I learned two important lessons during a recent retreat. First, that the path to truth, beauty and wisdom might be a whole lot simpler than I had ever imagined. Note that I did not say easier! Second, I love to tell stories, and I really need to learn to shut up and listen to the stories of others. So I’ve begun this blog to explore how far we can go in simplifying our decidedly complex lives, but perhaps more importantly as a place to tell my stories so that when I see you face to face I can shut up and listen to yours.
So, is this about spirituality? …a higher power? I have no idea. My favorite story about a higher power comes from one of my best friends who is a recovering alchoholic. His work occasionally takes him away from home, often for several weeks at a time. Not long after he had joined AA he found himself in Houston, Texas. The first thing he did was to look up the nearest AA meeting and found one in the basement of a church. He arrived early to find chairs set out and only one other person in the room: an older fellow – clearly an old-timer – sitting on a low stage at the front of the hall waiting for the meeting to begin. Around the walls of the room were posters describing the twelve steps of the AA program, so he spent the time studying these. Eventually he made his way to the front of the room where the old-timer was leaning back in his chair, legs stretched out, one cowboy boot crossed over the other, hands relaxed behind his head and his ten gallon hat tipped over his eyes. My friend said, “What’s this about a higher power? Do I have to believe in a higher power?” The older fellow tipped the brim of his hat up, looked at my friend and in a strong Texas twang said “Son, they’s only two things you gotta know about a higher power. One, they is one; and two, It ain’t you.”
I’ve learned from the contemplative traditions that the root of our problem is that we are confused – that we don’t see things as they really are, but rather through the filter of our confused minds. Unfortunately, the more I study, the more I try to pin things down, the more confused I become. Take the word “Dharma”. Look it up in Wikipedia, follow all the blue links to explanations of the words used to explain it, and come back in a week and we’ll see how clear things have become. In the Buddhist tradition Dharma usually refers to the teachings of the Buddha or, in a broader sense, Truth. In my circle of friends I take it mean something like “That which we are all seeking – an end to suffering; the end of our confusion”.
So I adopted the URL NoBullDharma.com as an effort to honor our confusion and hopefully to explore clarity. I was delighted to discover that when I said “NoBullDharma” out loud it sounded more and more like “Noble Dharma”. And what is this word “noble”? OK, if I think hard enough I might be able to come up with the Four Noble Truths, and most of the Noble Eightfold Path seems always to escape me. (There’s a wonderful story about this from Alan Watts that I’ll tell if I can find it). But the word “Noble” for me brings up wonderful images–of a majestic mountain, the vastness of the ocean, the dignity of an owl, the humility of a human being in great need. So for me:
No Bull Dharma = Noble Truth
But let’s not take all of this too seriously. Of course it is serious. We are seeking the end of human suffering! But taking things too seriously only seems to add to our confusion. More and more I see that the key to wisdom involves the ability to let everything go, not to become attached to anything – and often in the process we find ourselves having a good laugh at how foolish we’ve been. So I will endeavor to weave into this blog – in amongst this effort to save ourselves and the world – some decidedly un-serious stuff that goes on in my life.
And I hope you will join me from time to time in having a good laugh! After all,