On Leonard Cohen

I sat in silence this morning, and it wasn’t long until my heart turned towards Leonard Cohen. He was like that. One man radiating like the sun, drawing us in and keeping us faithful to that light. After all, he was a man of the people, private as he was. That was part of his mystery, how he penetrated the darkness inside so many of us. I find his last album ironic that it was penned by such a giver of light. One cannot get into darkness, I suspect, as one gets into light. But there it is. It is a fact of life, that darkness that he describes and portends. We get shivers now as his absence seems to hail darker times ahead.

How did he, and does he, and will continue to, break into our darkness so readily? He is a figure of mystery, as all lovers are. He was impeccable except when it came to love. But he couldn’t help himself. His tailored suits could not protect him from loving women too promiscuously. He had his flaws like all of us do.

No one has been able to say an unkind word about him since his demise. That is because love is stronger than hate. And he seemed to hate nothing and no one on a personal level. He railed against situations in song, but it was an impersonal rant always followed by his own hallelujah.

I read the many testimonies now since his body has been laid to rest. I weep again and again for the personal void left in so many hearts around the globe. They, like me, will continue to have Leonard sing them to sleep at night. They will dream of him. They will yearn towards the lighthouse of his being. And he still is. Someone like him cannot put out their light by simply casting off the body. Oh, no, no, no, as he gruffly intones in one of his songs. There is a table of love he simply cannot leave.

Vicki Woodyard

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The Mind Falls Silent

At a certain point, the mind falls silent. What happens next? Good question. For most of my life, my mind kept nattering at me about this and that. Now the media does that for me, so I am out of a job. I can put my mind on cruise control and let the ship sail where it is headed, straight for the rocks!

That first paragraph made me laugh; I hope it gave you a grin as well. But guess what, folks, the job of the mind is to steer around the rocks, not run straight into them. What’s a body to do when the mind doesn’t plan an escape route?

I stop to look outside the window on this twilit November evening. The oranges and golds are magnificent and the sky has been pale blue washed with cream today. An acorn actually hit me on the head so hard I said ow. But now I am inside making pixel magic happen. (While the ship is headed towards the rocks.)

Let me put this another way, life is one damned thing after another, as some wag said. We know that fools are in charge of government; it has ever been thus. We know what idiots we are; that is nothing new either.

I am missing Leonard Cohen like crazy. I remember his story of visiting the asylum where one of his friends was “sequestered,” and how funny it was. He was mistaken for one of the inmates. Aren’t we all? If you think this world is going sane, you have another think coming. Vernon Howard said the whole world was an insane asylum; we just didn’t have enough concrete to build a wall around it.

I have fears that revolve around travel and my not being strong enough to endure going to some faraway place. I cling to my creature comforts. When I do think about travel, it is in terms of heading for the rocks. So I might as well give in and let it happen. It’s gonna, sooner or later!

But I don’t. Instead I create worst-case scenarios of making a fool out of myself. But I am already a fool. Gurdjieff called us idiots of various kinds. Why not just let the tao flow straight into the rocks of reality? Why do we live fear-based lives?

I need to wrap this note up. I begin it by saying that my mind had fallen silent. I end it by saying I might as well let it fall directly into the tao. The tao is the nature of reality and we have stayed busy creating mental bypasses. We live in our heads, not our hearts.

Stay tuned. I am headed for the rocks.

Vicki Woodyard

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Thoughts on Leonard Cohen’s “Treaty”

I have listened to Leonard Cohen’s powerful song “Treaty” countless times. Every note thrills the waiting heart. They are comfortable chords that cloak us in the inevitability of never quite knowing, yet loving anyway. It bids the mind rest.

If we are honest, our egos are never gonna make it into heaven. For we are illusory creatures born of dire necessity. We have to survive in this imperfect world. We have to be named and numbered, all the while hearing that we are unique and irreplaceable. The paradox begins at the first breath and doesn’t end until the last.

So this treaty must be always beyond reach of the human mind and heart. But to wish for one is a beautiful thing. We are admitting that we simply don’t know what lies beyond the reach of our humanity. We are limited creatures struggling mightily with unanswerable questions.

I feel Leonard’s struggle is mine, always. If he had told us he had solved the great mystery and signed the treaty, that would be cold comfort. Instead, he wishes and waits. And we with him. He confessed instead of promising anything signed, sealed and delivery like a treaty. Thank God for that.

As we lose loved ones, we storm heaven for relief and release and it is slow in coming. This is our perilous condition. No one knows when his or her number will be up. So Leonard confesses. He is not above us. He is with us as one of us. He is no untarnished angel; neither is he a black-hearted sinner. He regrets, he is grateful, he mourns, he celebrates. But not what you might think, for thinking is a rather useless activity for him. Better to leave the table, get out of the game, than linger too late at a game you can never win. And winning that game might be a great loss, anyway. Unknowing is often grace in disguise, a victory of a higher sort than the satisfaction of ink put to paper.

Vicki Woodyard

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Just Sitting

We are living in strange times; no one would argue with that. The comics are having a field day and often, they are closer to the truth than those in the political world. Leonard Cohen has died and those of us who love him know that he gave us plenty of warnings about the future. Comics and poets both say veiled things that can’t be said easily in the press. And the press sold out long ago.

Vernon Howard gave a talk once where he said that everyone is in on the scheme. So when you see an injustice, you can’t go to the police or the press because they are in on it.

No one is immune from being bought.

Jesus was sold for 30 pieces of silver.

Now that I have your attention, I will say that there are inner people in you conning you. Not only that, you listen. They tell you that you are smarter than the other con men. That you can win in this world. You can’t. The game is rigged.

Positive thinkers will draw smiley faces all over you in hopes of persuading you to just chill. To hope for a brighter tomorrow. They are dead wrong.

That is why Jesus kept silent in the face of his accusers. He took his medicine in order to save the world.

What can the average person do? They can see the mess for what it is. A mess. They can turn within and put truth above all. “This above all, to thine own self be true.” Not be true to our latest president or even to those we love, but to love itself.

Walking the walk means retiring within and listening to your conscience. It doesn’t mean being a do-gooder. It means you practice inward silence towards a world going crazy right in front of you, right within you.

And you do nothing, except perhaps say the Jesus Prayer or “Thy will be done.”

Just sit in silence until you regain some composure. And you are then sitting for the world.

Vicki Woodyard

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Remembered Losses

My birthday and Thanksgiving always open the door to the holiday gloom that begins to build in me. For holidays are traps for those suffering from remembered losses. And I am not a Debbie Downer by any means. I never speak of these things except in my notes, which are read by people who know my history.

After my husband was diagnosed in August of 2000, my birthday was spent in the lawyer’s office, where we went to have our wills done. Later, the year before he died, he went to the ER on my birthday, which sort of ruined that one. And Thanksgiving is just another day for me, one that points up that only 2 of us remain to gather round a table.

Out of this history, though, I have become a writer. A writer that remains true to her feelings, hopefully. The upside of all this is that I appreciate the ordinary more than most people. The autumn leaves glisten in the wind like jewels this morning. And I have nothing to do today but remain relaxed. Too many days and years spent in incredible tension.

I have spent my adult life studying truth and now the door to love is swinging open. The rule is first truth, then love. Once you know the truth that Jesus speaks of, you are free in love. But this is not accomplished readily or quickly. Most of us do not have experiences like St. Paul, rather, it takes time and effort to develop consciousness.

The closer we get to Christmas and the new year, the more solemn I grow. It is in my body, in my cells, these losses of child and mate. I have no control over them except to wait it out. Wait until the days begin to lengthen again, and my optimism return slowly but surely.

My son and I do not “do” the holidays, although it might appear that way. We understand each other’s state of mind and how it is involuntarily tweaked by the seasonal ridiculousness. For all is not calm nor bright in everyone’s life. We live in turbulence; we plow through circumstances we scarcely think we shall survive.

I lay in bed this morning listening to Leonard Cohen’s last album, tears running down my face and onto the pillow. The reprise of “Treaty” is his farewell to this world and his entry into the next. Hallelujah for such a man as he. Hallelujah. For he never avoided the sorrow, just reminded us to say grace over it, to remember where we came from and where we were going. To “steer our way,” as he intoned. And that is all we can do.

Vicki Woodyard

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Sometimes I just want to write even if I have nothing to say. To make a connection, perhaps with an anonymous reader who may be feeling restless. I often feel that way, as if there is something left undone, something I don’t know how to do. I probably don’t even want to do it. I just want to live a life of ease. That is how the ego would have things go.

Yesterday I went to Macy’s for makeup. The store was crowded, as I went in the afternoon. I was in search of a certain brand I don’t usually buy, and a young black woman helped me. She was very kind and I made my purchase. On the down escalator a little later, she was just ahead of me and I said, “Didn’t you just help me?” and she said yes. There was a moment between us that felt god-given. As if I have turned a corner and now see life a millimeter differently.

How slowly we change; there is so much resistance in us. And I no longer judge myself for it as much. I realize how much pain there is in us. We just can’t stand any more.

Monday is my birthday. Another year has gone by. A good strong year for me, thank God. Nothing special happened. But I enjoyed good health and more peace of mind. My life is so quiet. Tai Chi and walking keep me strong.

The only thing that truly interests me is what I do. Hard to put it into words, so I settle for these little accounts like buying makeup and how differently life goes when you pay attention. When you look into a face and see yourself reflected back for a moment. And you know this is what you came here to do. Not write, maybe. Just be present as the gift of life is unwrapped.

Vicki Woodyard

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A Cosmic Heart

Leonard Cohen has gone silent. Five potent words with no meaning to those who love him. For his stillness gives us pause for reflection. Who was this man, to have moved millions and himself remaining so humble?

I have tried to surrender, but it never really takes for very long. Cohen knew this; he knew human nature.

He dispensed his medicine via words and music, but most of all by displaying his naked soul, his history of depression, his failure to accomplish a Hollywood-type success. Of course he didn’t want that anyway. His work is esoteric in the best possible sense of that meaning. To decode any of his work, you simply need to listen with your heart.

The outer didn’t hold much interest for Cohen, although he had an elegance about him on that level. It came naturally, though. He didn’t try to be something via his clothing.

I loved him, but not always. When I heard him sing “Take This Waltz” on Austin City Limits, I fell in love with him. Then he sort of moved out of my view until his “Live in London” album. I saw the video of this on public television and immediately bought tickets when he played the Fox in Atlanta, Georgia.

He returned to the Fox once more and then my son and I went to Amsterdam for his final show in Europe in 2013.

Occasionally I would dream of Leonard. The last time it happened, he told me to eat a vegetable and finish my book.

Life goes on, with me eating better and writing. The tao flows as it must. Young and old Leonard have now become immortal Leonard. We who loved him love him still and on an even deeper level.

How grateful we are for his humility and brilliance, the perfect combination to continue to speak for the Cosmic Heart.

Vicki Woodyard

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I picked this leaf up while out on a neighborhood walk. When I got home, I put it in this lovely purple hand-woven bowl. The bowl was sitting on a book about Krishnamurti called The Centered Self. It is written by Ravi Ravendra, a favorite writer of mine.

“It is my only concern to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.” ~Krishnamurti

“His main action as a master-teacher was to block all the moves of thought.”

“To be absolutely nothing is to be beyond measure.” ~Krishnamurti

Clearly we see our stumbling for what it is, without judgement, without self-condemnation. We go on. (My words)

Vicki Woodyard

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A Higher Understanding

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On Giving Yourself Away

It is so easy to give yourself away in all of the wrong ways. The world forces you into such an act of false submission. It wants the fake version of you and it is so easy to comply. You smile, you fawn, you knuckle under to all of the wrong things. And you hate yourself as a consequence. High school is where this reaches its miserable zenith. Zits and all, you give in to the wrong things. You had no idea everyone else was a mirror image of you. That they, too, were fawning before a crowd of misfits hoping to gain acceptance.

That is why I was led to a true teacher. A man that disallowed phoniness. He spotted it coming a mile away and forced your nose into it. To your dismay, you discovered that was all you had to give him. Of course he knew that and said nothing to reward you. Instead he sneered at your falseness and mocked at your discombobulation.

His class was high school and we were all ninth graders. There were no remarkable students. We were all failing in every aspect. And we wanted to be different. He knew the only way we could be different was to see ourselves for what we were, hypocrites and fools.

No, he was not a popularizer, not at all. He toed the line of The Fourth Way, the school of being in the world but not of it. He drew us to him by dint of his higher consciousness. He knew who was ready to endure the fire in order to find the light. And he did not make it easy.

So what did I get from Vernon Howard but myself reflected back in a million pools? I have no idea. He took the words and left me with confusion. He took my confidence and left me with nothing but the shakes. He took my stubbornness and gave me the void magnified a million times over.

I should stop now before I alienate the false friends gathered to read this. If you are not a false friend, you are just nodding your head in recognition, for you are beginning to find yourself out. And it’s about time.

Vicki Woodyard

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