Saturday, October 25, 2003

A ball in a corner for ten years. Or a rag doll picked up by hand or foot.

The Poustinia is a place of self-emptying. The will of God places and picks up who you are like ball, like rag doll.

The moon is a house
In which the mind is master.
Look very closely:
Only impermanence lasts.
This floating world, too, will pass.

- Ikkyu Sojun (1394-1481)

The small cabin filled with cold silence this October Saturday morning. Five of us on cushions -- that is, when Cesco wasn't licking noses of sitters with jikido attentiveness. (The jikido, or monk on daily duty, walks around the zazen hall carrying a flat paddle called a kyosaku, with which he taps the shoulders of zazen practitioners. Cesco uses nose and tongue.)

We read from Poustinia, Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer, two pages on Kenosis (self-emptying). Catherine Doherty's writes on the profound traditions of Christian spirituality surrounding the Russian word 'poustinia,' which means 'desert.'

Catherine's work at Madonna House and in print have led some to long for her canonization as saint.

Fr. Neuhaus is Editor-in-Chief of First Things magazine, and one of the outstanding thinkers and commentators in the Christian world today. In the December, 2000, issue of the magazine, he reflects on his first, and then a more recent visit to Madonna House.

“[Catherine’s] little book, Dear Father: A Message of Love to Priests, can be summed up: ‘Yes, but do you believe, do you really believe, the wonder of who Christ is and who you are for him? Show it! Live it!’ One is reminded of Chesterton’s remark that the only sin is to call a green leaf gray. Catherine railed against a world and a Church that seemed so indifferent to the luminosity of love.

“Poustinia, perhaps her most influential book, is a strongly moving account of a practice of silence, solitude, and prayer drawn from the Russian experience of pilgrimage and time apart in which a poustinik lives in a small hut—for days or months or years, or for a lifetime—in an isolation that is also total availability to the community. The heart of the poustinia is kenosis, joining Christ in the emptying of the self, as described by Paul in Phillipians 2. ‘I think that God calls the poustinik to a total purgation, a total self-emptying,’ writes Catherine. She cautioned against the impulse to be relevant by doing something useful as the world measures usefulness. ‘If you want to see what a “contribution” really is, look at the Man on the cross. That’s a contribution. When you are hanging on a cross you can’t do anything because you’re crucified. That is the essence of a poustinik. That is his or her contribution.’ Poustinia is one of the more insightful and disturbing books on prayer I have read in a long time.'
(Testimonials from Catherine newsletter, re Catherine de Hueck Doherty)

Cesco and Sando run up the path toward brook.

Light colored Saab turns right onto Barnestown Road.

The tossing loveliness of ball and rag doll.

The will of God.


Friday, October 24, 2003

When in prison we dance with stillness.

Conversation encircles the willingness of each to speak from one's true self.

Today Hawkin's on Power vs. Force, Hillman on Yoga, Wilson on The Occult, as Yancey's What's So Amazing About Grace rested at middle of table.

Four of us gave space and freedom to each other.

From the banal to the noble, the silence and words from paper and mouths invite us to consider what is illuminating the very presence drawing us together.

We tap dance the power of presence down hallways of individual perception.

When we encounter hypothetical aggression or hostility, we practice stillness.

And allow God to find God's way into the world.

With gratitude each to each.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Truth is God.

That's what Mahatma Gandhi held.

Ahimsa, or non-violence, is truth in action.

For him, and for our consideration, truth and ahimsa are inseparable.

After Missing the Recluse on the Western Mountain

To your hermitage here on the top of the mountain
I have climbed, without stopping, these ten miles.
I have knocked at your door, and no one answered;
I have peeped into your room,
At your seat beside the table.
Perhaps you are out riding,
Or fishing, more likely, in some autumn pool.
Sorry though I am to be missing you,
You have become my meditation.
The beauty of the grasses, fresh with rain,
And close beside the window the music of pines,
I take into my being all that I see and hear,
Soothing my senses, quieting my heart;
And though there be neither host nor guest,
Have I not had a visit complete?
The afternoon fades, I make my way
Back down the mountain.
Why should I wait for you any longer?

- Ch-iu Wei

We disappear from each other. Presence, full and unhidden appearance, is where truth resides. Yet, disappearance feels more common than appearance. Just as lies feel more pervasive than truth.

If truth is God -- then we begin the path to seeing why lies endanger us as individuals and as nation. We are in danger of hiding from one another, and from God.

How do we pray, how do we tell ourselves, if we hide away from truth, hide away from God?

Why should I wait for you any longer, Lord God of All? I am surrounded by death, and those who would divide us from you. Lies are our constant companions.

Are we to be left desolate and separated by lies? Or will we find our true place in each others' lives? Are war, killing, and deception our only salvation? Or is there a greater truth that longs to emerge into appearance?

Bede Griffiths and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin spoke about a new vision:
Both felt that the articulating of a modern mystic vision was the primary need and objective of our time, and the central purpose of their own lives. Both felt that this needed to be paradoxically a unitive vision, in which "union differentiates." Thus Bede writes:

"Teilhard de Chardin always emphasized the principle that union differentiates. We become more ourselves as we enter more deeply into relationship with others...We do not lose ourselves, but we lose our sense of separation and division and discover our integral oneness in the One Reality. This is essentially a mystery of love...The whole process of evolution, as Teilhard Chardin saw it, is a process of personalization. The ultimate goal of humanity is a communion of persons in love...This is the meaning of Christian doctrine of the Trinity, that the ultimate a communion of love (5)."

Bede in his later years, also through the influence of Teilhard, became committed to the integration of science (especially the "new physics" and Jungian psychology) into a dynamic unitive vision, "in a new evolutionary perspective" (6). Kathryn Spink rightly notes that "the principle of transformation was one which under the influence of Sri Aurobindo and Teilhard de Chardin [Fr. Bede] would eventually apply to life in general " [thus Fr. Bede wrote]: 'I see life in terms of transformation, matter being transformed into life, life into consciousness, and consciousness into divine experience'." (7). This line from Fr. Bede directly reflects the vision of Teilhard, though it expresses in more accessible terms Teilhard's noologistic language about cosmogenesis evolving into biogenesis into noogenesis.
(Teilhard de Chardin and Bede Griffiths, By Robert Hale, OSB Cam, in THE GOLDEN STRING Newsletter, Vol. 7 No. 2 Spring 2001)

This process of transformation awaits awareness and opening of consciousness -- ours, and that of all creation.

Gandhi felt that truth alone exists.
The doctrine of Ahimsa, non-violence, was always at the very center of Gandhi's thought and work. He always believed in non-violence and lived by it. There was an obvious relationship between the doctrine of truth and non-violence: Satya and Ahimsa. As Gandhi says, I made the early discovery that if I was to reach God as truth and truth alone I could not do so except through a perfect vision of truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa. To see the universal and all- pervading spirit of truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility. (My experiment with truth, p.401-2).

For Gandhi, Truth and Ahimsa are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to disentangle and separate them. As he puts it, Ahimsa is the means and Truth is the end. Thus, Ahimsa becomes our supreme duty and Truth becomes God. “Truth exists, it alone exists. It is the only God and there is but one way of realizing ".
(Collected works. vol 44, p. 59).

Thus, Ahimsa is the fundamental means by which Truth can be realized, that is, Moksha can be achieved. Ahimsa includes non-violence in thought, feeling and action and also means total humility, love, compassion and service.
(from Gandhian Thoughts ,

Moksha is final freedom -- salvation and liberation -- from our unawareness and hiddenness. This liberation is the freedom longed for in the deep center of all being and each being. We long to realize who we really are.

Have mercy on me, God, have mercy. My soul flies to you for refuge.
I will hide in the shelter of your wings until the time of ambush is past.
I will cry to God the Most High, to the God who cares for me.

(Psalm 56 (57) Morning prayer in time of affliction)

The ambush is upon us. The attack of opinion and noise, ideology and ice cold conviction, is all over us from airwaves and newsprint. God is redefined into war and power, falsity and lie. The souls of those seeking the true God are frightened by the deception and patronizing puppeteering that masquerades as privatized faith and divinity these days in our country and the larger world.

Is our visit to the recluse complete? Have we learned something on the mountain that answers the question, "Why should I wait for you any longer?"

Is God hiding within each and every one of us, each and every being, until our consciousness is transformed and we see, finally, who we really are in each other's lives?

If truth is God, then all truth is relational.

Alone with others. Union differentiates.


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

No retribution.

The Psalmist will state the sinner thinks, “there is no God, no retribution”.

Ahead the green creek sparkles
As it flows toward the cliff
A huge rock with a good edge for sitting
My heart is like a lone cloud
With nothing to depend on
So far away from the world’s affairs
What need is there
To search for anything

- Han-shan

I’ve been concerned about lies. My lies. The lies of the Bush administration. And, the great lie.

Like mountain ground in late October we are asked to live with lies as paths live with coverings of leaves.

Gathering Leaves

Spades take up leaves
No better than spoons,
And bags full of leaves
Are light as balloons.

I make a great noise
Of rustling all day
Like rabbit and deer
Running away.

But the mountains I raise
Elude my embrace,
Flowing over my arms
And into my face.

I may load and unload
Again and again
Till I fill the whole shed,
And what have I then?

Next to nothing for weight;
And since they grew duller
From contact with earth,
Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.
But a crop is a crop,
And who's to say where
The harvest shall stop?

(Poem: "Gathering Leaves," by Robert Frost, from The Poetry of Robert Frost (Holt, Rinehart and Winston).)

Sickness of heart at the distortions, selective emphases, and downright lies that fall from Bush and his handlers. Not just about Iraq. But also environment, economy, oil, corporate war profiteering, this administration’s dismantling of rights, fairness of representation, and disproportionate psychological disparagement of any opposing opinion.

Once we thought truth was God, and lies the opposite of God.

With what purpose, Lord, do you stay away, hide yourself in time of need and trouble?
The wicked in their pride persecute the weak, trap them in the plots they have devised.
The sinner glories in his desires, the miser congratulates himself.
The sinner in his arrogance rejects the Lord: “there is no God, no retribution”.
This is what he thinks – and all goes well for him.
Your judgements are far beyond his comprehension: he despises all who stand against him.

( Psalm 9B (10) Thanksgiving )

Still, I give thanks that even in God’s absence, we long for God.

We want those who try to hide God to go away. They will take money with them, but we want them to go away.

That’s all. God is love. And God is truth.

We must be with God. And with God is no retribution.

The sinner is right about no retribution.

As a fool I have to accept both Bush and God.

If one must go away, may the true one stay.

Next to nothing for color.

Next to nothing for use.

Why do fools love?

October koan.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Time is odd.

Who knows what time it is?

Time is not God.

"Sabbath is setting aside time for God." (Donna Schaper, in Sabbath Keeping).

Setting aside time, we surrender to what we do not know.

Despite the obstacles
I pursued the great monk
The misty mountains a million layers high
He pointed to the road back home
One round moon
Lantern of the sky

- Han-shan

The great monk is the height and depth of one's being. In pursuing the great monk we must first relinquish surface ephemera holding us to flat plane.

Prayer lifts and falls from the surface of things.

Prayer is attention. It is time gone and place abandoned.

Gone where? Abandoned to what?

To pray for a longer time is not the same as to pray by multiplying words, as some people suppose. Lengthy talk is one thing, a prayerful disposition which lasts a long time is another. For it is even written in reference to the Lord himself that he spent the night in prayer and that he prayed at great length. Was he not giving us an example by this? In time, he prays when it is appropriate, and in eternity, he hears our prayers with the Father.

The monks in Egypt are said to offer frequent prayers, but these are very short and hurled like swift javelins. Otherwise their watchful attention, a very necessary quality for anyone at prayer, could be dulled and could disappear through protracted delays. They also clearly demonstrate through this practice that a person must not quickly divert such attention if it lasts, just as one must not allow it to be blunted if it cannot last.

(from A letter to Proba by St Augustine)

We pray when attention lingers on true longing. Not desires, nor wishes; not hopes, nor beliefs.
There is a longing that is true and more than true. It abides with us. It dwells as the essence of our existence.
Prayer is engagement with what is -- right there, before and behind, above and below -- ordinary sacred.

This longing is for that which is -- for what and who we are.
We ask and ask again: Who am I? Who are we?

This is where poem arises.

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true
(Archibald MacLeish, in Ars Poetica )

I remember today my sister. It is the fourth anniversary. Her son, Mark, writes: ‘Today should not be a day of sadness for us, but one of celebration -- Mom turns 4 today!’ Her daughter, Lori Ann, writes: 'I was awake this morning at 1:02am and sat in silent prayer.'

Birth and death -- these two expressions of life -- visit one another.

Finding life -- is equal to -- itself.

Where time is set aside.

And God is still.

The road back home.

Here and now.

Sunday, October 19, 2003


She is reading the Koran. She reminds me that submission is the heart of prayer.

Why in our fear of not praying as we should, do we turn to so many things, to find what we should pray for? Why do we not say instead, in the words of the psalm: I have asked one thing from the Lord, this is what I will seek: to dwell in the Lord’s house all the days of my life, to see the graciousness of the Lord, and to visit his temple? There, the days do not come and go in succession, and the beginning of one day does not mean the end of another; all days are one, simultaneously and without end, and the life lived out in these days has itself no end.
So that we might obtain this life of happiness, he who is true life itself taught us to pray, not in many words as though speaking longer could gain us a hearing. After all, we pray to one who, as the Lord himself tells us, knows what we need before we ask for it.
(from A letter to Proba by St Augustine)

I have asked only one thing from the Lord. I seek.

To dwell as and where I am. In the very house of God.

Day by day we bless you, Lord: we praise you for ever and for ever. (from the Te Deum)

And although I have not yet surrendered, I can still pray.

I submit. Underwith. Undergone.