Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ed from Wisconsin visits at noon for "15 at 12" our midday 5 minutes reading, 5 minutes silence, 5 minutes speaking from the heart. There were five of us gathered today, We read from Jean Vanier's Community and Growth.
All the holy ones have turned within and sought the self, and by this went beyond all doubt. To turn within means all the 24 hours and in every situation, to pierce one by one through the layers covering the self, deeper and deeper, to a place that cannot be described. It is when thinking comes to an end and making distinctions ceases, when wrong views and ideas disappear of themselves without having to be driven forth, when without being sought the true action and the true impulse appear of themselves. It is when one can know the truth of the heart.
- Daikaku (1213-1279)
Kristen and son grab two chocolate chip cookies. She says she and her husband will come to "rehearse" on our deck. Right now three folks play and sing as Alan Watts delivers a talk from an old CD.

In prison yesterday we decided that the old task of deciphering the specific scientific and reaching for the transcendent intuitive might be worded anew by focusing on "be-ing" and "be-yond." It is the task of attending to what is measurably right here and what is immeasurably everywhere infinite.

A young girl comes in and says to her parents, "Are you interested in books or are you interested in beautiful?" The moon was rising , full and orange, southwest of Curtis Island from well and deep beyond the waters of the North Atlantic. The child is clarion to the sweet loveliness of cosmos.

Three women from Thomaston are enjoying their night out in the restaurant, come over laughing, striking gongs and laughing their delight -- and wind up purchasing The Grace in Dying for a friend of theirs.

A man regales two female patio-sitters with his odd assortment of stories that don't promise much for the rest of the evening.

A large and wide assortment of people stop in. It's a holiday weekend. Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas, Boston, and New Harbor Maine are each represented with friendly welcome and conversation.

It's an odd life.

But it's ours.

And we love it.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Twelve years ago today we opened Meetingbrook Bookshop and Bakery.

Our twelfth year begins.

We are grateful.
Earth, mountains, rivers
Hidden in this nothingness.
In the nothingness
Earth, mountains, rivers revealed.
Spring flowers, winter snows:
There’s no being nor non-being,
Nor denial itself.

- Saisho (15th century)
Someone wanted to buy our icon of Ss.Peter and Paul hanging over the cash register. While I was on the phone with a former inmate living in Southern Maine a volunteer brought it out to me for a price check.

It was not meant to be. There was no price on it; the Printery House person at Conception Abbey said it had no such icon in its inventory and didn't carry it anymore (ours being some ten years old) ; we'd given it to ourselves for our tenth anniversary of the shop; and one of the women kept looking for a lower price than her companion offered.

She said she'd go back home and find it in their catalogue. I wished her luck. I'd been willing to let it go with her. The icon shook the dust off its kissing images, put itself back on the nail in the post along the wall, and attached to itself a "NFS" label, (not for sale).

It's funny how it wanted to stay.

We too.

Seem to.

Want to.

Keep the good company of one another.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Jack Bernard, in the early pages of his book How to Become a Saint, A Beginner's Guide, writes about holiness as being set apart, not for common use. Hmm!

The pause is caused by wondering what it means to be set apart, not for common use.
Don’t tell me how difficult the Way.
The bird’s path, winding far,
Is right before you.
Water of the Dokei Gorge,
You return to the ocean,
I to the mountain.

- Hofuku Seikatsu
There are places that are intended to be for God alone. We might say that "God alone" is all there is. Nor are we other than all there is. It seems a trick phrasing, especially adding the word 'here': God is all there is here. If so, everything is meant to be holy. Each place and each person is a holy place.

We forget this -- if we've ever even considered this.

To be in the world is to be holy. To be of the world -- is to be of common use.

Which seems just fine -- if being of common use is accompanied by the respect and reverence belonging to what is holy. Sadly, often, common use means abuse. This might be why craftsmen are so particular about who uses their finely cared for tools. In the hands of irreverence, the most lovely things are poorly treated and broken down.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, 'This is my beloved son, the beloved; listen to him!’” (Mark 9:7)

The practice of listening to sounds of a creating God is vital for understanding holiness. Each being is a lovely being. By listening closely to the creating God within and through each being, we begin to come to prayer. God alone is the wholeness of creation and the loveliness of what is here. But this is no hierarchical or separative understanding of God. God alone is the invitation to consider the interweaving loveliness of each in all and all in each.
For years I have prayed some version of the “Jesus Prayer.” The significance isn’t in getting the words just right, and I have felt free to change them. I used to put a lot of thought into formulating the words so they fit my thoughts and feelings. The basic form of the Jesus Prayer is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” At times when I really felt like a sinner, this felt quite natural.

At other times, it seemed a little awkward. I would think, “Surely it would be more pleasing to God if I took a more upbeat posture toward him. After all, I am his beloved child. Does he want me to always sound like a groveling sinner?” My prayer would follow this thought process until I came to recognize that my prayer was no prayer at all. It was nothing but my own musings about myself and to myself.

I am now learning to stop, and in learning to stop, I am learning to pray. Stopping means stopping my own thinking, reasoning, and evaluating for a time. I still think, reason, and evaluate, but I am learning to stop it at times in order to simply be in the presence of God. I am astonished at the questions I don’t need to ask and the points I don’t need to consider when I am consciously in the presence of God.

The point I am trying to make here is that it is important to take up some prescribed forms of prayer and enter into them without having to invent everything for ourselves. The notion that prayer has to be arranged to personally and individually fit us is just another manifestation of our incessant drive to fit the universe to ourselves. The attempt to conform the universe to ourselves is precisely what we must stop in order to pray.

(--from IN ORDER TO LISTEN, article originally written by Jack Bernard in January of 2001 for Church of the Sojourners)
In contemporary culture there is a strong (and important) emphasis on finding, communicating, and exploring individual opinions. It's how we learn. When people's points of view are not heard, some form of tyranny or suppression is afoot. However difficult or tedious it might be to suffer through the wide variety of personally held points of view, it is a valuable practice. If, of course, someone is wed to only their view and show no hope of entering genuine exploration of differing views -- the difficulty and tedium become more acute.

I often miss the point.

In an older metaphor, missing the mark or missing the point or missing the goal was called "hatah" (in Hebrew) or, sin.

(I hear Echhart Tolle's voice asking "What's the point?" when I think of this matter). Perhaps there's more to this question "What's the point?" than mere confusion or frustration encountered in daily life or monkey mind.

What is the point?

(If "God" is the ultimate "What is" -- or perhaps, if God is what is wholeness, and this alone -- we are not excluded from this entirety.

The German word "gestalt" is found defined in Merriam-Webster as:
"...a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by summation of its parts."
Wholeness is not derivative. Nothing is left out; nothing added together. Wholeness is wholeness in the same way religious language asserts "God is God."

Is there an integral compass of authentic spiritual practice? Or are we experiencing 360 directions (or 10,000 doors) -- each his own formula, each her own expression -- with no integrating interconnective path back to union or communion?

The "point" here is that the compass of authentic spiritual practice, no matter which particular direction the indicator, is within itself not other than the wholeness of what is ground and "one-turning" (i.e. uni-verse) wherein each-in-all and all-in-each dwells as it is with no exclusion.

The point is not only the goal seen at the circumference of the compass dial. The "point" is not only a centripetal or centrifugal absolute center to the compass of spiritual vision. The "point" is "not only".

"Not only" means not only. The "point" is that which is in and of itself is the all encompassing.

The sorrow is a black and white cat just killed a Rosy Breasted Grosbeak at barn door.

The sorrow is Iraq:
BAGHDAD, June 28 — Twenty decapitated bodies were found today in a predominantly Sunni village southeast of Baghdad, Iraqi police said.

The grisly discovery was made on a bloody day across Iraq. A car bomb killed 25 people and wounded 40 others in a busy intersection in the mostly Shiite Bayaa district in Baghdad today. And the casualty count from an attack on Wednesday in Kadhimiya, another Shiite neighborhood, rose to 10 dead and 17 wounded.

In Basra, a roadside bomb killed three British soldiers and wounded another, Reuters reported.

(-- from The New York Times)
We miss the point.

Across the yard, a plaintive call for family, friend, and mate echoes in this sorrow.

Brings tears.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Often it's a difficulty of translation.
The Art of Peace begins with you.
Work on yourself and your
Appointed task in the Art of Peace.
Everyone has a spirit that
Can be refined, a body that
Can be trained in some manner,
A suitable path to follow.
You are here for no other purpose than
To realize your inner divinity and
Manifest your innate enlightenment.
Foster peace in your own life and
Then apply the Art to all that you encounter.
- Morehei Ueshiba
Take the old definition from the Baltimore Catechism, re-translated:
Q: Why did God's creation bring us about?
A: God's creation brings us about to know one another, to love one another, and to serve one another in this world of time and human being, and to be happy with one another in God for the immediacy and eternity of all life of love itself.
Be angry if you must, but do not sin: do not let your anger outlast the sunset: do not give the Devil his chance.
(--Ephesians 4:26-27, Compline reading, Wednesday)
God views the individual within the whole.
Humankind might someday come to view God as the whole.

The devil tells the individual he is all that counts.
God's voice says each individual within the whole counts.

When anger over egoistic exclusion threatens to break the whole into self-serving parts, be angry. Then, let it go.

Pray with whole heart, with whole mind, and with whole being -- pray that all shall be well. Christ serves well. Will we serve all with Christ?

Will all be well?

It will.

Be.

Wholly.

Well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The old black and white Border Collie stands a long while looking up the trail to meditation cabin, then, slowly, eases himself down at foot of path just to the left of hanging bird feeder. It's a hot afternoon. I look out at him frequently. He's apt to wander toward the road these days -- his compass twirling ways unfamiliar.
Below the cliff, riding in a boat,
I think of climbing up.
The mountain temple is silent.
It seems to have no monks.
A falling star – a single dot
It is a beam of lamplight
From the Kannon Hall above.

- Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672)
Walking the four miles to town earlier two dogs raced down their driveway snarling and barking as I went by on the other side of Hosmer Pond Road. They came half way across at me as I held up one hand and loudly shouted "STOP! NO! NO!" Had they not, had they not turned when they did, had the white pick-up truck not been a wee slow honking at their teeth, and had their master not risen from doldrums to call to them just as it was over -- my hand reaching back to folded steel in black case on belt. But all the 'nots' combined to keep walking with beads in hand and prayer in heart.
But we, Lord, are made the least of all nations.
Today we are brought low over all the earth
on account of our sins.

Today there is no prince
no prophet, no leader,
no holocaust, no sacrifice.
No offering, no incense,
no first-fruits offered to you
– no way to obtain your mercy.

But in our contrite souls,
in a spirit of humility,
accept us, Lord.

(--from Daniel 3)
I get mail from friend two decades quiet hoping the letter I wrote to a man I worry about results in fishing and conversation in the same waters.

I am satisfied with loft in cabin for morning sitting and then psalms. Solitude is a friendly silence. Red squirrel worried about me. No, today you eat!

Two poems

On a bridge over the Pace Freeway

a junkie held a knife to my throat

and said: your coat has many pockets.

I took it off very slowly,

the cars passing under me.

I was sure nothing could go wrong

while I was trying to help.

His voice was slurred

as if by great distance

but the blade was steady.

I began telling him. a story:

how I'd hitchhiked from Pueblo to Cheyenne

looking for work, and found a job

painting the white lines in the road.

I could feel the prick of the blade

against my adam's apple. I thought:

if you're telling this story,

you must live through it.

Somewhere there was a cricket.

The bridge rocked constantly.

He held the jacket between his legs,

extracted the billfold with one hand,

counted the money with a sidelong glance.

He nodded, as if there were a sum

I owed him, and moved back a step

to let me pass. Then I feared him:

I was no longer entirely at his mercy.

I waited. Traffic passed.

There were snatches of music

and voices telling the news.

I said I was waiting for a friend

who was to meet me at dawn.

He answered: there is no one,

but he'd begun to back away

with the coat under his arm,

ten steps between us, twenty,

and I was on the other side:

a street of shops that seemed miniature,

the lamps still lit though it was daylight.

In front of a shuttered grocery

someone had left hampers of milk and bread.

The silence was absolute.

On the grate of a cantina

there were signs for last year's dances.

The gaunt dogs, that; sniffed as they pleased,

flinched when they saw me, then caught my scent

and knew I had no power to hurt.

I walked through them as if on stilts.

I came to a phone and dialed a number.

There was a holding voice and music.

Another number: another voice, music.

I had no more change. I looked behind me.

I walked quickly past tiny houses.

I smelled toast and heard children arguing.

A sprinkler winced, despite the drought.

I could hear the clink of a tame dog '

moving on a chain, clearing its throat to bark.

I broke into a run. Already

I could hear the hum of the next huge road.

Immense Fires and Not Yet Summer

The face responsible for opinions

hasn't slept in three days,

the mouth in charge of facts

has begun to stutter.

The cloud that hides that city

is radiant and lights the room

where we watch, legs dangling

on the edge of an unmade bed.

I turn to tell you

"I foresaw this, so did you,

seeing this coming made us a couple."

Your finger is on your lips.

Your eyes are rapt, flares in reflection

cross your cheek like moods.

On the screen the armored personnel carriers

have arrived, already the shots sound

a split-second delayed, as if on a separate tape.


(-- Poem by D. Nurkse in The American Poetry Review, July 1995. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3692/is_199507/ai_n8719029/pg_1)
Seeing this time coming makes us a couple. You and me. We've tried to be clear about what we see. But it all passes so slowly there's no grasping it. We have to live it through, without celluloid, without digital enhancement, without commentary.

We are our lives.

Every inch, every instant of it.

It is taken away by milliseconds and fabric edges peeling each strand from the fray.

I am not the name I've answered to all these years.

The old dog is...still...looking up the path...a single dot.

Seen from a small, irretrievable, not.

Monday, June 25, 2007

We need a new view.

The mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson, speaks to Amy Goodman about his feeling that George Bush and Dick Cheney should be impeached. He is ashamed of his Democratic Party for taking impeachment off the table. He says someone down the road has to know that the American people deeply felt at the time that the practices and tactics of this administration were wrong and dangerous.

We've got to end this war.

First, we've got to change the language used by this administration to describe the war. Glenn Greenwald in his book, A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, writes:
Because the threat posed by The Evil Terrorists is so grave, maximizing protections against it is the paramount, overriding goal. No other value competes with that objective, nor can any other value limit our efforts to protect ourselves against The Terrorists.

That is the essence of virtually every argument Bush supporters make regarding terrorism. No matter what objection is raised to the never-ending expansions of executive power, no matter what competing values are touted (due process, the rule of law, the principles our country embodies, how we are perceived around the world), the response will always be that The Terrorists are waging war against us and our overarching priority — one that overrides all others — is to protect ourselves, to triumph over Evil. By definition, then, there can never be any good reason to oppose vesting powers in the government to protect us from The Terrorists because that goal outweighs all others.

But our entire system of government, from its inception, has been based upon a very different calculus — that is, that many things matter besides merely protecting ourselves against threats, and consequently, we are willing to accept risks, even potentially fatal ones, in order to secure those other values. From its founding, America has rejected the worldview of prioritizing physical safety above all else, as such a mentality leads to an impoverished and empty civic life. The premise of America is and always has been that imposing limitations on government power is necessary to secure liberty and avoid tyranny even if it means accepting an increased risk of death as a result. That is the foundational American value.

It is this courageous demand for core liberties even if such liberties provide less than maximum protection from physical risks that has made America bold, brave, and free. Societies driven exclusively or primarily by a fear of avoiding Evil, minimizing risks, and seeking above all else that our government “protects” us are not free. That is a path that inevitably leads to authoritarianism — an increasingly strong and empowered leader in whom the citizens vest ever-increasing faith and power in exchange for promises of safety. That is most assuredly not the historical ethos of the United States.
(--Glenn Greenwald, in A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency.)
One commentator adds to Greenwald:
No, it is not. Greenwald has written a book that finally gets to the meat of the matter and addresses the underlying error that has led inexorably to all the errors that followed. The Bush administration took a simplistic, Manichean, “good vs evil” approach to the threat of Islamic terrorism, and in that one act handed them a victory. One of the great advances of our civilization is the recognition that the line between good and evil is not between one group and another group; the line between good and evil lies inside every human being. All it took was a handful of religious fanatics with a willingness to commit suicide to make an awful lot of Americans forget that.
(--Digby, blogger at http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/06/24/fdl-book-salon-welcomes-glenn-greenwald/#more-9918)
While politicians bob and weave through sensitive deliberations about their personal political careers, there is a massive problem they are reluctant to address -- self-deception.

When any individual refuses to face the universal inner tension of good/evil at core of each one of us, there is a blindness that occurs. In that blindness there also occurs a projection outward of resentment and hatred of that part of each one of us that we refuse to acknowledge as us. This projection hurls anger and righteous revenge on any object, entity, or person made into the opposite, the enemy, the "other."

The simplistic and self-deceiving language used by Messrs Bush and Cheney has occasioned a time in the history of America that will take its place as one of the ugliest times. We have tortured the innocent, killed irresponsibly, spied on our own, denied legal rights, punished dissenters, invaded a sovereign country illegally for false reasons, kept secret and hidden matters vital to oversight by duly legislated and elected American officials, deceptively presented erroneous data to international regulating bodies used to justify our bellicose actions, and, unambiguously sullied the reputation and good will of the United States all across the globe.

These and additional actions, taken in what appears to be febrile fixation with unregulated and uncontained power isolated in the Executive Branch, have all the earmarks of a coup d'etat done in plain sight with seeming complicity of the American public.

Han shan reminds us of an alternative way to cool the flames of anger in the face of such combustible evidence:
As for me, I delight
In the everyday Way,
Among mist-wrapped vines
And rocky caves.
Here in the wilderness
I am completely free,
With my friends,
The white clouds,
Idling forever.
There are roads,
But they do not reach the world;
Since I am mindless,
Who can rouse my thoughts?
On a bed of stone I sit,
Alone in the night,
While the round moon
Climbs up Cold Mountain.

- Han shan ( 8th century)
He's right, of course. That doesn't diminish the feelings of impotence and upset. Injustices continue to be promulgated in my name. It causes profound discomfort and illness of spirit.

There are many who claim when there's a mean, dangerous, and harmful presence outside your door the best strategy is to hunker down in a closet deep in the unused section of your dwelling. They might be right. Perhaps it's time to contemplate my own good/evil in the quiet suffering of solitude. When that is done, these people will still have to be confronted. But the possibility exists that I will no longer do what they are doing, will no longer demonize them and shout at the wind.

I will have to face the person I am. I will have to face who you are. I will have to face God. And God is, as you know, not other than what God is in you and me.

No blaming God. No blaming you. No blaming me.
Choices

I go to the mountain side
of the house to cut saplings,
and clear a view to snow
on the mountain. But when I look up,
saw in hand, I see a nest clutched in
the uppermost branches.
I don't cut that one.
I don't cut the others either.
Suddenly, in every tree,
an unseen nest
where a mountain
would be.


for Drago Stambuk (--Poem: "Choices" by Tess Gallagher, from Dear Ghosts. Graywolf Press, 2006.)
Look up!

Mountain wisdom and sobriety give pause. There's more there than meets the eye.

Nests proliferate everywhere unseen and simply given to offspring learning to breathe and opening eyes to light that eases darkness from sky perduring the circular yin/yang, the ebb and flow of awareness through ignorance to consciousness itself.

Consciousness as itself.

We are not desolate.

Something new.

Comes to be.

There.

And here.

With you.

With me.

Coming.

To.

See?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

How strange to have depiction of a capital punishment as primary symbol in prominent view! Something about the crucifix over the alter at St Francis of Assisi Church in Belfast this morning caught my attention. Why is that corpus on the cross?
Only one who bursts with
Enthusiasm do I instruct;
Only one who bubbles with
Excitement do I enlighten.
If I hold up one corner
And you do not come back
To me with the other three,
I do not continue the lesson.

- Confucius
I can barely find one corner, much less lift it and bring it back. In fact, these days, I am hiding lost under a pebble on which a corner of some four-square fabric finds itself thrown. Or, maybe, some revelation is at hand -- similar to the one Yeats wondered about. What that might be, I don't know.
"All that matters is how we go through this life -- completely free of ulterior motives, letting God have his way, obeying what happens as a manifestation of his will. If you don't try to set things up, that's what you'll see."

"A moment comes when because of the simple daily life, you reach a point where you have to say you're willing to let the real person live this life and the 'show' person has to go. It's painful. You have to be willing to say, 'I'm weak and vulnerable.' And you realize that everyone is going to see you like that. You're going to stand naked. But you also know as sure as you exist that these guys will accept you as you are -- real weak, vulnerable."

(--Trappist monk Dan to visiting journalist Frank, p.154, in Voices of Silence, Lives of the Trappists Today, by Frank Bianco)
The body is there because it is the instant of transition when life/death and the mystery of transformation/transcendence is occurring right there and then.

The director of the film Etre et Avoir (2002) says in an interview that to grow up is to learn to leave things behind, to go on without them.

But with the image of this man Jesus on the cross, it is the instant of non-differentiation. He is one and the other -- alive and dead and gone beyond. To say "It is finished; It is completed" and go on, letting go, leaving the once-was for the to-be-as-is becomes the most difficult learning experience we are ever invited into.

It's not a show. It's us. Our life.

It's a go.

Going.

Beyond.

Completely.

Awake(?)

(Good luck!)