Sunday, December 31, 2006
An ancient master said, “The mountains, the rivers, the whole earth, the entire array of phenomena are all oneself.” If you can absorb the essence of this message, there are no activities outside of meditation: you dress in meditation and eat in meditation; you walk, stand, sit, and lie down in meditation; you perceive and cognize in meditation; you experience joy, anger, sadness, and happiness in meditation.
- Muso (1275-1351)
One ends. One begins.
Now is the time to look. The time to see.
Are we alone with no one to care?
This is joyful news.
This is our joyful and original new year.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Murdering him serves no purpose. Of course he's guilty of crimes, guilty of power lust, guilty of associating with countries like the United States in their attempt to shore up oil resources and safety for shared interests in the Middle East. But then things turned sour, the alliance was spoiled. Bedfellows turned their backs. But if crime and guilt in international power lust were the measure of who hangs or who merely is assassinated, I fear many nooses would be in the ready both here and abroad.
The field of boundless emptiness
Is what exists from the very beginning.
You must purify, cure, grind down,
Or brush away all the tendencies
You have fabricated into apparent habits.
- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157)
Hussein's habits were excessive. It seems a common malady with people whose power is unchecked and whose sycophants are happy to bolster illegality and inanity as long as they are recipients of largess and payoff. We suffer this at home here too. And as for the fundamentalist belief that whoever is in power is by the will of God -- I care neither for the belief nor the mind perpetrating that thought.
Still, I'd rather he live. I'd rather those he murdered would also be alive, as well as those the United States has murdered in Iraq. Murdering people is a sad and mindless action taken in the absence of authentic compassionate justice. That kind of justice would strive to recognize a hidden truth much too often kept covered by those who know it is there.
What is that hidden truth? It is that when anyone is murdered I am murdered. When Saddam Hussein hangs, George Bush hangs. When an enemy combatant is tortured, you are tortured. When men and women in Afghanistan or Iraq are bombed, your mother and father, brothers and sisters are killed and mutilated. When someone is sexually molested, enslaved, or abused anywhere, so too is a member of your family. Whatever befalls one of us, befalls each of us.
How is it we do not feel what is happening to us as it is happening?
Whenever and whatever kindness is shown, that kindness is received everywhere by everyone.
When I have seen by time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age,
When sometime lofty towers I see down razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage,
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store,
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay,
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.
(Poem: "64" by William Shakespeare, from William Shakespeare: The Sonnets. Little, Brown and Company.)
To feel what is happening as it is happening would necessitate a more profound spiritual awareness than is currently practiced by the vast majority of us. It would call for a spiritual awareness that is willing to feel what is taking place and recognize the isomorphic nature of existence in this world.
(Greek: isos "equal", and morphe "shape"). We are in the presence of an unsettling reality: equivalent form, equivalent structure. Something "equivalent" is corresponding or virtually identical especially in effect or function. Perhaps we don't feel our equivalence with other beings because we have never understood the invitation to be that which we actually are. We hear "Be who you are" and assume the ego, or some collective definition, will give us the right information about how to be.
According to Douglas Hofstadter: "The word "isomorphism" applies when two complex structures can be mapped onto each other, in such a way that to each part of one structure there is a corresponding part in the other structure, where "corresponding" means that the two parts play similar roles in their respective structures." (Godel, Escher, Bach, p. 49)
What we do not feel, what we do not understand, is the vital interest of being alive.
Being, alive, is hidden from us. Why? I don't know. Could it be revealed and unveiled? Yes, I think so. How? Watch carefully.
Watch carefully and see what is taking place. Watch carefully and feel what is taking place. Watch carefully and be what is taking place.
To be what is taking place is to integrate the reality of this existence.
For my Christian friends, it is what the Christ Reality (incarnationalized in Jesus) is about.
For my Buddhist friends, it is what Prajna/Karuna (the Knowing/Loving, or, Insight/Resolve) is about.
For my Muslim, Jewish, Hindu friends, it is the deepest revelation of Surrender, Nameless Presence, and Truth.
We are frightened by wholeness. To integrate is to be what we are -- whole. It is sad to see that so many of us do not see what is our true reality. So much of human existence is diverted and distracted from experiencing our true nature in union with one another. We seem unwilling or unable to be who we profoundly are.
In our delusion, we murder one another. We hang Saddam Hussein. We like the name we give this action - we call it "justice." It is not justice. It is blindness.
The Vedas tell us this about God - "OM Poornamadah Poornamidam Poornaad Poornamudachyate; Poornasya Poornamaadaaya Poornamevaavashisyate". Translated in English, this verse means "What is Whole - This is Whole - What has come out of the Whole is also Whole; When the Whole is taken out of the Whole, the Whole still remains Whole".
(- from Hinduism, the World's Oldest Religion, A Simple Introduction To A Complex Religion, c. 1997, by Sunil Balasubramaniam, http://www.geocities.com/Athens/forum/9410/hindu1.html)
I don't yet find tears for Saddam Hussein. That's because I do not yet feel the profound sorrow of personal loss. His death is someone's death far away from what I consider to be the boundary of my personal self. And yet, is it? Am I able to recognize my face in the mirror of Saddam Hussein? Am I able to recognize my face in the mirror of George Bush? These two dangerous men reveal to me my own pernicious aspect.
Not realizing our true nature we remain dangerous creatures. In our ignorance and delusion, (Sanskrit: Avidya), we create and cultivate misery and suffering.
Today is a remembrance of Thomas Becket, also murdered, also caught in the squeeze of power.
Murder in the Cathedral, is a poetic drama in two parts, with a prose sermon interlude, the most successful play of T.S. Eliot. The play was performed at Canterbury Cathedral in 1935 and published the same year. Set in December 1170, it is a modern miracle play on the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury.
The play's most striking feature is the use of a chorus in the classical Greek manner. The poor women of Canterbury who make up the chorus nervously await Thomas' return from his seven-year exile, fretting over his volatile relationship with King Henry II. Thomas arrives and must resist four temptations: worldly pleasures, lasting power as chancellor, recognition as a leader of the barons against the king, and eternal glory as a martyr. To the final and most subtle tempter, Thomas replies:
"Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain:
Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
The last temptation is the greatest treason:
To do the right deed for the wrong reason."
After Thomas delivers his Christmas morning sermon, four knights in the service of the king accost him and order him to leave the kingdom. When he refuses, they return to slay him in the cathedral. Each justifies his actions to the audience, claiming that Thomas suffered from the sin of pride. The drama ends with the priests and chorus mourning Thomas' heroic death. (--1997 Encyclopædia Britannica)
The right deed is to mourn the dead. The wrong reason is thinking we have eliminated someone or something not-us.
The temptation to treason is strong, very strong.
Our ignorance and misery are not permanent. Yet our mind attempts to hold them fast and furious where they are. They can and will fade. They, too, are impermanent. We must not hold tight that which, of itself, will pass. When we murder by hanging, when we murder by bullet or bomb, or when we murder by neglect and unawareness, we are holding fast to delusion and misery.
Saddam Hussein is condemned to hang until dead.
Between the fall and the snap, between the in-breath and the out-breath, remains a fraction of time for us to come to see who we are. Such seeing, such feeling, is our corresponding connection with one another, with the Whole wherein we dwell. When we come to this realization, there will be a sudden flash of understanding that will initially sink us into profound despair at all the misery we have countenanced in ignorance. That too will pass. We'll have to quickly learn to let it pass with gentleness.
In conclusion, let me share with you a short prayer which gives me great inspiration and determination: For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I, too, abide to dispel the misery of the world.
(--The Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, in The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness, edited by Sidney Piburn)
It is the end of a year.
Let's say goodbye with gentleness.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Dawn into orange sunrise walking with Cesco Ragged Mountain path I stop a few times saying 'good morning' to trees. The need for sangha is deep thirst.
I’ve always loved friends of the Way
Always held them dear
Meeting a stranger with silent springs
Greeting a guest talking Zen
Talking about mysteries on a moonlit night
Searching for truth until dawn
When the tracks of our inventions disappear
And we see who we really are
- Cold Mountain
Trees talk Zen. I ask them to share their view. I do not hear voice response, only felt presence. It says (if 'saying' is it) "Stay where you are rooted."
- The Holy Innocents, Martyrs
- There is nothing to be said about the Holy Innocents. They were no-one because they never had the chance to become anyone: they just died.
They may stand for the unimportant and unnecessary pawns that permeate the whole of human history, the ones who can be sacrificed for some greater cause because they don’t really matter; the eggs that were broken to make an omelette... or to make nothing.
- --Universalis, Thursday 28 December 2006
Many pawns are sacrificed today. In war. In sex slave trade. In economic self-interest. In abusive relationships. When ideologies of all stripe -- political, religious, cultural, or personal -- infest and freeze human creativity, there is much suffering.
Coffee, toasted English muffins with peanut butter and Trappist cherry jam, Slavic choral music, slumbering cat and dog, and the good advice of mountain tree -- this is the morning hermitage. I think of the holy innocents. Everywhere they are burdened by selfish minds and chilly hearts.
Yesterday I caught red squirrel in hav-a-heart under feeder out back of kitchen. He darted back and forth in cage. I thought -- aha! now he won't monopolize feeder! I had meant to move him up Barnestown Road. Instead, I went out, lifted trap door, and he scurried up hill over fell branches. Half hour later he was back on feeder. There's enough seed.
An old debate returns -- about forgiveness. There's a man I am angry with. He infuriates me. Worse, he claims God is partner to his actions. (God does seem to partner the oddest of ventures -- from war to lottery tickets, from sexual abuse to foul shots, from being invited to damn almost anything to being considered the holy torturer for eternity of unworthy wretches like you or me.)
About forgiveness -- like the trees, nothing overt can be or need be said. Comes a time, after a bit of space extends itself, that we sit and accept that what happened did indeed happen. And there we are. Just that. With all the pain and sorrow, disappointment and anger -- it happened. Then slowly, and sometimes slower still, the memory remains but you notice no lingering bitterness.
It always appears too blithe to claim a certain forgiveness going or coming.
Our religious friends claim they're forgiven and that's that. No need to remember (as they say) their transgression or sin. God doesn't. Therefore, having accepted the Lord, they are saved and untouchable. I imagine there is some comfort in such an idea. No such comfort appeals to me. We're a remembering people. I don't trust forgetting.
I'll be content to stay rooted where I am. Let the day take care of day, and night take care of night. The actions of men are sometimes awful. Yet, often enough, they are kind and sweet. Curiously, both varieties are part and parcel of the same person -- each of us. It's a hard equation to prove, a calculus mystery too dense to lay straight.
Woodrow Wilson said, "If you want to make enemies, try to change something." He wasn't successful -- not with keeping out of WWI, not with his 1917 notion of a League of Nations.
Today, at end of year, political players toss hats into speculative gambling -- the presidential hopeful lottery. They all want to replace the man who currently occupies the seat of power and often foolish ideology. From where I sit, the world need not be safe for democracy; rather the world might wish to be true with selfless service, with kindness based on awareness, and with an insightful wisdom. We've had enough of pious platitude and spiritual hypocrisy. Enough of institutional callousness masquerading as will-of-society, will-of-law, or will-of-God. We've had quite enough (eh?) of arrogant force and cruel acts masked behind the words 'security' and 'Jesus Christ.'
Maybe we should do what a Native American folk singer suggested a while back: move out of town, head for the hills, grow some food, and stay with people you can talk with. There seems too much cultivating of ugly. We are desperate people pretending we aren't hiding under cable wires, modems, and antennas; pretending to be merely well-informed and au-courant. We're not that. We're hurting. Bleeding. Smiling for the cameras. Frightened at the picture that is emerging.
We're told to go shopping. We're told to go to church. We're told to love the surveillance videos. We're told to be very afraid of the terrorists who want to take away our credit cards and our Savior. We're told to be found in approved places, to be saved in arms loaded with ammunition.
A Robert Frost character named 'Keeper' says the following in a verse play:
I say I'd rather be lost in the woods
Than found in church.
(-- line 514, in A Masque of Mercy; in The Poetry of Robert Frost, Holt Paperback Edition 1979, p. 513.)
I'm frequently a visitor in church; seldom belong there. I'm often wandering in woods; always at home there, even when lost.
Those with a particular angle, those with a corner on God, are best diverted away from hereabouts.
Sitting on bench by brook just alongside cemetery as first sunlight slants across branches with dusting of snow -- the roundness of here.
I'll listen to roots of trees and try to see what each branch sees.
I prefer wandering round here.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Waxing moon ringed with moving cloud. Woodstove stacked.
No one escapes nature -- not their own, not itself.
Mist bordered pine woods,
A Buddhist temple,
At water’s edge, willow trees, fishermen’s huts;
Zen monk with empty bowl after noon,
Old fisherman drying nets in the setting sun.
- Gido Shushin (1325–1388)
I used to think there was a reason to living.
Now I live not knowing why.
Feels better that way.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Walking Ragged Mountain yesterday with Cesco. One step after another. We climb. Slant. Look out over town to Penobscot Bay. Wander switchback home.
Christmas was Monday. So it should be.
This morning rain on rooftop.
Renunciation does not have to be regarded as negative. I was taught that it has to do with letting go of holding back. What one is renouncing is closing down and shutting off from life. You could say that renunciation is the same thing as opening to the teachings of the present moment....
Renunciation is realizing that our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane. Once you begin to get the feeling of how big the world is and how vast our potential for experiencing life is, then you really begin to understand renunciation. When we sit in meditation, we feel our breath as it goes out, and we have some sense of willingness just to be open to the present moment. Then our minds wander off into all kinds of stories and fabrications and manufactured realities, and we say to ourselves, "It's thinking." We say that with a lot of gentleness and a lot of precision. Every time we are willing to let the story line go, and every time we are willing to let go at the end of the outbreath, thats fundamental renunciation: learning how to let go of holding on and holding back.
--Pema Chodron, Tricycle, The Buddhist Review, Vol. I, #1
Christmas was the mountain this year. Frost-pockets preached. Stones held foot in crossing melt. Trees whittled sky lovely shape. Long view opened to Battie, Megunticook, Maiden Cliff, Bald, and over bay islands to Isle a Haut.
I thought of writing something about my view of Christ. But only the view emerged. I thought to say something of Christology this theologically ambiguous time, but rain falls in its place. I thought to wonder aloud of how odd the way we hold on to religion and enwrap divinity in tight coils of our opinions and personalities, but instead sat in quiet as silence let nothing go on.
- Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
- You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it."
- When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.
- But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
- and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
- But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
- They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.
- As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
- Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"; and when he said this, he fell asleep.
- (-Acts 7)
"Impermanence is, in fact, just another name for perfection." That's what Charlotte Joko Beck wrote in Everyday Zen.
Just passing through. So it is. Our father and our mother, our brothers and our sisters -- each is doing this with us.
And now it is Tuesday.
So it should be.
Monday, December 25, 2006
At dawn, as light arises east of Hosmer Pond, Cesco, Mu-Ge and I walk up to brook. Only sound of steps on frozen leaves.
Water down mountain turns where Mini, Kotoba, Jitai, and Sando ground memory with resting remains.
For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course,
Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne, as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction.
(- Wisdom 18: 14-15, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition.)
What is different about Christmas morning?
Every sentient being is ready
To be enlightened at every moment.
The only hindrance is not
Recognizing the purity and limitlessness
Of buddha nature.
We may have inklings of our limitless quality,
But we don’t fully recognize it,
So we become focused on the relative I, the self.
- The Twelfth Tai Situpa
Here is what is different about Christmas morning.
We are here.
Saskia comes down stairs.
We'll walk Ragged Mountain.
Earth is here. Sun is here. Dog, cat -- here. House and barn are both here. So too chapel/zendo.
Coffee and tea also here. Rye bread for toast. Shimmering leaves on Beech branch in morning light.
Christ, as well, is here.
Wisdom wants us to see through destruction, through fierce conquering -- Wisdom wants us to see something more interesting.
If we come to see from the midst -- if we, today, quietly turn in any direction, we will come to see the revelation of Christmas.
Wisdom says we must look into the word "midst."
Middle of, centered with, or, between us.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
follow no path
all paths lead where
truth is here
(Poem by e.e. cummings)
We rub eyes still sleepy. We want ritual to say it for us. We're unsure we are the correct expression of the word. We think we're not, or might not be, adequately pronounced. We fear we've been mumbled incoherently. We're afraid we will miss something. We're nervous that we have not really understood the unchanging story told us about who we are, what God is, and how sacred history has unveiled itself through time and existence.
There is no unchanging story.
The story is what is just now and still not yet revealing itself.
Suzuki Roshi said, Renunciation is not giving up the things of this world, but accepting that they go away. Everything is impermanent; sooner or later everything goes away. Renunciation is a state of non-attachment, acceptance of this going away. Impermanence is, in fact, just another name for perfection. Leaves fall; debris and garbage accumulate; out of the debris come flowers, greenery, things that we think are lovely. Destruction is necessary. A good forest fire is necessary. The way we interfere with forest fires may not be a good thing. Without destruction, there could be no new life and the wonder of life, the constant change could not be. We must live and die. And this process is perfection itself. All this change is not, however, what we had in mind. Our drive is not to appreciate the perfection of the universe. Our personal drive is to find a way to endure in our unchanging glory forever....Who hasn't noticed the first gray hair and thought, Uh-oh.
--Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen
Wir mussen sich entsinnen. We must recall, recollect, remember.
We must transcend, yet, include.
The story is being written -- even as we attend right here, right now.
Word. Being. Now. Here. Through. And. Through.
In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.
A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.
The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.
The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me’.
Indeed, from his fulness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.
Soon we shall come to see the light that shines in the world through us by way of Christ being born in our sleepy consciousness.
It takes -- so it seems -- a long, long time to wake up.
The dawn will come. The present moment will reveal itself.
We have yet to get through the current darkness of tenacious unawareness.
It is the night before.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Just now is still not yet revealed.
Not yet born. Still not seeing light. Here we are. It is the 23rd. Jesus is not yet born. That happens on the 25th.
What happens on the 25th? That's for the 25th to reveal. Just now is still not yet revealed.
Do not believe anything on the mere authority of teachers or priests. Accept as true and as the guide to your life only that which accords with your own reason and experience, after thorough investigation. Accept only that which contributes to the well-being of yourself and others.
Rainy morning. Bald Mountain under fog. Brook chanting its way. Ground wet. Incense extinguished. Winter zendo sitting. Crucifix and Buddha on either side of knot-hole split wood next to Mary/Child Icon, window draped with small colored lights.
Home this morning. Hiatus. No 20 mile arrival at where Saturdays have been for six months. We are not yet the presence that transcends petty power and egoic erratic indignation. We're not yet surrendered to the wholeness of what is -- the presence of God, the Christ-reality permeating everything with no-name, no-imposition, no-intrusion, and no-other compassion.
‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John’. And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God.
(--in Luke 1:57 - 66)
No one in our family knows the name of the one calling us.
No one knows what the call wishes in our response.
No one comprehends the sound of the name resounding in the depths of silence.
I was struck, most of all, by the way witness and compassion are woven into the very fabric of monastic life, wherever we find it. No fanfare, no manifesto, no big theory, just life lived with integrity in all its splendid ordinariness.
(-p.125, David Steindl-Rast, in Benedict's Dharma)
My commitment is to monastic life.
As not-yet realized wholeness.
Friday, December 22, 2006
What was it that Buddha wished to teach? Was it sagacity? Was it brilliant academic understanding? Was his aim to encourage the reading of the sutras, or asceticism or austerities? In reality it was none of these. He simply wished to show all living beings how to set in right order the body and mind. The method of doing this is given in the classic on meditation called Zazen-gi:
"Think the unthinkable. How to think the unthinkable? Be without thoughts; this is the secret of meditation."
-- Takashina Rosen (1876-1968)
Without thought, ego disappears. Ego is the thought that believes we are separate.
When the ego dissolves, where does it go?
I was mulling my morning meditation about "ego." At Chase's Daily, over muffin and coffee, across from Saskia, just from St Francis of Assisi's reminder that the incarnation roots us in this reality. This existence is full of revealing grace which inquires into who we are and wonders in stillness what name within us presences us, what sound we listen to.
Teilhard De Chardin writes:
To sum up, in order to match the new curve of Time Christianity is led to discover the values of this world below the level of God, while Humanism finds room for a God above the level of this world. Inverse and complementary movements: or rather, the two faces of a single event which perhaps marks the beginning of a new era for Mankind.
This double transformation is something more than a speculation of my own. Throughout the world at this moment, without distinction of country, class, calling or creed, men are appearing who have begun to reason, to act and to pray in terms of the limitless and organic dimensions of Space-Time. To the outside observer such men may still seem isolated. But they are aware of one another among themselves, they recognize each other whenever their paths cross. They know that tomorrow, rejecting old concepts, divisions and forms, the whole world will see what they see and think as they do.
--From the 1942 essay "The New Spirit" by Teilhard de Chardin. Peking, February 13, 1942
This Christmas I consider the birth of wholeness into the not-yet realizing itself as wholeness.
I say to my friends: I am well, I am fine.
Where you are, I am.
These are the words of Christmas.
Fizzle well! Dissolve well. You are well!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Cold night, no wind,
Bamboo making noises,
Noises far apart, now bunched
Filtering the pine-flanked
Listening with ears is less fine
Than listening with the mind.
Beside the lamp,
I lay aside the half scroll of sutra.
- Hsu-t’ang Chih-yu (1185-1269)
Francis of Assisi reminded us that God incarnated. Conversion is when breath turns to return home to wholeness.
Christmas is the birth of wholeness -- not-yet realized.
We should ask God
To help us toward manners. Inner gifts
Do not find their way
To creatures without just respect.
If a man or woman flails about, he not only
Smashes his house,
He burns the whole world down.
Your depression is connected to your insolence
And your refusal to praise. If a man or woman is
On the path, and refuses to praise — that man or woman
Steals from others every day — in fact is a shoplifter!
The sun became full of light when it got hold of itself.
Angels began shining when they achieved discipline.
The sun goes out whenever the cloud of not-praising comes near.
The moment that foolish angel felt insolent, he heard the door close.
(Poem: "Praising Manners" by Robert Bly, from The Winged Energy of Delight.)
Christ is defenseless. The metaphor is a little baby.
If praise is the breath of life, find gratitude.
Slap oneself into breathing. Cry a bit. Then go on.
No looking back because there is nothing behind you.
Step next, then next, just next.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Outside the temple,
Already I know how fine
The mountain must be;
Clear cool shade detains me.
I sit by the circling steps.
On newly opened leaves I see
Wonder if they’re from Han-shan’s brush,
The ink not yet dried.
- Feng of Pei-shan
We must recall, reconnect, remember.
Tomorrow, the O Antiphons say, I will come.
The sense of what is beyond!
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The artists "Clarity," that is. They said: No longer "deadline panic," rather "lifeline assessment." Their insight is a gift for those of us who can't do something until the last moment. It's because life longs for full assessment before downloading its reflection. It works for school papers in the same way it works for appreciation of our true self.
How marvelous, how wonderful!
All sentient beings are perfect without flaw.
It is only due to delusive attachments
That the truth cannot be seen.
Their primary colors and collaborative process brighten the room. We are deep in the revelation that we are in this act of creativity together.
Back out on Elm street, Tommy is mailing letters in front of Wild Rufus. The street and sidewalks are empty but for two cars leaving after library closes. We laugh at the lovely absurdity of some of the characters and stories of the day we've come through.
The people crowded around him were so touched by their own consciences that they departed. When Jesus found himself alone with the woman, he asked her who were her accusers. She replied, “No man, lord.” Jesus then said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.”
Jesus had it square on. Condemnation is a pile-on syndrome. If one person (in this case, Jesus) refuses to condemn, the impetus is broken, and someone is set free.
We recall John's father and mother's silent story revealing the realization of what is being born to us:
When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had received a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them, and remained dumb.
When his time of service came to an end he returned home. Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she kept to herself. ‘The Lord has done this for me’ she said ‘now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men.’
Let's try something different. Let's try taking away the humiliation that is suffered by men and women in living among men and women.
We're well practiced in humiliating one another.
A new practice is to exchange the humiliating skill for the appreciating skill.
Both Jesus and Buddha embody this appreciating skill.
How fortunate we are.
That we all might be moved, soon and simply.
To practice this.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Feeling a little stupid doesn't absolve me from pointing out my inner delusion onto the world of passing things. Like the helicopter paddle-balling to top of Ragged. Or dropping off words that promise nothing but more words and longer exasperation. I am crazed. And a galaxy has a billion stars.
If we happen to receive the instructions of a good friend and suddenly awaken to this void and calm awareness, the calm awareness becomes free of thought and formless. Who then would assume that there is “self” or “person”?
- Chinul (1209)
Land, lift, set down, lift lower land. Have you ever looked a tree right into the bark? Don't tell me we're alone in the universe. Other life isn't out there. It permeates us.
His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn;
Our barn has circle of white light on red barn door. It might be a wreath. It might be nothing. You'll have to consider the matter yourself.
Once some people were visiting Chekhov.
While they made remarks about his genius
the Master fidgeted. Finally
he said, "Do you like chocolates?"
They were astonished, and silent.
He repeated the question,
whereupon one lady plucked up her courage
and murmured shyly, "Yes."
"Tell me," he said, leaning forward,
light glinting from his spectacles,
"what kind? The light, sweet chocolate
or the dark, bitter kind?"
The conversation became general
They spoke of cherry centers,
of almonds and Brazil nuts.
Losing their inhibitions
they interrupted one another.
For people may not know what they think
about politics in the Balkans,
or the vexed question of men and women,
but everyone has a definite opinion
about the flavor of shredded coconut.
Finally someone spoke of chocolates filled with liqueur,
and everyone, even the author of Uncle Vanya,
was at a loss for words.
As they were leaving he stood by the door
and took their hands.
In the coach returning to Petersburg
they agreed that it had been a most
(Poem: "Chocolates" by Louis Simpson from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001.)
They're all unusual -- each conversation. One whole galaxy is reduced to a dog's tongue lapping water on Ragged Mountain on a cloudy afternoon. Things disappear anytime you open your mouth to say anything.
I'll think of this when next I feel compelled to prove a point.
There's no proof.
Is there any point?
Just make it.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
This one word “awareness” is the source of all wonders. Because of delusion concerning this awareness, the marks of self arise. When it is assumed that there is “I” or “mine,” liking and disliking automatically appear.
- Chinul (1209)
Cesco wandered Ragged Mountain with me. Our dusk walks are so quiet. Then, on cushion, darkness fell -- right where I sat.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
These words are good words. Wind sounds with bells through them.
"It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, It is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that can be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection, No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. That enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results. But that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are the workers, not the master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen."
(By the martyred archbishop, Oscar Romero; on Andrew Sullivan blog, http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish/)
This worker is grateful for the work given. And, thankful, as well, for the work taken.
It is enough to bring about a wandering silence.
Letting grace enter and do the rest.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Do we know what it is?
Inscription over Taoist hermitage
The recluse’s heart is a
Unruffled by the winds
We do not know how to be alone.
My friends and my neighbours
keep far from my wounds.
Those closest to me keep far away,
while those who would kill me set traps,
those who would harm me make their plots:
they plan mischief all through the day.
(from Psalm 38)
The psalm captures our plight.
We do not know how to be alone.
This is for God to be.
Alone in the wind.
As one is alone.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I don't want to forget. Forgetting is a theme of religious types. "I'm forgiven," they say, "so, I can forget." That's what is said.
When the mind is transparent and pure
As if reflected on the mirror-like surface of the water,
There is nothing in the world that you would dislike.
When it is serene as the light breeze in the sunshine,
There will be no one whom you would like to forget.
- Pa-ta Shan-jen (1626-1701)
There are a few I'd like to forget. But recall is such an important part of moving ahead. A monk once quoted someone saying "True forgiveness is remembering without bitterness." That sits well.
The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.
(from A Spiritual Canticle of St John of the Cross)
I prefer to pass through, not gaining anything from it. To merely pass through I have to consider there is nothing to gain. If that is so, why clenched fist? What is spirited away and concealed?
Night Below Zero
3 AM, the night is absolutely still;
Snow squeals beneath my skis, plumes on the turns.
I stop at the canyon's edge, stand looking out
Over the Great Valley, over the millions —
In bed, drunk, loving, tending mills, furnaces,
Alone, wakeful, as the world rolls in chaos.
The quarter moon rises in the black heavens —
Over the sharp constellations of the cities
The cold lies, crystalline and silent,
Locked between the mountains.
(Poem: "Night Below Zero" by Kenneth Rexroth)
So many of us suffer running back to what we know, instead of falling darkly through the emptiness with the reality of One's Self.
Tonight, thick fog through mid-coast Maine. I have forgotten why I've come here. I remember being sick of those who wish the world to end so that a fixed idea of Jesus could serve their delusion as nightcap of laced abundance.
(That's too harsh.) Try this: There is no forgetting. We have to live every day as if it were the day it is. Nor is there any forgiveness. We have to see one another as one another -- thereby accepting the fact that the very next action taken is the foundation of the world.
The story of God creating the world? Yea, that's right -- look around -- it's being done right now. Download your updates. Leave the historical theology books in the swap shop. What is being written right now is not on paper, nor is it some digitized electronic pixel. Rather, it is being written in the air surrounding us, in the breath just taken, in the breath just released -- it is being written as the very...next...thing...before...us.
Care to join in? Check all your guns and sledge hammers at the door. This job demands a more radical skill.
We have to learn how to pass through. We must practice crossing through fear, disrespect, and mistrust with unclenched fist, with open hand.
With nothing to show for the passing through.
Care to be gone beyond? What is there?
Beyond which is care itself.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
"People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster." (-- James Baldwin)
Maybe ignorance is a kinder affliction that pious innocence -- especially when piety is pretense.
We've come to long for something more complex in one another -- something like integrity. Feign innocence and you forfeit integrity. Genuine ignorance invites a more authentic response, namely, compassion that stops short of pity.
The Hand We Are Dealt
The Buddha's maps for the journey to wisdom and happiness are attractive to many people because they are so simple. Essentially, he taught that it doesn't make sense to upset ourselves about what is beyond our control. We don't get a choice about what hand we are dealt in this life. The only choice we have is our attitude about the cards we hold and the finesse with which we play our hand. When the Buddha taught his ideas twenty-five hundred years ago, many people understood him so well as soon as they heard him that they were happy ever after. The people who didn't understand him immediately needed to practice meditation, and then they understood. (--Sylvia Boorstein, It's Easier Than You Think)
I think of God as "What is beyond control."
Someone used the phrase: "Words failing experience." It reminds me that we often cannot grasp clearly in words what experience presents to us whole-sight. It is these times we are left with mere pure gaze.
Mere pure gaze offers nothing more that itself.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
The shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, near Mexico City, is one of the most celebrated places of pilgrimage in North America. On December 9, 1531, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to an Indian convert, Juan Diego, and left with him a picture of herself impressed upon his cloak. Devotion to Mary under this title has continually increased, and today she is the Patroness of the Americas.
Guadalupe is strictly the name of a picture, but was extended to the church containing the picture and to the town that grew up around. The word is Spanish Arabic, but in Mexico it may represent certain Aztec sounds.
The place, styled Guadalupe Hidalgo since 1822 -- as in our 1848 treaty -- is three miles northeast of Mexico City. Pilgrimages have been made to this shrine almost uninterruptedly since 1531-32
(-- Catholic Encyclopedia)
What is the sound of mere pure gaze?
What is nothing more than itself?
"Not-knowing" is other than "don't-know." Innocence other than ignorance.
If so, then, what is no-other?
I'll wait here with the image Juan Diego Cuauhtlatohuac carried of Mary. (His last name, Cuauhtlatohuac, is in the Nahuatl language and has been translated as "Talking Eagle." -- Wikipedia)
Roses fell from his cloak; icon presented itself wordlessly.
What-is-beyond-control, so it seems, is not-knowing-experience.
Call me, will you, when this reality clears.
Monday, December 11, 2006
The person resolute in the Way must strive not to lose sight of it, whether in a place of calm or in a place of strife. Beware of clinging to quiet places and shunning those where there is disturbance. If you try to take refuge from trouble by running to some quiet place, you will fall into confusion.
- Daikaku (1213-1279)
Words are sounds from our soul. If we speak and what we say is uncaring or unkind, we cause others to suffer. But if we speak and what we say is truthful and compassionate -- suffering is diminished. I'm not sure suffering ever disappears. But if ego begins to diminish, when it becomes servant to correct relationship and authentic humility, liberation comes closer.
...Jesus, aware of their thoughts, made them this reply, ‘What are these thoughts you have in your hearts? Which of these is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven you” or to say, “Get up and walk”?
(--Luke 5: 22,23)
I'm trying to get up.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
"What should we do?" That's the question Luke in chapter 3 puts repeatedly to John in the wilderness.
Magnanimous Mind is like a mountain,
Stable and impartial.
Exemplifying the ocean,
It is tolerant and views everything
From the broadest perspective.
- Dogen (1200-1253)
First, we should listen. We should do what we are.
It is beyond us all to figure out why we turn deaf ear to the cries for help raised up from our midst. We do not listen. We only recalculate what is for our benefit, then mouth our responses from that narrow sliver of self-interest.
God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of himself.
[--Thomas Merton: Seeds of Contemplation]
Merton disappeared thirty eight years ago today in Thailand. Has he reappeared somewhere else? Who can tell. For me, today, he reappears in his words.
I am a partial utterance of God.
What am I?
Good enough for now.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
Try as we will, we cannot hold on to anything.
So, let's let go.
Are you concerned with enlightenment,
which implies a static attainment,
or rather enlightening,
an unending process
of continual opening?
Are you concerned with answers
or rather with boundless questions?
For the answer
never fails to kill enlightening;
the mind then reverts
to the static knowing,
soon becomes caught
again in the web
of associations and
reduces the entirety
of the world to the mundane.
- Ji Aoi Isshi
If someone finds you unacceptable, be unacceptable. Saint Francis called that perfect joy. Some of that joy is mine today.
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’”
Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" is not as simple and playful as it seems.
In Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant locates in one of Frost's letters the source for "The Road Not Taken." To Susan Hayes Ward the poet wrote on February 10, 1912:
Two lonely cross-roads that themselves cross each other I have walked several times this winter without meeting or overtaking so much as a single person on foot or on runners. The practically unbroken condition of both for several days after a snow or a blow proves that neither is much travelled. Judge then how surprised I was the other evening as I came down one to see a man, who to my own unfamiliar eyes and in the dusk looked for all the world like myself, coming down the other, his approach to the point where our paths must intersect being so timed that unless one of us pulled up we must inevitably collide. I felt as if I was going to meet my own image in a slanting mirror. Or say I felt as we slowly converged on the same point with the same noiseless yet laborious stride as if we were two images about to float together with the uncrossing of someone's eyes. I verily expected to take up or absorb this other self and feel the stronger by the addition for the three-mile journey home. But I didn't go forward to the touch. I stood still in wonderment and let him pass by; and that, too, with the fatal omission of not trying to find out by a comparison of lives and immediate and remote interests what could have brought us by crossing paths to the same point in a wilderness at the same moment of nightfall. Some purpose I doubt not, if we could but have made out. I like a coincidence almost as well as an incongruity.
This portentous account of meeting "another" self (but not encountering that self directly and therefore not coming to terms with it) would eventually result in a poem quite different from "The Road Not Taken" and one that Frost would not publish for decades. Elizabeth Sergeant ties the moment with Frost's decision to go off at this time to some place where he could devote more time to poetry. He had also, she implies, filed away his dream for future poetic use.
(By George Montiero, From Robert Frost and the New England Renaissance. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1988. Copyright © 1988 by the UP of Kentucky.)
Today I, too, file away a dream for future use.
I accept the unacceptable.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Three members of the Christian Peacemaker Team hold a news conference in London. They plead for leniency and no death penalty for the men who kidnapped them and murdered Tom Fox. "We want good to come out of this," says James Loney.
In November of 2005, Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Normman Kember were kidnapped along with U.S. peace activist, Tom Fox. Fox, who was also a full-time member of the CPT team, was working in Baghdad at the time. He was murdered on March 9th 2006. The remaining three were set free on March 23rd.
(From Democracy Now, Friday, December 8th, 2006)
When John Lennon was finally given a green card and asked if he had any bad feelings about the heads of the FBI and Justice Department, he responded with a phrase that is a variation of "Time heals all wounds." We're unsure if the phrasing is: "Time wounds all heels"; or, "Time wounds; all heals".
So much depends on how and what we hear. So much depends on how we experience what we hear.
But now the Lord speaks, who created you, Jacob, who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine.’
It occurs to me that the name that is God's and the name that is yours and mine can also go through a twofold view.
Listen to the sound of your name in your mind and memory as spoken by your mother or your father. The sound of your name as spoken by mother/father/God resides in your being as your being.
Did Mary hear and have an immaculate sound as her origin?
What we hear is experienced by us according to the mind we listen with. With a clear mind everything can be heard with compassionate clarity. With an unclear mind things are heard with cutting intent.
Is this how the clear among us are able to transform hurt to healing, and unkindness to an experience of humility?
Time wounds. "All" heals. The words themselves have gone beyond.
We need a transforming listening to metaphor in order to go beyond ourselves -- to wake up.
Siddhartha Gautama heard with clarity what he saw with transforming awareness, and awoke.
At an early age I learned that things stand for other things. ...
I have had to look at my life. And I have escaped from madness by understanding transformation, how each thing transcends its own reality. I either go mad or I learn about metaphor.
(from "Thorazine Shuffle" by filmmaker Allie Light -- in the book Out of Her Mind: Women Writing on Madness, ed. by Rebecca Shannonhouse)
Wisdom is beyond me.
How amazing it is
That all people
Have this but cannot polish
It into bright clarity.
In darkness unawakened,
They make foolishness
Cover their wisdom.
- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157)
When I ascend beyond that which I identify with as me, I am closer to awake than when I first began.
In this, in "this" -- we are all, "all" alike.
This is our life.
I think this is true.
I think we do want good to come out of this.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
In the early days many sages stressed the follies and dangers of impurity. When delusion, perverted views, and bad thinking habits are eliminated, the mind is as clear and tranquil as the autumn stream. It is pure and quiescent, placid and free from attachment.
- Master Kuei-shan Ling-yu
It seems uninteresting to believe in a place of unending torture or a God who tolerates the pain of creatures. I'll sit out that belief.
On the Subway Station
The child is speaking to the father
he is looking into the father's eyes
father doesn't answer
child is speaking Vietnamese
father doesn't answer
child is speaking English
father doesn't answer
The father is staring at a mosaic in blue and green
and lavender three small ships in harbor
set again and again in the white tiled
beautiful old unrenovated subway
station Clark Street Brooklyn
(Poem: "On the Subway Station" by Grace Paley, from Leaning Forward.)
We need renovated spirituality.
Jesus lived in the light of a loving Father encircled and permeated by Holy Spirit. (Here is a tolerable narrative.) Jesus died the same way good men die always -- at the hands of lesser men fanatic in their notions of purity and superior motivations.
Which leaves us. And our times.
Do not think for a minute that the stories of religious tradition were about some far-ago time and some other people. They are about right now. About you and me.
For God's sake, give up torture and punishment -- give up hell. Then give up false notions of God.
So as to rest in the true God who has no difficulty having been given up. Maybe laughs at it. Certainly is forgiving to all of us unknowing what we do. And goes on being God.
Somehow Christ is seen through.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
If we don't believe in heaven, who reads the letters we mail there
Children send most of them, kneeling by the bedpost
imagining the universe under the care of a father
who rumbles behind the newspaper
smelling of cigarettes and Old Spice.
To grow up is to lose one's God at sea —
better to lose one than be one.
If you believe the world is perfect,
think of Keats dying young.
I never would have seen it if I hadn't believed it,
the saying goes. Somebody has to awaken us
to the time of day it is when the earth is empty
of any intention, or any human presence.
And yet it is noon, and here you are — your blue headlands
and swords, your wave-moistened silences.
As if at the heart of things
there were a heart.
(Poem: "Prayer" by James Armstrong, from Blue Lash.)
Reality has no opinion.
It just is.
As it is.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Beneath the mountain
A stream flows
On and on without end.
If one’s Zen mind is like this
Seeing into one’s nature
Cannot be far off.
- Hakuin (1686-1768)
Outside kitchen window red squirrel scampers over dust snow on hill . We are a breath's simple and humble passage through. We, unfortunately, do not yet comprehend the ins and outs of One's breath.
Isaiah pondered it. Many translations later, we read:
A shoot springs from the stock of Jesse,
a scion thrusts from his roots:
on him the spirit of the Lord rests,
a spirit of wisdom and insight,
a spirit of counsel and power,
a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
(The fear of the Lord is his breath.)
He does not judge by appearances,
he gives no verdict on hearsay,
but judges the wretched with integrity,
and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land.
His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless,
his sentences bring death to the wicked.
(Isaiah 11: 1-4, Jerusalem Bible)
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Isaiah 11:4 (New International Version)
4But with (I)righteousness He will judge the (J)poor,
And decide with fairness for the (K)afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the (L)rod of His mouth,
And with the (M)breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
( Isaiah 11:4 New American Standard Bible)
4But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
( Isaiah 11:4 King James Version)
4The poor and the needy
will be treated with fairness
and with justice.
His word will be law
everywhere in the land,
will be put to death.
( Isaiah 11:4 Contemporary English Version)
4 He will give justice to the poor
and make fair decisions for the exploited.
The earth will shake at the force of his word,
and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
( Isaiah 11:4 New Living Translation)
4 but He will judge the poor righteously (E)
and execute justice for the oppressed of the land.
He will strike the land
with discipline [a] from His mouth, (F)
and He will kill the wicked (G)
with a command [b] from His lips. (H)
( Isaiah 11:4 Holman Christian Standard Bible)
4But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and He shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.
(21st Century King James Version)
So it goes. We all breathe the same air. With some translation, perhaps we might read:
Each in all.
The wicked take our breath,
poison the air, our thoughts, our sight.
Dark words, insane distrust, a fetid denigration.
We choke. Cancer lung. Words rot in throat.
Return to spirit, to clear air,
See the transparency of One, God;
Inhale, exhale --
Collation of original life!
Cat stretches on lap as I write. Dog sleeps in front room after yesterday's surgery. Front window crucifix next to Mother/Child icon and seated Buddha.
The morning seems (suddenly) itself.
Monday, December 04, 2006
A fleeting dream
So why be alarmed
At its evanescence?
- Ikkyu (1394-1481)
The sorrow of it.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
His mind is free from all thoughts.
His demeanor is still and silent.
His forehead beams with simplicity.
He is cold as autumn,
And warm as spring,
For his joy and anger
Occur as naturally
As the four seasons.
- Chuang Tzu
Henry, at end, says: "Waking is listening."
Saturday, December 02, 2006
8 Owe nothing to anyone — except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. 9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.”[a] These — and other such commandments — are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
(Romans 13: 8-10, New Living Translation)
Friday, December 01, 2006
Let us shut out the fear of death and meditate upon immortality
Our obligation is to do God’s will, and not our own. We must remember this if the prayer that our Lord commanded us to say daily is to have any meaning on our lips. How unreasonable it is to pray that God’s will be done, and then not promptly obey it when he calls us from this world!
(from The treatise of St Cyprian on mortality)
(Ask again.) What is God's will?
Rain falls on roof. Dead mouse under bed, removed.
Open window airs room.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
what I think.
- Chuang Tzu
When on or in the field, all is clear. The only barrier is what we hold on to, clutching the small definitions we think is our self, with resentments, grievances, anger, ego, and assorted blockages.
As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen.
--Matthew 4:18 - 22
The field might be the sea. It might be consciousness, or existence. Maybe we are the field.
Live well therein.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
“I am empty of everything and there is nothing left in my mind,” said the monk to Joshu. “What do you say to that?”
Joshu said, “Cast that away.”
But the monk persisted. “I have told you, there is nothing left in me. I am completely empty. What can I cast away?”
“In that case,” replied Joshu,”keep on carrying it.”
On the field of consciousness everything appears and disappears. The field remains. Like a second baseman taking the baseball infield for an inning, we assume positions then exit and disappear.
Tomorrow is the feast of St Andrew.
Christmas Anticipation Prayer
Beginning on St. Andrew the Apostle's feast day, November 30, the following beautiful prayer is traditionally recited fifteen times a day until Christmas. This is a very meditative prayer that helps us increase our awareness of the real focus of Christmas and helps us prepare ourselves spiritually for His coming.
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born
Of the most pure Virgin Mary,
in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God,
to hear my prayer and grant my desires,
[hear mention your request]
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and of His blessed Mother. Amen.
I remember the woman who taught me this prayer. She read an e.e.cummings poem once.
The world went thirty years by.
We'll think about the wood stove. We'll remember Andrew.
We'll pray toward Advent and through.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
In America it is time to go shopping to honor the Prince of Peace, in whose name (curiously) war and murder occur. There is no spin to offset this stupidity. But spin many do.
One can see the mystery.
One can see the manifestations.
These two spring
From the same source
But differ in name.
- Lao tzu
It is time to admit the Christian message is delivered often by missionaries and preachers with failing emphasis. Their goading gloat about Armageddon and rapture is an embarrassment. Naive followers of simplistic narrative easily take hostile posture in defense of their certainty that God wishes (they say) to punish and condemn those not believing in him. More specifically, those who do not articulate particular formulas of belief. Many, said a woman at the shop, have had "formula conversions." To them, anyone not reciting word for word their statements of belief or testimony, are outside and alien to "the" true belief. The presumption and rote inanity staggers. This view is a learning that rivets fast the mind. If learning it can be called.
The enemy has hounded my spirit,
he has crushed my life to the ground,
he has shut me in darkness, like the dead of long ago.
So my spirit trembles within me,
my heart turns to stone.
(--from Psalm 143)
This is not a dirge, not a lament. It is a song of despair. There is no hope. Sorrow would be a step up. The song of despair is cold listening.
And yet, and yet, and yet. We hear a quiet sound. Something ends. Something begins. Are we still listening?
Advent nears. The feast of Christ the King was flat and uninspiring in today's delegitimized metaphor of regal rule. Advent, at least, brings a mind capable of contemplating a new start.
If we don't wake up -- now -- we might never.
If the path doesn't appear -- now -- it might not.
If the light isn't seen -- now -- darkness slaughters.
And, if we are not born into true wholeness -- now -- we remain partial and pathetic.
Let us say now an embodied prayer of kindness. End disembodied ugliness.
Begin the loveliness of incarnation with something true.
Redeem the time.
Monday, November 27, 2006
This is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks. Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. Then I will be their God and they shall be my people
-- Jeremiah 31:33
All the stern-faced angry Jesus-will-condemn-you types will suddenly stop dead in their tracks.
It will occur to them that they've been terribly wrong.
They will weep.
Finally they will understand their own hearts.
There is where God comes through.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Called from. Called out. Called to.
What does it mean to be called out?
Main Entry: ecclesi-
Variant(s): or ecclesio-
Function: combining form
Etymology: Late Latin ecclesia, from Greek ekklEsia assembly of citizens, church, from ekkalein to call forth, summon, from ex- + kalein to call -- more at: church
"Church" has become a nest. Very temporary.
If in a storm in a desolate terrain you are called out, be prepared to leave that place. If in a rich palace you are called out, be prepared to leave that place. If in solitude, if in community, you are called out -- leave that place. But only if you are foolish enough to follow truth.
What is the sequel to truth?
Shut up and go home!
Home, like truth, is nowhere we know.
In this silence and source, there is no knowing wherefore or why. Truth is its own relentless presence. Only enter. Only engage. Only disappear.
Too many steps have been
Taken returning to the root
And the source.
Better to have been blind
And deaf from the beginning!
Dwelling in one’s true abode,
Unconcerned with that without -
The river flows tranquilly
On and the flowers are red.
- Kakuan (1100-1200)
Leave everything behind. The next step contains the everything you are to also leave behind when you take the next next step.
I have moments in which I understand that there is no one who owns the narrative of my life, no one to whom the events of my life are happening, that all of creation is a huge, interconnected, amazing production of events unfolding in concert with each other, connected to each other, dependent on each other, with no separation at all. When these moments happen, I feel happy, at ease, and grateful. I think of them as experiences of enlightenment. They are real and I trust them, but they don’t last. However clearly I see, however much I think, “Now I will never lose this perspective,” my mind makes wrong turns and I do lose it.
When I discover that I am-once again-confused, I try to remember that the habit of return is what matters. I credit myself with the insights I’ve had and assume that I can get them back. I think about the Buddha charging his monks with the responsibility to go on by themselves. I think about the geese, programmed for their journey, and I imagine that we are programmed for our journey as well. I pay attention. I make course corrections. I think about “Strive on with diligence,” or “Move with sureness into the future,” and I remember that I don’t need to move into the whole of the future. Just the next step.
(-- Sylvia Boorstein, Shambhala Sun | September 2002, "The Buddha's Four Noble Truths")
What is truth for me? Dare ask?
For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"
(-- John 18: 37-38)
The most eloquent response in all of scripture is what is recorded as Jesus' response to the question of Pilate.
Do you remember it?
Yes, it was, and is, silence.
Seed breaking bird.
Called out to next step.
Friday, November 24, 2006
That's my final line. I write it because I don't ever know who anyone is. Appearances are full of mystery. As much is concealed as is revealed.
"As is" reveals itself in ways mostly unclear to us. That's why Zen masters and poets both appeal to us and leave us questioning.
Happy Continuation Day
If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people. To be born means that something which did not exist comes into existence. But the day we are “born” is not our beginning. It is a day of continuation. But that should not make us less happy when we celebrate our “Happy Continuation Day.”
Since we are never born, how can we cease to be? This is what the Heart Sutra reveals to us. When we have tangible experience of non-birth and non-death, we know ourselves beyond duality. The meditation on “no separate self” is one way to pass through the gate of birth and death.
Your hand proves that you have never been born and you will never die. The thread of life has never been interrupted from time without beginning until now. Previous generations, all the way back to single cell beings, are present in your hand at this moment. You can observe and experience this. Your hand is always available as a subject for meditation.
(--Thich Nhat Hanh, from Present Moment, Wonderful Moment)
Lori's grandma Mary died the other day. That, and Jon's good friend hauled off and found himself in a heap of hoosegow this week. This morning wind blows easterly and windowpanes are wet. The celebration of gratefulness strains on days not earmarked for it. And yet, there is always poetry.
The Summer You Learned to Swim
The summer you learned to swim
was the summer I learned to be at peace with myself.
In May you were afraid to put your face in the water
But by August, I was standing in the pool once more
when you dove in, then retreated to the wall saying
You forgot to say Sugar! So I said Come on Sugar, you can do it
and you pushed off and swam to me and held on
laughing, your hair stuck to your cheeks—
you hiccupped with joy and swam off again.
And I dove in too, trying new things.
I tried not giving advice. I tried waking early to pray. I tried
not rising in anger. Watching you I grew stronger—
your courage washed away my fear.
All day I worked hard thinking of you.
In the evening I walked the long hill home.
You were at the top, waving your small arms,
pittering down the slope to me and I lifted you high
so high to the moon. That summer all the world
was soul and water, light glancing off peaks.
You learned the turtle, the cannonball, the froggy, and the flutter
And I learned to stand and wait for you to swim to me.
(Poem: "The Summer You Learned to Swim" by Michael Simms, from The Happiness of Animals. Monkey Sea Editions.)
Courage can wash away fear. Not fighting courage, but attention courage -- the kind of heart that sees kind heart as a continuation worth attending to -- we learn to serve, to stand and wait.
So it is that the mysteries of Christ will not be completed until the end of time, because he has arranged that the completion of his mysteries in us and in the Church will only be achieved at the end of time.
(from The treatise of St John Eudes on the kingdom of Jesus, Office of Readings, Fri.24Nov06)
I like the notion it is we who will complete and continue what has been begun with attentive courage -- to put a face on kindness.
For, what else was this Jesus about? But facing kindness with attentive courage -- saying: learn to make your way through this way of being!
Dive in. Try new things. Put down all formulas of conversion and belief.
Swim in the completing continuation of this day, these faces, our time together, the name you reveal to me each time you show up.
Presence, not kingdom.
It's right here.
What do we make of it?