Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘search for peace’

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,




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.”


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


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,



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),



Zen in our Techno-Monetary society

This journal entry was originally posted in 2012.

It seemed worth repeating.


Seek peace,



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,


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!








A life of


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





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,



Chow Zen #3

The wisdom of Chuy The Wonderdog


Friends Always

Friends Always


To have a Friend,

You must first be one.

– Chuy

Return to “Civilization”

Editor’s note: this is the third of a 3-part journal entry following “Sojourn” (ACZ Archive, August 2015), and “Shore Dinner DeLuxe” (ACZ Archive, September 2015). – Paz



Three days is not enough time to spend at our favorite north woods spot, Forked Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. After a camping trip of perfect weather, a Shore Dinner DeLuxe, and a great gathering of friends (and mosquitoes), Sunday morning arrived on schedule, and it was time to strike camp.

Leaving the lake for another year is a dreaded moment. I break down the tent and pack the stove, the cast iron, the lanterns. We ask each other if we’ll do any fishing before we leave, but our inner drives compel us to keep moving forward, back to the world of clocks and calendars and schedules and work. We pack the boats and head for the launch.

The boat launch at Forked lake is of the most basic type. There’s a circular gravel drive, a ten by ten foot dock, and a shallow sandy area to put in watercraft. Mostly these are canoes and kayaks. The camp site has a number of aluminum Grumman canoes you can sign out, and some folks bring small power boats like the AquaMarie. This launch is not one of those fancy ones with a paved drive, ridged concrete to help you get traction, a solid surface in the water for your trailer wheels. No, this is as basic as it gets. The drive leads to the water and the rest is up to you. It’s a bit shallow, and has a couple of boulders in inconvenient spots, but if you get right next to the dock you can back your trailer in far enough to launch or retrieve your vessel.

Fast forward past all the neat outdoorsy stuff like loading the boat with the camp gear, motoring through the marked channel to the launch area. Up to the parking lot. Fetch the Funbus, move over one lot and hook up the boat trailer. Here we drive down the gravel road to the small “traffic circle” adjacent to the launch. It’s a busy weekend in the middle of July, and Sunday at 11 am is checkout time for everyone. Not exactly mobbed, but busy.

If you’ve ever driven (or backed) a trailer hooked up to a motor vehicle, you know it takes a little room. Maybe this is obvious to people who have never pulled a trailer, or maybe they’re oblivious to the concept. A sign near the dock says “Please Do Not Block The Launch Area”. As I reach the edge of the circle, I note two cars more or less parked on the left. I’ll need to wait for them to move out of the way before I can swing the Funbus and trailer around to position for backing into the water. I wait, idling, looking. Several young folks are milling about the cars, apparently packing to leave. Guy starts sort of rearranging the trunk so things will fit in. Two cars are behind me. Gal with guy comes up, she must be driving the other car, and they begin to converse. Probably talking about where we’ll get gas or stop for lunch or who will stop at Grandma’s to pick up the cat.

Along the waterfront, the dock area is essentially full. A couple folks pick up their kayaks and load them onto roof racks. A few others pull their Grumman canoes, marked with the name of their campsite home Forked Lake, Lewey Lake, Indian Lake, out of the water and move them to the rack. Forked lake is part of what’s called a chain of lakes, the outlet of one leading to the inlet of the next. In some places you can canoe from one to the next, at others you’ll need to portage your boat and gear, usually a fairly short distance.

I’m all about being considerate of others, and following the rules of civility that allow us to get along as happy neighbors. I wait patiently for the young people to finish talking and pack their trunk. The packing is done now, and they’re still conversing. There are three cars behind me now. In the friendliest tone I can muster, I call out “Can you move those cars out of there?”. They acknowledge positively. Perhaps they didn’t realize they were clogging up traffic. A guy from a car behind me walks up to my window. Clearly another follower of the rules of civility he asks “Do you mind if I go around you? I just have to pick up my kayak over there.”, he gestures to the far left. “Oh, of course,” I reply, “Sorry to hold you up.”.

Folks are not in any hurry to clear out, but then again we’re all on vacation, so why should we rush? I continue to wait as the parked-pair youngsters are finally able to actually get in their cars and move them out of the launch driveway. Our space to the right of the dock opens as a kayaker pulls out. As I wait for the parked pair to move, one of the cars behind me pulls around and drives to the water’s edge, backing up next to the shallow spot beside the dock. Just about where I need to put the trailer.

Now I’ve been parked and waiting for what seems like about ten minutes, so I tell myself it’s probably five. I’m a bit annoyed at the person that drove around me, as if I was sitting still because I wanted to or something. Why else would I be waiting in the queue with an empty trailer, pointing at the dock? Seems obvious to me, but it doesn’t take too many letters to get from “obvious” to “oblivious”, which apparently these folks were.

Well, I can’t sit here all day, so as the parked-pair finally move out, I swing the Funbus around to position to back the trailer in. Another considerate person calls out “You need to get in here?”. Rhetorical, maybe, but considerate. He pulls his car away from the dock area, leaving just enough room to fit the trailer in the space. I begin to back the trailer delicately into the narrow opening between the dock and the inconsiderate driver and mate that end-ran me. It may crowd them a bit, but I can put this in there. Like threading a needle, I carefully inched back, considerate even of the inconsiderate, I certainly didn’t want to hit their car with the trailer!

Then, lady from inconsiderate land (the mate in the end-run car) gets out and calls to me in protest “We need to load out of here.”

Without thinking, my minor frustration boils up a bit and I ask her “Do you have a trailer?”, trying to overstate the obvious. Don’t you think I need to load out, too? Didn’t you notice the eighteen-foot long empty trailer behind me? Why do you think I was sitting there waiting for all these other cars? They’re driving a tiny car, so they could have only a canoe or kayak which they need to lift to the roof anyway. Couldn’t they carry it six more feet, and move over, and let me in? I was here first.

With that, lady end-run moves over and stands next to their car, behind my trailer, so I can’t continue to back in next to them.

Herein lies my Armchair Zen lesson for this trip. After all my study, after all my meditation and self-talk, after three peaceful days in one of the quietest places in the state, it took just one incident in the first half-hour of my return to civilization for me to feel frustration, aggravation.  For me to speak out in a somewhat inconsiderate tone.

So there I sit. Perhaps fumes could be seen coming from my ears. Perhaps my wrinkled old face bore a scornful look. I may even have been talking to myself.

Up to my driver’s window saunters Old Guy. I’m kinda old guy myself, of course, but this guy was a little older, and perhaps wiser. Perhaps further on the zen path than me.

“Please don’t block the launch area.” he says, in a sort of mild tone. I begin to respond with the tale of denied water access, and before I can get too worked up, I realize his statement was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I think he said it just loud enough and in the direction of the End-Run couple. Then he launched into a tale of how he’d been coming here for 30 years. Wasn’t this crowded when he started coming here. There were bear poles instead of bear safes (a 12-foot pole with a pulley, up which you would hoist your food at night to keep it from the bears). His friend would travel around the lake to the campsites with coolers of food, delivering to people who wanted to keep food (and bears) in the camp to a minimum. His voice was soft and smooth as he spoke. His reverence for the lake, the campsite, his joy at being here 30 years later, nearly beamed from his face. He kept me engaged and distracted as the End-Run gang ploddingly loaded their little car with belongings. I was waiting for him to reach out and place his hand on my forearm, as friends do, and was forced by circumstance and civility and a little awe-struck wonder to listen to the old man. To respond to his observations. “Really?” “Wow.” “No kiddin’?”

Just as Old Man is offering warm regards and taking his leave, the End-Run gang finishes their packing and adds the final insult. Leaving the car parked at the waterfront, they walk over and pick up a Forked Lake aluminum Grumman canoe, and carry it up to the rack. They didn’t even need to pick up a boat!

For hours afterward, the inconsiderate actions of the End-Run gang kept milling about in my head. Nearly ruined my ride home, one of my favorite parts of the trip. Driving through The Adirondack Park, hauling a boat, feeling and looking like the All-American sportsmen camper. I stopped at the Blue Mountain Lake Store to pick up a souvenir, a token gift for my wife, staying comfortably at home, and willing to tolerate my trips to childlike adventure with the boys in the woods.

The actions of the Old Man became clearer as I rode. He must have been an Armchair Zen master himself, no doubt. Clearly he could see I was frustrated or offended, he could see that animosity was brewing. He knew there was little point in addressing the End-Run gang. Maybe they’re not a lost cause, but certainly they would not accept commentary or criticism with a zen mind. More likely they might be confrontational, defensive. At any rate, they were not in a good place to learn a zen lesson, perhaps.

It’s my hope that Old Forked Lake Man could see. Perhaps he could see the light of my enlightenedness even when I was blind to it. Perhaps he could see that here is a person that may be able to benefit from a little redirection, and a moment to allow enlightened thought to re-enter my brain. Here is someone ready for a zen lesson.

He was right. I learned that I am but a child at the beginning of my zen walk. While I think of myself as far down the path of the way, I’m really still a construct of my life before the path. Before the age of 50 or so, before it occurred to me there was another way to view the cosmos and all that is in it. The lessons are obvious in hindsight.

Anger and judgment have no place on the path. So they were inconsiderate? Isn’t that judgement? So I was made to wait. Is anger the right response?

A place at peace

A place at peace

I will think of the End-Run Gang incident, and of the Old Man of Forked Lake often.

A peaceful place should be filled with peaceful people.

And don’t we ultimately want the whole world, the entire cosmos, to be a peaceful place?

Peace is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak.

Thank you, Old Man.

I will study your lesson well, and hold it close to my heart.


Seek Peace,



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