it wants. And what it wants is to be in control at all times. But control is not part of the deal of being a human being. We may rightly try to confront injustices, but some things can only be seen, noted, and accepted for what they are.

—Stephen Altschuler, “Sitting Practice Redux”

Mindfulness of Nature in the City

If you live in St. Petersburg, Florida you might have heard of Salt Creek. What you’d know is that it is a narrow, shallow stretch of polluted water south of downtown St. Petersburg, Florida.  It empties into the large Lake Maggiore several miles further south. You might say that  Salt Creek is a wilted flower in the backyard of Bayboro Harbor, which is planted with yachts, and snazzy sailboats. Kayaking in Salt Creek is not recommended.  Not if you are seeking a pristine  nature experience near the city.  However, if you want to know a secret, you might want to join me.  Remember this, appearances are deceiving.

Get in the kayak at Bayboro Harbor in Tampa Bay on whose banks sits  the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, turn right past the towering  Coast Guard vessels and leave the sparkling skyline of downtown St. Pete and the bright white anchored yachts to your back.   Once past the Fish Tales restaurant, the creek meets you, becoming a narrow waterwau.  In no time at all, rusty cans appear trapped in the mangrove roots, and your paddle lifts a plastic grocery bag, then  hits muddy, bobbing soda and beer and booze bottles—a true cornucopia of trash fills this little creek.

Salt Creek has been used and abused for decades, by industries that spit smoke and toxins, and people who tossed litter from cars and boats.  It looks deserted, but it’s not.  It’s still home to birds, mangroves and an occasional raggedy, creased-faced hermit-sailor repairing his ancient grimy motor boat.  The creek, also known as a swale which is a narrow shallow marshy place, meanders along  looking droopy and depleted .  It appears down for the count, yet, invisible to our eyes,  this dirty little swale is still doing its job, fueled by an invisible energy; it collects rainwater and eroded soil, and creates a microclimate for  plants, amphibians, birds and anthropoids.  The swale may look ragged and homeless but in truth its function and beauty are only hidden, not gone.  In the same way, the unruly looking  mangroves with their propuglates sticking half in the water and half out, belie their vital role.

The mangroves might tell you to buzz off; they will not give in. Even when they are demonized by those well-meaning folk who blame them for overcrowding what could be an urban kayak trail– as if the mangroves and not the swill that is allowed to accumulate are the problem—they are not impressed.

It’s as if they are ignoring any rubbish we toss at them.  In fact, they thrive despite the  old condoms, and rusty cans in the boggy  Salt Creek.  You can  almost hear this symphony of symbiosis played by the swale and the mangrove.  The swale and its mangroves survive all matter of insults by an invasive species, human polluters.  The Oil Company that built on its shore, the Milk Company that crowded its banks, the careless drunks in their gasoline spewing boats, the Moonshiners who hid there in the twenties—the mangroves outlived them all. The creek looks injured, yet the mangrove keep nursing it, cleaning its water, exchanging nutrients back into the muddy bottom, housing the egrets, the cormorant, the osprey, the pelican and the roseate spoonbill, buffering the creek’s banks from eroding storms.

A swampy stench mixes with the gasoline exhaust of the nearby marina and yacht repair yard.  It’s hard to avoid thoughts of dying things. But this is only the surface truth.  A deeper truth is hidden from us by the mangroves and the swale.

Back in the kayak, we float under the pretty little stone 4th Street bridge until we are blocked  by a thicket of mangrove branches.  We find ourselves in  a cool, dark mangrove tunnel on this sunny warm afternoon .  We must duck our heads, and bend down in our kayaks.  The twists of their black branches  suggest gracefully woven baskets ,  but they are muscular,  like protective arms hovering  over  little Salt Creek and its inhabitants.  If we were adventurous, we could find a way under and through the branches to go further, but on this day, we turn back.  We’ve seen enough for now. We’ve learaned what is hidden by the trash and detritus.

In Ukraine after a nuclear accident in Chernobyl twenty-seven years ago, scientists expected the land, its plants and animals to be mutated at best or dead for centuries.  They were in for a great surprise. They did not know what the mangrove, the egret, the snook fish, the snails or the  swale knows.

“…. According to all the population counts performed by Ukraine and Belarus over the past 27 years, there is enormous animal diversity and abundance. The prevailing scientific view of the exclusion zone has become that it is an unintentional wildlife sanctuary. This conclusion rests on the premise that radiation is less harmful to wildlife populations than we are. “—Slate

“… the biologists are still puzzled as to why the plants can so easily shrug off the deadly effects of the radiation, when it’s so hazardous to humans (the accident caused just 57 direct deaths, but thousands of cancer deaths were blamed on the incident for years after). The favored theory is that plants can “remember” prehistoric Earth conditions, when the fledgling planet was bathed in an air of harmful radiation.”—Wired, UK

 After the deluge of human ignorance and  error,  the plants will return, then  the insects, and after the insects will come creatures. Eventually even we may grow out of the mud again. So now you know the secret kept by mangroves and snails, herons and swales.  Mangroves, like the lotus transform dregs into mulch, mulch into life, life into beauty.  Like the lotus that grows only in the muck, the smelly swamps, like the lotus the mangrove rises and Salt Creek flows sweet and slow.

“A Heavy Curriculum”

If somebody is a problem for you, it’s not that they should change, it’s that you need to change. If they’re a problem for themselves that’s their karma, if they’re causing you trouble that’s your problem on yourself. So, in other words when Christ is crucified, he says “forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing”, they’re not a problem for him, he’s trying to get them out of being a problem for themselves, because he’s clear. Your job is to clear yourself. In ideal situations you would clear yourself within the situation, but very often it’s too thick and you can’t do that. Now, what you do then is you pull back and you do the stuff you do in the morning or at night before you go to work, you do the stuff on weekends, you do the stuff that quiets you down and then each time you go into the situation to where you have to work, you lose it again. And then you go home and you see how you lost it, and you examine it, and then you go the next day and you lose it again, and you go home and you keep a little diary “how did I lose it today”, and you saw that, and then you go and you do it again, and after a while as you’re starting to lose it you don’t buy in so much. You start to watch the mechanics of what it is that makes you lose it all the time.

If I’m not appreciated, that’s your problem that you don’t appreciate me. Unless I need your love, then it’s my problem. So my needs are what are giving you the power over me. Those people’s power over you to take you out of your equanimity and love and consciousness has to do with your own attachments and clingings of mind. That’s your work on yourself, that’s where you need to meditate more, it’s where you need to reflect more, it’s where you need a deeper philosophical framework, it’s where you need to cultivate the witness more, it’s where you need to work on practicing opening your heart more in circumstances that aren’t optimum. This is your work. You were given a heavy curriculum, that’s it. There’s no blame, it’s not even wrong, it’s just what you’re given. You hear what I’m saying? It’s interesting. Can you all hear that one?

-Ram Dass, Summer 1989

Alan Watts and Adyashanti

One of the best brief explanations of the Four Noble Truths I’ve heard.

An Unpopular Theory

“What is commonly called ‘falling in love is in most cases an intensification of egoic wanting and needing.”

~~~Eckhart Tolle

I have to admit that I was always attracted to men for whom looks mattered a lot.  Even in old age, I tend to fall for that.  I was never beautiful, but was still considered reasonably attractive, maybe even pretty, and since I was  young, I caught the attention of a few of those types of men.  My looks mattered to me a lot, so we had that in common. As a child I learned:  The beautiful princess could love the ogre, but even the ogre would not love less than a beauty.  The difference was they did not hate their bodies or looks; their focus was on how  hot women were or were not, while I hated my body and sought their approval.  I did not apply the same high standards to them; I was once in love with a man whose face was marked with a large genetic “port-wine” stain on one side.  Another time, I was with a man who was decidedly overweight.  Both times, the fact that I loved them made them appealing in my eyes. I didn’t really “see” the birthmark or the large belly. For me, people become beautiful when you love them. Conversely, beautiful people can lose their looks as you realize you only valued their beauty.

Other times, I chose men who found me attractive, with whom I had “chemistry.”  Disasters all.

As I age, I am noticing how much love has to do with bodies.  This has to do with how our egos have arranged the world and call it “natural”; young bodies are meant for procreation and historically, the supple, attractive body attracted the male for procreation.  There wasn’t much necessity for “love,” only lust.  Old bodies, done with procreation would “naturally” not induce lust, and therefore would no longer be “loved.”  If you started out young together as a couple and made it through the disillusionment after the lust eventually passed, then you are probably still together, and finally having a relationship based on more than your bodies–in other words, a good friendship.

In times past (even in the 1950s) you chose partners that would produce attractive, healthy children.  Even if you didn’t want to get pregnant, your body was evaluated as good or not for child-bearing.  Usually this was subconscious on everybody’s part.  Bodies were loved more than anything else about a person because nobody wanted ugly or “weak” babies. Lust was the most important requirement for child-bearing.   It was all very Darwinian.  But we accepted that we were just like the animals and so this was all nature’s way.  And it was.  For the cavemen and cavewomen.

Now that we don’t mate only to have children, we still base our selections on that old genetic model, but we want more and wonder why it doesn’t work out too well with a 50% divorce rate.  My unpopular theory is that men and women have been getting it wrong now that we have evolved from being primarily reproduction partners.  However,  even friends tell me my theory is not realistic, they insist there must be “chemistry” for true love to exist.  I tell them that “chemistry” is blind and friends (without chemistry) would make the best lovers, and best life partners.  That “chemistry” seduces us and confuses love with sex.

So, later in life I developed a theory– an unpopular theory because most people are attached to the idea of “chemistry” and absolute necessity for lust.  Before I tell you my theory, let me describe a relationship:

In this relationship the man and woman have spent a great deal of time understanding each other.  They talk about their hopes and their demons, they enjoy discussing ideas.   They laugh together, a lot of the time.  They comfort each other after heartbreaks.  They feel comfortable with each other and not pressured to be other than who they are, or look better than they do.  They share values and admire each others’ character. In fact, what drew them together were common values, interests and kindness—not looks. They laugh at each other’s foibles and weaknesses, and challenge each other in supportive ways.

Does that sound like a profoundly good relationship?

I recall that not long ago I asked a friend what drew him into a relationship and he told me that it was something mysterious, undefinable, and that this was just how it was and should be.  He claimed there was no accounting for why we fell in love.  That he was  drawn to a woman by some unnameable energy.  (I will spare you my cynical joke about what I think was that mystical “energy”).  Of course it is the sex vibe that usually what starts the relationship engine running.  It’s not love that is blind, but sex.

I know another man friend who simply cannot resist the power of beautiful, young women.  He knows they will eventually find him too needy and reject him, but he is addicted to their beauty and sexuality.  Meanwhile, there is a woman in his life whom he considers his best friend, who understands him like no one else, who cares about him deeply, who supports his emotional/spiritual growth, whose company he enjoys enough to get together with her often, whose counsel he seeks and is comforted by.  Yet, because he does not lust for her (she is not the “beauty queen” type he is attracted to, he relegates her to platonic friendship and continues to mourn his lack of a love relationship.  He knows he is suffering, but cannot get past it even though love is already at his side, looking directly into his eyes.  It’s not love that is blind.

We usually end up with that person we lust after and pushes our buttons, because that is how the ego has it set up:  First you do things unconsciously based on your upbringing/culture/sex/education, then hopefully, in the next relationship you do the same thing,s but mindfully with compassion for yourself.  Finally, as you start to catch the ego at its games, you start to act from insight rather than conditioning.

When we become mindful and more awake to the causes and conditions of our pasts, we can even turn addictive relationships (that may have started with lust primarily)  into our sadhana, our spiritual practice.  My buddhism teacher says ” love is understanding” which is another way to say that we can learn a great deal about how to truly love if we see the person before us and not the illusion of the person.  True love then might look a lot like deeply caring, compassionate and non-judgmental friendship.

But I guess that not exciting enough for the ego. Unfortunately, the ego is crazy about desire, but not love.

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