Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
...taoism, chi kung, free will, photos, and other odd things...
A "swarm of megastructures" around a sun... I am sure they will make perfectly good neighbors.
Raven doing that sideways thing and letting me hear it.
[Monk 55 here. I rode in to Santa Fe on the scooter late last night for a quick visit. Now this morning...]
Cut off. My personal line to the the great Tao was cut off this morning. Not sure who I pissed off or what bill I failed to pay. Chi Kung form was flat and lifeless. Meditation went nowhere. Worse than nowhere…I was overrun by boring thoughts, and lost emotions. They were all running around inside of me, staring at the Maps app on their smartphones…turning this way and that, bumping in to each other…no logic… no cause and effect…like my emotional dustbin just got spilled on the floor....and then kicked. Anger, sadness, fear all caught in a thatch of dog hair and dust.
I couldn’t go inside to Earth. I couldn’t go outside to Heaven. My joints hurt and my head ached. I went in to D's hot tub to float, watch the pre-dawn sky (last of the stars), and to get some much needed yin. Nothing. I felt hot, and nothing more. Well there was more…I felt claustrophobic. Sometimes this happens: this hopefully minor, distant relative of the Dark Night of the Soul shows up uninvited, stays for a miserable couple of days and leaves. (I’ve experienced the DNOTS twice and if it’s less than 90 days it’s a punk.) Hopefully it’s just Chamisa pollen poisoning me and nothing more. (I imagine my body is fighting the yellow pollen horde. I think I hear tiny machine guns..."they just kept coming!") The Dark Night is paradoxically both easier and harder now. I certainly have a preference but, when it shows up I offer no resistance. I just say “fine, bring it on…you are welcome in here”. Usually it just slugs me in the gut, and moves on but, one never knows and it's that "not knowing"...
Then the ravens came. They flew over the tub with the naked monk in it. They gave not one raven dropping about me. They were flying to their morning clatch down in an old, dead tree by the creek. I remember that from my last visit. What the hell is that all about anyway? They show up just before sunrise, or at least before the sun clears the ridge and fills the canyon. Today that’s about 6:15AM. Singles flying in from a wild night out (I imagined that... because it’s fun to think of them being a little hung over and covered in mozzarella and tomato stains). Pairs in love, playing with their mate's toes (?) as they snap sideways, flying belly to belly. Mobs of 12, 15, 17, talking and screwing around. One suddenly turns 180 degrees, dives and drops, turns on the airbrakes and resumes his westerly flight, a bit behind his buddies. They don't notice. I can't see if he is chewing. I assume he spotted a juicy moth just waiting to be eaten…or else he is a few cards short.
What the hell are they doing in that tree by the creek? No coffee served as far as I can tell. They land, engage in 50 way conversations, look around, and, an hour later, take off for the day. Every morning. I believe that they call such groupings a "murder" but, I think they really like each other. Maybe every so often a joke goes bad and violence breaks out? Or they are "killing them" with one-liners?
It takes about 30 minutes for them all to show up. There are stragglers, of course...fashionably late. So much like us…or us like them. The sky is lighter now…a cooler blue then it was a couple of weeks ago…more silver…a sure sign that we have turned the corner to fall…yin waxing, yang waning…another trip around the wheel (as if it has ever stopped turning). I notice that my attention had been moved out by the birds. It was out there watching the ravens, less frustrated, less aware of aches and pains. It comes back now to where I am. I notice my head hurts again. I wonder when my connection will be restored. The ravens don’t give a crap.
Hey, Monk55 here. Busy summer bombing around the country on the scooter. Just getting a bit caught up on old bookmarked articles. Here is screwed up one. I have read this several times and still can't quite grasp all of it's implications. I believe in free will and this challenges that. Perhaps...
A particle's choice in the present determined by it's knowledge of the future...
Photo by D. Barnard
The divine twinkle…
A man I knew for three weeks passed today, and I am devastated. Doesn’t make much sense…unless it does.
David and Johanna were on the China trip with me and I just loved them from the moment I first spoke to them. Both had a twinkle. Both seemed “comfortable in their own skin” …. that wonderful balanced combination of a lightness and a groundedness, heaven and earth. David, in particular, had that impish smile and a twinkle in his eye, every time we spoke…(even as he teased me about Canada’s superior health system). We traveled China in the larger chi kung study group, ate, drank, laughed, meditated, hiked, and hung out. Even so, I think our actual 1-1 time together might have added up to less than a single day.
This past Sunday, I got the email from Johanna that David had passed at noon after battling cancer for the past year. I was crushed. I had been following Johanna’s emails and knew things had not been going well recently. Still, I was hoping. How could the passing of one person that I interacted with for less than 24 hours affect me so? I am blaming the divine twinkle.
I hiked up the mesa a bit Sunday evening and invited David’s spirit to join me in the chi kung form I have been practicing. As I meditated afterward, his smiling face floated in to my awareness and I realized that the "twinkle in the eye", as with all people so blessed, is a visual indication of an open and pure heart. Being open means, (at least by my definition) being curious and without fear. That combination seems to open a portal to the higher realms...right through the heart. It is this reunification with oneness that all humans crave and an open heart offers a direct pathway. David had it (has it) and offered that connection quietly and freely to all he met. He and Johanna both offered it to me in China and I am eternally grateful.
I read an email from Johanna yesterday and in it she mentioned many things about David that I did not know (of course) plus, some curious bird sightings and behavior immediately after his passing. Last night I was doing chi kung at around midnight under a very full moon. Still feeling a bit raw about David I invited him to do the form with me. I felt an immediate presence but, not David’s (that’s another story). As I moved through the form, I began to notice a very strange bird call that I had never heard in Santa Fe before, and particularly not at night. It was just two notes (hi-lo), very clear, very loud and very close…less then 20 feet away I would guess. The bird must have been on a branch of one of the piñon trees surrounding the deck. The only other noise was constant hum of thousands of crickets and the aural contrast was quite stunning. As I became more and more aware of the bird’s song and the strangeness of that, I suddenly got a picture of David’s smiling face in my mind, and, in the next minute, the mystery bird flew away. It flew to the top of the ridge, called out a few more times (more faintly now) and disappeared in to the night. I couldn’t help but chuckle and decided to tell Johanna that David had indeed fulfilled his promise to visit me in Santa Fe.
Thank you David for accelerating our friendship to such an extent that I could spend so little time with you but, carry that relationship in the two years that have passed since the trip, and mourn for all of us left behind on your passing. You and your love, Johanna, are a gift to me.
I look forward to our next beer…but, I’ll try and take my time collecting if that's OK with you.
(Note: wrote this post right after hearing of David's passing but, just sat with it for a couple of weeks. Also, wanted to say that Johanna encouraged me to write a blog and...add pictures. I have, timidly, followed her good advice)
A 1500 mile drive across the better part of the country on sometimes crowded interstates might not conjure up thoughts of solitude. For me, it was a welcome respite and full of solitude. I chose to drive many hours in silence..just noise from the road, the car and the wind. Sometimes some music and those were usually long, complex pieces which I hadn't heard from beginning to end in some time. Rare was the interruption from phone, text, email.
The extended sitting allowed me to watch the long arc of emotions, the genesis, expansion and fading of thoughts and ideas. I could shift my perspective and watch whole internal processes, with their complicated ecosystems. I played with focus and concentration for many hours, which is the proper length of time for such things.
Outside the land and landscapes changed. But, the change, even when quick and dramatic , was...congruent. I had crossed and been part of the before, the during, and soon, the after. I understood how it became what it became. I noticed how I often miss that when traveling by plane...I just arrive, having missed the relationship...the process of becoming.
Now, I am back at home, back on the side of the mesa. Because I live in, and love, the high desert, I always seem to come back to books about the desert, solitude, and spirituality. Here are some passages from a fine one by Thomas Merton that I am revisiting right now. (I forgotten that Merton was a Trappist Monk...my favorite business book is probably "Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks" by August Turak)
From "Thoughts In Solitude" by Thomas Merton
"In an age when totalitarianism has striven, in every way, to devaluate and degrade the human person, we hope it is right to demand a hearing for any and every sane reaction in the favor of man’s inalienable solitude and his interior freedom."
"It is all very well to insist that man is a “social animal”—the fact is obvious enough. But that is no justification for making him a mere cog in a totalitarian machine—or in a religious one either, for that matter. In actual fact, society depends for its existence on the inviolable personal solitude of its members. Society, to merit its name, must be made up not of numbers, or mechanical units, but of persons. To be a person implies responsibility and freedom, and both these imply a certain interior solitude, a sense of personal integrity, a sense of one’s own reality and of one’s ability to give himself to society—or to refuse that gift."
"In other words, since faith is a matter of freedom and self-determination—the free receiving of a freely given gift of grace—man cannot assent to a spiritual message as long as his mind and heart are enslaved by automatism."
Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. (January 31, 1915 – December 10, 1968) was an American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion. In 1949, he was ordained to the priesthood and given the name Father Louis.
Merton wrote more than 70 books, mostly on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism, as well as scores of essays and reviews. Among Merton's most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), which sent scores of World War II veterans, students, and even teenagers flocking to monasteries across the US, and was also featured in National Review's list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century. Merton was a keen proponent of interfaith understanding. He pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures, including the Dalai Lama, the Japanese writer D.T. Suzuki, the Thai Buddhist monk Buddhadasa, and the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and authored books on Zen Buddhism and Taoism.
I don't think there is anything particularly new in this article. I love my phone and the internet but, there is a dark side to both technologies and...kids haven't developed a strong enough inner knowledge/cognitive foundation to use them regularly without doing damage. Not against them, just recommend holding them back for a while. Tough job as a parent when culture is overwhelmingly pushing in the other direction. Resist the culture and help your kids.
"Before age 2, children should not be exposed to any electronic media, the pediatrics academy maintains, because “a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” Older children and teenagers should spend no more than one or two hours a day with entertainment media, preferably with high-quality content, and spend more free time playing outdoors, reading, doing hobbies and “using their imaginations in free play,” the academy recommends."
From Navajo Bridge on 89A as it crosses the Colorado River. (On the bike..heading to LasVegas...Day 2)
photo by D. Barnard
...if the soul has not at some time found itself faced in utmost seriousness by the problem of free will or necessity it will not have reached its full stature.
Steiner, Rudolf (2014-04-14). Philosophy of Freedom (Kindle Locations 300-301). . Kindle Edition.
Man ultimately has his fate in his own hands, though the path to this condition of freedom is a long and a hard one, in the course of which he must develop merciless knowledge of himself and selfless understanding of others.
Steiner, Rudolf (2014-04-14). Philosophy of Freedom (Kindle Locations 102-105). . Kindle Edition.
An attempt is made to prove that there is a view of the nature of man's being which can support the rest of knowledge; and further, that this view completely justifies the idea of free will, provided only that we have first discovered that region of the soul in which free will can unfold itself.
Steiner, Rudolf (2014-04-14). Philosophy of Freedom (Kindle Locations 302-304). . Kindle Edition.
Again, we do not want any knowledge of the kind that has become frozen once and for all into rigid academic rules, preserved in encyclopedias valid for all time. Each of us claims the right to start from the facts that lie nearest to hand, from his own immediate experiences, and thence to ascend to a knowledge of the whole universe. We strive after certainty in knowledge, but each in his own way.
Steiner, Rudolf (2014-04-14). Philosophy of Freedom (Kindle Locations 353-356). . Kindle Edition.
...and a nice, succinct summary of the goal of Waldorf education:
Even with the immature human being, the child, we do not nowadays cram knowledge into it, but we try to develop its capacities so that it will no longer need to be compelled to understand, but will want to understand.
Steiner, Rudolf (2014-04-14). Philosophy of Freedom (Kindle Locations 359-360). . Kindle Edition.
Truth seek we both —
Thou in the life without thee and around; I in the heart within.
By both can Truth alike be found.
The healthy eye can through the world the great Creator track;
The healthy heart is but the glass which gives Creation back.
(Translation by E. Bulwer Lytton)
a plant-hopping insect found in gardens across Europe - has hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing 'teeth' that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronise the animal's legs when it launches into a jump.
The finding demonstrates that gear mechanisms previously thought to be solely man-made have an evolutionary precedent. Scientists say this is the "first observation of mechanical gearing in a biological structure".
The gears in the Issus hind-leg bear remarkable engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle and inside every car gear-box.
The central unity is alone and therefore all-one at the same time, it is wholeness and singularity, it is unity and totality. The number one symbolizes this all-oneness. It "absorbs" all twoness. Just as the hub unites left and right and top and bottom, the one is the pivot for two, uniting and integrating the manifold. Oneness and twoness, presence and nonpresence, center and periphery constitute the "world". The number that symbolizes the combination of oneness and twoness is - and this can be calculated without great mathematical skill - the number three. Therefore, only with three can multiplicity and the number series begin. One and two, nonpresence and presence, are the structural elements of multiplicity, but multiplicity itself only begins when the two elements are combined. This is why it begins with the number three. With "threeness" the diversity and variety of the world and the cosmos begins to unfold.
The well-known first lines of the forty second chapter of the Doadejing are nothing else but a formulaic description of this numerical structure of the cosmos:
The Dao generates Oneness.
Oneness generates Twoness.
Twoness generates Threeness.
Threeness generates the ten thousand things.
There is no question there is an unseen world. The problem is how far is it from mid-town and how late is it open?
This 2nd century Taoist Alchemical Treatise, called the Secret of Everlasting Life, trans. by Richard Bertschinger, put this notion of continuity between the living and the dead best:
"The idea of Everlasting Life has nothing to do with hankering after life. The truth is that actually there is no death.
How can there be no death? Because actually there is only one single energy, one all-encompassing motivating force which lies at the root of our life's activity, not two. The Great Void which is the common ground of all life is there already, with life continuously being born within it. So what need is there for life and death?
It is because our desire for things assumes undue importance that we go astray and begin the separation of life and death. If we view them from this space of quiet and tranquillity we can see there has never been any life or any death. Evidently there is only this one single energy flowing and circulating about."
- "Triplex Unity" (Can Tong Qi), preface published in 1564