Loving Wisdom

Annelle Travis

“Our lives are not our own.”
(Annelle Travis, 1948-2011)

My late wife taught the discipline of discipleship –
living as a servant to the Masters of Wisdom.

Acting as if
the Light of the Buddha
and the Love of the Christ
were real forces
in this struggling world.

She devoted herself to “the Work” –
seeding a planetary culture of human kindness
based upon the Wisdom Teachings that:

1. All beings are One Group.
2. The Plan is Love & Light.

She spent her years striving for
the awakening of humanity,
quietly healing & teaching,
helping others find the Way
of their own Soul.

“My head, my heart
& my two hands
offered in service.”

She helped me to know past any doubt
that our species is a single whole unit.

She told me once,
“Help our friends
as if they were me.”

She meant those strange ones
that serve a deeper cause.

This is my Valentine to you –

No one treads this Path alone.
There is no such thing as alone.

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Wholly Human

ViewSE copy

I once asked my friend Bonnie Rose
if she ever wanted to go totally holy.

She just said, “NO!”

I can’t remember what we were discussing,
& her reply was so vehement that I have
forgotten the conversation that followed.
But that moment has had a lasting impact.

Bonnie Rose is the reverend minister
at the spiritual center in Ventura
that has given me a home to teach
classes in non-dual wisdom.

Rev B & I occasionally walk & talk about
the rigors of being spiritual professionals
in twenty-first century America.

What I admire most about her is:

That she has the courage
to share her own struggles.
&
That she chooses to embrace
& even cherish human frailties.

I will be sure to run this blog by her
prior to posting it on FaceBook.
But at this moment I don’t really know
what she meant by such a forceful “NO!”

What that reply has come to mean to me
is a warning not to fall into the traps of
contemporary spirituality –

Like striving to be perfect.

I have been studying
humanity’s wisdom teachings
for well over forty years
& as near as I can tell
there is a universal consensus –

The primal yoga of the holy sages
is to rest the mind in the quiet heart
& to act upon the counsel
of the presence found there.

If I can let my mind be great,
bigger than my petty biases,
then it becomes a light
that links me to a Greater Light.

If I can let my heart be great,
bigger than my little wishes,
then it becomes a love
that links me to a Greater Love.

I feel the great saints are urging us
to go towards the perfection,
not by trying to be what we are not,
but by the simplest of Ways –

Service to the world.

We are like shards of glass
embedded in a mosaic.
The perfection lies in the whole.

www.venturacsl.org
(The Church I teach at.)

www.holychit.org
 (Rev Bonnie’s Blog.)

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Purpose of Moments

MatilijaGrotto copy

I walk into the room & a little girl
greets me with a delighted request –
“Can we play the piano?!”
She remembers the first time we met.

My client & friend comments fondly –
“Brock, a normal person would say,
‘Let me talk with your Great-Aunt for awhile,
& maybe we’ll play the piano a bit later.’
But you just say ‘Yes!'”

I’ve never done what I was supposed to do.
Learn their name. Scan their clothes.
Notice the politics. Assess the finances.
I’m always busy doing something else.

When I was an educator I would
get a quick sense of the disabilities.
Then I would ignore them
so I could focus upon the capacity.

When I was a therapist I would
get a quick sense of the pathologies.
Then I would ignore that
so I could focus upon the potential.

This six year old attacks the keyboard
with two fisted alternating bashes.
So I suggest we try some Rock & Roll.
She drops into harmonious attunement.
And our jam mellows into Free Jazz.

The session leads the three of us
(along with their giant sweet dog)
into a grotto up in Matilija Canyon.
The child learns what picnic means.
The four of us make a meal together
seated upon a boulder embracing us all.

Then she wants to climb rocks.
I am following the unfolding beauty.
So we make our way together
an elder man, a little girl & a dog
playing back & forth across the creek
while Auntie watches from the boulder.

My focus goes total –

Keep the other adult in
line of sight or earshot.
Let the child plan the route
but structure for safety.
She has a little cough
the water is very cold
her feet must stay dry.
Let her focus settle naturally.
Gently direct for learning.
Stones, brook,
roots, leaves,
golden sunshine…
silver reflections…
She is watching & listening –
Point her senses toward beauty.
Help her grow toward becoming
the special being she is meant to be.

For me there is a moment of wonder –
How do I know how to do this?
This was not a part of my training.
This is what I was born to do.

And she will forever remember herself
as a competent successful
negotiator of tricky passages.

This girl is a shrewd bargainer,
& I honor my promises,
so at the days end
we return again to the piano.

I feel the call to comp on some chords
originally composed by Pachelbel.
She drops into the spirit of pure play.
And together we enter into sharing
a four-handed co-creative improvisation
making a moment of music
that no one who was present
will ever forget.

It is as if we must
let the ways of the form die,
so the way of the Soul
can be born.

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Prayer

Hanoum

The whole world is one prayer.

Judaic, Christian, Islamic…
Taoist, Hindu, Buddhist…
Shamanic, Mystical, Esoteric
Anonymous 12 Steps or
New Thought Metaphysical.

Whatever.

Every ceremony or celebration,
every meditation or dialogue,
every ritual or service

any pause for contemplation
any gathering together
any simple moment of silence

creates an aperture in consciousness

between
the divine world,
the human world,
& the natural world.

The old word is Noumen.
The new word is Vortex.

But it is the Soul that creates it –

an openness through which
beauty & purpose
fountain into our weary world.

Even in the hardest, darkest moments,
we can still clear a little space of prayer –

Letting the Spiritual realm
enter the material realm
through our own being.

This is the Way we touch
the unity of the whole.

And whatever has happened,
no matter how painful,
we can renew ourselves forever.

Your mind may be scattered,
& your heart may be broken,
but with a glimpse of justice,
or with a hint of kindness,
the Great Work begins anew.

(Photograph 2009, by Annelle Travis.)

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Service

Blessings!

Annelle Travis
Born 1948
Died 2011

“Beauty shines forth
from the depth
of all things.”

My late wife was a fierce practitioner
of detachment & discernment.
It was she that helped me find the Path –
Letting the Soul shine through the form.

The life given over to service,
teaching, healing, creating,
quietly showing the Way.

She taught me a thousand times
that the difficult personality
we are striving to serve
is a wounded spiritual being.

And our task is to help them
become what they are meant to be.

Annelle’s journey through Cancer
revealed the essence of Wisdom.

I witnessed her Soul
find its Way through
the crippling impacts,
to shine from her form
again & again & again.

As her health, her strength,
mobility, vitality, memory,
were all taken from her,
she strove to be there
fully for each being
whose path she crossed.

Amidst dreadful losses
she became a source
of deep peace & cheer.

The season of her dying
showed what we really are –

As the body falls away
presence shines forth.

There comes a point on the Path.
Hopes are lost. But faith is kept.
This is the territory of surrender.
And the region of miracles.

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The Way

Temple

People have been sitting on this rock
for at least ten thousand years.

The boulder is Matilija sandstone –
it glows pink in the sunset & sunrise.
The trees are Ponderosa pine –
they smell like cream soda.
The vista sweeps across
mountains, ocean & islands.

For a moment, in that spot
this whole thing, this whole thing 
gathers itself together –

The natural & the divine.
The ancient & the modern.
The pain, grief & fear.
The hope, love & joy.
The darkness & the light.
The living & the dead.

The world as one,
held in the heart.

The practice is not easy,
but very simple –

Bring the mind home to the breath

& let the heart become great enough
to hold all of it, all of it, in peace. 

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A Promise

BestDayI promised my father before he died
that I would try to keep my mother
in her Ojai home for the rest of her life.

My mom was an unholy terror –
drinking & driving, smoking in bed,
& firing every helper I hired,
yelling expletives until they fled.

After my dad passed she got worse.
(Even though we took away the car keys.)
I would get phone calls at work:

The paramedics would say –
“We are at your mother’s house.
Her head is stuck under the sink.
She’s covered in blood.
She’s been drinking.”

The caregivers would say –
“As of Friday this agency will
no longer serve your mother.”
&
“You have to get me out of here.
Your mom is driving me crazy.”

My mother’s doctor was very glad
to write the order for Board & Care.

So I began the conversation with my mom –
“You can’t stay there.
It’s not safe for you.
You need to move.”
She said, “I’m not leaving.”
We had that conversation many times a day.

The helpful Board & Care owner said,
“Just let us handle it.
We do this all the time.”

They picked Mom up at her home
& then they called me at work.
“Your mother is threatening to jump out of the car!”
So she & I had the conversation again.
I remember falling to my knees in the parking lot.
My co-workers wondered if I was losing my mind.

For awhile at the Board & Care –
my mother hit people, threw things
& shouted epithets at the nice staff.
But as the nicotine & alcohol faded
her health & mood got better.

She started to call me several times a day,
“Why can’t I come & live with you?”
“Because of the doctor’s orders, Mom.”
Which was true, but it wasn’t the truth.

Finally I told her the real truth.
“Mom, one month & I’d be insane.”
She believed me & began to settle in.

(A nurse told me a year or so ago,
“We have never had a patient like her.”
I said, “She was a nurse all her life.
They tend to be a rather tough lot.”)

I visit my mom at least once weekly.
I have come to like her more than ever.

A few days ago I took her for an outing.
I wish you could have seen her face as
I handed her the Soy Green Tea Blended
through the Subaru window.

We drove up Hwy 33 to Piedra Blanca.
I said, “This reminds me of the road trips
my father, your husband, used to take us on.”
She said, “You don’t have to say that part.
I know that your father was my husband.”

She had to pee out by Rose Valley.
Which is a big deal because
the walker isn’t easy on dirt trails.
But we got her safely to the john.
She said, “You’re just like a mother.”

As we exited the latrine,
I whispered, “Look.”
She gazed around & said,
“Ohhh, mountains.”
She closed her eyes & said,
“Smell the trees?”
A moment later she said,
“This is the best day of my life.”

Karma means that on the wheel of lives
every obligation will ultimately be fulfilled.
Thankfully, there are countless ways
to honor a promise once it’s given.

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Grace

HolyCross

When I am waiting in line
for fish tacos on the pier,
I can see the old Cross on the hill.

For me it is not a religious icon
but rather a spiritual one –
much more ancient than
the instrument of execution.

I was taught that the Cross symbolizes
a human being on a great height,
standing upright with arms outstretched.

The vertical axis is the clear light
shining through the mind
for the blessing of the world.

The horizontal axis is the deep love
pouring through the heart
for the service of all beings.

As one stands steady in the light
one comes to know the truth that
we are not mere physical things,
but are, each of us,
all of us, spiritual beings.
So we must treat other people
with the love we have for self.

This is a Wisdom Teaching
not just for any single faith.
It is the Christ’s gift
for our whole species.

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Nobility

GoldenHotei

I encounter this familiar figure
several times a week in town
& it bothers me a bit that
almost no one knows who he is.

This statue depicts Ch’i Tz’u,
a tenth century Chinese monk.

He is called Budai or Hotei,
“Cloth Bag” or “Hemp Sack”
in honor of the bundle
he carries with him.

His great belly symbolizes boundlessness.
His great smile symbolizes benevolence.

He stands for the path of limitless
friendship, kindness & goodwill.

Once on the road he was challenged,
“Hey Monk, what is this Zen about?”
And he set his bag down on the ground.

Then he was challenged again,
“So what is the point of that?”
And he picked up his bag & walked on.

Guess what’s in the sack?
Toys & candy for children.

Spiritual nobility is not based upon
wealth or fame, beauty or power.
It is a capacity of consciousness –

We can expand
our sense of self
to embrace others.

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Trust & Care

WeatherHeron

My grandson used to live with us on weekends.
Early Saturday mornings you couldn’t hear footsteps.
But you could see blue eyes peering over the bed.
My late wife would laugh & say to me,
“You two need to go on an adventure today.”

It’s summer so we drive to Putah Creek.
We amble down the dirt road
paralleling the waterway.

Tristen is only about three
so I carry him on my shoulders
when he gets a bit tired.

The little curly white terrier,
Bodhi, dawdles along beside us.

After awhile we come to a good spot.
There are scattered boulders,
a few scrubby oak trees,
& a little trail down to the water.

We cross over into the creek.

We both have on sandals with buckles
so we can wade the stony shallows.

The sun is warm & the water is cool.
The trio of us ease our way up the stream –
a man, a boy & a dog, journeying together.

As we go on, the water rises,
to our ankles, knees, hips.

As Bodhi starts swimming,
I lift Tristen into my left arm.

On the one side of the creek
there is a great wall of bamboo.
On the other side, a blackberry thicket,
with refugee grapevines from the vineyard.

The creek deepens, the bottom gets sandy
& the water rises over Tristen’s belly.

He tenses, “Unhh, unhh.”

I whisper, “It’s alright.
Don’t be afraid.”

We both notice Bodhi
is beginning to struggle
to keep abreast of us.

I reach over & grasp his collar,
towing him with my right arm.

Tristen watches this with wide eyes,
& his body eases fully into my embrace.

One of the great moments of my life.

The three of us settle into the rhythm
of walking through flowing water.

It is at this primeval point that
three seemingly golden herons
glide silently across our path.

Trust & care are rooted deeply
in the light & love of the Soul.

Which fully blooms only
with the honoring of promises.

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