Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coming to: ad venire; 21

Three in the morning. Still. Here.
Your hidden hut is a solitary cloud
Upon the clear deep waters of a pool.
The pines about it are dewed
With the distant moon,
A glow of liquid light to be my friend.
I pass the night in the shadow of flowers,
Where garden herbs enrich
The patterns of moss.
I too would leave the world
And fly to the western mountains
With the phoenix and crane.
- Ch'ang Chien
Snow is being made at neighboring Snow Bowl through the night. Cold enough. Odds are it will actually snow naturally some day, ground hardening, our extended mud December anomaly bound to cease.

Friday Evening Conversation we watch short videos of David Abram speaking about voices of nature that we have been ignoring. How alphabet makes it possible for us to think human meaning is the only true type. That we've turned our back on conversations with tree and shrub, granite and stone, water and feathered family. Which cuts us off. Makes of each an object. Lonely. Incommunicant.

Here and Now
for Barbara

There are words
I've had to save myself from,
like My Lord and Blessed Mother,
words I said and never meant,
though I admit a part of me misses
the ornamental stateliness
of High Mass, that smell

of incense. Heaven did exist,
I discovered, but was reciprocal
and momentary, like lust
felt at exactly the same time—
two mortals, say, on a resilient bed,
making a small case for themselves.

You and I became the words
I'd say before I'd lay me down to sleep,
and again when I'd wake—wishful
words, no belief in them yet.
It seemed you'd been put on earth
to distract me
from what was doctrinal and dry.
Electricity may start things,
but if they're to last
I've come to understand
a steady, low-voltage hum

of affection
must be arrived at. How else to offset
the occasional slide
into neglect and ill temper?
I learned, in time, to let heaven
go its mythy way, to never again

be a supplicant
of any single idea. For you and me
it's here and now from here on in.
Nothing can save us, nor do we wish
to be saved.

Let night come
with its austere grandeur,
ancient superstitions and fears.
It can do us no harm.
We'll put some music on,
open the curtains, let things darken
as they will.

(Poem by by Stephen Dunn)

In prison yesterday an elderly Buddhist, a middle aged street blackjack afficianado, and a one-week-in new and shell-shocked inmate arrival each seemed to express a reluctance for traditional explanations of 'sin' and 'salvation.' It gathered our attention when one said he preferred personal responsibility, in and out, rather than a deus-ex-machina explanation.
Lesson 351

My sinless brother is my guide to peace
My sinful brother is my guide to pain
And which I choose to see I will behold

Who is my brother but Your holy Son? And if I see him sinful I proclaim myself a sinner, not a Son of God; alone and friendless in a fearful world Yet this perception is a choice I make, and can relinquish. I can also see my brother sinless, as Your holy Son. And with this choice I see my sinlessness, my everlasting Comforter and Friend beside me, and my way secure and clear. Choose, then, for me, my Father, through Your Voice. For He alone gives judgment in Your Name.

(from A Course in Miracles)
There we were.

Here we are.

A new appreciation of wording-with one-another.

Curtains no longer keeping in or keeping out.

Our quiet conversation with the night.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Coming to: ad venire; 20

Even cranky intelligent curmudgeons have to let go. Engaging and enraging, Christopher Hitchens gave his view of politics and personalities with all stops open.
Christopher Hitchens died Thursday of esophageal cancer. He was, in the words of the Washington Post, “master of the contrarian essay” and, as his home publication Vanity Fair describes him, “a wit, a charmer, and a troublemaker.” (from Truthdig, 16Dec2011)
I'd rather read raw and insightful than hedging and calculating. (While that sentence is spurious and obsequious, it reflects a delight for emperors' tailors willing to expose indelicate truth.)
Time is to be valued! You just try to learn Zen or Tao on the surface as something outside yourself, learning to recognize terms and slogans, seeking "buddhahood," seeking "mastery," seeking "teachers," considering them conceptually. Make no mistake about it -- you have but one mother and father, so what more are you seeking? Turn your attention back upon yourself and observe.
- Lin Chi (d 867)
Healing and wholeness are the tasks of human life. Broken truth longs to be put back together again even though it is the longing more likely to continue rather than impossible repair. One comes to live in the debris more accepting of chipped and fractured objects of affection.
Reading Isaiah 33:7-24 ©
Look, Ariel is lamenting in the streets,
the ambassadors of peace weep bitterly.
The highways are deserted,
no travellers use the roads.
Treaties are broken, witnesses despised,
there is respect for no one.
The land mourns, it pines away,
Lebanon is withered with shame,
Sharon is a desert,
Bashan and Carmel are stripped bare.
‘Now I stand up,’ says the Lord
‘now I rise to my full height.
You have conceived chaff, you will give birth to straw,
my breath shall devour you like fire
(from Office of Readings)
It occurs to me that a sentence coming to mind is worth contemplation: "There is no God like our God."

Rather than a triumphalist creed or screed or Hadith it seems the sentence contains its opposite -- There is no God like our God. There is only what-is-called-God. Not 'my' or 'our' or 'the' or any variant of seeming possessive certainty.

What 'God' there is is beyond our telling. So, we approximate. We emerge as approximating theists. Which is fine. Only, less annoying than convinced locators, smug creedalists, or court savants.
And because Love battles

And because love battles
not only in its burning agricultures
but also in the mouth of men and women,
I will finish off by taking the path away
to those who between my chest and your fragrance
want to interpose their obscure plant.

About me, nothing worse
they will tell you, my love,
than what I told you.

I lived in the prairies
before I got to know you
and I did not wait love but I was
laying in wait for and I jumped on the rose.

What more can they tell you?
I am neither good nor bad but a man,
and they will then associate the danger
of my life, which you know
and which with your passion you shared.

And good, this danger
is danger of love, of complete love
for all life,
for all lives,
and if this love brings us
the death and the prisons,
I am sure that your big eyes,
as when I kiss them,
will then close with pride,
into double pride, love,
with your pride and my pride.

But to my ears they will come before
to wear down the tour
of the sweet and hard love which binds us,
and they will say: “The one
you love,
is not a woman for you,
Why do you love her? I think
you could find one more beautiful,
more serious, more deep,
more other, you understand me, look how she’s light,
and what a head she has,
and look at how she dresses,
and etcetera and etcetera”.

And I in these lines say:
Like this I want you, love,
love, Like this I love you,
as you dress
and how your hair lifts up
and how your mouth smiles,
light as the water
of the spring upon the pure stones,
Like this I love you, beloved.

To bread I do not ask to teach me
but only not to lack during every day of life.
I don’t know anything about light, from where
it comes nor where it goes,
I only want the light to light up,
I do not ask to the night
I wait for it and it envelops me,
And so you, bread and light
And shadow are.

You came to my life
with what you were bringing,
of light and bread and shadow I expected you,
and Like this I need you,
Like this I love you,
and to those who want to hear tomorrow
that which I will not tell them, let them read it here,
and let them back off today because it is early
for these arguments.

Tomorrow we will only give them
a leaf of the tree of our love, a leaf
which will fall on the earth
like if it had been made by our lips
like a kiss which falls
from our invincible heights
to show the fire and the tenderness
of a true love.

(Poem by Pablo Neruda)
We are like this. God is like this. Truth is just like this.

So, I sit with the koan: What is this?

Even as night watches and wonders in monastic nescience.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Coming to: ad venire; 19

When is an inch on a yardstick not an inch?

It's a good koan. Compliments of Willow.
The mountain's head is white
And mine is too
December dies, the year
Runs out its string as all things do

- Yuan Mei (1716-1798)
Half December.

Is there a death that can be called half-death?

I arrive in silence to this meditation place. Dog sleeps on white couch. Nothing moves. Letters appear. Thinking gives way to gaze.

One student, Zach, at last night's final class held at hermitage, wondered what the man would do who'd escaped the shadowy darkness of the Plato's Cave analogy rather than try to convince those still blinded to real light that there was more than they'd accepted in their darkness.

Robert Lowell's line came to mind: "All's misalliance. / Yet why not say what happened?" ((From poem, "Epilogue.")

Just saying.

No need to hammer and nail, measure or cut, design or build.

Only say what happened with no craving for anything other than the saying.

Here's how Lowell surrounds that line:

Those blessèd structures, plot and rhyme--
why are they no help to me now
I want to make
something imagined, not recalled?
I hear the noise of my own voice:
The painter's vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.
But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eye
seems a snapshot,
lurid, rapid, garish, grouped,
heightened from life,
yet paralyzed by fact.
All's misalliance.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun's illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.
We are poor passing facts,
warned by that to give
each figure in the photograph
his living name.

(Poem, Epilogue, by Robert Lowell)
Give a poet an inch, he'll imagine us a new way to see the world.

And all views from our yard!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Coming to: ad venire; 18

Different. Everything feels different. "Differre," (Latin), to carry away. Something about mortality.
On a more intimate note, he recalls interactions with his teacher, the late Seung Sahn (known to his students as Soen Sa Nim), with obvious admiration and a discernible sense of the teacher’s presence. Our discussion of Buddhism and not-Buddhism reminds him of his teacher pushing him into being a teacher. “I said to him,” he recalls, “‘Soen Sa Nim, I’m here to learn how to practice from you. I’m not interested in being a teacher; I want to be the student.’ And he said ‘If you are my student, then this is how you will learn to be a student, as you teach.’ And I said, ‘But I don’t know anything. I don’t know what to do. I wouldn’t know what to talk about.’ And he said, ‘Aawwwwww,’ as if he really deeply understood what my issue was, ‘no problem, you only talk about area you understand. Don’t talk about area you don’t understand.’” (- about Jon Kabat Zinn)
The Buddha said: "For one who takes nothing whatsoever as I or me or mine, such a one is free from the snares of the king of death."

Now, there's a practice!

That's what we heard at practice last evening.

Even the man knocked down and out by his cow in Antigonish Nova Scotia was there to hear those words. Back from subdural hematoma and months of mindful breathing in and out of consciousness.

Welcome, again, to Meetingbrook, David!

For both the words and the 87 year old's return to visit, we are grateful!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Coming to: ad venire; 17

Lucy, Lucia, light through blindness. Quite a metaphor!

To fail

It's what

Now, endings

Take Pagliacci 

"La commedia 
è finita!"

All we can
Do is
Go home

A Tibetan teacher is giving opening remarks at a retreat and a snippet of the video catches my attention. He says that we are here, "taking time out of our lives..." -- and that's all I need to hear. Is that what we are being called to do? Take 'time' out of our life? Is that what 'home' is? Is home timelessness, dwelling in the eternal and infinite now, with nothing, nowhere else, and fully within the realization of What-Is-Wholly-Itself?

And this, right in the middle of what we call 'world?' In the midst of everything that presents itself? Seeing light through and beyond forms?

If you tell me it is all a story, a metaphor, that we are in a mind weaving endless tales of subterfuge and irony, deceit and heartbreak, all for the dramaturgy of divine realization, apogee and denouement revealing what our eyes, fraught with facts and fantasies, cannot penetrate; we are stunned by all final scenes pointing out paradoxical obverse, that we are of a piece with what has never broken off, with the Holy Itself, God, Father/Mother, Being, Truth, Love -- and have never, really, been anywhere else -- then I will have to continue looking at you, long and full of frowning wonder, while around us stage is struck, costumes folded, solitary lamp stand placed at empty center of proscenium where vacant seats rise to open doors and out into what Lucia sees.

But that is to come.

As we.

Come to.

Lesson 347

Anger must come from judgment. Judgment is
The weapon I would use against myself,
To keep the miracle away from me.

Father[/Mother], I want what goes against my will, and do not want what is my will to have. Straighten my mind, my [Mother/]Father. It is sick. But You have offered freedom, and I choose to claim Your gift today. And so I give all judgment to the One You gave to me to judge for me. He sees what I behold, and yet He knows the truth. He looks on pain, and yet He understands it is not real, and in His understanding it is healed. He gives the miracles my dreams would hide from my awareness. Let Him judge today. I do not know my will, but He is sure it is Your Own. And He will speak for me, and call Your miracles to come to me.
Listen today. Be very still, and hear the gentle Voice for God assuring you that He has judged you as the Son[/Daughter] He loves
I am listening.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Coming to: ad venire; 16

Francis Poulenc Gloria performed by Down East Singers at Camden Opera House yesterday afternoon. I choose it over philosophy lecture at library. Anthony Antolini conducts, Soprano Christina Astrachan solos, and instrumentalist group, Ti' Acadie added vim and vigor. Soloist drew us into realization of text. I translate: "as sin is taken away, we are none other than mercy itself," or:
(miserere nobis; qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.
Have mercy on us; You who take away the sins of the world, hear our prayers. Who sits at the right hand of the Father, have mercy upon us.
None, other than? Or, none other than? Mercy itself awaits simultaneous translation.

Something about being drawn in, "being" drawn in, brings tears through music. This balcony of eremitic gratitude!
Where He Found Himself

The new man unfolded a map and pointed
to a dark spot on it. “See, that’s how
far away I feel all the time, right here,
among all of you,” he said.
.         .”Yes,” John the gentle mule replied,
“alienation is clearly your happiness.”
But the group leader interrupted,
“Now, now, let’s hear him out,
let’s try to be fair.”  The new man felt
the familiar comfort of everyone against him.
.                                   .He went on about the stupidities
of love, life itself as one long foreclosure,
until another man said, “I was a hog,
a terrible hog, and now I’m a llama.”
To which another added, “And me, I was a wolf.
Now children walk up to me, unafraid.”
.             .The group leader asked the new man,
“What kind of animal have you been?”
“A rat that wants to remain a rat,” he said,
and the group began to soften
as they remembered their own early days,
the pain before the transformation.

(Poem by Stephen Dunn)
It is 3AM. New intimate deck outside dining room slider is awash in moonlight. I step out barefoot to stand under the surrounding sanctuary of star and planet, empty space and unseen truth -- invitatory of cosmos chanting creation, transcendence transforming prayer into silent interiority, a suffusing simplicity.

At performance end Sunday afternoon Saskia steps into reception room as I walk to harbor to check dark brown linseed/pinetar'd Matinicus Peapod nestled between Manning's dark green dory and Lewis' dark blue sailing pod. Calmly tethered to floats where "Prophet" is at rest alongside three lobster boats inboard of shrinkwrapped schooners down from Landing. A glorious December twilight, lighted fir tree atop "Mary Day" mainmast, lighted star tops turret on Mount Battie up and away. French and Latin lyrics from concert as well as Acadian rhythms are settling into low tide sway of float where I balance softening to the passing flow...
Q: What kind of person is a Ch'an master?

Tao-shin replied: Someone who is not disturbed either by chaos or serenity is a person with the know how of good Ch'an practice. When one always dwells in tranquility, the mind perishes. But if you are always in a state of discernment, then the mind scatters chaotically. The Lotus Sutra says: "The Buddha himself dwells in the Great Vehicle. The power of meditation and of wisdom gives remarkable splendour to the dharmas which he has acquired. These he uses to save all beings."

- Tao-shin (580-651)
I don't mind forgetting. More and more disappears. Only what is right in front of me makes any sense. (And not much at that!)
For this I am grateful. It seems a new template arises subsuming everything 'else' into it. I do not know how this is done. I've lost whatever itinerary I thought I had. I'm just a tourist. Sightseer. Looking around.
Lesson 346

Today the peace of God envelops me,
And I forget all things except His Love
Father, I wake today with miracles correcting my perception of all things. And so begins the day I share with You as I will share eternity, for time has stepped aside today. I do not seek the things of time, and so I will not look upon them. What I seek today transcends all laws of time and things perceived in time. I would forget all things except Your Love. I would abide in You, and know no laws except Your law of love. And I would find the peace which You created for Your Son, forgetting all the foolish toys I made as I behold Your glory and my own.
And when the evening comes today, we will remember nothing but the peace of God. For we will learn today what peace is ours, when we forget all things except God's Love.
It is like a new map unfolding a man.

There is no destination.

Nor any distance between here and here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Coming to: ad venire; 15

I've been watching Bald Mountain much of the morning.

It remains as it is.

Goes nowhere.


I am so

I am not
Something else

For this instance...
A poem
There it is.


By itself!