Posts Tagged ‘sleepliving’

I very nearly forgot to have a thought again today! It’s been headache level of busy, and times like that I often don’t think to take a moment and think. Then just now I came across a line from a poem, which says it all:


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

– William Henry Davies

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I was thinking today about how people can get caught up in thoughts of the life they want. Some people just imagine being able to spend all day every day lounging by the beach with perpetually refreshed drinks, true. Yet I think most people have dreams and aspirations they truly hope to someday realize, but aren’t in a place yet to do that.

The problem comes when jump from the ideal to the real seems to be across such a deep, deep gulf that we end up feeling farther away from them than is really fair. As a result, in wishing for the ideal, we can feel a harsh separation from the real, or at least wanting to be separated from it. And that’s the problem, because that wish would separate us from where we actually are, when we’re actually there, and able to take actual action to move to where we want to go.

There’s no other way to get where we want to go without first moving our feet where they’re at. To live the lives we want, we must live the lives we have. As much as we can, it only helps us to take a moment and see and appreciate where we’re at, so we can better see how it will help us along.

Of course, Leo Tolstoy put it far more succinctly: “If you want to be happy, be.”

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The day has been so full, it got to be almost over before I realized I hadn’t written down any thoughts! So I’d like to share a quote that I’ve been thinking about for a while:

It is through creating, not possessing, that life is revealed.
Vida Dutton Scudder

There’s still these points in my life where I think I might be trying a little too hard to hold onto things I think I ought to (deserve to?) keep, but life might be moving me away from. And also things I think maybe I should have or such, but haven’t found a way to yet. This quote reminds me of remembering to keep my focus on the experiences and feelings and processes as I create my life; while the tangibles can be enjoyable, they’re props and stage-dressing, not the play itself.

When I remember all that, it seems like the tangibles actually help take care of themselves. And I’m far more free to just relax and enjoy the whole flow of life.

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Today I’m back in the mindset of trying to embrace absolutely everything, everyplace and everytime I encounter, so I can accept it, use it, and build on it. What is there is there, and so long as I feel any want to push things from me, it’s preventing me from picking up what’s useful and using it.

In trying to do so though, I kicked into another pocket of, “but what if I still need more than what’s here?” Which is silly because I’ve even said myself, recently, that being grateful for what you have doesn’t PRECLUDE getting more, it INVITES it. I guess even though I know this, there’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to “settle” on the wrong side of the path I need to be walking, and is afraid that I’ll do exactly that if I get too comfortable.

So I’m reframing the idea as, “You will better climb over a boulder in your path by putting your arms around it and setting your feet into its footholds, rather than trying to push it away.”

In the line of “using what you have without condemning it for its failings”, I just want to share a couple of quotes I found while tidying up my desk:

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.
– Confucius

And also my own paraphrase of a zen story…

A student asked his master to please share with him the one fundamental principle of Buddhism. The master replied, “There is enough breeze in this fan to keep me cool.”
– Zen mondo

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Today’s poem by Baisao on my calendar is just so lovely, it’s what I want to share today.

The iris pond has flowered
Before the old temple;
I sell tea this evening
By the water’s edge.
It is steeped in the cups
With the moon and stars;
Drink and wake forever
From your worldly sleep.

– Baisao

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There was a piece of advice on my calendar last Friday that I saw again fresh this morning when I went to turn the page. It’s good advice, if you get what it’s trying to say:

See as if for the first time a beautiful person or an ordinary object.
– Shiva

Lately I’ve caught myself unconsciously judging again. For some reason I’ve become quite aware of all my judgements and feelings about a thing when I look at it — for example, right now I see my sweater, and I have a quick rush of “I love that sweater. It’s so freaking cold in here. It’s a travesty we have to wear two layers of sweaters in the summer.” Each sight we see or sound we hear can bring in a whole rush of ideas and images and feelings that really aren’t about that exact sight or sound, just what we’ve come to associate with it.

While this is all a great survival technique, it can get in the way of living. When we’re distracted by our past experiences and expectations, we miss something about what’s there in front of us right now. We’ll miss subtle changes, and we can also lose sight of freshness and insights. It all becomes a big subconscious habit that keeps us from being spontaneous and free.

So yeah, I’m going back to practicing seeing things and quieting the flood of judgement, instead trying to get a fresh first impression. Already I’m feeling it, like a little bit of weight from the past is lifting away.

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I took a bit of a time off from meaningful thought while I pushed through an illness and some highly technical thought. Now I’m making it a point to start up again, with a thought about thought! Well, at least, consciousness.

There’s an interview on Salon with Alva Noe, author of “Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons From the Biology of Consciousness”. I think the title of the book sums up what it’s about pretty nicely! I really like how he closed his interview with a pretty good perspective:

The dominant view in neuroscience today represents us as if we were strangers in an alien environment. It says that we go about gathering information, building up representations, performing calculations and making choices based on that data. But in reality, when we get up in the morning we put our feet on the floor and start to walk. We take the floor for granted and the world supports us, houses us, facilitates us and enables us to carry on whatever our tasks might be. That kind of fluency, that kind of flow, is, I think, a fundamental feature of our lives. Our fitting into the world is not an illusion created by our brains, it’s a fundamental truth about our nature. That’s what I mean by home sweet home.

– Alva Noe


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This whole week has been a long line of “hurry up and slow down”, and it’s only Tuesday. So, I’m going to share the two quotes from my calendar from over the weekend:

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
– Lao-Tsu, Tao Te Ching

Our lives … are but a little while, so let them run as sweetly as you can, and give no thought to grief from day to day. For time is not concerned to keep our hopes, but hurries on its business, and is gone.
– Euripides

… and then, come to think, a final quote maybe I’ll talk more about another time:

There’s time enough for everything worth having.
– Me

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Today’s thought comes with a visual aid, a comic that I felt illustrates the danger of overly identifying with a prescribed role.  See, I was thinking this morning about titles and labels and how they can mislead somebody into thinking they know what you’re about (maybe even you!), in a way that isn’t quite accurate.  Hm.  That was a complex way of putting it.  I’ll just jump to the visual which you probably read first anyway:

Rubes comic 2/26/09

Rubes 2/26/09

THAT is what I’m talking about.  We can’t put too much weight into titles, positions, etc., because that can lead us into mistaking an ordinary everyday moment for something of eternally monumental cosmos-changing action (and vice versa).  Mistaking another ordinary person like us for someone who is supernaturally different in every way.

This is on my mind because I was thinking about how I don’t especially call myself Zen or Taoist, but I will use those as adjectives to describe my flavors of thought.  They influence me, but I don’t want to be mistaken for those being my only flavors.  Just like I don’t call myself Buddhist or Sikh or Hindu or Shinto or even Christian, even though those can be part of me from a little to a lot in very personal ways.

It seems it can be really good for people who DO use those descriptors for themselves, if they really do identify as being part of those very large and diverse groups.  That is, except where somebody thinks they know exactly what every, say, Muslim should think and do and mis-identify you and your thoughts and actions based on that prejudgement.

I’m rambling again.  I give myself only 5-7 minutes to do these, so I’d better just sum up.

One of my favorite ice creams is the Tagalong ice cream (as in the Girl Scout cookies).  I’m mostly-vegan and allergic to animal protein, but sometimes it’s exactly what brings me joy, so there you go.

Tagalong ice cream is a peanut butter chocolate vanilla ice cream.  It’s not completely peanut butter, but it has this really yum rich ribbon of it all throughout.  Same for the chocolate/fudge stripe all through it.  The main ice cream itself is vanilla, but it’s not really just vanilla because every bite has those other stripes in it.  So while it’s peanut butter chocolate vanilla ice cream, it’s not really peanut butter.  Or chocolate.  Or even vanilla.  Those are all different things, they just join together to flavor the ice cream.

And then I can put it on top of this incredibly thick and rich chocolate mud cake and drizzle chocolate and caramel sauce over it, which transforms it up to an even nummier dish entirely…

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In zen, a mondo is a saying or story where the point isn’t to tell something, but more to kind of ask something of the person who reads or hears it.  And for that person, the point isn’t so much to answer the question in the story, but more to realize they have the answer to a larger question that the story doesn’t even mention.  It’s another of zen’s many little ways of both trying to snap us into spontenaiety and to help zen teachers (sometimes called roshi) tell where their students are at.

One mondo tells about a time Suzuki Roshi was giving a talk to his students.  He said that life was impossible.  One of his students asked, “If it’s impossible, how can we do it?”

The reply was, “You do it every day.”

My first thought was along the lines that life isn’t something to DO, or accomplish, because ‘accomplishing life’ really is impossible.  It’s something to experience though, and that’s something that’s worth the daily doing.  That’s not “the right answer”, just something that sparked for me in the everyday.

But then, I like something sparking for me every day. 🙂

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