With A Grateful Heart




Happiness cannot be found
through great effort and willpower,
but is already present, in relaxation
and letting go.
Don’t strain yourself,
there is nothing to do.
Whatever arises in the mind
has no real importance at all,
because it has no reality whatsoever.
Don’t become attached to it,
don’t identify with it
and pass judgment upon it.
Let the entire game happen on its own,
springing up and falling back like waves –
without changing or manipulating anything –
and everything vanishes and reappears magically,
without end.
Only our searching for happiness
prevents us from seeing it.
It’s like a rainbow which you pursue
without ever catching.
Although it does not exist,
it has always been there
and accompanies you every instant.
Don’t believe in the reality
of good and bad experiences;
they are like rainbows in the sky.
Wanting to grasp what cannot be grasped,
you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you open and relax this grasping,
space is there – open, inviting and comfortable.
So make use of this spaciousness, this freedom
and natural ease.
Don’t search any further.
Don’t go into the tangled jungle
looking for the great elephant
who is already quietly at home.
Nothing to do,
nothing to force,
nothing to want,
and everything happens by itself.
– Ven Gendun Rinpoche

With a grateful heart.  For all that is. On this Thanksgiving day.





















Achieve Nothing

Achieve nothing.  Kind of like jumbo shrimp.

As I stretched out for my run the other morning, I began to read an article in the Buddhist publication Tricycle on the spiritual pitfalls of multi-tasking.

Tricycle is an excellent quarterly filled with wonderful writings from wise thinkers on such topics as “nothingness” and “meditation” and “enlightenment.”

Turning to stretch my other leg, I noticed that this month’s issue of Success magazine was also sitting on the counter.

I love Success.  It’s stuffed with dynamic articles on “business” and “leadership” and “wealth” from leaders and teachers like Wayne Dyer and Jack Canfield and John Maxwell. Like Tricycle, it’s one of the few publications that I read from cover to cover every month.

Strange combination of magazines, isn’t it?

When I look in my library, I see a similar cacophony:  a significant collection of books on theology and on Eastern thought; an equally impressive mix of business-related titles written by the likes of Richard Branson, Malcolm Gladwell and Donald Trump.



As Westerners, we are programed for success.  Here in the Northeast, we might even say that we are driven for success. And yet, as fellow journeyers along the path, we search to understand the ultimate as well.

The question is: How do we strive to achieve our goals and at the same time stay true to our hearts?  How do we pay the bills and accumulate the resources to have the freedom we want and not lose sight of what is truly important? How do we achieve and still stay sane?

Finding the balance is the key, I guess. Although that sounds so trite.  And seems next to impossible. Not to mention the fact that “finding” seems to require the “achievement” of something.

For many of us, it is important to have goals.  It is necessary to have money. We need to meet our responsibilities.  We want to be able to enjoy the opportunities that life presents to us.

And yet, at the end of the day, the guy with the most toys doesn’t win.

Darren Hardy, publisher of Success, tells the story of visiting a family friend who had accumulated a “staggering fortune”  who now lay dying from cancer.  As Hardy was leaving, the man called him back to the beside and grabbed his arm. “Don’t miss the point like I did,” he told Hardy.  “I wish I’d spent as much time and energy accumulating relationships as I had houses.  I wish I had invested my heart as aggressively as I did my money.  Only now do I understand true wealth, and none of it appears on a balance sheet.”

When I first started in law practice, the standard to achieve was 1800 billable hours a year. For young professionals starting out today, it is not unusual to hear of expectations of 2000 billable hours and more.

And yet at the end of the path, no one is going to wish they had billed more time.

Achieving.  And not achieving.  Being.

Jack Kornfield writes, “What matters most is how we live.  This is why it is so difficult and so important to ask this question of ourselves: ‘Am I living my path fully, do I live without regret?’ so that we can say on whatever day is the end of our life, “Yes, I have lived my path with heart.”

“The quality of your action depends on the quality of your being,” writes Thich Nhat Hanh. He says,

“Look at the tree in the front yard.  The tree doesn’t seem to be doing anything.  It stands there vigorous, fresh and beautiful, and everyone profits from it.  That’s the miracle of being.  If a tree were less than a tree, all of us would be in trouble.  But if a tree is just a real tree, then there’s hope and joy.  That’s why if you can be yourself, that is already action.  Action is based on non-action; action is being.”

Oh, by the way,  while running on the elliptical, I finished that article in the Buddhist review on the spiritual dangers of multi-tasking.  Achieving nothing.



We are what we think.

All that we are arises

With our thoughts.

With our thoughts, we make our world.

The Buddha

I’ve Been Framed

I climb mountains to gain perspective.

But how easy it is to lose it.

“Can’t see the forest for the trees,” the old adage goes.  How true that is.

When we’re in the thick of it, it’s difficult to see the big picture.  And even when we think we see the big picture, often times we don’t.

The frame we put around the picture determines how we see it – for good or for bad.

I spend a fair amount of time before a photography exhibit thinking about how to present the pieces, how to frame them.  The frame matters.  The frame guides the viewer’s eye.  It sets boundaries.

Nature and wildlife photographer James Balog has a fascinating series of primate portraits.  Many of these photographs appear to be “posed”  in what looks to be a studio setting.  The camera’s perspective is pulled back just far enough to see studio backdrops and lighting equipment.

These photographs challenge the viewer to think not only about the genre of wildlife photography but also about more fundamental concepts like our relationship to the “wild.”  Balog’s change in “frame” is  disturbing.  It compels the viewer to think.  It stretches perspective.

Most photographs that we see – and many that we take – are snapped from the places in which we find ourselves standing.  When I teach an introductory photography workshop, I encourage my students to make their photographs from different levels:  laying on the ground, standing on a chair, sitting in a tree.   I assign projects that require the use of different lenses, varying apertures and a range of shutter speeds.  I ask them to think in black and in color. All with the hope of expanding the way they see.

Would that we could be so flexible in everything that we do!

My propensity is to lock onto a particular way of seeing something.  My view of the situation becomes the view.  Tunnel vision takes over.  And I lose perspective.

I think about the old figure-ground studies that appeared in many of our high school or college texts:  Is this picture of an old woman or a beautiful young one?  It depends on how one sees.

Is the glass half-empty?  Or is it half-full?

Tony Robbins uses the illustration of footsteps.  By themselves, footsteps mean nothing.  But place a context around them, and they take on meaning:  the footsteps in an alleyway when you are alone on a city street have a completely different meaning from the footsteps of a child coming down the stairs for breakfast.

Jack Canfield tells the story of standing in a line behind a man who was upbraiding a hotel clerk. Apparently the clerk had been unable to accommodate the man’s request for a larger room.  The man went away extraordinarily angry.  When Canfield’s turn came at the desk, he complimented the clerk on the kind and patient way in which the clerk had handled an unpleasant customer.  The clerk responded, “The man probably was just having a bad day.  He’s probably a very nice person.”

How we frame situations – and people – impacts how we move in the world and how we interact with others. Agility in how we frame allows us to be flexible, creative and gracious.

Whether in perception, or how we relate with the world, or how we present our art: the frame matters.



Take in the view.

Peaks and Valleys

“Just tag it,” I yelled.

“What?” Ann screamed, her voice carried off by the wind that was blowing madly at plus 60.

“Just tag the summit pole and we’ll get out of here,” I shouted.  “We have to get out of here.”  

The visibility had dropped to ten feet or less.  The snow driving sideways.  I could just make out the pole stuck in the rocks on the top of Mt. Adams.  The cairns behind me already out of sight.

We crawled on our hand and knees against the driving wind the last ten feet, tagged the summit, and bolted.  Then haltingly, through blind intuition and a fair amount of luck, we retraced our steps to Thunderstorm Junction, the visibility there improved “dramatically,” to at least 50 feet or so.

Many summit experiences, of course, are more pleasant.  (Although this was quite good in the re-telling hours later around the brews at Moat Mountain.)  But most summit experiences are brief.

Life, for the most part, is lived in the valleys.

And it’s in the valleys that things can get tricky.

We plan for months, sometimes years, for the summits.  The trips, as we face into them, appear as massive daunting blocks of time.  We tag our summits and come home. And the whole experience disappears in the rear view mirror so quickly, almost as if it had been a mirage.

For me, a melancholy sets in after a big trip.  The summit rush is gone.  The next project may be on the drawing board.  But the planning hasn’t started in earnest. And the day to day grind unfolds.

I’ve thought about this a lot lately as the seasons churn once again.  It is easy to feel the melancholy in November.  It always seems the bleakest month of the year to me – the deepest valley – with the trees stripped bare.

Rumi said, “The spring seasons are hidden in the autumns, and the autumns are charged with springs.”  

John Whealon, a former Archbishop of Hartford, used to say, “The seeds of spring blow on the cold winds of November.”

Peaks and valleys.  Autumns and springs.  They are the cycle of things.  To live gracefully through it – and not just through it, but to be present in it – is the challenge.

Ecclesiastes writes, 

“The sun rises and the sun sets; 

it hurries away to a place from which it rises  again. 

The wind goes to the south and circles around to the north;

round and round  the wind goes and on its rounds it returns.  

All the streams flow into the sea, but the sea is not full,

and to the place where the streams flow, there they will flow again.

All this  monotony  is tiresome; no one can bear to describe it:  

The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear ever content with hearing.

What exists now is what will be, 

and what has been done is what will be done;

there is nothing truly new on earth. 

Is there anything about which someone can say, “Look at this! It is new!”? 

It was already   done long ago,  before our time. 

No one remembers the former events,  

nor will anyone remember the events that are yet to happen; 

they will not be remembered by the future generations.”


We rode our mountain bikes along the river valley this morning.  The light was luminescent.  A mist hung over the water as a full moon set into a panoply of color.


There is such beauty in the valleys.


Some think Ecclesiastes to be a pessimist.  But really he speaks to the reliability that is the reality of change.


Rainer Maria Rilke says,


“Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened,

like winter, which even now is passing.

For beneath the winter is a winter so endless

that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.


Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.

Climb praising as you return to connection.

Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,

be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.


Be.  And know as well the need to not be.

Let that endless ground of all that changes

bring you to completion now.


To all that has run its course, and to the vast unsayable

numbers of beings abounding to Nature,

add yourself gladly, and cancel the cost.”


The summits are brief.  Walk gently in the valleys, toward the spring.