On Patriotism, Spirit, and Paying Taxes
In a spiritual culture, is the term "patriot" term outmoded? After all, aren't we all One Humanity, citizens of the world? Are we not, each and all, cells on this living planet? Perhaps we should all pledge allegiance to Earth – to her seas and air and mountains and plains, and all sentient beings.
Such a grand and unified vision, while reflecting higher truth, speaks more to what we evolving towards than to the reality of our current world, where we live as citizens of apparently separate nation-states, sometimes at apparent odds with one another. (Rather like our arm going to war with our leg.)
Another part of our current reality is that we, as citizens of a state and nation, abide by local laws, serve on juries, vote, pay taxes, and benefit from social services we take for granted.
It seems to me that true patriots are willing to pay their own way (as well as they can), and do their part to help raise the standards of integrity in their families, towns, and respective countries-and hopefully, in the world we all share.
John F. Kennedy's words, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather, what you can do for your country" has become a familiar cliché, yet it remains true and relevant today, and more needed than ever. Each of us can influence our nation by voting-and by paying our fair share of taxes.
Since the last newsletter, Tax Time has come and gone. How many of us whine and complain about taxes, or to pout in silence? How many of us seek every possible means to avoid taxes altogether or find loopholes or shelters so we can pay as little as possible?
I suggest that this approach has little to do with patriotism. It reflects an adolescent egotism, based on the illusion that we do more for our country than it does for us. We want to get as much as we can, and give as little as we can get away with.
I'm happy to pay taxes! I'm grateful for the blessing of living in this country (despite its flaws and mistakes and excesses.) Joy and I consider our tax payment a charitable contribution to the common good. Sure, money can be tight all around-I remember what it's like to look for any spare change in the couch at the end of the month-but paying taxes is one primary way to contribute to our state and nation, giving something back for what we receive.
Of course, we also have a duty keep an eye on elected legislators and how they spend our money. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Hillel once wrote, "If I am not for me, who will be? But if I am only for me, what am I? And if not now, when?" If we think only of ourselves, what are we? One key element of spiritual maturity is shifting from "What do I want and prefer?" to "What is for the highest good of all concerned?" To me, this is the higher meaning of patriotism.
Our national household and the rest of the world are undergoing important trials and lessons. May we continue to keep our eyes open, and remain vigilant, and find wise leaders willing to join hands with the larger world; may we become better patriots of our country and of our world. If not now . . . when?
Web Link of the Month
This month's recommended web link is
This site features wise and positive wisdom, a vast array of quotations from authors and teachers past and present, and other resources. Hope you enjoy.
I'm happy to announce that the newly-revised edition of Sacred Journey is now available online and in bookstores everywhere. Cover art by Terry Lamb, cover creator of Way of the Peaceful Warrior.
The adventure takes place within my first book, so if you haven't read Sacred Journey, you haven't really read Way of the Peaceful Warrior. (The ideal way to read both books is to read WPW to page 184 then read Sacred Journey and finally, finish WPW.)
Sacred Journey has moved many to laughter and tears, and it conveys the clearest information you'll find related to our personal evolution and a deep understanding of the three selves.
If you haven't read it, pick up a copy – or send it to a friend!
2004 Upcoming Seminars this month and next . . .
A light speaking schedule in June and July as Dan spends time with family and begins writing a miraculous new book you'll hear about later on . . .
Fri.-Sun. July 16-18
A Peaceful Warrior Weekend intensive at the beautiful
Omega Institute, upstate NY
Info/Reg. 800-944-1001 – email@example.com
For details: http://www.eomega.com/omega/workshops/
Question of the Month
From David Q.
My name is David . . . and I live in Brisbane, Australia. Some 3 years ago I started to question my beliefs or non beliefs in the way I looked at the world and myself. After reading a multitude of books written to help us on our spiritual path, including 5 of yours. (which I would like to thank you for) I recently came to a conclusion or realisation that they are all just stories.
The problem is, maybe I am naive, but I actually believed that these stories were true and non fictional. It was quite a surprise when I came across your web site and discovered that your stories are not as true as I believed. My first reaction was to criticise myself for failing to understand that your story and all other stories are not mine but the writers.
After berating myself for some minutes, a light came on, its all just stories, that is what this life on earth exists on, some true and some not. So who are we without these stories, another flash of understanding, we are nothing without our stories. Our stories true or false create the world we live in and a very large percentage of the population believe these stories to be true, not even questioning their validity like myself with your stories.
So Dan I would like to thank you for teaching me about nothing, Because I now understand beyond our fanciful stories there is a realty that is nothing, and the time has come for me to stop living other peoples experiences and start living mine, no more books for a short time, so that I can see what my inner self can discover within its own experience. This is my story, truth, fiction or nothing.
I found your letter quite refreshing and interesting. There's a proverb that goes, "God invented men and women because God loves stories." We and this world are all an unfinished story. Here's what a woman named Byron Katie has to say about another type of story (we tell ourselves):
"I often use the word story to talk about thoughts, or sequences of thoughts, that we convince ourselves are real. A story may be about the past, the present, or the future; it may be about what things should be, what they could be, or why there are. Stories appear in our minds hundreds of times a day-when someone gets up without a word and walks out of the room, when someone doesn't smile or doesn't return a phone call, or when a stranger does smile; before you open an important letter, or after you feel an unfamiliar sensation in your chest; when your boss invites you to come to his office, or when your partner talks to you in a certain tone of voice. Stories are the untested, uninvestigated theories that tell us what all these things mean. We don't even realize that they're just theories.
We create theories, we make up meanings, as if they were true – but none of them are fact."
I could have expressed much the same things, David, but Byron Katie expressed it so well I thought I'd share it in her words. Nobody is smarter than all of us.
Still, perhaps it's wisest not to get caught up in "it's all true" or "it's all stories" dichotomies. True, life arises moment to moment out of mystery, and we make up our meanings — but reality is not exactly "nothing." (It has also been said that reality is made up of many realities.)
The Zen masters call it "isness" or "suchness." Simply what is, without additions or complications.
Barbara Rasp wrote, "The lesson is simple; the student is complicated."
Amidst the stories and theories and ideas and meanings, this is arising (whatever that is). Perhaps why, when asked "What is enlightenment," the roshi said, "When I'm hungry, I eat; when I'm thirsty, I drink; when I'm tired, I sleep." Simplicity without additions.
However, gravity is real because it works whether or not I believe it.
All the elements of my book (Way of the Peaceful Warrior) are true — but only some are factual. (Art is a lie that helps us see the truth.)
There are so many idealistic, illusory notions, childlike fascinations, and wishful thinking today. Many people seek out teachers who will tell them how to effortlessly manifest their dreams just by thinking differently. But I would remind you that life can be difficult at times. And that it's supposed to be. How else will be do the spiritual weight-lifting to strengthen our spirits?
Yet when all is said and done, David, you have it right: Life is indeed a story that we weave through our actions, moment to moment.
Here's to constructive actions and good stories!
Wit and Wisdom
The following reminders come from the cowboy-sage, Will Rogers:
* If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
* The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back in your pocket.
* Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it's called golf.
* Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.
* Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled.
* You cannot unsay a cruel word.
* Every path has a few puddles.
* The best sermons are lived, not preached.
* Most of the stuff people worry about ain't never gonna happen.
* Silence is sometimes the best answer.
* Live an honorable life. When you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.
* Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
* It's better to be a has-been than a never-was.
* If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' around somebody else's dog.
* You can't tell the quality of a man or watermelon 'till they get thumped'.
* Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.
What Others Have Said:
Illness is the most heeded of doctors;
to goodness and wisdom
we only make promises;
we obey pain.
Good advice often works best
when preceded by a bad scare.
God comforts the disturbed
and disturbs the comfortable.
Life is what we make it.
Always has been, always will be.
A message for all seasons from Dan's book Living on Purpose:
Straight Answers to Life's Tough Questions
The following is House Rule ##6 – one of twenty-four principles presented in the book.
Q: Why does my life seem to be getting worse?
A: If we don't learn easy lessons, they get harder.
If we miss life s whispered teachings,
they return as wake-up calls.
and when God calls,
we had better pick up the phone.
Adversity is one way
the universe gets our attention.
Physical pain calls us
to balance our body.
Emotional suffering reveals to us
our illusions and resistance.
Mental suffering reveals the
healing power of the present.
Some pain is inevitable,
But as we learn to listen
to life s gentle lessons,
Recently, I doubted my love for my long-time boyfriend and I slept with a co-worker. I have since realized that I love my boyfriend more strongly and deeply than I knew. I will never doubt it again. If I ever told my boyfriend about this infidelity, he would never speak to me again. He had a terrible childhood and was abandoned by his family. What do you advise? Move on and forgive myself, or confess and live a life without my soul mate?
Every mistake reveals something about ourselves and the nature of reality. We can t undo our errors, but we can learn from them. If we don t learn, the lessons get harder.
Regretting our mistake is not the same as learning the lesson. You write that you slept with a co-worker because you doubted the love you had for your boyfriend, and that you have since discovered a deeper love for him than you knew. You also state that you will never doubt your love again. Is this realistic? Even in the best relationships, doubts arise. In that case, what will you do? Whether or not you tell your boyfriend, be honest with yourself: Many people doubt their love at times, yet maintain their fidelity. You did not.
If you tell your boyfriend what occurred, offer no explanations or excuses; take full responsibility. Express your regret, share what you have learned and that you never intend for it to happen again. He may or may not find it in his heart to forgive you; your relationship may not survive the revelation. If you do stay together, it will take time to earn back his trust. So consider carefully whether it serves any useful purpose to unburden yourself. You want to do the right thing, but right for whom? The most caring thing may be to put it behind you (but not deny or forget it), and to re-forge your bond based on greater strength and fidelity. As painful as your current situation may seem, it is actually one of the easy lessons. At least you made this mistake, and felt the results, before you took formal marriage vows of fidelity before God, friends, and family.
In the school of daily life, we are not here to be perfect, but to live and learn, to fall and to rise again to evolve and strive toward our highest potential. May this difficult experience become an easy lesson and a blessing that transforms your life.
My girlfriend left me two months ago. I constantly think of her, while at work or at the gym, or even on a date. I feel a connection with her that I cannot sever; she has moved on but confesses to me that she still misses me and thinks of me. How do you deal with the pain of a broken heart?
The pain of a broken heart will fade in time, as all emotions do. With a physical injury, you experience the initial pain, and then the healing begins. The same is true in losing a relationship. But if you continue to poke an injury or reopen a wound, it takes much longer to heal. Your continued contact, and her mixed messages, only prolongs your pain. If you both want to be together, then work it out; if not, avoid any further contact. A Zen proverb advises, If you sit, sit; if you stand, stand; but don t wobble!
You write, I constantly think of her, but this is not realistic. No one thinks constantly of anyone or anything but when painful thoughts or images arise, turn your attention elsewhere. And notice the tendency to attach meaning to what occurred If I were a better person, she would have stayed as if your worth depended on someone else s behavior. People do what they do for their own reasons.
Life is a school. We are here not always to get what we want, but to learn. And the challenges of relationships have much to teach us about ourselves if we re paying attention. If not, tougher lessons eventually get our attention. When I was a young gymnast, for example, I fractured my toe while trying a new move on the parallel bars. It hurt a lot but not nearly as much the second time I cracked it while stubbornly trying the same thing again and again.
Repeated lessons can hurt even more, so follow the example of Maurice, a quick-witted but foul-mouthed parrot given to Charlie on his birthday. Maurice had a bad attitude and worse vocabulary. Charlie tried playing soft music, yelling at him, pleading with him, but Maurice continued cursing. So, in a moment of desperation, Charlie stuck his parrot in the freezer among the frozen vegetables, fish, and chicken. Maurice squawked and screeched for a few moments then was suddenly silent. Worried that he might have frozen his pet, Charlie quickly opened the freezer door. Whereupon Maurice calmly stepped out onto Charlie s extended arm and said, I sincerely regret if my language has offended you and I offer my deepest apologies. In the future I will endeavor to correct my behavior and be a model of civility. Then Maurice added casually, By the way, sir, back in the freezer I noticed there was a frozen chicken. May I ask how the chicken offended you?
Maurice decided to learn the easy lesson a visit to the freezer instead of permanent residence.
Every adversity has hidden gifts that reveal themselves over time. For now, know that as painful as it may feel, the healing has begun. Learn the lessons of this experience and get on with your life.
Continuing next month LIVING ON PURPOSE: Straight Answers to Life's Tough Questions – available at your local bookstore, or at amazon.com.