Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Catching Sardines with Trekking Poles

I'm walking for Coldest Night of the Year and I'm asking you to sponsor me. If you are the sort of person who likes to cut to the chase, here is the quick link to slip me some clams:

If you want to partake of something slower and maybe even finer, read on a smidge.

Inspiring Quote: "If a person made me a present of only a sardine, I would do anything for him." -- Teresa of Avila.

My story: It all started when I bought some trekking poles. Have you seen people with these things? Here is a photo of me rakishly modeling them.

I headed out on my first walk and the carbide pointy ends went clickety clack like a railroad track the whole time. So I bought some rubber tips to be a little less obnoxious. Tappity tap. Not much of an improvement. Oh well, It would just have to do.

I walked out on my favorite route and I met all these people on the trail. They had these smirky grins, while they were NOT looking at my poles. Deliberately not looking. Looking into the bushes on the side of the path like there was something fascinating in the curled-up brown leaves and grass.

But here is the kicker. Using these things has really helped my knees and I'm desperately hoping they will help my upper body. Desperately. Hoping. So its win win, right? Well, not exactly.

The thing is I'm embarrassed to be using these poles. Why? I have no clue. Ok, yes, maybe I have a clue or two. They look dorkey. I don't want to look dorkey. Or pompous. Or keen. Or odd. At least not any more dorkey, pompous, keen, or odd than I already am. And what do I care what people think of my dorkey ways? Ah, well, there's the rub. It's not just embarrassment, it's shame. Shame rooted in fear of rejection. I don't want to be shunned and teased and looked down upon.

So there I was, trudging along, and I thought to myself, "Dude, you can still walk! Chillax about the poles!" And the truth is I CAN still walk, and I can do a bunch of other things like work, and drive my car, and climb into bed at night after eating Cordon Swiss from Costco with roasted asparagus from Peru. I often lay there with a full tummy and think I am the luckiest duck on the planet. Fed, in bed, with nothing to dread.

Not the case for a lot of folks. Hungry, bedless, and buzzing with anxiety like they swallowed a swarm of bees. And more ashamed than I will ever be with my dorkey trekking poles. Yep, ashamed. So I'm walking for those folks. Me and my dorkey poles, walking to raise money to support the cause, to help my beloved ICCS provide some beds, and food, and a little less dread.

And that brings us to the sardines.

Why do I like that quote from Teresa so much? One biographer said she was "easily overcome by any gesture of kindness." She could get misty over a sardine. I love that. We need more of that unabashed gratitude. Selfless thankfulness. It makes "good ripples," as Joan of Archadia would say.

I've met a fair number of people who were homeless, and many of them have that quality -- easily overcome by kindness. I feel the same thing when I walk for Coldest Night of the Year, a deep gratitude to be receiving support and encouragement from my friends far and wide. You can share in it. It is not that far away, really. Maybe, like, one sardine away…

Sponsor me here:

Sponsor someone else on my team:

Hey, you can feel the full sardine buzz by becoming a member and walking with our team. Click that link back there….it'll take you where you can join us!

p.s. if you use dorkey poles -- ah I mean Trekking Poles -- you are wise and enlightened. Please accept my a-pole-ogy for suggesting that walking with Trekking poles might be considered by some as un-cool. I just really like the analogy of how our thoughts about things can contribute to our dis-ease. For me it is poles, for you it might be going to a therapist, or being caught without your make-up one, or driving the wrong kind of car, or maybe even being without a home.

Its a pretty rich analogy, right?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What does it mean to be "still in the stream?"

Shortly after the publication of my first book on wabi sabi I created a website called and have maintained the site ever since. The focus over there is news about my books and supplementary material on related topics, especially tea and haiku.

Then I started my 100 lakes project which was a way to more deeply explore sabi through a practice known as Kanjaku. The 100 lakes blog has largely been a series of travelogs with the occasional post of my philosophical musings.

Canoe on Anutz Lake, near a stream inflow
Along the way I have launched new blogs to try and chronicle some of the inner journey I have been on, but as is often the case for me, and those with similar personalities to mine, I don't seem to make much progress after the initial inspiration.

But this is what it means, in part, to be still in the stream. Still, in this sense, equates to "continuing to exist, or persist" in the stream. Mid stream really.

"Nothing is perfect, nothing lasts, nothing is finished."

And the nothing being finished part, like the rest, is not a bad thing. We want perfect lasting completion. We want to be able to relax out of striving, seeking, and working into accomplishment, answers, and rest. For me, those qualities are not bad, but the exploration of wabi sabi had confirmed for me that goals promise satisfaction and contentment one day, and as attractive as this sounds, it is an illusion. Because satisfaction and contentment are as transitory as all other feelings in life.

So, being still in the stream is being ankle or knee or even waist deep in the flow -- in the process.

But there is another kind of stillness that is not persisiting-in-the-moment-ness but more along the line of persisting-in-the-momentlessness.

This is the stillness which we think of as being without movement. The stillness of a meditator, of a person in reverie, and of objects that reside in one place for a long time.

It is the air that seems not to move in a forest glade, the water that seems not to move on a calm pond. We love the look and feel and experience of this kind of stillness. And most of us know it is a relative thing. Even when the mist is rising off a glassy lake, and the reeds and rushes stand like sentinels, we know that the mist is swirling is very small movements of air, and rings appear on the water from fish moving below the surface.

Stillness of this kind is really a reduction of motion, a quieting of frenetic activity which seems somehow to hush our mind, to create a mindful state in which we can let go some of the burden we seem to be carrying.

Stillness, really is a pause in activity, a reduction of activity, like the widening of a river that we call a lake. Lakes are still points in the flow of water from mountain to sea. They represent a kind of stillness we seek for ourselves. Not a perfect stillness, but a relative one in which we might, "possess our soul." This is the purpouse of being "still in the stream."