Cloud-Hidden

Hello friends,

I have always enjoyed the title of one of Alan Watts’ books – Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown. It speaks to me of the peace and rest that anonymity can bring. Public life holds a certain kind of helpfulness, however for an older person, public life can work contrary to the essences of that person’s journey. I believe the world is at a crisis point, a time when profound transition is possible – though not inevitable. I find that I must take a step through the Gate that these times have offered to me. I have taken several periods of “time off” over the years but none have lasted long enough for my silence to bear fruit.

I am going on an extended time of retreat and silence for the rest of the year 2020. Our simple home here in Mt. Shasta and the loving support of Nancy, provide the perfect setting for this retreat. When this unique year has past, I will reevaluate all of my options.

Nancy and I are fine. We are well, healthy, happy and at peace with our work. If you want to keep in touch, please go to Nancy’s blog – Earth Centered Living After 60  There you will find updates on our journey and a way of contacting Nancy. During this time I will not be receiving email. I will not be blogging.  I will be turning my attention to my life-long desire for an experiential, rather than merely intellectual, relationship with the Mystery, the Tao.

The flow of Tao is unpredictable, but I trust that when this exceptional year has past, we will find each other well, safe, and walking the path in peace and hope.

Blessings to us all.

Connected

During this time of health concerns most of us are more physically isolated than ever before in our experience, yet I notice an amazing paradox. In a deeper, more mysterious manner, we seem to be connecting at a deeper level with everything and everyone. connectionRelationships we took for granted are now precious and we are creating new ways of expressing that preciousness to each other. The world of nature which used to be mere b background to our lives, now offers new delight, comfort, and nurture. Social systems which used to inspire only cynicism, now are seen as comprised for the most part of good people trying to do their best for each other.

Nancy sits out in the meadow each evening at 8:00 and drums for ten or fifteen minutes. This is her solidarity with thousands of others who are either drumming or howling at this time. Who would have thought we sophisticated consumers would be doing that? Italians go out on their balconies each evening and play music and sing. Cynicism, though still alive, plays less and less of a role on social media. People are discovering music again as YouTube music videos are soaring in popularity. (My own favorites are on my “Things I Like” page.)

I don’t diminish the seriousness of this pandemic, but I truly believe that the changes it is bringing will be lasting and to our fundamental benefit. When it calms down we will find ourselves more appreciative of simple things, of family and friends, and of the Earth’s nurture. We will be better friends, lovers, and caretakers of the Earth. We will not return to consumption as usual, even if the economists want us to. We will have taken yet another step along the path of transformation and connection.

Bless us all!




 

Here is a short video on connection that might be helpful

Identity

We are not who we think we are. We are the one noticing the thinking, not the thinker of the thoughts. Thoughts think themselves and we mistake them for identity. Thoughts are simply “occurrences” like the motion of air molecules. We call the movement of air, “wind.” We call the movement of thoughts, “us.” When the air stops moving, the wind disappears. When my thoughts stop moving, do I disappear?

Is there “someone” here along with, or behind and beneath all the thoughts? I truly believe that there is, but I cannot name that “someone” because, as Lao-Tzu says, “The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.” If I name it, that name would not be it. It would simply be another thought. Nevertheless, “he” is there. He is watching the thoughts. He is experiencing life as me. He is unafraid, soft, yielding, without agenda, without control needs. He is the one, and the only one, who actually accomplishes anything. He and the Tao are One.

When I spend too much time with the illusion that I am my thoughts, I naturally become afraid, tense, guarded, and separate – because my thoughts are isolated things, alone behind the wall of my skull. We are all afraid and tense right now because crises like we are facing tend to drive us to our thoughts – thoughts formed and informed by the constant barrage of all types of media.

When we are not controlled by our thoughts we are unafraid. We naturally act with effectiveness and compassion because that is who and what we really are. Let’s let our thoughts become instruments of the Tao. Hold them carefully like you would hold a delicate tool that can do damage if it slips. Don’t grasp them. Let the “real you” guide and use them but never believe that they are you.

One cannot name the Tao, but that does not negate its existence. In fact, the Tao is the essence of all existence. In the same way, I cannot name this “watcher” or “soul” which I claim to be my true identity, nevertheless it remains the essence of who I am – unnamable but real beyond all doubt.



 

Utopia?

 

The Tao is empty of agenda, therefore full of possibilities. It is not a limited reservoir of energy, doled out in parcels to supplicants. It is an infinite field. From Chapter 4 of The Activist’s Tao Te Ching.

possibilitiesDid you know that Lao Tzu’s wonderful and timeless book, written over 2500 years ago is a book of Utopian philosophy? It is. Every single one of his 81 poetic chapters is an expression of what social, political, natural, and human life would be like if the Tao were followed.

We live, however, in a culture of dystopian images, thoughts, and expectations. Just examine our films, media, and literature. Most of it is violent, dystopian, fearful, or simply distraction. Utopian ideals are dismissed out of hand as “unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, new-age pixie dust.” What a tragic misunderstanding of the infinite potential of the Tao.

In times of crisis such as we are experiencing, dystopian images abound in media and thought. This is a failure of our imagination. We must retrain that most precious gift – the gift of imaginative thought. It will be difficult because our mind is trained to say, “Well, that’s not gonna happen. How would that ever happen?” Well, we don’t know how it will happen. We will never know how it will happen until our imaginations are healed and we begin to see it clearly. Attempts at utopian societies have failed because they have been built with dystopian-trained imaginations. Until we have considerable practice at new ways of using our thoughts, we will continue to flounder.

During these difficult times, I urge us not to succumb to the images that we have been fed all of our lives. The Tao is an infinite quantum field of possibilities that can be experienced, first in the imagination, then, when clearly envisioned, in reality.

What will our schools, our hospitals, our jobs, our transportation, our farms, our families be experiencing during our grandchildren’s grandchildren’s time? Let your minds begin to play with the infinite possibilities of Utopian thinking. It is the only realistic path to the future.

The below video contains my thoughts from Chapter 4 and some hints about how to begin retraining our imaginations.

We have it in us to transform the world, one thought at a time. We won’t see the way ahead until we “see it.” Then the practical steps will emerge. Let the chaos of this time clarify the great need for re-visioning of society and the world. Play with it. Write about it. See it!

Not Fooled

“When a nation values wealth and status, its citizens are easily controlled by their desires and their fears. When we learn to value simple things and are not enticed by power, we can open the hearts of people to the joy of ordinary life.

We will not be fooled by clever words designed to keep us captive, promising us a better day – someday. When we no longer believe these empty promises, already better days are on their way.” – from The Activist’s Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3

 

The air is filled with clever words: “Financial security!” “Independence!” “Freedom!” “Overnight Delivery!” “Look over here!” “Look over there!”

emptywordsJustice can no longer mean that everyone gets to share the trinkets of a consumer culture. It must mean that trinkets have lost their value and the true and actual bounty of the Earth – sunshine, water, food, love, and connection – now belong to every single life.

Think about the phrase, “financial independence.” Notice that what it actually means is that the goal of becoming totally separate from life has been achieved. I am no longer dependent on any of the connections that have sustained life for billions of years. The wall is complete. No one else is needed. Nothing outside can disturb. I have become the quintessential Superman. This, of course, is the epitome of insanity. Yet it is the stated and unstated goal of my culture.

Transformation of our society will have its beginnings, in fact already has its beginnings, in simplicity. Endless acquisition that has been our strategy against fear for millennia will fade away and the ordinary bounty of life will reappear, available to all. But it will require that we unlearn many mental beliefs; beliefs that have been reinforced hundreds of times a day, each and every day of our lives. Perhaps this is one more unlearning opportunity these days of crisis will bring us. We will no longer be fooled by the language of empty words.

Blessings to everyone. Go outside. Stretch to the sky. Enjoy!

 

Relax

“Therefore the people act, but do not force; they teach without agenda and let freedom emerge without conscious effort.”                 From The Activist’s Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2

Can you sense how desperately our species is searching for a way to regain “control” of things? The unknown future frightens us to the core. For millennia we as a species have been assuaging our fears by an ever-increasing separation from the life around us; by controlbuilding physical, emotional, and spiritual walls around ourselves; and by intense attempts to bring everything that is “not us” into the sphere of our control and exploitation.

Ever since the agricultural revolution, thousands of years ago, we have increasingly separated life into “mine” and “not mine” – into “me” and “out there.” This has caused a fundamental split in our true nature. We are designed to be a compassionate and integral part of the Tao, but we have separated ourselves and are therefore suffering from an existential anxiety that is destroying the Earth in its fear. The more we feel separate, the more we try to control and exploit. The more we try to control and exploit, the more dangerous our world becomes and the more separate we feel. What is going to reverse this suicidal cycle?

The Tao. Even in the midst of the current crisis, many people are finding, to their surprise, a deep security that has always been there; a security that does not reside in control efforts but rather in an awareness that we truly are a part of All. The anxiety settles down and we discover, in retrospect, that we’ve been misguided and lost. Deeper spiritual truths begin to emerge and we slowly, painfully at times, but surely start to recover our forgotten nature. This will be our hope and the energy of our transformed future.

I continue to use my The Activist’s Tao Te Ching – Ancient Advice for a Modern Revolution as my offering to the world. In the video below I am reading from Chapter 2 – “A Quiet Revolution.” I hope my intention to continue giving this gift will be of help; will be connective; will present a vision for a restoration of our true nature that we have forgotten.

Activist’s Tao – Chapter 1

Hello, friends.

activistsAs I sink into my life with Nancy and our “hermit” existence on our “Three Acre Wood,” I am discovering some interesting things about myself. I have been rereading my book, The Activist’s Tao Te Ching – Ancient Advice for a Modern Revolution. Like most authors, I seldom read my own books – altogether too terrifying. But this one called to me. To my surprise, I discover that it is the most important book I’ve ever written. I wrote it four years ago and, unknown to me at the time, it was prescient – it was written for this very moment!

I can’t put it on this website for free/donation because the rights are owned by the publisher, but I will be creating a series of videos that take us through all 81 short chapters, one at a time. I will look for other ways to make it available. If you can afford to buy it during these times, by all means do so! It’s not that expensive. Buy it, then give it to someone else. You can find it in my “books” links.

In the meantime – below is my first video. It is “primitive”- using only my little iPhone, but it communicates I think. I’ll keep working on the technology. I plan to put up a new video chapter every few days. They will be on my YouTube channel as well as on this website.

One

“The Tao that can be spoken of is not the Eternal Tao.”

galaxiesTwo “theologies” have intertwined with human culture for the past two thousand years. On the one end is the materialistic nihilistic position; that the Cosmos is a random occurrence, operating on mechanistic principles with no possibility of Divine presence. In this view, even the mysteries of the quantum field are seen to be random and eventually explainable in a rationalistic manner. If there is a God, he started things going, then left the building. On the other end is the extreme theistic position in which a separate Deity created the Cosmos for humans and scrutinizes each individual’s every action and thought to insure that they are “in accordance with His Will.” In this view we are under a Divine microscope with our eternal destiny hanging by fragile threads which we only partially understand. For millennia these two poles have been the dominant “theologies” of humanity, each one taking its turn as the centuries pass. For the last two or three hundred years the mechanistic position has taken the forefront in the industrial and technological revolution.

A different spirituality, one that has been around much longer, is beginning to re-emerge. Taoist thought is one of the examples of this emergence. The “Tao” is seen as the mysterious, but very real, underlying nature of the Cosmos. Neither distant nor intrusive, the Tao contains everything yet asks nothing in return – no worship, no obedience, no artificial mind games. Thus rituals, metaphors, and spiritual practices can unfold in a broad spacious container. Helpful images and spiritual support can be experienced in a wide variety of ways.

The modern image of the “Unified Quantum Field” is a powerful one for me. It is a theory that seems to parallel the Tao – that field in which everything exists and from which everything comes. It is not irrational to believe that this “Field” is purposeful and permeates human life. Neither is it irrational to think that this Field is compassionate in the deepest sense of that word – not sentimental but with a benevolent long-term, perhaps ever-morphing, purpose for Itself within all of the Cosmos.

As Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” so quantum field theory posits a pervading “Oneness” of every sub-atomic particle in the Universe, including the atomic energy fields that are manifest as you and me. There is no definitive “scientific” proof for either the mechanistic or the Living Organism theory. However the consequences of each belief are vastly different … just look around. A choice between the two is a no-brainer for me. I choose Oneness.

This Oneness is difficult to touch at a time when separation seems to be the rule. Our Oneness, however, is independent of our circumstances. It is a given in all situations. Look for it. Feel it. Sink into the joy of it. Music, uplift, connection, compassion, love, joy, and freedom are all around us. Use the comments link to share some of the ways you are keeping inspired and hopeful. Let’s build our community.

Some videos that keep me smiling:

 

 

Qigong – Important!

Hello Friends,

Yet another post from Bill. In these times I feel it is important to share everything I can to be of benefit. My own life over the decades has been enlivened by the practice of Qigong – “Energy Work.” My teacher over the past ten years in this practice has been Lee Holden, a Qigong and Energy Work practitioner of great skill and empathy.

Lee is offering a free series of Qigong courses to help reduce stress and boost the immunity system. I just had to offer you a link to these wonderful courses. Enjoy them. It will truly be of benefit!

Lee Holden – Free Qigong Course in Boosting Immune System

A Letter From Jean Houston

Nancy is taking an on-line class from Jean Houston. Jean recently sent this letter to her students. Nancy posted it on her site, Earth Centered Living After 60  I am sharing Jean’s letter here because it so eloquently expresses our hope. Let’s keep encouraging each other as much as we possibly can.

compassion

Dear Friends,

Like all of you, the epic scale of the Coronavirus threat has humbled me with its power and is collectively asking more of us than to just stay at home. All of my life I have been dedicated to encouraging the potential that every person carries within them. I’ve taught about our innate depths, our possibilities, and our purpose. Now, however, it’s time to live out the promise that we all carry, to become noble, kind and compassionate people.

This week on television, I witnessed the best and most fearful sides of our natures. On the one hand, I saw violent videos of shoppers fighting over toilet paper, and also experienced indiscriminate generosity while shopping at my local Costco.

Customers who knew the gravity of the challenge we all faced stepped aside for each other in the aisles. If one item was left on the shelf, they asked the person behind them if they would like it. The obviously overworked employees were never too busy restocking the shelves to share a smile and ask how they could help. Strangers looked at each other — really looked at each other — and bonded in that momentary glance. There was a pervasive energy of collective caring that will never be reported by the media.

Tonight on the news, I saw restaurant owners and chefs in New York who were transforming their empty restaurants into soup kitchens of a sort and creating food for those who might be hungry in their neighborhoods. Families in need were brought to tears with the unexpected kindness of these people.

Yes, my belief in our potential is vindicated as neighbor cares for neighbor and plans are drawn up for feeding children who can no longer go to school.

The remarkable thing is that this isn’t the government that is rolling out a highly budgeted plan; it’s individuals. As one restaurateur said, “I’m asked how long I’ll be offering food. I guess it’s until I run out of money.” My hope today is that we allow this crisis to evoke the best of us.

We can hunker down in fear, or look for the opportunity to care, each in our own way. Our kindness is a light. The more we extend it, the brighter it becomes and the more darkness we illuminate. We can give without any expectations until goodness flows from our depths, presents new possibilities, and expands our sense of purpose.

The benefit is not only for those we touch but is also like my Costco experience, where our generosity of spirit can create positive energy that permeates the very air we all breathe. It creates a powerful new vision of who we are and what we can accomplish together. We must hold fast to that vision until it becomes reality.

So, my dear friend, I invite you to create a new virus of caring, of a nobility of our humanity that becomes even more contagious than the one dancing in the headlines.

This is our time. We can choose to surrender to fear or we can show the world what it means to be thoughtful, to be generous, and to be proactive in helping friends or strangers alike. Perhaps this is an initiation of sorts in which we are invited to step into a new experience of our interdependence and empathy.

Former Vice President Biden, during the most recent debate, announced his intention to create programs that would “make us whole.” As we extend ourselves into the well-being of each other, we return to wholeness as the family of humankind. Self-serving actions and the illusion of separation can transform into a collective strength that is more encompassing than divisions of race, economic status, gender preference, or political party.

It can be as simple as a smile, an encouraging word, a “window visit” to an elder care home, or a letter to someone in prison. Your words of encouragement are constantly influencing our perceptions and worldview.

Take all the precautions that are recommended, and at the same time be bold in your love, and constant in your faith that together we will pass through this challenging time. On the other side of it, we will look back and realize that we were part of an epic time in history when caring triumphed over fear, and goodness prevailed!

Bless you dear one, now and always,

Jean Houston