Monday, December 31, 2007

It's just a numerical progression. Going from 2007 to 2008. Passing from 11:59:59 to 12:00:00. A mere bagatelle.
Another year about to end
In my empty mountain abode;
Rivers and clouds,
Their trails indistinct;
Pines and cedars,
Their nature’s the same.
I arise from my nap
To find the taro roots done;
As the incense fades out,
I finish a scripture.
Who knows that real pleasure
Lies within stillness and silence?

- Wen-siang (1210-1280).
Of course old (auld) acquaintances shouldn't be forgotten. And, yes, it very well could be a happy new year. These things are beneficial musings.

We're with e.e.cummings in his six nonlectures. He said something like: Better worlds, I suggest, are born, not made - and begin with the birthdays of individuals. Let us pray, therefore, not for better worlds, but for individuals.

That's our prayer tonight.

In stillness and silence.

For each one.

Of us.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cook (Francis Dojun), writing about Dogen, says that "drinking tea and eating rice" means not killing the ordinary, not saying things are not good enough.
A soaring endlessly curving path,
Every few miles we have to rest.
I look around for my friends.
They’ve vanished in the wooded hills.
Rain floods the pine trees
And flows hushed among the rocks.
There are silent words deep in hill water,
A long whistle over the summits.
When I look at South Mountain
The sun floats white through the mist.
A blue marsh is luminous and clear.
Green trees are heavy shadows, drifting.
When I am tired of being closed in,
Suddenly a clearing and I’m at peace.

- Wang Wei (699-759
Let's not kill. Let's see things as they are and practice allowance.

Robert Creeley's: "Things come and things go -- then, let them," is a koan worth carrying with us.

Eight of us (nine, counting Mu-ge) did silent sitting in front room this evening.

We walked, chanted, bowed, rang bell, and left for middle room -- with reading, silent eating, then round-table shared observations.

Allowing one to be one, two two, and three to be three is a gracious act.

Life is a gracious act.

So are you.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I'd let religion go. I'd choose humanity. And nature. There's no explaining the ignorance with which we treat others. The political maneuvers. The lust for possession. The intrigue.
For all these years, my certain Zen:
Neither I nor the world exist.
The sutras neat within the box,
My staff hooked upon the wall,
I lie at peace in moonlight
Or, hearing water plashing on the rock,
Sit up. None can purchase pleasure such as this:
Spangled across the step-moss, a million coins!

- Ryushu Shutaku (1308–1388)
The intuition was good. Surely there is a God, it said, who knows, loves, and serves. So should we.

But the institutions of religion -- they tend to get a little too full of themselves. Much like the institutions of government. Even clubs which have to do the hard work of deciding who's in and who's to be kept out. There's an ossification that forms at the edges of institutions and structures. It happens to individuals too.
Plot Summary, Part One

The action of Murder in the Cathedral occurs in and around Canterbury Cathedral; Part One takes place on December 2,1170, the day that Archbishop Thomas Becket returned to England and twenty-seven days before his murder by four knights of King Henry II.

When the play begins, a Chorus comprised of the Women of Canterbury huddle outside the cathedral, certain that something is about to happen but unable to articulate any details: "Some presage of an act Which our eyes are compelled to witness, has forced our feet Towards the cathedral." They then describe their lives to the audience and these descriptions mark them as common people who fear any threat of change:"We try to keep our households in order," they explain, but "Some malady is coming upon us." Ultimately, they decide that"For us, the poor, there is no action,But only to wait and witness."

(--from Murder in the Cathedral Study Guide, by T. S. Eliot,
In the end, Thomas Becket is murdered.

The individual is easy to betray. So are countries. Betrayal is easy. It requires a hard exterior.

A professional football team in New England wins 16 games without a loss this season. This news pleases many. Crowds cheer and celebrate.

It doesn't matter, really, who dominates and who is defeated in sports.

It doesn't matter which denomination or religion claims upper hand and victory in possessing truth at the one yard line.

I'd rather hear a poem to its end or listen to a good short story come to thought provoking period.

Humanity, yes, humanity over religion.

You take belief. I'll stay with the stumbling path of longing and inquiry. Answers seldom satisfy.

But questions -- they interest.

Eh? N'est-pas? Do you think?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Whenever Holy Innocents (or the wholly innocent) are harmed we are reminded how cruel power can be when wielded in sole or self interest.

A woman said: "We are in God; God is in everything; everything is in God."

Without religion -- the woman's words are true.

With religion -- accompanied by the current ethos of intolerance, extreme views of proprietary truth, torture, bullets, and war -- we are faced with the opposite of the woman's words.

In prison conversation today someone asked: If you had to say goodbye to humanity or to religion, which would you?

A genuine innocence does not know separation. Not knowing, innocence (without overlay of romantic idealism), is virginal.

Perennial original simple encounter.

Innocence is willing to see the itself.

As itself.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto's death by assassination in Pakistan saddens and infuriates.

In the shop today two other deaths are told. Two deaths by hanging. Young men.

Suicide and assassination are terrible facts.
They dropped like flakes, they dropped like stars,
Like petals from a rose,
When suddenly across the lune
A wind with fingers goes.

They perished in the seamless grass,--
No eye could find the place;
But God on his repealless list
Can summon every face.

(Poem by Emily Dickinson)
We cannot nor will we attempt to explain or intellectualize the pain and disappointment on the faces of those that knew the two different men and their separate deaths six days apart..

What will come of Pakistan and this country's marriage of convenience will have to wait to be seen.

We remain unfinished.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The open vulnerability of two oars in groaning oarlocks celebrating early solitude on Christmas morning.

From the distant shore as I rowed the Cape Dory 10 pulling boat into the outer route toward Curtis Island at sunrise yesterday, the sounding voice of someone invisible called, "Merry Christmas!" I placed right oar under left hand and raised arm twice arcing orange and yellow reflecting glove toward direction of unseen land-voice, then continued long strokes in rowboat. My smile at this greeting was deep joy. Swells tightened as the open bay caught growing breeze swirling from southwest.

Alone. But for that calling human voice, loons calling, ducks quacking, pipers chanting, other black and whites whistling, and crashing waves on rocky island coast -- it is an aloneness replete with enchanting company. A few minutes earlier, rowing empty channel past bookshop neighbors, the couple from San Diego in 3rd condo along harbor waved from bay window, her arm appearing from red bathrobe, from his a lifted coffee cup. Greeting the waterborne is a sacred act!
Midwinter, the eleventh month.
Wet snow falls unceasingly,
All the mountains have
Become the same color;
On the myriad paths
Human tracks are few.
My past journeys now
All seem like dreams,
The door to my grass hut
Is deeply covered.
All night long I burn small
Chunks of wood and
Silently read poems
By masters of the past.

- Ryokan (1758-1851)
Everything is subsequent to quietness and vulnerability of contemplation.

Certainly the solitude of a small rowboat in Camden harbor fitted well between dawn zazen in winter zendo at Ragged Mountain hermitage and mid-morning mass up to Belfast.

The day belongs to itself!

At dusk, walking up to grave sites alongside brook, lighting candle put inside hanging lantern on Cesco's grave, bowing to all beloved neighboring snow covered silences -- Sando, Koto, Tai, Mini. Back in meditation cabin, lighting candles for all the day's presences -- living and dead -- sitting a spell with their names and memories, bowing, tolling bell on porch before returning under view of mountain to house.

Bookending zazen in front room -- the quiet presence of everything!
Why are the nations in a ferment? Why do the people make their vain plans?
(--Psalm 2)
Peace is not the absence of war. Wars are the steady diet of insufficiency. Rather, peace is a more modest view.

To "view" is "to look at attentively." I view peace as the act of attentiveness. A saying we placed on the wall of the bookshop reads, "Our monastery is the attention we give to all of itself."

As monastics of no-other we long to practice viewing peace as the presence of itself in each and all of us, each moment, every thing, and the whole scope of appreciation of what is, for what is real and true in our midst.

Christmas now enters its own season. There's more to it than we've settled to believe. In the church calendar there are murdered men, murdered innocent children, writers, men and women who loved and lived, and the searching inquiry of foreigns looking to see for themselves the prospect, perspective, and palpable embodiment of peace. Yet, still, then and now:
The murderers are at work.

They are stoning Stephen,
They are casting him forth from every city in the world.
Under the Welcome sign,
Under the Rotary emblem,
On the highway in the suburbs,
His body lies under the hurling stones.
He was full of faith and power.
He did great wonders among the people.
They could not stand against his wisdom.
They could not bear that spirit with which he spoke.
He cried out in the name
Of the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness.
They were cut to the heart.
They gnashed against him with their teeth.
They cried out with a loud voice.
They stopped their ears.
They ran on him with one accord.
They cast him out of the city and stoned him,
The witnesses laid down their clothes
At the feet of the man whose name was your name-

(--from poem THOU SHALT NOT KILL, (A Memorial For Dylan Thomas), by Kenneth Rexroth)
And me.

We are now ready for peace. This is both an intention and a daily practice. No more throwing at each other. Put down the stones. Build a cairn. It is a trail we set foot on. Build a day marker at the edge of sea. Be that which we look to and through as we learn the viewing of peace. There is much sadness and suffering in the season. Do not be afraid to see it through.

View yourself as the other person -- thus and then, there is no other.

Peace is viewing the whole in and through each and every being before you.

It is Stephen's Day.

It is your day

Take the trail.

Peace is an open vulnerability.

Row well through it!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Better to see the face than hear the name.
(--Zen saying)
Single flame in front window aside Madonna and Child icon.

Silent sitting in empty space. Nothing but morning and candle and what is right here.
Salt and Water
The degree of love we manifest determines the degree of spaciousness and freedom we can bring to life's events. Imagine taking a very small glass or water and putting into it a teaspoon of salt. Because of the small size of the container, the teaspoon of salt is going to have a big effect on the water. However, if you approach a much larger body of water, such as a lake, and put into it the same teaspoonful of salt, it will not have the same intensity of impact, because of the vastness and openness of the vessel receiving it. Even when the salt remains the same, the spaciousness of the vessel receiving it changes everything. We spend a lot of our lives looking for a feeling of safety or protection -- we try to alter the amount of salt that comes our way. Ironically, the salt is the very thing that we cannot do anything about, as life changes and offers us repeated ups and downs. Our true work is to create a container so immense that any amount of salt, even a truckload, can come into it without affecting our capacity to receive it.
- Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness, from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith)
This Christmas morning -- stillness.

I am with everyone -- alone.

As I am -- with everyone, here or gone, now or gone beyond -- in this onlyness.
At Zen centers they say there is a Way to be practiced
And a religious truth to be realized.
Tell me, what religious truth is realized,
What way is practiced?
In your present functioning, what do you lack?
What would you fix?
Younger newcomers, not understanding this,
Immediately believe these mesmerists and
Let them talk about things that tie people up.

- Linji (d. 867)
When the Christ-Reality is seen in this world, all will be untied and free to come and go, free to be what always they have been and are now.

What is that? What is this?

Christ-Reality, seen, is Son or Daughter, each and every being, and thing, of What-Is-Nearest.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

(--John 1:18)
This is my Christmas prayer and practice: seeing each face, sensing each presence, gratefully attending what is nearest.

This is the beginning. And in the beginning is the Word: reality, life, energy of wholeness.

Receiving this.


Facing what is.



(Merry Christmas, friends!)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Full moon. On ground. White snow.

The gift is each being itself.
'...this by the tender mercy of our God
who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us,
to give light to those who live
in darkness and the shadow of death
and to guide our feet
into the way of peace.’
(--from Luke 1:67 - 79)
It is still possible to end war. By dawn, war will be over.
If you want to be free,
Get to know your real self.
It has no form, no appearance,
no root, no basis, no abode,
but is lively and buoyant.
It responds with versatile facility,
But its function cannot be located.
Therefore when you look for it
You become further from it,
When you seek it
You turn away from it all the more.
- Linji (d. 867)
Go to bed. Sleep. Let night do what it must do tonight.

By morning, the leap will have been taken.

We will awaken.

With first light.

To begin again.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The phrase spoken at end by celebrant was "Be God with us." Whichever word gets the emphasis changes and decides the meaning.
Where people of today dwell,
I do not dwell.
What people of today do,
I do not do.
If you clearly understand what this really means,
You must be able to enter a pit of fire with
Your whole body.

- Huanglong
The end of Advent comes. Monday appears. A hiatus arrives. It is the transition of 'this' into the body and blood, soul and divinity of a being heretofore unrecognized and unimagined.

Which being? (How will it arrive this time with us? Sentient? Human? Animal? Material? Mineral? Elemental? Ontological? Cosmological?) There's the koan. There's the mystery of Christmas wrapped in no ribbon with no name card affixed.
There will be no more night: they will not need sunlight or lamp-light, because the Lord God himself will shine upon them. (--Apocalypse 22:5)
It's the part of the Christian tradition that befuddles Christians. Instead of bowing down in complete reverence to the revealing truth that God is with us in ways too obvious and ordinary for us to attend -- that we are to be with God with us -- there is instead a race to define, exclude, demand formula, look past one another, attempt to defeat individuals and peoples who are (themselves) the mystery embodied. Finally, there is the absurd effort on the part of some to create a heaven and a theology that ignorantly bars the very God they so tout and crave.
Call It Quits

If you're not a movie mogul, rock star, or President
if you're not a CEO sitting on a billion in the bank,
no one will answer your e-mails, phone calls or letters.
You'll be helpless, hopeless, too old, too young,
in too much pain, the wrong color, some unacceptable
sex, a non-believer in some religion people kill for.
You could be struggling to see through everyone's
skin to their slick, writhing guts, including your own.
Or, you could call it quits, and slip into the unknown,
inexhaustible, frothing teeth of the sea that turns us
all to brine, sweet salt of the universe.

(--Poem by Freya Manfred, from Swimming With A Hundred Year Old Snapping Turtle. Red Dragonfly Press, 2008.)
A hiatus arrives. Look closely. Yes, the 24th brings hiatus.
hi·a·tus Pronunciation[hahy-ey-tuhs]
–noun, plural -tus·es, -tus.
1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.
2. a missing part; gap or lacuna: Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medieval manuscript.
3. any gap or opening.
4. Grammar, Prosody. the coming together, with or without break or slight pause, and without contraction, of two vowels in successive words or syllables, as in see easily.
5. Anatomy. a natural fissure, cleft, or foramen in a bone or other structure.

It's often like that, an arrival, unexpected and discontinuous, the missing part itself showing up, all surprising and an inadvertent complete necessity.

Perhaps we think, "Ah, a foramen!" ('Foramen' means 'great hole' --or is it 'whole' -- 'a natural opening.' It would change the meaning of exclamation following any prayer.)

Whether great hole or great whole -- there it is.

All of itself.

Being God with us

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Nears the time of appreciation of each as each.

The older brother sat listening to younger brother. He'd been fly-fishing in the St. George River after wading hip deep in snow to get there. Fire in firebox.

A plane flies from Africa with young child and father to new room in New England house. Czechoslovakia, Holland, Iran and France by way of Canada and United States comes this sweet young Guinean-American girl to a festive house.
When I say there is nothing outside,
Students who do not understand me
Interpret this in terms of inwardness,
So they sit silent and still,
Taking this to be Zen Buddhism.
This is a big mistake.
If you take a state of unmoving clarity to be Zen,
You are recognizing ignorance as a slave master.

- Linji (d. 867)
Three Stolen bake in upstairs oven. Sour cream apple coffee cake being prepared by Saskia. We linger at the shop. Feels like Christmas Eve. It's not. It's the first day of winter. Light has taken a stand. Stopped downhill roll and stood still, then turned. Yes. Time to ascend. Once more to the climb. First, though, to gather gear and plot a course. Last night light remembered its source.
We observe the Feast of Solstice Night. This great night was for a thousand years the night we observed the Great Feast of Christmas.

Then when Pope Gregory reformed the calendar in the 16th century - every day on the calendar slipped three days earlier. In the revised calendar, Solstice was now the night of the 21st rather than the 25th.

This put Christendom in a quandary. What to do with the date of Christmas - should it be changed to the 21st or left on its traditional day of the 25th.

After great theological debate - an answer arrived.

Solstice literally means 'sun stand still.' To the naked eye one cannot see the light of the sun increasing until three mornings after Solstice night.

That was the answer. On the third morning after Solstice - the earth and all people of the Northern Hemisphere rejoice - for we now experience light re-born!

(--from A Christmas Message from Alexander J. Shaia, of The Journey of Quadratos)
Garrison Keillor cheers us again, this time from Bethlehem Pennsylvania. His ersatz gospel of ordinary touch, good humor, and memorable images drifting into recollection.
Jesus Christ, although he shared God’s nature, did not try to seize equality with God for himself; but emptied himself, took on the form of a slave, and became like a man – not in appearance only, for he humbled himself by accepting death – even death on a cross.
For this, God has raised him high, and given him the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bend, in heaven, on earth, and under the earth,
and every tongue will proclaim “Jesus Christ is Lord”, to the glory of God the Father.

(--Philippians 2, from Vespers, Saturday Night)
Christmas is a good time of year. Light and food, reconnection and essential solitude.

It is a time of ordinary life experienced in the guise of especial effort and radiance. But it is, really, ordinary life. There's family and celebration of presents. There's the pervasive sense that we are not isolated and at odds, but rather part of a very large truth slowly becoming recognizable.

David Wagoner ends his poem Staying Found with the following lines:
When he stumbled onto the road again, his mind
Had changed. He was no longer lost in the woods
Or in cities as he had always been,
Not knowing it. Now, he would stay found.



Friday, December 21, 2007

For those not comprehending 'Holy Spirit' -- there might be approach another way.
Strange Peak

Looming up rough and steep
What force
The trees look like works of magic
And all of the stones
Are possessed of powers
Once you climb the peak
Your eyes will start from your head
But until then it stands veiled
In unbroken fog and mist
-- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
Martha Heyneman's final chapter in The Breathing Cathedral is about the Christmas Tree. Before and above the big bang (the top of the tree) is the Invisible. The hanging balls are planets, the lights are stars, and at the lowest point a creche, the lowest point of which is the child -- here, Jesus. We are talking about this in prison today.

Around table we are talking. As Joe speaks, an insight occurs: It is the Invisible that engages my attention.

The Wholly Invisible is that before, beyond, between, and because,

The Wholly Invisible is source and emanation.

Kenotic emptiness, simple shunyata, and divine eternal presence.

It is to this, for this, and as this -- arises prayer, and thought, and grateful thanks.

Comes this Solstice.

Comes this Christmas.

Comes this.

And this.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

I am not my self, but the no-self I am.
In field or mountain,
Nothing stirs
On this snowy morning.

- Chiyo-Ni
There is a place where nothing is hidden.

Here is where nothing is revealed.

Sit still.



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

For Spinoza, freedom is the recognition of necessity.

Necessity is non-accidental.
I stop worrying about anything
I give up activities
I’m full of my life
I no longer go to
The temple evening and morning
If they ask me
“What are you doing in your old age?”
I smile and tell them
“I’m letting my white hair fall free.”

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
Inner, not outer, cause.

For a monist, we are of it all.

There is only experiencing itself.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

However much we like our stories, the story about the thing is not the thing itself.

The story about Jesus in Bethlehem is not the presence of Christ in this room.
Both field and mountain
All taken by the snow
Till nothing yet remains.
- Joso
The story about Siddhartha Gautama is not the presence of enlightened awareness within the form you are.

Without a story the reality is the reality.

With a story everything depends upon who tells the best version and wins the elocution award for holy discourse.

Tonight, no story.






(You don't say?)

Monday, December 17, 2007

I imagine myself dead. There's nothing there. So I'm not imagining myself dead, I'm thinking of nothing there. There's a difference.

As I live and breathe things are right here in front of me. Smell of stir fry comes up stairs. Root rumble of heating system converts propane through fire to heated air blown into metal conduits to registers on walls and floors. Sound of three tiered bell hanging from cedar tree at northeast corner of house tells of conversation with wind I cannot make out.
Snow Valley

Each drifting snowflake
Falls nowhere but here and now
Under the settling flowers of ice
The water is flowing
Bright and clear
The cold stream splashes out
The Buddha’s words
Startling the stone tortoise
From its sleep

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
The here and now is comforting. Even when trudging with Saskia and Britta (Erika's excitable German Shepherd) through woodland depths of Ragged Mountain snow, boots crunching through to wooden bridges across double brook, cold wind penetrating gloves freezing fingers wrapped around walking poles, there is comfort in the experience of the things in sight, under foot, and in mind.

The there and whenever is less attractive -- even when described by visionaries and believers as joyful warmth of divine beneficence where nothing spoils or rots and monthly bills don't invite despair any longer.
"Is that really Granddad?" he whispered.
"No," said Onno. "Granddad doesn't exist anymore."
On the other side of the coffin, his sister Trees shot him a reproachful look.
"Granddad has left this earthly life for eternity," she said to Quinten.
He looked agog at the motionless contents of the coffin, without understanding what he saw. Something impossible was lying there. Everything that he had seen up to now in his life had been possible, but it was there; but now there was something lying there that could not possibly be seen and that he still saw. It was Granddad and it wasn't Granddad!

(p.429, from The Discovery of Heaven, by Harry Mulisch, c.1992)
Not to exist anymore is not to stand out from what is there. Quinten's Granddad did not stand out from the body prone in coffin. Whatever once was there, acting and speaking through the animated dance of breath and blood, no longer was on stage. "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone completely beyond" -- as the sutra says -- "Awake! Hooray!"
Only What I Can Do
Dedicated to Juan Bernal, died September 9, 2001, at age 41
I write a letter for my client today.
I sit with him on the deck
of the skilled nursing facility.
He eats breakfast, smokes cigarettes.
He wants me to write to his baby brother
in jail doing time.
He dictates: "I love you —
I need a thousand dollars —
I will drive the get-away car."
He has these plans
he needs to convey—tells me
his little brother will tote the gun.

He dictates: "The doctor told me today
I am dying, but he doesn't know
how long it will take."

It is doubtful he will be able to drive
the get-away car when his legs are paralyzed
and two people have to transfer him
from his bed to his wheelchair and back.
He has a direct line morphine drip
he presses every ten minutes.

It is doubtful he will make it
home again, but he wants to go home.
He drifts in and out of sleep, nodding-out
his thoughts stop in mid-sentence,
he loses track of his message to his brother.

He asks if they'll read the letter.
The jail will, I say. He edits out the question
about whether his brother killed someone.
He thinks he did. I suggest he
take out the part about robbing a bank
but he doesn't. He thinks it's a good plan.

(-- Poem: "Only What I Can Do" by Julene Tripp Weaver, from Case Walking: An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues. Finishing Line Press, 2007. On Writer's Almanac)
As far as I know I'm not dying. Not in the "Oh my God, doctor!" kind of way. Still, in this quiet room, here and now, I cannot but think that the bell rung from the bottom of the stairs, tonal invitation to come to kitchen, where chicken and rice, a Sherlock Holmes video, and some leftover strawberry-rhubarb pie with whipped cream after -- seems like a good plan.

So it is.

Just for now.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

In narrow valley pass between two mountains wind hustles through trees banging into everything fixed in place -- windows, walls, broken slats of gate riven in drifted piles. Storm runs through mountains a driven herd of mutating moisture taking shape and consistency like a gaggle of teenagers unaware anyone watches them.
On the old pond
Snow falls on the mandarin ducks
This evening.
- Shiki
I imagine I am an old man -- as indeed I come to be -- a core center of my life, a place with no extension, but everywhere itself mirroring oneself in each revelation of itself.

I have no other image of eternity. I reside in time. I hear no voices, channel no entity, not visited by supernatural beings, no receiver of omen or favor of saint or deity.

Still, I hear the wind. Pushing snow with sleigh shovel up sculpted ramps then pulling back sending payload forward in centrifugal haste. Left ventricular strain, lung complaint, tennis elbow with no racket for years -- the storm and mountain are companions in time -- and tires rushing mountain sluice sound wet and sloppy tracks an interim phantasmagoria of Barnestown Road.

I have been pleased to be here. This earth. This particular geography. These drops of rain, flakes of snow, hardened evolution of wet and softened devolution of Midwest air on way to Maritimes.
the narcissus no longer sacred
under the ant’s footfall
it passes
the paper bridge
into September
How precise the return to “materiality.” The tiny world of life is all around, and the poet notices a lone ant tracking across his notebook page. This coupling of stanzas makes me shiver. I see a trace of the Buddhist-inspired Noh drama of Japan. The paper bridge is a stark, stylized stage setting—it is “the bridge of dreams,” guiding us across to another “world.” Another season. Love has passed, gone with a breath. The world turns into itself, towards fall, and the “it” could be anything—
it passes
the paper bridge
into September

autumn of withered grass
autumn of ghost-like winds
On the mountain we leaned into a circle, lee side of the jumbled ridge, wind whipping the pines about. The pines of the American West look so vividly like Japanese ink paintings. They are ancient Buddhas, Dogen Zenji would say, crouched in concentrated postures. Or stepping forward to gesture madly. By contrast, we humans sat bundled against the now-roaring wind, vulnerable, resolute, working swiftly to finish the poem and get off the mountain. Everyone had to shout their new verse over the wind. You could feel links and shifts crackling about. Basho wrote: “In this mortal frame of mine, which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices, there is something, and this something can be called, for lack of a better name, a windswept spirit, for it is much like thin drapery that is torn and swept away by the slightest stirring of the wind.”

(--from Whirling Petals, Windblown Leaves, By Andrew Schelling, in Tricycle, Winter 2007)
Bell rings.


Note: Today as it snows mightily, with ice waiting down the hours to come lay atop the soft white bed, we think it a good day to stay inside and invite no one out of their own sanctuary.

Thus, The Bookshop/Bakery is closed today, and there is no Sunday Evening Practice this evening.

Stay in, or wander out, safely!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A hermit lady from another town sat by wood stove this morning. She was crotchety. Fuel costs are up. Midcoast is not rural enough. She's giving Christmas gifts in people's names to animal shelters. Dogs and cats, she says, are being given up. Too expensive to live and share costs with fuel companies.
Sitting in Meditation

Sitting in meditation does not primarily
Mean that the mind should be grasped,
That the idea of purity should be clung to,
Nor that it should be motionless.
When you talk of grasping the mind,
Remember that the mind is fundamentally
Unreal and is known to be illusory.
Therefore, there is nothing that can be grasped
When you talk of clinging to the idea
Of purity, remember that the self-nature
Is essentially pure. It is only due to false
Thoughts that the absolute is concealed.
If there is no thinking, the self-nature will
Appear pure and clean.

- Bodhisattvasila Sutra
Advent story from purple book today. About Johanna Marie, or Johnny. Misfit. We decide that 'normality' is the fiction clung to by those afraid of their oddity. Holding tight, they swing their fiction of normality like a cudgel at those whose fear has not paralyzed and imprisoned them
John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’
(--Matthew 11:2)
There is no one else to wait for.

Oddly, the Christ you are is it.

No fiction.

No stick.

We do go to the desert to see.



Don't lose heart.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Their enthusiasm came only at his funeral, this John of the Cross. Before that, when he was alive, he was annoying to men set in their ways. They wanted him off their case. That Teresa; there were complicities in their desire to love, pray, and serve with integrity.
If you want to freely live or die, go or stay, to take off or put on your clothes, then right now recognize the person who is listening to this discourse. That one is without form, without characteristics, without root, without source, and without any dwelling place, yet is brisk and lively. As for all the manifold responsive activities, the place where they are carried on is, in fact, no place. Therefore, when you look for him, he retreats farther and farther; when you seek him, he turns more and more the other way: this is called the “Mystery.”
- Lin chi (d.866)
In prison today a young man went on about wishing to respect and learn from the different denominations and faiths of others -- doing it in a study group. In the room the newly clean shaven self proclaimed practicing atheist tried to help him sort through and wrestle with the "monkey on my back."
We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.
For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labours, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.
All these are lesser things, disposing the soul for the lofty sanctuary of the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ: this is the highest wisdom attainable in this life.
Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.

(--from A Spiritual Canticle of St. John of the Cross)
The assisting voice posed these words: "What is the true nature of reality" -- a phrasing that might or might not be followed by a question mark or an exclamation point.

There's something just a few steps too far away from the reach of our consciousness that leads us up to the precipice then abandons us.

This aloneness is our solitude.

And our salvation.

With one another.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wind last week knocked slat from upstairs porch facing head of harbor. Eight remain on that side. There is an opening allowing me to see green pinky schooner and red boathouse.

Temperature reading is 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Wood stove labors to throw heat into room. The sky says something's coming. The air stretches across bay to Islesboro, North Haven, and Vinalhaven with aluminum stillness interspersed by Mark and Saddle Islands.

What did the Buddhist woman say on the radio the other day?

"Life is so difficult, how can we be anything but kind?" (—Unknown author, quoted by Sylvia Boornstein.)

Kindness is where we wish to put up our feet. Sip hot cocoa. Watch fishing boat turn to float to tie up. Megunticook mountain shrouded with dusk cloud of white transparency, new falling snow.


Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
(--Poem by Czeslaw Milosz)
I have always wondered if love means being alive throughout birth, death, and the stages of consciousness traversing each aspect of travel here and there.

Five bells.

Dark outside window.

I am, it can be said, in love.

The look of it. The clear wonder of appearance.

We are in love as God is.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What is a miracle?
Students of today get nowhere because they base their understanding upon the acknowledgment of names. They inscribe words of some dead old guy in a great big notebook, wrap it up in four or five squares of cloth, and won’t let anyone look at it. “This is the Mysterious Principle,” they aver, and safeguard it with care. That’s all wrong. Blind idiots! What kind of juice are you looking for in such dried up bones!
- Rinzai (d 866)
Pictures inside cloaks?
Very early one Saturday morning at the beginning of December of 1531, a poor but respected Indian called Juan Diego (born, it is said, in Cuauhtitlan and under the pastoral care of the religious community of Tlatelolco) was on his way to Tlaltelolco on a holy errand. When he reached the hill called Tepeyac dawn was breaking and he heard singing coming from above the hill. The singing stopped and was not heard again, but he heard a voice calling to him from the top of the hill. “Beloved Juan Diego”, it said. He responded at once, bravely climbing the hill towards the place where the voice was coming from.
When he reached the top he saw a Lady standing there, who called him to herself. When he came close to her he was stunned with how beautiful she was: her clothes shone like the sun. Then the Virgin gave him her command: “Know, beloved son, that I am the immaculate ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who is the Origin of all life, who creates all things and keeps them in being, the Lord of Heaven and Earth. I greatly wish, I earnestly desire, that my house should be built in this very place. I will show him to you there and praise him as I show him, my Love and Compassion, my Help and Defence. For in truth I am your compassionate Mother, yours and of all who live together in this land and of any others who love me, seek me, and call on me with confidence and devotion. In that house I will listen to their weeping and their sadness, I will give them help in their troubles and a cure for their misfortunes.

(--The traditional narrative called "Nican Mopohua", Office of Readings)
Transmission of story is the miracle.

With confidence and devotion

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The one reality, as it is, has myriad expressions following experience, as it were, making so many perceptions looking to claim foothold to truth.
Bamboo Garden

The third one crooked
The second one leaning
Bamboos have grown
By the stone steps of the garden
Every year
There are more of them
Until now they are a forest
At the clack of a stone on a bamboo
Hsiang-yen shattered the
Uncountable worlds
But this garden continues

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
Argue vigorously, if you will, for no death or no birth, I will argue the unknown its unknowing elegance. There are times, such as now, when it matters not whether there is an afterlife or there is nothing. Either way, snow falls in dooryard.
The time for thinkers has come. Truth, independent of doctrines and time-honored systems, knocks at the portal of humanity. Contentment with the past and the cold conventionality of materialism are crumbling away. Ignorance of God is no longer the stepping-stone to faith. The only guarantee of obedience is a right apprehension of Him whom to know aright is Life eternal. Though empires fall, "the Lord shall reign forever."
(from Preface, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, 1875)
Some hint that empires totter again. It doesn't matter.

The core center has no extension. It reveals itself everywhere at once and nowhere in particular. We are grounded in no other place.

Filling bird feeders, climbing new wood step ladder, stray seed falls to white snow below.

Think it through.

With words.

Creating. And holding.



Monday, December 10, 2007

After Heart Sutra and before final bell chant in cabin at Sunday Evening Practice, Saskia and I read, renew, and affirm the three promises we hold and practice as meetingbrook monastics.
Gem Mountain

It towers from the beginning
Without a flaw
The rain beats upon it
The wind cuts it
It only shines brighter
Even fog and cloud
Cannot hide the path
To the summit

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
At table we read Catherine de Hueck Doherty's words on the kenotic nature of poustinia, especially that of the heart. It seemed fitting for today, the 10th, the 39th anniversary of Thomas Merton's death.
To summarise the plot of Seven Storey Mountain in a sentence, it is the story of how a rather wild young man settled down to become a Trappist monk. This sounds a little like St Augustine’s Confessions but although they are of the same literary genre, the books couldn't’ be more different. Augustine savours too much of Grand Opera to be readily assimilable. Thanks to an expensive rhetorical education, he spends half his time in bel canto arias to the Almighty and the other half beating his breast – starting with his confession of how wicked he was even in the cradle, where he used to yell when he wanted his parents to do things for him. Meanwhile, Merton, a poet rather than an orator, writes of himself that “Free by nature, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born... loving God and yet hating him, living instead in fear and hopeless self-contradictory hungers” – altogether more likely in the modern world!
Principally what makes the Mountain worth reading is that as he looks into his past Merton loves himself and forgives himself, and loves and forgives everyone else too. This doesn’t mean that he thinks that what he did was good, just that he looks on it dispassionately and sees its proper place in his life. He has drunk of Dante’s Lethe and Eunoë, and so remembers his sins “only as an historical fact and as the occasion of grace and blessedness” (Dorothy L. Sayers, introduction to the translation of Dante’s Purgatorio).
Merton starts his narrative by seeing himself in relation to God, and that’s how it continues. Everything is seen in terms of its true context within his life and its true significance in the course of it and there are a few surprises, as when we see William Blake and James Joyce leading him towards baptism. If this sounds rather ponderous, it isn’t. It isn’t ponderous precisely because it is orthodox. The new man that he has become is like the New Law given by Christ: not a rejection of the old but a fulfilment; and so he loves his old self, like all the rest of God’s creation, but with clear eyes, distinguishing the good from the bad; seeing good in unexpected places and assessing its nature and usefulness.

An artist from Thomaston attending practice gifted us with a wide cross with painted images of six birds. It graces middle room wall as you enter kitchen from round dining table.

We pray to Merton. He understands. We pray for all asking us to pray for them.

Especially today, this week, this holy month.

"Holy indifference" wrote Catherine.

Wholly in difference -- always the same. That's what this cold day seems to say.

One seed at a time.

We birds.

To and fro.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pellucid is a good word.
1. Admitting the passage of light; transparent or translucent. See Synonyms at clear.
2. Transparently clear in style or meaning: pellucid prose.

They're only words. Most times they're all we have.
In a pellucid ocean,
Bubbles arise and dissolve again.
Just so, thoughts are no
Different from ultimate reality,
So don’t find fault; remain at ease.
Whatever arises, whatever occurs,
Don’t grasp—release it on the spot.
Appearances, sounds, and objects
Are all one’s own mind;
There’s nothing except mind.

- Buddha
Nothing is another good word
1. Something that has no existence.
2. Something that has no quantitative value; zero: a score of two to nothing.
3. One that has no substance or importance; a nonentity: “A nothing is a dreadful thing to hold onto” (Edna O'Brien).
Don't find fault

These are good words.

With salt, some butter, and when need arises -- I'll eat my words.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Out on Penobscot Bay, rowing to sound of bell buoy, in chill afternoon sun.

Meetingbrook's koan is:
Embodying the dwelling-place of the Alone; Stepping aside to make room for another.
Buddha is enlightened, John Lennon dies well remembered, and Mary, mother of non-separation is born into being, the same being she will herself birth.
There are only two stories in all of literature -- a man goes on a journey, a stranger comes to town. (--Leo Tolstoy)
In Olin's art room at the prison there are many words for reflective individuals.

We belong as we find ourselves.

Friday, December 07, 2007

There's no cure. Not for what ails us. There's healing. Truth heals us. Heals, not cures.
Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and of the world. It looks at things objectively. It does not falsely lull you into living in a fool's paradise, nor does it frighten and agonize you with all kinds of imaginary fears and sins. It tells you exactly and objectively what you are and what the world around you is, and shows you the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness. One physician may gravely exaggerate an illness and give up hope altogether. Another may ignorantly declare that there is no illness and that no treatment is necessary, thus deceiving the patient with false consolation. You may call the first one pessimistic and the second optimistic. Both are equally dangerous. But a third physician diagnoses the symptoms correctly, understands the cause and the nature of the illness, sees clearly that it can be cured and courageously administers a course of treatment, thus saving his patient. The Buddha is like the last physician. He is the wise and scientific doctor for the ills of the world. - Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith
So many of us want the world to fit the construction plans of our afflicted egos. That doesn't happen. Meditation and prayer deconstruct the ego. The prayer of listening to the sound of what is being said is dismantling the plans creating the world in our image.

The peer art instructor has quotes around the room in prison. "Real deep discipline unlocks desperately needed individuality" was the quote from Harley Brown in the well kept room.

Prison is one thing. But in our everyday lives I'm not sure why we excoriate others for not being our idea of who they should be. Nevertheless, we do.

It's hard work trying to steer everyone else's direction.

I will not work that hard.

Nor take it well.

Let life.

Do it.



Thursday, December 06, 2007

No ideas, the man said, but in things. And things, someone else said, are made of words.
In all things be a master
Of what you do and say and think.
Be free.
Are you quiet? Quieten your body.
Quieten your mind.
By your own efforts
Waken yourself, watch,
And live joyfully.
Follow the truth of the way.
Reflect upon it.
Make it your own.
Live it.

- Buddha from the Dhammapada
We have to speak. To keep things in existence.

For the time being.

Only words.

Filed with silence.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Leave a shoe out tonight. Nicholas will be about.
Careful! Even moonlit dewdrops,
If you’re lured to watch,
Are a wall before the Truth.

- Sogyo (1667–1731)
Glance, maybe.

Don't watch.

A brief gaze.

Then, away.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Richard's daughter calls this afternoon from Warren to say her father died three days ago. At Tuesday Evening Conversation his chair is vacant, but he is merely absent.

John O'Donohue writes that presence and absence are sisters; vacancy being the opposite of presence.

Saskia leads Buddhist prayer and bells for a deceased person.
You ask me why I stay on this blue mountain?
I smile but do not answer.
My mind is at ease!
Peach blossoms and flowing streams
Pass away without a trace.
How different from the mundane world!

- Li P’o (701–762)
He wanted to be done with the cycle of birth and death. It took a Saturday afternoon going to prepare snow blower for coming storm to lay him out on ground with no getting up.

Many months ago, just before going out door after conversation, Richard asked: "Are you my friend?" I said: "I am." I didn't know it until he asked.

In the Ninth Elegy, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote:
Maybe we're here only to say: house,
bridge, well, gate, jug, olive tree, window —
at most, pillar, tower... but to say them, remember,
oh, to say them in a way that the things themselves
never dreamed of existing so intensely.
We rang bells after touching earth, burning incense, bowing, and saying grateful words.

Many bells. A joyful cacophony.

For a friend.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Practice makes perfect.

Perfect what?

Practice makes perfect this.

This what?

Practice this: making one's way through.
Just detach from all sound and form,
And do not dwell in detachment,
And do not dwell in intellectual understanding,
This is practice.

- Baizhang
The bird feeder capped with snow dome shows colored lights through white snow covering lights and feeder.

There is no state of perfection separate from the one practicing making way through what they are doing as who they are being where they are.



Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Advent

Storm approaches. Night.

As for Christ...hard to say. Still

No removal. Snow.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It is. It is time to wake. It is time to wake from ignorance, illusion, and sleep.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his love is for ever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his love is for ever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his love is for ever.
--Psalm 135 (136)
It turns to Advent. For too long we have been away from ourselves.

Now, we are being called home.




Friday, November 30, 2007

Here is wide open. Wherever 'there' might be, 'here' is wide and limitless open.
My thatched hut the whole sky
Is its roof
The mountains are its hedge
And it has the sea for a garden
I’m inside with nothing at all
Not even a bag
And yet there are visitors who say
“It’s hidden behind a bamboo door”
- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
Here is beyond understanding. How can there be 'here' and still be there?
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)
The feast of Andrew is an iconic beginning to Advent Season. It all begins again. Will there be a birth to bring here what we've always considered there?
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, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, [here mention your request] through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen
The prayer asks 'here' to mention its request. What will 'here' ask for? Something vital you might suppose. Something which no one could do without.

'Here' asks, I suspect, for itself.

Itself -- where hour and moment complete what is blessed.

There is no bamboo door.

Just sky, mountain, and sea.

Dwell out of the bag.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cat comes in from barn. Chilled night.
The wise people of old who
Took goodness as their way
Were retiring as though shy

Their conduct to all was
Respectful as though to
Honored guests;
They could adapt themselves
Like ice melting before a fire;
They were artless
As blocks of uncarved wood.

- Lao tzu
We're not meant to be dependent on one another. Something is meant to exist between us. To that place we venture, stepping out of ego and self-containment.

The middle place is not me, not you.

A new being is there.

We must consider.

What we have.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Each yawn wider.


Life is an old man carrying flowers on his head.

young death sits in a cafe
smiling, a pierce of money held between
his thumb and first finger

(i say "will he buy flowers" to you
and "Death is young
life wears velour trousers
life totters, life has a beard" i

say to you who are silent.--"Do you see
Life? he is there and here,
or that, or this
or nothing or an old man 3 thirds
asleep, on his head
flowers, always crying
to nobody something about les
roses les bluets
will He buy?
Les belles bottes--oh hear
, pas cheres")

and my love slowly answered I think so. But
I think I see someone else

there is a lady, whose name is Afterwards
she is sitting beside young death, is slender;
likes flowers.

(Poem, suppose, by e.e. cummings)
No more.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Today, yes, today.

# One Single Day
110. Better than a hundred years lived in vice, without contemplation, is a one single day of life lived in virtue and in deep concentration.
111. Better than a hundred years lived in ignorance, without contemplation, is one single day of life lived in wisdom and deep concentration.
112. Better than a hundred years lived in idleness and in weakness is a day of life lived with courage and powerful striving.
113. Better than a hundred years not considering how all things arise and pass away is is one single day of life if one considers how all things arise and pass away.
114. Better than a hundred years not seeing one's own immortality is one single day if one sees one's own immortality.
115. Better than a hundred years of not seeing the Path supreme is one single day of life if one sees the Path supreme.

(- The Dhammapada, trans. by Juan Mascaro from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith)
Reading Immanuel Kant: Not inclination; good will.

Bailing skiff after Tuesday Evening Conversation -- Pema on Shantideva.

Watching helicopter in Bangor Airport from Public Works yard in afternoon, walking by piles of stones, culverts, and earthen mounds.

Just once. For everything. It's just once.

The illusion is habitual repetition.

It happens just once.

Nothing twice.

Each time, once.

Monday, November 26, 2007

We never know about prayer.

It opens into the open itself. Prayer goes into the open. There's no telling to whom or where it goes. Thich Nhat Hanh says we pray to the living as well as the deceased.
Awake or asleep
In a grass hut,
What I pray for is
To bring others across
Before myself.

- Dogen (1200-1253)
Bodhisattvas, at times, don't know they are bodhisattvas. What they do know is the gaze of compassion, the steadiness of listening, and the longing to assist the other into a happy, safe, dwelling in peace.

I'd like to live a life of prayer.

Grateful for any response. Or none.

Longing for well-being, yours and mine.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

High tide was high. Low, low. Town was empty. Moon full,

When we drop our boundaries we not only see neighbor as self, we let what is there be seen, without fear.
Here I have enough to eat
And I have taken root far
From the world
People who like to find fault
Can melt even gold with their talk
Why should I listen to that
My mind is weightless and
Without color like the lingering fog
The sound of the evening waves
Wakes me from my afternoon nap
Cradled in the breast of this mountain
I have forgotten its original wildness
Day after day watching the sea
I have never seen its depths
If I cannot attain the very heart of Zen
A wave a thousand miles long
Will rise up and heave on the
Sea beyond my gate.

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
There really is no place to go -- not here, not hereafter.

By letting go of geography and wristwatch -- dropping space and time -- we understand the priest's words: this is my body, this my blood -- and we look around to see ourselves resplendent in the forms of each and every thing and being nearby.

I don't know if you recognize me. I'm no one. Just passing through.

Going nowhere.

In particular.

Loving the ride.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Forgetting what we think is outside us, we breathe in. Forgetting what we think is inside us, we breathe out.

What is there to remember neither inside nor out?
Now and again, it is necessary to seclude yourself among deep mountains and hidden valleys to restore your link to the source of life. Breathe out and let yourself soar to the ends of the universe; breathe in and bring the cosmos back inside. Next, breathe up all the fecundity and vibrancy of the earth. Finally, blend the breath of heaven and the breath of earth with that of your own, becoming the Breath of Life itself.
- Morihei Ueshiba
Neither inside nor out is the Breath of Life Itself.

It is exchange. It is traveler. It is full moon in empty sky.

It is nothing we know and everything that is.

Forgetting even my name, I respond to the sound of any voice longing for itself.

Life is itself. As such, holy.

Breathe each breath.

As first.


And only.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Dying isn't what it used to be. Not any more.
The Journey of the Soul
The meditative experience is, to my mind, the practice of dying, the practice of letting go. The more you practice letting go, the more you begin to understand the journey of your soul or your spirit as it detaches from the material nature of existence. There is a river, and as soon as you unmoor the boat and you start to enter that river, you end up on a journey. Not all of us have gone to the mouth of that river, but I think we are all aware, in the meditative process, that the journey exists. As you go deeply inside your psyche you're aware of the similarity of this journey to the journey of the soul after death.

(--Bruce Rubin, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Fall 1991
from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)
It's less. Dying. It's less and less until so little matters you begin to laugh at the obsessions and anxieties that once seemed so large.

Death is the diminishment of what is not you.

We're meant to die daily. To let go that which is not essential.

Behind and below and beyond matter is no-matter.

Breathe deeply. Spirit waits to reveal itself in the space between intake and outflow of breath.

Whether you think it's trampy or not,
when we are not awake,
we really are ALL sleeping together.
Sawing logs, snoozing,
getting a little shuteye,
some sacktime,
heading to slumberland,
doing the blanket drill,
the bunk habit,
having a siesta fiesta,
a pajama party
or just getting forty winks
and a good night's rest

We're all setting alarms, reading a bit,
warming our feet and spooning in,
stealing the covers, hogging all the pillows or
taking up the whole bed, grass mat,
hammock or our bit of dry earth.
Whether the satin sheets, fur or flannels
are on the futon, floor or igloo ice
whether we are naked, night gowned
or wearing what we wore all day.
We have been doing this a long time together, alot.

Terrorists and tyrants,
the embargoed, enemies and occupying forces
within a few blocks of each other
lay down everyday
not only their weapons but their bodies,
anger and ideologies.
They give up. They surrender,
not to overwhelming odds or power
but to being...tired.
They know they can't win against it.
Something much bigger says
"I don't want to hear another peep out of you.
Now tuck each other in and go to sleep!"

(--Poem: "Sleeping" by Daniel Sisco, from A Breath On Stone: New & Selected Poems by Daniel Sisco. Self-published, 2006.
That's just it -- we're tired.

Give up. Surrender.

Be in yourself the longing of absence for presence.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fog hides island.

Hides shore of mainland. Fog drips sound of bell buoy and two loons, gulls, geese, and ducks calling through pea soup thickness as we row around Curtis Island.

A Thanksgiving meditation with oar circles -- pull and glide.
The imperfect becomes whole.
How true that is!
To become whole and
Return to the Source,
One must ever be in accord
With nature.
There is nothing in the world
So weak as water,
Nor anything strong enough
To overcome it.
The person of great wisdom
Is like water which,
Though benefiting all things,
Never strives.
- Lao-tzu
At church this morning we sat with Tommy on back bench after walking Rockport Harbor.

At cusp of dusk candle is lighted on newly filled grave. And Mary -- we remember her on her 5th anniversary of transition.

Otherwise, and always, things are pretty much exactly as they are found.

Clearly here and grateful, remarkable haunting call of loon.



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The season turns.
Many paths lead from
The foot of the mountain,
But at the peak
We all gaze at the
Single bright moon.

- Ikkyu (1394-1481)
If there is no gratitude, there is no ground on which to stand.
The seed is in the ground.
Now may we rest in hope
While darkness does its work.

(--Sabbath Poem V, 1991, by Wendell Berry)
No ground but within ground.

The work of it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Here is why I like zen.
I leave to the highborn
All the honors of this dissolving world
A life of poverty has taught me to love
Haze and mist.
Today in the spring
The friendship between us adds
Warmth to the sunlight
Even a dry post here on the shore
Is blossoming.

- Muso Soseki (1275-1351)
Zen is why I like here.

No I. No why. No like or dislike.

Zen is here.

Here is zen.


I like why.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spirituality is the moving revelation of truth with love.
Simplicity is something that our
Fundamental nature inherently
Possesses. If we prepare in
Advance and nurture it within
Ourselves, then wherever we happen to
Be, whether in wealth and high rank,
Or poverty and low status,
In foreign lands, or in difficult
Circumstances, we deal with
Whatever situation we are in
By retaining our simplicity there.
It is not increased when we do great
Deeds or reduced when we are
Dwelling in obscurity.
Wherever we go, we are at peace,
Because we have found simplicity.

- Nie Bao (1487-1563)
In circle at prison today these words found themselves on green chalk board:
Who am I?
Read right to left and down, they place us well.

As it is, we belong...


Truth with love.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

At Sunday Evening Practice reading the Vietnamese Zen Master. He reminds us there is no self. Certainly no separate, isolated self.

We could be anyone.

I love the moment at the ticket window—he says—
when you are to say the name of your destination, and realize
that you could say anything, the man at the counter
will believe you, the woman at the counter
would never say No, that isn't where you're going,
you could buy a ticket for one place and go to another,
less far along the same line. Suddenly you would find yourself
—he says—in a locality you've never seen before,
where no one has ever seen you and you could say your name
was anything you like, nobody would say No,
that isn't you, this is who you are. It thrills me every time.

(Poem: "Ticket" by Charles O. Hartman, from Island. Ahsahta Press, 2004.)
We are anyone.

And everyone.

What a lovely mystery!

All aboard?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Have you ever seen a light by itself in the woods?
Sixty-six times have these eyes have
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)
Tonight's half-moon is much brighter than last night's unexplained trail light.

There's a candle in middle of stone-face watchfulness keeping frozen ground illuminated.

And asleep, rest in his peace.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Up on wind vane, dory rower twirls oars wildly to northeast.
Beside the Point

The sky has never won a prize.
The clouds have no careers.
The rainbow doesn't say my work,
thank goodness.

The rock in the creek's not so productive.
The mud on the bank's not too pragmatic.
There's nothing useful in the noise
the wind makes in the leaves.

Buck up now, my fellow superfluity,
and let's both be of that worthless ilk,
self-indulgent as shooting stars,
self-absorbed as sunsets.

Who cares if we're inconsequential?
At least we can revel, two good-for-nothings,
in our irrelevance; at least come and make
no difference with me.

(Poem: "Beside the Point" by Stephen Cushman, from The Virginia Quarterly Review: Spring 2006.)
That doryman and I share a skill with one another -- quickly heading nowhere, happily working just to stay in place.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

At dawn, silent sitting, chanting, bell sounding.

Then three of us carry this good dog to hillside grave site where his brothers and sisters before him join with earth watching brook fall and turn and continue on.

Brown earth, stones, leaves, incense, candle, fuzzy toy, and lovely poems.

With tears, a smile, and quiet reverence we turn and return.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In the night
a single candle
keeps watch.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Richard Hugo is right, "We're seldom better than weather."
To what indeed shall I liken
The world and human life?
Ah, the shadow of the moon,
When it touches in a dewdrop
The beak of the waterfowl.

Today's The Writer's Almanac quotes Robert Louis Stevenson, who said, "Our business in life is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits."

I'm practicing.
I Used to Be but Now I Am

I used to be inexorable,
But now I am elusive.

I used to be the future of America,
But now I am America.

I used to be part of the problem,
But now I am the problem.

I used to be part of the solution, if not all of it,
But now I am not that person.

I used to be intense, & useful,
But now I am heavy, & boring.

I used to be sentimental about myself, & therefore ruthless,
But now I am, I think, a sympathetic person, although
easily amused.

I used to be a believer,
But now, alas, I believe.

(Poem: "I Used to Be but Now I Am" by Ted Berrigan, from The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan. c. University of California Press, 2005.)
The old dog's grave is dug and open to the stars.

He'll breathe his last at noon tomorrow.

Run the night through free.

Enter earth next dawn.

As for Hugo's words: I was rain last night.

Cloudy this morning.

Some sun this afternoon.

Weather-less tonight.

Monday, November 12, 2007

There's nothing out there.
The world is unstable, like a house on fire. This is not a place where you stay long. The murderous haunt of impermanence comes upon you in a flash, no matter whether you are rich or poor, old or young. If you want to be no different from a Zen master or a buddha, just do not seek outwardly.
- Lin Chi (d 867?)
Gaze within. A brief look.

Return home.

Let('s) go.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

At church the priest said the former pope said that heaven, hell, and purgatory were of the mind.
Every day priests minutely
examine the Dharma
and endlessly chant
complicated sutras.
They should learn
how to read the love letters
sent by the wind and rain,
the snow and moon.

- Ikkyu (1394-1491)
Heaven, hell, purgatory -- a matter of mind.

No mind -- then none of the above.

Just stacking wood. Pick it up, carry it across, put it down.

A metaphor to read love letters by.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Stacking wood early morning, 28 degrees, back and forth across dooryard from dump-pile to palettes just outside barn. Old dog stands in middle. He meanders as I cross to and fro. Each return trip I stop to massage his back, neck, legs, ears. It is a pattern of sweet repetition. Saskia has gone to home undertaking workshop at merrymeeting. I do hospice wood stacking
When we reach the ultimate
Stillness, we joyfully become
Aware that this mind of ours
Is empty, without any things,
And extends infinitely in all
Directions. It is something
Like the eternal sky,
In which clouds and wind circulate
Without stopping or reaching an end.
It is something like the vast ocean,
Where fish and dragons undergo
Transformations without gaps
Or interruptions.
It has no inside or outside that can
Be pointed to, no motion or
Stillness that can be separated.
From ancient to modern, it all forms
A single whole.
As the saying goes, it is nowhere
And everywhere.

- Luo Hongxian (1504-1564)
It feels distinctively November. Cold wind blows north north-east. Water is dark gray in bay. Dock floats are out. Patio furniture, whisked to cedar garden before remnants of hurricane Noel last week, have been trucked by Jim out to hermitage. Everyone is somewhere else today.

Woman buys Eliade's Shamanism. Sam planes swollen screen door. Theresa readies for open house at Wellness Center. I move used classical cds to consolidation boxes. Use old box for teas, hanging it from beam by refrigerator. Count change from blue teapot and put $40 dollars rent donation coins into cash register.

I don't know much.

There is only this.

I have no idea about next or before.

Only what is between, only (as Meister Eckhart said): Life without the reason why.

Can't figure: world without end; war without end.

The joy of each stick of wood (placed and) perfectly itself.

Seems my practice.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Mind is not slowed by material substance, air resistance, or gravity. Mind is clear and unobstructed. Consciousness is faster than light.
What truth am I talking about? I am talking about truth of the ground of mind, which can enter into the ordinary and the sacred, into the pure and the polluted, into the absolute and the conventional, and yet is not the absolute, conventional, ordinary, and sacred, but is able to give names to all the absolute, conventional, ordinary, and sacred. Someone who has realized this cannot be labeled by the absolute or the conventional, by the ordinary or sacred. If you can grasp it, then use it, without labeling it any more. This is called the mystic teaching.
- Lin Chi (d 867?)
Mind enters the between of what is. Put another way, mind is what is between everything. Thus, mind is not separated from what we consider the far edges of this and that. Mind nears. And clear mind is the absolute near-side. With what we call the absolute near-side, no outside exists. No inside contrasts with what we call outside.

Only mind. Only consciousness. Only awareness.

We might be out of our mind.

Still, there is no outside of mind.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

There's no knowing.
Look at how our heads and feet
Are capped and shod without a second thought.
It is like the man who had a long beard,
But did not anguish at its length
Until one day someone asked him
How he arranged it when he went to bed.
First he put it inside, then outside the coverlet,
The whole night he spent looking for the best position.
And tossed and turned until the dawn of day.
In the end he wanted only to chop it off!
Although this fable is light and humorous,
Still it contains a much deeper meaning.
When I asked the dharma master about this,
He gave a smile and nodded his assent.

- Su Shih (1073)
There's only showing up.

Practice saying: Here I am!

Consider it a prayer.

Do so without purpose, without end.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

We think it is time to begin digging into earth back up by brook alongside stone angel.
A thousand clouds among a myriad streams
And in their midst a person at his ease.
By day he wanders through the dark green hills,
At night goes home to sleep beneath the cliffs.
Swiftly the changing seasons pass him by,
Tranquil, undefiled, no earthly ties.
Such pleasures! – and on what do they rely?
On a quiet calm, like autumn river water.
- Han shan
Oak leaves on ground. Water running strong under footbridge. Old dog slows.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

When this mind is clear and bright
And is not covered over,
Then you are not very different
From the sages.
If you allow no wavering
From this clarity, and do not
Let it change,
And do not cling to it,
And do not neglect it:
This is learning.
Just protect it all the time

- Luo Hongxian (1504-1564)
Let's count.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Terrorism is now necessary for our economy. It helps keep the dollar weak. Defense contractors are a comfortable and secure industry. Legislative branch defends the unlimited requests of the executive branch of government for war funds and power. The judicial branch has purchased a new rubber stamp.
Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up King and Parli'ment.

(--Part of traditional rhyme.)
Guy Fawkes Night (more commonly known as Bonfire Night and sometimes Fireworks Night) is an annual celebration on the evening of the 5th of November. It celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of the 5th of November 1605 in which a number of Roman Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
(--from Wikipedia)
We are allowed to torture -- but only anyone defying the Executive Branch.

We are allowed to lie -- but only if it is to promote freedom and justice.

We are allowed to pout -- after all, bad people tried to knock down every building in our favorite cities.
Make no mistake about it; if you do not find it now, you will repeat the same routines for myriad eons, a thousand times over again, following and picking up on objects that attract you. We are no different from Shakyamuni Buddha. Today, in your various activities, what do you lack? The spiritual light coursing through your six senses has never been interrupted. If you can see in this way, you will simply be free of burdens all your life.
- Lin Chi (d 867?)
I'm willing to end terrorism. I'll do it right now. "I end terrorism." There, it is over for me. I will not now, nor ever in my past or future, be a terrorist.

I'll be a contemplative hermit.

And cry for civilization as I sit in silence then chant psalms or sutras.
How delightful is your dwelling-place, Lord of hosts!
My soul is weak with longing for the courts of your palace.
My heart and my body rejoice in the living God.
Even the sparrow finds itself a home,
the swallow a nest to raise her young –
in your altars, O Lord,
Lord of strength, my king and my God.
Blessed are they who dwell in your house:
they will praise you for ever.

(--from Psalm 84)
Let's say there is "God."

What would we do as God does?

Now that terrorism is not our favorite fear, will we try to return our fear to God?

God wants no fear.

What do we want?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

There's no need to tell anyone about Christ.
A man of the Way comes
rapping at my brushwood gate
and wants to discuss the
essentials of Zen experience.
Don’t take it wrong
if this mountain monk’s
too lazy to open his mouth:
late spring warblers are
singing their hearts out,
a village of drifting petals.

- Jakushitsu (1290 –1367)
Silence is the language of God.

The word you are listening for is still within you.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

There's not enough room here for two of us.
My hut isn’t quite six feet across
Surrounded by pine, bamboos, and mountains,
An old monk hardly has room for himself
Much less for a visiting cloud.
- Shih-wu (1272-1352)
The impulse is to get rid of what we do not like. So we decide between two. Then cut away what we consider to be not us. It's an ancient problem, solved by elimination. It's a solution without promise.
Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of. . . a Soul, Self, or Atman. According to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts of "me" and "mine," selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems. It is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. In short, to this false view can be traced all the evil in the world.
--Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book
Such a strange prospect -- no-self.

What could possibly come of it?

What if there were only room for one?

Pardon me, I'd like to step aside, make room for another, and disappear.

Are we willing to be one of these unremarkable transparencies?

See through.




It's quite cloudy over the mountains tonight.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Water is water wherever it is.

Today the dead are alive in our heart and mind. All Souls Day. A monstrance of remembrance.
Holding my sweater and
Facing the fragrant peony,
I sense how different our viewpoints are.
Someday our hair will turn gray,
Yet the flowers will be this red each year;
Following the morning dew,
Each blooms gorgeously
Then their sweet scent is
Chased by the evening winds.
Why wait till they have withered and fallen
To understand such emptiness?

- Fa Yen (885–958)
On way to prison this morning we stop at cemetery and pray a psalm:
Psalm 40

I waited, I waited for the Lord;
and he heard me.
He heard my voice when I cried,
he led me from the pit of misery,
he led me from the mire of filth.
He set my feet on firm rock,
he steadied my footsteps.
He filled my being with a new song,
a song to the Lord.

Many shall see what has happened, and trust,
and honour the Lord.
Happy the man who puts his trust in the Lord,
who pays no heed to the proud,
who pays no heed to liars.
Many are your wonders, O Lord my God,
and great is your care for us:
there is no-one like you.
If I wanted to tell the things you have done for us –
they are too many to count.

You have refused sacrifice and oblation,
but you have opened your ears to me.
You have refused burnt-offerings, even for sin –
so I said “I am coming.
The books of scripture have written of me.
It is your will, my God, that I wish to perform:
your law is next to my heart”.
There is no-one like you.

You are the one.





Thursday, November 01, 2007

A saint knows no separation and acts accordingly.

Jose Ortega y Gasset had a phrase that fits: 'Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo', (Roughly re-rendered: I am myself and my circumstances, and if my circumstances are not saved, nor am I.

Or, put another way: We are the world, the earth, and each being dwelling therein and thereon; as is the mind and heart, so too the outer forms we call the circumstances of this existence.
If you meet a fencing master on the road,
give him your sword,
If you meet a poet,
offer her your poem.
When you meet others,
say only a part of what you intend.
Never give the whole thing at once.

- Mu-mon (1228)
A non-poet will not hear your poem. So, speak carefully and carry no shtick.

Emily Dickinson wrote: "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant-".

We need saints.

Circumstances require them.

Let's stand around together.

Until saints show.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

There's no difference.
With the moon emerged,
My mind is motionless.
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 a shadow of a bird.

- Reizan (1411)
Nor is anything the same.

Each is.