Main Street – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Reading my Lapham’s Quarterly – Book of Nature, I came across “Main Street” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  As this very blog is a testament, I am fascinated by the passage of time and it seems Mr. Hawthorne sees it in much the same way and was as enthralled by it as I.

Here are my favorite entries from “Main Street” by Nathaniel Hawthorne:

In my daily walks along the principal street of my native town, it has often occurred to me that if its growth from infancy upward, and the vicissitude of characteristic scenes that have passed along this thoroughfare during the more than two centuries of its existence, could be presented to the eye in a shifting panorama, it would be an exceedingly effective method of illustrating the march of time.

He goes on to explain how a puppet show might accomplish this and then begins with a description of the first scene.

This is the ancient and primitive wood – the ever-youthful and venerably old-verdant with new twigs yet hoary, as it were, with the snowfall of innumerable years that have accumulated upon its intermingled branches.  The white man’s axe has never smitten a single tree, his footstep has never crumpled a single one of the withered leaves, which all the autumns since the flood have been harvesting beneath.

He continues to describe the ancient, un-spoilt land until enter a few Native Americans.  My favorite passage here is this:

But greater would be the affright of the Indian necromancer if, mirrored in the pool of water at his feet, he could catch a prophetic glimpse of the noonday marvels which the white man is destined to achieve; if he could see, as in a dream, the stone front of the stately hall, which will cast its shadow over this very spot; if he could be aware that the future edifice will contain a noble museum where, among countless curiosities of earth and sea, a few Indian arrowheads shall be treasure up as memorials of a vanished race!

No such forebodings disturb the Squaw Sachem and Wappacowet.  They pass on beneath the tangled shade, holding high talk on matters of state and religion, and imagine, doubtless, that their own system of affairs will endure forever.

As I wrote the quotes above I was reminded that I had written something similar earlier this year about Lake Tahoe.  Here is a quote of mine from this very blog:  http://www.mcurtin.com/2016/03/journal-entry-3-10-2016/

On this trip I had learned that Lake Tahoe wasn’t inhabited until the 1800s except for perhaps a few small Indian tribes who came to trade with each other only in the past 300 years or so.  To see the grandeur of Lake Tahoe, it’s uncountable, innumerable boulders and pines, and breathtaking mountain slopes leaves me awestruck.  To further think that there was nobody here for most of history, only a few animals, makes me want to travel back in time and sit on a mountain ledge overlooking the lake in quiet meditation.  I would sit in meditation from the end of the last ice age and watch the lake be formed while the melting ice released many ton boulders all over the landscape.  I’d hear the wind rustling through the pines on a beautiful summer day just after I heard the snow falling off them as it began to melt at the end of winter.  I’d notice the generations of bears as new ones are born while the aged ones die off in an endless pattern, repeating itself decade after decade and century after century.

I would welcome the Indians who come in spring to trade with their neighbors on the other side of the mountain range.  They did not linger as winter was unforgiving.  It would only be with the arrival of the first white man, who would go on to subsequently decimate the landscape that I would end my meditation and turn to the current year.  A year which if I ride my mountain bike to a very remote part of the mountain trail and pause in thought; that I can repeat my journey and in a moment, experience thousands of years of solitude in the timeless landscape that is Lake Tahoe.

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

I’ve finally finished The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche.  I began reading it many years ago but only made it about halfway.  I picked it up again half a year ago when I became interested in mediation and thought it might offer some insights.  Needless to say it has taken quite a while to finish due to limited free time.

Overall I enjoyed the book and agree with many of his points.  Western society, American society in particular, is a vast spiritual wasteland focused on distraction, money and the exultation of the ego and self.  Spiritual development should be ingrained in society as a whole, not just a trip to a church for an hour once a week.

I also like the main points of Buddhism such as a focus on meditation, compassion, the idea that developing oneself spiritually is the most important thing one can do in this life and that this life and death are all in the mind.

These are all wonderful things and I’ve highlighted many quotes.  However, I’ve seen things along similar lines before in the Catholic church.  It took me a very long time of study, travel and critical thinking to realize the truth.  The truth is that these religions are for the most part made up;  they are man’s explanations for that which we cannot explain or even comprehend.  And so, even though I do like and agree with much in this book I cannot accept many of the things he says and I’d like to document my disagreements and doubts.

Sogyal Rinpoche paints a picture of Tibet being a wonderfully spiritual place where everyone is happy and on the road to enlightenment.  He does not mention the reality that there were cast-like hierarchies, slaves, pervasive serfdom, inequality and in my opinion looked like a society stuck in the Middle Ages.  He absolutely eviscerates the Chinese a few times in the book and I have no doubt that they were/are terribly cruel and life is better without a foreign entity running over your country.  But between the two versions of Tibetan life, one presented by aristocratic monks kicked out of their country and the other by the Chinese communist invaders, it is always wise to know that the truth will lie somewhere in the middle.

the vinegar tasters
the vinegar tasters

But in any event, it does not appear that life was very good for the ordinary Tibetans.  The Buddhists say that this realm is called samsara and it is part of a cycle of suffering.  I have to ask this if perhaps the ruling monks had spent a little less time focusing on the afterlife/future births and a little more time on being good rulers for the welfare of their people, then perhaps there wouldn’t have to be much suffering.  I for one do not subscribe to their idea that this life is all about suffering but can equally be about joy!  There is a famous painting called the Vinegar Tasters who represent the founders of China’s three main religions.  It is Buddha who wears the sour face as this life is all about pain and suffering.  I prefer Laozi, who brought Taoism who has no expression.  For him, this realm is neither good nor bad, just another manifestation of the Tao.  I agree that this existence can be good or bad, either way, it all resides in the mind.  To illustrate, I’ve seen people in the worst conditions with smiles on their faces, and people in the highest positions of wealth and power that are constantly unhappy.

In regards to spiritual authority Sogyal Rinpoche does follow the same script as the Catholic church.  One cannot find salvation, aka Enlightenment, except through institutional authority.  In the Catholic church this is through Jesus, but to get to Jesus you’ll need baptism, priests and participation in the various sacraments, attending church, going to confession and so on; salvation is not something you can do on your own without their assistance.  In Buddhism, I learned that their “savior” is Padmasambhava and all wisdom brought down through the masters begins with him.  He stresses that you cannot become enlightened on your own but will need the knowledge passed down from Padmasambhava, through the masters where it currently resides in the heads of today’s monks.  Once again, the ultimate goal is kept behind a locked door where only a few oddly dressed people possess the key.

There is also the matter of sexual scandals.  Like the Catholic church, these monks also have their sex scandals and I was shocked to learn that Sogyal Rinpoche has one as well; there is even a documentary about it!  “In the Name of Enlightenment – Sex Scandal in Religion.”  Here I was, enjoying a different take on the afterlife and learning what a serene, contemplative, peaceful and joyful life can look like and then discover he is not much better than his Catholic counterparts in regards to scandal.  Make no mistake, if you’re peddling higher truths then you’re held to a higher standard then the rest of us rabble.  No need to spell out details but as the story usually goes a father and daughter are spellbound by the Buddhist siren song, daughter enters the “inner circle” and is then used for sex.  This is very bad for what is supposed to be a pious monk and although quite awful is not as awful as priests abusing little boys so at least there was some consent in this case.

Further investigation revealed that like most religious institutions dominated by men there is a lot of misconduct by these “pious monks.” Apparently there was a petition to have the Dalai Lama condemn the monks who were involved in scandal which he refused to do.  At least the Catholics are trying to clean house a little but it appears the Tibetan Buddhists continue to wallow in it.  I think a great way to clean this all up would be to just acknowledge that sex is natural and let religious folk be free to go do it with those who freely consent.

Although this type of conduct does add a lot of stain, I think it rests on the individual monks and not necessarily the actual teachings.  There is a lot of wisdom in what they say and I felt compelled to highlight many of them in Sogyal’s Rinpoche’s book.

Quotes from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Could it be more ironic that young people are so highly educated in every subject except the one that holds the key to the entire meaning of life, and perhaps to our very survival?

What more chilling commentary on the modern world could there be than that most people die unprepared for death, as they have lived, unprepared for life?

Realization of the nature of mind, which you could call our innermost essence, that truth we all search for, is the key to understanding life and death.  For what happens at the moment of death is that the ordinary mind and its delusions die, and in that gap the boundless sky-like nature of our mind is uncovered.  This essential nature of mind is the background to the whole of life and death, like the sky, which folds the whole universe in its embrace.

Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are.  We believe in a personal, unique, and separate identity; but if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up:  our name, our “biography,” our partners, family, home, job, friends, credit cards….”

Without our familiar props, we are faced with just ourselves, a person we do not know, an unnerving stranger with who we have been living all the time but we never really wanted to meet.  Isn’t that why we have tried to fill every moment of time with noise and activity, however boring or trivial, to ensure that we are never left in silence with this stranger on our own?

We spend our youth being educated.  Then we find a job, and meet someone, marry, and have children.  We buy a house, try to make a success of our business, aim for dreams like a country house or a second car.  We go away on holiday with our friends.  We plan for retirement.  The biggest dilemmas some of us ever have to face are where to take our next holiday or whom to invite at Christmas.  our lives are monotonous, petty, and repetitive, wasted in the pursuit of the trivial, because we seem to know of nothing better.
**Reminds me of the song “Little Boxes” by Pete Seeger which is along similar lines.

the only truly serious goals in life are “learning to love other people and acquiring knowledge.”

And yet all these changes are no more real than a dream.  When you look deeply, you realize there is nothing that is permanent and constant, nothing, not even the tiniest hair on your body.

Reflect on this:  The realization of impermanence is paradoxically the only thing we can hold onto, perhaps only our lasting possession.

The only thing we really have is nowness, is now.

Ask yourself these two questions:  Do I remember at every moment that I am dying, and everyone and everything else is, and so treat all beings at all times with compassion?  Has my understanding of death and impermanence become so keen and so urgent that I am devoting every second to the pursuit of enlightenment?  If you can answer ‘yes’ to both of these, then you have really understood impermanence.

You see, we are all dying.  It is only a matter of time.  Some of us just die sooner than others.

We are terrified of letting go, terrified, in fact, of living at all, since learning to live is learning to let go.  And this is the tragedy and the irony of our struggle to hold on:  not only is it impossible, but it brings us the very pain we are seeking to avoid.

The still revolutionary insight of Buddhism is that life and death are in the mind, and nowhere else.

The first is the ordinary mind, called by the Tibetans sem. / The masters liken sem to a candle flame in an open doorway, vulnerable to all the winds of circumstance. / Ringpa, a primordial, pure, pristine awareness that is at once intelligent, cognizant, radiant and always awake. / essential nature of mind.  Christians and Jews call it “God”; Hindus call it “the Self,” “Shiva,” “Brahman,” and “Vishnu”; Sufi mystics name it “the Hidden Essence”; and Buddhists call it “buddha nature.”

Imagine an empty vase.  The space inside is exactly the same as the space outside.  Only the fragile walls of the vase separate one from the other.  Our buddha mind is enclosed within the walls of our ordinary mind.

In a world dedicated to distraction, silence and stillness terrify us; we protect ourselves from them with noise and frantic busyness.

The central truth of Buddha’s teaching: that we are already essentially perfect.
*Christianity teaches us that we were born with sin that needs purification.  🙁

The irony is that it is our so-called ordinary world that is extraordinary, a fantastic, elaborate hallucination of the deluded vision of samsara.  It is this “extraordinary” vision that blinds us to the “ordinary,” natural, inherent nature of mind.

The gift of learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life.  For it is only through meditation that you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and so find the stability and confidence you will need to live, and die, well.  Meditation is the road to enlightenment.

“Master, how do you put enlightenment into action?  How do you practice it in everyday life?”
“By eating and by sleeping,” replied the master.
“But Master, everybody sleeps and everybody eats.”
“But not everybody eats when they eat, and not everybody sleeps when they sleep.”
From this comes the famous Zen saying, “When I eat, I eat; when I sleep, I sleep.”
To eat when you eat and sleep when you sleep means to be completely present in all your actions, with none of the distractions of ego to stop you being there.

There are so many ways of making the approach to meditation as joyful as possible.  You can find the music that most exalts you and use it to open your heart and mind.  You can collect pieces of poetry, or quotations or lines of teachings that over the years have moved you, and keep them always at hand to elevate your spirit.
**I know somebody who does this already!  😉

If you want to know your past life, look into your present condition; if you want to know your future life, look at your present actions.”

Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world
All comes from desiring myself to be happy

Anakin Skywalker: The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inward, only about themselves.
Chancellor Palpatine: And the Jedi don’t?
Anakin Skywalker: The Jedi are selfless. They only care about others.

You know, don’t you, that actually all these things around us go away, just go away….

In the depths of our being we know that the self does not inherently exist.  From this secret, unnerving knowledge, spring all our fundamental insecurities and fear.

you will realize that both the noblest and the wisest thing to do is to cherish others instead of cherishing yourself.  This will bring healing to your heart, healing to your mind, and healing to your spirit.

there was never any ego at all to begin with.  To realize that is called “egolessness.”

the purpose of life on earth is to achieve union with our fundamental, enlightened nature.

Our society is dedicated almost entirely to the celebration of ego, with all its sad fantasies about success and power, and it celebrates those very forces of greed and ignorance that are destroying the planet.

follow with complete sincerity the path that inspires you most.  Read the great spiritual books of all the traditions, come to some understanding of what the masters might mean by liberation and enlightenment, and find out which approach to absolute reality really attracts and suits you most.

The most essential thing in life is to establish an unafraid, heartfelt communication with others, and it is never more important than with a dying person.

Don’t try to be too wise; don’t always try to search for something profound to say.  You don’t have to do or say anything to make things better.  Just be there as fully as you can.

The Buddhist masters speak of the need to die consciously with as lucid, unblurred, and serene a mental mastery as possible. / The masters tell us that we should die peacefully, “without grasping, yearning, and attachment.”

When you rest in the nature of mind and see all things directly as “empty,” illusory, and dream-like, you are resting in the state of what is known as “ultimate” or “absolute” Bodhichitta, the true heart of the enlightened mind.

Liberation arises at that moment in the after-death state when consciousness can realize its experiences to be nothing other than the mind itself. / Once we mistake the appearances as separate from us, as “external visions,” we respond with fear or hope, which leads us into delusion.

Don’t let us half die with our loved ones, then; let us try to live, after they have gone, with greater fervor.

the essential and most important qualities in life are love and knowledge, compassion and wisdom.  They are surely beginning to see what the bardo teachings tell us:  that life and death are in the mind itself.

Recognize this infinite variety of appearances as a dream,
As nothing but the projections of your mind, illusory and unreal.
Without grasping at anything, rest in the wisdom of your Ringpa,
that transcends all concepts:
This is the heart of the practice for the bardo of this life.

You are bound to die soon, and nothing then will be of any real help.
What you experience in death is only your own conceptual thinking.
Without fabricating any thoughts, let them all die into the vast expanse of your Ringpa’s self-awareness:
This is the heart of the practice for the bardo of dying.

Whatever grasps at appearance or disappearance, as being good or bad, is your mind.
And this mind itself is the self-radiance of the Dharmakaya, just whatever arises.
Not to cling to the risings, make concepts out of them, accept or reject them:
This is the heart of the practice for the bardo of dharmata

Samsara is your mind, and nirvana is also your mind,
All pleasure and pain, and all delusions exist nowhere apart from your mind.
To attain control over your own mind;
This is the heart of the practice for the bardo of becoming.

Spiritual training, after all, is the highest and in some ways the most demanding form of education.

As he mentions toward the end of his book, one great way to practice the teachings and stay motivated is to write down quotes and listen to music that inspire you; then you can pull them up whenever needed.  With this blog, I’ve been doing that for a long time and will be referring to the quotes in this post as I continue my own journey in trying to understand what it is all about.

Perhaps it really is the hokey pokey.

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Quotes – Letters To A Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke

I was introduced to this poet by my friend Nga earlier this year.  She asked if I had ever read Letters To a Young Poet after I had introduced her to The Tao of Pooh.  I had never heard of Rilke but kept him in my mind as someone whose works I should read.  I then saw him mentioned again in the book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (Page 40. “The Western poet Rainer Maria Rilke has said that our deepest fears are like dragons guarding our deepest treasure.” / Pg 320.  “As Rilke wrote, the protected hear that is ‘never exposed to loss, innocent and secure, cannot know tenderness; only the won-back heart can ever be satisfied:  free, through all it has given up, to rejoice in its mastery.'”) I then knew I should waste no more time and began to read his letters.  His very first letter seemed as though he was speaking directly to me as his advice about writing is something I’ve been doing for most of my life.  As far as I know I’m the only one who keeps a life journal in which I write down my thoughts freely.  I have a very acute sense of the passage of time and want to record my memories, and experiences; I want to live life as fully as possible.  Every experience, every memory is a jewel and this blog is my treasure vault, my greatest possession.  Sometimes I feel as though I’m simply a tourist, experiencing an interactive ride that moves along a predetermined path, yet sometimes, and with great effort can I change the course of the ride (or perhaps how I experience it) if I wish.  Perhaps another soul is beginning this same ride in an identical amusement park and living the same experiences I now call memories?

I get ahead of myself.  This post is to record quotes by Rilke, many of which give me confidence that what I do with this blog is not crazy, I’m not alone.  It is as though he is a kindred spirit; and although I am certainly no poet and have only read his letters very recently, I have written according to his advice for many years and had many of these same thoughts.

Letters to a Young Poet
By Rainer Maria Rilke

Letter One – February 17th, 1903

“Things aren’t all so tangible and sayable as people would usually have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsay able than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.”

“This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.”

“So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty Describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember.”

“And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sound – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attention to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance.”

“Sir, I can’t give you any advice but this: to go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to, the question of whether you must create.”

Letter Three – April 23rd, 1903

“In it there is nothing that does not seem to have been understood, held, lived, and known in memory’s wavering echo; no experience has been too unimportant, and the smallest event unfolds like a fate, and fate itself is like a wonderful, wide fabric in which every thread is guided by an infinitely tender hand and laid alongside another thread and is held and supported by a hundred others.”

Letter Four – July 16th, 1903

“If you trust in Nature, in what is simple in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge.”

For those who are near you are far away, you write, and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast. And if what is near you is far away, then your vastness is already among the stars and is very great; be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

Letter Six – December 23rd 1903

“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours – that is what you must be able to attain. To be solitary as you were when you were a child, when the grownups walked around involved with matters that seemed large and important because they looked so busy and because you didn’t understand a thing about what they were doing.

And when you realize that their activities are shabby, that their vocations are petrified and no longer connected with life, why not then continue to look upon it all as a child would, as if you were looking at something unfamiliar, out of the depths of your own world, from the vastness of your own solitude, which is itself work and status and vocation? Why should you want to give up a child’s wise not-understanding in exchange for defensiveness and scorn, since not understanding is, after all, a way of being alone, whereas defensiveness and scorn are a participation in precisely what, by these means, you want to separate yourself from.”

Letter Eight – August 12th, 1904

“We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it. This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us. The fact that people have in this sense been cowardly has done infinite harm to life; the experiences that are called it apparitions, the whole so-called “spirit world,” death, all these Things that are so closely related to us, have through our daily defensiveness been so entirely pushed out of life that the senses with which we might have been able to grasp them have atrophied. To say nothing of God.”

“For it is not only indolence that causes human relationships to be repeated from case to case with such unspeakable monotony and boredom; it is timidity before any new, inconceivable experience, which we don’t think we can deal with. But only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being.”

the Tao of Pooh

I just finished reading the Tao of Pooh and I enjoyed it very much.  I know nothing of Taoism but through the book the basic principles were easily explained.  Without acting like the ‘desiccated scholar’ and going point by point and referencing this and that I think I’d like to summarize the points I think I learned that most appeal to me.

the vinegar tasters
the vinegar tasters

I like the idea of just ‘being,’ to just appreciate the moment by seeing what is already in front of me.  In this ‘modern society’ my brain has been trained to race to accomplish this task then accomplish that like a ‘Bisy Backson.’ My mind tells me I need to turn on the TV, look at my smart phone or find some other type of distraction.  But if I just sit still and appreciate the moment I can hear the birds outside, I hear the bubbling of my fish tank and I can see the flowers in my garden swaying in the breeze.  It is in these moments of quiet that I’m at peace.  It is a very difficult thing to quiet the mind as thoughts calling me to go engage in some activity continually enter my mind and I physically have a hard time sitting still or meditating for more than five minutes.

I’ve only tipped a toe in the ocean that is Taoism through this beautiful book but I’ve found so many nuggets of great wisdom that I pulled out my highlighter and would like to write them down here for easy reference as I do not yet have the ability to immediately recall everything in every book that I’ve ever read as my mind is already forgetful at the ripe age of 38.

When you discard arrogance, complexity and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block:  Life is Fun.

I knew this; it occurred to me around the age of 34 when I’d been in the USA for a few years and finally time to think and reflect after traveling the world and all that I had experienced.  Living overseas and learning different languages gave me a certain amount of confidence and through this confidence I no longer needed to compare myself with others.  I had done something unique and for me that was worth more than material things that many in our society base their own self worth on – diamond rings – expensive cars anyone?  My young son also influence me by his excitement of the world and how he found bugs simply fascinating.  I too took a closer look at bugs and through this was able to rediscover how interesting my own backyard can be let alone the rest of the world!  Along with my newfound confidence and the amazing insights of my son I was free to fully enjoy what other ‘adults’ might find silly as they are mostly concerned with Very Serious Subjects for Very Serious People;  or sports, but sports can be serious to serious people.

Brain can be fooled.  Inner Nature, when relied on, cannot be fooled.  But many people do not look at it or listen to it, and consequently do not understand themselves very much.  Having little understanding of themselves, they have little respect for themselves, and are therefore easily influenced by others.

The idea of listening to your heart, or inner nature, or that little voice – whatever you want to call it – really appeals to me.  Our society is literally polluted with noise, propaganda, sales pitches, things that are trying to get you to think in a certain way.  As I mentioned above I find it hard to meditate or even sit still for more than a few moments as I’ve been trained to be a task-doer and have to process or ignore a complete barrage of noise every single day.  I have made it a priority to find quiet time everyday in which to empty my mind, think of nothing and try to actually listen to my inner nature; I want to give it a chance in between the shouting of my Brain that rudely interrupts with random thoughts.

Our Bisy Backson religions, sciences, and business ethics have tried their hardest to convince us that there is a Great Reward waiting for us somewhere, and that what we have to do is spend our lives working like lunatics to catch up with it.  Whether it’s up in the sky, behind the next molecule, or in the executive suite, it’s somehow always farther along than we are – just down the road, on the other side of the world, past the moon, beyond the stars….

There is never enough, we always must do more.  In our society we are trained to never be content with what we have, with who we are.  If I had to describe the USA in 2016 in one word I would say “more.”  Our entire system is based on spending more, acquiring more, doing more, progressing more.  To just sit down and appreciate who we are, what we have does not compute in this society.  And in the business world it is even worse.  Every boss everywhere could simply be replaced with a parrot who continually repeats “more.”  Best sales year ever?  “More.”  Highest profits ever recorded?  “More.”

The main problem however is in our own minds.  “The grasping mind,” always wants more, is never satisfied.  Happy is he who can sit down on a park bench, feel the breeze and say to himself, “I am content.”  Or better yet, “I am happy.”  This is very hard thing when you have the trifecta of society, work and religion all telling you “more, more, more.”

Looking back a few years, we see that the first Bisy Backsons in this part of the world, the Puritans, practically worked themselves to death in the fields without getting much of anything in return for their tremendous efforts.

“Say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said.
“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
Yes, but—–”
“Why ruin it?” he said.
“But you could be doing something Important,” I said.
“I am,” said Pooh.
“Oh? Doing what?”
“Listening,” he said.
“Listening to what?”
“To the birds.  And that squirrel over there.”
“What are they saying?” I asked
“That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh
“But you know that already,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s always good to hear that somebody else thinks so, too,” he replied.”

Anyway, from the Miserable Puritan came the Restless Pioneer, and from him, the Lonely Cowboy, always riding off into the sunset, looking for something just down the trail.  From this rootless, dissatisfied ancestry has come the Bisy Backson

It’s not surprising, therefore, that the Backson thinks of progress in terms of fighting and overcoming.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  The fight against “____.” Insert just about anything in the blank and it has been used in American society the past forty years.  I’ve written a lot about this in my blog and in fact got so tired of all the fighting wrote a nice little rant just a little while ago:  Fight everything everywhere

Another reason this book really appeals to me is how it references Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  That became one of my favorite books these past couple of years and strengthened my belief that I was not crazy for wanting to appreciate the moment, to slow down and just be, even though society keeps screaming ‘more, more more.’  I like to walk in my garden, appreciate sunsets, work less.  I do not like to watch sports and shout at my TV giving instructions to players who cannot hear me.  I would much rather listen to the singing of the birds and feel dew on the grass than sit in a great stadium with everybody screaming for their player to put the ball where it needs to go more than the other team whose fans are screaming the same thing.

Henry David Thoreau put it this way, in Walden:

Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life?  We are determined to be starved before we are hungry.  Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches to-day to save nine tomorrow.

What could we call that moment before we begin to eat the honey?  Some would call it anticipation, but we think it’s more than that.  We would call it awareness.

This occurred to me making Thanksgiving dinner; which takes all day to make but is eaten in the course of half an hour.  It occurred to me that I actually enjoy making the food in preparation and anticipation of a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner than actually sitting down and eating it!  Perhaps it could partly be due to the fact that we invite so many guests I end up having to sit at the kid’s table even though it is my house, my food and I cooked it!  But that isn’t it; the anticipation of something is often more exciting than actually receiving or doing the thing.

Do you want to be really happy?  You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got.

That’s it!

An Empty sort of mind is valuable for finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what’s in front of it.  An Overstuffed mind is unable to.

To see the beauty of what is right in front of me:  the flowers, the trees, the sunsets, my friends and family are all right there, I just need to be able to see clearly.  In order to do that I must quiet Brain and get rid of the never-ending Thoughts telling me to do this, acquire that and see how beautiful life is for who I am and what I’ve already got.

But the adult is not the highest stage of development.  The end of the cycle is that of the independent, clear-minded, all-seeing Child.  That is the level known as wisdom.

I tried to explain this very thought to someone close to me many years ago; I did a terrible job and could not express the thought which is written perfectly above and thus was called crazy.  For me, the quote means that we should return to the awe and excitement children have with just about everything. Life, reality and why anything exists at all is a grand mystery that we should all be excited to be a part of.  We should want to ask infinite questions such as young children do and to pop out of bed running to go get the day started morning after morning.

Well, that is everything I had highlighted in the Tao of Pooh.  I think I’ll go take a walk in my garden.