No Co-suffering!

For weeks some of my dearest loved ones have been going through hell – one from the stress of an unknown future, another with heartbreaking relationship agonies, another with oppressive health issues. These are the closest people to me in my life, and when they suffer, I suffer with them. Of course. I can’t help it, it’s what we do. Every parent and spouse I know does this.

Today, exhausted from all this self-flagellation, I go to hear Anam Thubten Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist, speak in Pt. Richmond. Hundreds of people come to hear him and talk with him whenever he is around, and it is as always joyful and calming to be there, in silent focus with all those people, meditating in search of the unnamable and the Profound.

In his talk after the meditation, Anam talks about compassion: how difficult life is, how we all suffer, how everyone has the same fears and doubts. How we all would like to find a “special friend” to help us in our difficult moments, and how hard it is to find one. The only way out, he said, is compassion. In the end, that is the only “special friend” you can rely on: the compassion in your own heart.

Afterwards I go up to greet him. My daughter went to hear him last time he was here, and I want to tell him how much his talk meant to her. When my turn comes I sit before him and I tell him that, and the whole time I am speaking he looks at me curiously, like he does when he knows you’re not saying what you came to say.

Finally I say, “Today you were talking about compassion… there are so many people in my life right now who are suffering…” and just telling him that, I get emotional and start to cry.

He cuts me off. “Oh! No. No co-suffering!”

His cheery forthrightness shocks me tearless. I feel like a dog being scolded by his master for doing something bad without knowing better…

“There are so many people suffering already in this world!” he says gently. “I don’t want to add to it by co-suffering with them.”

For a moment I am silent. Of course, it’s so simple! I see all at once, like a flash-forward of possibility, that all I have to do is not go to the place of suffering

Then doubt comes to save me. All very good to say that, but I don’t know how to not go to the place of suffering.

I do know that suffering is not part of compassion. When I was listening to Bach not long ago, the music made me feel such joy and reverence that when my thoughts drifted to my son and his agonies, I found myself for one long, miraculous moment feeling compassion for him without suffering. It was as if the Sacred both amplified my ability to feel the fullness of his suffering, and made me immune to it. I could feel it completely, like never before – but without any fear or anxiety. Instead, all I felt was the most enormous love and compassion…

That was a precious and rare experience. A teaching.

But I did not learn from it. Since then, I’ve continued to wallow in suffering with my loved ones at every possible opportunity.

As if in answer to my doubt, Anam tells me, “My mantra is this: I want to be able to open my heart, so that I will be able to help people.”

He looks at me intently to make sure I got it, and then dismisses me with a bow.

And it hits me: compassion is something I have to do intentionally. Whether I know how to or not, I have to go in that direction, because that is the only direction that brings peace and happiness.


As the day unfolds, the dark opportunities whirl into orbit around me. There are so many possible disasters… At first, amazingly, it isn’t hard to ignore them. Anam’s admonishment, “No! No co-suffering!” are fresh in my mind, and when the opportunity to suffer arises, I just don’t go there.

What’s more, not-going-there is not something I have to do – it’s a not doing. Like making a void, turning a blind eye, to the option of suffering.

It’s not so hard – just a matter of choice. I only have to ignore the seductive gravity of suffering. When I am able to do that, I’m in a void – a strange, bounteous emptiness that good things like compassion and love can fill.

It may be easy, but as the day progresses it eludes me. I’m so out of shape – my not-suffering muscles have dwindled to nearly nothing from disuse. I have to get in training.

And I remember the Bodhisattva’s Vow:

Just as all the Buddhas of the past

have given rise to the awakened mind

and continually lived and trained

in the way of the Bodhisattvas,

likewise, for the sake of all,

I shall give rise to the awakened mind

and continuously train

in the way of the Bodhisattvas…


Doggedly, I keep trying. Again and again the shadows bombard me.

Sometimes I’m able to the plug on the darkness and face into the brilliant void, full of potential. When that happens all is well. Then, with gratitude and excitement and only a smidgen of guilt for not suffering, I put my life before me, flush with possibility, and sally forth with joy to give my all.

More and more, though, I fail. Then, floundering down into the murk, I pull the darkness over my head like a blanket.

Because that’s what I’ve always done. It’s what I know how to do, I believe it’s the right thing, and I hope it will somehow help.

By the end of the day I am exhausted. Not-suffering does not come naturally.

But I know it’s possible – I just have to persist.

To make it easier, I remind myself of what helps:

It helps to immerse myself in beauty – in Nature and Art and all Sacred Creation.

It helps to give thanks – for beauty, for Life, for Love, for all opportunities to learn.

It helps to remember that co-suffering just adds to the world’s already steaming mountain of woes.

It helps to go deep inside and ask for help: help me open my heart so that I can help others.



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Light at the end of the tunnel…

Hard to believe, but the biography of Silo is entering the homestretch, the last 12-year-cycle of the Master’s life. The first draft of the book should be done by November – then we’ll cut it down by 75%, find an editor, figure out how to publish it, and hopefully have the book in our hands by June 2016.

In the meantime, here is a new chapter from the last part of the book…


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Latest on the Biography of Silo

Dear friends – After working on my biography of Silo for the last 10 years, I’ve done something I should have done ages ago: I’ve hired myself.

I think I’ve chosen wisely. The hours are strict, Monday through Saturday, 9 to 3, in our lovely new Healdsburg, California office. No sick leave, no vacation, no insurance, no severance pay, no retirement, but a sympathetic boss.

I just have to be careful not to work too much overtime, which is a temptation because this is really a great job. But then other things fall by the wayside, like the house, the relationship, the children (long grown but still deserving of some attention).

Anyway, the book is coming along. It should be done in the not-too-distant future.

Warm regards,


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On the Wings of a Bird Called Intent – Biography of Silo – Progress Report

Hello everybody –

The biography of Silo, tentatively titled On the Wings of a Bird Called Intent, is well underway (read a new sample chapter here – without footnotes, which are still in process). It’s pretty complete up to the 1980s, but the last 3 decades are still in process. If you knew and worked with Silo during that time and would like to share your experience, I’d love your input!

To jog the collective memory, I’ve made up a list of key moments between 1962 and 2010 (up to Silo’s passing, and continuing with examples of significant ongoing developments in epilog and appendix.) I’ve stretched these key moments over a framework of “rotas,” or “turns of the wheel” of 12-year cycles – differentiation, complementation, synthesis…

To check out this list, see below. If you have memories, information or experience you’d like to contribute, or any other key moments to add, especially for the period from 1980-2010, please email me at Anything welcome – written or audio, words or images!

Hola a tod@s –

La biografía de Silo – tentativamente titulado “Sobre las alas de un pájaro llamado Intento” – está en marcha (se puede leer un capítulo nuevo – en inglés – aquí – sin notas a pie de página, todavía en proceso). Esta bastante completa hasta la década del 80, pero todavía estoy recogiendo información sobre las últimas 3 décadas (80-10). Si conociste a Silo durante ese periodo, y querías compartir tu experiencia, agradecería mucho tu aporte.

Para refrescar la memoria colectiva, he hecho una lista de algunos momentos claves, sobre un marco de “rotas” o ciclos de 12 años años (diferenciación, complementación, síntesis…), comenzando con las primeras reuniones en 1962. (Información sobre eventos importantes después del 16 de septiembre 2010 se incluirá en el epilogo y apéndice).

Se puede vera a continuación la lista de momentos claves (solamente en ingles por ahora). Si tienen recuerdos, información o experiencias que desean contribuir, o cualquier otro momento clave que añadir, especialmente para el período comprendido entre 1980-2010, por favor envíeme un email a Todo es  bienvenido – escrito, audio, palabras o imágenes.


On the Wings of a Bird Called Intent

The Life and Work of Silo, Sage of the Andes


KEY MOMENTS 1962-2015:


1962-1998 – 1st Great Cycle – The Movement

1962-1973 – 1st Rota – Differentiation – Training Individuals


First study groups – “the thing”; crypts, camps & bases


La Paz, first international mtg

Base 1, El Arenal


Lives at Hermitage Jan 1-May 4

Healing of Suffering

Talks in Chile

“Forbidden Talks” in Yala, Cordoba, Bs Aires


Young Power

Inner Religion


Talks and arrests in Cordoba, Mar del Plata

United Youth Front


1974-1985 – 2nd Rota – Complementation – Forming “Cadres”


Cordoba Center of Work, ending with arrests; attempted talk in Bs Aires, 500 arrested




Canaries I


Canaries II


The Inner Look; birth of Alejandro


Meaning of Life talk, Mexico City


Internal Landscape

Tokarev Report

Mission of the 80s – travels to Madrid, Barcelona, Reykjavik, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Milan, Sri Lanka, Mumbai, Paris


Birth of Federico


On What is Human 


Launching of Humanist Party; No to Pinochet, HP in Chile


Greens, gathering in Rio


1986-1997 – Third Rota – Synthesis – Reaching the Masses


Religiosity in Today’s World


Humanize the Earth, Guided Experiences; First Humanist International – Florence

Travels to Madrid, Reykjavik, Zambia


Travels to Madrid, Mexico City


Contributions to Thought, Universal Root Myths;

Travels to Santiago de Chile, Mexico City


Moscow – Humanism & the Crisis of Civilization

Travels to Rio, Moscow, Madrid


Letters to My Friends, Day of the Winged Lion, Humanist Document

First Humanist Forum, Moscow; Honoris Causa

Travels to Madrid, Moscow


Santiago forum

Silo in Bogota

The Theme of God

Travels to Colombia


Dictionary of New Humanism, Silo Speaks 


Travels to Arica & Tacna, Chile; Haiti


1998-2034 – Second Great Cycle – A Mist Under the Door – Silo’s Message

1998-2010 – First Rota – Differentiation


Collected Works Vol. 1

Dinners with friends in different cities

Travels to Florence


30 Year Anniversary

Latin American Humanist regional

The Assembly

Silo leaves the Movement

Travels to Santiago de Chile


Silo’s Message, Collected Works Vol. 2


PdV Casita


Mass ceremonies

1st Celebration of the Message, PdV


Work with Fire

First regional ‘halls’

Inauguration of La Reja

Parque Chaco

Visits to salitas

Travels to Bomarzo, Toledo, Aranjuez


Psychology Notes

Quito forum

Inauguration of Manantiales

Travels to Quito, Lisbon, Attigliano


Days of Inspiration at PdV

La Paz forum

Disarmament spots


Silo & School at PdV

Silo’s Message 2nd Edition


Travels to Rome, Attigliano, Grotte, Torino, Manantiales


Commentaries on Silo’s Message

Messengers Manual, Book of the Community, HM Training Manual

The Four Disciplines; Energetic Discipline, Material Disc., Mental Disc., Formal Disc.

World March

Nobel Peace Prize Summit

Sage of the Andes

Travels to Manantiales, Toledo, Berlin


En que estamos

Message from ___ about ‘Our Friend’

Silo’s passing


2011-2022 2nd Rota – Complementation (Epilog & Appendix)


Parks continue multiplying around the world…


Silo’s Messengers meeting – PdV


Silo’s Messengers meeting – PdV


Silo’s Messengers meeting – PdV


Silo’s Messengers meeting – PdV


Silo’s Messengers meeting – PdV


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Biography of Silo – Preview and Au Secours!

I owe a great debt to my dear friend Fernando A.

I had forgotten completely, but I was supposed to write Silo’s biography. Actually I weaseled out of it 10 years ago – then Fer reminded me the other day. So thanks to Fernando, I’m back at it. I’d already done some work on it, and luckily much of that is adaptable – here’s a sample of two chapters – the Introduction and Chapter One: The City.

On the other hand, I still have quite a bit of research to do, especially about the last 20 years of Silo’s life. So I want to invite anyone who knew him to share with me any information or reflection you wish from that period. Please email me at – we can agree on the easiest possible way (email, skype, phone, chat…) – and I will be forever grateful.

Below is my slightly comical confession about why and how I weaseled out, and why it had to be that way…

He quedado en deuda con mi querido amigo Fernando A.

Me había olvidado totalmente que había emprendido la tarea de escribir la biografía de Silo. En realidad, eludí la responsabilidad por 10 años – hasta que Fer me hizo acordar el otro día.

Así que he re-emprendido el proyecto, gracias a Fernando. Todavía me falta información – así que quiero empezar por invitar a quien conocía a Silo a compartir conmigo cualquier información o reflexión acerca de los últimos veinte años de su vida. (Podemos hablar por skype o teléfono, o chat, o puedes escribir algo – lo que resulte más fácil para ti. Envíame un mail al y podemos decidir… )

También quiero compartir mi confesión un poco cómica de cómo y porqué eludí la responsabilidad, y porque debía ser así… (a continuación, desafortunadamente solamente en inglés)  

Why and how I weaseled out:

Getting into this biography thing was my own doing. In 2003, a year or so after Silo’s Message was launched, it occurred to me that I could write the story of Silo’s life – something that might be an important contribution to letting people know about him and his work, especially in English-speaking countries where he was little known.

I wrote Silo and asked – and much to my surprise and delight, he wrote back, saying yes, “it would be a good idea if someone put all that twisted history in order.” But, he told me, I will not help you, and you may not bother my family.

That was fine – there were plenty of other people to talk to. I traveled to Argentina and interviewed dozens of his friends; I read interviews, news clippings, his own works, and anything else I could dig up that seemed relevant. Slowly the story began to come together…

It was not long, however, before I began to get discouraged. This was a lot of work! And “twisted history” was no exaggeration. It was really hard to put together anything like a “factual” narrative, because so many of the stories people told me were contradictory, and some sounded like they must be tall tales. And besides, biographies are so dry…

Then I came up with a clever solution. I would write not a biography, but a biographical novel! In fact, that might be even better. After all, more people read novels than dry old biographies. And besides I had always wanted to be a novelist, to write compelling poetic fiction and receive the accolades people with such artistic gifts deserve.

In May 2004, at the first annual gathering of Silo’s Message at Punta de Vacas, I chased Silo down the hallway at the hotel after the event and cornered him. He listened patiently while I explained my difficulties with the biography and told him I had decided to writing a novel instead. I asked if I should use a different name than Silo. All he said was, “I believe that would be best.” Without another word, he turned around and left.

Well – fine. I was disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm, but at least he didn’t say no…

That was ten years ago. By the time I saw Fernando a few weeks ago at our monthly gathering at Red Bluff Park of Study and Reflection, I was still grinding away at the novel, by now a 300+ page tome with no end in sight.  

We were sitting around after dinner at Mary’s house when Fernando asked me what ever happened to the biography. I told him about the novel, and he said, “Oh yes, now I remember… But you really should write the biography. It’s an important work, and I don’t know of anyone else who is doing it. Silo expected you to do it, and everyone understood that you were going to!”

“Oh… but…” I began – and then recognition went off like a light bulb in a cartoon, and my feeble objections shriveled under the glare of the simple truth. “OK. I’ll do it,” I said.

So I’m back at it, writing a biography of Silo. And it’s fine, even the ten years “wasted” on the novel. It took me that long to get over tooting my own horn, something I had to get out of my system before I would ever have the patience to write a real biography.

In fact, now that that’s over with, it’s an enormous privilege, and a relief, to just put down the way everything happened, up front and straightforward: the story of Silo’s life and work. And I’ve made some progress. Click here for a preview of the first chapter – feedback welcome.

Peace, Force and Joy for everyone!

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Mountain-climbing tale

Hot off the allegorical press! 🙂


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Death and Money – “The Banks are our Cathedrals”

Yesterday, phew!, I finished one more chapter of Kindness – the Master and His Companions – a novel inspired by the life of Silo. Here’s a piece of it, based on the story of Laura Rodriguez, “Lala” (“Liliana” in the novel), first woman in the world to win a parliamentary seat as a member of the Humanist Party. A wife and mother with a young son, she served as diputada to the Chilean Parliament from 1990 to 1992, when she died from a brain tumor at the age of 35. Here she is being interviewed by a young journalist as she is recovering from brain surgery:

Margarita held Liliana in awe. Just beginning her career as a journalist, she was only too aware of the inequities facing women in Chilean society. She saw Liliana as a role model – not only for herself and her friends, but for all Chileans and for women everywhere.

Of course she was stricken to hear of Liliana’s illness. Deciding she had to take the chance, and hoping she was not being inappropriate, she called Liliana’s office and left a message to see if she might be granted an interview. She was thrilled when Liliana herself called her back and invited her to visit her at her home the following week.

When Margarita rang the doorbell, Liliana’s husband Damien greeted her warmly and showed her into the living room. She set up her taper recorder, and it wasn’t long before Liliana came out to meet her. Walking haltingly, leaning against the wall, her left arm hanging at her side, she made her way to the couch and sat down carefully. Smiling warmly at Margarita, she thanked her for coming and without preamble launched into what she wanted to say.

“The problem,” she said, “is that the central value in this system is money. The importance of money is so deeply engrained in our society that people really believe in it, especially those in power.

“But the whole money thing is really about death. Older societies have always had their myths about death – how to overcome it, how to get to heaven. We have the myth of money, money is our religion!

“We believe money gives us life – the more money you have, the more you can buy and the more alive you feel. Think about it! The banks are our cathedrals, and the tellers are our confessors…” She chuckled. “We go to deposit part of our life, and withdraw part of our life…”

“And what about you?” Margarita asked. “How do you feel about death? Has your illness changed the way you see it?” She could hardly believe she was asking such a blunt question, but Liliana seemed completely at ease.
“Oh yes,” said Liliana. “For one thing, it’s shown me how important it is to talk about death – which we seldom do. Death is a total taboo.
“Imagine – death touches everyone. We are all going to die – not just me, everyone! Yet no one talks about it. And not talking about it generates a lot of fear. We need to talk about death – what our fears are, which of them are real fears, which are imaginary…

“Why am I afraid to die? Why don’t I want to die? Ah, because my husband will be left alone, because my child will be left alone – but that’s all a big lie! Sure, if I die my son will be sad, but he’ll overcome that. My father died when I was three and I’ve lived a full life. Same with my husband, he’ll be sad but he’ll recover, and he’ll go on living. If my death is a problem for anyone, it’s a problem for me and my projects.”
“So what is the real fear about death?”
“On one hand it’s the fear of the unknown.” Liliana spoke reflectively.  “On the other there’s a real fear that you won’t be able to carry out your life project.”
“Does that frighten you?”
“I don’t feel frightened at this point. I don’t feel fear. Like I said, what I feel is a greater comprehension of the importance of this topic. How tremendously important it is to talk about death, to discuss it. It’s incredible to me that people don’t talk about it – truly!”
“Why don’t we?” Margarita had never thought about this question. Of course you didn’t talk about death – but now that she was looking at it, she had to wonder – why not?
“Because – for various reasons. We believe death means terrible pain and suffering, that you have to cry a lot when someone dies. Look how absurd that is – someone else dies and you cry! But they’re dead, they don’t feel a thing, so why cry for them? They don’t feel anything – crying for them is a lie, a hallucination. You’re crying for yourself.
And if you’re crying for yourself, if you’re suffering, you can overcome that. So why does death have to be such a big drama?”
“And your son?”
“He’s been fantastic, very helpful. Children are very wise – he sees me at ease, so he’s happy. If I were upset, it would be different. The other day he said this is the best vacation he’s ever had – sure, because a lot of people come to take him places, he has all kinds of friends over, and he feels like he’s helping when he does things like pushing my wheel chair.”
“You don’t feel sorry for yourself?”
“Can you believe it, no!” Liliana spoke with a kind of wonder. “I don’t think I’ve had one moment of self pity. Maybe I’ve been angry – like when you have an accident – I have so much to do and now I have to go through all this!
“But people misunderstand. They think it’s terrible that I can’t move my arm, that they shaved my head. But you see, I’m not my arm or my leg, or my hair – I lose my hair and I keep on being me, they operate on my breast, I’m still me.

“My goal isn’t to overcome the cancer. It’s to overcome death. To strengthen whatever is within me that makes me human, that makes me a being who’s capable of giving, capable of changing the world! If that’s who I am, death is an absurdity – it doesn’t exist.”

Stay tuned – Kindness will be published some time before my own death.


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My God, Emily!

Today I discovered Emily Dickinson.

Last time I read her was at the age of twelve, when I rejected her totally and forever. It wasn’t what she said, which I did not remotely grasp – it was the way it sounded. Such sweet rhyme – it revolted me. I had been around, I knew the world was anything but sweet! Ha! I sneered, and refused to read her for the next 53 years.

Until today, when she snuck up on me. It was T’ai Chi that got me so quiet and defenseless. After finishing my morning practice, I took up one of my favorite poetry collections, Stephen Mitchell’s The Enlightened Heart, sat down at my desk, and carefully opened it at random.

And – Boo! There was Emily Dickinson!

What luck, I sighed. I read the poem anyway. And then I read it again. And again…

Finally there was nothing I could do but write this confession, and copy her words here for you:

The Brain – is wider than the Sky –

For – put them side by side –

The one the other will contain

With ease – and You – beside –


The Brain is deeper than the sea –

For – hold them – Blue to Blue –

The one the other will absorb –

As Sponges – Buckets – do –


The Brain is just the weight of God –

For – Heft them – Pound for Pound –

And they will differ – if they do –

As Syllable from Sound –


I am still reeling.

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The Second Discovery of Fire

Teilhard de Chardin once said:

“Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”

Fire! According to my Tibetan doctor, that’s what I need more of, since my endocrine system has been so screwed up by 65 years in this polluted, fight-or-flight roundabout. I’m working on it on several fronts.

On the physical-spiritual front, I’m taking Tibetan herbs. Today, a day of the new moon, is the day for my second white Precious Pill, a pricey silk-wrapped foul-tasting pellet containing purified essence of pearl. The pink Precious Pill, which I’m due for on the next full moon, contains gold. My kids are horrified – stuff like that can kill you! We’ll see…

Then last night I dreamed I met the second love of my life (after my sweet Jorge who abandoned me three years ago to explore the Beyond). This new guy was my age but young looking, strong and laughing with long crisp gray hair and a beard, and twinkling eyes. I was young-looking too, wearing a fetching lavender knit cap that tied under my chin. I was just about to get his phone number when I woke up. Hah! Back to

I’m also participating – if only in an admiring bystander kind of way – in the Fire Craft on third Saturdays, up at Red Bluff Park of Study and Reflection, where I go as often as possible to inhale Silo’s firey dragon’s breath of Being, the delight in life that his teachings kindle. It’s mostly the guys who like to stand out there in the freezing January air rearranging fire bricks to find the best configuration for a kiln to fire our ceramic creations. But all of us, all sexes, ages and persuasions, make stuff out of clay. We have a whole collection of children’s art – the fond bumblings of people who couldn’t care less about winning ceramics competitions but just want to see the world through their fingers, like a plant reaching out through the wet earth.

Now that I think about it, everything I love best is a way to produce the fire of life. Cooking for friends and loved ones, speaking out against corruption and stupidity, teaching nonviolence and joyful living to our teens, loving my two cats.

And there’s writing. Using words like trowels with a mind of their own to dredge up surprising images from the deeps; tossing words up in the air like playing cards to see where they fall; rubbing them together like precious stones til the sparks fly, til my heart opens just a crack, and the burning glory floods out.

I hope to keep this live wire, this golden thread, alive in my book, my novel about the life of Silo and his companions. It’s a major undertaking. The guy had so many friends – has, I should say, present tense – you can’t fool me, he’s more alive than ever, working his alchemy in our midst. Finishing this book may take me the rest of my life – but that’s ok. What greater good fortune could befall me than to tell the Master’s story? A story that floods through my life, and the lives of millions around the world, like the rising sun.

Stay tuned…





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No Rocket Science

Today I have

Once again


What the sages have been trying to tell me

All along:

That Thinking

In the sense of prodding around

To see how I’m feeling about life

In any one moment

Is unwise.


Because Thinking

Is nothing but the futile attempt

To stop the flow of time,

To snatch Life out of its happy dance

And trap it,

Possess it.

I seem to believe

That if I could do this

It would keep me

From dying

But obviously

I can’t

And if I could

The great glowing world

Would die with me.

That’s why

Whenever I fall into

Belly-button introspection

Trying to skewer the squirming moment

On the pin of my mind

I always find that I am



On the other hand

When I’m just





(As in writing

Or reading

These words)

There’s no judgment

No attempt

To pin down the moment.

Only Being

With what’s going on.

No rocket science,

Just the Great Good Luck

Of being alive.


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