Today At Meetingbrook

Sunday, December 21, 2014

if God wanted to become human, why not our wanting to become human

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”
(--antiphon, Vespers)

Humans aren’t certain.

Often befuddled.

Only unhumans are certain and convinced beyond doubt.

toot, toot, toot -- train comes;train goes

Doris writes. She includes poem. 

                                                    Everywhere, everywhere, snow sifting down,
                                                    a world becoming white, no more sounds,
                                                    no longer possible to find the heart of the day,
                                                    the sun is gone, the sky is nowhere, and of all
                                                    I wanted in life – so be it – whatever it is 
                                                    that brought me here, chance, fortune, whatever
                                                    blessing each flake is the hint of, I am
                                                    grateful, I bear witness, I hold out my arms,
                                                    palms up, I know it is impossible to hold 
                                                    for long what we love of the world, but look
                                                    at me, is it foolish, shameful, arrogant to say this,
                                                    see how the snow drifts down, look how happy
                                                    I am.
                                                                                                         (--poem by Joseph Stroud)

The men in prison miss her. In her mid-eighties, she has moved from Maine closer to Hudson River and family member. They called her 'old cow' with affection after she told them the story about the zen woman.

Deano says again he'll soon write her after he finds her letter he misplaced. 

Not much was said about Christmas when we were there for final time this year. We did an experiment passing around in silence, person to person, some 16+ orbits, the exquisite & subtle book, Marla Frazee’s “The Farmer and the Clown”. This artistic, near wordless (but for "toot, toot, toot") book, engrossed and engaged a roomful of unlikely 'readers' gazing at a "for ages 3 to 9" masterpiece of visual poetry while the white border collie pursued a blue handball around feet and chairs.

It was a morning of smiles and handshakes and gratefulness (near;wordless) with our prison sangha.

Chris, Saskia, bill, rokpa, Armin, Reed, Deano, Doug, Rory, Everett, Tony, Charlie, Greg, and all the others who looked in, stopped in, smiled at Rokie or rubbed his appreciated doggy presence. 

And the larger sangha from years gone by, some still there, or transferred to another prison, or released: Joseph, Sonny, Dennis, Douglas, Brandon, Dale, Ricky, Mark, John, Antonio, Pat, Olin, Ryan, Joe-Pete, Peter, Kevin, Wesley, Chris, Andre, Kyle, Tree, Danny, Sean, Chris, Darren, Ed, Chip, Mike, Lamarr, Kyle, Matthew,  Brian, Artie, Jon, Nick, boots and gloves guy, Tony's posse, jonathon, Vann, Scott, Jose, and the ones whose faces I recall but shoes names evade. The volunteers who joined us inside or visited in visiting room -- Erica, Jean, Gail, Cheryl, Seth, Doris, Chris. And dear friends who came in with us who've died - Janet, David, and Richard. To each and all, thank you! Meetingbrook all.

Look how happy I am!

May all beings, in and out of prison, be happy, safe, free, and come to dwell in their true home!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

prison;weekly walking the mile

"O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”
(--antiphon, vespers)

where are we;to look: at/as creative creating creativity

Q. Is there God?

A. Oh yes.

Q. Did God create everything?

A. God is the creative creating creativity.
Comment:  ‘What is’ comes to be seen via the urge to be. The urge to be -- whatever wherever whenever whoever -- is the constant changing, itself into itself, with forms upon form moving through emptiness toward creative appearance creating beings whose inner being is creativity longing to become itself creative.

Q. Any other questions?

Q. What is, how is, when is, why is, who is -- One, Alone?



[time passes]

[then...fingers touch pewter attached to doorframe, then touch lips]]

A. (quietly)

Sh'ma Yis'ra'eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.
Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.


....     ......     .......     ......

Shema Yisrael (or Sh'ma YisraelHebrewשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל‎; "Hear, [O] Israel") are the first two words of a section of the Torah, and is the title (sometimes shortened to simply Shema) of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. The first verse encapsulates the monotheistic essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one", found in Deuteronomy 6:4, sometime alternately translated as "The LORD is our God, the LORD alone." Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism, and its twice-daily recitation as a mitzvah (religious commandment). It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words, and for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nothing; keeps you

“O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”
(--Antiphon, Vespers)

what's your name

Pope Francis turned 78 on the 17th. "I want a church which is poor and for the poor," he has said.
"People who know nothing of God and whose lives are centered on themselves, imagine that they can only find themselves by asserting their own desires and ambitions and appetites in a struggle with the rest of the world. They try to become real by imposing themselves on other people, by appropriating for themselves some share of the limited supply of created good and thus emphasizing the difference between themselves and the other men and women who have less then they, or nothing at all. 
(~Thomas Merton)
Chris sends nytimes video of Slomo. This unusual man radiates such a sense of joy in his glide. We end our Science, Technology, and Ethics course with it last night. The students were enchanted as well.

Robert Lowell ends his poem Epilogue with these lines:
We are poor passing facts
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.
What is your living name?

What's mine?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

whispering light

"O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.”

(--Antiphon, Vespers)


We've fallen asleep before falling asleep. 

Sitting with man after bringing soup we touch on buddhist notion of no birth, no death. We'd both like to leave fear out of our diminishing time. I sit on wood bench with boots on in his living room close to dooryard entrance.
More and more clearly it appeared who this unique man was and who he presented himself to be. The climax of his life, the cresting of its saving course, comes with a week of utmost challenge and ultimate rejection, only then to be vindicated by the God who was (and is) his Father. “As with all of us,” writes Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., “the mystery of his person was never totally expressed...until the time of his death, when he transcends this world and is raised from the dead. Then his ultimate identity burst upon him in all clarity.” Then he is the fully human and fully divine person he was meant to be, the startling, suffering Savior once born in utter helplessness and now raised as “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep."
(--from, Becoming Human, December 22-29, 2014 IssueLeo J. O'DonovanThe Incarnation calls us to a new life. America Magazine)
Appearance and disappearance, form and emptiness -- soup stop and go. This is all I can muster. I grow shy and shyer in visiting anyone, mustier in my cell of a room tucked away upstairs, where solitude goes to get away from itself.

I let dogs out at 2am. Cats downstairs are mousing noisily and setting dogs' eyes wider at side of bed. I read. I pray. I diminish.

The joy of being alive (instead of undead, eh, mr cummings?) is reflection and contemplation of what is taking place. Place is an awareness punctuating time.

Monks and nuns worldover place their feet on floor and ready for vigils. I turn out light and let baton move off down track running into next dream.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

hold all things; together

"O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth."
(--Antiphon for Vespers)

(a) solitary ('s) appreciation

Watched town select board meeting on live streaming last night. 

Hurt pond, torn mountain, vested interests.

Differences of perception, opinion, emotion, alliance and allegiance.

The prospect of remaining both passionately involved, and, nonattached, has got to be major-league meditation practice.

I sit in support of such good effort.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

truth of a different kind -- Maria Popova on Margaret Mead on “fact” and “poetic truth” about Santa Claus

The following from Maria Popova’s  Brain Pickings, :
Happy Birthday, Margaret Mead: The Legendary Anthropologist on Myth vs. Deception and What to Tell Kids about Santa ClausBy: How to instill an appreciation of the difference between “fact” and “poetic truth,” in kids and grownups alike.
From the wonderful out-of-print volume Margaret Mead: Some Personal Views(public library) — the same compendium of Mead’s answers to audience questions from her long career as a public speaker and lecturer, which also gave us her remarkably timely thoughts on racism and law enforcement and equality in parenting — comes an answer to a question she was asked in December of 1964: “Were your children brought up to believe in Santa Claus? If so, what did you tell them when they discovered he didn’t exist?”
Mead’s response, which calls to mind Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit, is a masterwork of celebrating rational, critical thinking without sacrificing magic to reason:
Belief in Santa Claus becomes a problem mainly when parents simultaneously feel they are telling their children a lie and insist on the literal belief in a jolly little man in a red suit who keeps tabs on them all year, reads their letters and comes down the chimney after landing his sleigh on the roof. Parents who enjoy Santa Claus — who feel that it is more fun talk about what Santa Claus will bring than what Daddy will buy you for Christmas and who speak of Santa Claus in a voice that tells no lie but instead conveys to children something about Christmas itself — can give children a sense of continuity as they discover the sense in which Santa is and is not “real.”
With her great gift for nuance, Mead adds:
Disillusionment about the existence of a mythical and wholly implausible Santa Claus has come to be a synonym for many kinds of disillusionment with what parents have told children about birth and death and sex and the glory of their ancestors. Instead, learning about Santa Claus can help give children a sense of the difference between a “fact” — something you can take a picture of or make a tape recording of, something all those present can agree exists — and poetic truth, in which man’s feelings about the universe or his fellow men is expressed in a symbol.
Recalling her own experience both as a child and as a parent, Mead offers an inclusive alternative to the narrow Santa Claus myth, inviting parents to use the commercial Western holiday as an opportunity to introduce kids to different folkloric traditions and value systems:
One thing my parents did — and I did for my own child — was to tell stories about the different kinds of Santa Claus figures known in different countries. The story I especially loved was the Russian legend of the little grandmother, the babushka, at whose home the Wise Men stopped on their journey. They invited her to come with them, but she had no gift fit for the Christ child and she stayed behind to prepare it. Later she set out after the Wise Men but she never caught up with them, and so even today she wanders around the world, and each Christmas she stops to leave gifts for sleeping children.
But Mead’s most important, most poetic point affirms the idea that children stories shouldn’t protect kids from the dark:
Children who have been told the truth about birth and death will know, when they hear about Kris Kringle and Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas and the little babushka, that this is a truth of a different kind.


Lite snow.

Two cats nestling after long night mousing.

Prayer for friends’ son critical after morning car accident.

(from Camden Public Library website)
Jootje is turned over near woodpile by meditation cabin. All three rest preparing for winter’s slow sail toward spring. I can only see harbor from solid ground, not the groundlessness of lapstrake inboard hull.

Waning decrease of darkness.

Late autumn stillness.

Solo candle vigils.

no longer; remains

Impermanence, it will be pointed out, doesn't last.
The historical Buddha, like you and me, had physical form, was born, and was destined to die. But the content of his being did not die and continues to live. And that is immeasurable life. And not only life. Because it brings us to awakening, it is also immeasurable light.
- Taitetsu Unno, "Even Dewdrops Fall"
Taitetsu Unno died three days ago on the 13th. He was 85. I recall his talk at the Nishitani conference "Encounters with Emptiness" at Amherst/Smith in 1984. I have an annotated copy of his notes.
Tricycle: Can you talk a little bit about how you understand surrender in Buddhist practice? 
Taitetsu Unno: In the first place, surrender is a Western religious category. In Buddhism, surrender is at the core of giving up the ego-self; but we don’t use a special term for it, because the whole thrust of Buddhist life revolves around surrender, giving up the ego.
Here there is a cultural difference—I can use the example of the martial arts. In this country, martial arts are described as “self-defense.” In the martial arts in East Asia, the aim is to train oneself to such an extent that there is no “self” to defend. That’s very hard for people to understand. I find the same problem in American Buddhism. For example, recently I read an article in which an American Zen Buddhist described visiting Japan, and I realized that American Buddhism is “psychotherapeutic” Buddhism, whereas in Japan, Buddhism is “faith” Buddhism. The core of faith is surrender, the giving up of the small-minded ego-self.  (Ibid) 
Who is giving up this ego-self?

Professor Unno shared an insight thirty years ago. It wasn't in the paper. It travelled with me for years. It showed up in conversations and classes when I did.

And then -- it disappeared. As things do.


Let the giving-up be what no longer remains when disappearance itself surrenders.

Monday, December 15, 2014

from still,marbles, after sunday evening practice

deconstructing the accumulated

structure of self --

this is what life is doing,

what Dogen meant by “dropping

off mind and body” 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

not 17, 23, haiku

my studio, today,

solitude colored with silence --

look -- smoke from chimney

blowing southeast

off to east, down road, up melvin heights, a single light, seen through trees

If You Want

you want
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy
and say,

“I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”

Then, under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth

as she grasps your hand for help, for each of us
is the midwife of God, each of us.

Yes there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence externally, through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb of your soul,

as God grasps our arms for help; for each of us is
His beloved servant

If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
with Light and
sing . . .

“If You Want” by St. John of the Cross, translated by Daniel Ladinsky,

Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West

(used with permission)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

as snow gently falls

Morning light under cloudy skies, the ritual of placing oneself in prayer.
Notre Père qui es aux cieux, que Ton nom soit sanctifié, que Ton règne vienne, que Ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel. Donne-nous aujourd'hui notre pain de ce jour, pardonne-nous nos offenses comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés ; et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation mais délivre-nous du mal par le Christ, Jésus notre Seigneur, car à Toi appartiennent le règne, la puissance et la gloire, à jamais. Amen
Zafu in merton retreat will serve as that place at 7:30am.

Emptiness of everything -- surround and infuse -- with silence.

With everyone.

And everything.

Within, and, 


Friday, December 12, 2014

Nuestra Señora -- Tan vacío de todo

I can imagine Juan Diego thanking the Aztec woman for the cape and the lovely flowers.


De nada, she says.

De nadait's nothing, says Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe,


Ah, what happened in that trusting engagement of beneficial outcome for them and for many in their surround?

Nothing? Si!

Nothing? Hola!

Nothing? Yo creo!

Tan lleno de nada. Tan vacio de todo.  So full of nothing. So empty all.

The new world ...

of faith.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I bet Michael Brown would have paid back the cost of cigarillos taken.
I bet Eric Garner would have paid back taxes on the “loosies” he’d sold.
Would that all were given the consideration to pay back what they (allegedly) took.
Would that justice were non-violent, non-punitive, and rooted in compassion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

simplicity, integrity, faithful engagement

We renew our promises as meetingbrook monastics: contemplation, conversation, correspondence.

“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another.”
― Thomas MertonLove and Living

we meet you there

Maria writes: “Tom is in his final days -- as far as we know. Maybe God has other plans, but we are prepared for his departure to God’s loving arms.”

We write:

maria and tom in cosmos             
and our hearts

we speak by listening; 
we love by quiet 

Our prayer & practice these days is silent sitting with both Quaker Friends & Zen Buddhist Companions. 

It is the silence.           We meet you there.

“Ashes do not come back to firewood.’ If you do not burn yourself completely, a trace of yourself will be left in what you do.” 
(Dogen Zenji) 

Dogen suggested we “Leave no trace.” We leave to the other, completely, one-self.

And so, we sit in silence with you, Maria, and Tom, with your love, and ours. 

This is what we offer one another. 

This traceless presence.

at long last

Catching up on reading.
The C.I.A. and some members of the President George W. Bush’s administration claimed these brutal acts were necessary to deal with “ticking time bomb” threats and that they were effective. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, an avid promoter of “enhanced interrogation,” still makes that claim. 
But “at no time” did the C.I.A.’s torture program produce intelligence that averted a terrorism threat, the report said. All of the information that the C.I.A. attributed to its “enhanced interrogation techniques” was obtained before the brutal interrogations took place, actually came from another source, or was a lie invented by the torture victims — a prospect that the C.I.A. had determined long ago was the likely result of torture. 
 (--from, NYTimes, The Senate Report on the C.I.A.’s Torture and Lies,

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


We are a storied people. We live in a story. And in that story there is good and there is bad. There are benevolent actors and there are malevolent actors. It’s both.

If we did not have a storied existence, we would be storyless. A storyless existence would have no experience nor awareness of others. No ego.

And while the notion of egolessness seems a desirable way of nonjudgmental being-in-the-world, there are considerations to be made that recognize the necessity of being storied and having an ego in this realm of story and ego wherein we dwell.

But, we are not the story. Even if we are used to saying, ’This is my story,’ you and I are not the story.

Living in a story, and being that story, are not the same thing.

Alan Watts relates how in a play or drama the actors come forward after the performance has concluded, and bow to the audience. The hero and the evil agent, the protagonist and antagonist, the good gal and the bad gal -- bow together to audience and each other.

It has been a play. Actors acting. Drama performed, and ended.

A story. Told and felt. Something to think about.

At end of theatrical story, we exit our characters and stage and return to ordinary stories in everyday settings with improvisational responses to unrehearsed questions.

In effect, until we die we are part of ongoing character development and performance expectation and perfecting.

Hinter-denken” a thinking in the back of the mind, an awareness beyond thinking, haunts us. It suggests to us that while we are performers and spectators with regard to the stories wherein we dwell, we are not the stories, the characters, nor the acting itself.

Who then, or what, are we?

Behind everything, beyond everything, who are we?

retiring; words

Each poet's death is finishing line that, still, contemplates revision.

Claudia Emerson, Pulitzer-winning poet who illuminated divorce and death, dies at 57
PUBLISHED: DEC 8, 2014, 5:46 AM
UPDATED: DEC 8, 2014, 5:46 AM

Claudia Emerson, a former mail carrier who turned to writing in middle age and received the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for her book “Late Wife,” an elegiac collection of verses illuminating the complex legacies wrought by divorce and death, died Dec. 4 at a hospital in Richmond, Virginia. She was 57.

And then:

By Claudia Emerson

The word itself: prim, retired, its artifact 
her portrait above the fireplace, on her face 
the boredom she abhorred, then perfected, 
her hands held upward—their emptiness 
a revision, cigarette and brandy snifter 
painted, intolerably, out, to leave her this 
lesser gesture: What next? or shrugged Whatever.
From the waist down she was never there. 

(--Source: Poetry, June 2012).

Monday, December 08, 2014

Unusual three, of a day

Siddhartha, Mary, and John 
this 8Dec.
Aware and clear. Imagine!

the prelude and proleptic of practice and prayer

Why sit? Why pray? At practices this weekend these questions arise. During final circle teisho these words come up for reflection response:

Silent sitting invites us to become a place where creation/universe has the opportunity to look at itself for the duration.

Prayer is an occurance for creation and the universe to have a time and place to pray within and through you for the duration of your presentation in prayer.

No matter if the time you sit or pray is turmoil and distraction. The world is most often troubled and in turmoil. Let its looking and its prayer take place in your surround. And if there be occasions of quiet and peace, let this prelude and proleptic take place in your surround for the benefit of all beings in all realms through all time.

Silent sitting, with Quakers or during zazen, is not meant to be a personal bettering accomplishment. If that occurs it is only part of the fruit tasted by creation and universe in and through you, your effort or non-effort, and your practice, your prayer.

So, practice. Pray. Be silent. Become mindful. Enter the place of inclusion, compassion, patience, and nascent wisdom. 

Let the umwelt of your being ready the radical unfolding of the true nature of circumincessional interpenetration. Become a perichoresis of practice! And if you preface God in your gathering into stillness, there God will attend with openness.

{sounding bell}

Sunday, December 07, 2014

laughter? or, if nothing else is heard, last word?

“‘Ashes do not come back to firewood.’ If you do not burn yourself completely, a trace of yourself will be left in what you do.” (Dogen Zenji)

Leave no trace, it is said, is the task.

Give everything away.

Word it all into emptiness.

Return to silence.


Saturday, December 06, 2014

rain and snow, come and go

Feel what you feel.

Think what you think.

Only, don't become attached to what you feel or think.

Everything changes up.  Two candles. One light.

Friday, December 05, 2014


In Staten Island
breath is
held cheap --
Eric Garner

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

the war on black men by officials and police just became a little scarier

Policeman, (nor the assembled hold-him-down, kneel-on-his neck-and-head officers) who killed Eric Garner with banned chokehold for selling individual cigarettes, is not indicted for the homicide.

He pleaded for breath.

Nobody, then or now, helped Mr Garner. 

Bramhall’s World, Justice system and Eric Garner

Alice Walker on who actually killed Eric Garner.

 ©2014 by Alice Walker for Carl Dix and Cornel West

It is still hard to believe
that millions of us saw Eric Garner die.
He died with what looked like a half dozen
heavily clad
standing on his body, twisting and crushing
especially his head
and neck.
He was a big man, too.  They must have felt
like clumsy midgets
as they dragged him down.

Watching the video,
I was reminded of the first lynching
I, quite unintentionally, learned about:
it happened in my tiny lumber mill 
town before the cows were brought in
and young white girls
on ornate floats
became dairy queens.
A big man too,
whom my parents knew,
he was attacked also by a mob
of white men (in white robes and hoods)
and battered to death
by their two by fours.

I must have been a toddler
overhearing my parents talk
and mystified by pieces of something
called “two by fours.”
Later, building a house, 
i would encounter the weight,
the heaviness, of this varying length
of wood, and begin to understand.
What is the hatred
of the big black man
or the small black man
or the medium sized
black man
the brown man
or the red man
in all his sizes
that drives the white lynch mob

I always thought it was envy:
of the sheer courage to survive
and ceaselessly resist conformity
enough to sing and dance
or orate, or say in so many outlandish
You’re not the boss
of me!
Think how many black men
said that: “Cracker,* you’re not the boss
of me;” 
even enslaved.  Think of how
the legal lynch mob 
so long ago
tore Nat Turner’s body
in quarters
skinned him 
and made “money purses”
from his “hide.”
Who are these beings?

Now we are beginning to ask
the crucial question.
If it is natural to be black
and red or brown
and if it is beautiful to resist
and if it is gorgeous to be of color
and walking around free,
then where does the problem

Who are these people
that kill our children in the night?
Murder our brothers in broad daylight?
Refuse to see themselves in us
as we have strained, over centuries, 
to see ourselves in them?
Perhaps we are more different
than we thought.
And does this scare us?
And what of, for instance,
those among us
who collude?
Come see what stillness
lies now
in the people’s broken

It is the quiet force of comprehension,
of realization
of the meaning
of our ancient
and perfect
of what must now be understood
and done to honor
and cherish
no matter who
today’s “bosses”
may be.

Our passion
and love for ourselves
that must at last
and free us.  As we lay our sacrificed
beloveds to rest
in our profound
and ample caring:
broad, ever moving,
and holy,
as the sea. 
*Cracker:  from the crack of the whip wielded by slave drivers.