Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Being alone has always appealed. Like the Sufi teacher stating he finds non-being less awkward than existence, I find solitude less awkward than social interaction.

But then again, one is never alone when one is aware of one's solitariness. Being and non-being dissolve like fizzy tablet in glass of water. What remains is sipping.

People who practice the Way should not seek externally. The essence of mind has no defilement; it is originally complete and perfect of itself. Just detach from illusory objects and it is enlightened to suchness as is.
- Master Chinul (1158-1210)

Fire lighted in cabin chapel/zendo at 6:05am. Feeders filled. Dog out. cat out. Both in. Feet very cold as logs and kindling are coaxed in hibernating black firebox. Crunching footsteps, door opens, woman in rust-colored coat bows, sits on cushion, remains still and silent. Fire catches.

Practice rekindles morning presence. Posted times and mere commitment rise like white smoke just as morning prayer rises from odd spiritual gassho of assent and dissent.
In Praise of Imperfect Love

Courtesans of tenth century Japan knew
the keening of the caged copper pheasant,
solo double-note aria for a missing mate,
could be silenced with a mirror

The ideal of a love that completes
masks a yearning for homeostasis,
a second umbilical, island fever,
harmony tighter than unison —

dull as a solved equation;
like the ex-lover who said,
"Being with you is like being alone."
He meant it as a compliment.

(Poem: "In Praise of Imperfect Love" by Jessica Goodfellow, from A Pilgrim's Guide to Chaos in the Heartland. Concrete Wolf Chapbook Series.)

In stillness and silence we engage harmony tighter than unison.

A single mouse came over ice crusted snow to cabin's east side, then disappeared into roof-drop furrow.

Warm vision sits benevolent vigil in sunlit view of Bald Mountain.

Inside house, Jane's voice on WERU.

Her mom, Betty, requests Gorden Bok.

Baking fragrance from kitchen.

The settling simplicity of Saturday hermitage.

Will there be only a limited number of visits to harbour shop remaining?

Coffee completes idyll.

Time for four mile drive.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Each day mountain walks itself.

Cascading ice rounds tumbling solid forms sculpturing. February cold wavelets oh so slowly lean through ice flowing pre-dawn. Night millimetres winter growth under double-plank bridge across from animals' burial ground at turn of brook.

I am nowhere to be found.
The birds have vanished into the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
Until only the mountain remains.

- Li Po (701–762)
Would that be so. And is, but for my seeing it so. I still see ghost of what is no longer there. When I disappear, it is only holy ghost remaining -- as, at, on -- mountain.

At Thursday Evening Conversation eight sit antiphonal to Waterford 103 firebox inserted in fireplace. Finally, in 11th winter of shop at harbour, a warm place with no smoke filling back room, no cold draft sucked in under eaves, nor kabuki dance of dying fire cooling narrowing circle as edge-sitters pull sweaters and fleece tighter. Jack facilitates A Course in Miracles. Delia Mae arrives at end telling how Spring Hill was blocked and stopped for some 30 minutes (again, as it was that morning) with ice-misfortune cars, trucks, and plows. Lola said she prays just coming out driveway to Camden-Belfast Road. Even as we came down from Old Town through her place of prayer earlier for 5:30 conversation, wheels slid on curved road banked hill ice -- which is how we knew we were where we were at.

In car driving back from north of Bangor we talk about how landlord of building we use for harbour shop seems to be pushing us out; how it comes time to (finally) re-think the evolving blueprint of Meetingbrook, long stuffed in dusty closet; now that external cause invites internal affect -- something will change -- what effect will we fashion in this revelation?

So much of life is a dance. So, too, with death.
Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
And let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down

Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily, it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around)
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive and the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive but you’ll never know

(from song "For a Dancer" by Jackson Browne, 1974)
As often as I think of it, I have no grasp on why I am alive, why here, why now. The steps and mis-steps called 'my life' seem the length of a single song over decades and decades playing background over glittering frozen pasture after ice storm. The seduction of each step. Of night with dawn, twilight with dusk, one body with another, one instant of awareness with consciousness itself.

It feels like a poet's version of the ten commandments -- Thou shall not commit, dancing!
My Methodist Grandmother Said

My Methodist
grandmother said
dancing
was adultery
set to music

how right she was

in that sweet sway
breast to breast and
leg to leg
sin comes into its own

if you have never
waltzed
you cannot imagine
the sheer voluptuousness
of it
the light touch
palm to palm
wool and silk
mixed below the waist
your partner's warm breath
on your neck
coming quicker
and quicker
the strength of the man
the yielding of the woman
so incorrect
so atavistic
so unspeakably sweet
he moves toward you
you back away
he pursues you
and with the faintest
pressure
you encourage him
and watch the blood
rush to his face

not a word is spoken
no one sees this
although it's done in public
in full sight of everyone

you touch
and retreat
meet
and touch again
in time to the music
saying yes
no yes
no yes
no
yes

you dance
without thinking of your body
in that gentle
rhythmic
careless
almost copulation
one two three
one
two three

the longest
foreplay
in the western
world

(Poem: "My Methodist Grandmother Said" by Mary Mackey, from Breaking the Fever: Poems. Marsh Hawk Press.)
There's foreplay everywhere. Wind with wind chime, cat with mouse, water with bottle, wood with fire, fingers with keys, silence with sound.

Life is foreplay with death.

Working around hermitage these days has been lovely. Hours cutting back unruly bush outside kitchen and barn, hours moving snow during Valentine's Day storm, cutting wood, repairing plastic against broken window in mud room. I have a body.

So does mountain. its body and my body are not two bodies. Our service and landlord's investments are not at odds. Marriages and divorces -- with accompanying hopes and despairs, are the unpredictable turns and high color, falterings and disconcerting realizations of the dance.

So we are, so we go on. Jory likes the word 'acceptance' over 'forgiveness.' Jesus might have said: "Father, help me accept that they are doing what they are doing, they don't know what they are doing." Forgiveness is a good word. Acceptance is its dear kin.

We are kin to one another.

If we dance, will only the mountain remain?

Am I irretrievably mis-placed? Or...

Now, here, to be, found?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What is wanted? Is truth...
Because they have no high
Opinions of themselves,
The sages’ minds are luminous;
Not caring for status,
They become illustrious;
Being without pride,
They achieve success;
Unassertive, they are supreme.
Because they do not contend,
No one contends with them.

- Lao-tzu

Only this. Which is what truth is like.
Aristotle makes the well-known definition: To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true Metaphysics, (1011(b)).

This definition sets down the general principle of correspondence and captures quite well the man on the street view of truth. Aristotle, however, is not the man on the street (he may be peripatetic, but he is hardly pedestrian); if we wish a clearer picture of Aristotle's view of truth, we must look more closely at what he says in other parts of his writings. In this regard, it is helpful to see how Aristotle defines "false" in the lexiconical section of the Metaphysics (1024(b)). For Aristotle, there are three kinds of falseness: false as a thing, false as an account, and false as a person.

(--from TRUTH AND ZEN, By T. P. Kasulis, Transcribed for Buddhism Today by Thich Nu Lien Hoa)

Often feeling false, I long to practice truth.
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant---
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind---

(--Poem by Emily Dickinson)

I will try.

Truth is trying.

Tried (is often) true.

Tilt but re-center.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It always embarrasses me to say, "I love you!" (That's my {hi}story.)

To return to your original state of being,
You must become a master of stillness.
Activity for health’s sake,
Never carried to the point of strain,
Must alternate with perfect stillness.
Sitting motionless as a rock,
Turn next to stillness of mind.
Close the gates of the senses.
Fix your mind upon one object or,
Even better, enter a state
Of objectless awareness.
Turn the mind in upon itself
And contemplate the inner radiance.

- Anonymous
Still, everything inside and outside says "I love you!" without embarrassment. The wind, the snow, the trees, the dog, the cat, the woman, the cup of coffee, the Canadian boots heel to heel. They speak by silence, by presence -- they don't use words, words often misused.

We like the reality of love. It is, and is to be, seen everywhere.
[Teilhard's] vision of love is a spirituality that celebrates the oneness of creation, a spirituality that acknowledges love as the clearest understanding we have of God, of ourselves, of history, and of the cosmos.
- David Tracy, theologian

Teilhard was one of the first scientists to realize that the human and the universe are inseparable. The only universe we know about is the universe that brought forth the human. Teilhard understood this. He understood that the human story and the universe story identified with each other. The immersion into the deep creative powers of the universe is the most direct contact a human can have with the divine. Such is the spirituality that Teilhard makes available to us. A spirituality that is rooted not in the spatial cosmos of Ptolemy, but in the time-developmental universe that the scientists have detected.
- Thomas Berry, geologian

A VISION OF FIRE
The day will come when after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.
-from The Evolution of Chastity
(--quoted in "rediscovering fire," Religion, Science and Mysticism in Teilhard de Chardin, By Ursula King, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol, Issue #39, Fall 2000, http://www.earthlight.org/essay39_king.html
Each one -- you, and you, and you -- are in the fire of a holy spirit's love.

It is there I bow to each of you in mindful silence.

As the poet says, "For love are in you am in i are in we." (e. e. cummings, in poem the great advantage of being alive.

So (t)here!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Deus in adjutorium meum intende. (God, come to my assistance). This is a beginning of prayer.
Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina.
(Lord, make haste to help me!) This is how we sculpt awareness of origin.

These days we might say: "God: Help, Now!"

When mind clouds, we are lost in loneliness. When mind clears, we find ourselves in solitude. 'Alone' is a place of integrality. It is a matter of seeing.
We know that there is no Buddhahood to attain apart from this mind. The Realized Ones of the past were just people who understood the mind, and the saints and sages of the present are people who cultivate the mind; students of the future should rely on this principle.
- Master Chinul (1158-1210)

I sleep on floor in front room. My back hurts even though sofa cushions try to shape comfort. I listen to Cesco's breath, sensitive to any changes. Time is approaching when he will leave this place. Cancer. But for now he sleeps. Soon enough a decision will come. When dawn comes we'll walk the mountain together as we do every day, slowly, steadily, accounting every scent, one foot in front of the other.

At dusk last evening, up ahead about 40 yards, a porcupine waddled onto clearing going uphill from us. Cesco didn't notice; neither it us. Cesco looked at me as I looked up the runway snow traveler until it was time for us to veer left into wooded trail past boulder, curving pitch of pine, out to 2nd runway not used by skiers this season. Our invariable walking meditation with the mountain -- option number three.
The disciples had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them this warning, ‘Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod’. And they said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread’. And Jesus knew it, and he said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ They answered, ‘Twelve’. And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven’. Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?'
(--Mark 8:14 - 21 )

We often have no clear perception. We don't see how mind opens every possibility and gives to each situation what is called for. Twelve? Seven? Am I still cloudy, without clear perception? (Yes, I am.)

Everybody I talk to is ready to leave
With the light of the morning
They've seen the end coming down long enough to believe
That they've heard their last warning
Standing alone
Each has his own ticket in his hand
And as the evening descends
I sit thinking bout everyman

(--from For Everyman, by Jackson Browne, Asylum 5067, Released: November 1973)

There's a Bodhisattva plea to Browne's lyric. It's not just me, not just you -- rather, there's a mindful awareness of everyone -- no one left out -- ascending in our perceptions. Quietly, steadily -- step by step -- we ascend to an awareness of one another that transforms egoistic isolation, climbing into authentic solitude in the midst of community.

The tension is not the choice between being alone or being with others. The tension is calling awareness to embrace a transcending consciousness wherein solitude and community are not antithetical -- where being alone and being with others are not two things -- but converge in a respectful and responsible presence allowing each to be who and as they are -- with acceptance, compassion, and love.

I will have to practice this and continue practicing this.

With help.

Now.

O Santissime! O Santissima!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hoeing sighs. Going back to boat. The sign is a sigh. Cultivate this. (Christ help us in this work!)
The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking he went away to the opposite shore.
Mark 8:11 - 13

The true passage is through the heart. Perhaps there is no other way but straight from and through the heart. (Sigh!) Those doing this work must be zen workers doing the odd work of ploughing the sea, hoeing sighs, cultivating the deep of the heart. Any other work plays illusion and deception. (Can this be true?)

Inside and outside are one,
Movement and stillness are the same.
In all these, functioning needs
To be free and clear.
If this is not so then
All the Buddha’s holy sutras
And all of the sayings of the patriarchs
Become mere tangles of empty words.
The Way of Zen
And the Buddha-dharma
Also become dead things.

- Torei (1721-1792)

It has recently and long ago been troubling consideration that matters of belief, theological thought in service to rationalization and manipulation, conviction in matters of interpretation of scripture made stone are then made litmus test then made derisive weapons of exclusion. Are the "signs" asked for by devious man and women merely talking points and fodder-statements to be used by frightening agents of security and control against gathering Spirit of compassion and inclusion? Jesus gave no sign, no signing statement nullifying his essential nature -- a nature longing for truth and love with wisdom.

No sign but re-embarking -- going back to sea.

Going to sea.

Hoeing to 'see.'

The Lord asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I do not know’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s guardian?’ ‘What have you done?’ the Lord asked. ‘Listen to the sound of your brother’s blood, crying out to me from the ground. Now be accursed and driven from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hands. When you till the ground it shall no longer yield you any of its produce. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth.’ Then Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. See! Today you drive me from this ground. I must hide from you, and be a fugitive and a wanderer over the earth. Why, whoever comes across me will kill me!’ ‘Very well, then,’ the Lord replied ‘if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for him.’ So the Lord put a mark on Cain, to prevent whoever might come across him from striking him down.
(--from Genesis 4:1 - 25)

Sometimes it seems we do not know what 'brother' means, what 'sister' means. We think it means family or relationship. And it does. It says same parents. It says one continuous strain of continuation. It means no breakage from origin. It means the sign is everything in existence. If everything is sign, there is no need for 'special' sign. No sign is given because everything signals true relationality.

Lies try to blind us to the ever-present reality. Ever-present reality longs to be seen. Once seen, truth is seen. This is how we testify to truth. This is how we witness truth. Truth is the sign. The sign is not hidden. The sign is obvious.

It takes an act of intentional cowardice to claim not to see what is present and obvious before our eyes.

If I nurture and cultivate, guard and revere true reality, it is enough for now.

It is the practice of hoeing the sea, the practice of seeing, one that sighs with what is seen.

"Come and let us return to the Lord (Teshuvah); For He has torn but he will heal us..."
(Hosea 6:1)

We must be torn (it seems, so wills the God-nature within) from whatever false nature threatens to leave us shorn in tatters and flattered by notions of smarter, better, brighter, more worthy -- the signs of success and power and wealth in this world. This requires holding our nose, holding our breath, and swallowing a poisonous dose of dissemblance.

And so, we practice healing antidote. Sitting and walking, mindful and aware -- we practice the free and clear to be free and clear -- the stillness and movement of this breath we are.

Hoe well. Sigh well. Set out on sea. Return to land well.

Be sighs of streaming grace.

Be guardian, angel.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Zen Master says that God is within our consciousness. Thich Nhat Hanh also says: "...[I]t is safer to approach God through the Holy Spirit than through the door of theology." His book Living Buddha, Living Christ was the reading tonight at Sunday Evening Practice. Six of us, humans and animals, made the practice.
Just know your own mind, and you will grasp countless teachings and infinite subtle meanings without even seeking. That is why the World Honored one said, “Observing all sentient beings, I see they are fully endowed with the knowledge and virtues of Buddhas.” He also said, “All living beings, and all sorts of illusory events, are all born in the completely awake subtle mind of those who realize suchness.”
- Master Chinul
It is a joy to walk February mountain snow with old Border Collie at dusk.
Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said:
‘How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.
Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied.
Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.
Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

(-from Luke 6:17 - 26)
The trees are prophets in waning light. Old dog is Sherpa guide on narrow paths through branch and trunk over root and rock. Mountain I stand on and mountain across valley are the revelation of this very day this second month this season of February.

Of this I am (gratefully) aware.