Saturday, February 16, 2008

This world is a fragile construct.

Sometimes it seems unable to hold.

What is it we might have to let go of?
Illinois Gunman Showed Few Hints of Trouble, By MONICA DAVEY, Published: February 16, 2008
DeKALB, Ill. — Steve Kazmierczak, the man who walked silently into a classroom here on Thursday and opened fire, was not seen as struggling in college. He was not an outcast. And until recently, at least, he was not brooding.

In a stark, puzzling contrast to the usual image of a rampaging gunman, Mr. Kazmierczak, 27, was described Friday as a successful student — “revered,” the authorities said, by his professors — who had served as a teaching assistant and received a dean’s award as an undergraduate here at Northern Illinois University, where he returned Thursday, killing himself and five students and wounding 16 others.

Here, he had campaigned for a leadership post in a student group that studied the failings of the prison system, an issue he was passionately concerned about, and had apparently won. He was a co-author of an academic paper called “Self-Injury in Correctional Settings: ‘Pathology’ of Prisons or of Prisoners?” which examined why inmates might hurt themselves with behaviors like cutting their skin.

He was personable, easy to talk to, an excellent student, said his professors at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, some 130 miles south of here, where he was on his way to receiving a master’s degree in social work. The specialty he selected was in mental health.

At times there is no perceptible center, no discernible core to the construct. The explanations fail to satisfy as to why all human beings are not equally treated with sustaining food, shelter, clothing, health care and esteem. The actions of governments and administrations in institutions of all sorts do not satisfy the desire for justice, fair, and equal treatment. The competitive, predatory, and exclusionary nature of business and economic practices inhibit the simple need to produce income for each individual based on basic initiative and self-subsistent enterprise. The pervasive mistrust and rampant fear-mongering in the social spectrum casts doubt on everyone -- we wonder: who can be trusted? who might be informing on us? who is spying on us? who is willing to delight in our weaknesses and charge 20-30% on debt? who is plotting a bombing? who carries guns into crowded places intent to harm and kill? who sees an opportunity to take advantage of terrible events of the kind at the University of Illinois for personal or political gain? who are authentic friends? and, at last, if this world is a battleground between good and evil, why do we not feel confident that good has any leverage and why are so many of our systems and corporate bodies so willing to use evil to inch toward the illusory good imagined coming from such an anguishing path?
No flower can compare with the pine.
Today the flower blooms in sweet beauty,
Overnight come snow and frost,
It fades away.
The pine is the evergreen.

(- Prose rendering of a wall poem seen in 1934 at Pai-szu Pagoda)

It is painful to experience so much of this world. Once we thought it was God's favor to be insulated and protected in life due, inevitably, to privilege, position, wealth, or status. Literature and headlines point out that no one is exempt from the ravages of impermanence, time, existence, and inevitability.
Pain is inevitable
The First Noble Truth declares unflinchingly, straight out, that pain is inherent in life itself just because everything is changing. The Second Noble Truth explains that suffering is what happens when we struggle with whatever our life experience is rather than accepting and opening to our experience with wise and compassionate response. From this point of view, theres a big difference between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable; lives come with pain. Suffering is not inevitable. If suffering is what happens when we struggle with experience because of our inability to accept it, then suffering is an optional extra.

I misunderstood this when I started my practice and believed if I meditated hard enough I would be finished with all pain. That turned out to be a big mistake. I was disappointed when I discovered the error and embarrassed that I had been so nave. Its obvious we are not going to finish with pain in this lifetime.

The Buddha said, Everything dear to us causes pain.Those of us who have chosen relational life have made the choice that the pain is worth it.
(-Sylvia Boorstein, Its Easier Than You Think, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)
We cannot fathom exactly how it is that the world is the way it is. Myths have arisen to try. So have theologies and philosophies. Ideology and manifesto combine to tell us how things are, how we are going to behave and live whether we agree or not, and invariably fail to contribute anything but a new variety of dread and fear.

Still, the world is the way it is.

How come?

How long?

Christians await Christ. Buddhists the Buddha of end times. Allah, Adonai, Alpha and Omega, Manjushri, Say Goodnight Gracie, and other assortments of valedictory wander our imagination and alternately comfort or worry us.
Beautiful Dreamer Serenade

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd a way!

Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,—
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer awake unto me!

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea
Mermaids are chaunting with wild lorelie;
Over the streamlet vapors are borne,
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.

Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,
E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart,—
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer awake unto me!

(--Poem: "Beautiful Dreamer Serenade" by Stephen C. Foster. Public domain.)
Is that it?

Are we dreaming?

Are we close to awakening?

Do we have the good heart and good sense to open with wise and compassionate response?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Memory slips. Not holding on to things in same way as before. Aging. Nor does it matter.
In front of us stood Flowery Mountain and its secret retreats. When we approached clouds veiled its summit. The vapors which covered the enclosing ring of mountains rose, and the morning sun illumined their crowning peaks. Then beautiful cliffs appeared one after another, and we heard the music of the wind howling against the rock walls. We were part of the living landscape.
- Wang Li

Cat under front room altar. Tussled last night with something in barn. A bit beaten.

In prison today conversing about Carl Sagan, Parinirvana Day, and Dan Millman.

Wind blows cold outdoors. Clinking fragility.

We hold on long past good sense.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

When things encase us, there's always the sun. It comes. But in it's own time.

The force of love
The practice of metta, uncovering the force of love that can uproot fear, anger, and guilt, begins with befriending ourselves. The foundation of metta practice is to know how to be our own friend. According to the Buddha, You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. How few of us embrace ourselves in this way! With metta practice we uncover the possibility of truly respecting ourselves. We discover, as Walt Whitman put it, I am larger and better than I thought. I did not think I held so much goodness.

(- Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)
This Valentine's Day we see Farmington, Belgrade Lakes, Rome, Augusta. Ice has visited. Stays the day. Crusts everywhere.
Arriving back to bookshop at end of conversation. Course in Miracles theme is:
Lesson 045
God is the Mind with which I think.
Today's idea holds the key to what your real thoughts are They are nothing that you think you think, just as nothing that you think you see is related to vision in any way. There is no relationship between what is real and what you think is real. Nothing that you think are your real thoughts resemble your real thoughts in any respect. Nothing that you think you see bears any resemblance to what vision will show you.
You think with the Mind of God. Therefore you share your thoughts with Him, as He shares His with you. They are the same thoughts, because they are thought by the same Mind. To share is to make alike, or to make one. Nor do the thoughts you think with the Mind of God leave your mind, because thoughts do not leave their source. Therefore, your thoughts are in the Mind of God, as you are. They are in your mind as well, where He is. As you are part of His Mind, so are your thoughts part of His Mind.

(--from ACIM)
When we do not lie about it, everything is just as it is. Even when we are lying, it is as it is. I want to stop lying.

Winter February will thaw.

Love will warm.

Mind well.

We'll see.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Canada is close and magnificant neighbor. It makes us think big.

We'd like a million dollars. We'd settle for 975,000. We'd buy a 16 acre farm in Canada with many outbuildings, a 7 bedroom, 4 bathroom house. We'd fashion a meditation cabin, a chapel, a bookshop/bakery, guest quarters, animal barn, organic acres for food, and choose the option of right of way down to beach at St Croix River opening through Passamaquoddy Bay into Bay of Fundy.

Alright -- the property only costs 549,000. But we thought it would be nice to have a buffer against additional costs for upkeep and improvements in order to bring about a marvelous center for retreat and lay monastic practice between traditions of Catholic/Anglican Christianity and Mahayanan/Theravadan Buddhism.

We'll start our capital campaign on Valentine's Day. We'd like to make an offer on the place by St. Patrick's Day and move in on the final day of winter so as to wake up the first day of spring.

Donors are encouraged. Those whose portfolios are large and whose hearts are generous will receive in return whipped cream on their ice cream. We'd prefer to have no mortgage. You can own it for us if you like.
Everyone who pauses at this prospect with a good thought is exceedingly welcome to visit and pray, sit and meditate, and eat good food sprinkled with hope, joy, compassion and loving kindness.
By listening to the sound of music and its fading, the wise understand the rise and fall of all things. By watching, the wise know the meaning of things even before they appear and take shape.
- Ko Hung 4th century
A million dollars. Maybe less. OK, a lot less. Maybe even a smile allowing that we still dream dreams of places where in parallel worlds a life such as ours is lived out wondering what resides on the other side of subtle cloaking dimension.
Land Love

We stood here in the coupledom of us.
I showed her this — a pool with leaping trout,
Split-second saints drawn in a rippled nimbus.

We heard the night-boys in the fir trees shout.
Dusk was an insect-hovered dark water,
The calling of lost children, stars coming out.

With all the feelings of a widower
Who does not live there now, I dream my place.
I go by the soft paths, alone with her.

Dusk is a listening, a whispered grace
Voiced on a bank, a time that is all ears
For the snapped twig, the strange wind on your face.

She waits at the door of the hemisphere
In her harvest dress, in the remote
Local August that is everywhere and here.

What rustles in the leaves, if it is not
What I asked for, an opening of doors
To a half-heard religious anecdote?

Monogamous swans on the darkened mirrors
Picture the private grace of man and wife
In its white poise, its sleepy portraitures.

Night is its Dog Star, its eyelet of grief
A high, lit echo of the starry sheaves.
A puff of hedge-dust loosens in the leaves.
Such love that lingers on the fields of life!

(--Poem by Douglas Dunn, Faber, 1985)
At turn in stairs there's a statue settled into a niche. A woman. Is it Mary? Or Kuan Yin? Whoever she is, she knows our hearts are filled with humor and openness to possibility. Do people want to come here to rest a while? Does silence wish minds to penetrate? Will the sweet beauty of nature draw into our tired minds reminders of true home?

It might not matter where one lives, or even whether there is room for others to visit and refresh. This dream of ours has been with us for a long time. Every once in a while we take it out, dust it off, and dance with it in the open air.

One of the small joys in life is the possibility of surprise.

The unexpected kindness.
Gift without explanation.

A grace quietly accepted.

Even before it appears.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Then, naturally, there's the question: Who are you not?

The question corresponds with its sister question: Where is God not?

The morning drive leaving Fort Kent, moving through northern Maine's rooftop laden with deep, deep snow. Mailboxes are covered, snow tiptoes up to first floor windows, heavy white burden buckles old barns, roadways are luge runs with soft embankments should the icy permafrost toss you askew. Then across to Caribou, down to Presque Isle -- the lovely beauty of winter! More snow tomorrow.
A saint is not ashamed of being despised, but saddened to see good counsel spurned. That life be brief does not depress him but avoidable suffering distresses him. He keeps his mind free of vain endeavors and embraces wisdom. By becoming one with the Great Unity the saint avoids the whirlpool of the mundane vanities.
- Wen-tzu
The activities might swirl about, even through, the saint -- but, I suppose, she is not drawn down by whirlpool and lost in dark depths. Perhaps preventive escape is not so much the issue as is sane survival. A friend used to speak about insulating himself against the world of temptations and dark forces. "Let these pass," Obi-Wan Kenobi said to the Imperial Guards, referring to his small coterie of fellow travelers passing through dangerous terrain, "they mean no harm." They were let pass. All rules of search and impede suspended.

Like walking across bridge between Fort Kent, Maine and Clair, New Brunswick -- at the international boundary over frozen river sided by floes passing under -- stand in two countries at once -- the freezing earth, air, and water giving not a thought to matters of government, nation, or possession of air space.

We're not, I concede, who we think we are. But there's more to it.
Someone I cared for

Someone I cared for
put it to me: Who
do you think you are?

I went down the list
of all the many

carefully — did it
twice — but couldn't find
a plausible one.

That was when I knew
for the first time who
in fact I wasn't.
(Poem: "Someone I cared for" by Cid Corman, from And The Word. Coffee House Press, 1987.)

Once, I stood under the cliff at edge of beach in Downeast Maine. Everything leaned out in solid silence as tide rolled rocks behind us at shoreline. Everything we'd seen and everyone we'd spoken with that day accompanied us to that moment at that spot in a consciousness excluding nothing from itself. We see things for each other. We hear things for one another. We quietly contemplate nature -- elemental, animal, human, and divine -- and these varying forms and emptinesses allow themselves to open and flower before and within us.

So, we ask one another: Who do you think you are? And we pause for a bit and reflect. We consider the possible implications and parameters of any response. We then carry on to the next in our lives -- the next instant, next minute, and next hour arising with us.

We dwell in the swirl of everything happening at the same time.

In everything there is a calm center, a resting place in the chaos, a sanctuary where resides the sacred emptiness assenting our particular presence.

If we go there, we are not only not alone, we are more profoundly involved, and more paradoxically informed. There, in the center of the swirling motion that is the evidenced world, we are alone -- but alone with the Alone. This "Alone" is all there is, nothing missing, everything within everything.

Allow yourself the visit.

Touch any one thing, feel every thing.

Forget what we've thought God.

Enter God.

Where God is.

Pass well!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Note: The bookshop/bakery is closed Monday (11th), and Tuesday(12th).
We will re-open Wednesday 13 Feb.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Consciousness without thought, says Eckhart Tolle, is alert presence that is still and awake. It is, he says, Being before it becomes beings.
Without going outdoors
The Sage knows all things under heaven.
Without looking through the window
He sees the Way of Heaven.
The more one ventures forth
The less one knows.

- Tao te Ching
Barack Obama wins Maine caucus. At practice tonight a man who'd attended Obama's rally in Bangor yesterday said the candidate was real and electric, inspiring hope. It was good to hear his experience.
Most people think of enlightenment as a kind of magical attainment, a state of being close to perfection. At this level, one can perform amazing feats, see past and future lives of others, and tune in to the inner workings of the universe. This may be possible for a number of special beings, but for most of us enlightenment is much more in line with what Suzuki Roshi describes. It means having a quality of "beginningness," a fresh, simple, unsophisticated view of things. To have "beginner's mind" in how we approach things is a major teaching. In many ways, the process of enlightenment is clearing away the thoughts, beliefs, and ideas that cloud our ability to see things as they really are in their pristine form.

(- David A. Cooper, Silence, Simplicity and Solitude, from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book)

We need new beginning. We've reached a cul-de-sac. Those at the barricades do not want heads to turn. We need to turn around. Head out. Out of head. Don't think. Investigate.
All That Is Glorious Around Us
(title of an exhibit on The Hudson River School)

is not, for me, these grand vistas, sublime peaks, mist-filled
overlooks, towering clouds, but doing errands on a day
of driving rain, staying dry inside the silver skin of the car,
160,000 miles, still running just fine. Or later,
sitting in a café warmed by the steam
from white chicken chili, two cups of dark coffee,
watching the red and gold leaves race down the street,
confetti from autumn's bright parade. And I think
of how my mother struggles to breathe, how few good days
she has now, how we never think about the glories
of breath, oxygen cascading down our throats to the lungs,
simple as the journey of water over a rock. It is the nature
of stone / to be satisfied / writes Mary Oliver, It is the nature
of water / to want to be somewhere else, rushing down
a rocky tor or high escarpment, the panoramic landscape
boundless behind it. But everything glorious is around
us already: black and blue graffiti shining in the rain's
bright glaze, the small rainbows of oil on the pavement,
where the last car to park has left its mark on the glistening
street, this radiant world.

(Poem: "All That Is Glorious Around Us" by Barbara Crooker from Radiance. Word Press, 2005.)
This observation comforts as it instructs: "everything glorious is around / us already". Around table this evening we read Henri Nouwen on Lent. He spoke of addictive behavior keeping us in a distant country.

It is time to start home.

Winter, tired, yawns.

Spring, waking, yawns.

They see-saw in our consciousness and on the ground.

We've less than half wood (or hay) on this past Candlemas day.