Category Archives: The Way

Buddhism, Taoism, and the search for the answer

Going To War

Going To War

Two armies face off
across a dusty plain
armored for a long siege
swords sharpened
quivers filled
arrows dipped in poison.

Death is imminent.

Warriors pound chests
chant slogans
build to a cacophony
of spirit
and rage

A perfect killing storm.

The battle is joined
and no one
not General
or Head of State

Can remember what the war is about.

We all live in a perpetual state of war. Or at least on the cusp of war. It might be war with your wife, kids, boss or friends. It might be political, religious, or ideological. A person is mean to you or to someone within you hearing. Someone cuts in front of you in the supermarket line, drives erratically while messing with their cell phone, gets your order wrong at the drive through, puts you on hold before you get to talk. It might even be that mosquito that keeps buzzing you when you are trying to concentrate. These little battles are a part of life. There are as many different reasons for war as there are people on this planet. They are inevitable. Unavoidable.

Or are they?

Life’s little battles happen all the time. We can ignore them or let them ruin our day. I am notorious for allowing my train to be thrown off the tracks by little things that I won’t even remember a week from now. It was especially bad when I was in the restaurant business. Heaven forbid that a pizza got made wrong, a server gave poor service, or a guest had to wait too long to get a table. If dishwasher or oven went down or the toilets backed up, I was a borderline basket case. If I am out of balance, I am not a nice person. You don’t want to be around me. I will make you cry.

There is a crucial moment that occurs right before we start to go off the deep end. You can see it in others. The eyes start to glaze over. The corners of her mouth start to tighten up. Her shoulders hunch. Her heart starts to harden and you can almost see the walls going up between her and the rest of the world. The stress is palpable. It is painful to watch it happen to a loved one.

Now imagine how they feel when they see it happen to you.

But does it have to happen? Perhaps. In the beginning. This “hardening of the heart” has been recognized and expounded upon over the course of history.

When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it. ~ Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius – MEDITATIONS (121 – 180 CE)

Equanimity is defined as “evenness of mind especially under stress” (Merriam Webster). I’ll call it balance. I think we can all agree that life is great when we feel like we are in balance, in the flow. We are like a finely tuned (or poorly tuned, in my case) automobile. When all the cylinders are firing in order we feel like we can conquer the world. But add a little water into the gasoline, throw in a bad sparkplug or a pinhole in the radiator and suddenly we are laboring to get through the day. The key is not eliminating all of the little distractions in our lives, but recognizing them and not allowing them to get in the way and slow us down.

Buddhist Pema Chödrön of Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia does extensive teaching on this subject. There is a Tibetan word, shenpa, which translates to “attachment.” Pema Chödrön prefers to call it “the hook.” Shenpa refers to all of these little speed-bumps that I’m talking about. It is that instant when we feel ourselves going off kilter. The moment when we get caught by that traffic light. The moment when our loved one is not as attentive as we wish. The moment when the cable goes out. The moment when the person hangs up on us or slams the door in our face.

Practicing Peace In A Time Of War

Pema Chödrön teaches that shenpa can be a powerful and instructive tool to not only help us keep our balance but improve it. Rather than viewing our little irritations as a weakness, we can learn to recognize their onset and power through them. She calls the irritation a “hardening of the heart” and advises us to “hold on to the soft spot behind it. Every time that we can conquer irritation in this way, we condition ourselves to be better and faster the next time.

Marcus Aurelius used to play a game with himself. Whenever he felt an irritation coming on, a flux in his equanimity, he would race to see how fast he could conquer it. He called it his “Equanimity Game.” Since I discovered this game a couple of years ago, I have learned to calm down, attack things rationally instead of emotionally. I make less people cry now.

MEDITATIONS ~ Marcus Aurelius

Life is like a fisherman who casts his line in a barrel. Millions of little hooks are dangling in the water, waiting for one of us to swim along and take the bait. If I get lucky and make that traffic light, the hook is still waiting there for the next driver, the unlucky one. If I say the right thing and make you smile instead of cry, the hook is waiting at the next table for the couple that is not on the same page. The hooks will always be there, dangling, waiting to catch you unaware.

The trick is knowing that they are there, dealing with them unemotionally, and getting on with your life. Pema Chödrön calls it her Four R’s.

RECOGNIZING (that the hook is there)
REFRAINING (from being knocked off-kilter)
RELAXING (into the feeling)
RESOLVING (to deal with irritation the same way over and over again)

The more you practice, the better, and more in balance, you will be. Not only will you be one step ahead of the game, but you can avoid some of the wars that seem inevitable in your life.

Brother T

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So I was talking to Marva…

a blast from 2004

…about the Soul Gathering, a weekly confabulation of art, music and spoken words, and about whether the very name of this event, “Soul Gathering” is exclusionary to some ethnicities. Marva suggested changing the name to the “Spirit Gathering” but I thought that was a very bad idea. So I asked myself, can a white boy have soul? I consulted the good Doctor’s Merriam and Webster.

1: the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life

2 a: the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe

3: a person’s total self

4 a: an active or essential part b : a moving spirit c : leader

5 a: the moral and emotional nature of human beings
b : the quality that arouses emotion and sentiment
c : spiritual or moral force


7 : EXEMPLIFICATION, PERSONIFICATION i.e. she is the soul of integrity

8 a: a strong positive feeling (as of intense sensitivity and emotional fervor) conveyed especially by black American performers c : SOUL MUSIC d : SOUL FOOD e : SOUL BROTHER

SOURCE: Merriam Webster online

So, can a white person have soul? This question leads to, What is the dividing line between white and black? Why does there have to be a line? If God created us in his image, then why don’t we all look like Rosario Dawson? If we are different, then why can my blood be used to transfuse your blood? Why is it that our mixed race children are the ones that turn the most heads? Why why why why why why why? So many questions. The bottom line is ignorance. People see something different and what is their response? Envy and hatred. The grass is always greener, blah blah blah!

They say you only get one chance to make a first impression? I say that’s bullshit. When you look at me, what is it that you see? Am I a privileged white boy? An elitist? A preppie. A hippie? What? The truth be told, I’m a humanist. I see only one race, a human race. I believe we all descended from Dinkanesh, the three million year old girl found in the Afar Valley of Ethiopia. My white brothers named her Lucy, but I like Dinkanesh, which means “thou art wonderful” in the Ethiopian Language, It doesn’t matter if you believe in creation or evolution. We all came from the same family tree. The tree of life.

The first conversation that I ever had with Marva went something like this,

Marva: (bumping into me) Sorry I’ve got such a big booty.

Terry: Don’t ever apologize for that. God made your booty
just the way he wanted it.

Truth of the matter is, God created all of our booties just the way she wanted them. I have seen hatred in the eyes of people I have never even met. Peeps not liking the shape of my booty or the color of my booty or the color of the booty I’m with. I’m sure that every one of you out there can say the same thing has happened to you at some point in your life. It goes back to ignorance, upbringing, envy, and jealousy. You cannot judge a person by what they look like, only by what they think and how they act. This is the new millennium people, why does this shit have to be this way.

I get the argument. Four hundred years of oppression and slavery at the hands of the white men. I’m sorry and if I could turn back the clock I would. Truth is, it was Africans doing other Africans wrong that brought the slaves to the New World. It’s no different from the Prots holding down the Irish Catholics in Belfast, Muslims killing Christians and vice versa in Bosnia. Muslims killing other Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Sudan and Somalia. Cousins killing cousins in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Men keeping down women. People making a living by fucking over other people. Whosoever holds the power is going to do what it takes to keep the power. Women hold the majority in America. Men hold the power. That’s why we have no woman President.

We Wasps have done some pretty f*cked-up shit in the course of history, but I never did anything to you. The worst thing we ever did was round up all the Indians and put them on reservations, steal all their land and steal all of their culture. I got a sixteenth of Indian blood in me and I’m ashamed that my people could do that to my people.

It’s a proven fact that people suck. We ought get over it and start fixing our f*cked up world.

It’s not just the white boys in the wife beater t-shirts with the Confederate flags in the back window of their pick-em-up truck. They wear their colors where we can all see and deal with them. It’s the sharks in the suits that we gotta look out for. The jackass drug dealer in the Benz polluting our kids with shit that eats their minds. The apathetic school administrators that turn our kids out like a waitress turning tables at the Bob Evans. The parents who do drugs in front of their young children.

I was in love with a girl. I remember saying to my friend, “There’s this Indian chick that I work with, She’s somewhere between 17 and 24. She’s the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I think I love her.” I was so naïve. Turned out the girl was from Ethiopia and she was indeed twenty-four. I fell head over heels in love with her. Maybe it was my way of getting closer to little Dinkanesh. Anyway, her family couldn’t fathom the idea of one of the daughters of Sheba falling in love a white boy, marrying a white boy. They did everything in their power to break us up. It worked. I lost her. She moved to LA because she couldn’t stand to break my heart day after day. Did I mention that I hate LA.

So where does that leave us? Do I have soul because I have a sixteenth of a Blackfoot Indian running though my veins? Do I have soul because my Irish ancestors had to come here to get away from English oppression? Do I have soul because I descended from Dinkanesh, who roots we can all trace back to? Is soul in me because I loved her daughter?

The answer is no. I have soul because I want to end all this racist bullsh*t. There is but one race, the human race, and we all belong to the club. I have soul because I want every kid to get an equal chance in this world. It’s in me. You’d have to kill me to take it out.

With that being said, can I be your soul brother?

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What Is Real?

“Reality isn’t the way you wish things to be, nor the way they appear to be, but the way they actually are.”
~ Robert J. Ringer

Reality. What a concept. Lost in all of the holy books that we hold sacred in this world is the idea of reality. Accept Christ as your true savior and you will go to heaven (Christianity). Follow the Pillars and you will be rewarded at the Resurrection (Islam). Live righteously and you will spend your afterlife close to God (Judaism). Follow the eightfold path and you will transcend suffering (Buddhism). Your actions determine which of the four levels of afterlife you repair to (Hinduism). Respect all living beings as you respect yourself and you will achieve omniscience (Jainism).  Live in harmony with the world and you will have a long and happy life (Taoism). For every religion there is a different variation of rewards and consequences.The irony is that each one is absolutely sure that it is the correct version of the afterlife. And yet which of us has never had a moment in the middle of a crisis where our belief was shaken? So what is real?

“Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one.”
~ Albert Einstein

Really, Albert? Really?

Reality is the only thing that we can have a firm view of and control over. Our belief systems be what they may. The righteous Christian can believe that he is going to heaven, just as a practicing Buddhist can know that she will transcend suffering with right action. Gurus, holy men, and positive psychologists all have a special formula for you to receive your desired effect. Heard of the “Law of Attraction?” But in the end, all we have is this moment that we are in right now. I could get electrocuted while sitting at this laptop as I type the next line. If so, I will go out doing what I love to do. Thinking, seeking and writing.

Lock: “Goddamnit, Morpheus! Not everyone believes what you believe!”
Morpheus: “My beliefs do not require them to.”

In this scene from THE MATRIX RELOADED, Lock and Morpheus are in the same room. They share the desire to protect Zion from the attack of the machines. They also love the same woman. Yet they are diametrically opposed in their beliefs of what the solution should be. This is an excellent, if somewhat extreme, example of what we all go though on a day today basis. Our individual reality.

Maybe this is a better example. You and I go out to dinner. We are seated in a booth where I can see the bar and you can see the kitchen. I watch as the bartender expertly mixes a cocktail. You watch the cooks arguing with each other in the kitchen. I order us some drinks and as we toast, I distract you. Your smile returns.

As we continue to drink and chat, I notice an old friend walking through the door. I get up to greet him, leaving you to your unimpeded view of the kitchen chaos. As I return, I comment on your sour expression.

Our food arrives. We have each ordered our favorite food on the menu. It is perfectly cooked. Yet mine somehow tastes better than yours. You complain that yours is not as good as usual. The only variable in our experience was the side of the table that we were seated on. My experience was totally positive. I dined with a beautiful friend, I greeted someone from the past, I had a great cocktail and a splendid meal. Your experience was less than perfect because of that variable.

This happens to us every day.

I walk out the door and hop on the bus. My experience is completely different from the person I sit next to. It might ruin her day when I take the seat next to her. I hope not, but I’m sure that it happens.

I am one of three hundred people who walk into the convenient store for a cup of coffee. We will all get the same mix of coffee grounds and water. Yet mine might be too hot, your might be too cold, his might be too strong, hers might be to weak. It’s all a matter of personal taste. It is our personal reality. Three hundred  different people sharing the same experience with different results.

“But if you really thoroughly question everything, if you pursue your questions long enough and honestly enough, there will come a time when truth wallops you upside the head and you will know.” ~ Brad Warner  – HARDCORE ZEN

The only thing we know is the thing that happens in front of us on a minute by minute basis. Even the past becomes fuzzy and subject to interpretation. That is why it is so important to BE HERE NOW. Live in the moment. It is only if you are aware of what is happening to you RIGHT NOW, that you can take advantage of all the possibilities at your fingertips. What happens if you plan for tomorrow and tomorrow never comes? What if the world ends and we all are reborn on another planet in another galaxy? What if we do all end up in heaven? Or what if we just disappear into a void? What do you think about that?

“Be lamps unto yourselves.” ~ Buddha’s last words to his followers.

In other words, shine the light on your deeds and actions. Allow no one else to dictate your reality. Even your parents or your one true love. Worst case scenario, make it a conscious compromise that allows you to keep as much of yourself as possible. If you subjugate your hopes and dreams to the whims of another, there will come a time when you have to make a painful break. Or live forever in misery. Don’t bow to authority. Better to become your own authority, willingly live a righteous life by your own standards. Only you can live your life in this very moment.

So I say, kiss the one you love. Hug your child. Listen to your favorite song. Make a snow angel. Eat that bowl of ice cream. Do a polar bear swim. Throw the frisbee to your dog. Meet a friend for dinner. Read your favorite author. Write an epic poem.

Just Live. And be aware of that you are Living.

Until next time,

Your Brother T

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The Tao Of One White Boy

In old times, a Chinese farmer’s only horse ran away. That evening all of the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him. He said, “What makes you think this is bad luck?”

The next day his horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses. The neighbors came shouting and celebrating his good fortune. He said, “What makes you think that this is good luck?”

The following day his son tried to ride one of the wild horses and was thrown. He broke his leg. Again the neighbors came to sympathize with the farmer. Again he said, “What makes you think this is bad luck?”

The very next day, the army showed up to conscript all of the young men to fight in the war. The farmer’s son was the only one left behind. The neighbors came to celebrate how things had turned out. The farmer said, “That is the way things go.”

Adapted from Alan Watts (1915-1973) TAO: THE WATERCOURSE WAY

Now you might have guessed that the farmer was a Taoist. As such, he knew that the world runs in never ending cycles. One of the main differences between Eastern and Western philosophy is the idea of (wo)man as individual.


“Life affords no higher pleasure than that of surmounting difficulties, passing from one stop of success to another, forming new wishes and seeing them gratified.” – Samuel Johnson

In the West we are taught that it is us against the world. Our individual accomplishments take precedence over the furthering of our society. Our greatest accomplishment is to “make a name for ourselves.”

From the time we leave the womb we have an immediate family that cares for us. Over the course of our lives we develop an extended family, a spouse and children, friends, and other fraternal organizations. Many of us can count the number of people in our extended family from memory. The next layer of our sense of “us” is our country. We are “Americans.” That is who we are. The fact that there are many different communities of Americans, many of whom we deem illegal, is a story for another day.

In addition to the sense of self, we also operate with the belief that we can and should should control the world. We use science and technology to grow our food larger and faster. We make attempts to genetically engineer everything in order to make it more efficient and productive. In addition, we attempt to subjugate our natural resources in order to make them work for us. We constantly seek more electricity, more gasoline, more bandwidth. So we “drill, baby, drill” and strip mine for coal to burn in our outdated smoke-belching power plants. We dig up the most toxic elements on the planet in attempts to generate more power. Always more power.

“Though he should live a hundred years, not seeing the Truth Sublime; yet better, indeed, is the single day’s life of one who sees the Truth Sublime.” ~ Buddha


In Eastern philosophy and religion “self” is subjugated to the “universal.” The Chinese farmer knows that all things are interconnected. As such, there is no such thing as an external influence. We are constantly interacting with the world 24/7/365. Circadian rhythms (a Western discovery in the time of Alexander the Great) run throughout the twenty-four hours of a day. The moon, being the closest astral body to the Earth, has a strong temporal influence on the rhythms within our bodies. The Sun, or rather the darkness, influences our sleeping rhythms, making sleep as necessary as food and water to our continued health.


In addition to knowing that the Earth rules her natural rhythms, the Taoist also uses the natural rhythms of the Earth to make life more aesthetically pleasing. She will find ways to live in harmony with her surroundings rather than try to bend them to her will. Use of the natural elements for power and building would be preferable to artificial and/or finite resources that are not sustainable. Wind and water are infinites that are not being fully utilized. The wind will be blowing long after the last human being on Earth draws a breath.

More than anything else, the reason that the Tao harkens me is the fact that it cannot be known. It is not something that can be read in a book. Seekers seek, that is what we do. Taoism is the act of seeking a knowledge which cannot be known. The word TAO translates to WAY.

Tao (Way)

The Tao that can be talked about is not the true Tao.
The name that can be named is not the true name.
~ Lao Tzu – THE TAO TE CHING Chapter 1

Rather than reading from a book that purports to know the true way, I would much rather devote my time to seeking it myself, catching glimpses in blades of grass, in icycles, in running streams, in wondrous insects. I would rather pick up a piece of trash than curse at the person who dropped it. I would rather pay it forward through acts of kindness and smiles. I would rather it be hearty handshakes, warm hugs, claps on the back. Enlightenment is not a way of life, but a series of brief glimpses. But I make one caution:

Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself.



Brother T

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The Blame Game

“Though the surface of the water remains calm,
the fish still play underneath.”
~ Unknown

Each of us has a depth that other people never see. In fact, most of us are unaware of our own depth. We peel back layers like an onion and get glimpses as we go. But how often do we surprise ourselves with what we find? How often do we look closely enough at ourselves to be surprised? Not often enough. But maybe I’m just talking about myself.

Have you ever had something unpleasant happen to you and wondered why? Maybe a relationship or a job gone awry. Or even a test that you didn’t do so well at? Did you take the time to dig down to the root cause of why it started going sideways? Or did you play the blame game?

“The man who can smile when things go wrong has thought of someone else he can blame it on.” ~ Robert Bloch

It was all her fault.

I was the perfect boyfriend/wife/companion.

The test was rigged. No one could pass that.

The company’s rules are stupid.

My thesis was perfect. The professor is biased.

I was the best candidate for that job.

He is just an asshole.

“I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.”
~ Aldous Huxley

Life is not perfect. In fact, that is what makes life fun and unpredictable. No matter how carefully we plan, we often have unexpected things happen to us. We study mercilessly for what we think will be on the test, but the one chapter that wasn’t on the syllabus is featured. We say and do all of the things that we would want or girlfriend to say and do, and that’s exactly the wrong thing to say or do. We over-think the job interview and say too much or not enough to get the job. We act friendly to people who don’t want it, and not friendly enough to the people that do. And the you realize…

…there is no how-to manual for life.

Maybe it’s just me. In my experience, and I have a lot of experience with failing miserably, I am always the last one that I blame for my problems. I’m a blamer. I blame everyone except the person who is responsible for the root cause of my problems. Me. I would rather blame someone else than admit that I suck. For those of you who have suffered from my shortcomings, I apologize. I’m a little old to be figuring this out, but at least I’m trying.

So I’ll make you a pledge, the next time I fail, probably tomorrow or the next day, I will look no farther than myself to blame. Unless it is some other bastards fault. Then I’ll cry “Foul!”

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More Alchemy

b’AWARE ~ Consciousness is a magical elixir of realization and enlightenment. Catch a snowflake on your tongue. Make someone smile. Be aLIVE today. ~ Brother T

I’m not a philosopher. I have never been successful at any one thing in life. Mediocre at much. Excellent at nothing. It is only after I learned that life is not about indulging oneself in any whim or want, that I learned that the world does not revolve around the man known as Brother T.

A decade ago I was a hot mess. Stress had me stacked up like a Jenga game with too many pieces missing. I was business first and everything else second. I never smiled. I never greeted anyone who crossed my path. I wanted what I needed and I wanted it now.

One day I walked into the office of the company that I was working for, went straight to the woman who was in charge of that department and demanded some stupid insignificant thing. It never occurred to me that anything could be more important than the thing that I wanted. Of course I got it. I’m sure that I heard an “asshole” whispered under her breath. I didn’t care. I got what I needed.

Upon exiting the room, I was immediately accosted by my girlfriend. She dressed me down for not being civil, asking how my co-worker was doing, not enquiring as to how her ailing father was holding up. In other words, being a rude asshole. Now the girlfriend, who I’m happy to report found herself a non-asshole for a husband, was from a foreign land. She was an alien not only to the USA, but also to the rat race that was ruling my life. The lesson that I learned from her was that there is nothing more important than being civil and friendly. The funny afterwards of the story is that I greeted the co-worker the next day, asked after the ailing father. She complained to our collective boss that I was “nice to her but faking it.”

“Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though t’were his own.” ~
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I’ve become a firm believer in the ability of the individual to bring a sense of joy and happiness to virtually everyone that they come into contact with on a daily basis. I knock on doors and talk to people for a living. Twenty to thirty people per day open their door for me. Most of them do not want to see me. They do not think that they need home improvements. They resist my intrusion into their free time. That’s okay. My main mission is to make them smile and laugh. Once I make that happen, we are on the same team. It is US against THEM. So I say and do whatever I can, no matter how outrageous (but always legal and in good taste) to make that happen. I can honestly say that I get as much if not more joy from the smiles and laughs than these strangers do.

“There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.” ~
Kahlil Gibran

Saturday I woke up feeling less than human. I decided to take a long walk up High Street to my current library of choice. Even though the temperature was hovering at fifteen degrees, there was a steady stream of pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists out on the main drag. I made it a point to address every one of them. The beauty of our neighborhood is the diversity. There are probably one hundred different nationalities living within two miles of my home. It helps that I live on the fringe of the largest and most diverse university in the United States, The Ohio State University. I pimped for smiles and by golly I got em. It was a spectacular two hour tour. I felt like the King of High Street by the time I was done.

“You shall have joy, or you shall have power, said God; you shall not have both” ~
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Sage of Concord” got this one only half right. If you have joy and you share it, you will have power. The world is a rat race. It keeps spinning faster and faster. People have to hold on for dear life in order to survive. It is stressful and numbing. Yet few walk among us through life as a fish swims through water. Effortlessly. Joyfully. Happily. As I journey into the second half of my life, I find that if I hold on too tight then life gets hard. But if I can walk at just the right pace, give smiles to all who cross my path, and take time to smell the… pick your euphemism, and life becomes ever so much easier. If that’s not power, I don’t know what is.

Joy to Power,
Brother T

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Rhetorical Question

“There is in the world now really no moral social order at all.” ~ Confucius The Doctrine of the Mean 5

These words from 2500 years ago ring especially true today, one day after a gunman went on a rampage that claimed six lives in Tucson, Arizona. The rhetoric in this country has flowed over the edges of the chalice. Extremists on both sides of the political aisle have seized the reigns of our country and are driving us towards another (un)civil war.

“You lie!”
– Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) during President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress.

“I would kill George Bush”
– Kirsten Dunst, if she was Spiderman for a day

”The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel.”’
—Sarah Palin, in a message posted on Facebook about Obama’s health care reform plan, Aug. 7, 2009

“[Go] F*ck yourself”
– Dick Cheney shows off his debating skills against Sen. Patrick Leahy

”He has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity.”
—Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), on President Obama’s decision to fund international family planning organizations that support legal abortion, Sept. 26, 2009

How has it come to this? How have we devolved to the point where our once genteel form of politics has become a daily brawl to see who can het in the best and most inflammatory sound bite? I firmly believe that this heightened state of rhetoric is directly responsible for the shootings in Arizona. It’s been a long walkup to the current state of affairs. Americans on the fringe have felt disenfranchised for years. Soundbites that might seem witty and edgy to our elected officials and celebrities turn into rallying cries to the down-trodden.

Enough with the biting rhetoric. Yes, you have freedom of speech. Yes, you are free to say what you want. But mind your words and say what you really mean and not what makes the most shocking sound bite. That is what gets people killed.

Brother T

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Fear is a killer. It kills joy. It kills creativity. It causes inactivity and paralysis. Fear is not your friend. A few years ago, I attended a leadership workshop with my contemporaries in one of the largest corporations in the world. The company spent untold hundreds of thousands of dollars on the event. The idea was to take the organization the next level. To make the company world class in every way. To motivate the troops. To cause a groundswell of customer service. It was exhilarating to see 2500 of the combat leaders of this company swell with energy and pride as the presentation reached its apex. Our top level leaders in the corporation were revealed as former cooks and dishwashers who now, twenty-odd years later are Executives, Officers, and Directors in a multi-national, multi-billion dollar company. I found myself caught up in the enthusiasm.

I have one lasting memory from this leadership conference. It was the final exercise of many in the program, an exercise in self-empowerment and self-discovery. A motivational speaker rose to the stage and began slowly building the crowd to a frenzy. We were asked to examine or biggest fears. Each of us was asked to look deep into our hearts to pluck out the biggest fear that we had. I reached into my heart of hearts and found success. Yes, success. Of all the things to be fearful of, be it unemployment, homelessness, large rabid dogs, hunger, thirst, monsters, the end of the world- my biggest fear was success. Irrational right?

I know that I’m a bright guy. So why did I never finish college? I have an athletic body type. So why did I never strive for more on the field of play? I have been a competent manager of small organizations. So why did I never strive to be the best manager in the company? I love music. So why did I never learn to play an instrument? I have had many great friends over the years. Why have I never been a better friend to them? I am a talented writer. I am brimming with ideas and stories. Why can I not write them to completion?

Is it possible that I fear success?
Is it possible that I fear happiness?
Is it possible that I fear joy?
Is it possible that I fear love?
I believe all of these things to be true.

In the exercise that followed the speech, we were all given a pine board. On one side we were asked to write our biggest fear on one side of the board. On the flip-side, we were asked to write the things that we would gain by braking through our biggest fear. I was caught up in the company frenzy, so I wrote some inane things that would help the company. I should have focused on what I could personally gain from breaking through of my fear of success.

We gathered into small groups based on locality and began to break our boards. I believe that I was among the first to finish. Once our group crashed through our biggest fears, we joined a larger group. Then we joined a still larger group. Everyone from four hundred pound men to little old grandmothers were breaking their boards. Finally the group congealed around one last lady, as she tried again and again to break through her fear on the stage in the middle of the auditorium. Finally, we let out a deafening roar as her board broke in two and she leapt in the air. It remains to this day a frozen moment in time. Magical.

Once the thrill of the mass hysteria dissipated, we were given a final pep-talk by our peerless leader. We were to take the message to the masses. To inspire the next dishwasher-turned- executive. We were now world-class managers. Our company would soar to new heights as the shiny place on the hill that all other restaurant companies would look up to. Well, you can probably guess the results. All of this was forgotten until I sat down to muse on fear.

I read. A Lot. Lately I have stumbled upon a website that has helped me break through my jumble of thoughts and focus on constructive ideals. I highly recommend Philosopher’s Notes to any of you seekers out there who desire a lot of wisdom in a little time. Brian Johnson is truly inspirational. He has found a way to earn a living doing something that he would be happy to pay for otherwise. I spend the first twenty minutes of every day listening to a Note. It is my way of meditating on what he calls The Big Ideas. Through the Notes, I found this definition of fear from Yasuhiko Genku Kimura that rang particularly true:

In Japanese, the word for fear is osore. Translated literally, this means disconnected from the universe. The “o” stands for the sacred thread that connects the soul to the universe. The word “sore” signifies disconnection.

When we surrender ourselves to fear, we are weakening our integration with nature. We are out of balance. The same could be said of many emotions, but fear seems to be among the most damning, along with anger, rage, and hate. I call these the Four Deadly Emotions. I ask you to contemplate these emotions. How do you feel when you surrender yourself to fear and anger, rage and hate? Are you in balance? Are you at peace with yourself? Do you have the feeling that you can conquer the world? I think not. Rather we should seek the balance of any situation.

Humans are the only beings in the animal kingdom who hold onto fear. Other animals certainly feel fear. It is naturally occurring. But animal feel a rational fear for a brief period of time and then let it go when the danger passes. Can you imagine a koala bear getting a stress related ulcer? It is unthinkable. Does that make a koala bear a more evolved animal that you or me? Certainly not. But I ask you this, can we revolve to the point where fear ceases to be more that a momentary reaction to an immediate danger. A shiver in our balance rather than a hundred-mile detour.

I have had my issues with all of the Four Deadly Emotions. I have been called a scary person. I have been warned of my over-reactions. I lost a job once because I allowed stress to overwhelm me to the point where I was emotionally debilitated. I have wondered at times if I am truly bi-polar. I can laugh about angry Terry now, but I have been rendered temporarily insane by rage. I make a conscious effort every day to find a balance in my life. When I can keep my focus on happiness and joy, I find that I can accomplish anything I set out to do. Keeping the stress in check is the key.

I have made marvelous strides in the last six months. I have found a partner who is the yang that shines on my dark yin. If you were to ask her, I’m sure that she would claim that I am the sunny yang to her yin. That is the beauty of our relationship. We each give the other what we need, and take only what is necessary to live. We are a million times stronger together than we are apart. I was a broken shell when we connected. She has painstakingly put me back together. I pledge my life to her in return. She is beauty. She makes me beauty. WE are BEAUTIFUL. We are the LIFE that I have waited so long to live.

So I urge you to reach out. Find the things in life that make you happy. Share your joy. In this way you can cast out the Four Deadly Emotions and keep them in a tiny box within your heart. This way you can pull them out from time to time. Laugh at them. Affirm your rebirth again and again. Live. Just Live.

One Love!
Brother T

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Knowing Nothing

“When the mind is nowhere it is everywhere. When it occupies one tenth, it is absent in the other nine tenths.” ~ Takuan

In my last post I wrote a little about how the teachings and attitudes of parents and teachers can either stimulate or stifle the abilities of children. Amazing things can happen when a child, or anyone for that matter, doesn’t know that they shouldn’t be able to do something. Think back to when you were a kid. You were out on the playground. You climbed the jungle gym. You hung upside down, walked on top of the bars, and slid down the ladder like a fireman down the pole. You loved the wind in your hair and the little bit of danger that you were exposed to. Then one day someone, maybe your loving Mother, yelled at you and told you to “get down and be more careful.” In that one moment two things happened, you lost a little bit of the wonder and you lost a little bit of your decision making mechanism that you would need in later life.

“To be surprised is to begin to understand.” ~ José Ortega Y Gasset

Children make mistakes. They get bumps and bruises and broken bones. They get cols and the flu. That is how they develop the skills and the immunity that they will need in their adult life. With that being said, I like to think that I am still developing and that’s why I’m making so many mistakes.

“Knowledge is knowing as little as possible.” ~ Charles Bukowski

I think back to when I started writing my first novel. It was so easy. Nobody told me I couldn’t write a novel. Nobody taught me how to put together a sentence, or build a character, or where to start and when to stop. I didn’t know about outlines or plotting or grammar or any of that other sh*t that we writers “need to know.” I just sat down at the keyboard, wrote one hundred thousand loosely connected words, and voila, a novel. It sucked. But it was easy. As I learned the tools of the trade, the sheer joy of the writing dissipated and the drudge emerged. As I embark on my fourth novel it is anything but easy.

That’s what it’s like for a kid. They pick up a golf club and figure out how to make the ball go far. It might not go straight, but man, does it go far. Or they beat on a drum for long enough and rhythms start to emerge. It is only when a grownup tells them that they are doing it wrong that their joy starts to disappear.

The same can be said for parents who force their kids into a sport or activity or profession that is the parents’ dream and not the kids. Every person has their own talents, their own “thing.” Just because dad is a good golfer doesn’t mean that the kid will be. Not every kid can grow up to be Tiger Woods. And if your kid loves golf but has no talent, encourage rather than discouraging her. She will grow out of it or she won’t. The world is filled with bad golfers that never grew out of it. That’s okay, as long as they can still derive some joy from it.

“Experience, which destroys innocence, also leads one back to it.” ~ James Baldwin

I have some good friends who have a baby daughter. One of their conscious parenting decisions is to let their daughter roam free with three protective dogs. She spends her days playing with the dogs and interacting with them. Sometimes she gets too rough and they nip at her. But they protect her and teach her skills that will be invaluable when she gets to the school playground. She might get some bumps and bruises and scratches along the way, but she’ll be a better and stronger kid for it.

I’m the last one to tell you how to raise your kids. This is one activity that I can honestly say I Know Nothing about. I’m just saying that love, encouragement, and trust will go a lot farther than stifling, discouraging, and forcing your own dreams on your kid. A happy kid is a well balanced kid. Your son might try one hundred different things before he finds what he like. Your patience will help him get there.

Until next time,
Brother T

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Grains Of Sand

“Keep your hands open and all of the sands of the desert can pass through them. Close them and all you can feel is a bit of grit.” ~ Taisen Deshimaru

A single grain of sand is like a single bit of news or a single idea. The desert is filled with single grains of sand, just as the world is filled with ideas and news and inspiration. I know as well as anyone how damaging it can be to latch onto a single idea and hold it until it paralyzes my mind. It has happened in my jobs, my politics, my loves, and my writings. It happens in our world to the point where our governments are paralyzed in times of crisis or problem-solving.

I have always been intrigued by Free Thought.

Hand a child a musical instrument or a golf club and watch what happens. Give them a puzzle or some paint and a brush and prepare to be amazed. As children we know no boundaries. Our only limits are the ones placed on us by our parents or our teachers. We are many times stifled by people telling us what we can and can’t do. This is the downfall of our current system of education. A child enters school with limitless possibilities. As time progresses each child gets forced into a box. They are taught what they need to know to pass the standardized tests. They are limited by the abilities of the other children in the classes. Teachers are forced into the conundrum of stifling the best for the sake of the rest. I don’t pretend to have a solution for this. I’m just saying.

“The Way of the Sage is to act but not to compete.” ~ Lao Tzu

I have wasted far too much time in my life worrying about politics. The people who “represent” us are sometimes infuriating in their inability to think for themselves. How can 535 rich folks represent me? Well, they can start by not arguing amongst themselves like a bunch of little… We need solutions. We do not need scoreboard.

“Health Care, Goal!”
“Tax cuts for rich folks, Goal!”
“No trains for the 3 C’s, Goal!”

I don’t hear anyone yelling “10% unemployment, Goal!” Quit bickering and do the work of the people. Quit the name calling and get sh*t done. Solutions are right there in the grains of sand that are running through your consciousness. Quit the ideology and get ‘er done.

“What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?” ~ Langston Hughes

I’m tired of seeing our dreams deferred. Maybe it is time to take the blinders off. Forget all of the lessons on what you can and can’t do. The ideas are there. Stop insulting each other and insulting our intelligence. Use them. If the finest minds in America can’t figure out how to create enough jobs, balance the budget, and make our products more palatable for the rest of the world, then maybe we are truly f*cked. I hope not. In the meantime, Mr. Obama, Mr. Boehner, Mr. Brown, Mr. Stivers, Mr. Coleman, feel free to give me a call. I got lots of grains of sand in this empty old mind.

Brother T

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