Unfamiliar Voices & Curious Ravens

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
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Who or what was making the strange voices upstairs? I heard them while I poured cold water into the coffee maker New Years Day 2012. It sounded like a gang of teenagers chatting. This was, of course, absurd because the only person upstairs was my wife and she was fast asleep. Nevertheless, the sound of the adolescent disembodied voices brought me half way up the staircase. They faded the closer I got to the top of the stairs.

I returned to the kitchen. Our electric coffee maker burbled as it streamed and drizzled my morning cups into the once empty glass pot. After the ‘maker spit out a few more tssssst! phooopht! tssssst!  phoooopht! and soft puffs of steam, I heard the voices again. Again I headed toward the stairs, but the baffling banter departed.

Soon, the lyrics to “Proud Mary” cranked through my brain. Over and over again: “Proud Mary Keep On…” Suddenly, the music in mind was silenced by a loud and clear inner voice:

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.

The lines from Poe’s The Raven instantly triggered a memory I had when I strolling barefoot on the beach with my girlfriend, Christina,  many years ago.

Image by Sergey Yeliseev via Flickr

It was at Manersa around mid day, nothing but slop and chop–unsurfable. Christina pointed to an abnormal black celestial shape flying towards us. It swam graciously through scattered wispy clouds in the blustery sky. I watched it closely as it approached, I soon discovered that it was…

A giant beetle? No, a raven? Yes, a large raven; in fact, I could hear it cawing. As it flew closer, I wondered why its beak and legs were colored bright green and also why it was flying so erratically. By the time it was close enough to see it clearly, I realized something bewildering about the bizarre bird: It was a plastic bag!

Christina and I both laughed. It tricked us both. Unfortunately, not all fantasies reveal their reality with such clarity. Sometimes the voices tell enticing stories and sometimes the ravens cast their wicked shadows on the floor.

It’s not always easy to distinguish the raven from the plastic. Zazen helps. I am much stronger and lucid when I breathe and it carries through to the rest of my life. In a very short time, the practice of Zazen has transformed me. The changes have NOT come as mystical flashes of insight or clouds parting as God beams of enlightenment blast open my spirit. That would be too easy.

Instead, Zen appears as the cold hard facts of my life. In the moments when I discover that the voices upstairs are the neighbor’s TV that the mysterious raven is just a plastic bag (or sack if you’re from the Northwest).

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I almost Ruin Zen & Defame Alan Watts, but Really I Just Jabber about Barefoot Running in a Blog Title that Is Way Too Long for SEO & Affiliate Marketing, but Screw SEO Affiliate Marketing because This is My Freaking Blog & I Write What I Want When I Want

Der Kinderreigen (Children's dances) by Hans T...
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I created a silly dance called the “barefoot shuffle” to annoy and amuse my wife. But I also use it to loosen up and to make my neighbors roll there eyes even more. The barefoot shuffle is as simple as it is stupid. I simply kick my feet from side to side and hop around; sometimes I pump my fists from belly button to chest. The whole dance is natural; it just sort of bursts out like a peel of laughter. As it turns out, the dumb dance has some deeper truth in it.

In the video below, Alan Watts,  talks about how natural running is a kind of dance:

Alan Watts YouTube Video about Running featuring Alan Singing to Plants.

I agree: Running should be joyous and good running form is not force of will; it flows from the spirit–from the inside to the outside, from outside to the inside; each stride as rhythmic as your pulse. Every toddler runs that way, they all do the dance and most of them aren’t running to win a race, they’re running because they’re thrilled to be alive.

It’s difficult to experience the world when there is a synthetic barrier between you and it, which is why I tread barefoot whenever possible.

And now, some Alan Watts quotes:

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

“… the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”

“… the only thing you need to know to understand the deepest metaphysical secrets — is this: that for every outside there is an inside and for every inside there is an outside, and although they are different, they go together.”

–Alan Watts

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Going Barefoot Gets You High

I am convinced that barefoot walking or running gets you high. Not only because everyone who sees you calls you crazy and thinks you’re stoned even though you’re not, but also because it forces you to slow down, to become conscious of your much ignored feet, and to feel the many various textures of the earth. Shoes numb us from the sensations of our planet. We sever ourselves from the earth. Exposing your feet to ground awakens nerves and sparks sensations all over your body. No wonder it ignites creative thoughts.

Even rain-wet concrete can be exhilarating. Sharp gravel keeps you in the moment–forcing mindful steps. Your brain quiets down when it’s trying to avoid pain. The worries and stress of the day float away. Your concern is to step forward safely. Sometimes you avoid the sharp rocks or maybe they avoid you.

But don’t take my word for. Take off your shoes and step outside. A world of experience awaits.