Ancient Paths, New Journeys


“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls…”

~~Jeremiah 6:16

Hello all :)

A friend and I just returned from Santa Fe, where we did some hiking, some writing and a lot of playing.  We are working on a book about Spirituality and Grief, and I cannot think of a better place to ponder such things than the desert.

I snapped this picture near Skull Bridge, at the Continental Divide Trail (CDT)  near Abiquiu, New Mexico.  The Trail head is just over that bridge and heads south into the Rio Chamas Wilderness area, a gorgeous place no matter what time of year.  I wrote about another trip here in a post titled Smile at Fear if you are interested, you can read that entry from the Blessings Blog here.

It’s funny to me how small the world seems when I sit at my desk and type, when I can instantly communicate with someone in New Mexico or Australia, when I can click a few buttons and pretty much anything I want is at my fingertips.  But the world takes on whole new dimensions when you are actually out in it.  I am often filled with wonder and a deep sense of unease that it is easier to speak with someone hundreds of miles away via text  than it is to walk across the street to talk to a neighbor.   I have a house full of things  my grandmother’s generation was told would save time and make life easier and I suppose in some ways they do.  But time for what?  More work?  TV?   Stress?  Family and friends?  What do we do with this supposed extra time and ease we were granted?  We live in a world moving so fast that when something takes mere seconds I say it is moving slowly. But that’s when I’m inside, dealing with the non-human, unnatural world.   Traipsing around on a trail that literally runs from Mexico to Canada makes the whole thing suddenly come into a more realistic perspective.

One of the reasons I love hiking is that the planet truly takes on a whole new dimension when you are walking through it– deserts and woods are not like other places.   For one thing, they are huge, but more than that they are full of wonder and scenery, challenge and  solitude, hope and a sense that we are not alone.  Interestingly, when I get away from all the stuff that is supposed to save me time, I have all the time in the world.  When I get way from the hustle of the millions of people on the planet, the less alone I feel.  Wilderness trails  offer  a chance to reconnect to myself and in doing so I reconnect to my God as well. I love the water, but put me on a trail anywhere, especially in the mountains or the desert, and  I have found my bliss.  A path simply takes you from one civilized place to another, but a trail…Ah, a trail takes you from what we like to call civilization into the unknown.   I believe the further we travel into the Unknown, the more we travel the path the ancients knew led to the Heart.  By doing so, we allow the soul to take the ancient paths which lead to peace and rest.  I think of Augustine’s line,

My soul is restless, O God, until it finds rest in You…

There is something so comforting about knowing that just as this area on the CDT was traveled for centuries before Europeans “discovered” America, so too has the Path of Life has been journeyed for generations before me.  The Prophet Jeremiah wrote those words about ancient paths  sometime around 600 B.C.E.  We really haven’t changed that much in all of the years we’ve roamed this planet…we’ve always been restless, we’ve always sought rest for our weary souls.  Leaders and subjects come and go, tides ebb and flow, children are born and someday die in old age, relationships are complicated and endure, money is made and lost and on and on.  Cravings have always been with us, as has emotional pain and bliss, but time marches on and the search for meaning transcends generations.  This has always been the nature of humans and  I assume this will continue on long after I am gone from this body.  Our technology has changed, but deep down we all want the same things we’ve always wanted…health, love, safety, joy, freedom from suffering, the chance to live and love and enjoy those with whom we live and love.  These are the ancient paths we all walk, and while the details may change, the human story is pretty much the same over time.

The ancient paths are the ones I think we all long for in our depths…we all long to connect to ourselves and loved ones, to something greater than ourselves and to all Life can offer.   Tillich said the word “solitude” reflects the joy of being alone, while the word “lonely” reflects the pain of being alone.  We all need to have time alone to walk the path, to feel the pain and the joy of that “alone-ness” at times.  And while it is comforting to know others have gone before me and I am never alone, the truth is that it is still my path to walk and the choice is mine to walk it.  Growth is optional and not everyone chooses it, but that is also an ancient path.   Buddha said, “You cannot travel the path until you become the path itself,”  and I realize more and more how true that is.   As they say in Zen, the obstacle is the path, and we can only truly travel that path with an open heart.  What fascinates me is that we all have teachers and endless opportunities to open to the path, but we can only apply the lessons within if we choose to do so with an open heart and mind.  So we all travel the path, but our choices can lead to a path of heartache or one of joy.  As usual, discernment is the key.

What the ancients knew, that we all must learn, is that the good path will only open to us as much as we can or will give ourselves to it, without judgment of ourselves or others.  In doing so, eventually we find what all the mystics tell us over and over about the path…such as, we are not punished for our anger, but we can be harmed by our anger.  We are not rewarded for our good deeds, we are rewarded by them, including the ways in which our  immunity and our cellular structure becomes stronger and more resilient as we practice compassion and joy.  The deeper we go, the more love and humility and compassion we find,  thus the more rest we find for our weary souls, which leads to more compassion and humility.   I’ve come to believe essence of true humility is knowing I am neither too much nor too little, and that I don’t have to prove myself to anyone—even me.  But that was one of the lessons of my path, I didn’t come in with that understanding at all.  Like all of us, I grew into it and hopefully will learn to walk this path with a wise  heart.

Just as Jesus said to love one’s neighbor as self, and Buddha said there is no one more deserving of your love than you, we all have to walk the path of embracing our own goodness.  We have all faced demons and struggled on the path.  We have all embraced the path or run from it, not realizing it was all still the same path.  We have all had conflicts with parents or children, friends or bosses, teachers, lovers and maybe even someone we called an enemy.  But choosing the good path leads to rest, and a rested soul is a wise soul, and wise souls usually come to understand the conflict is within, not outside of us somewhere. Thus they seek the wise path of peace.

We all walk these ancient paths, and the paths often diverge into addictions and an experience of suffering.  The path always eventually leads to the same place of Home,  but not everyone knows to ask up front, “Which one is the good one?”  But the Universe, in all of its gracious abundance,  always lights the path before us until we know to ask, until the answers become clear.  Because this too is the nature of the path, leading us from one civilized place to another, ever offering the Light yet another day.  Gautama Buddha addressed this hundreds of years ago with his own disciples, hoping to shed a light on the path for them, yet hoping they would also take responsibility for illuminating it themselves.  He said to them,

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

But do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

So today, for all of us standing  at the crossroads and asking, ‘Which one is the good way?’   I wish you peace and clarity, and rest for your souls.

peace :)

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The Power of Words


It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it…

This will take less than 2 minutes of your time, I promise you’ll be glad you watched!  🙂

Have a great day!

You May Say I’m a Dreamer, But I’m Not The Only One…


Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you also refuse to hate him…                                   ~~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor…        ~~Anne Lamott

Hello again!  I know, I know.   You don’t get a post for days on end and now two in one day.  How fortunate you are!  I just couldn’t let today pass without acknowledging Dr. Martin Luther King, so here it is.  There has been a great deal of recent media attention about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous  “I Have a Dream” speech.  I absolutely do not want to politicize this blog, but I would like to talk about the background of non-violent resistance and the spirituality of the choices we make to non-violently engage aggression or  oppression, in ourselves and with others.

Dr. King based a lot of his approach to non-violent civil disobedience on Quaker philosophy and Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of Ahimsa, which means non-violence in every aspect.   Ahimsa is the philosophy of total non-violence.  It refers not only to physical violence, but all violence– all cruelty, all unkind words, thoughts, values and behaviors toward self and others.  Teachers and committed practitioners of non-violence emphasize that peace begins within, with disciplined and mindful practices of prayer and meditation.  True peace involves cultivating skillfulness in these areas.  We cannot be peaceful toward others if we hold self-hatred in our hearts.  To love one’s neighbor as oneself means we must practice peace and self-love first; not in an indulgent, mindless way, but with true mindfulness and balance.   We must truly practice non-violence within first in order to extend that to our fellows.  We must be kind and gentle with ourselves first if we are to ever be consistently kind and gentle with others.

Gandhi struggled  with what to name this movement of active resistance and eventually coined a term he called Satyagraha.   Satya means truth, the equivalent of love, and both are attributes of the soul.  Agraha is firmness or insistence.  Satyagraha is therefore translated as Soul Force.  Gandhi wrote, “Satyagraha is the vindication of truth not by infliction of suffering upon an opponent, but on one’s self.  The opponent must be weaned by patience and sympathy…”

Weaned, not crushed or in anyway violated or retaliated against.  A true adherent of Ahimsa shows the patient love of a mother to endure pain for the greater good of the birth of a beloved child.   Soul Force assumes peace is possible and returns good for evil until the evildoer grows weary of the evil itself.  That’s amazing to most of us and a life-long practice for anyone who seriously believes in this practice.

Some of the great Gandhi thoughts on this philosophy and his beliefs can be summed up in these quotes…

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS. …Non-violence is the article of faith…It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business… Hatred can be overcome only by love…

Buddhism, Hinduism, the Christian Gospels and the Religions of the Book all teach peace at their core.  Gandhi understood this and thus his  ideas and practices were based on the Hindu scriptures from the Gita and from the Sermon on the Mount.  Dr. King and many others have followed those examples throughout the ages.  With that in mind, a few thoughts on the Sermon on the Mount…

Matthew 5: 38-42

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles….”

These verses are taken from the Sermon on the Mount, a sermon in which Jesus addressed an oppressed people.  Many consider the Sermon on the Mount to be the key address on Christian non-violence.  It’s important to note that the people hearing this sermon were not rich and powerful;  they were the poor, oppressed and downtrodden subjects of an occupying military force, as well as people oppressed by their own religious authorities.  They were tired; they were in need of a Voice which told them they were loved and worthy, a Voice to speak of a deeper truth of Love, a Voice which reminded them, “You are the Light of the World.”   They were abused by the rich and powerful every day.  What Jesus is advocating in this passage is about social justice, but in a manner which emphasizes non-violent active resistance to a violent system.

The phrase, “do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also,” refers to the custom of the day and meant more to them then than it means to us now. A better translation of this from the Greek  is “do not meet  violence with violence.” This is not instruction to passively accept brutality or injustice, it is instead encouraging a courageous stand which exposes the violence.   During that time, the master or slave-owner had the right to strike the subject or slave on the right cheek—but only the right cheek, with the back of the right hand.  To strike the left cheek would indicate a loss of temper or control and bring shame upon the one doing the hitting.  But since it is impossible to strike the left cheek with the back of the right hand, what Jesus is advocating here is exposing the violence, but doing so non-violently.

The next instruction, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well…” refers to the time in which they lived and more customs of the day. At that time, the wealthy and those in power abused their authority by suing the poor and oppressed who literally had nothing but the clothes on their back.  The court would then say the person had to forfeit their tunic, leaving them essentially standing in their underwear in court.  What Jesus is saying is that if they want to try to humiliate you through abuse of power, to again resist non-violently and expose the violence.  Be empowered but do so through your own sense of internal power, of knowing  you are valuable and worthy as a child of God, but do not resist the evil of abuse with more violence.  So if they want to strip you of all you have—fine.  Counter with stripping down in court and exposing it all, literally.  But do so from a position of non-violent empowerment, not angry retaliation.

The next line, “if someone forces you to go a mile, go two miles...” is part of an expression we use all the time without understanding its context.  The Romans were an occupying force of that time and under the law a Roman soldier could force a person, usually an oppressed subject, to carry his pack one mile.  While this might not sound like a big deal, it was abuse of power with serious consequences.  The poor laborers of that time worked each day for their money and bought food for their families each night with their earnings.  So to force a man to carry a heavy pack a mile meant he would then have to turn around and walk back to town, ensuring he would miss a day of work; this meant he and his family would therefore go hungry that night.  Going the extra mile was again a way to expose the violence of the oppressor and be empowered in doing so, but again to choose to expose the injustice and violence through non-violent means.

There is much more to the Sermon on the Mount, as well as to the philosophy of non-violence called ahmisa.  I will cover some of that in a future post, but for now, if you have never watched the full I Have a Dream speech, you can do so in the video below.  It’s about 17 minutes long, so give yourself the time to really sit with it, and maybe ponder a few questions….

What are your dreams?  Are you willing to work toward them without force,  starting with yourself?  Are you ever forceful or violent toward yourself or others?  Do you practice self-hatred or self-oppression which leads to aggressive behavior with yourself and others?  Will you turn the other cheek with that voice inside that may be the oppressor and gently wean it from the harshness with which you speak to yourself?  Are you violent and aggressive with yourself while you smile and pretend life is good, do you act as if all is well when you are enduring great pain inside?   Does life have to be forced and perfect, or can you strive for an excellent peace? Can you cultivate inner peace and share that with others?

What are your dreams today?  What keeps you from your peace?

If you would like to work on any of these things this year, call or email me and we can explore your dreams in our sessions.  We may be dreamers, but we are not the only ones…

If you have never taken the time to watch the full “I have a dream” speech, it is worth the time.

peace 🙂

You May Say I’m a Dreamer, But I’m Not The Only One…


Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you also refuse to hate him… ~~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by Love alone is healed.  This is an ancient and eternal law…  ~~The Dhammapada


Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor… ~~Anne Lamott

There has been a great deal of recent media attention about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous  “I Have a Dream” speech.  I absolutely do not want to politicize this blog, but I would like to talk about the background of non-violent resistance and the spirituality of the choices we make to non-violently engage aggression or oppression, in ourselves and with others.

Dr. King based a lot of his approach to non-violent civil disobedience on Quaker philosophy and Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of Ahimsa, which means non-violence in every aspect.   Ahimsa is the philosophy of total non-violence.  It refers not only to physical violence, but all violence– all cruelty, all unkind words, thoughts, values and behaviors toward self and others.  Teachers and committed practitioners of non-violence emphasize that peace begins within, with disciplined and mindful practices of prayer and meditation.  True peace involves cultivating skillfulness in these areas.  We cannot be peaceful toward others if we hold self-hatred in our hearts.  To love one’s neighbor as oneself means we must practice peace and self-love first; not in an indulgent, mindless way, but with true mindfulness and balance.   We must truly practice non-violence within first in order to extend that to our fellows.  We must be kind and gentle with ourselves first if we are to ever be consistently kind and gentle with others.  (I wrote a lot about these practices in recent blog entries, if you are interested in learning more about these practices just scroll down to the previous posts).

Gandhi struggled  with what to name this movement of active resistance and eventually coined a term he called Satyagraha.   Satya means truth, the equivalent of love, and both are attributes of the soul.  Agraha is firmness or insistence.  Satyagraha is therefore translated as Soul Force.  Gandhi wrote, “Satyagraha is the vindication of truth not by infliction of suffering upon an opponent, but on one’s self.  The opponent must be weaned by patience and sympathy…” Weaned, not crushed or in anyway violated or retaliated against.  A true adherent of Ahimsa shows the patient love of a mother to endure pain for the greater good of the birth of a beloved child.   Soul Force assumes peace is possible and returns good for evil until the evildoer grows weary of the evil itself.

Some of the great Gandhi thoughts on this philosophy and his beliefs can be summed up in these quotes…

When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS. …Non-violence is the article of faith…It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business… Hatred can be overcome only by love…

At one time,  Gandhi had considered himself an atheist but explored many religions and philosophies.  He was deeply influenced by the Sermon on the Mount and some of the Buddhist scriptures, but eventually returned to Hinduism, the religion of his youth.   He was trained as a lawyer but nearly went broke because he was so afraid of speaking up in court or in public that he gave all of his cases away to other attorneys. Interestingly, the peaceful man known as a Mahatma, literally translated as “Great Soul,” described himself as at one time being very aggressive.  His wake up call came one night when he and his wife were fighting and he became physically forceful with her, grabbing her wrist and trying to throw her out of the house.  Her tears stunned him into silence and he vowed from that moment to cultivate an inner discipline and peace which eventually led to his commitment to non-violence.

The civil rights violations of his fellow man and the violence he personally endured because of the color of his skin sparked his non-violent action and led to a world wide movement. Gandhi based his non-violent resistance on the Bhagavad Gita and the Sermon on the Mount, citing their influences repeatedly.  Martin Luther King Jr. based his non-violent civil rights movement on Gandhi’s ideas and methods after a trip to India, the Baptist minister bringing the message of spiritually based social justice full circle around the world.  In his  “I Have a Dream Speech,” Dr. King said,

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with Soul Force…

Buddhism, Hinduism, the Christian Gospels and the Religions of the Book all teach peace at their core.  Gandhi understood this and thus his  ideas and practices were based on the Hindu scriptures from the Gita and from the Sermon on the Mount.  Dr. King and many others have followed those examples throughout the ages.  With that in mind, a few thoughts on the Sermon on the Mount…

Matthew 5: 38-42

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles….”

These verses are taken from the Sermon on the Mount, a sermon in which Jesus addressed an oppressed people.  Many consider the Sermon on the Mount to be the key address on Christian non-violence.  It’s important to note that the people hearing this sermon were not rich and powerful;  they were the poor, oppressed and downtrodden subjects of an occupying military force, as well as people oppressed by their own religious authorities.  They were tired; they were in need of a Voice which told them they were loved and worthy, a Voice to speak of a deeper truth of Love, a Voice which reminded them, “You are the Light of the World.”   They were abused by the rich and powerful every day.  What Jesus is advocating in this passage is about social justice, but in a manner which emphasizes non-violent active resistance to a violent system.

The phrase, “do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also,” refers to the custom of the day and meant more to them then than it means to us now. A better translation of this from the Greek  is “do not meet  violence with violence.” This is not instruction to passively accept brutality or injustice, it is instead encouraging a courageous stand which exposes the violence.   During that time, the master or slave-owner had the right to strike the subject or slave on the right cheek—but only the right cheek, with the back of the right hand.  To strike the left cheek would indicate a loss of temper or control and bring shame upon the one doing the hitting.  But since it is impossible to strike the left cheek with the back of the right hand, what Jesus is advocating here is exposing the violence, but doing so non-violently.

The next instruction, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well…” refers to the time in which they lived and more customs of the day. At that time, the wealthy and those in power abused their authority by suing the poor and oppressed who literally had nothing but the clothes on their back.  The court would then say the person had to forfeit their tunic, leaving them essentially standing in their underwear in court.  What Jesus is saying is that if they want to try to humiliate you through abuse of power, to again resist non-violently and expose the violence.  Be empowered but do so through your own sense of internal power, of knowing  you are valuable and worthy as a child of God, but do not resist the evil of abuse with more violence.  So if they want to strip you of all you have—fine.  Counter with stripping down in court and exposing it all, literally.  But do so from a position of non-violent empowerment, not angry retaliation.

The next line, “if someone forces you to go a mile, go two miles...” is part of an expression we use all the time without understanding its context.  The Romans were an occupying force of that time and under the law a Roman soldier could force a person, usually an oppressed subject, to carry his pack one mile.  While this might not sound like a big deal, it was abuse of power with serious consequences.  The poor laborers of that time worked each day for their money and bought food for their families each night with their earnings.  So to force a man to carry a heavy pack a mile meant he would then have to turn around and walk back to town, ensuring he would miss a day of work; this meant he and his family would therefore go hungry that night.  Going the extra mile was again a way to expose the violence of the oppressor and be empowered in doing so, but again to choose to expose the injustice and violence through non-violent means.

There is much more to the Sermon on the Mount, as well as to the philosophy of non-violence called ahmisa.  I will cover some of that in a future post, but for now, if you have never watched the full I Have a Dream speech, you can do so in the video below.  It’s about 17 minutes long, so give yourself the time to really sit with it, and maybe ponder a few questions….

As we head into Labor Day, what are you really working for and toward?  Does it feed your soul?  Is it congruent with your values?  Is your behavior in alignment with what you say is important to you and what you want to model for your children?  As the Prophet Isaiah asks, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread  and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance…”

With that in mind…What are your dreams?  Are you willing to work toward them without force, using methods of non-violence, starting with yourself?  Are you ever forceful or violent toward yourself or others? Do you practice self-hatred or self-oppression which leads to aggressive behavior with yourself and others?  Will you go the extra mile for yourself as a means of empowerment, but not force?  Will you turn the other cheek with that voice inside that may be the oppressor and gently wean it from the harshness with which you speak to yourself?  Are you violent and aggressive with yourself while you smile and pretend life is good, do you act as if all is well when you are enduring great pain inside?   Does life have to be forced and perfect, or can you strive for an excellent peace? Can you cultivate inner peace and share that with others?

Are there ideals or values you hold so dear you would die for them but not kill for them?  Can you have a dream, vision or value so important to you that you give up everything in order to work toward it, but do so peacefully, allowing yourself to be transformed in the process?

What are your dreams today?  What keeps you from your peace?

What are you willing to do to take responsibility for your dreams and your peace?  Are you willing to use your own Soul Force to cultivate peace and non-violence within, to live your own dreams?   If you have these dreams, but haven’t opened yourself to them, why?  And if not now, then when?

We may be dreamers, but we are not the only ones…

Have a great holiday weekend.

peace 🙂

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