Saturday, April 22, 2006

It is best to trust oneself.

Sixty-six times have these eyes
Beheld the changing scene of autumn.
I have said enough about moonlight,
Ask no more.
Only listen to the voice
Of pines and cedars when no wind stirs.

- Ryonen (1797-1863)

It is too difficult to sort through the motivations and ambitions of others. So, we allow all things to come to rest. No ulterior purpose, only the thing-in-itself. It is painfully easy to forget there is no other.

I constantly saw the false and the bad, and finally the absurd and the senseless, standing in universal admiration and honour....[Dover edition, p. xviii. The World as Will and Representation,(c.1818) by Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860]

It will have to come to forgivenesss, ultimately. We cannot sustain doubt forever. Suspicion of this man, that woman, the deceit and duplicity, even with the most sincere desire to obscure troubling behavior for as long as possible. We'd prefer to court communion. To have no secrets. To shunt distracting need and desire and fall into river of the human-sacred. But we are scared. Will we be stripped of our uniqueness? Or, only the illusion we've held of it?

The Tao Te Ching's Chapter 23 goes as follows:

To talk little is natural.
High winds do not last all morning.
Heavy rain does not last all day.
Why is this?
Heaven and earth!
If heaven and earth cannot make things eternal, how is it possible for man?
He who follows the Tao is at one with the Tao.
He is virtuous experiences Virtue.
He who loses the way feels lost.
When you are at one with the Tao, the Tao welcomes you.
When you are one with Virtue, the Virtue is always there.
When you are at one with loss, the loss is experienced willingly.
He who does not trust enough will not be trusted.

Say yes to being trusted.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Salt air at harbor. Spaghetti with sausage and salad in harbor room, six of us watch Wim Wender's "Wings of Desire."

Bamboo shadows sweep the stairs,
Yet not a mote of dust is stirred;
Moonbeams pierce to the bottom of the pool,
Yet in the water not a trace remains.

- Zen Dust

Entering creation, becoming human, resurrection is awareness God is dwelling here.

When we were baptised into Christ and clothed ourselves in him, we were transformed into the likeness of the Son of God. Having destined us to be his adopted sons, God gave us a likeness to Christ in his glory, and living as we do in communion with Christ, God's anointed, we ourselves are rightly called "the anointed ones".
(From the Jerusalem Catecheses)

Earlier we read about the Hamsa meditation:
The Hamsa meditation is also known as the "I am that" meditation. This means that the Hamsa meditation gives us an awareness of the connection between the divinity within each of us and the greater infinite divinity. The mantra is also sometimes called the SoHam meditation since it makes little difference which syllable comes first. Once Ramana Maharshi had his disciples contemplating his favourite spiritual practice of questioning and self-inquiry, asking themselves "What Am I?" One of his students, as if in answer, said, 'So ham'. He said true. So hum! So ha!
From Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be, c. 2003 by Lama Surya Das)

I liked the ending of "Wings."

How loving another creates aloneness.





So ha!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Perhaps the self-as-itself is the constant repetition of the sacred in the present moment. (I don't know.)

Sitting on this frosty seat,
No further dream of fame.
The forest, the mountain follow their ancient ways,
And through the long spring day,
Not even the shadow of a bird.

- Reizan (-1411)

Maria, Tom, Saskia, Delia, Jesse and I read Thomas Sheehan, John O'Donahue, and Robert E. Kennedy during conversation tonight. We like the loving gaze, vital inquiry, and don't-know mind.

To accept the gift of not knowing and to live it implies risk and a sense of feeling abandoned. For his part, the poet Stephen Dunn warns us that the loss of any cherished way of looking at God, any shift in emphasis, is painful. When we put aside the certitudes that have upheld us, we always face the risk of total doubt. When he changed his gaze from looking at the known, Dunn writes of the risk he knew he was taking. As if to convince himself to shift, he tells us he talked to himself: "I'm saying this to myself: the sacred cannot be found unless you give up some old version of it. And when you do, mon semblable, mon frere, I swear there'll be an emptiness it'll take a lifetime to fill."
(Robert Kennedy, noting Stephen Dunn's "Riffs and Reciprocities" (New York: W.W. Norton) cited in AP Review, March/April 1998, V27, 15. From Santa Clara Lecture, Santa Clara University, April 9, 2000, "Zen's Gift to Christianity," by Robert E. Kennedy, S.J.)

To do this, to give up some old version of the sacred, places us in the dwelling place of the itself-sacred. This dwelling place is what is revealing itself now, always.

We don't disappear. The world doesn't disappear. Each is merely seen through. Each is present. Each is accounted with esteem. Perhaps faith is affirmation of what is yet not obvious. It is sacred "yes."

William McDonald writes in "Kierkegaard's Religion":
But the choice of faith is not made once and for all. It is essential that faith be constantly renewed by means of repeated avowals of faith. One's very selfhood depends upon this repetition, for according to Anti-Climacus, the self "is a relation which relates itself to itself" (The Sickness Unto Death). But unless this self acknowledges a "power which constituted it," it falls into a despair which undoes its selfhood. Therefore, in order to maintain itself as a relation which relates itself to itself, the self must constantly renew its faith in "the power which posited it." There is no mediation between the individual self and God by priest or by logical system (contra Catholicism and Hegelianism respectively). There is only the individual's own repetition of faith. This repetition of faith is the way the self relates itself to itself and to the power which constituted it, i.e. the repetition of faith is the self.
(William McDonald, "Soren Kierkegaard," in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy,

Seeing itself with the sacred-itself.

A lovely emptiness -- one clear...seeing another.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The gaze, especially the loving gaze, evokes life, light, and love. It is startling awareness something has changed -- consciousness has transfigured.

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast's fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

(Poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo" by Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Stephen Mitchell)

Hologram of transfigured awareness awakens new and reverential sight.

Any genuine story, authentic myth, or profound metaphor seen or heard with open awareness is seen to say: "Now you are practicing learning to look, 'You must change your life.'"

Resurrection shifts from one man shattering death's chains to invitation for anyone to realize presence of what-is-called God pervading physical universe, much the way traditional believers hold Jesus incarnated the very Word of creation.

When we look, we are looked at. Seeing loving gaze invites vision of God.

Be careful what we look at -- we might get it.

We are being...looked at with love.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Our broken and disjointed phrases uttered to and about one another are signs of a depth not yet clarified.

If you meet a fencing master on the road,
You may give him your sword,
If you meet a poet,
You may offer him your poem.
When you meet others,
Say only a part of what you intend.
Never give the whole thing at once.

- Mu-mon 1228 (

While silence might be at ground of being, it took us as human beings a long time to come to word. It still does.

The truth is that Easter is awkward. The stories themselves are angular and strange -- a tormented saga about a judicial murder and a horrific public execution is followed by a series of events that challenge not only our assumptions about how the natural world works, but also our desire to read a story with a good strong ending. Jesus returns from death, but he is not a ghost or a resuscitated corpse -- so what is it we are talking about? (Williams)

That's how Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, began a Saturday 26 March 2005 article for the Daily Telegraph.

Do the Gospel writers wording their narratives about the resurrection say only part of what they intend? Are they unable to give the whole thing at once because the whole thing remains only remotely discernible, then and now?

John has the poignant story of Mary Magdalene, alone in tears at the deserted grave hearing her name spoken in a voice she knows. People hurry between the tomb and the city and the Galilean mountains, sharing baffling incidents, sometimes interrupted by Jesus inexplicably being there among them. Finally Jesus is seen no more; what is left is the fellowship of disciples trying to put it all into words.

When someone stumbles and searches for words, especially someone who is otherwise fluent and coherent, you may well conclude that something has happened for which their experience hasn't prepared them.

Shakespeare famously gives Leontes, in The Winter's Tale, a speech of frighteningly disjointed words and phrases when he first suspects his wife of unfaithfulness. Something has crossed his horizon for which nothing beforehand has provided a structure. The new feelings are utterly real, utterly painful and chaotic. The broken and disjointed phrases show how deep they go.

And we know that this is literature reflecting life. We can all think of those times when we feel we have nothing to say that will help or make sense -- not because there is literally nothing to say but because there is too much.

In an unlikely metaphor grounded in my Easter Vigil experience -- the whole creation story was told while I was unconscious. To all intents, I was there. Ears functional. But the light was out. I'd gone irreceptive. Something happened -- as told in the reading, and undergone with me -- that bypasses understanding. When I walked wraithfully through abbey's darkened cloister sighting up ahead burning new-fire still dance-glowing from library hearth, I pass an equally wraith-like monk in white choir-robe along moonlit glassed-in portico walking other way. My fainting was an event that had never happened before. I could not think about it -- I could only walk through it.

The resurrection isn't a happy ending to a sad story. It is the beginning of a new story, a new phase in the life of the disciples -- potentially a new phase for the reader too.

That seems to be what the abrupt end of Mark's gospel suggests. The women ran away in terror, and... "Well?" we ask impatiently. And the writer lifts his head and says, "Why do you think I'm writing this? And what are you going to do about it? Because nothing is the same now."?

So it is natural enough that the Easter stories don't settle as comfortably in the mind and imagination as the Christmas ones. But when someone moistens their lips and looks at us awkwardly and says, "I don't quite know how to tell you this", we are right to suspect that what's coming is not just an interesting bit of information or a mere historical anecdote. And we listen that bit harder.

Faith is not, after all, about getting to the point where everything is clear and settled. It is about stepping into a disorienting new world: the stories you know how to tell about yourself and your world may need to be interrupted and questioned. Familiar things and persons have to be looked at with a new depth of attention.

If Easter is awkward, it is because it is always a shock to be told who we really are and what we really might be.

(from, "Easter - the awkward time of year": article by Rowan Williams)

At Southwick Easter Sunday afternoon, several of us cut and carried wood from felled trees for Erica. Michael took the electric chainsaw to a severed trunk and -- after saying what his options were -- decided to carve a cross out of the top the six foot stump. He surprised everybody, especially, no doubt, hisself. Cross immediately gathered surroundings to itself. Surpise transposed Easter into icon gazing out through silence.

It is a disorienting new world

Monday, April 17, 2006

I faint during first reading at Easter vigil. Luckily I was sitting. I come to and realize something was different. The dizziness that had come over me was gone. So were the beads from my hand. I'd heard about the second day of creation, now the abbot, after what seemed like an odd silence, was saying "Let us pray!" And my head was against the choir stall. I get up and leave for a while. The flu has caught up to me.

Lodging in the world, the body is like a dream,
If one lives in peace, a day can be like a year.
Trying to sleep, I toss and turn on the worn out mat,
And pace around and around
In my tattered monk’s shawl.
The Master suggests I make my bed
Among the wind and bamboo,
And have a drink beside the waters of the rocky spring.
A nod of the head, and all worldly affairs seem wrong.
Laughing at myself,
I understand the wisdom of the Master.

- Su Shih 1073

I went back to retreat house to bed for some minutes, then take long slow walk back from my room to abbey church. One kind gentlemen had come to find me. A second, when back in rear seat, brings some losanges to occupy my mouth. The night passes with no other surprise than a new view of resurrection.

I'd brought Thomas Sheehan's book given by Sylvia into retreat at Trappists. I note the words about Simon's (i.e. Peter's) denial:
Simon had learned one major lesson from the preaching of Jesus: The apocalyptic line had been crossed, the dead past was over, God's future had already begun. As we have seen, the name for the crossing of that apocalyptic line was "forgiveness": the gift of God himself to his people, his arrival among them. Therefore, the entire point of the kingdom was to live God's future now. But this did not mean looking up ahead toward the future in an effort to glimpse the imminent arrival of God, for he was no longer up ahead in time, any more than he was up above in heaven. He was with his people, in their very midst: "The kingdom of God is among you." In that sense there was no more waiting, for forgiveness meant that the future--God himself--was becoming present among those who opened a space for him. Crossing the line into the future meant no longer searching for God in the great Beyond, but living the present-future with one simple rule: "Be merciful as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36).

Simon's sin, his denial of Jesus, consisted in fleeing from and forgetting what he and all Jesus' followers had become: the place where the future becomes present. His sin lay not in abandoning Jesus but in abandoning himself. If anything, he did not deny Jesus enough.

Simon's sin was to have momentarily forgotten where Jesus dwelled, in fact where Simon himself had dwelled. Simon put his hopes on Jesus rather than on what Jesus was about. "Follow me," the prophet had said, and he meant " ... into God's present-future." But Simon was a literalist. As the soldiers dragged his master away, he got up his courage and "followed at a distance" (Luke 22:54). In so doing he began walking back into the past. The Gospel records Jesus as saying: "No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Ironically, Simon was doing just that--looking back toward the dead past--when he followed Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane through the dark streets of Jerusalem.

Simon's sin did not lie in abandoning Jesus in Gethsemane or in denying him a few hours later but in following Jesus to the courtyard of the Sanhedrin. His fault was not that he denied Jesus but that he affirmed him too much and feared that if Jesus died, God's kingdom would come undone. Simon had focused his attention so intensely on Jesus that he ended up taking Jesus for the kingdom and thereby mistaking the kingdom itself. In his desperate effort not to lose Jesus, Simon lost himself and his grip on the presence of God.

Once, when Jesus had told his disciples that his death was inevitable, Simon took him aside and tried to argue him out of it. But Jesus rebuked him: "Get behind me, Satan! You are on the side of men, not the side of God" (Mark 8:33). The point was clear: The only way to save Jesus was to let him die, and then to go on living the kind of life that Jesus had led, a life set entirely on the present-future, on God-with-man. For the rest, "Leave the dead to bury their dead" (Matthew 8:22).

This, I believe, was the real denial: Simon forgot that the kingdom of God-with-man was not any one person, no matter how extraordinary that person might be, that the kingdom could not be incarnated in any hero, not even in Jesus. By following his master to the courtyard of the Sanhedrin, Simon was setting his heart on Jesus rather than on the kingdom. He was turning Jesus into the last thing the prophet wanted to be: a hero and an idol, an obstacle to God-with-man. Simon failed to see that the future had been given unconditionally and could not collapse with the death of one man--because the kingdom was not Jesus but God.

(from pp. 122-124, The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity (1986--electronic edition 2000), by Thomas Sheehan.

Returning home tonight, two weaknesses of my body have been invaded and compromised. Teeth hurt; and acute pain in lower back leaves me unable to walk.

Just that, and the experience of a lovely retreat.

Noting a number of unexceptional absurdities during long, quiet, look these two weeks.

I laugh at myself.

The wisdom of the master has been missed.