Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Mother Purple Finch flies to feeder.

Young one follows noisily. On wet ground outside kitchen window three small chipmunks forage fell-seed in newly shortened grass.

A man of the Way comes
Rapping at my brushwood gate,
Wants to discuss the
Essentials of Zen experience.
Don’t take it wrong if this
Mountain monk’s too lazy
To open his mouth:
Late spring warblers
Singing their hearts out,
A village of drifting petals.

- Jakushitsu (1290 –1367)

Grey rainy summer's day. I turn around to see where I've come from. Nothing there.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head." And to another he said, "Follow me." But he replied, "Lord, let me go first and bury my father." But he answered him, "Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." And another said, "I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home." To him Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God."
(from Luke 9:51-62)

I don't fit anywhere it is suggested one might, or might not, fit. The road-less road the homeless travel seems a fit-less footloose flight.

On the day before Thomas Merton retired to his hermitage at the Abbey of Gethsemani he used an apt metaphor to describe for his novices the new dimension of life as a monastic hermit. The date was August 20, 1965--the eve of the feast of the great early Cistercian, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). No doubt with Bernard (the reformer and creative thinker) in mind, Merton reclaimed the essence of every monk's vocation. Only three short years would intervene before his journey to Asia where he invested himself in dialogues with Buddhist and Hindu monks. Yet on that late summer day in 1965 Merton articulated for those novices a bold imperative when he said:
"At this particular point in the monastic life people need real evidence that it is possible to go further than just simply the convoy of routine work: everybody travelling at the speed of the slowest ship."

(from ‘When the Heart is Right,’ Thomas Merton's Contemplative Contribution to Interreligious Dialogue," by George A. Kilcourse, Jr., Parliament of World Religions)

The hermit conveys nothing. The convoy inches through surface pitch and yaw mapped for some destination. The hermit has no destination. The hermit knows it is the thinnest of upholding engineering that floats the convoy ships above unfathomed depths. The hermit has already sensed the sinking helplessness of slipping below surface.

It is a solitary and uncharted descent. No provision is made for return. No return is conceived. Jesus would be surprised to learn there was a return ticket for him.

It is a Saturday afternoon filled with chirping birds, purring cat on lap, three dogs snoozing in tossed dischevel on floor.

Too lazy to open mouth, this ill-fitting hermit silence floats on precarious wave of empty listening. It is the open alone, with little understanding, conveys the silence of God passing through this, this now here, and this nowhere. This -- without end. This – without beginning.

This, our attentive presence.

Drifting petals.

Real evidence.

Friday, June 25, 2004

This morning, Billy said that in prison you are prey, predator, or you swim in your own pond.

In the awakened eye
Mountains and rivers
Completely disappear.
The eye of delusion
Looks out upon
Deep fog and clouds.
Alone on my zazen mat
I forget the days
As they pass.
The wisteria has grown
Thick over the eaves
Of my hut.

- Muso (1275-1351)

In Guantanimo, prey and predator are interchanged.

According to The Washington Post, the U.S. Vice-President tells a U.S. Senator to "Go fuck yourself."

Several guys in Maine State Prison used the "F" word today describing their point of view about the chaos and control, the discomforting of the environment, and pervasive tension of prison life. We'd been reading Robert Lax on learning to live on a Greek island.

At conversation on Islam at shop this evening a woman suggested that Islamic punishment that cuts off finger, hand, or foot might be more effective and kinder than America's ten to thirty years behind bars with the predation, fear, and warping of men's minds by fear and resentment -- especially when they might carry their lessons learned with them when they walk out and return to the streets.

"Pan metron ariston" is Greek for "all things in moderation."

We need to moderate the excesses of war and the regressive paralysis of hopelessness. We need to moderate extremes of division fomented by political factions racing to far right and left with nasty rhetoric and behavioral incivility.

It is good to visit prison for conversation.

It is like mystery. The more we understand about a mystery the deeper the mystery becomes. There's no end to the depths of mystery.

Passing through prison with heart and mind a little more open is like passing through mystery with new appreciation even the smallest understanding brings.

Billy, Rusty, Chris, Ryan, Saskia and I passed through today.

Our small understanding, shared each with each around table, deepens the mystery of who we are and what God is in our moderated midst.

And Harold visited with Erika in another part of the mystery this morning.

"That big something else," is what one of the guys said of God.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The personal and the political are not separate in our spiritual lives.

1.

I fear George Bush and his Republican frost will prevail in November. His reign is a desiccated flower which, come November, should not be seen following the icy glare of public reflection about him and his term in office.

Good deeds stand tall
Like a green pine,
While evil deeds
Bloom like flowers
It seems the pine is not
As brilliant as the flowers.
When the frost comes,
The pine will still stand tall,
While the flowers, withered,
Can be seen no more.

- Anon

Now that Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Defense Department Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have taken to unsaying what they deceptively mis-said about Iraq, Al Quada and war, it is time for us to listen more clearly and more honestly as citizens claiming to love freedom.

2.

The institutional church, as it declines and reconfigures itself, must come to dialogue and interact with other forms of religion and spiritual inquiry. People in pews are not exposed to or benefiting from open exchange of philosophical and theological conversation.

The faithful are seldom invited by their churches to plumb the difficult questions about belief and doubt, perennial truths and multiplicity of explanation, or disturbing compromises and affronts to genuine colloquy impeding open-hearted inquiry into the intuited reality of what is called God.

There are choices. Among them: We could take refuge in emerging and ongoing revelation of what is true in all its expressions; Or we could be laid bare in the frozen doctrines of former ages and left to icy sleep as capillaries and cells constrict and die.

Religion is not historical study and reenactment of what has been signed and sealed. Religion is inquiry into and celebration of what is flowing and emerging at this moment in this place through reverential attention.

This inquiry is not an unquestioning affirmation, but is, rather, an unending willingness to call into question and maturely respond to each revelation and fact as it appears.

God could never belong to any one church or even the aggregate of them. God belongs to what God is. God belongs to God Self -- whether revealed, evolved, or emerged -- wherever and to whomever God Self comes clear.

3.

We think God is love. We think God is truth. We think God is life.

These are suitable thoughts about God. They might not be all of it, but enough to keep us asking what they mean and what else is there.

Whenever love is missing or perverted, wherever truth is distorted or flat-out ignored, however life is murdered, abused, or degraded -- it is there and then God is hated, God is made a lie, and God is tortured to death.

If politicians do this, we as citizens are in great trouble. If we allow the politics of hate, lies, and death to continue -- we are lost. If the behavior of perversion and deception is our personal behavior, we as individuals and everyone we touch are vulnerable to annihilation if we do not reconnect to the vital and retrieving source of our being.

The political and the personal are not separate.

4.

Like green pine standing tall, we must take heart.

No matter how cold.

Look beyond.

See more.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

We are shocked at beheadings.

Contemplate the mind;
This king of emptiness
Is subtle and abstruse.
Without shape or form,
It has great spiritual power.

It can eliminate all calamities
And accomplish all merits.
Though its essence is empty,
It is the measure of dharmas.

- Master Fu (497-569)

1.

No need to go anywhere.

Where else is there?

A common failing of practice is the phrase, “I am not like that.” The practice of (what is called) enlightenment is seeing the embodiment of truth in what is revealed in each moment in each person.

When the Zen Master says that, “Truth is just like this,” or, “Truth is just like that,” what they are saying is, “Look here, there you are, you are just like what is appearing, just like what is being revealed.”

All knowledge is self-knowledge. We are the beheaded. We are the beheaders. We are the righteous indignation claiming superiority over bloody-handed terrorists. And we are the fractious thinking that believes something useful is accomplished by murderous deeds.

If you think it is awful beheading people, don’t do it. Factually or actually, do not cut a person’s head off. But more than that -- figuratively or metaphorically, do not “take someone’s head off.” Nations and/or corporations that behead other nations, peoples, or adversaries by means of political or economic cutting-blades, perpetuate the terrifying act. Personal anger and frustration often lead to ripping another apart with cutting words or emotional severance.

Shunryu Suzuki, in the reading leading to last evening’s conversation, suggested that each is the only one. Each is Buddha-nature. Practice is this realization. Enlightenment is this practice. There is no one without the other -- and there is no other with the one.

There is no eliminating an enemy we perceive to be outside us, or other than us.

It is thinking that makes one an “other”.

It is awaking that sees one another.

2.

The executioner's argument was, that you couldn't cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn't going to begin at HIS time of life.

The King's argument was, that anything that had a head could be beheaded, and that you weren't to talk nonsense.

The Queen's argument was, that if something wasn't done about it in less than no time she'd have everybody executed, all round. (It was this last remark that had made the whole party look so grave and anxious.)

(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll from Chapter 8: The Queen's Croquet-Ground)

3.

We need to contemplate beheadings.

In the world of Zen not having a head means seeing with one’s whole being. No-mind, no-self, no-body, no-head are ways of saying no-divide.

In a more prosaic formulation, the notion of no-head is saying that rational enumeration of rights and privileges which separate out one group from another and posit some as worthy of reward and some to be deprived of it. — is unbecoming of our true nature.

Calculated, logical, and rational discrimination based on a system of value which excludes “others” from participation in good and goods because of their “otherness” – is a product of “head” analysis. “Head” analysis has as its operating system a dualistic mechanism the prime task of which is to divide into two, decide what portion of resource goes to which, and create categories of worthiness based on arbitrary priority to be evaluated by self-interest and inbred perpetuation of a narrow focal point of restricted ownership.

The metaphor of beheading is chilling. It suggests something wrong with the larger metaphor of head-hunters and head-honcho, as well as heads-of-state and heads-of-industry.

Heads are often disdainful of bodies at the same time as they are fed by and dependent on bodies..

4.

There is no need to sever head from body.

If we look, just look, and see what is there to be seen – we begin the contemplative life of just-seeing.

"My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?" (Ps 42:2)

“The living God” is the heart’s way of saying/seeing, “What is whole and complete.”

Keep on -- by emptying mind.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Today it is silence. We can seek with words or seek with silence.

You are a seeker.
Delight in the mastery
Of your hands and your feet,
Of your words and your thoughts.
Delight in meditation and in solitude.
Compose yourself, be happy.
You are a seeker.

- Buddha in the Dhammapada

It is twenty-nine years my father died on this date. The telephone call. Sitting with still and cooling body on bed in small room mine once where inverted lampshade over clothes hook was basket to rolled sox those playing days.

Rain finally drenches mountainside after dogs and I finish walking slowly short loop then settle on cabin porch and now rest in house.

My son arrives from away. A time will come when he will reflect the death of his father. Some detail will stay with him. Some recollection floating over dripping leaves near a place prayer allows the word open. Today he is happy to stay over shop where sea and mountain both welcome rain.

Father's day is an easy celebration. As is mother's. Both near my parent's deaths in May and June.

In this solitude and silence, we are composed.

In this collation and recollection, we are happy.

Mu-ge leaps to belly and chest, purring. The sudden always-surprising arrival of anything at all!

Yawning as water splashes from rolling tires outside window.