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

Hermit

 

Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?

The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 15 – trans. Stephen Mitchell

The governor of California has asked all people over the age of 65 to remain at home for the next month, at least. Whee! I have often longed to sink deeply into my “hermit” persona, but have struggled against long-ingrained habits that keep me pulled out and stirred up. Now I am being ordered, commanded, to be that which I truly am deep inside. Nancy will make the occasional trip out for supplies and will take great care – gloves, soap, and whatever disinfectants might someday reappear on the shelves.

Cabin-BillThe isolation will be harder for many. I am on the far end of the “hermit/extrovert” continuum, but I would cautiously suggest that a bit of the “hermit” might be good for everyone. You might consider using some of this unexpected, admittedly uncomfortable time to explore the introvert shadow side of your life. Physical isolation is only one part of the process. The chaos enters through all sorts of cracks, some of which you might consider closing. Otherwise, just as the mud barely begins to settle, the media stick comes along and gives it a good strong stir and you have to start all over.

These are the cracks I’m caulking up a bit:

1. Heavily censored “news” – Nancy is checking my email each day and passing on to me only personal correspondence and the occasional bill (which I send right back to her quickly!) Nancy has better “media control” than I have, and has agreed to inform me only of news which requires action on my part – like:  they’re coming to take me away…

2. I do not go into town. (Well, the governor commanded…what can I do?)

3. I go “on-line” only to post my writing or do research. (The “research” aspect is fraught with peril and can be a slippery slope. I research only non-current information and take an on-line course in Quantum Living. Nancy helps keep me honest here.)

I have seldom, perhaps to be honest, never, remained quiet long enough for the mud to truly settle. How can I possibly know what a clear view of the magnificent Universe that I believe awaits actually looks like? It sounds insane, but a part of me thinks it would be good if this crisis lasted long enough for us to cease “holding on” and waiting for things to go back to normal, so that we might discover a new “normal” that is less frantic, less distracting, less materialistic, and far more satisfying.

I wonder how we might go about reordering our lives in ways that might actually be deeply beneficial? Smaller communities? Less mass entertainment and more home-grown fun? Less travel and strain on the environment? A new understanding of work and family? A new sense of what’s really important in life?

When the virus crisis passes, where will we be? Who will we be? What will have changed? It will be important to take the time to let the mud settle and to think about these things.

In the meantime, relax, and enjoy this wonderful song by John Vidakovich, our friend and relative once-removed.

“We are living in self-quarantine”

Happy Anniversary to Us!

nancybarefootNancy and I have been married thirty years today. What an adventure we have been on!! 30 years ago Nancy was a Methodist Minister and I was a Pastoral Counselor in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona. We met when we were asked to be leaders at an ecumenical retreat. Yes – love at first sight.

Since then: Clergy, Counselor, Retreat leaders, College instructor, Authors, Hospice worker, Zen teachers, Bookbinders … never settling, always on the move, always deeply in love and cherishing every moment.

I love Nancy with all my heart. If she had said, twenty-five years ago, “Bill, honey, I really want to settle in and spend my life as a Methodist Minister and for you to have a stable counseling career so we can raise IRAs and 401Ks and be secure ever after,” I swear I would have complied.

But she didn’t. Instead we said to each other over the years, “Let’s do what’s next!”

And here we are. On a piece of land we adore and which we are charged to look after. Nancy is still saying, “Let’s do it – whatever is next!” She is a powerful woman, at the leading edge of transformation in the world. She is a delight and a wonder and I am a very fortunate man.

 

How About That?

WHOIn the midst of the Coronavirus fears, something is rising to my consciousness that I hadn’t expected. Amid the understandable confusion, I see a very hopeful sign. We have it in us, as a culture, to take drastic action if we feel a pressing need.

The mass cancellations of events in the face of economic consequences shows a willingness to sacrifice if we sense it is important. The mobilization of resources shows that we have the capacity to respond when we feel the need is crucial. Whether or not we are making all the right responses to a virulent flu is not really the point. We are demonstrating, at least in some ways, the we can respond when we feel the necessity. The virus will run its course despite our efforts, but our actions will undoubtedly save hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

Our government, especially at state and local levels, is being more responsive than I thought possible. The CDC and WHO are doing the job they were created to do. Something about this virus has shifted it from a serious health issue to a major crisis that demands a response.

It is likely that part of the response is due to having something tangible and immediate on which to focus our pervasive and nebulous fears. We know something is terribly wrong with the direction and priorities of our culture. We know that grave dangers surround us, but there are so many competing camps, each blaming all the others, that it is difficult to focus our attention and energy. With the onset of this virus we finally have something we can all agree is a threat.

The Coronavirus is a minor threat compared to the devastation and biocide we are inflicting on the Earth’s ecosystems – forests, climate, water, species, and soil. But we can’t bring those threats into focus. Sooner rather than later we will have no choice. But we are beginning to show that we have the capacity to pull together, sacrifice our conveniences, give up our diversions, and recognize that we are all in this together. This gives me hope. Perhaps we will recognize, after the virus threat fades, that we are far more capable of courage and sacrifice than we ever thought possible.

I am somewhat dismayed by some elements of hoarding and price-gouging, but that simply comes from the fearful story of separation and the illusion that, “we’re all alone,” that we’ve been believing for centuries. That will pass. We have been awakened to the awareness that we are not alone; that we really do have each other’s backs; and that what affects one of us, affects us all.

May we mitigate our panic, marshal our best angels, reach deep into our willingness, and take a hopeful step toward the world we want our great-great-grandchildren to experience.

My dear spouse, Nancy Martin, has written eloquently on this subject. She has a wonderful and sacred ability to envision possibilities. She has done so on her post: Turning Weed-thoughts into Flowers

 

Gifts

giftThe “Gift Economy” idea is growing in its appeal to my inner self. I have always struggled with the culturally embedded idea that we must make our living (which means earning money) by certain trade-offs; that we must sell our hours, our skills, and our creativity in the marketplace where we compete with all others for a piece of the monetary pie. At the very best we might be able to find “work” that is enjoyable but nonetheless remains immersed in a scarcity-based economy in which debt and interest on debt drives the engine.

I have been reading and listening to Charles Eisenstein, an appealing figure who writes and speaks about the essential sacred nature of the Earth. I like him, of course, because he articulates ideas that resonate with my own ideas and inner longings. His books and presentations cover a broad range of subjects, but the one I am exploring at the moment is the Gift Economy. This idea is explored in detail in his book, Sacred Economics; Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition.

His book is compelling and well thought-out. But here is the takeaway for me at the moment: Charles uses a website that embodies his vision of one element of a new, spiritual, and sacred economy. Everything, and I mean everything, on his site is available at no cost or, if we choose, by a contribution gift. Even each of his books, which sell for normal prices on Amazon and in bookstores, can be read in an on-line version for a simple donation, OR for no cost at all if we can’t afford or don’t want to donate.

He believes that by offering his creativity with words and insights as gift, he puts in motion the circle of generosity in which we all participate, we all have each other’s backs, and we all belong. When he first started to trust this economy, 90% of people chose to pay nothing and he wondered if he was being terribly naive. But a strange thing happened. As he began to understand his work as gift he started taking it more seriously. He no longer was caught by the constricting idea of, “how little can I do for the maximum gain?” He began to put more and more creative effort into making his words, website, courses, and speeches the best they could possibly be, offering the best intrinsic value he possibly could.

And it worked. His website is one of the best I’ve ever encountered. His work is natural, humble, and authentic. Many still pay nothing, but many become a part of the circle of giving. I am taking one of his courses. I have very little money and could easily justify paying nothing. No one on his end would know or care. Instead I paid $100 – nowhere near what 28-session, top of the line courses would normally charge, but a big reach for me.

That reach feels good. I, in turn,am supported by my own set of patrons who are starting to become a circle of family, people who have my back. I want to have their back as well. I want to pour into my work all of the creative energy, authenticity, and excellence I possibly can. I am thinking of completely redesigning my own on-line approach to more fully sink into this  element of a new and evolving “sacred economics.” I can’t offer my traditionally published books for free because they are “owned” by huge publishing houses. But all of my self-published books I can control and find a way of offering on-line versions for donation/gift/free.

This is a huge shift for a published author. Everything about publishing is framed as a “business” and is immersed in the cultural economic paradigm. Why would a person ever pay $5.95 for an e-book or $17.00 for a print book when they can read it on-line for free? I have come to believe that some will, because they intrinsically know that they want to be part of a new economy. They will choose to buy a print version, they will buy an e-book, they will make a small donation that they can afford and read it on-line, – OR – they will read on-line at no charge and simply receive the gift. It will circle around and around and we will all benefit.

I am starting to redesign this website to more fully reflect my desired participation in this new Spiritual Economy. Nancy and I have been greatly blessed by the gifts of friends, patrons, and strangers from afar. We want to return the gift with the best work we possibly can.  As a start, I have put a PDF copy of one of my earlier e-books on line. You can read it for no cost or donate a bit if you wish. You can read it here: The Wheel Will Turn mss

I will continue to recreate this site to more fully express my desires to both give and receive in the most creative, natural, and sacred a manner as possible – with essays, books, classes, and whatever else my evolving creativity might birth.

Thank you for being part of a redefined community of humanity.

Leap

Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020

leapWhat do you know? Today is “Leap Day.” What an appropriate day for celebrating the needed “Leap” in human consciousness. Evolution progresses slowly and follows a winding path full of dead ends and backtracks. But on rare occasions all the factors come together and a species makes a “leap” in its nature. It becomes something entirely new, seemingly unrelated to its antecedents. Evolutionary biologists agree that such rare leaps are precipitated by a crisis faced by the species. If ever a species faced a crisis that needs a “leap,” it is the human species. If we follow the usual pattern of a slow evolution of our essential nature, the exponential pace of environmental degradation will destroy us. The only species capable of handling our infinitely complex problems is a new species of humanity, as different from us as we are from chimpanzees.

Of course an individual person cannot make the species take this leap. We don’t even know what such a leap will produce. But we do know that it is necessary, and that it will be a leap of consciousness, not of simple biology. An individual person, however, can be willing to imagine how such a leap might change their life. If I were suddenly on the other side of this Leap, what would I see, feel, think, do? I cannot accurately imagine, of course, because the very nature of this Leap makes it mysterious and unknown. For the individual, it is truly a “leap of faith,” a step into the abyss of unknowing.

Still, the imagination is a powerful tool. We might consider taking today, Leap Day, as a symbol of our own willingness to make a leap. We might, today, step outside and walk through nature for a bit, contemplating what we truly, deep inside, feel life should be like, what human beings might be like the other side of the Leap. Then, when the time seems right, simply bend your legs, tense your muscles, and literally, physically – Leap! What did that feel like? Do it again, and again. Get a feel of what a transformed life might be like.

It can happen that fast. I was in one place, I took a leap, and I am somewhere else. Now begin to imagine what this new place does to your thoughts, actions, reactions, and experience of life. The old world no longer exists for you. You are a new person in a new world. When the feeling fades; Leap again!

Our Children

I have been asked by the publisher to write a new Afterword for an anniversary edition of my book, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching. It is strange to consider that that book has been around for twenty years now. They would like the new Afterword to present my evolving understandings of parenting from the perspective of a grandparent.

My understandings of the whole parenting process have certainly evolved. The world I thought existed when I first became a parent almost fifty years ago is no longer the world I experience. All the signs were present back then, but I didn’t see them as clearly as they now appear. We are on the verge, or actually in the midst of, an evolutionary “leap” as a species. Whether that leap will be into oblivion or into a truly new humanity is yet to be seen. But it will be seen within the next few generations and its direction will literally depend on the choices those of us currently alive, regardless of our ages, decide to make.

Parents now have a more momentous responsibility than ever before, as if it weren’t already a heavy enough responsibility. Now, in addition to providing safety, love, shelter, and nurture, parents must envision and live a new and transformed life and communicate that life to their children as clearly as possible.

Our children and grandchildren must witness a new way of being. We may stumble and stagger as we seek to provide that way of being, but they must see us making the attempt. They must hear our apologies for the chaos we have created. They must hear our sincere repentance and observe our attempts to atone. They must experience a new economy, a new understanding of simple joy, and a new relationship with the natural world.

We must find the courage to step into, then attempt to teach this transformed life to childnaturethem. They must learn the names of the trees and flowers. They must experience the swarming of bees and the migration of birds. They must see the caterpillars become butterflies and know the vegetation necessary to that transformation. They must understand the value of sitting quietly in a field and letting life come to them on its own terms rather than remaking life in the form of their own desires.

Technology will not spearhead this transformation. The transformation must first be spiritual and psychological, from the inside out. Only then can technology be effective because only then will our spirits set the agenda for which the technology might be used. Our children and grandchildren must sense and live into this evolutionary leap in order for their phones, screens, and texts to have any true meaning in their lives. They must center their lives on the Earth as a living organism of which they are a part before they are able to stand apart and be able to do their work and give their gift to Life.

Parents have always wanted their children to have the “good life.” Most parents dedicate their lives to providing this good life for their children. But at our current point in evolutionary history that good life is a disastrous paradigm that will render the Earth unable to support human life at all. We parents and grandparents must completely redefine, first for ourselves and then for our children, the concept of a good life.

A transformed family will not be about taking away all of our toys and asking our children to play with wooden sticks. It will be about a deep, gut-level realization, that what we are doing is not working. We will gradually redefine joy and happiness. We will find simplicity to be, not scarcity as we have been led to believe, but a fullness of joy for which we have wordlessly longed all of our lives but were bamboozled by culture into abandoning. It will be difficult, especially for families already neck deep in the current economic and social paradigm. New parents will find creative ways of transforming family life a bit easier to manage, but we all can do it – parents and grandparents alike. It must start with us, not with our children. If it doesn’t start with us, where will it start? If it doesn’t start now, when will it start?

The time for a luxurious and automatic creation of family life is past. Some generation had to be alive at the crisis point, and it turns out to be us. The necessary transformation had to emerge in a time of terrible danger, and it turns out that time is now. We can wish it were not so and that we could raise our children as culture has taught us to for the past century or two. But that wish will not be fulfilled. Some have said that the WWII generation was the greatest generation. Perhaps. But their challenge pales compared to the challenge we now alive must face. We, our children, and our grandchildren stand at the cusp of being the most courageous, creative, and important generations in the history of human kind.

What will we do? How will we be remembered?