A Need for Elders/Sages

As I grow old, I become more and more fascinated by the journey. It is a spectacular trip and I want to take it with full awareness and in the company of my community of Elders.

Let me share a beautiful piece written by Debby and Barry Barkan and featured on the site Sage-ing International

An Elder is a person who is still growing, still a learner, still with potential, and whose life continues to have within it promise for, and connection to the future.  An Elder is still in pursuit of happiness, joy, and pleasure and her or his birthright to these remains intact.  Moreover an Elder is a person who deserves respect and honor and whose work it is to synthesize wisdom from long life experience and formulate this into a legacy for future generations.

Becoming a Sage will be the most important journey we will ever take. We will need a community to support this becoming, and to help with that I am offering a special course in January and February of 2022.

This course will consist of a 60-90 minute Zoom meeting each week during which we will share our reflections from 13 or 14 chapters from The Sage’s Tao Te Ching and encourage each other in ways to fully live out our own intrinsic and natural Sage-Hood. Each week will also have a study guide and questions for reflection that will guide our conversation.

Tuition is $250. The study will be limited to 10 people to facilitate sharing and community. If there is continued interest, I will repeat the course as often as it seems helpful.

The Time of the Sage

Six weeks of in-depth study of The Sage’s Tao Te Ching with William Martin
Saturdays, January 22, through February 26, 2022 – 10 AM California time

Tuition – $250

Click here to register and to make any comments or ask any questions you may have.

A Lucky Man

BillandNancyI have always had a rational, skeptical, pessimistic nature – probably a gift from my culture and my education. Paradoxically, I have spent my life exploring spiritual paths. These two aspects of my nature have created an uneasy environment in which to live. I am drawn to a belief and trust in the underlying Wholeness of Life, but some part of me always dismisses that trust with stories of the dismal state of the world in which I (we) live.

I have lived in this precarious balance most of my years.  As I age, I am blessed with the presence of my dear spouse, Nancy. We have been on a remarkable journey together through paths and byways over the decades. Our introverted natures are compatible with each other. We love and affirm each other. At this particular time in our lives I find myself supported and sustained by her growing wisdom.  She is a shaman. She sees, and has always seen, the Unseen World in which our “reality” rests. She trusts, and has always trusted, this deeper Reality. As her path and awareness deepens, I find myself trusting in and relying upon her vision and her wisdom more and more.

I don’t see the Reality she sees. I glimpse it on occasion, but not with the clarity she sustains. But I do see her clearly. I trust her completely and therefore am watching the veil that has always separated the two parts of my nature begin to lose its opaqueness.

At times in our decades together I have led the way. Now it is Nancy who leads and I who gladly and gratefully follow. As these later years unfold, I sense that my own rational nature – a part of me I do not at all despise – will be joined more assuredly with my deeper, Tao nature. As the veil thins I look forward to a deeper integration of the seen and the unseen. I don’t see all that clearly at the moment, but I know someone who does. I have trouble trusting, but I know someone who trusts completely. I am a lucky man.

I’m Too Old For This S…

The Tao has no preference
for one thing over another.
Everything belongs, without distinction.
Therefore it never tires
and is always new and fresh.
We, of course, make distinctions, 
exhausting ourselves by preferring this, 
and disdaining that;
clinging here and avoiding there.
How sad, for we were made for quiet peace and joy.

The Tao Te Ching - Chapter 5

As Shakespeare once said,
(He must have, somewhere in his works)
“I’m too old for this shit.”

Thing is, I’m discovering that I actually really am.
I spent thirty minutes yesterday shoveling snow,
clearing a path between the cabin and the motor home.
I spent the rest of the day recovering
and today I’m still tired, and still it snows.
(As, of course, it should this time of year.)

As I sit and watch the flakes pour down
to erase yesterday’s work, I am subdued.
No amount of good health,
and I am quite truly in good health,
can cover the reality of seventy-seven years.
My life will need to change in the coming year.
(Is there no end to transitions?)
I can’t caretake a mountain property any more.

Somewhere inside is a small voice,
difficult to hear amidst the noise,
that whispers:
“The best is yet to come, but it won’t be the same old illusion
of imperviousness and endless energy.
It will be quiet and unobtrusive,
with no need to impose a thing upon the world.
You really are too old for this shit.
It’s time to leave the shit behind
and find what lies beneath.”

Still, it’s sad somehow.
You know the feeling.
We all do.
That’s why we come together
in all the ways we can.

I Belong to This

The universe appears as mostly empty space. 
Yet it is filled with a hidden
and inexhaustible energy
that has existed since before the beginning
of beginning-less time.
So we can relax and let our tension drain away, 
for we belong to this.

The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 4

Trust is becoming more central to my life.
It’s not that I think my every whim will be indulged,
it’s that I trust that I belong,
not as a coat belongs to its wearer,
but as a cell belongs to the body.
Life is really not my job, is it?
(though it seems so to my mind.)
The Tao is doing it all.
I can imagine the body saying to the cell,
“Relax, I’ve got this.”
More often now, I hear the Tao whisper,
“Relax, Bill, I’ve got this.”
I trust that when the time arrives
for me to let it go at last,
I’ll hear that gentle whisper yet again,
“Relax, Bill, I’ve got this.”


If you don't strive to be noticed,
no one will compete with you.

From The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3

marathonI’ve never been a fan of competition, though I’ve competed in track and distance running in high school, university, and in several decades of my adult life. There’s a certain energy in striding alongside another runner, pushing and being pushed. I loved the feeling of running a marathon! I’ve always wondered, however, why that pleasure had to be usurped by winning and losing. Why medals, accolades, triumphs, and disappointments? Why not just run, play, and then forget it?

They say that competition made this country great. How’s that working for us?

Haven’t we all had enough of, “We’re number one?” Aren’t we sick of the word, “loser?” If we eliminated. “winner,” and, “loser,” from the dictionary wouldn’t we be better off?

The Tao knows nothing of winning and losing.

Showing the Colors

We can’t speak of beauty without knowing ugliness. 
We can’t speak of virtue without knowing vice.
We can’t speak of life without knowing death.
We can't achieve without knowing failure.
We can't find silence without knowing noise.

From The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2

leavesThe colors of the autumn leaves,
a friend recently informed me,
have been there all along.
They’ve been waiting for the leaf
to loose the tightness of its grip
upon the tree, for the chlorophyl
to ease its constant effort to produce.
When that happens, they shine through at last.
I understand, I think.
I am healthy and happy, but no longer grip
my life as once I did.
Production isn’t a priority any more.
I think the beauty may be showing through,
no longer hidden by my ceaseless efforts.

Walk Instead of Talk

Talking about a path is not the same
as walking that path. 
The Tao contains both the talk, 
and the walk.

From the Tao Te Ching, CHapter 1

path in the woods






I’m starting once again, as I have countless times throughout my life,
to take a journey through the chapters of the Tao Te Ching.
Beginning at the beginning, with the usual single step,
in the thousand mile journey, I am reminded
of the amount of words that fill my life.
That’s fine. Words are part of my calling and gift,
but they are so dangerous.
I am known as an author, a wordsmith, a poet –
words that trap me and narrow my experience.

As I walk this never-ending path again,
I make a gentle intention to be more quiet
and let the experience of the moment settle
into a wordless appreciation;
a gratitude that needs no grateful words.
So I will stop now, and write again next week,
with words that might come from wordlessness.


It’s Harder Now

Winter is arriving early here in Shasta,
and I am finding it surprisingly difficult to face.
I know the wisdom of offering no resistance
to whatever comes and goes in life,
but it is harder now.

I am entering the winter of my life
and will not experience the spring of youth again.
Thus the yearly winter season looms a metaphor
for the dimming of the life I’ve known;
and also for the winds that shake society
as we all seek shelter from the storm.

For an old man, I am healthy,
but it is not the health that points its nose
into the storms and shouts to,
“Bring it on!”
I want to find a warm and cozy shelter
from the inner and outer weather.

I am going deeper into the Way of Tao.
It is the only shelter that can actually offer
comfort, peace, and the contentment of acceptance.
Wu-wei – the relaxed and gentle movement
that removes resistance and brings instead the comfort
of flowing with a Greater Power than my own.

I have been lived by Tao through all these years
and Tao will live me still, without my anxious thoughts
that spin a web of fear.
The cabin rocks with wind, and rain
pelts hard on tin roofing overhead.
It is to this power I belong
and as my thoughts wind down
the peace that lives beyond all reason waits,
and welcomes me once again.
No effort to resist.
No problem.

The Barn’s are Burning

“My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.” –Mizuta Masahide (17th century Japanese poet)

The barns seem to be aflame
everywhere I turn my gaze.
Our storehouses of what we think we need
are perhaps more fragile than we thought.
No one wants to lose the multitude of things
we’ve gathered against the threats we feel.
No one wants to be uncomfortable,
without the toys we play with.

But the price we paid for all the things
we think are bringing safety,
has been dearer than we thought.
We seldom see the moon,
or any of the wonder she reflects.
Our walls, and all they symbolize,
have separated us from life itself
and substituted videos and words.
Roofs have cut Divine light off
and cocooned us in a dark illusion.

Perhaps we should celebrate the burning,
frightening though it is at times.
It might bring hardship and discomfort.
It may require faith and trust and courage.
But we may again, when all is said and done,
see the Moon, stars, and recover wonder.
We may view each other fresh and new,
and find creative ways to see and be
the deeper life the Earth asks of us now.