Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mary, would you? Again, alone?

The "yes" allowing what is true be embodied through you -- isn't that a terribly intimate solitude finding way into ambivalence of community?

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

It is Feast of Annunciation. Mary is asked -- as each is asked -- if she would mother God into and through existence. We imagine her pausing at the question, taking a wide look at what is being asked. She, as is, each, is uncertainty itself poised at edge of now-you-do/now-you-don't. Whichever way you step, you step either into or away from. The remainder of what we consider 'life' follows upon that step.

The Rider

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn't catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

(Poem: "The Rider" by Naomi Shihab Nye from Fuel: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye.)

There's a man I know seems lonely with a private series of steps I can never quite sort out on a map. It often feels some hurt has put thorn in foot and brought him limping to the view his mind carries him to. At times, when we argue, I need to take an aspirin, I want to cycle away from brooding melancholy, such heavy burden of staccato certainty. At those times, edgy, I'm asked to remember. It is of such pause poet Richard Hugo writes in his poem "Villager" --

I almost forget: he'd do anything for you. Love him
for what you might have become
and love him for what you are, not that far
from him. We are never that far. Love
everyone you can. The list gets longer and shorter.
We're seldom better than weather. We're nearly as good
as a woman we met in passing once at Invergarry.
Don't be sorry, for him or for self. Love the last star
broken by storm. And love you. You hold it together.

( -- from poem "Villager" by Richard Hugo, in The Right Madness on Skye)

The list got suddenly shorter this week. As it will continue to do. When I bite into one of Saskia's French Pastry Puffs, I'll think of Buzz, with prayer. Bite by bite prayer. It's a simple way to remember what we are being asked to be in the life of one another.

There is one more truth that the Annunciation teaches us, and it is so appalling that I can think of nothing uplifting to say about it that will take the sting away: perhaps it is best forgotten, because it tells us more about God than we are able to understand. The Almighty Father creates heaven and earth, the sun and all the stars; but when he really wants something done, he comes, the Omnipotent and Omniscient, to one of his poor, weak creatures -- and he asks.
And, day by day, he keeps on asking us.

(-- Martin Kochanski, founder of

Curiously, no matter how many others are near us, we are alone, always, at the edge of the question asked us.

Standing at that edge, where the spreading-away-far and the drawing-within-near pinpoint presence, we look down at our feet. We wonder which way they will step. As if they, not the whole of us, make way alone.

Again, alone -- would we take the question?

Into one another's life?

Suspecting a sobering response:

Community lives the Alone, together.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Tommy tells us Buzz died Tuesday. Tonight I finally get his signature goodbye: "Remember, if your nose is running and your feet smell, you're upside down."

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.
- Buddha

The Irish music group at opera house were energetic and entertaining. Earlier in shop upstairs we poured six glasses with ginger ale and toasted Buzz.

Perhaps all we can ever do is invite one another into the open. It's too difficult to live in the open from a hiding place.

"This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." - Jesus

My nose is running. My feet smell. My heart, sad.

My up side feels down.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

As I looked to the house past the pond where a young woman died two winters ago, I said the prayer: "Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace."

If what we call death is that which occurs when there is a dropping out of time and space into eternal life, then the prayer we say is being said at the instant (always) of the person's death. With the eternal, the ever-present origin, now, every act is present-moment act. Everyone is dropping through death right now. Just so, everyone is being born right now.

Having fathomed Tao, you went to dwell
Among simple villages
Where bamboo grows thick,
Opening and closing your gate alone.
This isn't a mission or pilgrimage.
I've come for no real reason:
Just to sit out on your south terrace
And gaze at those mountains.

- Po Chu-I (772-846)

Coming for no real reason is sufficient. Gazing. Talking. Walking the mountain.

That there needs to be purpose and plan in our arrival is less engaging than the haphazard juxtapositioning of leaves blowing in a sudden swirl. What is behind the ballet? Ah! That's the intellect's cue to turn to audience, And speak. And listen.

All the angels pray. Every creature prays. Cattle and wild beasts pray and bend the knee. As they come from their barns and caves they look out to heaven and call out, lifting up their spirit in their own fashion. The birds too rise and lift themselves up to heaven: they open out their wings, instead of hands, in the form of a cross, and give voice to what seems to be a prayer.
(From the treatise On Prayer by Tertullian, priest)

This is where prayer turns.

There is no script to follow. No technique to master. No syllabus to slave. No formula to mouth. No queue to loiter. No letter to read unattended.

What there is, rather, is what is being written, what is being said, what is being seen, what is being read, what is itself unfolding in our midst.

With our involvement. With our inclusion. With our attention. With our blessing.

Eternal rest. Eternal light.

No time.


The present.

Let us.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Su Sane might be right. After all, eternity is now. She suggests we might all just begin to act the way we feel things should be, and things will come to be that way.

If you don't understand the Way right before you,
How will you know the path as you walk?
Practice is not a matter of far or near,
But if you are confused, mountains and rivers
Block your way.
I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,
Don't pass your days and nights in vain.

- Sekito Kisen (700-790)

Wednesday Evening Conversation was on Swami Beyonananda's "Don't get even, get odd." Good to laugh at what is imaginative and funny.

A woman writes about spring and Maine:
A friend writing to me an email while he flew to Hawaii (for business) tells me that spring in Maine is like rising from a near death and that on other parts of the earth spring is more a renewal. I found that interesting, and cannot put my finger on why exactly, but I think he means that the winters into spring in Maine are so delicate an operation that if one is not as attentive as you then it might go unnoticed.

These days I feel like an undecided near-death experience. Just as all functions cease, there's a pause. To return or not to return? My experience wants to call a committee meeting. They're bound to bury the body if this delay continues.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God
If you say, "Show me your God", I will say to you, "Show me what kind of person you are, and I will show you my God". Show me then whether the eyes of your mind can see, and the ears of your heart hear.
It is like this. Those who can see with the eyes of their bodies are aware of what is happening in this life on earth. They get to know things that are different from each other. They distinguish light and darkness, black and white, ugliness and beauty, elegance and inelegance, proportion and lack of proportion, excess and defect. The same is true of the sounds we hear: high or low or pleasant. So it is with the ears of our heart and the eyes of our mind in their capacity to hear or see God.
God is seen by those who have the capacity to see him, provided that they keep the eyes of their mind open. All have eyes, but some have eyes that are shrouded in darkness, unable to see the light of the sun.

(From the book addressed to Autolycus by Saint Theophilus of Antioch, bishop; Office of Readings)

I realized tonight during conversation I didn't much like any explanation for why things are as they are. Whether traditional or new age, explanations seem tired. Rather an experiential encounter than theorizing. Better a pattern than a rationale.

Tillich was right. We need the courage to be.

Metaphysics is ground of ethics. Aesthetics, the soul.

Maybe I won't come back this time.

Someday dead will be dead.


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sometimes solitude isn't just a nice possibility. Sometimes solitude is the only thing there is. Ask any hermit.

When one realizes completely the Dharma-body,
She sees no object.
She is the source of all things,
And her true nature is another name of the eternal Buddha.
Material things and mental phenomena come and go
Like clouds in the blue sky.
Greed, anger and ignorance; these three forms
Appear and disappear like a mirage on the ocean.

- Yoka-daishi (d. 713)

Sometimes a mirage stays a long time. The three forms -- greed, anger, ignorance, seem these days to move easily in and out of our bodies -- shilling, shouting, and stupidly sputtering inanity. The noise is troubling: Iraq, Afghanistan, American administration, global environmental matters, the fear that either there is a conspiracy so vast nothing is beyond its reach, or, petty evil men roam through the world seeking to devour.

We were late to mass this morning. We missed the first reading from Daniel:
First reading (Daniel 3:25 - 43):
Azariah stood in the heart of the fire, and he began to pray:
Oh! Do not abandon us for ever,
for the sake of your name;
do not repudiate your covenant,
do not withdraw your favour from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your friend,
of Isaac your servant,
and of Israel your holy one,
to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven
and as the grains of sand on the seashore.
Lord, now we are the least of all the nations,
now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins.
We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince,
no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense,
no place where we can offer you the first-fruits
and win your favour.
But may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you
as holocausts of rams and bullocks,
as thousands of fattened lambs:
such let our sacrifice be to you today,
and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly,
since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.
And now we put our whole heart into following you,
into fearing you and seeking your face once more.
Do not disappoint us;
treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle
and very merciful.
Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds,
let your name win glory, Lord.

What is the covenant, the agreement, we long for?

Is it that life itself is sacred? If so, we'll have to stop killing.
Is it that truth is our lifeblood? If so, we'll have to stop lying.
Is it that love is all there really is? If so, we'll have to abandon apathy and re-learn how to care.

We've come to like holocausts and sacrifice. They are obvious. There's blood, screaming, adrenaline, righteous righting the world, wild-eyed rants about being the best, the purest, the strongest, God's one and only servant, sons, country, religion, political system.

Who is this Azariah character, why is he in the heart of the fire, and to whom is he praying? Surely not to the God who is on the side of this one or that one, not the God who smotes and smites, nor the God who has a notebook of favorites and dishes out prime goodies to those that reach high and bow low to him. What else then does prayer seek? From whom? How? Is there a reality so far beyond our notions of what we call God that the reality is completely here, whole, now, and out-of-time?

Prayer stops during this time forming solitude, and seeks the heart of creation.

Prayer listens desperately for the empty sound of complete embodiment.

Prayer looks at each being with the readiness of light to warm the senses.

Perhaps we still do not know how to pray. We've been too willing to instant message our hierarchy, manipulating imagination, and downloading channeled updates that dictate our next move, next piece of advice, or next gospel truth no one else has ever thought of, the answer the world waits for.

Solitude helps destroy false interaction.

Silence helps mute false advice.

Stillness helps dissolve false action.

There is much that needs forgiveness. Maybe its a matter of forgiveness. Matthew says seventy seven times. Another rendition has it seventy times seven. It is confusing to calculate these symbolic numbers. Just what does the evangelist want to say about forgiveness? Certainly that our meager penitentiary overtures are hardly the beginning of the profound journey into the heart of God.

Remember, also, that forgiveness doesn't forget. That, it seems, is too easy a solution. But, to remember with open eyes and open ears means we have not disappeared from this material world into some wispish spiritualism that bypasses creation, incarnation, suffering, and death.

We are in this world. It's a fact. There's something very real that we do not seem to factor into our heady transcendence.

Take a break. Alone, soundless, undiverting.

The hermitage cannot find the hermit.

Something has gone.



Monday, March 20, 2006

At 4:40am in Lincolnville church, I join those keeping vigil for peace. Some have been there since 6pm Sunday evening. We sit in silence. Rev. Susan reads from Bro.Roger's final letter, something about "wider."

We find very seasoned driftwood Sunday morning on pebble beach west of Owls Head Light. In the shape of an "M" with 1x4 crossbeam, notched to perhaps hold bow of boat in cradle, we paint edges, affix on 4x4 post by Barnestown Road, add words "meetingbrook hermitage" below, and stand back to look. As if St. Joseph himself had planned and fashioned a cross-like invitation for us, we are finally signed.

The online Catholic Encyclopedia, "New Advent," tells a story about Joseph, spouse of Mary, step-father of Jesus:
It will not be without interest to recall here, unreliable though they are, the lengthy stories concerning St. Joseph's marriage contained in the apocryphal writings. When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children, two daughters and four sons, the youngest of whom was James (the Less, "the Lord's brother"). A year after his wife's death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age, Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place.

As a religious house of prayer, meetingbrook begins again the season of spring. We pray lauds with Isaiah:
He will judge between the nations, and will decide concerning many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)

We clear brush around front gate, admire sign, drag limbs behind barn to be cut later for firewood. We walk Ragged Mountain with Cesco before coffee and eggs. I fuss walking stick, hand sand it, some poly along it, another driftwood gift on my sister's anniversary of birth.

Our religious life isn't fussy. Contemplation, Zen, and Engaged Service. Nothing more.

Meir and I hugged just after six in parking lot as sun rose this morning.

It was a beautiful morning. I drove to St Bernard's for mass.

Nothing more.

Joseph's Day.

Gifts all around!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I Am, these three years. Dying. In Iraq.

I wake this morning praying the words, "I Am With You Always." (Mt 28:30)

Is God always dying? In Africa? Afghanistan? Iraq? Palestine?

Christian God is killed by Christians. Muslim God is killed by Muslims. Jewish God is killed by Jews.

What use proving the existence of God, or heaven, or hell -- if the death of God is our primary occupation?

At Chestnut Street Baptist Church, Camden, last evening, a dramatization of Peter Kreeft's "Between Heaven and Hell," a trilogue among C.S.Lewis, John F. Kennedy, and Aldous Huxley. The three of them died on same day, November 22, 1963. We were transported back to that particular day in history, as well as the theological apologetics of philosopher Kreeft through his centerpiece, Lewis. It was a thought-provoking encounter. Virginia, co-director, showed us the wires and the technology. Saskia met woman with child from St Bernard's in Rockland.

Cease practice based on intellectual understanding,
Pursuing words and following after speech,
And learn the backward step
That turns your light inward
To illuminate yourself.
Body and mind of themselves
Will drop away and your original face
Will be manifest.

- Dogen (1200-1253)

The face of "I Am" shines through cold morning. Leaves, trees, churches, farms, driftwood, and fishing boats -- the very fact without apology or apologetics. With afternoon silence, very fact is all one needs.

Bless the Lord, all the earth, praise and exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord, mountains and hills; all growing things, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, seas and rivers; springs and fountains, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, whales and fish; birds of the air, bless the Lord.
Bless the Lord, wild beasts and tame; sons of men, bless the Lord.

(--from Lauds, Daniel 3)

This third anniversary of America's invasion of Iraq turns out gloomy. At church this morning, priest said the opposite of love is apathy.

He's right. Love dies when we kill God. God dies when we kill brother and sister.

We do not know what it means to say resurrection and appearance have nothing to do with time.

I do know what it means to mourn. In no face, in no God, I find no solace.

The fact of war tortures God. After three years men and women have learned something important about torture -- if you are not being tortured, you don't have to care about it. If you are being tortured, caring is crushed out of you. Someone has to answer for God.

It's about time. Outside time, what goes on?

Kreeft sees light at end of the performance. A voice. God's?

Walking down stairs behind us to exit onto Chestnut Street, two men make requisite
comments about play. "I couldn't keep up with it," one said. "Me neither," said companion, "but it was good."

I've never been convinced that understanding is primary. It is better, some say, to love God rather than understand God. "I Am," God says. Who understands that?

Take the original face. See what is primary. See what you are. What I Am is.

Stop the torture. Stop the war.