Favor and Grace

Green Valley Ranch Resort

Favor and disgrace seem alarming.
High status greatly afflicts your person.
Why are favor and disgrace alarming?
Seeking favor is degrading:
alarming when it is gotten,
alarming when it is lost.

Why does high status greatly afflict your person?
The reason we have a lot of trouble
is that we have selves.
If we had no selves,
what trouble would we have?

Man’s true self is eternal,
yet he thinks, I am this body and will soon die.
If we have no body, what calamities can we have?

One who sees himself as everything
is fit to be guardian of the world.
One who loves himself as everyone
is fit to be teacher of the world.

Seeking favor…oh boy, that is a big one. Just think how much energy we spend on this. Seeking favor from someone we desire, from our boss, from someone that we think will give us something we want, from family members, coworkers, friends … you name it.

This, of course, is one of the main focuses of our ego. Eckhart Tolle speaks at great length about the ego and how it can cause us to do all sorts of crazy and unhealthy things. Seeking the favor of others is one of those things.

Seeking favor means that we desire approval from someone else. Disgrace means that we have lost that approval. Most of us try pretty damn hard to stay in the approval zone and out of the disapproval zone.

There are many example of this and the one that stands out to me the most and I think that the third verse speaks to is the status of celebrities. This is one of the grandest forms of seeking favor. “Celebrityism” is rampant in our society. It is entirely based on seeking favor from a large volume of people (i.e. the fans). Some of these so-called celebrities will perform all kinds of acts that would otherwise be considered ridiculous. All in the name of favor from more people or to keep that favor.

The verse says that seeking favor is degrading; alarming when it is gotten and alarming when it is lost. The use of the word “alarming” here means that it causes fear. When we gain favor from others, there is the fear that we will lose it. If we have lost it, there is fear that we are unworthy of being favored. Seeking favor is degrading because we already have all of the worth that we need and seeking favor is like claiming that we do not and therefore need to go find it. There is no need to go find it. We already have it.

I like the line that says “high status greatly afflicts your person”. Again look at many celebrities and the ridiculous ways that they act. They gain the high status (or mass approval from a large audience) and they act like spoiled children whose every action is to gain attention. They cosmetically change their bodies and faces to look a certain way to gain favor. They act in a “don’t you know who I am” manner. I would call these actions an affliction of their personality.

If instead we see our own worth and how that worth is in alignment with everyone else’s worth. How we are all connected and one of us is not worth more than another, then we can realize our true greatness. A greatness that is eternal and connected to all.

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12th Verse – The Chase and the Hunt

Two Pines

The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the taste.
The chase and the hunt craze people’s minds.

Wasting energy to obtain rare objects
only impedes one’s growth.

The master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
He prefers what is within to what is without.

The Scene

This first stanza of this verse evokes an image of a busy New York City thoroughfare where the mind is assaulted with a barrage of sights, sounds, and aromas.

A sea of people making their way here and there covers the sidewalks that line the streets. The sea is many colored and constantly in motion like it has been enraged by hurricane winds. The streets are filled with vehicles inching their way impatiently. Above the streets are the tall buildings reaching for the sky and blocking the view of anything that’s not confined within their grasp. The buildings are covered in bright, lighted, and vibrant images, signs, and advertisements like makeup caked on a debutant’s face.

The ears are engulfed in an endless cage of sound. The sound of people rushing around; their feet stomping on the pavement; their chatter from talking into an assortment of devices strapped to their heads; the obligatory honking from the herd of yellow taxi cabs. Engines running, breaks squeaking, and doors slamming shut.

The smell of exhaust fills the nostrils and becomes the “new normal” smell of the streets. It is mixed with the smell of greasy food from the restaurants and street vendors peddling their wares, the trash that spills out from the side alleys, and the brief but frequent scent of an array of perfumes and colognes.

How could the mind and body take anymore stimulation? They can’t. That is why the people on the streets are locked into their own little world listening to earphones plugged into their ears, talking into their cellphones or just ignoring everything around them. They are completely alone in a sea of people.

The chase and the hunt

And why are all of these people here. “The chase and the hunt” as the Tao calls it. Chasing and hunting wealth, fame, new products to cover their bodies and fill their homes. All attempting to follow the marketing firm’s version of the American dream. Their minds are “crazed” by the all-consuming desire for … more.

As the verse says, the master observes this, but does not need it. He/she instead understands that the things of this world come and go and what truly matters is within us.

My Experience Writing this Post

As I write this, the pictures displayed here are the scenery that I am sitting in. There are sounds from the occasional vehicle passing by or the infrequent plane flying high overhead or the people walking by on their way to and from the ski slopes. The rest is peace and tranquility.

The only smell is the mountain air and the pine trees that are scattered along the mountain side. There are no signs, blinking lights or pictures and videos of something else that I supposedly need to buy. The visual is what you see in the pictures, the best of Mother Nature.

Sitting here, all I want is the present moment. I have everything that I could possibly need. I have no desire to rush back and jump into the chase and the hunt. Why would I need anything more than this?

Mary Jane Slopes

Top of the mountain

11th Verse – The Usefulness of What is Depends on What is Not

Stream through a cave

Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub;
it is in the hole in the center that
the use of the cart hinges.

Shape clay into a vessel;
it is the space within that makes it useful.
Carve fine doors and windows,
but the room is useful in it emptiness.

The usefulness of what is
depends on what is not.

First of all let me say that I love this verse. I love its simplicity and its powerful message.

Even as a child I had a connection with the meaning of this verse despite the fact that I had no idea the Tao existed. It’s funny, looking back I can remember noticing how the usefulness of a wall in my home was made more functional by the open space where a window or door was placed. Even then I understood that what is not (the opening in the wall) gave more meaning to what is (the wall).

Examples in our physical world

How useful would a sponge be if it were not for the hollow spaces contained within it?

How useful are the veins running through us if they are not hollow?

How useful is a guitar without the space in the body for the sound to reverberate throughout?

Without the empty space (what is not), these things are useless. There are many example of this concept in our physical world.

Metaphor for our minds

Of course this verse is not merely speaking of the physical structures around us. It is using these examples as a metaphor for our minds.

Our mind is like the sponge. If we are closed minded and fill every moment with the typical assault of constant thought, we miss out on the ideas and opportunities that are presented to us. Instead we are too busy listening to the constant barrage of thought.

If instead we open our minds and allow spaces to form between our thoughts, we allow new ideas, opportunities and paths to come to us. We become more connected to our true selves and therefore more content with our lives.

We can open our minds by being present in the current moment and notice what is happening now. We can allow spaces to form between our thoughts by meditating and learning to clear our minds from all of the chatter that most of us tend to fill our every moment with.

That is when the true usefulness of our mind and our lives can be fully recognized. Our mind becomes more useful when we realize that it is dependent on what is not.

Thank you my dear friend…the run

Feet driving, muscles screaming, heart pounding, lungs burning, breath labored, endorphins pumping through my veins, the sun kissing my skin, Bono resounding through the headphones in my ears, sweat gathering over my brow, the changing landscape passing me by with the ever present white capped mountains in the backdrop.

A trail run is exactly what I needed today to wake me up from the life coma that I have been in this week. Too busy regretting the past and agonizing over the future.

Trail running requires your full attention to the present moment. The dangers of roots, rocks, uneven ground, trees, brush and the occasional drop off of a rock cliff demand your recognition lest you roll an ankle, trip and fall, run into something or worse.

Eckart Tolle speaks of the Power of Now. Running exemplifies the beauty of the now. It is sort of a meditation in motion focused on the present moment. Thoughts come and go and are not given much attention or allowed to gather any energy.

In my earlier days, running was a powerful respite from the depression that I was desperately fighting to overcome. Running became a welcome friend that was with me as I overcame depression’s clawing grasp.

Today I was reminded of the sweet simplicity and connective power of running. I was reminded how powerful of an ally it is for me and I am grateful to find it still by my side after all these years.

I found myself refreshed and renewed by its endearing embrace. Thank you my dear friend!

P.s. Thanks also to my wonderful, ever wise wife who gently pushed me out the door for the run…ok so maybe not so gently…

10th Verse – Our Primal Virtue

Carrying body and soul
and embracing the one,
can you avoid separation?

Can you let your body become as supple as a newborn child’s?
In the opening and shutting of heaven’s gate,
can you play the feminine part?

Can you love your people
and govern your domain
without self-importance?

Giving birth and nourishing;
having, yet not possessing;
working, yet not taking credit;
leading without controlling or dominating.

One who heeds this power
brings the Tao to this very earth.
This is the primal virtue.

In this verse, we see reference again to the mysterious feminine that verse 6 revealed. The mysterious feminine being the voice of the eternal spirit that is in all of us and connects all of us together.

Just like Gandhi said “we must be the change we wish to see in the world”, this verse says that if we listen to the voice of the mysterious feminine and act in accordance with it, we will bring this “way of being” to others. By playing the feminine part we are demonstrating qualities like benevolence, acceptance, and selflessness.

By bringing this “way of being” to others, we are displaying the “primal virtue” or the original goodness that we were meant to bring to this earth.

Belief all the way from Bannff

This past Thursday night, my wife and I attended a local showing of the Bannff Film Festival Word Tour. The showing was at the beautiful Paramount Theater in downtown Denver. It was a packed house and full of excitement and energy for the collection of amazing experiences that were to be shown on the screen that night.

All the films from the festival are adventure related and show some of the amazing potential of the human body and spirit. The feats performed in the films were not only truly incredible, but also displayed something more. As we watched one of the films called Sketchy Andy (more on that in a minute) the main character, Sketchy Andy oddly enough, was talking about how he did some of the amazing actions that he performed in the film. Basically he said that he just knew that he could do it and so he figured out how to do it.

With that said and after I had just written on my blog the previous day about belief, my wife leaned over and whispered in my ear “talk about the power of belief”.

“Yes”, I enthusiastically replied.

That got me thinking about the other films that were being shown as well. These people were doing things that many of us would only dream of and most would never even think of. Yet they had a dream or a vision, however crazy or far fetched it was, and they made it happen because they believed that they could.

You can check out descriptions and links to previews of all the films at Bannff Film Festival World Tour and Reel Rock Tour, but here are some that stood out to me.

Freedom Chair

One of my favorites was called the Freedom Chair. It was the story of a Freestyle skier who at one time was an Olympic hopeful and then bagged it all and became a coach. One day while testing out a jump that they were building for a competition the following day, he crashed and severed his spinal cord leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Long story short, he started sit skiing and eventually won several medals in Olympic sit skiing events. Check out the film below and be sure to hang around for the sick freestyle sit skiing action at the end.

Origins: Obe and Ashima

This film showed a 9 year old phenom in the bouldering community. She is amazing on the rocks and at the climbing gym; you have to check out the preview. It will blow your mind. The story followed Obe who was a gifted climber that traveled the world perfecting his craft until one day he got burned out, moved back home, got a job as a bartender and became depressed. Then after wallowing in that for a while he decided to move to New York and coach kids at a rock climbing gym. He had found his true passion…his calling. Then he met and started coaching Ashima. The two together is like lightning striking a fuel tank. It is very unlikely to that the two would come together, but explosive to watch when it does.

Sketchy Andy

This guy is crazy yet brilliant. What he puts his mind to and figures how to make happen is incredible. You may have seen him walking the slackline with Madonna at the 2012 SuperBowl. I can’t even describe this guy; just watch the videos.

Ski Bums Never Die

This group of … let’s just call then advanced in age people. I can’t call then senior citizens or elderly because they have more life in them than most people. They ski 100 days or more a year and they do it with such love and enthusiasm it is contagious. They continue to believe that they can do it and so they do. These folks remind me of the quote “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, but we grow old because we stop playing”.

Ski Bums Never Die from Switchback Entertainment on Vimeo.

Towers of Ennedi

Mark Synnott had a dream to be the first to climb the spires of the Ennedi desert which is deep, deep in the center of Chad, Africa. This involved days of driving through harsh conditions in the desert just to reach the spires. They do and the results are amazing. Check it out.

9th Verse – Greed cannot lead to fulfillment

Las Vegas Strip

To keep filling
is not as good as stopping.
Overfilled, the cupped hands drip,
better to stop pouring.

Sharpen a blade too much
and its edge will soon be lost.
Fill your house with jade and gold
and it brings insecurity.
Puff yourself with honor and pride
and no one can save you from a fall.

Retire when the work is done;
this is the way of heaven.

This verse speaks of what is, in my opinion, the biggest problem with society today… Greed. When is enough … enough?

Never it seems, according to the way our society works. We always need something newer, something bigger, something shinier, something … more. There’s never enough money, never enough clothing, never enough food, never enough possessions that we think will provide us with fulfillment.

Many of us work hard and for long hours to obtain the things that we think we need. People are working 60, 70, 80 hours or more a week. If that is their passion or their calling and they are doing something that matters then that is one thing. Sadly, most of the time it is just an effort to get more money or to work their way up the ladder of a job that they don’t really even like.

The true underlying need (companionship, meaning, respect, admiration, etc) that they think money or status will fulfill unfortunately will never be quenched this way. Instead, they are taking their time and energy away from the things that actually bring value and fulfillment.

What if instead we focused on more time for our families, more time for our friends, more time for ourselves, more time to pursue our true passions in life? How would our society be different? Would there be so much discontent, anger, sadness, loneliness, etc?

Contentment, satisfaction, gratitude are all words that come to mind as a more fulfilling path than greed.

If we only “filled our cup” with the wealth, food, and objects that we truly needed and stopped at that point, we would have the time for the things in life that truly matter. And those are what fill our internal cup with joy, love, peace, happiness, and ultimately … fulfillment.