Friday, June 30, 2006

I call it 'art'

I call it 'art', Kyoto, Japan, April 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/250 sec @ f5.0, ISO 64, no flash © Steven Crisp

It shades me from the sun, keeps me cool at mid-day. It is a parasol, so what?

Only this. It is so much more than a 'parasol'. It lets me open my eyes, when they would otherwise be blinded by the light. And what do I see? The expansive universe, radiating outward from the fertile void. All lines interconnected, and through their interaction and overlap, beautiful radiant colors emerge. I see wholeness, unity, the one with the many. I see acceptance and the recognition that every line has an integral part to play, and without them all, the structure could not exist. I see opening and closing, night and day, fluid motion and the flow. I see the kaleidoscope of nature. I see evolution. I see structure and hard surfaces, and I see gossamer overlaid on it all. I see the gentleness and tenderness of the surface, and yet appreciate its integrity and its strength. I see light and I see dark, and I know they are the same.

And I see more than this. I see an elderly woman, gathering bamboo in the country, with the sun filtering through the green leafed forest, strong with vertical lines. And I see an elderly gentleman, gathering rice in the paddy that will serve as his food and as the paper, and a mirror to his soul. I see the clouds that brought the rain, and the sun that helped both grow. I see their grandchild, who visits on occasion, and learns a bit about their history, and their trade. I see their own parents. And I see who they were before they were born.

Right there -- you can see it too, can you not? And I can see the camera, moving around underneath its shade, looking for the right angle to capture all of this, and to expose it for you. One moment. One snapshop of the flow, a part of the flow. Keep looking. You will see it too.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Feed the birds

Feed the birds, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, February 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/186 sec @ f4.7, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp

A while back, I was out for my morning run, and came across this man just sitting there with some bird food in his hands, as hundreds of birds flew around him and had their breakfast. I was in Hawaii, at the Ala Moano park, and there are quite a few homeless people that live there. I'm not sure if that was this gentleman's situation or not.

This seems like a nice gesture, and a way to get in touch (literally) with nature. He was perfectly still, as all of life fluttered around him. Waves were lapping at the jetty in the background, surfers were trying to catch some waves before work, runners and walkers were getting some exercise, along with some Japanese performing Tai Chi. Fishermen were casting their lines into the ocean. Homeless people were washing up in the public beach showers. Outriggers were leaving the harbor for some practice runs. And then there were all of those birds. And within this activity, this man sat there fully present and still.

Anyone have any tuppence? Come on, you remember the song:
Mary Poppins Lyrics
Feed The Birds (Tuppence A Bag)

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul's
The little old bird woman comes.
In her own special way to the people she calls,
"Come, buy my bags full of crumbs.
Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you'll be glad if you do.
Their young ones are hungry,
Their nests are so bare;
All it takes is tuppence from you."
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.
"Feed the birds," that's what she cries,
While overhead, her birds fill the skies.
All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can't see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares.
Though her words are simple and few,
Listen, listen, she's calling to you:
"Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Epiphany #2

Mosaics to die for -- oops!, The Vatican, September 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/30 sec @ f2.8, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp
“You look like you are in another world, dear,” my wife said to me as she was letting the dog outside.

“I Am.”
Today I got it. I may not have it tomorrow, but thank God (or Buddha, or Oneness) for the glimpse every now and again.

This is not a conscious volition of the self (“oh, doesn’t everything look so beautiful today”), it is a tour de force from the Absolute Self. It controls you — that small, egoic body and mind, and gives you a glimpse of the ineffable.

Was it God? Nature’s beauty? Divine Grace? Don’t label it. No, it was none of those “things”, those “concepts” which are all that they are — they are words, and they cannot express the feeling, the power, the radiance, that captivity. And of course all they do is trigger in others their own concepts and biases and guarantee only one thing — you won’t be talking about the same experience.

But here is my epiphany. I saw in that Beauty how the saints (and sinners) felt that they were in God’s presence. That was their metaphor. Appropriate (or not) for the time and place, it is what they Felt, Saw, Heard, Smelled, and even Tasted. Just This. It is what Rumi expresses so well. What Christ had in mind. What my Egyptian friend means when he sees Allah in all things.

Everything connected, with a purpose. Not an individualistic “what is my role in this drama” kind of purpose. That is simply the ego looking for validation or motivation. But an interconnected, holistic, incomprehensibly cosmic, evolutionary purpose. And more than that. A beauty, a harmony, an elegance, a simplicity, a flow.

My eyes may always be open, but they do not always see. The infinite depth, the incredible energy, the simple being. I am convinced I am not special (or if you like, we are ALL special — egos, bah humbug). This moment is there for all of us, and it is always available. At any moment. On any path. How else can so many independent cultures speak so poetically of the Divine. They sensed it, or more. And you can too.

But I think it takes some intention. Not on the goal, for I do not see such a cause and effect (perhaps even the opposite). It takes awareness (not purpose). It takes presence (not activity). It takes openness (not answers). It takes acceptance (not judgment). It takes being (not labeling).

And such intention seems to me to be a glorious way to live, regardless of any cosmic insights.

Thank you for being a partner in this process. It is my intention to share these reflections of beauty that brought me to this point.

(Note: My first epiphany is described here.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Can you see the wind?

Billowing clouds, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, February 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/400 sec @ f5.6, ISO 64, no flash © Steven Crisp

You see the wind every day, right? So you know exactly what it is, when it is present, which way it is blowing, and generally with how much force, right?

Actually, no. You cannot see the wind. Just like you cannot see the air you breathe, and a fish cannot see the water in which it swims. What you see are the effects of the wind.

You see unmown fields dancing gently with the breeze, undulating, in a rhythmic samba to some unheard melody. You see towering pines with their bows heaving, breathing each breath as it comes and goes, in and out, without conscious participation, just a part of the breath of life, literally, transforming carbon-dioxide into oxygen for you to breathe as the wind brings in the storm. And you’ve seen that storm, dark clouds billowing ever so slowly, like the overburdened locomotive gaining steam as it lumbers across the plains. Do not get in its way, for there is so much energy that is manifest there.

So what is my point? Only this: you cannot see the wind, but you can see its affect. This also is true of your thoughts. You cannot see them, but surely you can see that they too leave a signature for others to see. Sometimes gentle and caring, sometimes stormy and violent. These thoughts are real, and so are their affects. Gain control of your thoughts and you can dramatically affect both the world around you, and perhaps most importantly, your reaction to the world as it is.

This is the manner in which you affect the world — not by trying to “fix it”, make it “better”, more “fair”, more “just”; no, by careful attention, full awareness, and with a grounded wisdom that helps you understand and appreciate all that life is, and in which we are an integral part.

If there is something you don’t like about the world, change yourself, for you are as much a part of life as the distant stars and the mountain streams. Blooming gardens affect you, and you affect them through daily watering. As so many sages have noted over the years, you have all of the power the universe can offer to create, right now, in this instant, a world of beauty and peace and harmony. The power is in you. To interpret that which life offers to you, and to offer to life that which you wish to see.

So remember the power of the unseen wind, and realize your thoughts hold greater power by far.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fireflies at night

Fireflies, Pack Monadnock, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/900 sec @ f5.0, ISO 50, no flash, heavily edited with iPhoto to boost contrast, saturation, temperature, hue, and lower brightness -- this is actually a picture of windswept white snow © Steven Crisp

I saw some fireflies tonight. Around the witching hour, as I was sitting in my hottub, soaking my sprained ankle. You've seen them before, right? Actually, you don't see the insect, you see the flash of light they occassionaly emit as they are flying around. You can guess what that flash of light is used for -- that's right, to attract a mate, so they can reproduce, so they can evolve (not consciously of course, they are just being fireflies, but in the end, that flash of light is one manifestation of the evolutionary process).

I also met some fireflies tonight. In Cambridge, at EnlightenNext, where yesterday I attended a seminar by Andrew Cohen, and today I attended a meditation session. Both of those were cool, and I'll write later about Andrew's talk, and where I think he is coming from. But the really interesting part of this evening was the discussion afterward. That's where I met the fireflies. Emitting flashes of insights -- sometimes brightly, othertimes barely visible.

Their purpose was just as clear. To attract a mate. Well, not in the procreative sense, but in the co-creative sense. These fireflies are also evolving, with the key difference that they are aware of their own role in the process. And so these flashes are to attract others who are ready, to nuzzle up together and find out if their ideas can stimulate one another's. And in the process, they fervently hope, to help brighten the midnight hour.

It was great fun, and I long for such conversation. As to whether we play an active role in evolutionary consciousness -- my jury is still out. But only good can come from sharing these ideas, and discussing their implications. Helping each other avoid inevitable obstacles, and to help light the way when the night becomes pitch black.

Fireflies with flashes of insights. And how about you? Are you ready to shine your light? If so, please join the discussion; and if you are not sure, then let your eyes follow the flashes in the darkness -- you'll know that the fireflies are out there. And they have an evolutionary urge to illuminate.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

What is it?

What is it?, Warner, NH, June 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/100 sec @ f3.6, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp

Can you tell what this is? I had driven past this a dozen times, and kept trying to figure it out. Is it a shed with chairs hung over the peak, or is it a structure built just to represent art, or something yet again?

So one early morning as I was driving by, I figured I'd just check it out. Turns out there is no door on the building. Turns out those aren't chairs. Turns out someone built this as art. I find that rather amazing, and quite inspiring. Someone feels strongly about creating and sharing his art with everyone that drives by.

What are you creating? What are you sharing? Why not go out on a limb and put your creative spark on display.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gone fishin'

Gone fishin', Ala Moana Canal, Honolulu, HI, February 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/180 sec @ f4.7, ISO 200, with flash © Steven Crisp

We watched this patient fisherman for some time. Very still upon his rock. I found the colors and contrasts to be particularly beautiful. Nothing pithy, deep or insightful to be said. Just liked the photo. I hope you do as well.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Beauty is everywhere

Beauty is everywhere, Warner, NH, June 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/125 sec @ f2.8, ISO 84, no flash © Steven Crisp

I have a secret to share with you. Beauty is everywhere. It is all in your mind. If you see something and think "beautiful" or "serene" -- that is what it becomes to you. If you see something and think "ugly" or "gross" -- it becomes that instead. The problem is that is your mind thinking. You need to get beyond your mind. You need to be present -- fully present, aware, and mindful -- and once you are in that state of "being" -- just being -- as the witness, you will see beauty everywhere. If you haven't experienced this yet, you need to trust me on this one. Well, actually, you don't need to trust me; you need to go experience it for yourself. You can find some tips here if you are curious.

So how can I illustrate this point? Well, take a look again at the beautiful picture above. What do you see -- incredible, vibrant, clusters of orange-yellow flowers? How about fungus on my boat after a week of rain, trapped under an orange life vest. I have no idea how it took on this color, or what kind of fungus it is. But one member of the family saw what it was and felt it was disgusting. All I could see was its beauty. Like Ricky Fitts (what a great character in American Beauty). Can you see it too? It is available to you anytime, anyplace. Take advantage of it. It is a great secret, and now you know. Don't feel like you need to keep the secret to yourself -- please share it with your best friend.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Plant a seed

Dandelion Clock, Warner, NH, June 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/180 sec @ f2.8, ISO 100, no flash © Steven Crisp

I'm sure you've picked up a dandilion after it has turned to seed (but perhaps you didn't know it is called a dandelion clock). And perhaps only as a child, blown the seeds about, letting them take flight on the faintest wisp of air, some carried near, some far, all eventually landing and waiting patiently for a little water and a little soil, to begin the magic journey once again. From just one of those tiny seeds, and entire new plant will emerge if the conditions are right, and perhaps continue on ad infinitum. Fields can become a mass of dandelions thanks to this process.

And so can you. Plant a seed, that is. Every thought we share with another has the potential of that dandelion seed. If the conditions are right, that seed might just emerge as a new idea or concept in the mind of another person, and from that, perhaps additional (otherwise unimagined) thoughts might be shared with yet others for subsequent blossoming. That is an awesome power -- that potential. I certainly hope you are sharing thoughts and ideas that you would want to propogate throughout the world. The potential really is there. Just in a single seed. This process is the miracle called life. Good planting.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Summertime snowman

Brussels Sprout Snowman, Amherst, NH, December 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/500 sec @ f6.3, ISO 64, no flash © Steven Crisp

Of course it wasn't summer when this snowman was made, but it seemed particularly refreshing after our first 95 degree day yesterday. Also, as I look back on this snowman from our neighborhood, I realize what geniuses the kids who made it are. Their parents must have said "Gee, we don't have a carrot for the nose, and what will you do for the mouth?"

Can't you see the lightbulb over the kids heads now when they asked, "Hey Mom, do we have any more of those yummy Brussels sprouts?" I'm sure they were sad to see them put to such noble use. Personally, I can't think of anyway to make a happier snowman, or happier kids!

Cool off and make somebondy's day. Hey, make your own day!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Warm-up on Monadnock Mountain

Grand Monadnock, Dublin, NH, June 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/550 sec @ f4.5, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp

This post has been moved here as part of the Hiking and Seeking blog.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Simply wildflowers

Simply Wildflowers, Warner, NH, June 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/150 sec @ f2.8, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp

It can happen anywhere. You are walking along a non-descript field and then something cathces your eye. You are not sure why, but you like its shape, its color, the contrast with its surrounds. And you call it beauty. You start to see it more and more as you look around with full attention, with presence, with awareness.

Just stop for a moment. Pretend you are not trying to get from point A to point B. In primary school they may have taught you that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but you realized that was an abstraction, right? There are no points, no lines. These are mathematical concepts that help us solve conceptual problems. You don't have to live your life like a math problem.

So wander about a little. Like those Family Circus cartoons when the child is called home for dinner, and he takes the most circuitous route, just to explore everything he can on his way home. Open your eyes and see what the world has to offer. Smell all the scents. Feel all its textures. You'll be surprised as to how much of it is beautiful, and the more you reflect, and linger, and ponder, the more beautiful it becomes. Right before your eyes.

I offer this poem to help reinforce the point:
Love and Happiness: This Was The Most Beautiful Flower
-- by Cheryl Costello-Forshey

The park bench was deserted
as I sat down to read,
Beneath the long, straggly branches
of an old willow tree.

Disillusioned by life with good reason to frown,
For the world was intent
on dragging me down.

And if that weren't enough to ruin my day,
A young boy out of breath approached me,
all tired from play.
He stood right before me
with his head tilted down,
And said with great excitement,
"Look what I found!"

In his hand was a flower,
and what a pitiful sight,
With its petals all worn down
not enough rain, or too little light,

Wanting him to take his dead flower
and go off to play,
I faked a smile and then shifted away.

But instead of retreating
he sat next to my side,
And placed the flower to his nose and declared
with overacted surprise,
"It smells pretty and it's beautiful too.
That's why I picked it; here it's for you!"

The weed before me was dying or dead.
Not vibrant of colours, orange, yellow or red.
But I knew I must take it,
or he might never leave.

So I reached for the flower and replied,
"Just what I need."
But instead of him placing the flower
in my hand,
He held it mid-air without reason or plan.

It was then that I noticed
for the very first time,
That the weed-toting boy could not see,
he was blind.

I heard my voice quiver,
tears shone like the sun,
As I thanked him for picking
the very best one.

"You're welcome" he smiled
and then ran off to play,
Unaware of the impact he's had on my day.

I sat there and wondered
how he managed to see,
A self-pitying woman
beneath an old willow tree.
How did he know about
my self-indulged plight?

Perhaps from his heart, he'd been
blessed with true sight.
Through the eyes of a blind child,
at last I could see,

The problem was not with the world;
the problem was me.
And for all of those times
I myself had been blind,

I vowed to see the beauty in life,
and appreciate every second that's mine.

And then I held that wilted flower
up to my nose and breathed in the fragrance
of a beautiful rose.
And I smiled as I watched that young boy,
another weed in his hand,
About to change the life
of an unsuspecting old man.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Do ya think I'm sexy?

Great American Toad, Amherst, NH, May 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/690 sec @ f5.0, ISO 100, no flash © Steven Crisp

It's amazing what passes for good looks around the Crisp pond. And sultry voices too -- the subtitle to this photo is "So, is that a song in your throat, or are you just happy to see me?" You should hear these guys. At first I thought they were tree frogs. Quite the caucophony. But it turns out it was mating time for your run-of-the-mill Great American Toad. This is a male; the females don't sing, and are much larger, and apparently in high demand. They enter ponds for just a few days in the spring to mate. And boy do they mate. You can walk right up to them and they won't even move -- these guys are focused!

Now you may recall that we have a dog named Frito. Frito might as well be an acronym for Frogs Run In Terror Ordinarily. The reason we say "ordinarily" is that Frito of course likes to eat the frogs, but when he tried that on a toad, boy was he in for a surprise. He immediately dropped the toad and started foaming at the mouth. Seems toads secrete some poison from their skin that predators really don't like. We had to wash out Frito's mouth, and then he was fine. He tried it one more time, and then left the mating toads all alone. Nature is pretty clever.

Continuing with our nature lesson ... These toads left thousands and thousand of eggs in the pond. Long strings, each with a black spot inside. In a few days (after the toads had all departed), the eggs were gone and only the black dots remained. For many days it looked like the mating was a bust. But each one of those black dots finally started to flit about, and eventually became tadpoles (a very small sample of which are shown at right).

Looking at all of these tadpoles, I am reminded of a nature documentary I saw on the Christmas Island Red Crab migration. Millions and millions of baby red crabs migrating back from the sea, so thick they have to close roads and reroute traffic. Why so many? So that the species continues (and evolves). So other species have food (and can evolve). What is the purpose of any given red crab's life? That is probably the wrong question, but if you must have an answer, it would be just to survive and reproduce. The same with the tadpoles in my pond.

So when your ego is getting just a little too big for its own good, consider yourself the human equivalent of the Christmas Island baby Red Crab, or the Great American Toad tadpole. Individually, your purpose is not significant. But collectively, your purpose is to evolve the species. Let go of the ego, and see if you are doing your part to help out our collective humanity survive and evolve.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dawn's Blaze

Dawn's Blaze, Washington, DC, January 2005, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/60 sec @ f4.7, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp

This is an unaltered photograph of the morning sky over Washington DC, during one of my many work trips. Look at the color, the intensity, the vibrance -- the sky is alive. Life is being created in this moment. Sleep in and you'll miss it.

I find the morning to be the best time for reflection and contemplation. And if this photo isn't inspirational enough, consider this quote from my favorite 13th century Sufi poet and mystic:
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you;
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want;
Don't go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch. The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

-- Jalaluddin Rumi

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Stained Glass Reflections

Stained Glass, Amherst, NH, January 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/50 sec @ f2.8, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. "
-- Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

When I look inside and see
that I am nothing,
that is wisdom.

When I look outside and see
that I am everything,
that is love.

And between those two,
my life turns.
-- Sri Nisagardatta Maharaj

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart ... Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens."
-- Carl Jung

Friday, June 09, 2006

Light a Candle

Light a Candle, Amherst, NH, March 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/25 sec @ f2.8, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp

How do you respond to injustice? Are you outraged? Indignant? Offended? Upset? Do you wish for retribution, or at least that the perpetrator get his "justice". What do you personally do about it?

I offer that most of the time -- even when we are very well-intentioned -- we are effectively "cursing the darkness". Complaining about the injustice, and how things must change to rectify the situation. But have we really taken the big picture into perspective? Do we really understand the root cause of the "problem"? Are we really sure that our suggested "remedy" will not just create its own set of injustices down the road?

Why not "light a candle"? -- ask yourself what changes you can make within your own sphere of influence to help the situation, or more likely, your understanding and acceptance of the situation.

I suggest that if you are thinking of the need for justice and retribution, you may just be contributing to perpetuating continued injustices. Think instead of wisdom. What wisdom would either (a) avoid this injustice from occurring or (b) come to accept that it is a part of life and will likely continue to occur for the foreseeable future. Do you possess this wisdom - truly, deeply, innately? If not, why not work on that first, before suggesting to others what changes are needed. Then, over time, you can model the behavior and perspective you've come to conclude is needed to avoid or minimize or accept such injustices in the future.

For those of you that feel this is thinking too "small", and cannot really make a difference, at least anytime soon, I offer the following quotes:
"Millions of people agree that world-change starts with self-change, but few will do it."
-- Vernon Howard

"Throughout history, the really fundamental changes in societies have come about not from dictates of governments and the results of battles but through vast numbers of people changing their minds -- sometimes only a little bit...By deliberately changing the internal image of reality, people can change the world. Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in."
-- Willis Harman, Global Mind Change

"We must become the change we want to see."
-- Mahatma Gandhi
And finally, my favorite quote on changing the world comes from an inscription on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abby (1100 A.D.):
When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country.

But it, too, seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it.

And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family.

From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Bring on the clouds

Clouds and Blue Sky, Honolulu, Oahu, HI, February 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/1087 sec @ f8.0, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp
Different winds come from all directions. Some are clear, some carry dust, some are cold or hot, fierce gales or gentle breezes. In the same way sensations arise in the body--pleasant or unpleasant or neutral. When a meditator sees sensations as he does the winds, coming and going, clear or dust laden, fierce or gentle, he will fully understand them and be free from dependence on them. When he understands sensations perfectly, he will see beyond this conditioned world.
-- Samyutta Nikaya
Are you ready for whatever comes? Can you accept life, as it comes, since "it is what it is"? This is the secret of life -- of seeing life, experiencing life and all that it has to offer, without being a victim (or hero) in the movie called "life". In no way does this cut you off from the world, or its sensations, but rather allows you to fully experience them, in their true nature, just as they really are, without all of the baggage that your mind brings to the party. "These are 'good'; eeewww, those are 'bad'. I 'like' this but I 'hate' that." You can see, can't you, that those reactions have nothing to do with life as it really is, but are simply your conditioned responses to the natural, evolving, interconnected, creative energy called life.

But there is more -- you are a part of that drama we all experience. You help create it. Really -- think about it -- you do. If you "get out of bed on the wrong side" and therefore react to life's events as a victim, or worse, as if under attack, you will likely react based upon fear or anxiety, and contribute a negative input to this creative moment, by snapping at the waitress or at your spouse. The alternative -- being all cheery and upbeat -- may certainly seem more pleasant, but is equally artificial, and can you really sustain an artifically positive outlook when the clouds turn dark and ominous, for example, in the face of illness or death?

Why not see life for what it is, and detach your reaction to the sensations of life, by instead seeing yourself as a witness. Happy things may make you happy, and sad things may make you sad, but you do not get caught up in the drama -- much of it artificially stimulated by society and especially the media. That detachment can give you a sense of equanimity, which will enable you to offer loving-kindness and compassion to even those who are short and ill-tempered with you, since they just happend to get out on the wrong side of the bed this morning. And in that way, you are contributing to the creation of a more beautiful world -- both by experiencing it as such (really, all of life is beautiful), and by not becoming a victim, or creating ill-will toward another.

In such a world, dark clouds and storms will still arise, but our reactions to them will be balanced and appreciative -- because everything really is all connected -- and the flowers will not grow without the rain.