Saturday, March 07, 2009

The shop.

Tho old place is settling into its final 6 weeks. Man and woman sing John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waite, and blues riffs on guitar. Sun brings in casual visitors for chocolate chip cookies, Topfen Kuchen, old brownie. Snow melts. Once a Tree moves out of their shop space up to main street. Two dogs sniff every inch of the place. In the stairwell wall to outside something has died and reminds us of the fragrance of future days.

A time for watching. With. Whatever takes place.
The worthies of old all had
means of emancipating people.
What I teach people just requires
you not to take on the confusion of others.
If you need to act, then act,
without any further hesitation or doubt.

- Lin Chi (d 867?)
When we dismantle bookshop/bakery we'll find a lot that has gotten lost over the 13 years. So many different opinions: move to this space, that space, how about the boat, how about the bookmobile? I tell folks we haven't thought about it yet. Not really. Too busy with deadlines doing the work that actually brings in some money. We've made no decisions except the fall-back one: pack up, go home, label boxes, trust.
For thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel: ‘Your salvation lies in conversion and tranquillity, your strength will come from complete trust.’ The Lord is waiting to be gracious to you, to rise and take pity on you, for the Lord is a just God. Happy are all who hope in him.
(Isaiah 30:15,18, from Noon reading, Sext)
The solitude of a lovely afternoon in an empty shop! I'm pleased for those who call upon God and are satisfied with what they receive in return. Hope is useful.

To live without hope is equally useful. For some there is no need for hope. Each moment is the prize. No looking forward to what will come, or might come, or could come if all is right with the universe, your soul, or God. No, each moment is its own gift. Right now, no pain. Right now, pain. Right now, awareness of pain or no pain. Just that.
Meditation By The Stove
by Linda Paston

I have banked the fires
of my body
into a small but steady blaze
here in the kitchen
where the dough has a life of its own,
breathing under its damp cloth
like a sleeping child;
where the real child plays under the table,
pretending the tablecloth is a tent,
practicing departures; where a dim
brown bird dazzled by light
has flown into the windowpane
and lies stunned on the pavement--
it was never simple, even for birds,
this business of nests.
The innocent eye sees nothing, Auden says,
repeating what the snake told Eve,
what Eve told Adam, tired of gardens,
wanting the fully lived life.
But passion happens like an accident
I could let the dough spill over the rim
of the bowl, neglecting to punch it down,
neglecting the child who waits under the table,
the mild tears already smudging her eyes.
We grow in such haphazard ways.
Today I feel wiser than the bird.
I know the window shuts me in,
that when I open it
the garden smells will make me restless.
And I have banked the fires of my body
into a small domestic flame for others
to warm their hands on for a while.

(Poem, Meditation By The Stove, by Linda Pastan)
Home. Farm gate closed and hooked. Bare stones at edge of road. Melt has been busy.

Ceiling fan circulates wood stove heat. Cat goes out into barn. There's a smell of kerosene the workman must have tipped in deep freeze behind strewn wood now pungent in thaw.

Room is quiet. Turning arms and creaking container for fire as dark pushes against windows.

The clear and obvious fact of things!

As they are.

Is joy.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Eleven men in 3 conversations at Maine State Prison this morning. "Do you ever get tired of coming here" one asked. "No." That's because I don't have to. I'm not paid to. I'd get tired of it if I had to come by someone else's will.

There's a difference between wanting something and longing for something. There's no "willing" justice. There's only the longing to be with or near what is just.
The moon, spat from a mountain's broken mouth,
hangs remotely over my firewood gate.
Sudden moonlight ties
unsteady images to whiteness;
in cold dew the earth starts to breathe.
An autumn brook plashes in a still ravine
as blue mist breaks over deep rocks.
Purity flows into my dark dream
while cracked shapes hug the empty peaks.
Standing by my window over the pine river,
drowsy in the morning, I cannot think.

- Wang Wei (699-759)
As my mind breaks down it seems there is trauma in not seeing the way once seen. God or truth has disappeared from any fixed place and roams without fanfare every which way.
For I Have Lived Like a Dusty Angel
by Michael Blumenthal

And the muddy waters have washed over me,
coating my large wings with soot, clouding my eyes,
and the raging blood has coursed through my veins,
flooding the flatlands of virtue and decency,
ravaging the structures, inundating the houses,
shattering the windows, and I have grown heavy
with my deeds, and light with desire,
been betrayer and betrayed, wounder and wounded,
taken my turn at whatever was possible,
bad father good father infidel satyr,
been decent, forgiving, tender, wounding,
whoremonger exile patriot rake.
I have shaken the birches, made love
under the sycamore, wept beneath the willow,
I have trembled with desire
beside the mock orange (What good am I
to anyone, I ask, if I’m not good
to myself? Why pray to an invisible God
if I can’t please the beckoning flesh?)
And what more can a man ask of his body
but that it confess to everything? Sad bird,
this human one, but happy in exile: a confusion
of tongues, a mottle of trembling needs,
the dust still gathering on these broken wings—
the darkness, the hunger, the flickering soot.

(Poem, For I Have Lived Like a Dusty Angel, by Michael Blumenthal, c.1999
Reprinted from Dusty Angel)
If I'm going to love my self, I am going to have to love what is taking place around this table. Because "self" is not a fixed and static thing. Self is the betweening revelation of what has been, is now, ought to be, with who's here. What we call self is the continual arrival and manifestation of what we call God taking place between, within, in the midst of whatever whoever presents their being to the open in the open as the open.

So it is -- a conversation came to be and was and still is and will always invite.

More at acceptance.

More than forgiveness.

The manifesting of what is being talked about.

Like justice. Or holding as true.

What is being unveiled.




Thursday, March 05, 2009

Morning. Rekindle fire. Sun takes more northerly angle coming over hills.

In myth class last night folktale about snake and man and fox and death as just reward. Several in class see death as non-ironic just reward. We talk about death of an old consciousness no longer serving us well. The one we have now. Needing transformation. Transmutation.
Heaven or Hell: Your Choice --
A big, burly samurai comes to a Zen master and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.”

The Zen master looks him in the face and says, “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you? A worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?”

Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword and raises it to cut off the master’s head.

The Zen master says, “That’s hell.”

Instantly, the samurai understands that he has created his own hell—black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment. He sees that he was so deep in hell that he was ready to kill someone. Tears fill his eyes as he puts his palms together to bow in gratitude for this insight.

The Zen master says, “That’s heaven.”        (--from Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings (Shambhala Publications, 2002)
Disorienting to contemplate changes in mind. Consciousness letting go of habit and pattern falling off its seat no floor below. 
"Try making a commitment to getting into the meditation posture at least once a day. You don't have to sit for any particular length of time, just get on the cushion. A lot of times, the hardest part is getting there. Once you're sitting down, you think, 'I might as well sit for a few minutes,' and more often than not, you're getting full sessions in."                                                                                                        ( –Insight Meditation Society co-founder Joseph Goldstein)
Cardinals at feeder. Border Collie at blue nylabone. Coon cat draped over brown chair alongside wood stove. Cereal in box considers change is coming. Yogurt, Kefir, cherries, milk.

I imagine a world where breakfast gives way to sunshine and snow begins to melt.

Where mountain keeps its counsel.

Light from everything.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Whether you are an innocent beginner or seasoned adept, you must show some spirit! Don't vainly memorize other people's sayings: a little bit of reality is better than a lot of illusion. Otherwise you'll just go on deceiving yourself.
- Yunmen (864-949)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Does God look like us?

It's a trick question.
Students of today get nowhere because they base their understanding upon the acknowledgment of names. They inscribe the words of stone dead old guys in a great big notebook, wrap it up in four or five squares of cloth, and won't let anyone look at it. "This is the Mysterious Principle," they aver, and safeguard it with care. That's all wrong. Blind idiots! What kind of juice are you looking for in such dried-up bones!
- Lin-chi (d.866)
I look at the fire in the firebox in the middle of the room. I have no idea, tonight, what people mean when they say "God will answer our prayer."

Is that because what we call God is the answer to whatever question we ask? Not that, "God will answer." Rather that God is answer. Is there a difference? Ask. Answer.
What I Believe
by Michael Blumenthal

I believe there is no justice,
but that cottongrass and bunchberry
grow on the mountain.

I believe that a scorpion's sting
will kill a man, 
but that his wife will remarry.

I believe that, the older we get,
the weaker the body,
but the stronger the soul.

I believe that if you roll over at night
in an empty bed,
the air consoles you.

I believe that no one is spared
the darkness,
and no one gets all of it.

I believe we all drown eventually 
in a sea of our making,
but that the land belongs to someone else.

I believe in destiny.
And I believe in free will.

I believe that, when all
the clocks break,
time goes on without them.

And I believe that whatever 
pulls us under,
will do so gently.

so as not to disturb anyone,
so as not to interfere
with what we believe in. 

(Poem, What I Believe, by Michael Blumenthal, 2005)
Odd to discover no beliefs. Mind doesn't know what to make of it. It tries. But fails.

Something not mind says it is OK. Says beliefs are the last snowstorm -- wild, heavy, consoling, aftermath to clean up, finally will melt and flow away. But for a while -- lovely. On trail in Rockport several trees down. Snapped. Bowed. Like supplicant. Never to straighten. Casualties of last snow. Burden of belief. Will be removed. Cut into sections. Burned for heat.

This emptiness has no perimeter. A solitude of immense stillness. Once I thought it was absence. No containing. Nothing to grasp on to. No longer. Now it is what is looking as itself.

Things move along. We adjust.

Whatever the reason you think you are alive -- look again.

Does God look like us?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Yard full of snow. Perhaps we want a retired bookmobile to make of the bookshop/bakery a moveable feast. We could travel with our book collection always with us. Just as we travel with our whole life hauled behind us.
Follow the truth of the Way.
Reflect on it. Make it your own.
Live it.
It will always sustain you.
Do not turn away what is given you,
Nor reach out for what is given to others,
Lest you disturb your quietness.

- Buddha in the Dhammapada
Listening to a talk on Isaiah Berlin. Freedom means choice and requires diversity.

No need to carry anything. Just this foot on ground. Then this one. Now this.

If God is the way life should be, look at how life is, and be glad to dwell within it all.

No one should be anything else.

God isn't.

Nor you.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Truth is overrated.

Loving-kindness and loving-service seem better companions.
Not going, not coming,
Rooted, deep and still
Not reaching out, not reaching in
Just resting, at the center
A single jewel, the flawless crystal drop
In the blaze of its brilliance
The way beyond.

- Shih Te (c. 730)
The trouble with truth is the company it keeps. So many want to be right. They cling to truth with one hand and hold a club to smash heads with the other.

If you can do loving-service, do it. If you can practice loving-kindness, practice it. But leave truth alone, let it find its own way.

Detecting lies is too exhausting.

Try loving acts.

Be what truth is.

Handsome is as handsome does.