Wise Words – E.L. Doctorow’s Advice on Writing, Life and Spiritual Practice

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

E.L. Doctorow

Sometimes I feel lost.

Like a driver in the fog.  During these times, I can remember back to when I could see a clear, bright image of my destination; my footsteps were sure and the path ahead was sunny.  But in the fog, the image fades, my old practices feel dry and my feet are tired.  Motivation is gone, replaced by doubt.

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Wise Words – Three Keys to a Rich Spiritual Journey from Ken Kesey

Uncertainty, belonging and hope on the spiritual journey.

“Since we don’t know where we’re going, we have to stick together in case someone gets there.”

Ken Kesey

This quote from the original merry prankster is more than a quip.  It calls out important signposts on the spiritual journey.  The quote is funny because of the illogical twist of ending up in a place we didn’t know about.  But underneath its whimsy, this short sentence points to three psychological structures we all struggle with.

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Conscious Coffee – A Simple Morning Ritual That Opens the Whole Day

I don’t know if the Buddha drank coffee.  I like to think that he did.  He would have taken it black, nothing added to the bare experience.

Some mornings, I take the time to pause and enjoy my coffee as bare experience.  I feel the weight and warmth of the cup, I savor the subtle aromas rising in the steam, I take a breath of air with the first hot sip and as it warms my throat and chest, I sense a gentle satisfaction flowing through my body.  Then I pause again to look up from my cup and the world seems grounded and fresh. 

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Wise Words – Lao Tzu Shows us the Wisdom of Uncertainty

“The farther you go, the less you know.”

Lao Tzu

Wisdom loves to startle us.  She often shows up in contradictions that surprise the logical part of our minds. That is what happens to me when I read Lao Tzu’s words from chapter 47 of the Tao Te Ching.

Logic would say that as you go through life, you acquire knowledge and experience, so you should know more, right?  But life is not an equation and logic is not the only way of understanding.  Lao Tzu knew that you also acquire other things as you go:  biases, filters, false premises, assumptions, prejudices, and opinions that become increasingly narrow and rigid.  All of these distort our view and constrain our thinking. 

And along the journey you also gain this:  perspective.  The store of available knowledge is an ocean compared to the tiny teacups we hold in our brains.  The more you know, the more your realize there is to know. The sparkling wit of Lao Tzu calls us to humbly question our expertise and be open to new ways of seeing and thinking.

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

Being a Romantic Helps Me See the World More Clearly

I am a romantic. That is, someone who believes human nature holds more beauty and goodness than not. This is not a pithy sentiment, it is a view hard-won. Romantics do not ignore greed, dishonesty, war, nuclear weapons, torture, hatred or any of the other ills we are capable of. We acknowledge the full continuum of being human, from ecstasy to evil, all manifest in the world and demanding our attention.  All of this is true.

But to be a romantic is to see this truth in light of another truth – that even given our immense capacity for malice, our potential for virtue is greater.  The ledger tilts to the side of goodness. 

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Wise Words – Longfellow’s Advice On Empathy

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. ”    

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Think of someone in your life whom you dislike.  I’m sure you have your reasons.  Maybe they’ve hurt you or mistreated you.  If I listened to you recount the offensive things they’ve done, I am sure I’d agree.  The problem is, we tend to reduce people to the two dimensions of a cut-out figure, a thin slice of the expansive and complex person that they are. 

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My First Time – How We Learn from An Initiation

Our first kiss, our first job, our first car.  Each of these experiences marks a threshold into a new phase of life, an initiation.  We go from being an outsider to an insider of a whole new world. Before we enter that phase, we can’t really understand it from the vantage point of the previous phase.

For example, let me tell you about the first time I drove a car alone.  It went something like this:

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Wise Words – Emerson on Being the Ultimate Source of Your Own Happiness

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”               

Ralph Waldo Emerson

We often look to outer circumstances for comfort or validation. We compare ourselves to others to see how smart we are or if we have the right opinions. It is an awesome kind of responsibility to see ourselves as the ultimate source of our own happiness.

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Driving for Goodness’ Sake

Coming up to the intersection, I saw that the oncoming driver was in a pickle.  He had started to make a left hand turn in front of me and was blocking part of my lane, but he was stopped because the cars ahead of him were backed up.  I could tell he was stuck and wouldn’t be able to clear my lane before I got there.  He tried to back up, but there were other left-turners behind him.  He had no place go. 

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