Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's a funny line from the Gospel, that if you love your life you will lose it; if you hate your life in this world you'll keep it for all eternity.

It is interpreted oddly.
To be able to be unhurried when hurried;
To be able not to slack off
When relaxed; to be able not to be
Frightened and at a loss for what to
Do when frightened and at a loss;
This is the learning that returns us
To our natural state and
Transforms our lives.

- Liu Wenmin (early 16th cent)
To love your life is to allow it to dissolve with and through and in others.

To hate your life is to take that life you hate with its judgments and unhappiness and harming with you into eternity.

Not a happy prospect.
Where Fear Ends

Fear is finding fault with the future. If only we could keep in mind how uncertain our future is, then we would never try to predict what could go wrong. Fear ends right there.

–Ajahn Brahm from Opening the Door of Your Heart (Lothian Books)
Earth is good. Body is good. You are good.

Lose your life. It's not yours. It belongs with God, who is everywhere.


Transform your life.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Begin here.

Begin now.
I have discarded the world of fame and profit.
How elegant is the morning sun
Shining on the rafters and eaves.
How cool are the terrace and pond after the rain.
I burn incense to break the deep silence,
And drink the spring water and relax in joy.
I penetrate into the wonders of Tao,
And chant ancient sutras.
When my mind is at ease, my spirit is gay.
When understanding is gained,
There is nothing left to comprehend.
Who can say that the realm of Tao is far from us?
How tranquil it is;

As at the beginning of Heaven and Earth.
- Ni Tsan (1301 –1374)
Nothing left.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

If God is transparent, what do we see?
We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through it all the time.
(--from final talk of Thomas Merton to novices at Gethsemane Abbey, Kentucky, mid 1960's)
If the seeing of God is readily apparent, are we natural mystics? If we do not enter this seeing, are we merely refusing what is taking place before us and beyond us?
"Everything is emptiness and everything is compassion." That's what Merton said after a profound spiritual experience just a few days before he died in Bangkok..

One, like Merton, can be a Catholic monastic or Christian seeker as well as an open reader, meditator, practitioner, and one who engages in service to brothers and sisters via the insights and pointers of religions and faiths not necessarily one's own.
On visiting Shorin Temple, Where Bodhidharma lived

The steep slope hangs above
the temple calm.
An autumn voyager,
I go by ways neither old nor new,
Finding east, west, the mind the same.

- Soen (1859-1919)
Everything returns to earth. We become earth mystics as separative thoughts dissolve into warming sun and melting snow begins to soften where our limbs will fold and surrender.
The Drunk Old Woman
by Cesare Pavese

Even the old woman likes to lie in the sun
and stretch out her arms. The heat weighs her down,
pressing her small face as it presses the earth.

Of things that burned, only the sun remains.
Men and wine have betrayed her, have consumed
the dark bones in her dress. But the cracked earth
hums like a flame. No call for words now,
no call for regrets. The shimmering day will return
when her young body burned like the sun.

The great hills reappear in her memory,
young and alive, like her body. The look of a man
or the sharp taste of wine can bring back
desire’s tension: a heat hums in her blood
like greenness in grass. Among vineyards and paths
memory becomes flesh. The woman lies still,
eyes closed, enjoying the sky with the body she had.

Beating beneath the cracked earth is a healthier heart,
like a father’s strong chest, like the chest of a man:
she presses a wizened cheek to the ground. Even fathers,
even men, are betrayed when they die. Their flesh,
like hers, is consumed. Neither warm thighs
nor the sharp taste of wine will arouse these men now.

In the sprawling vineyards, the sharp, sweet voice
of the sun whispers through the diaphanous blaze,
as if the air trembled. Grass trembles around her.
The grass is young still, like the heat of the sun.
The dead are young too, while memories live.

(--Poem by Cesare Pavese, translated by Geoffrey Brock)
When memory is alive, so too is everything. When memory fades, everything else fades. But, you must wonder, even in the fading, is everything any less alive?

Stop by. Say hello. Take coffee, tea, water. Tell what is on your mind. Point out what is before your eyes. Just because there is money to gain or lose, don't be distracted.

Life really is too short not to celebrate the consecration of the present moment.

Shining through all the time.

As God is.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Want a revolution?

Try learning on it's own.
Let's call this way of learning "universal teaching" and say of it: "In reality, universal teaching has existed since the beginning of the world, alongside all the explicative methods. This teaching, by oneself, has, in reality,been what has formed all great men." But this is the strange part: "Everyone has done this experiment a thousand times in his life, and yet it has never occurred to someone to say to someone else: "I've learned many things without explanations, I think that you can too....Neither I nor anyone in the world has ventured to draw on this fact to teach others." To the intelligence sleeping in each of us, it would suffice to say: 'age quod agis,' continue to do what you are doing, "learn the fact, imitate it, know yourself, this is how nature works." Methodically repeat the method of chance that gave you the measure of your power. The same intelligence is at work in all the acts of the human mind.
(p.16, in The Ignorant Schoolmaster, Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, by Jacques Ranciere, c.1991)
At conversation tonight we wondered how each one is doing with what is taking place in their lives. To talk when others listen is gift. To listen as others speak is learning. To find silence during both talking and listening is realization of the before and beyond. 
Before there is feeling,
Stillness is not increased.
Stillness is not there
Only when there is no thought
And no knowing.
After there is feeling,
Stillness is not obliterated.
It is not that stillness is absent
After there is thought and knowing.
This empty, aware, undimmed
Essence is what is called the Tao.

- Luo Hongxian (1504-1564)
It is The Annunciation today. Mary is spoken to by Gabriel. She listened.

Putting us in the prayer of transformation and transfiguration. The Christic emergence within and through the cosmos is symbolized in the ritual of the consecration:
Bless and approve our offering; make it acceptable to you, an offering in spirit and in truth. Let it become for us the body and blood of Jesus Christ, your only Son, our Lord.     (--from Eucharistic Prayer I, Catholic Mass)
We are to be what Christ is to be.

Being as itself divine.

All earth.

With us.



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Water rises and the depths of spirituality ascend. At same time, small self knows it is drowning.

Do you want to know what you are? Or are you content to be what you are not...knowing?
Divination showed my place
among these bunched cliffs
where faint trails cut off
traces of men and women.
What's beyond the yard?
White clouds embracing hidden rocks.
Living here still
after how many years
over and over
I've seen spring and winter
Get the word to families
with bells and cauldrons
empty fame has no value.

- Han-shan
Beyond the yard is the road. Then thickets. A rising. Comes Bald Mountain where, a dozen years ago in winter, a large herd of deer dared the south east slope in deep snow just down from the peak. A room full of people stared up the mountain.

It is March Madness. College teams, only a tad less imposing than the pros, run up and down taking mostly shove-through baskets from over the rim. The small, the skill jumper, the blind twisting layup -- these are the rare bones tossed to those of us too old for the type of bigness now called basketball. We're cranky too. Where's Pete Maravich? Cazzie Russell? Bill Bradley? Oscar Robertson?
"Perhaps basketball and poetry have just a few things in common, but the most important is the possibility of transcendence. The opposite is labor. In writing, every writer knows when he or she is laboring to achieve an effect. You want to get from here to there, but find yourself willing it, forcing it. The equivalent in basketball is aiming your shot, a kind of strained and usually ineffective purposefulness. What you want is to be in some kind of flow, each next moment a discovery."
-- Stephen Dunn (b. 1939), U.S. poet, essayist. "Basketball and Poetry: The Two Riches," Walking Light: Essays and Memoirs, Norton (1993).
My will is disabled. It doesn't know which way to turn. A faulty gyroscope. I want what God wants. Center everywhere, circumference nowhere. God and my will have everything in common. Neither can be found, both are in foul trouble.
The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross. He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’
(Ezekiel 47:1-9,12)
I like that Jesus identified himself as the water of life.

From the sanctuary.

Good medicine.

Praying alone.

Nearly out.

The door.



Monday, March 23, 2009

This is the way the world lives -- one opinion piled on another until the strain of fantastical irrelevance creaks and worries even the most solid supporting girders.

It happens. You begin to feel like a stranger. Whose face in that mirror? Is that history mine?

At table last night during practice, reading O'Donohue on death in Beauty.

It doesn't seem to matter whether there is heaven, or rebirth, or nothing at all. Life now is what matters.
I twist vines to fashion a hanging curtain,
pillow my head on a stone,
lie down among cliffs.
I’ve made off with my body,
far from worldly cares;
cleansing my mind,
I hold fast to the True Void.

(- Priest Doji) (d. 744)
Tommy enjoyed meeting and chatting the Bishop this weekend. Sam is in Wooden Boat Magazine twice and he and Susan in Maine Boats and Harbors; thirdly, they are featured in a new book on Maine Street.

A woman back from hospital does not have cancer. Another is weary from her chemo therapy. A man keeps hope that he'll get post traumatic benefits some forty years later. Another woman has to leave Maine to get medical care in Pennsylvania with no insurance. Young kids make First Communion and Confirmation. We look at possible site on harbor for meetingbrook. Vegetable soup and garlic bread make fragrant each place they show up. Website glitch shuts us down for two days. No one seems to care about anything not real.
Memories of West Street and Lepke

Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,
I hog a whole house on Boston's
"hardly passionate Marlborough Street,"
where even the man
scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,
has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,
and is "a young Republican."
I have a nine months' daughter,
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants' wear.

These are the tranquilized Fifties,
and I am forty. Ought I to regret my seedtime?
I was a fire-breathing Catholic C.O.,
and made my manic statement,
telling off the state and president, and then
sat waiting sentence in the bull pen
beside a negro boy with curlicues
of marijuana in his hair.

Given a year,
I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short
enclosure like my school soccer court,
and saw the Hudson River once a day
through sooty clothesline entanglements
and bleaching khaki tenements.
Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,
a jaundice-yellow ("it's really tan")
and fly-weight pacifist,
so vegetarian,
he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen fruit.
He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,
the Hollywood pimps, to his diet.
Hairy, muscular, suburban,
wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,
they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.

I was so out of things, I'd never heard
of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
"Are you a C.O.?" I asked a fellow jailbird.
"No," he answered, "I'm a J.W."
He taught me the "hospital tuck,"
and pointed out the T-shirted back
of Murder Incorporated's Czar Lepke,
there piling towels on a rack,
or dawdling off to his little segregated cell full
of things forbidden to the common man:
a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American
flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm.
Flabby, bald, lobotomized,
he drifted in a sheepish calm,
where no agonizing reappraisal
jarred his concentration on the electric chair
hanging like an oasis in his air
of lost connections....

(Poem by Robert Lowell)
Sitting on floor in empty room at harborside -- just like we did 13 years ago down the wharf -- it feels like deja vu. Eternal recurrence, like String Theory, pervades an otherwise staid notion of space and time.

I bookworm through lost connections and imagine the world of opinion will one day cease. The stressed foundations will be eased off. Speculation and hypothetical will surrender to mere fact. The hungry will be fed. The sick attended. The sorrowful consoled.
You're More Than You're Cracked Up to Be

When self-centeredness comes to an end, we discover not that our “self” has ceased to exist but that the self is not what we thought. The self is no longer an inner sanctum of private experience or a narrow set of personal needs or expectations. Our world is our self, rather than our self being our world. Rather than constantly trying to impose our self onto life, we realize that all of life is who and what we are. Or, as Dogen put it: “To carry the self forward and illuminate myriad things is delusion. That the myriad things come forth and illuminate the self is awakening.
–Barry Magid, from Ordinary Mind (Wisdom Publications)
Meetingbrook will become a useful oasis of hospitality and community, a gathering place of caregivers and helpmates in prayer and practice -- or it will quietly, mercifully, disappear.

These are what endings evoke. They become transitions and transformations, or they drop off into dark forgetfulness.

We will find a way.


If it be your will!