Today At Meetingbrook

Friday, May 13, 2005

If love is all there is...

That the self advances
And confirms ten thousand things
Is called delusion;
That the ten thousand things
Advance and confirm the self
Is called enlightenment.

- Dogen (1200-1253)

...what is it we think we are doing?

Sie sagt fur dich: Ich bin!

(She says for you: I am)
(from Rilke poem)

In this case, let me say it for you:

You are...

Love.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Final meeting of Fantasy, Myth, and Enchantment as Self-Discovery at University College at Thomaston this evening.

No opposite means no need to cross over. Of course, the raft is not the shore -- but when love is all there is: the shore, the water, the raft, the person, and the other shore are not five things.

If love has no opposite it is no wonder there's so much trouble finding words for love. "Who needs more words," a student asks. We need more leaders -- more of a community of shared counsel. With opposition politics there are rigid laws with specific agendas banging against a dyadic solution.

We need more leaders who can see us through.

We grow accustomed to the Dark --
When light is put away --
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Goodbye --

A Moment -- We uncertain step
For newness of the night --
Then -- fit our Vision to the Dark --
And meet the Road -- erect --

And so of larger -- Darkness --
Those Evenings of the Brain --
When not a Moon disclose a sign --
Or Star -- come out -- within --

The Bravest -- grope a little --
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead --
But as they learn to see --

Either the Darkness alters --
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight --
And Life steps almost straight.

(Poem by Emily Dickinson)

Maybe we'll only come through if we see community as self-discovery; when we experience connectivity as our natural way of being.

Let's find no opposite to love.

No need to word what is not there.

Present ourselves to our open extended family.

Arriving at the movement taking us through each and every expression of what we are building together -- community itself -- our mythopoetic story and new form of self.

Each leaves final class with common gratitude.

One in all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Fog sat off Curtis Island most the day.

Fog is visible courtship between sun and sea. Sun is sun; sea is sea. When they become entwined as sunsea there is fog. Droplets of water vapor suspended in the air near surface; fog reveals itself for brief intervals. Then dissipates.

The vagaries of life
Though painful,
Teach us
Not to cling
To this fleeting world.

- Ikkyu (1394-1481)

Water, they say, carries code. Essence and intention take form in water's memory. Water seeks lowest place. Water conforms to any shape. Water is life. It is arche, primary principle of life, according to Thales of Miletus.

In Camden boats are lowered into harbor. Floats are set in place. Visitors stop by. Roads are torn up and repairs snarl northern end of town. Sandals appear. Tracey prepares soil and begins flower work for owners. Fog is sculpted testimony to passing nuptial.

The Sailor

In my movie the boat goes under
And he alone survives the night in the cold ocean,
Swimming he hopes in a shoreward direction.
Daylight and he's still afloat, pawing the water
And doesn't yet know he's only fifty feet from shore.
He goes under for what will be the last time
But only a few feet down scrapes bottom.
He's suddenly a changed man and half hops, half swims
The remaining distance, hauls himself waterlogged
Partway up the beach before collapsing into sleep.
As he dreams the tide comes in
And rolls him back to sea.

(Poem by Geof Hewitt)

Fog clarifies what at bottom is invisible. Fog shapes what is passing.

We come to see by seeing what is coming.

The only mystery left is why we treat each other poorly.

Or, why we refuse God becoming with us.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ecology of consciousness is nuptial. Ethics is the study and practice of who we are, and who we are with one another; the common impulse for interdependence.

I confess that there is nothing to teach: no religion, no science, no body of information which will lead your mind back to the Tao. Today I speak in this fashion, tomorrow in another, but always the Integral Way is beyond words and beyond mind. Simply be aware of the oneness of things. (Eight, in Hua Hu Ching, by Lao Tzu, Translated by Brian Walker)

We go to prison to converse, to practice writing and math, to be part of healing the broken minds and spirits of ourselves and our times.

What percentage of the U.S. jail and prison population is mentally ill?

Of the nearly 2 million inmates being held in prisons and jails across the country, experts believe nearly 500,000 are mentally ill. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), 16 percent of the prison population can be classified as severely mentally ill, meaning that they fit the psychiatric classification for illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder. According to staff at city and community jails, 25 percent of the jail population is severely mentally ill. However, when other mental illnesses, such as anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and depression, are included, the numbers are much higher, and NAMI puts the number of inmates suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse the percentage at well over 50 percent.

(from Frontline Documentary "The New Asylums", aired 10May05) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/etc/faqs.html

At Tuesday Evening Conversation at the shop tonight Genevieve said she comes, not for the ideas, but for the spirit. We read Zen and the Kingdom of Heaven. The author speaks of experiencing "no inside, no outside." That intuition changes things. It's part of our going in and out of prison. The distinctions drop. Who is inside and who outside, who is mentally ill and who not -- these borders dissolve and fade. We are left with this person, that person; these words, those observations. Each is itself. We're there to verify that intuition.

Each moment is fragile and fleeting. The moment of the past cannot be kept, however beautiful. The moment of the present cannot be held, however enjoyable. The moment of the future cannot be caught, however desirable. But the mind is desperate to fix the river in place: Possessed by ideas of the past, preoccupied with images of the future, it overlooks the plain truth of the moment. The one who can dissolve her mind will suddenly discover the Tao at her feet, and clarity at hand. (Twenty-One, Hua Hu Ching)

The plain truth of the moment is the ecological ethics of person to person interdependence.

We might not be able to name God, but we can greet and speak with one another.

The intuition is not to name or own; just be with.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Everywhere at ease?

This month brings Meetingbrook to the cusp of beginning its 10th year at the harbor. The raw rain and blowing swells out of the northeast these last few days remind that spring in Maine is a variable notion. So is Meetingbrook – a variable notion.

In blue-ephemeral haze,
You come and go
Through your Zen gate.
On Yen Mountain,
The view’s ten thousand li,
A thousand peaks.
When will we arrive
And be with the floating clouds
Everywhere at ease?

- Liu Chang-ch’ing (710-787)

The notion is a good one. It holds that we are all connected. That wherever gathers, however briefly, more than one person, begins the practice of changing and deepening one’s view of life. That even in solitude the practice of community continues. That even in communion with or in the presence of others the practice of solitude is ongoing.

Meetingbrook is nothing other than a loosely knit association of individuals walking along the path moving from dependence through independence to interdependence --and arriving home each step of the way.

The practice is to be everywhere at ease. With one another. Or alone. No one, no other – just dwelling at home at ease with the ways form changes and time empties – completely in one’s own place: the place of faith, hope, and love. These perennial virtues of faith (saying yes), hope (asking please), and love (wordlessly praying as openness itself) – are variable hermit pathway trails into assertions of affirmation, invitation, and recognition.

Thomas Merton writes about a conversation with the Dalai Lama who asks Merton: “Well, to be precise, what do your vows oblige you to do? Do they simply constitute an agreement to stick around for life in the monastery? Or do they imply a commitment to a life of progress up certain mystical stages?” I sort of hemmed and hawed a bit, and said: “Well, no, that’s not quite what the vows are all about.” But it was interesting to see that this is what he thought the vows ‘should’ be about.” When you stop and think a little bit about St. Benedict’s concepts of ‘conversio morum’, that most mysterious of our vows, which is actually the most essential, I believe, it can be interpreted as a commitment to total inner transformation of one sort or another -- a commitment to become a completely new man. It seems to me that that could be regarded as the end of monastic life, and that no matter where one attempts to do this, that remains the essential thing. (p.337, from “Marxism and Monastic Perspectives,” by Father Louis, O.C.S.O. {Thomas Merton} Talk delivered at Bangkok on December 10, 1968, Appendix VII in The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, c.1973)

Later, recalling a conversation with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Merton writes:
He sent a message to a nearby abbot friend of his saying: What are we to do?” The abbot sent back a strange message, which I think is very significant: “From now on, Brother, everybody stands on his own feet.”

To my mind, that is an extremely important monastic statement. If you forget everything else that has been said, I would suggest you remember this for the future: “From now on, everybody stands on his own feet.”

This, I think, is what Buddhism is about, what Christianity is about, what monasticism is about – if you understand it in terms of grace. It is not a Pelagian statement, by any means, but a statement to the effect that we can no longer rely on being supported by structures that may be destroyed at any moment by a political power or a political force. You cannot rely on structures. The time for relying on structures has disappeared. They are good and they should help us, and we should do the best we can with them. But they may be taken away, and if everything is taken away, what do you do next?
(p.338, Merton)

Living life dedicated to inner transformation is a variable notion and moveable feast.

What is essential in the monastic life is not embedded in buildings, is not embedded in clothing, is not necessarily embedded even in a rule. It is somewhere along the line of something deeper than a rule. It is concerned with this business of total inner transformation. All other things serve that end. I am just saying, in other words, what Cassian said in the first lecture on ‘puritas cordis’, purity of heart, that every monastic observance tends toward that. (p.340, Merton)

Meetingbrook has often wondered whether it would find itself elsewhere. Those loosely associated with the place – regularly or irregularly – catalogue their opinions and feelings about our wonderings and inquiries according to the seasons. Hearts are restless until they realize there is no permanent home with fixed street address; realizing this, hearts rest in the open, their true home.

Let us affirm, invite, and recognize one another in this hospitable dwelling place.

As always, we’re here for now.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

It's time to change tactics concerning Iraq.

I expected to see only pink blossoms,
But a gentle spring snow has fallen
And the cherry trees are wearing a white coat.

- Ryokan (1758-1831)

Naomi Klein writes:
The administration says the war was about fighting for democracy. That was the big lie they resorted to when they were caught in the other lies. But it's a different kind of a lie in the sense that it's a useful lie. The lie that the United States invaded Iraq to bring freedom and democracy not just to Iraq but, as it turns out, to the whole world, is tremendously useful -- because we can first expose it as a lie and then we can join with Iraqis to try to make it true. So it disturbs me that a lot of progressives are afraid to use the language of democracy now that George W. Bush is using it. We are somehow giving up on the most powerful emancipatory ideas ever created, of self-determination, liberation and democracy.

And it's absolutely crucial not to let Bush get away with stealing and defaming these ideas -- they are too important.


Then:
So what is our role here? We need to support the people of Iraq and their clear demands for an end to both military and corporate occupation. That means being the resistance ourselves in our country, demanding that the troops come home, that U.S. corporations come home, that Iraqis be free of Saddam's debt and the IMF and World Bank agreements signed under occupation. It doesn't mean blindly cheerleading for "the resistance." Because there isn't just one resistance in Iraq. Some elements of the armed resistance are targeting Iraqi civilians as they pray in Shia mosques -- barbaric acts that serve the interests of the Bush administration by feeding the perception that the country is on the brink of civil war and therefore U.S. forces must remain in Iraq. Not everyone fighting the U.S. occupation is fighting for the freedom of all Iraqis; some are fighting for their own elite power. That's why we need to stay focused on supporting the demands for self-determination, not cheering any setback for U.S. empire.
(in "How to End the War" by Naomi Klein, published May 5, 2005, by In These Times ) http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0505-23.htm

Her words suggest we must now truthfully do what the Bush administration has winked and nodded it was doing -- we must work for democracy in Iraq. Not the substitution of Saddam's tyranny for the United State's imperial puppetry. Just because the invasion wore the mask of "for democracy" after the disguise of WMD fell off, doesn't mean the deception used couldn't become the real thing in honest hands.

Same with spirituality. People give up spirituality because they see its abuse and control by those for whom religion and institution are goals substituting for authentic experience.. Spirituality is practice. It is the grace of transparency, presence, and transcendence come home to everyday interaction.

The people of Iraq deserve, finally, their own country. It is a longing to be ordinary, free from both tyrant and usurper.

Tyrant is gone, but we cannot be sure if usurper will let Iraq belong to itself. That will take time and courage. Iraqis need to be confident Americans are not behind the pillaging of their country and resources. We must find again and retrieve our soul -- the one that recognizes and distinguishes fairness, justice, and purity of heart. It might not be too late.

It is a good idea that government must serve the people. There's been enough of the opposite. It is time to take the war away from the administration and work -- Americans and Iraqis -- for transparence, more authentic presence, and the grace to transcend.

Dan Berrigan wrote: "Bodies belong where words are."

It is time to embody authentic democracy and peace.

What do you say?

What do I say?

Are we free to?