A commonality between Jesus, the Buddha, Muhammad and Confucius

But amid the diverse practices one form of discipline is common to all four of the sages. Its commonality and centrality in their lives makes it tempting to suggest that perhaps this exercise was the secret of their success. But I’m reluctant to reduce the richness of their experiences and insights to just one thing. But if I had to name just one thing, this would be it.

Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad all took time to be quiet.

Confucius called it “abiding in reverence” and “rectifying the mind.”

The Buddha called it “bhavana” or “mental cultivation.”

Jesus and Muhammad called it praying.

In practice each of these activities was slightly different from one another. 

Muhammad liked to retreat to a cave or stay up half the night. 

The Buddha preferred to sit at the base of a tree. 

Jesus liked the hills and gardens. 

Confucius sat on a mat in his room. But their disciplines shared common basic features. 

They each involved making time to be alone, to focus on interior experience, and to allow the mind to settle and become receptive to what the world had to teach them.

Excerpted from this exceptional seminar by Mark Muesse, The Great Courses.


Celebrating motorcycle dreams

For the past week I’ve been on an art road trip around the South. It’s a very cool thing I get to do at the end of each season, travel parts of the country returning unsold artwork back to artists so they can give it a go elsewhere.

What it means — besides road food and a body that feels as though it’s in forward motion even when in hotel rooms late at night — is that I get to stand in artists’ studios all across this land, witnessing elements of the creative process in crazily varied habitats.

What it also means is I get to see America, roadside view.

In some Southern somewhere, cresting over the top of a hill, I spied a newish motorcycle gleaming in the dirt driveway in front of a tiny rural home. If you’d taken the motorcycle inside it would have overwhelmed the living room.

I was struck by this: That near-new cycle sitting jauntily in front of a run-down home was the culmination of a dream.

Someone there fantasized about riding a motorcycle — for months, maybe even years. And now he is enjoying the hell out of it, even if every time he mounts it loved ones cringe.

I had motorcycle dreams, and I lived them out, winding from South Florida to Nova Scotia and half way back to Manhattan one long summer.

It’s the only time I ever saw tears in my Dad’s eyes, when I showed up with my motorcycle. He wouldn’t talk to me about it. He wouldn’t come outside to see it. That’s one way to find out your distant father loves you . . . it’s still a favorite memory.

Then, a few days later, in another Southern somewhere, I saw an older motorcycle outside near the road, with a For Sale sign on it.

That too is the culmination of a dream. When you’ve used up your dream and you realize it, and you’re ready to move on to new ones.

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How to be busy in the most relaxed way

Oh, it’s so simple.

You go into stillness. Often.

I’ve found that people and phone calls and events flow themselves quite nicely if I dip into stillness enough. The crazier the speed of life the more I need to become still, in every pocket of time I can conjure . . . .

Calm contemplative silence, however you practice it, leads to much better flow. All the whirling things in the air line up and plop down one by one as if you ordered them to do so.

It’s as if you entrain the universe and its workings to your relaxed heartbeat, and it follows suit.

It’s the most joyful rhythm.

You engage! You disengage . . . .

You create! You uncreate . . . . 

You mold and fashion and process and spur! You enter sublime silence . . .

A tip of the hat to Rona Elisa, who started me on this train of thought from her G+ post:

Happy Monday! This week set aside 15 minutes each day to meditate. If you’re too busy… make it 30. 🙂


Thought is the whisper

In chaos theory small causes can have disportionate effects.

The most popularized version of this is the famed Butterfly Effect. In this scenario a butterfly flapping its tender wings in Borneo could ultimately propel a tornado into Topeka.

Some very small causes can have lopsidedly gargantuan results.

The butterfly itself could not cause the tornado . . . but when you add the butterfly’s wind effect to the currents already at play in the world . . . if occurring at just the right moment (wrong, so wrong, as perceived by our hypothetical Topekans) . . . that little oomph can cause an amplification, which amplifies one stream into another until you have, Kansas.

I propose, in human endeavor, that seemingly inconsequential cause — the Butterfly Effect — is clarity of thought.

This is why thinkers steeped in . . . anything . . . amplify it into existence.

Thought is the whisper of the butterfly’s wings.

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When the end creates the means

Might we find someday that the effect is the cause of the cause?

What I mean, the wonkier things get as we delve deeper into the mysteries of the universe, isn’t it possible we may discover that a future event sets into motion the beginnings necessary for its fulfillment?

This would be like a teenager dreaming of a car for herself her family can’t afford but she dreams it anyway. Day dreams and night dreams, around-the-clock dreams.

She believes its possibility into being.

When that car shows up suddenly in the most improbable of ways . . . a local auto dealer lottery, a friend of the family suddenly decides to give away an older vehicle, a medical supply delivery job opens up for her that comes with the use of a car . . . when it shows up universe knows how, then that future event — she and the car, together — will have triggered itself into existence.

The means — the way there — simply had to coalesce.

(Or we could think this: That focused and fervent thought creates future events, which conveniently create their own ways to become real.)

(Either way or any of a million ways, you know these things happen.)

(So dream! Fervently.)

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Do you have a favorite billionaire?

Try this for the next few days — after you’ve asked yourself, ask those whom you encounter: Who is your favorite billionaire?

The answers are more instructive than deciphering Rorschach ink blots.

If Donald Trump — the bombastic P.T. Barnum of business in this era — then big, brassy, me me ME materialism is your operating model for success.

If Richard Branson, then adventure, daring and a toothy smile speak to you.

If Oprah, then your inner soul sistah yelps ecstatic metaphysical verse in the face of the dark side of humanity (as mine does).

If Warren Buffett, good on you, for the off-the-rack wisdom and buttoned down humility. Simplicity looks good on a billionaire.

One’s choice in billionaires reflects personal aspiration. Not necessarily for the type of business, but almost certainly for admired qualities.

The follow up question is why? What is it about this particular billionaire? What do you see in him/her? For those are qualities you’d like to bring out in yourself.

What is seen is sought.

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Creation looking through itself

In meditation I swear . . . that if I recede back far enough . . . I can feel God peering through me.

I had this very feeling a few weeks ago. 

I expanded and receded at the same time . . . and at some intangible expansion/recession point I felt some universal consciousness spilling through, as though looking through me . . . 


A genius for joy

I went to the hammock to contemplate my larger life — my life from the long view, where there are two horizon points, birth and ultimately death.

On my birthday I like to cast back over the prior year, cast forward into the year to come.

Today, after a whirlwind twelve-hour visit from family all I could feel was joy. Members of my family have a genius for joy. At times I do too.

It is my passion — and my practice these days — to activate it. 

In the hammock surveying a life, that’s what surfaced, joy, overwhelmingly.

To look at my recent half decade you’d think it had been a bitch, starting with the 2008 crash and the way it boot-stomped our business. 

But that’s not what surfaced today. Nor indeed, most days.

It’s a good and often blissful life to engage in your purpose, to relish others and be relished in return, to steep in experience as it happens no matter the flavor of the moment.

Yes to more of that I said from the hammock.

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The gift of an uninterrupted hour (What creators do)

I’ve learned something lately. During my writing time on my book — not this blog — I’ve begun tracking words written in addition to time spent each day.

It will be no surprise to you possibly, but it’s a great surprise to me: That the difference in writing for half an hour and writing for an hour is not double the productivity, it’s four times. 

In other words I’m writing significantly more than would be expected by adding that extra half an hour.

In even more other words, the muse takes a little coaxing. You have to warm her up. Once she’s put down her mirror and cleared her throat and gargled a little fire water and is set to perform, she’ll belt it out if you let her run.

I run an art gallery with my wife. We run a ten-year old at home, with big galoofus dog in tow. We’re busy (in the most relaxed ways). So at times I’ll write half an hour here, fifteen minutes there, half an hour again later.

Which is good and fine. I’m doing it. I’m doing the creative work. Daily. When I can, as I can. But daily. Which is what pumps the blood for any creative endeavor, the dailiness of it.

Yet . . .

When I give myself the gift of an uninterrupted hour, the intensity of my work soars. An hour and a half, even better! It’s as if you enter a slipstream and glide to a destination beyond your destination.

I say this to all those who lead already full lives: If you seek to create something meaningful, the gift of an uninterrupted hour, daily, will get you there.

Meaning and momentum accrue in an hour.

Half an hour is good if that’s all you can muster. An hour is a wormhole into the creative dimension.

Part of the What creators do series.

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Sometimes you need a little Marianne Williamson: On healing

Confiscated from . . . 
The Age of Miracles
by Marianne Williamson

I had an experience once that depressed me greatly. I felt wounded by something in my past and fairly hopeless about my future.

Around that time, I moved into a house on the water, where I had a view of the sunrise each day that was more gorgeous than anything I had ever seen. Every morning’s sky looked like a Japanese woodcut that had come to life, with black branches slowly turning deep green, ebony sky turning hot pink on top of the branches, and a beautiful bright turquoise below. 

I had never experienced nature as such a deeply spiritual thing before. It was so extraordinary. I felt for sure that I’d been led to that house, and to that bedroom view, as part of my healing.

Every day my eyes would automatically open as the sun began to rise. I’d lie there and not just look at the dawn; the dawn would enter me. The imprint of sunrise  of a new day following the darkness of night  made its way into my cells. 

And one morning it was as though I heard the voice of God, telling me as I witnessed the dawn that “Such is the work I will do with you.” I too would experience a new dawn after the dark night of my soul. God would give me a new beginning. I knew it then. And as I closed my eyes and drifted back to sleep, I thanked Him with all my heart. And my heart was healed.

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