The Crazy Thing

My friends and I, we’re dreamers.

We value ideals more than dollars,

sunsets more than gold.

We stay up late around the fire,

talking about aliens,

talking about God,

talking about revolution.

~

Talking isn’t the point, of course.

It’s just how we tune in.

When the moment is ripe,

when the moon is full and bright,

and the embers are glowing just so,

we melt.

We disappear.

We become the wind and starlight.

~

People say we’re crazy.

“It’s impossible!” they say.

“Naive! Irresponsible!”

But the crazy thing is,

that people don’t do this all the time.

The crazy thing is,

that anyone would ever waste a night like this

in front of the TV.

tv zombie

Smoke That Thunders

victoria falls

It’s the first day of March here in Kansas City,

and there’s a few inches of snow on the ground.

The temperature is around 30 degrees,

the sky is cloudy and overcast.

Rays of light from the nearest star

are illuminating half of my Mother’s face,

tearing the gray mist of the air to shreds,

touching each fleeting and perfect crystal

of frozen H2O

with all the tenderness and passion of Krishna,

breathing life into the earth,

dancing with the pine trees like so many virgin maids,

their ballroom gowns translucent white and swirling;

playing and leaping

and pouring like Mosi-oa-Tunya

into my astonished eyes.

Eavesdropping

listen

I’ve heard the stream

and the old stones whispering

beneath the cedars.

I swear the hills are breathing.

Listen…

On a still winter night,

the darkness is filled

with a quiet, electric hum…

the language of the stars.

Who can transcribe this conversation

between the earth and sky?

Who can say what wordless exchange

takes place among the trees?

Who can understand what passes silently

from the wild, beating heart of the world,

into my pensive soul?

 

© 2015 Ben Neal

Around the Fire

around the fire

There’s somethin’ bout a fire

And gathering round it

With a sky full of stars up above,

With the smoke

and the dark,

and the drums and the earth –

a feeling of family

and tribal love.

There’s somethin’ bout a fire

and a circle of friends,

sharing their stories and songs,

takin’ turns choppin’ wood,

cookin’ meat on sticks,

father’s teachin’ their sons how to fish.

This is how we used to live,

every goddamn day,

until television.

There’s something we’ve lost

along the way –

something sacred and essential.

And more than anything

we all desperately need to get back

around the fire.

Today is the Day (To Sing Jai Ma!)

nature walk

Today is the day to sit outside, soak up the sunlight, take some deep, mindful breaths. Taste the air, so fresh and cool and full of life! Take off your shoes and feel the earth against your skin. Dig your toes into a bed of clover.

Today is the day to go for a walk, to take a closer look at the world around you, to see what often goes overlooked. Notice the dazzling array of weeds and grasses, bushes and trees that are spilling out everywhere, all around and in-between our houses and our streets.

Today is the day to stop and smell the flowers. Open your eyes and drink in the colors, the elegant patterns and imperfections, the wild ecstatic wind dancing!

Today is the day to watch the sunset.

(Honestly—how long has it been?)

Watch the stars come out tonight… bathe in the moonlight, find constellations. Try to comprehend infinity, to wrap your head around the sky. I mean really try—reach and stretch until your mind is ripped wide open.

Today is the day to hug a tree, to dance in the meadow, to play in the dirt; do the kind of fun and crazy things that only children are alive enough to do. Wrestle with your dog, roll on the floor, get licked in the face. Go adopt a pet from your local animal shelter.

Today is the day to take a small step; pick up some litter, start recycling. Get together with your neighbors; clean something, fix something, form a committee. Set an example. Be the change.

Today is the day to honor the Earth and the whole miraculous web of life. Today is the day to plant a seed.

Today is the day to sing Jai Ma!

To praise Mother Nature, to radiate our love and appreciation. Let her know we’re awake, and paying attention. Let her know that we care, we are trying our best. Let her know we are grateful.

We are oh so grateful…

Join the birds and the bugs and the angels, the silent song of the trees and flowers. Join the chorus of life everlasting, singing a joyous, triumphant hymn.

Jai Ma!  Glory to the Goddess, beautiful mother of the whole universe!

Jai Ma, Jai Ma, Jai Ma!

Going Away

the road

I am going away again

Away from the constant

Hustle and noise –

The incessant bee-hive drone

Of the city

 

Out there past the land of pick-up trucks

And gravel dust

And corn fields waving in the wind

 

Out there deep in the hills

Where a lonely two-lane winds

Through primeval forest

 

Where the streams run cold and clean

And the stars shine bright and clear

 

Where all the notes of Nature’s song

Sing out loud and un-obstructed

 

Out there the whole Earth is like a great drum

Pulsing with life and music

And I am a bead of sweat glistening on its skin

Dancing to the rhythm

 

I’ll find a little lakeshore

Somewhere out there

Somewhere no one ever goes

And by the light of a dying fire

Fall asleep, listening…

 

To the bullfrogs down by the water

To the locusts that are everywhere singing out

From the lush and living green

 

To the ethereal music of the heavenly spheres

Heard not with the ears but with the heart

 

There where the black top ends

My wanderings will have only just begun…

 

For I am going waaaaay out there

Where no path leads

To that mystic space, beyond beyond

 

Where I flow with the rivers

With the life-blood of the pines

Where I whirl with the wind

With the sky, with the moon

 

And I dance on the invisible strings

That weave together stars and planets

 

I’m going away, far away

Where my soul can rest…

 

~ Ben

What Purpose?

The sun is bright today,

The world is bustling with activity;

Abuzz with the sound of cars and trucks,

Power saws and cooling units,

The constant drone of mechanized modern life.

(They call it progress…)

While I sip my morning coffee,

I look out upon the city

And the people who are busy keeping up

With all the endless tasks involved

In keeping the light bulbs burning…

 

For what purpose?

 

I look out upon the landscape,

Touched by an early Spring.

The daffodils are blooming silently,

And the trees are waking up;

On the tips of every branch and limb

Tiny buds are forming.

Everywhere the green returning,

Mixed with splashes of yellow, pink and red.

Seen and unseen Nature is stirring,

Without any effort or hurry,

Life is bursting forth afresh…

 

For what purpose?

 

My eyes perceive no difference

In the scurrying about of men, and squirrels –

The same Spirit moves all things.

 

The moaning of the wind in the trees

Blends perfectly with the sound of a passing train;

The birdsong is in harmony

With the wailing of a distant siren;

The dogs are barking, and someone is shouting

And a plane is passing overhead;

It’s all one wall of sound, washing over me.

The whole Earth is one divine emanation;

One holy and resounding

Om…

 

And what am I in all of this?

A wave, a ripple reflecting sunlight;

A mirror, in which God admires itself.

 

What am I, really?

Dust in the wind.

Just more particles dancing –

 

For what purpose?

 

Joy. Only joy.

 

~ Ben

Thoughts (on Infinity)

Stepping outside for a smoke today, I settled into my old camp chair and was soon overcome by a state of deep reverie. I had just finished watching a YouTube video on string theory and the multiple dimensions of reality. I closed my eyes and let my thoughts wander…

I tried to imagine an intelligence that could encompass this vastness – from the non-existent point of no dimension whatsoever, to the infinite possibilities of all the infinite possible universes of infinite expanse and duration…

That intelligence – however inconceivable – must be with me right now.

That Presence is looking through my eyes, seeing what I see, thinking what I think, feeling what I feel; experiencing this moment through my mind and body, while simultaneously experiencing this moment from every possible point of view throughout the infinite expanse of this entire universe; while simultaneously experiencing every moment of the past and future; and experiencing an infinite variety of possible universes, and every moment of their existence from every possible point of view…

What am I in all this vastness? An idea, a possibility to be explored? A fleeting thought, here and then gone? Do I even exist at all?

I opened my eyes then, and saw a beautiful little squirrel just a few paces away, it’s round little eyes looking straight at me (or maybe through me…).

For a few moments I froze… cigarette inches from my lips, smoke curling around my fingers and spinning through the air in playful spirals, like translucent little galaxies. I thought that perhaps any movement would startle the little fellow, and send him running.

Then it hit me – frightened of whom?

Looking into his eyes, clear and bright and clever, I saw that loving Presence looking back at me, the universal intelligence that is the true Self of us both. There is nothing separate or apart, no one here for him to fear. Whatever it is that I am is a part of the present moment, a part of the squirrel – a part of Nature herself.

What followed was a state of calm which no words can adequately describe – no thought, no mind. I relaxed; I took another drag. The squirrel continued to watch me for a little while, unperturbed, and then proceeded to dig through the fallen leaves in search of food.

I watched him work with uncanny speed and agility, and felt such a profound feeling of oneness that I could almost see through his eyes and feel the damp earth beneath his paws. I felt as though on the brink of dissolving completely into that awareness that is eternal and ever present…

Soon the little fellow’s search paid off. He brought forth from the foliage the nut he was seeking, and after gripping it firmly in his teeth he scurried up the nearest tree and out of sight. I sat there for a few minutes more, just soaking in the serenity of my surroundings…

Gradually that magic feeling faded, and I was left to contemplate the mystery of all-in-all. How does the infinite exist within the finite, and seem to be contained therein – ignorant of its absolute wholeness and unbounded freedom?

In my mind I am constantly dancing with the infinite. One moment I seem to be this separate self, a separate will; the next moment I am nothing but another wave in the cosmic ocean, flowing wherever the current carries me…

Alone again, cigarette gone, it’s time to go inside. And the dance goes on.

~ Ben

Ahimsa

Since the dawn of mankind, sages and prophets from all times and places have proclaimed the same old mystic Truth: we are one – one with God and with each other. The pattern of life is like a multi-dimensional cosmic fractal, repeating itself endlessly. So the whole pattern, in all its beauty and perfection, is contained in even the most infinitesimal particle of existence. God is in the atom as much as in the galaxy, and in the mosquito just as much as in the human being.

 Now it is easy for most of us to see the Divine in a newborn baby, in a lovable old dog, or a cute and cuddly kitten; but what about the flies in your kitchen, or the pests in your garden? What about the person who cuts you off in traffic, or screws you in a business deal? We know – intellectually, anyway – that we are all one. Yet the fact is that there are many situations in which we wish harm or inflict harm on other living beings without remorse, and we think it quite proper and natural.

 For instance, look at the way we treat insects and pests. We think nothing of spreading toxic chemicals and traps around our home and our yard to exterminate ants, roaches, mice, termites – even weeds and plants. We might welcome certain pets as animal companions, but we often react with fear and violence to spiders, snakes, wasps, and all kinds of “creepy-crawly” things.

 Look at the way we treat each other! Sure we love our children, our friends, and those who are kind to us; but we are often quick to anger and slow to forgive when someone hurts or disappoints us. And that’s just a few obvious things. Let’s look a little bit deeper…

 How do we cause harm indirectly? The food that we eat and the products that we buy are often produced in ways that exploit the environment, and manipulate the people and the resources of other nations. The way we live – what we do, what we buy, and every choice we make – has repercussions that affect the whole of our planet, for better or worse. Our attitude, our vibrations, our words and actions affect the world around us in ways we don’t always perceive.

 In the Far East they have a philosophy known as ahimsa (which roughly translates as non-violence). Ahimsa is a way of life, a way of being, a commitment to avoid doing harm to ourselves and others. It involves far more than abstaining from violence; it involves mindfulness of every thought, every word and action. It is a vow to live in harmony – to bring peace, love and joy to all the living things around us, and to never deliberately cause suffering to any living thing.

 Adherents of ahimsa assert that when you have cleansed your heart and mind of all violence, and are truly at peace with yourself and with the world, then men cannot remain angry in your presence and all of Nature becomes non-threatening. And there are many reported cases of sages and ascetics wandering off into the jungle and living for years unharmed by tigers, cobras, and the world’s fiercest predators. Can we find that peace within that delivers us from fear and danger?

 My intent in writing this article is not to stir up guilt, but to stir up our beliefs – to raise questions and shed light on what we think and assume. In what ways do we find ourselves at odds with the world, with our fellow men, with Mother Nature? These might be lessons for us to learn, and opportunities for great transformation.

 Why do we cherish the lilies and chrysanthemums, and not the crabgrass and the ragweed? Why do we often feel threatened or disgusted by some of God’s most magnificent creations? How can we live more in harmony with the earth, and feed our children in healthy and sustainable ways? How do we cultivate beautiful gardens and safe, comfortable homes, without doing harm to other living beings?

 These are questions with no easy answers. I cannot wrap this one up neatly, and put a bow on top, and leave with you a warm, fuzzy feeling. My hope is that you will consider these things carefully, and continue to ponder them long after you have finished reading this article. Maybe you’ll be inspired to do a little research. Maybe you’ll make some different selections the next time you go shopping – make some small changes, take some small steps toward a more healthy and peaceful world. Maybe the next time you raise a fly-swatter, you’ll stop and think.

 My hope is that, as individuals and as a species, we would be more mindful of our actions. Much of the harm and violence done in this world is done unknowingly, and is based on unconscious beliefs and assumptions. Who knows what new faculties and new freedoms we might discover, if we were to truly cast off our ignorance and fear? Who knows what new ways we could devise to resolve our conflicts with each other and with Mother Nature, if we were truly open to the flow of Divine love and wisdom?

 My prayer is that one day mankind will be at one with the earth and all living things. That we may have conscious communion and communication with the other species around us – who share our life, our intelligence, our DNA – and coexist in perfect harmony and cooperation.

 And I know, dear reader, it must begin with you and me.

 Peace and love!

 ~ Ben

This Is It

The Kansas countryside after a passing storm
Something about the air, cool and heavy with moisture
Makes everything so fresh and beautiful
or maybe it’s my mood
But every color is startlingly brilliant
I can smell every blade of grass

The lake is spread out below me, cold and silent
Mirroring the smoky gray of the clouds overhead
Gentle waves caress the rocky shore
softly, tenderly

The birds are calling out (do they call to me?)
One goes swiftly winging overhead
to perch upon a nearby branch
He ruffles his feathers, he sounds his song

I have never seen that shade of blue before
set amidst the leaves so lush and green!
I have never heard that note before
or felt that heart-string strummed!

And then it hits me-
This is the very beginning

              the first moment, the first motion
This is the center of the universe
All of Creation is turning around this magical mid-western Spring
Every sight and sound is perfect just so
              never to be repeated
This is the point so easily missed
every moment is fresh and beautiful
This is it, right here and now
It doesn’t get any better than this
~ Ben