--“Depression II” by Marion Patrick
This letter includes a few small insights taken from my 60 years of inner-travel (I do like the sound of that). I've shared these thoughts near and far —with family, close friends, sometimes complete strangers, a few high schoolers, and now you. My words are small footprints— simple snippets of a heart's journey. But I think the essence to what I am trying to say is here.
My life’s purpose wasn't always to bless. Transformative change is arduous, ongoing, and never ending. It involves the unlocking and releasing of emotional and physical pain. It thrives on mega doses of humility. So as I write please know that judgement is not my intent. For I am a true believer in first aiming my considerations homeward—at myself. As Jesus so profoundly stated,
“Take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother or sister's eye."
There are few wiser words.
The great thing about being alive, or at least some semblance of it, is the endless opportunity to go deeper, to expand one's inner domain —leading the heart to clearer waters. In such places Love's dazzling waves shimmer, and delight the human spirit. Equally true, life requires us to passionately work to rise above the psychological (mental) noise that "separates us from our own authenticity" and "sense of well being." Only in doing both can we begin to know the face of freedom.
So why can we love so deeply and in the next breathe spew fire with equal intensity? Why can we dance to life's enchanting beat and yet wallow in an abyss of hopeless fear? Who and what are we beyond the stuff inside these bags of skin we call ourselves? Why do we so often block the heart and choose the head that leads us to places we are ill-prepared to go? It can make a person feel unhinged—like trying to bite one's own teeth (Alan Watts)! In my own case healing was (and is) a process — slowly, and sometimes painfully challenging one’s cleverly crafted existence. In the past the fruit of my labor was mostly a disingenuous universe: an inauthentic existence —disconnected, lacking truth, manipulative, controlling, and often dishonest. Granted, these behaviors could be subtle to the eye and ear, but they were full throttled drama living inside of me. You name the mark missed, I was its chief archer! Why all the charades? Why the self fabricating illusions? I have my theories. Looking back, it is clear that all of this crazy chaos served as the prelude to a future that held a brighter promise. Symbolically, my aimless journey served much like a piece of jewelers velvet, highlighting an exquisitely placed gem. The darkened fabric, my misguided ways —the diamond resting on it, Life abundant. In retrospect a new sense of openness was headed my way requiring an honest look at Me and the destructive behaviors I’d embraced. Maybe “wisdom’s touch” was the kind hand prodding me from unconscious slumber—to begin to see all manner of things from the Heart. Call it “seeing from the core,” “the third eye," or “abiding in the spirit" —I recognized it as “practicing an honest heart.” The Book of Proverbs states,
“There's a way that seemeth right unto man, but in the end thereof is our complete undoing."
The first half of that statement was my old mantra. I carried a running, misinformed commentary in my head that never ceased. Thus, I acted accordingly. There were times where I couldn’t differentiate the commentary from the commentator. I was that voice in my head! As a result I acted out like a neurotic little god running his paltry domain. I judged, cast friends and foes alike aside, reveled in others failures, and overall was a wretched mess! In the end I became overwhelmed by the physical and emotional weight of maintaining a life I’d cunningly constructed. My little kingdom was coming undone. Bei, as I once knew him was approaching his final curtain. His universe, or more accurately his misguided consciousness, was imploding! Interestingly, I think my situation paralleled a simple principal in nature: a consuming fire later becomes the ground for a forest’s regeneration. A similar renewal process was working in me.
So my good friend, you’ve been let down by others, countless times I’ll assume. Most recently by a near and dear friend. And, to make matters worse anger, even rage flashes it’s ugly head to deepen your pain. I am so very sorry. Your agony must feel like a Boa constrictor compressing the life right out of you. No doubt there are countless reasons why your anger seems justified. I've certainly experienced similar battles in the attitude arena of "I've been burned." Anger (or disconnect) comes at a very steep price: estrangement from family, friends and often separation from humanity at large. It took me years and an immersion into humility to sort through my malaise of mental entanglements— to ultimately find some clarity of heart and mind. Throughout this long process “a growing awareness” revealed a misguided perspective on life and a darkened attitude towards others as the root of my suffering. Worse, for decades that illusion caused extensive emotional pain that rarely left my side. It's not that I wasn't justified in my personal assessments others, or the world around me, but as I would come to learn— abiding in that thought process is a path laden with rusty cans, venomous vermin, and is a treacherous slope only fools travel. As the Buddha stated,
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Before you know it you become the very thing you've so despised in others! Sadly, I became that person. This is why as a father, grandfather, friend, teacher and sometimes mentor I have always been quick to challenge the concept of throwing fireballs (even if seemingly justified). Once they are thrown it's difficult to take them back. Being trapped in our minds, disconnected from the heart, can quickly cause anyone to descend into a hellish state of being, and act out accordingly. No one should have to travel that road (yet sadly many do).
After years of study and journeying around the planet you returned home, and back into our lives. Do you remember your first visit? Listening to your embellishments stirred me to make this comment, "if you didn't try so hard to be something beyond the real you you’d absolutely shine? I meant that. I still do. I think you are an amazing young woman. You are insightful beyond your years. Your energy, your driving spirit and your tenacity are all beyond measure. I also see someone emotionally guarded, on a mission to prove something (whatever that is), carrying with her a deeply rooted melancholic history. At times your face can light up the darkest sky, but equally your eyes speak with great sorrow. I know it hurts. I do not know your history and I don't pretend to know your pain, but I have slowly come to know my own. Haunted for decades it robbed me of my joy, and it kept me from the deepest measures of love. Thankfully, slowly but surely, heartfelt awareness soothed, softened and ultimately strengthened me—and as a consequence the greatest of gifts bestowed itself within: I could breath again!
Know that you are loved immensely. There is no judgment at this end of the fence, only compassion. We miss your presence.
All My Love,
---“Path to Wisdom” - By LEONID
Talking about a path is not walking that path.
Thinking about life is not living.
Lao-tzu was neither a priest nor a follower of any religious belief system. He was a patient observer of the flow of life. He watched the wind move the clouds across the sky and the rain soak the earth. He watched rivers flow through wide valleys and tumble down mountain canyons. He watched the crane stand patiently by the lakeside, waiting on one leg until the water cleared to reveal a fish. He considered the contentment of the turtle sitting in the mud. He observed crops flourish one year and fail the next. He watched the seasons come and go. He saw the wonder of all things rising and falling, coming and going, living and dying. He came to understand that this wonder cannot be captured by words and concepts. It can be talked about, yet never captured. It can be thought about, yet never fathomed. It can only be experienced.
The legends that surround the formation of the Tao Te Ching illustrate Lao-tzu's reluctance to put his teachings into written words. One such legend speaks of a time when he became so fed up with the politics of repression in the China of his day that he got on his ox and left the country. But the border guard would not let him leave until he wrote down his wisdom for all to share. Lao-tzu said, "If I write it down it will no longer be the Tao." Nevertheless, the guard would not let him leave until he wrote something. So Lao-tzu dismounted his ox, sat in the shade of a tree, and in one afternoon wrote the short text of poetic wisdom you now have in your hands.
Legend? Undoubtedly, but a legend that speaks to the very nature of this path. It is a path of direct experience, not of abstract philosophy. It is a way of looking with clarity at the processes of life as they are, not as we think they should be. It is a path that must be walked moment by moment, and not discussed in endless words.
Yet using thoughts and words to make sense of our experience is what we humans do. It is part of our nature. Lao-tzu uses words in short poetic stanzas so that they may serve as guides and gateways to direct experience rather than as mere abstractions and distractions. This sometimes frustrates our Western conditioning, which has come to expect things to be explained without ambiguity or paradox. Such an approach forces us again and again to return to our own experience of life rather than rely on the words and teachings of others.
Directly experiencing life is not something we do easily. By the time we are adults, our experience is mediated through a multitude of conceptual filters that provide a constant commentary about our life, but that ignore the thing itself. This process is so deeply conditioned in most of us that we don't even notice it. We wander through day after day with our minds spinning an endless stream of thoughts, judgments, hopes, fantasies, critiques, and plans, all mixed with a babble of advertising jingles and fragments of television shows.
Lao-tzu suggests that this habitual commentary on life, though a natural part of being human, is not the same thing as a fully lived life. At the same time, he does not totally discount the conceptual thinking process. We make a certain kind of sense out of our life through the use of categories, thoughts, and words. But, as he suggests in chapter 1, these thoughts and words are gateways to life, not life itself.
How is it for you? Does the commentary in your head serve as a gateway to the deeper mystery of life? Or are you, like most of us, deeply caught in the never-ending round of judgment, effort, worry, striving, comparing, desiring, hoping, dreaming, and all the other distractions that keep you from the actual, sometimes frightening, intensity of a direct experience of life?
William Martin — A Path and a Practice: Using Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching as a Guide to an --Awakened Spiritual Life