Friday, September 18, 2020

Don't Just Be Yourself ... Just Be

Morning Flower Sermon, Lanikai, HI, September 2020, iPhone 11 Pro © Steven Crisp

The common advice when one is uptight or troubled is to “just be yourself” as if that will relax you and let you breathe more easily. 

But while that may be better than being anxious or fearful, is not enough. Still you have yourself — your ego — and that requires defending, stroking, placating, and the like. 

So the real step to take is to Just Be!  Dis-identify with that self that needs protection. That self is itself a contraction of being. You can even feel that contraction in your body if you become still, quiet, and aware. 

Just Be that which is present in this moment, or as Ram Dass so wisely titled his first book, just Be Here Now. 

So rather than just being yourself, try freeing yourself so that you can Just Be

After all, what you call the self is not a solid, well-defined, static thing. If the self is anything more than just a label, it is a dynamic, ever changing, process of being. The flux and flow of Life itself. 

You understand this intellectually — cells constantly dying and dividing, new experiences being processed and becoming part of your identify, even gut microbiome being changed based on the food you eat and affecting your health, etc., etc.

Absolutely everything you believe is your “self” is changing continuously. It's impermanent. That is what Life is. 

Come to know that fact intellectually and experientially, and you will have unlocked a precious treasure.  The ability to allow yourself to simply Be.  Recognize that you already are part of Life itself, an ever unfolding part of the Cosmos.  You are not looking at Nature, you Are Nature.  

Nature does not worry about its past or project what might be its future.  Nature simply flows, based on the deep interconnection with all that Is.  Indeed, it is that Is-ness, or Such-ness that constitutes your true Being.

There is a so-called Flower Sermon, given by the Buddha to his monastics and visiting lay-people.  It is captured in a famous Buddhist Sutra, and has been interpreted by Thich Nhat Hahn, in the book Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha (available for free).

In the Sutra, at the beginning of his anticipated dharma talk, the Buddha (Guatama) held up a single flower in his hand, and remained silent for a long time.  One of his disciples, Mahakassapa smiled and received the direct transmission of wisdom of this teaching, as interpreted below:

“The Buddha began to speak. “Friends, this flower is a wondrous reality. As I hold the flower before you, you all have a chance to experience it. Making contact with a flower is to make contact with a wondrous reality. It is making contact with life itself. 
“Mahakassapa smiled before anyone else because he was able to make contact with the flower. As long as obstacles remain in your minds, you will not be able to make contact with the flower. Some of you asked yourselves, ‘Why is Gautama holding that flower up? What is the meaning of his gesture?’ If your minds are occupied with such thoughts, you cannot truly experience the flower.
“Friends, being lost in thoughts is one of the things that prevents us from making true contact with life. If you are ruled by worry, frustration, anxiety, anger, or jealousy, you will lose the chance to make real contact with all the wonders of life.
“Friends, the lotus in my hand is only real to those of you who dwell mindfully in the present moment. If you do not return to the present moment, the flower does not truly exist. There are people who can pass through a forest of sandalwood trees without ever really seeing one tree.  Life is filled with suffering, but it also contains many wonders.  Be aware in order to see both the suffering and the wonders in life.
“Being in touch with suffering does not mean to become lost in it.  Being in touch with the wonders of life does not mean to lose ourselves in them either.  Being in touch is to truly encounter life, to see it deeply.  If we directly encounter life, we will understand its interdependent and impermanent nature.  Thanks to that, we will no longer lose ourselves in desire, anger, and craving.  We will dwell in freedom and liberation."
Excerpt From: Thich Nhat Hanh. “Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha.” 

And that is the intended purpose of the flower photo above.  Open your eyes and try to see all of Nature just as it is, part of the "wondrous reality" that is Life itself.  And Just Be a part of that wondrous reality!  No words are needed; no words can really describe it.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Do You Know What Day It Is?


It's World Manta Ray Day!

Well, as my daughter Alli informed me, today is World Manta Ray Day.  You can click on that picture to be taken to the Instagram page if so desired.

I thought you might also be interested to hear (and see) why that is noteworthy for us.

We recently completed a project to tile our lanai.  As we were picking out the tile, and thinking of the large area that would be tiled, we thought the addition of some sea life would be a cool addition. 

Back in 2015, when we tiled the inside of our foyer, we found an artist who made sea turtle mosaics, and we bought a set and had our tile installers set them into the tile.  Quite an intricate job cutting the tile to fit all the turtle flippers.  He did the whole job with an angle grinder, and it was perfect.

So, we reached out to that artist again, and based on a suggestion by my wife, and some research by my daughter and me, asked if he wanted to create a manta ray for our lanai.  Well, he thought that would be "epic".  So after two months of design, material selection, mock-ups and feedback, we agreed on the final design and had our same tile installer set it into the new tile for our lanai.

Here's a picture of the end result, with my wife sitting in the hammock over the manta ray:  

Lounging over the Manta Ray

Well I'd say she is a real beauty!  And I think the Manta Ray turned out pretty nice too! ๐Ÿ˜‚

Saturday, September 05, 2020

Are You Talkin' To Me?

Remember that scene from Taxi Driver, where Robert DeNiro asks the mirror, "Are you talkin' to me?".

OK good, but this is nothing like that.  ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Instead, this is more of a inter-species intervention, when we notice a White-Rumped Shama on a nearby branch, and knowing they had once been caged song birds that had gotten into the wild, try to get this one to "talk" to us.

So you will hear at times, my wife or I whistling to prompt this bird to sing, and sure enough, he does quite a few times.

They really are quite sociable birds, and great singers.  Anyways, we thought you might enjoy this as your moment of Zen today (or just a nice diversion from current events, etc.):

May all of your conversations today be as melodic and peaceful as this one was for us.

Namaste ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป 

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Lifetime Warranty

Wedelia and a Friend, Kailua, HI, March 2020, Panasonic DMC-ZS50,
1/200 sec @ f3.3, ISO 80, 0 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Do you ever check those warranties you get on products?  Some are only good for 90 days, some for 1 year.  But the great ones are lifetime warranties, good as long as the original owner is still alive.

Well, here's some good news.  You come with a lifetime warranty.  On your Life.  The only requirement is you have to be alive to claim it.

Want more good news?  There's no paperwork required, no receipts you need to save.  Whenever Your Life is not working as it should, you can swap it for a new one.  Really.

So what's the catch, you may ask?  Who gets to determine if my life is working "as it should"?  That's the best part -- YOU get to make the call.  In fact you HAVE to make the call, to claim the warranty.

So maybe an example would help explain how this warranty works.  Imagine you have a nice home in a nice neighborhood, outfitted with a nice security system to keep you safe.  But then your security system keeps sending you alerts of intruders in your driveway.  And it turns out to be neighborhood kids running amok, unable to stay on the public sidewalk.  Annoying, right?  They're not allowed on your property without your permission, right?  What are you going to do -- how will you handle the situation?  Well here's how one man dealt with it:

See how it works?  Once you decide you don't like what is happening in Your Life, you get to decide how you respond.  You could react with frustration, anger, bitterness, revenge -- all perfectly natural, automatic, ego-centric responses.  Then once you recognize how you are reacting, and if you don't like how that makes you feel, time to turn in your Old Life for a New Life.  Right Now.  In each new Moment.

That's right, you get to choose your response to everything that Life throws at you.  Both the "good" and the "bad", except those are really only defined by how you choose to respond to Life.  Really, it is that simple.

And I'm not limiting this to precocious kids in your driveway.  I'm talking about any situation that causes you suffering.  Take for example, being incarcerated, locked up in prison, or worse.  Indeed, having survived 3 years in Nazi concentration camps including Auschwitz, Victor Frankl famously wrote:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

That is your Lifetime Warranty.  And you get to use it over and over, each time you get trapped by your reaction to a situation.  You get to choose another path.  And over time, you will be able to sense that space that Frankl speaks of, and make a conscious choice of what your response will be to Life's stimulus.

You can choose a response that lifts your heart and soul, perhaps at the same time it lifts the other person's heart and soul as well, and helps heal yourself and the other.  

Please don't be shy.  This is powerful stuff.  Use your Lifetime Warranty over and over again, as many times as you need it, until you can live in that space, and always make the heartfelt, compassionate, choice.

Oh, and how does that picture at the top of this page relate to any of this?  Well, Wedelia can be considered an invasive weed.  But it is also a very effective ground cover, holding on to the topsoil, providing beautiful flowers, supporting local honey bees and various other insects, as you can see.  Did you notice that little fella there, looking you right in the eye?  Another sentient being or a pest?

Sometimes, Life is really all about how You choose to see things.  And whether you judge, label, and call something good or bad.  Just realize it is You, and not Life, that assigns those labels.  With some practice, you really can find Reflections of Beauty everywhere you go.  

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

"What If?" is a Beautiful Question

What If ... Dogs Could Learn to Tango?, Lanikai Beach, Lanikai, HI, April 2020, 
Nikon D600 with FX 28-300mm VR lens,160mm, 1/500 sec @ f10, ISO 400, -0.67 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp 

"What If?"  It's a good question, don't you think? 

Or you might call it a way of questioning.  Of contemplating.  Of looking more deeply.

I've been doing that recently, having reinvigorated my spiritual inquiries.  And I must say it's all pretty fascinating.  Those who know me have heard me say "I'm spiritual, but not religious."  Indeed, I have called myself a-religious, and have some issues with a personified God.  I was not entirely sure why that issue was so visceral for me, but I guess that's just my karma (no, that's not irony, just some humor ;-)

During my recent investigations, I came upon a physicist named David Bohm.  I had heard the name before (as a wannabe physicist myself), but really knew nothing about him.  And then I stumbled upon this movie, Infinite Potential.  I think it's well done, and ties together some complex physics topics, with the drama of the A-bomb development, McCarthyism, and a scientist looking deeply for the fundamental underlying mechanisms of the cosmos.  Which ultimately brings him in touch spiritual insights from past millennia that help guide his thinking.  Here's the movie (and by all means, give it a look if any of those topics sound interesting to you):

So anyways, "What If?"

What if our scientific world view, with its remarkable progress using experimentation to prove out theories, is still not the whole story?

What if underlying all that we can detect and classify, still lies something that would be able to explain some remaining conundrums, like entanglement (non-local effects), like wave-particle duality, like Schrรถdinger's cat (paradox), like dark matter/energy that is vastly greater than observable matter/energy throughout the universe?

What if consciousness, which remains poorly understood, has some role in this, and/or applies beyond one's physical body?

What if it's not only possible, but repeatable, and trainable, for individuals to gain control of their own mind-bodies, and realize the truths of impermanence, not-self or egolessness, and equanimity or non-reactivity, and then enter states of non-duality.

I think the biggest take-aways from the movie and from these sample what-if questions are that we really need to keep our minds open, alert, and inquisitive.  While it might temporarily "feel good" to think we have an answer, opinion, belief, or even an orthodox interpretation on these or other important questions, we should never close our minds to the possibility of new information or direct experience that might tell us otherwise.

And in the end, a recurring question we can ask is:  

Will we try to protect ourselves 
from the vicissitudes of life?
Will we accept and fully participate 
in Life, with Life, and as Life itself? 

Accept Life as it comes, 
in each moment, 
and remain grateful 
for each breath, 
for each smile, 
for each relationship, 
for each beautiful question,
and for each chance to Tango! 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Maybe I'm Just A Basket Case

The Basket Case, Lanikai Loop, Lanikai, HI, June 2020, iPhone 11 Pro © Steven Crisp

Look what I stumbled on today, while coming back from my morning beach walk.  Waiting to cross the street, I glimpsed something in my peripheral vision.  Light flickering in the breeze.  And then I was hooked.  

The interlaced palm fronds, weaving together with the sunlight, blue sky, and white puffy clouds.  The shadows dancing, playing peekaboo with the dazzling morning star.  And the breeze, don't forget the breeze.  Sometimes strong, sometimes calm, and sometimes dangerous -- always changing day to day, hour to hour, really moment by moment.  

All of it, plus what you don't see.  The soil in which the Acacia Palms are planted.  All the insects and microbes that keep the earth alive.  The periodic rain showers and occasional tropical deluges that water them all.  The landscaper (or homeowner) that planted them, and who prunes off dead or dying fronds to make room for the new growth that just magically appears.

And what about the Nursery owner who's livelihood comes from raising and selling these palms.  With only some land and a little business acumen (and capital) to raise them.  Possibly, the land where these were raised has been in their family for quite some time.  Perhaps the son or grand-daughter is now the proprietor. So much owed to the family, the upbringing, the hard work plus good fortune.

And where did that breeze come from?  Heating of the air from the rising sun, trade winds that brought missionaries and Polynesian ancestors, or the chaotic flap of a butterfly's wings?  No matter.  Nature does not keep score.  

It moves only in the present moment.  And in this moment, it has woven you a basket of earthly delights.  May you lighten your load into this basket, and skip more easily as you go about your day.  With love and Namaste.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Waving with Wonder

Waving with Wonder, Kailua Beach, Kailua, HI, June 2020, iPhone 11 Pro © Steven Crisp

Imagine that you and I are waves.
It’s a pretty good metaphor
For scientists, poets, and mystics alike
You wave your energy at me
And I wave mine to you.

And in that way we meet, we touch, 
We hold hands or at least share knowing glances.
And if we look deeply, in that moment,
We merge, and we amplify our Being. 

The Two become One. 
And the One joins that which it never left. 
That great Ocean of Being ... our true nature.
You have possibly felt this before. 
Had a glimpse of the vastness of your own being.
 Or better ... simply ... Being. 
 And the interconnectedness of all that is.

Think back to when you were a small child. 
Remember the Wonder you had with Life. 
With each new experience ...
The beauty of a flower ...
or the excitement of a butterfly. 

Can you recall a more recent time 
when you felt this Wonder again?  
The flux and the flow of Nature itself.  

And the wondrous realization that you
are not separate from Nature.  
In fact, you are one with Nature. 
You are Nature itself. 

No 'this' or 'that'. 
No 'us' versus 'them'. 
No 'me', 'my', and 'mine'. 
No 'selfing' and no-self.

What is Reality except the waves of somethingness?
You and I are the answer to the question
“Why is there something rather than nothing?”

You are literally made up of waves from the Big Bang. 
You are the Singularity made manifest. 
Everything is exactly as it should be.
How could it be any other way?

We are the sound of a Great Song, 
The Uni-Verse, 
The primordial A-U-M (Om). 

Waves and energy in constant motion.  
Creation and Destruction as one. 
No opposites, only the Whole. 

You can hear it and feel it if you enter the Stillness. 
If you look deeply enough ... into anything, 
You can catch a glimpse ... with awareness. 

Walk through nature. 
Be Present in Nature. 
"Be" Nature, that which you already are. 
Just. Be. Here. Now. 

Do you realize that this Precious Moment ... Is It?
  This is all there is ... the Timeless Present.
And that past and future, both, each,
Can only exist, as memories or plans, Now?
Your Mind may fight back, and deny this Reality. 
So let your body sensations help you stay Present, 
And feel that which is alive within you. 
Within me. Within us. 
Within our vast Universe.   
Just ... Waving with Wonder. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Windswept Lover

Sitting together on the lanai
With eyes closed
At the dawn of a new day

Calm, peaceful and still 
We meditate while
Birds sing to the rising sun

And then you touch me
Tussle my hair, tickle my skin
And caress my face

Suddenly your all around me
Rippling over my clothes
Bringing a smile to my lips

Oh, my silent lover
So unpredictable and blustery
Sometimes cool, sometimes warm 

Yellow Oleander branches quiver
Flowers dance in delight
Grasses sway to and fro

And then, still toying with me
You go breathless
with an energetic stillness

Until the whispers and currents
of your loving embrace
Caress me once again

Why must you keep yourself hidden
So shy … yet available to all
Invisible, like the pulsing of Life itself

Such a precious offering
For those who are willing
To simply quiet their minds
... and observe

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Be Still Buddy

Be-Still Buddy, Kailua, HI, May 2020, Nikon D600 with FX 18-300mm VR lens, 300mm,
1/320 sec @ f5.6, ISO 500, -0.33 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]

This is a Red-Crested Cardinal (really a Tanager) holding a Be-Still flower in its beak, and drinking its nectar.  These cute songbirds bounce through these trees (also known as Yellow Oleander), plucking flowers, holding them like trumpets, and then dropping them.

So many fall to the ground you could make quite a beautiful Hawaiian lei with them, except that the flowers (and all parts of this plant, especially the seeds) are poisonous to humans (and many animals).  Hence the name -- the result of someone eating parts of the tree -- they would literally stop moving and "be still."  Even the nectar, gathered by bees and transformed into honey, ends up containing toxins.

And yet will you look at that ... poison to some is nectar from the gods for these birds.  Nature certainly is fascinating.

And I'm quite fond of our Be-Still Buddy, reminding me to, "Be Still, Buddy" ๐Ÿ˜ฌ.   But in my version, this is more like the inner stillness found during meditation.

Here's hoping that you -- my blog Buddy -- can spend some time today both in Stillness and in Nature ... and each and every day going forward.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Dancing Minnows

Dancing minnows 
What do they know?
Of water or sunlight or shadows
And what do they think
Of ripples or waves or vast ocean

They just flow within it all
No effort or worry
Just one more dance among the cosmos

Why must you do any more?
Pay no mind ... No Mind! 
Find your way with choiceless awareness 

Have you sensed it?  
That tingling ...  that connection 
Among, within, and as a part of Nature  
To all beings ... to all that IS. 

Your mind will protest ... that’s understood
 This is beyond your your thinking mind
Beyond me, my, and mine
Beyond I'm right and your wrong
Beyond past regrets and future plans

There is a wholeness 
Just ... Be ... Here ... Now ...
(Thank you Ram Dass)

Where preferences are a hindrance,
opinions are burdensome, and
beliefs are anything-but True faith
Where opposites just flow together

Can you accept good ... and evil?
Can you accept us ... and them?
Can you accept life ... and death?
Not separate ... nor superior

Just Reality as it IS
So simple ... even a child can understand
Let go of concepts that keep you old and stale
Become child-like again ... see everything fresh and new

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Your Moment of Wow!

Another Kind of Cloudburst, Lanikai Beach, Lanikai, HI,
April 2020, iPhone 11 Pro, © Steven F. Crisp 2020

     What if every word you uttered, was ...                                      Just ... Wow!

     What if every sound you heard, was ...                                      Just ... Wow!

     What if every sight, smell, taste, touch,
     and most importantly, every thought, was                                Just ...  Wow!

     What a wonderful prayer, or gift, 
     or blessing, or even eulogy.                                                       Just ... Wow!

     What a motivational sermon 
     or speech or wedding toast
     or commencement address or pep talk
     or even therapy session.                                                           Just ... Wow!

     What poetry or prose or symphony
     or aria or jazz riff or jam session.                                              Just ... Wow!

     What a way to start each day or end each day 
     and to simply live each and every moment 
     in the timeless Now.                                                                 Just ... Wow!

     What if waking up to Life ...
     that eternal flux and flow ...
     was really that simple.                                                               Just ... Wow!

     What if all of our personal histories, 
     our tightly held opinions, 
     our indoctrinated beliefs, 
     our black and white thinking, 
     are nothing but concepts.  
     None of it real, nor Reality.                                                       Just ... Wow!

     Tonight the stars await your presence.  
     Tomorrow the sunrise will help you see   
     Reality as it is. 
     In all its simplicity. 
     With all its awe.                                                                        Just ... Wow!

     Like the wave that does not die upon the shore. 
     Nor is born from deep within the sea.  
     The world is simply waving, waving, always waving.  
     Look closely, deeply, calmly ... so is Thee, so is Thee            Just ... Wow!

              And in the spirit of Saint Jon of the Daily Show ... Here is Your Moment of Zen, er, Wow:

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Coming To Your Senses

Coming to Your Senses, Kailua, HI, April 2020, Nikon D600 with FX 18-300mm VR lens, 300mm,
1/80 sec @ f15.6, ISO 160, -0.33 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Did you stop today, and simply stare ... in Awe
Quiet those thoughts of past and future ... just Now
Hear the blood coursing, pulsing, throughout ... your Body
Reach down and pick your jaw up, off ... the Ground

Smile slowly, widely, unexpectedly ... and Radiantly
Feel your eyes welling-up, with tears ... of Joy
Muscles weaken, as you fall down, onto ...  your Knees
Remembering, Re-Member, not two, only ... One

Look more closely now and see, feel, hear ... the Flow
Arising and passing, only impermanence ... constant Change
Recognizing, Re-Cognize, there are ... no Boundaries
Seeing not, me, my, and mine, but effortless ... Inter-Being

The sun, the clouds, the rain, the ground ... cannot
The tree, the birds, the flowers, the fruit ... exist
The oceans, the mountains, one drop, one atom ... alone
Your ancestors, your mothers, your birth ... and death

In the beginning, in the end ... the Great Unknown
So today, in that profundity, what shall we do ... Now?
Slow-walking, in nature, just observe it ... All
Sitting, breathing, sensing, becoming ... Aware

... of your Sensational Life