Friday, February 18, 2022

"Everything Is Magic, Until You Think It's Not"


So for those of you that aren't familiar with the band known as Cloud Cult and their singer/songwriter Craig Minowa, this is one of their songs.  The title of this post is just a line in their song "No Hell", which is from their album "The Seeker."  (Perhaps a good hint as to why I've come to love them.)

Anyways, I first learned about them from this interview by Krista Tippett's OnBeing podcast.  You can listen to that if you want to get a nice sense of and introduction to the band (and hear three of their songs if you play the unedited version - it's better, trust me). You may also learn something about me, and perhaps realize why I was so drawn to them.  As Craig says, "our supporters are seekers."

There is so much about them, on so many different levels, that make them so meaningful to me.  I hope you like this song, the band, Craig, and maybe, see the depth and the hopefulness of their message.

You can also find them on Patreon.  They are totally independent of the music industry, and do a great job of staying in touch with their Patreons (in fact, that is how they made it through the pandemic so well; that, and a very dedicated fan base).  

May you enjoy their music, philosophy, mysticism, and hopeful message.

Sunday, February 13, 2022


A Soft and Gentle Light ... Let It Be ... A Soft and Gentle Reminder -- February 2020, Kailua, HI, iPhone 11 Pro

A Soft and Gentle Reminder

In honor of Thich Nhat Hanh

I set up a meditation bell

Using his Plum Village app

Such that, every so often

It rings its soft and gentle chime 

To bring me back to the present moment

Actually, it doesn’t bring me back

It softly, and gently, reminds me

Such that I may choose

To stop and to breathe and to Be

Soft and gentle, mindful and present

Magically transported to the Now

To witness that alchemic change 

From a contracted and tense ego

To something soft and gentle, in an instant

It's really quite magical

Some might even say, miraculous

And here’s another benefit

I'm finding it quite astonishing 

Just how fast my life is flowing past me

When I’m not fully present

So how would you like to spend

Your one luminous Life?

Would you like a soft and gentle reminder?

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Wake-Up Call

Mist on the Pond (or The Cloud of Unknowing)

 So this morning, I had a little wake-up call. 

        Little, in that I'm still here writing this to you 🤗.

                Wake-Up, in the sense that we often (always?) take for granted our very existence.

So what, exactly, happened?  Well, I was up early in the morning as is my norm, sitting out on the deck of our cottage.  Usually doing a sitting meditation, or listening to a dharma talk.  Today I was listening to a podcast, and was captivated by the beauty of the morning.  I wanted to capture it -- take a picture or a movie (like above) to try to show what I was seeing, and help me remember it.

At one point I decided to walk down to our dock to photograph the early morning fog sweeping along the glassy surface of the pond.  We have some funky stairs (tilted on angle) that need to be replaced, and we had just finished 24 hours of pretty hard rain.  So the steps, while water-free, were much more slick than they appeared to be, and then Whoosh, my feet slid out from under me.

Have you ever felt time slow down?  As I crashed to the ground, I waited to find out where the pain would arrive.  Fortunately for me, my butt and shoulder took the brunt of the fall along the edges of the steps (and not my head).  I had survived, thanks to nothing but dumb luck.

I could even perceive two alternate futures emerge from that slip.  The one that's writing this blog post, and the one that remained unconscious (or worse) on the steps until Carol arose and started to wonder where the heck I was.  Wouldn't that have been a different life trajectory?

            One moment here, blissfully enjoying the scenery,  
            And then ... Wham ... lights out (for a while or forever).

I'm not trying to be overly dramatic.  That's not the point of this story.  But just take a moment to realize, we are all one incident away from a life-altering or life-ending trajectory.  That is the very nature of our existence.

Now that may sound Bad to most people, but it's really Not.  Not good or bad.  It just is.  

So what should you take away from this story, if that is true?  Just this:

Your life is a very precious gift.  The odds of You being here right now are extraordinarily slim.  Savor that good fortune.  Don't waste a minute of your precious life on anger or hatred or self-recrimination.  Indeed, Wake Up to the unfathomability of your life just as it is, right here, right now.  With all its "apparent" lack of perceived perfection, lack of financial security, lack of fulfillment or meaning.  

You're just looking through the wrong end of the telescope.  Turn it around and see the magnificence in every ordinary thing around you, and then let yourself blur the apparent boundaries of what you sense, and realize you are very much a part of that as well.  

Not you and the other and the 10,000 things.  But just this ... right now ... right here.  And that includes everything and nothing, or no thing.  It's a conundrum only when you view the world as if from the homunculus in your head.  Like those magic eye pictures, you don't easily see the 3D image because of how you have been conditioned to look.

Drop your focus and look through the image.  Stop trying to analyze everything, control everything, plan everything.  Go with the flow sounds pretty trite, but it is also pretty accurate.  That is what life is ... the flow of the universe itself.  An infinite set of processes continually interacting with each other.  And thou art that.

Get out in Nature, as living objects may make this easier to recognize, or re-cognize.  But you can do it anywhere.  Everything you think of as a thing is more amazing than you can possibly fathom.  

Seeing everything with wonder and awe through a fresh set of eyes

If you have a science background, you probably realize that the chair you are sitting on is not as it  appears.  It is not a solid object, even though it looks and feels that way to your senses.  It is 99.9999999% empty space.  Trust me on this if you don't know that to be true*.

So just appreciate the unfathomability of life, and try to drop another construct of your mind.  You do not have a permanent self.  You are really not who ... you ... think you are.  Really -- just like that chair.  But even more, much more, than that.

The construct that needs to be de-constructed is that you are here, reading this post (BTW, congrats that you've made it this far 🥳), and the rest of the world is out there.  That's just not how life, the universe, and existence itself work.  That may be how they appear to work, but it simply isn't so.

Like the late David Foster Wallace observed in his classic commencement speech**:

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”
This is all about being open to and aware of Life, and realizing how little we truly know and how much we are conditioned in this world (by our DNA, our upbringing, society, culture, etc.)  

So what I hope for anyone reading this, is that you too have The Wake-Up Call.  Hopefully the benevolent kind, but no matter the circumstances, it can be used to re-focus your attention, increase your awareness, and bring wonder and awe into your life.

Or better, let you re-cognize the wonder and awe of being a part of this very existence, right here, right now, nothing special, just this, just this.


*  Or look it up if you like -- here's a 3-minute listen:  Why Your Butt Doesn't Fall Through The Chair.

** I think this video adaptation is awesome:  This is Water, by David Foster Wallace

Epilog:  So you may be familiar with the way we can get somewhat attached, maybe dependent, perhaps even addicted to our portable electronic devices (e.g., smart phones and watches).  One might even say that they have come to feel like a bionic extension of one's self.  

Well then, I guess I've taken one small step at putting a crack into my conceptual self.  Here is the one (and thankfully only) real casualty (beyond some scrapes and bruises) from my wake-up call today, not noticed until well after the event (when I went to check the weather forecast):

Shattered image of myself, er, my Apple Watch

And isn't it interesting that my body will self-repair with only healthy food, gentle movement, and adequate rest, but my watch is now kaput, and destined for Apple's recycling center.  That's also an interesting "life" lesson.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Call of the Loon

Morning Loon Serenade, September 2021, Tucker Pond, NH

I've made a few attempts to capture the back and forth calls of the Loons that sometimes reside at our pond.  First you hear them, but by the time I get my camera, they've stopped.  Or they are triggered by a large overhead bird (such as a Bald Eagle or an Osprey), and then stop after the threat has passed.

This morning they were pretty close to my dock, so I gave it another chance -- just filming them and seeing what happens.  Either I was fortunate, or they perceived me as just another threat, as their tremolo calls started right after the camera was rolling.  Sit back and enjoy this 90-second morning serenade.  Listen closely, and you can even hear the echoes of their calls off the surrounding hills.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Loon before the Mist, Tucker Pond, September 2021

So I've started meditating again, out on the deck of our camp, early in the morning.  What an amazing time to be awake and outside.  The rest of humanity (at least around the pond) has yet to stir.  But the wildlife is buzzing and serenading me.  It really helps one get back in touch with nature, with life, with reality.

We had some family friends visiting us for a couple of days, and had some interesting conversations, one of which somehow, in that alchemic way, sparked this poem.  It's called "Just the Facts, Ma'am" from that old TV show Dragnet, where the unflappable (and largely unemotional) detective wants the witness to just give the essence of the matter, not irrelevant commentary, like our minds so often do.

So anyways, here's what emerged after one of those meditation sessions.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

This thing called "life" sure is interesting, if nothing else

And there’s always something else

Life is a gift — it’s all of existence

The who-what-when-where-why of it

And yet, Life is nothing of the kind

It’s non-duality … simply the wholeness of being

Life is this moment, and only this moment

Constantly refreshed, nothing is fixed

The stillness of dawn’s light, and

The effervescence of hummingbird wings

Ever humming, flowing, emerging, creating

This impermanent dance of Lila

Sunlight dances across a misty pond

Dewdrops glisten upon Indra’s net

Ripples of consciousness itself

Are but the footfalls of so many water striders

That loon’s mournful morning cry really is

The sound of your original birth

Everything is, just as it is, enfolding and unfolding

Thirteen billion years of causes and conditions

No this or that, no good or bad … no separation

When in doubt, simply remember, “not two”

All of it, the sublime and the ridiculous

Right here, right now … **snap**

Thou art That  

Thou art That!

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Falling Water

Bass Creek, off trail from Charles Waters Campground, Florence, Montana

Falling Water

The sound

Of falling water

Is flooding my ears

And my very existence 

The sound

Of rushing water

Flows deep within my bones

And penetrates my soul 

This is the sound

Of Life itself

Unstoppable Flow ... Life’s effervescence 

Bubbling up, if only you will drink

That primordial sound

Resonating somewhere deep within you

Is the very birth of this universe

And a newborn’s first ferocious cry

You must tread, uphill, for miles

To reach the mighty headwaters of your Being

Until you can finally meet yourself 

For the very first time

Revel in the cacophony

So often rough and tumble

Yet at the same time, somehow soothing

Once you come to realize ... "thou art that"

For there is … Only Being

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Living on the Edge

Living on the Edge, Ko'olau Ridgeline, Kamananui Trail Summit, HI, March 2019, iPhone 11 Pro © Steven Crisp

Living on the Edge

What if Reality is that we are living on the edge?  The edge of what?
Right on the edge of an epic cliff, the pinnacle of a mythic mountain,
Or perhaps the mysterious precipice of the Here and Now
Looking over the edge, we cannot even see the bottom
It’s occluded by the clouded thinking of our minds

Can you sense that, in your body?  Yeah, I'm feeling a little vertigo, a little bit woozy
Exactly.  That’s what I’m talking about.  You’re tuning into it.
Your body knows something that your mind has chosen to ignore
Or is simply unwilling to recognize or acknowledge or process
And this is difficult to capture in words -- you have to feel your way

Indeed, language is both a pathway and a boundary between us.  Say what?
Life is always about the whole of it … the totality and nothing … that is, No Thing
So that’s a little taste of Living on the Edge … a reframing of you ... if you will
It requires a bit of a shift from your rational mind toward your intuitive sense
But try not to get lost in the language; words can only be a pointer, they’re not the point

Tell me, when did Creation occur?  Uhh,  I don’t know … about 14 billion years ago?
That’s just the Big Bang; I’m asking about Creation itself
Isn’t Creation happening this very moment?  Indeed, only in this moment?
In fact, isn't that knife-edge precipice the very place where Life lives us?
The exhilaration of birthing this very universe, in the eternal Now

You are both an insignificant speck of stardust and a magical note in this universal symphony 
Without you, this world would not exist … think about that … or rather, feel that and be that
Look deeply enough at anything in Nature and you will see it shimmer with Life’s creative energy
You are that very same creative energy … that inexhaustible, infinite potential
It’s coursing through your veins and thriving in the trillions of cells that constitute your body-mind

That creative energy is pumping every heartbeat, which races faster as you inch closer to that edge
Don’t worry!  You cannot fall from this edge, but you can leap, and if you’re willing, soar
Above the clouds of us vs. them, of right and wrong, of judgment and even preference itself
Every present moment of awareness opens up new pathways into fresh insights
Loosening the grip of old habits and patterned reactivity, while healing inner wounds

Isn’t this the place you’d want to live, every day, every moment?  Yeah, I think so
Trust me, thinking won’t get you there … indeed, simply let the mind quiet into stillness and peace
Sit with me, won’t you?  Right Here, Right Now.  Sure, why not ... I'd love to
Let us weave ourselves together into the emerging tapestry of this very moment

Words are not required.  Let’s just feel our hearts beating together, as one.  Can you feel that?  Oh Yes!

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The Presentation of Your Mind


Java Sparrows or "Birds?", Kailua, HI, January 2019, Nikon D600, FX 28-300mm
 VR lens, 300mm,1/60 sec @ f5.6, ISO 400, -1.67 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp

The Presentation of Your Mind

Your mind is a tricky thing

Making you believe things to be true

Even when they make no sense at all

Perhaps you’ve realized that by now

Like that mysterious work presentation

You are due to give later this week

Yet you haven’t even studied the topic

While you reassure your boss you’re ready

But there are glimpses of the awakening truth

You even say to yourself, “It’s not really due”

And so you relax, smile, and return to your slumber

Only to find an audience waiting in your dreamworld

Ha-ha, as if dreams were your only trickster

Truth be told, your waking world is too clever by half

For when we glance at that yellow oleander in the garden

Shimmering in the setting sun after a light rainfall

All that our mind tells us we see is a “tree”

But it is most certainly not that; if anything,

It’s a dance of light, a mesmerizing joy,

A singing bowl of birds, and aptly named “Be-Still”

We’re fortunate though, since we stand on shoulders that tell us

About left and right cerebral hemispheres, and the corpus callosum,

Connecting nerve fibers, that permit and inhibit transmissions

It is evolution that has brought about this draw-bridge in our mind

To keep us alive, at least long enough to continue our

Ancestral lineage, indeed, because we are so quick to judge

But if we are really lucky, we feel some strange pull ... an intuition

To look deeper, beyond features and categories and groups

We recognize the tug to understand something more

Beyond the reductionist, so-called, material world

We can catch glimpses of aliveness itself, that effervescence

Always bubbling up, in, through, and all around

Things are not the labels we ascribe to them, nor are people

Indeed nothing exists that can be studied in isolation

Everything is truly interdependent and arising …

Fresh and new, in this very moment, if we will only truly see

How can it be we see the multiplicity and yet

Somehow we can also glimpse the wholeness of life?

See the totality unfolding in this precious moment

As morning dawns and its singing bowl reverberates

What a gift to see each moment with fresh eyes

With that child-like wonder and utter astonishment

Every sense can come alive in this very moment

An open heart, welcoming Life, that’s living you


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Seeing Through the Veil


Seeing Through the Veil, Honolulu Museum of Art (unknown pieces of art in storage), Honolulu, HI, December 2016,
Nikon D600 with FX 28-300mm VR lens, 
160mm,1/15 sec @ f5.6, ISO 1000, -0.67 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp

This morning I was sitting at my desk, listening to the multitude of birds that begin their singing at the crack of dawn.  I'm not complaining ;-)   They all have different songs, and songs within songs, even discordant clicks and cackles, perhaps warning of this human illuminating their space so early.

One of the birds we are blessed with is the White-Rumped Shama, a local visitor that we've coaxed into singing, and a virtuoso performance I observed while hiking elsewhere on Oahu.   These formerly Asian song birds were brought here to be caged in local gardens.  Eventually released into the wild in the late 1930s, they now bless us daily with their melodic songs as they seem to celebrate their freedom.  Anyways, something about the immersion in this avian chorus, and the glistening dew that emerged after sunrise, brought me into another way of being.  Bubbling up in my head were the words "it seems as if" and the recognition that how we usually perceive the world is not "reality," which became "but it is not."

And in this case, on this morning, that led to the emergence of these words.  I hope they are as interesting for you to read and perhaps ponder, as they were for me to write (and edit and tweak and tweak some more) until they captured the essence of the unfolding flow.  

Oh, and about the photo above, which I picked from my photo library based on my first draft of these words.  This was from a trip with an "insider" to the Honolulu Museum of Art, and while my wife and our friend were roaming through the art displays, I was roaming far and wide with my camera.  And I stumbled upon a location where various pieces of art had been collected together and covered with plastic (perhaps it was "out with the old, in with the new").  Anyways, when I saw this photo, the words "seeing through the veil" came too me as this Buddha is meditating with his iPhone behind plastic, or so it appears.  Haha, somehow, it seemed appropriate, and prompted yet more revisions ;-)

                Seeing Through the Veil

           (It Seems As If … But It Is Not)

It seems as if … 

You were born into this world

To learn and to love and to live your life 

With various struggles and occasional triumphs

With the only guaranteed certainty of life, being death

… But it is not

It seems as if … 

You are a unique individual, with a name, and a face

And tell-tale characteristics, as different from me as from

The White-Rumped Shama's melodic birdsong at dawn 

And this morning’s cool glistening dew just after sunrise

… But it is not

It seems as if … 

You find comfort and control in categorizing and dividing up the world

Preferring, labeling, judging, or prejudicing your "sense"

Of friend or foe, right or wrong, saint or sinner

And good or bad (or maybe even evil)

… But it is not

It seems as if …

You are searching for that great insight; that "aha" moment

On a path, perhaps, to find some spiritual truth, or at least some inner-resonance

Seeking God or Nirvana or Enlightenment, or maybe just a respite from your own mind

To bring you inner peace, compassion and joy

… But it is not

But what if …

You and your life were much simpler than all of that?

What if ... you already are enough, exactly as you are now, and always have been?

What if ... you and me and everything, including that melodic birdsong, are simply one?

One what, you may ask ... one thing?    No.    No  thing.    Nothing.

Quite simply:  "Just This" ... Life, emerging, creating, flowing, dancing, loving, smiling

And what if …

Words are fundamentally inadequate to express this interdependent totality?

What if ... duality is but an illusion, no subject or object existing in isolation?

What if ... there is NoThing for the self to examine, because the whole is always emerging?

What if ... the “10,000 Things” are illusory, for there are “not two” nor is there even “one”?

But even this it is not 

        ... it is so, so much simpler (and mysterious and amazing)

                … it is what it is 

                        ... not you or me 

                                ... just dancing, behind the veil

                                        ... now, eternally now 

                                                ... within the flow

                                                        ... ahhh, resting, breathing, smiling arises

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

After the Deluge ... Without Condition

After the Deluge, Kailua, HI, March 2021, iPhone 11 Pro © Steven Crisp

Last night and into this morning we had torrential rains fall.  Indeed, I was awakened by the noise at 1:30 AM, and could not get back to sleep.  So I got up and did some reading on the sofa, hoping to fall asleep (no luck).  

The rains continued into the morning, and first-world-problem-I-know, we had our Yoga class cancelled 🤣.  And still the rains came.  Finally, the intensity diminished, and I put on a raincoat and went out for a walk.  And lookee what I found at our normally completely dry "grotto" near where we live.  So the rains were not all bad, eh?

Anyways, after this experience, and related to some non-dual spiritual reading I was doing, I wrote whatever this is ... enjoy (or not ;-)

            Without Condition

Unconditional, that is, without condition
No legalese to sign
No ifs, ands, or buts
Whatever is … is … just as it is

And so can be your acceptance of it
Unless of course you have preferences (and who doesn’t)
Now you are comparing “what is” to what you desire
And my guess is most of us would choose our desires over what is right here, right now

But here’s the revelation, and a radical proposition
There is another way
We can instead “desire” what is happening in the present moment
After all, that’s really just “desiring” Life as it is unfolding

And what would that be like to desire Life exactly as it is?
Without condition?
Well, it would be a complete “allowing” and “acceptance” and yes,
even profound “gratitude” for just what is, right now, in this moment

And the next moment … and the next
Then you are desiring Life exactly as it unfolds
Without trying to make it different
Without trying to change anything

Ahhhhhh, such a sigh of relief
All that is needed is your awareness
And acceptance of this mystery while
Being awed by the resplendency of Life

And then what becomes apparent
Is that this is, in fact, Unconditional Love
For the present moment 
For circumstances and people (and even yourself) just as they are

No need for anyone to change
For anything to change
Make no doubt about it, though, things are going to change
In every moment — that is the Reality and Truth that is Life

And now Life will be directly influenced 
by your Open Awareness,
by your Gratitude and Acceptance
... Without Condition

Imagine how you would respond to someone who met you
with that much openness to this Mystery of Life
with Simple … Unconditional … Joy
What have you got to lose?  Only your suffering.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Your Invitation

Soulmate or Solemate?, Kailua, HI, April 2020, Nikon D600 with FX 28-300mm VR lens, 135mm,
1/160 sec @ f10, ISO 200, -0.33 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Your Invitation

Are you frustrated with your life?
Asking why this befalls you or that keeps on happening?
Wishing some pain would just go away?
Wondering why you feel so tired or trapped by despair?

You could take up arms!  Cinch tight your armor!
Spend every free moment devising the master battle plan!
Envision the vanquishing of your archest enemy!
Surely then, with your foot upon his neck, the sun will shine brightly!

Funny thing about life.  The sun is always shining brightly.
It’s just that some days clouds bless the earth with rain.
Each night, if we look up, distant stars will twinkle.
And we may glimpse the infinite vastness of life unfolding.

So let us recalibrate our thinking. Judge not each day,
By the harvest that you reap, but by the seeds that you sow.
That’s the measure of control you have with life.  
Then, if conditions are favorable, life will be bountiful.

But when conditions leave the ground dry and barren, 
As life surely will from time to time, you have
Only two choices:  1) Acceptance;  2) Acceptance, 
While you till the soil and water by hand.

The truth about life is that we are not in control 
Of the whole of it.  But we can influence our role in it.
We can check our motivations, reset our expectations.
See that it is our actions that count, and not our wishes.

This is the good news.  Everything you can control is 
before you and inside you.  Before your ego is hurt or stroked.
Inside the heart and soul of your very Being.  Go There.
To that place of Knowing.  A subtle Opening.  That’s your Invitation.

Note, this post was inspired by a quote I read this morning, and you'll find my 
close approximation of his words above:

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant."
-- Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1094), Essayist, Poet, Novelist