Jonathan Foust

August 24, 2009

First Signs

Filed under: Nature, Photography, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 10:55 am

It’s coming.  The Fall.  I love this coming season and I find myself already missing the summer, which is kind of ridiculous, as it’s gorgeous out right now.  The quote below says it all when it comes to all the seasons we live through.

The first leaves in transition.

The first leaves in transition.

“What is the secret to your serenity?,” asks the student.

“Wholehearted cooperation with the inevitable,” said the Master.

– Anthony De Mello


June 22, 2009

To .. uh, Bee

Filed under: Nature, Photography, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 10:50 pm

Bee side angle

Be Who You Want to Be

Happiness is possible when you are capable of doing the things and being the things you want to do and to be.

When we walk for the sake of walking,

when we sit for the sake of sitting,

when we drink for the sake of drinking tea,

we don’t do it for something or someone else.

Awakening means to see that truth—

that you want to know how to enjoy,

how to live deeply,

in a very simple way.

You don’t want to waste your time anymore.

Cherish the time that you are given.

–Thich Nhat Hanh, from Answers from the Heart (Parallax Press)

June 14, 2009

Happy to Be Alive

Filed under: Observations, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 1:51 pm

I’ve had a few near death experiences, the most dramatic being from going into anaphylactic shock from bee stings.  This article from the New York Times speaks of the joy that can emerge when we realize how easily our life can end.  I found the comments on the article as entertaining and touching as the article itself.

Thanks, Ellen!

June 2, 2009

Fear of Transformation

Filed under: Dharma, Photography, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 9:55 am
Me, succumbing to irrational exuberance in Iceland.

Me, succumbing to irrational exuberance in Iceland. (Thanks, Ravindra!)

This week I’ve been talking about Transitions and Transformations.  Who isn’t going through some kind of change these days?

Buddhism points to the Three Characteristics of Reality.  Impermanence, Suffering, and “No Self.”  The more we examine the moment-to-moment phenomenon, the more we can realize the possibility for freedom in the midst of change.

This reading below is long, but one of my favorites.  It speaks to how we cling to identity and fear the unknown.  The more comfortable we become with the mystery, the more we find ourselves free to enjoy the journey.


Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings.  I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment.  It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life.  I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers.  But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see?  I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me.  It’s empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it.  In my heart-of-hearts I know that in order for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well-known  bar to move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to grab the new one.  But in my knowing place I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar.  Each time I am filled with terror.  It doesn’t matter that all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it.  Each time I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars.  But I do it anyway.  Perhaps that is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience.  No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives.  And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”  It’s called transition.  I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs.  I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time that my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing” a no-place between places.  Sure the old trapeze bar was real, and the new one coming towards me, I hope that is real too.  But the void between? That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible.  What a waste!  I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid  the void, where the real change, the real growth occurs for us.  Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places.  They should be honored, even savored.  Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out-of-control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang-out” in the transition between the trapeze bars.  Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens.  It can be terrifying.  It can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word.  Hurtling through the void, we may just  learn to fly.

From the book, Warriors of the Heart by Danaan Parry

May 30, 2009

Paul Hawken and the New Operating System

Filed under: Observations, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 11:20 am

A beautiful commencement address by Paul Hawken to the University of Portland.

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there.

Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

May 17, 2009

The “What Am I?” Retreat

Filed under: Dharma, Meditation, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 5:02 pm

An important aspect of the “What Am I?” retreat we did on Saturday is the principle of “interpersonal meditation.”  In addition to silent practice, participants sit quietly with another person.  The questioner asks, “Please tell me what you are.”  After a sincere inquiry into what happens inside contemplating the question, the speaker shares what arises in the mind and body.

Because we hold a commitment to confidentiality and do not ‘discuss’ what arises, participants feel free to openly share what they notice internally when they take on this most challenging inquiry.  What happens for many is a sense of safety, trust and though there is no ‘discussion,’ a deepening sense of intimacy – with ourselves and each other.

I’m struck by the following poem by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, which speaks to the connection possible between us:

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

April 26, 2009

Deepening the Wonder

Filed under: Dharma, Nature, Photography, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 4:38 pm
This week’s topic was on The Heavenly Messengers:  Sickness, Old Age and Death.  When we are touched by them, our lives take new shape.
Below is poem from Hafiz.  Below that, the image of a decaying yearling deer I came across on one of my river walks recently.
I find the the image of form dissolving back to the elements both horrific and wonderous.

Deepening The Wonder

Death is a favor to us,

But our scales have lost their balance.

The impermanence of the body

Should give us great clarity,
Deepening the wonder in our senses and eyes

Of this mysterious existence we share

And are surely just traveling through.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,
Hafiz would call for drinks

And as the Master poured, I would be reminded

That all I know of life and myself is that

We are just a midair flight of golden wine
Between His Pitcher and His Cup.

If I were in the Tavern tonight,

I would buy freely for everyone in this world

Because our marriage with the Cruel Beauty

Of time and space cannot endure very long.

Death is a favor to us,

But our minds have lost their balance.

The miraculous existence and impermanence of


Always makes the illumined ones

Laugh and sing.

Emptiness and Form

Form and Emptiness

March 24, 2009

Call Me By My True Names

Filed under: Dharma, Photography, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 10:25 am
A reflection of clouds at the river's edge.

A reflection of clouds at the river's edge.

The reading from class this week exploring ‘self and world.’  From Thich Nhat Han.

Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.
The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my
and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my
dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all
walks of life.
My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

February 12, 2009

Happy for No Reason, Part VII

Filed under: Photography, Quotation — jonathanfoust @ 11:16 am


Hanna and Allison dancing at our wedding

Hanna and Allison dancing at our wedding



For no reason 
I start skipping like a child. 

For no reason 
I turn into a leaf 
That is carried so high 
I kiss the sun’s mouth 
And dissolve. 

For no reason 
A thousand birds 
Choose my head for a conference table, 
Start passing their 
Cups of wine 
And their wild songbooks all around. 

For every reason in existence 
I begin to eternally, 
To eternally laugh and love! 

When I turn into a leaf 
And start dancing, 
I run to kiss our beautiful Friend 
And I dissolve in the Truth 
That I Am.

– Hafiz


Hat tip to Ellen.  Thanks!

December 23, 2008

The Prayer of St. Francis

Filed under: Dharma, Quotation, Video — jonathanfoust @ 7:17 am

In the Monday Night class at St. Mark’s Episcopal last night we explored Buddhist and Christian contemplative traditions.  Collie read the St. Francis prayer, pausing to let each line be an object of meditation and reflection.  I was quite moved by the play of phrases and silence.  

I’m in the middle of writing a talk for the upcoming New Year’s Retreat on the Path of the Bodhisattva and am struck at what potent words these are as we look to a new year.

Here’s a rendition of the St. Francis Prayer by Sarah Maclachlan:

The words:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
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