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Through our magic mirror. November 17, 2014

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“None of us see life as it is, the world as it is. We all see life as we are. We look at others through our own likes and dislikes, desires and interests.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

As Sri Eknath is always quick to point out, we’re happy with someone when he or she is doing exactly what we want. He brings us triple fruit sherbet—how nice! But wait, it isn’t tropical triple-fruit sherbet. She remembered the lottery ticket, how thoughtful! But it’s not for the right day. We’d like to go to a certain movie or restaurant. So are we? When are we?

The mirror that shows us our face sometimes stops directly behind us. We don’t see the people who make it possible for us to move deeper, to appreciate the kindness and consideration that are directed at us every day. Perhaps we need to clean the mirror; perhaps we simply need to break it or walk away.

Just for today, try walking away.

The eternally real. November 12, 2014

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“The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.”

Tao Te Ching

The unnamable is the All, the one with everything. Naming is a game, a human obsession. When I was younger, I was simply obsessed with naming everything, making sure I was botanically correct. And I was good at it, pinpointing the tiny color differences and behaviors that separated species. But what I didn’t understand was that separation harmed the whole. Yes, it was interesting to note these differences. This was what naturalists had done from the dawn of natural history, and I wanted to be a naturalist: Seeing nature as it had been made, as it had evolved.

I can’t even say when I realized that the naming of species was really pretty pointless. As T.S. Eliot would say, “The naming of cats is a difficult matter.” Eventually, I couldn’t tell you the Latin name of one peony species from another (though I could certainly recognize their differences). I’m sure my colleagues thought I’d gone insane—after all, hadn’t I been able to recognize them all? But what was the ultimate point? Naming is the beginning of separation, of judging, good or bad, ugly or beautiful, stupid or smart.

The unnamable is the eternally real. Eat your rice, enjoy your tea. Watch and smell your lovely fire. Let the naming, let the judgment, drop away.

Just for today, watch your cats sleeping on your bed, softly snoring. Do not think one is better than another.

The ultimate point. November 9, 2014

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“When silence reaches an ultimate point,
the light penetrates everywhere.”
—Hsuan Hua

Sadly, silence is such a scarce commodity these days that it’s almost impossible to find it in your own home or yard, much less anywhere else. Yet deep silence can change us. When I was a child, my family went to Mammoth Cave. Once we were deep inside the cave, our guide asked our group to please be quiet. Then he turned off the lights so we could feel what absolute darkness was like. The darkness was impressive, of course, but what impressed me most was the silence. In that moment, it “reached an ultimate point.” And in that total darkness, as Hsuan Hua said, the light penetrated everywhere.

Just for today, find your own stillness.

Love your mother. November 6, 2014

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“The earth which sustains humanity must not be injured; it must not be destroyed.”

This quote sounds like it must have come from one of the great 19th-century American conservationalists, like John Muir, or Henry David Thoreau or his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, or even Teddy Roosevelt, who founded our national parks system. (Perhaps the reason he’s on Mount Rushmore.) Or Chief Seattle or another First American who approached the the land and all who dwelled on it with respect. But as it happens, it’s from a German nun, Hildegard of Bingen, who was born in 1098.

1098! Clearly, even then, people saw the threat to Mother Earth at the hands of greedy men. If we don’t protect our oceans, our land masses, and our air, we and all life will die. If we don’t stop fracking, stop Monsanto and other corporations from poisoning our land and water, and stop what might be thought of as small-scale greed from buying up and destroying farmland, not to mention prairies, wetlands, and other valuable natural areas, we’re doomed.

Even here, in our rustic part of scenic PA, one of the wealthiest men in the area has been trying for years to sell off farmland to build developments, strip malls, and warehouses, threatening the township with turning the land (previously,supposedly, preserved as farmland) into a quarry if they don’t allow him to do as he likes. It’s not that he needs the money; he just wants yet more money. People have been fighting for years to keep the land in farmland; goodness knows, there are plenty of developments and plenty of warehouses and plenty of rich, greedy, oblivious men already. But as in the states that have fought for GMO-labeled foods, this is likely a case that money will win and passion will lose.

Please put your hands on the ground, and on your food, and on every natural thing today and every day. Send Reiki. Feel the connection. Your Mother loves you, too.

Just for today, love your Mother.