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Three Clues, One Three-Part Exercise, to Open What’s Closed

“The Second Zen Patriarch in Contemplation” Shih Ke (10th Century)

I have for you three clues, or, if you will, a three-part exercise. Any of the parts could move you closer to certain comprehensions, but it’s my hope and belief that your taking all three, in order, together, will create an even better chance of that happening for you:

1. In the context of Zen Buddhism, this has been called “Chasing the Tiger’s Tail.” Alone, in a quiet place, try to pick up a sound as soon as it enters your hearing, then stick to it, following it until you can no longer hear it at all. For this, sounds that last more than just a split-second are best. It might be a dog’s extended yowl or the sound of a passing car on the highway. Do this for ten minutes, or longer if you like.

2. Read the text below, John 3:8 (King James Version), slowly, with great attention (not squeezing any mental muscles or trying to “figure it out”), just trying to absorb the words and the meaning of the text as it unfolds for you. Do this at least three times, but do it as many times as you like.

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

3. Pick a major decision or change in your life, as recent a one as possible, and try to think of every reason and factor that went into it. Take your time. Try to think of many such things as you can, until you feel that you’ve thought of as many as you can for now, or until and unless the point of the exercise reveals itself to you. Then try to think of all of the results of that decision or change, all of the things that it led to or caused.


I haven’t given you these because they’re part of a program, or because they’re necessary steps in some preordained process. I’ve taken them from my own life, and I can testify that each one of them, and all of them together, helped move me toward a reality that I longed for without knowing what it really was, until it opened for me.

Lawrence Russ View All

Was the Alfred P. Sloan Scholar for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. Obtained a Master of the Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where I was selected as a Writing Fellow in Poetry by the Program faculty. Have published poems, essays and reviews in many magazines, anthologies, reference works, and other publications, including The Nation, The Iowa Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Parabola, OMNI, and the exhibition catalogue for Art at the Edge of the Law at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Received a law degree from the University of Michigan, and have changed the law and created educational programs in the fields of arts law, historic preservation law, and public construction and contracting law in the State of Connecticut. My photographs have appeared in international, national, regional and state juried exhibitions, and have been selected for awards including Honorable Mentions in the Architecture, Fine Art (series), Nature (series), Open Theme (series), Portrait, and Seascape categories from the international Fine Art Photography Awards, and an Honorable Mention in the Fine Art-Other category from the International Photography Awards. Photographs of mine have been selected for exhibition or publications by or in the 2019 International Juried Exhibition of the Center for Photographic Art (Carmel, CA), 2019 International Competition of The Photo Review, the 2019 Open Exhibition of the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins CO, F-Stop Magazine, Shadow & Light Magazine, Black Box Gallery in Portland OR, Praxis Gallery in Minneapolis MN, the Darkroom Gallery in VT, PhotoPlace Gallery in VT, A Smith Gallery in TX, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and many other journals and venues. My work has also been selected for inclusion in the Flatfile Program of Artspace New Haven (CT). My photography website is at .

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