Tuesday, April 03, 2007

On retreat. In silence.

Nature regenerates itself. White Bald Mountain. Snow through night. Innumerable small falling flakes rendered full moon invisible. With morning, snow shrouds mountain stone with same soft ease it did brilliant moon -- this religious liturgy.
Boundless and free
Is the sky of samadhi,
Bright the full moon
Of wisdom!
Truly, is anything
Missing now?
Nirvana is right here,
Before our eyes;
This very place is the
Lotus Land,
This very body
The Buddha.

- Hakuin
History and sacred memory call to mind the first evenings of Passover. Slavery is repugnant to nature. Yet it continues. From Guantanamo to Pakistan, Africa to towns and suburbs across America -- enslavement is unregenerate nature.

Nicholas Kristof writes about disturbing incidences of sex-slavery. "This kind of neo-slavery is the plight of millions of girls and young women (and smaller numbers of boys) around the world, particularly in Asia."
This nexus of sex trafficking and police corruption is common in developing countries. The problem is typically not so much that laws are inadequate; it is that brothel owners buy the police and the courts.

But Ms. Parveen’s tale arises not only from corruption, but also from poverty.

“If I had money, this wouldn’t be happening,” said Ms. Parveen’s mother, Akbari Begum. “It’s all about money. In the police station, nobody listens to me. The police listen to those who sell narcotics.”

“God should never grant daughters to poor people,” she added. “God should not give sisters to poor brothers. Because we’re poor, we can’t fight for them. It’s very hard for poor people, because they take our daughters and dishonor them. There’s nothing we can do.

(-- "Sanctuary for Sex Slaves," By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, Published: April 3, 2007, The New York Times, Meerwala, Pakistan, http://select.nytimes.com/2007/04/03/opinion/03kristof.html?hp)
Think of Passover, think of Crucifixion, in a new way. Think anew the ancient narratives, not merely as historico-religious recherché, but as contemporaneous real-life revelation impacting our brothers and sisters worldwide. This memoria is daily awareness of the suffering experienced in our world, suffering promulgated by human forgetfulness and human ignorance. We forget, and we cultivate ignorance, when we refuse to stop, turn, and consider with compassion the suffering we cause by our unmindful acts and ego-obsessed behavior. We are called to a much clearer way of being.

Sacred time and sacred awareness invite us into profound emptiness -- there to encounter and embody mystery-of-being yearning to fully realize itself in our midst.
We have to open our being to the unobvious. Often, profound experience and truth dwell just out of view, beyond our distracted attention. We are being called to dwell in an open place of kindness.
In other words, we have to begin a new life, and we cannot do so until our previous life has been brought to an end. When runners reach the turning point on a racecourse, they have to pause briefly before they can go back in the opposite direction. So also when we wish to reverse the direction of our lives there must be a pause, or a death, to mark the end of one life and the beginning of another.
Our descent into hell takes place when we imitate the burial of Christ by our baptism. The bodies of the baptised are in a sense buried in the water as a symbol of their renunciation of the sins of their unregenerate nature.

(--From the book, On the Holy Spirit, by Saint Basil, bishop, Office of Readings, Tuesday of Holy Week, http://www.universalis.com/readings.htm)
Is Basil's presentation of 'baptism' a call requesting our burying Christ, our burying ourselves (self-emptying) in the profound loving and compassionate regeneration? Is what we are, and how we are, actually (and really) at core, the mystery of nature, at origin? Will regenerating nature wash over us -- darken our understanding so as to enlighten our soul -- bringing us to the precipice, to the starting line of authentic life with what we call "God and neighbor"?

Will we ever come to see -- here?
Notes from the Other Side

I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one's own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course
no illness. Contrition
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.

The poor we no longer have with us.
Our calm hearts strike only the hour,

and God, as promised, proves
to be mercy clothed in light.

(--Poem: "Notes from the Other Side" by Jane Kenyon, from Constance. Graywolf Press.)
Is 'there' (possible and possibly) 'here'?

There is so much said and written about degenerate behavior. Do we have the heart to pause, stop, and turn -- to fall below surface, to let flow over and through us a regenerating spirit interpenetrating our being itself?

Do we stay stuck in unregenerate nature because we fail to see and enter into the 'undergoing' emptiness of reversal and return?

Is the call to 'regenerate nature' what Passover and Baptism, Surrender and Enlightenment, Ahimsa and Moksha, Hashem and Avalokiteshvara, Tao and Waken Tanka -- all sound toward us?

Panta Rhea, ("Everything flows"), wrote Heraclitus.

Nature regenerates itself.

Going under.

And through.

This week.

In silence.

On retreat.

Monday, April 02, 2007

On retreat

Juncos arrive and scatter along ground below feeder. They join sleet, rain, and snow delivering Monday afternoon teisho.
What does it matter,
The new year, the old year?
I stretch out my legs
And all alone have a
Quiet sleep.
Don’t tell me the monks
Aren’t getting their instruction;
Here and there the nightingale
Is singing;
The highest Zen.

- Bankei, 1622-1693)
Snow flakes, size of silver dollars, slant foreground of Bald Mountain. Scattered and few, they are like rare visitors passing through only once. If unseen, then gone. If seen, then (also) gone, but first seen.
"Solitude can be a jungle," Mac once cautioned, when I fantasized about plunging into the monastic life. For this reason, he said, the Trappist novice is closely monitored when he begins his initial experience with solitude. "The first discoveries in solitude are generally not reassuring," Mac explained. "You confront your essential aloneness. You learn that whatever your life may be, it is of your making. Whatever others do to you, good or ill, they do by your leave, and often at your suggestion.
"Alone with your God, you find freedom. You are freed from the need to blame, freed of whatever holds you, impotent, in your past. No longer bound by fear of failure, or the need to be what you believe pleases others, you will discover what it is to be yourself."

(--from pp.35-36 in, Voices of Silence, Lives of the Trappists Today, by Frank Bianco, c.1991)
Nothing is done to me by another without the invitation to see the other as one's incorporable self. This is not easy meditation. Benefits include no lingering blame nor inclination to recrimination. Lifted from our disturbed mind is gerbil-wheel repetition of hurt feelings, revenge tactics, and special membership into club of injustice victims. (All these experiences might be true, temporarily needed, and really felt -- but they are not our identity.) We are not what we think we are. We are not the category of agony we file ourselves into.

We are sharers in silence. This silence is open-ended. It hesitates to break itself into story -- but it sometimes, compassionately, does. It shies from anything repetitive; looking, rather, for the once and once and once -- that which is always at origin, that which is inchoate -- the unfolding itself longing to be what it is in itself.

Do we hear the silence? Are we within the incorporable mystery of Christ-being revealed today.
Who is Christ if not the Word of God: "in the beginning was the Word, and the Words was with God, and the Word was God? This Word of God was made flesh and dwelt among us." He had no power of himself to die for us: he had to take from us our mortal flesh. This was the way in which, though immortal, he was able to die; the way in which he chose to give life to mortal men: he would first share with us, and then enable us to share with him. Of ourselves we had no power to live, nor did he of himself have the power to die.
In other words, he performed the most wonderful exchange with us. Through us, he died; through him, we shall live.
The death of the Lord our God should not be a cause of shame for us; rather, it should be our greatest hope, our greatest glory. In taking upon himself the death that he found in us, he has most faithfully promised to give us life in him, such as we cannot have of ourselves.

(--From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop, Office of Readings, Monday of Holy Week)
This wonderful exchange -- dying through us, living through him -- is Augustine's way of wording what Juncos dance atop split-open shells under feeder looking for seed not yet consumed. That seed, taken in by Junco, disappears into a reality it itself now creates.
Christ Teisho Junco -- A Holy Week Flap

Broken, open shell
disappearing seed through one-
another, shows how

wholeness dances -- now
is itself here...Christopher?*
...disappears. What joy!
(-wfh, 2apr07)
Fog mist surrounds everything this afternoon with its own soft obscure kindness.

Mountain disappears.

Who can bear it?

*{"Christopher" -- means "bearing Christ", derived from Late Greek (Christos) combined with (phero) "to bear, to carry".}

Sunday, April 01, 2007

On retreat.

Last what? Last breath? Last "his"? The reading on Palm Sunday says, "With these words he breathed his last."
Seeing the Moon
A Zen poem says, "After the wind stops I see a flower falling. Because of the singing bird I find the mountain calmness." Before something happens in the realm of calmness, we do not feel the calmness; only when something happens within it do we find the calmness. There is a Japanese saying, "For the moon; there is the cloud. For the flower there is the wind." When we see a part of the moon covered by a cloud, or a tree, or a weed, we feel how round the moon is. But when we see the clear moon without anything covering it, we do not feel that roundness the same way we do when we see it through something else. When you are doing zazen, you are within the complete calmness of your mind; you do not feel anything. You just sit. But the calmness of your sitting will encourage you in your everyday life.... Even though you do not feel anything when you sit, if you do not have this zazen experience, you cannot find anything; you just find weeds, or trees, or clouds in your daily life; you do not see the moon.

( --Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind; Tricycle's Daily Dharma: April 1, 2007)
Cesco walks near my Sorel boots at Moose Point State Park in Searsport. Sea is unrippled. He is greeted in open field by shaggy gentle Bronson, twice his size. We walk edge of land. Cesco laps snowmelt.

Eucharist is rhubarb muffin and coffee from Chase's Daily. I visit church in Belfast for gospel reading and Fr. Joseph's preaching. I pray for Paco, and all the rest.
The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit’ With these words he breathed his last.
(--from Luke 22:14 - 23:56)
On earth, on this planet, breath is lifeline. Jesus gives his breath back. He sends it back to, what is for him, source and only source of, life. As he dies. Gives over life-breath.

I will look again this Holy Week. Listen again. Again consider the mystery underlying each breath. This mystery points out nothing can be kept -- not breath, not unchanging self. The far side of the mystery is that only nothing can be kept.

But where do you keep nothing?
Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

(-- Poem by Robert Frost
No need to stay.

It's just...Why go? And, where?

Happy to be silent.

Just this.

One breath.

Make it.