Saturday, January 30, 2010

liquid chopsticks

I had a great lunch with my friends JB and K on Thursday at St. Martin's Table. Not a huge selection of food, but what we had was delicious and I think nourishing for all of us. I was hungry throughout the day for some reason, and then later in the evening I had dinner with my best friend in this world at Tanpopo noodle shop over in St. Paul, which never disappoints. We had sushi, dumplings, miso soup, and soba noodle soup with mushroom and egg, all very tasty. This morning I had the remains of the soup as my breakfast, and I mulled over how efficient chopsticks are, and how they allow you to be more involved with the process of eating. I am beginning to understand that limiting your choices is a good step toward being involved in the process, of eating or living.

Time sneaks by in the morning, but soon I must work; at my job, at my life, at my art, at my relationships. I was reading a passage from a Shunryu Suzuki book, and I came upon the concept of a flexible, fluid heart. In order to be happy, our hearts need to flow, be able to bend when the wind blows, in order to be in a natural state of being. What I see in myself and others is this tendency to maintain rigidity in the face of the unknown. I can't help my muscles from tensing up, but I can mindfully relax them when I become aware. Oh, but it is so easy to lash out at this crazy world.

"How can our smile be the source of joy and not just a diplomatic maneuver? When we smile to ourselves, that smile is not diplomacy; it is the proof that we are ourselves, that we have full sovereignty over ourselves. Can we write a poem on stopping, aimlessness, or just being? Can we paint something about it? Everything we do is an act of poetry or a painting if we do it with mindfulness. Growing lettuce is poetry. Walking to the supermarket can be a painting."

Thich Nhat Hanh, "Peace Is Every Step"

Friday, January 29, 2010

within we go

My very good friend and spiritual brother JB is in the hospital today for open-heart surgery. For those who don't know, he has stage IV melanoma that he has been living with for the last two years. His cancer has spread from his skin to his brain, heart, and lungs. He has had treatments to treat his brain and lung tumors, namely lasers that zapped his brain and immune strengthening treatments that were incredibly hard on his body, and left him recovering for weeks at a time. He has been on a modified Gerson diet this whole time, which is basically a really healthy way to eat; cutting out meat, cheese, salt, sugar, fats, and alcohol, and subsisting mainly on vegetables and fruits. There are a lot of juices drunk during the day, and some enemas to deal with. I don't know his current subscription to the diet, but I know he has maintained a high level of health over the last two years, which has had a major impact on his ability to live well through this cancer experience.

Just recently he has had major lung problems over the holidays, and dangerous tumorous growth in his lung has necessitated part of this surgery, which entails removing part of his lung. Another part of this surgery today is removing a tumor on his heart that MRI scans found when he went in for a check-up. This tumor has to be removed, and he may need a pacemaker to function well after the surgery.

Another part of the surgery that has been postponed until perhaps next week is removing a large tumor from his arm which is threatening use of his arm.

Here we have a beautiful man suffering from so many cancer related problems, and yet he is also living a good full life. Today is sort of a major wake-up call for me, in that it definitely has the implications that things will not be the same afterwards. In a way this is pessimistic, but it also seems more realistic. I have been struggling with this question in other parts of my life as well: How long and strong do you hold onto hope for something you want in life, and when do you let it drift away and just find the next piece of joy or peace that you can in this life? So this is what heartbreak is...letting go.

I look at him and see a great friend and teacher who is suffering through a situation I can only imagine, and I search for a metaphor, but I can't find one. I just see a friend.

I am sending all my love to JB and Jason today: internally I am sending JB and Jason good healing energy, wishes for more life to live together, love for my loved ones, respect for my friends, and appreciation for the very life sparks that warms me. Externally I dedicate this day to peace with my friends, family, and coworkers, all those I encounter on today's journey, and peace within myself most especially.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Native American Code of Ethics

1. Each morning upon rising, and each evening before sleeping, give thanks for the life within you and for all life, for the good things the Creator has given you and for the opportunity to grow a little more each day. Consider your thoughts and actions of the past day and seek for the courage and strength to be a better person. Seek for the things that will benefit others (everyone).

2. Respect. Respect means "To feel or show honor or esteem for someone or something; to consider the well being of, or to treat someone or somethin with deference or courtesy". Showing respect is a basic law of life.

a. Treat every person from the tiniest child to the oldest elder with respect at all times.

b. Special respect should be given to Elders, Parents, Teachers, and Community Leaders.

c. No person should be made to feel "put down" by you; avoid hurting other hearts as you would avoid a deadly poison.

d. Touch nothing that belongs to someone else (especially Sacred Objects) without permission, or an understanding between you.

e. Respect the privacy of every person, never intrude on a person's quiet moment or personal space.

f. Never walk between people that are conversing.

g. Never interrupt people who are conversing.

h. Speak in a soft voice, especially when you are in the presence of Elders, strangers or others to whom special respect is due.

i. Do not speak unless invited to do so at gatherings where Elders are present (except to ask what is expected of you, should you be in doubt).

j. Never speak about others in a negative way, whether they are present or not.

k. Treat the earth and all of her aspects as your mother. Show deep respect for the mineral world, the plant world, and the animal world. Do nothing to pollute our Mother, rise up with wisdom to defend her.

l. Show deep respect for the beliefs and religion of others.

m. Listen with courtesy to what others say, even if you feel that what they are saying is worthless. Listen with your heart.

n. Respect the wisdom of the people in council. Once you give an idea to a council meeting it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the people. Respect demands that you listen intently to the ideas of others in council and that you do not insist that your idea prevail. Indeed you should freely support the ideas of others if they are true and good, even if those ideas ideas are quite different from the ones you have contributed. The clash of ideas brings forth the Spark of Truth.

3. Once a council has decided something in unity, respect demands that no one speak secretly against what has been decided. If the council has made an error, that error will become apparent to everyone in its own time.

4. Be truthful at all times, and under all conditions.

5. Always treat your guests with honor and consideration. Give of your best food, your best blankets, the best part of your house, and your best service to your guests.

6. The hurt of one is the hurt of all, the honor of one is the honor of all.

7. Receive strangers and outsiders with a loving heart and as members of the human family.

8. All the races and tribes in the world are like the different colored flowers of one meadow. All are beautiful. As children of the Creator they must all be respected.

9. To serve others, to be of some use to family, community, nation, and the world is one of the main purposes for which human beings have been created. Do not fill yourself with your own affairs and forget your most important talks. True happiness comes only to those who dedicate their lives to the service of others.

10. Observe moderation and balance in all things.

11. Know those things that lead to your well-being, and those things that lead to your destruction.

12. Listen to and follow the guidance given to your heart. Expect guidance to come in many forms; in prayer, in dreams, in times of quiet solitude, and in the words and deeds of wise Elders and friends.

home again

streets full of people
with trinkets to share
offering them up for folks in despair
yandi and crystals and oils for growth
of spirit and body and mind as we go

emphasis placed on the body and mind
the heart is often somewhere behind

tiny little bones of the innocent child
lookin up to me with the saddest of eyes
is her innocence in tact?
or has it been stained?
has the creature that feeds her taken it away
so sad it's strange

I recognize my health
things I have been dealt
places that I have roamed
feelings I've had
things that I know

home, my home
home, my home
home, I'm home

running through the bush
and all of the trees
moving in time with my capable speed
skippy ants claw
at the edge of the bowl
of the shell of an egg
of bird long since gone
maybe it rose up
to spread it's new wings
or maybe it nourished
a stronger sibling

places we roam
and people we meet
some connections are strong
and some of them are weak
1 or 2 or 3 or 4
or maybe 5 or 6 or more
strong as the roots
of a big old gum tree
and we'll carry them through
to the next life we see
so beautifully strange

I recognize my health
things that I have been dealt
places that I have roamed
feelings I've had
things that I know

home, my home
home, my home
home, I'm home

-Xavier Rudd, "Home"

I made an intensely flavorful omelet this morning. Wild rice, goat feta, roasted chicken, roasted potato, browned garlic. Yummy. Drinking some good coffee as well.

I am going out to Afton state park to forget about it all for a while, into the snow. Then back home to work on a couple things before some song writing time. I wish I had a fireplace.

Love, love, love. It ain't all about us humans.

Monday, January 25, 2010

washed out wizards

I had this idea that my journey would lead me somewhere amazing at a certain point in my life. Since then, I have realized that what I had thought was going to happen is not going to happen how I think it will, or when I want it to, and now I've realized that those desires grew out of a swampy fertile young imagination. I just have an overall sense that these dreams I had as a boy have sort of washed out to sea. I can see them slowly drifting out from the shore, falling apart gradually, sinking into the sunset.

These boy-dreams fall away from me, and I'm left with no dreams, or I dream of empty houses, lovers leaving, things falling apart. Looking at what I have accomplished on my journey, I realize I have only the slightest idea of where I was attempting to go. But that is sort of besides the point. The point is, where is this path that I am currently on taking me?

Maybe that's why the Wizard of Oz hits us straight in the gut. We all have experienced that tornado that whips us into an unknown land full of munchkins and witches. We're on that yellow brick road together, finding each other, hoping that the wizard will solve all our problems. But it turns out he is a fraud hiding behind a curtain. I think we all know that the ending of that movie is make-believe...

So the curtain has lifted, the eagle has landed, the sun has stopped revolving around the earth. My friends and family, you are what's important to me, not the boy-dreams. But it's funny, I managed to harvest some seeds from the flowers of those old dreams. My new guitar feels so good in my hands these days. Speaking and writing are coming more naturally to me. Some dream seeds have already taken root in the compost of my past. It's the way that life is I guess.

I find myself slowing down. I've started to enjoy baths. Perhaps my fear of drowning under this sea of life has lifted, in part because I found myself on the bottom of the ocean with the desire to go back up to the air and the will and power to do so. I'm getting back into my own groove. There is a part of me that wishes I had found my groove ten years ago, but I know that isn't how it works. You can't rush the accumulation of sediment. The Grand Canyon wasn't formed in a day. The layers in life exude beauty.

I've also seen that this path I am on isn't really separate from my feet. The path and I are the same thing. I am the path, and if I can see and feel that truthfully and honestly, I really can't go the wrong way.

Peace to you my loved ones.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


"You know, the thing is, it's like...The bottom line here, all of the craziness and the tension between you and I, is based on illusion. You have to understand it. It's an illusion of seperateness, an illusion that there's a you and a me because it just, it ain't so, you know? I mean, we're like these mushrooms. These single individual outcroppings are all part of the whole. You know, there's no seperateness here. There's no other. It's the same with human beings, it's the same with us, you know what I mean? See the thing is, we're really, we're just one. We're part of the same big mushroom. The same big self. You see, what I'm trying to tell you is I never left you, okay, I'm always there."

-Joel Fleishman, Northern Exposure (while he is orating, Maggie is imagining him being strafed by bullets from a fighter plane)

I really enjoyed this scene from the episode "The Great Mushroom" of Northern Exposure. Here is the video clip.

This transports me back ten years when I started to become fascinated by mushrooms. The reality of what these organisms do for the the soil and planet still fascinates me. They are so integral to life as we know it.

They feed off of cellulose, both living and dead, and create organic matter in their own demise. Their mycellium are so fragile, yet they support entire ecosystems. They provide communication between different part of the forest. They are miraculous and deadly. The largest and smallest living beings on the planet.

But in the context of the quote, they provide an apt metaphor for us humans as well. Are we so removed from each other? Is separation and death of the body the end of our relationship with one another?

We are fascinated by the colorful and mesmerizing fruiting bodies that pop out of the earth, but underneath it all is a vast network of hairlike strands of life that support our fragile skin of dirt on this planet.

The way they live is the way that love lives.

Friday, January 22, 2010

a gate, sore feet

The gatekeeper said, "There is mortal quandary that you must address within your heart before you can go through these gates."

Standing before the iron bridge, I saw a delicate mist form over the river that flowed far below. My strength was fleeting, my breath ragged.

He went on.

"First you must ask yourself; What do you love? To know what you love is a noble thing. To know love, to be filled with love, is what some call enlightenment, samadhi, salvation, or ecstasy. Love dissolves the borders between us and them; love is how we know our lungs are the lungs of the earth, our fingertips are the fingertips of our brothers and sisters. The most precious gift we possess is the ability to know and be love."

His words rang true but my stomach grumbled hungrily.

I said, "As much as I love to talk about love, I still need to feed my belly. I still need to go through this gate and cross this bridge. I am on a long journey and conversation warms my heart, but it doesn't put food in my hungry belly or new boots on my sore feet. My journey is mine, and what you can say might feed my soul, but I need to continue toward my goal, if you don't mind."

He nodded and struck the gate with his silver staff. The gate resounded over the chasm below, echoing into the farthest unseen nooks and crannies of the cliffs that rose from the water.

"Secondly, now that you have glimpsed the forms and shadows of love and believe with certainty in your heart that you know what love is, you must follow the forms and shadows of love to the ends of the earth. Your journey might fill you with exultant joy, and you might find laughter around every corner, but this well trodden road can just as well lead you into a maelstrom of pain and suffering. But the road itself will always continue toward love. This journey is called many names by many people, but call it what you will. If your heart resonates with the road, you are on the right path."

I stood at the gate hungry, tired, and a little scared. I wanted to go through, but the gatekeeper gazed at me with dark eyes shrouded in shadow.

I told him, "I have found love, I have seen her glowing form, and I have heard that she resides at the end of this road. That is why I am on this journey. I have had a taste and I cannot forget it. I am not sure I will survive, but I have no home nor any family where I came from, so I have no reason to go back there. I must go forward to find her, I must continue or I will perish right here at this gate."

The gatekeeper grinned.

"You have seen the form and shadow of love and are certain you know her. I think you are right, you must continue onward through this gate and over this bridge. Now, beyond this bridge is a land of darkness that you must be prepared for, otherwise you will not survive long. Here, I will give you my bow and some arrows so that you are at least moderately armed against a certain and immediate death beyond this bridge. Go now and find her at the end of the world. This road leads all the way there. Perhaps I will see you again."

The gate swung open with a rusty whine, and he bowed and offered his weapons to me. I slung his bow and quiver of arrows on my back and thanked him. He waved me on. I took a step through the towering gates. My feet were so sore I could hardly walk, but I knew that I had to continue. I could not just sit there and weep for the pain.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

letting it out

I see a silent leviathan erupting from the depths of the dark and endless sea, a boiling saltwater tumor engulfing my pathetic ship of twigs. Then a raucous oil-slick laugh rings in my ears, belching forth like steam from a snake tongued mouth, acid spittle burning deep holes through flesh to my bones. I see the source of this murderous mirth towering above me. Medusa, her head a nest of serpents, her eyes shining with the knowledge of my imminent death. It is impossible for me to look away from those dark and shining eyes, and I cannot stop my flesh from slowly turning into stone, and I sink. I sink to the bottom of this frozen sea where no light can reach me.

There is no light here at all, just pitch black darkness. The light that sustains life is gone. The small flame that I have stoked for so long in my heart is dark. I can only feel and move as stone feels and moves. I was afraid, so afraid, as I set out on my journey, but there is nothing left to fear.

For too long I sailed in my ship of twigs. Twigs that I gathered from the darkest forests, from the driest deserts. Twigs that scratched my hands and drew blood. I thought my ship of twigs would allow me to reach the other side of the ocean. But even as I capsized and my mind's eye saw her face reaching out toward me with shining black eyes, I knew it was the twigs that I had gathered that had failed me, that had come apart under the strain of the waves motion.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

union, drawing together

I can identify with yoga. Of all the spiritual practices, yoga seems to be the one that will yoke you to the sacred most assuredly. The wholistic nature of yoga include practices that connect your body, mind, heart, and soul in a way that many other practices do not so readily. In my mind, Yoga is one of the most ancient mystical traditions that is readily to anybody who would like to taste the Union.

Today I woke up and went through an asana practice on a DVD called "Yoga Shakti" by Shiva Rea. I highly recommend this DVD for beginning to mid level yogis, which is where I am at in my practice. There are four asana practices that can be mixed and combined to create an asana practice tailored to your needs, 4 hours worth of amazing yoga by Shiva Rea filmed on a beautiful beach with peaceful surf. She has very relaxing voice. The only problem with it that I have is that sometimes when you are in a pose and can't see what she is doing on the screen, her directions are bit murky. But overall it is very high quality. I haven't even gotten past the first asana practice, but I haven't been practicing that much over the last couple years. Perhaps it is time to refresh my intent toward yoga. Maybe yoga can play a large part in my quest to unite with the sacred.

On the other hand, once again we have a system of practices that are already mostly established and have a hierarchy of goals and so forth. I don't think this has to be necessary for individuals, but in my search for the sacred, I must keep my heart and mind open toward all that is out there. Yoga is a path, swimming is a path, art is a path, and maybe computer programming is a path. I don't really know what to make of it all, that is why I am characterizing myself these days as a ranger in the wilderness, tracking prey and picking berries, reading the clouds and following the lay of the land.

Can we take words and ideas like "yoga" or "mystic" and use them in our own special ways? When you know a specific language, you are part of a club, and you feel special. Why do we have so many languages? Why do I feel the need to define myself?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Spectral Light from Orion

This morning I woke up and had a hunch I should visit a website that I stopped visiting regularly, and I came a cross an article that really crystallizes what I have been thinking about in terms of the whole "us against them" mindset that is so prevalent in our world. I really don't think it is a healthy way to be as a living creature, or sustainable culture. The beauty of the article is multiplied for me because it explores the concept of this ancient shadow dance that we must all engage in to become fully alive. Or at least that is how I am interpreting it.

I encourage you to read the full article.

"Spectral Light
Beyond black-and-white thinking in the New, Old West
by Amy Irvine
Published in the January/February 2010 issue of Orion magazine

IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT the human brain is most capable of distillation—of boiling things down to basic black and white. Smoke means fire. Breaking glass signals intrusion. From an evolutionary standpoint, this kind of rudimentary thought process might be a most valuable survival skill—the kind that allows a body to respond to threats even in a state of half-sleep. My husband, Herb, is a lawyer, the kind of man who has been trained to think before he acts—to examine all angles and consider complexities. But at three a.m. on an uncharacteristically cold and moonless night in late spring, even he is reduced. And through that reduction, he would come to see how things that lurk too starkly, even at opposing ends of the spectrum, can shift. As if fundamentals could be that supple. As if values—like the presence of all colors in relation to the sheer absence of them—could be so pliant. As if the natural order of things—like the age-old relationship between predator and prey—could flex into a new arrangement altogether.

The dogs would start it. Their frenzied barks, their teeth gnashing against the glass of the back door, would draw my husband out of bed and into his jeans in a single motion. In the mudroom, he would stumble through a sea of writhing canines, pull on his boots with one hand and turn the knob with the other. Two aging Aussies and a half-blind border collie mix would spill out into the dark yard and charge toward the goat pen. They would make it halfway before stopping dead in their tracks and high-tailing it back to the porch. Herb would hear the screams then, the desperate cries for help. He would fumble in the doorway for the porch light, two-stepping with the returning dogs, and there, his sleep-riddled mind would already be drawing conclusions so swiftly it would feel, he would say later, like pure instinct.

And here I should point out that my husband, despite his profession, is a man who could have been born into the Paleolithic—the kind of guy who has built a life sustained by wildness more than any other element. After college, Herb left Michigan for the West and never looked back. On the other side of the Continental Divide he found the kind of unfettered topography that he needed—for he’s a man who is happiest when ambling over great stretches of soil or stone. He loves the basics, the way they ignite his senses: The procurement of food, shelter, warmth. The silky curves of women, skylines, rivers. Then there is his deeply held belief that he is a sort of Dr. Dolittle; and indeed, I have been witness to his extraordinary ability to communicate with animals. Domestic or untamed, creatures of all sorts seem to enter quickly into some kind of understanding with him.

It is this latter quality that explains why my husband’s guns have never been loaded—despite the fact that we have made our home in one of the more wild parts of the West, where black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and elk are as common as livestock. Where large tracts of untrammeled public land still eclipse both alfalfa fields and subdivisions of “ranchettes.” Herb had stored in various places a .22 Smith & Wesson six-shooter, a 12-gauge shotgun, and three rifles in .22, .30-06, and 7 mm magnum calibers—an inheritance from his grandfather, who had been an avid hunter in both the Great Lakes region and in Africa. All but the .22s had lain in their cases since his grandfather had died nearly eleven years prior—and those two firearms had only been used to shoot beer cans off fence posts on the occasional Sunday afternoon. Looking back, I think we both took a certain pride—and a smug one at that—in having no need for guns in what is largely a gun-toting community of roughneck ranchers, folks who let loose bullets daily on coyotes and prairie dogs.

So it is mind-boggling that Herb would conclude as he did on that night. Call it a natural impulse, or call it one of the ill effects of living in a culture steeped in sensational news and violent movies, but his mind instantly crafted the assumption that the hair-raising cries coming across the dark yard were of human origin. Somehow, he decided—in our critter-laden, outback of a neighborhood that sits seven miles from a tiny, low-crime kind of town—that some heinous, unspeakable assault was being committed by one deranged human upon another. And as he charged away from the now-cowed dogs into the colorless void that lay beyond the porch light’s glare, his brain illuminated with one white, shining thought: This is what the world has come to. Standing empty-handed in the inkwell of night, he was ready to face squarely some malevolence in his own species. "

For the rest of the article, go here:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hunting and Gathering the Sacred

I've been meaning to outline a purpose for this blog because I have various blogs and websites that are dedicated to one or more aspects of my existence, and I'm starting to feel that I have one too many outlets for my various thoughts and observations. A hazard of the internet, I guess. This morning I had an notion about this blog, Cosmic Monkey, and my life, that I think will be provide an apt goal for both.

I have decided that 2010 will be a year in which I purposefully "Hunt and Gather the Sacred". Imagine those words in big bold letters, like an old spaghetti western movie. The problem is that this phrase doesn't portray the totality of my endeavor, but it is kind of catchy. I'll explain what my purpose is, how I will go about it, and why the title isn't so accurate.

(a few minutes later...)

As I started to write about my purpose and methods, it all came out so wrong. I used the phrase "reunification with God" and realized how extremely tainted those words are. I am not sure I can explain myself right away, so perhaps I will let you figure out your own idea of what "Hunting and Gathering the Sacred" could possibly mean. But I will leave you with the inspiration behind the concept.

As I laid on my blow up mattress this morning, feeling sore from yesterday's beautiful ski run in the oak savanna, I read about the responsibility that mystics, dreamers, and activists have toward this world, that this silken thread runs through seekers of truth and peace that bonds us together and it is our responsibility to share our work with others, to build the energy that might heal so many of the diseases seeping through the veins of the earth and her people. And I had this realization that my life is sort of a constant hunt for truth and peace, that I am always gathering my awareness of the sacred, and if I can use my blog to focus exclusively on this core aspect of who I am, perhaps it will strengthen my intent and begin to hone my practice of Hunting and Gathering the Sacred. The biggest problem with this phrase is that the word "sacred" generally doesn't mean the mundane or work-a-day, but to me everything is sacred. To see and experience the sacred in everything is the subtext.

What do you think sacred means?

Sunday, January 17, 2010


The earth is my body, my body is the earth. Compassion rises out of this awareness. Pain arises out of the knowledge that the people hurt and are dying in Haiti, pain arises out of the knowledge that down the street two men were murdered as they simply minded their own business. Joy arises at the thought of the rivers cascading down the Sawtooth Mountains into Gitchee Gumee, joy arises out of the thought of a morning making food with a friend.

"The past and present wilt—I have fill’d them, emptied them,
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

Listener up there! Here, you! What have you to confide to me?
Look in my face, while I snuff the sidle of evening;
Talk honestly—no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;
(I am large—I contain multitudes.)"

-Walt Whitman

Saturday, January 16, 2010

free range mystic redux

Forgive me if I ramble a bit today. I am interested in revisiting a concept I was exploring about a year ago. My interests in the natural world have led me down mystical and scientific paths of thought, and I am trying to make sense of it all.

In a way, I can see how tempting it is to chose a path and stick to it, i.e. religion or academia. I think the genius of Buddhism lies in the idea that the best path lies right down the middle. Choosing a path and identifying with it creates certain problems. Perhaps the reason I have consistently chosen the mystical path vs. the scientific is because of a deep mistrust on my part of any type of authority whatsoever, which is why I haven't ever really considered so-called "higher" learning as a legitimate avenue for me to walk down. My life has presented itself to me as a path with a few twists and turns, and mostly I have trusted my feelings to be my guide, as opposed to my reasoning. I am wondering now if this isn't just another way to fall into the gutter of sides, the old "us and them" approach. Even now, I still view educational institutions with mistrust yet some longing toward what I may have missed. And in some ways I miss the comfort of having a religion everyone respects, one that has a page in the newspaper. But in my heart and mind I am steadily floating down the mystic river, way from both religion and academia. Mostly because of what I feel and know to be true, what resonates with my very soul.

At the same time I float gently down this murky river, I am becoming more certain that most of my actions have been influenced by reasons that have been fed by emotions. You could say I am guilty of the big bad no nos of Buddhism, ignorance leading to desire leading to suffering. A central premise of Buddhism (and Buddhism doesn't have a monopoly on this concept by any means) is that we swim in ignorance and that if we shed our ignorance, we have no choice but to act mindfully. So without that mindfulness, we act like shitheads, even if we don't want to.

The happiest people I have met are those who can live without a dualistic mindset or any strict adherence to so-called "normal" time and place schedules, other then that which flows normally from living a life. Free range people, I guess you could say.

My mistrust of authority and institutions comes in part from their inability to allow free rein to minds and bodies alike to find their own course towards nourishment of the body, mind, and soul. I also have this deep feeling that what we conceive of as "new science" is only rediscovering ancient wisdom that we have lived with for a long time. We have come to a point in human technology where science resembles mysticism and scientists are wacky artists, and religions resemble old schools and priests are sullen teachers. The fluctuation is strange.

I personally don't really believe in or want any titles, labels, or occupations. I simply want to be alive and come to understand how and why I am alive. I simply want to live as a free range mystic knowing full well I will become nourishment to the universe in this endless story we call life. As a free range mystic, nothing that nourishes me is out of reach, and I am one with everything. Forget even that title, I am Andrew Richard French. Forget even that name, I didn't choose it, nor does it resonate with me as the person that I am. I am simply me. I am I under the sky, watching the grandfather sun and grandmother moon as they watch me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A blog is a sort of a story thread of life. It doesn't do any good for a thread to stop every now and then throughout the material. But I am beginning to wonder how valuable it is to weave this social matrix fabric that we have been informed is only good harmless fun. I wonder.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

a ski, a rebirth

I went to pick up my truck from Sandstone today and took a ski run for the first time this season. It was like being born again after being stuffed up in this small dark and hairy apartment.

Old Yeller seems to be running great and my skis seem to be in good shape. Skiing is like walking only better, and yet it is its own groovy winter thing.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Tracking the White Reindeer

Tracking the white reinder from hamid sardar on Vimeo.

It is eleven degrees below zero Farenheit out there in that frozen nirvana.

The only thing alive is the tracks.

The tracks show what has happened, what is happening, what will happen. The tracks are breezes from the heart beats of small animals. The tracks are out there, we are in here; cozy, warm.

How do they survive out there in the frozen tundra? How do they make it through the night? I see nothing out there, I haven't seen a creature in a week. I haven't been outside of Minneapolis in months, other then one trip to my grandparents farm to look at an old truck.

The cold quickly seeps into bone marrow. I need to lower my metabolism down to nothing to survive this cold. My body doesn't crave food so much as warmth. Our modern conveniences appear miraculous to me these days. Turning up the heat, turning on the stove, taking a hot shower. All this warmth divorced from it's source, which here in Minnesota is nuclear and coal power mostly. Maybe I use wind power, I can only hope.

The tracks are fresh like biscuits, then they crumble a bit at the edges. They become small indentations. Thaw and freeze recycles them. They are small pocks in the snow. Nothing, a ghost.

Friday, January 08, 2010

mirrors and practice

But then, after all is said and done, we have the actual material world to deal with. Our corporeal being is what we know for sure, everything else is pure conjecture. I can sit here with my thoughts up amongst the clouds but in reality I have to go to work in a few hours. Such is life.

Perhaps our major malfunction is when we think that life is not such, that life "should be" some other way, when in fact life is only the way that it is, and to fight life is to fight yourself. Some people believe that they walk a path through life toward some goal, some believe that they have a holy purpose or fate, and some believe that they must create meaning in a chaotic world. It is all valid, but I am lead to believe that how we deal with the minute actions of daily life is what really matters. "How we deal" means "our practice".

I firmly believe that I am out of practice in terms of living a meaningful live, and perhaps you are as well. How we come back to that practice is a matter of will. We all need to practice cherishing life constantly in order for life to bloom. I believe that the planet is not so much dying under the toxic accumulative actions of humanity as suffering from a lack of the essential practice of love. The earth is suffering because we do not know how to engage in the practice of loving the earth. The earth includes us all, and we are all suffering.

The living practice of loving the earth seems to be the main practice banned from modern society. It is called "pagan" "witchcraft" "aboriginal" "backward", many words meant to denigrate this essential practice that we must engage in as living beings on this planet. Denigrate means "to blacken". As I have written earlier, I believe everything is "blackened", everything is impure. So we need to take back the practices and words that empower us without regard for how they are perceived by those with a thirst for purity where purity does not exist.

This planet is one of millions, this planet harbors us. Every day we do millions of things that affect millions of things, and life itself is the flame behind this movement. The mirrors are all around us if we choose to look, if we empower our will to see. And if we start to consider every action as a practice, what kind of practitioner do we see? I challenge myself to continue the practice of loving the earth in the face of all the modern callousness and negativity, the scorn, the confusion and misunderstanding of others.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Purify What?

I've read a lot about spirituality, and I have seen many movies about various spiritual traditions. One thing that is starting to grate on me is the use of the word "purify". I can't for the life of me understand what people are trying to convey with this word.

First of all, what is purity? Is a glass of clean water pure even if it has millions of microorganisms in it? Does pure mean empty? If so, I can understand the metaphorical context in which it is used, but I feel that its use needs to be defined, otherwise we start to create a supreme wall dividing that which is pure from that which is impure. A war of morality begins, Good vs. Evil continues forever onward.

I would contextualize my current spirituality as primarily shamanic in terms of my relationship with the universe, but in order to come to a peaceful understanding of myself and my relationship to this world I have utilized the Buddhist path as well. In terms of Buddhism, "purity" can mean realizing the true formlessness of reality. Many people think that such thoughts are hopelessly nihilistic, because without form, without substance. without love and pain, our lives lose meaning. But in my experience, the realization of the formlessness of reality only reinforces the beauty and sacredness of all life. There seems to be a paradox there, but it is similar to when you are sick with a cold and remember breathing easily with fondness. Being sick restricts your breath, but you can yearn for the day when your lungs and sinuses are clear, and when that day comes it is all the sweeter for the absence of any infection or blockage. But this doesn't condemn the sickness as evil, it is simply what it is.

So in my mind, purity is the absence of illusion or blockage, enlightenment I guess you could say. In this universe, nothing is materially pure. There is no such thing as a pure thing, or a pure idea. Everything mixes with everything else, it is the way of the game. So when we attempt to enforce a rigid purity rule on any behavior or material, we end up fighting a morality war forever. In this case I think we should give up and make our peace with impurity forever. That is not to say that we should never clean our houses, but that we should always have the reality of endless impurity in out minds.

For some, purity can mean God. As I have previously stated, I do not hold within my heart or mind any such notion of a single omnipotent being that rules over the universe, so I can only say that if your idea of God is purity, then you will fight a morality war forever. I think we have been programmed since birth to want to be superior in some ways to all of the universe, and a morally pure God is simply our visualization of this ideal. If we work toward acceptance of our own impurity and physical humanity versus warring against all that is impure in life, we could step toward a peaceful path at last.

As Thich Nhat Hanh says so beautifully:

"If you are a good organic gardener, looking at a rose you can see the garbage, and looking at the garbage you can see a rose. Roses and garbage inter-are. Without a rose, we cannot have garbage; and without garbage, we cannot have a rose. They need eachother very much. The rose and garbage are equal. The garbage is just as precious as the rose. If we look deeply at the concepts of defilement and immaculateness, we return to the notion of interbeing. "

-Peace Is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Radical Reconnection

I think that, once you start to consider the role of God in the universe, you start to lose the essential nature of what God really is. When we take a word or concept like God, or Agriculture, or Lion, we create a separation between us and that thing. In that way of thinking, the Lion is not a part of us, not who we are, not a part of our world. It is a separate thing. Perhaps the resurgence of mythical thinking can help alleviate this rift between us as humans and everything else.

God is not apart from us.

As someone who grew up as an Evangelical Christian, I know that the Christian way of thinking about the world, interacting with the world, and being alive in the world is definitely not for me. Of course in Christianity, as in all monotheistic faiths, the doctrine is that if you do not follow that particular tradition's every commandment, you are sinning and will go to hell. A fear induced feedback loop. As a metaphor I can appreciate the concept, that we will enter a hell if we sin against our own nature, but as a reality the creation of a fear based dogma to induce compliance fails completely on its own ethically challenged merits. It calls to my mind the moral dillemma of the idea that if God created the universe, then didn't God create sin and pain, and even Satan and hell? As a follower of the indigenous heart path, I can see the mythical reality behind the smoke and mirrors.

Did God create Satan, did Satan create God, or did we create them both? Perhaps the mythical reality lies in our collective unconscious, but it also resides in the bases of our hearts and minds. We have created these mythical archetypes to guide life. We may need to believe in them with all our hearts, and at the same time realize what they are. They are as real and dreamlike as life itself.

In any case, to be hired and fired by a CEO of reality is not my path. When I look around my world, I see beautiful sweet life dripping from everything, and I see this abundance as an aspect of God. In fact, I have decided to wipe the concept of a monotheistic God from my consciousness, because apart from all the doctrine and dogma I've been fed my whole life, I have never ever believed in this foolish concept of a single omnipotent being, and I don't see the point in continuing to support such a false scenario in my own head and heart. In the universe of me, God does not mean what it means to the vast majority of monotheists out there. I am God as much as the maple tree, the snowflake, and the plastic bottle. Why do you think Jesus was so scorned when he preached that he was God? He was a radical, someone who understood the truth of love.

There are teachers out there. I believe that Jesus was one of them, as well as the Buddha, as well as every one of our friends and neighbors. The concept of hierarchy and chain of command has got to give way to the reality of the communal effort, the circle of ecological wisdom.

We separate ourselves from the universe at our own peril. Enlightenment, salvation, all just means reconnection with everything.

a thousand suns

Monday, January 04, 2010

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Friday, January 01, 2010

Get well by Tuesday, what a crock. Still sick as a dog. Still can't hear anything out of my waterlogged ears...Ugh.

But check out my new business!

Permaculture News