Population

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Friday, December 31, 2021

         It will be good to consider the population of the world today – indeed, the population of the universe. I usually think of population only in terms of the people that dwell with me on earth, but surely that doesn’t begin to account for the full population of our limitless universe. What about the countless animals that occupy the earth with me – the billions upon billions of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, earthworms, dust mites, coral polyps, fleas, and fruit flies, etc.? Shouldn’t they be counted as members of the population? And what about the endless mountains and trees and flowers and rivers and hillsides that dwell with us on earth?  And the countless stars and planets of the cosmos? Surely they should be considered as members of our population. But then there are the winds and breezes and storms and sun rays that are our neighbors on earth and in space. And can we leave out the thoughts and feelings that somehow flow beside and around us – and sometimes through us? We live with them, so surely they are part of our population.   

         It will be good for me, today, to be aware, as much as possible, of my fellow residents in the universe – the wasps and silkworms and antelopes and valleys and feelings and lonesome people in Pennsylvania and light-years-away stars.  These are all my fellow citizens and neighbors. I should smile more often as I move among them – maybe even wave to a winter tree now and then, maybe say a soft hello to a passing wind or drifting thought. 

STILL IN DESPERATE NEED 

For the streets of her life, 
she does 
a disorganized, sheltering dance 
for herself and others,
since the streets show her so many 
amazing ways to travel. 
When she peeks into
 her life, 
she sees simply a million helpful streets,
always starting cautiously 
to assess where she should go 
and how they can help her go there. 

“ON THE BRIGHT SIDE”, oil, by Randall Cogburn

A scene from our sunrise walk yesterday – looking across the Mystic River to a mauseleum in Elm Grove Cemetery

Our chalkboard poem for yesterday

Radical

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

 I was sometimes called a ‘radical’ during the wild 1960’s, but now, at the young-old age of 80, I’m gaining a fresh sense of radicalism. I’m seeing, more and more, how truly radical all of life is – how absolutely revolutionary each and every moment is. The word ‘radical’ derives from the Latin word ‘radix’, meaning ‘root’, and it is a wonderful fact that every present moment springs out of the one and only – and infinite – root of all of reality. Using another meaning of ‘radical’, each moment today will, because of its absolute newness, be thorough and comprehensive, a totally ‘radical’ expression of life. Though I may not always realize it, each and very thought that arises in me will be fresh and far-reaching, a ‘radical’ way of seeing life, and all the various events that happen will be exhaustive and wide-ranging. Like all days, this seemingly ordinary December 30 will actually be a profound revolution – an extensive and drastic revision of everything. This ostensibly commonplace winter day will actually be a zealot, an extremist carrying the flag of revolution and renewal – and I know an 80-year-old radical who will be helping to carry it!  



IN INNATE

In Innate, New Hampshire,
a simple sort of happiness 
seems to be an inherited quality. 
Contentment comes naturally to people here, 
and a gentle joy 
appears to be congenital in everyone. 
People here take pride 
in a very natural feeling of fulfillment
and in a deep-seated delight in life.
Serenity seems almost instinctive, 
as if it’s the only sensible way to live. 
Sure, there’s sometimes disappointment and sorrow here, 
but folks are usually at ease with it,
as if they know it’s an essential part of life 
and can show them fresh horizons.
In this little town, 
love is elemental, 
and having fun is just 
part of the family.  

 
 
“Bluebird Day – Stowe, VT”, oil on panel by Sara Gray

PROTECTED

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

         I’m sure all of us elderly folks sometimes worry about being unprotected in the face of all the apparent perils that surround us – Coved 19, for sure, but other illnesses also, as well as the various dangers, risks, and hazards seemingly widespread everywhere.  It’s easy for we old-timers to feel confused and defenseless in these dark days.

         However, sometimes a light shines through for me – sometimes as bright as sunshine –  and I see again that I am always thoroughly protected. There’s a power in the center of all of life that’s not made of material ‘stuff’, and thus knows no bounds, and thus knows no dangers and has no enemies. It’s known by various names – love, gentleness, patience, kindness – and, whatever its name, it offers absolute protection, because, once recognized, it immediately obliterates all adversaries and hazards. What can possibly harm real love, which is not a material ‘thing’ but a limitless force? What enemy can threaten gentleness, as if a wind can threaten the boundless sky? What dangers exist for patience, which just keeps on keeping on, like rivers roll around the biggest boulders? And kindness – can any kind of meanness and malice do violence to kindness, or does it actually make it grow stronger and larger?  

         Today, as on all days, I am totally protected. Love, gentleness, patience, and kindness carry me along with their ceaseless powers, turning supposed enemies into guides and helpers. 

         80-years old – and sheltered in endlessly safe hands!

SOFTENING
(about Braelynn J., 52, Blessings, CT)

She’s sometimes softened 
just by being around roses, 
or by rising up in the morning 
under a merciful and trustworthy sky. 
She gets soft by giving showers 
of herself to friends and strangers,
as if she sprays you with kindness 
when she’s with you, 
as if something silky has been suspended around you
which promises to protect you forever. 
Braelynn’s softened by finding, 
over and over again, 
the lightness and buoyancy of life, 
even when hardness happens,
which only makes her tenderness 
softer and stronger than ever.   


Below, some scenes from a wonderful beach walk yesterday with Gabe, Annie, and Louie …


	

Mindful

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

         ‘Mindfulness’ is a word Delycia and I often come across in our reading and in the guided meditations we listen to, and today I’m thinking that, actually, mindfulness is everywhere. The strange fact is that, no matter how diligently I search, I can never find anything in my life but thoughts – no ‘things’, including the thing called ‘me’, just thoughts – and since thoughts must be produced by a mind, this means there is, somewhere and somehow, an immense, immeasurable ‘mind’ that is full and overflowing with thoughts. In that sense, we could say that the universe itself is naturally mindful, filled up and softly spilling over with thoughts, and a special one for each moment.  I live in a universe lavish with ideas, a thoroughly mindful universe that’s superabundant and generous with its thoughts. All I have to do – so easy! – is keep the door open and welcome each prosperous thought as it arrives. 

   

WEALTHY DAYS
(about Andy H., 70, Blessings, CT, USA)

Most mornings, 
he sings the same songs
birds sing on branches 
they carefully choose, 
like he carefully chooses a chair 
to sit on while he sings 
and sets the new day down 
like a gift that lets him 
slowly shine like a light 
among millions of other lights
in this universe that thinks thoughts 
that sing by the billions, 
like he sings when May 
makes a new morning 
and his old life lifts up 
and starts rolling down the road 
of another very wealthy day.   

Here’s a quick video from our 3.5 mile walk on East Beach in Watch Hill (RI) yesterday …

Prison

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Monday, December 27, 2021

The astonishing truth is that I have been in a prison for most of my life, and I myself  have been the prison warden!

I realized this truth, once again yesterday, as I was walking through the house. Somewhere in the dining room, it instantly came clear to me, like a light suddenly shining, that I have been locking myself up, day after day, for 80 years!

I saw that the jailer has been me, and the jail has been my own beliefs. It was as simple and clear as that. I continued walking slowly around the dining room table, trying to see this revelation as clearly as possible. I said it over and over to myself: 

I have been in prison for 80 years, and the prison has been my own beliefs about the absolute power of matter. I’ve believed that life is basically composed of material ‘stuff’ separated into countless ‘things’, including ‘me’, that are endlessly struggling with each other, causing endless fears, dead-ends, and disasters.   

It seemed so obvious to me as I stood by the window near Delycia’s beautiful flowers: My beliefs about the ultimate power of ‘things’ have kept me in prison for all these years! I have been living, day after day, in a prison of my own making!

      I kept walking slowly around the table, slowly seeing this truth more clearly as I walked. I said it over and over to myself: My beliefs have kept me in prison! Only my beliefs! 

         And slowly I saw this marvelous truth: I can free myself instantly, easily, and always! At any moment, I can walk away from my prison as a totally free man in a totally free and boundless universe!

         I think I must have bounced or danced around the table a few times as I said these words to myself. And I’ve been occasionally bouncing and dancing ever since.  

And here’s a poem I wrote several years ago, on a similar theme …

OPEN DOORS


All the doors are open,
but you don't do
what's so easy to do,
don't walk through the doors
to the wonders that await you,
but you carp and complain
that everything sucks
in this life that you say
holds you prisoner,
while the doors stand open,
all the thousands of them,
all the thoroughly friendly doors
wide open to wonders
you never dreamed of,

and what I don't get
is why you don't
simply turn
and look
and walk through?


Some scenes from the beach, today and yesterday …

Deliver

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

         Today will be a day of deliveries – special deliveriesI should say. All day long, splendid and surprising gifts will be delivered to the doorstep of my life – special thoughts, free-flowing feelings, words and sentences to say, events that shine like sunlight. I can have the fun, to day, of waiting at the front door of life to see what uncommon packages will be delivered there. The universe constantly sends out gifts of distinction, and I, like all of us the world around, will be the lucky recipient. Unfortunately, I often overlook these gifts and leave them lying on the doorstep – gifts of unsurpassed thoughts, first class people, second-to-none situations.

         All day today, life will be delivering limitless favors. It doesn’t always ring the doorbell, so I had best stay attentive moment by moment. Whole shiploads of exceptional words, ideas, encounters, circumstances, and persons are already on the way!  

SUMMER ORDERLINESS

He marvels at the orderliness
of things. These days
the birds start singing
at exactly five-seventeen,
and the newspaper man
makes his stop at the house
next door at six-o-six.
Stranger still, his breath
enters and leaves with precision,
his quiet heart
carries on its duties
in a dependable way,
and the stars stay
where they're supposed to stay.
It's astonishing
to consider this
as he eats his perfect
piece of toast
and dawn delivers
another ideal day 
at his doorstep. 

*my beloved best friend, at the end of our Christmas dinner*

“THE DAY IS DRAWING TO A CLOSE”, oil, by Irina Avlasenko

All

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Saturday, December 25, 2021

         I recall often hearing people say, ‘Is that all?’, and it makes me think, on this Christmas Day, that yes, that is all, and by ‘that’ I mean the present moment. Right now is all there is – ever. Any past or present exists only in thoughts, which always exist right now, in the present. That’s all there is. And what’s especially wonderful is that all that exists in this eternal present is thinking. If problems or successes seem present here and now, they are present only in thoughts. All of life exists in thinking (or thoughts, or consciousness) which, being non-material, has no boundaries. All of it makes up one, single, whole, inseparable, and limitless reality. 

         Someone might ask, ‘Is that the truth – all of it?’, and I would answer ‘Yup’.


ALL WE NEED TO KNOW

Overheard as some bicyclists passed:
“We know all we need to know.”


We do, but we don’t know it.
We don’t know that we do know
the sheer dominance of this moment
right now, the endless inner sunshine
and storms and starlight and awards
of this very moment, the way a brand
new universe is waking up inside 
this moment and making music no one 
has ever heard before, the music
of freshness and inventiveness,
the effervescent and indestructible 
harmonies of here and now. We know 
this moment because it is all there 
truly is, and, as she said as she 
rode past us, all we need to know.

… our little living room tree, and our cards to each other beneath it…

Boundary

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Friday, December 24, 2021, 4:31 a.m.

         The belief that has caused all of my so-called problems, over all these 80 years, is the idea that life is filled with boundaries. 

         For most of my life, I have believed that I, myself, am enclosed within tight boundary lines. There’s me, and then there are my outer, very solid edges, beyond which is the rest of the vast universe, composed of countless other separate, solid ‘objects’, all with their very distinct boundary lines. According to this outlook, there’s ‘the present’, but it’s enclosed within definite borders, outside of which is ‘the past’ and ‘the future’. There are qualities like love, gentleness, patience, etc., but they all are contained within outer margins. You can only love so much, and then you come to love’s periphery, beyond which it doesn’t – and cannot – exist.

         This morning, I’m realizing, again, with a sigh of relief and gratefulness, that this belief is the exact opposite of the truth. The truth is, there are no boundaries anywhere – except those created by my thoughts. There is never a separate ‘me’ – and never has been. What seems to be my separate, solitary, very vulnerable self is merely a wispy, evanescent thought – a thought which, itself, has no boundaries, but exists within the limitless universe of ‘thinking’. Similarly, all the so-called ‘separate objects’ I seem to see – people, things, places, the past, present, and future – are creations of thought. Their boundaries are as illusory as my beliefs, as misleading as my night-time dreams, and can disappear as soon as I awake from their fantasies. 

         The simple and superb truth is that there is no separate and enclosed I or me, no present, past, and future, no now and then, no here and there. There is always and only Now – boundless, endless reality – and what sometimes seems to be ‘my separate self’ is simply an inseparable and limitless part of this vast and stunning certainty called The Universe, in which love and gentleness, and I and you and them, and here and there, and now and then, have no boundaries whatsoever.  

         All I can say is ‘Thanks, dear Universe!’

ONE DAY A MAN WOKE UP 

One day
a man woke up and wondered
why he was in such a large place.
He looked in all directions
and didn't see a boundary
or border line, just a land
that looked like it went on forever.
He was accustomed to living
with limits and dividing lines,
but this was something
different,  a world where the only
borders would be brought about
by his own little beliefs.

He liked this borderless land,
so much so that his little self
soon disappeared into it,
and what was left
was this endless world,
sometimes called the universe,
and his limitless life
inside it.

Here’s our lovely sunroom, with our small Christmas tree and Delycia’s beautiful amarylis flower …

Just

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Thursday, December 23, 2021, 4:30 a.m.

JUST

            ‘Just’ is a treasure of a word. It’s like a little light that can show me how to live each moment. To be happy, I just have to enjoy precisely what’s happening. Right here and now, I just have to relish the way my old fingers are deftly flowing across the computer’s keyboard, and the way the furnace in the cellar is smoothly humming and helping warm air rise and spread through the house. I simply have to be here, right now, with whatever is happening – all day long. I don’t have to achieve great things today; I merely have to meticulously study and appreciate each present moment – the way water slowly simmers in the pan for my cereal, how Delycia’s flowers on the windowsills shine in understated ways, the ever-changing light on our car’s dashboard as we drive to her medical appointment this morning. I must do nothing today but fully become familiar with whatever is presently unfolding. I only have to be totally here, right now, at every mysterious, miraculous moment. 

            Nothing special – just a simple and beautiful way to spend a day.

"I JUST CAN'T SEEM TO PRAY."
(said by a friend)

Try this.
Just watch the sunshine
walk across a river at dawn,
and a prayer 
might open its wings 
inside you. 
Or study a breeze as it fondles 
a tree's new leaves with love,
and suddenly every place 
can seem like a church.
Or - so simple -
just put a pencil honestly to paper,
and good words 
could slowly light 
like candles. 

“Eastbound Trail”, pastel, by Bob Palmerton

Alone

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021, 4:34 a.m.

            I sometimes worry about someday being alone, an old man who has lost his loving partner and is, both mentally and physically, far from friends and family. Right now, at 80, I have both my devoted wife and loving family very close by, but I am occasionally uneasy about the aloneness the future might bring. 

            This morning, however, as sometimes happens, I see once again, very clearly, that I can’t possibly ever be alone. In fact, nothing can ever be alone, because everything – every person, place, thing, event, situation – is not alone, but all-one. The universe – all of reality – is a single, intermingled, effortlessly flowing force, and I am as much a part of that force as a passing breeze is part of the unending wind of the heavens. When I imagine a slight waft of wind worrying about being alone someday,  I see how silly it is for me to think I can ever be anything but an inseparable part of the all-one reality of the universe. I am as inseparable from boundless reality as a ray of light is inseparable from the sun. Whether I’m sitting in our cozy home with Delycia and not far from my affectionate friends and family, as I am now, or lying in a bed in a nursing home sometime in the future, seemingly far from faithful friendship and love, I will never be alone, but will always be all-one, an indissoluble element in the vast and everlastingly peaceful mystery called the universe. I will probably smile a lot because the universe is always smiling, and I’ll probably feel as safe as a star among the measureless, ‘all-one’ family of stars in the sky.  

            How lucky can an 80-year-old boy get?!