Beyond (for Robert Gover) by Peter Marin

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on January 14th, 2015 @ 08:10:00 pm , using 137 words
Category: Poetry

Bob Gover was a novelist who wrote the $100 Misunderstanding and other works. He lived in Santa Barbara for many years.


(for Robert Gover 1929 - 2015)


the entanglements, the scandals,

the disappointments, the rise

and the fall, there was

always the work, always

the words, as now there is light.

Opinions fade. What stays

is what we have made

of ourselves, in the eyes

not of others but God,

if one exists, or the strange

voodoo powers you wrote about

following your way. No, I

never believed the stars

determine the market

or the planets our destinies --

but what of it? If not friends

we were comrades, talking

about women, about work,

about editors and fate,

writers -- that much in common.

Let the rest go, let it fade

into nothingness. The books

you wrote -- they remain.

--Peter Marin


Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on January 5th, 2015 @ 09:37:00 am , using 643 words
Category: Commentary

Open Heart Extra - Polishing The Mirror - Walking in the Dharma
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Walking in the Dharma
Posted October 2, 2013

When I start to get angry, I see my predicament and how I’m getting caught in expectations and righteousness. Learning to give up anger has been a continuous process. When Maharaj-ji told me to love everyone and tell the truth, he also said, “Give up anger, and I’ll help you with it.” Maharaj-ji offered me a bargain: “You must polish the mirror free of anger to see God. If you give up a little anger each day, I will help you.” This seemed to be a deal that was more than fair. I readily accepted. And he’s been true to his end of the bargain. I found that his love helped to free me from my righteousness. Ultimately I would rather be free and in love than be right.

If you feel a sense of social responsibility, first of all keep working on yourself. Being peaceful yourself is the first step if you want to live in a peaceful universe.

Have you ever noticed how many angry people there are at peace rallies? Social action arouses righteousness. Righteousness ultimately starves you to death. If you want to be free more than you want to be right, you have to let go of righteousness, of being right.

That reminds me of a story. There’s this Chinese boatman, and he hits another boat in the fog. He starts swearing at the other boatman. “You SOB! Why didn’t you look where you were going?” Then the fog lifts for a moment, and he sees there is nobody in the other boat. And he feels like a fool.

Righteousness is roughly the same thing. Say, for instance, you hold a grudge against your father, and you talk to him in your mind as if he’s there inside you. But he isn’t there. Psychologically you think he is there, because you’re identified with who you think you are, but once you begin to see this is all just a bunch of thoughts, your psychological father is just another set of empty phenomena. You are busy saying, “I forgive you, I forgive you,” to that psychological father, but it’s like saying “I forgive you” to a clock. There’s nothing there. You’re the same as the boatman.

There’s no rush. Go on being right just as long as you can. You’ll see that being right is actually a tight little box that is very constraining and not much fun to live in. Righteousness cuts you off from the flow of things. When I’m locked in a situation in a relationship with someone, it isn’t that they have done something to me. They’re just doing what they’re doing. If I get caught up in judging, the responsibility lies with me, not with them. It becomes my work on myself. I often say, “I really apologize for whatever suffering I’ve caused you in this situation.” We start to work from there. And after a while they will come forward and will examine themselves and say, “Well, maybe I was . . .” Our predicament is that our ego wants to be right in a world of people who don’t understand how right we are.

There is a way of representing what is right, the dharma of the moment. But if you get emotionally attached to a model of how the world ought to be that excludes how human beings are, there’s something wrong with where you’re standing. You should be standing somewhere else. Getting lost in your emotional reactivity isn’t where you want to be. Just allowing your humanity and that of others to be as it is, is the beginning of compassion. We are in a human incarnation. We can’t walk away. To walk in the dharma is also to hear other human beings

Ram Dass on Relationships

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on December 29th, 2014 @ 08:21:00 am , using 1655 words
Category: Commentary

Came upon this this am thinking about my own history of relationships. Jung had an idea of what he called 'individuation marriages' in which the partners are each contributing to the other's completeness or individuation. Ram Dass talks about the yoga of relationship which has a similar resonance. But the difficulties in these attempts seem to recur and there seem to be no easy solutions, though some of us persist in the attempt.

Ram Dass:

The image I always have when I am performing a wedding is the image of a triangle in which there are two partners and then there is this third force, this third being that emerges out of the interaction of these two. The third one is the one that is the shared awareness that lies behind the two of them. And the two people in the yoga of relationship come together in order to find that shared awareness that exists behind them in order to then dance as two. So that the twoness brings them into one and the oneness dances as two, and that’s a kind of a vibrating relationship between the one and the two. So that people are both separate, and yet they are not separate. And they are experiencing that the relationship is feeding both their uniqueness as individuals and their unit of consciousness.

Now, that is extremely delicate because it is so easy to get entrenched in your own “I need this,” “I want this,” “you are not fulfilling this for me” and seeing the other as object. But the delight, which all of you have experienced, is of being with somebody where you are sharing an awareness of the predicament you are both in. And you are sharing an awareness of the predicament even when you are having an argument with each other – there is an awareness that you are both almost delighting in the horrible beauty of it. We’re hating it and enjoying it both – because there are these levels we are playing at all the time. We come into relationship often very much identified with our needs. I need this, I need security, I need refuge, I need friendship, I need this. And all of relationships are symbiotic in that sense. We come together because we fulfill each others’ needs at some level or other.

The problem is that when you identify with those needs, you always stay at the level where the other person is she or he – it is satisfying that need. And it really only gets extraordinarily beautiful when it becomes us, and then when it goes behind us and becomes I. And so when I ask you which person are you saving or protecting or whose integrity you are protecting, I understand that to enter into the yoga of relationship is an extremely difficult thing to do. It’s the hardest yoga that I know of actually. Because your ego is so vulnerable when you start to open up to another human being. You feel so tender and so vulnerable. And before that one place gets going strong enough, you get frightened and you pull back and you get entrenched and that happens all the time in relationships. People that come together with the greatest meaning of feeling love and then they get caught in their needs and their frustrations and they separate.

One of the problems is that we tend to place relationships a little bit on the back burner in life. We get a relationship and then we go out to a job and we go out to other things. Now that we have that together, we go do life. And for a relationship to be a yoga of relationship, is like a full time operation for years. For me, one of my examples is Stephen and Ondrea Levine. Stephen and Ondrea used to be really nice, friendly, sociable people – before they met. And then they met – I used to like Stephen – and then they met and they really started to be together and the amount of energy that had to go into staying clear with each other was profound. Because what happens is so much goes down so fast in relationships, it’s really hard to process it fast enough to keep clear. So you keep getting this kind of residual of old stuff that isn’t quite digested enough and you end up separate from the person because you didn’t have time to stop and kind of work it through, clear it, and so on. So what they did was they moved on to land with no telephone. Put up a big sign “No Trespassing”. And they just started to work with one another. And after some years, during which you really felt like you were cut off as a friend, and it was hard for me, because I counted on Stephen a lot for sharing consciousness. And then after a while, they began to open up to me and allow me in and then I began to see the effect of that. I began to see what happens when people learn how to really open, trust, meditate together, keep emptying, keep clearing, and work until they are a shared awareness. And if you watch them when they are teaching together, when they are on the platform, or when they are together, they have done some really extraordinary work. They still have a lot of work to do. I mean they aren’t cooked by any means. But they have done some really good stuff together. And that’s hard and it’s rare.

I, on the other hand, have gone into relationships and realized that I can’t hear my own truth in the relationship and I’ve had to stop it. Because I wasn’t willing to surrender the life games that I was in for that relationship. It just wasn’t worth the effort. I treasured what I was doing in my life too much to invest in that relationship that deeply. So I’ve heard it both ways. You hear that? It’s not fair to say that any relationship that isn’t involved in the yoga of relationship is not useful and fulfilling to people. A lot of people come together because it is just really comfortable living with another person and there is a wonderful kind of sweet intimacy. And it’s fun to cook with each other and to sleep together and it’s fun to just live life together without trying to get too deep in as a spiritual practice. And many of those people have other spiritual practices. They go off and meditate and one does something else – Tai Chi or something else. And that seems fine to me. I don’t think you should make believe that a relationship is really yoga unless you are willing to really put the effort into making it such. And if you are, it really fills all the space for a long time.

When I am in a relationship with somebody else, and what they do upsets me; because I understand that my life experiences are the gift of my Guru in order to bring me to God, if somebody upsets me, that’s my problem. This is a hard one. Because we don’t usually think these ways in this culture. What I see other people as, I see them as trees in the forest. You go to the woods and you see gnarled trees and live oaks and pines and hemlocks and elms and things like that. And you are not inclined to say, “I don’t like you because you are a pine and not an elm.” You appreciate trees the way they are. But the minute you get near humans, you notice how quick it changes. It’s a way in which you don’t allow humans to just manifest the way they are. You take it personally. You keep taking other people personally. All they are are mechanical run-offs of old Karma. Really, it’s what they are. I mean they look real and they think they are real, but really what they are is mechanical run-off. So they say, Grrrh! And you karmically go Grrrh! And then one of you says, “We’ve got to work this out.” And the other says, “Yes, we must.” And then you start to work it out. It’s all mechanical. It’s all condition stuff.

So somebody comes along and gets to me. They get me angry or uptight or they awaken some desire in me, wow am I delighted. They got me. And that’s my work on myself. If I am angry with you because your behavior doesn’t fill my model of how you should be, that’s my problem for having models. No expectations, no upset. If you are a liar and a cheat, that’s your Karma. If I’m cheated, that’s my work on myself.

My attempting to change you, that’s a whole other ballgame. What I am saying is if I will only be happy if you are different than you are, you are asking for it. You are really asking for it. Think of how many relationships you say, “I really don’t like that person’s this or that.[ If they would only be this. If I could manipulate them to be this, I can be happy.” Isn’t that weird? Why can’t I be happy with them the way they are? You are a liar, a cheat and a scoundrel and I love you. I won’t play any games with you, but I love you. It’s interesting to move to the level where you can appreciate, love, and allow in the same way you would in the woods. Instead of constantly bringing in that judging component which is really rooted out of your own feelings of lack of power. Judging comes out of your own fear. Now I fall trap to it all the time. But every time I do, I catch myself.

--Ram Dass (AKA Richard Alpert)

OF NEGATIVITY by Bill Pearlman

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on December 19th, 2014 @ 03:12:00 pm , using 558 words


I had a falling out with my date over what she called my negativity. She said she cannot stand the negative in her life. I said something about fad diets and gluten-free and dairy-free and she got angry. She said I was negative. She turned negative toward me and wouldn’t go for a drink after we saw a comic movie with Jane Fonda and Tina Fey about a dysfunctional family.

I was unhappy because I liked her, or we had some fun together, which is her term more than mine. I said I thought our time together was sacred because I had just heard poet/environmentalist Wendell Berry talking with Bill Moyers about the sacredness of life on earth. The opposite of sacred, according to Berry, is desecration, which is what is happening with much of the environment, largely thanks to corporate greed.
After thinking the relationship was over, I decided to throw the I Ching to see what it could tell me, and it gave me Hexagram 13, Fellowship with Men. ‘Two people are outwardly separated, but in their hearts they are united.’ And the hexagram quotes a poem from Confucius which ends:

And when two people understand each other in their inmost hearts,
Their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchids.

Reading this and thinking about it made me think there still might be something going on. But I am not sure. I then read a story by Lydia Davis called ‘Negative Emotions.’ The story begins: “A well-meaning teacher, inspired by a text he had been reading, once sent all the other teachers in his school a message about negative emotions. The message consisted entirely of advice quoted from a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. Emotion, said the monk, is like a storm: it stays for a while and then it goes…(He then describes a practice which the monk calls ‘mindful breathing.’)…The other teachers were puzzled…They resented the message, and they resented their colleague…Some of them were, in fact, angry…They told him that it would take a lot of practice for them to get over the negative emotions caused by his message. But, they went on, they did not intend to do this practice. Far from being troubled by their negative emotions, they said, they in fact liked having negative emotions, particularly about him and his message.”

I had a talk about this with my painter friend Peter and he said that anything negative would get you kicked out of most dinner parties these days. Nobody wants to hear what people really think about much of anything. For most people, watching the news about wars, starvation and terrorism is no longer a fitting activity. Also to be avoided is anything about health or diets, along with the traditional taboo subjects, politics and religion. So, what’s to be done, I said. He said there are still people who remember what real life was like in the 60s and 70s, when human beings actually talked from their gut. Peter and I are planning to write a book together, and will probably include some ideas about ambivalence, the psychosis in social life, and the dominance of hucksterism, money and kitsch in recent times. By confronting the Negative, we will try to regain the ground of the Hopeful, and perhaps re-assert ethics in human and artistic processes.

--Bill Pearlman

A SORT OF QUERY & other poems

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on October 19th, 2014 @ 12:11:00 pm , using 517 words
Category: Poetry


No traction. Make amends
and give over your pains.
The days wheel on,
unregretting. Sky goes
dark to light, mind
wakes as ever. Nothing
but memory saved
and still puzzles remain.

Who put us here unknowing
and swept so much away?
Does ongoing care dissolve
when we feel? Does air
hold parts of us in trust
so that one day all this
will resonate with something of us?

Is grace living in us
and in our vanishing?
Do the birds and flowers
dressed in fine autumn colors
help transform our sorrows
and give us back soul’s
rarest companions?


Wish everyone still here, holding
steady. But not the case,
and did many go to a better place?
How can we know? A talk over coffee,
a joke, a passing story,
so little and yet still stirring in time
across the bewildering past.

You, my friend, made a difference
and together we often wandered
place to place, hungry
for a distance or a smile.
We grow used to losses.
Who can expect perpetuity
to enter these brief wonders?

But soul carries on. Kindness,
that once lived in your presence,
still arrives unsolicited in the world.
I think of you and I sense you
closeby in a world we once shared
in the drums in the street, the voices
of these continuing days of grace


But tell me therefore Sourcework
how do we obtain your innerness?
Where in all your exultant forms
does the fire of faith come alive
in some expanding configuration?

Who challenged our compassion
echoing in so many lengthy nights?
What stymied melancholic glare
restructured our mute digressions?

Grace or Soul or Love
deepen our necessities
& help shape these recurring insurrections
offering proof no exile impedes us.


Dawn and a flustered
remembrance. Is it over?
Does looming death obscure
all choice? Do creaking
legs fall apart, a walking stick
guiding all movement?
As if there was a time,
as if we could effervesce
once more. Look,
we might say, the light
of another day


Blend forward what comes
down through ancient regard,
beds that rise on legs,
burnt offerings, innuendoes
formal branch of being
struck inward and home


What can I do for you?
The last of his forces,
the humbling loss
of what was once a driven
prospect that went on & on


Quiescent nature overrides
every refocus on ruin,
devastation, ambivalence—

Strain free young butterfly
just learning wingdom—
Go fly as long as you can—

Strike through freedom,
kind note that hurries in
spite of all these fallings-out

And you lovely form lying close
to the waterfall that slides down
the face of the Charco wall

What do you think of our vision?
Is being here just so much fullness
we can praise and hold and inspire?

And as sun falls in western skies,
the ibis begin their flight to another presa
and ducks whirl into oncoming winds—

What wonders we enthuse
and gather ourselves at close of day,
climbing in late light one more charmed exodus

--Bill Pearlman

A Sunday in Mexico

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on September 28th, 2014 @ 10:54:00 am , using 430 words
Category: Commentary

As war heats up in the Middle East again, difficulties in comprehending how that many years of American involvement did not solve more problems. Year after year of arguments saying the job was getting done and now the job seems neverending. The whole fiasco of jihadists who come back to take over huge swaths of land where failed states have come to be the norm. Good article by Dexter Filkins in recent New Yorker shows how a vacuum has existed in Iraq and how the Kurds are trying to find their way to fighting against IS, get some freedom for themselves and position their own possibilities within a context that is totally out of control.

And yet life in the US continues such as it does. Here in Mexico, the relatively quiet town of San Miguel continues its incessant fiesta traditions. We had Dias de Patria recently, celebrations of Independence, plenty of activities--fireworks, parades. The loss of old friend Keith Keller makes the place much emptier, so I have had to find some solace in a more solitary condition. Acted in a play recently, Annapurna, which was a challenge and a joy. Piece is about a dying poet who is visited by his ex-wife and he has to recall all the failures of his marriage and the disintegration of his life. Major premise, based somewhat on an attempt by climbers to reach the summit of Himalayan peak Annapurna, is that there are challenges that are beyond us and bring ruin in their wake. This seems to be the case with the marriage of Ulysses and Emma in Annapurna. Led me back to my own failures with marriage and a sense of perhaps trying to do impossible things.

But the life we live is perhaps always one we partly choose. Finding a solitary life in a mountain town in Mexico seems to have come as my fate. At times, a desire for a tribal life or a more communal or familial existence rises and there is a sense of having never secured that. On occasion, a play comes along and the cast pools its energies together and we have a family for a short while. Sometimes joining other families serves as a refuge from too much time alone. But the solitary life seems to have become normal for me and I know for others as well. We do our best to survive amid the complexities of living. We meditate, we walk, we absorb the light and the landscape. We keep on, trying to become part of the living world.

--Bill Pearlman

AHEAD OF OURSELVES Remembering Keith Keller 1943-2014

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on August 20th, 2014 @ 01:23:00 pm , using 106 words
Category: Poetry

Remembering Keith Keller

That the world was better then
that it was fuller
because you were in it
and others who took your presence

Some portent of valued livingness
body and soul we say
hoping for forgiveness
for we had to forgive

and so the light found us,
and the heavens opened
one slant at a time
one opening across the old town
colonial and privileged

but you saw and loved
as a waking state, a surmise
long sought for, somewhat amazed
this can happen to us
lucky to simply be here
gazing ahead, behind

--Bill P

San Miguel de Allende, August 2014

'If Only' and Suicide

Posted by: Bill Pearlman
Published on August 17th, 2014 @ 11:14:00 am , using 448 words
Category: Commentary

Kathleen Reardon, a retired professor, takes another look at our mental health system in the US and the lack of adequate care. We really do make it so much stigma to admit serious mental health issues, including depression. Interesting that she says the average inpatient psych stay is 7 days. And the issue is always harm to self or others. But the numbers of suicides and the problem of dealing with something that is deemed shameful in a wide sense demands a further inquiry.

I still remember the pain of wondering "if only" with regard to a member of my own family. I believed then that much of life could be controlled; I wasn't yet aware of the extent to which some things lie totally beyond our influence.

This doesn't mean we should throw up our hands when a loved one is deeply depressed. We should, however, be appalled at how difficult it can be for people with mental health issues to access care in America and around the world. It's shameful how emergency-oriented the mental health "system" has become. The average hospital stay for psychiatric inpatients is a woefully inadequate seven days -- and that only when admission is gained, which usually requires the perception of imminent harm to self or others. As Allen Frances, Duke University professor emeritus, wrote only days ago, "This is the worst of times and places for many people with severe mental illnesses."

With so much to learn about the human brain, and despite political progress, we've been stalled by the stigma of mental illness and deceived by yesterday's promises of deinstitutionalization and "mainstreaming" that came to mean nothing more than ostracizing and criminalizing patients. Until we understand that mental illness is not something that happens to other people -- and to other people's families and children -- but rather a capricious visitor who may well have your address, we'll continue to allow millions of people, who could be helped, to suffer and perhaps to die.

As we take in the tragedy of Robin Williams' passing, we should also reject the shambles that is mental health care for most Americans. If there is an "if only" that makes sense, it is a societal one. Not everyone can be saved and certainly not indefinitely, but people who treat or support mental health patients, including families and friends, need to speak loudly about how a society that purports to be civilized, and whose representatives until recently bragged ignorantly of having the best health care in the world, treat a vulnerable and significant population of its citizens.

Robin Williams left us with many precious gifts. Among them, may this be one of the most enduring.

Kathleen Reardon

Huffpost 17Aug14

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