Saturday, September 17, 2005

In the Stigmata, it is said, Francis of Assisi received into his body imprints of the wounds experienced by Jesus. Often, since, much is made of blood and pain -- suggesting a miraculous mirroring of inflicted torture that serves to illustrate closeness of recipient to Christ.

In a culture that holds as sacred and patriotic the infliction of torture, there might be a need to break free of such a particular interpretation. Torture is only torture. Jesus was not sacred because he was tortured -- he was holy despite it. Governments are not noble or peace-loving because they torture non-believers of their creed and constitution, they are simply torturers seeking to punish, protect, and convert. Torture inflicts pain and is used by those willing and able to torture in order to justify a belief in a way of life that, in itself, is contradicted and opposed by means of the very torture inflicted.

Those who awaken never rest in one place.
Like swans, they rise and leave the lake.
On the air they rise and fly an invisible course.
Their food is knowledge.
They live on emptiness.
They have seen how to break free.
Who can follow them?

(- Buddha in the Dhammapada)

Under rain on roof of cabin during Saturday Morning Practice we end chanting Lauds with added words acknowledging Francis' stigmata. We prayed that we, too, might come to appreciate and love the body of Christ as we encounter it in ourselves and in others. We asked that we might love, respect, extend, and receive -- in the company of one another -- the radiance of the body of Christ in this existence.

It would be a limitation to equate love with torture and pain. Buddha said there is suffering in life, and there is. Jesus said there is love in life, and there is. Buddha and Jesus both embodied their correct relationship with the whole of the world and thus experienced both suffering and love. The marks of Jesus are as much in the green wet leaf this rainy morning as in his once and forever hands and eyes. The marks of Buddha are as much in the fallen-numb legs sitting in silence as they are in the apricot jam and chocolate donut on plate at hermitage table.

The art of embodiment is the practice of open, acknowledging, embrace of the world as it presents itself to us. "Itself" might mean "God" to one person, and "The Real" to another. However we choose or are able to conceive or see what-is-itself, there is an enormity of the yet-unknown ahead of us to be revealed.

Arts Councils
(for Jacques Barzaghi)

Because there is no art
There are artists

Because there are no artists
We need money

Because there is no money
We give

Because there is no we
There is art

(Poem "Arts Councils" by Gary Snyder, from Axe Handles.)

Art is how we see and what we make of what we see.

Suddenly, outside my window, steady crescendoing rain!

One dog barks across the street. Britta (a visiting German Shepherd) climbs stairs after Saskia. Sando (rife with cancer) rests in front room, Cesco stretches in middle room as cat steps gingerly past.

The body of Christ, the mind of Buddha, and the splashing sounds of heaven/nirvana occur on road and eaves.

Peace flows through the art of instrumentality -- the art of forgiveness, interdependence, and humble engagement of what we do not yet understand.

There are far too many methods and instruments of torture.

May we, on this remembrance of Francis' embodiment of the whole Christ, be instruments of peace!

Friday, September 16, 2005

A woman is frightened. Her mind tells her that her body is dying. She is divided into mental and physical. They are not speaking with one another. They are unwilling to stand together, or sit together, as one form. She is being torn apart.

How do we consist? [Latin consistere, to stand still, to be composed of : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + sistere, to cause to stand; see st- in Indo-European Roots.]

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. Ralph Waldo Emerson

We stand with -- or sit with -- one another as each makes their journey through this place we call here and now. "Consistency" -- n 1: the property of holding together and retaining its shape; "when the dough has enough consistency it is ready to bake" [syn: consistence, body] 2: a harmonious uniformity or agreement among things or parts [syn: consistence] [ant: inconsistency] 3: logical coherence and accordance with the facts; "a rambling argument that lacked any consistency" 4: (logic) an attribute of a logical system that is so constituted that none of the propositions deducible from the axioms contradict one another

Down to the stream
to watch the jade flow
or back to the cliff
to sit on a boulder.
Mind like a lone cloud
clinging to nothing;
what do I need in the faraway world?

- Cold Mountain

The faraway world is not faraway. What we need as it nears to us is a wise consistency. We are faced all the time with a foolish consistency (holding on to ideas that make no sense, that are loud repetitions of deadening fears) -- and are uncertain how to stand still and be still with a subtle wisdom that whispers: "All is well, as you are well, and will be well." Julian of Norwich notes this quiet assuring voice and shares it with us.

Porch Swing in September

The porch swing hangs fixed in a morning sun
that bleaches its gray slats, its flowered cushion
whose flowers have faded, like those of summer,
and a small brown spider has hung out her web
on a line between porch post and chain
so that no one may swing without breaking it.
She is saying it's time that the swinging were done with,
time that the creaking and pinging and popping
that sang through the ceiling were past,
time now for the soft vibrations of moths,
the wasp tapping each board for an entrance,
the cool dewdrops to brush from her work
every morning, one world at a time.

(Poem: "Porch Swing in September" by Ted Kooser, from Flying at Night. University of Pittsburgh Press.)

The fragile web holds fast and gently the swing.

This fragile web is authentic community. It holds together on dew-fog mornings our beings in one form. The day might make us move and tear the web from its moorings. But then, with consistency in September, the weaver of the tender web ties all of everything together through the night of our resting.

As we stand, or sit, still with one another, repair and healing -- however temporary -- takes place.

We, each of us, are that place.

Rest well.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The holy crossing is cebebrated in our midst.

If we are affixed to light, what else is there?

There is nothing else.

All the objects of the senses
Interact and yet do not.
Interacting brings involvement.
Otherwise, each keeps its place.
Eye and sights, ear and sounds,
Nose and smells, tongue and tastes;
Thus with each and every thing,
Depending on these roots,
The leaves spread forth.

- Shitou Xiqian (700--790)

The tree of life spreads forth in both light and dark. We do not fear the terrors of the night. Night gives way to day; day lays down at night. We do not fear the terrors of the day.

We come to place ourselves in the midst of one another. Just as every line has a middle, and each moment a core that holds true no matter how a thing expands or contracts, we remain still and quiet at center of one another.

It is this presence, this no-elsewhere, that light crosses itself with what is called love.

You are in our midst, O Lord, your name we bear -- do not forsake us. (Jeremiah 14:9). Do not leave us. It is the celebration of the Holy Cross. The holy crossing. Where. in our core, in our very middle, what is holy -- the One-of-God -- is passing through.

At that time Jesus said to the multitudes of the Jews: Now is the judgment of the world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself. (Now this He said, signifying what death He should die.) The multitude answered Him: We have heard out of the law, that Christ abideth forever; and how sayest Thou: The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man? Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while the light is among you. Walk whilst you have the light, that the darkness overtake you not. And he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. Whilst you have the light, believe in the light that you may be the children of light.
(Gospel: John 12:31-36)

Japanese philosopher Keiji Nishitani wrote: "True emptiness is nothing less than what reaches awareness in all of us as our own absolute self-nature." (Keiji Nishitani, p.106 in Religion and Nothingness)

Now, it is written, is the judgment of the world. The world, with all its promises for the future, and all its explanations of the past, cannot abide the searing scrutiny of now. The world experiences the delusion and denial it has become in the light of loving gaze that silently presents it with the question: "What are you doing to each and any of these my children?"

It is now we die. It is now we are born. Between birth and death -- there is only, and always, now. Now is the question that waits, with fierce kindness, our response.
We must respond. We have to. And we might be terrified of our response.

But stay a while -- right there -- ponder a moment, let go of fear, open your mouth, and, give your response. Now. Then close your mouth, close your fear, close your future and your past. For, something very odd and unusual is taking place. Something startling and unnerving is about to occur. Whatever your response, whatever you say or do not say, and whatever you reveal in this moment -- in this now -- is suddenly, completely, and uncompromisingly -- forgiven. Right here, in the midst of your very journey, your very life -- you find yourself -- forgiven, everything.

This judgment of now leaves you light.

Now is the holy crossing.

Midsting Light.

Nothing else.

Monday, September 12, 2005

In the United States there is a crisis of heart.

The heart, it has been suggested, is a lonely hunter. We live in the details of our lives. We also live in surrounding quirky environs. The heart hunts its way through details and environs -- personal and cultural -- seeking to awaken to an awakened world, and escape the darkness of ignorance and delusion.

What we look for is oftentimes right where we are -- unrecognized, unaccepted, brushed over in our pursuit to find some other explanation we think more satisfactory. The heart asks: Am I alone? Or, beyond thought and opinion, are we one-another?

All the holy ones have turned within and sought the self, and by this went beyond all doubt. To turn within means all the 24 hours and in every situation, to pierce one by one through the layers covering the self, deeper and deeper, to a place that cannot be described. It is when thinking comes to an end and making distinctions ceases, when wrong views and ideas disappear of themselves without having to be driven forth, when without being sought the true action and the true impulse appear of themselves. It is when one can know the truth of the heart.
- Daikaku (1213-1279)

In the United States there is a crisis of heart. Using painfully distorted language backed by deceptive action, much of the infrastructure of social support and authentic caring compassion has been gutted from the fabric of governance. Health care, emergency response, education, equitable distribution of resources, taxation, corporate responsibility and accountability, scientific assessments of environmental patterns threatening quality of and life itself, ignorance of international interdependence, bad faith and arrogance in perpetrating and perpetuating war with ill-begotten intention, and finally, a palpable insincerity about having the interests of all Americans, indeed, all peoples, in mind when making decisions narrowly focused to benefit the few. What has angered the mind is now breaking the heart. A desperate uprising of awareness struggles to begin.

Margaret Mary, in Catholic-Christian tradition, had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart:
May He teach you what He desires of you, and may He give you the strength to accomplish it perfectly. If I am not mistaken this, in a few words, is what I think He requires of you: He wishes that you should learn to live without support -- without a friend -- and without satisfaction. In proportion as you ponder over these words, He will help you to understand them.
(-- #12, September, in Thoughts and Sayings of Saint Margaret Mary (1647-1690 Alacoque) c.1935)

17th century spirituality can be as enigmatic as contemporary spirituality.
Will the heart make the journey through the difficult times and stressful attitudes through which minds of contemporary men and women struggle?

In the nation's capital hearings begin to deliberate the appointment and ratification of a nominated candidate for Chief Justice of the United States. Following the 4th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and fresh upon the devastation of hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast, the citizenry of the country intently inquire into the heart of the man, the congress, the court, and the president.

The heart wants no politics. The heart wants love, community, authenticity, and a spirit of justice. The heart -- individual heart and collective heart -- longs for what is embedded profoundly within and, at the same time, gone completely beyond the obvious and everyday matters of life lived from hour to hour, day to day, year to year. The heart yearns for enlightened sight.

The challenge of enlightenment is not simply to glimpse the awakened conditioned, nor even to continually experience it, but to be and express it as your self in the way you move in this world. In order to do this you must come out of hiding behind any superstitious beliefs and find the courage to question everything, otherwise you will continue to hold onto superstitions which distort your perception and expression of that which is only ever AWAKE.
(~ Adyashanti, in talk "The Courage to Question" c.1999 )

These last few weeks reveal the vulnerability of both hard-hearted and open-hearted individuals. The swagger of political certitude staggers. Eyes that have seen loss, death, and destruction sear their inquiry after hope into us. We are all wounded by our common fate -- namely, we are alive, here in this world, and we cannot fathom either how to love or why we are not constantly in the presence of love.

We long to ask into love. And yet, we are frightened by those who believe the barrel of a gun or the detonation of bombs and explosives are reasonable substitution. We are frightened by those who seem to show they have not experienced love -- who intentionally ignore or harm others, who force themselves on the vulnerable.

We are all vulnerable. And we are frightened.

Here it is: each beat of the heart is love.

We need to know the truth of the heart.

Feel what is taking place.

It is critical.

Finding heart.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The bird, unmoving by paw of cat, was pliant but unresponsive when I picked it up.

Don’t tell me how difficult the Way.
The bird’s path, winding far,
Is right before you.
Water of the Dokei Gorge,
You return to the ocean,
I to the mountain.

- Hofuku Seikatsu

There comes a time when departure is deep within. I place what seems (to these senses) the dead bird in shade of wood block in tall grass. Cat is brought inside house. No recrimination. Merely the fact of it.

Still, we feel the fact of it.