Friday, December 11, 2009

Three promises of Meetingbrook monastics, renewed yearly on December 10th:

Contemplation, Conversation, Correspondence. held by Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage“m.o.n.o.”(monastics of no other).

Contemplation is the promise of simplicity.
It is a gift of poverty inviting open waiting, receptive trust, attention, and watchful presence. It is a simple Being-With.
* It is attentive presence.

Conversation is the promise of integrity.
It is a chaste and complete intention to listen and speak, lovingly and respectfully, with each and all made present to us. It is a wholeness of listening and speaking.
* It is root silence.

Correspondence is the promise of faithful engagement.
It is responsible attention and intention offered obediently to the Source of all Being, to the Human Family, to Nature. It is a faithful engagement with all sentient beings, with this present world, with existence with all its needs & joys, sorrows & hope.
* It is transparent service.


Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage invites & welcomes individuals interested in the practice of these 3 promises in their life. Whether the interest is in conversing, praying, deepening, learning, or even holding these 3 promises, we invite you to enter the inquiry and stillness. May the loving light and the compassionate peace of the Christ and the Bodhisattva accompany and support the efforts of each one.


Quotes: 1. We are going to have to create a new language of prayer. (Thomas Merton, Calcutta 1968)

2. When you go apart to be alone for prayer…see that nothing remains in your consciousness mind save a naked intent stretching out toward God. Leave it stripped of every particular idea about God (what he is like in himself or in his works) and keep only the awareness that he is as he is. Let him be thus, I pray you, and force him not to be otherwise. (Anonymous)

3. I long for a great lake of ale. / I long for the men of heaven in my house. / I long for cheerfulness in their drinking. / And I long for Jesus to be there among them. (Brigid, Celtic saint)

4. It is not by closing your eyes that you see your own nature. On the contrary, you must open your eyes wide and wake up to the real situation in the world to see completely your whole Dharma Treasure, your whole Dharma Body. The bombs, the hunger, the pursuit of wealth and power - these are not separate from your nature….You will suffer, but your pain will not come from your own worries and fears. You will suffer because of your kinship with all beings, because you have the compassion of an awakened one, a Bodhisattva. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

5. He who truly attains awakening knows that deliverance is to be found right where he is. There is no need to retire to the mountain cave. If he is a fisherman he becomes a real fisherman. If he is a butcher he becomes a real butcher. The farmer becomes a real farmer and the merchant a real merchant. He lives his daily life in awakened awareness. His every act from morning to night is his religion. (Sokei-an)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We pronounce our lay-monastic promises at conversation tonight. It is December 10th. It is Thomas Merton Transition Day.
...a digression on each point in order to reach the center.
(--Pascal, Pensees)
I sometimes pass my days and nights in vain. Or, as another translation has it, " Do not waste your time by night or day." This is the final line of the poem "Sandokai" -- a poem by the eighth Chinese Zen ancestor Shitou Xiqian (Sekito Kisen, 700–790).
The Sandokai is chanted daily in Soto Zen places of practice.

Harmony of Difference and Sameness

The mind of the great sage of India
is intimately transmitted from west to east.
While human faculties are sharp or dull,
the Way has no northern or southern ancestors.
The spiritual source shines clear in the light;
the branching streams flow on in the dark.
Grasping at things is surely delusion;
according with sameness is still not enlightenment.
All the objects of the senses
interact and yet do not.
Interacting brings involvement.
Otherwise, each keeps its place.
Sights vary in quality and form,
sounds differ as pleasing or harsh.
Refined and common speech come together in the dark,
clear and murky phrases are distinguished in the light.
The four elements return to their natures
just as a child turns to its mother;
Fire heats, wind moves,
water wets, earth is solid.
Eye and sights, ear and sounds,
nose and smells, tongue and tastes;
Thus with each and every thing,
depending on these roots, the leaves spread forth.
Trunk and branches share the essence;
revered and common, each has its speech.
In the light there is darkness,
but don't take it as darkness;
In the dark there is light,
but don't see it as light.
Light and dark oppose one another
like the front and back foot in walking.
Each of the myriad things has its merit,
expressed according to function and place.
Phenomena exist; box and lid fit.
principle responds; arrow points meet.
Hearing the words, understand the meaning;
don't set up standards of your own.
If you don't understand the Way right before you,
how will you know the path as you walk?
Progress is not a matter of far or near,
but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.
I respectfully urge you who study the mystery,

do not pass your days and nights in vain.
Translation/Compilation copyright Soto Shumucho 1997
(November 15-16, 97; revised version)
There's plenty to be confused about. The Way right before me might actually be several ways at once. I am reading about MWI (Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics). Perhaps it's not just a case that we have all been here before, but more like we are all here and here and there and there at the same time.
Bonnie Mitchell: "Living in the electrons of cyberspace, we have no gender, we have no race, we are neither old nor young, intelligent nor naive, we have only an e-mail address to identify us. Our writing style and smileys reveal our virtual personalities. We are not alone. Yet we sit in physical isolation. Our machines satisfy our quest for social acknowledgment. We speak with our fingers and the machine replies.... Nonphysical intimacy. Security and privacy. Suppressed expression. Electrically altered ego. We have no need for faces. Don't show me yours. We have no need for bodies. They deteriorate anyway. We have no need for voice. We speak through thought. We have no need for any of these things. We have fingers, words, and images. We have an Internet connection. We have our virtual selves.
(--Segmentation / Alternative paths. Silvio Gaggi, From Text to Hypertext. Metonymy and Metaphor in the Fiction of Forking Paths: "
Someone suggested we might change the phrase from 'the spiritual life" to "the life of consciousness." Maybe the lexical tension between material/spiritual would mutate into a deeper appreciation of awareness or consciousness that does not cultivate opposition.

When the chickadee swoops over kitchen roof, I go there. When red squirrel runs between barn and bookshed, I go there. Not I, we. Not we -- just Chickadee, just Red Squirrel.
Q.15 Where are the other worlds?

Non-relativistic quantum mechanics and quantum field theory are quite unambiguous: the other Everett-worlds occupy the same space and time as we do.
The implicit question is really, why aren't we aware of these other worlds, unless they exist "somewhere" else? To see why we aren't aware of the other worlds, despite occupying the same space-time, see "Why do I only ever experience one world?" Some popular accounts describe the other worlds as splitting off into other, orthogonal, dimensions. These dimensions are the dimensions of Hilbert space, not the more familiar space-time dimensions.

The situation is more complicated, as we might expect, in theories of quantum gravity (See "What about quantum gravity?"), because gravity can be viewed as perturbations in the space-time metric. If we take a geometric interpretation of gravity then we can regard differently curved space-times, each with their own distinct thermodynamic history, as non-coeval. In that sense we only share the same space-time manifold with other worlds with a (macroscopically) similar mass distribution. Whenever the amplification of a quantum-scale interaction effects the mass distribution and hence space-time curvature the resultant decoherence can be regarded as splitting the local space-time manifold into discrete sheets.

(-from, 22. THE EVERETT FAQ, Michael Clive Price, February 1995
I like the phrase "discrete sheets" -- it sounds so...bedtime civilized.

Clarity has an Opening Reception at Camden Library tonight. Their show is elegant. So are the dips and biscotti.

However many universes, dimensions, alternate realities there might be, I'm happy to be weaving my way -- our way -- through them all.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Snow cancelled everything but the car stuck at end of driveway. That went on for a while.
Wind blows as first storm of the season enters ninth hour.

I sit zazen then call the man further down coast. He is not well. Not sleeping. Legs in pain. Just starting dinner. He'll call back.

It's not what is said. It's the listening.
After Missing the Recluse on the Western Mountain

To your hermitage here on the top
Of the mountain I have climbed,
Without stopping, these ten miles.
I have knocked at your door,
And no one answered;
I have peeped into your room,
At your seat beside the table.
Perhaps you are out walking,
Or fishing, more likely, in some autumn pool.
Sorry though I am to be missing you,
You have become my meditation.

The beauty of the grasses, fresh with rain,
And close beside the window the music of pines,
I take into my being all that I see and hear,
Soothing my senses, quieting my heart;
And though there be neither host nor guest,
Have I not had a visit complete?
The afternoon fades,
I make my way
Back down the mountain.
Why should I wait for you any longer?

- Ch-iu Wei
Why wait, indeed!

I like missed appointments, cancelled classes, and unworded conversation. Worded ones can work too.
He Gets Around to Answering the Old Question
by Miller Williams

He doesn't see as well as he thinks he remembers.
His fingers sometimes find it hard to bend.
He often can't find the name to go with a face.
Sometimes he doesn't hear but decides to pretend.

Weekends, week by week, are closer together.
Sometimes he has to sit down to put on his pants.
No lady seems to mind if he calls her Honey,
never grins nor even throws a glance.

Sometimes he's told himself what all this means.
"Every year some more of me is dead,
but there's a lot of stuff still left to collapse."
He started to laugh but talked to himself instead.

"Think of yourself as a plumbing system, a clock.
As soon as you're done, you start to come undone.
It's almost interesting when you pay attention,
how working parts stop working, one by one.

So now you've asked me the oldest question of all.
You want to know how I'm doing. I told you before,
I'm dying. Been at it for years. Still, I think
I could hang a few more calendars on the door."

(Poem, "He Gets Around to Answering the Old Question" by Miller Williams, from Time and the Tilting Earth.
The elderly man calls back and we talk. He's finished dinner. He's worried. I tell him about the poem. He tells me he's not afraid to die. It's just his mind is worried. A changed diagnosis, brain and legs not working well, no sleep for 4 nights.

Talk to your foot, your legs, your head -- I say to him. Maybe they feel neglected. Ask them to help you out. Tell them you'll ask them questions, listen to their responses, inform them about what you'd like. He says he likes that idea. Why not ask them to help in the same way he might ask God to help. He says why not move into a more bodily prayer.

I tell him about the 22 year old young man who's been in a coma for the past week since his car accident. He tells me that's sad. I tell him about the way they pray for so many specifics, how they trust that God's will -- no matter what happens -- will be done. They have it covered. He tells me how he doesn't dream of hell these days.

I tell him about Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight on He tells he'll watch it.

Earlier, someone asks about giving a talk to hospice volunteers about spirituality. I won't know what to say. I say yes. We'll have to have a conversation at the session. It's all about conversation, isn't it?

And gratitude.

I'm grateful to this body for serving so long with me.
I'm grateful to this mind for helping things along all these years.

It's an old question: How are you doing?

It's beyond amazing that we're doing anything!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

For Events, see

Today, December 8th, we are presented with two unusual stories.

One man is opened to the transparency and emptiness of everything and finds his true nature, sees compassion and wisdom as that original nature, lets fall all duality, and is known in history as Shakyamuni Buddha

One woman-to-be, in utero, arrives in her mother, Anne, to grow into this existence with an openness that is said to have no separation or flaw, preparing her (Mary) to receive the embodied wholeness history will name Jesus.

1. A man under a tree sees the morning star and realizes he and that star are not two things. He considers this for a long time then spends the rest of his life teaching about suffering, desire, release from desire, and the way to do it.

2. A couple conceive and their future child is considered to be free from a sin that is part of a mythic centuries-old story not yet identified as "Original Sin" until three hundred years later. Her doctrine is declared 1500 years later.

Still, they are good stories.
Bodhi Day Sermon:
Today we commemorate the awakening of Shakyamuni Buddha. Shakyamuni means the “Sage of the Shakya Clan.” Buddha is a title which means “Awakened One.” Out of all the millions and millions of people who have lived upon this earth, we believe that he, at least, awoke from the dream of life’s all too frequent sufferings and all too fragile joys and saw the Truth for himself. This Truth that he awakened to was the Truth which resolved all his previous concerns about the meaning of life and death. This Truth was the solution to the problem of suffering that he had been seeking. All of his subsequent teachings and all the efforts of the 2,500 year old community that has passed on those teachings to the present day are all for the purpose of helping us to see the Truth for ourselves as well, the very same Truth that the Buddha realized.
Immaculate Conception, The doctrine:

In the Constitution 'Ineffabilis Deus' of 8 December, 1854, Pius IX pronounced and defined that the Blessed Virgin Mary "in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin."
(-The Catholic Encylopedia,
In Maine today, sun shines. Snow melts drip by drip. Morning mountain walk on Ragged with Saskia, Cody (her mom's German Shepherd) and Rokpa (our Border Collie). Coffee and toast. Lighting incense and candle on front room altar honoring both Mary and Siddhartha.

These last few days for me it seems that everything is a story.

We are told stories; we tell stories.

Of course they're mostly true -- even if the rational consciousness cannot grasp the facts or ideas proposed. But something deeper, more open, less mental -- does say 'yes' and goes on about the day with a gratitude for what the stories present.

They present us.

Opening --

A good story!