Be a Lamp unto Yourself

See the light
See the light

Be a lamp unto yourself were the last words and final teaching that the Buddha gave to his monks. This often-repeated saying of the Buddha is well known but not well understood, and rarely is it put into actual practice.

This quote is by Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho:

“Be a light unto yourself. Do not follow others, do not imitate, because imitation, following, creates stupidity. You are born with a tremendous possibility of intelligence. You are born with a light within you. Listen to the still, small voice within, and that will guide you.

Nobody else can guide you, nobody else can become a model for your life, because you are unique. Nobody has there been ever who was exactly like you, and nobody is ever going to be there again who will be exactly like you. This is your glory, your grandeur – that you are utterly irreplaceable, that you are just yourself and nobody else.”

The Razor’s Edge

Razorblade Suitcase
Razorblade Suitcase

The Razor’s Edge is a book by W. Somerset Maugham and its inscription reads, “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.”

Charlotte Joko Beck, author of Everyday Zen wrote: “When we walk the razor’s edge we’re not important; we’re no-self, embedded in life. This we fear-even though life as no-self is pure joy. Our fear drives us to stay over here in our lonely self-righteousness. The paradox: only in walking the razor’s edge, in experiencing the fear directly, can we know what it is to have no fear.”

“Still, it is necessary to acknowledge that most of the time we want nothing to do with that edge; we want to stay separate. We want the sterile satisfaction of wallowing in “I am right.” That’s a poor satisfaction, of course, but still we will usually settle for a diminished life rather than experience life as it is when that seems painful and distasteful.”

Put another way by Eckhart Tolle: “The whole essence of Zen consists in walking along the razor’s edge of Now – to be so utterly, so completely present that no problem, no suffering, nothing that is not who you are in your essence, can survive in you. In the Now, in the absence of time, all your problems dissolve. Suffering needs time; it cannot survive in the Now.”

So you gotta ask yourself one question, how soon is now?

Right Concentration on the Path

The Path
The Path

Sometimes the path is a soft cushion of grass on a warm sunny day, with birds landing on your shoulder and baby deer leading the way. And sometimes the path is a slippery downhill slope, covered with ice and snow on a cold winter morning. In both situations it’s important to concentrate.

Eve Adamson and/or Gary R. McClain, authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living said: “Concentration means working on achieving a one-pointed mind. If you are doing something, concentrate wholly on what you are doing.”

Now I’ve known many idiots but few were complete idiots, and fewer still were complete idiots interested in Zen living. So maybe a more practical quote might be easier to understand.

Serena Williams once said: “If you can keep playing tennis when somebody is shooting a gun down the street, that’s concentration.” I wonder if she’s the one that said you only live once, but you get to serve twice.

Still Life with Eckhart Tolle

Still Life with Eckhart Tolle
Still Life with Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle wrote a book called stillness speaks, it’s about stillness (obviously), life, and in its own way it’s about still life photography. So since we’re having a blizzard today, I decided to look into his theories and see if I could discover some stillness with a still life.

My first thought was that taking a photo of a needle and thread is stupid, it’s not creative and it’s certainly not art. Then I remember E.T. saying: “All artists, whether they know it or not create from a place of inner stillness, a place of no mind.” Oh.

My second thought was that I needed to find a way to make this interesting, and I was having some problems because of thought one. But E.T. said: “Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.” So I think that meant to tighten up my tripod.

I was really trying to make this work but was getting more frustrated by the minute. To this E.T. said: “Suffering is necessary until you realize it is unnecessary.” That’s slightly confusing but probably true.

Later, I went through all the photos to see if there was one worth keeping, and I started having some crazy thoughts; the needle and the damage done, the needle and the spoon, and the fact that I’ve never been to the Space Needle in Seattle.

So once again I looked to E.T. for help, to which he said: “Here is a new spiritual practice for you: don’t take your thoughts too seriously.”

Right then, now if I can just sit still until it stops snowing I can go out and get some great winter shots. I will look at things in the most unserious way I can, maybe even shooting only JPEG, but I doubt it.

Life and Death at Lititz Springs Park

Gone but not forgotten
Gone but not forgotten

I was reading the Lancaster newspaper this morning, and saw an article about a duckling in Lititz Springs Park with an Instagram photo by Brian J. Wilson titled Quack! I figured it was from last year because they usually don’t show up until April, so I took a ride to the pond to see for myself.

I walked around and didn’t see anything until I got to the end, then saw a tiny ball of yellow fur floating around in deep water. A woman walked by and asked if it was real, and said he was probably abandoned, would likely die today, and that it was very sad.

It was 25 degrees and the water must have been even colder, so I reached in and pulled him out. He was struggling but I thought he would recover and took a quick photo. Gently moving him away from the ledge, I watched to see if he would shake it off and waddle away, but he didn’t.

There was nothing I could do so I watched him for a few minutes and saw that he was quickly dying. The woman was right, he would die today and it was very sad.

I thought about not posting this photo but it’s a reminder of how fragile life is, and how quickly it can end. There’s really nothing more to say.

No Direction Home

Direction
Direction

In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice asks; “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

When I first got my motorcycle, just going for a ride was enough; it really didn’t matter much where I went. But after a while I found myself needing a place to go, even if it was just a loose plan. Although all the travel books insist that it’s the journey that’s important, I wanted a destination.

I spent a lot of time studying maps and planning routes, preferring the curvy backroads that took longer but were more interesting. And I would always take a different way home, because at that point just riding was enough again.

After seven years and 90,000 miles, I discovered that it’s always the journey that’s important, but without some general direction I felt somewhat lost, or maybe vulnerable is a better word.

André Paul Guillaume Gide, the French author I mentioned in my post about the color of truth said this about travel: “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

Note to self: get a sextant and learn how to use it.

The Window of Opportunity

The Window of Opportunity
The Window of Opportunity

You’ve probably heard the phrase “tomorrow is promised to no one,” quoted by many people including Clint Eastwood. I know it, you know it, and the Priest, the Rabbi, and the tiny pianist in the bar know it. But knowing and believing are two different things.

Simply put, there is a very limited amount of time to do the things that you really want to do, to take advantage of all the opportunities you get. Robin Sharma, a Canadian writer best known for The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari wrote:

“Each day, life will send you little windows of opportunity. Your destiny will ultimately be defined by how you respond to these windows of opportunity. Shrink from them and your life will be small, feel the fear and run to them anyway, and you life will be big. Life’s just too short to play little.”

So you gotta ask yourself one question, and its not do I feel lucky. The question is; do you have the balls to go for it, knowing that in reality there is really nothing to lose? Well, do ya, punk? Do I?

We Would Rather be Ruined than Changed

Change machine
Change machine

I was discussing change with my friend Debra the other day, and mentioned this quote by Sheldon B Kopp from his book If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him:

“It is not astonishing that, though the patient enters therapy insisting that he wants to change, more often than not, what he really wants is to remain the same and to get the therapist to make him feel better.

His goal is to become a more effective neurotic, so that he may have what he wants without risking getting into anything new. He prefers the security of known misery to the misery of unfamiliar insecurity.”

To my own astonishment, she had never heard that, and while I understand that she’s not a Buddhist, she is a therapist. So I threw out another one I would have bet my last Xanax that she knew.

From W.H. Auden’s The Age of Anxiety: “We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread, than climb the cross of the moment, and let our illusions die.”

She never heard that one either, which completely blew me away. I mean, I’m open to change and I’m willing to listen to her point of view, but what I really want is to remain the same and get her to make me feel better. Wait a minute, I think I’ve heard that somewhere before…

Note: if you walk into a Laundromat to photograph a change machine, make sure you adjust the white balance, because changing things later can be hard.