Friday, November 24, 2006

If we run into each other some time ahead, please tell me your name.

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
for Lea

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.

Right now.

What do we make of it?

Waddya say?

Thursday, November 23, 2006


For everything. Today.

I never cite Buddha’s words
Or the words of Zen patriarchs
When I teach.
All I do is comment directly
On people themselves.
That takes care of everything.
I don’t have to quote either the
Buddha Dharma or the Zen Dharma.
I don’t have to when I can clear
Everything up for you by
Commenting directly on you
And your personal concerns
Right here and now.
I’ve no reason to preach
About Buddhism or Zen.

- Bankei (1622-1693)

Gave talk to group of men yesterday entitled "Lifetime Recovery -- A Spirituality That Everyday Uncovers."

Truth is that which is uncovered. What is truth? Mahatma Gandhi said, Yes -- what is is Truth. He'd held that God is truth. Then he realized that Truth is God. There's a notable distinction.

For the men exploring spirituality together yesterday it is a useful consideration that "truth" is everywhere everyday uncovering. Whether you call Truth 'God,' or God 'Truth" -- it is useful to remember that the Greek word for 'truth' -- Aletheia in Ancient Greek -- means not merely ”truth” as we think of it in English. It means literally, un-covered, dis-covered, discovery, unveiled.

This leads me to wonder. To the question: "Where is God?" The response: "Where are you?" Or, "What are you looking at (or as)?" To the question: What is Truth?" The response: "What are you uncovering, discovering, unveiling?" That which longs to be revealed is the truth always right here with us.

Truth right here with us is God's very name.

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh
So God's name, at least the one given to Moses in the above Torah passage, is "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh." What does that mean? In biblical Hebrew, "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" is a deceptively simple phrase consisting of the relative pronoun "asher" sandwiched between two instances of the first person singular imperfect of the verb hayah--to be. "Ehyeh" is most commonly translated as "I will be." Asher is a remarkable Hebrew word. Imagine, in English, a single word that can mean "that" "who" "which" or "where." So the phrase could mean:
I will be that I will be; I will be who I will be; I will be which I will be; I will be where I will be.

I remember Prophet's professor Alexander A. Di Lella, O.F.M. in 1968 translating the words Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh as "I shall be there, as who I am, shall I be there."

We'll never know who will show up, in what disguise, what they'll say, how they'll say it, nor how we'll receive it. But, says our no-name God, such a presence will always be there between you and me. That's where God is -- between us. We've got to step out from the covers, out from behind the veil, out from our hiding place -- to the open-between -- and face the truth, to face our truth.

Annie Dillard wrote in "Teaching a Stone to Talk" (1982): Quit your tents. Pray without ceasing.

It occurs to me there's a toll for attention. We have to 'pay' attention our presence before attention opens up for us what is right there in front of us. What is within us must come out of its tent to be part of what is between us. This means the (so-called) other person must also step out. When both appear, they appear in the dwelling place of God. 'Heaven' is between us. (Greek:mesos= between). Once we step out of our hiding place, we enter the realm of prayer. Unceasingly we find ourselves praying, asking 'What am I doing here?" or 'What the hell is going on?' or, 'Who am I?' or, 'Help me, Lord, please?'

To pray is to be aware of what is taking place, looking at it, questioning it, and (if we have the courage) engaging it as best we can. To surrender in prayer to the overwhelming reality placed before and between us means we let go of our (erroneous) belief we can do it by ourselves, handle it, manipulate it. Most times we can't. Not alone. And so we (slowly) come round to ask God and one another to bring us along the way of annunciation and renunciation. Annunciation, meaning, the revelation of presence. Renunciation, meaning, the letting go of that which is false or impedes the realization of true presence. This we must do unceasingly.

My heart is ready, God. My heart is ready. I will offer you music and song.
Awake, my glory, awake, lyre and harp. I will awaken the dawn.
I will proclaim you among the peoples, Lord, and make music for you among the nations,
for your mercy reaches as high as the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
(- from Psalm 57)

So, it is Thanksgiving Day, 2006. Presence longs to be revealed. Falseness wants to disappear. Each one of us longs to be here with one another -- whether in solitude or in community. On a profound level, to be alone is to be with everyone, to be together is to experience the mystery of suchness and distinctive singularity where each one is each one, alone-with-others.

It is Not Enough

It is not enough to know.
It is not enough to follow
the inward road conversing in secret.

It is not enough to see straight ahead,
to gaze at the unborn
thinking the silence belongs to you.

It is not enough to hear
even the tiniest edge of rain.

You must go to the place
where everything waits,
there, when you finally rest,
even one word will do,
one word or the palm of your hand
turning outward
in the gesture of gift.

And now we are truly afraid
to find the great silence
asking so little.

One word, one word only.

(-Poem: "It is Not Enough," from Where Many Rivers Meet by David Whyte.)


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

We practice a spirituality of everyday uncovering.

There are no precepts to follow,
No practices to engage in.
From the outset
There are no passions;
From the beginning we are
We eat when we are hungry,
Rest when we are tired.

- Nonin (d.1196)

I wish the words 'gratitude' and 'open' a nearer dwelling with you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Now what happens?" Richard asked ending his contribution to the final circle. We were speaking of truth, of not knowing, and Zen Gifts to Christians (book by Jesuit Robert Kennedy)..

On the day of his enlightenment, in front of the lecture hall, Tokusan burned to ashes his commentaries on the sutras. He said: “However abstruse the teachings are, in comparison with this enlightenment they are like a single hair to the great sky. However profound the complicated knowledge of the world, compared to this enlightenment it is like one drop of water to the great ocean.” Then he left the monastery.
- The Gateless Gate

The sky tonight is clear and vast. It is cold. Ground tightens.

"Among so many great events, there is one phenomenon which, in the eyes of posterity, may well overshadow everything that has been discovered in radiation and electricity: the permanent entry into operation, in our day, of inter-human affinities - the movement, irresistible and ever increasing in speed, which we can see for ourselves, welding peoples and individuals to another..."
(--Indian Ocean, March 1929, "The Sense of Man", in Toward the Future, Teilhard de Chardin)

Perhaps truth combines inter-human with inter-sentient and inter-spiritual affinity.

You never, really, know.

Gandhi went from holding that God is truth to a new understanding. He began to hold that Truth is God.

There's no knowing truth. There is, however, seeing, feeling, and experiencing truth. Truth is being revealed as what is now taking place.

We need to be poised right here with the question: Now what happens?

Taking place here.

"The day will come when, after harnessing space,
the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness
for God the energies of love. And, on that day,
for the second time in the history of the world,
man will have discovered fire."

(--Peking, February 1934, Teilhard, "The Evolution of Chastity", in Toward the Future, London: Collins, 1975: 86-87.)

Burning away. Falling away. Into empty open presence.





Monday, November 20, 2006

What are we waiting for?

Why do I talk here?
Only because you
Followers of the Tao
Go galloping around in
Search of the mind,
And are unable to stop it.
On the other hand,
The ancients acted in a leisurely
Way, appropriate to
Circumstances as they arose.

- Lin-chi (d.867)

Some wait for the Second Coming. Some for the coming of season's first snow. But some wait for nothing. These I find in a sympathetic monastery of mindful silence and stillness.

Through justification and the spiritual resurrection, grace now effects in them an initial change that is God’s gift. Later on, through the bodily resurrection, the transformation of the just will be brought to completion, and they will experience a perfect, abiding, unchangeable glorification. The purpose of this change wrought in them by the gifts of both justification and glorification is that they may abide in an eternal, changeless state of joy.
Here on earth they are changed by the first resurrection, in which they are enlightened and converted, thus passing from death to life, sinfulness to holiness, unbelief to faith, and evil actions to holy life. For this reason the second death has no power over them. It is of such men that the Book of Revelation says: "Happy the man who shares in the first resurrection; over such as he the second death has no power." Elsewhere the same book says: "He who overcomes shall not be harmed by the second death." As the first resurrection consists of the conversion of the heart, the second death consists of unending torment.

(from The treatise of St Fulgentius of Ruspe on the forgiveness, Office of Readings, Monday of week 33 of the year)

I suspect the torment need not be the incendiary good fire torture the preacher told the men about the other day, but more a torment of realizing regret. This regret will arise in a mind slowly coming aware of the kindness and sweetness of so many in our lives, generosity displayed us that we failed to recognize at the time, failed to respond to, and failed to relate to as worthwhile endeavor of human action.

This realization begins to fall upon our fledgling awakening all of a gradual seeing tinged with soft sorrow that so much authentic compassion and wisdom went by without appreciation or caring engagement.


We are waiting for snow
the way we might wait for a train
to arrive with its cold cargo—
it is late already, but surely
it will come.

We are waiting for snow
the way we might wait
for permission
to breathe again.

For only the snow
will release us, only the snow
will be a letting go, a blind falling
towards the body of earth
and towards each other.

And while we wait at this window
whose sheer transparency
is clouded already
with our mutual breath,

it is as if our whole lives depended
on the freezing color
of the sky, on the white
soon to be fractured
gaze of winter.

(Poem: "Interlude" by Linda Pastan, from Queen of a Rainy Country. W. W. Norton & Company.)

If we open our eyes now, will we see one another's efforts to make manifest the inner longing to be kind, be true, be present? Will hearts show through the never ending invitation of holy reality urging spirit to permeate our forgetful and unforgiving inconsiderations? If our eyes began to see, would the vision of sacred Christ-life (enlightened Buddha-mind, resplendent Tao-nature) slowly turn us to one another in such a way as to free us from separative fear?

Second death, I suspect, would be our final unwillingness and inability to care for one another -- and thereby, not see with the beatific vision of the One we call God. Resurrection, I suspect, would be our coming to see with the beatific vision what is being seen with the gaze of God.

Seeing what falls is to see what is rising in our hearts.

So it is -- separation calls for union, sin calls for redemption, unloving calls for loving.

It is a kind and sweet call.

If we listen, we can hear it.

It asks us: Now? It urges us: Now! It comforts us: now.

What are we waiting for?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This is worth experiencing

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.
(-Stephen Dunn, footnote in Zen Gifts to Christians by Robert Kennedy, from Riffs and Reciprocities, cited in American Poetry Review 27, March/April 1998)

Or not to fill. No need collecting versions.

Let the sacred fall through each vision.

See it now.