Saturday, May 26, 2007

What is this Holy Spirit?
The question clear,
The answer deep,
Each particle,
Each instant a reality,
A bird call shrills
Through mountain dawn:
Look where the old
Master sits, a rock, in Zen.

- Sodo (1841-1920)
The other night, somewhere between 1:00am and 3:30am two owls called back and forth to each other in the valley echo of Ragged and Bald Mountains. Their five pointed sequence went on through dozing off and waking up.

26. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
(-- John 14:26; New International Version)

We need to be re-minded.

Everything has been said -- all at once, all of a piece. It has been a very long time since this existence was spoken-into-being. The sounds of being -- words, vowels, and consonants -- are still making their way through space/time to our eyes and ears.

To be spoken-into-being is the fact of human life. It is a continual reverberation.

If the Holy Spirit is the constant and continual reverberation of creative inspiration, we are pleased to pray for, to, and with the Holy Spirit. We are the corresponding echo of belonging.

We belong in silence.

Breathing into and being breathed upon.

A lovely silence of belonging.

Friday, May 25, 2007

We belong in silence.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

All the places we're not.
One minute of sitting, one inch of Buddha.
Like lightning all thoughts come and pass.
Just once look into your mind-depths:
Nothing else has ever been.

- Manzan (1635-1714)
We spoke about the film Into Great Silence (Die Grosse Stille).

Dee said, "They didn't smile." Ananur said, "They were so secure."

They were so secure, maybe they didn't have to smile.

All the places we're not, love can only be.

Love can only be where we are not.

Tell me: Where is God not?

If we disappear, that is, if our self-centered ego dissolves into mere and clear presence, will God be realized?

Forget security.

Honor your work.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

We are exiles from our true home.
This affair is like the bright sun in the blue sky, shining clearly, changeless and motionless, without diminishing or increasing. It shines everywhere in the daily activities of everyone, appearing in everything. Though you try to grasp it, you cannot get it; though you try to abandon it, it always remains. It is vast and unobstructed, utterly empty. Like a gourd floating on water, it cannot be reined in or held down. Since ancient times, when good people of the Path have attained this, they’ve appeared and disappeared in the sea of birth and death, able to use it fully. There is no deficit or surplus: like cutting up sandalwood, each piece is it.
(- Letter to Hsu Tun-chi from Zen Master Ta Hui)
Becoming an exile is necessary. Home is not in a single place. We must constantly leave home to happen upon home as it reveals itself to us.
Body Found in Iraq Is California Soldier,
Associated Press Writer

Posted: Today at 9:03 p.m. Updated: 29 minutes ago

TORRANCE, Calif. — The body of a U.S. soldier found in the Euphrates River in Iraq was identified Wednesday as a California man who was abducted with two comrades a week and a half ago, a relative said.
What did we expect? War murders men, women, and children. People who are deluded by security will not hear the cries of exiles.

We are spiritual exiles.

God is not in a single place.

We must leave God and family to happen upon God and family.

I sorrow for God found dead in the Euphrates River. I sorrow for the California man whose body washed up on shore. I pray for him, his family. I pray for God. It is a mystery

In Iraq, each soldier is it. Each civilian is it. You are it.


Face it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cheryl said, "Even in grief, joy."

Others said, "Even in anger, joy." Even in depression, joy."
Followers of the Way, do not be deceived by teachers who everywhere say “I know Zen, I understand the Way,” and who endlessly deliver discussions like mountain torrents. All this is action that produces hellish Karma. If one is a true learner of the Way, one does not search for the faults of the world, but rather speedily applies oneself to attain genuine insight. If one only can see with perfect clarity, then all is completed.
- Rinzai (d. 866)
Maybe joy is appreciating that what is taking place is, indeed, taking place.

Joy is completely being-with what is taking place.

Earlier in the shop, before conversation, someone spontaneously called for a resolution of impeachment of the president and vice president. By swift and sudden parliamentary maneuver, a motion was made, seconded, and voted on. Outside, Jeffrey measured the pulpit for a new set of beams, Richard fastened hooks for a diminished number of dinghy lines, and Thomas complained that the code for a fence he had to construct around his gallery's roof sculpture garden was stricter than the restaurant's there at the harbor.

I'm not sure anyone recorded the vote inside the shop, or whether there is any mechanism to implement what was decided. One man voted with his back to the proceedings.

It was a typical lovely sunny Tuesday at the harbour. I'm not sure anyone really wants impeachment. It would be so embarrassing.

"Even in embarrassment, joy," says someone without opening her mouth, without counting today's dead in Iraq.

Monday, May 21, 2007

I don't always follow my breath. Sometimes it leads me through body pain. I'd rather fall asleep. Sometimes my breath says: "Don't mind me; I'm just passing through."
In seated meditation, with one's back straight, one is enjoined to breathe naturally but deeply, intentionally and slowly, so that the breathing is centered on the lower diaphragm. One thus becomes aware that it is the whole body, not just the lungs, that participates, or rather, partakes, in the breathing. And as one becomes more and more familiarized with this way of breathing while doing zazen, this way of real-izing one's connectedness with the breath flows into what one does after zazen. One finds oneself breathing more easily and with a greater sense of relaxation and satisfaction.
This process of familiarization with the breath is what we experience as we go on in our practice: the connection between our zazen and the rest of our daily life, taking the fourfold posture given above, gyo-zen, or Zen in action, ju-zen, or Zen in passivity or relaxation, and ga-zen, or Zen in horizontal position, that is, even while one is asleep, in addition to zazen, comes to be realized more and more.

(--from Rediscovering the Breath, by Ruben Habito; Excerpted from Healing Breath, Orbis Books)
These last few days we've been coughing and trying not to speak or breathe. We take walks with Cesco along Ragged bottom to Hosmer Pond, the three of us slow and variously failing. Something has grabbed us and shaken us wobbly.
Each moment, death is possible. It's the price of birth. It's the payment at the end of the check-out line. After a life spent shopping for -- whatever -- love, happiness, peace, enlightenment, we have to "check out." It is our debt for all the joys, happiness, ecstasy, and love we've been given throughout our lives. The cost of each life is exactly one death. May all beings get their money's worth!
(--from Zen and Hospice, By Joe Benenate, DO; Maria Kannon Zen Center)
We meet a young Border Collie racing after tennis balls flung up hill. Her name is Annie. She and Cesco greet one another. Annie shares her ball. Her human says she does that with no one. She must be taking compassion on an old failing relative. It is joyful to view the expanse of age and vitality between the 3 year old and the 16 year old working dogs.
It can be dangerous to encounter others’ pain, because it’s tempting to shut it out, not feel it. I’d especially like to shut out the pain -- and therefore the humanity -- of people with whom I disagree – the soldier in the tank, Donald Rumsfeld, suicide bombers.

But the experience of encountering another’s pain can also break through the illusion that we are separate beings. One day during a religious festival in 2004, some people set off bombs that ripped through Shi’a shrines in both Baghdad and Kerbala. I knew that some dear Iraqi friends, including a little girl named Houda whom I especially loved, were at the shrine in Kerbala. I was trapped for awhile at the shrine in Baghdad and could not get to their house until the following day. I practically ran to their home, and when I saw little Houda, surprised both myself and her by bursting into tears.

That is when I realized how much I loved her, that she was my own child. And I realized that every child is my own child – every child is our own, every person our brother or sister, every sentient being, every animal, rock and tree, is part of us. Literally, by blood, by breath. We are each other and we are responsible for each other. If we all woke up to this, wars would disappear because we simply could not hurt each other anymore. Conflict would not disappear, but we’d figure out some other way to solve our problems.

(from Practicing Zen in Iraq, By Sheila Provencher, Maria Kannon Zen Center)
There's a simplicity when illness lays you low.

Attention naturally falls to breath.




Sunday, May 20, 2007

These will be posted elsewhere on the website. Until then, here's the:
1) Spring/Summer 2007 Events at Meetingbrook, and the
2) Spring/Summer 2007 Hermitage Update


Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update, Spring/Summer 2007

Theme: And All Is As It Is.

And this, then,

is the vision of that Heaven of which

we have heard, where those who love

each other have forgiven each other,

where, for that, the leaves are green,

the light a music in the air,

and all is unentangled,

and all is undismayed.

(From poem “To My Mother” by Wendell Berry)

Spring comes to Maine. Summer follows. Last patches of snow draw into themselves on northeast side of Ragged Mountain. As usual, the mountain remains itself through ice, wind, and snow -- throughout stays itself as green stretches awake, water seeps from hidden springs, and porcupines wander trails. The more a thing changes the more it remains and becomes itself.

Meetingbrook begins again. We've a new lease at the harbour. The following gatherings take place regularly at the Meetingbrook Hermitage Bookshop/Bakery by the Harbour, and at Meetingbrook Hermitage at Ragged Mountain.

Note: All events at Meetingbrook are free, open, and informal

1. At Harbour Meetingbrook. Evening Conversation Practice at Bookshop/Bakery: Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evening, from 5:30 to 6:30pm there is a formatted conversation on a different theme or focus. Each conversation intends and practices deep-listening and loving-speech. The hour consists of: reading aloud around the circle, brief silence, open conversation, and final circle comments.

Themes of weekly and daily events :

  • Tuesdays: Buddhist Meditative Tradition

  • Wednesdays: Laura Soul-Friend Conversation -- a circle group inviting each to reflect and speak of their own prayer and practice, what is noticed, and how things are going. (Occasional presenters.)

  • Thursdays: Christian Contemplative Tradition

  • Fridays: Paths to Peace -- Community Conversation on Interdependence, Eco-spirituality, and Interreligious Dialogue

  • Saturdays: Poetry Tea, and Literature (4:30-5:30pm).We read around circle our own writing or pieces of each person's choosing.

  • Sundays: Upstairs/Downstairs Community Table (1:00pm-2:30pm.) Whether it is called brunch, barbecue, potluck, or meat-&-potatoes -- a regular Sunday gathering with good food & good company. (Donations of food or money gratefully accepted.)

  • Daily: Noon Lectio -- 15 at 12. A regular daily pause for 15 minutes at noon to listen to a reading for 5 minutes, sit in silence for 5 minutes, then have an opportunity to share some personal response (if you wish) in the circle for the remaining 5 minutes.

  • Music: Come by any time to practice or rehearse in public. We also have a piano. No one will pay a bit of attention to you. Weds and Sun others are sure to be there with harmonica, guitar, harp, or flute.

  • Invitations to Use Patio:

-- Open invitation to use harbour patio for gatherings. Any time, just ask. Our redone patio at the water, with its new large grill and cafe tables, is available for use by the Meetingbrook community for gatherings of family and friends. One requirement: A plate of food must be offered to a stranger passing by. -- Open invitation to use harbour patio for morning Tai Chi, QiQong, or Yoga.

Our harbour patio is quiet and lovely in the mornings, especially from 6:00am-10-00am. If any individual or small group wished to practice/lead meditative movement using our patio, please ask.

2. At Mountain Meetingbrook. Practice at Meetingbrook Hermitage at Ragged Mountain:

  • Saturday Ora et Labora Practice (7:15am-9:15am). Beginning with a silent sitting, chanting, and walking meditation – we then (after coffee/tea and toasted English with jam taken in silence with periodic audio tape background) do a period of work around grounds of hermitage in mindfulness.

  • Sunday Evening Practice. Two hour meditation practice consisting of: 35 minute sitting, 10 minute walking, chanting (of Heart Sutra or Compline), then: reading at table, silent mindful eating of soup & bread, then circle conversation/reflection.

3. Hermitage Harbour Room. Upstairs over bookshop/bakery is a lovely studio apartment. This single room with balcony overlooks our patio and the harbour with all the boating bustling that takes place there. This room is available for brief retreats, overnight stays, or day solitude visits. Call and ask us to reserve it for you. We operate by donations, and are grateful for whatever dollar amount you are willing to leave as donation for the ongoing work of the hermitage.

When not occupied by guests, the Harbour Room is available to everyone for quiet time, one-with-one conversations, meetings for up to 12 people, reading, or simply looking out over the water.

4. Meetingbrook and Maine State Prison. Meetingbrook volunteers weekly at the State Prison in Warren. We hold Meetingbrook Conversations (MC's) and Individual Learning Conversations (ILC's) with attendees from general population. We are also embarking on MC's and ILC's in the closed unit protective custody. Also held will be ILC's in the Special Management Unit (formerly known as the Super-Max). Friday mornings are dedicated to these lovely encounters.

5. Ongoing Life at Meetingbrook. Masquerading as a mildly mannered (sometimes cranky gathering place of irregulars) bookshop and bakery at Camden Harbor, Meetingbrook Hermitage is a place of collation and recollection, hospitality and inquiry, acceptance and forgiveness, good conversation and better baked goods, not to mention the best and quietest sitting place on the water where coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are always on the house.

The harbour location is the market-face of Meetingbrook Hermitage. We often think of ourselves as hermits-in-the-open. The promises we take are Contemplation, Conversation, and Correspondence. There are no secret handshakes nor special qualifications to belong at Meetingbrook -- everyone who walks into view or is heard saying a word, or who thinks of us and others with engaged consideration -- everyone belongs.

6. Money. We are small and we are not independently wealthy. Therefore we need, ask for, and accept donations to fund Meetingbrook. The bookshop/bakery is a labor of love, it does not pay for itself, therefore. we ask for help to continue its operation i.e. for rent and utilities. We ask you to donate whatever you can, whenever you might be able. Saskia and Bill have part-time employment to help stay afloat. We are blessed with volunteers and board members who help run the place and keep us in our place. Everyone involved receives a yearly salary of a penny and a pizza for their efforts.


  • Subscriptions: We invite you to become subscribers.

Subscriptions of $50.00 dollars or more a year earns you our gratitude and a 10% discount a year on all books and music.

Subscriptions of $250.00 in a year and you receive our gratitude, 15% discount, and one night in the Harbour Room.

Subscriptions of $500.00 a year, and you receive our gratitude, a 20% discount on all books and music for the year, as well as two overnight stays in the harbour room with morning breakfast.

Any gift subscription of $1,000 dollars or more receives all the above -- and -- we will loan you our dog and cat for a weekend, ignore you when we see you, and not tell anyone of your kindness.


  • New Economic Template: Curiously, we would actually like to operate the bookshop/bakery on a new economic basis, namely, by donation. Items such as used and sale books, not-today baked goods, previously owned music cds, as well as soups, sandwiches -- would be exchanged on the basis of whatever the individual could pay or wishes to donate to the hermitage. (We've done this already with tea, coffee, and hot chocolate since 1996. Since last year the practice extends to sandwiches and Sunday Community Table, patio-grill food-stuff, and several other goodies).

We have tea pots around upstairs and downstairs for donations to help us pay the rent etc and purchase food for all the hospitality gatherings where we are pleased to offer food and drink gratis. We like both the idea and the practice of what a philosopher once said, namely, “Life is gift, not recompense.” We slowly mull, meditate, and little by little implement this notion of gift-for-gift economy. We daily recognize that everything -- all of it -- is gift.


  • Please consider donating to Meetingbrook. Tell us about Grants or Foundations that might be friendly to peace, hospitality, tolerance, community engagement, or just plain nice folks who like the idea of what we've been praying, meditating, and engaging these past years as we begin our 12th year at the harbour.


  • Sails: Everybody gets to go sailing with Saskia on Penobscot Bay. That's a given. Even without asking. You might just be shanghaied by her. Keep your wits about you.

  • Some final words: We have called ourselves mono, that is, monastics of no other. We intend a life of prayer and mindfulness, practicing between traditions what the designation mono stands for. It stands for the gift given all creation and existence -- the gift of wholeness -- a gift very often not seen, heard, or understood.

We feel called. We do our life and this practice of mindful service with the realization that each person is gift, and each invitation to love and serve one/an/other is gift. We are each of us invited to dwell within a true dwelling place.

Some hold that true dwelling place to be What Is Itself...or...God. Our focus as meetingbrook monastics includes both expressions -- namely, Buddha-Mind and Christ-Consciousness. Some do not use the word God but nevertheless long for What Is Itself. However it is worded for you, we feel this reality to be no other. Hence: monastics of no other

For us, Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage is a place where each is invited to presence herself or himself. What is no other to us is gift. What Buddhists call Bodhichitta, (unconditional loving-kindness and compassion), and Christians call Agape, (love that promotes overall well-being, the self-sacrificing love of God for humanity, and humanity for one another as well as God) -- is what we attempt to practice, engage, and embody. (The Bodhisattva vow to save all beings, and a Cosmotheandric spirituality which is all-inclusive, are both ways that are Vorbild (i.e. the pattern before us) and Schwer (i.e. difficult). Still, humbly, we practice.

Meetingbrook is a Schola Gratiae et Contemplationis, (that is, a School of Gratefulness and Contemplation). It is a daily practice. It is hospitality. It is an integral conversation between silence and word. It is an engaged interaction with all our brothers and sisters. It looks to, and listens for, all sentient beings. It quietly and reverently seeks to attend the source mystery of life. This source mystery of life is what some call God, and some call What Is Taking Place, Here, Now! We try to pay attention to how each person and being expresses their view. We trust in inclusive sharing of each path, each trail along that path, each step on the trail. This is what a Laura of Hermits is for us -- It is a common viewing of each trail and each pathway leading each of us home.

In conclusion: We are grateful for all the blessings and wonderful folks we've been privileged to meet these dozen years. Come visit. Grace us with your presence. You are integrally within the sound of what is taking place. We listen for you. Let's listen together!

What else is there?

Just you.

Just us.

Just everyone.

And all of it.

As it is!

With love,

, Cesco , Mu-ge ,
and all who grace Meetingbrook,

5 May 2007

(In memoriam, Katherine)


Spring & Summer 2007 Events at Meetingbrook

All Events at MEETINGBROOK are free, open, & informal
Meetingbrook is a Place of Conversation, Collation, and Recollection
at Camden Harbour and at Ragged Mountain
Consult “Today at Meetingbrook”For any changes in schedule.

Note: All conversations are 1 hour in length. Anyone invited to drop in. We practice loving speech, deep listening, and honest inquiry. Format: circle reading; brief silence; conversing; final circle comments.

Theme - Maybe Zen, Maybe Not. A Practice/Study focusing on Buddhism and its meditative tradition. A brief silent sitting, brief reading, and conversation. Currently: No Time To Lose, by Pema Chodron.

Theme - Laura Soul-Friend Conversation. A conversation focusing on personal practice, experience, and belief. (A “Laura” is the Greek word for “trails” or “ various paths.”) Primary focus is the invitation to reflect and speak aloud where our practice is, what delights and/or difficulties we experience. Each Wednesday some person, or some aspect of practice, will begin the conversation.

Theme - Stepping into the Mirror, A Practice/Study focusing on Christianity -- whether traditional, radical, alternative, contemplative, or contemporary. Brief silence, followed by relevant reading, conversation. Currently: A Course in Miracles.

Theme -- Paths to Peace -- Community Conversation on Interdependence, Eco-spirituality, and Interreligious Dialogue. A look at how contemporary topics affect the many and various everyday concerns --whether religious/spiritual traditions, earth, or the world. Reading, presentation, or film/audio considering topics on themes from all traditions. Currently Anam Cara, by John O'Donohue. Next, Beauty. Films and videos interspersed.

Theme - Tea, Poetry, and Literature. For one hour we’ll read poems, prose pieces, essays, or short stories. Bring with you anything you wish to read -- your ow writing, or others'.

DAILY NOON LECTIO AT BOOKSHOP --Noon -12:15pm (Tue-Sat) Theme-- 15 at 12. A 15 minute mid-day practice in harbour room. A regular daily pause for 15 minutes at noon consisting of: listening to a reading for 5 minutes, sitting in silence for 5 minutes, then having an opportunity to share some personal response in a circle go-round for the remaining 5 minutes.


Upstairs/Downstairs Community Table: Whether it is called brunch, barbecue, potluck, or meat-&-potatoes -- a regular Sunday gathering with good food & good company. (Donations of food or money gratefully accepted.)Music, conversation, laughter, and superb Sunday dinner. Stop by! Donations accepted for food!

MUSIC REHEARSALS -- 1:00pm-3:00pm (approx)
Any time any day of week. On Wednesday and Sunday afternoon a group might gather.. We've a piano. Come rehearse, or play in public. No one will pay any attention to you. (Unless you wish so.)

OPEN INVITATION TO USE HARBOUR PATIO FOR GATHERINGS --Anytime, just ask. Our redone patio at the water, with its new large grill and cafe tables, is available for use by the Meetingbrook community for gatherings of family and friends. One requirement: A plate of food must be offered to a stranger passing by.

MORNING TAI CHI, QiQONG (CHI KUNG), OR YOGA -- OPEN INVITATION FOR SMALL GROUPS. Our harbour patio is quiet and lovely in the mornings, especially from 6:30am-10-00am. If any individual or small group wished to practice/lead meditative movement using our patio, please ask.


Weekly Meetingbrook Conversations, group and individual, open to all inmates.


HERMITAGE CHAPEL/ZENDO MEDITATION CABIN -- An Open Daily Community resource The Chapel/Zendo Meditation Cabin is always open and available for silence, meditation, or prayer. Whatever your tradition, let us remember one another whenever we sit.

SATURDAY ORA ET LABORA PRACTICE -- 7:15am-9:15am. Prayer and Work. Beginning with a silent sitting, chanting, and walking meditation. We then (after coffee/tea, English Muffins with jam, taken in silence) do a brief period of work in mindfulness around grounds of hermitage.

Each Sunday evening, drop-in. Practice includes: Sitting (40min), Walking, (10min), Chanting, Table reading (10min), Silent Eating (10min), Conversing (20min). Bell. Leave.

Closed Mondays.
Open Tuesday-Saturday 10:00am to 8:00pm, Sunday 10:00am to 4:30pm
Let us order your books and music! Thanks!
Bookshop/Bakery, 50 Bayview Street, Camden, ME
Dogen & Francis Hermitage 64 Barnestown Rd, Camden, ME (207) 236-6808 or (207) 701-9644