Thursday, May 26, 2005

Nature and Love

I have this theory about why we like nature so much. The theory goes like this: when we look at a redwood, we don’t say, “Damn, you should be an oak.” We don’t say, “You’re okay, but I’d like you a lot more if you were about ten pounds lighter.” We don’t wonder, ‘What is that redwood thinking about me? Am I living up to my image around it?’ We don’t worry that the redwood might not like us. So we don’t have to jerk ourselves around to try to figure out how to fit ourselves into some sort of mold that we imagine the redwood would like more.

So, life becomes a lot simpler around the redwood. We don’t want it to be any different, and we don’t get into the mode of thinking it wants us to be any different. So here we are at love, paying attention without demands and thoughts, either demands and thoughts about how the redwood should be better, or demands and thoughts about how we should be better for the redwood’s approval and appreciation.
This is slavery, isn’t it, this energy we put into trying to get others to like or admire or respect or approve or appreciate us. Wow. And out in nature, the sky is just the sky, the rose is just a rose is just a rose, the ocean is the ocean, the thunderstorm is just a thunderstorm. Rain is rain, sun is sun, the moon is the moon. Every time we are in nature and aren’t bitching and moaning that it should be warmer or cooler or something-er, we have a great opportunity to just sink into appreciation of the tree and the forest and the water droplet and the creek and the soil and the plants in the soil.

Another plus to being in nature is that we are closer, I believe, to our real selves, because we aren’t cramped up inside a box. We have a ceiling five miles high, not a couple of feet above our heads. If the weather is good, we can look out for miles, instead of just a few feet. We can move, walk, run, skip, run. We like to move. Humans were designed to move. Many a poor fool burns off this heritage in a gym, busy trying to “get fit,” which has a lot to do with “looking good,” which has a lot to do with sucking up for outside approval. In nature, if you want to build muscles, create a garden, build a rock wall, scythe some weeds, plant a bunch of trees, prune the trees you planted, build some housing for yourself or the needy, raise some food for yourself or the needy. There is plenty to do to get “in shape.” Do it outdoors, I say, sow your energy in the fresh air, around plants and sky and birds and people you like.

Don’t like anyone?

Look at them as if they are a redwood or a rose or a creek.

Can’t do that?

Oh, well. We all have those grumpy days when we think so and so should be more this or less that. Remember the redwood tree. It’s just fine the way it is. If that doesn’t work for you, go take a walk outdoors, or do the Work of Byron Katie, or best of all, do the work outdoors, with chances to roll around and sniff the earth and lap in the sky, feel your feet connecting to grass or sand or soil. This is good for you, good for the soul. I think so, anyway. You go on outside and find out for yourselves.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Loving the enemy, Byron Katie style

One of the way cool parts of the Bible is where Jesus is laying out what loving your enemy is all about. To very broadly paraphrase, he says: ‘Anyone can love someone who is kissing up to them, but what about when someone gives you a hard time, can you love them then?’ With a slight shift, this is the secret to happiness: anyone can be happy when things are going their way, but when they aren’t, can we still be happy?

The Work of Byron Katie is superb for getting out of the mental loops where over and over we are making our partner the enemy. Take any thought of this sort—you should listen to my side, you aren’t being fair, blah, blah, blah— and repeat it over and over in our minds and we’ve got an enemy on our hands.

Byron Katie is a woman who “woke up” from years of depression, alcoholism, obesity and rage, to a space of freedom and clarity. In this clarity she saw that the world was no longer to blame for any moments of unhappiness. Her thoughts always were. But since she had no “spiritual” background, being a gal from Barstow when this happened, she didn’t go the route of “letting go” of thoughts, or “rising above” thoughts, or “affirming” away thoughts, or even “non-attachment” to thoughts.

She took the route of honesty. Seeing that judging was what she did best, and that these judging thoughts could whirl on and on if not slowed down by putting them in writing, she came up with this processes: Judge your neighbor (partner, co-worker, anyone who annoys you). Write it down. Ask four questions. Turn it around.

Take, as an example. the thought, “You should understand my side of things.” Write it down. Ask four questions:

1) Is it true that , “You should understand my side of things?” Now, we always feel it’s true? But is it true in the reality of things?

2) Can I absolutely know that this is true that, “You should understand my side of things?” The answer here is , of course, no.

3) How do I react when I attach to this thought, “You should understand my side of things?” Well, I feel misunderstood. Or angry. Or cheated. I might also react my being withdrawing, or complaining to friends, by giving scolding looks. And so on. This question brings the truth home of what I am getting out of believing this thought. This is me and my thought and my consequences.

4) Who would I be without this thought, “You should understand my side of things?” This gets pretty amazing, seeing the other without the thought, with an empty and clear mind. The goal is not to “give up” the thought, merely to contrast the world with the thought, as in question 3, and the world without the thought, here in question 4.

Turn it around: You should understand my side of things, turns around two ways: I should understand your side of things. I should understand my side of things. Both these routes will lead me far, partly into realizing I’m trying to con you into giving something I’m too lazy to give myself, and partly into a joy of realizing: we are both having a hard time with this, we are in the same boat. From that, like to like, liking is easy, and love can’t be far behind.

This is an easy and a very deep practice, but it is called The Work of Byron Katie, because it is work, not magic, though the results can be magical. Katie’s website can help continue, and Readers carries her new book on relationships, I Need Your Love: Is that True?

( For further insights into Land, Love and Awareness, you might peruse the essay-site,, or enjoy listening to the radio show Land and Love, Tuesdays, 9:30-10:30 P.M., on our own wonderful KSVY, 91.3 FM

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Touch, Truth, Fun

Perhaps you have an “okay” relationship, but once it was sweet and wonderful and you are wondering how to reconnect in this way. Look no further than these essential attributes: touch, truth and fun. If they are vital in your relationship, then that is going to be a good ship on which you are happy to be. If they aren’t, they are all ways back to where you know you want to be.

The good ship relationship, it can take you far, far out into realizing how big and amazing this world can be, and can take you far in, to realize how and who you are inside. Sometimes we don’t want to see that, but with humor and real truth, we are always glad, sooner or later. These inner discoveries open also two ways: to how you make yourself happy and how you make yourself unhappy. Rest assured, if you are in relationship, you will in the beginning blame your happiness on the other person, and later, if things get rocky, you’ll blame your unhappiness on them.

Neither is true. Leaning how to discover inner truth, how to speak the truth, how to hear the truth…these are all challenges to having a solid and buoyant good ship relationship. The truth is what you want from a relationship, and speaking the truth will either create the conditions for a wonderful relationship based in friend-ship, or speaking the truth will clear the air in a relationship that is ready to dissolve.

Don’t be tempted to confuse truth ( as in, ‘I feel afraid when you go off for a long time and don’t tell me where you are.’) with dumping (as in, ‘You are a stupid jerk for going off and not telling me where you are.’). Dumping, attacking, “telling it like it is,” “being straight with” and so on may have a place in certain systems (dysfunctional systems, to my mind), but here truth has its own golden rule: stay in your own business when you are communicating.

Huge amounts of “relationship” suffering happen when the people are not really “relating.” In these situations, the communication is not of the sort, ‘From over here, in my business, this is how I think, or feel, or wish about so and so.’ No, in the non-relating messes, we are over in the other person’s business, as in, ‘You should/shouldn’t…,’ or ‘You always/never….,’ or ‘You are such a …..’ If I’m in my business, I’m telling you about me. If I’m in your business I’m telling you about you. And with this agenda, what needs to be fixed is always the other person.

Wrong. What needs to be fixed is always small, and always the same: a shifting of attention. This can be a shift to touch: out of verbal quarrelling, to silence, to following the breathing, to touching by holding hands.

It can be a shift to truth, from , ‘You never listen to me,’ ( in your business), to ‘I wish you’d listen to me for two minutes without interruption,’ or ‘I feel belittled when I don’t have a chance to say what I’m really trying to say,’ (in my business).

It can be a shift to fun. Not the whoopee, let’s go shop or wreck the environment or ourselves fun, but the fun of taking an afternoon together to roll around in bed, to take a walk or bike ride, to dance a little or a lot, to putter in the garden, to read a book of poems to each other, to explore a creek, to lie on the grass and watch the clouds playing up above in the vast lazy blue heavens.

Oh, no, that takes “time” to lie on the grass and indulge in cloud and sky heaven. Yes it does. Your ( and my) life is chopped up into pretend bits of time, but moment by moment is all you and I really have and if you really want a wonderful relationship, which is what I hope you want, then you are going to have to allow yourself enough time for all three: touch, truth and fun.

(This is the preface to a book I’m writing, Touch, Truth and Fun. Know an agent or independent/small publisher? Contact info and more essays at Also, Land and Love, Tuesdays 9:30-10:30 on our own wonderful KSVY, 91.3 FM)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Gurdjieff and Life on Planet Earth

What are the core conditions for this life of ours on this planet Earth?
1) We are alive, somehow, in a vast Universe on a world of gravity and air and light and sound and smell.

2) As alive creatures, we move. Part of this movement is to find food. Part to find mates. Part to live a life.

3) As human creatures, we learn. We learn to stand and move upright, we learn language, we learn to “fit in.”

4) “Fitting in” can be as functional as not pooping in our pants to as dysfunctional as disliking people with a different color of skin, or different tastes in music or a different income level or political party.

5) We can be aware of what we are doing in the present.

6) Usually we aren’t, which is to say, we go through our days in a state of being practically robots, acting out our programming over and over.

7) This is displeasing to think of ourselves as robots, so we immediately dismiss this possibility, though as these words entered our field of perception, very few of us were aware of our breathing, or aware of the placement of our two legs and two arms and spine. Very few were aware of the sources and flow of light in our environment.

For great amusement, watch meditators, at the end of a retreat, as they open their mouths and begin to speak. A certain sleep comes over them as they fall into habitual yapping: where to eat, how this retreat compared to the others, how wonderful they are for all their wonderful experiences and insights.

This is the core of the Gurdjieff work: we are asleep to our live as we pas through them. Within that sleep is this moral imperative: wake up. Wake up to our lives in the moment. Wake up to the certainty of our death. Wake up to the certainty that all those around us will die.

And from that, do what? I’d say, treat each other well, treat the Earth well and have some fun. Not the usual forget yourself fun, but the fun this is remembering we are alive as it is happening.

How do we wake up? In the Gurdjieff framework, we “remember ourselves.” Which means to have a divided arrow of attention, one arrow paying attention to the world, one arrow paying attention inside. This is a very full arrow, this inner pointing arrow, which is why “remembering ourselves” is not only difficult, but extremely rewarding.

Here are the jobs of the inner arrow: to notice where are our arms and legs; to notice what are our reactions in the feelings; to notice that we are seeing and hearing; to notice the auditory hallucinations called “thinking;” to be aware of our breathing and of our being at the center of our awareness; to be aware ( after the fact) when we’ve dropped back into the “sleep” state.

The outer arrow, meanwhile, is our life in the world, the people we talk to, listen to, the footsteps we take, walking through the Farmers’ Market say, the trees, sky, people, smells, the whole bundle of behaviors, what is around us and how we are situated in our environment.

This arrow is full, too, leaving little room for the usual sink-hole of attention, the endless inner yakking: this is what to do next, this is how so and so should treat me, this is what I did wrong yesterday, this is what is wrong with now, what does so and so think of me, and so on.

Want to get high for free? Activate the inner and outer arrows of attention, remember yourself, and be light on yourself when you forget. Just gently come back, come back to being awareness in the center of your life in reality.