Today At Meetingbrook

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A recluse sat on bench. Said he was a recluse. Suggested we should reduce bakery prices at end of day. Fussed a bit. Said goodnight and left saying he always enjoys stopping by. Exits with friend.

Earlier an anti-Obama regular played all the Republican talking points and predicted that, if elected, he'd be a failure as president. He can't see what many see in the man -- wants McCain because he knows the military. Recites Omar Khayyam, mentions an Air Force General who recently died, then said he'd see me tomorrow. We both sign a young man's petition for Independent candidates to get on Maine's ballot.

A woman came to tears remembering a local priest's kindness to her. Colin Grant's violin music from cd.
We’re all stir crazy --
been in the body so long.

And on the day he died
Maharaji whispered,
“Today I am released from central jail forever.”

But we are not in the body,
the body is in us,
depends on us for life
(not us on it).

Jesus said,
“I am the Light.”
Us all.
The Evershining.

(from p.267, in Who Dies? An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying, by Stephen Levine, c.1982)
A man and woman we know 13 years, were married then divorced, re-enter shop together. "A reunion," she says. He's moving in with her after a few marriages and many years. He says he's on his way to heaven. I ask express or local? He says he'll be making all the stops.
The trail is dangerous
Among snowy, silent peaks.
With the Master gone,
Who goes this way for meditation?
Dust slowly gathers
On the tea table;
Before his death,
Tree colors already had changed.
The pagoda stands
In blowing pines;
Footprints fade
Along the roaring stream.
Passing by the grieving temple,
The tiger
Hears the sutra,
Weeps.

- Chia Tao (779-843)
One sutra I've long liked is Isaiah's:
Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.
Pay attention, come to me;
listen, and your soul will live.
With you I will make an everlasting covenant
out of the favours promised to David.

(--Isaiah 55:1-3)
There's not much to do but pass through the words and faces that pass through the shop.

If it's all been an illusion, fine.

If it's all been foolishness, fin!

If anything comes of this time -- fantastic -- but I don't count on it. It's just been something to do, some place to be, some attention given freely, and some listening done with grateful presence.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The poem in Stephen Levine's book on conscious living, conscious dying, said we are not in the body, the body is in us.

In two groups in prison then again at Friday Evening Conversation we fall into the prospect of ever-shining light as Christic us.
Beings are owners of their actions. . . heirs of their actions; they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as their refuge. It is action that distinguishes beings as inferior and superior.
--Culakammavibhanga Sutta, from The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
It is thought provoking to consider the body/spirit dance a time killing dos-a-dos conception. The split back-to-back, like corollary face-to-face, are verbal approximations of a phantom separation we call you-me, same-different, or even inferior-superior.

Rather, in a dance done in solitary, unitary, stillness -- what you are I am. What I am, you are.

There is another way.

Find it oppositeless.

There's the action!

Dance well!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

To be clay in potter's hands is not to know the shape you are becoming. There's no foreknowledge. There's only acknowledging each one as it is appearing.

You are this moment coming to be.
One who strives to make Truth home
May at times be lonely.
One who fawns on the powerful and influential
Will know the chill of solitude for ages.
The superior person peers deeply into
Transcendent reality,
And thinks about the body
They will have after this one is gone.
Rather should one suffer a temporary loneliness
Then the solitary chill of ages.

- Hung Ying-ming
An eclipse will occur in the morning. A woman who studies the heavens says there is strong energy affecting many today. Could that be my excuse?

Ignatius founded the Jesuits. They educated me after my feet steadied. By inviting thought.

With a sprinkle of earthen humor.

Saltier, please!

Preserve doubt and inquiry.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The temptation to become someone is as difficult as the temptation to become nobody. At twilight everything stills. Cabin porch is wood quiet. Lid from bottle turns on glass, water gives itself, three gulps.
Those who wear the patched robe of a Zen wayfarer should be completely serious about taking death and birth as their business. You should work to melt away the obstructions caused by conditioned knowledge and views and interpretive understanding, and penetrate through to a realization of the great causal condition communicated and bequeathed by the buddhas and ancestral teachers. Don’t covet name and fame. Step back and turn to reality, until your practical understanding and virtue are fully actualized.
- Yuanwu (1063-1135)
Solitude took me today. After mowing grass I retire to silence away from the sawing of wood for side window wall, emerging when dooryard empties in late afternoon. I build catch latch for 'welcome friends' gate for rear opening of barn. Back of house and barn are now fully fenced and gated in hopes of keeping young Rokpa from distractedly making way to road.

I distractedly make my way through July -- never a favorite. It's a long haul of repair and restoration to old kitchen and store room between house and barn. Long hours of other personalities. Sometimes solitude reaches in and pulls us away.

To memory.
The Snowy Day

The last time I saw you, we met for coffee on a snowy day.
Outside the window of the coffee shop, the snow fell silently

& heavily, the traffic on Coldspring Lane blurred & vague,
each car a cumbersome dream vehicle plowing comically into eternity.

But there you were, real as day, drinking a real cup of coffee.
You were back from India, you had slept for two days, the coffee

tasted wonderful, you said. You had flown to a mountain monastery
to find in prayer & silence what you could not find in the everyday,

taking only a few books, a change of clothes, because for too long you
had carried your life like two suitcases heavy enough to kill you.

When it snows, everything is light & dark at the same time. Black coffee
in a white cup, the hours leaked away, until our cups were empty,

the afternoon gone. Then a kiss on the cheek, a door opening out
into the cold, & I was walking away, up a slippery snowy hill
nothing at all

like your mountain & so little to hold onto. That night the snow fell
& fell & fell, erasing every landmark, quieting the world for a while.

Later, after you died, I had a dream. The phone was ringing.
It was you, your voice, on the other end of the line, laughing

as you said, "Beth, it's Greg. I'm in the hospital. I'm not dead."

(Poem "The Snowy Day" by Elizabeth Spires from The Wave-Maker: Poems. W. W. Norton & Company, 2008)
Candle before Buddha statue. Incense wood from Latin America brought by Tom several years ago. From over at Snow Bowl, sound of Rokpa barking. The nightly return from town and walk there. I am truant. Suddenly many dogs are howling and barking. The neighbor's up the hill from their chained-in pen are the most mournful.

Sitting with bare feet up on wood kindling box. Dusk. Doorway to darkness. I pass through.

There are days when in that darkness everything seems quietly irrelevant.

Tires on gravel.

Engine off.

Door opening, closing.

Soon, face of woman, face of pup.

When there's nowhere to go, go there.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A few weeks ago there was a hostage taking in prison. The two hostages, a staff person and an inmate, were people we know. They survived long hours of negotiations. There were, we're told, cuts on head and face. The hostage taker did not have his life taken -- but might have. He is in segregation. Life returns to what in prison is called normal.

No picnic, prison. The same as civilian life, only different.
Compassion is Union
In Mahayana Buddhism in particular great emphasis is laid on realizing the union of wisdom and compassionate action. Human fulfillment is seen to lie in the integration of the inner and outer dimensions of life, not in transcendent wisdom or world-saving compassion alone. As long as we remain delusively convinced of our egoic separation, then we remain cut off from the capacity to empathize fully with others. Such empathy is nothing other than the affective response to insight into the absence of egoic separation. For when the fiction of isolated selfhood is exposed, instead of a gaping mystical void we discover that our individual existence is rooted in relationship with the rest of life. For Thich Nhat Hanh, this is the realization of "interbeing"; for the Dalai Lama that of "universal responsibility": two ideas at the heart of contemporary Engaged Buddhism.

(-- Stephen Batchelor, The Awakening of the West, from Everyday Mind)
We engage in three different conversations each Friday morning. One in protective custody pod, one with the Buddhist group, and one open to general population. Each venue leaves us delighted with the fact of the time and conversation that takes place.

Sometimes two, sometimes seven, always the perfect number. Poetry, science, meditative mind, a map of Iran, a piece by Nietzsche, or Elie Wiesel, or Sharon Salzberg, or perhaps David Brooks or Lao Tzu. It's wide open.

And we love it.

Just a small group of individuals.

Conversing.

Together.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The man is tired of moving.

"I'm 73. I've packed too many boxes in my life. You can take the books I've left on shelves." I carry them to front seat of car, then back behind rear seat. There are a lot of books. The eight boxes of books he will take with him are boxed and sealed by front door. When my last trip is done, I bring him two French prayer books. He fingers them, pronounces their titles, then hands them back. "No, you take them." I say thank you for the books, "They'll go to our borrowing library at the hermitage." He nods to that.

Then I ask him for his blessing. If he is surprised it is translated into quick standing as I bow head. The priest puts both hands on my head and prays for good be done, helpful communication with all who come through our doors, and loving connections be forged. I say amen, we'll pray for you, take the (prison-made small wooden) boat to carry you well in your sails to unknown places, and be well as you go. This near stranger and I, in the glow of books relinquished and books received -- but more -- in the light of all we ever really need, mere attention and presence, however briefly, with one another. Handshake. A pause. A hug. I leave him at his desk in a room with empty shelves under a church he has served as good-enough priest.

Earlier in the dentist's chair (while nine fingers and a backhoe excavated my mouth) I thought about God. Grateful for no pain, (at that moment), I wondered about belief in God. An unformed notion came to mind. To believe in God is to believe in the cooperative nature of all-that-is working towards the cooperative nature that all-that-is encounters. At each moment. In each event. With each person.

The trouble many have believing in God is that they do not experience this cooperative nature in the world, in the earth, or in people. Perhaps sin is the withholding of cooperation.

More than that, the difficulty we experience has to do with mind and consciousness. When it is said that God is everywhere, does that mean that the cooperative nature of everything is always available? And if we do not consciously experience that nature, then are we not experiencing God? The mind, (actually the heart/mind), is pivotal here. The saying 'What you see is what you get!' is operative. All things can be seen as good, as cooperating, and graced -- no matter what occurs. The occurring is merely the occurring. Things happen! Things happen willy-nilly or they happen intentionally according to the actor. Bottom line -- things happen.

The mind that enters here. What it does with what happens determines whether the individual judges the action (or event, or words). Judgement takes up residence in the desirable or undesirable part of town in our mental neighborhood. What happens, of itself, is merely what happens.

Here enters consciousness. When those whose awareness is of a particular type say that 'All things work unto good!' -- they are considering "all" things, not some, not a few, not many -- but all. And they have this mind as a regular presence. No matter how much something hurts, or seems terrible, or is actually terrible -- their mind sees through the event, action, or words to an interconnective cooperative milieu. This milieu, a setting or environment of cooperative nature, is mostly invisible to the eye.

Old sayings such as "No one has seen God", or, "God is invisible', or 'You cannot see God and live" give us pause. They might be true, but true in a way we have yet to understand. To see God in this realm is not to see a particular distinct body with the nametag "God" affixed. Rather, to see God is to see the clear cooperative nature of all reality and all existence and all being. That "seeing" dwells nowhere else but in the eye of the one seeing. That which 'sees' God is that which is seeing.
You forget the Rock who begot you,
unmindful now of the God who fathered you.
The Lord has seen this, and in his anger
cast off his sons and his daughters.
“I shall hide my face from them,” he says
“and see what becomes of them.
For they are a deceitful brood,
children with no loyalty in them.
They have roused me to jealousy with what is no god,
they have angered me with their beings of nothing;
I, then, will rouse them to jealousy with what is no people,
I will anger them with an empty-headed nation.
Yes, a fire has blazed from my anger,
it will burn to the depths of Sheol;
it will devour the earth and all its produce,
it will set fire to the foundations of the mountains.

(~ Deuteronomy 32:18 - 21)
The jealous, angry, demanding God of our linear narrative thinking is becoming the accepting, compassionate, inviting God of our encircling existential consciousness. The fact that we feel the face of God is hidden from us posits some faced being hiding that very face from us because we deserve to be so treated. (And often, it must be said, we behave so badly that this line of reasoning appears a valid line.)

But what if God is the encircling existential consciousness of pervading cooperative nature -- nascent and inchoate throughout all that is?
I don’t go out to wander around
I stay at home here in Miura
While time flows on through
The unbounded world
In the awakened eye
Mountains and rivers completely
Disappear.
The eye of delusion looks out upon
Deep fog and clouds.

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
We don't see God because our minds are looking for someone else, someone other, far away, beyond this world, this time, this reality. God, like our notion of heaven, is somewhere else.

If we were to drop all notions of God and settle into a mind that transforms everything into such a cooperative nature milieu, an existential consciousness dwelling in the between -- between good and bad, between right and wrong, between heaven and hell -- perhaps we might come to see in a way quite different and wholly encircling. Nothing left out, no one othered. Each place a sacred place where holiness is our ordinary life lived with quiet awareness and listening openness.

The elderly priest moves on leaving his blessing in place.

It is a long journey, it seems, home.

We need help.

Perhaps a blessing.

And a hug.

On our way.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

If someone says something critical or demeaning to you, wonder why they do not accept themselves.

Then change, with humility, what with you needs to change. This helps your being you, their being them.

Some folks do not yet understand 'good enough.' Nor non-localized self. We are not other than every place we've been, every one we've been near.

You are, and I am, good enough. As is the universe. And being itself.
"Out beyond ideas of
right doing and wrong doing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there."
~ Rumi
And if I'm late, will you wait?