Mindfulness & The Practice Of Non-Judgement

In his book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zim defines mindfulness as the “art of conscious living”. The book dives further into the practical application of mindfulness, how to cultivate it, and the different practices and exercises.

Fundamentally, mindfulness is a simple concept. Its power lies in its practice and its applications. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments. If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.

Instead of allowing the unconscious, automatic behaviours and habits to direct your energy or your fears and insecurities to move you, mindfulness can help you control your actions and make decisions based on reason and logic. This is achieved through attention.

When we commit ourselves to paying attention in an open way, without falling prey to our own likes and dislikes, opinions and prejudices, projections and expectations, new possibilities open up and we have a chance to free ourselves from the straitjacket of unconsciousness.

When you aren’t bound by past thought processes and narratives, you can then act upon present needs. 

The spirit of mindfulness is to practice for its own sake, and just to take each moment as it comes—pleasant or unpleasant, good, bad, or ugly—and then work with that because it is what is present now.

Judgement is one aspect of our consciousness that derails the present experience and disrupts our ability to be still.

When you dwell in stillness, the judging mind can come through like a foghorn. I don’t like the pain in my knee…. This is boring…. I like this feeling of stillness; I had a good meditation yesterday, but today I’m having a bad meditation…. It’s not working for me. I’m no good at this. I’m no good, period. This type of thinking dominates the mind and weighs it down. It’s like carrying around a suitcase full of rocks on your head. It feels good to put it down. Imagine how it might feel to suspend all your judging and instead to let each moment be just as it is, without attempting to evaluate it as “good” or “bad.” This would be a true stillness, a true liberation.

Each moment doesn’t have to be good or comfortable or exciting. If you are constantly chasing those “higher” moments, then you are not living in the present because much of the present is mundane. So, the goal is to appreciate the unexciting events of your life as much as the exciting ones.

When you label every experience, the negative can outshine the positive because it is in our nature to dwell on something that didn’t meet our expectations. In doing so, you set yourself up to be emotionally distraught. Instead, when the judgemental thoughts arise, steer clear of them and focus on the task at hand. Nothing more, nothing less.

The good or the bad don’t matter. What matter is alertness and stillness in the present.“Knowing that our judgments are unavoidable and necessarily limiting thoughts about experience. What we are interested in in meditation is direct contact with the experience itself—whether it is of an inbreath, an outbreath, a sensation or feeling, a sound, an impulse, a thought, a perception, or a judgment. And we remain attentive to the possibility of getting caught up in judging the judging itself, or in labeling some judgments good and others bad.

So the simple exercise of focusing on your breath can be grounding. When you feel yourself becoming judgemental, take a break and focus on the inhale and exhale. That will bring you back to the present moment, the moment where you are fully engaged. And then go back to your work with that stillness. With practice, the ability to be non-judgemental and to be still becomes easier.

We get caught up in thinking we know what we are seeing and feeling, and in projecting our judgments out onto everything we see off a hairline trigger. Just being familiar with this deeply entrenched pattern and watching it as it happens can lead to greater non-judgmental receptivity and acceptance.

This detachment exercise is another way to separate yourself from your judgemental thoughts. Once you are aware of this concept, then when the judgemental thoughts bud, you can pick them off before they really grow and dominate your present situation.

It simply means that we can act with much greater clarity in our own lives, and be more balanced, more effective, and more ethical in our activities, if we know that we are immersed in a stream of unconscious liking and disliking which screens us from the world and from the basic purity of our own being. The mind states of liking and disliking can take up permanent residency in us, unconsciously feeding addictive behaviors in all domains of life. When we are able to recognize and name the seeds of greediness or craving, however subtle, in the mind’s constant wanting and pursuing of the things or results that we like, and the seeds of aversion or hatred in our rejecting or maneuvering to avoid the things we don’t like, that stops us for a moment and reminds us that such forces really are at work in our own minds to one extent or another almost all the time. It’s no exaggeration to say that they have a chronic, viral-like toxicity that prevents us from seeing things as they actually are and mobilizing our true potential.

Lessons From Books: The Brutal Realism of Rabbit, Run

In Rabbit, Run, we follow Harry Angstrom, otherwise known as Rabbit. He is 26 years old former high school basketball star who now sells gadgets to make a living. His wife, Janice, is pregnant with their second child, and a 2-year-old son, Nelson. The Angstroms seem like a stereotypical family at first, but it is clear right away that Harry is disappointed with his life. It has not turned out as he wished and feels the need to escape, to find something worthwhile, to find new meaning. The pursuit to fill this hole in his life, he hits the road, abandoning his wife and kid in the process as he searches for purpose.

It is easy to say that Harry Angstrom is a despicable man. He is not a role model, however, he can be seen as a model of reality. How unforgiving life can be and the lack of care it has for your wants and needs. Harry had his own vision of life in which he had never imagined himself running away from his family and yet, he does because life rarely turns out the way we imagine. John Updike paints a brutally realistic image of what happens when a man is without meaning and the hurt that can cause to everyone around him.

Lessons:

Your Accomplishments Mean Nothing

Rabbit is a high school basketball star. Even has a clipping of the newspaper article that was printed after he set the country record for points. At that time of his life, when he was a high schooler, the world must have seemed like a pretty little thing on which he’ll leave his mark. However, the story starts off with these young kids who have no clue who he is. It has only been a handful of years since his high school days and his accomplishments are already forgotten. 

They’ve not forgotten him: worse, they never heard of him. Yet in his time Rabbit was famous through the county; in basketball in his junior year he set a B-league scoring record that in his senior year he broke with a record that was not broken until four years later, that is, four years ago.

At the moment, we may think what we accomplish is meaningful, but the meaning erodes with time. That accomplishment only mattered for that specific moment. It makes you think then: What do accomplishments really mean?

What makes us feel good, makes us feel special will become meaningless with time and you’ll be left to chase the memories of that thing or else, try to recreate it in the present, knowing well enough that it will be temporary.

What Should Have Happened, Won’t Happen

Somehow Rabbit can’t tear his attention from where the ball should have gone, the little ideal napkin of clipped green pinked with a pretty flag. His eyes can’t keep with where it did go.

This sums up Rabbit’s mindset. He is always focused on what should have happened, where he should have gone, how life should have turned out, and can’t see clearly what happened and, in turn, isn’t able to improve it.

Rabbit had dreamt of a better future for himself while he was in high school, but that future didn’t come true. Instead, it took a turn when he got his high school sweetheart pregnant. How much control do you really have over your life? Can you really will your life towards a specific future or are you just being pulled along with the tide of life, having to submit, submerge yourself, and fully accept whatever life brings you? Otherwise, you could live a life full of shame and regret. The two feelings permeate through Rabbit’s pores as he wishes for more. 

Two feelings that live in the heart of many people.

Your Life Is Not Yours

Sticking with the tide analogy, you have to be careful of who you give your obligation to. For who you take on responsibility. To who you commit yourself and your time to, otherwise, you might drown with the tides of life. 

I don’t know, it seemed like I was glued in with a lot of busted toys and empty glasses and television going and meals late and no way of getting out.

Rabbit lived his life passively. He went along with what happened and in doing so, found himself committed and obliged to things that he did not want. One of them being his wife. But he is tethered to her. Tethered in place through his son and his soon-to-be-born daughter. He tries several times to run away from that life, to start afresh, but he cannot do it. He comes crawling back each time.

He wants to go south, down, down the map into orange groves and smoking rivers and barefoot women. It seems simple enough, drive all night through the dawn through the morning through the noon park on a beach take off your shoes and fall asleep by the Gulf of Mexico. Wake up with stars above perfectly spaced in perfect health.

Your obligations can give you a sense of meaning in your life. If you are obligated to the things you don’t care about, then your meaning for life will be something you don’t care about, and that’s what happened to Harry. His passivity has led him to live a life which he doesn’t care about and so he cannot find peace.

External Change Doesn’t Bring Meaning 

The land refuses to change. The more he drives the more the region resembles the country around Mt. Judge. The scruff on the embankments, the same weathered billboards for the same products you wondered anybody would ever want to buy. At the upper edge of his headlight beams the make tree-twigs make the same net. Indeed the net seems thicker now.

Much of the novel is Rabbit’s search for meaning. He doesn’t find meaning in his job. Nor does he find meaning through the family. The only thing that really gave him self-worth is his basketball dreams and with those gone, he has nothing concrete he can hang his hat on and say to himself that he did something good. 

This blind search, mainly external, leads him to Ruth, with whom he starts a relationship. 

He was happy just hanging around her place at night, her reading mysteries and him running down to the delicatessen for dinner ale and some nights going to a movie but nothing like this.

At first, the relationship gives him pleasure. Makes him feel good, but the more he stays, the more guilt he feels. The external change did not help him because internally he was still the same man. A man who gets jealous, who is petty, who is dissatisfied.

His real happiness is a ladder from whose top rung he keeps trying to jump still higher, because he knows he should.

How Little Control You Have In Life

Lovely life eclipsed by lovey death.

The theme of control is evident throughout the novel, but there is a singular moment that encapsulates it at the end. The death of his infant daughter. There are things he could have done to prevent it from happening, but you have to wonder how far in his life he would have to go in order to change the cause-and-effect link that led to his daughter’s death. 

How much control do you really have over what happens around you? You may be able to control yourself, your habits, your emotions, and your feelings, but what can you do about the drunk driver that swerves and crashes into you? There is a level of absurdity to life because so much of it just happens. It’s random. Out of control. Chaotic. You can do your best to bring order, but you cannot control life.

She lifts the living thing into air and hugs it against her sopping chest. Water pours off them onto the bathroom tiles. The little weightless body flops against her neck and a quick look of relief at the baby’s face gives a fantastic clotted impression […] Her sense of the third person with them widens enormously, and she knows, knows, while knock sound at the door, that the worst thing that has ever happened to any woman in the world has happened to her.

Epiphanies Aren’t Real

After all that happens: leaving his wife, meeting Ruth, leaving her to go back to his wife, the understanding gained from the Pastor, the birth of his daughter, the death of his daughter, after these things, the book ends the same way it starts, with Rabbit running away from responsibility. 

He sees that among the heads even his own mother is horrified, a blank with shock, a wall against him; she asks him what have they done to him and then she does it too. A suffocating sense of injustice blinds him. He turns and runs.

Uphill exultantly. He doges among gravestones. Dandelions grow bright as butter among the graves. Behind him his name is called in Eccles’ voice: ‘Harry! Harry!’

Running away from his life. This strikes at the heart of human beings. It is difficult to change who we are. We can change our habits and routines, but it is difficult to change our nature. And Rabbit’s nature doesn’t change. He has not found peace.

His hand lift of their own and he feels the wind on his ears even before, his heels hitting heavily on the pavement at first but with an effortless gathering out of a kind of sweet panic growing lighter and quicker and quieter, he runs. Ah; runs. Runs.

Need To Have A Why

The whole novel Rabbit is searching for a reason. 

‘Well I don’t know all this about theology, but I’ll tell you, I do feel, I guess, that somewhere behind all of this’—he gestures outward at the scenery; they are passing the housing development this side of the golf course, half-wood half-brick one-and-a-half-stories in little flat bulldozed yards holding tricycles and spindly three-year-old tress, the un-grandest landscape in the world—‘there’s something that wants me to find it.’

A reason to live. A reason to accept life. A reason that makes sense of the world. A reason to justify his feelings and beliefs. 

Without meaning, your actions and beliefs seem bland, like a grey sky imprisoning the sunlight. There is no light in Harry’s life. He walks around in the dark, hoping for something to turn up that will improve his life. He doesn’t know what he wants, why he does the things he does, what will make him actually happy and so, we are left with a character who is ultimately dissatisfied with life which is slowly breaking him down and there is nothing he can do about it. 

That’s what you have, Harry: life. It’s a strange gift and I don’t know how we’re supposed to use it but I know it’s the only gift we get and it’s a good one.

Finding the ‘Why’ for your life then becomes the meaning for life.

Lessons From Stories: Hemingway’s A Clean, Well-Lighted Place

Ernest Hemingway captured an essential understanding of human nature in just 1,465 words. The understanding is: We need order when we’re lost in life.

Chaos and order are the bases of many stories, so it is not unique per se that Hemingway explores this issue, but the way he does it is unique. In A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, the cafe represents order because cleanliness and light are often associated with orderliness. The cafe is an attractive place that shelters those in need, like the old man who is lost in life. The old man regularly gets drunk at the cafe and later on, we are told that his wife recently passed away and he tried to commit suicide. The old man has lost his sense of purpose, his meaning for life and so he clings to the cafe because he doesn’t want to be alone.

Solitude represents chaos in this story. The old man doesn’t want to be alone at home. The older waiter, whose perspective we see the story from, can’t sleep until the sun rises. This is because when your mental state is not correct, one of the worst places you can be is in your own head, alone with your thoughts. That is a dangerous place. A chaotic place. 

The opening scene of the story has two waiters. The older one and the younger one. The two are different in one main way; the younger waiter has a sense of purpose and meaning, hence, he has order in his life.

“You have youth, confidence, and a job,” the older waiter said.

“You have everything.”

“And what do you lack?”

“Everything but work.”

“You have everything I have.”

“No. I have never had confidence and I am not young.”

This is why the younger waiter has a tough time emphasizing with the old man. He can’t see the old man is lost. He passes judgment on the old man and even says the old man has nothing to be sad about because he’s rich.

“Last week he tried to commit suicide,” (young) waiter said.

“Why?”

“He was in despair.”

“What about?”

“Nothing.”

“How do you know it was nothing?”

“He has plenty of money.”

This raises an interesting question. Can someone who has order or meaning in their life relate to someone who doesn’t? Someone who is in a chaotic state? Often when we have meaning in our life, we are focused on it and that can cause us to put blinders on and not see others who are trying to find their own way. Trying to find order. 

The older waiter suffers from chaos. He can’t be alone with his thoughts. He has trouble finding meaning in anything. This is shown in perhaps the most famous passage of this story.

It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee machine.

Nothing matters to the waiter.

But because the waiter has no meaning in his life, he can relate to the old man, and feel empathy towards him. The older waiter is even willing to keep the light on in the cafe for a while longer to give the old man more time to drink.

“We are of two different kinds,” the older waiter said. He was now dressed to go home. “It is not only a question of youth and confidence although those things are very beautiful. Each night I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the cafe.”

“Hombre, there are bodegas open all night long.”

“You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.”

Hemingway was famous for capturing a moment in time, a slice of life. The story ends without an answer. The old waiter blames his state of mind on insomnia, which could be seen as a scapegoat instead of confronting the reality of the meaninglessness of life.

But what could be a solution to this chaos?

Lost souls need order as evidenced by the old man’s desire to stay in the cafe. Order is then an essential need for those who are without meaning. Perhaps this suggests that when we are lost and lack meaning, we need to find things that bring order into our lives. Routines, habits, people, places, etc. Whatever helps us positively deal with our mental state.

In the story, it is implied that the old man lost his meaning after his wife passed. While the old waiter is seen trying to find meaning through religion but fails to do so. Even the young waiter finds his meaning through his work and his wife, both are liable to change.

What then?

Perhaps the meaning of our life has to be intrinsic. Something that can survive the ups and down of life. Perhaps that is the meaning. How well can you navigate what life throws at you? To constantly find the meaning behind your suffering. To search for the light in the darkness.

Maybe that is how meaning is created, and our mind becomes a place of solitude. 

Lessons From Books: Bird By Bird

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott is exactly as the title suggests, a book that has valuable pieces of information about both writing and about life. The writing tips are practical, but in reality, they are common and not wholly unique. The book will not transform you into a New York Times bestseller. Lamott isn’t trying to sell you some get-rich-quick scheme. Instead, she talks about patience, creating writing routines, working hard, doing tons and tons of revisions, subverting expectations, and enjoying the process. Like I said, not unique, but practical.

However, the real gem of this book was the connection Lamott makes with writing and life. How the interpersonal relationship of the two nurtures each other. The lessons she draws upon from writing help you understand life better and, through the awareness of life and yourself, your writing becomes genuine and vulnerable. This is where I fell in love with this book. The following are a few of the main points that stuck with me from Bird by Bird.

Why Pursue Writing?

A commitment to writing goes beyond telling stories. It is an exploration of life. You are committing to observing the life around you. You pay attention to everything from the macro like politics, societal trends, cultural changes, to the micro such as the encroaching yellowish tint on leaves as fall approaches or the faint smell of peppermint as you pass by a cafe or the thin, practiced smiles of strangers you see during the day. Keeping tabs on both the small and large details of life becomes part of the job.

You are also committing to observing yourself. Your own internal state. You come to dissect memories, unpack different thoughts, question your own opinions because that’s where your scenes lie and your characters dwell. You become aware of your feelings and emotions and what triggers them and how deeply you feel or perhaps the lack of feelings which can be equally important. As you understand yourself, you come to understand others because of the commonalities we all share as human beings. You develop empathy, patience, respect because these are the things you need to understand yourself and the extension of these qualities benefits the people around you. This then helps you create stories that connect with others.

In the same vein, the commitment to writing also improves your habits and character. The aim may be to write a story or to finish a novel or to publish a collection of poems, but in order to do that, you need to practice your skill set. You have to find a way to measure progress which, in writing terms, maybe keeping tabs on daily word count or pages written or, as Neil Gaiman suggests, the number of hours you spent at your writing station. You need to develop a routine that helps you balance your life and also maximize your writing. You need to develop discipline and focus so the time spent writing is productive. The rejection letters help you create a thick skin towards criticism and feedback, but also you need a sense of detachment from your work so you can apply the necessary feedback. All these qualities not only help you towards your writing goal but mold you into a capable individual.

A Perspective Towards Restarting

One of the hardest decisions you can make in writing is to start over after you have committed many hours of your time and written dozens and maybe hundreds of pages. But sometimes finding out what you don’t want to write is as important as knowing what you do. Often, what you have in your head doesn’t translate well on paper. But you can only know that by putting it on paper. This is still a type of progress. Slow, painful progress, but progress nonetheless.

The idea of restarting is present in life as well and it is equally as difficult, but also important. You can only know if a relationship will work out by actually being in one, similar to how you have to put words on paper to know if they work. And it may be painstaking to end the relationship and restart again, but it must be done so you can step closer to a relationship that you actually need. Or you might come to dislike your dream job, towards which you have committed years of your life. But if you’re able to restart again, go back into the job market, learn a new skill, change career paths, the years to follow could potentially have greater rewards than you could have imagined. In this process of elimination, you get closer to what you actually want in life and, in writing terms, what you actually want to write about.

Short Assignments

Short assignments is the idea that you need to focus on the task at hand and do that as well as you can before you move on to the next short assignment. The title of the book, Bird by Bird, comes from this idea. Lamott shares an anecdote of when she was a kid and her brother was stressed out about a school assignment relating to birds and her father’s advice was simple, take it bird by bird. Write about one bird and then move to the next one. One small thing at a time. One short assignment at a time.

When you think too much about the bigger picture, it causes you to lose focus and get lost in the grand scheme of things. But when you can focus on what’s right in front of you and work on that, you make progress. Narrow your focus from the macro to the micro. Focus on the next step and that’s it. The next dialogue or description or narration or action piece. That’s how you complete a story.

Similarly, life itself can be daunting if you constantly focus on the end goals. A four-year degree can seem like a lifetime away, but the assignment or exam in a week’s time is right in front of you. Knock that out of the park and you step closer to the degree. When you only look at the end, you might not recognize the small progress you have made and this can leave you disheartened and even result in negative thoughts and feelings. But if you turn your focus to the short assignments and work on doing that the best you can, then you come to recognize progress and movement. And this is revitalizing. The end goal may still be a long way away, but you have achieved something towards that goal. In the same way, writing one good descriptive passage is an achievement towards writing a 300-page novel, get an A+ on an assignment is an achievement towards your degree. 

Child’s Draft Or The Shitty 1st Draft

This means that when you write your first draft, just write whatever comes to your mind. Whatever images, phrases, dialogue that come without censor. You can even write bullet point notes. It doesn’t matter. No one is going to read the 1st draft except you and all you need to do is get the story out of your head and on the paper so you can edit and make it better. This is the process. Trust it. Write a shitty 1st draft and then edit it relentlessly until it is good. This may require you to overcome your perfectionist/self-critical inner voice, which can’t stand the shitty 1st draft.

This is a lesson for life. Often your first action is wrong or not as good as you hoped. But that first action is required so that your 2nd, 3rd, 4th actions can move you towards where you want to go. But you can be stuck in the perfectionist mindset, which delays your 1st action so you never fail or stumble and never get to correct that mistake either so your proceeding actions can be better. In reality, perfectionism is an excuse for inaction.  A resistive force to stop yourself from doing the hard, uncomfortable work which, in writing terms, is revision, and with life, is self-reflection and ownership. 

Two more writing-related lessons:

Understand your characters

Find out as much as possible about the interior life of your characters. Let it come naturally through writing. Not all of it has to go into the story, but you should know as much as possible. A way to familiarize yourself with the characters is by asking practical everyday questions which peel back the layers of your characters and humanizes them. Some examples Lammot provides are: What kind of impression do they leave behind? What do they carry in their purse? How do they move? Who did they vote for? What would they do if they had six months to live? Questions that reveal the character’s traits, faults, emotional baggage, positives, and negatives.

Another way to familiarize your character is by partially basing them on someone you know. This way, you have a base structure to work with. Or, by sharing your own flaws through the character, which also makes them more vulnerable and genuine. 

Also, understanding who your character isn’t is a good way to understand who your character is. Similarly, how a form of self-discovery is knowing what you don’t want, need, or like, understanding what your character doesn’t want, need, or like will bring you closer to knowing what the character wants, needs, or likes.

Short Story Formula

ABDCE: Action (start), Background (Who/what/why), Development (the characters build drama/action/tension), Climax and Ending (What happened, What did it mean, and What our sense of the characters is now).

Lessons From Books: The Prophet

A hero’s journey has three parts. The journey starts with the call to action, where the hero leaves his known world and ventures into the unknown. The second phase is the adventure itself, which is full of trials and tribulations that result in inner growth and often with external reward. Last, the return home, the hero returns and shares his insight, new found knowledge, and his boon with his people. In The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, we find the central figure, Almustafa, The Chosen and The Beloved, about to start the last step of the hero’s journey and return to his isle of his birth. Before he departs, he shares the insight he has gained living in the city of Orphalese over the past twelve years. 

On Love

And when his wings enfold you yield to him,

Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.

And when he speaks to you believe in him.

You don’t possess love but rather you follow it. When you give yourself up to love, you get both the highs and the lows. The highs of feeling loved, of loving someone, of carrying love within, but because you are so committed and vulnerable if that love leaves you or it diminishes over time, you feel heartache and sorrow which leaves you wounded. But you can’t have one without the other. You can’t truly feel love if you’re shielding yourself from the possible wound that may come with it. In a way, you know you’re in love if you’re willing to take on the potential pain that may come.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. 

Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Love requires a letting go. It requires trust. It requires obedience, so even when you’re hurt by it, next time you encounter it, you follow it anyway because life is more vivid if you experience it with love.

If you want love’s light, then you need to accept its shadow as well.

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,

Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,

Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

And ultimately, you have to love for the sake of love itself. To live with that feeling inside of you. It’s a choice that you must make.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;

For love is sufficient unto love.

On Marriage

The point of marriage is to nurture each other to become the best versions of yourselves. It is not to take from the other to fill some hole inside of you and vice versa. When you come together, you don’t become one, but rather, you stand apart, as individuals, who help the other share the burden of life and with it, help with the maturation of the individual. 

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

To be married means to become two capable individuals. Not two people who need each other to become capable. Each has to create a solid foundation for themselves. Two people can share one foundation. In a marriage, you help the other in strengthening their foundation, but don’t take from the other to strengthen your own. 

On Children

Your children are not your children.


They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.


They come through you but not from you,


And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Your children don’t belong to you. They belong to life. Your duty is to raise them for life. They are individuals, separate from you. With their own identity, likes and dislikes, passions and beliefs which may contradict with you but that is okay because they have to be themselves and not a version of you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,


For they have their own thoughts.


You may house their bodies but not their souls,


For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.


You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”

Nurture the individual, don’t try to mold them. You are to provide your child with stability and allow him/her to leave that stability behind and go seek, find and create their own stability. Don’t burden your child with your own hopes and dreams, rather let them find their own and then guide them towards fulfilling them.

On Giving

You often say, “I would give, but only to the deserving.”


The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.


Who are you to judge who earns your giving? You take from nature, nature doesn’t judge you. You are truly selfless if you can separate your judgement from your giving.

On Working

For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

Life is about working. It is about moving, changing, progressing, acting. Everything on this planet is in motion and working. It is natural to work. All animals work. So dreaming about retirement, to be idle and passive is to go against nature. At the same time, you’re not obligated to work every day but you must have something to work towards. 

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,


And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.

To work is the dream. Hopefully, that attitude can apply to your career, but if not, then towards your hobbies and interests, towards your family life, your community, and society. Working always to build something better.

What It Means To Work With Love

And what is it to work with love?


It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.


It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.


It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.


It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,


And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.”

On Joy and Sorrow

Joy and sorrow go hand in hand. The more you open yourself up to one, the more you open yourself up to the other.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.


And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.


And how else can it be?


The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

The duality of life. Often if you want to experience the highest joy, you have to open yourself up to the highest sorrow. Chasing your dream will bring you great pleasure, but failing to achieve it will leave you full of disappointment and pain. Being in love will feel better than anything, but losing love will cause sorrow unimaginable.

On Crime and Punishment

Oftentimes have I heard you speak of one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.


But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each one of you,


So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower than the lowest which is in you also.

Each individual is capable of the highest virtue and lowest vice. If another man does something heinous, understand that you could have done that too. You are not special. In different circumstances and environments, you would have been that individual who commits evil. You are not above evil. Observe and learn from your fellow man. 

So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.

Don’t just condemn the bad action. See why it took place. You are not trying to justify the bad but rather, seeing how it could have been avoided. 

And that the corner-stone of the temple is not higher than the lowest stone in its foundation.

On Pain

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

Pain is associated with understanding. You feel pain when you think you understand something, but it turns out you are wrong. Although that causes pain, through it you gain a new understanding. So, pain isn’t something that should be avoided at all costs. It is a part of your progression. It is painful to have your ideas, viewpoints, relationships, dreams, habits, and beliefs challenged and even proven wrong. But through this pain, you make new ideas, viewpoints, relationships, dreams, habits, and beliefs which stand on sturdier foundations.

And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

View pain like this and you know it shall pass. As the season’s turn, your pain will change. But also remember, joy follows this pattern too. So on joyful occasions, understand that it will pass and pains downpour will come. So, while you are in the moment, enjoy it. Both things are part of life and both things will not last. 

Much of your pain is self-chosen.

Only things you care about cause you pain. So, be careful about the things you care about. Ask yourself, are you willing to experience pain on its behalf? 

On Self Knowledge

Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”

Much of life is about finding your way of life. The truth that works for you. Not universal truth, but a truth to satisfy your soul, your being. Your methods of living will not satisfy other people. Other people’s methods will not satisfy you. The sooner you understand that, the better. Otherwise, you may spend a lot of your precious time living someone else’s truth or trying to convince others to live your truth. 

On Friendship 

And let your best be for your friend.

If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.

For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?

Seek him always with hours to live.

For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

On Good And Evil 

You are good when you are one with yourself.

Don’t lie to yourself.

You are good when you strive to give of yourself.

Help others.

You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,

Don’t lie to others.

You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.

Have an aim.


You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,

You are only loitering and sluggard.

Good can also become evil through desperation. This is an important reminder. You never know what you are capable of until you are pushed to your limits. People are rarely evil from birth. It is often circumstances and their environment that cause them to do evil. Don’t just judge people who have done bad things, but try to see why they did it so you can know what you might be capable of doing and how to stop yourself from getting to that point. 

Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.


For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?


Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.

Self Perspective 

You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link.

This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.

To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam.

To judge you by your failures is to cast blame upon the seasons for their inconstancy.

Don’t harp on the negative, on the failures, or disappointments. Those things easily stand out and focusing on them too much can cause you to develop a negative self-image. The weak links of your actions can make you think you are weak too. Life is full of weak moments but it is also full of strong ones as well. Remember, you have achieved things, no matter how minute they may seem, but anything that required effort, hard work, discipline to achieve is something to be proud of. Cookie Jar. Those achievements are the strong links and focusing on them lets you know you are strong as well and that you can achieve other things that require strength.