Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Just how courageous are you?

Spider and web, Chiang Rei, Thailand, November 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/320 sec @ f5.0, ISO 64, with flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Do you think you are brave? Courageous? Willing to take a stand? Fight for your principles? Take on injustice?

Well, here’s another view.

That’s not really the hard path. The hard path — where courage is really needed — is to accept that adversity as a fact of life. To be present in the face of the suffering for which you are all ready to take up the good fight.

We all seem to think that the world should be somehow different than it is. And, being good citizens, and very altruistic, we would like to be a force for that change, right? Social activists. Politically involved. Green consumers. Back to nature. Anti-war. Truth and justice.

Well, what if that was the wrong first step? What if that fundamental premise — that the world should be different than it is — puts us on the slippery slope of right/wrong, good/evil, us/them. Do you see it?

Consider this a test. You can feel your inherent reaction to this idea. Let go of that. Expand your thinking. Open your eyes and your mind.

I think the question, then, is can you be so courageous as to be present for another’s pain and suffering, or your own. Accept the fact that life will deal you happiness, sorrow, and everything in between, and it is NOT your job to change things.

Maybe now you can see just how hard this task will be. And why it will require such an act of bravery.
”As long as we are caught up in always looking for certainty and happiness, rather than honoring the taste and smell and quality of exactly what is happening, as long as we’re always running away from discomfort, we’re going to be caught in a cycle of unhappiness and disappointment, and we will feel weaker and weaker. This way of seeing helps us to develop inner strength.”
-- Pema Chödrön

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's a mystery

Frosty edges, Amherst, NH, November 2006, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/40 sec @ f2.8, ISO 200, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

It is a mystery, this life of ours, is it not? So many processes we do not fully understand. So many connections we can't begin to visualize. So we make up gods and godesses to fill in all of our gaps. Like the ice crystals on the edge of this leaf, even they are but a coating on the rich and complex edge of our universe of understanding. It goes so much deeper. It is much more intricate.

Should we try to understand? Well, why not. Why not let our scientific and spiritual inquiries takes us just as far as they can. And I suspect, we will add more to our already encyclopedic knowledge. And yet, even that will just illuminate how much more there is that we do not really understand.

So feel free to continue on with these quests. Full speed ahead at making this world a "better" place to be. Just keep in mind everyone and everything as you do so. For we really are all just a part of the same mystery we call life.

And keep in mind that even during such pursuit of knowledge, sometimes we need to step back from our conceptual understanding of life, and just live.
Being your true self, being your true nature, is different than experiencing it with thought. Realize that you are the mystery, and that you can’t really look at the mystery because you are only capable of looking from the mystery. There is a very awake, alive, and loving mystery, and that’s what is seeing through your eyes at this moment. That’s what is hearing through your ears at this moment. Instead of trying to figure it all out, which is impossible, I suggest you ask, "What’s ultimately behind this set of eyes?" Turn around to see what is looking. Encounter pure mystery, which is pure spirit, and wake up to what you are.

The mystery always takes care of itself -- as long as we are not addicted to following concepts. This addiction cuts off your access to the mystery. It’s like having a jewel in your pocket but you can’t get your hand into the pocket to pull it out. When you deeply know that you are the mystery experiencing itself, you realize that’s all that is ever happening. Whether you call an experience a me or a you, a good day or a rotten day, beauty or ugliness, compassion or cruelty -- it’s all still the mystery experiencing itself, extending itself into time and form. That’s all that is happening.

If this understanding is held only in your head, you can know it but you are not being it. The head is saying, "Oh, I know, I’m the mystery," and yet your body is acting like it didn’t get the message. It’s saying, "I’m still somebody, and I’ve got all these anxious thoughts and wants and desires." When we are being it knowingly, the whole being receives the message. And when the whole body receives the message, it’s like air going out of a balloon. When all the contradiction, turmoil, and searching for this and that deflates, there is the experience that the body is an extension of the mystery. Then the body can easily be moved by the mystery, by pure spirit.

-- Adyashanti, From "Emptiness Dancing"

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Yes you can

Looking down from on high, Flying into Narita Airport, Tokyo, Japan, January 2007, HP Photosmart R817, Exposure 1/525 sec @ f4.5, ISO 50, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Can you make a difference in the life of another person? Yes you can.

Can you push yourself beyond the bounds of what others accept as limitations? Yes you can.

Can you stare adversity in the face, and not recoil from it, but choose instead to embrace it and redefine it? Yes you can.

I'm sure you've read the stories about this father-son team. I had heard about them somewhere. Thought it was cool. There is love there beyond one's imagination.

But I hadn't seen this video, though, before today. I was simply moved to tears. I recommend you check it out. Oh yeah, might as well crank up the volume too. Grab some tissues. And plan on watching it again. Oh yeah, and check out some of the other links on that site as well.
"Nobody wanted Rick in a road race. Everybody looked at us, nobody talked to us, nobody wanted to have anything to do with us. But you can’t really blame them - people often are not educated, and they’d never seen anyone like us.
Not really too surprising, I guess. But that's not why I clipped this quote.
... they’d never seen anyone like us ...
I found that wording so very interesting.
Any ONE like US.
Isn't that what we have to understand? Really. Simply, that we truly are all one.

Then, just imagine what the world might be like with a little more love and compassion from each of us. And acceptance. Yes we can.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Separation of Church and ???

Church Steeple, Warner, NH, May 2007, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 52mm, Exposure 1/125 sec @ f5.6, ISO 200, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

We have this thing about separation of church and state. And I guess I'm all for that, given the alternatives we see in too many places around the globe.

But we are strong proponents of education. Which is what -- learning how to learn, and gaining knowledge, which hopefully will lead to wisdom.

And what about our spiritual wisdom? Where does that come from? Is it only from individual journeys, prompted by mid-life crises or that calm, quiet voice from within? Perhaps it is it unteachable? Must it be found only on a self-guided path of discovery?
You are not your body.
Your body is not you.

You are not the doer.
You are not the enjoyer.

You are pure awareness,
The witness of all things.

You are without expectation,

Wherever you go,
Be happy!

-- Ashtavakra Gita 15:4
Such simple words. I find a resonance in them. And I wonder why this took almost 50 years. Would they make any sense at all at an earlier age? Do they make any sense at all to you?

Sometimes, I just wonder.

A public-domain English translation of the Ashtavakra Gita is available for those that would like to read more.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

In a daze

In a daze, Amherst, NH, April 2007, Nikon D40 with 18-200mm VR lens, Focal length 18mm (zooming), Exposure 1/13 sec @ f22, ISO 200, no flash, circular polarizing filter © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Have you ever found yourself in a pleasant, mindless daze. Where you look at nothing, yet see everything. Or is it look at everything, and see nothing? I was in that state the other day. I've only really been in it a couple of times -- two other times that I can remember right now (and yes, I wrote about them here and there). It is immensly pleasurable.

Characteristic of these experiences is a knowing smile, and the appreciation of beauty in everything that you see, and gratitude. The state is clearly observable by others -- who tend to think you've gone slightly mad ;-) You are not really looking clearly at any one thing; indeed, you are looking at nothing in particular, but seeing so much. We've all had that experience, right? Usually for just a brief moment, caught staring (but not really looking) at the dinner table candle, or whatever. It's that same experience, but applied to everything.

This particular experience lasted me most of the day. There was a profound sense of peace and calm. Everything was just "right" with the world -- yes, even with all of its faults -- just the way it was. It is a sense of recognizing your place in such a world. Of effortless existence. Not fighting for positions or opinions. Ultimate acceptance of what is.

I don't know what brings on these states. In all three cases, they occured outside, and the weather was nice. But other than that, the conditions were all quite different. One occurred just after I had been all "spun up" after missing my flight -- so my mind was clearly agitated. This one occured the morning after a party, and by any right, I should have been severely hung-over.

No, I don't know why these states appear, or how to "will" them into existence. But I do know that for me, they are glimpses of a state of existence that I wish to spend more time in. They are confirmation to me that I am on the right path, all having occurred within the last year.

Have you ever experienced such states of bliss? If so, do you know what triggered them? Care to share your experience?