Saturday, July 20, 2002

There’s plenty to ponder.

The stock market is drowning. (I own no stocks). The Middle East is ablaze. Executives in the corporate world tank their companies and escape with hundreds of millions as reward. The President and Vice President try to be scolds, but like parents who use illegal drugs lecturing their children not to, Bush and Cheney must be alternately giggling and looking over their shoulders with nervous paranoia.

AIDS is creeping under every nation’s bedspread. Anger and rage ride in the fast lanes and crowded streets of our urban sprawl. Priests nationwide are either seen as predators or looked at by new squinting eyes to be likely suspects for that type of thing. Even the prior administration’s harshest and purest critics are pausing at the confessional doors uncertain whether their newly uncovered sins of cruelty or the sexual sins of their priests take precedence in the box.

It seems that kind of day -- gray, chilly, without promise.

Each night I gaze upon a pond,
A Zen body sitting beside a moon.
Nothing is really there and yet
It is all so clear and bright
I cannot describe it.
If you would know the empty mind
Your own mind must be as clear and bright
As this full moon upon the water.

- Chiao Jan (785 – 895)

I visit Sr. Bette at her yurt further down east along the coast bringing her two books in which she is profiled. We chat in her damp yurt. Books, flyers, pages from retreats, and all sorts of references to things she’s been doing stack the small opening on table between us where mosquitoes hover and breakfast dishes contend with death notices.

At Hermitage, Paul and Jim screen porch of cabin. Sando and Cisco find tennis balls for mother and son at Snow Bowl where a wedding party is unfolding. Saskia is closing doors of shop. Di opened, Cheryl covered until I got back, and Saskia came in from baking and working with Paul, and I left with the dogs because I was feeling like something the dogs leave on their walks.

Yesterday an accounting type said that after the conversation about a Laura Common (where the thought was expressed that we might want to rely on gift and grace) – it has begun to seem more than he wished to consider – concerning sound financial footing. He thinks, for reasons known and unknown, he might not be able to consider with us any longer.

Nova Scotia feels like a good choice right about now. Sooner than later a contemplative life as hermitage wants to be seed in ground.

Sr. Bette says that everything is meant to teach us something we need to learn. Tommy didn’t believe me yesterday when I told him what a dunce I was in school. “Nah,” he said. “Oh yeah,” I said. “I don’t believe it,” he said.

“Oh, yeah!” That’s what I say about then – and now.

There’s plenty to ponder.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Mini the cat is first to zabuton this morning. She faces hibiscus tree as Saskia lights incense and candle. Sando comes in. Cisco comes in. Bell is sounded.

Light rain, the mountain forest
Is wrapped in mist,
Slowly the fog changes
To clouds and haze.
Along the boundless river bank,
Many crows.
I walk to a hill overlooking the valley
To sit in zazen.

- Ryokan (1758-1831)

Susan arrives to accompany Saskia and Mini to vet in Augusta. Mini may be in renal failure. A homeopathic attention will be explored.

During sitting Cisco sniffs closer to Mini. The Border collie is ever interested in smaller animal. Mini looks over shoulder. She doesn't swat at his curiosity. Either trust or weakness to bother presides.

Bell sounds. Bows. Rubbing and strokes for all. Psalms. Intercessions for all. Final pealing of Angelus bells.

Friday takes shape.

(Later) Saskia calls from road. Vet says her body language says Mini is not ready to go, yet.
So, we stay together as long as we can.

Listening to sounding bell, we continue returning home, a lovely surrounding silence.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

In a Laura, the footpath you follow leads back to your own dwelling. If you visit another, it is only to find your way back to yourself. If you visit a central place to converse or practice with others, you return to your pathway home with whatever gifts found with others to take refuge there in your own home ground.

Practice isn't interested in creating something new. Practice invites disappearance. When we completely practice, there is no other way -- there is only the way. We are not the way, the way is us. In prison several months ago Harold said it this way -- "We are not God; God is us."

Tricky business, talking about God. Buddhist’s help other religions by not using a name (God) but describing the reality: “What Is,” or “This One,” or “The Itself.”

There is also the rich question that is itself a practice, “What is this?”

All along the trail of moss,
I followed your wooden shoeprints.
White clouds hung around your little island
Where spring grass hid your unlocked door.
I enjoyed the colors of pines after rain
And reached the river’s source
Along the mountain trail.
Facing the stream and the flowers
I came inside a sense of Zen,
Yet cannot find the words.

- Liu Chang Ching (709–780, dailyzen)

Last night at the Hermitage Harbor Room there was the first of three Wednesday Evening Conversations on the Laura Common. Today Dana sent an email:
(for me) The MOST important thing that the subscription gets the
subscriber is the knowledge that we are supporting something of unique
and intrinsic value to us and others: the continuation of the
Meetingbrook Harbor Site. A gathering place in Camden that is not about
commerce, tourism or money, but about support, growth, and
conversation. For the same reason I give to Habitat for Humanity,'s not about what's in it for ME. It about what's in it for US.

How's that for "Substance"?

The word 'coalesce' came up three times. Coalesce, (from co = with, together; and alescere == to grow) means to grow together, to unite into a whole.

We become whole when we realize that wholeness is not other than us. When we experience our lives as broken, incomplete, or separate we might choose to enter a practice that heals, wholes, and unites. Silence with intent to heal helps. Solitude with intent to whole helps. Simplicity with the intent to common unity helps.

Whatever form our spiritual, religious, contemplative, meditative, or interactive practice takes -- when we dedicate it to the well-being of all beings, and we long that the graciousness of love be experienced in everything -- we have entered the Laura trail that visits with God, neighbor, all creation, and our own true self.

The above list is divides one reality with many words. So too, the reality of God is one reality with many expressions. We live in a dualistic experience of one reality. Practice invites us to gracefully live in and through that experience of many. Practice also invites us to live in and through the experience of one. Between us, God willing, we'll realize what is to be done in this existence.

Laura Haiku

Between us – is God
willing -- what is this willing
not… but between us


Monday, July 15, 2002

In the deep recesses, is the snow still deep? Meetingbrook tries to find its way.

Which way
Did you come from,
Following dream paths at night,
While snow is still deep
In this mountain recess?

- Ryokan (1758-1831

MEETINGBROOK LAURA COMMON (A draft proposal for further conversation)


A: Meetingbrook Laura Common intends to be a community of individuals engaged in their own practice/prayer/study alone or with others.

A: ‘Laura’ is from a Greek word meaning foot trail, lane, or path. It represents the worn trails we travel between dwellings.

A: Those identifying themselves as practitioners of a spiritual or religious discipline might wish to be part of a loosely knit association of individuals who intentionally choose to
· 1. Deepen their practice,
· 2. Share the delights & difficulties of their practice with another or others in soul-friend (1x1) conversation and circle (group) conversation,
· 3. Invite an openness of practice/prayer/study in one's own particular tradition or discipline so as to encourage others theirs.

A: In an age of many religious traditions and spiritual practices, there is often a lack of exposure to and conversation about the practice individuals actually engage in to deepen their practice/prayer/study.

A: The goal to encourage each other to have a chosen practice, to actually practice, to share the experience of practice, to ask questions that arise from it, to invite others into the experience and questions so as to create a community, a sangha of practice/prayer/study that is available to enrich each other and visitors to the process.

A: No and yes.

Q: NO?
A: All events at Meetingbrook are free, open, and informal.

A: Meetingbrook Bookshop and Bakery on Camden Harbor is the central clearinghouse and space for gatherings, conversations, information, and study – these things are part of our practice, that is, Bill and Saskia at Dogen & Francis Hermitage.
We are inviting the wider community, if they wish, to become subscribers to Meetingbrook to help pay the costs of rent, utilities, and meeting space.

A: A forum, a place, a retreat room, an on-line and bi-annual journal, a community of practitioners that is willing to openly support each other in their practice. O yeah, free coffee, tea, summer sails with Saskia, and the (oftentimes) looniest bunch of people your tolerance can take.

A: No. The purpose of the Laura is to be a resource to all people of practice, prayer, and study. The goal is to deepen and share individual journeys. Then, to go back to our individual practices, or religious/spiritual affiliations and deepen one’s life in that setting if that is the call. The Laura Common wishes to be a common space where everyone with an intent to draw closer to their own truest reality – natural, divine, human, -- might find others similarly engaged and practice/pray/study with each other.

A: A “Laura” is a series of trails that lead from one's dwelling place to another's dwelling, to a common meeting place, and back again. Historically it is associated with what is called 'a laura of hermits.' These are individuals who have chosen to live an intentional life of solitude and community.
Some might live alone. Some might live alone with another. Some might live alone with others. Those who are part of a Laura are part of a larger community of individuals dedicated to living a life of contemplative, meditative, mindful, engaged, and loving service to self, each other, the world as we find it, and the ground of all being – known to some as True Self, God, Christ, Buddha, or Love Itself.

A: No. At Dogen & Francis Hermitage Saskia and I practice in our root Catholic tradition as well as in the tradition of Zen Buddhism – but that is our practice, not the standard for anyone else. Each is meant to bring their root and/or current tradition to the Common and learn deeply there.


Membership suggests responsibilities and benefits.

Responsibilities include:

1) Daily Practice: Maintaining a (daily) practice/prayer/study engaged alone or with others.
2) Weekly Recording: Journal, letter-write, voice/video tape an entry concerning some delight or difficulty of your practice/prayer/study. This is for your own use.
3) Monthly Soul-friend 1x1 conversation: Willingness to regularly (monthly) speak with another person about matters of practice/prayer/study.
4) Monthly Community Conversation: Attend (monthly) a conversation conducted by another on some aspect of their practice/prayer/study.
5) Quarterly Invitation to Practice: 4 times a year extend an invitation to others to visit your practice in your own dwelling or in a common location.
6) Bi-annual Convening of Conversation: Twice a year convenes a conversation open to other Laura members and/or public on any chosen aspect of your practice/prayer/study.
7) Annual Retreat: Attend (yearly) a retreat of several days, or week in a setting honoring the simplicity, silence, and service in the tradition of your practice/prayer/study.

Benefits include:

1) Participate in an intentional community of practitioners where your particular expression of practice/prayer/study is respected and deepened.
2) Have abundant opportunities to share your personal practice/prayer/study with others.
3) Have forum to experience a variety of spiritual and intellectual traditions and disciplines and the personal encounters of others in that forum.
4) Utilize a network of individuals willing to practice non-judgmental and open loving speech and deep listening.
5) Have an ongoing online and bi-annual printed journal to read and contribute one's reflections and observations about their practice/prayer/study.
6) Utilize retreat resources for quiet and solitude. There is a meditation cabin at Ragged Mountain and a Harbor Room at Meetingbrook's two locations. Other retreat rooms might be available at other Laura member's dwellings.
7) Participate in volunteer service to the greater community where you live, or in the mid-coast area. There are prison conversations, community bakery visits to homebound and nursing facilities for recipe and hospitality purposes, and opportunities to be a resource for respite retreat and support for those experiencing the need to have a time-out because of life situations.

Meetingbrook invites a subscription membership to help pay rent and keep going the programs begun there. While there is no fee to be part of Meetingbrook's Laura Common, donations and gifts for the ongoing costs and support of Meetingbrook are both welcome and needed.

There is a yearly overhead of $18,000 to lease and maintain the cape on the harbor currently housing the bookshop/bakery and hermitage harbor room. This building is used for conversations, study groups, meditation practice, and retreat stays. It too will become part of the Hermitage non-profit organization so that all donations will support the practice/prayer/study that takes place there as well as the volunteer programs centralized there.
We’re thinking of 36 donors @$ 500 each to begin the first year. Nevertheless, all and any donation will be gratefully received.

Meditating deeply
Reach the depth of the source.
Branching streams cannot
Compare to this source!
Sitting alone in a great silence
Even though the heavens
Turn and the earth is upset,
You will not even wink.

- Nyogen Senzaki (1876-1958)


To the question, "What Is This?" -- the Laura Common might wish to respond, "This is our practice, prayer, and study -- to present with simplicity & attention, integrity & silence, faithful engagement & transparent service -- who we are and what we do in each moment and situation we encounter."

At a recent Sunday Evening Practice someone pointed out there are three aspects of practice to consider for the Laura Common:
1) Personal Practice - that which an individual routinely engages in for his or her own practice, prayer, study.
2) Household Practice -- that which a household, (where two or more persons dwell together), regularly sets as a time to practice, pray, study together.
3) Community Practice -- that form wherein many people gather together outside the home (whether church, sangha, or other community) to practice, pray, or study.

These three forms connect with a larger understanding of the balance we try to maintain between solitude, intimate sharing, and broader community. The Laura Common intends to be just one of many other vehicles to encourage contemplation, conversation, and correspondence. This, and the engaged service of mindful compassion and awareness, is what practitioners offer to each and all. As individuals with a practice we choose to inform each other of what it is we do, keep all beings in mind and heart as we do our practice, and invite anyone who wishes -- whether new beginner or old beginner -- to be part of a wide and varied community of practice.

May all beings be happy! May all beings be safe! May all beings come to dwell in their true home -- with wisdom and compassion. And may the love of God, This One, help us 'reach the depth of the source!'

We'll have 3 weeks of Wednesday Evening Conversation (17, 24, 31July, 5:30-6:30pm) about the Laura.

[wfh/11July2002, Feast of St. Benedict]

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Walking from shop to grocery store Saturday night I see doors of Catholic Church open. I enter. I'd stayed away from this particular parish church since before Ash Wednesday. I'd spent the duration going to church in the towns north and south of ours. The local pastor had, in my and other's opinion, abused the power of the pulpit for personal reasons. He only apologized to the people he'd been unkind to after 4 months of sorrow and fretting on their part when he left recently for 6 months of residential therapy.

The inside of the church was quiet and vacant, but for a lone man in third pew. He turned and noted my entering. Gregorian chant sounded gently the silent interior.

This morning the substitute priest, a chaplain at the State Prison we also visit, said he'd opened the church last night as he will every Saturday night 8-10pm for quiet contemplation.

He said one or two had stopped by the night before, no doubt surprised to see the church doors open.

Do we not cherish the
Infinite brightness
Of the one bright pearl?
Who can surpass
The virtue of this
Brilliant, radiant pearl
That covers the universe?
The essence of causality
Never ceases and
The pearl is always bright.
It is our original face and enlightened eye.

- Dogen (1200-1253)(dailyzen)

Doors are made of spirit as well as wood. It delights that these doors are open again.

Open doors reflect a bright pearl. We long to see our original face in this silent hospitality.