Saturday, August 31, 2013

continuation day

The lad in Vermont celebrates his birthday.

A rose to his mother.

In words.

mind your life

People cry at loss of family member. Or friend. There's no containing emotion when it gets caught in thicket of memory.
Bennacht / Blessing   
On the day when 
the weight deadens
on your shoulders 
and you stumble, 
may the clay dance 
to balance you. 
And when your eyes 
freeze behind 
the grey window 
and the ghost of loss 
gets in to you, 
may a flock of colours, 
indigo, red, green, 
and azure blue 
come to awaken in you 
a meadow of delight.   
When the canvas frays 
in the currach of thought 
and a stain of ocean 
blackens beneath you, 
may there come across the waters 
a path of yellow moonlight 
to bring you safely home.   
May the nourishment of the earth be yours, 
may the clarity of light be yours, 
may the fluency of the ocean be yours, 
may the protection of the ancestors be yours. 
And so may a slow 
wind work these words 
of love around you, 
an invisible cloak 
to mind your life.   
 (Poem by John O'Donohue)
To "mind a life" is to bring awareness to senses. With death the senses come up empty. Not like coffee sipped at edge of cup, or coconut vanilla ice cream on lips.

Death takes a different flavor. Call it dry stillness.

Like zazen.

A stark dry stillness where everything is allowed to be what it is.

Sometimes it is called kindness. Othertimes is is called death. At times it is called just sitting, shikantaza.

In  a circle of recollection, in meditation hall or common room of home for the aged, it is the practice of kindness and death that we find ourselves encircling.

Mind your life, Elizabeth!

Mind ours, the rest of us!

Friday, August 30, 2013

the mystery we share; with one another

Canada Geese go by at 6:23am. Must've had a slow start. Someone forgot their lunch.

The thing about repeatable regularity is adjustments have to be made. Like rebirth or reincarnation. Things turn up with small differences. As in dreams. Such as the one I wake from this morning. Sitting on hillside. Chairs, actually, not rock and soil, as large group of people, adults and children, climb up behind and off to side. I am missing someone. I realize this strongly. I am, as usual, out of place.
Summer Night 
                         by Connie Wanek  
The street lamp looks down; 
it has dropped something
and spends the whole night 
searching around its feet. 
The rumble of a jet, and the fast road 
blocks away, roaring like a cataract. 
The scent of mown grass, 
and of the body that mowed it. 
The sidewalk, made of warm squares 
heaved by maple roots, 
covered with hieroglyphs in chalk. 
A maple sapling, its trunk 
wrapped to the knee 
like the legs of a racehorse,  
galloping straight up. 
At dawn the prodigal sun returns 
accompanied by equatorial birds 
and a floral entourage. 
What good has it done us to labor so 
when all are rewarded? 
Let the spade fall, then, 
and join the feast. 
(--poem, "Summer Night" by Connie Wanek, from Hartley Field. © Holy Cow! Press, 2002.)
I imagine Elizabeth and the 151,650 (approx) people who die each day have that experience. Pleasant but fluid, quite reasonably there but uncertain where, recognizing faces but unsure of context, altogether irrepeatable yet still able to manage the encounter.

We live this way this side of death. Everything seemingly repetitive yet rifled with unpredictability.

Every time I meet someone that is how it feels: familiar yet lacking a pattern of equilibrium. We are always moving -- mentally, physically, spiritually. We are not who we were an hour ago. And in the next hour ... who knows who or what we will be.

Unnerving? Or comforting?
“...if I do not take my intellectual vocation seriously, putting it before everything else even at the risk of appearing inhuman, then I am also incapable of helping people in more concrete and proximate ways. Conversely, if I am not alert and ready to save people from a conflagration, that is to say, if I do not take my spiritual calling in all earnestness, sacrificing to it all else, even my own life, then I shall be unable to help in rescuing the manuscript. If I do not involve myself in the concrete issues of my time, and if I do not open my house to all the winds of the world, then anything I produce from an ivory tower will be barren and cursed. Yet if I do not shut doors and windows in order to concentrate on this work, then I will not be able to offer anything of value to my neighbors.”                ― Raimon PanikkarThe Vedic Experience: Mantrama~njari: An Anthology of the Vedas for Modern Man and Contemporary Celebration
Open the door. Let this and that enter or leave.

What any of us are doing here is an experiment.

It doesn't matter what we think is occurring or taking place -- what matters is that what is taking place or occurring is doing so with a mind that is open and a heart that is willing.

An open mind and a willing heart might be all that we can present in this nearly absurd existence we have with one another.

But I suspect it is not merely good enough and sufficient, but sacred and holy, the beginning and the end of the mystery we share named presence, awareness, this moment.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

was, or will there be, resurrection?

As a young white seminary student in 1963 it was a remarkable sight from the bucolic grounds of Callicoon NY to see what was taking place in Washington DC.

That civil courage made public needs resurrection now that forces conspire to block voting, felonize whole generations of people of color, hold hostage people needing health and financial stability, slyly mock the president of the nation for his race, and rig the odds against women who are seen by them as fertility robots delivering the unintended to term.

Protests are too easily seen these days as threats to the security of the nation, criminal conspiracy, or cause for more intense surveillance.

We desperately need a new civil courage fortified by compassion and justice, a courage rooted in an interreligious wholeheartedness that recognizes every human being and all sentient beings as family.

May it be so! Freely, and lovingly, so!

(-- Commenting on The Ideas Behind the March, By DAVID BROOKS, Published: August 26, 2013,

Room 118 is now, empty

As of 8:15pm last evening, Elizabeth follows her breath invisibly elsewhere.

Good . . . For you, friend!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Room 118

Elizabeth breathes her last dozens of breath. Millie plays harp. Jane sits by her side.

This is what end of life sounds like.

This is what we give ourselves to.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

who, or what, do you take after?

The Japanese word, "narau," I'm told, means "to take after, to learn." Similarly, "naru" means "to become."

The question for educators is -- what are students taking after or becoming? Indeed, what do we need to learn?

My preference is the combining: "narau desu naru" -- to learn is to become. If we become what we learn, it seems to me we ought to be modeling freedom and creativity of thought with a solid grounding in skeptical questioning. 

This ought to be done in the proximate presence of one another.

We need both evidence and experience with intuition. Too easily are students led through someone else's agenda and curriculum. Too seldom are they encouraged to think and question what is presented as pure history and undeniable canon.

Two ways of learning -- calculative thinking and contemplative thinking -- must come face to face in an environment of engagement.

Put differently, there must be conversation, open and probing conversation. Perhaps such "taking after" will obviate the model of secrecy and surveillance in our contemporary culture and encourage a pathway of diaphaneity and pure gaze.

(Commenting on "The Two Cultures of Educational Reform," The New York Times, by Stanley Fish, 26August2013)

facing each way; each falling away: no name's

"All lose,whole find" wrote e.e.cummings.

Something becomes clearer . . .

"Family," they say. "Don't mess with my family!" Pictures with faces smiling forward. 

As though that explained everything.

I look around. Can we see what is here?

Neighbor in distinct high-pitch voice, calls her cat. Out, no doubt, all night. As cats will do.

Maybe that's the clue.

No one left out, everyone called in, is family.

Sight moves through face, unbeginning, unending. Infinitely from within; eternally into outer.

No boundary. No barrier.

"Family" devoided, reconsidered as now-here-this, wherever you are!

Koan practice:
Question: What is the sound of one, family, gathering?
Response: Where are you?
Find out.

Allow in.

Gathering as no name's. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Of a Monday afternoon

Woman from New York traveling down from Nova Scotia stops by. She is in Shambhala tradition. She practices in Vermont. She lights charcoal on sand in porcelain bowl, sprinkles juniper on it, fragrant smoke rising, she goes from building to building, room to room, counterclockwise, and blesses, chanting the following chant:

Invocation for Raising Windhorse 
om ah hung  The assembly of the three jewels-Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. 
The three roots-Guru, Deva and Dakini; gods and sages; 
The three protectors-mahasattvas-Manjushri, Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani; Jayadeva, PadmaTöterang and the vidyadharas of India and Tibet; 
The glorious protector, Ganapadi with the divine armies of dralas        
The five patron gods
The great being Gesar, and so on 
All those gods of the cosmic lineage who command coincidence,
To all of those, I offer clouds of real and imagined good offerings, I supplicate you: with kindness, please grant your blessings.  
Curses, spells, burial sorcery, döns, obstructing spirits, obstacles and so on. May all these signs of the weakening and corruption of windhorse be pacified.  
Strife, enmity, scandal, warfare, lawsuits, recurrent calamity and so on, 
Pacify all such obstructing discord. Multiply the power and strength of the virtuous windhorse, the four legged miracle.  
Please accomplish the spiritual and temporal, supreme and ordinary siddhas.  
And without exception, whatever mind desires. 
om wagi shwari mum 
om mani peme hung 
om vajrapani hung 
om ah hung 
om ah hung vajra guru pema siddhi hung 
om ham ksha ma la wa ra ya ha ha hi hi he he ho ho sarwa vijaya siddhi hung 
tak seng khyung druk di yarkyé 
Gather all, sarwa, gather gather hoRouse all our life, virtue and glorious windhorse, higher and higher!
Karma Choling (Barnet VT) Shanbhala Shrine
(Photo by Michael Davis)
Workman framing door in upstairs bathroom wondered, he said later, what the heck scent was poked through the door and chanted at his back. But figured he was at meetingbrook where little makes sense.

Then we have cucumber and tomato salad with parmesan peppercorn bread. White haired man with walking cane pulls in, Saskia gets him a coffee, and he sits a spell near porcelain bowl at table in front of book shed.

You just never know who or what will present itself.

We receive this gift with gratitude.

Ki ki so so!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

No one says anything; nothing is heard: Sunday afternoon

Chuang Tzu lived in fourth century BCE.

"All men know the utility of useful things; but they do not know the utility of futility." (Chuang Tzu)

"Wander where there is no path. Be all that heaven gave you, but act as though you have received nothing. Be empty, that is all." (Chuang Tzu)

For those of us now living in 21st century CE, these words are befuddling.

Except if you hear them from inside their spelling without any exterior sound.

"almost transparent, almost nonexistent"

 An actor who showed how.
The playwright John van Druten, who adapted Christopher Isherwood’s novel “Goodbye to Berlin” into the play “I Am a Camera,” the show that made Ms. Harris a star in 1952 (and later became the source material for the musical “Cabaret”), referred to her in a 1955 interview with The New York Times Magazine, as a glass pitcher. 
“You pour in red wine, the pitcher looks red; pour in crème de menthe, it is green,” van Druten said. “When she’s by herself, Julie’s almost transparent, almost nonexistent.”  
(--from, New York Times, Julie Harris, Celebrated Actress of Range and Intensity, Dies at 87, by Bruce Weber, 24Aug2013. She died on the 24th) 
 Good zen teaching.

What is this? Joy

Canada Geese went by on the 6:12 this morning.

Where I was in dream is now fallen into filing system folder labeled forget.

Car sounds itself up Barnestown Road, another down.

It is Sunday morning. Like communicants approaching and receding from altar, geese and cars take on the circumincessional interpenetration of divine-human recourse. It is left to unchurching semi-apostates to remember the pilgrimage they once took but now leave walking sticks leaning against tree or wall ungrasped.

For who can grasp the whole?

Rituals recede into mixed blessing of memory.

Holy scripture is replaced by the new faithful with Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Email, those trinitarian testaments of touching temporality transient and tempting.

This morning I am nontheistic agnostic -- I don't know if there is not a God.

Glimpses of light lead me to suspect there is a star burning 93 million miles away, exploding and violent, mildly coloring faces of sailors on sailers where wind slides between sheets on reach to nowhere.

This ending of summer has been the beginning of other endings beginning in circular infinity.

Whoever I was has checked out of the hotel of fixed recognition and taken coastal bus heading toward unrecognition miles away from anywhere at the border of amnesia neighboring Alois Alzheimer in pasture waving in bucolic loss of presence.

Its not that the ability to think has been lost, its more that what is there to think about has taken a nap, off and away, in a niche hard to find nor wanting to be found.

I become the unfinding path -- the one lost and disoriented not receiving nor emitting appearance or intent -- but winding itself through everything.

Rather, this peregrinating everything becomes what it is without explanation, excuse, understanding, defense, or justification. No words occupy the path. Silence steps along. Memory is unfocused glance into middlespace. No apology forms with formlessness.

Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate! 

Prayer is perception leaning on creative intimation. Consciousness kneels as radiating silence encircles. 'Yes' arises in solitude and wanders off alone. Nothing else emerges and sets about setting up camp with no tent, no site, no ground, and no person wishing to camp.

Joy is itself . . .  and does not need optimism to be itself.

This is.

What is.