Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, March 31, 2007

It is a fascinating two weeks. What we call 'nature' and 'sacred' come together in celebrations worldwide. Leading figures are noted and feted. Historical events are recalled and restated.
  • Snow melts
  • Vernal Equinox Wednesday, March 21, 2007
  • Rama Navami, The Birthday of Lord Rama, Tuesday, March 27, 2007
  • Mawlid al-Nabi (12 Rabi 1), Prophet Muhammad's Birthday. This holiday (in 2007, 31March/1April) celebrates the birthday of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. It is fixed as the 12th day of the month of Rabi I in the Islamic calendar. Mawlid means birthday of a holy figure and al-Nabi means prophet.
  • Pesach (Passover) Start - Sundown Monday, April 2, 2007 through Wednesday, April 4, 2007 End - Sundown Sunday, April 8, 2007 through Tuesday, April 10, 2007
  • Holy Thursday, Thursday, April 5, 2007
  • Good Friday Friday, April 6, 2007
  • Easter Sunday Sunday, April 8, 2007
  • Shakyamuni's Birthday (Gotan-e), or the Flower Festival (Hanamatsuri), Sunday, April 8, 2007
(http://www.curw.cornell.edu/holidays0607.html)
The confluence of Pagan, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim themes over this two week period calls to mind.
What is this mind?
Who is hearing these sounds?
Do not mistake any state for
Self-realization, but continue
To ask yourself even more
Intensely,
What is it that hears?

- Bassui (1338-1500)
When we listen to the individual drops of rain splashing, do we hear rain itself? If hearing includes both -- and more, hears itself throughout the hearing -- everywhere 'nature' and 'sacred' are celebrated. As we are -- celebrating. What mind is this? What heart is this?
Citta
In Pali, heart and mind are one word (citta), but in English we have to differentiate between the two to make the meaning clear. When we attend to the mind, we are concerned with the thinking process and the intellectual understanding that derives from knowledge, and with our ability to retain knowledge and make use of it. When we speak of the "heart" we think of feelings and emotions, our ability to respond with our fundamental being. Although we may believe that we are leading our lives according to our thinking process, that is not the case. If we examine this more closely, we will find that we are leading our lives according to our feelings and that our thinking is dependent upon our feelings. The emotional aspect of ourselves is of such great importance that its purification is the basis for a harmonious and peaceful life, and also for good meditation.

(--Ayya Khema, When the Iron Eagle Flies)
Light of day slips quietly below last season's silent leaves finally revealed out from under passing snow on hillside. Above, the slightest sway of high limbs kissing dust away. Everywhere else televisions tune into Final Four broadcasting from Atlanta. This religion too, as well as beginning of baseball season, round out the devotee's devotion. There is enormous variety in how we respond to the holy.
René Descartes said, "If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

John Fowles said, "Passion destroys passion; we want what puts an end to wanting what we want."

(--The Writer's Almanac, 31mar07)
There is joy in moments no want is felt. Times no need to say 'No" -- nor say 'Yes.' Just the gaze. Only looking. (What is it...looking?)
All the great scriptures were probably penned by poet-mystics. Mysticism is not an aim of art (nor is it an aim of mystics!): mysticism is a pejorative used by critics in a rational age to denote a departure from the established meanings of words. Every good poet is a "mystic"; that is, he departs from the dictionary, as the painter departs from the straight line and the perfect circle.
(-- Karl Shapiro, in "What is Not Poetry", The Poet's Work, ed by Reginald Gibbons,c.1979)
Day is its own poetry. Dusk, a seeing naming itself. Tomorrow someone will be heard saying: "Hosanna! Make him king!" We'll watch with foreknowledge and again the whirlwind failing truth will gather reasons to make us forget another face made sorrowful for us. We live in a time of war. We who are far away are not asked to sacrifice much. It's easy to forget faces we never look into. Look carefully at what is loved. That gaze will carry beyond forgetting. The liturgy of remembrance is upon us.

(Old dog laps water. No other sound -- his drinking. Walks around table.)
Tracks

The small birds leave cuneiform
messages on the snow: I have
been here, I am hungry, I
must eat. Where I dropped
seeds they scrape down
to pine needles and frozen sand.

Sometimes when snow flickers
past the windows, muffles trees
and bushes, buries the path,
the jays come knocking with their beaks
on my bedroom window:
to them I am made of seeds.

To the cats I am mother and lover,
lap and toy, cook and cleaner.
To the coyotes I am chaser and shouter.
To the crows, watcher, protector.
To the possums, the foxes, the skunks,
a shadow passing, a moment's wind.

I was bad watchful mommy to one man.
To another I was forgiving sister
whose hand poured out honey and aloe;
to that woman I was a gale whose lashing
waves threatened her foundation; to this
one, an oak to her flowering vine.

I have worn the faces, the masks
of hieroglyphs, gods and demons
bat-faced ghosts, sibyls and thieves,
lover, loser, red rose and ragweed,
these are the tracks I have left
on the white crust of time.
(--Poem: "Tracks" by Marge Piercy, from The Crooked Inheritance. Alfred A. Knopf.)
What is -- wonderful delight!

So many faces!

We wear.

Out.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hello.

(Then the gaze.)

Goodbye.

Throughout, a crazed suspicion -- "Perhaps I've never ever been here."
Cast off what has been realized
Turn back to the subject
That realizes,
To the root bottom,
And resolutely
Go on.

- Bassui (1338-1500)
What is, at root, bottom?

There is a story (to be) told:
The Sickness of Adam

In the beginning, at every step, he turned
As if by instinct to the East to praise
The nature of things. Now every path was learned
He lost the lifted, almost flower-like gaze.

Of a temple dancer. He began to walk
Slowly, like one accustomed to be alone.
He found himself lost in the field of talk;
Thinking became a garden of its own.

In it were new things: words he had never said,
Beasts he had never seen and knew were not
In the true garden, terrors, and tears shed
Under a tree by him, for some new thought.

And the first anger. Once he flung a staff
At softly coupling sheep and struck the ram.
It broke away. And God heard Adam laugh
And for his laughter made the creature lame.

And wanderlust. He stood upon the Wall
To search the unfinished countries lying wide
And waste, where not a living thing could crawl,
And yet he would descend, as if to hide.

His thought drew down the guardian at the gate,
To whom man said, "What danger am I in?"
And the angel, hurt in spirit, seemed to hate
The wingless thing that worried after sin,

For it said nothing but marvelously unfurled
Its wings and arched them shimmering overhead,
Which must have been the signal from the world
That the first season of our life was dead.

Adam fell down with labor in his bones,
And God approached him in the cool of day
And said, "This sickness in your skeleton
Is longing. I will remove it from your clay."

He said also, "I made you strike the sheep."
It began to rain and God sat down beside
The sinking man. When he was fast asleep
He wet his right hand deep in Adam's side

And drew the graceful rib out of his breast.
Far off, the latent streams began to flow
And birds flew out of Paradise to nest
On earth. Sadly the angel watched them go.

(--Karl Shapiro, From "Adam and Eve")

Always, alone, we continue. Even, with another, still alone.

Do not fret this.

There is (we hold) no other. Hence, alone is never what we think it is.

Goodbye. (Gazing.) Hello.

We are.

Here.

All.

Right.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Place yourself well.
"The art of literature, vocal or written, is to adjust the language so that it embodies what it indicates."
-- A.N. Whitehead
Then, all is well.
The Suffering Itself Is Not So Bad
It is possible to take our existence as a "sacred world," to take this place as open space rather than claustrophobic dark void. It is possible to take a friendly relationship to our ego natures, it is possible to appreciate the aesthetic play of forms in emptiness, and to exist in this place like majestic kings of our own consciousness. But to do that, we would have to give up grasping to make everything come out the way we daydream it should. So, suffering is caused by ignorance or ignorant grasping, or suffering exaggerated by ignorance or ignorant grasping and clinging to our notion of what we thing should be, is what causes the "suffering of suffering." The suffering itself is not so bad, it's the resentment against suffering that is the real pain.

--Allen Ginsberg, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. II, #1
Some place.

You have.

Here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

To trust is to allow each thing its own being; each person their own being.
"Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves."
-- T.S. Eliot
It is rare to find trust.

Equally rare to give it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

We're so busy. In such a hurry. We scamper about, thinking there's no time to lose.

Something, (as is) said these days, seems to shift.

(The wary mind says "Slow!" -- but something else shifts energy, and even "slow" seems an irrelevant notion.)
Buddha the Baker
Buddha was not interested in the elements comprising human beings, nor in metaphysical theories of existence. He was more concerned about how he himself existed in this moment. That was his point. Bread is made from flour. How flour becomes bread when put in the oven was for Buddha the most important thing. How we become enlightened was his main interest. The enlightened person is some perfect, desirable character, for himself and for others. Buddha wanted to find out how human beings develop this ideal character--how various sages in the past became sages. In order to find out how dough became perfect bread, he made it over and over again, until he became quite successful. That was his practice.

(--Shunryu Suzuki, in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind)
Enlightenment is not the goal -- it is the practice. To treat one another in a combination of how they wish to be treated and how we ourselves wish to be treated -- re-collects energy that had split and drained itself in acrimony, mistrust, and cynicism. Such a rush to nail down what isn't there.

It is spring. Ground softens. Anyone intent on holding tight to fear and blame grows tired of the weight and is invited to put it down.
In "The Way of the Bodhisattva," Shantideva explains how we can connect with the very best of ourselves and help others to do the same. One powerful method he describes is rejoicing. Rejoicing in the good fortune of others is a practice that can help us when we feel emotionally shut down and unable to connect with others.

Rejoicing generates good will. The next time you go out in the world, you might try this practice: directing your attention to people—in their cars, on the sidewalk, talking on their cell phones—just wish for them all to be happy and well. Without knowing anything about them, they can become very real, by regarding each of them personally and rejoicing in the comforts and pleasures that come their way. Each of us has this soft spot: a capacity for love and tenderness. But if we don't encourage it, we can get pretty stubborn about remaining sour.

I have a friend who, when he begins getting depressed and withdrawn, goes to a nearby park and does this practice for everyone who walks by. He finds this pulls him out of the slump before it’s too late. The tricky part is getting out of the house, instead of giving in to the seduction of gloom.

(-- From, The Practice of Rejoicing, in "No Time to Lose" by Pema Chodron, published by Shambhala.)
There is "no time". Therefore there is "no time" to lose.

Lose it. It's not there.

Rejoice.

It is no longer "what" our vision is.

It is "how" our vision is.

"How" we see replaces "what" we see.

Wing it.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Three pieces of news; only one not about death.
Well versed in the Buddha way,
I go the non-Way.
Without abandoning my
Ordinary man’s affairs,
The conditioned and
Name-and-form all
Are flowers in the sky.
Nameless and formless,
I leave birth-and-death.
- Layman P’ang
1.
Yesterday, a meetingbrook community person, Jim McLarty, 61, died during a kayak-related event on the St George river in Searsmont. Our hearts go out to Chris, Jim's wife.

Haiku
(for Chris, on hearing sorrowful news)

Frost covers both cars
Outside barn door, ground draws hard,.
Walking to chapel.
(wfh, 25mar07)

2.
Last week, on St Patrick's eve, the feisty Dorchester former postman, Joe McMorrow, 88, long time member of meetingbrook community, died after a stroke. We hold his wife, Gigi, in our hearts.
Haiku
(for Gige, who will be my hospice volunteer)

Joe thought the Red Sox
should play in his alleyway --
He'd stay awake then.
(wfh, 25mar07)

3.
This morning, meeting with landlord, the two of us, along with 3 board members, seemingly arrive at an open field with clear running water. The surprise of any unusual occurrence usually befuddles the mind. Horizon appears with invitation to continue -- should that be our choice.

Epilogue.
Sam, Susan, Tommy, Peter, Saskia, and I keep a brief silence for Jim and Chris before our meeting at the harbor shop. The suddenness of death puts things in context.

Gige, Joe and I used to have lively complaint sessions Joe sparked about the Red Sox and the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals. (There might have been some space between the two topics, but not much.)

And Bubba, whose unwritten resume was he'd never darken a church door, died in waters he loved to fish, to his heart's joy. No more emails about fighting monks on Mt Athos or irresponsible contraceptive restrictions foisted by "that other church" in the Africa in which he led safaris.

The joy of life is our diversity and surprise. Some surprises sadden. Some gladden. And the diversity surrounding the unknown moment to moment breath we capture and release -- this is what makes us sensitive to, and profoundly aware of, the well-being of each and every one of us.

Rain falls.

We celebrate Annunciation.

Each announcement bids us -- Listen!