Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘search for peace’

Tree Attitude

“Getting back to the roots” of Armchair Zen, so to speak. This post was originally published in May, 2011.Stand for somethingThe mighty oak from the tiny acorn grows.

This old adage seems to reflect a wonder and reverence for this amazing feat.

I love trees, I really do. I could easily personify them, impune them with human attributes, worship them as spirits. Something about a tree, standing firm and tall in the same place, day in, day out, year ’round…it brings a sense of stability, longevity, solidity, groundedness.

I like to subscribe to what I call Tree Philosophy, or Tree Attitude. So many things in our lives appear to be a conspiracy of circumstances, the times we live in, where we live, the way we live, with whom we live. Choices we made back in…when? Things we shoulda woulda or coulda done.

My grandfather always told me “Take shoulda, woulda and coulda in one hand, and a nickel in the other, and see which one will buy you a donut.”

Trees waste no time on such worries. A little tree seed plants its first tendrils into the soil—and is committed! From day one, that tree is going to live or die, stand or fall, right on that very same spot.

I like to imagine trees thinking about that. “I’m going to be the best tree I can right here, where I am, working with what I have.”

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from President Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  That is, after all, a description of our entire lives, really, isn’t it?  We are where we are, there’s no denying that. We must work with what we have, be it employment, a dwelling, our people, money, transportation, brain power, energy or spirit. And doing the best we can within these parameters is all we can do.

For philosophers such as President Roosevelt and myself, this means we don’t throw in the towel just because the odds are stacked against us, the task is overwhelming, or we’re short on assets, even if tasked with great challenges or the seemingly impossible. It also means recognizing that there are limits to what we can do, and we shouldn’t punish ourselves for being unable to do more.

I imagine a tree’s life is similar, but to the greatest extent. Tree doesn’t agonize over location. Perhaps prospects for success might be better elsewhere. Perhaps the climate is something humans would want to escape. Perhaps the very home of Tree is in a precarious place, on the side of a cliff, at the edge of an eroding riverbank, or at the last edge of the tree line, far up a tall mountain. Tree can’t move, but can only hang on and throw all of its efforts into the present.

Neither can Tree do anything about the changes in its life. Perhaps it’s struck by lightning, maybe loses a limb or suffers damage to its trunk. Perhaps humans come along and saw pieces off. Maybe its roots are immersed “knee-deep” in water during a flood season, or a drought season makes survival difficult.

If Tree is an evergreen, it will keep it’s needles as it goes into a dormant season. Granted, I have wished more than once that I could have a dormant season for myself, to rest and recuperate from the rigors of my own seasons, storms, lightning, chain saws, floods and blizzards. If Tree is deciduous, it will awaken, depending where Tree lives, sometime between February and May. As it stretches its limbs to the sky, it gets down to the business at hand: budding, developing and flowering. Sounds a bit like our lives again, doesn’t it? For its season, however long it may be (and without groaning that it is either too short or too long) Tree will produce thousands of leaves, each one a near-perfect copy of the others. For pines, tens of thousands, maybe millions of needles. Year one, year 50, year 200, Tree goes right on doing what it is born to do, producing those leaves or needles, growing when the conditions are right, and resting when it is necessary.

Tree will keep up the good fight, no matter what, and will try until defeat and death. As it is with all living things (and, in fact all things in the universe on its grand scale), eventually there is an end. I like to imagine Tree retiring. “I’m going to lay down, right here, next to the rest of you.” At that time, Tree is okay with this end, whether it is after 5 years or 500. Call it destiny, call it nature, call it the randomness of the universe, the circle of all things.

Saplings can be heard all around “Good job, Tree, and thank you for your silent service. You have been a fine example of patience and perseverance. A great neighbor in our community, shading the tender shoots and plants at your base, welcoming, with open limbs, the wildlife; squirrels, chipmunks, woodpeckers, sapsuckers, wasps, and anything else that came to you seeking refuge, a home, safety, security, something meaningful and solid that we can know and understand and rely on.”

Even after death, Tree remains an influence. Flora and fauna of certain types will flourish thanks to Tree’s legacy. The many generations growing around Tree will look on, seeking and seeing the testimony to its determination, learning and benefitting from the example, and the knowledge that Tree stood by them, and gave selflessly whenever called upon to do so.

I don’t need riches, recognition or immortality. If my life, and its own end, can be to any degree worthy of Tree’s example, I too will be able to lay down in peace, and return to the earth from which I came.

Be at peace.

Paz

The Poorest Man in Engleville

I imagined I took all my worldly possessions with me, and carted each and every one thousands of miles, across the Atlantic.

I ventured to Egypt and Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, Bangladesh and Yemen, South Sudan.

“Here I am to help!” I declare, as the transport plane lands and is surrounded by half -naked children, stooping grandmothers, skeletons of men, skin stretched over bones.

I unload my possessions and offer them for free.

A boat with motor, a canoe, a kayak.

Two couches, three recliners, an armchair, a china closet.

Twin beds, bunk beds, a king-size.

End tables, coffee tables, a kitchen table with matching chairs.

Vases, glassware, genuine Belleek porcelain, leaded crystal, fourteen carat gold-plated tea service, sterling silver flatware.

Three televisions, a dozen antique tube-set radios, a Victrola with a hundred 78 r.p.m. records.

Four, maybe five guitars, maybe more. A banjo, a clarinet, an 1880’s pedal player piano, an unrestored Stradivarius violin from 1900.

Two 35mm SLR cameras with lenses, 8mm film projectors, 35mm slide projectors, a DSLR camera with lenses, a DVR.

Wall art, framed paintings, original works, Wyeth prints, Renoir prints, a gilded hall mirror.

Jewelry; gold, diamonds, gemstones, pearls.

Tools, tools, tools. Chainsaws, circular saws, drills, wrenches, air compressors, hammers, hatchets, sledges, shovels and rakes.

A John Deere riding mower, a Honda four-wheeler, an Arctic Cat snowmobile.

An entire closet filled with decorations; Easter, spring, Independence Day, harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving, winter, Christmas.

When the movement stopped, the air fell silent.

A million people stood before me, speechless.

A boy of perhaps four years, clad only in a pair of shorts, walks right up to me and takes my hand.

“Do you have water?” the boy asks.

“Water? Well, no. But look at all these great things! Two swingsets! Balls and bats, kites and coloring books!”

The boy carefully looked over the heaping pile. Nothing catching his interest, he returned his gaze to me.

“Do you have any food?” he asks.

“Food? There was no room for food. This plane was packed. Look- towels, soap, an electric foot massager, an electric heating pad.”

The hope in the boy’s eyes faded. His countenance fell grim. He walked away.

Stricken by the truth, I fall to my knees.

 

Pity me, the poorest man in Engleville.

All I have is this wretched gold,

Which they cannot eat.

Seek peace,

 

Paz

http://www.unicef.org

 

A letter from the Governor of New York State

Dear readers: I live in “Upstate” New York, about 50 miles west of the state capital of Albany. New York City is about 170 miles away. Still, we are all New Yorkers. New York City, New York country, all of the United States, the western hemisphere, the rest of the world…we are all citizens of this planet. We all share in the pain. As Governor Cuomo put it, “…we know that ultimately, terror will not change New York. We will not be deterred. New Yorkers continue to be New Yorkers, and we will not change our lives and let terror win.”

-Paz 

Fellow New Yorker, 

In the aftermath of yesterday’s cowardly act of terror in lower Manhattan, I speak on behalf of all New Yorkers in saying that our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives were lost, their families, and those who are still recovering.

Our first responders did an extraordinary job. We have the finest emergency personnel on the globe. They work with skill, speed and discipline to keep New York safe yesterday and every day, and we are thankful to them.

New York is an international symbol of freedom and democracy. This can make us a target for those who oppose these values. But we have lived through this pain before, and we know that ultimately, terror cannot change New York. We will not be deterred.

We go forward together and we go forward stronger than ever. New Yorkers will continue to be New Yorkers, and we will not change our lives and let terror win. We are smarter, stronger, and better than those who seek to harm us.

Ever Upward,

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Lightkeeper

Lake Light

I am the Lightkeeper.

I claim no special skill or training.

I did not build the lighthouse, or the light.

It is my duty, my responsibility, to keep the lamp lit

For those whom I have not met and may never meet.

 

I am not a sailor.

Don’t know how to hoist the mainsail or tack to the west.

 

I am not a whaler.

Have never thrown the harpoon, know nothing of the harvest of oil.

 

I am not a shipwright.

Can’t calculate her draft or build a transom.

 

I am not the Captain.

Cannot plot our course or stare down the dangers.

 

I know only darkness pierced by the beacon.

I know this craggy point like the lines on my face.

I know the high and low tides, the summer storms, winter’s fury.

I know the cries of the shipwrecked, calling into the night.

 

I know of rocky shores and the ocean’s rage.

I know of smashed and abandoned skeletons

Of ships piloted by

Those that did not see.

 

Did not see the shore.

Did not see the waves crashing and foaming at the bluff.

Did not see the light.

 

“Here! Here is the light!” I shout at the

Top of my lungs only to have my calls

Drowned out by the roaring surf.

 

I am only the lightkeeper.

Despite my bellowing and tears

I cannot save those

That will not see the light.

 

I cry at the dawn, as I douse the light,

For those that will never see it.

 

——————————————————–

Couldn’t we shine?

I’m rolling all my Golden Moments into one.

Gonna shine like the sun,

One last summer day.

Shine like the lighthouse,

One last summer night.

See me 

Flashing On,

Flashing Off,

Fading away.

 

“Lighthouse” – James Taylor

 

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Day 21,187

June 28th is my birthday. Day 21,185 this year.

It’s so easy to let days slip past, one at a time, and before you know it, you’ve blown through your whole allotment of around 25,000 (based on an average life expectancy).

Living longer and adding days is an odd dichotomy, at least for me.

I look back through my treasured moments and find them invaluable.

And each day offers me more.

I look back on those black marks on some of those 21,000-plus days, and quickly dispel the thought of anticipating more.

Some things simply should not be thought of.

I’ve been in a bit of a slump for a while.

Work has been a grind. Life has been a challenge, squeezing in time for joy has become difficult.

The loss of my 15-year canine partner in this walk of life hit me hard, and I’m a little surprised that it still weighs on me so after 11 months.

Still, rarely a day goes by that I don’t remember something about him that makes me laugh out loud.

Theodore Geisel (known to most as Dr.Seuss) says, in OH! The Places You’ll Go!, “Unslumping oneself is not easily done.”

On balance, this life and this world are beautiful and precious. Moments are forged daily.

At times like this, it’s more important than ever to remain focused on seeking the joy in life’s simplest pleasures.

I’ll close with a poem which has appeared here before, but bears repeating.

June Piece

It seems as though we’ve just watched

The last of the snow fade.

Now we count the growing grass,

Blade by blade.

We await hummingbirds, tanagers, 

The peony’s first blooms.

We can open our windows (during the day, at least),

In our rooms.

Summer solstice brings promise,

Today the day is long.

We turn to see the rose’s bloom and…

June is gone.

 

Evening In The Garden

 

Seek peace (and simple joys always),

 

Paz

Zen in our Techno-Monetary society

This journal entry was originally posted in 2012.

It seemed worth repeating.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Sunset Moon

It wasn’t easy choosing a name for the blog Armchair Zen, though that’s how I’ve referred to my personal philosophy for some time. Names like “Zen in the modern world” and “Everyday Zen” and the like seemed to be taken. I guess everyone has the same idea.

Mostly the idea of ACZ is to share thoughts and philosophy with those that want to seek enlightenment, peace in their daily lives, harmony with the world, nature, the cosmos and life itself. It’s not about achieving perfection or some higher plane or a place in the next life or eternity. It’s about understanding our capabilities and limitations in this life, it’s about acceptance, understanding, compassion, forgiving and letting go.

As it says in About, these things are nothing new. Applying them to today’s world is not always that easy. We live in a world I term a Techno-Monetary society. We’re surrounded by wonderful technologies from life-saving medicine, global communications, electronic entertainment, space exploration and productivity greater than mankind has ever known, bolstered by the machines and artificial intelligences of our modern world.

In ancient times and old days, individuals and whole communities were isolated, and did not have the benefit of the vast volumes of knowledge mankind has compiled since. Their lives were filled with strife, at the mercy of the elements, filled with superstitions, fears, and lack of understanding of things that seem simple to us today. The sun, the solar system, what makes rain, thunder, tornadoes. They had more time, and perhaps a greater need, to seek peace within their lives.

We are also slaves to the monetary system. In all the developed countries (probably 90% of the globe), we need to work at something to earn money for rent, taxes, clothing, food, transportation, and the list goes on. This is really not new, nor does it strictly apply to developed countries or societies. Go back a couple thousand years and we find people did not live the simple agrarian lives we might imagine. Subsistence farmers & ranchers, mountain-men and even minimalist communities of today need to barter goods or trade cash for the things they can’t make. Cooking kettles, sewing needles, broadcloth, tack supplies, sugar, salt, bacon.

Finding our personal zen and peace within our lives seems like a considerable challenge after negotiating traffic, signing in at work, talking to customers, clients or co-workers that are not seeking enlightened ways, and any number of non-zen, non-nature, non-peace-encouraging things we must do.

Still, I find my ACZ to be pervasive. It hasn’t always been that way. I was “Two Jakes” for many years, seeking solace in nature and creative expression during my precious evenings and weekends, and turning off the peace machine when going to battle with the world. After some years of concentration, practice and informal self-cognitive behavioral therapy, the zen has spread to all hours of the day.

Nowadays there are few interactions with others wherein the conscious-competence of ACZ does not rule. Filter-monitoring, managing emotions & reactions, thinking forgiveness & acceptance, seeking to navigate all situations for the best outcome of all under the guidance of enlightened thought & behavior. Spread loving compassion by being loving and compassionate. Spread forgiveness and acceptance by being forgiving and accepting. Appreciate the beauty of the world around us by opening our eyes and minds and truly seeing. It’s not always easy, but it’s always simple!

That’s really all for this post. Perhaps it’s not a lot of meat, but an encouragement to those that may be seeking the path to peace. Sure, it takes a little time and concentration, but it can be done without extensive training or effort or money or social status or massive brain power.

You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be beautiful, you don’t have to be perfect. Everyone is welcome.

The cosmos, and I, love each and every thing without judgement.

That includes you!

Be at peace,

Paz

Solstice Day

Happy New Year!

Celestial Celebration

Celestial Celebration

 

In a world that follows the rhythm of the cosmos and the heartbeat of Mother Earth, tomorrow is New Year’s Day.

Today our globe reaches the point when its crooked and wobbling circuit of the sun finds the Northern Latitudes tilted away from the nuclear heart of our solar system.

It was beautiful sunrise for Solstice Day. Bright blue patches of infinity showed between streaks of billowing clouds. Classic tri-color clouds of white, blue and gray; and others painted with the pink peach of wintry dawns. Passing woods, one can see deeply into them, their floors carpeted with pristine snow, the white birches standing out like shoots of snow growing vertically. The golden copper oak leaves evoke thoughts of Christmas kitchen kettles. Frozen mists are seen at distance, hovering over Pigliavento’s sleeping greenhouses. Finally, the sun crawls over the clouds of the horizon and the lights come on for a shiny new day.

The half-moon hangs in the morning sky, upside down, out in the daytime, providing a celestial metaphor for the occasion. We are half-way around the year. As far as we can get from the greenery and flowers of summer, shirt-sleeve weather, the drama of thunder & lightning, the long evenings watching the sunset past nine o’clock.

Today, our shortest day, finds us at the extent of our solar season, far-flung and stretched like a rubber band, our globe pulling against the gravity anchor, the sun holding tight to the reins as we hurtle through space at six hundred kilometers per second, beginning the turn toward the new year.

Days get incrementally longer now, a thought I find exciting and encouraging. Solstice Day has many facets; it marks a circle closing, the circle of seasons, the circle of the year, a circle-within-a-circle of my life. Now it feels as though we are half way round. Half the leafless season of cold is past. The circle seems to get shorter, pass more quickly, each year I count. Regarding troubles, we are glad this time is behind us. Remembering joys and the magic of wonder, we are glad to have added these pages to our life book.

And now we can do that singularly-human thing: we can imagine what our future holds. For by the time I reach New Year’s Day again, that is, the next winter solstice (if I am still here), I will have lived and loved, wondered and marveled, kissed and hugged, fished and hiked and boated and camped my way through another chapter, all the way around another circle.

I count blessings and embrace the good and joy that surrounds me now. I cleave to these thoughts, never knowing what our next course around the sun will bring.

May the peace of the cosmos find you this holiday season, and may good fortune follow you throughout the year.

Look at this mess!

Look at this mess!

Happy New Year!

 

Paz

Wonderlife

 

 

Unbridled

Unbridled

A life of

Wonderment

will not simply

Come to you and 

Adorn you like a ray of

Magic Sunshine.

It requires your 

Direct and Vigilant Participation.

You must believe it,

Believe it is and

You can make it so.

Herein lies the

Magic.

-Paz

Island

 

On the move

On the move

A dog’s life and family are a strange thing.

Taken from their mother and siblings, and raised by a different species.

Humans have ring after ring of other humans around them. Offspring, relations, parents, family.

A dog is an island in a sea of humans.

For those who may be lost at sea, the island is hope, a respite, solid ground.

A salvation.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Chow Zen #3

The wisdom of Chuy The Wonderdog

 

Friends Always

Friends Always

 

To have a Friend,

You must first be one.

– Chuy

%d bloggers like this: