Writings: That Icarus thing….and Christa

Too close to the sun? Reaching, and reaching....photo by CBS News
Too close to the sun? Reaching, and reaching….photo by CBS News

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.

The Fall of Icarus, by Peter Paul Rubens
The Fall of Icarus, by Peter Paul Rubens

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.

Remembering our friends –
Brother Ian

The NASA family lost seven of its own on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, when a booster engine failed, causing the Shuttle Challenger to break apart just 73 seconds after launch. In this photo from Jan. 9, 1986, the Challenger crew takes a break during countdown training at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Left to right are Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist. Photo courtesy of NASA.
The NASA family lost seven of its own on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, when a booster engine failed, causing the Shuttle Challenger to break apart just 73 seconds after launch.
In this photo from Jan. 9, 1986, the Challenger crew takes a break during countdown training at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Left to right are Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist.
Photo courtesy of NASA.

Writings: Flow, flow….

12541136_10208400036181323_3931307007510967556_nSilent friend of many distances, feel
how your breath enlarges all of space.
Let your presence ring out like a bell
into the night. What feeds upon your face

grows mighty from the nourishment thus offered.
Move through transformation, out and in.
What is the deepest loss that you have suffered?
If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.

In this immeasurable darkness, be the power
that rounds your senses in their magic ring,
the sense of their mysterious encounter.

And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I’m flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Writings: It begins with you

Painting, by Emily Carr
Painting, by Emily Carr

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.

Kahlil Gibran

Writings: Always more alive, with Jeff Foster


What would happen
if you removed the word ‘anxious’
and just paid attention
to these flickering sensations in the belly?

What would happen
if you took away the concept ‘lonely’
and simply became fascinated
with this heavy feeling in the heart area?

What would happen
if you deleted the image ‘sick’ or ‘broken’ or ‘bad’
and just got curious about
the tightness in the throat
the pressure in the head
the ache in the shoulders?

What would happen
if you stopped looking for solutions
and checked to see
if there was actually a problem?

Come out of the exhausting storyline, friend.
It’s not true. It was never true.
Commit sacred attention to a single moment.
Come closer to yourself.
Bring warmth to the tender places.

It’s never as bad as you think.
And always, always more alive.

– Jeff Foster
(re-posted from https://www.facebook.com/LifeWithoutACentre/)


jeffoutdoorsfrom Jeff’s website:

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.


Writings: Thankfulness & gratitude, with Ezra Bayda

The path to gratitude, to your heart & through your heart...let your feet take you to a place of giving & sharing...photo by Ian Byington
The path to gratitude, to your heart & through your heart…let your feet take you to a place of giving & sharing…photo by Ian Byington

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.

 – Ezra Bayda

Well, thanks…

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…

In warmth & light,
Brother Ianthanks-sms-for-friends-1


Writings: Paul Hawken, with “You are brilliant, and the earth is hiring.”

Paul Hawken:
Paul Hawken: “The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hopefulness only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.”

I know it’s not graduation season exactly, but it feel like a good time as we look over the lengthening light the Winter Solstice brings to offer the light of Paul Hawken’s words, here.

One of the best I’ve read in past few seasons of speeches was the one Paul Hawken presented here below, as this incredible man with an incredible mind & no formal schooling received an honorary degree.

See what you think… it’s a good read & an inspiring way to start the day.

“You are brilliant, and the earth is hiring.”

The Unforgettable Commencement Address to the Class
of 2009, University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009

By Paul Hawken

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” Boy, no pressure there.

But let’s begin with the startling part. Hey, Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation – but not one peer- reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, the earth needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of operating instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like don’t poison the water, soil, or air, and don’t let the earth get overcrowded, and don’t touch the thermostat have been broken. Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food – but all that is changing.

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive, and in case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says: YOU ARE BRILLIANT, AND THE EARTH IS HIRING. The earth couldn’t afford to send any recruiters or limos to your school. It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating. Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.

Click here for the rest of Paul’s remarks….

Read more “Writings: Paul Hawken, with “You are brilliant, and the earth is hiring.””

Writings: Do it yourself. Better that way…with Liz Gilbert


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.

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 2.06.42 PM
Elizabeth Gilbert

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:


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.

Remember: Automony is the God of women.


Writings: Wayne Dyer, on Being the Peace

Wayne-DyerWayne Dyer, on Being the Peace

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.

candle-oThis 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.


Writings: It’s nice to have each other….

Some days we have dying on the brain, don’t we?

Maybe we have a friend or cousin or grandma who is nearing their time of transition, and we get to hang out with them.

Sometimes we’re surprised, with a car wreck, or a heart attack,  or “the news” that we’re gonna die.

Sometimes we don’t need the reminder, and we take time to give dying the sense of wonder it calls for.

But at the end of the day, no matter where we or our friends are, on the path, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we’re not alone. And – one of the beautiful things about being in this physical world is that we get to walk with each other towards home. And to walk each other home.

Doesn’t really matter who gets there first, or second.

Happy trails!

Love ya,
Brother Ian, with thanks to Ram Dass


Thoughts & writings: Remembering Wayne Dyer (a visit with Oprah about the Tao)

3dda80773f63d2fb0e114419347bd226Like many folks, I’m still getting used to the idea that Dr. Wayne Dyer made his transition this morning. Gotta say, I’m happy for him as he moves on to the next round, and I’m happy that I got the chance to learn from him in his time here.

Out of a bunch of online writings & lectures & shows & things, I thought I’d re-post this visit he had with Oprah a few years back, with a talk about the Tao…if you haven’t seen him before, it’s give you a feel for the spirit & humor of his teaching & sharing.

Onward 🙂
Brother Ian

Writings: Listening, with Krishnamurti

11738117_10204606444950405_5162675631258852879_n“I hope that you will listen, but not with the memory of what you already know; and this is very difficult to do. You listen to something, and your mind immediately reacts with its knowledge, its conclusions, its opinions, its past memories. It listens, inquiring for a future understanding.

“Just observe yourself, how you are listening, and you will see that this is what is taking place. Either you are listening with a conclusion, with knowledge, with certain memories, experiences, or you want an answer, and you are impatient. You want to know what it is all about, what life is all about, the extraordinary complexity of life. You are not actually listening at all.

Jiddu Krishnamurti
Jiddu Krishnamurti

“You can only listen when the mind is quiet, when the mind doesn’t react immediately, when there is an interval between your reaction and what is being said. Then, in that interval there is a quietness, there is a silence in which alone there is a comprehension which is not intellectual understanding.

“If there is a gap between what is said and your own reaction to what is said, in that interval, whether you prolong it indefinitely, for a long period or for a few seconds – in that interval, if you observe, there comes clarity. It is the interval that is the new brain. The immediate reaction is the old brain, and the old brain functions in its own traditional, accepted, reactionary, animalistic sense.

“When there is an abeyance of that, when the reaction is suspended, when there is an interval, then you will find that the new brain acts, and it is only the new brain that can understand, not the old brain.”


What you see is what you get….sometimes.

Yep, nothing there. Cartoon by xkcd.com, used with permission.
Yep, nothing there. Cartoon by xkcd.com, used with permission.

I hope you find new people & new ideas & new ways to see the way it all works….good place to start (if you don’t know him already) is Randall’s xkcd webcomic….he gets it, and has fun getting there. Here’s the link to the one above, and his site….be careful, you’ll get lost in the archives, or just hitting the ‘random” button, which is poetry in & of itself.