Friday, January 10, 2003

Letter to Rick in Missouri:

More specifically, it's just Saskia and I (with dogs and cat, of course) residing at hermitage. We continue to wish to dwell as hermits in the everydayness of the marketplace. Thus, many of our "conversations" are in town in the bookshop. There are several who would like to be part of a Laura of Hermits, i.e. a community of hermits. I can barely organize myself out of my pajamas -- and so have little skill or energy to contribute to that.

A hermit is one living alone. A Meetingbrook hermit ponders the words, "Embodying the dwelling place of the Alone, stepping aside to make room for another." Dwelling alone with the Alone does not mean isolation from others. It suggests dwelling as no barrier.

We are not a Zen center as typically conceived, as is in Missouri. Thank you for the link. By practicing between traditions, we actually are neither here nor there, but continually pass through a "thin place" which often feels like a mirror's surface, where in and out know no difference, yet are not the same.

The very attempt to see this kind of life through feels like a koan.
God is God; No God is no God. Zen is Zen; No Zen is no Zen.
Saying, "yes" to each of these phrases places us, unknowing, in the middle of our life.

Much was made last night at the bookshop during our conversation after reading Meister Eckhart's 'The Noble Man' that there is a "knowing" that occurs that is beyond beliefs, beyond mere thought and experience. While I affirm that reality, I question it.

It still seems to me that this kind of 'knowing' is a wink-wink, nod-nod secret handshake type of posing that must be watched carefully. It is my suspicion that if someone really didn't know, i.e. looked from a don't know mind, there wouldn't be anything other than the don't know reflection mirroring the presence of the one there.

Francis didn't know Christ, Francis mirrored Christ. The Zen practitioner doesn't know everyday extinguishment, that person is right there by being transparent and empty.

God is being there. "Da-sein," the German word literally translated "there-being," is used to signify 'man' or a human being. For Christians the mystery asks them to ponder, "What does it mean to say that God became human?" What does being there, or being here, or being anywhere have to do with God?

Zen asks, "What is this?" By calling each into the question of "What is," we are invited to dwell as "this" wherever we are. Bird comes, bird. Joanie comes, Joanie. Tom the mailman comes, Tom the mailman. Dredging barge in harbor comes, dredging barge. Snow falling on Friday morning, snow falling on Friday morning.

Enough for now. So it is, always, enough for now.


Thursday, January 09, 2003

Who knows about God?

A man from Missouri writes and asks about Francis of Assisi and Zen. It is a kind question. He invites looking at what is the relation of theistic approach with Francis and non-theistic with Zen.

Practicing Zen is zazen. For zazen, a quiet place is suitable. Lay out a thick mat. Do not let in drafts or smoke, rain, or dew. Protect and maintain the place where you settle your body. There are examples from the past of sitting on a diamond seat and sitting on a flat stone covered with at thick layer of grass. Day or night the place of sitting should not be dark; it should be kept warm in winter and cool in summer.
- Dogen (1200-1253)

The cabin and front room of house are the sitting places we share. Cabin sits cold during week, front room warm. Lights from stars, moon, and Snow Bowl wander cabin through night. Light from vigil lamp stays on cross with Jesus, icon of mother and child, and sitting Buddha in front window of house. Each stays steady through night.

Who knows or does not know about God? Francis lived connected with all that was there in the Umbrian Hills. Zen is the eyesight of leaves, grass, dove, and squirrel in the hills of Ragged and Bald. Francis knew no other. Dogen changed verb from "has" to "is." Everything, he said, is Buddha-nature. So, to it he looked, and so, as it he watched.

The Soto tradition says -- Just sit! Just do what you are doing. Stand when standing, eat when eating, and make no image when no image need be made.

Francis loved Jesus, so, his spirit mirrored Christ's spirit, his body Jesus' body. There is a place in the speaking about mirrors where there is no subject reflecting object. At that nearside, the place where image and reality are not two, is a transitus. The Latin word, transitus : translates as "crossing, passing over, transit /changing, alteration." Stepping into the mirror changes everything. Inside and outside fall away. All opposites evaporate and become each other. Looking shifts from "at" to "as."

As hermits who live temporarily in both a hermitage and in the marketplace we are learning to live in the midst of others as no other. For us this means we live in distant and separated seclusion from the values of our culture that are hostile to the sacredness of every being or antipathetic to the stillness, silence, and solitude of true nature.

We choose the paradox of living alone with others, together with all alone. Close is too far. Near is not far enough. What Nishitani calls the absolute nearside is neither here nor there – it is all there is here now.

Who doesn't know about God?

Not two of us, not one of us.

Dogs bark in frozen snow outdoors. Bell rings at bottom of stairs for dinner.
Thank you for asking, Rick.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

The bookshop/bakery will re-open today at 4:00pm. There will be Buddhist Studies at 5:30pm.

January 2003 Events

All Events at Meetingbrook are free, open & informal

Note: There are several changes on schedule, including Winter Hours, and Evening Conversations. 1) We’ll be closed Mondays and Tuesdays in winter. 2) Maybe Zen, Maybe Not, A Practice/Study focusing on Buddhist Meditative Tradition will be held on Friday Evenings, 5:30-6:30pm 3) A new conversation, Tea and Literature, will be held Saturday afternoons.
Note: Consult "Today at Meetingbrook” for any changes in shedule.

MORNING PRACTICE AT THE HERMITAGE. (6:05am-6: 35am) Silent Sitting - 30 minutes, daily. Then follows (6:40am-7:00am) Chanting/Mindfulness Walking (MWF Christian; TTh Buddhist). Whatever your tradition or practice come sit together. Simply enter, sit, & leave in silence. Note: For the winter, the cabin will be heated only on weekends. Sat/Sun sittings and practices take place at the Cabin just up from the barn. Weekdays held in house front room.

SATURDAY MORNING PRACTICE AT THE HERMITAGE – Weekly Lectio Divina: Sat, 6:45am-8:00am; (In Cabin) Monthly Retreat 7 hrs, 18Jan; 6am-1pm, (Buddhist focus this month)

SUNDAY EVENING PRACTICE AT THE HERMITAGE Each Sunday evening, 6:00-8:00pm. Practice Silent Sitting, Walking, Listening, Eating, Conversing, Chanting. (12,26Jan.Buddhist focus; 5,19Jan.Christian focus) All welcome.

A Place of Conversation, Collation, and Recollection at Camden Harbor
Come anytime, each conversation stands alone.

Wed. 8Jan.03 Topic: Reading The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain. A reading circle
Wed. 15Jan03 Topic: In whose name? A conversation about the threat of war.
Wed. 22Jan03 Topic: Reading The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain. A reading circle
Wed. 29Jan03 Laura Soul-Friend Circle: A monthly reflection about personal spiritual well-being.

5:30pm-6:30pm.Stepping into the Mirror, A Practice/Study focusing on Christian Contemplative Tradition. Currently reading Selected Writings, by Meister Eckhart. (1260-1328)

4:30pm - 5:30pm Poetry. Open gathering invites anyone to bring poetry to read, whether own or others’. “Poetry” for us is Poems, Letters, & Pieces of Journals. From time to time we might even write.
5:30pm-6:30pm Maybe Zen, Maybe Not, A Practice/Study focusing on Buddhist Meditative Tradition. Currently reading Nothing Special, Living Zen, by Charlotte Joko Beck

9:00am-10:00am: The Many Faces of Death. We are reading book, The Grace in Dying – How We Are Transformed Spiritually As We Die, by Kathleen Dowling Singh. Come by any week.
4:30pm-5:30pm: Tea and Literature. For one hour we’ll read and converse about a prose piece, essay, or short story. (Fiction or non-fiction). Bring or suggest a piece.

1:00pm-3:00pm (approx) Every Wednesday and Sunday Afternoon. A group playing effort. Join in. Also, any other days for individuals. An opportunity to rehearse with ease in a public place, anytime.

Bookshop & Bakery Schedule
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays,
Wednesday Noon-7:00pm
Thursday 10:30am-7:00pm
Friday 10:30am-7:00pm
Saturday 9:00am- 6:00pm
Sunday 10:30am- 5:30pm

Monday, January 06, 2003

The sweet solemnity of Epiphany sees us through.

Is God what is looking through us?

Epi = on, at, besides, after. Phainein = to show. Epiphany is an appearance or manifestation of a divine being.

So many wise ones in our world, so few Magi. So many teachers, so few learners. If teachers are not learners, what then do they teach? If the wise do not embody their wisdom, why travel anywhere to point out the divine shining through another human being?

There is a place we must visit before hanging out a shingle with the word "teacher,” “coach,” “therapist,” or “ordained anything" affixed.

And the people on the street view me behind my own glass in much the same way, and it is the way that I have looked at others in their "foreign licence" cars, and it is the kind of judgement that I myself have made. And yet it seems that neither these people nor this man are in any way unkind and not to understand does not necessarily mean that one is cruel. But one should at least be honest. And perhaps I have tried too hard to be someone else without realizing at first what I presently am, I do not know. I am not sure.
(sic) (Pp.56-57, in story The Vastness of the Dark, in Island, by Alistair MacLeod)

That visit is to the vastness of the dark. It is an inconvenient side trip. It is there, without deflective light from any external source, we begin to see signals and signs pointing to the place we would like to call home, ourselves.

Magi point and leave. Others set up tents, hang out shingles, and ply skills of directing traffic. Like colorful officers waving white-gloved hand signals, those who don't leave direct visitors toward, away from, around, and sometimes through their tents.

God is not in any tent. Magi know this. Magi arrive, leave presents, and leave themselves.
The divine, akin to what Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle points out, shows up and through in a glancing passing presence.

The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known in this instant, and vice versa. (-- Werner Heisenberg, uncertainty paper, 1927)

No stake fastens the movement of God.

Magi return home. Having seen God, they move on in a delighted weariness continuing their watchful and curious lives.

They move on with what is seeing them on their way.
They see through what is there to be seen through.

They are themselves seen through.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

When the divine shines through life, death appears clear and present.

When you are born with a strong presentiment of death, life advances toward birth in reverse. It recovers all of the stages of life in a sort of upside-down evolution: you die, then you live, suffer, and finally are born. Or is it another life that is born on the ruins of death? One feels the need to love, suffer, and be born again only after having known death in oneself. The only life is the one after death. That’s why transfigurations are so rare.
(p.14, in Tears and Saints, by E. M. Cioran)

Is life only seen through death?

Perhaps this is the danger of the Magi. They follow intuition to the divine showing through a child. They’ve brought presents. The present has brought them to their senses. “Now,” they say, “Now we have seen what we have long traveled to see.”

The child is born, recognized, and everyone shivers. They shiver not from some atmospheric chilliness. Their shivering is rapt awareness that the gift of life is the gift of death, and that death must be opened first.

For the divine to shine through we must first reconcile humanity to transparency. See life, see death. See death though life; see life through death. Try to hold on to one of them and discard the other, and a contemporary murderous Herod will try to fool you into reporting back to him what you are willing to sell out for a fool’s errand of personal gain, favor, or praise.

Cioran tells Herod, The only life is the one after death.
Herod is tempted to kill. He is wrong. It is a koan, a deep riddle.

What does a lovely transfiguration ordinarily look like?
Do we dare respond with our own epiphany?