Saturday, February 03, 2007

I've been thinking about traveling to Iraq.

Spiritually, many of us are already there. There's a map that intersects spiritual reality and material reality. Often the coordinates of the body are not the coordinates of the soul. It seems there is a curious choice to make when we experience dialectical coordinates -- namely: stay divided and dualistic, or, consolidate and converge.

Dialectic (of conversation) is "the Hegelian process of change in which a concept or its realization passes over into and is preserved and fulfilled by its opposite." (Merriam-Webster)

One way gives life. The other resembles death.

Willing to die?

Dozens Killed in Baghdad Bombing

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 3 — A bomb concealed in a truck destroyed a packed market in central Baghdad late this afternoon, killing at least 92 people and wounding more than 200 more in one of the worst single acts of violence to hit the capital since the United States invasion almost four years ago.

The bomb leveled at least 10 buildings and coffee shops and obliterated market stalls in a largely Shiite enclave less than a half mile from the Tigris River. The blast hit at about 5 p.m., just as people were finishing their dinner shopping. Many of the dead were inside the razed buildings, witnesses said.

Police said they believed the attack was the work of a suicide bomber.

Imagine if 500,000 ordinary civilians went to Iraq and were willing to simply walk the streets, sip coffee, offer to assist those suffering, and take the blasts when they occur.

Philosopher and semanticist Alford Korzybski said, "A map is not the territory it represents but if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness."

So many lead useful lives. And many find their lives useless.

Hearing and reading about Iraq might have some use, but is decidedly not the war and strife in Iraq. Perhaps if half a million or a million Americans traveled to Iraq to join in the reality -- not as mercenaries or combatants, but as brother and sister human beings -- a territory of un-terror might be put on the map. The dichotomy of matter and spirit needs to be repaired. Word, as another instance of inspiration in our world, might impregnate peace to instantiate and transubstantiate flesh.

Alas, our plight!

Willing to live?
Toboggans will arrive at Ragged atop cars this morning. The Nationals run for two days. Light snow. Temperature hovering at 31F.

When you set out to look for the Way,
At once it changes to something
That is to be sought in your self.
When sight becomes no-sight,
You come to possess the jewel,
But you have not yet fully penetrated into it.
Suddenly one day everything is empty like space
That has no inside or outside, no bottom or top,
And you are aware of one principle
Pervading all the ten thousand things.
You know then that your heart
Is so vast that it can never be measured.

- Daikaku (1213-1279)

Piece by piece drops away what we've thought was our identity. This is as it must be. We are not who we think we are.

Solitude might be a good idea, but with absence by absence that good idea actuates itself and becomes flesh. We are left holding less and less until nothing is held as we look around for what is gone. Obituaries point the way. Dawn nudges aside night. Despite ourselves, light.
Do you imagine the universe is agitated? Go into the desert at night and look out at the stars. This practice should answer the question. The superior person settles her mind as the universe settles the stars in the sky. By connecting her mind with the subtle origin, she calms it. Once calmed, it naturally expands, and ultimately her mind becomes as vast and immeasurable as the night sky.

(--from Hua Hu Ching, by Lao Tzu, Translated by Brian Walker)

(Old dog hobbles out of room. Breeze waves branch topped with wet snow. Cat comes in through barn. Dog goes out to pee. Returns. Cat goes out through barn.)

It's like so many other things in life
to which you must say no or yes.
So you take your car to the new mechanic.
Sometimes the best thing to do is trust.

The package left with the disreputable-looking
clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit,
the envelope passed by dozens of strangers—
all show up at their intended destinations.

The theft that could have happened doesn't.
Wind finally gets where it was going
through the snowy trees, and the river, even
when frozen, arrives at the right place.

And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
is delivered, even though you can't read the address.

(Poem: "Trust" by Thomas R. Smith, from Waking before Dawn. Red Dragonfly Press.)

As the landlord appears to want his brother to take the upstairs of the shop from us; as the sea finds more ice urging it swell; as courtesy and civility are tired concepts for our society; as 2+2=4 is a quaint notion only for reality-based folks; as so many of us require packaged programming to set our agenda; as fewer and fewer seek wisdom and good counsel; as we seem to forget or ignore the Spirit of Truth standing by our side; as we try to remember our authentic sound, genuine voice, and original name; as morning light shows green and white behind iconography of Mother/Child, Buddha, and Christ -- as all these things come to pass -- we come to see "how faithfully ...our life / is delivered...".

"Is" is delivered to us. "Is" is delivering us. "Is" is origin and destination.

The tiny particles which form the vast universe are not tiny at all. Neither is the vast universe vast. These are notions of the mind, which is like a knife, always chipping away at the Tao, trying to render it graspable and manageable. But that which is beyond form is ungraspable, and that which is beyond knowing is unmanageable. There is, however, this consolation: She who lets go of the knife will find the Tao at her fingertips.
(-- Lao Tzu, Walker)

Let tobogganers frolic, snow fall, plans fold, dreams flit, worries flee, and love free. It is Saturday in February. Everywhere, everyone, is -- as is.

Subtle awareness of the truth of the universe should not be regarded as an achievement. To think in terms of achieving it is to place it outside your own nature. This is erroneous and misleading. Your nature and the integral nature of the universe are one and the same: indescribable, but eternally present. Simply open yourself to this.
(--Lao Tzu, Walker)

This is our morning blessing.

You are this.

This alone.

Friday, February 02, 2007

I see my shadow.

Hugh C. writes noting: Feb 1 Feastday Of Brigid (Bridget)
Imbolg (ie in the belly) is the name given to Feb 1; Candlemas on Feb 2, and Groundhog Day in America are derived from the observance of the Quarter Day (ie Brigid's Day) in Scotland and Ireland. Candlemas relates to the fire of Brigid who in turn represents the changing and lengthening of daylight hours, the first lambs born and the first early signs of Spring. In highland Scotland a serpent called Ivor (a Viking name) would poke its head out of its hole indicating early Spring. From this ritual the groundhog tradition in the U.S. was most likely derived.
In the shadow under bright moon falling between Ragged and Bald, I dwell uncertainly. Like the gap found between faith and fact the Friar Juniper falls into (The Bridge of San Luis Rey) seeking the intuition of accident or plan in the deaths of five people, I look up from my winter and detect lacunae, blank spaces or missing parts into which I wander with reserved reverence. I dwell in the between.

Desperation is not destination. If there is such a thing (or such a being) as God's love -- such will become apparent wherever one is.

Sometimes, winter is whited out. Not its own elaboration. But part of what is...missing.
KAWABATA YASUNARI'S Nobel Prize speech cites Ryokan's waka on the seasons, which is a variation on the "Original Face" verse, as similarly expressive of the "essence of Japan":

Naki ato no
Katami tomo kana
Haru wa hana
Natsu hototogisu
Aki wa momijiba.

In remembrance
After I am gone—
In spring, the cherry blossoms,
In summer, the cuckoo's song,
In autumn, the crimson leaves.

Note the way that Ryokan, who deletes the reference to winter snow and the modifier "suzushi," subtly shifts Dogen's metaphysical view of impermanence into a very personal statement.

(--from The Zen Poetry of Dogen: Verses from the Mountain of Eternal Peace, Book by Steven Heine; Tuttle Publishing, 1997)
Ryokan, in the poem, says nothing of winter. In that nothing said, winter is referenced precisely as it is -- nothing sudden, nothing separated.
Ryokan was a monk of the Soto Zen sect, which was brought to Japan from China by Dogen (1200-1253), the founder of Eihei-ji monastery in Fukui Prefecture, the largest and most famous monastery in Japan. Dogen's teaching emphasized two main points: (1) "shikantaza," themeless sitting in zazen, that is, abandoning all thoughts of good or bad, enlightenment or illusion, and just sitting; and (2) "shusho ichigyo," "practice and enlightenment are one." There is no sudden enlightenment, and enlightenment cannot be separated from one's practice. For these reasons, Soto Zen is usually contrasted with Rinzai Zen, with its use of koans during zazen and its striving for kensho, an instantaneous, profound insight into reality. Generally speaking, Rinzai Zen tends to be somewhat violent and severe, while Soto Zen is usually more restrained and quiet.
As a Soto Zen monk, Ryokan first followed the traditional pattern of communal life in the monastery, then a period as an "unsui," a pilgrim monk drifting from place to place like "clouds and water" (unsui) visiting other masters. Ryokan could have become the head of a temple or taken some other position in a large monastery, but he was not interested. His severe training had made him not austere or remote but more open and kind. Therefore, he "returned to the marketplace with bliss-bestowing hands," the state depicted in the last of the well-known Zen series of the ten oxherding pictures, and the culmination of all Buddhist practice.

(--pp. 15-16, in One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan, John Stevens; Weatherhill, 1977)
The shadow I see drifts from place to place without fixed reference or residence. The winter of this mind sees its shadow and comprehends that the between will lengthen. This prospect is OK. While the saying might be "The raft is not the shore," I see that between raft and shore is "unsui" -- clouds and water -- above and below, each person's passage. We drift sensing no control, no origination, and no destination.

In Catholic Christian calender it is the Feast of The Presentation of The Lord. From the Office of Readings for this feast, we read from a sermon by Saint Sophronius, bishop:
In honour of the divine mystery that we celebrate today, let us all hasten to meet Christ. Everyone should be eager to join the procession and to carry a light.
Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.
The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.
The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.
The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendour, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendour.
Through Simeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.
By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel. Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honour.
A man I recently met was a sort of odd and ignorant zen master. (Perfect for the odd and ignorant student.) He used a koan: "What happens to the head that peeks up over the rest of the heads?"
Then he'd mime a hand with mallet banging downward, and laugh.
He taught me something to take along with me in my drifting -- there is no place to stand that is not an open hole, no bridge to cross that does not collapse to the void.

The light of Christ is not a solid rock on which to stand.

The mind of Buddha is not a sturdy bridge carrying you across.

The middle of winter is not a destination.

Everything is a place from which to set out from here to elsewhere and return.

This between-place is pilgrimage where light and shadow coincide and converge. As we go on.

In remembrance
After I am gone—

Spring -- hope's eternal faint song -- "baa...baa!"

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly Ivins died yesterday. Absent one smart and sassy lady.
Congress must work for the people in the resolution of this fiasco. Ted Kennedy's proposal to control the money and tighten oversight is a welcome first step. And if Republicans want to continue to rubber-stamp this administration's idiotic "plans" and go against the will of the people, they should be thrown out as soon as possible, to join their recent colleagues.

Anyone who wants to talk knowledgeably about our Iraq misadventure should pick up Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone." It's like reading a horror novel. You just want to put your face down and moan: How could we have let this happen? How could we have been so stupid?

(from final column of Molly Ivins, "Stand Up Against the Surge." Originally Published on Thursday January 11, 2007)

Sadness at losing a vital voice of sanity and truth in a surrounding morass of slick spin and mendacity.
Just come to see that everything is passing on,
That nothing in your mind remains
The same for even the span of a breath.
If you see like that for even a moment,
Then for that moment you are free.

- Ji Aoi Isshi
It seems odd to worry about telling the truth. What is odder still is the inkling that telling the truth is not enough to reveal falsity's ugliness. It seems that falsity is becoming alluring and drop-dead seductive. It is almost the new standard of beauty. We hear, "What a beautiful lie," and, "What a lovely explanation." We approach a time when the man or woman who tells truth to power will no longer be hounded or trashed, but embraced as cute and cuddly associate to the enormous surge of mendacity.
"Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."
--George Orwell
We are a civilized people. We treasure that thought. Even antagonists and those exposed by our words laud us.
"Molly Ivins was a Texas original. She was loved by her readers and by her many friends, particularly in Central Texas. I respected her convictions, her passionate belief in the power of words, and her ability to turn a phrase.
— President Bush.
We are skilled at deception. We are slightly embarrassed that we have that skill and are not hesitant to use it against almost anyone. Deception, especially for our own benefit, is a prized quality. We're only mildly troubled by cultivating it above revelation. It is a plus to resumes. Prevarication and misdirection are rewarded in a time of antipathy to truth. Or is it that truth has become a liability?

As shield, we are emboldened by the question: "But, what is 'truth'?" We dress the question up with philosophy, advertisements, and scripture -- mock those whose trade is truth, honor those who trade-in truth for expediency. The expedient trumps the ethical in our time. We are left with desolate values.
We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. ... We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"
(--Molly Ivins, ibidem)
She was funny. Cutting. Willing not to smile or giggle after saying something pointed or scathing.
"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act."
-- George Orwell
In an age when many of our once and former icons of fierce telling become caged pets -- the Fourth Estate, Christianity, University -- Molly Ivins said "No, thank you!" and lived in the wilds of clear independence with those few who are not impressed by the luxuries of being kept.

A reminder for me and you, she saw and spoke clear and true.

Remember when we held that opinion of God?

Reality Itself, (what is called God), has no opinion.

No opinion, beyond interpretation, is truth.

Truth, clear and itself, is smart and sassy -- wonderfully humble.

Thanks, Molly!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

There's a phrase going around about continued US involvement in Iraq: "Failure is not an option."

True, it is not an option. It is a fact.


The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring ...

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
(--Poem/song by Leonard Cohen)

We might better consider the option of light.

Make light fact.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Raccoon climbs beam to loft when door opens near skin of dessicated fox under metal skiff in abandoned goat barn outskirting St Andrews by Sea, Canada.

The truth of Zen,

Just a little of it,
Is what turns one’s
Life of monotonous,
Commonplace actions,
Into one of art,
Full of genuine inner creativity.
- D.T. Suzuki

Two of us and border collie step through frozen snow on rutted path down to St Croix River over which blows stiff cold wind.

If there were a second act, stage perfectly set presents itself.

Enough the inner script.

Monday, January 29, 2007

At Sunday Evening Practice we read Mair's sermon given at Lincolnville Center Church. She quotes an author speaking about Jesus (God, Spirit) ghosting in and out of presence. Meir does street ministry in Portland Maine.

The seed of mystery lies in muddy water.

How can I perceive this mystery?
Water becomes clear through stillness.
How can I become still?
By flowing with the stream.
- Lao-tze

Jim said it is all about presence. Priscilla spoke about Spirit. Cesco made his toy squeak from front meditation room. Saskia heats Gale's lamb stew.

If God (Spirit, Jesus, Self) is Presence Itself, it occurs to me, then Spirit is always present. Those times we say that Spirit arrives is metaphorical -- when in fact, it is we who show up. Suddenly we come home from mental and emotional traveling absence. Suddenly we see what is there (here) -- reflected through a person, a thing, or a situation.

The spiritual experience so surprising to us is our own presence reflected in the presence of Spirit.

Mair and her partner wander streets looking and listening. So too must we. Each person seen or heard is us. We are looking and listening for our selves.

This is true practice. Some have called it Christian. Some Buddhist. (Place every name of every religion here -- and the practice will be the same -- if it is a true practice.)

How do this practice?

Be real. Be present. Be attentive.

When so, the ghosts of former absences reveal themselves -- and we are rapt with compassion, torn by sorrow, healed by joy -- we are present to the need of Spirit, for us. And our need, for it.

This place -- this ghosting Spirit of real attentive presence -- is a good place without opposite.

Let's meet here!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Not an inch unfrozen. Double brook sounds. Under wood bridge. Under cascading ice.

So too, asking with each crunch step: Who am I? Who are you?

If the eye never sleeps,

All dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
The ten thousand things
Are as they are, of single essence.
To understand the mystery of the One-essence
Is to be released from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
The timeless Self-essence is reached.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
In this causeless, relationless state.
- T’sen T’sang (d.606)

No answer. Of course.

Only snowy path. Only old dog. Only creaking wood cold bridge waking. Only fallen shavings hollow tree woodpecker questions.

Ask again.

And again.

Once again.