Saturday, March 02, 2002

We're often out of our minds. But not often enough.

It is pitiful that we are
living in a treasure mountain
but cannot see it.
If we develop an
enlightenment seeking mind,
everything becomes the
practice of enlightenment,
even if we are in the midst
of the various worlds of samsara.

- Dogen (1200-1253) (

A mind, a seeking mind, an enlightenment, an enlightenment seeking mind -- seeking what is making its way through. Thomas Berry in his book Buddhism (c.1967) writes, "Samsara designates the phenomenal or the conditioned world; Nirvana designates the transcendent, the unconditioned world."

Berry quotes Nagarjuna (India, 2nd C. CE) whose verse presents "...the blissful mystery empty of all that men can really explain," --

There is really no difference
between Nirvana and Samsara.
There is really no difference
between Samsara and Nirvana.

That which defines Nirvana
Also defines Samsara.
Between these two we cannot find
Even a slight difference.


Is this what Jesus and the Samaritan woman conversed about at the well?
His words sound different as poetry than they do as prose.
"I am," Jesus mused, "he," he paused, "the one," he contemplated, "who is," he continued on, "speaking with," and then finally, as if caught by insight, -- "you."

Is Jesus considering God -- the one who will be worshipped in spirit and truth -- as being in, or rather, as being the conversation that is taking place between him and the woman?

The woman is feisty, aware, and wise. She engages and plays with this Jew at the well. Jesus, too, is feisty, aware and similarly wise as he engages and plays with this Samaritan at the well. Together they turn in conversation about the truth of their lives. Together they question, pry, and parry the backgrounds each is emerging from. At end she gives him what he gives her.

They give each other water for the journey, deep water for the mind, living water for a thirst that is "blissful mystery empty of all that men [and women] can really explain." They drink of the gift each reveals in the presence of the other -- the gift of spirit and truth.

In that same chapter Berry calls "Homeless Wisdom," he writes:
The final expression of the Heart Sutra is the exclamation: "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond. Such an awakening! Svaha!" This awakening must be understood as a transition from illusion to reality. It is not a vision of something. It is a final release from all that keeps man from the going-over. This Sutra has no satisfactory word for what is attained beyond by this passage. With a certain deliberate care it limits itself to a description of the receding shore of this world which now is seen as sunyata, emptiness. (p.119)

This emptiness is what we might refer to as transparent reality, that which is seen as it is -- nothing added, nothing subtracted -- a clear, unobstructed view (spirit) of what is (truth). It is the play of the conversation between the Jew and the Samaritan.

It is the conversation we need to continue today. It is the pathway that will have to be cut into the ground by our footsteps as we visit each other and sip from the well together.

The impermanence of things, Berry says, is seen as emptiness. When Jesus' friends returned with food, they found him at completion of the conversation with the woman. Jesus told them, "I have food to eat of which you do not know." And, "My food is to do the will of the one who sent me to finish his work." (Jn.4: 32, 34)

The food for thought is outside our minds. It is the conversation taking place between man and woman, earth and water, spirit and truth.

The treasure mountain, the enlightenment seeking mind, is now sipping water -- maybe coffee or tea -- right there in your hand. Right there in the hand of the one sitting with you.

Soon enough, we'll see.
Svaha! (That is, Rejoice!)

Friday, March 01, 2002

Gift of a Hermit Nun

"I think that in finding the critical distance our friendship can remain." (from letter)
Notes toward a poem and a haiku:
“critical distance”:
Gk. kritikos=able to discern; to sift apart; to see or understand the difference
L. distare= to stand apart; separated in a relationship other than spatial; far apart.

Gk. Christos=(fr. chriein=to anoint)=1:Messiah 2: Jesus 3: an ideal type of humanity 4 Christian Science: the ideal truth that comes as a divine manifestation of God to destroy incarnate error.
[Webster’s Seventh]

1. Poem

Silence, the critical
distance between us

is the One
with us;

Silence holds us together

where I leave you in Silence,

I trust, together, we will

The Word Silence we cannot find
in words

2. Haiku

Alone, tired end

of winter -- Say no more -- say

yes once, but, for All

Thursday, February 28, 2002

To live a religious life in the world today -- first, stay silent. That will work. No one will know what you are doing. And that's good.

To live a spiritual life in the world today -- next, open your mouth. That too will work. No one will understand the babble that tries to word the incomprehensible. Try anyway.

To live an ordinary life in the world today -- finally, practice a poem created while walking beyond your strength.

I've crossed the sea after Truth.
Knowledge, that snare, must be defied.
Here and there, I've worn out heaps of sandals.
Now -- moonlit water in the clear abyss.

(--Kakua, 12c)

There will be those who love their life -- and they will love yours.
There will be those who fear their life -- and they will fear yours.
There will be those who wander mumbling to themselves things true & improbable. Invite them in.

I have never found anyone touched by God to appear sane.
They're not. What they are is something more valuable -- they're safe, and sound.
They're the ones to sit with for a stretch of mind and time.

They've seen
what we are
not seeing.

God is no other than love.
And love will not forget the sound of our voice attempting to pronounce its name.
As the wind blows, there’s no pinning down its direction, it takes our hesitation away with it.

There we stand,
without what we thought

How can I tell you what I've seen?
Fall, stand -- it's clear at once.
Wearing my cowl backwards, I
Trample the old path. And the new.


Wednesday, February 27, 2002

For Christians, the words expressing longing and struggle to comprehend and embody Christ might sound awkward. Patterns of thought change century after century, and the wording of a core reality needs constant and refreshing expression.

The core reality doesn't disappear with new wording. Rather, it appears in new light. This requires courageous faith, good will toward God, and good will toward one's own exploration.

Christian theology says God doesn't change. God is there as we change. For Buddhists, change is all there is. Transparent awareness reveals what our rational minds cannot grasp. For both, the exploration asks for caring and careful attention.

The proposal for Meetingbrook Laura of Hermits asks into such attention.
We pray for courageous faith, good will all around.

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

A Proposal for Intentional Community:
Meetingbrook Laura of Hermits

Camden, Maine USA, and dwelling places elsewhere

Meetingbrook proposes a laura of hermits, an intentional community, a loosely knit association of individuals seeking what might be called Zen Contemplative Ecology.

For the purpose of Meetingbrook’s proposal, “laura” means the pathways and waterways connecting us on our journey. A laura is:

1. a gathering of individuals living their own lives in their own dwellings;
2. peripheral to a central location shared for communal use;
3. building community with distinct yet similar shared intention to deepen one’s life;
4. each engaged in idiorhythmic practice (i.e. according to one’s own rhythms and schedule) -- whether prayer, meditation, contemplation, energy work, healing unease, encouraging physical, intellectual, spiritual health & balance;
5. with periodic sharing of each person’s conversation & practice in community;
6. devoted to the common intent of cultivating peace, compassion, engaged service, merciful reconciliation, and lovingkindness;
7. welcoming hospitality and generosity of spirit within and toward others.
8. A Zen Contemplative Ecology is, for this proposal, the practice of seeing directly & clearly -- now, safe, & whole -- interrelationships of individuals in community, sentient beings in nourishing environments, and a cosmotheandric awareness (of earth & nature itself, divine presence, and human family) that caringly and carefully makes room for each other..

A Meetingbrook Laura of Hermits -- welcomes individuals, couples, & families. Members of any or no religion are welcome. Members of sanghas, orders, followers of specific teachers, are welcome. Those on any particular spiritual path, those willing to allow others to practice their own religious and spiritual path, are welcome. Inclusive, autonomous, & generous hearted people, are welcome. Those who appreciate diversity and a plurality of seeking, those realizing and embodying what is natural, sacred, and human – the immeasurable gift of existence and life beyond compare -- are welcome.

The mere prospect of connecting what already touches us is attractive. Identifying, consciously and intentionally as part of Meetingbrook Laura of Hermits, deepens the affection and mystery of living life alone with others. Whether you prefer: to live alone on one’s own; live with others; or live alone together – we will explore how to dwell engaging solitude and community – a dedicating of life and love -- with God, each other, oneself.

If interested, come join us for some exploratory conversations toward the creation invited by a Meetingbrook Laura of Hermits. If nothing else, it might provide thoughtful considerations, laughter & a spate of belonging!

If interested in such an exploration, please call 236-4346, leave name and #. or email

Thanks, Bill Halpin and Saskia Huising 25Feb2002

Sunday, February 24, 2002

It is time to rethink the word "severity." It wishes to be known by a designation other than "strict in judgment, discipline, or punishment."
Or, what do we really think life is?

This morning, consider every breath. Every blink of the eye. Even the dozens of ladybugs at window suddenly awakened by warm February sun on attic eave. Sando snoozing. Saskia baking. The verity of Sunday morning at the edge of silence.

If we are the universe, there is much we do not yet understand.

If Awakened Buddha, Compassionate Father, Incarnated Christ, Sacred Spirit, Divine Radiance, Eternal Love, Blessed Mother -- (whichever designation brightens our eyes) -- if that personification longs to indwell this reality, there is still much we have to comprehend in order to ourselves inhabit this reality.

If life can be stripped of all denial so that we can begin to love -- there is much to let fall away. When we let this happen, there arrives a transparence that is itself true. .

In 1986, there were 22thousand cases of AIDS worldwide. In 2001 there were 38million cases worldwide. There have been 19million deaths in that time.
"We are each grains of sand on a beach," Joel Rothschild says, "And God is the beach." His book is Signals, An Inspiring Story of Life After Life.
"We are the heartbeat of the universe. There is a biological connection. Every moment in every life matters," says Rothschild speaking with Michael Thoms on New Dimensions Radio.

At the hermitage we pray for all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit. Especially those who are dying, those who will die today, and those who have died with no one to pray for them.

"Se-verity" -- wishes to be known as truth itself, or perhaps, itself true -- another edge of silence. ["Se" in Latin means "itself." "Veritas" in Latin means "truth."]

What is itself true? Or, what is true to itself? And, what can we say about the severity (the itself true) of love?

Even Pilate asked Jesus about severity. Following Jesus' assertion that anyone experiencing the reality he himself embodied, that person will testify to the truth. Pilate asked the reality standing before him, "'Truth,' what is truth?" Jesus remained in silence. Pilate was left to his own reflection.

Our very life depends on our reflection.

A moment of silence might help.