Try being fully present in the moment. Zen isn’t about making lists or setting a timer. It’s about doing what’s needed in the moment and not worrying about how long it takes you or how many things you can get done. Trust yourself; trust in the process. The world will turn even if you don’t get a million things done.
There’s an old zen saying, “chop wood, carry water.” Unlike many koans, this wise saying it’s not difficult to unravel. It means do what’s needed. It may be mundane but it needs to be done. Do what you’re doing; don’t worry about what hasn’t been done yet. This is reflected in Jesus saying,” Leave tomorrow for tomorrow; think about today instead.”
One way of thinking about Zen is that it’s a matter of focus. Give your complete attention to what you are doing. There are a couple of books entitled “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and “Zen and the Art of Archery.” What this means is you can apply Zen to every task you are doing. And that is actually a form of meditation. It’s very powerful. You let yourself be a tool in the task you are doing. One method of this meditation is called Shodo or Japanese zen calligraphy. In this technique you concentrate on the meaning of the word you are doing and not on your penmanship. In this way the very shape of the brushstrokes conveys the meaning. You are an extension of the brush and the energy of the intention is what is completing the action. In this way you don’t become distracted buy other things. You are fully present in the creation of your calligraphy. This method has also been used by feudal Samurai and other Japanese artisans such as flower arranging. This is because this technique can be applied in everyday life. Using it to do calligraphy it’s like practicing for the rest of your life. Many people think that meditation is a kind of recharging of your battery or resetting your hard drive. But really in this technique it is practice for how you can be all throughout the day. Try using this technique with whatever mundane tasks you’re doing. If it’s washing the dishes, wash the dish that is in front of you and in your hands until it is completely washed. Pay attention to it; did you get all the parts inside and out? Is it free of dirt? Then you rince it and set it in the drying rack. You pick up the next dish and give it your complete attention. Soon your dishes will be clean. There’s no need to set a timer. If one of your children need your attention in the middle of this task then you can give your attention to what is most important.
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Yendor sat underneath the old ocherfruit tree. It was early spring, and the branches were budding with their flowers. the tiny blossoms looked like a million candle flames alight on the tree, with bright red at the base the petals and a translucent yellow that was much more brilliant than the dusky fruit that would come later, topping each petal. The scent they gave off was like honey mixed with berries and new grass; a sweet earthy scent that called to the hummingbirds who all said, “mmmmmm” approvingly. The gnarled bark was a deep, rich brown that seemed burned in the crevices but burnished on its high spots. The bark seemed to weave in and out of itself like a crazed basket that decided to become a tree and took root in the new yellow green grass and sprung out, reaching for the heavens all the while being shaped by the wind. The branches arched out in every direction as if it were caught stretching and yawning one morning and just continued to grow into that pose.
The air was cool that morning caressing the young leaves of grass and whispering in Yendor’s ear. “Shhhhhhh….”
He could hear the guards coming before he could see them. They hadn’t heard the morning breeze’s whisper. He had scouted the camp in the night and he knew this area would be patroled. It was the farthest point from the camp that the patrol covered. The guards came out of the grove, their deep red uniforms seeming to emerge from the shadows ahead of them. Yendor sat still. The sun was behind him, and he was dressed in his black leathers. even with his golden hair curling around him, they didn’t see him. “Hello, boys.” he said. He was still working on a “calling card” greeting.
The guards stopped and stared at him, frowning at this unexpected encounter. Yendor stood in a smooth fluid motion, using only his legs, which had the effect of appearing to have levitated up out of the ground. He smiled, bowed his head slightly in greeting, pulled out his sword and killed them both before they could respond. He had stabbed them each in the abdomen and curved his thrust in and up under the ribs, and rupturing the heart, so quickly that the second man was dead before the first man’s heart had stopped. First the man on his left, then the one on his right; one, two, done. No magick, just concentration, and execution, so to speak.
Now he had about ten minutes before they were due to report after completing their rounds. This would be the only break he got, he knew. He approached the fence near the rear of the camp, away from the gate. It wasn’t a blind spot but it was as close to it as he was going to get. The prisoners filled the yard. They were over capacity by quite a margin. Clearly the prisoners had to sleep out in whatever weather there was. They were a gray, ragged mass of a mess. Danse was in there somewhere, just another outlaw, waiting for sale. They sold the young and able into slavery, the others they put to work there in the camps. Everyone worked until they dropped. They were underfed, sick and exhausted. There was a twenty foot clearing around the camp and Yendor burst out of the trees at a sprint and headed straight for the fence. It was made of thick wire which criss crossed in four inch squares. Yendor cut through the wire with a downward swoop and instead of beckoning out the prisoners, he entered the prison camp. A few prisoners close by just stared at him. He motioned his head toward the opening but that was it. They would figure it out.
There was relative quiet; the prisoners milling about, the guards mostly gossiping with each other, only taking note of the prisoners to inflict some petty cruelty upon them. He tried to intuitively divine where Danse was. It was almost not magick. Just follow your gut, your nose, only slightly more accurate. So far, he was undetected. Mostly hidden by the mass of prisoners and walking with a sense of belonging. That might have been the first trick he had ever learned. If you’re sneaking around, you look suspicious, but if you walk around like you belong there, no one pays you any mind. That trick had gotten him many a midnight snack from strange kitchens growing up touring the faires. Yendor walked with such purpose that some guards saw him and nodded to him in deference. Perhaps they were used to visitors here. Apparently of high rank. Probably came to buy slaves. High ranking officials would probably get special treatment and be able to visit the camps rather than wait for market days like everyone else.
The prisoners were the poorest of the poor. To the sorcorers the people of the world were there for the taking. They were like animals to be used or eradicated as vermin. Anyone who wasn’t fair, from the northern isles, women, pagans, heathens, anyone who didn’t worship Incarnate as a god. The Sorceral, they called the church. People could be outlawed for nearly any excuse. Not able to pay taxes was the main reason, but fines for any infraction, often made up. was another. The sorcerers saw the world as overpopulated and poor, brown people were more valuable as slaves than free. Waters had been given his freedom long before Yendor had met him. He carried a medalian around his neck that bore the symbol of his former master to prove he was a free man. Even so, any one of rank could simply take that medalian from him and put him right back into slavery, either as his own or for sale. It was only that Waters surrounded himself with people and carried himself with a special dignity that kept him free. Even so, he had to be careful. There had been some run ins Yendor remembered from his childhood, that he hadn’t understood at the time. In fact it wasn’t until right now, in this camp, that Yendor began to fully understand the severity of the situation Waters had faced. Indeed, nearly anyone could be put into a camp. Even a noble, if he crossed a sorcerer. Or even a sorcerer if a higher ranking sorcerer so decided. Only Incarnate himself was safe from such a fate.
Such camps were everywhere. Yendor had passed by countless ones, but never been inside one. Always one believed that it couldn’t happen to them, and that those it did happen to somehow deserved it. It was the only way to go on with life. Yendor had been in the resistance. Those armies were always crushed, utterly, but always they sprung up again as common as these prison camps and now Yendor could see why. Even with the hopelessness of the cause, there was a certain appeal to fighting against this way of life. Perhaps there was a way to unite each of the little armies into a single army. If they struck at the same time from their various places across the world, even the sorcerers could not defend such an attack.
“You, boy!” Yendor was pulled back into the present when he realized he was being addressed by a guard. He turned with a bit of a pout on his face, and looked down his nose at the guard. “What’s your business here?” At least the guard didn’t mistake him for a prisoner, yet.
Yendor affected a high brow accent, “Shopping.” he sneered. and approached the guard. “Maybe I’ll take you.”
“Oy! I’m not for sale!” said the guard defensively.
“Pity.” said Yendor, pulling his sword, which had been sheathed behind his cloak, and dispatched the guard in the same manner as he had his compatriots outside the camp. These people imprisoned Danse, and he had no compunction that he would have to eliminate as many as possible to get out alive.
At that moment a horn sounded from where he had entered the camp. So they had found the breech. His masquerade as a noble would be useless from here on out. “Breech in the perimiter!” he shouted, mimicking the voice of the guard he had just killed. If the prisoners rushed the fence, and the guards focused their attention on that it would give him some cover. Shouts of “Freedom” began to go up throughout the camp, and Yendor wished he had made more of this earlier, but had reasoned if the guards weren’t alerted to the breech, more people would be able to escape. Now he had to find Danse and get out of there.
“Danse!” he called, but a cacophony had arrisen from the chance of escape and he couldn’t even hear himself. He cursed himself for not having more of a plan. for not having become more of a wizard before making this attempt. He had allowed his fear to cause him to act recklessly and now he might not find her. In fact, he had put her and everyone here in danger, and he only now saw that. He had been willing to sacrifice as many of these prisoners as needed to find Danse, as if they were pawns in his plan. He was no better than the sorcerers.
He lifted his sword to the sky, “DANSE!” He shouted, as lightning came down and struck his sword and lit up his nervous system like a ghost. Where a moment before he had been lost in the chaos, now a wide circle opened up around him. Most of the guards were human. The Officers had sorcerers in their ranks no doubt, but ones whose power was limited and so pursued a career in the prisons where they could rise farther than if they had to compete with more talented magicians. Still, these officers wore the red insignia of sorcerer over their uniforms, and considered themselves powerful among the powerless.
These officers made their way to the circle and appeared simultaneously surrounding Yendor. He released the lightning he had absorbed and it coursed out of him through his arms, but also out from his heart, striking the sorcerers all at once, eliminating that threat. Now the chaos really set in as the prisoners tried to escape the magic. Most people had only ever experienced magic from sorcerers and didn’t even contemplate the idea that it could come from someone else. The prisoners overwhelmed the guards, outnumbering them by the hundreds, and in their panic, made good their escape. The shrieks and savagery escalated still further. And there was no sign of Danse. She had not understood the bolt. Perhaps she wasn’t even here after all.
In the end, there were the bodies of the fallen, both outlaw and guards. Yendor stood awhile longer at the center of the circle of sorcerers laid out before him in each direction.
We all have times in our lives that are difficult to get through. Just putting one foot in front of the other can seem like a dismal, thankless and losing proposition. We get in fights with loved ones. We have financial obstacles to overcome. The problems are real and the solutions are not always easy or self evident. It’s easy to dwell on the problems, the pain and feel sorry for ourselves.
The sooner we look to solutions and take steps to overcome our problems, the sooner we start to feel better. It may not seem fair. It may not be fair. It may feel like we face our troubles alone. There are support groups for many types of people who face similar difficulties: A. A. is the most famous. If alcohol regularly seems to be a present factor in various problems you face, A. A. may help. These 12 step programs not only can help us to overcome addiction, but look to living life and solving problems sober. Support groups are helpful because their members have faced these issues and so are less judgmental and more solutions oriented.
There are non addiction oriented support groups as well. There is parents anonymous, to help parents learn to raise their children. There are support groups for every kind of mental health and physical health challenges we may face, including depression. Check your local listings for meetings near you. I live in Portland, OR, so I’m going to include a website that provides a directory of support groups for this area. If you don’t have internet access, you can find directories and internet at your local library.
Learn to meditate for real. For free. For real. Today. Here.
There is a lot of turmoil in the world right now. Maybe you are reading this a hundred years after I wrote this. I’ll bet there was a lot of turmoil going on in the world. There has never been a time when there wasn’t. It can be difficult not to get caught up in it. In fact, it may be important for you to take action. Nevertheless it is also important not to let it consume you. That’s what turmoil does. Another word for turmoil is chaos. The world is chaos. Chaos is the original formless, orderless void, or absence of order that existed before God created the Cosmos or ordered universe in Genesis. It’s important to not let such a force take over our lives. We need to connect with the original creative force.
We should remember that we are always connected. The connection cannot be severed. We have only to tune in to the vast unending peace and love available to us. It could be listening to music, meditating, reaching out with love to your community. You could take a nature hike, read a special book. It’s important to take time to recharge your batteries as well as truly meditate.
There are many ways to meditate, but if it’s what I call “true meditation,” its purpose is to tune in to the creative force. I refer to this as Beloved, or Devi. You may connect to this sacred energy by whatever face or culture that suits you. The most common word is God, but this word is so full of loaded preconceptions that I avoid it. The energy is pure, undying, Neverending Love. There are many superb books recordings and videos that can teach you how to meditate. It’s a good idea to find one that suits your sensibilities. However, I will share one with you here.
This meditation practice is called Kundalini meditation. It is a sacred and powerful form of meditation kept secret from the world except for a few select and dedicated people who received it directly from their lifelong guru, and in turn taught it to their few handpicked students or chelas. There is an energy transfer that takes place between guru and student called “Shaktipat.” this can only happen in person, and is thought to be necessary for true liberation or enlightenment. If this is the experience you seek, you need to find a personal guru, experienced in this type of training. I have chosen this type to relate to you, because anyone can do it, and I learned it by reading about it, so I know it can be learned this way. I learned this practice from several texts, but the book that was my main source is called “Kundalini Awakening,” and is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Kundalini-Awakening-Gentle-Activation-Spiritual-ebook/dp/B002IPZJY2. I recommend getting a physical copy that you can use to concentrate on the mandala illustrations. My guide will differ from this text as it is not my only source and the guide I am giving you is a short synopsis of the technique.
First, set aside some time that you won’t be interrupted. Find a quiet, comfortable place where you can be alone. The accepted position is called the lotus position and it is seated cross-legged with your back straight. If you know the yoga position, then use that, if not, simple “Indian style” cross legged is fine. You can use a cushion or sit against a wall if you like.
Kundalini refers to a latent energy source located at the base of your spine in what is known as the root chakra. Chakra means wheel, and there are seven located a various points on your spine. (some sources refer to them as being part of your subtle body, a spirit body inside your physical or “gross” body. For the purpose of practicing the technique, further knowledge is not required but is recommended.
Now, to begin the meditation, it is recommended that you close your eyes Breathe deeply in through your nose, hold it just for a moment and exhale through your mouth. Repeat this a few times and relax your body.pay attention to the breathe entering your body, filling your lungs, feel your pulse at various points on your body as the oxygen is delivered and transfered with the exhaust that you exhale. Feel the breathe leave your lungs, rise through your trachea and exit to provide life to plants as they give us oxygen. We are connected to everything in various ways.
Now concentrate on your perineum. This is the location of the root chakra, also known as the Muladhara chakra, the seat of your sleeping Kundalini energy. Picture it as a red four petaled flower. Feel this area heat up as you exhale like applying a billows to a forge, causing the red flower to glow. Your subsequent chakras cannot be activated until you have successfully activated the Kundalini energy within this root chakra. However, we will continue to meditate up the chakra tree of your spine, as I think connecting all your chakras and connecting to the cosmic Shakti through your crown chakra can aid in activating you Kundalini.
So, having fired the red furnace of your root chakra, send the heat and energy to your next chakra located just below your navel, known as the sacral, or Svadhisthana chakra, this one is orange. Each chakra blends into the next color of the rainbow and you can feel the energy flow and change through each blend.
Each chakra has many elements associated with it. There are musical notes to hum and mantras and behaviors said to be tied to each chakra. I am concerned only with the meditation technique in this post. I have said at several points to educate yourself further about this, but it is also important not to get caught up in minutiae that might distract you from concentrating on the meditation itself. Full and complete focus is necessary for meditation. As you master the basics, you may introduce new elements to your practice.
Feel the energy move up your spine to your solar plexis chakra, even with the bottom of the front your ribcage. Known as the Manipura chakra, its color is yellow. Travel up to each successive chakra as you inhale, and rest as you exhale. Ignite and stoke the chakra as you exhale, as if you are blowing on a fire you are lighting.
Next comes the heart chakra, called Anahata. It is green in color. To many, this is a very important and special chakra. It is associated with love, and is very powerful. This is a good place to grow this energy rising up through you. Feel your heart beat with the energy of love coursing through you.
Next, as we continue our journey up the chakra rainbow, we come to Ajna, the (light) blue throat chakra. As you exhale, feel your breathe cause the chakra to glow brightly.
Next is the famous third eye, Vishuddha, located in the center of your brow, above and between your eyes. To me, this chakra starts in the peneal gland at the center of the brain, this would be where the glowing ember is located, and then, when activated, shoots a deep blue beam from your third eye, giving spiritual sight.
From there, we arrive at the crown chakra, the sacred Sahasrara, seen as violet, it is the gateway to the blessed holy Shakti, the all pervasive power of the cosmos. Our bodies and our chakras are antenna, receiving this energy is their purpose.
Now travel down through each chakra, taking the same slow deliberate steps, delivering the outer cosmic energy to the Muladhara and sending out the sacred Kundalini in and “breathing” in and out becoming one with the source of life.
When you have completed as many cycles of these Kriyas (action) as you are comfortable with, sit in contemplation a few minutes, allowing the energy to settle.
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Yendor was not sure what he was looking for. He had come to the city, decaying, decrepit, ancient, crowded and yet thriving, looking for some scrap that had been missed over time by the sorcerers. There was a history that was forbidden, but it hadn’t always been so. Before Incarnate there were archives and records and deeds and an insurmountable amount of information that had to give some clue about what it was like before. When there were wizards, when there was more to magic than sorcery.
The library had seemed the obvious place to start. Of course that would be where the purge had started. Surely anything revealing what wizards were, where they lived, what they believed had been eliminated from such a public and obvious source. But Yendor had to start somewhere.
As a musician, he knew about subversive lyrics. Code words to fool those who didn’t know how to listen. Often they were so ubiquitous that you never noticed them. they hid in plain sight. Why did the children’s song start out about flowers and end up talking about ashes and falling down? Because that children’s rhyme was about the plague, that’s why. That was really more of a forgotten knowledge than a forbidden one, but the idea was the same. Learn to look at things from a fresh viewpoint. Nobody knew it was about the plague because everyone grew up singing it. Children’s stories were full of incongruous, frightening scenes; were they all allusions to hidden meanings or was there something in the way storytellers crafted children’s stories that made them put in these dark passages? Did children need them to develop their minds? Musicians were storytellers but Yendor had never heard a solid answer to the question which hardly ever came up.
Deep in one of the basements, on his third day, lit by an odd Smelling candle, in a nook in a room long forgotten, he found an ancient poem about the winter solstice. The poem caught his eye, because the solstice was approaching, and it would be his first away from friends and family. The hand that had scribed the poem was lyrical, but the letters were an ancient form that seemed stilted to Yendor. It was an odd combination that distracted him so he had to read the first stanza several times before he could make sense of it:
“Wrapped in an azure raiment, She whirled, colourring every cheak. Warming each heartt with Her Light, singing to all individually. Mary, she is.”
The archaic spelling aside, the story was well known, but the poem was not. It told of Winter herself, merry in her blue sky, her cold wind howling in everyone’s ears, making their cheeks rosy with cold swirling wind. But this poem described Winter personified, which was not unusual, but the idea of being warmed by her was different. Nowadays it was the celebration of her that warmed people’s hearts. She brought cold, but also the promise of light to come; as the longest night of the year, the worst was over, the next night would be shorter; the coming days longer, ostensibly warmer. This poem said she was the light, and the howling wind was singing… It was odd enough for Yendor to copy down.
As he dug deeper, he found another poem in that same unique hand. This time it was signed “Sumessence.”
The holidays are here again and this is my first time not working in a retail store during them since 2010. Before that I also spent most of the holidays working retail going back to when I got my first job in1982. I had become quite a humbug. I worked at a craft store once that started playing Christmas music in August. He said crafter have to start their holiday season early to be ready to ship the things they make on time. It made me feel sorry for the poor schmucks writing magazine articles; they generally have to have things ready six months in advance. Between the season starting earlier every year (war on Christmas? Christmas has eaten Thanksgiving, so retailers have to spend that holiday dealing with people known to have actually killed others in their rush for holiday savings.), with no time off allowed, (family going to spend the holidays with relatives out of town? That’s black out time in retail, no time off requests allowed.) the crowds of angry customers (“What do you mean you’re out of the most popular gift in the country the weekend before Christmas? It’s all my kid wants! Did you say I should take responsibility for shopping so late in the season? Let me talk to your manager!”) and the four versions of “Last Christmas” playing on a loop, it’s enough to turn Santa himself into a humbug! (Santa Claus is a man, Santa Barbara is a woman, San Francisco is a man… Why isn’t it San Claus? And why isn’t there a coastal town named after him in California?) it may sound like I’m complaining alot, but I’m just trying to relay what we deal with.
Where was going with all this? Oh yeah, the first holiday season I’m not working retail.. So instead, I’m raising my children. It’s much harder. As I write this my 3yr old finally fell asleep at about 5am, but woke up. So I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in a while. But it’s much more fulfilling. I get to see them grow and learn, and laugh. I get to show them the magic Christmas. I get to teach them what’s good in the world. I also have to be the one to say “no more candy tonight,” and “get that out of your mouth!” I put on music instead of cartoons (for a while at least). I cook meals they won’t eat. (well, the 3yr old does, his little sister won’t eat meat, and won’t take food from a spoon, so it’s broccoli, spaghetti, and lots of goldfish for her) I get to pick up the mega blocks mega times a day, and clean up the spills and change the diapers. It’s mostly totally worth it.
I also try to make time to paint and write, and work on my spiritual path. I get moments after they’ve gone to sleep, or if my wife isn’t too exhausted from working all day. Sometimes I just read. But I have received real blessings over this last year. I finally realize that I have something to offer. That my work has value. Not just because I’ve spent twenty five years as a seeker; learning to meditate, finding my way on the path. Not just because I got accepted to one of the hardest schools to get into in the world, because it’s the best; did the work, and graduated even though fewer than half the people who attend do. Not just because I’ve learned ancient techniques, few people know, and developed them into a unique style that combines the spiritually authentic, with traditional painting styles to create images with energy that is communicated from the artist to be received directly by the viewer. But because I’m seeing results, in my work and in my life. I’m not perfect, but I have crossed a threshold into a new way of seeing myself and my work. I don’t have to be the best. I just have to be myself. And that has real value.
Your life has real value as well. You don’t have to go to a fancy school, or be rich or famous. Each one of you is amazing. We are made of Love. Remember that.
I’ve been working on this story since I was fifteen. Recently, I’ve taken it up again in earnest. I have some new ideas and I just have to make time for it. This character’s name is Yendor. I don’t want to give too much away but the story is called “The Song of Yendor,” so he may have a prominent role. You can read some of the story here