You are not dead yet, it’s not too late
to open your depths by plunging into them
and drink in the life
that reveals itself quietly there.
— Rainer Maria Rilke
Inspired by the events in the world inside and outside of myself, I occasionally record my experiences and insights in words and, sometimes, my own photographs taken here and there. I can only hope that these glimpses—that are more questions than answers— on the path may generate some curiosity and inspiration in you. There is nothing that can enhance our understanding of self more than reflected encounters with life in its infinite diversity. I also use this space to share with you anything (quotes, book reviews, event announcements, workshop reports, etc.) that can support and guide us in our grappling with everyday existence in its true nature, pain, and beauty.
January 01, 2016
Time to Begin, Again
Almost any time is a good time to start something new or different. However, January is a particularly auspicious time for new beginnings. The tradition of new beginnings in January goes back to the ancient Romans. The name of the first month in the year, after all, comes from Janus, the god of beginnings, transitions, and passages. Roman cities had many ceremonial gateways or archways dedicated to this god, typically freestanding structures that were used to symbolize “auspicious entrances or exits”. A beginning of the new is an ending of the old; it’s where the past turns into the future and future leaves behind the past. This is why the god Janus is depicted as having two faces looking in opposite directions: one to the past, the other to the future. By starting something new or making a change in January, we may well unconsciously participate in the process of evoking these ancient traditions.
The prospect of setting out to make significant changes may seem daunting to us. Change can mean either stopping doing something old, or starting doing something new. It can mean either unlearning old habits or learning the new ones, but most often it includes both. Old patterns, fortified by long habit and inertia, may loom so large in front of us that we may feel overwhelmed. The necessary commitment, perseverance and effort it takes to see significant change through, may discourage us from even beginning the process. Perhaps the following words from Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching may embolden us to overcome initial hesitancy and fear of uncertainty:
The most massive tree grows from a sprout;
The highest building rises from a pile of earth;
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.
Are you thinking of changing your relationship with food, alcohol or cigarettes? Starting yoga, tai chi, or meditation practice? Giving more hugs to someone dear to you? Doing a course? Taking better care of your health? Learning a new skill, or language? Slowing down, maybe even downsizing? Spending more time with family members and friends? Finding a lover? Changing a job? Finally sitting down to write that novel? Planting a tree? Volunteering in the community? Looking into the eyes of a homeless person and saying warmly “Have a good day”? Selling your car and buying a bicycle?
January is a good time to set the right intentions and incline your mind and heart toward your chosen goals. If you happen to fail in the realization of any of these intentions, just remember to—in Samuel Beckett’s famous words—“fail better”. There is no reason not to start again, and again, and again. Falling and getting up, going one step backward and two steps forward, is how life unfolds in its waves of expanding circles.
January 03, 2016
a bundled up regular
smoking outside the Starbucks,
another one in the doors of the bar
— in my neighborhood on the Danforth
everything in place: stable.
January 18, 2016
From doing therapy with adult children of well-off parents: The only thing, while growing up, that is worse than having an absent father is having an absent and highly successful father—a double whammy.
January 24, 2016
“What makes a human life meaningful?” “What makes life meaningful enough to go on?” “(T)he question is not simply whether to live or die but what kind of life is worth living?’ These questions, pondered by Stanford neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi in his posthumously published memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, written after he was diagnosed with a terminal lung cancer with not much time to live, are the difficult questions we all have to face at one point. The additional difficulty is the fact that there are no universally applicable answers: we have to find our own answers, the answers that make sense to us. Or, as Jean-Paul Sartre said long time ago: “There is no traced-out path to lead man to his salvation; he must constantly invent his own path. But, to invent it, he is free, responsible, without excuse, and every hope lies within him.”
January 25, 2016
Everyone is a hero. Everyone is flawed. We are all flawed heroes.
January 26, 2016
What to do first is this: discard curative fantasies. Then, persevere in holding everything, holding on to nothing; being aware of everything, caught up by nothing.
January 27, 2016
On the CBC’s radio show today there was a story about a 90-year old man who is not only independent in his everyday living but still runs his farm, feeds the farm animals, etc. When asked by a reporter if he was not afraid of falling, he replied: “Oh, I’ve fallen many times, I’m used to falling.”
No instructions, no dharma talks
Just sitting and walking together in calm awareness
(and maybe talking over a cup of tea afterwards)
For experienced meditators
(interested in deepening their individual practice in a group setting)
Sundays, from 10 am to 11:30 am
663 Greenwood Avenue (at Danforth), Toronto, ON
February 20, 2016
To live with awareness, compassion, and simplicity — that’s the path.
February 23, 2016
The answer does not come in a form of a neatly crafted sentence. It is in the process or, more precisely, the process is the answer.
February 24, 2016
A young client of mine asked: “Who am I when I am not myself?” Who am I when I’m drinking (using drugs, gambling, etc.)? Who is the one doing the drinking? Who am I when I’m not drinking (using drugs, etc.)? The question of identity is the essential question that addiction brings into a sharp focus. That’s the question that addicted men and women ask with their lives, consciously or unconsciously. It underlies all their behaviours and struggles. And that question is crucially a philosophical question.
February 28, 2016
The motto that I try to follow and practice in my life, with more or less successful results, is—as we can say about many important things—simple but not easy:
DHARMA, NOT DRAMA
March 10, 2016
Reflecting on what is the best that—after distilling the essence of the therapeutic encounter—I can realistically hope to offer to my clients, I believe that it can be conveyed in the two words: spaciousness and presence. The spaciousness of understanding, respect, non-judgement, acceptance, positive regard and compassion and the attuned presence through which they feel invited to begin connecting to their own selves more freely and adequately.
March 15, 2016
Being is better than having (Erich Fromm) or doing, but becoming is better than being (Fred Newman).
March 24, 2016
Johan Cruyff, a “total football” revolutionary who, while playing for Amsterdam’s Ajax in the early 1970s, opened my impressionable football-mesmerized young boy eyes to the transcendental dimensions of the game, left us also with this piece of life wisdom: “Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”
March 26, 2016
In life, there are priorities and trivialities. We need to learn to prioritize priorities and trivialize trivialities.
April 10, 2016
We must not ever forget this: “We may not all be called to do great things that make the headlines, but we are all called to love and be loved, wherever we may be. We are called to be open and to grow in love and thus to communicate love to others” (Jean Vanier). Waking up to this truth in the middle of the deepest existential desperation is what underlies all epiphanies.
May 06, 2016
What is it that I’m seeing and what is it that I’m not seeing?
What is it that I’m hearing and what is it that I’m not hearing?
What is it that is here and what is it that isn’t here?
June 04, 2016
“Walking is the best way to go more slowly than any other method that has ever been found. To walk you need to start with two legs. The rest is optional.” (Frederic Gros, A Philosophy of Walking)
June 19, 2017
A life that is defined by essential separation (from the self, community, nature, divine) finds its illusory connectedness in addiction. The unbearable pain of disconnection is replaced by the self-perpetuated pain of addiction as a false refuge.
June 20, 2017
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” (Arundhati Roy)
When I am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
— Mary Oliver
June 12, 2017
I was interviewed by the New York-based Empire Radio Now. To listen to the brief interview, click bellow:
June 14, 2017
Understood fully, this is (almost) all:
— found on the (in)famous patient built wall (the second part of the 19th century), partially preserved on the property of the CAMH, Toronto
September 14, 2017
Sometimes, when in a breathtaking natural environment, an unsettling feeling of intruding into another dimension, a world we do not belong to, overwhelms me for a moment. I wonder then how to make a sound of a peddle touching the surface of water even more silent. The images bellow are from a recent canoe trip through the Algonquin Park: