All words are lies. At best, they point toward the truth. At worst, they mislead and create confusion. We already know everything there is to know—if we could only quiet our minds. The constant chatter, anxiety and self-questioning that shadow our daily lives magically lift when we allow ourselves to give up our feelings of separateness. We have all experienced moments of it, whether in deep prayer or meditation, observing or creating an object of beauty, or in giving or receiving an act of kindness.
There is a famous teaching in the Zen tradition which tells of a student asking about the moon. A stick is used to point to it and the teaching warns us not to mistake the stick for the moon. The problem with all words is that they are sticks—they can never be the moon. At best they are beautiful sticks that delineate the moon’s shape, light or majesty and allow our eyes to gaze at it directly. At worst they are multi-pronged branches that splay out into many different directions and only deepen our confusion. I remember being a young child in Nigeria. I was trying to tell my friend Femi, who had never been outside of Lagos and its oppressive year-round heat, about snow. I remember opening the freezer door and pointing to the frost and trying to explain that in a snow storm this stuff just comes out of the sky and blankets the ground. Even the frost in the freezer was melting as I kept the door open. Close to forty years later that experience still resonates with me. Truths have to be experienced in our lives and in our bones in order to belong to us. This book is my humble attempt to offer some clarity and encouragement to all those who know that there is more than meets the physical senses. As we live our lives, pay our bills, seek or nourish relationships, inflict or lick deep wounds, judge and are judged, there is a craving for peace. Whether it is through material acquisition or surrender, psychological integration or drug abuse, the universal truth is that we are all looking for some solace.
My search for truth started as a child and became an inner fire during my teens. My path has included drug abuse, a fascination and flirtation with the thin edge of the abyss, sitting at the feet of many spiritual masters, decades of therapy, a deep martial arts and meditation practice, divorce and twenty years of work as a therapist and acupuncturist, including learning from and working with patients dying from AIDS. The one thing that I have learned from treating literally thousands of people from all walks of life—from hardened criminals to CEOs of major corporations, prostitutes to priests, solitude seeking monks to famous actors and artists—is that we are all the same. We all have the same hopes and fears wrapped in different disguises. What I share here are observations from my own journey, the teachings of those who have helped me on my path and the wisdom of the travelers I have had the privilege to serve. It is my intention to remind you of your majesty and to clear any clouds covering that bright light ruling the night sky of your consciousness. This book is just a stick. You are the moon.