Freedom in the Unknown

For a while I have been residing with two, well-worn nemeses, the past and the future.  I am deliberate in my use of the terms future and past rather than a specific moment, incident, or person for what keeps the past and future ever present is what Deepak Chopra calls “the conditioned response” or the known.

Each one of us has a myriad of conditioned responses for every situation that arises. Regardless of whether or not there is a replica of a particular situation, the mind enthusiastically emits a thought barrage of past experience and future possibility. Both future and past are attached to what happened or what might happen but not to the moment that is. Living in the moment is the unknown, free from past or future.

Essentially, every moment is free. We choose between the known and the unknown, between what we have always been and what we have never been. It is that basic. What is not free is the situation surrounding each and every moment.

Situations reside in the past or in the future–they have strings–and where there is attachment, there is ego, a constant chatter of what you already know. Only when we practice what Chopra calls “choice less awareness” (Moksha), are we in the unknown of the moment and truly free. It takes a lifetime of practice and ceaseless awareness.

For without awareness, we get comfortable and our practice becomes what we know and not what is. Increasingly, my enthusiasm was on the wane, whether for the revision of my novel or for my nonfiction manuscript on consciousness. While I love what I am doing, I could not deny a familiar tug of weariness. Briefly, even the malaise of lupus loomed as I turned more and more to the known of the past.

Mindless television is a tried-and-true response of mine to whenever “the world is too much with us” (William Wordsworth). Some would argue that I could not have picked a better time than the broadcasting of the two major political conventions in the United States. There may be something to that. For completely opposite reasons, both conventions made me weep but as I reached my saturation point for both weeping and politics, I discovered my enthusiasm for republic and democracy.  Both are messy, completely life-like, wherein lies the sliver that is hope.

No matter the moment of life, hope is always the light of the unknown and may be the heart of risk as well. In hope lies enthusiasm, the total immersion into life, “the ripple that follows the stone…[as] we are each faced with the endless and repeatable task of discovering or uncovering our enthusiasm, which means in essence being at one with the energy of God or the divine” (Mark Nepo). Not surprisingly, God and the divine are within the political whirlwind of the United States while the world watches.

Regardless of how we perceive our relationship to one another–Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” the Tao, the Universe, the Source or quantum physics–we are all connected to consciousness, which is so much more than a mere pinprick of light. Consciousness connects us to existence, transcending all we have ever known; it moves our heads under our hearts so we may hear one another. When we listen, we observe. We make a response within the moment.

In observing the political conventions I listened, dropping my decades-long conditioned response of ranting and raving. Rather, I was grateful for living in a republic brave enough to reveal the messiness of its democracy to the world, at considerable risk perhaps.  I immersed myself into the enthusiasm that is the noise of life, the unpredictable but eternal moment.

It is such a small step from the known to the unknown. In the unknown resides the “choice less” awareness that is the freedom inherent in risk, the heartbeat of hope. It is neither the past nor the future but only the moment, which is all we ever have yet is always more than enough as long as we are aware. “Despite our endless limitations, it seems that the qualities of attention, risk, and compassion allow us to be at one with the energy of the whole and the result is enthusiasm, that deep sensation of oneness” (Nepo).

(All Mark Nepo citations appear in The Book of Awakening)

Witness to Life

In this past week, a stunningly beautiful baby emerged from her mother’s womb; forty-eight hours earlier, a canine named Sam finally found the light that had eluded him all his life. One woman was the guide for both journeys.  I am reminded of the seventh verse of the Tao:

”Heaven is eternal–the earth endures. Why do heaven and earth last forever?  They do not live for themselves only. This is the secret of their durability. 

“For this reason the Sage puts himself last and so ends up ahead. He stays a witness to life, so he endures. 

“Serve the needs of others, and all your own needs will be fulfilled. Through selfless action, fulfillment is attained.”*

Dave R Farmer Image
WANA Commons

The woman serving as the guide for the baby’s birth and the canine’s death reminds me of the Sage, for she has always kept herself last. So well she understands that a new life has yet to experience all that physical existence can offer while a life at its end stands on the brink of what is beyond experience.

“Often the thing feared, once crossed, turns out to be an unexpected bridge from which we can see who we were and who we are becoming” (The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo). Certainly, this is the sentiment shared by Sam’s veterinarian caretaker and guide to the bridge. Here, in her words, is a bit about Sam’s life as well as his death:

“Sam was truly a one person dog, and he had the potential to be dangerously aggressive toward other animals and people who made him uncomfortable. His aggression was most likely fear based, probably the result of prior experiences before he came to us [an animal sanctuary].

“When Sam did act out aggressively, it was intense, unpredictable and he truly could become very dangerous very quickly. But Sam wasn’t always aggressive.  In fact, he was actually quite affectionate, loving and trusting toward me. He always greeted me with a tail wag and never once did he act out aggressively. He and I had a relationship based on trust and respect, which ultimately made the decision to let him pass over the Rainbow Bridge that much harder for me.

“In addition to his potential for aggression, Sam was extremely storm phobic. Despite numerous attempts to help him–anti-anxiety medications, pheromone collars, and changes in housing–when the summer storms came through each year, Sam became uncontrollable from fear and anxiety. Even I wasn’t able to comfort him when he was at the height of his anxiety attacks.

“As Sam aged, his anxieties and fears became increasingly worse. He became more unpredictable and outwardly aggressive toward people simply walking by his kennel. He started to become destructive, had a wide-eyed and scared look about him, was excessively vocal at times, and occasionally seemed desperate to escape from his kennel.

“Sam continued to be affectionate and friendly toward me but it became apparent that Sam’s overall quality of life was deteriorating. He wasn’t happy. His fears and anxieties were getting the best of him. Our decision was incredibly difficult as Sam did not have anything ‘physically’ wrong with him. His body was still healthy but his mind was not. We made the very difficult decision to let Sam’s fears and worries finally be put to rest.

“After a scrumptious breakfast and spending some extra time with him, I reassured this handsome boy that everything would be okay and that he wouldn’t have to be scared ever again. I hugged him close and reassured him the whole time. He was clearly scared but he trusted me enough to know I was helping. Sam fell asleep quickly and quietly in my lap, and he finally appeared at peace.

“I have no doubt he knew I was helping him but letting him go was very difficult, more difficult than if there had been a physical, visible medical concern. The fact that Sam trusted me enough to hold him while he fell asleep meant a lot but also made it very difficult, yet for Sam, it was the best and only choice to be made.

“Three years ago, we made a commitment to keep Sam safe, happy, healthy and to protect him from fear and stress. By helping him to cross over the Rainbow Bridge, we feel that we held up our end of that deal. Rest in peace handsome boy. We hope that your troubled mind is finally able to be at peace and that you are once again able to enjoy just being a happy-go-lucky, care-free dog. You don’t have to be scared anymore.”


JM Randolph Image
WANA Commons

Both the death of the dog and the birth of the child are indirect experiences for me yet I am profoundly moved by each for they have in common a woman whom I admire and respect. I know I am fortunate in being able to call her friend. She is young enough to be my granddaughter but her wisdom is of the ages.

Some would say hers is an old soul—once, I ascribed to the notion of rating souls but for me, rankings disappeared with duality—this young veterinarian is acutely aware of her world, inner and outer. I doubt that she reads books on awareness or oneness nor do I remember her ever using those words. She just lives, keenly and completely. Her equanimity in listening to other perspectives, other points of view is rather remarkable. Yet, she is not always appreciated, initially.

Of course, Sam knew better. He trusted his friend to help him cross the bridge into an existence void of all he had known. Two days later, his friend gave birth to a baby, sweeping away the sadness of Sam’s absence but not his existence for the leaving and the arriving are always one for the witness to life.

*Tao translation from Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life

Straw Dogs: Not the Movie

The fifth verse of the Tao Te Ching focuses on the temporal but equitable nature of existence in which we are but straw dogs.

“Heaven and earth are impartial; they see the 10,000 things as straw dogs. The sage is not sentimental; he treats all his people as straw dogs.”

It is a rather provocative statement of our role in the physical universe of the 21st century. It is not a comfortable image as straw dogs are too temporal, too much a reminder of  our brevity. Within the Tao Te Ching of the 6th century B.C., straw dogs have a role to play for a brief, shining moment, and then, they are gone, only to be followed by more straw dogs.

Impartial existence does not seem all that special.

Stephen Mitchell, a translator of the Tao, has written that “’straw dogs were ritual objects, venerated before the ceremony but afterward abandoned and trampled underfoot’” (as quoted in Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life).

In the Urban Dictionary, a delightful resource, I found seven different meanings of straw dog including one who is “faithful” to snorting cocaine. To me, the Urban Dictionary definition most resembling Mitchell’s translation is “something that is made only to be destroyed”; the sample sentence uses a doll as an example of a straw dog.

My favorite Urban Dictionary straw dog definition is “a word that you interject anytime that you don’t know what word to use but want to make it sound like you’re smart.”  The sample sentence illustrates the definition completely in that a nuclear physics speech “seemed like a straw dog compared to other theorys (sic),” definition and example perfect for my pearl book.

Regardless of how many definitions I may find online and elsewhere, any and all of them underscore the temporal nature of the physical universe from a cocaine high to a venerated sacrifice to easing out of an uncomfortable situation by saying something silly. They all pass from existence, as the Tao, the Source of all things, knows:

“To him none are especially dear, nor is there anyone he disfavors.”

In appreciating the straw dogs of the  6th century B.C. within the experience of the 21st century A.D., it is possible to feel the forever of existence, the comfort in knowing that straw dogs follow straw dogs. “With impartial awareness, the sage genuinely sees the sacredness within all the straw dogs in this ceremony we call life” (Dyer). 

We are not special unless we all are special.

Imagine a world where all know and accept that existence is a gift for all to be opened, to be lived, and to be left for others.  What is special in each of us is our life force. Imagine if we stopped celebrating our separateness and revered our one moment of existence, straw dogs all.

ROW80 Sunday Summary

A brief, mid-week lupus flare limited my reading and writing but it was a brief flare, and I am grateful. I credit its brevity to my better diet (now a weight loss of 66 pounds), to my work with the Tao, to meditating, and to participating in ROW80. Anyone with chronic illness  or who is confined for any length of time, can appreciate how important it is to connect with life whenever possible. As a bit of a distraction, I concentrated on re-learning Twitter; fellow ROW80er Morgan Dragonwillow helped me with TweetDeck and when my brain fog cleared a bit, I re-read the Twitter segment of Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not AloneWho knew a lupus flare could be so productive?

Am halfway into The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. For the first time since seeing the movie Toby Tyler (late 1950’s), I want to run away with a circus, especially one as magical as the Circus of Dreams. I enjoy Morgenstern’s wit and although the time structure is a bit wobbly–I had the same concern in The Time Traveler’s Wife–Morgenstern’s writing keeps me turning the pages.

If you want to read more about my ROW80 progress, please click here.

Comment Choice

Image from

It seems last Sunday’s blog on silence coincided with the implementation of some “comment updates” from WordPress, the hosting company for this blog. I chose WordPress for its theme diversity and low cost but mainly for its ease in connecting with other social networks.

A blog that deals with Oneness and being is about connecting so hosting my blog with WordPress did and does make sense. It also makes sense that there will be missed connections, from time to time. On Monday, some readers wanting to leave a comment received this message:

That email address is associated with an existing (or account. Please click the back button in your browser and then log in to use it.

No one has to register with or log in to my actual blog to comment;  however, my blog has always required an email address (never revealed) and a name to accompany all comments. If I didn’t, anonymous responses could conceivably rival spam contributions so on my blog, one must create an identity to comment.

Identity seems to be at the core of the recent comment update issue, although I do not pretend to understand the technology of it so I may be completely wrong.  However, it does appear that in order to leave a comment on my blog now, readers must sign in with an existing social media account (Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, etc.) or create an account with WordPress.

Image from

This is the ether so remember that  updates/changes to what I just wrote are always just a breath away, if that far.

As this blog is also about one boomer being–I have an appreciation for and history of questioning authority so I do “get” why some readers are upset—I support every reader who does not want to sign in with any of their existing accounts or create an account with WordPress in order to comment.

For me, blogging is all about community and finding ways to support each other. Yes, I am nauseatingly optimistic almost all of the time but just the fact that we can have a global conversation about commenting or not commenting is a positive for all of us. Here’s an alternative way to comment on my blog:

Under Contact in the right hand column on my home page (Oneness),  please click on Email me!  to send  your comments.

As I do with all comments, I will review, respond (if appropriate), and I will post your comment just as if you had submitted it in the comment section. Please provide a name that you like as your identity. It may even be your own.

“So rather than giving energy to…perceived misfortunes, [I look to] the Tao…inexhaustible…the ancestor of it all…living infinitely” (Wayne Dyer).

“Wisdom is knowing I am nothing,
love is knowing I am everything,
and between the two my life moves.”

Nisargadatta Maharaj

Round One of Round of Words Final Tally

The first round of Round of Words in 80 days ends tomorrow, and round two begins April 2. ROW80 helps writers bring their writing into their real lives, no more goal-gazing or sighing. ROW80 helps writers establish realistic goals that may be revised as many times as any manuscript. All one needs is a blog and a love of writing.

I was skeptical about ROW80 but if nothing else, I launched a blog, the writing of which requires way more than I anticipated. Furthermore, I saw my writing as it really is, which is not exactly how it was playing in my head or through my heart.  Now, I know what is possible so thank you  to the ROW80 community of writers who post their progress on Sundays and Wednesdays.

My beginning goals were modest—write at least 250 words per day, write a blog post twice a week, do something with a 17-year-old manuscript. I made it hard for me to fail, for once.

I progressed from 250 words per day to 30-minute stretches and to a daily average of 900 words. In these last few weeks, I am comfortably writing over 1,000 words per day. The type of writing includes technical, nonfiction, fiction, and blog posts but in this first round, I excluded technical and nonfiction writing from my word count. Total fiction and blog post word count is 23,639. Total technical and nonfiction word count is 14,000-18,000.

As a writer who was not writing except for an occasional spurt, I am more than pleased. What ROW80 reveals is that it does not take a great deal of time to generate words. With words come ideas and better words, clearer thought.

My manuscript is in shreds but its core, kernel idea is intact, which is more than I expected. The story is completely different as am I– seventeen years later–but the story’s idea is as fresh as always.

ROW80 Round Two on deck.

Center of the Universe

You are not the center of the universe” is a pivotal line in my unpublished novel, written eighteen years ago. Actually, Center of the Universe was the novel’s real working title, which I do not believe I have never told anyone until now but I’m old and every day, my memory is kinder. For most of my novel’s years, I called it Spirit Song or a still favorite phrase, In-Between Dances. image

Anti-Spoiler: At no time in this post or any other post will you be subjected to excerpts from any novel or story I may write. This blog may  look at the 10,000 things of the Tao but my novel or story excerpts are excluded.  My writing has its place, which is not my blog.

“Center of the universe” was an unusual concept in the early 1990s  for me and for the small, coal mining community where I lived. Amazingly, I played a pivotal role in that community for a short period of time, if not as the center of the community, it was close enough for me forever. It doesn’t take much in a small community.

Fresh from a university setting, I was teaching the  basic composition course for the community college outreach program. The course was required for anyone pursuing an associate degree but I did not let that hold me back. I launched my (and the community’s) writing life with Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Zen Buddhism completely captured my heart; I was so in love.

Edgar Allan Poe Wikipedia Image

Everywhere I looked, there was analogy after analogy. In teaching Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher,” a classic story of sentience, I nearly brought to life the house’s  weeping walls and the Tao of 10,000 things. I was ingenuousness personified. At best, I only knew half of what I thought I knew but I tossed all my sentience out there.

It stuck.

For the next few years, former students liked to introduce me as: “This is (My Name), and she thinks this chair has feelings.” Yes, a chair was offered to a somewhat startled, formerly secure person. It kept people on their feet, and for a moment, made me the center of the universe. Only now do I appreciate how truly amazing those years were.

By the time I began writing my novel in 1994, I had pulled away from the community and in all fairness, it had pulled away from me, too. We had reason to separate—it seems fair to say we had forgotten our sentient selves—it is so long ago who knows whether  there was any reason left in any of us. We just were.

Regardless, my novel was about finding community again; I wanted to discover where we had gone so wrong, all of us. Somewhere after 60,000 words, my protagonist was informed: “You are not the center of the Universe.” Truly, I remember the moment.

As a writer, I recognized the importance of the sentence but as a human being, I sensed enlightenment, albeit briefly. It would take another seventeen years to fully appreciate the center of the universe but there was light, and toward that, I moved.

In 2011, I read Stephen Hawking’s books—Grand Design and A Briefer History of Time—and learned of the multiverse, a considerable blow to my centered universe–momentarily–for I found the joy of quantum entanglement and Oneness. The reality of joy is once you experience it, you move in that direction always. Dark just does not have the same hold in Oneness. image

However, Oneness translates hard for a writer, sometimes.

While I had known for a while—sixteen years, eleven months, and twenty days—that I might glean only dribs and drabs from my first attempt at a novel, I always believed I had the center of the universe. Not so. Seems it really was a bit of fiction.  And there was something even worse: my center of the universe was a Little Darling, in writing, a death knell.

True to form, I kept silent about my Little Darling. Perhaps I hoped I would forget there was a multiverse–I promise you there is real merit in this possibility–yet, sentient human or no, once the heart knows, it knows.

Yesterday, my universe imploded, victim of  my first assignment in a writing workshop: write the idea of my novel in one sentence of 25 words or less. Surprisingly, I managed to find a sentence, not a cogent one, but the center of the universe was gone.

Note: For one of the best explanations about Little Darlings and how to get help for this alarmingly prevalent addiction, please read Piper Bayard and Kristen Lamb, proud sponsors of Little Darlings Anonymous.

ROW80 Wednesday Word Marking:

My word total for January was 8250 with my goal of writing at least 250 words per day; in February, I began writing in 30-minute stretches to focus my writing and the word total for the month is 9814;  in March, my current word total is 2118.  My total Round of Words so far is 21,182, which is a raw total, meaning a lot of free writing/brainstorming with a goal of writing consistently, which I have accomplished. I generate an additional 1200 to 2000 words per week as blogs, fiction, and nonfiction.

For the remaining days of this ROW80, I am focusing on scheduling my blogs so I am not on “deadline” ever or always on deadline.  Oneness is confusing in this regard.

Bob Mayer’s Idea and Conflict Workshop  is just incredible, and I mean that sincerely. I can honestly say I have not been this excited about writing in years. There is true joy in my work.

ROW 80 (01/08/2012)

I know better than to announce which day a blog post will publish. Ditto for submission deadlines to, although Leashed will be submitted soon.

Frankly, it feels good to be struggling with the familiar structure issue. It certainly is a reason I am participating in ROW 80.

Tomorrow, I start writing for two hours each morning.  By next Sunday, I hope to have a specific time designated but that may be a step too far. Lupus lives with me  24/7 so structure with flexibility.

Have begun my work with the first verse of the Tao–the nameless and the named 10,000 things–in Wayne Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.  The idea of writing a blog post for each verse appeals to me, daunting as it is. For now, the verse provides enough energy.

My morning meditation with Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening continues to work well. May have found a daily routine for the rest of my life.