The Riddle

I want to be like John Muir,
climbing to the top of a pine in the wind,
just to feel its dancing energy.
I want to see myself as strong,
and brave and iconically admirable.
You and I know though
that I am often small, timid
and jump at the shadows
of my mind.

The mind is just as wild
as the world outside my door.
Simply waking each morning brave enough
to walk into the wilderness of thought
is Muir-like, really, heroism aplenty.

I can dance with the wind and snow outside
and delight in its power and grace,
but first the mind must be faced, subdued,
and tamed into submission to my Soul.
Inside is where the danger truly lies.
Sphinx-like, the mind stands guard
and bars the gate to joy.
It does not want to let us pass.
It must stand aside, however,
if at last we solve its riddle.

This is the riddle it poses:
“Who am I?”
The answer:
“No one.”

The gate to bliss swings open wide.




Occasionally I drift in what might be called,
a “purposeless fog,” wondering why I’m still alive.
Not wanting to die, but neither wanting to fill the days
with distractions and diversions
just to navigate my way
from morning until night.
(A retired person’s plight!)

Sometimes I step too far away from life,
being not so much a monk,
but more a misanthropic codger,
muttering in my beard.
Then my deepest Self steps in and wakes me
to who and what I truly am;
and I am reminded of my love of life, of people,
and of a longing for community.

I’m not sure exactly what to do, and that is fine.
Not knowing is a healthy place to be,
for it keeps me from impulsive actions.
Though winter has brought me isolation,
I find my spirit moving outward, looking forward
to a spring in which a brand-new bud will open
into something unexpected, something lovely.

I’ve been changing, growing all my life
and I trust that process isn’t going to stop.
The later blossoms often bring the greatest beauty.



When I am a fearful self, I remember
that this “self” is an illusion.
My true Self is not afraid
of life or death or change.
Transformation is its nature.

When I doubt myself, I remember
that this “self” is an illusion.
My true Self cannot doubt
for it is made of Light and Energy.
It belongs to the “really Real.”

My brain constructs a thousand “selves,”
and a million fantasies they believe.
Hidden deep within this brain lies
its authentic function –
not to construct a self, but to express
and be that Self in every moment.

I cannot teach my “self” to live without fear,
nor can I give to it the confidence it lacks.
I no longer try.
I simply stop believing what I tell my “self”
about my “self,” and let the whole illusion
drop away.
I become my Self again.
And this is where I choose to live.

Storms (2/5/21)



There’s often a bravado to my words,
expressing what I wish I felt,
instead of what I feel.
Raised during that brief, isolated, and unrepeatable
slice of history when comfort and convenience
slipped, unnoticed, into the collective mind
masquerading as, “certain inalienable rights,”
the child within my mind remains ill-suited
to the true pleasures of Life.

I enjoy my nourishing food while he glances
nervously around, wondering if it will be there tomorrow.
I walk delighted with my nose to the wind while he wonders
if it will snow, and if it does,
what he will do.
I watch the snow spiral down in beauty while he worries
about being snowed in and what he will do
if the car won’t start.
(Not that he has places to go, but you never know…)

I chop wood and walk the mountain trails while he frets
about how tired he may get
and shouldn’t I take better care
of this aging body, “not as young as it used to be.”
I bask in the warmth of the heater at my feet while he thinks,
“the power may go off at any moment,
then what will we do? I need the light and heat.”
(Why do you think I chop the wood
and keep the oil lamps filled?)

If you read my words you may see a contented man,
but notice also please the child inside
who lives a tenuous frightened life.
I can’t change him. Lord knows I’ve tried.
Best I can do is love him, accept him,
and relieve him of the need to run my life.
Rest, child, I’ll handle this.

(When my inner child becomes too active, I sometimes read John Muir or Thoreau. They help me, “get a grip.” When worried about the temporary inconveniences I benefit from reading Muir’s essay, Snow Storm on Mount Shasta.)

Paying Attention (3/2/21)

Each morning when I wake, I ask
that, today, I might pay attention,
not to thoughts, desires, hopes, or dreams;
not to fears, complaints, or trivia.
I want to pay attention to what’s Real.

I was at U.C. Berkeley in the 1960s,
but I didn’t pay attention.
Chaos swirled around me and I focused on assignments,
differential equations and semiconductors,
statistics and first-generation computers.

I worked for the Navy for four years,
but still didn’t pay attention.
Viet Nam was far away and I was in a research lab,
perfecting guided missile radars, playing bridge
touch football and ping pong
during long government lunch hours.

I went to graduate school in theology
and continued in my ignorance for awhile.
Church attendance, offering plates,
keeping people happy and pleased with me,
managing the institution.
But it started to fray around the edges.

I started to fray around the edges.
The American Dream was propped up
and patched with advertisements, smoke, and mirrors,
and for the longest while I continued to rely upon it
and benefit from its delusions,
but the fraying continued until I came apart
and had to stand apart.

I live in a nation torn apart by forces inside
and out, and I no longer believe its dream.
A pandemic of hate and fear and ignorance
fueled by clear-cut clinical insanity;
followed by a health pandemic;
and we are staggering from our sleep
wondering what the hell has happened.
We look around for someone who will tell us
that we can go back to bed and once again
pull up the covers, sleep, and dream.

The dream is over.
It’s time to stay awake.
A virus might be cured by science and reason,
but insanity and hate cannot be cured by votes and laws.
The best intentioned politics will never save a country.
Only a gradual awakening, one person at a time,
will build a future based
not on any dream, no matter how enticing,
but on what’s Real.

I want to pay attention,
not to a dream, but to Reality;
not to life as a right, but as a gift;
not to liberty, but to the freedom of interdependence with all of Life;
not to the pursuit of happiness, but to contentment in each moment.

That is why each morning when I wake, I ask
that, today, I might pay attention to what’s Real.

(No sooner had I finished this poem than I came across a powerful and potent article by Fred Bahnson in Emergence Magazine It is an important read.

Cabin Fever (2/28/21)

We took a modest hike today
along a favorite mountain trail.
The sky was clear and washed by a cold breeze
that also washed away my cabin fever just a bit.
But now I’m back in the cabin itself
and I feel the symptoms returning.
Dullness, inertia, and the nagging questions:

“Why is there something rather than nothing?”
“Who am I?”
“What shall I do?”

Questions with no answers that satisfy
the mind that is doing the asking.
Only when the breeze blows in,
whistling through the dusty spaces with a hint
that spring cleaning might be needed,
do the answers form;

Why? The imperative of Light and Love.
Who? Me.
What? The next thing.

Elucidation on these answers is a futile waste of time.
Only the breeze blowing through the cobwebs avails.
A body fever is the necessary work of the immune system.
Cabin fever may be necessary to burn away the assumptions,
projections, biases, and illusions crusting up the soul.
In any case, the clouds are moving swiftly across the sky.
I think I’ll step outside.

Dull? (2/25/21)

I don’t have many unchanging rituals.
One, though, is consistent.
I make coffee every morning, first thing.
When it’s brewed, I put the first splash in a cup,
walk outside, whatever the weather,
sing a morning song to the sky,
(the song varies)
and offer that bit of elixir to the Earth.
Seldom with profound thoughts or prayers.
Always with gratitude for another day.
Sometimes I linger, watching the stars shimmer
in the clear cold winter sky.
Sometimes I briefly sing, splash, and hurry in
out of the blowing snow.

In the summer I face east and notice
where the sun is rising, tracking it in its journey north.
In the winter no sun greets me, but sometimes Mother Moon
is setting in the west, full and bright.
Always the Eddy Mountains etched against the horizon,
or cloud-hidden, cloaked against my eyes.
Black Butte to the east, massive, permanent,
hides her big sister, Shasta, from my sight,
but I know she’s there!

My ideas, projections, wants, and wishes
fade a bit and silence ensues.
Is it silence? Or have I simply become dull
and ordinary, without profundity
in my elder years?
I hope so.

Flying Blind (2/22/21)

Winter this year has been a challenge.
Oh, I have a snow blower, a cord of firewood,
extra water and supplies for occasional power outages,
but the inner work has been harder than expected.
It is work I know quite well,
and I have faced it competently in the past.
Somehow, though, this winter it seems harder.

It may be that the FUBAR year of 2020
has left me off my guard, fatigued, as are we all,
by an Orwellian world gone mad.
We have, I think, a dose of cabin fever.
It’s difficult to look beyond our walls
and behind our screens,
to get a sense of where we’re going,
what we’re doing.

Like a pilot in a cloud bank,
disoriented with no sure sense of up and down,
I’ve had to remind myself on several occasions,
to straighten up and fly right;
to trust the instruments of my deeper knowing,
rather than my confused conditioned mind,
which quickly loses its bearings in the fog.

The future is no longer a familiar route
and old guidelines do not avail.
It would be easy to fly into a mountainside.
But when I trust the Way I cannot see,
yet know for sure is there,
I find the clouds thin out and drift apart,
and a light-filled spring seems certain.

Vibration (2/19/21)

Winter, someone says, is cold and harsh.
Who says? Who perceives it so?
A tiresome voice inside my head.

Everything in existence is simply vibration
until some instrument picks it up –
then it becomes perception.

Perception depends on the instrument used,
and human instruments are so very limited,
and limiting.

The sunlight outside is a vibrating wave.
Tune my instrument just a bit and I could hear it
as it fills the meadow and dances atop the snow.
The glistening ice diamonds that sparkle in my view
would become sharp notes cascading up and down a hidden scale.

There is much more, so very much more,
to life than my instruments would have me know.
That’s why I rest a drum against my chest
and beat a rhythm I can feel within my ribs.

I’m not content with the world
that I’ve been taught to see.
I want the Hidden World I know is waiting
beyond the doors of my perception.
I want to hear the sun as it rises
above the peak of Black Butte,
and see the colors of the rain
as it beats against my roof.
I want the cold to be a melody
and the snow to be a winter symphony


Pascal’s Wager (2/15/21)

When my mind gets caught in crazy loops
of unknown futures, hopes, and expectations –
I think of Pascal’s famous wager:

He framed it in Christian terms:
Either there is a God, or there isn’t.
If there is, building one’s life around God’s will
is the only rational thing to do
and will reap great benefit.
If there isn’t, building one’s life around the possibility
of God’s existence is still a rational act.
Assuming God’s existence brings everything to gain,
and nothing to lose.

Orthodox religion no longer satisfies me,
But Pascal’s wager still intrigues me.
Either the Great Tao, the Mystery, exists –
or the whole thing is random nonsense.
Basing my life on the existence of a coherent Mystery
is a wager I’m quite willing to make.
And if that Mystery exists,
it follows that it permeates the Cosmos
to the smallest quantum particle.
And the minuscule moments of my life
are part of an eternal, coherent flow
that I can trust.
Each moment brings exactly what is needed.
What seems gain, or loss, is simply flow
of which I am a part,
and from which I cannot be separated.

Hard to do,
but rationally,
no other choice makes sense,
and I get to savor every moment of my life!