Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, August 28, 2004

We come late to seeing clearly.

When you realize the unborn, uncreated, unconditioned, you are liberated from everything born, created, and conditioned.
- Buddha (c. 563- 483 BCE)

Maybe we each always only speak of and for ourselves. Still, it is good to listen to what is being said.

Who is saying this about me?

Yet here you are, trusting in delusive words, to no purpose! Steal, would you, murder, commit adultery, perjure yourselves, burn incense to Baal, follow alien gods that you do not know? -- and then come presenting yourselves in this Temple that bears my name, saying: Now we are safe -- safe to go on committing all these abominations! Do you take this Temple that bears my name for a robbers’ den? I, at any rate, am not blind -- it is the Lord who speaks.
(from Jeremiah 7)

Maybe there is a distinction to be made. Maybe the house of God is not the marketplace. Maybe it is fool's errand to hold open a house that even God absents.

In returning to oneself, do we find there what we lost there long ago?

I entered, then, and with the vision of my spirit, such as it was, I saw the incommutable light far above my spiritual ken and transcending my mind: not this common light which every carnal eye can see, nor any light of the same order; but greater, as though this common light were shining much more powerfully, far more brightly, and so extensively as to fill the universe. The light I saw was not the common light at all, but something different, utterly different, from all those things. Nor was it higher than my mind in the sense that oil floats on water or the sky is above the earth; it was exalted because this very light made me, and I was below it because by it I was made. Anyone who knows truth knows this light.
O eternal Truth, true Love, and beloved Eternity, you are my God, and for you I sigh day and night. As I first began to know you, you lifted me up and showed me that, while that which I might see exists indeed, I was not yet capable of seeing it. Your rays beamed intensely on me, beating back my feeble gaze, and I trembled with love and dread. I knew myself to be far away from you in a region of unlikeness, and I seemed to hear your voice from on high: “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat me. You will not change me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into me”.

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

(from The Confessions of Saint Augustine, bishop)

We're often late.

Actually, mostly late.

Returning, we find it is not about us.

You will be changed into us.

When, by returning, we bow gratefully.

And disappear.

Friday, August 27, 2004

What is now being revealed? Can we stand within and move through it?

Monica wanted her son to see clearly this revelation.

Because the day when she was to leave this life was drawing near – a day known to you, though we were ignorant of it – she and I happened to be alone, through (as I believe) the mysterious workings of your will. We stood leaning against a window which looked out on a garden within the house where we were staying, at Ostia on the Tiber; for there, far from the crowds, we were recruiting our strength after the long journey, in order to prepare ourselves for our voyage overseas. We were alone, conferring very intimately. Forgetting what lay in the past, and stretching out to what was ahead, we enquired between ourselves, in the light of present truth, into what you are and what the eternal life of the saints would be like, for Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor human heart conceived it. And yet, with the mouth of our hearts wide open we panted thirstily for the celestial streams of your fountain, the fount of life which is with you.
(from Office of Readings, Feast of St Monica, mother of Augustine, in The Confessions of St. Augustine, bishop)

Monica suddenly went ill, and died in short time. Augustine remained to live his time through. He had to stand within and move through the reality he finds before him. So do we.

Just be straightforward and do not cling to
Anything. Deluded people grasp the
Dharma and hold on to the samadhi of
Universality. They claim that the samadhi
Of universality consists of sitting
Motionless all the time without
Any uprise in the mind.
Such an interpretation makes the
Meditators inanimate and hinders
The realization of self-nature.

- Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra

What does it mean to ‘stand within and move through’ the reality before us?

The passage from 'concentration' to 'meditation' does not require the application of any new technique. Similarly, no supplementary yogic exercise is needed to realize samadhi, once the yogin has succeeded in 'concentrating' and 'meditating.' Samadhi, yogic 'enstasis,' is the final result of the crown of all the ascetic's spiritual efforts and exercises. The meanings of the term Samadhi are union, totality; absorption in, complete concentration of mind; conjunction. The usual translation is 'concentration,' but this embarks the risk of confusion with dharana. Hence we have preferred to translate it 'entasis,' 'stasis,' and conjunction.
(from SAMADHI, http://alexm.here.ru/mirrors/www.enteract.com/jwalz/Eliade/242.html)

How difficult is it for us to find ourselves completely involved and engaged in our lives -- an embodied incarnation -- mindfully attentive to being and doing, fully present in, with, and through one another?

The word 'enstasis' is one of the many words that Dooyeweerd uses that rely on the Indo-Greek root 'sta' or 'to stand.' (stasis, enstasis, dis-stasis, systasis, apostasis, standing in the truth; I have added epecstasis). See the Sanskrit stha.

Enstasis means a "standing within." It can be contrasted with dis-stasis (non-standing). It can also be contrasted with ecstasy or ec-stasis (a standing out of).

The word ‘enstasis’ is normally attributed to Mircea Eliade, who used the word in his 1954 book on yoga to describe yogic samadhi. He used this term in place of the word ‘ecstasy,’ which he said means ek-stasis, or a going out of oneself. Now what is really surprising is that Dooyeweerd uses this word in the WdW almost 20 years earlier.

But Eliade seems to be using the word 'enstasis' in a sense of "pure consciousness." Now whether or not Dooyeweerd would agree with this depends on what is meant by consciousness. Dooyeweerd does refer to a central kind of consciousness, and a cosmic consciousness. If Eliade is intending it in the sense of an inner reflection of the selfhood, then I believe that Dooyeweerd could agree. Dooyeweerd also contrasts enstasy to the ec-static absorption into temporal reality of creatures that do not have a supratemporal center (II, 415; NC II, 480).

But it seems to me that Eliade is using 'enstasy' in the sense of a static consciousness that is no longer related to any temporal duration or functions. If that is so, then Dooyeweerd's meaning is quite different. Dooyeweerd is opposed to any viewpoint that seeks a static reality. That is a metaphysical-Greek idea of supra-temporality, and not even the eternity of God should be regarded in that way (NC I, 31 ft.; not in WdW). To seek a state where we do not deal with temporality is to seek a disembodied state. Dooyeweerd rejects that kind of spiritualization.

Baader also opposes a static view of the supratemporal, and he also rejects any spiritualizing view that rejects embodiment. But Baader does speak of a "true stasis,"(Philosophische Schriften II, xxvii), and I believe that this is what Dooyeweerd means by "en-stasis." Baader emphasizes that our true situation is for there to be a relation between the Center and the periphery. Since we are embodied beings, we should experience a movement from our selfhood to the temporal, and also from the temporal to the supratemporal.

And I believe that this is what Dooyeweerd means by 'enstasis.' In naive experience, there is the recognition that we are both temporal and supratemporal beings. We are "fitted into" the temporal world along with other temporal creatures, and we experience the continuity of cosmic time. Naive thought does not set its logical function over-against any "opposite" and does not perform any inter-modal theoretical synthesis. It is operative in the full temporal reality in enstasis (II, 401; NC II, 468).

(Dr. J. Glenn Friesen, Studies relating to Herman Dooyeweerd,
http://www.members.shaw.ca/jgfriesen/Definitions/Enstasy.html)

The phrase ‘before us’ has several directions to contemplate. ‘Before us’ might mean that which preceded us. ‘Before us’ also means right under our feet. In addition it points to what is unfolding in front of us.

The prophet Jeremiah looked at what was before him. He told us:
I am in anguish! I writhe with pain!
Walls of my heart!
My heart is throbbing!
I cannot keep quiet,
for I have heard the trumpet call
and the cry of war.
Ruin on ruin is the news:
the whole land is laid waste,
my tents are suddenly destroyed,
in one moment all that sheltered me is gone.
How long must I see the standard
and hear the trumpet call?

“This is because my people are stupid,
they do not know me,
they are slow-witted children,
they have no understanding:
they are clever enough at doing wrong,
but do not know how to do right.”

I looked to the earth, to see a formless waste;
to the heavens, and their light had gone.
I looked to the mountains, to see them quaking
and all the heights astir.
I looked, to see no man at all,
the very birds of heaven had fled.
I looked, to see the wooded country a wilderness,
all its towns in ruins,
at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of his burning anger.

Yes, thus speaks the Lord,
“The whole land shall be laid waste,
I will make an end of it once for all;
at which the earth will go into mourning,
and the heavens above grow dark.
For I have spoken and will not change my mind,
I have decided and will not go back on it.”

(from Jeremiah 5)

At Thursday Evening Conversation there were difficult times wrestling with an emotional inquiry into ‘humility.’ Is part of the difficulty with humility that we are losing contact with earth? The Latin word is humus = ground, soil, land, or earth. So many want to control the earth. So many want to flee the earth. And, so many want to live in some disembodied un-earthly state where they will not be bothered by demands and /or pleasures of earthly existence.

We were bewildered with grief, but she looked keenly at us and said, “You are to bury your mother here”. I was silent, holding back my tears, but my brother said something about his hope that she would not die far from home but in her own country, for that would be a happier way. On hearing this she looked anxious and her eyes rebuked him for thinking so; then she turned her gaze from him to me and said, “What silly talk!” Shortly afterwards, addressing us both, she said, “Lay this body anywhere, and take no trouble over it. One thing only do I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be”. Having made her meaning clear to us with such words as she could muster, she fell silent, and the pain of the disease grew worse.
(Augustine about Monica, Confessions)

It is stark fact none of us seem likely to escape the disease that accompanies this existence. We grow inevitably dissatisfied with what is before us, and we inevitably will suffer through some specific disease and fall silent into death. At that time, whether we want to or not, we will come to earth.

What if we found ground, if we came to earth, before death? Would life and death lose their separateness in our mind? Would we lose our mind? Would a new way of being reveal itself? Just where, in fact, do we think heaven is? What kind of "thing" do we want heaven to be?

It is what takes place now and through this inevitable path practicing alert awareness that forms our consciousness and influences how we journey with others alongside whatever appears before us.

Hence, the invitation into samadhi and enstasis.

To travel well.

All of us.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I don't believe in competition.

When you stop your compulsive mind, to reach the point where not a single thing is born, you pass through to freedom, no longer falling into feelings and now dwelling on concepts, transcending all completely. Then Zen is obvious everywhere in the world, with the totality of everything everywhere turning into its great function. Everything comes from your own heart. This is what one ancient called bringing out the family treasure.
- Yuan wu (1063-1135)

What comes, goes.

Humility brings earth to the fore. Is acceptance and surrender to 'what is' the same as humility and forgiveness?

What remains at the end is heart-felt treasure.

Gratitude.

It is all gift.

Nothing else.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Life is gift.

Life is not recompense, obligation, tit-for-tat, it is not owed us, nor is it something we deserve.

Sylvia asked, and I answered. The longing for community is not out of emotional need, nor neediness. Community is longed for the same way air and breath are longed for -- without it there is no life.

I am never not in communion with others. I am never not alone. These two sentences are not antithetical.

I think in the sixties he [Thomas Merton]went through some of the worst times I ever witnessed among my friends. Yet he kept a deep understanding of the vitality a human being draws from his brothers and sisters. I often think that in my order part of my responsibility is parallel to his own: to keep a strong appreciation of the community, especially when so many are tempted to give up.
There is something mysterious in the timing of people or in projects.

(-- Daniel Berrigan, pp. 148-9, in The Raft Is Not The Shore, co-authored by Thich Nhat Hanh, c.1975)

Is the time right to recognize and realize that what we are is community? And that what we are is alone? That these two views are not opposite?

We loosely talk of Self-realization, for lack of a better term. But how can one real-ize or make real that which alone is real? All we need to do is to give up our habit of regarding as real that which is unreal. All religious practices are meant solely to help us do this. When we stop regarding the unreal as real, then reality alone will remain, and we will be that.
- Ramana Marharshi (1879-1950)

We are what we long for because we are what we are.

We are alone with others. We are alone together. We are the intersection of everything that passes. We pass. We die. What happens after that? We're uncertain what to say. We'll have to see. Once we see, what is there to say?

Berrigan ends the Afterword addressing Nhat Hanh:
We are closer. Our eyes discern the shore, the gentle green lineaments of the Promise. Soon we shall be home.
(p.153)

We're on our way.

Back home.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Consider investing in and supporting Meetingbrook

Something taking shape takes time.

Mu-ge walks down path from brook. It sings with flow from torrential rainfall two days gone. Sando and Cesco are stretched out on cabin floor. Sandalwood incense burns before altar. Saskia sails out Rockport Harbor. Sunny late afternoon. Breeze.

We've been talking about Cape Breton and Katy and Joe's property. A woman from Lincolnville wonders if some in the area will eat crow. Nancy comes in after loading and moving a half-cord of wood to her off-the-grid house. She likes what she hears of the property and is happy Buzz has said he’d be of assistance -- his firm consults with corporate businesses and nonprofits, and he has offered to help design Meetingbrook's intent to acquire and utilize the property in Cape Breton. (For years. between snacking on French pastry puffs and telling stories of commanding naval vessels on high seas, he's been watching and most likely waiting for us to ask for help.) Three couples mull how they might be part of the project. Visitors from away (Stamford and Saratoga Springs) animatedly expressed their desire to follow the process and stay in contact.

Locals, even the skeptical and dubious, have come to suspect there's something different about the conversation and the property. They listen with interest to the announcement I proclaim -- That I will not look at another property in Nova Scotia should this prospect fail to happen -- and they believe it to be a true statement. It seems so -- this one or none other. They wonder out loud – In Maine then?

We've not made an offer yet. We plan to soon, once things fall in line. We've communicated intent. There's a strong sense that what happens next is important. The time is ripe. Curiously, even should someone claim the property out from under us, what happens next is important. I trust the owners will understand our interest and follow our process. We move deeper.

Many here tell us they don't want to see us leave Maine. If our intent were simple -- just to move there -- we'd sell the house and the business and transplant. But other options are being considered, a bit more complex at first sight -- to retain hermitage and shop, and negotiate with interested members of the wider community to partner in establishing Meetingbrook Hermitage's Center for Skillful Means and Engaged Service. This creation would span Barnestown Road in Camden to the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton.

Meetingbrook is conceived as a Hermitage for prayer, meditation, and contemplation; a Schola for conversation and study; and a Center for eco-spirituality, community learning & service.

The vision includes serving as a contribution and resource for retreat and respite for individuals requiring a safe and reflective place because of illness, life re-evaluation, or personal time-out.

We also aspire to serve as an adventure based alternative and continuing education center for individuals needing to update professional certification or licensure in their work fields. Our offerings would include a balance of intellectual, spiritual, physical, and practice integration. This would be experienced in a setting intended to foster healthy equilibrium and flexibility of mind and spirit in personal life and work environment.

One further focus is end of life attention and safe navigation of that journey. There are far too few places that nurture and encourage conversation and reflection on the full expanse of personal life, relational life, near-death, nearing-death, and death. The Center at Meetingbrook will present an environment where ongoing attention is given to the open integration of heart and mind, practice and theory, silent contemplation and supportive conversation about our ways of living and dying. The solid principles of hospice, life affirming psychology, and death acknowledging concerns will be honored.

Our original creation of Meetingbrook Hermitage's Schola Gratiae et Contemplationis intends to be a place at the intersection of four distinct templates: monastery, library, university, and retreat house. A fifth addition to the crossing paths would be hospice lodge.

Anyone interested in supporting this intersection?

Anyone interested in investing his or her life, however you wish, to this crossing path?

Anyone interested in contributing donations of money, time, labor, or materials to this idiorhythmic rebuilding of human spirit/divine spirit?

Anyone interested in praying us into and through this vision?

Please.

Do.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Do we need a great philosophy?

I've been watching the ugly things said by operators for and supporters of George Bush about the war record and person of John Kerry. I've watched the sorrowful conduct of the unfortunate war in Iraq. I watch the rigid dismantling of any civil discourse or authentic conversation by our political leaders -- especially the two men seeking the top administrative position in the executive branch of American government.

I also watch many in town who wish to say anything critical about the President, Vice-President, or Attorney General, drop their voices, look around, and lean in -- as if being heard by anyone else would bring on them fearful consequences. To experience the nervous upset of these people, their fright and caution, is itself unnerving.

It reminds me of something I learned years ago. When I worked with adolescents in residential treatment centers, I noticed that other residents gave a wide berth to what they considered particularly disturbed individuals. It was easy to find out whom the others considered genuinely 'crazy' -- there was a reluctance and fear about saying anything about them or coming close to them. This dynamic, unfortunately, feels familiar. Instead of 'crazy' perhaps the signals sent out are: unquestioning certainty they are right and all others wrong; changing the meaning of words to fit their view of the world; and single minded repetitive phrases responding to inquiries asking light of thought and explanation be given as to why particular actions, decisions, and policies are put in place.

Charles Peguy said that when a person dies he or she does not die of a disease, but of all of life. Some die years before they are buried.
(p.1260, "Meditation for Spiritual Growth," in The Vatican II Weekday Missal, c.1975)

There is a fear of life that results in disease. There is a fear of death that results in making of life a thing to fear.

Why are so many frightened of this president and his associates? Is it because more and more people believe American leaders want fear, that these leaders do not share a common mind with the majority of people in this country and the world who long for honest peace, that these leaders wish to destroy whatever is not their idea of the way things should be?

A great philosophy is not one that passes final judgments and establishes ultimate truth. It is one that causes uneasiness and starts commotion.
(- Charles Peguy, 1873-1914, French poet and essayist)

We need a great philosophy because of the experience many relate. These people say what they see. They say that we are being bludgeoned by narrow ideology and self-serving arrogance by leaders of the current government of the United States. There is a palpable uneasiness and despondence.

We must always tell what we see. Above all, and this is more difficult, we must always see what we see. (Peguy)

It is sad to see so many frightened and angry people. They feel torn apart by mean-spirited and virulent lack of kindness in matters of politics and patriotism. The teaching behavior of partisan aggression is a hard learning. As a model for how to make one's way in the world, it is difficult to imagine any parent or teacher thinking it appropriate as lesson for children and youth. Yet, it is becoming the norm inundating the population as a whole. How could we possibly disclaim that our way is not hostile dissembling of reputation and character, destruction of identified enemy, and winner take all?

Terrorism is terrorism by any other name. No matter what name is pinned on the behavior that blindsides and destroys the other for one's personal ideology and belief -- everyone recognizes the seeding of fear when it occurs. Can the harvesting of this misshapen and mutant crop be far away?

To love anyone, especially to love one's country, once entailed keeping a close eye on things, saying what you see, and offering help to correct what might be going wrong. These days, more and more people have come to feel that any critical comment might get you placed on a watch-list, detained for questioning, or beaten by militarized upholders of the peace.

Critical thinking and informed dissenting opinion become more and more rare. Public discourse these days seems to favor derisive putdown and shut-your-mouth scornful one-line slogans. We become discouraged by disdain and derision. What is needed is authentic, respectful, and responsive conversation.

The honest man must be a perpetual renegade, the life of an honest man a perpetual infidelity. For the man who wishes to remain faithful must take himself perpetually unfaithful to all the continual, successive, indefatigable, renascent errors. (Charles Peguy)

We've forgotten an important consideration -- that we might be wrong. We deny we could be missing the mark. We posture and pose as know-it-all's who can cause a world of harm to anyone who thinks otherwise.

Who walks humbly anymore? Rather, swagger, strutting, and smirking are the runway fashion of the day.

Where is Church in all of this?

There are two sayings I like about the Church, from opposite poles. One is: “At the heart of Christianity is the sinner.” The poet Charles Peguy said that; he is thought to have become a Catholic just days before he was called up for the defense of France in 1914, and shot through the head on his first day in battle. Christianity came into being because of the sinner, for the sinner; everything begins there, returns there, works there. The other saying, by a French colleague of Peguy’s, a crotchety “prophet of the Absolute” named Leon Bloy (who once opened a novel with the line: “This place stinks of God!”), runs as follows: “The only tragedy in life is not to have been a saint.”
Between those two poles, pulled this way and that, each Christian struggles.

(Michael Novak, U.S. Ambassador, Theologian, and Author)

Is a 'saint' someone who sees something as it is, engages what is taking place with kindness and genuine assistance, and does it all in the open presence/name of the One God who is as is for all?

The idea that we are a Christian nation is becoming a sniggering back-story for a different strain of heresy, a heresy unlike those of the early days of the church. What does this heresy look like?

Call it the Heresy of Nominal Appropriation. The aim -- to Keep Christ Out of Christianity. The teaching is simple -- Say the name "Jesus" over and over, bait people to believe you are actually praying to and follow Jesus, then switch to adding your own narrow interpretation of how things are going to be instead of the Gospel mandate of love, forgiveness, and redemptive compassion. Steal the word "compassion," redefine it to mean your own brand of control and willfulness, and sell it in place of genuine compassion. Call dirty water clean. Name bad as good. Say that despotic rule is democracy. Call ordinary men and women suspects perpetrating evil. Change the rules and hold that some facts are merely not facts and lobby that lies are now more valuable than truth. Do not encourage the practice that looks into the hearts and minds of people for the purpose of discovering what good and trustworthiness reside there, but rather instill fear and mistrust, encourage suspicion and call for a patriotic duty to inform and betray one another in the name of freedom, in the name of God. Steal the name and believe you possess what the name signifies.

This heresy of Nominal Appropriation is theological and secular. Identity theft is the new crime against God and human beings.

It is, some would say, diabolical. (In Greek, 'dia'= twice, through, and 'bol'= to throw, toss). Hence, here, diabolical could mean being tossed twice through one word or name, second-guessing, double-dealing, turning upside-down, inverting meaning, changing truth, revising history, or, diverting attention.

Instead of propaganda or dogma, we need a great philosophy. Many among us once believed that the teaching words and kind acts of Jesus were fine signposts on the long path toward final understanding and generous behavior. These days there is a severe threat to that once held belief.

Is there a great philosophy to either retrieve or replace the original constructs of love, compassion, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice? Is the teaching of current secular government in this country strong enough to supplant, in name or in act, the philosophy formerly known as Christianity?

What would it be called? Is there even a name we might give it? Or have all names become vulnerable to exploitation and plundering?

MARGARETA. ... Do you believe in God?

FAUST. Sweet, who can dare
To say that he believes?
Ask anywhere -
A sage or priest - and you will see
The answer seems like mockery
Upon the asking.

MARGARETA. Then you don’t believe?

FAUST. Nay, darling girl, no need to misconceive.
For who can say that name
And claim
A very certain faith?
Or where is he with feeling
Of some revealing
Who dares to say it is a wraith?
He that’s upholding
All and enfolding,
Holds he not,
Folds he not
You, me, himself?
Towers not the vault of heaven above us?
Does not earth’s fabric bear us bravely up?
Do not the friendly eyes of timeless stars
Still gleam upon our sight?
Gaze we for nought in one another’s eyes?
Is not life teeming
Around the head and heart of you,
Weaving eternal mysteries
Seen and unseen, even at your side?
Oh, let them fill your heart, your generous heart,
And, when you lose your being in that bliss,
Give it what name you will -
Your joy, love, heart, your God.
For me, I have no name
To give it: feeling’s surely all.
Names are but noise and smoke,
Obscuring heavenly light.

(Dialogue in Faust I, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Without names, where would we look? Without names, how will we recognize one another?

Without beginning or ending, your original wisdom has been shining forever, like the sun. To know whether or not this is true, look inside your own mind.
(- Padmasambhava, 8th cent)

Look there.

Look here.

Carefully, approach a great philosophy.

Watch and pray.