Saturday, August 11, 2007

It is the feast of Clare of Assisi on August 11th. To her, for Poor Clares, and friends of Francis, and all beings longing to belong in spiritual poverty -- our gratitude and prayer!
"Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother. Blessed be you, my God, for having created me. "
(--Saint Clare of Assisi)

What you hold, may you always hold.
What you do, may you do and never abandon.
But with swift pace, light step,
unswerving feet,
so that even your steps stir no dust,
go forward
securely, joyfully, and swiftly,
on the path of prudent happiness,
believing nothing
agreeing with nothing
which would dissuade you from this resolution
or which would place a stumbling block for you on the way,
so that you may offer your vows to the Most High
in the pursuit of that perfection
to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.

(--St Clare of Assisi)

Hummingbird, on rounds, pauses out back kitchen window, buttercup to buttercup. It gladdens this house.

There are flaws and cracks in my house. Some pains are felt in joining places, distress in bearing loads. Unpainted wood swells and softens. My soul carries tired sighs to landfill which never is filled, never closed.
Our Real Home
Anyone can build a house of wood and bricks, but the Buddha taught that that sort of home is not our real home, it's only nominally ours. It's a home in the world and it follows the ways of the world. Our real home is inner peace. An external material home may well be pretty but it is not very peaceful. There's this worry and then that, this anxiety and then that. So we say it's not our real home, it's external to us, sooner or later we'll have to give it up. It's not a place we can live in permanently because it doesn't truly belong to us, it's part of the world. Our body is the same, we take it to be self, to be "me" and "mine," but in fact it's not really so at all, it's another worldly home.

--Ajahn Chah
Presence is sometimes symbol. Someone shows up, less to be there, more to call to mind that a greater Presence dwells in the middle of us. However unattended, ignored, or passingly acknowledged -- this Presence is there -- the silent and unspeakable wholeness pre-utterance each of us seeks to hear, see, or feel.

Each, we hold, as if with imaginative hands of gossamer faith, is real. Yet, each is also symbol of incomprehensible connectivity -- the whole as refracted in particulars of undivided affirmation.
I am you. You are me. Neighbor is oneself. God is not-other. Light is shining through one and all.
A symbol is the place where and the means by which we can apprehend realities which the concept fragments in its attempt to reproduce them exactly. It is also apt to indicate the transcendence of revealed spiritual realities.
(--p.4, The Word And The Spirit, by Yves Congar, c.1984)
Summer has a way of of tiring. Long hours at shop. Surfeit of words. Too many cookies. Cesco's slow weakening.

Still, in all, the beauty.
Yahweh, I love the beauty of your house, and the place where your glory dwells.
(--Ps 26:6, Jer)
Sitting at conversation table in protective custody unit with "Riding With Bobbie" in Ode Magazine. We talk about breaking patterns, going beyond words, contact and letting go.

Sitting with Buddhist Group in prison activities building, a zazen with low background chant "Amita," then talking about Lozoff's visit, about the onus on us to cultivate compassionate listening when some inmate or religious fellow intends to convince you you're not a "true believer", at least not according to their lock box sanctity you'll never fathom or even want to.

Sitting with regular Meetingbrook Conversation group with four men, two of whom could not safely or comfortably sit in the same room over the years, with another man returning after some three years staying away (who wants to study Kierkegaard and Sartre), and the fourth who brings the questions to us of whether forgetting slave history renders us amnesiac or transcending.
Take Care

"When a man dies, it's not only of his disease;
he dies of his whole life." -Charles Péguy

Our neighbor Laura Foley used to love
to tell us, every spring when we returned
from work in richer provinces, the season's
roster of disease, bereavement, loss. And all
her stars were ill, and all her ailments worth
detailing. We were young, and getting up
into the world; we feigned a gracious
interest when she spoke, but did
a wicked slew of imitations, out
of earshot. Finally her bitterness drove off
even such listeners as we, and one by one the winters nailed
more cold into her house, until the decade crippled her,
and she was dead. Her presence had been
tiresome, cheerless, negative, and there was little
range or generosity in anything she said. But now that I

have lost my certainty, and spent my spirit in a waste
of one romance, I think enumerations have their place,
descriptive of what keeps on
keeping on. For dying's nothing
simple, single. And the records of the odd
demises (stone inside an organ, obstacles to brook,
a pump that stops, some cells that won't,
the fevers making mockeries of lust)
are signatures of lively
interest: they presuppose
the life to lose. And if the love of life's
an art, and art is difficult, then we
were less than laymen at it (easy come
is all the layman knows). I mean that maybe
Laura Foley loved life more, who kept
so keen an eye on how it goes.
(--Poem: "Take Care" by Heather McHugh, from Hinge & Sign I Prefer, Wesleyan University Press.)
We've a Foley in our shop. It's all shit and going to shit is his take. Some days he gets a more favorable hearing than others.

There's also a Laura that gathers at the shop -- several times a week. "Laura," the Greek word meaning "trails" or footpaths meandering from distinct hermitages to a central gathering place -- for nourishment, conversation, spiritual support based on listening and being heard. It is a matter of taking care.
What is at issue is the mystery of the uncreated one who is 'Light beyond all light'. How should we speak of this? Silentium tibi laus, 'Silence is thy praise'. All we can do is worship.
(--p.2, Congar)
Light beyond light, for me, today, means there is a source of light that is whole within itself. Our particular light (or lights) are not as itself-sufficient (or self-sufficient). We beg and borrow, (even steal), the light of others to assist us with our own light. But like the vigil tea light candles placed in cabin sanctuary or before Buddha, Francis, Dogen, cross, or icon -- these exhaust themselves, flicker down, and extinguish. But fire itself! Fire itself seems everywhere at once, and at the same time, invisibly present without display.

I'll send Charlie the Kierkegaard I've been reading about in Karl Stern's Flight From Woman. A course in Existentialist thought might arise from their interest.

It doesn't matter. It's only life.

Still, I love the beauty of it.

And what's wrong?

That too.





Friday, August 10, 2007

Do you mind?
Stripped of reason my mind is blank
Emptied of being my nature is bare
At night my windows often breathe white
The moon and stream come right to the door.

- Shih-wu (1272-1352)
When our minds change, everything changes.

Teilhard, said the man in maximum security, was much misunderstood.
The term "noogenesis" was coined by the Christian mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. It means the growth or development of consciousness--the coming into being of the "noosphere." Noosphere is defined as the sphere or stage of evolutionary development characterized by (the emergence or dominance of) consciousness, the mind, and interpersonal relationships.
The moon has gone dark.


Whoever it was wanted to facilitate the development of a collective conscious caring world wide mind, met an interstice. As is the phase of moon tonight.

It's where we are for now.

Until new light returns.

Yes, I mind.

No, I don't mind.

There you have it.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Martin Heidegger asked: "Why is there something rather than nothing?" I ask: Is nothing the core of each and any something?
Even profound concepts are ultimately empty: the Ultimate Path is wordless, and if we speak, we go astray from it. Though we may characterize the fundamental basis as “empty by nature,” there is no “fundamental basis” that can be labeled. Emptiness itself is wordless: it is not a mental construct.
- Records of the Lanka
If emptiness is the fundamental basis of nature, why do we so consistently try to make something of nothing? Isn't that what we do? Rather than reside in love, i.e., in the intimate yes of isness-itself, we try to create something else to place our attention and acts upon, calling that love.
You have been obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers [and sisters], in sincerity; let your love for each other be real and from the heart – your new birth was not from any mortal seed but from the everlasting word of the living and eternal God.
Isness-itself is also named emptiness. Emptiness is each as it is -- nothing adding, nothing taken away -- merely itself as it is.
Now do we wait in quiet. God is here, because we wait together. I am sure that He will speak to you, and you will hear. Accept my confidence, for it is yours. Our minds are joined. We wait with one intent; to hear our Father's answer to our call, to let our thoughts be still and find His peace, to hear Him speak to us of what we are, and to reveal Himself unto His Son.
(--from Lesson 221, Course in Miracles)
God is here, because we wait together. We do not wait for anything that is coming. Nor do we wait for some other time, some event, or some person.

It is waiting-itself, waiting together, that is God here.

There is no object to waiting.

There's nothing to it, nothing ahead of it, nothing else worth doing.

God is here.


We wait.


Isn't that the cat's meow?

No, nothing like that.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I think today of Frank and Kay.
A Simplified Space
Sitting is essentially a simplified space. Our daily life is in constant movement: lots of things going on, lots of people talking, lots of events taking place. In the middle of that, it's very difficult to sense that we are in our life. When we simplify the situation, when we take away the externals and remove ourselves from the ringing phone, the television, the people who visit us, the dog who needs a walk, we get a chance--which is absolutely the most valuable thing there is--to face ourselves. Meditation is not about some state, but about the meditator. It's not about some activity or fixing something. It's about ourselves. If we don't simplify the situation the chance of taking a good look at ourselves is very small--because what we tend to look at isn't ourselves but everything else. If something goes wrong, what do we look at? We look at what's going wrong. We're looking out there all the time, and not at ourselves.

(--Charlotte Joko Beck)
I've grown, this past year, a little less interested in criticism and judgment -- giving or getting.

I've noticed, more and more, the prevalence of criticism and judgment in gossip and rumor. For many of us, no one is good enough. Very few measure up to our righteousness. What is often heard, if we are really listening, is aspersion and diminution of someone else (we think) not there at the time.

Not there -- so we think. We are very slow to appreciate that we are that someone else, and that we are always here. We always hear what is being said about us by us in our own presence. The illusion is that we are not that of whom or which we are speaking. We consider ourselves -- erroneously, I suspect -- separate and detached from one another. The delusion we proffer is some standard of superior state not approachable by others. When I engage in this behavior, I am ignorant. When you do this, I am again and again ignorant.

We need to approach life with more expansive skill.

The Lebanese poet Gibran wrote:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

(--from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran)
Life longs for itself. God longs for God. We long for what we are. (We, unfortunately for ourselves and others, usually forget what we truly are.)
"How sweet did it suddenly become to me to be without the delights of trifles. And what at one time I feared to lose, it was now a joy to me to put away." (--Augustine of Hippo)
I think of Frank and Kay today. Happily. To these parents, these ancestors, I bow in homage.

Incense rises.

Eucharist embodies.

Their love.

To me.



Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Morning sea sunlight at edge of fog holds sounds of children, dog barking, basketball dribbling on court, and woman sunning herself on pier. Dinghies at float and boats on moorings -- it is Bayside still-life with coffee.
Natural Response of an Open Heart
Wisdom replaces ignorance in our minds when we realize that happiness does not lie in the accumulation of more and more pleasant feelings, that gratifying craving does not bring us a feeling of wholeness or completeness. It simply leads to more craving and more aversion. When we realize in our own experience that happiness comes not from reaching out but from letting go, not from seeking pleasurable experience, but from opening in the moment to what is true, this transformation of understanding then frees the energy of compassion within us. Our minds are no longer bound up in pushing away pain or holding on to pleasure. Compassion becomes the natural response of an open heart.

(--Joseph Goldstein)
What about letting go of happiness?

What about stop looking for meaning?
You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
(--Albert Camus, The fool, in "Intuitions" published in Youthful Writings )
Each second ticks on a clock without hands.

Why do we continually check to see what time it is?

Pema Chodron's book title has it: There's No Time To Lose.

Without thinking, with open heart, say what is true!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Once, the story goes, Jesus was transfigured.

James and John, they say, were there. It is said they saw Moses and Elijah appearing in glory beside Jesus. This is a good story. A voice, Luke says, is heard saying,
‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen. (Luke 9:35-36)
What is there to tell?
Wherever and whenever
The mind is found
Attached to anything,
Make haste to detach
Yourself from it.
When you tarry for
Any length of time
It will turn again into
Your old home town.

- Daito Kokushi (1282-1334)
We seldom leave our old hometown. Whether it is my street in Brooklyn, (or now my road in Camden), or the patterns of thought and behavior that remain with me -- we're always returning to our old hometown -- especially when stress or despondency alight, coming by chance when we're not looking.

Doing prostrations in cabin earlier, arrived a hummingbird at window box flowers. I delighted as I slowly stretched through threefold honoring of seeing, saying, and silence -- mind, mouth, and heart. Stretched wide and open, folded tight and closed -- the inhalation and exhalation -- remembering our human repetition, the eternal recurrence of catch and release. Like Cesco these days trying to stand still to eat from bowl, we cannot remain straight and still for long. I always worry about the attempts of missionaries and assorted know-it-alls to straighten us out once and for all. They are without wit, more like unwitting undertakers dealing with their own private corpses.
A Parable

I think that almost all Americans know about the story of Sun and Wind. They tried to take the coat
off from the traveler. First, the north wind blew very hard. But the traveler kept his coat really
hard. Next, the sun shine and made him warm. Then, the traveler easily took his coat off.
Even kids know this theory. I wonder why the Americans keep being the north wind.

(- from Mutsumi, Osaka, Japan,
It never ceases to despond that America (up until now) has been the only one to use nuclear weapons against civilians -- twice. That, and the fact that the Christian feast of The Transfiguration of the Lord share the same date. I can think of little else more antithetical or non-Christ than incinerating human beings in the name of self-interest.

Christ gives his own body. Men and women who have become Christ give their own bodies to serve the needs of the whole-Christ.
Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
(--1 John 3:2, New
American Bible)
I can't say I see him "as he is." I'm not that clear and empty. This morning, after mass, I walked the stations of the cross in the Catholic church in Rockland. Even as I began with the first station the thought came, "We are condemned to die." It occurred to me that the 14 stations were the story of human life -- individually and collectively.

We fall, we are helped, we meet our mothers, we leave our impression on those touching us, we lament for the suffering of others, we are stripped of our illusions and identity, we're nailed to someone's obsession for perfection and order and saving the people from their own peculiar presence, we die, we are taken down as pity and sorrow are muted, then, finally, we are placed in a tomb. There the stations end. No 15th station, no fantastical exuberance with light and music celebrating some ambiguous resurrection.

In St Bernard's church the morning of Hiroshima and Transfiguration, I am deposited by the statue of Joseph alongside the tabernacle. The silence of both!

This afternoon it rains. Wonderfully and strongly, it rains.

The story contained in the stations of the cross, being mine (or ours), is a thoughtful one. We are pilgrims on a long path walked by millions and wondered about by equal number. We do what we can to honor our mothers and fathers. We try not to kill, steal, or attach to desire. We try not to cover truth and holiness, try not to tear down -- but rather, affirm what is there to affirm, avoid what is not there, yet deluding, and, by and large, attempt to practice living with dignity and respect -- for one and for all. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we need reminding. Rituals help. So does a periodic dose of silence.

Word belongs between mind and silence.

Say that word.

Or don't.

Be that word.

Or act it through.




Each -- here and beyonding -- form.

Be found alone!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Life before language, and life during language, is what silence is...
Utter emptiness has no image,
Upright independence does not rely on anything.
Just expand and illuminate the original truth
Unconcerned by external conditions.

- Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157)
Charles Simic is current Poet Laureate in US. Poetry helps. Poetry is leaf-shadow on breezy Sunday afternoon. On porch of meditation cabin. "Stone" is one of his poems.

Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger's tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill--
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.

(--Poem by Charles Simic)
The man and woman on New Dimensions Radio this morning were talking about how, evolutionarily, we are stardust. They refer to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Thomas Berry -- The universe travels on through us. We are its knowing. We are the universe knowing itself. We are meant to celebrate what we are.

This is who we are. We grow from the earth as the earth with all that we discover to be of the earth. Even Jesus, as the Christ, as we say, came through woman to dwell on earth as earth and for the earth. Everything, says Teilhard, is redeemed and saved from exclusion and bitter separation. Not even what many call "G-d" or God is excluded. What we call "God" might be the entirety of what is, the wholeness without exception, or, the Pleroma -- Alpha and Omega -- beyond which there is no further beyond.

Cesco stretches beside cabin. If I've claimed repair and not opened the shop, (he exudes), then a long (slow) walk is the order of the day. We will, (he exhibits in abundance), celebrate the earth by traversing its wondrous trails along mountainside. For, (he continues), soon I will die and walk no more the earth. Rather, I will become the earth in a different, more intimate, inseparate yet unmoving-as-other, way.

Humidity has broken. What is broken in me undergoes repair. Silence knits itself through every cell and atom. We are saved from hostile negative by balancing loving affirmative.
I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances.
(--Ezekiel 36:25 - 27, Reading in Lauds {Morning Prayer})
In 1977, in a house in the Village of Suffern shared by friends, I first read these stanzas from Simic's poem "Breasts."
I insist that a girl
Stripped to the waist
Is the first and last miracle,

That the old janitor on his deathbed
who demands to see the breasts of his wife
For one last time
Is the greatest poet who ever lived.
I'm glad he wrote that. I'm glad he is poet laureate. I'm glad he made the acquaintance of silence.
In the interview with the literary journal Crazy Horse, which took place in the summer of 1972, five years after he published his first book of poetry, What the Grass Says (1976), Charles Simic describes poetry as an "orphan of silence" (The Uncertain Certainty: Interviews, Essays, and Notes on Poetry, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1985. UC 5).
Silence, solitude, what is more essential to the human condition? ‘Maternal silence’ is what I like to call it. Life before the coming of language. That place where we begin to hear the voice of the inanimate. Poetry is an orphan of silence. The words never quite equal the experience behind them. (UC 5-6)

(-- from Orphan of Silence: The Poetry of Charles Simic, By Goran Mijuk, Doctoral Dissertation, University of Fribourg, February 1, 2002, at
What is life before the coming of language? It is always now. It is always the source resounding noiselessly within you and me, within everything.

I'm also glad things are falling to earth. The run of divine awayness is coming to its end. The esteemed actors and authors who proclaimed a vague, otherly, and unreachable temple and template of heavenly abstruseness are exiting the theater, retiring to off, off, off the narrow-way. The broad-way, the fantastically open, transfigures our minds and imagination. Something new is in-deed happening.
"Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them."
(--Isaiah 42:9)
Words are abandoning former enslaving owners and have taken to the open road, disrobing the uniforms forced upon them, and shaking loose from formulas and oaths recited under duress and drugs. Words are taking bodies beyond themselves, shucking false selves, shunting to a span of tracks disappearing into infinity where no tracks proscribe their direction.

Poets know this.

Lovers of words and silence feel this.
"Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat," Charles Simic writes in his memoir, A Fly In The Soup. Or here is Fernando Pessoa in a journal entry:" I enjoy wording. Words for me are tangible bodies, visible sirens, incarnate sensualities." Roland Barthes describes this same erotics of language in A Lover's Discourse: "Language is a skin:I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tips of my words. My language trembles with desire. The emotion derives from a double contact:on the one hand, a whole activity of discourse discreetly, indirectly focuses upon a single signified, which is 'I desire you,' and releases, nourishes, ramifies it to the point of explosion (language experiences orgasm upon touching itself); on the other hand I enwrap the other in my words, I caress, brush up against, talk up this contact, I extend myself to make the commentary to which I submit the relation endure." Language moves from the skin to all that is beyond it. Gaston Bachelard says in The Poetics of Space :"the reader of poems is asked to consider an image not as an object and even less as a substitute for an object, but to seize its specific reality." That is, the reality of words themselves. For him, this is an area where the "margin" of unreality enters and perturbs us, wakens us--our words suddenly sound strange, like a word we repeat to ourselves over and over again will sound strange, as if it had a life of its own. He says in The Poetics of Reverie : "I am a dreamer of words, of written words. I think I am reading; a word stops me. I leave the page. The syllables of the word begin to move around. Stressed accents begin to invert. The word abandons its meaning like an overload which is too heavy and prevents dreaming. The words take on other meanings as if they had the right to be young." It's language, after all, which allows us to presence the absent. For Bachelard, everything is at stake, possibly, in every word. It creates an effect he calls "intimate immensity," a sense of everything in every little thing, Blake's "infinity in a grain of sand," or "eternity in an hour." The erotics of language, in paying so much attention to the skin, the border between word and thing, poem and world, extends outwards and creates its own world. The poet becomes like both the lover and the beloved in Song Of Songs where the intensely erotic language not only expresses desire but creates a world for that desire to flourish within:when the beloved's neck is described as a tower, or her cheek like half of a pomegranate, the poet starts to bring in countryside and city, and then fills that out with references to cedars, cypresses, various spices, jewels, hillsides, sheep, palm trees, flowers of various sorts and so on. In the dialogue of the poem the call of one to the other is also a call of city to country and country to city, an attempt by each to capture the other in the song itself which becomes the very world, the vineyard itself.
(-- from EROS AND THE EROTICS OF WRITING, AWP Meeting, April, 2001, by Richard Jackson, at
Cesco still waits. He has, no doubt, dozed off again. He is doze and deze. He walks when walking occurs, eats when eating occurs, sleeps when sleeping occurs. For those of us his students, we have to mindfully practice these teachings.

Life before, during, and without language is our practice hall.

Cesco no longer bow-wows, but I bow deeply to him.

We are orphans and children of orphans.