Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, March 17, 2007

We wake and Saskia is thrilled reading from Raimundo Panikkar's The Cosmotheandric Experience. Outside this morning snow after six inches turns to six hours of flooding, teaming rain.

Someone writes of him:
Panikkar is no obscurantist or anti-intellectualist, however, for he stresses that we must communicate what we experience. Experience must be interpreted, otherwise "myth and faith would perish the moment that the innocence of the ecstatic passes away." In fact, experience is inchoate even to the subject until it is captured first at the level of mythic expression, much of which is nonverbal, then in mythologies which cast myth into the form of narrative, then in fully conceptualized systems. where mythos, to use his term, has become logos.

Given the mythic formulations in which communication is carried on, Panikkar argues, the process must become a critical one. We must critically analyze one another’s mythologies across our cultural and religious differences in order to lay bare their roots in our experience of our differing truth claims. In this kind of dialogue, the parties must maintain their respective commitment, but they must also recognize that the ways in which they express those commitments are something less than, or a distorted picture of, the truth contained in experience itself. With this recognition comes a recovery of the humility about oneself and the veneration for the absolute transcendence of God that pluralism requires.

One assumption Panikkar makes -- one that reveals the Thomistic strain in his thought (he is a Roman Catholic priest, trained in Madrid and Rome) -- is that everyone has an experience of God (even the secularist, especially the secularist) and that everyone seeks God in the form of some absolute. This absolute is embodied in each individual’s experience in some concrete way; indeed, it can be experienced only in that particular embodiment. Thus, Panikkar insists that religious particularities cannot be dispensed with; they can be critiqued, but not discarded. Any attempt to abstract the absolute out of the concreteness of experience is doomed to fail; it is a destruction of experience itself, an intellectualizing destruction that reduces the living God to an object.

(--in, "Raimundo Panikkar: Pluralism Without Relativism," by Peter Gorday, an Episcopal priest, from article in the Christian Century, December 6, 1989.
We talk about pictures on wall, how zen dharma combat would demand something real be said about the experience in one's eye, then we follow words about the experience of meetingbrook and how it wishes to become real once more.

Rain slows. Roads wash out. Bridge across 2nd brook is 6 inches under torrent flow.

Saskia says, "Raimundo Panikkar says it for us." And he does.

His gift words our picture with Catalan Christophany.

Friday, March 16, 2007

All is between/with.

Gale gusts between mountains. Snowstorm on way. Wind chimes call to each other with news of what each one of them (and trees near by) already knows -- the wind, she blows!
All things are free-flowing, untrammeled. What bondage is there, what entanglement? You create your own difficulty and ease therein. The mind source pervades the ten directions with one continuity; those of the most excellent faculties understand naturally.
- Tzu-hu (800-880)
Thirteen gathered for Thursday Evening Conversation, ongoing Course in Miracles, about there's only one will, God's. Jack helps us through. Tom and Maria were up. (Her new valve and bypass work healing well.) The conversation and inquiry penetrates name of God, what is meant by 'will', the human response to 'what is', the ego-self and the 'higher-self', as well as how clear acknowledgment and aware surrender to what is, with compassionate engagement, is what some might call 'doing the will of God.'
To Hold

Before I left for camp, my mother sewed my name
with a firm stitch into everything I owned.
She even looped a string of nametapes
through the scissors I keep to this day on my desk.

She wanted to be sure, when she sent me into the woods,
she'd get the right child back at summer's end,
that I'd not be left in the laundry drum
like an unmarked sock. Others—

careless lazy mothers-favored marking pens,
illegible black letters bleeding into stain.

My mother knew nothing was permanent.
She'd seen how fast a child could disappear:
her two dead sisters with names like flowers:
Lily, Rose, their summery smells, indelible voices.

That's why she sewed my name so tight
on all four sides, double-knotted the knots.
So I wouldn't forget when she sent me off
into the wet, the dark, the wild: I was hers.

(Poem: "To Hold" by Jean Nordhaus, from Innocence. The Ohio State University Press.)
Deb and Diane arrived at end with 3-legged Chance the hungry dog. Deb argued that we need clear-eyed ability to judge; we discern and deliberate with the ability, even as she suggested that animals choose with swift immediacy the course of action they will take.

There's an impulse we humans have to put God elsewhere managing the details of this life imposing 'his' will on the mechanisms of this existence. I sometimes start with the phrase "what is is what is" and, from that, or with that, it seems that human beings there and then enter 'what is' with either compassionate engagement or contentious opposition. The 'will of God', then, is a co-creative communication between what is taking place with what is engaging what is take place.

If we highlight two words -- 'between' and 'with' -- from the previous sentence, I think we begin to connect what cannot be disconnected. In the 'between/with' dwells the interconnectivity of our human dwelling/divine reality. When we rhetorically or really wonder about God, we are always asking 'where' God is, and 'what' God is, even, 'whether' God is. For this morning, it seems to me, that God is between/with. The intimacy of humanity/divinity is as close and undifferentiated as intimacy of animate/inanimate, materiality/spirituality, and self/other -- all of which presents itself whole to our experience moment to moment everyday as we live and breath. (I do not know and cannot say what takes place when life and breath no longer appear in this realm whereof we now speak.)
One of the scribes who had listened to them debating and had observed how well Jesus had answered them, now came up and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’. And after that no one dared to question him any more.
(--Mark 12:28 - 34, Friday Gospel, 3rd Week of Lent)
If we dared, what would we now ask?

I would ask: "Would you say more of what is 'not far'?"

He'd, no doubt, say, "What is, is 'not far'."

"No?" (And then) "Yes?" (I'd ask.)

"Yes," he'd say, "'What is' is only and all there is; 'What is' is only and all here is."

"Where is 'what is'," I'd ask.

"Who is it wants to know?" he'd ask.

He'd look at me. I'd look at him.

And there we'd be -- between one another, with one another -- the answer in the very fact and facticity of it. Question dissolves.

(Another question inevitably arises: Do we love what is between and with us? Inevitably, even this question fades. Yes?)

Only between/with one another.

Really -- that's all there is...right...here.

What-is.

Between/with.

One-another.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Learning to think comes first.
The human mind is
Empty and illuminated:
Its essence is profoundly clear.
Originally it is leaping
With life:
How could it be held fast?

- Wang Ji (1498-1583)
Learning to feel is thinking with bodies.

Philosophy is but the conscious and critical accompaniment of Man's journeying towards his destiny. This journeying is called religion in many cultures.
...[P]hilosophy, [is] that human activity which asks questions about the very foundations of human life under the heavens and on earth.

(-- Raimon Panikkar. in Religion, Philosophy and Culture )

Learning presence and compassion is thinking/feeling becoming human.

Becoming human was good enough, Christians say, for God.

Maybe you and I should try it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sitting on porch of meditation cabin with cat at cloudy sunrise, red squirrels jitterbug their territory near seed mesh holder hanging from tree. Inside, incense, offered to ancestors and all who have taught us hope, compassion, and charity, swirls to the guidance of breeze. Only breath. Rising. Falling. Temperature has gone from -5F to +50F in a matter of a week.

I've been reading the tale "Geser of Ling." It is fantastical legend -- the things Geser is able to do with his body and image of body during his adventures up to the age of 16 when he becomes king, are the stuff of fantasy and metaphoric excess. The imagination has to work hard to keep going with the narrative. (But, then, the fantastic does not always coincide with laws of reason and logic.)

Not so with the news report from further down-east Maine. Authorities think they know the identity of the 17 year old reported missing from home and school.
Divers end search for body of Prospect bridge jumper,
By Walter Griffin
Wednesday, March 14, 2007 - Bangor Daily News
Three witnesses saw the boy jump off the Prospect side of the bridge at approximately 7 p.m. Monday, March 5. They said the boy was not wearing a shirt and had been seen walking down the center lane before going over the side.

One witness told authorities he was driving west toward Prospect and saw a young male without a shirt lying down in the median between the lanes. The man said he stopped his vehicle and watched the youth get up and walk toward the guardrail.

Keating said the witness got within a few feet of the boy and by that time he was on the outboard side of the railing. He said that when he told the boy not to jump, the boy let go. The travel deck of the bridge is 155 feet above the river at high tide, which was at 11:55 p.m. Monday.

The Marine Patrol, U.S. Coast Guard and Bucksport Fire Department rushed to the scene and began a rescue operation. They searched up and down the river for about four hours before suspending the operation. Subzero temperatures kept searchers off the water for the next few days until the weather improved over the weekend.
We learn the height of bridge above water as well as time of high tide that evening of March 5th. We do not learn, by any external observation, what the young man was jumping from or toward. 'Bridge' and 'water' are names -- geographic references. But we cannot discern yet the mind of the lad, the history of inner thoughts, the moment of decision, the insights during flight.

We are troubled by suicide. Each one of us knows it is an option. We might be saying: "Not for me it's not!" We might note there's good reason for the strong moral and spiritual prohibition -- yet, still, we are riveted by the examples of suicide we so frequently hear about.

For now -- we pray. For him. Family. Peers. Ourselves. For all human beings distraught, for all sentient beings unsafe.
Sarvajnamitra Stansa
Some see Your form as red like the sun, with rays that are
redder still than the red of minium or red lac;
Others, as beautiful intense blue like a powder of splintered
fragments on the precious stone, sapphire;
Others again as shining like gold, or dazzling white, surpassing
the milk when the Ocean of Milk is churned.
It is a universal form, varied like crystal, since it changes
according to circumstance.

- Sarvajnamitra
(--from Poet Seers. Sarvajnamitra lived in Kashmir in the 8th Century AD. He was a Tantric Buddhist.)
Back in my room in solitude, the book on Tibetan Folk Tales falls open to a familiar story with capitalized final line cautionary note.
The Monkeys & the Moon

Once, in the distant past, there was a band of monkeys. They lived in a forest, and in the forest was a well. One night, the leader of the band of monkeys peered into the well, and seeing the reflection of the moon in the water, said:

"Look! The moon has fallen into the well; we ought to get it out or our world will be without a moon."

The other monkeys looked into the well and saw that it was indeed so. "Yes," they agreed. "We should certainly get the moon out of the well."

So the monkeys formed a chain, each holding onto the tail of the one before, while the monkey at the top of the chain held onto a branch to support them.

The branch began to bend under the weight of the monkeys as they lowered themselves into the well, and soon began to crack. The water was disturbed and the reflection of the moon disappeared, the branch broke, and the monkeys tumbled headlong into the well.

WHEN THE UNWISE HAVE AN UNWISE LEADER THEY ARE ALL LED TO RUIN. (--p.96, in Tibetan Folk Tales, by Frederick and Audrey Hyde-Chambers, c.2001)
Ours is a curious and disturbing time. Our time, with its distraught and dismayed populace either receiving the pain of war, or giving it -- with terrifying examples of destruction and corruption -- begs for, longs for wisdom. We need wisdom to emerge from our distracted and distant attention to assist us on our pilgrimage.

Some think that everything is a political wager -- a sides-taking gamble where, if the horse you back comes in first, that's all that counts. (Go to window, collect your winnings, no need to question anything.)

Our experiment with democracy delimits to questions like: Who will win? Who will assert power? Who will emerge with the prize?

Representational government (a good notion) devolves into cash and carry -- whoever pays the most money wins favor, (despite popular call to work and legislate equally on behalf each and all.) Even our image of a Supreme Court has become clouded by leftright leftright leftright appointments with pre-set ideology, and not on intelligent, sagacious, and pragmatic consideration of the matters brought for deliberation.

It is time to attend to a spiritual need more profound than the petty scorecard we keep by our chairs as we spectate the turns and flats of horse races. From premature presidential campaigns to troublesome presidential pronouncements about ghastly circumstances in a war maiming and killing without sane end in sight -- we are bombarded with political (and only political) handicapping -- and all too seldom with insightful and judicious conversation extending beyond pithy talking points of the day. We, the citizenry, are under-willed. We are wanting in the arenas of civics and governance. We are equally wanting in the realms of spirituality and personal depth.

Pundits, whether political or pastoral, want to tell us what to do. They often fail to invite us into who we are. We need to step aside -- we need to consider carefully the alarming and liberating mystery of who we are and what we are doing. It is a quest into the heart of being.

Some of the anger foisted against anyone questioning the current warlike behavior and continuing presence of the US in Iraq appears to resemble the anger we experience when we know death is coming and we feel a need to lash out at everything and everyone near the news of it.

That anger is also sorrow -- a sorrow we might have been wrong. There is (or should be) an equal sorrow we might have been right, but, O, the suffering involved! There is no joy with war. Even the most hard-bitten among us know that only sorrow and loss result from war. No ideology softens suffering. We have to travel to a more profound place -- a path leading to deep roots in dark ground of human experience -- only there do we get an inkling of authentic heart/mind .
From the book addressed to Autolycus by Saint Theophilus of Antioch, bishop
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God
If you say, “Show me your God”, I will say to you, “Show me what kind of person you are, and I will show you my God”. Show me then whether the eyes of your mind can see, and the ears of your heart hear.
It is like this. Those who can see with the eyes of their bodies are aware of what is happening in this life on earth. They get to know things that are different from each other. They distinguish light and darkness, black and white, ugliness and beauty, elegance and inelegance, proportion and lack of proportion, excess and defect. The same is true of the sounds we hear: high or low or pleasant. So it is with the ears of our heart and the eyes of our mind in their capacity to hear or see God.

(--from Office of Readings, Wednesday of the 3rd week of Lent)
The hermit's vocation is to enter the heart of being. It is sometimes a fearful visitation. Noise fades. Distinct sound emerges. Each thing, each being is clearly itself. The business (and busyness) of distraction is set aside for a while. We are faced with something clear. The experience is more like no-experience. More like actual...conveying.

There is a stillness that is a keyhole. You are the key.

What does it mean to enter the heart of being?

Turn yourself slowly.

Feel the tumbler fall.

Take a breath.

Now...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We begin this Tuesday Evening Conversation the reading and conversation flowing from Pema Chodron's No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva, a line by line study of "The Way of the Boddhisattva," by Shantideva, 8th century Indian Buddhist sage. We'll inquire into 'bodhichitta' -- awakened heart/mind.
Bodhichitta is essentially a quality of warmth, an experience of our connection with all beings and with all things. It's said traditionally that it's expressed as a wish or an aspiration, initially expressed as a strong longing or wish that nobody suffer, and that we could in some way in the course of our lifetime, as much as possible, help to alleviate suffering in the world.
(--Pema Chodron)
So much suffering.

So few awakened.

So...we look to it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The new battle is between certainty and inquiry. It rages in government. It rages in religion. It is how people are now classified -- those who are certain and have faith, and those who are skeptical and must rely on inquiry.

For the followers of certainty, there is no doubt, they just follow the law of attraction -- if they want something, it is...and they are... right. For the proponents of inquiry, everything must be questioned -- if you seek clear and distinct facts or evidencing, you...and what you believe or hypothesize...might be wrong. In the mythology of contemporary leadership -- both in government and in religion -- the thought of being wrong is anathema, is treasonous, a betrayal of trust and loyalty.

For these brothers and sisters -- being right is the only religion, being right is the only political reality.

Thinking or feeling otherwise is like trying to imagine non-existence.
''Try to fill your consciousness with the representation of no-consciousness, and you will see the impossibility of it,'' the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno wrote in ''Tragic Sense of Life.'' ''The effort to comprehend it causes the most tormenting dizziness. We cannot conceive of ourselves as not existing.''
(from "Darwin's God," by Robin Marantz Henig, Published: March 4, 2007, in The New York Times)
To not exist hardly wins polling points or popularity contests. 'Worth' is predicated on existing, after all -- so too is wealth, health, and a high school diploma. Most everything becomes redundant if we might not exist. Who could buy your vote, or your house -- who would attend your yard sale, or play the notes to a favorite hymn. (Whose favorite?)
Innate knowledge is vast and great
And lofty and clear.
Originally it has no false thoughts
That can be removed.
As soon as there are false thoughts,
We have already lost the vast and great,
Lofty and clear essence.
Right now just wake up
The fundamental essence,
And the many falsities will
Dissolve away by themselves.

- Qian Dehong (1495-1574)
Our false thoughts seem to be those predicated on something wanted for partial benefit of a particular and limited constituency. These are thoughts that try to carve out some segment of populace that might threaten full benefit for 'ourselves,' exclusively.

Juxtaposed to false thoughts, innate knowledge might be conceived of as seeing things whole -- a non-separating comprehension that factors all into the course of action, and acts for the good of all, inclusively. It is possible to hear the mind of a person in their words -- some speak narrowly and negatively about almost anything appearing as threat to their particular security; others speak openly and with concern about everything involving us all. 'All' -- no exceptions.
Blood
by Naomi Shihab Nye

"A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,"
my father would say. And he'd prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.

Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn't have one.
After that, my father told me who he was,
"Shihab"--"shooting star"--
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, "When we die, we give it back?"
He said that's what a true Arab would say.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a truck on the front page.
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?


(From 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye)
To be civil is to share citizenship based on laws and customs.

For me, today, the law is 'true nature' and the custom is 'respect for the true nature of each.'

The arguments society seems to like most are no longer over such questions as 'What is right?' and 'What is wrong?' It is more personal. We now label a person right or a person wrong -- and if they are, they are right or wrong about everything.

It is becoming a frustrating and entrenched conflict between those who claim certainty, and those who clamor for inquiry. Anyone not certain is refuse, (a word played both ways).
Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts
and turn,
So that I should heal them.’

(--from Matt 13:10-15)
It is an ironic hearing that first catches our attention, and then sets about mending what is unclear to us. The endgame is not certainty -- at least I don't think it is. I think the endgame is doorway out from derision and division, and doorway through into appreciation for the unfathomable and unending open horizon of heart and mind.

We can become clear and concerned about one another.

I'm not certain we will.

But I'll continue to ask, to graze into the opening.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

In the story, a wife is narrating about Chernobyl, the fire, and radiation -- (Lyudmilla Ignatenko’s “A Solitary Human Voice”).

(Downstairs, the sound of feet kicking slush from shoes -- meditation practitioners returning from cabin for middle room reading, silence, soup, and sharing. I am idiorhythmic, far off in shadow of solitude.)

Later the quote, " A man in motion has a chance." (--Sherman Alexie, after the reading of his story “Do You Know Where I Am?” quoting Norman Mailer)

Not knowing where I am, I have no chance. (An hour later, tires crush melting ice driving out dooryard.)
I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.
(-Oliver Cromwell, English general & politician, 1599 - 1658)
I am mistaken. Mistakes, not unlike lies, make fall down in fragments what once we thought whole and unbreakable. At our feet, shards and splinters form own pattern as by invisible hand. We, mistakenly, believe we have to sweep away, or pick up and reconstruct the original as good as once was. That's not it. The fragments and the pattern of fragments are at origin -- a splay of sound and color ready for new creative hand to lift.
The Poem as Mask

Orpheus

When I wrote of the women in their dances and
wildness, it was a mask,
on their mountain, gold-hunting, singing, in orgy,
it was a mask; when I wrote of the god,
fragmented, exiled from himself, his life, the love gone
down with song,
it was myself, split open, unable to speak, in exile from
myself.

There is no mountain, there is no god, there is memory
of my torn life, myself split open in sleep, the rescued
child
beside me among the doctors, and a word
of rescue from the great eyes.

No more masks! No more mythologies!

Now, for the first time, the god lifts his hand,
the fragments join in me with their own music.


(Poem by by Muriel Rukeyser, from Muriel Rukeyser: Selected Poems)
In the story, the man lied. His girlfriend, later as wife, also lied. Together, with blue collar effort, they work the broken.
"People never know what people need to know." (Lily, to interviewer, about appreciatory note sent to former teacher on behalf a friend now dead from knife attack; on This American Life, with Ira Glass, 11Mar07)
We need to know the truth. But it can never be told. It can only be felt. No words contain truth. But...truth makes its own way through words with feeling. We feel the truth long before it is assented to by the mind.
Jesus answered her and said: If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink”, perhaps you might have asked him and he would have given you living water.
(--John 4:10)
The gift of God is felt truth. (It's not only about Jesus, or Rabbis, not only about Ministers, Mullahs, or Teachings.)

Truth is about the felt reality of what is true.

Fragments -- joining within -- their own music, their own shapes.

Muriel, in her poem, says: No more masks! No more mythologies!

Listening to each solitary human voice -- with bare attention -- we serve, we drink.