Under the desert sun..

‎”Under the desert sun, in the dogmatic clarity, the fables of theology and the myths of classical philosophy dissolve like mist. The air is clean, the rock cuts cruelly into flesh; shatter the rock and the odor of flint rises to your nostrils, bitter and sharp. Whirlwinds dance across the salt flats, a pillar of dust by day; the thorn bush breaks into flame at night. What does it mean? It means nothing. It is as it is and has no need for meaning. The desert lies beneath and soars beyond any possible human qualification. Therefore, sublime.” Ed Abbey



sacred season

I enjoy a good deal of time out in the piñon and juniper, aspen glades with snowshoe or ski; forging strength as I play with iron and resistance, working mental and physical sharpness in the dojo, hanging with my husky along trails, sitting on the zafu in the early morning, chopping wood to warm the house, reading both the wisdom of sages the narratives of good story tellers, teaching and coaching and serving others whom engage what matters. I strive to take joy and meaning in each season and day. Suffice it to say ‘I don’t get out much’ indulging in the sensationalism of the latest news; don’t hear all the whining of the shallow petty minded people; I’m unaware of the existence of what people are watching on TV these days, am generally behind on the latest triad of this self righteous group or that one. Even on ol facebook that I venture on to I’m pretty selective as to whom I follow or give attention to. Essentially I do my best to avoid the inanity out there at its epidemic level. Its a matter of choice of what direction to face in life. Recently though I discovered there was a ‘war on Christmas’. “Oh really?” I thought.  I thought Christmas already conceded its loss to consumerism, materialism, and greed quite some time ago? Turns out some folk are all offended by others who might like to voice their best to another by saying ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Seasons Greetings’ rather than limit themselves to ‘Merry Christmas’ and vice versa. Are you kidding me? 
Se basically it is a redo of the ‘put Christ back in Christmas.’ Seems to me that is a individual choice for those who embrace the Christian tradition. Okay then, will can’t we put Christmas back in the Solstice? Considering the reality that the bulk of Christmas customs and rituals grew out of or were outright usurped from pagan traditions and other faiths, including the date, and by and large the nativity story there should be nothing ‘wrong’ with acknowledging such. For that matter the salutation ‘Happy Holidays’ originates in the Christian tradition as a way of acknowledging all the many holy days of the period that were and are a part of the season in the Christian tradition. 

Hmmm seems to be a lot of religious bullies out there. Sad this time of year.. sad any time.. So my first encouragement is for you to follow my lead.. leave all ‘that’ behind for the petty people. Rise above it and practice your own expression of living life deliberately, with robust vigor for yourself and compassion for others. 

Secondly, consider what ‘REALLY’ matters..

A few years ago here I wrote this…

I assuredly affirm the beauty and wonder of celebrating the  birth of a man (be he legend and myth or historical) whose best teachings, if and when practiced, bring goodness to our world. .. and I trust the season has found you discovering joy, practicing happiness, and diligent in training. As the solstice illuminates for us, it is often during the darkest periods that in-light-ment begins its movement towards us in our lives. Yet, I know this season, this holiday is full of hype, of overt materialism, of crowds, and many ugly things and often ugly people.

It is yet regarded as a holy time of days. This is possible because that which is holy about it transcends that which is not to such a degree that nothing truly does erase its sacredness. Honestly the ‘holiness’ is a matter of perception for all days are holy.  It is only a matter of opening your eyes to it…It is an opportunity to realize a little deeper the sacredness of all the time in our lives. It is sacramental in that sense…helps us see and feel and realize what is ALWAYS there… in our midst.

Its not about sales, or commercials, or silly movies, or even being an adherent of one faith or wisdom tradition or another. Its not about stressing over everything being just right and all the right gifts being there on time, especially when it sacrifices the experiences and lives that do matter.

We don’t have to believe that Mary was a virgin, or Jesus was born in Bethlehem or even existed at all, or that magi made a visitation. We don’t have to believe in any of those tales to still celebrate that such a remarkable man might have existed.  Wither he was real or legend.. this is a man whose enlightened life and teachings are so full of  light. Teachings that do convey a deeper truth that can be born this time of year; of kindness, and giving, of gratitude, of consideration for others…of being truly noble in your thoughts, deeds, words. Forgive me but I feel this is really what such a time is about, rather than adhering to dogmas or propositions or gizmos from Christmas sales .

You and I still can be enchanted by the ancient recognition of the solstice. Even if scientifically explained it is none the less powerful in its ancient meaning, I think more meaningful.

There are deeper reasons for celebrating and for recognizing and for participating in this time than the shallow surface which is all that reach most. In churches, with exceptions now and then, few realize what they are invoking…lost in literalizing stories and rituals as they are. Other people find that in drumming up the solstice sun on snowy icy rock they feel a deep vibration this time of year and seek to respond to it in harmony with the rhythms of the earth, even if their own lives are not lived in harmony. Some people light candles, give gifts, sign carols or chants, still themselves in meditation. At some level there can be enough of awakening to realize there is something going on; That there is a participation in something more ancient than what is happening today, or two thousand years ago, or even many millennia ago. 

This sacred time is what we create… for myself is about preparing for the sacred, and receiving it. This is why I like to have things clean, done, and welcoming. This is why I yearn to move with a high clear pounding heart in cool air preparing spirit and body. Of being kind to strangers, even if they are inappropriate or oblivious; of living in a deeper way which might stay with me a little longer and deeper each year. I encourage each of you towards the same. Enjoy as much of this time in sweat, and stillness, and away from sofa and sweets and computers and the television.

Remember this, live these days with a deeper practice than how much food you can eat or how many gifts you can acquire or how much you can get by with being a slouch. Give the real gifts of forgiveness, kindness, help, understanding, patience, encouragement, gratitude. Be generous in each of these. Give yourself the gift of sacred sweat, of time for stillness, of discipline that is liberating and empowering rather than indulging in moodiness, sour attitudes, holiday hype and more calories than a ultra athlete could use.

Open your eyes, open your ears, open your heart. 

Sensei Sheader