When I was kid, I used to take my shoes off when I had to walk to the bus stop when it was raining, so my socks & shoes wouldn’t be wet all day at school. I found that I really liked walking in the rain, sloshing in the mud with the inter-toe mud & squishiness of it all, and the feeling of freedom it gave me. Of course, I never told my parents, even now.
So the picture of me, walking under my little umbrella (yes, in grade four I had an umbrella!), with my shoes tied by the laces & hanging from my shoulder, taking twice as long to get there, because it was fun…it’s a picture I have in my scrapbook of a head.
That’s why I like the little video above. Especially the English accents (when I was a kid, I was bi-dialectic – I spoke with a Southern gentleman-in-training’s drawl, and my thoughts were in a British accent)…I sure like it. See what you think.
Just another way to take a shower…
The video below reminds me of university – I was at the University of Alabama, walking home from work at the dining hall, when the rains came, warm & hard & wet, with home too far away to even walk fast or run. It was wonderful, walking in the Alabama rain.
Years later, I went on a hike with my sister’s pal Hilda in an thunderstorm in north Alabama, where we walked up the side of a hill to near the top, where the lightning was, and it was a week after I had first heard the song below. Summertime rain washes you clean, so I wanted to share that with you today!
Thanks for listening, and singing along, my friend.
I’ve heard this story in several places, most notably as told by Dan Millman, Derek Sivers, and others. I feel it’s a nice cautionary tale about celebrating too early, before we know how the whole story is going to turn out, or getting down because we think we’re losing in the game. Either way, wait & see.
What do you think, dear heart?
An old man and his son worked a small farm, with only one horse to pull the plow. One day, the horse ran away.
“How terrible,” sympathized the neighbors. “What bad luck.”
“Who knows whether it is bad luck or good luck?” the farmer replied.
A week later, the horse returned from the mountains, leading five wild mares into the barn.
“What wonderful luck!” said the neighbors.
“Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?” answered the old man.
The next day, the son, trying to tame one of the horses, fell and broke his leg.
“How terrible. What bad luck!”
“Bad luck? Good luck?”
The army came to all the farms to take the young men for war, but the farmer’s son was of no use to them, so he was spared.
One of the greatest & most motivating things is to know, deep inside, that each of us can make great things happen. Even better, we don’t have to do it all at once…it’s a step by step journey, and each step, not matter how small, is part of what gets us there.
Sharing starts here. Healing starts here.
Let’s do this together.
– Brother Ian
We Were Made for These Times
My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.
You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.
I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.
Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.
In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.
We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.
What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.
Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.
The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here.
The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.
I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Hearing the bell,
I am able to let go all my afflictions,
My heart is calm, my sorrows ended,
I am not longer boound to anything.
I learn to listen to my suffering and the suffering of another person.
When understanding is born in me, compassion is also born. Thich Nhat Hanh
I think this is a little nutshell sharing of how you think you’re doing one thing – in this case, doing a portrait photo shoot – and getting different results, because different people, different stories, and different perspectives are involved.
Back in the days when I taught language arts, the kids & I would read the story of Icarus.
You know the story (in a nutshell):
Often depicted in art, Icarus and his father attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus’s father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris, asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea’s dampness would not clog his wings or the sun’s heat melt them. Icarus ignored his father’s instructions not to fly too close to the sun, whereupon the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.
Usually, there would be at least one student who would say, “Yep, sounds like my dad, too – don’t be too lazy, and don’t have too much fun.” After we all laughed, it was nice that we all agreed Icarus was just a frisky puppy who was looking for the edges of how much fun he could have. Instead of the discussion that we had in my college classroom that centred on how big-headed Icarus was, because he didn’t listen to his papa, and how that hubris led to his downfall, ours went another direction.
What if Icarus was a free spirit, looking to go as high as his wings wold take him? Looking for the thrill of going higher? Enjoying the freedom of both flight and powering himself, with his own strength & arms, to just glow, just because, just because.
You remember John Gillespie Magee’s High Flight – you gotta smile when you read it, and nearly every pilot I know loves the joy & feeling of exhilaration of Magee’s words :
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air… Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark or even eagle flew — And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Isn’t that what Icarus wanted to do? And isn’t that what we all want to do?
So one morning, in January 1986, my grade nines in my school in Oregon City, Oregon and I had just wrapped up our Greek mythology session with Icarus, when my friend Mary from the class next door told me what had happened. My kids & I quietly went to her room (she had a TV), and watched the news of the Challenger explosion. It especially moved the other teachers & I, because one of the astronauts, the first civilian astronaut, was a teacher named Christa. Like us.
The kids left the room silently to go to the midday break, and Jennifer, from my class, whispered to me, “Just like Icarus. Trying to fly higher…”
The news people & the President & pretty much everyone spoke of the Challenger Seven as brave & wonderful.
Magee spoke of the joy of flying & taking the chance to say he had “done a hundred things/You have not dreamed of.”
And my students explored the idea that pushing the envelope, looking for something beyond the edge, was the morale of the story.
Because you might just find joy.
As always, they teach me way more than I could ever teach them.
All things in this creation exist within you,
and all things in you exist in creation;
there is no border between you and the closest things,
and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things,
from the lowest to the loftiest,
from the smallest to the greatest,
are within you as equal things.
In one atom are found all the elements of the earth;
in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence;
in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans;
in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence.
Jeff Foster studied Astrophysics at Cambridge University. In his mid-twenties, after a long period of depression and illness, he became addicted to the idea of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ and embarked on an intensive spiritual quest for the ultimate truth of existence.
The spiritual search came crashing down with the clear recognition of the non-dual nature of everything, and the discovery of the extraordinary in the ordinary. In the clarity of this seeing, life became what it always was: intimate, open, loving and spontaneous, and Jeff was left with a deep understanding of the root illusion behind all human suffering, and a love of the present moment.
One of my favorite quotes from the Buddha is: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
Gratitude is one of the fruits of living from genuine happiness; at the same time, it arises from an inherent seed in our being, a seed that requires cultivation. There’s a quote from Meister Eckhart, the Christian mystic, that illustrates how important this quality is: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” If we truly understood the depth of this teaching it would be all we’d need to know.
Unfortunately, we can’t just tell ourselves to be grateful and expect it to happen, yet it’s a quality that certainly can be nurtured.
As people say in Canada, this is the week of American Thanksgiving (instead of October’s version), but any day, it’s as good time as any to give thanks, and feel the warm glow of gratitude.
I hope you have a good week, no matter where you are.
And I just wanted to let you know it makes me feel warm to have you checking out this blog (or on the Facebook page), the way you do. I’m glad for the comments & the emails & the notes & the feedback you give me, and most of all, I’m glad we get to do this together.
I hope you find & feel & allow light & love to surround you…
People are looking for the answer. In churches, in books, in relationships, in jobs, in money (and sometimes, no money, if you have a vow of poverty.) Any amount of looking is tiring work, I think, unless you have your own house in order, inside. Liz speaks to that, here:
You and me both, dear Neil…you and me both.
I’ve been finding myself talking about this subject a lot on stage during this BIG MAGIC book tour. I keep talking about the way my mother raised me to be as strong and self-providing as possible — insisting on it, in fact, to a degree that was sometimes uncomfortable for me when I was young, but for which I am now eternally grateful.
Even when I was a kid, my mother would not save me. Rather, she held me accountable for learning how to save myself. (“You need to talk to your teacher about this yourself,” she would say. Or: “You need to stand up to that bully yourself.” Or: “You and your coach need to work this problem out on your own terms.” Or: “You need to pay your own way.”)
I didn’t like it. I wanted her to fix everything for me. She refused.
This was not because my mother was neglectful or a hard-ass. This was because she was wise. This was because she was guided by her own fear — her own VERY legitimate fear of raising a helpless little girl who would turn into a helpless grown woman. This is why my mother modeled for me her own example of being a woman who always had her own income, her own independence, her own handcrafted exits out of any bad situation. This was because my mother’s life had already taught her this iron-clad truth:
ONLY BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO WOMEN WHO WAIT TO BE SAVED.
When you are waiting to be saved, after all, you see everyone who crosses your path as a potential rescuer. This is the most dangerous worldview that could possibly exist for a woman. A woman who is waiting to be saved will run into the arms of ANYONE, hide behind ANYONE, give her up power to ANYONE. A drowning woman (or a woman who perceives herself to be drowning) will climb up into any lifeboat — no matter how sketchy and dangerous that boat may be. And what happens next can often turn very quickly from a fairy tale to a horror story.
We must learn to save ourselves. We must learn to build our own lifeboats, or to swim for shore.
Teach your daughters well, Dear Ones. Teach them how to save themselves.
Peace isn’t something you ultimately receive when you slow down the pace of your life. Peace is what you’re capable of being and bringing to every encounter and event in the waking moments of your life.
Being peaceful is an inner attitude that you can enjoy when you’ve learned to silence your incessant inner dialogue. Being peaceful isn’t dependent on what your surroundings look like. It seldom has anything to do with what the people around you think, say, or do.
A noiseless environment isn’t a requirement.
St. Francis’s famous prayer states it better than I can: “Make me an instrument of your peace.” In other words, St. Francis wasn’t asking God to provide him with peace. He was asking for guidance to be more like the peace he trusted was his Source. Being peace is different from looking for peace.
This principle isn’t about merely choosing tranquil thoughts when you’re feeling frayed and anxious. I suggest picturing a container deep within yourself out of which all your thoughts flow. Inside of this container, at its very center, imagine a candle flame. You need to make a commitment that this flame in the center of the container holding all your thoughts will never, ever even flicker, although the very worst may go before you.
This is your container of peace, and only peaceful thoughts can fuel the burning candle. You don’t need to change your thoughts as much as you need to learn to be an energy of peace lighting the way and attracting serene, harmonious thoughts and beings. In this way, you’ll become a being of peace.
As a being of peace, you make a huge impact on those around you. It’s almost impossible to be totally stressed out in the presence of someone who has opted to be peace.
Peace is a higher and faster energy—when you’re being peace, just your presence alone will often nullify the uneasiness and tension in those around you. The secret of this principle is: Be the peace and harmony you desire. You cannot get it from anything or anyone else.
Thought for the day…
"The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization. As he crosses threshold after threshold, conquering dragon after dragon, the stature of the divinity that he summons to his highest wish increases, until it subsumes the cosmos.. Finally, the mind breaks the bounding sphere of the cosmos to a realization transcending all experiences of form—all symbolizations, all divinities: a realization of the ineluctable void." -- Joseph Campbell
About Brother Ian
Over the centuries, Brother Ian has been collecting stories & information & discourses for the purpose of elevating the human condition as needed, dissecting it when necessary, and building the case for hope.
In the spirit of noting that organized crime, organized baseball, organized labour, and organized religion tend to engender controversy & occasional discord, I promise to be neither organized or critical of those who are.