Wisdom Speaks

Posted on in On Our Radar by Michael Stone

Honoring the Life and
Teachings of Michael Stone

Buddhist teacher, author, activist, and scholar Michael Stone unexpectedly passed away on July 16. We at Common Ground are grateful for all that he contributed to the conversation about Buddhist dharma, yoga, and engaged spirituality. His words offer great insight and solace during these challenging times, and he will be missed.

“There is nothing holy or religious about Yoga theory or practice. These teachings are most alive in the gardens, alleys, and ravines where those who may not even know they are yogis are challenging the status quo both internally and externally. This is not a practice that thrives in temples or commercial studios. This is a path for those seeking freedom from the psychological and cultural entanglements of mind and body.”

“In the same way that all freshwater rivers reach toward the saline oceans, your life and your Yoga practice are seamless continuities of one another.”

“There is some desire in every one of us—of every race and color and background—to draw lines in the sand of our lives and defend these boundaries as if these conditioned beliefs were somehow eternally true. . . . So much of what I call my life is only happening as snapshots in my imagination. The body and the world are movements I cannot catch up with. Life, and this very body and self, are not fixed in this way. We are rhizomatic, we are split atoms spreading out from a core, we are fluid creatures in every sense. Seeing life and death in this body and breath and in everything we do allows us to let go of clinging. Every attempt by the brain and muscles to capture what moves through our senses is always inadequate. The world is too large, and in constant flux, for us to draw conclusions. The best we can do is to enter life in such a way that we see that our ideas are only fading snapshots we string together, as brief as a breath.”

Michael Stone
Michael Stone

“The ‘I’ is nothing other than a fiction, a world within a world within a fictional world. When one sees that the I is a fiction, the personality begins unraveling into the world without boundaries. And then where is the I to be found? The I is seen to be nothing other than the world itself, playing its unique part but not separate from it.”

“Everyone communicates: the sparrow with the blue jay, the ants with one another, the queen bee and her workers, the woman at her doorstep thanking the mailman. The quality of this communication is what’s key. Language is not just a human invention—neither is poetry nor song. Walk through a forest and listen to the gossip. In a culture so focused on production and consumption and the singular idol of monetary currency, we are quickly losing not just the wild world of birds and bees and forests but also the myriad forms of language that keep us humans vital and alive.”

“If we don’t look inward and transform our own capacity for greed, violence, and anger, we won’t embody the values and vision that we seek to create in the larger social order.”

“There are times when other-interest is more important than self-interest. A society needs to respond more effectively to the human pain caused solely by market outcomes. Our freedom to have choices at the supermarket or car dealership must give way to deeper values. Otherwise we miss out on the most nourishing aspects of our lives. We miss life. We become fragmented by greed, ill will, and the confusing messages of consumer culture. Living in a dazed state of greed is like confusing the moon for a porch light left on all night.”

“There is no security against death. We can imagine the moment of death as a rebirth into new form. Death is both a discontinuity and continuity. The one we love and know discontinues, yet the fluids and flesh return to earth again and begin a new life. At death we do not slip into nothingness—we slip into existence. The waves become the water once again.”

“May your life go well.”

From Awake in the World by Michael Stone © 2011 by Michael Stone. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications. Shambhala.com

Michael Stone by Andrea de Keijzer

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