Saturday, February 07, 2004

Solitude with cat.

Mu-ge stretches on black daybed cover in kitchen. There's no more cut wood. There is Irish music on "Thistle and Shamrock."

I cannot get used to war.


Seeing is believing.
Whatever was thought or said,

these persistent, inexorable deaths
make faith as such absent,

our humanness a question,
a disgust for what we are.

Whatever the hope,
here it is lost.

Because we coveted our difference,
here is the cost.

(Poem by Robert Creeley, in Life and Death, c.1998)

Same and different, the Zen Master said, exist only in the mind. The mind with fondness for war is not easy to understand. The mind making excuses for war is hard to listen to. Those who say, "We're all the same!" are as difficult to listen to as those saying, "We're all different."

Who in this mortal life would see
The Light that is beyond all light,
Beholds it best by faring forth
Into the darkness of the Night.

(from "The Cherubinic Wanderer," by Angelus Silesius, 1624-1677)

It is quite a dance twirling between birth and death, light and dark, something and nothing. I cannot help wondering what it is I do not yet comprehend about myself and fellow humankind that we so easily put to death and cause to be annihilated those animals and humans getting in the way of our craving minds.

God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through. (- Paul Valery)

Mu-ge is on watch. The sounds in the walls will soon begin.

Solitude is like that.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Charlotte and John play guitar earlier and sing. One goes; one stays sitting in silence.

Looking out at harbor, a glaze of white falling snow. In right hand pane of lower window, reflection of fire back across the room.

This message is not just
For the rich and noble
The thousand flowers
And the hundred grasses
All have spring within them
Profound people in later days
Who read the sutras
Do not ask the way to the
Great road of enlightenment.
Stop! Stop!
Why do you have to wander the south?
The site of enlightenment is right
Under your feet.

- T'aego (1301-1382)

News brought through shop is of a man who summers across harbor, he has a type of cancer; will we keep him in prayer? Another man from nearby is separated from wife and child; he's been seen and doesn't look good, (says the bearer of news), thinks he is hiding -- maybe drinking?

An emigre says this country is beginning to unravel the lies and distortions surrounding the war against Iraq, bad economic policy, and perhaps the deeply disturbing atmosphere of intimidation and fear will begin to lift -- won't it? Commissions are being formed, special investigations begin, newspapers and magazines are emboldened raising questions and expressing opinions -- truth will out?

Open your ears, O God, to my prayer,
and do not hide when I call on you:
turn to me and answer me.
My thoughts are distracted and I am disturbed
by the voice of my enemy and the oppression of the wicked.

They let loose their wickedness on me,
they persecute me in their anger.
My heart is tied in a knot
and the terrors of death lie upon me;
fear and trembling cover me;
terror holds me tight.

I said, "Will no-one give me wings like a dove?
I shall fly away and rest.
I shall flee far away
and remain all alone.
I shall wait for him who will save me
from the stormy wind and the tempest?"

-- Psalm 54 (55)

Snow blows dusk into harbor. Tide rises, lowers, ebbs, turns again. Turning hidden beyond storm clouds, full moon is somewhere else seen.

If enlightenment were to be of anyone's concern, it could be looked for embedded in each person's life and situation.
If we were to wish to fly away and rest we could turn around right where we are -- far away and absolutely near where our thinking thought we were -- recognizing the place as origin -- remaining, all, alone.

Psalmist words for us: O God -- Turn to me as we to thee.

In turning is the return -- whether turning toward or away -- it is in the return to origin we find what we are looking for.

Loss only prepares in us what we are reluctant to acknowledge.

What is that?

If we look under our feet, what is seen...?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

A locked church sent him into the shop.

His brother dies and is not found for over two weeks. He takes a friend into his house the night before he learns of his brother. The needy friend reminds him of his brother. Why do we pray?

A single moon
Bright and clear
In an unclouded sky;
Yet still we stumble
In the world’s darkness.

- Ikkyu (1394-1481)

We stumble into one another's presence.

We pray to recognize each in each.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Power is passing.

When the fury of emotion appears before us or within us -- bow head, be submissive, surrender to the passing enormity that cannot be controlled -- only let go,

Creaking to the post office
on my rusty bike
I saw one purple iris
wild in the wet green
of the rice field.
I wanted to send it to you.
I can only tell you
it was there.

(-- Maura O'Halloran, in Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind, The Zen Journal and Letters of Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran)

At Wednesday Evening Laura Conversation we pronounced questions that accompany us on spiritual path. Eight silences speak the same number of questions.

Encircling the middle, interest ("inter"= between; "esse"= to be) in what is asked.

What is asking is what is answering.

In silence, listening with one another, and speaking.

It was there.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

In Boothbay the man about to turn 80 said over soup and sandwich, "You know what it's like to experience the futility of life?" With his eyes he anticipated a yes. I said yes.

When silent illumination is complete,
The lotus will blossom,
The dreamer will awaken.
The hundred rivers flow to the ocean,
The thousand mountains
Face the loftiest peak.
Like the goose preferring milk to water,
Like a busy bee gathering pollen,
When Silent Illumination
Reaches the ultimate,
I carry on the original tradition.
This practice is called Silent Illumination.
It penetrates from the deepest to the highest.

- Hung Chih Cheng Chueh (1092-1157)

Lighting fire this morning I thought about the realities of solitary life. It's not so much being alone that characterizes a solitary life. It's more a willingness to be irrelevant.

The supreme support for a person who has just died is the depth of our own practice and the strength of our positive, compassionate intention. If through our practice we are familiar with the nature of mind and can rest undistracted in that state, then meditating on behalf of our deceased friend will "show" him the truth of his own nature. As Padmasambhava said:
"As soon as our body has separated into mind and matter, in the gap before it has been encased once again in the net of a future body, the mind along with its magical display has no concrete material support. For as long as it lacks such a material basis we are independent and we can recognize. This power to attain stability by just recognizing the nature of mind is like a torch which in one instant can clear away the darkness of eons."

(p.189, in Facing Death and Finding Hope, A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying, by Christine Longaker)

Irrelevant, I light fire in the morning; and in the afternoon break ice by dock in harbor alongside Sam and Susan's dory.

To be irrelevant is to love to be unknown.

Just recognizing.

Enough for now.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Fire sparks at end of day in shop fireplace. At Hermitage, woodstove in cabin easily warms interior now that temperature has neared +20. Kitchen woodstove cheers the house.

Silvery moon hangs high in the sky.
I ride a tiny boat in the vast and misty sea.
Moon and sea forgotten;
I forget that I have forgotten.
And before the window
I sit quietly in meditation until midnight.

- Jakushitsu (1290 - 1368)

Maybe for only Sunday Evening Practice tonight.

Chris read from William James at Saturday's Poetry, Tea, and Literature. I find this today:
Summing up in the broadest possible way the characteristics of the religious life, as we have found them, it includes the following beliefs: --

1. That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe from which it draws its chief significance;

2. That union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end;

3. That prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof -- be that spirit "God" or "law" -- is a process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and produces effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal world.

Religion includes also the following psychological characteristics: --

4. A new zest which adds itself like a gift to life, and takes the form either of lyrical enchantment or of appeal to earnestness and heroism.

5. An assurance of safety and a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections.

(p.475, Lecture XX Conclusions, THE VARIETIES OF RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, A Study in Human Nature Being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902)

It occurs to me writing someone in the Midwest that all we can do is try to see what is being seen:
As a practitioner of Buddhism I subscribe to the middle way. As a Christian I've always believed Christ was the center, at center, of everything in creation -- literally in the middle of everything. So, the middle is a good place to be aware of -- but it takes practice for me.
If I were looking with an open heart, I'd be looking through that middle reality existing at core and between you and me. If I were aware of what I was looking at and through, I'd be ok.

Darkness is ending. It is February. The sun warms.

Hugh C. writes, "Hello Liam O' hAlpin," and sends the following:
Imbolg (Feb 1) is "a solemn and joyful time: the ending of darkness after
the 'seed of light' which began at the Solstice [which] gradually pushes
its way into the air." It is also the time when first-born lambs emerge and
the hours of daylight increase. Imbolg is called St. Bridget's Day and she
is still known as Mary of the Gael. She is invoked with Mary (spelled Muire
in Gaelic) in birthing or in lighting the fires or in the evening by
"smooring" or putting ashes on, the fire. She is petitioned with prayers to
protect the house and the household throughout the night. According to
legend she was the midwife and wet-nurse to Jesus and as such was invoked
during childbirth. Above all doorways it used to be the custom to place a
Brigid's Cross (the off-centered cross symbolizing also the wheel of life).
It was traditionally woven with rushes (reeds) on the eve of Imbolg. In
times gone by the response to a greeting such as "Dia agat" was "Brid agus
Muire agat" (breejus mwirragut).

Women in the Highlands of Scotland invoked St. Brigid with the prayer
Come, thou Brigid, handmaid calm
Hasten the butter on the cream
See impatient Peter
waiting the buttered bannock
Come Mary Mother mild
Hasten the butter on the cream
See Paul and John and Jesus
Waiting the gracious butter.

Brigid was Abbess of Kildare and is the patron saint, not only of birth and
milking and churning, but also of poets, smiths and healers. In these forms
she is the continuation of the "tripartite goddess: the young girl, the muse
of the poets; the matron, whose skill...also shapes the material world; and
the crone, the old woman, whose wisdom enables her to heal those who ask her
for help." Cormac's Glossary (10th century) says that Brighid [was] a
poetess, daughter of the Dagda. She is the female sage, woman of wisdom, or
Brighid the Goddess, whom poets venerated because [she was] very great and
famous for her protecting care. She was therefore called "Goddess of Poets".
Her sisters were Brighid the female physician, and Brighid the female smith;
among all Irishmen, a goddess was called "Brighid." According to Eric
Partridge, the etymologist, her name is akin to the Sanskrit "brhati",
meaning lofty and hence powerful.

(Quotes are from "The Celtic Year" by Shirley Toulson and "The Encyclopedia
of Celtic Wisdom" by Caitlin Matthews.)

It cheers there are such women and men about who are willing to look and to see.

For each and all of us this day: Assurance of safety, a temper of peace, and, in relation to others, a preponderance of loving affections!

And may we see and find ourselves a middle way.