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

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