Saturday, March 03, 2007

Too wet the snow. Too heavy. Too frozen from after-rain temperature drop past midnight, the crust. Bruce is called to plow.
When you far transcend all patterns and assessments, and the arrow points meet, without ever having any objective other than Truth, then you receive the marvel of the Way, become a successor of the ancestral teachers, and continue the transmission of the Lamp. You cut off the path of ideation and go beyond thinking and escape from emotional consciousness, to reach a clear, open state of freedom that sweeps all before it.
- Yuanwu (1063-1135)
The pattern of day matches that of thought. I wake. Take clipper machine to head, letting fall excess hair from scalp and beard. Re-heat coffee. Try to remove snow. Return through barn. Make circle of lights for front window. Hang Nan Merrill's Friends of Silence from small bungee attached to toilet paper holder. Order business cards online. Eat farina Saskia makes. Walk to brook through deep snow with three walking meditation companions. Bring in Charlotte's footstool from barn. Stoke wood stove.

About thought -- I don't know what to think.
There are those who despair of finding any meaning in life: they commend the boldness of those who deny all significance to human existence in itself, and seek to impose a total meaning on it only from within themselves.
But in the face of the way the world is developing today, there is an ever increasing number of people who are asking the most fundamental questions or are seeing them with a keener awareness: What is man? What is the meaning of pain, of evil, of death, which still persist in spite of such great progress? What is the use of those successes, achieved at such a cost? What can man contribute to society, what can he expect from society? What will come after this life on earth?
(-- From the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council; Man's deeper questionings)
The circle of colored lights in front window replaces triangle from extended Nativity season. This is the circle of emptiness. It is also round crown of thorns this Lenten season. Passersby (at 50 mph down hill) will hardly note the shift. We will -- at each passing, bending bow, enroute up or down stairs, each visit to Cesco in front room. And at morning or evening silence on zafu, the mere light symbolizing whatever mind arrives with, wherever stillness wishes to reside.
At every hand there are moments we
cannot quite grasp or understand. Free

to decide, to interpret, we watch rain
streaking down the window, the drain

emptying, leaves blown by a cold wind.
At least we sense a continuity in

such falling away. But not with snow.
It is forgetfulness, what does not know,

has nothing to remember in the first place.
Its purpose is to cover, to leave no trace

of anything. Whatever was there before—
the worn broom leaned against the door

and almost buried now, the pile of brick,
the bushel basket filling up with thick,

gathering whiteness, half sunk in a drift—
all these things are lost in the slow sift

of the snow's falling. Now someone asks
if you can remember—such a simple task—

the time before you were born. Of course
you cannot, nor can I. Snow is the horse

that would never dream of running away,
that plods on, pulling the empty sleigh

while the tracks behind it fill, and soon
everything is smooth again. No moon,

no stars, to guide your way. No light.
Climb up, get in. Be drawn into the night.

(Poem "Snow" by Jared Carter, from Poetry)
And for a brief while, no trace of anything save breath of cosmos exhaling swirls of forgetfulness against everything.

There will be an eclipse of full moon tonight.

Like us, when everything lines up, something disappears. Earth will block what celestial light gives itself to lunar surface. But only for a brief while. Light will resurface.

When thought goes dark, for however brief a time, rest easy.

Snow melts. Forgetfulness fades. Darkness gives way.

And light, reflecting off snow, will take our breath once more.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A monk is someone called to seek the Alone. For some the Alone is called God. For some, Awakened One. And for some, the Alone is another. It doesn't matter whether you think of yourself as a Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu monk -- or even a monk of Nature, or a monk of the Everyday Ordinary -- the commonality is being a monk. Everything is directed to, and follows from, the call.
Mountain Stones

Rough were the mountain stones,
And the path very narrow.
When I reached the temple,
Bats were in the dusk.
I climbed to the hall,
Sat on the steps,
And drank in the rain washed air

On the old wall were Buddhas
Finely painted.
The old priest brought a light to
Illumine them.
He spread the bed,
Dusted the mats, and made
My supper ready.

At midnight, while lying there
Not hearing even an insect,
The mountain moon entered the door.
At dawn I left the mountain,
And alone, I lost my way;
In and out, up and down,
While a heavy mist made brook
And mountain green and purple
Brightening everything.

I passed pines and oaks which ten
People could not circle.
I tread pebbles barefoot in swift moving
Water, its ripples purify the ear,
While a soft breeze blew.
What if I spent my old age here,
And never went back home?
(--Poem byHan Yu)
Raimundo Panikkar said in The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha: "Buddhism cannot really and truly be 'spoken of.' It must be prayed." (-p,150) His words stand, as well, for God in theistic monasticism.

Monks pray with breath, hands, and feet. The monastery is everyday reality. Mind listens, watches, and engages the revealing reality of the call. The call to attend is the call of the Alone to remember and heal what has become separated and broken.

There's nothing special about monks and the monastic life. No special hoods or sandals, tunic or liturgical vestment. No special hand gestures, bows, or posture. And no special formulas, prayers, or mantras to repeat.

The call to be alone with the Alone is the invitation to be the true reality only you can be in the circumstances of your life. No need to go to a special building or a special enclosure. God, or the Alone, or True Reality is everywhere.

We put the puzzle together piece
by piece, loving how one curved
notch fits so sweetly with another.
A yellow smudge becomes
the brush of a broom, and two blue arms
fill in the last of the sky.
We patch together porch swings and autumn
trees, matching gold to gold. We hold
the eyes of deer in our palms, a pair
of brown shoes. We do this as the child
circles her room, impatient
with her blossoming, tired
of the neat house, the made bed,
the good food. We let her brood
as we shuffle through the pieces,
setting each one into place with a satisfied
tap, our backs turned for a few hours
to a world that is crumbling, a sky
that is falling, the pieces
we are required to return to.

(--Poem by Dorianne Laux)
In the dooryard, blue snow scoop leans against wet load where I left it for a cup of coffee. Which led, of course, to mulling the Alone. As it is, snow turns to rain and will freeze. Strawberry cereal bar and nut/fruit bar wrappers, like silver seed casings discarded, signal emptiness at brown pillow on white cushion by hibiscus tree in middle room.

Gusts rampage through tree limbs before rattling side of house.

I suppose it is useless to consider oneself a monk. But that is what one-self is, alone as the Alone is about this existence in this world of being.

This is our prayer.

To see, and love.

Who and what.

We are.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

We are quite far away. We try to comprehend nearness.

"The most distant galaxies we know of today are about ten billion light years away from us." (--(p.506, in Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder)

What speed is spiritual light compared to physical light?
Consciousness is an ice pond:
Though it is all water,
It needs the energy of the sun to melt.
When ordinary people are awakened,
They are Buddhas;
But they rely on the power of
Dharma for cultivation.
When ice melts,
Then water flows and moistens;
Only then can it perform its
Irrigating function.
When delusion is ended,
Then the mind is open and penetrating,
Responsively manifesting the function
Of the light of spiritual powers.

- Guifeng Zongmi (780-841)
It flummoxes the mind to try to apprehend the distance from almost any here to there: earth to sun is 93 million miles.
If you return to the Lord your God, if you obey his voice with all your heart and soul in everything I enjoin on you today, you and your children, then the Lord your God will bring back your captives and will have pity on you.
(--Deuteronomy 30:2 - 3)
The pity is our ignorance. It is daunting to try to imagine the Lord God of the universe, multiverse, cosmos, and all manner of size and distance combined to the sum of 10 to the 15th power -- having any interest in this planet, these times, our lives, today's difficulties, right now someone's prayer for God's intervention in their life. But it is that ignorance, that unknowing inclination to reach into sacred mystery -- both with its perversity and sweetness -- which singularly engages mind and imagination.
A New Lifestyle

People in this town drink too much
coffee. They're jumpy all the time. You
see them drinking out of their big plastic
mugs while they're driving. They cut in
front of you, they steal your parking places.
Teenagers in the cemeteries knocking over
tombstones are slurping café au lait.
Recycling men hanging onto their trucks are
sipping espresso. Dogcatchers running down
the street with their nets are savoring
their cups of mocha java. The holdup man
entering a convenience store first pours
himself a nice warm cup of coffee. Down
the funeral parlor driveway a boy on a
skateboard is spilling his. They're so
serious about their coffee, it's all they
can think about, nothing else matters.
Everyone's wide awake but looks incredibly

(Poem: "A New Lifestyle" by James Tate from Memoir of the Hawk.)
It's going to snow big tomorrow, they say. Thank God for Heather and Mark's gift of Oso Negro Coffee from Nelson, BC, Canada, which is 3153.4 miles from kitchen and barn door. That, and our blue sled-shovel for non-lifting snow moving.

We bought milk in Gardiner on the way home tonight. It will interpenetrate morning coffee.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sun warms. Ice breaks from roof.
The triple world with its irritating vexations is like a house afire; who could bear to stay there long, willingly suffering perpetual torment? If you want to avoid going round and round in circles, nothing compares to seeking Buddhahood. If you want to seek Buddhahood, Buddha is mind. Need mind be sought afar?
- Master Chinul (1158-1210)
Writing to a man in prison out of state, I say:
I'm not of the opinion that we are going anyplace -- (as in destination determined by time and space) -- but rather that we are merely going (i.e. moving) in a way that is in and of itself.

My sense is that: we make other; we make two. We punish other for what we've made; we suffer the delusions of the "two's" we cultivate. We try to kill the other (physically and intellectually, even morally) because we know the distinction is illusory and we want to kill the illusion.

I think (if I might be so permitted) that wholeness is peace -- and we do wish for peace. But Gandhi was right -- we have to be the peace we want. If a man understands the terrible truth that he is both the question and the answer existence is asking and asking for -- then he is at the beginning of the spiritual life, the beginning of meditation and contemplation. He nears the origin.

Where am I? Wandering, nearly lost, but ok.

How are you?
(- wfh to TC, 27feb07)
We watch for one another. We watch out for one another. We watch as revelation itself watches.
I rely on you, Lord, my spirit relies on your promise;
my soul hopes in the Lord, more than the watchman for daybreak.

(--from Psalm 130)
These days, working at home, are quiet.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Morning walking meditation with Cesco and Mu-ge up to frozen brook, over to Sally's land, and climbing trunks of trees (Mu-ge's practice).

The damp freeze of dawn light. Crunch, crunch, slide, we ascend and descend. I pray at Sally's land we might be able to purchase it for hermitage guest space. Bald and Ragged Mountains listen to morning broken with words. At cabin door, open, I bow. All is well in stillness inside and out. I am grateful for morning, for unmoving iced brook, for two walking sangha brothers, for fallen trees, cold ears, legs that allow each step, Holy Spirit's listening prayer, ski-pole for balance, smoke coming from kitchen chimney, scattered seed-casings along path, and for single sneeze here on sofa telling I did not have warm jacket for the meditation. (I thought I was only letting dog out to pee.) Back in front room, two sea-jerky strips later, Cesco walks the arc of an old dog curling down-spiral to cream rug, exhaling, snout on tan and black mat, as furnace ignites below us assuring 61 degrees will be attempted one more time.
Q: Please point out true mind.

A: You need to have complete confidence and effective determination. Gently quiet your mind; make you own body and mind unfettered and serene, not entangled in any objects at all. Sit straight, accurately aware, and tune your breathing so that it is properly adjusted. Examine your mind to see it as not being inside, not being outside, and not being in between. Observe it calmly, carefully, and objectively; when you master this, you will clearly see that the mind’s consciousness moves in a flow, like a current of water, like heat waves rising endlessly.
- Hongren (602-675)
Mu-ge purrs on lap and chest. Faint bells chime beyond door and stairs. Footsteps sound from second floor. Window drapes scrape against rings along metal bar. Cars pass down and up Barnestown Road. Nose blows. Flushing water. Steps on carpeted steps.

Saskia enters in silence. She gives Cesco massage. He limps body and gazes at her with what seems loving trust. Afterwards she is reading from writings of Zen Master Seung Sahn, asking about Kuan Seum Bosal, also known as Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit, the bodhisattva of compassion.
Kwan Seum is known as the Goddess of Compassion & Healing which is highly reminiscent of what Catholics think of Mary. Kwan Seum roughly translates as "The One who Hears the Cries of the World" as is said of Mary in the Catholic tradition. Both traditions know that she is the Divine Mother we all long for: merciful, tender, compassionate, loving, protecting, caring, healing, and wise. She quietly comes to the aid of her children everywhere.
(-- from )
Cesco sleeps by curved couch on other side of room. Tea water boils. English muffins will split and toast in oven above bread box. There are just a few pieces of cut wood by barn door.
"Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. Read other people's myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts - but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message. Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being alive. Myth tells you what the experience is."
(--Joseph Campbell, from The Power of Myth)
A sangha sister writes to say:
Sometimes it does hurt to ask. Lately there has been a lot of hurt for the asking. Sometimes without even asking. And people who say that we should accept things as they are rather than try to change things are probably pretty comfortable while they say that. Because it is horseshit when applied to actual life. AA has it better: Change what I can.
Experience is a fine teacher. Horseshit is also a fine teacher. Our education is unending.

I would like to learn how to meditate without meditating, serve without serving, love without loving, and listen without ever exhausting listening. (I left out two words in each of the prior three clauses.)

If water boils, it is best to steep tea. Not to let it, nor yourself, evaporate. (Rather: incarnate, incorporate, transcend-and-include.)

Change well.

Hear well.

Be current; rise endlessly!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Glance away to see straight. Sometimes, in the dark, it is easier to see something if you glance away from where you think it actually is. It is periphery that reveals what is at center.

This raises a question: Is the center also at periphery? And, are the words 'center' and 'periphery' only holding places for passing awareness until the nameless is seen as it is?
It is as though you have an eye
That sees all forms
But does not see itself.
This is how your mind is.
Its light penetrates everywhere
And engulfs everything,
So why does it not know itself?
- Foyan
'Itself' is unknowable, isn't it? We seem to be only able to acquaint ourselves with things surrounding the arteries of the 'itself', not the very heart of 'itself' as it is.

If, (and when), we come to see things-as-they-are, will what is seen be silence and stillness, graceful movement and slow rhythmic pace -- the melting February snow from rooftops lain upon by warming sun in late morning?

Tell me -- is what we call God anywhere else than wherever God is?
God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord. To Abraham and Isaac and Jacob I appeared as El Shaddai; I did not make myself known to them by my name THE LORD.
(--from Exodus 6:2 - 13)
There are times it seems that each one of us is perfectly placed where we are. Right here in this room. That window over there. The photograph standing in simple askew. The book wedged between six standing volumes of A Story of History, (three upside down, three right side up)-- it's title, God is No More , a wonderful, equivocal, and ambiguous title. Perfectly placed.
Let us show each other God's generosity
Recognise to whom you owe the fact that you exist, that you breathe, that you understand, that you are wise, and, above all, that you know God and hope for the kingdom of heaven and the vision of glory, now darkly as in a mirror but then with greater fullness and purity. You have been made a son [or daughter] of God, co-heir with Christ. Where did you get all this, and from whom?
Let me turn to what is of less importance: the visible world around us. What benefactor has enabled you to look out upon the beauty of the sky, the sun in its course, the circle of the moon, the countless number of stars, with the harmony and order that are theirs, like the music of a harp? Who has blessed you with rain, with the art of husbandry, with different kinds of food, with the arts, with houses, with laws, with states, with a life of humanity and culture, with friendship and the easy familiarity of kinship?
(--From a Sermon by Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Office of Readings, 1st Monday in Lent)
When love comes visiting -- when mind sits off in corner, and heart cracks window of stuffy room -- there is a quiet revelation that each one we know is the delightful manifestation of divine reality in this existence. When this happens, there is an immediate need to forgive ourselves our mundane ignorance, our failure to recognize and remember the origin and continuity of our sacred communion with The-One-We-Call-God.

There are times following that immediate need which seem to want to know why we so often forget to remember and blindly don't recognize the circumstances surrounding the miserable experience befuddling our heart and mind. Something, someone -- has gone missing, presumed (what? go ahead, say it) -- dead and gone. It feels at those times we are investigating our own dismal disappearance, our own disturbing demise.
The Investigation

There were some things I would never know —
I realized that, but I wanted to understand
as much as I could before I let it go.

I couldn't stop making phone calls to Chicago —
to his doctor, his insurance agent, his doorman;
the coroner, who told me more than I wanted to know;

to his psychiatrist, who made a show
of sympathy and dismissed out of hand
my speculations — but I wouldn't let them go.

The detective sounded weary, which was no
surprise: it was 2 a.m. He patiently explained
what he could, then sighed, "You'll never really know."

I weighed the possibilities, made lists, wrote memos
to myself: was it spontaneous or planned —
and for how long? I couldn't let it go.

I kept calling my brother and sister to let them know
what I had figured out. Each time they listened
but then told me what I had always known:
we would never understand. I had to let it go.
(Poem: "The Investigation" by Jeffrey Harrison, from Incomplete Knowledge: Poems.)
This life is filled with incomplete knowledge. Our memories easily fade. Faces become strangers. Feet and legs unsteady. Yesterday's confidant turns their back to divulge intimacies to another; last week's confidence falls through suddenly thin ice. Divorces carry balloons as well as mourning shawl. Delight at getting the position means day after day showing up at work with one heel dug into dirt.

Still, we go on.


Look over there.

See here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Warm cabin zendo. Candles and incense. Moonlight on snow. Meditative sitting, walking, chanting. Bald and Ragged Mountains sit as strong as those in cabin.
Thought Into Action
Remember that your thoughts are transformed into speech and action in order to bring the expected result. Thought translated into action is capable of producing a tangible result. You should always speak and do things with mindfulness of loving kindness.... For all practical purposes, if all of your enemies are well, happy and peaceful, they would not be your enemies. If they are free from problems, pain, suffering, affliction, neurosis, psychosis, paranoia, fear, tension, anxiety, etc., they would not be your enemies. Your practical solution toward your enemies is to help them to overcome their problems, so you can live in peace and happiness. In fact, if you can, you should fill the minds of all your enemies with loving kindness and make all of them realize the true meaning of peace, so you can live in peace and happiness. The more they are in neurosis, psychosis, fear, tension, anxiety, etc., the more trouble, pain, and suffering they can bring to the world. If you could convert a vicious and wicked person into a holy and saintly individual you would perform a miracle. Let us cultivate adequate wisdom and loving kindness within ourselves to convert evil minds to saintly minds.
--Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

O for a place to be real, to say what is on one's mind, to reveal one's heart, to feel one's body at home!

Where is that gemütliche place of natural acceptance? Where is our true home?

The world is fractured by criticism and denunciation.

Home is healing attentiveness and listening presence.

May all come to dwell in their true home!