proper conduct in the face of adversity



In times of war it is desirable 

to be led by a cautious

and humane


The hexagram Shih is a guide to proper conduct in the face of adversity. It is inevitable that we sometimes face trials and challenges in life. How we prepare ourselves, by whom we are led, and how we conduct ourselves during these “wars” determines whether we are victorious or not. The I Ching counsels us to follow the example of a first-rate army.

A truly powerful army always consists of a number of devoted soldiers who discipline themselves under the leadership of a superior general. If he has achieved his position through force, the general will not last for long and he will lose the support of his army when he needs it most. If on the other hand he has become a leader through superior conduct and even-handed treatment of this fellow soldiers, then his power is well consolidated and it endures.

So it is with us. Only by conducting ourselves humanely and with persevering balance can we have a genuine influence in trying times. There is always the temptation to be led into battle by our egos, but we are guaranteed a humiliating defeat if we turn our inferiors loose in this way. A superior person achieves victory in the same fashion as a superior army: by putting his inferior emotions under the guidance of his superior emotions, and by proceeding cautiously, modestly, and with the continual goal of achieving peace and detachment.

You are advised to prepare for a trial now. Your chances of success will be determined by how you conduct yourself within and without. If you remain alert, modest, just, and independent, all will go well. If you are gentle and humane, you will have the allegiance of those around you. Advance cautiously when the time is right, and when it is not, do not allow your ego to stand in the way of retreat and disengagement.

Remember that the ultimate victory in any battle comes when we regain our inner independence, our neutrality, and our equanimity. These can only be won by placing our inferiors under the leadership of our superiors. Do this now, and success will be yours.

from The I Ching, or Book of Changes

Hexagram 7, Shih / The Army


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angelic sexuality is a sign of evolution


A person’s

approach to sexuality

is a sign of his level of evolution.

Unevolved persons practice ordinary

sexual intercourse. Placing all emphasis upon

the sexual organs, they neglect the body’s other

organs and systems. Whatever physical

energy is accumulated is summarily

discharged, and the subtle energies

are similarly dissipated and

disordered. It is a great




For those

who aspire to the higher

realms of living, there is angelic

dual cultivation. Because every portion

of the body, mind, and spirit yearns

for the integration of yin and yang,

angelic intercourse is led

by the spirit rather

than the sexual




ordinary intercourse

is effortful, angelic cultivation is calm,

relaxed, quiet, and natural. Where ordinary

intercourse unites sex organs with sex organs, angelic

cultivation unites spirit with spirit, mind with mind, and

every cell of one body with every cell of the other body.

Culminating not in dissolution but in integration,

it is an opportunity to mutually transform

and uplift each other into the

realm of bliss and



…It can be

possible to open a pathway

to the subtle realm and receive

these celestial teachings

directly from the



from Hua hu Ching, Chapter 69


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on being a spiritual donkey

There are two kinds of suffering.
There is the suffering you run away from,
which follows you everywhere. And there is
the suffering you face directly,
and so become free.

Ajahn Chah

Once upon a time ago, a tremendous fool was born. Time passed, a bit more than a quarter of a century of it, and the fool remained foolish (a reliable tendency among his species). Then, by the greatest stroke of dumb luck, on a moonlight hillside overlooking the great blue Pacific Ocean, he experienced what zennists term satori — a great awakening, a robust insight into the absolute nature of reality.

He was allowed to see the whole enchilada. Every veil was removed, his past and future were seen in naked totality, every imaginable question —  millions of them! — was simultaneously asked and instantly answered. He was bathed in light, love, and absolute, penetrating understanding, and he knew then that the thing spoken of as enlightenment, realization of the Self, was real and attainable.

This sublime state passed, alas, and he returned to being just another ordinary dumbass. This fool was me. Is me. While I would like to tell you that my life transformed immediately and irrevocably on that night and that I went forward illuminated and in a state of perpetual grace, it weren’t to be.

In fact, in a matter of months, I rode a mountain bike into an immovable object at great speed, broke my neck in two places, and suffered a traumatic brain injury; used my newly-addled noggin to banish a near-perfect fiancee from my life; married a dangerous lunatic on the shortest of notice; jumped from the frying pan into the fire by conceiving a child with her on the morning of our wedding day; and descended into decades of on-and-off befuddlement, woe, substance idiocy, barking insanity, and quite often precious little else. Most of this resembled enlightenment hardly ever.

I say “alas”, but I don’t especially mean it. The path of the fool on the way to enlightenment and realization is as honorable as any, and more hilarious than most — who wants to be Trump, Ghadafi, or Theodore Bundy on such a lengthy and involved journey?! It does, however, require having the largest kind of sense of humor about oneself. One must accept and embrace oneself as a Spiritual Donkey, if you will — a beginner, a tripper and a stumbler, a hapless knucklehead trying helplessly to home in on the greatest prize of all. If you’re inclined to do that, too, welcome.

This is prolly a good time to say I’m making use of the ol’ donkey trope here, not disrespecting actual donkeys, who are cooler than the other side of the pillow in every way — why, just read about the donkeys of Fez who sometimes navigate that labyrinthine city alone on their daily rounds. 

I look up to donkeys, and I aim not to be anyone’s teacher but my own. I don’t seek that altogether questionable relationship for you or me. Rumi said that trying to be a spiritual teacher is akin to trying to ride a lightning bolt up a river canyon, which sounds messy and dangerous. That would be a tragic detour for us both, so let us just simply trip and stumble, donkeys that we are, in one another’s company a while.

I’m taking this moment to be explicit about this because the nature of what I do can be misleading. Publish enough pretty books of spiritual teachings, pin a bunch of them on an internet wall, and people could be forgiven for thinking either that you’re some sort of enlightened prince, or (more likely) that you think that you are. Neither is true. 

It is said that Alan Ginsberg once remarked to his friend and fellow seeker Gary Snyder, regarding their mutual devotion to spiritual pursuits, “We are fools, Gary!” — to which Snyder is said to have replied, “We may be fools, Alan, but we are God’s fools.” That is the most laudatory thought I think or say about myself: I am a fool, but I’m trying, at least, to be one of God’s fools. 

I like this way of thinking about spiritual life, not least because it lends a soupçon of dignity to a process involving rather a lot of advanced if unintended buffoonery. Insight flashes, the inspiration to pursue what has been revealed is ignited, but then a lot of hard work, slogging, frustration, clown-ass failure, and tearing of hair pretty much inevitably follow. If you’ve heard a different version of an enlightenment story, you’ve been sold a line of shit, and should act to secure your wallet or purse.

This website aims, then, to be an aid to and a conversation about tripping and stumbling one’s way to enlightenment. There is, in fact, likely no other way there. We may as well acknowledge that regularly, with plenty of humility.

My own life has been colorful, wonderful, painful. I don’t carry on much about it here from day to day because I think it’s a distraction from what you likely came for, which is perhaps a quick breath of inspiration on your own journey. Those curious about just how foolish I’ve been, just how awful it’s been, just how wonderful, can click their way through the emoji link-garden: 💙 🍀🔪 😱  🦋  🍆. The answer to each is “very”. Onward!


presence and the breath


Last night

a friend in New York

wrote to say, and ask, “Tough days

are here and ahead. How are

things there?”

To which

I responded, “At various

times in our lives, it’s been possible

to trick ourselves into believing we had something

besides presence and the breath, hasn’t it? Aren’t we fortunate,

now — whether on steady but unfamiliar ground, or in known

but afflicted territory — to have the illusion removed?

I am alone in perhaps the largest way ever,

but grateful for these two companions

whose friendship is bottomless

when I am but mindful

of them.”