ATTENTION

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

(written on 11/22/02, when I was still teaching)

Paying attention to something always makes that thing clearer and deeper. This is a truth with magical powers. If I am attentive to a book as I read, the book invariably becomes better, richer, more powerful. If I am attentive, really attentive, to my students, they grow stronger and more capable before my eyes. If I am attentive to the present moment, that moment – any moment – grows stronger, more intense, and more exhilarating. Attention is to anything what sunlight and rain is to plants. Attention feeds and energizes whatever it is focused on. Today, I will try to be attentive to each moment, and therefore I will have the pleasure of watching each of them sprout and spread and blossom.

Below, a scene from this lucky morning …

… our very tall shadows on the beach …

THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT
(Sharon Z.,82, Blessings, CT) 

At her age, she says she has 
more scraping-the-heavens kinds of days 
than she ever had in younger years. 
She has little money, 
so she’s always surprised 
by the grand scale of her life, 
the way, over 8 decades of years
she seems to have slowly
come from a cave into sunshine,
and finds herself now 
on the spectacular summit
of old age, 
with a trove of young talents inside her,
and all her worries fallen 
into a silent and bottomless hole. 
It happened, she says, 
when life, not she,
became the center of attention
and this galloping good life 
took her for a ride
and shouted 
This is what it’s all about!



GENTLENESS

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

         There are many kinds of power, but to me the power of gentleness is the greatest. For example, consider the strong gentleness of a river. Water is one of the softest of all material things, and yet it can move trees and houses when it floods in the spring. This gentle substance that washes your dishes can effortlessly wash away an entire town in flood season. Then there is the persistent power of even the softest breeze. A cool breeze in the summer can cool the lives and nerves of an entire town in a matter of minutes. One minute you’re sweating and frustrated, and the next minute you’re relishing your life as a tender breeze rustles your hair. Finally, the strongest, bravest, and most admirable people I have ever known were also the gentlest. These are people who know that the most important battles are won only by powerful and authoritative gentleness. Like rivers, these people flow along softly with enormous power. Like the breezes of summer, they change our lives with their sturdy, relentless gentleness.

A SOFT TOUCH
(about Shay M., 91, Blessings, CT, USA)

Shay's become a soft touch in his elder years. 
He softly touches problems
and they easily dwindle away,
and fears always fall victim 
to his easy-going touch.  
He lightly strokes his worries
as if they're his friends.
and they slowly fade off with smiles. 
If he smoothly rubs a sorrow,
 it whispers its wisdom to him,
and sometimes stays for weeks 
as his special instructor. 
At the gentle age of 91, 
Shay's spoken words have a soothing touch,
as if you could stroll with them 
and softly toss away your worries.   


Below, two happy riders on the Kingston Rail Trail yesterday …

Being

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

June 13, 2022

         Today, lucky for me, ‘being’ will be everywhere and all-powerful. Yes, ‘doing’ will also seem to be ever-present, but beneath and behind all the doing will be the simple, always accessible power of being, of aliveness. Wherever I am – at my desk, in the yard, or walking with Delycia to our weekly breakfast-out – the vital force of quiet, simple being will be ubiquitous. Even when I’m just sitting outside in the springtime shade and doing nothing but sitting, ‘being-ness’, the soul and spirit of all of reality, will be drawing empowered breath all around me. Even in total non-activity today, life will be always arising, always being. A stone sitting among other silent stones on a wall has, in this sense, as much life as a youngster racing around on the playground. The stone is being present, being around, being available, being at hand – and so am Iand always. I just hope I can always be aware of it – the peaceful and boundless power of simply being. 

________________

Here are some photos from our walk this morning in Elm Grove Cemetery on the Mystic River …

ENGINE

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Tuesday, May 31, 2021

         I sometimes worry about our car engine, wondering if it might one day break down on some lonesome road, far from friends and repair shops. However, I know that I never have to worry about the engine that drives my life, because it’s precisely the same engine that manages the entire universe. The sun has been dutifully rising for billions of years now, and the same power that steers the sun steers the countless thoughts that rise inside me, and steers my little lungs that reliably lift and fall about 21,000 times every 24 hours. Each day – each moment – is made by a motor that never starts and never stops, a machine that’s been making miracles since time began. It can’t break down, because the ever-present present moment can’t break down.  Actually, I’m an integral part of this everlasting motor. I think because it thinks; I smile because it smiles. 

         I love riding in our car, feeling the smoothness of movement over the roads, and I should love far more just sailing smoothly along inside the engine called Life.  

Power

WORDS LIKE LIGHT

Tuesday,  January 18, 2022

            How amazing are the powers of this universe, and none of them belong to or are controlled by me! The abilities I see in winds and sunrises and always-swirling feelings and thoughts are not my abilities, but belong simply to a reality that’s vaster than the farthest skies and stars. Somehow, forcefulness is flowing endlessly through all of life, and somehow I am able to feel it powering its way through me, but I have no authority over it. It is not mine to make or guide. This ever-present and mysterious influence – this power that gives mastery to sunshine and darkness and sorrow and words and winter storms – has no boundaries, no beginnings or endings. It’s here and everywhere, now and forever, and what is called ‘I’ and ‘me’ is simply an essential and inseparable motion within its never-ending flow. While I’m sitting at my desk this morning, typing out these words, the limitless capacities of the universe are displaying themselves in my elderly but reliably nimble fingers, in my spanking new thoughts, in the rising and falling of my still-lively lungs, and in our old furnace steadily sending warm air up from the basement. There’s power in these early morning moments, and the power will move through all the moments to come in this influential, irresistible day – and old, happy Hamilton will move right along with it. 

… a poem about a make-believe guy…
our chalkboard poem for today

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 …


	

In the Driver’s Seat

An Old Saying for a New Day

Saturday, October 16, 2021

            Today, fortunately for me, I will not be in the driver’s seat. I will not have to operate my life as if it’s a small, multifaceted ship in a mysterious ocean. Luckily, another power is in charge, a power that’s more immense than the starry sky and more harmonious than the most perfectly performed symphony. The minutes of this day will be steered in a serene and flawless way by a force that’s been flowing since before time. The manager of all things will be bigger than countless oceans, and brighter than the brightest sunrise. It will be like riding in a limousine with an astute chauffeur, or perhaps like hiking steep hills and billowing valleys with a meticulous and sagacious guide. Luckily, I won’t be the the pilot today, just a passenger prepared for surprises and fresh wisdom. 

A PONY TO RIDE
(what Joe K., age 43 and homeless, said)

I show drivers a sign that asks for money
and also shows 
that I’m a shameless disappointment.
I guess I should stay under a rock somewhere,
since I’ve made an absolute mess of my life
for forty years. 
I’m sure love is something special, 
but I never learned how to do it, 
how to hold life lightly and gently, 
instead of always warring with it. 
I thought life was a fight to be fought, 
but now I see it’s maybe
just a river to follow, 
or perhaps
a pony to ride wherever it wishes to go.
I hope I still have time to learn.
I used to love pony rides as a kid.
… on a late-afternoon walk yesterday around the circle of our neighborhood, with the Mystic River just beyond the trees

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

IRRESISTIBLE

            There is only one truly irresistible force in my life – the eternal present. Other powers come and go, arise and disappear, seem strong and then dwindle down, but the present is always irrepressibly steady. It’s constantly and permanently right here, right now. There’s no way for me to escape from the Present. (The uppercase ‘P’ seems appropriate.) And if it’s always here, then it’s infinite – without boundaries, limitless. There’s no place where the Present doesn’t exist and have power. The past and future may seem to have separate, persuasive existences, but the truth is that nothing exists – or has power – but the inexorable Present. No doubt it would be good for me to stop resisting this unavoidable, imperative force. It is right here, right now, in all its enchanting ways. The compelling Present is holy ground. Perhaps, like Moses (Exodus 3:5), I should take off my shoes. 

FINDING THE PRESENT 

One day, 
a man found the present. 
It had prepared itself for him 
by holding its usual lights
in its lighthearted way, 
and waving to him 
like it loved him, 
as it always has. 
He held its hand, 
and all of life
lifted up and let itself loose
inside him and out to the stars. 
He stood in silence
and a new and endless sky spread out,
and then another,
and another. 

* below, a scene from Delycia’s garden yesterday – a sparrow atop a sedum blossom, while St. Francis quietly contemplates the birdbath *

And some scenes from a lovely walk yesterday on the Beebe Pond Trail in Groton …

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

COMFORT

            The word ‘comfort’ derives from the Latin word for ‘strength’, and today, with Hurricane Henri hurrying toward us, I need a super kind of strength, and I’m finding it this morning, once again, in some simple words: Spirit is stronger than things.  Henri is a ‘thing’ – a material force of immense material power – but, because it is made strictly of material substance, its force, though very potent, is limited. Its windspeed has maximums, and its duration will be relatively brief as it swirls through New England. Our inner spirit, on the other hand, knows no limits – none. The power of ‘love’, for instance, has no boundaries, and is totally insuperable. No limited, short-lived ‘thing’ like a hurricane has a chance when faced with the power of boundless love. And ‘patience’: what storm, as wild as it might be, can overcome the quiet, unwavering power of patience? What mighty winds can disturb, even slightly, the endless equanimity of patience? And then there’s ‘acceptance’, which, like a bottomless, hospitable ocean, receives with open – and even grateful – arms whatever falls into it, including a howling hurricane called Henri. 

            The never-ending power of inner spirit will be available to me in these coming turbulent days, and I hope I can find strength in that simple, comforting truth.  

Comfort
(what Ellie G., age 42, Blessings, CT, said)

"I always say at least
I have a roof over my head,
and sometimes I see it up there,
the stretching sky, the consecrated stars,
the silent mystery that makes
my life seem small in an illustrious way.
I get comfort from finding strength
in small things, maybe mist among trees,
or the way curtains curl in breezes,
or the sounds of birds that rinse
my mind with songs.  My comfort
comes from the soothing earth,
the simple, reassuring sky."

WORDS LIKE LIGHT 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

MASTERFUL

         Today I hope to remember, all day, that I am not in command of my life, but that a much greater and higher power is the true ruler of everything. I’m not talking here about the power traditionally called ‘God’ – a supposedly superhuman being who sits somewhere above us and runs the show, both the tragedies and the triumphs. No, the imperious power I’m speaking of is more like an infinite wind than a super-person. Throughout our limitless universe, this non-material, highly skillful ‘wind’ flows and drifts and controls all things, including the infinitesimal but indispensable ‘breeze’ called Hamilton Salsich.  I often laugh to think of my endless efforts to control my life, to be the boss and master of everything, like a wisp of a  breeze trying to supervise the limitless wind. I can imagine the big wind saying to the little breeze, “Hey, relax and let go. I am the captain. I can take you on wondrous adventures today. Just relax and let go and let me do the work.”  I hope to do that today. A masterly force will be always at work, moving me through thoughts and feelings and events the way the boundless wind moves its countless gusts and drafts. A grand adventure awaits me today. I just have to release my hold on the reins and let the immeasurable spiritual ‘wind’ of the universe do its wondrous work. 

ALL IT TAKES  

He saw some branches shaking in a breeze,
and then he understood: the force that frees

the branches isn't in the branches, but in
the breeze itself. The trees receive the spin

and whirl of a wind, and it remakes
their lives. For patient branches, all it takes

is letting breezes do their swirling dance
with them, and soon the branches start to prance.

He saw, like in a dazzling light, that he
could do the same, could be a patient sea

that rolls or sleeps as wisdom blows across
it in the storms of life or in the gentle toss

of daily living.  He saw that he is not the one
who does the work of life, but that the fun

of living comes from letting go and letting
endless spirit do the work. The art of getting

free involves allowing forces larger than
the universe itself to swirl and roll and fan

his life. Like branches in a breeze, he's in
the best of hands, and cannot help but win.