Dr. Earl R. Smith II

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There is an old folktale that goes something like this:

An understanding exists among dragonfly larva that has stood for centuries. Each of untold generations as sworn to do what their predecessors have not. The next one who crosses the barrier at the top of their world will come back and tell them all what it is like up there. But this has never happened.

The dragonfly larva becomes an air breathing insect. It can no longer live in the environment that nurtured those generations untold. And so, the future generations will wait expectantly for a return which will never happen.

Humans have a capacity that dragonfly larva do not. We can make a journey to an altered state and then return to let others know what it is like. We can wander the Eight-Fold Path for decades and then return to those who are as we were when we first set foot upon to guide them along.

But those of us who have tried quickly realize that there is a problem. Our principal means of communicating is simply inadequate before the task. By that, I don’t mean that language is imprecise. That would be an easier challenge to overcome. The conundrum is that the meaning of words changes as you make the journey from here to here.

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean. Consider the words nothingness and emptiness. In ordinary usage, they can be used to indicate the absence of everything. The very thought of a life filled with nothingness is daunting. We avoid the experience by filling our lives with all sorts of activities and objects. In short, it is a condition that we protect ourselves against.

But when it comes to the journey inward from here to here, one of the major objectives is the experience of nothingness. The word is used in a far less all-inclusive manner. At some point in the journey, nothingness may mean the absence of grasping. Later, it may mean the absence of ego. Then, sometimes later, it may mean the complete dissolution of the idea of self. But, and here is where the rub comes, that means that the entire universe opens up before us and we are filled with the joyful experience of being-time. Quite a different kind of nothingness!

How can the meaning of words remain the same as understanding changes? The short answer is that they can’t. And that is the challenge of a Zen teacher in a nutshell. As a human dragonfly, I can return and deliver a message. But I find that I speak a different language and the words that I am using mean far different things to those I am talking to than they do to me.

So, when I say something like, “Nothingness means that you have laid down the burden of delusion and ceased grasping” I’m likely to get understanding nods in return. But, until you have actually laid down that burden, what do those words actually mean to you? They are just an intellectual construct. They are not the reflection of your living experience.

If I repeat the ancient saying, “The present moment is perfect. There is nothing to gain and nothing to lose”, what do those words mean to someone who still believes that life is all about acquisition and having? Or if I say that “Our lives are constantly cut off by impermanence and that we reemerge moment to moment only through a process of interdependent co-origination”, what is someone to make of that if their life is dominated by the experience of time as a flowing river? Indeed, what do the words describing the Eight-Fold Path mean to someone who has not travel it?

In an important way, the journey along the path from here to here requires the evolution of meaning as a reflection of deepened understanding.

© Dr Earl R Smith II

It's the most amazing experience I have ever had. I needed to find a new path. A friend recommended Dr. Smith. From the first, it was clear that he and I were going to get along. What was most amazing was the wisdom and perception that he brought. New vistas have opened up and, as a result, a new chapter in my life. There's no way that I could put a value on what he has contributed to my life.

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Chief - That is how Dr.Smith was introduced to me and, based on our work together, I have come to understand why he was called so. He helped me focus on the possibilities that I had been missing in my life. He guided through developing a new vision for my life. Truly he would be my "Chief" anytime and I will always value his guidance and wisdom. My life is richer because of working with him.

Mentoring Client, NPI Team Lead

Earl is a very wise individual with a lot of experience. He truly understands business and professional development. Earl has a great way of explaining things and getting you to look at things from another perspective. Earl is a tough mentor, but if you can learn just some of what he knows you will come out ahead.

Mentoring Client, Deloitte

“Dr. Smith is a very different kind of mentor. If you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy adviser, this is the wrong guy for you. But if you are dedicated to change and want to be challenged by a very experienced mentor Earl may be just what you are looking for.”

CEO of Croix Connect and Host of ABC Radio’s ‘Taking Care of Business’

“I consider Dr. Smith to be a truly revolutionary thinker and leader. His mentorship has been of great value and inspiration to my own personal and professional development. I was at a point in my life where I felt the need to take a new direction. He helped my sort out the possibilities and showed my ones that I never considered. Working with him has been a truly life-changing experience.”

Partner, IT & Telecom, Defense Solutions

“Dr. Earl Smith is a very gifted and talented thought leader and strategist. I had an opportunity to work with him on various occasions, and found his analytical thought process to be the most creative and illustrative in the industry. He is a great asset in developing business solutions from complex problems and chaos in the every day world.” Executive Director, Global Innovation Summit,