Monday, December 31, 2001

Let's end the year and begin the year with silence.

Wait! Before that, let's speak, even name what can be named, what can be understood, in words or music -- of the transition from this to that, old to new, one thing to another, what remains of the narrow self of our egos to what is immeasurably the selflessness of God. Then, perhaps, neither word nor silence will be necessary. Then, perhaps, both word and silence will comprise the song and music of what the eyes alone in cherishing muted gaze enfold. At Sunday Evening Practice Nancy spoke the word cherish, and we heard her.

Robert Lowell's poem "In the Ward" included the lines:
its ever retreating borderlines of being,
as treacherous, perhaps, to systems,
to fecundity,
as to silence.

Then, a couplet,
Die Sprache ist unverstanden
doch nicht unverstandlich?

[Language is not understood
but not un-understandable?]

Is there a communication, a cherishing, that occurs when the heart is open and receptive with love to anyone presenting themselves? Is this language of the unheard sphere -- the sphere of apophatic understanding, wordless and inexpressable, -- what we feel when an abiding accepting love permeates who, what, and where we are? (Perhaps our elder Janet captures Lowell's quote best when of a Friday night poetry reading she said, "I don't understand a word you write and say, but I love you!")

Martin Heidegger's words, Die Sprache sprecht! -- Language speaks! -- continue,
Its speaking bids the dif-ference to come which expropriates world and things into the simple onefold of their intimacy.
Language speaks.
Man speaks in that he responds to language. This responding is a hearing. It hears because it listens to the command of stillness.(
in ,Poetry, Language Thought , p.210)

There is an ordinary language of daily intercourse that is heard, and there is a sacred language that stretches beneath it unheard. Both involve a speaking that fills our senses and our soul. As we listen and hear either dimension, so it is we learn to speak in response -- whether in sound or in silence. The whole body listens and the whole body speaks -- sometimes with vibrational word, sometimes with grace of gesture.

Heidegger later says,
It is not a matter here of stating a new view of language. What is important is learning to live in the speaking of language. To do so, we need to examine constantly whether and to what extent we are capable of what genuinely belongs to responding: anticipation in reserve.

Placing Heidegger's words in another configuration: "Anticipation in reserve,...the simple onefold of...intimacy, [is]...what genuinely belongs to responding." Perhaps this nears what Nancy is saying with cherish?

Bankai celebrates this cherishing language:
What does it matter,
The new year, the old year?
I stretch out my legs
And all alone have a
Quiet sleep.
Don’t tell me the monks
Aren’t getting their instruction.
Here and there the nightingale
Is singing;
The highest Zen.

- Bankei (1622-1693)

As does Lowell,
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.
-- Lowell, "Epilogue" in Day by Day)

Georg Trakl's poem brings this night to transition:

A Winter's Evening

Window with falling snow is arrayed
Long tolls the Vesper bell,
The house is provided well,
The table is for many laid.

Wandering ones, more than a few,
Come to the door on darksome courses.
Golden blooms the tree of graces
Drawing up the earth's cool dew.

Wanderer quietly steps within;
Pain has turned the threshold to stone.
There lie, in limpid brightness shown,
Upon the table bread and wine.

From our hermitage to yours, one year to another -- May each be cherished! May all be cherished! May our language cherish what is each in all, and what is all in each!
For this, and for you, we are grateful.

Happy New Year,
Bill, Saskia, Sando, Mini & all who grace Meetingbrook

Sunday, December 30, 2001

Family is what we are. When we practice what we are, we are holy; we are a practicing holy family.
Perhaps all revelation is made in small measure in local habitat. What is seen by one is a vision for many. Philosophers furrow brows and debate the one and the many. But for our benefit the one is the many. See one, see many; see one see all.

The Holy Family is what we practice by being what we are. The festival of the Holy Family practiced in the Catholic tradition is small measure and local habitat meant for many -- profoundly immeasurable and worldwide dwelling. Woman, Man, and Child -- the specific building blocks of individual human physical and spiritual community. Writ small -- woman, man, child is what each one of us is -- family unto oneself. Writ larger -- woman, man, child is the core blocks for what is most familiar -- what we've called nuclear family. Writ whole -- woman, man, child is the very embodied collective of our entire world population -- the human family.

When we practice family-unto-oneself we become real and honest. When we practice nuclear-family we become loving and patient. When we practice human-family we become compassionate and accepting.

But if we do not yet understand who we are as family, we pervert honesty, love, and acceptance. We make of those three qualities a lie. A lie is a lesser and perverted truth -- not the simple telling of what is, truth alone. A lie is a torturing of truth until it doesn't look like itself. To understand what family is, is to be oneself -- with particular others, in the embracing inclusion of everyone who now lives, has ever lived, will come to live. Family!

Embedding in stories of a holy man, Susan Trott has him telling of a "game" watching dappled ponies that applies as well to family:
Yes. Along with everything else about it, it seemed to be a parable for life. Going forwards and backwards and round in circles, striving ever forward only to have to run like crazy backwards to get the ball again, realizing that your enemy is after the same goal and you're actually helping him toward it and getting roughed up and possibly killed while you're at it but still feeling the comradeship of being in the game all together. (p.145, The Holy Man)

The straight line of our thinking is now capable of turning around -- rethinking and recollecting -- what has been there from the beginning, but only now able to be seen by more and more of us. The movement of our awareness has seemed through generations and centuries to be evolving toward a new comprehension of family. Robert Creeley's words from his poem "Here" help:

Past time -- those
memories opened
places and minds,
things of such reassurance--

now the twist,
and what was a road
turns to a circle
with nothing behind.

(from Creeley's book of poems Pieces)

And nothing left out. The comprehension of holy family has another dimension to it. Like 4th and 5th dimensional thinking of time and space, string theory posits many more dimensions of reality that we cannot yet seem to calibrate into our experiential understanding. Part of this to-be-grasped sometime is another dimension of family, namely, all matter, all beings, all animals all that has shape, form, and presence (whether visible or invisible) -- all as family. Sacred and real -- what is, has been, will be -- the timeless and spacious celebration of family.

Paul says in Colossians 1:15, Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creatures In him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations, principalities or powers; all were created through him, and for him. He is before all else that is. In him everything continues in being.
Is Paul pointing to a dimension of appreciation that we have yet to arrive at experientially? Might this someday be appreciated as referring to each and every being and person that is seen and experienced as family?

For now, this appreciation or realization is for many of us embedded in the daily practice of the appreciation or realization. Some call this meditation practice, some contemplation practice, some call it banging their head against the stonewall of hard, unrelenting experience of its opposite. (The opposite is the hard, unreflective experiences of non-family, fragmented family, broken family.) To practice the appreciation and realization of true family, holy family, and the sacred familiar -- is to enter into true, holy, sacred for that moment, that duration of practice. We practice what we are; we are what we practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his lovely way about practice:
To me a meditation center is where you get back to yourself, you get a clear understanding of reality, you get more strength in understanding and love, and you prepare for your re-entry into society. If it is not like that, it is not a real meditation center. As we develop real understanding, we can re-enter society and make a real contribution
We have many compartments in our lives. When we practice sitting meditation and when we do not practice sitting, these two periods of time are so different from each other. While sitting, we practice intensively and while we are not sitting we do not practice intensively. In fact, we practice non-practice intensively. There is a wall which separates the two, practicing and non-practicing. Practicing is only for the practice period and non-practicing is only for non-practicing period. How can we mix the two together? How can we bring meditation out of the meditation hall and into the kitchen, and the office? How can the sitting influence the non-sitting time? If a doctor gives you an injection, not only your arm but your whole body benefits from it. If you practice one hour of sitting a day, that hour should be all 24 hours, and not just for that hour. One smile, one breath, should be for the benefit of the whole day, not just for that moment. We must practice in a way that removes the barrier between practice and non-practice.
(from Being Peace, pp52-53)

So too family. We must practice in a way that removes the barrier between family and non-family. What we consider non-family might just be a distorted notion we carry that doesn't look like itself. The mind, if not watched with care, can torture what is true to an unrecognizable distortion. Such uncaring and uncared-for reflections that become distorted often result in much suffering and unhappiness. A practice that removes the barriers -- between family and non-family, true image and distorted images -- most often results in relieving suffering and realizing happiness.

We are family -- and when we practice being family, we realize what we are. When we practice what we are, we are holy. I greet the holiness we are, my family!

Saturday, December 29, 2001

Thomas dressed for Vespers and died after the Magnificat. Henry lost a friend and a powerful counterforce. Thomas was murdered in the Cathedral. Henry's men left with bloodied steel sheathed in their belts. The Archbishop tried to stay the encroaching power of the King; the King wanted to control the power and tuck the church under the royal curtain and keep only his hand on the drawstring. Power wanted, power preserved, power exercised -- jealous power taking what the other has.

800 years later poet T.S. Eliot wrote of the event in his play Murder in the Cathedral , inserting the line that the highest treason is to do the right thing for the wrong reason.

Here in Maine other murders were committed 23 years ago. Yesterday Harold and I brought to closing the initial course on Poetry and Autobiography at the Maine State Prison covering the first 23 years of his life. Over 500 pages so far -- writing covering his childhood, school years, neighborhood, army, marriage, and murders at end -- have followed our first course. That course was about another experience about 15 years into his sentence -- a near-death or near-death type experience that brought him to a new, equally disturbing, and ultimately profound insight about what is true and sacred.

This seeming anomoly bypassed the traditional explanations of heaven and God and left him with seeds of seeing that slowly broke the ground of his awareness until he now sees what happened 23 years ago, what the right thing to do would have been, and that what he did wasn't right. For 23 years his reluctance to express remorse or regret was sealed in an inner crypt of untelling and unhearing, which, like Thomas and Henry, didn't find voice or ear to stave off murder and loss. There's another 23 years yet to be told.

Henry repented. Thomas sainted. Their dance down history as a pas de deux is a pattern part tragedy, part pawn of fate, part morality play. Both did what they did. And their story is told. Spin it as you wish -- friends gone political, church repelling state, power nibbling another's lunch -- the story shakes down to treason, wrong reasons, and the right thing to do or not do. Whatever the individual motives of either Thomas, Henry, or Harold -- each did what they did and their world, perhaps the world changes.

"The language of a people is its fate," wrote theologian Amos Wilder. What would it mean to be fateless? "Fate" the word cames from L. fatum , to speak. The New World Dictionary adds, "Fate refers to the inevitability of events as supposedly determined by a god or other agency beyond human control."

I suspect to be fateless might mean to be untelling and unhearing. A story untold and unheard seems to render a person to whom it belongs not-there. The opposite of presence is not absence, it is avoidance.

Our job is not to avoid what is. To avoid is to empty, make void, annul, invalidate, to quash. Avoidance of voice and story nullifies not only the one not speaking, but also the one not listening. Henry, Thomas, and Harold wish to speak and be heard. They wish to save our lives in the process. To denullify. No matter how imperfect we consider our lives, there is a perfection -- a moving through -- that waits for the right fate, the right speaking/hearing time to appear

Poet Wendell Berry ends his poem "To The Unseeable Animal" with the lines
That we do not know you
is your perfection
and our hope. The darkness
keeps us near you.

Nietzsche ends Zarathustra with,
And how could I endure to be a man, if man were not also poet and reader of riddles and...a way to new dawns.

We make each other visible by our attention. Nothing is null and void. Rather, we seek something, something real and present. Our speaking and listening glorifies what is presenting itself. That is a new dawn worth waking to.

Friday, December 28, 2001

For the innocents who have been killed, for the ignorant who have killed them, and for the rest of us who fall between the two -- Forgive all that binds us in fear, that we might radiate love; cleanse us that your light might shine in us.

Psalm 51, in the companion translation Psalms For Praying, An Invitation to Wholeness, by Nan Merrill, continues a few verses later to its conclusion with:
Let the nations turn from war,
and encourage one another as
good neighbors.
O Most Gracious and Compassionate Friend,
melt our hearts of stone,
break through the fears that
lead us into darkness, and
Guide our steps into the way of peace.

What space there is between innocence and ignorance I do not know. Both have been part of my life -- one suffering, the other causing suffering. From there I am able to see their larger extension into the wider world -- those who suffer unknowing why, and those who make others suffer with no understanding of what or why they do what they do.

Explanations, yes, they have explanations, reasons, agenda, purpose. And, yes, they feel justified -- it is a right thing to do, they think. "They" includes me, and you. Ignorance is like that -- it attempts to hide the person under a bevy of righteous and defensive explanations.

Innocence is more open, a playing in the field of the Lord. That is, a presentation of oneself that does not know (or care to know) what will follow, as consequence, as repercussion, as effect. An innocent child doesn't know anything other. An innocent adult doesn't care to know anything other than the presentation of what and who they are.

Innocence is what holiness and enlightenment seek. Perhaps it is a simplicity of unworried mind, unselfconscious acts, gift without recompense. If innocence seems rare in our contemporary world the signs of its absence are worried minds, self-serving behavior, and exacting fees for any and all service.

Ignorance is even more troubling than innocence. Ignorance has considered the implications of actions, has looked at the right and wrong of situations, has traveled the oftentimes harsh road of experience and learned the hard way. But ignorance has a forgetfulness about it. Consciously or unconsciously ignorance disregards what it has learned and acts with abandon. Some abandon a right way for a wrong way. Some abandon fear of consequence for the need to engage what must be done.

Perhaps there's not much space between innocence and ignorance. What would that space be? What name would we call it? Saskia, when asked, says from rolling pin, "It is the knowing space. Where one is aware."

You have placed your truth in the
inner being;
therefore, teach me the wisdom
of the heart.
Forgive all that binds me in fear
that I might radiate love;
clense me that your light might shine in me.

(Merrill, from Ps 51)

Perhaps what is there, the "What Is" that dwells for our awareness, waits to be born in that knowing space. And until then, is constantly forgiving the innocent and the ignorant.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Snowplow climbs Barnestown road as morning dove sits on rope stretching from cedar to birch holding two bird feeders behind kitchen. On other side bright red against white snow on ground cardinal shuffles under feeder as chickadee fly to and from taking their individual seeds back to sheltered spot to eat. The cardinal depends this morning on chickadee fumble, selection spillage, for his taking. Dove is content to sit still with slowing flakes accentuating its balance. Like tales of Shakers at worship behind dove determined oak leaves sway and quiver in northerly breeze.

Ultimately, I have found it meaningless to hold the yardstick of fact against the complexities of the human heart. Reality simply isn't large enough to hold us.(Epigraph quoting A. Manette Ansay, River Angel in Diane Schoemperlen's novel Our Lady of the Lost and Found A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship.)

The first line of the novel is, "Looking back on it now, I can see there were signs."

Watched the film "The Nightmare Years," William L. Shirer's account drawn from his Berlin Diary of the movement, sign by sign, the 3rd Reich made from Germany to Austria and France, to the Low Countries, to the bombing of Briton. Propaganda preceded invasions, protestations by the aggressor to being the victim enabling a confused populace to align with the hypothesis -- We're doing this for our own good, a defensive measure, we must strengthen our threatened identity.

Perhaps all war and all terror, within or between individuals, within or between countries -- have this aspect of protection and retaliation to secure a threatened identity. Whether or not we are that identity doesn't seem to matter once a threat to it occurs. On an individual level we begin to suspect after long loving looking that what we've considered to be "me" is a dubious construct the mind has fabricated to establish control. We are not what we seem to be. There are signs to that effect. In retrospect, if we care to, we can begin to see them.

Maybe that's what happened to Stephen whose feast was yesterday. He was singled out for scorn and held before some who knew better as someone whose truth was different from theirs. Truths that differ cause political and power turmoil. He was stoned and killed. Someone named Saul watched. Stephen asserted confidence in his union with Jesus and recognized the ignorance and unawareness of his murderers. Stark signs -- two men murdered for the truth they saw.

So many early martyrs for Jesus. So many contemporary martyrs for Osama, for Arafat, for Bush. Martyrs dying for their faith. Religion capitalizes faith until it becomes Faith. What is the faith the martyrs are willing to die for so others might live in a new reality? Are there similarities? What is our faith today -- not the proclamations of Faith with a capital "F" about exclusivity of power and divinity and the exclusive highborn roles that certain personages play in that Faith -- rather, what is the faith with small "f" that drives them and us to assert our confidence?

Is that longing, that faith: Equality under God? Love of neighbor, which means everyone? Unity of God? Care of the less fortunate, the sick, the misdirected? Respect for all life, all beings, all creation? Eminent ability to awaken for all men and women? Loving kindness and compassion toward each and all? Willingness to suffer with those who suffer? Readiness to serve when service is called for? Reluctance to kill? Unwillingness to deprive another of what is theirs? Trust that in our hearts dwells the strength and inspiration to transform our small opinions and beliefs into great and glorious revelations of grace? Finally, the courage and humility to understand without turning away that "I die and God dies!" when another is killed because their faith isn't spelled the same as another's?

Maybe Ansay is on to something, saying, "Reality simply isn't large enough to hold us." Mind-created reality, the reality resulting from fabricated opinions and beliefs, is often blinded to what its creator intends. What we call Reality (with a capital "R") itself might be equally blind to the intention of its Creator (with a capital "C.") If so, what are we left with?

Maybe we're left with signs of blindness, signs of uncaring actions, stark signs of murder and destruction in the name of things once held sacred but over time forgotten. What are we trying to remember? What are we left with that is beyond Faith and Reality?

Today is the feast of John, the prologue of whose Gospel can be read:
In the beginning the Word already was, it was at origin. And the Word was in intimate personal relationship, face to face, with God. And what God was, the Word was, not two, not other than.
[A personal reading helped by Detailed Exegetical Notes by W. Hall Harris, Ph.D. Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary. (]

Even now there are signs the writer of John saw something beyond our current conceptions of Faith and Reality. Will we continue to look? At origin, emptiness presents itself, holding us in sacred watchfulness. We can do this. We can begin here and now to be this.

Morning dove is gone from rope. Cardinal no longer under feeder. Barnestown road sounds wet with slush under tires. Many birds swoop for mid-morning feeding.
A day of joy for all!

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

It is today. It is here. What are we hoping for now?

Crunchy snow and frozen oak leaves underfoot on mountainside this morning after silent sitting at dawn. The ordinariness!

Sunlight through silent trees. Stepping of solitude on the trail. Curve and tumble of rushing brook falls with swell abandon down Ragged Mountain. The joy!

White birch, greeny fir, bare elm, lingering oak -- nothing stirring, nothing special -- just sound of water falling, feet stepping, sun climbing. The one after the other!

Returning to cushion, incense rising. Candle flame comes through the night. Inflection of resounding bell. Something long listened for, the coming of the Word, has leapt from the profound empty awayness of open space -- into the profound open nearness of every face, every thing. What hope!

"Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. Hope is not prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons." (--Vaclev Havel)

Christmas Haiku

Maybe Christ is no-w-
here found walking Ragged
path looking through each, all


The horizon, the boundary, is gone beyond. The Word has rooted Itself. Christ is born -- today!
Come, let us see the Word -- open today, here, with simplicity, silence, and service. may dismiss your servant
in peace, according to your word.
(Luke 2:29)

What are we? Perhaps we are this hope.

Monday, December 24, 2001

The invitatory verse of December 24th: Today you will know that the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see his glory.

We've waited long enough. We've suffered enough. East, West, North, South -- there is no need for inflicting any further suffering. We long for the word to be spoken. And when it is, there, it will all change. We will have said what needs to be said. As it is said, so is it done. When word is made flesh, it dwells in and through, around and among us.

And what is that word? Well you might ask! By asking, by making inquiry, by prayer -- the word is ever nearer. The word in hidden emptiness begins to form. The word in frightened ignorance takes shape. The word in silent solitude stays poised for emergence.
What is that word, now, what is that word!

Wording what is, the invitation to honor, awe, praise -- the revelation of the essential, ultimate, existential reality of what we call God --that wording will determine our fate, will unveil our true face.

It is time. That time is now. This is the place. That place is here. We wonder what will happen. We're not certain. So we hesitate one last time.

What is the word? What is the word! The movement from questioning to declaration is a matter of inflection. Inflection is a turning, bending, or curving. When applied to voice -- it is any change in tone or pitch. Applied to grammar -- it is the change of form of a word -- as in, to be changed by inflection.

The time is very near. Do not delay. Open your self. Open your mouth. Inflect yourself. Pronounce one's name.
On that day,
The branch of the Lord will be luster and glory, and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor for the survivors of Israel.
(Isaiah 4:2)
(Response, yes, time for response -- open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.)
The nations will revere your name, O Lord.
-- And the great ones of the earth will acknowledge your glory.
(Our Daytime Prayer)

We've waited long enough. We've suffered enough. It is time for word.

Word us, O Silence!
Inflect us, O Night!
Open us, O Holiness!
Reveal us, O Brightness!

We wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord.

It rains. The baker bakes. The wet dog dries on kitchen bed. A lone chickadee flies to bare branch, there breaking open seed. All is ready!

What are we to word?

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Bright sun on snow out window. Three more windows fitted into rough wood cabin yesterday by Paul and Jim. As someone observed "Its less a cabin with windows than windows with a cabin." Viennese potato soup makes its way mushroom by bacon, potato by celery into cauldron by Saskia in kitchen.

In the book On Essence (trans.c.1980 from Sobre La Esentia, c.1963) by Spanish philosopher Xavier Zubiri (1898-1983) A.Robert Caponigri writes in his introduction:
This most ancient and fundamental problem of western thought is simplicity itself; indeed, overwhelming in its simplicity but far more so in the profundity which this simplicity conceals. This problem is, in Zubiri's own words "el esfuerzo por entender el ultimo de las cosas", [i.e.] the effort to comprehend the first principle of things. This principle, whatever its character, is what is really real in itself and what, in turn, through the communication of itself, its "dar de si," is the source of all else that is real and that really is. The quest for this principle is philosophy. Its presence is the most distinguishing mark of western culture.

Where philosophy and the simplicity of human experience come together is in the meeting place of everyday reality. The snow on the kitchen roof, the dog's head on the blue pillowcase on the single bed, the pumpkin colored bowl alongside keyboard with leaning spoon where farina with chocolate, yogurt, and bananas filled not long ago -- these are all here, I see them, they are part of my field of experience that resounds Sunday morning in my awareness. I seem to know these things.

In their introduction to his life, the Xavier Zubiri Foundation of North America writes:
The fact is that an intrinsic priority of knowing over reality or reality over knowing is impossible. Knowing and reality are in their same root strictly and rigorously congeneric. There is no priority of one over the other. And this is true not simply because of de facto conditions of our investigations, but because of an intrinsic and formal condition of the very idea of reality and of knowing. Reality is the formal character—formality—according to which what is apprehended is something "in itself", something de suyo.

I like the phrasing, "what is apprehended is something 'in itself'."

This season is quiet for me. While the shop is busy there's a wider slower apprehending of a more intimate awareness of the beauty and love covering and emanating from each person entering or leaving. In the solitude that comes for me at Christmas there is a dropping away of the bustling exteriority of reconnection. In its place comes the simplicity of the fact of the reality we inhabit together, our congeneric presence -- that is, "of a kind together with," or as the Zen saying of it, not-two.

The fragrance of soup comes to this desk. Sando doesn't snore on the bed. The wind is not shaking the chimes. It is time to consider going in to open the bookshop/bakery. The meditation of embodiment and incarnation is upon us. First things first, and during, and at end.

One final word.
Reality, our awareness and seeing of what is, is a consideration of presentiation. It's a good word, "presentiate." It is defined in the O.E.D. with a twofold activity, namely, "to make or render present in place or time;" and, "to cease to be perceived or realized as present."

In a way, it does represent simplicity. Revealing and concealing are congeneric gifts of ours.
At Christmas, the word and the gift -- are ours to apprehend and comprehend.

Zubiri points to what Zen and Christ point to -- "what is really real in itself" -- and so do you and I.

Saturday, December 22, 2001

Yesterday at the Maine State Prison -- in the old, and soon to be demolished maximum security prison, for the last time this year -- a Meetingbrook Conversation with prisoners took place in the education department after a night of new snow. Nine of us sat around the round table: 3 from outside, 6 from inside. The reading piece was from John Riker's Human Excellence and the Ecological Conception of the Psyche, his chapter on Basic Needs, specifically of the ten he lists, the need for Sacredness.

Whether the roundtable view was from Quaker, Pagan, Christian, Ethicist, Curmudgeon, Baker, Buddhist, Poet, Cell-mate, Optimist, Near-Death'er, or Pencil-sharpening visitor -- there was a profound willingness to read, speak, share poem, laugh, or ruminate the implications of Riker's words:
A person who has been touched by sacredness has two traits that are absent from those whose lives are grounded in the secular: thankfulness and peace. These characteristics are tonal qualities that infuse the entirety of a person's way of acting, feeling, and thinking. Thankfulness is dwelling in the memory of the world and self as gift. ...Thankfulness is a state that transvalues all values without hostility or rebellion. Peacefulness is a state of fully accepting the world and ourselves as we are.

Alfred North Whitehead's words on peace were contained in the chapter:
(Peace) is a positive feeling which crowns the "life and motion" of the soul. It is hard to define and difficult to speak of. ...Its first effect is the removal of the stress of acquisitive feeling arising from the soul's preoccupation with itself. Thus Peace carries with it a surpassing of personality.

Chris asks and answers his own question: "Why have thankfulness and peace? To be icons. To be icons that teach and are a moral guideline for all."

Brendan says, "Each blooms in their own certain time. A handicapped person can't run a hundred yard dash; but maybe their highest 'bloom' is not kicking the dog."

Paco says, "The gift is not to teach or try to give someone what you've found. But you see it in some people. They simply emanate peace and calm. If I try to spread it, I taint it. The divine is love, so, you love. You just are it, there, with others. Like the child -- he loves because he loves."

Kevin says the child sees what is real.

We become adults. What the child we were has seen, and what the child we are now sees -- we easily forget. We forget so much. How do we invite what we've forgotten back into the open?

Sonny says, "By conversation."
"Sangha," says Brendan. "Community," says Dick.

"Poetry," says silence in Andre's eyes.

We will continue this in the New Year, in the new prison, in the new revelation of what is now for each of us with this.

What is this?

We'll have to see what child is this!

Thursday, December 20, 2001

"I am the glory of God" is the koan given by John Eudes to Henry Nouwen in Genesee Diary. Saskia is presenting the Wednesday Evening Conversation topic "The Glory of God" this last Wednesday before Christmas. She is reflecting on her retreat at the Trappist monastery. David, in an equivocal laconic aside, says "When you say there's a little bit of God in you, you're full of it." We delight in the possibilities of his wording. He quotes Joseph Campbell about our coming out of the earth, not being thrown here from anywhere else.

Judith reminds that we are made in God's image and likeness, we are reflections of the original, and the image cannot be separated from the original. Susan tells of a dream she had wherein the virgin Mary was seen, then entered her and wrapped herself around Susan's heart. She felt unconditional love and joy -- and the insight that this love had nothing to do with "deserving or undeserving." Rather the experience that "I am the glory of God" is an acceptance we are of God and manifest God's glory, the expression, the praise, the beauty, the very fact of what we are, what God is.

Seth asks "Does it imply I have to do something that I'm not doing? Or is it like the crabapple tree in spring -- we're the glory of God?" But we think, he says, that we're a worm sometimes. Someone wondered whether a worm being a worm is also the glory of God, as beaver being beaver are. To a crabapple a worm is dinner guest.

Thursday Christian Contemplative Studies takes a night off from the regular book and returns to Nouwen's koan. Forrest tells of a book about Jesus and the death of meaning, how the Jewish sensory and Greek rational strengths are both befuddled by the death of the messiah, the stumbling block of the cross. "To faith" something is to extend beyond the boundaries of sensory or rational reliance.

Like the Zen card Jonathan sent this morning of a snowman wearing a Buddhist rakusu (a vest-like robe) in mountainous terrain with the words "Merry Satori," we decide tonight that "to faith" might be transliterated into merry satori -- that is, joyous emptying and seeing.

As fine an explication of the mystery of the incarnation, and as glorious a Christmas wish as there might be -- A joyous emptying and seeing to us all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Last evening the snow and sleet didn’t keep many away from Buddhist studies. In the fireplace one log breaks from itself and falls to the side. Saskia silently reaches in with poker to assist the return of each part to the flame as we speak of the 1st Mindfulness Training as reformulated by Thich Nhat Hanh:
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

Sando, who had been a frightened clinging dog all day following Saskia’s 360 degree slide in the van just down from Oak Hill cemetery (no hit, no harm, but for nerves), finally came to rest in the confines of the circle as Tom invited us to “hold the silence” as we began the first hour.

This morning, bright sun on snow, another quote:
Several students came to Bassui with the practice of calling on the names of savior Buddhas like Jizo. With great patience, he explained to them that ji means “earth” and zo means “storehouse,” or mind nature. Then he urged them to realize that all the names of the Bodhisattvas are just different names for the nature of the Mind. Ordinary people, being unaware of this truth, become attached to the names, and in the hope of attaining Buddhahood, seek the Buddha and the Dharma outside of their own minds. It’s like cooking sand in the hope of producing rice. The true nature of the Dharma body of ordinary people is everywhere teaching of the many creations that come from it. All sermons of the Buddha are only metaphors pointing to the minds of ordinary people.
- - Bassui (1338-1500) -(from

We spoke from that circle:
Having a compost toilet, said Jean, has taught her to be responsible for her own shit.
Betty Ann wondered whether the phrase “May I be happy” wasn’t a desire that caused unhappiness? Muriel noted where and when she felt happy today and where and when she didn't.
What if happiness was our true home, and the awareness that we are not at home causes us to long for that true home, that's when we express the longing to return to that path of true home. Robin read the wording from the Saltzberg book, “...wish as homing instinct for freedom.” Tom said whichever path he was on the cultivating of mindfulness applied. Nancy said it might be a similar path, but different place of origin. Sarah said at end she was staying in Maine this Christmas -- not making the far pilgrimage to Pennsylvania home, then upper New York State wider family home.
Barbara said the silence and peace of the evening felt like happiness.

Betty Ann said the path is the thing, the precepts aren’t the thing. Another added, so too the commandments – they’re not the be-all and end-all or stopping point – rather the lived reality of God is the path, the pointing reality. Robin said its like the finger pointing to the moon – the moon is the thing. “Thing” here refers to our direction, our path, perhaps – our ordinary mind. In our culture there’s more focus on destination, not enough on path. It is harder yet to consider that path and destination are not two things. Path is destination; destination is path. Of what soil, what earth, is that path comprised?

When we seek outside our own minds we might just be out of our mind, in someone else's, but not where no-mind is the path.

Author Eckhart Tolle says that by stopping the mind (from its incessant forays to past and future) time stops. There is only now.
Now, and ordinary mind, are not two things. Now, path, God, ordinary mind -- Not four things?

One thing doesn’t produce another. Cook sand, get cooked sand. Cook rice, get cooked rice. Who has the pot, and what is the flame?

Everyone likes Thay's use of the word “cultivate.” It appears a gentler more accessible word than the words "command" or "reprimand." If a Zen poet were to redo the Ten Commandments, would we better understand the path they offer? When teachings become acculturated rather than cultivated they have to be dug up and looked at fresh. Seen anew, then, back to the soil of our soul. Back to the path of the minds of ordinary people. Back home to all dwelling there, wherever we find ourselves each day, any day, even Christmas.

Nameless and present we move through our origin recognizing each one, each path. The burning flame of our attention, as Delia said of the log in the fireplace, transforms us on the way.

Sunday, December 16, 2001

Just before Compline, while still at table, Seth says, “It’s because we’re afraid we won’t be cared for.” He finishes the conversation at Sunday Evening Practice.

Before the conversations, from the two readings that followed sitting meditation:
1. "Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow nor reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span?…Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself." (Matt.6:26,27; 34)

2. “You’ll know you’re among the people of your culture if the food is all owned, and if it’s all under lock and key.”
“Hmm,” I said. “It’s hard to imagine it being any other way.”
“But of course it once was another way. It was once no more owned than the air or the sunshine are owned. I’m sure you must realize that.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“You seem unimpressed, Julie, but putting food under lock and key was one of the great innovations of your culture. No other culture in history has ever put food under lock and key – and putting it there is the cornerstone of your economy.”
“How is that?” I asked. “Why is it the cornerstone?”
“Because, if the food wasn’t under lock and key, Julie, who would work?”
(p.39, My Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn)

Are we turning to a new understanding of our new communal relationship each to each in this world? Or, are we returning to how we originally were when dependence on God – or self-giving nature – was common?
Is the fear of our culture that, really, we are not cared for -- not by neighbor, not by larger community, not even by God? Is it fear that makes the norm insurance, lawsuits, corporate medical management, savings and investments? Is there any correlation between trust and faith in God and carefree and fearless life that doesn’t hoard, own, protect, and charge the dearest price for the necessities of living?

Earlier in the shop, Tom, on the way to his art gallery, spoke of noticing that Jesus expresses forgiveness “for they know not what they do” while they were doing what they were doing. That, and the fact that the prayer he taught, the Our Father, is in the present tense. “This day,” “those who trespass,” “deliver us,” – all now, all in the moment. Contemporaneous awareness of compassion.

Sando and Mini come to this room. Mini licks my hand as I write. Sando jumps on the bed. Chimes under cedar tree toll rapidly in cold wind. Saskia and mother, Erika, ready baked goods for mom's travel back home.

If we change, if we care, will our culture change? Or is caring, caring without filling our barns with surplus under lock and key, is that caring something that places one outside the culture – the culture of worry, collection, tomorrow and yesterday?

We pray in meditation room -- A quiet night. A peaceful death.
Practicing this life. Sounding bell. Extinguishing candle. Bowing to cross, to wood Buddha. Doing dishes.

Can we forgive each other now?

Saturday, December 15, 2001

I visit the monastic desert of the maximum-security prison. It is Advent. Harold speaks of his life before and since his near-death experience. He says we're all an integral part of God. He says that there are fundamentalists who emotionally hijack Islam and Christianity, who demand a separating and hateful discrimination against those who don't believe what they believe.

He says that God wishes to enter this world, through us -- so that we might enter heaven with God. Jesus, he says, has much more to teach -- this time, and all times -- if we'd allow him out of the cultural and conceptual box we keep him. He says what is needed is perceptual freedom -- the personal expression of each person's spiritual intuition. In the meditation and silence of this work, we come to the love of understanding. He says that's what God is -- love of understanding. There's no discrimination with God.

I visit this monastic desert for the silence and meditation of our conversation. Harold surprises himself, and me, with what he is saying. Visit heaven, he says, and you speak this way.

At Lectio this morning at the hermitage, Matthew's words of Jesus: "Go tell John what you hear and see..."(Matt.11:5). This resounds with the invitation to listen and watch -- in one's own way -- then share with a safe community of attentive and appreciative friends -- what it is you hear and see. And I hear Harold's insight in the next verse, "And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me." (Matt.11:6)

With tea and coffee after Lectio, Saskia, Erika, Delia, Jim and I listen to the sound of our invisible guest from his monastery -- his longing to communicate -- that freedom can’t be created for or given to anybody. It comes from us. Our task is not to earn it, but realize it.

Someone prepares the way, as John did. Someone realizes the way, as Jesus did. Someone holds both these to the light and bows, with respect, to their work -- then gets on to their own expression of this good work. What work? The work of realizing the freedom of one's own expression of spiritual intuition -- with love, with understanding and with love-of-understanding.

This monastic practice helps proceed in peace -- in and out of prison – with prayer for each traveling their own way.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

This is not about Hamas; this is not about Al Qaeda. This is about you and me. This is about the question -- Could you or I place a bomb under a bus and then shoot people who try to run away from the fire? If inclined to say --No! -- consider the possibility that you and I are just that right now. This consideration is not about complicity and guilt; neither is it about psychological empathy nor imagination. It is about fact; it is about right now.

Eckhart Tolle's book Practicing the Power of Now is being read every other Wednesday Evening Conversation. In chapter 2, read last evening, he writes:
Have you ever experienced, done, thought, or felt anything outside the Now? Do you think you ever will? Is it possible for anything to happen or be outside the Now? The answer is obvious, is it not?
Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing will ever happen in the future; it will happen in the Now.
The essence of what I am saying here cannot be understood by the mind. The moment you grasp it, there is a shift in consciousness from mind to Being, from time to presence. Suddenly everything feels alive, radiates energy, emanates Being.

Titmouse and chickadee stop on wire outside window before flying to feeder hanging from discarded ski pole extending from side of house. It rains. Water visits, well received.
One of the arguments we are not interconnected is we do not feel what the other feels. I wonder if this is our great delusion. The illusion is that we are disconnected. We don't feel what is taking place because we are not dwelling in the Now. Our minds keep us dispersed and distracted, going from past to future, constantly diverting us from our true home. That home is Here. That home is Now. We don't feel what and who we are because we are never at home. No one is there to feel. Our busy and worrisome minds are a perpetual travel itinerary sending us out into ten thousand amusements and ports of other illusory fears dressed and disguised as self-identity, roles, and beliefs. If we were ever to return home for even an instant to the Now, we would stop, smile, laugh, turn, watch, listen, and cry.

Earlier Tolle writes:
Here is the key: End the delusion of time. Time and mind are inseparable. Remove time from the mind and it stops -- unless you chose to use it.
To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation. This creates an endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honor and acknowledge the present moment and allow it to be. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions.

I remember hearing that our central nervous system plays the important function of allowing in to our consciousness only one or two things (feelings, energies) at a time. Essentially it keeps us from experiencing everything at once. There is a sequential admittance that occurs -- so as not to be overloaded, overwhelmed, and paralyzed by the input. (Much like the "freezing" of computers when over-tasked.) That's a good thing at, some would say, the current stage or structure of our consciousness. Perhaps we're not yet able to receive all that is there to receive.

It is for me, in prayer and meditation, a curious possibility -- to actually be there, be here, now. This possibility does not mean being isolated and in a trance-like bliss. Nor does it mean being taken over by God in a protective bubble and ceasing to exist in this current reality. Rather, this possibility places me squarely in the fact of existence -- with all its joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, facts and feelings. Squarely there. Present.

With one additional observation, namely, I am there as a transforming presence, a healing and compassionate presence. I am not a reactive, retaliatory force, nor am I a passive disinterested bystander. I am there, the possibility suggests, as who and what I am. And if I am there, fully there, I will do what is there to do. I will feel what is there to feel.

Retribution, revenge, prevention, elimination, making sure (as if that were possible) that no one ever again does mindless, hurtful things -- "righting" the world according to their religious belief system, "securing" the world according to their political belief system. These things, while arguably rational steps in a disturbing world disorder, do not have the same power as returning to our true home with true presence. At times I feel that there is not a great battle waging between good and evil, but that the real struggle is between presence and absence. We are mostly absent. We long for presence. Awakening, returning to the Now, admitting God as "I AM" -- these expressions of the possibility of Being-Here have greater attraction than any campaign -- military, political, religious, or economic.

The kicker, and not an insignificant one, is that this possibility entails suffering. We don't know what suffering is, or how to suffer with joy. Some have tried to teach us. But until we enter the presence of Now we will not learn the expansive consolation and compassion that Here awaits us. This possibility somehow cheers me.

It is not by closing your eyes that you see your own nature. On the contrary, you must open your eyes wide and wake up to the real situation in the world to see completely your whole Dharma Treasure, your whole Dharma Body. The bombs, the hunger, the pursuit of wealth and power - these are not separate from your nature….You will suffer, but your pain will not come from your own worries and fears. You will suffer because of your kinship with all beings, because you have the compassion of an awakened one, a Bodhisattva. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Better than a thousand
Hollow words
Is one word that brings peace.
Better than a thousand
Hollow verses
Is one verse that brings peace.
Better than a hundred
Hollow lines
Is one line of the law,
Bringing peace.
It is better to
Conquer yourself
Than to win a thousand battles.
Then the victory is yours.

- The Dhammapada (from

Here in hermit room this morning. Mini undercover on my chest when I wake. Sando bedside licks my hand. Saskia jingles bells at door bringing oatmeal with yogurt and walnuts from her kitchen. Dogs bark from next dooryard. Windchimes toll. Sun on windowframe. Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Juan Diego's tilma (cloak) has opened, flowers fall from an other geography, and a beautiful image of the Aztec princess who identifies herself as the Virgin Mother of Jesus is imprinted on it. Seeing, they say, is believing.

Jacket notes to Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment say: "The theme of this profound work is that man's crimes against man are paid for through suffering, and only by the acceptance of suffering can he find salvation and purification." (c.1959, Dell)

In Thomas Merton, Cornelia and Irving Sussman write about Merton's views in the 1960s:
As usual, Thomas Merton could not run with the pack. "For my own part, I consider myself neither an extreme conservative nor an extreme progressive. I would like to think I am what Pope John [23rd] was -- a progressive with a deep respect and love for tradition."
But if he had to choose, he would choose the extreme progressives over the reactionaries because the reactionaries were fanatically incoherent, and he never sensed in the extreme progressives "the chilling malice and meanness which comes through in some of the utterances of extreme conservatives."
Buddhist monks told Thomas Merton that the same conflicts were going on in Buddhism. These stresses and strains within his own communion gave Father Louis a deeper comprehension of Buddhist renewal.
"This new Buddhism is not immersed in an eternal trance. Nor is it engaged in a fanatical self-glorying quest for political power. It is not remote and withdrawn from the sufferings of ordinary men [and women] and their problems in a world of revolution. It seeks to help them...."
(pp.145,6) [brackets added]

In the story from Mexico, tradition has The Lady saying consoling words to Juan Diego which have come down to us through the years since 1531:
Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or affliction, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of hope? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?

Our need, now and always, is for one unmanipulative word, verse, one unmanipulated line of the law that brings peace. It is ourselves -- our true self -- we need to conquer, non-violently and with lovingkindness.
The first meaning of the word "conquer" is defined as , " seek for, search for, procure..., attain to, to acquire by effort." (OED). To conquer is to ask for and seek together what we long to see.

To find what and who we truly are is to move through suffering to an acceptance and letting go of what is found. It is a chilling course to hunt down and put to death that and those considered enemy. These may have more to tell us about who we are than we seem willing to accept. It is not sufficient to be right, being right is irrelevant. Eradicating wrong is an insufficient promise. We cannot eliminate who and what we are -- but we can invite and enter into a flowering and transforming deeper consciousness -- the seeing of which is love. Consequently, it is better to drink from a fountain of hope, and offer healing water to the rest of us who deeply thirst for freedom, benevolent justice, and yes, the love our true self invites here. Here is so lovely, wherever here is! And here we are.

At Buddhist studies last night, a sentence in For a Future to be Possible from Annabel Laity, "We follow a path that we know from our direct experience brings happiness."
Later, during the hour on metta, a talking stone went hand to hand. Out of the silence came Charlotte's voice, "I don't believe in killing!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

The quote from dailyzen is perfect today:
Though I think not
To think about it,
I do think about it
And shed tears
Thinking about it.

-- Ryokan (1758-1831)

Saskia leads the way up center path passing cabin, site for chapel, rusted '38 Buick, under pine boughs to bend in brook coming down Ragged mountain there turning east to tumble into rising sun. In hand she carries wooden box with ashes & bones of Kotoba our Belgian shepherd, since Feb 2000 resting in meditation room, now being brought to earth by brook to lay near Norwegian elkhound Jitai buried there in April '93.

Erika follows with psalm books. Sando and Vera bounce alongside with sticks in mouth for the simple ceremony. I bring vigil lantern to be lighted at burial site. From next dooryard Daisy and Welby bark their choral processional from their enclosure. Chickadee stay behind at feeder's return outside kitchen window.

To earth falls Koto! Yellow and red tugboat toy is placed with her. Snow, which she loved so much, joins her. Some leaves, then the good earth fills the space she will stay. Sando's and Vera's sticks are laid in form of cross on fresh earth. Sando returns to the stick and the earth where Koto now dwells and plays one more time with her dear friend before stepping off. Lantern is lighted and set next to cairn on sloping hill. Brook speaks whispers of welcome as it falls over stone & around felled branches.

We chant the psalm "Like a deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is longing for you my God" (Ps.42) and read from Nan Merrill's companion renderings of "Hear my prayer, O Merciful One; let my cry come to you!" (Ps.102), and "Praise the Beloved! Praise be to you in earth's sanctuary..." (Ps.150). Hands together, we bow to the reverence she has shown.

With gratitude for this dog, this "Kotoba" (petal fallen from flower), we bow again, wash linen shroud in brook, and return down path with two dogs bouncing, two dogs barking recessional, and three humans in silent joy and wonder at how valuable we are each to each this Tuesday returning to earth.

Monday, December 10, 2001

Thomas Merton, Trappist monk, born 1915, died this date in 1968. War raged then; war rages now. And with war, death. Some 3300 (estimated to date) dead in September 11 terror attacks in the United States; some 3700 (estimated to date) dead in post-September 11 bombing in Afghanistan. And these, civilians. Another undeclared war. We grieve for the deaths, all of them.

Thomas Merton, monk and hermit, was willing to speak to those unpopular voices opposing the war in his time. In their book, Thomas Merton (Image Books, Rev.Ed.c.1980), by Cornelia and Irving Sussman, (a book summarized for the Library of Congress as "A biography of the Trappist monk and Zen mystic who gained fame as a writer, social critic, and radical peace activist.) -- the Sussman's write:

Many of the Movement People were baffled when he spoke of such things as "purity" in their non-violent action, and detachment from results and said that: "We must act only because the act itself is true and expresses the truth... as for results: truth needs only to be manifested. It can take care of itself." But their bafflement was no greater than that of some of the religious who also did not understand when he compared the monks at prayer to atom bombs. The monks were bombs stored in silos -- as death bombs were stored in silos, so monks were life-bombs stored in silos. "These are the monks of the twentieth century: the fellows cloistered in the bomb silo, with their communal life, their silence, their austerity, their separation from the world." They dug into the earth to find the sources of life as the bombs of death dug into the earth with the power of death.
He told them (the contemplatives): "Whatever I may have written, I think it can all be reduced in the end to this one root truth: that God calls human persons to union with Himself and with one another in Christ, in the Church, which is his Mystical Body. It is also a witness to the fact that there is, and must be, in the Church a contemplative life which has no other function than to realize these mysterious things, and return to God all the thanks and praise that human hearts can give Him."
This was why prayer was of the essence, and becoming a hermit was of the essence. All had to go together.

Merton saw and understood the separation and the union. With war, death. With prayer, life. Sometimes prayer is witnessing bodies of the dead. Sometimes prayer is witnessing bodies of the living. Practicing Catholic Zen we are practicing union with God, a practice with no other function than to realize and return to life.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

Wording Our Way
These three promises, Contemplation, Conversation, Correspondence were first spoken publicly 3 years ago on December 10, 1998. We choose this time each year (December 8,9,10) in that it corresponds with the shared feast on 8December of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Buddha’s Enlightenment Day; 9December is Blessed Juan Diego’s feast; and 10Decmber is the anniversary of Thomas Merton’s death in 1968. . These are promises we hold here at Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage as, what we call, “monastics of no other, (m.o.n.o.).” We speak them again tonight for the 4th time:

1. Contemplation is the promise of simplicity.It is a gift of poverty inviting open waiting, receptive trust, attention, and watchful presence. It is a simple Being-With.
It is attentive presence.

2. Conversation is the promise of integrity. It is a chaste and complete intention to listen and speak, lovingly and respectfully, with each and all made present to us. It is a wholeness of listening and speaking.
It is root silence.

3. Correspondence is the promise of faithful engagement. It is responsible attention and intention offered obediently to the Source of all Being, to the Human Family, to Nature. It is a faithful engagement with all sentient beings, with this present world, with existence with all its needs & joys, sorrows & hope.
It is transparent service.

I will hold these promises. I will pray these promises. I will practice these promises.

MeetingbrookDogen & FrancisHermitage invites & welcomes anyone interested in the practice of these 3 promises in their life to reflect on them. Whether the interest is in conversing, praying, deepening, learning, or even holding these 3 promises, we invite anyone to enter the inquiry and stillness. Our invitation is to reflect on these promises in the hermitage of your own heart, or wherever the longing to be alone with the Alone occurs.
May the loving light and the compassionate peace of the Christ and the Bodhisattva accompany and support the efforts of each one of us!

. ………………………………………………………………..
1. We are going to have to create a new language of prayer. (Thomas Merton, Calcutta 1968)
2. When you go apart to be alone for prayer…see that nothing remains in your consciousness mind save a naked intent stretching out toward God. Leave it stripped of every particular idea about God (what he is like in himself or in his works) and keep only the awareness that he is as he is. Let him be thus, I pray you, and force him not to be otherwise. (Anonymous)
3. It is not by closing your eyes that you see your own nature. On the contrary, you must open your eyes wide and wake up to the real situation in the world to see completely your whole Dharma Treasure, your whole Dharma Body. The bombs, the hunger, the pursuit of wealth and power - these are not separate from your nature….You will suffer, but your pain will not come from your own worries and fears. You will suffer because of your kinship with all beings, because you have the compassion of an awakened one, a Bodhisattva. (Thich Nhat Hanh)
4. He who truly attains awakening knows that deliverance is to be found right where he is. There is no need to retire to the mountain cave. If he is a fisherman he becomes a real fisherman. If he is a butcher he becomes a real butcher. The farmer becomes a real farmer and the merchant a real merchant. He lives his daily life in awakened awareness. His every act from morning to night is his religion. (Sokei-an)

Fragrance of bread and semmels comes upstairs. Eggplant, leek, & tomato soup simmers -- with spicy Italian sausage added separately for non-vegetarians. An Apfel Kuchen waits for oven. Erika and Vera arrive. Erika peels apples. Vera looks longingly at door for walk. Mini peers from desk waiting for me to vacate her chair. First snow whitens woodpile and rough wood cabin. Jim brought two more windows-in-casing from Paul last night.

Tonight we pronounce for the 4th time at December 10th the three promises we've formulated for our life and practice at Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage. The wording will take place within our Sunday Evening Practice. The promises contain several expressions of our core longings at the hermitage -- and whether they are expressed in one or the other set of threes, the promises help us remain faithful to the gracious call we hear:

-- Contemplation, Conversation, Correspondence
-- Simplicity, Integrity, Faithful Engagement
-- Poverty, Chastity, Obedience
-- Attentive Presence, Root Silence, Transparent Service

We pray that all beings might benefit by these promises. But mostly, for the gift of life and our life, it is gratitude we feel.
Gott sei Dank!

Saturday, December 08, 2001

Mary, it is said, knew no other. She knew no other God. She knew no other man. She found herself open and she knew enough to recognize there wasn't anything that wasn't her. This was disconcerting. When she ate bread, she was bread. When she drank water, she was water. When she sat on a stony ledge looking out at the distant mountain, she was where she sat and what she saw. It was always that way for her. From her birth there was no barrier to her understanding who she was. There was no separation, no veil, no impediment. Mary didn't know sin -- she embodied no conception of anything other than what it truly is. She became God's presenting openness.

Siddhartha Gautama, it is said, woke up. He stayed put, finally, under a tree. Where was there to go? So, he didn't. He found himself open under the tree. All through the night, finally, the morning star. He saw it. And that was that. There he was. When milk came there was milk. When daylight came there was daylight. When he was asked if he was ok -- there he was, ok. This was new. No dusty road of illusory opinions. No extremes of opulence or asceticism. He found himself in the middle of what was right there. He didn't know -- not this, not that -- he saw. There he was, Buddha enlightened. Now he was what he saw, what was there. He became Reality's awakened presence.

Mother Mary's opening conception, and, Buddha Siddhartha's waking enlightenment -- what lovely remembrance sharing the same day! This December 8, what lovely family encouraging us on our way!

Friday, December 07, 2001

Last night's conversation, reading from Putting on the Mind of Christ, by Jim Marion:
The Dark Night of the Soul is the central mystery in the evolution of human consciousness on this planet. ...Once human consciousness begins to move beyond the bounderies of human personality (and, by definition therefore, beyond spacetime and spacetime language), the multi-dimensional world that begins to come into view can only be glimpsed "through a glass darkly" as St. Paul said (1 Cor. 13:12). [p.118]

A Meetingbrook meditation: Placing Christ

1. Christ is the passage of God-Life.
2. When longing calls for God-Life -- Christ, the passage, deepens.
3. Christ is the uncreated way.
4. With Christ, creation passes through God-Life.
5. To Breathe this passage is prayer.
6. This is the gift of Spirit.
7. This is our passage.

Finally, some humor from the shop:

Coffee counter encounter, a poem

Pat from Woodfield
came in to the shop,
wearing dark glass sunshield
(luckily she didn't flop)

she picked a dark blue cup
poured organic coffee at the round
which splattered and flew up
she had it upside down

"uh oh, oh well," she said
turning to get a napkin
her face a little red
"bottom's up!" (but what a din!)

Thursday, December 06, 2001

An Inquiry of Hermits: A Meetingbrook meditation of seventeen passing reflections --

1. Hermitage is a way of life practicing contemplation, conversation, & correspondence.
2. In silence and solitude we listen and watch for ourselves.
3. Hermits do not seek company.
4. Hermits do not seek emptiness -- they do not seek God, or self, or Being.
5. Hermits are alone.
6. Hermits gather nothing and no other -- and present this to all.
7. Hermits know nothing of God.
8. Hermits pray -- their prayer is listening.
9. The posture for prayer is the human body.
10. Prayer is being present to what is.
11. God is what is listening to prayer.
12. To pray always is to remember God.
13. What is God?
14. God is prayer itself.
15. What am I? Better to ask when you are at prayer.
16. Hermits pray that God at prayer remembers what is present.
17. All other questions will not be answered by hermits.

How curious we are! What we ask when alone is heard by the Alone. This inquiry makes love possible.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Soup pot on gas flame, the kitchen fills with sauteing leeks, onion, and eggplant, garlic, fresh basil.

At Mass this morning the parable included the words: there were seven loaves, ...and they ate." If we humans are the addition to whatever things that are there before us, then, perhaps the miracle is what we are willing to do with what is there before us. Where there is seven there is eight. On the stairway wall at the hermitage is a Zen saying: Seven times down, eight times up. At a Zen center years ago Bobbie wondered to me over soup whether the Zen Master had a problem with arithmetic -- it didn't add up, down seven up eight. Was this a test? I wondered. I answered that it all depends where you begin, doesn't it?

Seven down, eight up -- the prostrations of praise and humility. Seven loaves and they ate -- the human arithmetic of heaven's compassion. How feed those who hunger for food, for freedom, for peace? Maybe, if we've forgotten something we once understood, we might begin again. What have we forgotten? Where do others end and we begin?

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

The Zen poet Ryoken wrote some lines that might apply to a lot of things, one of them, -- loving life now:
If we gain something it was there from the beginning.
If we lose something it is hidden nearby.

The attempt to control, whether through violence or law, has little to do with love. Love is releasing control, dropping the reins of enslavement and self-will. Love lets go any claim of ownership and control -- inviting us into the strong-version, fire-thought, exacting-test the Zen Master imprints on our freedom -- to follow the call of life whenever it asks us to commit ourselves to what is true.. And what is true? That question -- like prayer -- is what is being called for right now!

Dick points out the 1st rule of metta practice is to love yourself. Tom says that the 1st step of 12 is to admit that your life is out of control. He claims the several reminders of that fact for him have been "a glorious wash, not a violent thunderstorm." The Buddhist studies evening looking at the 5 Wonderful Mindfulness Trainings -- one end of the bookends.

The other bookend, elsewhere, a few miles away, a meeting based on the question/phrase "What Matters Now..." -- the midcoast community looking at how to encounter and respond to the teen suicides these recent months.

Susan leads the study/practice group so well on Tuesday evenings. She leads a guided meditation found in Thich Nhat Hanh's The Blooming of a Lotus: Guided Meditation Exercises for Healing and Transformation. In this meditation on looking deeply and healing, Thay suggests we invite our fears into consciousness, welcome them, and they'll grow weaker under the light of consciousness. Breathing in I realize I am getting old; breathing out I see there is no escape. Breathing in I know I will die; breathing out I know there is no escape. In, there is the abandoning of what I cherish; out, no escape. Breathing in I realize my actions are my only true possessions; breathing out I know there is no escape from consequences. In, I'm determined to live my days in mindfulness; out, I see joy. In, I offer my joy to my beloved; out, I try to ease the pain of my beloved.

There's a Tibetan Buddhist understanding of renunciation (noted in Lovingkindness ) that helps: renunciation is accepting what comes into our lives, and letting go what leaves our lives. Desirelessness, or detachment, means to be very full, alive, open. The energetic manifestation of desirelessness is love. Allow change, practice generosity, develop gratitude, -- and by simplifying, know what we need to be happy in a spontaneous and natural way.

Su-Sane says that dirt is life in process -- there's a need to be patient with the dirt. Nancy (saying she's "beyond vague") tells that she's letting go of the idea that she'll change the world, and in its place a strong sense of community grows. "I can rest back, trusting another will be there in my place -- there's contentment, despite a sense of crisis in our world," she says. Delia relates that the weatherman on public radio said this morning that "its a tranquil day, and tomorrow there's another one coming." This observation, along with her refusal to pick up the discouraging newspapers, gave her courage for the day.

The thought of suicide, like all thoughts and emotions, is a passing thought. It doesn't need to be acted on -- this is something we need to watch and wait with for understanding, the young and the old of us. The thought of suicide comes to many of us. It can pass on without us -- without our grasping or controlling it -- and it will pass. Renunciation is not getting stuck -- what comes, comes; what goes, goes. Our job, our practice, is to come back, re-enter the now, not try to do it all ourself. What was there in the beginning is hiding nearby. We pray that what we do here will assist what they do there. In each place there is a commitment to community -- you can book on it.

Book now, love life -- there's no ending it!

Monday, December 03, 2001

On daybed in kitchen this evening Sando has respiratory spell. Earlier on, during morning meditation-walk by Hosmer Pond, she threw up several times drawing our attention as Saskia and I sat in cold but clear toboggan chute looking over first soft red strokes of sun on water . This afternoon Sando lay in leaves by cabin as we complete cutting, fitting, and screwing-in drywall at end peak. She is a sweet dog. The vet has her on medications. She's asleep now behind me in the silence of her sweetness.

I meant to write about our last walk.
We had nothing to do but gaze--

(-Robert Lowell, in poem "Last Walk?")

We sang Lauds at an empty Our Lady of Good Hope this morning -- except for Tommy who sat in the back pew as we prayed with all the invisible souls wishing to reside in the praise of Christ for Father and Spirit. Tommy would be off to the hospital where wife Susan begins to remember and recover from Saturday's automobile accident that splintered her lower leg and traumatized chest and lungs. Tommy says he's learning the requirements of TLC, heretofore only an elective in his studies.

Wounds break open a secret we keep enclosed within ourselves --namely -- there is only this breath, and this one, and this breath. When we're broken open we notice simple life breathe. One breath at a time. One breath each time. What a gift!

A great gift -- to walk with each other and watch...

Sunday, December 02, 2001

At Sunday Evening Practice a reading from Illuminated Life, Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light, by Joan Chittister, chapter on Faith, a story:
Abba Doulas, the disciple of Abba Bessarion, said: When we were walking along the sea one day, I was thirsty, so I said to Abba Bessarion, "Abba, I am very thirsty," Then the old man prayed and said to me, "Then drink from the sea." And the water was sweet when I drank it. So I poured it into a flask so that I would not be thirsty later. Seeing this, the old man asked me, "Why are you doing that?" And I answered, "So that I won't be thirsty later on." Then the old man said, "God is here and God is everywhere." (p.44)

After ten minutes of silence and Hungarian mushroom gulyas soup following the reading, we spoke at Janet's table.
"What is being called for right now," we agreed, "is prayer."

Earlier in the afternoon, while flute, guitar, harmonicas, and voices played and sang at the shop, Joanie gave Sando a new purple bandana, the color of Advent.

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Lovely rain, wells fill, mist fog climbs Bald mtn. Mixing bowl hums. Sando on daybed snoozes from her wheezing. Lectio over, Advent readings -- why is the Son of Man likened to a thief? What's being taken from us that we don't need?
Saskia back from retreat. Jim drives in, turns around, drives out. Saturday morning at hermitage. Temperatures to 65 this afternoon. Welcome December!

At Friday Evening Poetry Annie reads of Rumanian father's leaving his homeland -- the beauty and melancholic gasp of Carpathian departure! Dick reads an Annie Dilliard usual lovely descriptive. Then there was Merton's poem on Eichmann read by Jim; Annie's response recitation of an Auden poem; and then Hafiz, Nye, and Robert Lax (on his birthday), plus retreat journal entries and other poems.

We wondered whether a land that has known much sorrow and bloodshed is willing to show its beauty to just anyone.

Imagine the land veiling itself to eyes seeking only evidence of strife and desolation, showing them only what they look for; then, that same land revealing itself unveiled in its hidden loveliness only to those eyes that look at it openly with compassion, showing them what they look at without any other intention or purpose. We wondered whether we do the same -- if not ready for beauty, we see and show only pain, fear, and destruction. Perhaps poetry is finding beauty in a person or place -- as a gift given only to those allowing another to show themselves -- as they are, at their own time, in their own way.

In his poem Old Magician, Robert Lax writes about the magician's last commands, the elaborate preparations -- of newt's egg, toad's eye, and cinnebar -- to be followed by his assistant. When all is ready the poet writes:

all right, said
the assistant, now what
do we expect?

nothing, said
the magician.
expect nothing.

nothing? said
the assistant.
then what did we
do the experiment

all my life, said
the magician,
i've wanted to do
an experiment
that hoped for nothing
accomplished nothing.

and now? said the

i think i've done
it, said the magi-
cian. go out in the
garden & look.

The poem ends with the assistant reporting a golden tree with golden fruit and golden leaves with a living trunk that sings,

& sings, it sings
like a tree full of

Last night a poet sitting next to the fireplace spoke of being there, "the space, the quiet, the sense of timelessness," she said. We smiled. Her words a lovely unveiling.

Friday, November 30, 2001

Sparked by Jim Marion's Putting on the Mind of Christ at Thursday Evening Christian Contemplative Studies, Forrest offers, "God is life. What the opposite of life is, I don't know; I don't know what not-life is."

Responding to the question of frequency, vibration, light and the appearance of things or thoughts in the world, Kristen suggested that "If it is here, we've created it." This, all of this as a cooperative manifesting-into-existence of what can be thought, worried, imagined or hand made.

The thought comes: God doesn't say no!

Like the saddened father in a Navajo myth giving his two sons the weapons they ask for to battle the monsters -- saddened because the monsters, too, are his children -- the father gives what is asked for.

This takes care. Life is a question constantly asking.
Can we know (or want to know) what not-life is?
Don't ask!

There is a question all seem to face and most choose to engage -- whether by respond-ability or responsibility. That question is: What are we being asked? --or-- What is being asked?

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Wednesday Evening Conversation's first evening with Eckhart Tolle's 2nd book Practicing the Power of Now. In it the sentences: Enlightenment is your natural state of felt oneness with Being; and, No-mind is consciousness without thought.

When we don't feel at-one with Being, notions of separation arise. We are not separate from nor other than Being. Yet we don't feel what we are, or are not aware of our non-separatness. Muriel spoke of embracing her grandchild -- the feeling of loving wholeness. Someone wondered if Zen was a only a single-minded portal, and that a greater variety of entrance ways back into felt oneness is necessary. Holly added that curiosity and inquiry itself was an entry point. Another suggested that Zen was the open seeing through of everything as portal, and not just a particular meditation technique. Zen is engaging transparency -- coming to see there are no barriers to our full experience of what and who we are.

The thought of being without thought is anxiety provoking for many. By it is not meant that we stare zombie-like. Rather, what we are seeing, hearing and attending to is done simply, patiently, with presence -- without the reflex activity of incessant judging, analyzing, and evaluating. The practice entails watching our mind and understanding we are not our mind, our mind is available for us to use, not for us to be used by it.
Dirk felt this consideration was the one he wished to bring to next Tuesday evening's mid-coast community discussion about the recent teen suicides all are suffering. There is relief from the thoughts of suicide that periodically occupy our minds. It strikes me that to paraphrase a poem-fragment by Robert Creeley -- Thoughts come, thoughts go, then, let them! -- compliments Dirk's offering to the community.

When we comprehend this we are free from slavery to thoughts that riddle our mind, and, consequently, we grow in freedom to utilize useful thoughts as tools for the work we do.
And what is that work? The work is what is going on within me at this moment.

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

At last night's Buddhist studies there was conversation about a line from Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg -- (my notes don't have the whole of it, but): 'Pain is not a sign of things gone wrong. Pleasure/pain, gain/loss, fame/disrepute is what the world naturally provides -- and still we can be happy.'
So much, if not all, of our experience in the world is made up of oscillation between two opposing possibilities. We seem to live in a world of twos: good/bad, up/down, right/wrong, friend/enemy, love/hate. What interests me is the between, the (/) slash that can be seen as the separator, or, (my preference) the meeting place where extensions of the one reality engage.

There are so many explanations why the world is so often at war. The intervals of peace are more often described as detente, balance at the brink, don't you dare or I'll unleash. Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote:
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I'll not play the hypocrite
To my own heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace.

Advent approaches, again, prelude to what some identify as the birth of the embodiment of peace -- Jesus, seen as Christ. This person, this mind, invites a deeper consideration of peace. What would Hopkins' "piecemeal peace" look like if it was transformed into whole-peace? Is this the invitation of Christ-mind? To see and embody what our fragmenting minds and opposing bodies cannot hold together? It will be a meditation this Advent -- the movement through gradual piecemeal to a personal awareness of the root profundity of Peace-Itself.

What I'm curious about is what E.E.Cummings refers to in Eimi as the "Voice of silence" --
silence is made of
(behind perfectly or
final rising
more dark
most luminous proudly
whereless fragrant whenlessly erect
a sudden the!entirely blossoming)


I like Cummings' words about silence. And I like the interpretation that Salzberg's words suggest: "Still...we can be happy."

I'll pay attention to the invitation into the opening wholeness of peace, into the ongoing practice of silence and stillness.
I'll watch and pray the gradual/sudden embodiment of peace -- for one/all this Advent.
Day by day one engaged meeting at a time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

The phrase at end of scripture reading -- "This is the Word of the Lord" -- on sheet of paper folded into leather cover at back of writing book. Two years ago in October 1999 I read the passage at my sister's funeral mass. Of course now I ask the question -- What is the Word of the Lord? And, of course, the response -- the answer is the question (as all true questions contain their answer).
So -- What is the Word of the Lord? Yes, it is! What is (is) the Word of the Lord.
Is this Paul's mind when he exhorted to preach (i.e.speak/listen) the Word in and out of season, always? If the Word of the Lord is What Is, then, the point of what is becomes the open place for entry and realization of What is called God. That open place can be anywhere and is everywhere. We are invited to speak/listen to what is, with what is, as what is.

The quote for the day is from Fenyang:
Few people believe their
Inherent mind is Buddha.
Most will not take this seriously,
And therefore are cramped.
They are wrapped up in illusions, cravings,
Resentments, and other afflictions,
All because they love the cave of ignorance.
(-- Fenyang)

As Fr. Abbot at the Trappist monastery pointed out on Thanksgiving Day, one casualty of September 11th was our negligence. From that day, and perhaps continuing, is our awakened awareness that each goodbye kiss, each passing encounter, each felt acknowledgement of each other in our personal or work life is vital, is not just 'another, another' repetitive event. Rather, our neglect and ignoring behavior has turned -- turned into face to face appreciation -- turned into seeing each moment and encounter as the first one -- to the moment of love that is all there is.

In my dream the morning following Thanksgiving my sister appears in a room. Her childhood friend Sr. Rosemary comes in the door and looks at me, then Pat, then back to me. We both (in the dream) silently acknowledge that here she is. I hug Patricia and note the solid feel of her, my hands on her back, and am again surprised at this felt reality. I also think (in the dream) Pat doesn't know she is dead -- or as I rethink it, she doesn't know she is anything else but alive where she is!
I look to Ro to see whether she is a questioning person inside the dream as I am. Namely, Pat has died, but here she is; are you, Ro, part of the dream or part of the dream's unveiling? "Where are you?"--I ask Ro, "When are you?" I ask. She nods affirmatively to me, as though understanding my inquiry, and says, "I'm in nowtime, I'm in nowtime!" Ro says to Pat "I love you." Pat's face lights and she says something to the effect "Oh, how wonderful to be so special!" And I say the same words to her. Then I wake.
Fresh between worlds in the pre-3am stillness of my room I say aloud into the silence,
"I love you Pat."

Monday, November 26, 2001

Warm rainy November evening muted with fog. Sitting in the meditation room I can hear splashing tires on Barnestown road.
Pablo Neruda begins his poem "Keeping Quiet" with these lines:
And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

At silent sitting (zazen) tonight I am not as restless as last night. That’s neither good nor bad, but it does remind me of Shunryu Suzuki's words in the chapter Mistakes in Practice in Zen Mind, Beginners Mind -- "Whether you have difficulties in your practice or not, as long as you continue it, you have pure practice in its true sense. Even when you are not aware of it, you have it. So Dogen-zenji said, 'Do not think you will necessarily be aware of your own enlightenment.' Whether or not you are aware of it, you have your own true enlightenment in your practice." (p.73)

Neruda has these lines near end of poem:
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

At times our practice seems uninspiring and senseless. At other times quiet and rooted in the earth. Returning to earth is a good practice.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Today we officially begin postings for Today at Meetingbrook. As usual, with gratitude to Karl Gottshalk.

When Luke tells the story of the man saying to his companion -- Remember me when you enter your kingdom -- and the response he received -- Today you will be with me in paradise -- there is an experience of entering that takes place. What kingdom? Where? When? The conversation then was between two people nearing their deaths. One was about to open the kingdom of the presence of God to the whole world, the other asked (some say made a declarative demand) to be shown the way home.
Who knows this conversation understands the seeming impossibility of locating for certain that which is our true home.
And that's what the conversation is about: what, where, when -- even how -- to enter or return to our true home. At Meetingbrook today, there is an invitation -- to practice, presence, and pray -- that which is longed for.
Ask the one you are with!

From the bakery corner:[Saskia]
Today we have Hungarian Gulyas soup (with meat), and a cheddar vegetable chowder full of cauliflower, broccoli and various veggies. Along with homemade bread.
Also a Viennese Topfen Kuchen and chocolate chip cookies. It is such a joy to bake in silence as part of my morning meditation! Tomorrow I am off for a week long retreat in silence at a Trappist monastery.

Saturday, November 24, 2001

Saturday after Thanksgiving...Turkeys breathe easier, those that still have breath!

Sunday, November 18, 2001

Sunday Evening Practice and the open heart -- Henri Nouwen's conversation withTrappist John Eudes and Nan Merrill's translation of Psalm 107. Is it, we wondered, a matter of allowing the world to pass through us in a way similar to the passing through the heart of our life-fluid? The heart is a open passage. So too we? Is life transformed through us by our allowing it whole with faith without separation or dualistic distancing? At night prayer we pray for that time we see God face to face.
So much depends on what face we see when looking into the mirror.