Leisure and love

Summer is the time
for leisure and love.

Unabashed indulgence
in nourishing pleasures
is medicine
for body, mind, and spirit.

Wholesome enjoyment
heals us in so many ways:

Make love at dawn
(with yourself or a partner)
to the songs of birds.

Cook a gourmet breakfast
just the way you like it.

Disappear into that fantastic book
for endless hours. 

Travel whimsically
to places that inspire
wonder and awe. 

Swim in cool natural waters
and remember
the purity of life. 

Bask in the delicious shade
of grand old trees. 

Drink the golden elixir of sunset
through your eyes and skin. 

Curl into un-rushed afternoon naps
and awaken later
with rosewater spritz. 

Dine outdoors
under the royal blue canopy
of infinite sky. 

Dance to live music
played by passionate artists
who can't stop smiling. 

Practice, at least for a time, 
the wonderful art
of being un-productive
and doing nothing at all. 

Insubstantiality

Nothing stays intact
indefinitely.
All Appearances,
without exception,
disintegrate
and become
something else.

Thoughts,
sensations,
emotions,
intuitions,
dreams,
relationships,
possessions,
cells,
organisms,
planets,
stars,
solar systems;
all impermanent. 

The natural law
of impermanence
is not tragic.

It's magic. 

The wonder
of Appearances
is that they do not
endure;
morning fog,
an afternoon rainbow,
a butterfly.

Now here, now gone. 

As we understand
the insubstantiality
of Appearances,
spiritual maturity
dawns. 

Meditation
might be
nothing more than
abiding
in self-resolving simplicity, 
resting
in the uncontrived state
of innate wholeness
with nothing to gain
and nothing to lose. 

Mirage

A spiritual warrior lives
on the brink of extinction
where emptiness gives birth to form
and form dissolves into emptiness.

Without a trace of striving,
can you apprehend
the thunderclap
of immediate presence?

A spiritual warrior mounts
the unbridled moment
and rides bareback
upon the writhing chaos. 

Without a moment’s hesitation,
can you guide your precious life
beyond the mirage
of success and failure?

A spiritual warrior sheds
the armor of defense
and walks through the gateless gate
completely naked. 

Without the slightest resistance,
can you plunge into intimate communion
with the unrelenting circumstance
of your own life?

Ancestral medicine

Sometimes,
the most powerful medicine
might be having a beer with dad
smoking a cigar with grandpa
grabbing coffee with mom
enjoying grandma's cookies
(even though they're not organic)
goofing off with long-lost siblings
taking the kids to a new place
with different flavors,
sights, and sounds. 

Sometimes,
it's not about processing
not about who's right
not about getting beyond
family dysfunction
and disappointment.  

It's about embracing
the whole wonderful mess.

With a sense of openness,
we can let go of the past, 
at least for a moment,
and feel the simple kinship
behind familial complexity.  

Connection
pleases
the
ancestors. 

Sometimes,
just being together
is the medicine. 

Pain and confusion

It's not always about
productivity,
positivity,
and purpose.

Sometimes
we don't have
the answers,
the energy,
the impetus. 

In challenging moments
we might be
vividly aware
of the chaos,
the confusion,
the pain. 

To repress
these feelings
is to risk losing
our basic sanity
and miss the opportunity
to have an audience
with Wisdom. 

If we demand
perpetual order
and wear masks  
of happiness
to cover naked reality,
we are guilty
of aggression
toward self,
and violence
toward Life. 

Chaos is the mother
of order,
structure,
and beauty.  

Do we embrace her?

Confusion is the father
of insight,
intelligence,
and wisdom. 

Do we respect him? 

Pain is a child
throwing a tantrum
to get noticed,
to get love. 

Do we care enough?

Dew drop

Poem Five from the 2017
Alchemy Workshop Series


This is the final poem from the last class of 2017; a summary of the main teachings shared during the course.

.   .   .


The essential point
is subtle and elusive,
yet vivid within
our direct experience.
It is right Here
in our own flesh,
in our feelings,
desires,
and dreams. 

What is this so-called
essential point
that sages and mystics
implore us to notice? 

Inherent wholeness.

Not a single sliver of separation
has ever existed.
Unity is already and always
the only reality.

Life’s design is holographic;
the pattern of the whole
is contained in each part.

Here it is
inside our human form
the universal blueprint.

Thus the teachings
call us to look within
to return to the Hollow Body.

Hollow Body is unity itself,
a sky-like expanse
inside the skin
where all chakras are one,
all dan tien are one,
all meridians are one,
all elements born
of a common source. 

Hollow Body means
relaxed and open repose. 
It is dynamic and natural play
that supports circulation
of blood and vital energy. 

Our practice is to cultivate
this play sincerely
until we experience
effortless radiance of bodymind,
one integral space
of clarity and brightness.

There are two main types
of cultivation:
boiling and simmering.

Nourishment comes from simmering,
soft and gentle practice.
Transformation comes from boiling,
skillful intensity.

Through simmering and boiling,
we harvest our inner resources,
and return to the state
of child-like joy.

Yet, we cannot be careless. 
           
The Path has many obstacles,
all with common origins;
misalignment with Natural Law,
forgetfulness of our Innate Nature,
investment in the myth
of a separate and flawed self.

So we enter the living moment
and cultivate alignment
in body,
speech, 
and mind.
Then, obstacles are transformed
into opportunities.

Alignment
is the essence of healing,
transformation,
and return. 

Alignment with what?

Immediate presence. 

The Light of life itself,
our own original Flame--
loving Awareness. 

All of this might be good and true,
but poetic words do not suffice
to convince us. 

So here we find ourselves
back a the beginning,
where the arc of time
comes full circle.

Over the past months
we have listened
to the reflections,
pondered
the View,
challenged
the teacher,
performed
the Method,
and tasted
the Results.

What remains to be done?

Relinquish all doubt. 
Prove the teachings
through our own
somatic experience.
Take refuge in the Center,
and re-start the Path
with newfound confidence.

Make cultivation a priority. 

Let us not waste time in speculation.
Thinking does not heal or liberate.
Let us not bother waiting
for better circumstances.
The future is unreliable.

Everything is perfectly arranged.
The conditions may never
be more supportive.

Let us put everything
we've learned
to good use, 
light our own lamp,
and bear constantly in mind:

This precious human life evaporates
like a dew drop in the morning sun.

The time for practice is now!

Already and always

Poem Four from the 2017 Alchemy Workshop Series
(this is a summary of the meditation instructions given during the course)

.      .      .  

Assume the mind of a child.
Playmind. 
Just-for-fun-mind. 
Free-to-imagine-mind. 

Then, without making a fuss,
Arrange the limbs for optimal comfort and stability.
Sense the lower body as heavy, rooted, and warm.
The upper body light, open, and buoyant.

Breathe three cleansing breaths:

Slowly, in through the nose,
Receive freshness.
Powerfully, out through the mouth,
Wash bodymind free of dust.

Now, visualize your form
As crystal-clear vast open space,
One continuous hollow interior,
Absolutely pristine;
A transparent diamond-body.

All around you,
A billion stars
Shining radiant light
Into your hollow body.

Allow this light to saturate you.  

Then, come to rest in Center,
Deep in the cauldron of the belly.

Awareness -- your own “I” --
Abiding like a golden-red sun
Below the navel,
Above the genitals.

Be Here, 
Only Here, 
In the Center. 

Relax and allow
Your beautiful hollow body
To fill with ecstatic brilliance.

Feel.

Effortless completion.

Feel.

Original wholeness.

Feel.

Pleasurable pulsation. 

There it is!

Already and always,
The luminous ground of being,
Your own Intrinsic Nature.

Inventory

Poem Three from the 2017 Alchemy Workshop Series

.      .      .  

The paths of self-healing, 
Self-transformation,
And self-realization
Are less about gain;
More about loss.

Loss of all that no longer serves.

This type of loss is not the ordinary loss we loath
It is a simple and potent medicine
Used by sages and adepts
To treat the root cause of suffering. 

The formula can be summarized in two words:

Take inventory. 

It's is simple
And free
And relentlessly effective. 

But there is a catch. 

The medicine is not glamorous. 

There are no heros. 
No certifications. 
No award ceremonies. 

The method entails asking
A few honest questions,
Then backing up the answers
With decisive action.

        Which of my possessions are superfluous?

        Which of my relationships are riddled with obligation?

        Which of my habits are self-defeating?

        Which of my beliefs are no longer relevant?

        Which of my feelings result from holding old grudges?

        Which of my fears are holding me back?

Dark mystery

Poem Two from the 2017 Alchemy Workshop Series

.      .      .  


In her search for Light,
The sage plunges deep
Into the Dark Mystery.

She explores the totality of her being
And takes complete responsibility for her life.

The dynamic of cause and effect
Remains ever-clear in her mind.

She is not afraid
Of what lurks behind the shadows.
She has renounced avoidance,
Integrated Light and Dark. 

Accountability is her secret weapon.

“My life is my own making,” she thinks.

With this understanding
Vital energy returns to the Center,
Body and mind repair and rejuvenate,
Purpose and vigor ignite,
And living takes on new meaning.

“Yet, my life is not my own,” she reflects.

"The ancestors gave me this body.
My form is on loan from the cosmos.
This flesh, a garment
Woven from natural elements.
Body belongs to Heaven and Earth."

“I cultivate myself to give something back,” she exclaims.

The guiding light of internal alchemy,
And the true potency of self-transformation,
Is not ultimately to gain personal benefit.

But to serve others.

To do this, the sage burns destructive habits
In the cauldron of awareness,
Incinerates self-defeating tendencies
In the golden-red fire
Hidden deep in the Center.

“The sun never takes a day off from shining,” she whispers.

"My Original Mind is just like that!"

With patience and persistence,
Her practice begins to shine like the sun
And her heart glows like the midnight moon. 

As she illuminates her own life,
The world grows a little bit brighter.

The guru is dead

The guru era is over.

The pedestal has become an irrelevant artifact.

Hierarchal structures are no longer useful.  

Hypocrisy and deception are rampant in the world of spirituality, and people are sick of it. 

Many religious and spiritual traditions are based in a vertical structure of codependence. The unspoken agreement is that the guru or priest will provide you with secret knowledge and transcendence so long as you continue to relinquish your personal autonomy.  It's the oldest game of disempowerment there is.

The original scam of scams: "you're fundamentally flawed, conceived in sin, but we'll fix you. It'll take a lifetime, maybe longer." 

Hogwash!

Wisdom can't be purchased.

Heaven doesn't accept bribes. 

And wholeness is your natural state, already and always. 

To attain wisdom and recognize inherent truth, we must live our own lives, make honest mistakes, self-reflect, and continually grow. A coach or mentor -- who provides clear and effective practices based on direct experience -- can be of incalculable value. But the structure has to be right from the beginning. 

There's a difference between receiving guidance from a spiritual mentor and outsourcing our power. 

It's the difference between top-down authoritarianism and spiritual friendship. The former is an antiquated structure based in fear and control. The later, a precious gem.   

Spiritual friendship is the new black (although it's not actually a new idea).

It's a horizontal relationship based in mutual respect. Transparency. Vulnerability (on both sides). And clear communication.  

It functions on the principle of reflection:

Wholeness reflects wholeness until wholeness remembers it is whole. 

Uncage the animal

The yoga and spirituality movement has a bad habit of demonizing what is erroneously labeled as our "lower nature." The message -- sometimes proudly spoken, other times quietly implied -- is that to be highly evolved, we need to transcend our animal desires and primitive needs. 

Nonsense!

Too often, spiritual bullshit results from the inability to face our full humanity. Then, dogma and idealism spread within the community like a disease. The false pretense around "living in the light" is an unconscious avoidance strategy. 

We attempt to transcend what we are most afraid of. 

Lust. 

Anger. 

Pain. 

Rage. 

Confusion. 

Insecurity.

That secret little fetish; be it for gangster rap, artisan ice cream, vintage kung fu flix, or kinky sex. 

Any part of us that is denied, subdued, or hidden from our community is likely to come out sideways. 

Remember that scene from the movie Chocolat!

Guilt, shame, and denial have never worked. 

Not for Catholic priests. Not for Zen monks. Not for straight-laced soccer moms. Not for secular spiritualists. 

The fact is, we are a exquisite bundle of contradictions. To be awake is to illuminate and embody the full spectrum of our being. It's about integrating every aspect of ourselves and making the most conscious choices we can in all spheres of life.

That means getting down into the dirt of life. 

Our practice includes the shadow and the animal. 

All of it. 

The whole beautiful mess. 

Facts don't feel

"I feel like you're not attracted to me anymore." 

"Why, I bought you flowers the other day."

"Yes, it's true, you bought me flowers. That's a fact, and it was a nice gesture. But what I really want is you. Your presence. Your attention."

"But I do so much for you. I bought you those new shoes. I upgraded your smartphone without you asking. I took you to that farm-to-table bistro you like in uptown. I paid for the new bathroom remodel."

"You're right. You did all of those things. You give me so much, materially. I appreciate it. I feel fortunate, privileged even.  But do you hear me when I tell you that something is missing? I can't quantify it --  and you can't fact check it -- but it's real to me."

"I don't understand what you are talking about. I'm trying to have a logical conversation with you, but you're so overly emotional all the time. What do you want from me?" 

"I said it already.  It's not that I want something from you. I want you."

"Give me a break. You have me. We've been together for 6 years. Your name is on my life insurance policy."

"But you're rarely fully present with me anymore. You give more attention to your motorcycle. It's like you're always preoccupied. I can't feel you and it's harming our relationship."

                                                                      . . .

Whether it's with our lover or our children or our parents, we too often get caught in the trap of trying to be right. We tally and manipulate facts to fortifiy our position. 

But relationships don't thrive on facts.

They thrive on feelings.

Respect.

Connection. 

Intimacy. 

Love. 

Social blueprint

The primary driver of our society is cosmology.

The myths we unconsciously believe, and the assumptions we hold, form a world-view that shapes our choices. Our mental framework functions like a blueprint. It informs how we think, speak, and act.

An architectural blueprint contains the specifics of how a building will be built. It there are structural errors in the blueprint, the building will not be sound. Imagine the consequences of a sky-scraper constructed without skillful consideration of the laws of physics, gravity, and so on. 

Our collective cosmology is a social blueprint.

And we find ourselves at a critical point where we can no longer afford to build our civilization from an unedited draft.

Our current cosmology is riddled with misunderstandings about the basic laws of the cosmos. Despite compelling evidence to the contrary (from ancient wisdom traditions, quantum physics, and deep ecology) the myth we still unconsciously believe is one of scarcity, separation, and conflict. 

The battle of the sexes.

Man vs. Nature.

Mind over matter.

Black and white at odds. 

God vs. devil. 

The "us" and "them" fallacy. 

Until the underlying world-view that informs these stories is dismantled, we will continue to construct our collective experience from the same blueprint. 

If it's change we want, we must ask ourselves the pressing question: 

Do we welcome the shattering of our old beliefs systems, or -- out of habit and fear -- do we clutch to and defend what we think we know?

To build a different society, we need a different blueprint. 

There is nothing beyond

There is only the animal, this elemental body-mind-spirit.

There is no indwelling objective observer. Mind is matter looking at its own reflection. Energy is consciousness birthing itself. Music is silence turned inside out. The entire cosmos is one body. No separation whatsoever exists. No heaven. No hell. No sacred. No profane.

All forms, all names, are only wholeness within wholeness. The unnamable. A cohesive tissue, totally inclusive, arching and curling, rubbing against itself in ecstatic expression. Skin wet with beads of sweat from the wave-like action of making love with eternity.

Awakening is nothing more than arriving here in the midst of the already integral.

Where else is there to be?

Embodiment is enlightenment.

Not the separate body of our concepts -- the point of reference we assume is "I" -- that's an erroneous myth. It's the body of totality, of which everything is a part, that we yearn for. The animal body. The salivating body. This, right here. 

This dirt.
These bones.  
This blood.
These people.

What is practice, then?

Eat. Shit. Bathe. Work. Drink. Sing. Dance. Love. Mate. Sleep.

The earthly path of heavenly awakening is just this.

There is nothing beyond. 

I have a dream

On this national holiday celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. it seems fitting to refresh the dream; the one peace lovers have been dreaming since time immemorial. 

The dream of cooperation, care and kindness. 

The dream of one people-hood living in unity on Earth.

Bob Marley's dream: "One love, one heart, one destiny."

Gandhi's dream: "Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love."

Lennon's dream: “Declare it. Just the same way we declare war. That is how we will have peace. . . we just need to declare it.”

Siddhartha's dream: "Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life, even so let one cultivate a boundless love toward all beings.”

Christ's dream: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient with one another in love."

Martin Luther's dream: "[W]e will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."

It has been over half a century since Dr. King spoke those words in Washington in what was to become one of humanity's greatest demonstrations of freedom. And yet, with all of the strides we have made toward equality and human dignity, we find ourselves again in perilous waters. The old habit of division rears its head. The threat of tyranny echoes in the angry voices of leaders of nations. Left and right are more polarized than ever. 

There is an anxiety in the air. People are uneasy; as if bracing for catastrophe. 

Clearly, the dream needs re-dreaming. 

Their dream. Our dream. 

It is not enough to stand on the shoulders of our sages and saints. It is not sufficient to quote their words of wisdom and bask in their vision. For in some strange way, we are the continuity of their desires. We are the offspring of peace-lovers gone before.  And if we do not act, their potency vanishes. That is the way ancestry works. It's not only genetic, but spiritual. 

The dream lives in us now, as a longing deep in the soul. 

It is made real through our thoughts, words and actions. 

It comes to life in the way we choose to conduct ourselves moment by moment.