Don’t hang on!

I’m still behind on reading my friends’ blogs. Today I just caught this beauty by Meredith at Graceful Presence.

I’m reminded of an experience of flying in a very small plane, and feeling very uneasy in the turbulence and rattling noise of the small engine. Fear kept coming over me, while I gripped, white knuckled, to the seat in front of me. And then, in a lucid moment laced with fatalistic humor, I realized that clinging to anything on that plane would be futile in a real emergency. There was nothing solid to hold on to. Finally, I just let my grip go, and relaxed back into the seat, and for the first time, noticed the amazing view. Aptly, it was the Grand Canyon!

My teacher once related the scene in Superman where the Man of Steel takes Lois Lane for a flight with him. When she screams in terror, he calmly says, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you!” She says, “Yes, but who’s got YOU?”

Both of these stories speak so eloquently of the fact that there’s nothing to hold on to. Only when we truly let go, can we truly fly.

Great program for blog-reading.

Those of you who aren’t using Firefox as your browser really should switch. (Unless you’re on Mac OS X and using Safari, of course!) I’ve been using FF for nearly a year now, and I’ve never considered going back to IE for one second.

Firefox renders CSS amazingly better than Internet Explorer; it’s more secure, and it’s lightning-fast. Some pages on my site load nearly three times faster in Firefox than IE!

It offers “tabbed browsing” which allows you to have several Web pages in the same window, instead of a new window on the taskbar for every single page. That might not sound like much, but once you get used to it, you’re never going back! But the best thing of all is the array of extensions that are being written for Firefox, which are easily downloadable from the Firefox Web site, which automatically, painlessly install.

This weekend I downloaded a Firefox feed reader extension called “Sage”. If you don’t know what a feed reader is, allow me to explain. Blogs and other frequently updated sites have “news feeds” in one or more formats—Atom, RDF, or several versions of RSS. (All Blogger blogs come with an Atom news feed, for example.)

A news reader takes the news feed and displays it on screen, and can manage your subscription to all your favorite blogs, let you organize them as you like, and show you when there is a new post.

When you open up Sage in Firefox, It will display all of your subscribed blogs in the sidebar of the browser, along with the titles of the posts. The posts themselves appear in the main window, allowing you to see at-a-glance what’s new. If the feed is summarized, the post, only a short digest will be seen (allowing you to see even more at-a-glance). If you want to leave or view comments, or read the full text of a summarized post, just click on the title of the post. If you just want to view the page in your browser as normal, click on the title fo the blog.

Here are the links and step-by-step instructions.:

1. If you haven’t already, download Firefox

2. Install Firefox, import bookmarks, etc.

3. Install Sage

4. Close and restart Firefox.

5. To start Sage, click on Tools, and click on Sage.

6. To subscribe to feeds, go to a blog you want to subscribe to, and you’ll see a blue “RSS” appear in the right-hand side of the bottom status bar. Click it and it will ask if you want to subscribe to a feed on the page. If there is more than one feed available, it will show. you. My blog is published in two feeds, Atom and RSS. The Atom version will feed the entire text of each post, with pictures; the RSS version will just present the first sixty words, and no pictures, unless you click to read the entire post. Click on the feed you want to subscribe to.

7. A small window will ask what you want to name the feed, and where you want to create it. I recommend clicking on the dropdown and choosing Sage Feeds.
7. Do this for all the blogs you track. You can then organize them however you want, rename them, etc.

Pat Robertson Update

Miracles never cease! Some Christians are actually having second thoughts about the spiritual credentials of Robertson. Here’s a report that Finland’s Christian station has decided to drop the 700 Club after Robertson’s remarks about “taking out” Chavez.

Personally, I wonder why any serious Christian stations air it at all, since Robertson’s connections with former Liberan dictator Charles Taylor (responsible for about 200,000 deaths) and Freedom Gold are a matter of public record. As my friend Isaiah said, it’s sad to see anyone crash and burn, but Robertson’s spiritual crash happened years ago; now it’s in plain view.

Perhaps more people will start going back to the words of Jesus to see what really was the Good News he proclaimed. It’s far different from what most preachers proclaim he proclaimed. Read it yourself!

What am I?

(Pour yourself a cup of coffee and relax. This is a bit long, but you might like it. Or you might hate it! In a response to my previous post, a friend of mine commented that I seem very different from Pat Robertson, after I had said “I am Pat Robertson,” even as I strongly criticized him. What gives? This is my attempt to explain a little more clearly what is sometimes called the “non-dual” (not-two) perspective… which is more and more how I sense, underneath all appearance, the world actually works. Pay close attention, and you’ll even get to see me use the word “Lethe” in a sentence!)

When I said that I am Pat Robertson, I meant it fairly literally. What I’ve come to believe, is that we identify with a very illusory beast that we call our “self.” When I believe that I “am” a “self” that is unique and different from all the billions of other “selves” out there, many, many things naturally begin to follow from that. Among them: that there are things that others do which I am intrinsically incapable of doing. Also, that I have “unique” gifts, talents, abilities, and knowledge that makes me different from others and, so I would like to think, (even if I won’t admit it) superior.

Also, because I am a “unique person,” I need to protect myself. If “I” go, Frimmitude could be lost forever, at least from earth, and shucks, Heaven is supposed to be so frimmin’ that I’m not going to make a positive impression there at all, to put it mildly!

But none of these assumptions survives a close examination. What is true, is that I have a personality, a frame of reference, a developing “story”, and deeply-ingrained ways of relating to myself and my environment. It is universally assumed by those who have successfully developed personality, relational habits and a coherent POV, that this IS them.

We think: this is me! I’m unique! Well, these attributes—personality, frame of reference, “story” and patterns are unique. But are they really ME? Most of them are constantly changing in various degrees. My personality is not what it was when I was a kid, or even ten years ago. There’s some commonality in the way I relate to the world with how I did in the past, but there are many, many differences as well. My “story” not only keeps developing as I rack up experiences, thoughts, days, and years, but other things fall off. I recently spent a long time going through old high—school yearbooks, straining to remember people and things forgotten and almost forgotten. And as for forgetting, most of the 84,000 seconds I lived today are already well-drowned deep in Lethe.

It’s been suggested that anything you can observe changing must be separate from you. You can watch a television, but you’re not the TV. You can observe your body, so you’re not your body, although you’re closely associated with it. In meditation, and other kinds of stillness, you can observe the comings and goings of your thoughts, and you see that you are not your thoughts.

That leaves point-of-reference. This is consistent. I seem to be “here,” and not “there,” and I only seem to experience things through this body/personality that walks around with the name “Jon Zuck.” The point-of-reference is always there, whether I’m conscious of it or not. If anything is “me,” this is.

Once I realize that I simply seem to be a sort of vantage point, I can see that everything else that I tend to identify with is a circumstance or experience or set of such, of some kind or other. My fears of death become baseless, because you can’t destroy a point. And my “story”—born here, named this, did that, felt thus—is simply the record of experience as far back as this body goes. The patterns of relating and “personality” are simply the dominant themes of what Jon has been like, and is likely to be like in the foreseeable future.

So what am I? Just a vantage point, made of either God-stuff or whatever stuff God made stuff out of… and I’m not talking about the body or any physical material.

What is Pat Robertson? Exactly the same thing. What is Hugo Chavez? Mother Teresa? Adolf Hitler? Genghis Khan? Sakyamuni Buddha? Points of view, and a point is nothing, or nothing definable, at least, although it is real. Hence, the phrase “no-thing.” Yet somehow everything is really this No-thing!

What we really mean when we say things like “if it had been me, I would have done such and such,” in thinking that we would have done something differently than another person is really this: “If I were able to transport my knowledge, viewpoint, personality, feelings, beliefs and experiences, into this other body, viewpoint, personality, feelings, beliefs and experiences, I would like to think that something different would be the result.

Of course, it’s impossible, and not just because of physical laws, but because as soon as you would put your “self” into the “other’s” situation, your “self” is no longer that “self” you’ve identified with, and the “other is no longer “other.”

Thich Nhat Hahn wrote that a key in forgiving is to realize that apart from the things that shape our bodies, experiences, and stories, there simply is no difference between us whatever! I may like to think that I could never commit mass murder, and that’s true (pretty sure!) of the superficial Jon, this walking point-of-experience who traces his story to beginning a whopping 44 years ago in a dusty city in Texas.

But if I had been born in Hitler’s birthplace, in his time, to his parents, and had the same experiences, and all the same influences he had, genetic, environmental, past-life, cosmic, whatever and what-have-you, I would not be “me.” “I” would not have the conscience that I do. I wouldn’t be “me” at all— I would be Hitler, and I would have done the horrific things he did.

This isn’t a matter of false humility. I am essentially (in essence— important word!) no different from Robertson or Hitler or Teresa or Christ. What is different is how I act, and that comes from my choices, and my will has been shaped by all my experiences, including things I’m sure I cannot even begin to understand.

So, with so much darkness in the world, how do we bring more light? I believe this is the key issue. The natural thing to do is to react out of our “personality” and story. However, in so doing, we bring its fears, anger, desires and identifications to the situation.

For thousands of years, people have attempted to change the world by reaction. If A is bad, then B is the answer—when B is no longer desirable, let’s fight for C. Barry Long wrote that every problem was once someone’s idea of a solution to a different problem. In many respects progress does get made, but in other respects, it is highly questionable. A quick example: on the one hand, we live longer, and have better standards of living than we did before the rise of civilization and the ego-mind. On the other hand, much, if not most, prosperity comes from the exploitation of others, and while we live longer, we have more anxiety, and we can snuff out millions of lives at once instead of one at a time. As Sonny and Cher said, “the beat goes on.”

The teachers we call “enlightened,” “anointed,” or “Sons of God,” say that realizing our true, pure, emptiness is itself the answer. Jesus said we should not to try to get specks out of other’s eyes, for we have logs in our own. As long as we identify ourselves with what are mere circumstances, all our efforts will be nothing more than trying force more circumstances to come about, as if that could give us a lasting freedom. Our first priority should be to empty our own eyes of foreign matter first, (our false identification with the needy, greedy “self”) and then we’ll see clearly enough to help others. We’ll act from our true nature, instead of our identifications, and live from a center that is beyond circumstance, which he called “the Kingdom of God.”

The religion of murder

Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson does it again, and this time, people noticed. In remarks on a broadcast yesterday, the Reverend Marion “Pat” Robertson stated that “we” should exercise our abilty to murder a sitting head of state, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Why? Robertson says Chavez would turn Venezuela into “the launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.”

Communist infiltration? If there was any doubt that Robertson is now losing touch with reality just as he long ago lost touch with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this is proof.

While the world reacts with shock, I’m simply disgusted. Almost exactly one year ago (on August 20, 2004), Robertson also called for the deliberate killing of a specific person, another cleric who feels murder is easily justifiable, Ayatollah Muktada al-Sadr. When I posted this entry then, I felt like I was alone in opposing him. Perhaps now that people are aware that we have our own ayatollah of hatred in Virginia Beach, we will become more motivated to find peaceful solutions.

And peaceful solutions to our problems will elude us as long as the internal forces in our hearts are filled with hatred, selfish desire, greed, and power-lust. For that, we need to empty ourselves before God.

I hesitate before posting a blog like this when I am calling attention to the shortcomings of another. On one hand, I strongly oppose Robertson’s statements, and I feel obligated to draw awareness to his associations with dictators and mass murderers such as Charles Taylor (see links toward the bottom of this post), yet I am in no way superior to Brother Pat, no matter how vociferously I may oppose his remarks.

Nor do I bear any ill-will to him as a person. I met him once while he was jogging, and we exchanged a pleasant wave. The fact is that I am Pat Robertson, as well as Hugo Chavez, and the animosity which they manifest is no different in its kind nor in its source, than that which I hide or manifest.

I believe this is the reason why meditation is so important. It is the spiritual emptying which allows the Spirit of God to fill and cleanse. It acts immediately upon the heart, and with practice and determination—upon the hidden prejudices, fears, and cravings of the mind.

When one no longer looks at religion as “belief systems,” it’s plain to see that there are only two: the religion of love, and that of fear. God, help me to be filled with your spirit of love.

Superb Translation of Thomas

I just came across the perfect translation of The Gospel of Thomas. It’s The Gospel of Thomas: the Gnostic Wisdom of Jesus, by Jean-Yves LeLoup, translated by Joseph Rowe.

This is a double translation. LeLoup translated the gospel into French and wrote a wonderful, meditative saying-by-saying commentary, originally published in 1986. Fortunately, Joseph Rowe has now translated the entire work into English. (It strikes me that this process is much like the history of the superb Jerusalem Bible, which also was a French translation first.)

Trust me when I say this is not just another Thomas translation. From the Introduction:

Pope Gregory I said that only a prophet could understand the prophets. And it is said that only a poet can understand a poet. Who, then, must we be in order to understand Yeshua?

Read more!

Aye, i eye “I”

  • Everybody says “I,” but we foolishly think it just refers to us when we say it.
  • We’re too deaf to hear that “I” is being said everywhere, by everyone, all the time.
  • The First Person is the only One, speaking through all mouths and minds, speaking to itSelf, trying to hear itSelf.
  • Can you hear “I” when i say it? Can we know that we are cells in the I? Can we answer, “yes, i said that?”
  • In Norfolk, Baghdad, Surabaya, and Nairobi. I am. i am beginning to realize it.

Lava Lamp

Lava Lamp

I feel mySelf.
not my skin,
but my true self,
my life
within me.

Tangible,
like a jet in a jacuzzi,
or the gel in a lava lamp,
life rises, and falls.

Thoughts bubble
and vanish.

And energy rises
and falls.

And night comes,
and goes,

As day comes,
and goes.

and the body peaks,
declines,
and passes.

What remains?
What was before Time itself.

Not nothing,
not something.

This.

I am This,
I am.

I am That
I am.

© jon zuck | norfolk, virginia | august 4, 2005

New Kid on the Block

Well, I’ve been at my new job for more than a week now, and I’ve got to say I’m tremendously happy to be at Trader. I’m doing work which I excel at, but which is also challenging and stimulating. I’m surrounded by great people.

Yet … I’m the “new kid in school.” I haven’t been in this situation for nine years. I find it hard to get to know people. My previous workplace was a call center, filled with noisy extroverts, and here, everyone’s as introverted as I am. I sometimes feel lonely, like I’m in a library with “cones of silence” around everyone. (Hmm . . . there’s a reason why I was never interested in becoming a Trappist!)

It takes time to make friends and get to know people.

Tonight, I watched the movie Joshua (closely based on the book by Fr. Girzone). Yes, it’s really heavy-handed and somewhat cheesy, as the book was, but surprisingly effective, too, thanks to the great performance by Tony Goldwyn as the title character.

But it made me think. What if I really cared only about loving, and not about being loved? What if I just saw my new workplace as 300 more people to love?

What’s not to love?

Everything We Need

A thought has been in the back of my mind for several days now, that maybe it is impossible for someone to not have everything they need to do whatever they need to do at any given moment. That’s very much in line with what Kitabu Roshi teaches in his Zen Mushin Ryu classes, but now I’m beginning to believe it.

This morning, I woke up, fed Talbot, and did yoga before anything else. Then spontaneously, I did some standing qigong, and it was a meditative experience for me. Then I did some sitting meditation, ate some fiber cereal with milk and raisins, and showered.

To say I feel better than I usually do in the morning after five hours’ sleep is an understatement. What’s scary is that I know this stuff. I know the power of qigong, of yoga, of meditation and good high-fiber meals, but I just don’t do it. It’s like I’m sleepwalking through most of my days, that we’re all sleepwalking, entranced and feeling trapped by our habits, busyness, addictions and distractions.

It’s like a cloud has settled over us, so that we can’t see, can’t think, can’t freely be—but every moment, we have everything that we really need to burst out of the cloud. Believing that we cannot become fully conscious, fully aware, truly free, is the greatest con in the universe. Knowing this, allowing this, and acting from this—well what can I say?