Saturday, December 17, 2016

start dancing

"Take my word. It’s been fun."
 (--Richard Hugo, final line of poem, “The Right Madness On Skye”)

its all there is to do -- practice

Temperature rises from 4° at bedtime to 18° at 5am. A virtual (albeit, vertical) heat wave!

We were seven at Friday evening conversation. Including J from Lewiston and, by speakerphone, C, currently in Maryland. The fire was warm, the perspectives collaborative, the experience thought-provoking. What, we wondered, is to be learned about the decendance of words and symbols and the functional ascendancy of perspective and experience? And what to think of the current experiment taking place in America's evolving experience of itself?

J wanted to switch out experience for perspective. R thought perspective and experience were synonymous. BC suggested that perspective is an inner look, a variety of ways of seeing what is being looked at, and that opinion is the articulated preference based on perspective.

So, building on P's observation in last week's prison conversation -- that 'words and symbols are dead, what we're left with is experience' -- we trek through words and symbols to look at what perspective experience reveals in our moving forward.

Just as the 'poetry, tea, and thee' gathering with centenary-encirculating friends at the nursing/assisted living place in town, the comraderie and pilgrimage is delightful and we end deepened and enhanced. We read from Wallace Stevens, Charles Olson, Alla Bozarth, Wendell Berry, Isabel Fraire, John McCutcheon, and a collaborative poem by several of us about our 100year old's cat sweater.

The joy, advisedly, is the avowed experience of contemplation, conversation, and collaboration effected and actualized in the moving engagement of the revealing situation -- present, past, and future -- as midwifery of the invisible made visible in an impermanent expression of our passing journey.

Who could have predicted that the word "disquisition" would show up in two distinct poems by two different authors!?

Soon, morning practice.

It's all there is to do --


Friday, December 16, 2016

after hearing from someone saying they are not able to come to a sitting practice

When we sit we sit with

   all we have ever sat with.

Visible and invisible community is gracious gift.

   And so, thank you!

4 am descent of stairs

Outdoor temperature registering as -6°.

Wood goes into stove.

May all beings be warm enough!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

other delusions

They are indoor cats

with flapping door for fenced-in under porch access to outdoors

time to time one of the cats, even in freezing temperature, hangs outside

time to time a bird will jump through green wire and


feathers all over kitchen floor

clanking and banging of cups on drying rack by windows

then running craziness, trying to extricate bird

seldom success

And I think of Aleppo, Northern Syria

the carnage

the cruelty

The cat knows I am beside myself when she brings her sport

to kitchen

And I am defeated, utterly

with the ways this existence befuddles

left to silence

mute memorial

sweeping soft and weightless feathers

dropping them on snow packed buddha statue

outside porch

the way we attempt to make ritual of ruin

or pretend to hope for something we

would prefer

like life without devastation

and other delusions

the last thing I long for

Come let us worship the lord,
The king who is to come

That's the antiphon for invitatory this Thursday liturgy of the hours.

The one who is to come.

Not only is our God a no-name God, our God is seen as "is-to-come" -- which is tantalizing and exasperating aspiration while standing-sitting-walking in place, in every place, as is, contemplative practicing.

The doxology would say: the one who was, who is, and is to come.

"I'll be there, as who I am, shall I be there" is the no-name of our God.

This is comforting on so many absurd levels. As if: look for me and I'll show up in no way I can be grasped.

Maybe there is no way "I" can be, grasped.

God is the absence of “l", a no-name, ungraspable, no way, is-to-come, one.

Love, for God, is presence. Love for God is realizing your pilgrimage as arriving at no obvious place of stepping into a nothingness surrounded by emptiness and centered in a nameless, unrecognizable, and agonizingly given present.

We might find 



          what is

             to come 

And that would be our lament, our prayer, our communion.

Life, ever, lasting.

This is the last thing I long for!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

a poem reminding us -- there is nothing here

The Dark Night of the Soul

                       (John of the Cross)

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.
In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.
In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–
A place where none appeared.
Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!
Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.
The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.
I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

(Poem by St John of the Cross, 1542-1591)

 ...   ...   ...

Commentary on Dark Night of the Soul
by St. John of the Cross

“He soars on the wings of Divine love . . .”
“It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that the verse and prose works combined of St. John of the Cross form at once the most grandiose and the most melodious spiritual canticle to which any one man has ever given utterance.
The most sublime of all the Spanish mystics, he soars aloft on the wings of Divine love to heights known to hardly any of them. . . . True to the character of his thought, his style is always forceful and energetic, even to a fault.
When we study his treatises–principally that great composite work known as the Ascent of Mount Carmel and the Dark Night–we have the impression of a mastermind that has scaled the heights of mystical science; and from their summit looks down upon and dominates the plain below and the paths leading upward. . . . Nowhere else, again, is he quite so appealingly human; for, though he is human even in his loftiest and sublimest passages, his intermingling of philosophy with mystical theology; makes him seem particularly so. These treatises are a wonderful illustration of the theological truth that graced far from destroying nature, ennobles and dignifies it, and of the agreement always found between the natural and the supernatural–between the principles of sound reason and the sublimest manifestations of Divine grace.” 
Translated and edited,
from the critical edition of

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

morning walk, afternoon sitting

"Elegance is simplicity." (Paulo Coelho de Souza)

Then the doggie shows up.

Owls Head, we arrive at Lucia Beach, this feast-day of St Lucy.

Meanwhile, back home.

There’s a sitting in progress.

feeding wood stove at 4:55am

At what point does the needle move from comedic curiosity to raw apprehension?

When, exactly, does standard political dissembling turn into crass and cynical lies intended to deceive and devour those few remaining fans of a reality show gone horribly wrong by turning into slug and slaughter snuff episodes where every killing is celebrated as a victory for the forces of freedom and 'f**k you'?

This tv show has no commercials. The new norm is everything we see is a commercial and what used to be called real news is the filler between commercial seduction into imprisoned consciousness.

(It might be the full moon rising. To be crazed is the concretion of despair run out of incidents of absurd cultural and political distraction to hold insanity at arms length while considering false options to remedy or overcome the danger looming near.)

No more distraction, the coup is real -- prepare either to run away or turn and skewer one another in a revolt of inane killing masquerading as security protecting resistance. Think Syria. Think not at all.

Ah, dawn!

Must have been a nightmare.

Monday, December 12, 2016

waxing moon nearing midnight

I don’t have confidence in the picks or the picker of the new administration in Washington DC.

On a brighter side, the moon on snow in Maine is glorious.

We take joy where we find it.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

attentive presence, root silence, transparent service

Gaudete. -- the word means rejoice.

There must be something to rejoice about this December. 

Happy to be alive? Yes. Glad to have a practice of learning, meditating, working, and conversing? Yes. And that mysterious practice of prayer? Yes, that too.

Yesterday, on the 48th year since Thomas Merton’s death, we renewed our promises, the 18th time since first saying them in 1998.

Three promises: 

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.

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. 

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. 


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)

We say “yes” when asked if we wish to continue living these promises.

We are happy to do so.