People with a keening desire for god and transformative spiritual experiences have always made me a little wary. There is a general ignorance regarding how much suffering this relationship can entail. In an article about mysticism, published in the Fall 2013 issue of Parabola, Mirabai Starr writes:

“The year I turned forty, the day my first book came out, a translation of Dark Night of the Soul by the sixteenth-century Spanish saint John of the Cross, my fourteen-year-old daughter, Jenny, was killed in a car crash.

“Suddenly, the sacred fire I had been chasing all my life engulfed me. I was plunged into the abyss, instantaneously dropped into the vast stillness and pulsing silence at which all my favorite mystics hint. So shattered I could not see my own hand in front of my face, I was suspended in the invisible arms of a Love I had only dreamed of. Immolated, I found myself resting in fire. Drowing, I surrendered, and discovered I could breathe under water.

“So this was the state of profound suchness I had been searching for during all those years of contemplative practice. This was the holy longing the saints had been talking about in poems that had broken my heart again and again. This was the sacred emptiness that put that small smile on the faces of the great sages. And I hated it. I didn’t want vastness of being. I wanted my baby back.”


If you believe in the goodness of god, do you really know what you are talking about? Because life is more complex and contingent than the pat pseudo-spiritual phrases modern, secular culture enjoys trafficking in. Everything happens for a reason. Why don’t you tell that to the mother whose child has just died?


Since the cardinal grand cross (Jupiter-Pluto-Uranus-Mercury) is back with us again (now that Mars has replaced Mercury), I thought I’d write another post about Pluto’s transits to my chart. By the by, if you had a rough time during the grand cross in early autumn, perhaps you can think about how you’d like to deal with it differently now.


Contrary to a lot of what has been written about this transit, it has not been the most emotionally difficult one that I have experienced. Actually, I would say the overarching emotional tone, despite the challenges presented, is almost one of relief. When faced with what you’re capable of, it’s a good feeling having that knowledge.

It feels good to have nothing to prove to yourself.


My project is an ethical one, but it is also entirely amoral. The difference between morals and ethics is nothing new, but of course, this might strike some as odd as the terms are used synonymously by many. But I have come to see them as radically different in a number of ways.

Morality is a set of rules and behaviours, of shoulds and should nots. Universally agreed upon or largely consensus based dogmatic lines in the sand that the one is willing to die for, or at least, work oneself up into a self righteous indignation when these lines are crossed.

An ethic, as I have said before, is ontological. It is alive, spontaneous and responsive. There can be no predetermined form or set of forms that describe an ethical person like there is for a morally upstanding person.

apocalypse now

The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

The difference I make may not seem very important but the above quote by Solzhenitsyn illlustrates to me why I make it. With morals, one is tasked to destroy a piece of the heart. One shuns, oppresses, represses etc. aspects of the self that do not fit into one’s idea of what a moral person should be because they are deemed “bad.”

Because ethics is about your being, one’s ethic is can only be a result of integrating all aspects of the self, including the baser, instinctual aspects of ourselves such as aggression, fear and appetite. As such, an ethical person lives wholeheartedly.


Sometimes, ethics doesn’t look like what you would expect. Ethics is derived from the Greek word ethos, which gives a connotation of specificity. I believe everyone’s ethic is personal, and it is probably the closest thing to selfhood I can think of in these postmodern times.

I do not know where my ethical nature has come from. As much as I may try to work with it and analyze it, it remains very much, at its root, an instinctual thing.


Some people grow up in an environment that nurtures their ethic. Others, having been raised in an ethical void, must forge this out of sheer will and determination. It matters not. An ethic, if strong, is undeniably, beautifully, unique to an individual and that individual’s life experience, regardless of how it is revealed. And an ethic, if strong, will shine through a person.

You have probably met such a person in your life. You will recognize this quality immediately. It need not be loud to have an irrepressible force. You will know them by their liberation for they are truly themselves and cannot be otherwise.

In this way, a human is without limit. To become ethical is to be plunged into the infinite. One is never finished.



Today, I’m taking time out to remember an artist from Halifax, Zoe Nudell. She died last week after being struck by a drunk driver at 33 years old.

We were not close, but I have many happy memories of staying with her and her partner when I visited them Halifax with mutual friends. Whenever I met with them, I was always struck by their openness, their kindness. I always looked up to them and say without equivocation that she was one of the most genuine people I have had the opportunity to meet.

They say grief comes in waves. In this way, it reminds me of love. It splits you open and takes you beyond yourself. And the only way I know how to be in love is to submit to it. And so, one submits.

peggy's cove

Peggy’s Cove, 2006


I thought I’d take a quick time out to write a meta post about my blog given all the hits that have been coming in. Also, because the focus of this blog has changed for the past year or so.

To date, I am not interested in promoting any particular practice and I never have been. But I have set a goal for myself: to become an ethical person. And I’m not very picky about what gets me there. I don’t give a shit about becoming enlightened or whatever – it’s just that spiritual practices are very handy tools when it comes to developing ethical ground so that’s why I happen to be spending more and more time with them.

Anyways, I don’t think that life is just about submitting to ethical ground but in my eyes, if I don’t improve in that one regard, everything else loses a measure of its meaning for me. What is the point of being loved, if I cannot be ethical with those who love me? What is the point of attaining success in my career if I cannot navigate my work ethically? So on and so forth. This is more or less the direction I’ve been headed since I was a kid. Maybe this will change one day. Who knows.

I know that the tone I take on this blog is not the most palatable. The reality of the situation is that most of these posts of mine are extensions of little pep talks I have in my head that help me keep my eyes on the prize and that force me to make sense of things as they arise. I post them in the hopes that at least some of you readers will find them beneficial in some way. If not, well, it’s a big world wide web out there. Cheers.

The other day in my sangha, we had a new student who asked, “How do I know if I’m doing it right?” I didn’t answer right away as I wanted to think about this. How does one evaluate changes and progress in one’s meditation practice?

Now, I’m no authority on zen as I’ve only been meditating on and off for two years. But for what it’s worth, this is more or less how I would answer.

killer napkins-meditation orgasm


You’re doing it right if you are generally becoming less of an asshole.

I stress this first because in my observation, people tend to focus on meditative experiences rather than outcomes. I’m not saying that it’s not immensely beneficial to be able to situate yourself on this well worn path of zen practice and to map your experiences onto those that have been experienced by so many others before you. However, as much as spiritual experiences, especially “peak” experiences, can help facilitate and catalyze one’s spiritual growth, they will not intrinsically make you wise and ethical.

You know you are on the right track if you find yourself becoming more receptive to the world and to others. It’s not a straight path, and the ego may throw up resistance, but generally you should find that your insight and compassion will come more and more effortlessly and organically.