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Integral philosophy from a contemplative perspective.



The Consolation of Philosophy

Philosophy as a Path

Hi Folks,

I was thinking about all of you and how I might reach out. I know this is a time of fear and worry for so many of us. Then I remembered that an ancient Roman named Boethius wrote a book called The Consolation of Philosophy while awaiting his execution.

Then it occurred to me that some of you might find helpful to read why philosophy helps me cope with something as serious as this virus. It has to do with the power of Wisdom to serve as a reminder — there is far more going on than I can take in through the small world of my limited understanding.

Many great spiritual philosophers from the Buddha to Plato state that our ordinary view of the world is illusory and that we live in “a cave of shadows.” This means we don’t see things as they really are. I have always found this really helpful — to remember that I do not have the whole picture. That is my starting point.

Most people don’t think of philosophy as a spiritual path, but for me it is. By path I mean it uses suffering and fear as a means of seeking wisdom. It is the path of self-knowledge in the ancient meaning of that term. This is not knowledge about myself – an accumulation of data, but experiential awareness and contact with the deeper — or True Self — of one’s own deepest sense of “presence.” Contact with this Self is often the only real relief from fear and worry that I experience.

The questioning of who I really am can lead me past all the usual “answers” until nothing remains but silent awareness, the emptiness of full presence. In this space one can “know” things that are otherwise unknowable. I can’t talk or write about these things except indirectly because they go beyond language. But that does not mean this reality is not real or experienceable.

To know that when the pain of this world is almost too much to bear, I am reminded that this world is not ever going to give me the joy and peace I am looking for anyway. In some amazing sense then suffering becomes “a dark gift” because it can force me to look within for that which cannot be found without.


When I am in touch with my deeper self, the fear vanishes and only love remains. My path is to trust this love.


This, for me, is the consolation of philosophy.

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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hi Folks,

One of my favorite lyrists is Bob Dylan. In one of his songs he sings that “he not busy being born is busy dying.”

Am I being born? Are you?

It seems that we can’t tread water for too long, but we have to make choices that move us ahead or leave us behind.

These are some of the ways I am trying to use these difficult times to be born rather than die:

  • I have been going on daily going walks. Yesterday I walked 4 miles, the longest I have done since my back surgery. It felt great!

  • I try to be aware of my breath and take deep breaths whenever possible. That is a mindfulness practice.

  • I am watching very little news.

  • I am coming back to the present moment, over and over.

  • I am giving my wife bear hugs.

  • I am trying to lose more weight.

What are you doing to use this time to be “busy being born?” Life is often difficult and any habits you develop now to deal with such times will help you live with more authenticity for the rest of your lives.

It helps to remember that we have two lives, inner and outer. It is essential that we do not let just the outer world control our lives. Another lyrists I love, Robert Hunter, wrote: There comes a time when a blind man takes your arm and says, “don’t you see?’” Where are we blind? How can we let others to help us see?

The poet Mary Oliver wrote: “It must be a great disappointment

to God if we are not dazzled at least ten

times a day.”

I have to work at being dazzled. It is a practice. I have to take time to enjoy the beauty of the Del Monte Forest, where I live. I have to look up at the moon and stars. I have to really see the face of my wife. I have to enjoy the sensation of drinking something cold. I have to read poetry. I have to write in my journal. I have to notice the sun shining bright and to feel the breeze on my face. I have to seek out whatever it is that brings radical amazement into my life, a real sense of wonder.

What can you do to join me in being born rather than in dying? How can you help dazzle yourself?

To Being Dazzled!


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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hi Folks,

Perhaps our life is more perfect than we think when we move out of our thoughts and into our being.

One of my favorite authors, Thomas Merton, wrote: “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”

I can relate to this on this beautiful Saturday afternoon as I write this because of all of the conflicting information we seem to be receiving from the government and educational systems of which we all joined.

It relaxes me that I did not need to know the future or dwell on the past to enjoy the 2 mile walk I just went on holding hands with my wife. It doesn’t really get much better than that. It is my imagination that says there should be more and my whining nature to say that things are not good enough the way they are just now.

How much of human misery is self-generated by this insatiable need to know? How much joy are we losing due to our own addiction to being in control?

Today, right now, breathing in and breathing out, I am OK. The practice comes by remembering this need to keep coming back to this present moment.

Eckhart Tolle writes: “In today’s rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just being.”

My favorite visual of just this being in the moment is watching a dog with its head out of a car window as it drives along. It is a picture of bliss and I wish you all this bliss throughout the turmoil of these times.

To Being Present!



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Updated: Sep 18, 2021

Hi Folks,

One of my favorite writers and teachers, Jiddu Krishnamurti, wrote: “The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.”

I have thought a lot about this because I like to read and a day without reading feels like a day wasted. You don’t need to love to read to keep learning as we now have TED Talks, YouTube and so many other sources of learning.

Many of you have finished up for the year and some have even graduated. Congratulations! Making it through college is no easy thing.

Some of you struggled with classes you didn’t like and/or teachers you could not relate to very well. Thankfully that is behind you for a few months.

But what could you do to commit yourself to spend 30 minutes a day reading or watching documentaries or in some other way educate yourself? Simply interviewing older people can teach you a great deal. I always find it interesting to ask older people what they would have done in the past differently if they knew what they know now.

For those of you struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, you might think about this other Krishnamurti quote I really like: “It is no measure of heath to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” I ty to remember this when I am down.

So keep breathing and learning and doing your best to come back to the present moment.

A final quote from Krishnamurti: “To understand life is to understand ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education.”

To Learning!


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About Apophat

So good to have you here.

I have been studying philosophy and religion my whole adult life. Intellectually, my home is in the world of Integral Philosophy. I attended graduate school at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, earning my Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion. 

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© 2021 by Apophat.

We Are Apophatic. Stay in the Question.

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