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One of the lessons I learned early in my walk down the yogic path was that I could not trust my assumptions, judgments, and many of my beliefs. They had been formed through misinterpretations, poor guidance, and unclear vision. Sri Swami Satchidananda considers this lesson so important, he includes the following story within his translation of Sutra 2, Book 1 of Sri Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras – the core Sutra that underscores all the others. This simple story opened my eyes:

“Imagine you have not seen your father since your birth and he returns when you are ten years old. He knocks at your door. Opening it, you see a strange face. You run to your mama saying, “Mama, there’s a stranger at the door.” Your mama comes and sees her long-lost husband. With all joy she receives him and introduces him as your father. You say, “Oh, my Daddy!” A few minutes before, he was a stranger; now he has become your daddy. Did he change into your daddy? No, he is the same person. You created the idea of “stranger”, then changed it to “Daddy;” that’s all.”

He continues with this next illustration in the same translation:

“Whenever I speak to prison inmates I say, “You all feel you are imprisoned and anxiously wait to get outside these walls. But look at the guards. Are they not like you? They are also within the same walls. Even though they are let out at night, every morning you see them back here. They love to come, you would love to get out. The enclosure is the same. To them it is not a prison, to you it is. Why? Is there any change in the walls? No, you feel it is a prison; they feel it is a place to work and earn. It is the mental attitude. If, instead of imprisonment, you think of this as a place for your reformation where an opportunity has been given to you to change your attitude in life, to reform and purify yourself, you will love to be here until you feel purified. Even if they say, “Your time is over, you can go,” you may say, “I am still not purified, Sir. I want to be here for some more time.” In fact, many such prisoners continue to lead a Yogic life even after they left prison, and they were even thankful for their prison life. That means they took it in the right way.”

I have been reading a lot about the Tao and Taoism, and a few more stories with the same theme have caught my attention. I always take note when the same themes appear in different places, whether that be different theologies confirming each other, or better, when science aligns with spiritual lessons.

Perhaps these stories strike a nerve with me because I see myself in them. From Taoist writer Lieh-tse:

“A man noticed that his axe was missing. Then he saw the neighbor’s son pass by. The boy looked like a thief, walked like a thief, behaved like a thief. Later that day, the man found his axe where he had left it the day before. The next time he saw the neighbor’s son, the boy looked, walked, and behaved like an honest, ordinary boy.”

The Chinese story of “The Well by the Road” really reminds me of the flame-throwing, fickle pundits who live on cable tv news shows:

“A man dug a well by the side of the road. For years afterward, grateful travelers talked of the Wonderful Well. But one night, a man fell into it and drowned. After that, people avoided the Dreadful Well. Later it was discovered that the victim was a drunken thief who had left the road to avoid being captured by the night patrol – only to fall into the Justice-Dispensing Well.”

And one last story to remind us of how we allow external pressures, desires, and events to overshadow our true Selves. From the writings of Chuang-tse:

“An archer competing for a clay vessel shoots effortlessly, his skill and concentration unimpeded. If the prize is changed to a brass ornament, his hands begin to shake. If it is changed to gold, he squints as if he were going blind. His abilities do not deteriorate, but his belief in them does, as he allows the supposed value of an external reward to cloud his vision.”

Do you see yourself in these stories? I do. Over the years, with much practice and effort, I see myself less but not completely gone. We humans have chosen complicated ways, and the path to clarity is very long.


As a graphic designer, I understand the concept of white space, so this post by Leo on Zen Habits really struck a chord. I’ve done – and am always refining – some of the things suggested in his post, but never thought of it as white space before. Loving this!

Read Leo’s post here: Zen Habits

The first key to changing your life is to recognize what is going on in the first place. Noticing how you react and why to whatever is happening in your life. Even if you can’t get to the why, if you can start to catch yourself just before you act, you can choose another action.

This is from today’s Daily Dharma from Tricycle Magazine:

The Importance of Clarity
Seeing our moment-to-moment automatic conditioned reactions is crucial. Without that we will just continue the mess we are creating in our world, in our loveless relationships. Without clarity, the self-pitying or self-aggrandizing soliloquy takes up all the space; then there is just this little stage for the actor, the victim, the hero, the star. If that isn’t seen, self-pitying and self-promoting proceeds and makes oneself and others miserable.

-Toni Packer, “The End of the Story” (Summer 1996)

The BP oil spill in the Gulf is truly a disaster. The impact to the environment, wildlife, and economy in the area will be felt for years to come. I believe BP should be held accountable for cleaning up it’s mess, they were smart to go along with Obama’s $20 million+ request – its the responsible thing to do, and good PR which they certainly want and need. I understand, in fact I’m in full agreement, with the horror, frustration, and anger that is felt as we watch billions of gallons of oil turn a beautiful body of water into a tar pit.

What I can’t agree with is the emotional knee-jerk reaction leading to the “Boycott BP” and “Bankrupt BP” sentiments. When people hurt, no matter if its physical, emotional, in sympathy with another’s pain, or whatever… often the immediate feeling is to hurt back. However, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, when we are emotional our capacity for making clear choices is destroyed. Its a function of our lizard brains – filled with instincts that served our ancestors so well when fight or flight was a matter of life or death. Nowadays, matching hurt with hurt is a useless, vicious cycle that does nothing but add more suffering to a bad situation.

Boycotting BP stations  is emotionally fulfilling on a personal level, but does nothing to hurt Corporate BP. Corporate would shrug off the failure of a few individual BP stations like an elephant swats at flies with his tail, just a minor annoyance. Boycotting individual stations does hurt the station’s owner, however. This guy has invested thousands of dollars into his franchise, and paid top dollar for the right to put BP’s logo on his pumps. In fact, I’d bet he’s got a contract that says he’s pretty much stuck with BP for a certain number of years and breaking that contract would bring the wrath of  BP’s legal department, ending in bankruptcy. The station owner pays his taxes and plays his part in our economic recovery – we don’t need more small businesses failing right now. All the station owner wants to do is pay his mortgage and feed his family like anyone else. He didn’t know this disaster would happen, and it really doesn’t matter which oil company he went with because they all play the same games – it just happened that BP was the unlucky schmuck to get shot playing Russian Roulette.

Oh, so that leaves us with somehow bankrupting Corporate BP, you say? Again, while emotionally fulfilling this would also bring it’s own flavor of disaster. Besides the fact that BP is a huge part of Britian’s economy – which is tightly knitted to ours (and the world’s), BP is one of the blue-chip, supposedly stable giant corporations that pension funds and IRA managers love. When our economy’s near-failure shook the globe, we rattled the economy of every other country on the planet. They don’t need economic instability any more than we do. I’m no expert, but BP might be one of those companies that is too big to fail – or at least would cause one hell of a huge ripple if it did.

So what to do with the anger? Well, I don’t know. I’d love to travel down to the gulf to help wash pelicans but my own economic recovery requires me to work my 9 to 5 every day. And since I haven’t seen requests for lay people to come down and help, I suppose you’d need a certain level of training to be qualified to bathe wildlife. Maybe less for scooping up tarballs? I suppose the best thing we can do – as lame and emotionally unfulfilling as it feels, is to make a hell of a lot of noise demanding Congress put some regulations with teeth in place and clean up the bureaucracies that were supposed to be watching these companies.

I had to jot this down because it’s happened to me so many times.

I have a long commute – 90 minutes each way, five days a week on mostly two-lane secondary roads where the speed limit rarely cracks 45. There have been many, many times when I find myself stuck behind a large truck or a slow driver, unable to pass for miles. It is very frustrating when I feel time pressing down on me. But the times that I really, really want (my mind will tell me “need”, but I know that isn’t true), to pass this guy are inevitably the times that the Universe is purposely telling me to slow it down.

How do I know the Universe is talking to me? Because very often it’s when I’m in those situations that I find slowing down helped me avoid a speed trap or an accident. I can’t count how many times I’ve spoken to the driver ahead of me in my head – usually suggesting which pedal they should be stepping on – when out of the blue I crest a hill and there is a cop sitting with his radar on. Worse, I crest that hill to find a fresh or nearly fresh accident, and realize that had I been driving more aggressively it might have been me T-boned in the middle of an intersection when someone ran the red light.

God works in mysterious ways, and we have to pick up on very subtle clues to get the message. Miracles don’t have to be big – “Six Saved in Fire”, or even cute – “baby’s first smile”. Look for the miracles in your everyday life: a string of green lights where you usually catch all reds, a busy coworker stops by to tell you something that makes you laugh, stumbling into a sale on something you were going to buy anyway. There are countless tiny miracles every day if we just open our eyes to them.

For one week, jot down every little miracle you see. Think about how you classify something as a miracle – are your guidelines too narrow? How many things did you see that happened to you when you were alone, and how many were part of an interaction with someone else?

Some people have asked if the glasses in the title refers to MY glasses. Nope.

My monkey mind is still bouncing from one illusion to another, but sees a bit clearer than it did before I started down this trail. So it’s kind of like wearing corrective lenses – it can see a bit more clearly with the help of what I’ve learned so far. Eventually, when all the crap is out of my mind and it is no longer deluded, it won’t need glasses at all. It will have 20/20 vision. And the monkey will be gone.

This might be several lifetimes from now! Ha! One step at a time.

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