The Pathless Path

Wayne C. Allen – a simple Zen guy – writes about living and relating elegantly

Tag: waking-up (Page 1 of 2)

Self Responsibility and Waking Up

Synopsis: self respon­si­bil­ity is all about bring­ing your­self under your own control, and accept­ing that you are in charge of you.

self responsibility

My latest paint­ing, and the lovely Darbella

So, here we are at the end of a 10-part series, on “Self Responsibility.” I trust you’ve made sense of what I’ve writ­ten, and are begin­ning or contin­u­ing to see ways to apply what we’ve been discussing.

I thought I’d use a photo of a paint­ing I just completed of Darbella; just because.


First, I’ve been paint­ing again, which is neat. I’ve completed 4 so far this trip back to Canada, and have couple more ready to start. I thought 5 would be the magic number, but appar­ently, it’s higher.

Second, back when we were doing ther­apy together, our ther­a­pist used to call Dar “The Buddha,” which is actu­ally not so far-fetched. She certainly does “get” all of this most of the time, and even more impor­tantly for me, has the patience to put up with me, espe­cially when I strug­gle.

And of course, I do!

This self respon­si­bil­ity stuff is annoying–I choose to annoy myself over it. Mostly when I’m doing “indig­nant,” which is my pet go-to behav­iour when things aren’t going the way I think they ought to, as I tend to have pretty good “eyes” for what’s up, and a very short temper.

Now, back in the old days, that meant I yelled. Now, I seethe. See? Big improvement!

Actually, it is, though, because I choose it. As opposed to play­ing the very famil­iar, “This is how I am” card. And all of this comes back to choice.

We talked about that. Choice. Back in week 8. Change and choice. Remember?

Well, the most popu­lar excuse in the world is to blame “what­ever” — parent­ing, genes, dispo­si­tion, situ­a­tions and circum­stances — for not making better choices. In truth, it’s just easier.

And easy seldom is. It is famil­iar. however.

It takes a ton of matu­rity, other­wise known as self respon­si­bil­ity, to contin­u­ally choose to wake up and choose differ­ently. To take the other path. To use your eyes and ears and really figure out what’s going on.

Easier, far easier, to pull out old behaviour, and then apologize for the mess.

As I said, I’ve been known to do this. And sure, I could blame it on my upbring­ing, or on being short.

A partic­u­larly weird story has it (accord­ing to my mom) that I was being picked on, this in 3rd grade. The gym teacher, also short, took me aside and said I had to learn to defend myself with my mouth. I did. I became great at find­ing weak points and exploit­ing them. I avoided fights by destroy­ing people from the inside.

I still want to. Oh boy, do I want to. I just don’t.

Because, being awake is impor­tant to me.

So, since 1982, I’ve bit my tongue. Well, at least I don’t direct my bile at the people involved. I find more caring and help­ful ways to address things. But, as Dar often hears, I still have those choice bits in mind.

And once in a while, care­fully, I might just toss one out!

A couple of weeks back we were in Spanish class, and this guy started rear­rang­ing tables. The prof asked him to stop, but he really wanted all of us to do it his way. After 30 seconds, I said, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, sit down and shut up!” But I said it in a way that caused him to start laugh­ing.

That’s me, nearly losing it. Over tables.

But actu­ally lose it I don’t. Because I don’t like the me I am when I do. So, I stop me. I don’t expect other to stop me, or to behave, or to make my life easy for me.

I stop me.

This is what self-responsibility looks like. It’s a dance… with your­self. A parade… with only you walk­ing. It’s a solo act, witnessed by the masses.

It’s all about you.

So, go for it! Find your stick­ing points, and get out the WD40.

What are you wait­ing for?

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Gunk on Your Glasses: and seeing clearly

Synopsis: Gunk on Your Glasses: and seeing clearly — it’s easy to not notice our distrac­tion and igno­rance

gunk on your glasses

Sally Kempton is a regu­lar writer for Yoga Journal, and her arti­cle in the December 2015 issue was inter­est­ing. It raised the issue of igno­rance.

But this is not garden variety ignorance; it’s a profound not knowing regarding how the world really works.

Kempton mentions the Sanskrit word, vidya, which means knowl­edge, or wisdom. Adding an “a” to the front — avidya — means igno­rance — not merely the garden vari­ety, but at the level of totally miss­ing the real picture.

I’ve been mulling about Kempton’s arti­cle for a day or two, think­ing about how to use it for the blog, and as I sat down to write, I noticed that my glasses needed clean­ing.

I got new glasses before we headed to Costa Rica this trip, and I don’t know why, but they are almost impos­si­ble to clean. All that happens is the “gunk” on the lens’ just seems to move around.

That’s as good a defi­n­i­tion of avidya as I can come up with.

Now, this form of igno­rance means that noth­ing you perceive is clear — is “as it is.” Your igno­rance won’t (usually) kill you, but it means you live your life in a state of “off balance.” This type of igno­rance causes a sense of perva­sive unsat­is­fac­tori­ness, which the Buddha called dukkha, which is usually trans­lated “suffer­ing.”

We suffer, Buddha taught, not because some­thing is “making us.” We suffer because we refuse to see clearly. We suffer because we expect the world to be differ­ent than it is — that it ought to be as we imag­ine. We suffer because others are others, and there­fore are not behav­ing accord­ing to our pref­er­ences, our script.

The alternative, vidya, doesn’t mean wisdom or knowledge in the sense of knowing it all. It’s not about being right. It goes deeper than that.

songsouth-1.jpgMay the blue­bird of happi­ness fly up your nose

Our cultures each create a specific stew for us to swim in — they tell us the way it is “supposed to be.”

I’ve often mocked the North American version, and its endless stupid­ity regard­ing rela­tion­ships and happi­ness, for exam­ple. I use a line about “cartoon blue­birds flit­ting about one’s head” to signify the “supposed to be.”

We also forget that we are programmed to think of ourselves as the centre of the universe.

Which only works halt­ingly if we are alone. As soon as one becomes two, the battle over the domi­nant universe becomes the norm. Unless we endlessly choose other­wise.

Avidya is think­ing that any of these mental games are real, or true, or even neces­sary.

It’s funny, how diffi­cult we make all of this. I remem­ber finish­ing my coun­selling degree, and my super­vi­sor said that my next step ought to be more self-reflection, in a 25-day resi­den­tial program at The Haven. I laughed.

13 YEARS later, I showed up on her doorstep, phys­i­cally exhausted, mentally confused, and spir­i­tu­ally dead. She smiled, and said, “Go to The Haven.” I did.

A few years later, I met a woman who is Chinese, and she called me an Old Soul. My little chest got all puffed up. Then, she said,

“We Chinese have a saying. Old soul… slow learner.”

Seeing through the illu­sion, the “gunk on our glasses,” takes persis­tence, and then a shift­ing. Because if you won’t, you simply see the same thing, again and again, only cloudier.

A few ideas:

not_whoDon’t remind me of that!

1) We are not as we think we are

Nothing we think has an iota of valid­ity. It’s just today’s version of a story I have been telling myself for years.

That little exam­ple, above, of my 13 year delay, is a perfect exam­ple. During that 13 years, I tried to prop up my beliefs about myself, and as things got more compli­cated, I blamed the situ­a­tions and people around me.

Now, when I look back on that time, I see my confu­sion and blind­ness, and how I shifted my story, BUT this current version of that story is no more “true” than the other. It’s just a narra­tive.

The key, for me, then and now, is to see an issue, ignore my rush to story-tell, and then to choose to act differ­ently.


I’m so happy being sad

2) Being happy is an illu­sion, as is being miser­able

My mom used to work hard at being the sick­est person in the room. I’d say to others watch­ing her, “She’s happy being miser­able.”

Seems sense­less, this approach — until you watch your­self wind­ing your­self up, making your­self the one who is hard done by, and then getting a tee shirt proclaim­ing your martyr­dom.

There is no place or state of happi­ness. There is just “this,” and whether or not I’m fully engaged with “this.” If I’m not will­ing to be fully engaged, I would be best served leav­ing, and find­ing some­thing or some­one else to fully engage with.


It’s time to get moving. No, really. Now.

3) It’s not up to some­one else

The ride is yours, and yours alone. It’s not up to some­one else to make it all better for you. Or to make you happy, or what­ever, because, of course, they can’t.

There’s noth­ing more dysfunc­tional than a couple play­ing the “you complete me” game, or even worse, the “you hold me back” game. Both are excuses for not being self-responsible, and self-aware.

The other person is lost in their own illu­sion, or is in the process of waking up, but none of that is about you and your walk. Your job, endlessly, is to get over your­self, to see through the gunk you smear on your glasses, and to let go of your stories.

Because the gunk on your glasses is persistent

Take a look at the glasses you wear (even if you don’t wear real ones) and see how much cruft you’re look­ing through. Remember: because we are human beings living on planet Earth, we HAVE TO wear glasses. There is always (poten­tially) some­thing stand­ing between us and real­ity.

The idea that awakening happens once is nonsense.

It’s a moment-by-moment process of dozing and waking. If you choose to wake up in the first place, that is. Being awake is a process.

So, just start. Open your eyes, look around, and notice how often you are lost in your stories, blam­ing, making your­self miser­able, and all to defend your erro­neous belief that your version of real­ity is true.

Let it go. Have a breath, and see if you can cease wind­ing your­self up. See if you can let go of being stuck, or stay­ing stuck.

And then, do some­thing differ­ent, have another breath, and another look.

Again and again. Until you die.

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On Waking Up – Awake as compared to Asleep

On Waking Up – Awake as compared to Asleep It’s hard to admit, but our lives are mostly lived on autopi­lot. While there are plenty of reasons for "sleep­ing while awake," (brain effi­ciency, etc.) the main reason we do it it is that we fear the work being awake entails.

waking up

We had an interesting visit this past weekend, with a lovely 25-year-old. She was talking about being stuck. The pattern was like this:

1. I’m hard on myself.

2. I judge myself for being hard on myself.

3. I try to talk myself out of it, and then get down on myself for not being able to stop.

4. I want to change, but it’s hard.

5. I’m just lazy.

6. Wash, rinse, repeat.

We’d call this living on autopilot.

While there seems to be a fair amount of self-reflection going on here, if you look at the pattern, you see that every­thing is being run, rapidly, through the same filter.

Another friend:

1. I’ve spent 12 years looking to others for who I am and how I am doing.

2. I need to figure out why I do this.

3. I keep doing it.

4. I’m miser­able because I can’t; figure it out, and I can’t get others to stop telling me who I am.

5. I’m so excited because some­one told me I’m special! I want to do what they do!

6. But what if I’m no good at it? People will judge me!

7. Wash, rinse, repeat.


in the box

The danger for her and for most, is think­ing that all of this effort at explor­ing "the small, tight box" is actu­ally a mark of being awake. "I can’t under­stand why it isn’t differ­ent this time!" is a weird thought when all that is happen­ing is a re-hashed pattern. The topic being re-hashed changes, but the pattern applied is the same.

It takes incredible alertness to notice this, and incredible courage to make another choice. And then to make that choice endlessly, until you die.

In Eastern thought, being awake is a state in which the person focusses on allow­ing thoughts to drift along. seeing what arises, with­out latch­ing on (grasp­ing.) In our approach, Open Palm Solutions, we are inter­ested in observ­ing the inter­play between what the mind thinks (the stories we tell ourselves) and what is actu­ally happen­ing. The greater the corre­la­tion between the two, the more awake you are.

On the other hand having the mind go one way and "life" another requires endlessly being asleep.

A couple of examples: (somewhat lame, but hey”¦)


A couple of weeks ago, I had a headache, (I’ve got one right now, and here I sit, work­ing…) and I needed to make a bank deposit, includ­ing deposit­ing a US cheque. I decided to deposit the Canadian at the bank machine, then go to a teller to convert and deposit the cheque. My head hurt a bit, and I was "non-present."

I was not "zoned out." I ran the bank machine flaw­lessly, right up until I stuck the cheque in the enve­lope with the cash, and shoved it into the slot. I then stood there for a moment, look­ing for the cheque. Sigh.

Which matches the pattern for most of us.

Few of us are totally incom­pe­tent, zoned out, completely lost in the fog. Most of us are func­tional. However, and it’s a big however, most of what we are doing is not actu­ally conscious. It’s like driving to work, getting there and not know­ing how. Functional, but not mind­ful.

Example 2, which is from some years ago:

I was driving up to my office in Port Elgin, and decided to stop at Timmie’s. (Canadian refer­ence, for a Tim Horton donut shop — of which there is one, or one like it, on every corner of every inter­sec­tion in Canada — we do love our donuts.) I was listen­ing to an audio book, pulled into the lot, parked, got out, said hi to the nice lady I passed, and made it the 50 feet to the door of the shop, when I heard, "Hey mister. Your truck’s moving!!!"

I quickly regis­tered that she might be talk­ing to me, as I, indeed, drive a truck. I whipped around, and there was my truck, head­ing back­wards through the park­ing lot. Standard trans­mis­sion, and a flash that I must not have left it in gear. OK. There’s the mind­less part. Now, the mind­ful piece.

I took off running across the lot, cover­ing the 60 feet pretty quickly for a then 50-year-old. As I ran, (much like when you are falling — there’s a certain slow­ness to time, and clar­ity) I thought about what I was going to do next. I elim­i­nated running behind the truck and trying to stop it — dopes get run over that way. Couldn”t grab the front bumper and stop it — it weighs more than me. That left getting in and apply­ing the brake.

Now, I come from Buffalo, via Chicago, so even after 25 years in Canada, I lock every­thing. So, as I ran, not miss­ing a step, I extri­cated my keys from my pocket, picked the right one, and caught the truck. I ran along­side, shoved the key in the lock in one try, turned the lock, pock­eted the key and opened the door. I then sped up my running, pivoted and vaulted into the seat, not whack­ing any portion of my anatomy. I applied the brake. The truck had trav­eled about 50 feet back.

I drove it back to the park­ing place, left it in gear and turned it off. The lady was still stand­ing where I’d passed her, on my 100-foot dash. She applauded.

Me too.

Being awake requires one thing, and one thing only: to wake up.

If you stand there, metaphor­i­cally focussed on the rolling truck, you end up with a mess. If you see what you are doing, and notice that every time you do it, you get lousy results, AND continue to do it, you deserve your fate.

If you confuse "figur­ing it out" with actu­ally doing some­thing, you’re going to end up in the same place. If you expect to be able to do what doesn’t work, and get differ­ent results… well… you know.

Being awake is all about notic­ing every­thing, and real­iz­ing that what is happen­ing in your life mirrors what you are choos­ing (includ­ing choos­ing to, at some level, place the cheque in the enve­lope…) then you’re on the way to solv­ing your issues. Sure, you may be pre-disposed to being moody, or crit­i­cal, or as I mentioned last week, melan­choly, but so what?

That’s the hand you were dealt. What you choose to do next, is always optional.

Being awake is seeing clearly what’s right in front of you, making a clear choice, and imple­ment­ing. No excuses, no, "It’s hard!" Of course it is, until it isn’t – just like every­thing else you’ve ever learned. There’s no escap­ing the truth that who you are and where you are is endlessly deter­mined by what you do, and what you do, with­out effort, simply mirrors your worst story.

Have a breath, sit down, learn to focus in through medi­ta­tion, and then… do some­thing differ­ent, just to see what happens.


1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either. Just leave me the hell alone.

2. The jour­ney of a thou­sand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.

3. It’s always dark­est before dawn, so if you’re going to steal your neighbour’s news­pa­per, that’s the time to do it.

4. Don’t be irre­place­able. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

5. No one is listen­ing until you fart.

6. Always remem­ber you’re unique. Just like every­one else.

7. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

8. It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a bad exam­ple.

9. It is far more impres­sive when others discover your good qual­i­ties with­out your help.

10. If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try miss­ing a couple of car payments.

11. Before you crit­i­cize some­one, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you crit­i­cize them, you’re a mile way and you have their shoes.

12. If at first you don’t succeed, skydiv­ing is not for you.

13. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat & drink beer all day.

14. If you lend some­one $20 and never see that person again, it was prob­a­bly worth it.

15. Don’t squat with your spurs on.

16. If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remem­ber anything.

17. Some days you are the bug, some days you are the wind­shield.

18. Don’t worry, it only seems kinky the first time.

19. Good judg­ment comes from bad expe­ri­ence, and a lot of that comes from bad judg­ment.

20. The quick­est way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it in your pocket.

21. Timing has an awful lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

22. A closed mouth gath­ers no foot.

23. Duct tape is like the Force. It has a light side & a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

24. There are two theo­ries to argu­ing with women. Neither one works.

25. Generally speak­ing, you aren’t learn­ing much when your mouth is moving.

26. Experience is some­thing you don’t get until just after you need it.

27. Never miss a good chance to shut up.

28. We are born naked, wet, and hungry. Then things get worse.
Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s arti­cle sit with you? What ques­tions do you have? Leave a comment or ques­tion!

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Being Present – and the Perils of Non-Presence

Being Present – and the Perils of Non Presence – habit­ual behav­iours are the chief cause of being stuck. We do what we do, and refuse to consider alter­na­tives. We get so locked in to our ways of being that there seems to be no choice. Our friends think we are predictable, and we can’t see that, either. Bringing our patterns into conscious­ness, and exper­i­ment­ing with other choices is the key to getting unstuck.

The Waterloo Update


Hard to believe. 11+ years ago, I was delighted to announce the birth of our “niece” Anjuli, daugh­ter of 2 of our favourite people — Adrienne and Debashis Dutta (he even used to write arti­cles for us… hint, hint.)

Anyway, Anjuli made her TV debut a couple of weeks back, as an actor in a local produc­tion. I’m so proud of her and her sister Joya!


Congrats and lotsa love from Auntie Wayne and Uncle Dar…


Darbella just down­loaded a new book on her tablet, and I’m liking it a lot. It’s called Flex: Do Something Different, by Ben Fletcher and Karen Pine.

Today’s quote:

The rather unpalat­able truth is that most of our seem­ingly conscious inten­tions are just illu­sions. Our past habits, which make up our person­al­ity, hijack our abil­ity to exer­cise free will or act differ­ently. They inhibit aware­ness and take the deci­sion out of our hands. Many inten­tions to act, or choices, are not the result of having judged the situ­a­tion and made a conscious choice.They are more likely to spring from past behav­ioural patterns. pg 4

The authors, with data firmly anchored in brain research, suggest that the brain, while only 2% of our body weight, consumes 20% of our energy. Thus, for the sake of effi­ciency, we develop habits designed to short-circuit the need to rethink situ­a­tions.

In realms where such habits are help­ful (Fletcher mentions being glad to have devel­oped the habit of putting on his seat-belt when sitting in a car, for exam­ple,) not exer­cis­ing choice makes sense. In inter­act­ing with an ever-changing, world, however, not so much.

Those of you who have read my books, and espe­cially This Endless Moment, will recog­nize famil­iar terri­tory. And those of you who have worked with me person­ally will also think, “Hmm. Same story, even balder author!”

Being a Zen sort of guy, I see presence all over what I’m reading. In a sense, we can’t have it both ways. We need to be conscious and present with our habits, too

When I sit in my car, being present means notic­ing I’m sitting there, while my back­ground habit of buck­ling up runs it’s course. I don’t have to rethink the need to buckle up — it is, however, in my best inter­est to notice that this is what I am doing.

OK, so how does this fit with our current topic, concerning Next Steps?

Most people in distress are caught in bad habits. I find it inter­est­ing to listen to clients after they “wake up” to what they have been doing. There is all kinds of language around “not aware,” “didn’t notice,” etc. What’s happened is that they have slid out of the trap of habit to the bright dawn of pres­ence.

I have been enjoy­ing many warm, happy, and tingly feel­ings… Feelings that I defi­nitely didn’t have in the past 10 years, or perhaps… ever? Funny that. And of course, when I think about these wonder­ful new feel­ings, I don’t beat myself up over how much I clung [to the past] last summer.

When we fall into habit, we miss what is happen­ing, and some­times what is happen­ing is that a hole is open­ing up, right in front of us, and we topple in, yet again.

Clues to non-presence


The word “but.”

Of course, there’s disci­pline involved in coming into pres­ence, and the “first disci­pline” is listen­ing to your­self.

One of the “worst” bad habits is confus­ing real­ity ( the actual world) with your stories about it (the subjec­tive world.) Not only confus­ing the two, but prefer­ring the story version.

So, you drag your but out.

    • “But… I’ve been think­ing about this for years.”
    • “My father left, but I’m not angry.”
    • “But, I just know that she’ll hurt me…”

    But, but, but.

    The ego controls the habits of a life­time — Your ego wants you to keep doing what you’ve always done. One woman I know is convinced that she is both special and smart. So, for 11 years, she’s been trying to figure out why she keeps choos­ing to do stuff that gets her nowhere. I suggest she “Do some­thing differ­ent,” and out comes her but. “But, I have to know (the outcome) before I do some­thing differ­ent!” Knowing, in this case is a bad, bad habit.

    Missing the repetitions


    One client described her husband as, “A little boy. Once in a while, he acts like an adult, and then boom, right back to irre­spon­si­bil­ity.” At one point, she was beam­ing. He’d changed! Her manip­u­la­tions had worked! A few weeks later, “He’s so irre­spon­si­ble!” I described all the other times this had happened, and she looked genuinely perplexed. “Really? This has happened before?”

    Habits repeat. That’s why they’re called habits. We do some­thing, get lousy results. People who are present try some­thing else. Most simply repeat the non-working behav­iour, louder. And think, because the volume is louder, they’ve done some­thing differ­ent.

    Not listening to your body

    Your body is not habit­ual. Can’t be. Think about it. 100,000 gener­a­tions ago, your “father” is walk­ing along a jungle path, and a tiger appears. If he was habit­ual, he’d have frozen in place, or kept walk­ing, gotten eaten, and you wouldn’t be here. His body reacted before his head could get scared, and here you are!

    Bodies react to what is right in front of them. It’s why, when you see some­one attrac­tive, you get turned on. When you are confronted with danger, you are imme­di­ately in “fight / flight.” Why, when anger­ing your­self, your fist tight­ens. Stimulus, response.

    Notice, however, that we can divert the behav­iour by paying atten­tion. Anger can be directed to a nearby mattress, for exam­ple. (Bodywork 101.)

    The key is, those tight muscles and aches and pains are your body’s way of scream­ing, “Wake up!” So, figure yours out, pay atten­tion, and then shift what you can — your next behav­iour!



    “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it!” Most people choose habit­ual behav­iour out of guilt, or oblig­a­tion, or resis­tance to change. Paying atten­tion requires focus, energy, and perse­ver­ance. For many, entirely too much to ask. So, out come the predictable reac­tions. Of course, they are only predictable if you notice.

    Settling for “what is” simply keeps us stuck. Thinking that your stories are real, or describe the real­ity of others, is patently absurd. It boils down to, “Here is what is in front of me, and here are my choices.” That, at least, is the “door out of habit­u­ally being stuck.”

    The Way of Presence

    Begin choosing

    The chief skill for pres­ence is find­ing anchor points to pres­ence. For exam­ple, phys­i­cal ones. I moni­tor the back of my neck and my stom­ach for tension, as paying atten­tion to my expe­ri­ence has taught me that either or both will tighten up if I’m miss­ing some­thing. For others, it’s the small of the back or butt, shoul­ders up around ears or sagging. Or headaches, acid indi­ges­tion.

    I guess that really, the first step is a will­ing­ness to pay atten­tion at this “small level.” If you aren’t will­ing to exert mini­mal effort toward your body, you’re doomed to stay stuck in habit­u­al­ity.

    Secondly, begin to experiment


    We break habits not by stop­ping the errant behav­iour, but by choos­ing to do some­thing differ­ent. I was speak­ing with a client yester­day, about one of her inti­mate rela­tion­ships. Hasn’t been going the way she wanted, and she was resist­ing talk­ing about it with her friend. I did my “pitch for honesty.” She told me that she imme­di­ately thought she couldn’t, that it wouldn’t end well, etc.

    Today, in an e-mail, I read that she had the conversation that very evening, it went well, and the two were talking at another level.

    She did what she was scar­ing herself over, and got differ­ent results (Of course. When you change some­thing, you get differ­ent results. The only ques­tion, then, is, “Are these the results I want?” If yes, do more, if no , stop and try some­thing else!)

    Figure out, as you explore your stick­ing points, what scares you, and do that next.

    Explore your­self, body, mind, heart. Notice your habit­ual behav­iours, and play around with doing some­thing else. Open your­self to dialogue, to Bodywork, to other expe­ri­ences and approaches. Of course, medi­tate, as learn­ing to be present requires it.

    Shift your doing, and you’ll shift your being.

    Make Contact!


    So, how does this week’s arti­cle sit with you? What ques­tions do you have? Leave a comment or ques­tion!

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    The Shocking Truth about The Stupid Zone

    The Stupid Zone is a place where our wants over-ride the evidence the real world is present­ing. It’s how we get stuck, injured, blocked. Time to wake up!

    The Kitchener Update

    rainbowFlying home… from sun to snow

    We’re back home in Canada, look­ing for a place to live, having survived both the flights. More info about when and where I’ll work­ing next issue!

    stupid zone

    I’ve been think­ing about all the dramas that play out in the aver­age life­time. I can’t seem to get away from the idea of a benev­o­lent universe, and the abun­dance of learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that occur, minute by minute. Thus, each drama is a lesson in disguise.

    We’re a few days back home — having flown out of the sun and warmth into an Ontario winter. We came home to snow, and today, it’s rain­ing. Weird. Unpredictable.

    And that’s the point, really.

    You just don’t know, in advance, much of anything. We learn in the moment, and espe­cially “in the midst of it” — in the middle of drama. Life lessons almost always involve adren­a­line.

    I just remem­bered a story that comes from multi­ple years ago — back when I had an office in the lovely beach town of Port Elgin, Ontario. Not such a lovely place for a drive in the month of January, however. I finished a long day of coun­selling, and it was around 8:30 pm, and I wanted to go home. I took a look out the window, and there were a few, cute flakes of snow coming down. I decided that the weather was good enough to drive.


    I got 10 minutes outside of town, and drove into whats called, by the locals, a “streamer” – that’s a band of snow coming in off of the lake – in this case, Lake Huron. It’s like hitting a wall of snow and wind. I was engulfed, could only see 3 feet in front of me, and there was 8 inches of new snow on the ground, and a couple of tire tracks.

    I proceeded, slowly.

    Meeting cars going the other way was a treat. For a moment, I could see better, but then we each had to slow down to decide who got the tire tracks. This means that pretty quickly I had to find the (quite invis­i­ble) shoul­der of the road. What was required: no panic, edging over gently and care­fully, and no quick moves.

    This seems to be, in business and in life, a good piece of advice if ever there was one.

    More cars began appear­ing out of the gloom­ing snow, but they were side­ways, in the ditches. This, I have heard, is not good. I suspect that people get into this fix when they scare them­selves. They lose sight of the little clues about where they are in rela­tion to, well, the ditches.

    What they forgot was what we just mentioned: no panic, scan­ning with­out fixat­ing (look where you want to go, not at what you’re trying to avoid. When we fixate on where we don’t want to go, we end up hitting it) and allow­ing for keen obser­va­tion. There’s a wealth of infor­ma­tion float­ing around, if only we will get quiet and listen. (For exam­ple, mail­boxes are just off of the shoul­der, and before the ditch.)

    Imagine. Gently scanning the path for clues as to our location, not panicking, and assuredly never aiming at what would best be avoided. I wonder why I’m writing about this?

    I was begin­ning to ques­tion my abil­ity to get home.

    tracksWe always leave a trail

    Now, there were tire tracks I could have contin­ued to follow – indeed, trucks were head­ing south (toward home) and I could have followed one of them. There was just one prob­lem with that approach. I didn’t know where they were going. What was their final desti­na­tion? Why should I follow some­one some­where on faith? We could all end up in the ditch. Or in Sarnia or some­where.

    Having finally decided that carry­ing on would likely result in me visit­ing the ditch, I bailed and decided to head back to Port Elgin, via the coun­try road I always take.

    Except the country road was covered in virgin snow.

    And the wind picked up. I drove very slowly, imag­in­ing the curve I’d have to navi­gate in order to cross the one lane bridge over the river. A farm loomed in the distance, lane-way snowed in. I stopped and thought about pulling in, turn­ing around. I decided to press on. (Notice another pattern here?)

    About a quar­ter mile later, I gave up. There was no way I could deter­mine anything. I couldn’t even make out where the ditches were, and it was only luck that had kept me out of one. I needed to turn around. But how?

    I rolled down the window, looked backwards at my tracks and realized I had a clear and elegant tire track path back to the highway. I could drive in reverse, and follow my own tracks back to the point where I knew there were other paths to follow.

    I’m not John Wayne nor the Lone Ranger. Just because I’ve decided to try some­thing, to head off in a certain direc­tion, doesn’t mean I have to go full speed ahead when all I’m getting is lousy results. It’s tempt­ing. Very tempt­ing. I even had a little voice in my head, as I backed up, say, “What are you, a wuss?” Yet how often does disas­ter result from the endless repe­ti­tion of what doesn’t work?

    How often do we end up ass over teakettle because we refuse to stop doing what doesn’t work?

    I made it back to the high­way. Turned left. The snow was worse, more cars in the ditch. But I’d covered this part of the road before. Unlike the other drivers, I also knew that the tracks I could see to the left of me, in the other lane, were mine, and they led home.

    An hour after I left, I got back to my office, having driven maybe 6 miles total.

    I’d stopped at a Convenience Store to buy a maga­zine to read, as I’d be sleep­ing in my office. I mentioned my adven­ture to the nice lady behind the counter, who smiled and said, “Not from around here, are you?” I agreed that I wasn’t. She replied, “Locals call this part of town The Stupid Zone. People look outside, see clear skies and say, “I think I can drive south,” despite what they’re saying on the radio. Glad you got back safe.”

    What a nice way to call me stupid! I love it! “I think “¦ you’ve entered The Stupid Zone!”

    And she, of course, was right. I knew it was snow­ing, and snow­ing bad. I decided that I wanted to be home. My desire to be home outweighed my knowl­edge of the condi­tions. (Just because you want some­thing doesn’t mean it’s always in your best inter­est.) I, in other words, made a stupid choice. I didn’t listen to all of me. I only listened to the one, dumb voice that wanted to go home.

    snowAlternatives abound!

    So, lots of lessons here, most of which I’ve mentioned as I wrote.

    Life is played out, for many of us, exactly the same way. We’re drawn by a silly little voice to do some­thing (again!) that we know gets us lousy results, lost, stuck up to our bumpers in drifts, tilted over and in trou­ble. And like lemmings, off we go, doing it again. And again.

    Yet, even though we chose to head down “the stupid path,” there are ways to turn around, to navi­gate safely to safe harbour (or, as Darbella puts it, “All you have to do is change your posi­tion.”)

      • This requires a will­ing­ness to admit that head­ing down that path was dumb, just plain dumb.
      • This requires focus and atten­tion.
      • This requires accept­ing our ‘mistaken direc­tion,’ stop­ping, and find­ing a way to turn around. Going back has mark­ers. Plunging ahead leads to the ditch.
      • To do this elegantly requires work­ing from a non-attached place of saying, simply, “This isn’t work­ing.”

    This is a place of non-judgement. What possible good would it have done me to beat up on myself for heading into the snow? I needed all my faculties to scan the road and find my way home.

    I may talk about The Stupid Zone, but I don’t consider myself (or anyone) stupid. Stupid choices, yes. For sure and in spades. The wise soul is not the person who makes no mistakes.

    The wise person recognizes the mistake and corrects. Immediately. Without whining.

    From this place of non-attached observ­ing, clues to “making it home” always appear. Markers. Hints. The signs are there, all the time, if we look. And then, we are required to act — to do some­thing differ­ent.

    One of my friends sent me an e-mail. She wrote:

    “I warmed myself read­ing your words. My how I appre­ci­ate you and am forever grate­ful. Everything you said makes sense. I had an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence this morn­ing, speak­ing of synchronic­i­ties,” I was in a meet­ing this morn­ing and a co-worker and I were discussing the topic of perfec­tion­ism”¦ and guess who knows about that! I said, “I know about that, I am a certi­fi­able perfec­tion­ist wanna be,” and just after I ended that sentence a light plate (one of those big clear plas­tic covers) fell from above me and missed my head by about a foot!! My colleague had a bird and I certainly freaked myself out! I imme­di­ately thought – what is the universe telling me here? TO STOP EVEN REMOTELY SUGGESTING THAT I AM PERFECT!!! Very amus­ing. Did I learn my lesson yet or do I need the bloody thing to hit me on the head?”

    Neat, the way the cosmos works. I often want to give people’s heads a shake, in proper Zen fash­ion. Nice to see the ceil­ing begin­ning to fall in on what doesn’t work.

    Have a look at your life, your dramas, the things you contin­u­ally set in motion. Stop whin­ing about how hard it is to stop. Just think, Is this path safe? Clear? Helpful? Does it lead where I want to go? Am I on it out of habit? Do I have the courage to turn around?

    Then, turn. Just Turn.

    Make Contact!

    So, how does this week’s arti­cle sit with you? What ques­tions do you have? Leave a comment or ques­tion!

    A Shameless Bribe!!
    Receive The Pathless Path by e-mail!
    As a thank-you, we'll send you a link to our pdf book­let, Exercises in Consciousness.
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    Waking Up

    Waking Up is all about seeing what is right in front of you, with­out adding a layer of judge­ment.

    waking up

    Well, here it is, September of 2010, and Darbella and I are into our last year here. Which is rather ironic, as the main reason for our being here no longer exists. (See the foot of the arti­cle for an update on our projects.)

    I’ve spent the summer read­ing and video­tap­ing. Read some great, and some not so great books, mostly Zen books. And we listened to one inter­est­ing audio book, called "Taoist Sexual Secrets." I was amazed at how much of what they described was stuff I was already doing in body­work.

    So, that said, here’s my plan for the Fall writing schedule.

    By way of a brief review, Dar and I have been work­ing on a new website, which may just get off the ground by October or so. (I thought September, and got close…) The member­ship site consists of an 8 week video course that arose from our work with injured work­ers.

    I wanted something for people who were struggling with finding their place in the world, and decided that 56 videos was the way to go.

    Given the way we do life and the way I do ther­apy, the break­down of the course makes perfect sense. Each day of the week has a differ­ent theme—the first four are phys­i­cal, (yoga, medi­ta­tion, Qi Gong, and Breath work) the remain­ing three are life approaches.

    What I’ve been doing this summer I jokingly call "talk­ing head videos." These are the life approaches videos, and consist of me describ­ing aspects of living life fully. Thus, I am the "talk­ing head."

    At first, I tried writ­ing out scripts for each of the videos and using a teleprompter. Things really bogged down, so I decided to just wing it. Given how much talk­ing I do, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it in the first place.

    Anyway, it should come as no surprise that common themes keep arising. Naturally, it’s the same stuff begin talking about here since 1999. Things like using the communication model, letting go of blaming, watching how your mind works, and figuring out who you really are—this is a short list of some of the topics covered.


    The phys­i­cal side of things is fairly predictable too. I’m demon­strat­ing yoga stretches, medi­ta­tion, in breath­ing, and Darbella is teach­ing Qi gong. There’s only a pass­ing refer­ence to Bodywork,because that one’s a bit tricky to teach with­out hand-on expe­ri­ence.

    A friend was kind enough to let me video her for the breathing videos—and we’ve got a couple more to do this week.


    I’ve been quite impressed with some of the things she’s expe­ri­enced during her last couple of Bodywork sessions. The story I tell myself is that she has found a way to stop story-telling (some­thing she’s good at…) so that she can fully expe­ri­ence what’s going on in her body. The last time, her expe­ri­ence lasted for days!

    I suspect that she is simply being with what is happen­ing, with­out judge­ment, block­ing, or attempt­ing to "push." In the audio book I mentioned above, the authors talk about falling back­wards into the expe­ri­ence of chi—that you can’t force it by forg­ing ahead. My friend certainly asks ques­tions and asks specif­i­cally for want she wants, but it’s clear that the letting go aspect is para­mount.

    Her work and the books and the filming have coalesced into this series of articles.

    I want to start with Zen 101 and talk about how letting go is the only way to shift from being stuck to truly expe­ri­enc­ing.

    One of the key Zen texts is the Heart Sutra, and a famil­iar line is, "Form is empti­ness, empti­ness is form." This line, poorly trans­lated from Sanskrit, has led Westerners to think that Buddhism is akin to exis­ten­tial­ism or nihilism—that it’s saying that life is mean­ing­less. This is not so.

    The idea of suny­ata (trans­lated "empti­ness,") is that things have no (are empty of a) singu­lar essence. If, for exam­ple, we look at a cup, there it is. However, the cup is not a singu­lar thing. It’s made up of parts, includ­ing the space contained, of "constituents." You can break it apart, and never find a "thing" called a cup. Another illus­tra­tion is to look at a car. What makes the car a car? Any descrip­tion you give will also apply to other modes of trans­porta­tion, and no part has any "car-ness" about it. In fact, I have a neigh­bour that uses his car as a stor­age bin, so a car is not a car.

    Recently, scholars have attempted to resolve the emptiness conundrum by translating "sunyata" as, "as-it-is-ness."

    I like that. It matches a line I love from Stewart Wilde, a famous Taoist, who writes, "The way it is, is the way it is." If we use this defi­n­i­tion, the line in Heart Sutra becomes,

    "Form is as-it-is-(ness), as-it-is-ness is form."

    See how that helps?


    OK, here’s the real help. A situ­a­tion (let’s call it a thing, but a thing is "what’s happen­ing," a person, an object, the weather, a war—whatever) is exactly and precisely "as it is." No more, no less. Our tendency is to add personal inter­pre­ta­tion and judge­ment to the thing. As this is an activ­ity of our minds, and our minds do this whether we like it or not, the path is to de-emphasize our addic­tion to the process of judge­ment.

    This is why we sit zazen. To see the operation of our mind.

    Most people have no clue how much of a mess they are making of things, by adding in judge­ments, pronounce­ments, and demands. The mess comes as "I":

    1) "see" what’s right there, and

    2)compare it to my fantasy world, and

    3) find "right here, right now" lack­ing as compared to the fantasy.

    4) I then must begin to judge "right here, right now," by hang­ing blame, judge­ment and demand on it, like moss on a tree. And THEN,

    5) I turn my atten­tion from the simple "as-it-is-ness" to demand­ing that the "others" accept my fantasy and start acting as if my fantasy is real.

    And I do this without any awareness that this is what I’m doing.


    Here’s a quote from the book, "Stepping Out of Self-deception," by Rodney Smith:

    Our defense mech­a­nisms can work over­time medi­at­ing the influ­ence of our honest self-awareness. If we give over to our defen­sive­ness, we end up seeing and under­stand­ing only what we already know: listen­ing to the world, we hear our own opin­ions; view­ing the world, we see our own condi­tion­ing. Nothing changes, because our resis­tance will not allow us to see through the screen of our condi­tion­ing. Page 66


    "…it is a will­ful igno­rance, a not want­ing to know the truth, a direct avoid­ance and denial of the obvi­ous. To turn this around and see a real­ity for what it truly offers, we have to consciously estab­lish an inten­tion to do the oppo­site of our habit­ual responses, and hold the second level of inten­tion to a razor – sharp scrutiny.

    But the limi­ta­tion is only half the story. We would not be perpet­u­at­ing this inverted view time and time again if if we were not getting some­thing out of it. What does this narra­tive offer us? What bene­fit are we receiv­ing from this partic­u­lar desire-pattern? We begin to see how we are entwined within the story, how we need it to rein­force our stance, to assure us of our worth were lack of it, to recon­firm our mean­ing and purpose. page 87

    If I work only from within the story I know ("I’m a victim," "I’m wise and all know­ing," "I never get angry," "Other people make me," "There’s some­thing better down the road," etc.) then I can take the "as-it-is-ness" of the thing "right there in front of me," and paint it over with "what I always do." And as I do—here’s the punch-line: I get what I expect to see!

    Change comes at the price of stopping the enacting of our judgements.

    But first, we need the light of zazen—looking inward, seeing, and then walk­ing down another path. And deal­ing directly with the resid­ual ener­getic block­ages. This is the premise behind our new member­ship website—that partic­i­pants actu­ally do what we suggest—actu­ally prac­tice walk­ing this other path. Even the seem­ingly weird exer­cises, such as moving energy through the micro­cos­mic orbit by breath­ing and doing Kegels… stay tuned!

    Here’s an example of this "as-it-is-ness" mentality.

    I grew up fairly pampered, and fairly short. I got picked on, and likely deserved most of it, given my propen­sity for being sarcas­tic. I even got stuffed into a gym locker once. I leaned my approach to life from my parents (this isn’t "blame the parent" – we learn through some­one telling us what our expe­ri­ences mean. We don’t know until some­one tells us – that’s what all kids expe­ri­ence) and espe­cially from my mom, who often said, "They can’t treat me like this! Don’t they know who I am?"


    When stuff happened, I had learned (as have every one of you!) to look for some­one or some­thing to blame. Mostly, we blame others, or circum­stance. Some blame them­selves. This is what Smith describes as the "screen of our condi­tion­ing." If you look at the world through blue glasses, things appear blue!

    In truth, I was angry. So, I blamed bullies, or teach­ers, or my parents. I got angry with co-workers, lovers, friends, and espe­cially people whose opin­ions differed from mine. I’d fight back, or argue. I’d blame.

    Then, I decided to try being nice. I’d feel the anger, stuff it, and be polite and under­stand­ing. But it was still all about, "They shouldn’t treat me like that!"

    It wasn’t until I really started look­ing that I saw that "they" weren’t doing anything, and even if they were, I had a choice to drop the filter of "They shouldn’t treat me like that!" in favour of "as-it-is-ness." This process is ongo­ing and endless. I am better at seeing stuff and circum­stance as "as-it-is-ness", and my reac­tion as the place to work.

    So, I can point my finger, or I can deal with my anger, each and every time.

    When I receive body­work, then, I can yield to the pres­sure, and see what comes up. Usually, some anger and then a lot of laugh­ter, and then some charge. And an increase in my energy flow. And then, lunch… or what­ever.

    This is what my friend does, in spades. Just has the expe­ri­ence, on the table, that she needs to have, and leaves the story-telling alone.

    In the coming weeks, we’ll look at approaches to energy, feel­ing, living and "as-it-is-ness." If you’re will­ing to suspend judge­ment, not lock down and refuse to open to some­thing new, you might actu­ally learn to let go of the condi­tion­ing. Let’s see where we go with this!
    A quick note about stuff.

    1) As I noted above, the member­ship website is close to done. We’ll keep you posted.

    2) The main reason we’ve stuck around past Darbella’s retire­ment date was our project with injured work­ers, work­ing with the Province of Ontario’s WSIB. That project, due to poli­tics totally unre­lated to our project, got canned a few weeks ago. I am sad, and Dar is sad, as we really liked the work, and the people we were work­ing with. We’re now open to perhaps leav­ing for parts unknown before July 2011, but we shall see.

    Make Contact!

    So, how does this week’s arti­cle sit with you? What ques­tions do you have? Leave a comment or ques­tion!

    A Shameless Bribe!!
    Receive The Pathless Path by e-mail!
    As a thank-you, we'll send you a link to our pdf book­let, Exercises in Consciousness.
    What could be better than that??

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