Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on December 16, 2014

We all do what we have to do. I know I do. Unfortunately, the government does not consider me a national treasure and just fund me, and I am not alone in this. It would seem I am not one of the privileged few. However, Mother Nature is more egalitarian and does not care what my social status is; neither does the dharma, the two being identical. And in that is an opportunity.

The featured soloist for the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the "Ode to Joy," is featured by society, not by nature or the dharma. The dharma of the soloist for that piece plus the dharma of every musician playing in the orchestra, not to mention all of us listening, share the same nature, which is identical in every way. The only difference is how we play our instrument, how we listen to the music, and so on. That is where the dharma and any skillful means we may have come into play, in the opportunity of every moment.

We can start right where we are, in the here and now, this minute. As one great rinpoche pointed out to me, we can meditate for the length of time it takes to pick up a teacup and have a sip. Our every action is a drop in a dharmic pond that ripples out in concentric circles and takes its effect. It is like in Chaos Theory, where the butterfly that flaps its wings in Brazil somehow sets off a tornado in Texas. This moment is perfectly ready for that, and the next moment is another "this" moment, continued.

And now is always the best time to start. We don't have to wait until somehow we get better at it. That would be crazy. We get better at it by doing it right now as best we can, and taking it from there, moment by moment. Sure, at first we may seem hypocritical to others and even to ourselves, making a real effect with heart, with real intent, but that soon fades as we generate and transmit, broadcasting from where we are to the universe, our own little radio station, radiating outward.

I learned this years ago when I started AMG, the All-Music Guide, All-Movie Guide, etc. Who was I to attempt such a feat? Perhaps if I were from New York or L.A., but not in a tiny office in a small Michigan town in the Midwest. Professional music critics actually laughed at me, so I have been told. But later most of them got on board and did work for AMG. Here was this guy they never heard of proposing to document, review, and rate all recorded music, and he had the nerve to call his project the "All-Music Guide." As if.

I am not just blowing my own horn here, but telling you that in that tiny office, one day at a time, I began to document with care and love the music I knew, and then reached out to those who knew other areas of music for their help. It was an early form of crowd-sourcing. That small center here in Michigan, instead of being a nobody from nowhere doing nothing, became somebody doing something somewhere the experts didn't expect.

Ripples are ripples, and in any circle all starting points are equal. It only depends on the intent, care, and persistence that love and care can bring to any project. Since I was running a software company not connected to music, my own staff made fun of me, saying that what I was doing was like pouring money down a rat hole. To document all music? It was hopeless. But you know what? Their cynical attitude was no match for the love I felt for music and my wish to share that music with others. Love and intent conquers all, as they say. And what is amazing is that this approach is available to all of us.

I did it an album at a time, track by track, sidemen by sideman, including ratings and reviews, biographies, etc. until what I had done amounted to something. Others joined me and the ripples of our effort were felt. Before long I was not alone, but had 150 full-time employees on-site and 500 freelance writers working together to create the All-Music Guide. I have heard that some of my music staff claim that this was the happiest time of their lives, working on something they loved! Imagine that.

When all was said and done, we became the center of the universe for music data, not just an outpost in obscurity. And it was done by putting one foot in front of the other and by not getting disturbed or going into a tailspin every time someone made fun of me, and you know they did.

We each are, right now, at the center of our own universe and always have been right there. Where else could we be? The only thing that distinguishes us is what and how we do things. If we have a hobby, we already know what loving to do something is all about. We can start there and gradually extend the loving way we do our hobby to other things, including whatever it is we have to do each day, whether we like it or not.

My point here is that love and the skillful means it inspires is transferable because I have done it, but it takes a little practice. Mostly it requires awareness and more consciously doing what we do. And, as mentioned, it takes a pure or true intent.

As a counselor, over the years I have counseled many people. Once I had a client who was a prostitute. She told me that she didn't like what she was doing, and, of course, I suggested she do something else. Her instant response was, "Oh no, I could never make this kind of money doing anything else." I repeated my suggestion a few more times, but she was adamant. She would never give it up. Well then, I said, I suggest you stop complaining about it and instead put your heart into your work.

And I say the same thing to myself when it comes to things I don't want to do, but that I still have to do. Stop complaining and put some care and love into it. It's easier and that is one way we can beat the system.

The reason I am writing this is to point out that dharma of any kind starts from where we are, warts and all. It is not about what we believe we will be, should be, or could be, but about what we are and do this very minute that counts. Our first step or effort, which might seem to us like just a drop in the ocean, is followed by another step, and so on. Before long we are moving and taking on a direction as well. We can set our own sails.

Pure intent reaches beyond time and grandfathers us by imprinting, marking this moment, and setting into motion what only a similar resolve could ever touch. We immediately move beyond mediocrity. It would seem that most action that happens everywhere is perhaps meaningless, not really touching us, much less imprinting very deeply. It is shallow. If that is true, then even a little sincerity on our part, an effort with some actual minimal intent will penetrate the surface veneer we are stuck in and leave a deeper imprint, one that lasts and works FOR us.

In other words, a little effort and true intent (some heart) on our part may be the difference between success and the lack of it. I call it "all the difference in the world." That tiny difference may be just enough to be untouchable and unreachable by time, at least to some degree.

And don't waste time gilding the lily, trying to put a good face on things for others to see. No one is really watching. Instead, we can be authentic in our intent and make each action count as if we were a Zen monk. We can become a Zen monk easier than we can hope to become one someday.

If our only reference is outside ourselves, waiting for the outside world to find or recognize us, that will never happen. However, the moment we stop waiting and just get busy finding ourselves, the world will begin to see us too. That's the way it works. That's how empty things are. I always quote the philosopher Hegel from his classic book "The Phenomenology of the Mind:"
"We go behind the curtain of the Self to see what is there, but mainly for there to be something to be seen." This is probably the best thing Hegel ever wrote, and I have read almost all of him, which is a lot.

And we don't have to read a book about good intent, as if that would help. All we have to do is search through our life for what we naturally love, some place where we already have a pure intent. It could be a hobby or a loved one. Who knows? The fact is we already have it somewhere-in-there, so we don't have to invent anything. That natural love will automatically insure that our actions in its behalf are also pure and that those actions will penetrate the surface and imprint the mindstream way beyond where most people could ever manage to reach.

That is exactly what great beings like Shakespeare have done, imprint so deeply in our mindstream that those of us less-pure cannot penetrate to that source, much less get around, behind it, or expose it. We get knocked out by it the moment we try to follow what Shakespeare is saying. We are gone. All great art does this; it knocks us out.

What I am saying here is that if we can find what we naturally love, where our intent is already pure, and expand that care and love to whatever else we do, even to the stuff we don't like, but have to do, our actions will be authentic and make a difference. We will begin to exist in a new way from that moment onward.

Believe it or not, this approach is easier than waiting to be found and discovered. That's what self-discovery is all about!

[A photo of me making a photo.]