Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Once we were found. But now we're lost. Once saw. But now are blind.

Our amazing disgrace in Iraq and Afghanistan must be placed where it belongs. On me.
The whole universe,
The whole world, is you;
Do you think
There is any other?
This is why the ancients say,
“People lose themselves,
Pursuing things;
If they could turn things around,
They would be the same as Buddha.”

- Hsueh-feng (822-908)
I did it. Yes -- I did have help from Bush and Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, Tenet and Perle, Rice and Powell, narrow ideology and puffed-up sense of importance -- but I am the one responsible. I dropped the bombs, set the mortars, fired automatic rifles, screamed at innocent people to drop or be shot, and smiled for the cameras while smugly calling into question the patriotism of anyone whose opinion of our unitary superpower status and privilege differed from mine.

I know men and women who believe that by thinking about the war I am drawing attention and attraction to "negative vibrations" that will only cause me not to get what I want from the universe. I do not live on the same earth as those people.
April 15, 2007
Marines’ Actions in Afghanistan Called Excessive
By CARLOTTA GALL

KABUL, Afghanistan, April 14 — American marines reacted to a bomb ambush with excessive force in eastern Afghanistan last month, hitting groups of bystanders and vehicles with machine-gun fire in a series of attacks that covered 10 miles of highway and left 12 civilians dead, including an infant and three elderly men, according to a report published by an Afghan human rights commission on Saturday.

Families of the victims described in interviews this week the painful toll of the attacks, which took place on March 4 in Nangarhar Province. One victim, a 16-year-old newly married girl, was cut down while she was carrying a bundle of grass to her family’s farmhouse, according to her family and the report. A 75-year-old man walking to his shop was hit by so many bullets that his son said he did not recognize the body when he came to the scene.

(--The New York Times)
I lie on the street, my body torn in two from retaliatory gunfire, my life snuffed out because (some say, stupid and arrogant) men and women want to kill and revenge killing.

I've had enough of war. I'll fire my gun until everyone is dead. I'll return to America, collect a medal, then begin to dismantle my church, my community, and my government. I am a hero. I am the sleeping bad dream of a nation that sacrifices nothing while their military service people sacrifice everything. I love this country that uses me, laughs behind my back, and says "Atta boy!" to my face.

I am the president. I no longer believe in my ability to care.

That won't stop me.

I am you.

No?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Watching After Innocence (about exonerees) upstairs over shop. A community prison-related event with pizza and mint chocolate ice cream.
no path but this one —
I walk alone
(poem by Santoka Taneda)
I simply don't know. Tossing.

Two crusts to the sea.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Envy is defined as "painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage." (Merriam-Webster)
If you pass your
Whole life half asleep,
What can you rely on?

- Kuei-shan Ling-yu (771-854)
To be jealous is to be "hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage."
Let no one imagine that baptism consists only in the forgiveness of sins and in the grace of adoption. Our baptism is not like the baptism of John, which conferred only the forgiveness of sins. We know perfectly well that baptism, besides washing away our sins and bringing us the gift of the Holy Spirit, is a symbol of the sufferings of Christ. This is why Paul exclaims: "Do you not know that when we were baptised into Christ Jesus we were, by that very action, sharing in his death? By baptism we went with him into the tomb."
(--From the Jerusalem Catecheses)
In the film "The Razor's Edge," Larry says to Isabel: "It doesn't matter." And: "There is no payoff."

It is ego's delusion to want to hold on to what is not ours -- just as it is ego's illusion to attempt to disown what is our very being.

Is it possible to live with no purpose? With no meaning?

If everything is itself and belongs to itself, no exterior meaning or purpose is necessary. When something is what it is, nothing else is needed.

What is true is what is doing itself.

Truth is what is showing itself.
We are all old-timers,
each of us holds a locked razor.
(from poem "Waking in the Blue," by Robert Lowell)
The razor's edge, salvation, is literally -- a greeting, a healing, and a safe passage.

Hello. Can I help? Where is home for you?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Easter Wednesday in Maine is sunny and warm at 43 degrees. The foot of snow from 7 days ago is melting. Patches of hill show. There will be more snow, or rain, tomorrow.
If you wish to cast aside the false
And return to true,
Concentrate and settle your
Mind in wall gazing.
Self and other,
The unenlightened
And the saintly,
Are all as one.

- Bodhidharma
Perhaps what Bodhidharma refers to as wall-gazing is looking at what is there as what is there.

I practiced a kind of "wall gazing" while on retreat. I watched. Without embellishing nor disparaging, keeping eye on what presented itself. By and large, what else is there but what presents itself? We so often create images of what we'd like to call the divine or the holy -- reminders of past figures, events, stories, or experiences.

Looking at what is there as what is there is zen practice. As we become skillful, we come to see, and say what is there in such a way that we are here with what is here. (I have to deepen my practice.)
Holding It All In
I think a lot about the fact that the Buddha made a separate category for Right Speech. He could have been more efficient and included it in Right Action, since speaking is a form of action. For a while I thought it was separate because we speak so much. But then I changed my mind--some people don't speak a lot. Now, I think it's a separate category because speech is so potent. During the 1960s, when the social ethos was "letting it all hang out," I had recurrent fantasies about writing a book called Holding It All In. I think I was alarmed that people had overlooked how vulnerable each of us is. In recent years, I've revised my book title to Holding It All In Until We've Figured Out How to Say It in a Useful Way. I believe we are obliged to tell the truth. Telling the truth is a way we take care of people. The Buddha taught complete honesty, with the extra instruction that everything a person says should be truthful and helpful.

(--Sylvia Boorstein, It's Easier Than You Think)
I am grateful for all the helpful people who have practiced right speech on me.
For all who've shared bread, themselves, and looking, with me.
Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
(--Luke 24:35)
Seeing what is there (as what is there) is seeing you, as you are, seeing itself.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Retreat Log

St Joseph's Abbey, Spencer MA,

///

Good Friday


I cannot grasp the notion of "being washed in Jesus' blood.” Maybe I will. (Maybe I won't.) Traveling by way of the cross is a deeply physical as well as metaphorical journey. I've not been satisfied with explanations of sacrifice, whether animal or human blood, in order to settle or attain something. The fact that we die, the fact that Jesus died, are facts to acknowledge. But I'm not yet moved by the notion that animal-killing, blood-feuds, war-slaughter, or even son/daughter killing-sacrifice has anything to do with, nor is associated with, what is in fact the sacred.

I note the suffering and death of Jesus. I'm unconvinced of the subsequent explanation of the purpose and divine order of execution so prevalent in the theology and spirituality of our heritage. Whether the case is Abraham (ready to cut Isaac's throat), Angels (smearing lamb's blood on lintels to facilitate the killing of the right first born), or Adonai (willing/allowing the death of his son as expiation for sin) -- I am reluctant to hold such stories in divine light. I grieve for the first-born that are killed -- whether in ancient Judaic lore, or in contemporary Iraq lawless war.

If the human psyche glorifies slaughter as divine will and historic wish, then (heaven help us!) there is no better way to honor the divine than by participating in the slaughter and murder of the first-born. If the so-called "good guys" as well as "bad guys" utilize the method of killing innocents in the erstwhile liberation/salvation stories of the Ancient Near East, and such telling is celebrated annually as desired rendition, I can't help but feel we are a people with a lost and devastated heart/mind.

///

As night passes, I dream about Slavic cabdriver taking me around New York City. Then I meet a nemesis and we talk a brief while. He says he was hurt by me.

After Vigils at 4:30am, I sit in silence for 30 minutes. One other person in chapel. Woman in first pew is a Sister, a friend of monk Robert.

I am thinking about the prison. I can only face what is.

“What is” is I am not chaplain. My choice was not to be an employee. I am as befuddled by the choice to be offered and accept the position for 6 months as I am delighted by choosing not to continue it. The joy I experienced working with the population of over 900 men -- all religions (and none), all levels of faith understanding (and none) -- was remarkable. Sitting with Buddhists, Christians, Jewish, Muslim, Native, Pagan, AA, and none-of-the-above, whether at their cell doors or in small groups -- was a lesson in learning and service.

Meetingbrook's prison conversations will continue. I'll change status and return to volunteering. :

  • Offer to teach independent studies for university credit for those who wish.

  • For those not interested in college courses, do time-specific ordinary studies -- (Individual Tutorial Studies) for inmates so interested. (Perhaps 3 ITS's at any given span.) Any topic, any focus -- individualized time and interaction to increase learning.

  • Perhaps, through Education Dept., a program in Protective Custody Pod -- or even in SMU (Special Management Unit, the old “Super-Max.”)

  • Meet with individual men for purpose of human hospitality and engaging inquiry.

  • Begin in outside community prison-related discussion groups, e.g. Restorative Justice, or Prison Fellowship, or Innocence Project.

    ///

Afternoon, Holy Saturday

The monk Robert says -- “Cheer up! Things will get worse.” He refers to Jesus', “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” He is on the cross. All hurts, humiliations, depressions, pains, snubs, diminishing comments, injustices, doubts, and delusions hang there. And this is the death and reconciliation of the limited and the unlimited -- this being, this man, drawing all to himself, turns the world upside down. It is the weak, the poor, those ill, those without security or means, the broken and the heart-broken -- to these belong the kingdom of heaven.

I walk the woods. Three deer, two ducks, and a tail-slapping beaver later I climb the hill back to retreat house.

I went to see Robert after his conference to talk about recent experience at the prison. He says it was a gift, a grace to be so angry, frustrated, and humiliated. Thomas Aquinas in his ethical teachings claimed virtue existed in the middle between the opposite of the vice and the defining virtue -- but that anger had no opposite. Only the suffering of it. (Maybe “no-anger” -- but that's the absence, not the opposite.)

Cheer up; things will get worse,” he says, cheerfully.

The way he says it, the prospect isn't unattractive.

The experiential undergoing of injustice deepens the intense longing for justice. The single candle in the dark longs to give way to the bright sun.

///

Final Hours of Holy Saturday

Icon-painting monk asks me if I am a hermit.I say yes. I am, (I think to myself), most likely lying. But I'm not. This hermit is not in seclusion. This hermit dwells within solitude.

There's a difference. This hermit, 90% of the time, arrives late and stays in the rear. (Except visiting the monastery - I arrive on time and stay in the rear.)

Then there's the issues of being active in the bookshop/bakery, at conversations, teaching a course at the university, and the regular visits to prison. Hardly a hermit in any classical sense. More the template of hermit in the open. My cloister is the inter-related solitude of the human heart, one to one, inquiring into “Who am I?” Yet, still a hermit: one dwelling alone with the Alone or Another.

The realms of what some call the relative and absolute dissolve into what I might call the interrelating whole. Jesus tried to teach he and the father were one as we are one with him and the father. We dwell in the interrelating whole. Sometimes we forget this. We then remember. At either times of forgetting or remembering we are prone to hurting one another. Thus the notion of “hurting God” as we hurt one another -- because God is not other than any one or two of us.

We are not equal to God. Equality is a relative term. We are co-responding and co-relating with God. This is not the same kind of relativity or responsibility as the terms seem. To be co-responsive is to share the wording-of-act, and acting-of-word with God. To be co-relating is to be with God in each act. Whether we are conscious of it or not impacts the response we make after the co-responding takes place, Whether we intend our presence or not influences the mind we have after co-relating takes place.

When people ask: How could God allow suffering in the world? We might respond: How can I be of assistance to the one suffering? We, perhaps in a fit of forgetfulness, might have caused the suffering. It always seems reasonable to have someone ask: How could God allow such and such to happen? And yet, mostly, we forget our co-responding and co-relating existential and ontological true nature vis-a-vis God. (Does God forget when we forget?)

The ancient hymn says: “Have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not reach out his hand to make himself equal to God. Instead, he emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave.” (Philippians)

Might we say: One form, many examples of emptiness? Or: One emptiness, many forms of it?

However we try to word what is beyond words, the Name of God bends us with humility. The profound co-relative and inter-responding entirety of the sacred presence is the meditation and contemplation of our heart/mind as mendicants wandering a strange land.

The Ancient Homily at Vigils says: “Something strange is happening--there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.”

The homily concludes: “The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.” Which brings us back to birth. Incarnation. Life.

So: Come alive! Someone once said: “The Glory of God is man fully alive.” (Irenaeus)

Adyashanti says: “The awakeness of this moment is the unconditioned being.”

///

Easter Darkness, 2:02am

Adyashanti says: “It's not about embracing, it's about letting go of not pushing away. That's all.”

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Easter Morning, 9:42am

The stained-glass metaphor used by Adyashanti works well. The source of light is beyond the red, green, and blue of the glass. The colored glass is our conditioned mind. It sorts light into variety of colors. The result is aesthetically pleasing and soothing.

The unconditioned, unborn, and undivided is the source. If we get a glimpse into that reality, all remains beautiful and undifferentiated. But we often contend one color against another, worship one, demand our color is 'the' color -- thus making warfare and dissension.

Jesus has risen. Indeed, he has truly risen!

So it is we attend the truth of this Christian mystery. Unity consciousness, 'coincidentia oppositorum,' undifferentiated suchness -- Christ Consciousness -- rises following the death of the servant of God.

Whoever serves God undergoes this death. (There are so many willing to assist and expedite this death -- if not, as preface, the suffering leading thereto.)

To be born is to die. To enter the unborn is to practice resurrection.

///

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Haiku, 9:29am

to be born is to

die; to enter the unborn

is to practice re-

surrection

(wfh, 8april2007)

[note: the traditional 17 syllable count for haiku is here exceeded by 3 unaccountable syllables.]


+++


haiku 6:14pm

crucifixion ends

abbot lifts host -- we are to

be vault, ground repose

(wfh, 6apr2007)


+++


haiku 8:51am

he was one of us

when we accused him, broken

into two, came death

(wfh, 7apr07)


+++


haiku 8:56am

innocence -- no one

is free from accusation --

there we are, entombed

(wfh, 7apr07)