In the stillness of this rainy day…
The strong rain had subsided for a moment, leaving a heavy mist hanging low over the ridge of the hillside across the way. There is still a steady pour, but the river that was running down the street below moments ago has calmed.
I slept, I suspect, under this blanket of rain through the night, stirring once only briefly near 4 AM. The dreams were mysterious, hiking down towards the seaside with friends, through the forest, and then turning right along the coast. My sweet friend and longtime spiritual advisor, Terri, pointing the way to a hidden path leading further into forest basin and deep woods.
This scene eventually faded and I was walking in the higher lands, finding a certain wind that would allow me to tilt into it to the point of hovering and flying gently above the ground. I was going to meet my friend Katie whom I could see high up on a hilltop, returning from her vision quest with light in her eyes.
My alarm stirred me this morning yet the heaviness of slumber stayed with me as I snoozed the alert repeatedly for the next half hour. Eventually I rose to find the markets in freefall and yesterday’s proclamation of pandemic weighing heavy in the sense of global events.
There was a text from the home health nurse, apparently my services have been reinstated which is good for the acute care of things, particularly to do with my upcoming catheter change needs.
Meanwhile the asset portfolio from which I’m drawing my current cash flow is also impacted today – a research project I need to do later this morning has to do with making determinations on that particular aspect of things.
Long ago a dishonored master of the samurai arts told me a story by way of illustrating a certain wisdom.
“When the glass breaks and the ninjas burst into the feast room and chaos and mayhem ensue, everything goes asunder.
In that moment, the samurai freezes and doesn’t move until they recognize the precise and correct action to take.”
In my continued study and interest in economics, this seems today a wise principal brought forward by my unsophisticated actions regarding that particular asset portfolio, down 22% today.
In investment terms, it seems when there is doubt in the market might be precisely the time to go still (i.e. all-cash) so that when there is as they say “blood in the streets”…
The rain is coming down harder now, the waves of visible flow have returned to the street below as water pours down the aptly named “Adobe Falls Road.”
I’m writing this journal today early in the morning as, like yesterday, my evening hours will be filled with client work. Yesterday’s consulting session – helping a young man from Singapore to make sense of his developmental stage territory – went very well, reminding me just how precious and privileged I find this work of meeting others where they are, helping them to find the value in their station and the path that got them there, and what sacred opportunities lie in the steps that are about to take…
Today I will have two more of the sessions, and two more tomorrow.
It feels an interesting contrast, this work of prayer for the awakening and well-being of others, in the face of the tremendous global instabilities I experience in my outward gaze, as well as my own microcosmic reflections…
Each moment is a humbling reflection on just how much I may still have the privilege to learn.
Thank you this morning to you Dave for your email inquiring into “sufficiency.”
[I’m grinning as my music library on shuffle have just brought forward an old favorite, “Rain” by Madonna. ;-)]
Dave points out this quote from Lao Tzu:
“He who knows the sufficiency of sufficiency is wise.”
Had I only considered that a week ago, I would be in a much better place financially today.
Dave goes on to ask, is this perhaps not what I am being called to learn, perhaps having been called to learn and to embody in this life?
The I Ching has this to say:
“Hexagram 52: Desisting or Stilling —
The hexagram signifies the end and the beginning of all movement. The back is named because in the back are located all the nerve fibers that mediate movement. If the movement of these spinal nerves is brought to a standstill, the ego, with its restlessness, disappears as it were. When a man has thus become calm, he may turn to the outside world. He no longer sees in it the struggle and tumult of individual beings, and therefore he has that true peace of mind which is needed for understanding the great laws of the universe and for acting in harmony with them. Whoever acts from these deep levels makes no mistakes.”
This hexagram came to me shortly after my spinal cord injury.
In the time just preceding the accident that broke my neck, I had been exceedingly busy, perhaps even practicing an excess of motion and effort.
Like a true friend would, Dave encourages me to consider whether my current experiences (and those wider as well) might not be inviting me to encounter these “Universal Lessons” as gifts from the “Archetypes of Nature”, to learn them well, to let them mature me in some way so that I have something, perhaps a greater sufficiency, to give.
He reminds me of the “Opportunist Mind” and its tendency to override sufficiency in search of the always possible “more.” Indeed, what does it mean to tame this ancient insistence on the advantages of excess?
Dave invites questions which I will explore here now…
(I’m going to share his prompts in case they might be of value to others as well…)
“You’re in Mid-Life…and have time to change. What would you critically (and kindly) respond to yourself at this Mid-Life Profound Learning Point…to the Questions:
Have I followed a Path of Moderation?
Have I followed a Middle Way?”
In both of these, a simple “No” is sufficient…
And yet… These questions begin to capture a central theme that I long to know. I initiated this inquiry just over a year ago. Using a particular multi-capital framework, I have become curious about the nature of developing wisdom and awareness along those individual threads and how they weave together.
The project of exploring that, which I have begun, is complex and intensive. I began to carve a more formal space for the inquiry in the nascent Wealth of Being initiative.
The punchline here is that while I have certainly tended towards apparent “excess” in many aspects of my life – spending $150,000 on the high school education of my daughter; committing 9% of my capital resources to an electric vehicle; at a certain time providing salaries to caregivers at whatever rate was freely desired without constraints of a financial capital management plan – the question of excess seems to me to be deeply embedded in an increasingly complex global context, and that understanding this question of a balanced sufficiency is critical to the evolution of our species going forward.
So have I followed a Path of Moderation? Certainly not in my thinking – that has tended towards a hunger for many aspects of data and many perspectives on that data… Rather I am following the path of inquiry – what is a path of moderation? What is a path of sufficiency? In a complex world with countless polarities, directions, and concerns, what is a middle way?
I will keep asking, perhaps with increasing efficiency, and if grace provides, perhaps with increasing sufficiency. For now… Those guardrails are awful close.
An example lands in my lap just now as I’m introducing Britni to the origins of the delicious cup of coffee we are just sharing. An exquisite taste, oily and delicious, prepared with love and served with joy. The beans cost somewhere in the ballpark of $50 a pound, unthinkable for most of the world, and most middle-class modern American coffee habits. But what was purchased? What was saved?
The supply chain is short and efficient. The beans are grown equitably on a small island in the Pacific and shipped directly to me here on the western coast of the United States. To drink a pound of this coffee probably takes me 6 to 8 weeks. It brings a certain sharpness of mind to my work when I take a cup – usually around 3 to 4 ounces (today closer to 8) – when served to others, it generally brings a sense of delight as it is drunk in camaraderie, rich with flavor across many dimensions.
I feel an integrity with the soil and sunlight and seed and sweat that brought this cup of coffee to my lips. I carefully grounded the beans with a not inexpensive, but sufficient grinder, ground them fine so as to take advantage of as much surface area of the grind as possible, soaked them for days in a mason jar on the table, lovingly turning them to agitate and mix the grinds and water regularly. The resulting coffee is 70% less acidic thus providing a lesser downside to the many benefits of the brew.
Moderation? Middle way?
Dave goes on…
“If you’re a guy like the rest of us, ‘and see opportunities for improvement’, then, as in an Employee Performance Evaluation:
‘What fundamentals do I need to do for improvement going forward’?
And What’s My Plan?”
[Speaking of sufficiency, I’ve now spent 75 minutes with this journal post, while the time aspect of my current conditions continues to mount its intensity. A sound fundamental?]
I think fundamentally, I need to allow myself to find a greater hunger for an exquisitely refined sufficiency. I will continue to ask, what is needed, what possibly could be done without? You bring up, Dave, the idea of the Yogi – not as renunciate, but rather as “Balancer of Sufficiency for Oneself and Others as a Way of Being.”
I must continue to practice the realization of feeling both the fullness and the emptiness of self, both the fullness and emptiness of other, and how these two perspectives live in and through, circulating as one another. Fundamentally, as you say, I must practice a wakeful patient witnessing of all those moving perspectives advocating value for this, for that, for the other, until dawns within me that clarity of sufficient action, no more, no less.
As to Plan, ahh, were that I had a more active wisdom, some clear path to a point of influential power exercised for the immediate benefit of the greatest number…
For now my plan is much more reciprocal. Less certainty of action, and more inquiry… The markets are choking, alarm spreading, cash reserves running low, ground profoundly unstable… My own sense of fear and dis-ease, not overwhelming and not entirely absent…
For wisdom or for foolishness, my plan is to give what I can where I can, to take, where I can, only what I need, to pray, to listen, and to pick my way carefully to take those steps through this storm, perhaps with faith – trusting – I will find the other side.
When I look precisely to plan – indeed, I am not at all sure what emerges from the mist.
I plan to do the best that I can, today that seems to be a certain kind of stillness.
“There’s Physical Manhood; there’s Social Manhood; and in your case, there has been a Heroic Manhood, where you’ve surmounted heroic trials. Now, then, maybe, there is the ’Stage of Spiritual Manhood’ you’re confronting….If that’s the case:
What does that mean?
What is it I, Kabir, want to emerge as in this next life phase, after this ’sufficiency’ crisis is resolved?”
Certainly this world, even my own world, can be said to be, in a sense, wildly complex beyond measure. With what intelligence do we meet such a context in order to live wisely a path through this lifetime?
If through this chrysalis of time and space and pressures many I live, I want (as you say) to emerge as feet grounded in the material world, a sufficient ground that allows both stability and access to the resources of growth, a foundation for life and livelihood that serves a full expression of a lively human spirit in body and creative action.
I want to emerge as a node in this incredible meshwork of living and liquid flow that is the human, the natural world, and the cosmic community of which I am a living part. I want to emerge as a node of liveliness and loving connection and nourishing generosity. I want to offer an abundance of care, a living love that is the work of the hands and feet, heart and mind and words, and I want to be a place that draws that kind of vital expressions of care and generosity from others that this circulation of a social and dare I say even spiritual nutrient may flow more fully for my passing through this plane.
I want to emerge as humble, recognizing the enormity of the hero’s journey underfoot for each and every aspect of this wide and beautiful cosmos, each one of us within it subject at any moment to intense trial, tribulation, and finding within us the strength and courage to persevere. Life itself is a heroic expression in the living fire that is this expanding universe.
What is this “Stage of Spiritual Manhood”? You ask.
And isn’t that the eternal question?
Spiritual manhood, or if we may, spiritual maturity expressed in the masculine form… Isn’t that the realization of the oneness of man and God? Isn’t that very realization of our profound and eternal nature embodied for a moment in flesh, but never bound by the chains of time and space, living and loving filled with compassion for the becoming and passing away of all beings and all things for that matter?
A manifest and full generosity of spirit, in the words of our other awakened friend:
“I know the Way You Can Get
I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:
Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.
Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
And into one’s self.
O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:
You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.
You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.
You might pull out a ruler to measure
From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once
I know the way you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love’s
That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so Playful
Just Wanting to help.
That is why Hafiz says:
Bring your cup near me.
For all I care about
Is quenching your thirst for freedom!
All a Sane man can ever care about
Is giving Love!”
God gets to know things, we just get to ask questions…