Saturday, December 24, 2005

Walking path to brook over bridge knocking branches laden with fresh snow as dawn rises. In cabin woodstove sleepy sticks slip out of cold tightness stretching into valiant effort small flame embraces and devours with abandon.

In my middle years I love the Tao
And by Deep South Mountain I make my home.
When happy I go alone into the mountains.
Only I understand this joy.
I walk until the water ends, and sit
Waiting for the hour when clouds rise.
If I happen to meet an old woodcutter,
I chat with him, laughing and lost to time.

- Wang Wei (699-759)

Mute light rises from mist over fragile snow. Hosmer Pond bathes magical white. Fir pine trees hang limbs to ground.

Light rises, as it does, through old split apple trees.

Sits solitude.

Lauding resonates.

Day unfolds prayer.

Christ comes through this.

Friday, December 23, 2005


That's the name. Not a place; a presence.

The Lord is near to those who call on him,
to all those who call on him in truth.

--from Psalm 144 (145)

Truth, they say, is just like this.

Hence: presence this.

Near truth.

Go ahead...


Thursday, December 22, 2005

"The Spirit travels only through the open."

That's what Billy said. He thought the Spirit had been sent away from the Roman Catholic Church by them and has found an inspiring welcome elsewhere. "They thought they owned the Spirit because they made its words into true statements used exclusively by them at the mass."

In the car, idling in parking lot behind Pen Bay Hospital, Billy was speaking to Saskia and I about the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer. We'd been to morning service at St Peter's Episcopal Church in Rockland. (Megen took a ring, blessed by those attending, and said she did not want to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into heaven -- but wished to openly respond to the Divine Lover's invitation.) We sat in small, chilly room under bell tower where bell tolled in stately remembrance of what bells remember. They've been doing this Wednesday mornings since 9/11.

I thought (while driving route 1 east) of all the times I'd not said what Billy said while attending those true statements and feeling no sense of what was curiously absent. Spirit is not a hidden, legal, or dogmatic possession.

Lute Music

The Earth will be going on a long time
Before it finally freezes;
Men will be on it; they will take names,
Give their deeds reasons.
We will be here only
As chemical constituents --
A small franchise indeed.
Right now we have lives,
Corpuscles, Ambitions, Caresses,
Like everybody had once --

Here at the year's end, at the feast
Of birth, let us bring to each other
The gifts brought once west through deserts --
The precious metal of our mingled hair,
The frankincense of enraptured arms and legs,
The myrrh of desperate, invincible kisses --
Let us celebrate the daily
Recurrent nativity of love,
The endless epiphany of our fluent selves,
While the earth rolls away under us
Into unknown snows and summers,
Into untraveled spaces of the stars.

(Poem: "Lute Music" by Kenneth Rexroth from Sacramental Acts. Copper Canyon Press."

This is not to say that some victory is won in a denominational game of "Who's Got The Spirit?" (available for purchase in time for the holidays). Nor do I run from bath exclaiming "Eureka!" having solved an equation useful for moving the world. No, rather, it is a thought that has occurred many times while watching in silence the modes of meditative innerness and presentational exteriority in various churches over dozens of years.

The psalmist wrote:
But now, God, you have spurned us and confounded us,
so that we must go into battle without you.
You have put us to flight in the sight of our enemies,
and those who hate us plunder us at will.
You have handed us over like sheep sold for food,
you have scattered us among the nations.

You have sold your people for no money,
not even profiting by the exchange.
You have made us the laughing-stock of our neighbours,
mocked and derided by those who surround us.
The nations have made us a by-word,
the peoples toss their heads in scorn.

All the day I am ashamed,
I blush with shame
as they reproach me and revile me,
my enemies and my persecutors.

-- Psalm 43 (44), from Office of Readings, Vigils

Church and State might not be so separated after all. When politics and approved interpretation becomes the inserted text substituting for the open and living 'word' of What Is True, What Is Holiness Itself -- something is not only lost, but something unseemly, opaque, and divisive is erected to wall in and wall out.

Kenneth Rexroth said, "Man thrives where angels would die of ecstasy and where pigs would die of disgust." And "I've never understood why I'm [considered] a member of the avant-garde... I [just] try to say, as simply as I can, the simplest and most profound experiences of my life."
(from "The Writer's Almanac" for Thursday, December 22, 2005)

Kenneth Rexroth translated this Japanese poem:
I have always known
That at last I would
Take this road, but yesterday
I did not know that it would be today.

{Tsui ni yuku
Michi to wa kanete
Kikishi kado
Kinoo kyoo to wa
Omowazarishi wo}

(poem by Ariwara no Narihira 825-880ce, translated by Kenneth Roxroth in One Hundred Poems from the Japanese),

It is, indeed, today.

Finally, Rumi:
Creatures are cups. The sciences and the arts and all branches of knowledge are inscriptions around the outside of the cups. When a cup shatters, the writing can no longer be read. The wine's the thing! The wine that's held in the mold of these physical cups. Drink the wine and know what lasts and what to love. The man who truly asks must be sure of two things: One, that he's mistaken in what he's doing or thinking now. And two, that there is a wisdom he doesn't know yet. Asking is half of knowing.

Everyone turns toward someone. Look for one scarred by the King's polo stick.

A man or a woman is said to be absorbed when the water has total control of him, and he no control of the water. A swimmer moves around willfully. An absorbed being has no will but the water's going. Any word or act is not really personal, but the way the water has of speaking or doing. As when you hear a voice coming out of a wall, and you know that it's not the wall talking, but someone inside, or perhaps someone outside echoing off the wall. Saints are like that. They've achieved the condition of a wall, or a door.

(-Translated by Coleman Barks with A.J. Arberry, From Enlightened Mind Edited by Stephen Mitchell)

Wish every wall a door.

Rumi is a door. "An absorbed being has no will but the water's going."
Christ-child is adorable. "For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord..." (Luke 2)

Nativity longs to pass through.

This day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Inmates in prison write final projects for Ethics class.

I read them in a solitude of watchfulness -- their words, their studies, their lives. As usual, at end of course, my quiet vow never to teach again.

One broken often.

Once you suddenly smash through,
and go on to make the leap beyond,
you will find that everything
around you and all that you do,
whether active or at rest,
is the scenery of the
fundamental ground,
the original Mind.
There will be not a hairsbreadth
of difference between you
and other things;
there will be no other thing.

- Daito (1282-1334)

As I read, I am in prison. I share a space with cellmate, a space too small by half for one person. I negotiate every passing inmate as one would a minefield. I have fifty years remaining in this space, everyday, with no hope of release. I cannot afford to be weak-minded, weak-bodied.

If there was faith to be had, what good would it be? No one understands. If anyone did, what would they understand?

For he knows how we are made,
he remembers we are nothing but dust.
Man -- his life is like grass,
he blossoms and withers like flowers of the field.
The wind blows and carries him away:
no trace of him remains.

-- from Psalm 102 (103)

I fade. Molecule by molecule, dropping away.

I'm told it is December, that it is solstice, that in a few days, Christmas.

Tonight, nothing other than inmates, prison, time without promise.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The president says he is protecting us by violating our laws.

It is hard to believe him.

The ultimate Truth is beyond words. Doctrines are words. They're not the Way. The Way is wordless. Words are illusions. They're no different from things that appear in your dreams at night, be they palaces or carriages, forested parks or lakeside pavilions.
- Bodhidharma (d. 533)

Something happened to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. They believed their own stories about how important they were, how they could do anything they wanted and no congress, no court, no press, and certainly not the people would dare try to stop them.

I am lonely as a pelican in the wilderness,
as an owl in the ruins,
as a sparrow alone on a rooftop:
I do not sleep.
All day long my enemies taunt me,
they burn with anger and use my name as a curse.

-- from Psalm 101 (102)

It has happened. A corner has been turned. Messrs Bush and Cheney have shown themselves contemptuous of law and constitution. How did this happen? How long will it be allowed to continue?

The Christian world prepares to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In this oft self-designated Christian nation how did it come to be that murder, lies, deceit, torture, war, and bullying are committed and tolerated in the name of Jesus? Christians are relegated to being either cheerleaders or mute bystanders.

Refuge is needed. Protection becomes a paradoxical koan: To protect our way of life based on laws, is it right to break the law to prove paramount the rule of law? Are our leaders asking us to accept a lawless way of life?

We need a more profound liberation than that offered us by our protectors.

We pray Night Prayer:
Come quickly and hear me, O Lord,
for my spirit is weakening.

--from Psalm 142 (143)

Be calm and keep watch. The Devil, your enemy, is circling you like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, strong in faith.
1 Peter 5:8-9

Let us pray.
Of your kindness, Lord, dispel the darkness of this night, so that we your servants may go to sleep in peace and wake to the light of the new day, rejoicing in your name. Through Christ our Lord.

May the almighty Lord grant us a quiet night and a perfect end.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A young Jewish girl is about to give birth. Her mind is clear. She knows nothing other than what is to be is coming to be.

If you misunderstand your mind,
you are an ordinary person;
if you realize your mind,
you are a sage.
There is no difference at all
whether man, woman, old,
young, wise, foolish, human,
animal, whatever.
Thus, in the Lotus of Truth assembly,
was it not the eight year old
Naga girl who went directly
south to the undefiled world Amala,
sat on a jewel lotus flower,
and realized universal complete enlightenment.

- Jakushitusu Genko (1290-1367)

Our stories and myths are thresholds across which we step to visit awhile a place beyond space beyond time beyond cause and effect.

Some say drop stories, and they have a good point of view. Some say drop myths, and they, too, offer good advice. Still, these thresholds are invitations bypassing points of view and advice worth heeding. The danger is we will remember the stories and forget the present moment. The difficulty is we might entertain the myth but ignore the current reality longing to emerge with our clear and present attention.

For who else is for me, in heaven?
On earth, I want nothing when I am with you.
My flesh and heart are failing,
but it is God that I love:
God is my portion for ever.

-- from Psalm 72 (73)

Portion suggests part of a whole, or part separated from a whole. If God is my portion, then what is the whole of it?

The Jewish girl nears us in story and myth.

In her nearing we see that the question is the answer.

What is -- is -- the whole of it.

Birthing isn't portion. Birthing infuses what is throughout the whole.

Step carefully the threshold.

Pass through with care.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Omega Point. That's what Teilhard says. It approaches, Bede Griffiths says, as our consciousness changes. Reality appears different with new consciousness.

This mind, perfectly and fully realized, moves with a clear, tranquil spiritual awareness. It encompasses heaven, covers the earth, penetrates form, and rides with forbidding abruptness. It is a radiant light shining from the crown of your head, illuminating wherever you are; it is an awesome wind, rising up at each step you take, enveloping all things. If you are able to make this mind your own, then even though you do not seek excellence yourself, excellence comes to you of its own accord. Without seeking emancipation, you are not hindered by a single thing.
- Daito (1282-1334)

That's why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, called the Christ, each year. It's not a big thing. It's the only thing.

So many have such difficulty with Christmas. But, then again, so many have difficulty with any consciousness that sees into, through, and beyond what is, "what is" itself beyond our thinking.

What is it that enters this existence and births what is?

See that, and we see our own birth. See our own birth, and we see the birth and death of each and every being, of the earth and world within and beyond space and time, beyond cause and effect. See with this mind and resurrection is once again a wholeness of humankind/sentient beings, the earth and planets, and what we call God Itself.

"...[S]aid Mary 'let what you have said be done to me.' And the angel left her." (Luke 1:38)

The angel, as it must, departs.

Leaving Mary alone.

With her.