Saturday, May 30, 2009

Every breath you take - Emi Fujita

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Love - the Prologue of 'The Alchemist'

In my first post about love, Love (lost), I shared with you the insight that the love we feel for someone, the beauty we see in them, is our own creation: it is all in our head. It is a bit like the famous zen koan: if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? If a woman enters the room and nobody gives her a second glance, is she beautiful? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Besides finding our love beautiful, we are linked to our love by the way our love makes us feel about ourselves. We see in our love qualities that we admire, qualities that thrill us, qualities that we possess also perhaps, but to a lesser degree; or that we would like to possess. Our love has a way of making us feel that we too possess these qualities. Being with our love is, in a way, the next best thing we can do to actually being our love. (See this post for a technique about imagining being our love). So being in love has a component of ‘reflected glory’ in it, which makes us feel good about ourselves.
‘Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror’ said Rabindranath Tagore. Perhaps this quote was the inspiration for Paulo Coelho’s prologue to ‘The Alchemist’.

The Alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus. The Alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who daily knelt beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.
But this was not how the author of the book ended the story. He said that when Narcissus died, the Goddesses of the Forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.
"Why do you weep?" the Goddesses asked.
"I weep for Narcissus," the lake replied.
"Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus," they said, "for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand."
"But..... was Narcissus beautiful?" the lake asked.
"Who better than you to know that?" the Goddesses said in wonder, "After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!"
The lake was silent for some time. Finally it said:
"I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected."

"What a lovely story," the Alchemist thought.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Love and the Tao

Ask yourself this: do you want to be loved for who you are or because of all the efforts you made to win your love? Sooner or later, your love will find out who you really are, and then what?
If you have to try hard all the time to fascinate and beguile, you are playing a losing hand. You can’t fascinate and beguile forever. When you run out of ideas, then what?
A woman who is not in love will not be happy with a bed of silk sheets and rose petals. A woman who is in love will happily sleep on a board to be with her man.

To keep full what will overflow, better not to try. A blade too sharp cannot keep its edge. A room full of gold and precious stones cannot be guarded. Tao Te King (9)

He who walks on tiptoe cannot stay upright very long. Tao Te King (24)

He who knows how to guard well closes without a lock, and no one can open; he who knows how to tie up well uses no ties, and no one can untie. Tao Te King (27)

Be your authentic self. Sincere, natural, and real. Then if love comes along, it really is meant for you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Love, no risk free trial

If you have been following my posts on love, you will know that love and non-desire are not contradictions in terms. Love, as opposed to attachment, is a free, independent choice or it is nothing. Don’t take my word for it. You will find this theme in all philosophies and all religions.

In Taoism for example:

There is no greater mistake than wishing to satisfy one’s desires;
there is no greater unhappiness than not being self-sufficient.
There is no greater calamity than the desire to possess.
Tao Te Ching 46 (my translation from Tao Te King)

In Zen:

One major obstacle in living a life of love is the tendency to hold on. We grasp and cling to each other, preventing the freedom of love from rising on its own. Zen asks us to let go.
When someone comes into your life, let him come. Welcome the person, whoever he is. Enjoy what it is he brings, even if it's only for a short time.
When it is time for a person to go away, let him go. Do not turn the person's leaving into an experience of rejection, loss or abandonment. Realize that his leaving has nothing to do with you. It is simply time for him to go.
Do this with yourself as well. Let yourself come and go freely in life, and don't get caught in unnecessary chains. The more you free yourself and others, the more easily you fall in love.
From an article by Brenda Shoshana, author of Zen and the Art of Falling in Love

In the Bhagavad Gita:

The liberated man receives what the Divine Will brings him, he does not long for anything, is jealous of no one: what comes to him, he accepts without repulsion nor attachment; what goes away, he lets go, to rejoin the whirlpool of existence, without regret, nor affliction, nor feeling of loss.
Sri Aurobindo, The Bhagavad Gita and its message (my translation from Tao Te King)

In the Christian tradition:

Nothing renders man more like God than this implacable detachment. For what makes God God is his implacable detachment: from this springs forth his purity, his simplicity and his immutability… This resemblance must be achieved by the grace that elevates man above the temporal and purifies him of everything that is impermanent.
Master Eckhart (my translation from Tao Te King)

Love from a position of detachment allows us to enjoy and appreciate what comes into our life and saves us from the pain and feeling of loss for what goes out of our life. Not only that, but good things and people are more likely to come into our life if they are free to come and go as they please. And, once here, they will likely stick around longer.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Samurai of Love

By the Way of the warrior is meant death. The Way of the warrior is death. This means choosing death whenever there is a choice between life and death. It means nothing more than this. It means to see things through, being resolved. Yamamoto Tsunetomo

There comes a time in a budding love relationship when our partner will test us. A careless remark. A certain lack of response. Or something more blatant. I’m not even sure if they do it consciously or not. But what it boils down to is seeing what you will put up with. If you go along then it will eventually get worse as they realise you are hopelessly in love and they can pretty much get away with anything and you will still be around. From there it is not far to their losing interest in you and finally they leave you.
Of course I am talking about my own experience but perhaps you can relate to it.
So there comes a time when you have to be able to stand the test by standing your ground, walking away, saying no or whatever it is that your love does not think you will have the guts to do. You have to be able to ‘kill your love’ or ‘die the death of love’ like a samurai.
We have seen in my posts on love that ‘you can’t love someone you can’t live without’. That is merely attachment, infatuation. Real love can only come from a position of strength and independence. You have to be able to choose to love. This means you have to be able to walk away.
Ironically, it is your ability to walk away which gives you the better chance to win your love.

Those who cling to life, die; those who defy death, live. Uyesugi Kenshin

You have surely been in the situation where someone is in love with you and trying too hard. Or at least you have known people who try too hard to be loved, to be liked, to impress. And it always backfires on them. Trying too hard is unattractive. Clinging is unattractive. We just want to run away.
So when our love turns cooler on us, the answer is not to cling more but to cling less, and, like a samurai of love, prepare our soul to face ‘death’. And defying the death of love, perhaps we may see it live.

Photo from Wikimedia: Yamana Tokoyuni

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Thousand-Hand Guan Yin

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sit on top of the world

Touch my skin and tell me what you’re thinking,
take my hand and show me where we’re going.
Lie down next to me, look into my eyes
and tell me, oh tell me what you’re seeing.
So sit on top of the world and tell me how you’re feeling,
what you feel is what I feel for you.
Take my hand and if I’m lying to you,
I’ll always be alone if I’m lying to you.

These words are the lyrics of a song that for me most completely embodies the feeling of a person in love (who is uncertain of the feelings of the beloved). They come from the song ‘Take my hand’ from Dido’s album ‘No Angel’. I will not try to comment on the beautiful musical score or the flawless voice and execution of Dido. But the words… listen to the words.
Here you have the attention, the complete attention of the person in love. The need for information, the need to know the heart of the beloved. Here you have sincerity and the grace and poetry born of sincerity. Sit on top of the world, she says – that’s how I feel about you. If only she could make you understand how she feels. She is not exaggerating - here you have the solemn invocation and vow of truth – she’ll always be alone if she’s lying to you. Later she adds ‘Take your time’. Love is patient. Take your time. Have you ever said that to someone?

From what we have seen about love thus far, we know this person is ‘in deep’. She has a beautiful love, in her head. Perhaps it will be alright. Sometimes love is reciprocated and the magic happens. We hope it works. We believe in the singer’s hope and earnestness. Sometimes we need to believe.
(If it doesn’t work, we hope a friend tells her about Anthony de Mello, and Healing Philosophy).

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Way to Love (3) – The Last Meditations of Anthony de Mello (part three)

You see persons and things not as they are but as you are. If you wish to see them as they are you must attend to your attachments and the fears that your attachments generate. Because when you look at life it is these attachments and fears that will decide what you will notice and what you block out.

When we are in love we are seeing the beloved not as they are but as we are. We are projecting our own qualities into this person. Rabindranath Tagore said it so well:

Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.

We are seeing an idealized projection of our own self, magnified to a perceived perfection in this person. They are a beautiful creation, a work of art, in our head. This reminds me of a technique for helping one get over a lost love (I forget the source) that consists in meditating and imagining oneself to be the person one loves. The power of the technique resides in showing us through the meditation that we have the same qualities as the person we love, because we see them, we feel them, we know them. Thus we need not miss the person, for we ‘contain’ all the qualities that we loved.
Getting back to de Mello, we see through attachment-coloured glasses. Love is not blind, it is attachment that is blind. Love sees clearly because love encompasses everyone and everything, whereas attachment encompasses very little: it excludes everyone and everything except the object of its attachment.

You were in love and you felt rejected or jealous; suddenly all your mind and heart became focused on this one thing, and the banquet of life turned to ashes in your mouth.

I remember when I was going through my ‘attachment’ how it killed my enjoyment of everything else. I could hardly concentrate on the karate instructor, I could hardly read three paragraphs of a book, I could hardly enjoy the presence of my children. This is not love: it is slavery.

How can you love someone whom you are a slave to? How can you love someone whom you cannot live without? …Love is to be found only in fearlessness and freedom.

De Mello shows us the path out of slavery: awareness of the folly of our dependence, our addiction to this person or to anyone. The path to freedom comes from cultivating activities that we love, activities that we engage in without regard to society or the opinions of other people, activities that are our true passion.

The royal road to mysticism and to Reality does not pass through the world of people. It passes through the world of actions that are engaged in for themselves without an eye to success or to gain – or profit actions. Contrary to popular beliefs, the cure for lovelessness and loneliness is not company but contact with Reality. The moment you touch this Reality you will know what freedom and love are. Freedom from people – and so the ability to love them.

Announcing - the links page of Healing Philosophy

Where did all the links go? They went to a special links page I have created at I have also moved all the ‘Virtue’ photos and quotes from the sidebars to Healinks.
As I mentioned in the ship’s log, I found the blog takes longer and longer to load once you have clicked on a few links and come back. I would like you to be able to peruse all the posts easily. So we are now back to basics, back to the essential. On the other hand I think the links are important too, so now they have their own page at Healinks.
Let me know what you think of the changes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Way to Love (2) - The Last Meditations of Anthony de Mello (part two)

In my post Love (lost) I told you that the love I knew was all in my head. It must be so otherwise everyone my love meets would fall in love with her. In fact, my friends would have varying reactions to her from ‘She’s bad news’ to ‘I don’t know what you see in her’ to ‘She’s kinda cute’. When things were going ‘well’ and I was sitting on top of the world, it was all in my head. And when things broke down and I was filled with negative emotions, they were all in my head too. Feelings of anger, betrayal, jealousy, revenge rose and fell in me like a stormy sea. But reading de Mello I found, if not immediate peace and calm, then at least the direction to and the sight of peace and calm. And that is a lot when you are emotionally cast adrift on that cruel sea.

Now keep looking at this unpleasant situation or person until you realize that it isn’t they who are causing the negative emotions. They are just going their way, being themselves, doing their thing whether right or wrong, good or bad. It is your computer that, thanks to your programming, insists on your reacting with negative emotions.

And the clinching argument:

You will see this better if you realize that someone with a different programming when faced with this same situation or person or event would react quite calmly, even happily… The way to be in charge of this situation is to be in charge of yourself, which you are not. How does one achieve this mastery? All you have to do is to understand there are people in the world who, if they were in your place, would not be negatively affected by this person. They would be in charge of the situation, above it, not subject to it as you are. Therefore your negative feelings are caused, not by this person, as you mistakenly think, but by your programming.

Yes, someone with better relationship skills, someone with more clarity, someone with better self-control, someone with better understanding, someone who loves from a position of independence and non-attachment, someone who loves truly – such a person would react very differently than I did.
Thus there are no excuses – the answer lies within. We must change the programming. Our pain is the light showing us the way we need to change. We must become that person who is master of himself and the situation. Then, one day, we will know the way to love.

More to come in part three

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Regular reader Jaliya has left some interesting comments about Anthony de Mello which can be found on my post The Way of Love. She provides some quotes from his book ‘Awareness’ which I thought it would be good to share with you. Thanks Jaliya.

The chances that you will wake up are in direct proportion to the amount of truth you can take without running away.You want freedom? Here it is: Drop your false ideas. See through people. If you see through yourself, you will see through everyone. Then you will love them.

I'm going to write a book someday and the title will be ‘I'm an Ass, You're an Ass’. That's the most liberating, wonderful thing in the world, when you openly admit you're an ass. It's wonderful. When people tell me, 'You're wrong,' I say, 'What can you expect of an ass?'

When your illusions drop, you're in touch with reality at last, and believe me, you will never again be lonely ... Loneliness is not cured by human company. Loneliness is cured by contact with reality.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ship's Log - May 2009

I am working on a plan to simplify the blog by moving the links to another page. I have noticed the blog takes longer and longer to load the more you click on the post links. So I want to get to having only one post showing at any time and very few links. A less cluttered, less fattening, more zen-like page that always loads quickly. I am also working on a plan to simplify everything else in my life, but that’s another story…

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond