Archive for June, 2022


Early on a disciple of the Buddha asked: ‘Are you a god?’ ‘No!’  ‘Are you an angel?’ ‘No!’  ‘What are you then?’  ‘I am awake!’  [NOTE: the literal meaning of the word Buddha, from the Sanskrit root budh, to wake up.]

I see the Buddha as a physician to the world, the clear-seeing healer whose all abiding love embraces all creatures.  With the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path the Buddha provides us with his clinical observations regarding our human condition. Then the Buddha provides us with his diagnosis.  Finally the Buddha provides us a prognosis and offers us a cure.  [NOTE: Personally, for a number of reasons, I like this metaphor of ‘Physician’ – Gentle Reader, perhaps this metaphor will also resonate with you – perhaps not.]


  • ‘The First Truth, brothers, is the fact of suffering.’  Each of us seeks ‘happiness’ and each of us also experiences that to live means to suffer. 
  • ‘The Second Truth, brothers, is the cause of suffering.’  ‘Life’ does not bring suffering – the demands we make causes our suffering.  Our demands are rooted in egocentric desire: ‘I want what I want in my own way!’  We believe that if our desires are met then we will be happy.  Too often, perhaps most often, when our desire has been met we utter these fate-full words: ‘Is this all there is?’  I call this ‘The Big Let-Down.’  This ‘Big Let-Down’ opens the pathway to depression, if not despair, if not apathy.  I am thinking of two prominent men who achieved a ‘high-goal’ and actually uttered the words ‘Is this all there is?’ Both became deeply depressed (and over time both emerged from their deep depression and changed their ‘view of life’).
  • ‘There is a Third Truth, brothers: Any ailment that can be understood can be cured.’  When the mind is free of egocentric desire what remains is the state of wake-fullness – a state of joy, health, peace (this is called ‘Nirvana’).
  • ‘The Fourth Truth, brothers, is that egocentricity can be extinguished by embracing and following the Eightfold Path.


  • Right Understanding.  This is the discipline of seeing life as it is.  To know that happiness cannot come from anything outside (it begins ‘in here, not out there’) and that all things that come into being have to pass away – this is ‘right understanding’ and it is the beginning of wisdom.
  • Right Purpose.  This follows from ‘Right Understanding.’  ‘Right Purpose’ means willing, desiring and thinking that is in line with life as it is.  Given this, order your life around learning how to live even though all changes.
  • Right Speech, Right Action & Right Occupation.  These follow from ‘Right Purpose.’  Together they mean living in harmony – speaking kindly, acting kindly, living not just for oneself but for the welfare of all.  All creatures love life; All creatures dislike pain.  Therefore treat all creatures as you want to be treated.  The purpose of being human is not to harm but to help and to heal.

The Buddha says that ‘the last three steps, brothers, deal with the mind.  Everything depends on the mind.  Our life is shape by our mind; we become what we think. 

  • Right Effort.  ‘Right Effort’ involves a commitment to discipline oneself in thought, word and action.  Remember: Discipline and Practice DO NOT make perfect; they do, however, make permanent.
  • Right Attention.  ‘Right Attention’ follows from ‘Right Effort.’  The wise develop the mind to give complete attention to one thing at a time, here and now.  The Buddha says: ‘Hard it is to train the mind, which goes where it likes and does what it wants.’
  • Right Meditation.  ‘Right Meditation’ is the means for training the mind.  Remember egocentric passions will seep through the untrained mind. 

Remember: The Buddha only shows the way.  I am called to choose ‘a Way’ – I will, indeed choose.  The question is: Which ‘Way,’ with Path, will I choose? 

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Good morning Gentle Reader, I concluded Part I with a question: ‘What are some of the seeds that the sowers sow?’

The seeds that I internally sow are the seeds from the internal plants that I have already grown to fruition.  These seeds are provided to me via my internal voices – the voices of my inner life-guide, the voices of my inner teacher, the voices of my inner ‘angel’ and of my inner ‘demon,’ the voices of my inner parent and inner child, the voices of my conscience, etc.

Other seeds are provided to me by the voices and behaviors of those whom I meet as I travel along my life’s path.  My parents, my teachers, my siblings, my friends, folks I consider to be authority figures in my life, folks I admire and seek to emulate, etc.

Still other seeds are sown by God’s Spirit – for some this is the Holy Spirit, for others it is the animating spirit that permeates and sustains all life.  The voice of the Spirit comes to me in whispers, a soft breeze if you will.  I have to be open to hearing the seeds being offered by this soft whispering voice.

All of these voices are offering and sowing seeds.  They fall onto the ground that I have prepared.  Some of my internal ground is uncultivated, it is full of rocks which hinder the seeds from taking root.  Some of the ground was at one time prepared but I have ignored it for years and so it is dry and hard – this ground does have a few cracks in it and so some of the seeds do fall into the cracks and struggle to take root; they lack the nurturing they need and so they soon die.

Some of the seeds fall upon ground that I have cultivated and for a time I nurtured; however I have not been attending to this ground for some time and weeds have taken root there.  The seeds that fall onto this ground find enough nurturance and sustenance in order to take root and begin to grow.  However, their roots are not strong enough to fend off the stronger weeds who have deep tap roots.  Eventually the weeds strangle the new roots.

Then some of the seeds fall upon the ground that I have cultivated, ground I continue to cultivate and watch over.  These seeds are able to grow and deep tap roots emerge.  Eventually, strong plants emerge and they carry the seeds that I then re-plant internally and that I then sow in my world. 

There are many seed-voices that come to me.  I have to choose which of these seed-voices to listen to.  Which of them to embrace and integrate.  I am the rocks, I am the dry, arid and cracked soil, I am the weeds, and I am the healthy soil.  I prepare or choose not to prepare my inner landscape so that the many seed-voices that come to me find a place to grow or because I have not prepared the soil they are not nurtured into life.

A paradox is that I will cultivate my inner landscape so that both ‘good seeds’ and ‘evil seeds’ will take root, so that seeds of virtue and seeds of vice will take root, and so that seeds of light and seeds of darkness will take root.  Some ‘good seeds’ will fall on the rocks and some ‘evil seeds’ will fall on well-cultivated land and take root. 

As the gardener of my own garden, as the sower of many of my own seeds, I am unconditionally response-able and responsible for all of the seeds that are offered to me.  I choose which seed-voices to listen to, which to heed, which to integrate into the garden that is myself.  I am also response-able and responsible as to which seeds I choose to pass on to others.

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Two nights ago I was startled awake by a loud noise from above – from the apartment above mine.  After the jolt I took a few deep breaths and as I lay there I began to think about ‘listening.’ After I awoke the next morning I, once again, began to think about ‘listening.’  So, Gentle Reader, I then decided that I would reflect a bit more about listening and then write a few words about it. 

As I was reflecting upon the concept of ‘listening’ a parable emerged into my consciousness.  A parable is, among other things, a teaching story.  The following parable is generally one known by many folks, especially Christians.  It is a parable about, among other things, listening.  So, here is the parable:

A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.  But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

The disciples approached [the teacher] and said, “Why do you speak…in parables?” …This is why I speak…in parables, because ‘theydo nothear…do not listen…

So, who is the ‘sower’?  What are the ‘seeds’ being sown?  What is the connection between ‘listening’ and the sower/sowing and the seeds?

Consider the following as ‘sowers of seeds.’  There is myself as a sower of seeds.  In this case I am also the recipient of these seeds.  

Then there are the sowers of seeds that are external to me.  These are my parent-figures, my teachers, my peers, my authority figures, etc.  There are many sowers of seeds that enter into my life as I travel along my life’s path.

For some there is a ‘spirit’ that is also a sower of seeds.  This spirit can be a spirit of virtue or a spirit of vice; a spirit for good or a spirit for evil; a spirit of light or a spirit of darkness.  For me, there is also God’s Spirit (some call this the Holy Spirit; some call this Spirit the ‘Breath of God’). 

When I am awake and aware and living in the ‘now’ it is easier for me to become aware of the many sowers of seeds that appear in my life (including myself as a sower of my own internal seeds).  When I am also intentional and purpose-full I am also open to discerning the seeds offered and I am more likely to consciously choose which seeds I allow to be sown. 

When I am ‘asleep,’ when I am not paying attention, when I am not intentional and purpose-full seeds are still offered to me and some of them I accept, sow and allow to take root.  Whether I am awake or whether I choose to be ‘asleep’ I am unconditionally response-able and responsible (this idea alone can be quite disturbing to me). 

So, given this.  What are some of the seeds that the sowers sow? 

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For thousands of years we humans have been blessed with wise folks who emerge and offer us their wisdom and provide us some guidelines for living. I do believe that it is the searcher and the seeker that helps the wise person to emerge. As Lao Tzu reminded us more than a thousand years ago: ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear.’

There is a story that is told among a number of American Indian Nations. I love how one story appears among a number of different people or nations or cultures. There is often a question that prompts the story (told by a ‘wise person’ – a Shaman). This is a ‘teaching story’ and so it is the listener who receives the story that is challenged to interpret its meaning(s) and integrate its lesson(s). I have taken this particular story and modified it to fit our current culture. Here is the question: ‘How can we work in harmony?’ With this story, the wise person’s response was cryptic and to the point – many have said that this is no story at all. It doesn’t matter. The lesson is there for the searcher and the seeker.

THE STORY: When the elders gather together in order to seek to work in harmony they follow four guidelines. When these are followed they find that they are able to work together in harmony. SHOW UP! PAY ATTENTION! FOLLOW ONLY WHAT MATTERS TO YOUR HEART! SEEK AN OUTCOME AND DON’T BE ATTACHED TO IT!

SHOW UP! = Bring all of yourself. Some folks show up physically and intellectually but do not show up emotionally or spiritually. Some folks show up spiritually but not intellectually. Some show up full of emotion and leave their intellect and spirit in their car. Some don’t show up at all – they send an email, or a text, or a tweet (a limited intellectual offering).

PAY ATTENTION! = Choose to be fully present AND to be awake and aware and intentional and purpose-full. Pay Attention to what is emerging in you within your four dimensions: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spirit(ual). Pay attention to how each of these is affecting you and how each is influencing you. Pay Attention to what is emerging from within the four dimensions of the other(s). Pay Attention to how this emerging is affecting your four dimensions. Pay Attention to what is emerging from with the collective. Pay Attention to how the collective and the individuals are being affected by what is emerging from within the collective.

FOLLOW ONLY WHAT MATTERS TO YOUR HEART! = Your heart sustains you. Your heart is the tap root for courage (remember the root of ‘courage’ is contained in the Old French word ‘cuer’ which means ‘heart’). Without ‘heart- courage’ you will not bring your voice; you will not critically challenge your assumptions and help others challenge their assumptions. Your heart ‘cleans’ the blood that flows through you and that sustains and nurtures your physical dimension, your intellectual dimension (your brain), your emotional dimension (when one’s blood runs ‘hot’ one can get into trouble) and influences your spirit(ual) dimension (when one is rooted in a ‘good heart’ one’s spirit is influenced in one way and when one is rooted in an ‘evil heart’ one’s spirit is influenced in another way).  

SEEK AN OUTCOME AND DON’T BE ATTACHED TO IT! = When seeking to work in harmony with others it is crucial that together you emerge certain outcomes. It is just as important to not become attached to these outcomes – remember, ‘change is the norm’ and so you must be flexible when it comes to the outcomes you have agreed to. It is also crucial to seek to balance the individual outcomes held by each with the outcomes that emerge from within the collective. If any one person is attached to one or more of his/her outcomes then the collective will find itself in conflict.

There is much more that can be written about each of these four guidelines but this short introduction will suffice for now (this is the intention I hold).

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During the past several weeks I have been thinking about ‘Self-Violence’.  One of the ways we inflict violence upon ourselves is to embrace (live into and out of) resentment.

Resentment is a popular form of self-violence. For some, it is a favorite form of self-violence. Resentment and I are old friends. He is always waiting patiently just off the center stage of my life. If I turn my head just a bit to the right I can see him standing there, full of patience and energy waiting for his cue to move to center stage and take over the play that is my life. He is not grinning; actually he looks a bit stoic. I have always found it ironic as to how much patience resentment demonstrates – I guess his patience comes with knowing that I will indeed be calling him to join me on center stage. He doesn’t seem to care ‘when’ I will call him – he is just secure in the knowledge that I will do so.

Webster is helpful when it comes to defining resentment. Resentment = a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury. I have nurtured, grown and sustained resentment in response to a judgment about another that has ‘wronged me.’ More often I have nurtured, grown and sustained resentment in response to a judgment I have made about myself. When I am awake and aware I can feel the weight of resentment crushing my spirit, my heart, and my soul. When I am honest with myself I admit that being resent-full feels really good! On the other hand, living with resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other guy to get sick. I have never known anyone but myself to become dis-eased because of my resentment.

There is an antidote: Forgiveness.For me, it is not the ‘other’ that I have to forgive – the ‘other’ probably has no sense of my being resent-full (here I am speaking of the resentment I have carried for decades). Even for folks more recently in my life who have ‘wronged me, or who have ‘insulted me’ or who have ‘injured me’ my being resent-full does not seem to harm them. As Robert K. Greenleaf reminded us, over and over again, it ‘begins in here – not out there.’

Am I willing to forgive myself for nurturing, growing and sustaining resentment? Now, as I turn my head and look at resentment standing just off center stage I can see him smiling – not a smirk, but the smile that comes with someone who knows the answer (thus far in my life anyway). Resentment is sure of himself and he is sure of me. I can hear his words: ‘I am too important in your life; you have integrated me into your very being. You are not going to cast me aside.’  

Forgiveness is not easy and self-forgiveness is perhaps the most difficult thing to embrace.

A therapist once asked me: ‘Do you believe that God forgives you?’ I responded with a hearty ‘YES!’ The therapist paused, then continued: ‘So, you believe you are greater than God! God forgives you AND you refuse to forgive yourself!’ Self-forgiveness can be, at minimum, a challenge for some (I am one of the ‘for some’). For me, regarding resentment, it means that in forgiving myself I will have to no longer call resentment to move from off-stage to center-stage. I will have to let go of the pleasure of being resent-full. For me, I will also have to let go of other feelings like self-pity and self-disparagement.

Henri Nouwen offers me some guidance when he writes: Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.

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