Sitting zazen Saturday morning bookshed/retreat, these letters come to encapsulate prayer:
go to god
going to god
gone to god
A prayer for others
A prayer for oneself
A prayer for those gone beyond
It's not an easy world. Nor is it anything other than a high-wire walk on a cable stretched between Twin Towers twenty years fallen and fretfully remembered in a contemporary time of automatic gunfire mowing down school children, elderly Black shoppers in a supermarket, and medical personnel at a hospital.
It's hard to hear the bromides: not to focus on the news, much less the bad news, and all will be well; or, it has nothing to do with guns. Rather it is marijuana, gays and lesbians, trans-people, democrats, fire-exit doors, pedaphiles, groomers of children, anyone critical of the former guy who was president, and anyone quoting statistics that do not support lies told by true believers.
I often wonder whether we are losing the ability to discern what is true from what is not likely, not verifiable, not possible, or not factual. I'm not willing, yet, to give up the struggle.
I am, you are, we continue to be, the struggle.
by Maggie Smith
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
(--Maggie Smith, "Good Bones" from Waxwing. Copyright © 2016 by Maggie Smith)
This morning was our first Friday return to meetingbrook conversations at Maine State Prison since the Covid hiatus. Seventy five percent of those attending were new to us. Immediate thoughtful, deep, and personal conversations right out of the chute.
Some quotes from Heidegger that catch my attention:
- “Exposition of the Question of the Meaning of Being. This question has today been forgotten.” (—first words in Introduction to Being and Time)
- “Thus ‘phenomenology' means αποφαινεσθαι τα φαινομενα -- to let that which shows itself be seen from itself in the very way in which it shows itself from itself.”
- “Language is the house of Being.”
- “The poets are in the vanguard of a changed conception of Being.”
- “The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.
Attention, like breath, is the heart and soul of learning.
The presence of pedagogy.
It's not only a gang member's observation, the effort to own streets.
If you take a life, do you own it?
It's what every killer or someone abetting murder and self-interest over public good could say.
"We never owned shit. But we killed each other to keep calling it ours anyway." (-p.82, in novel Haiku, by Andrew Vachss)
Our primal ignorance concerns the belief we own anything. Signed legal papers and 'no trespassing' signs are held as some kind of proof we are the owners of this or that, car or house, stocks or weapons.
In fact, there's only one place to look to ascertain what we own. That place is the casket carrying our body or the urn with our ashes. Everything we actually own is contained in those places.
So, why do we pretend? Why do we take someone's life as though we owned it? Why do we strain to acquire objects and possessions to store near us or in our name?
Everything, some say, is here for our use, not ownership.
Takers refute this. They take for their own whatever they can.
Can we see another way?
Can we see at all?
Dear Board Members,
Here are the names, physical and email addresses, of your fellow board members.
We are delighted that each of you have agreed to so serve.
Our goal is to have times to connect, via electronic means or in person, with one another to reflect on things that pertain to meetingbrook. When I review the email sent to you asking your interest in joining the board, I realize that I like the words used:
"In true meetingbrook style, involvement in meetingbrook, its programs and philosophy, if only in thought, meditation, and prayer is the sole/soul service of a board member."
We came to this realization over 25 years ago when we wrote about meetingbrook:
Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage intends to serve a loosely knit association of individuals who travel the meditative & contemplative road from dependence to independence to interdependence in their spiritual lives. Providing a forum and place for solitaries, hermits, seekers & contemplatives, the hermitage invites anyone interested in silence, simplicity, stillness, or times of solitude to deepen their spiritual life in their own locations, and, by day visits, writing, overnight stays, individual and group sitting, listening & learning -- to experience Meetingbrook.
We ask your help in creating this forum and place. The Hermitage is to be a resource for practitioners who walk the pilgrimage between two worlds and are open to awakening spirit and truth in root tradition and new creation.
We look toward to two expressions for the Hermitage, water based & land based, barn & boat. With the capacity for visiting at Camden Harbor, sailing Penobscot Bay and hiking the trails of Ragged and Bald mountains, the Hermitage will provide an opportunity to step apart and enter nature and one's soul. Silence, prayer, or reflective conversation would prevail in both places emphasizing eco-spirituality, personal meditation, retreat, or silent mindfulness. Both resources are for solitude, silence, & sanctuary.
Meetingbrook Hermitage, barn and boat, serves as a community resource for individuals to deepen their current spiritual life & explore anew the direction of their spiritual journey. We will depend on free-will donations by those participating, and the generosity of other benefactors. Our interest is to assist and encourage the availability of meditative and contemplative opportunities.
As lay contemplatives interested in monastic spirituality East/West, we are rooted in catholic contemplative tradition & conjoin Judeo-Christian prayer and Buddhist Zen meditation. We continue the study, practice, and engaged service flowing from them.
Think of us. Come visit. Let us hold each other in heart, thought, & prayer! In Peace,
The goal, then and now, is for each individual to engage in their own practice, to reflect on their heart’s longing, and to reside in their mind’s quiet silence for their own good and the good of all — sole and soul.
While we might use the metaphors of monastery, hermitage, zendo, or chapel — we actually see meetingbrook as anyone, in their own homes, being true to their own inner truth, and being mindful of the lives of others — with compassion, wisdom, and loving attention.
As of this writing, the 35’ Island Packet, Sandokai Edelweiss, will be launched 2June. Its primary focus, now in its second season, is to provide Healing Respite Sails for individuals involved: with cancer care, patients & caregivers, families, those involved with hospice, and other health related issues. (All others, as well, are invited to sail with Saskia.)
The yurt, chapel/zendo, and Thomas Merton bookshed/retreat are in good shape and always available. (The barn, on the other hand, keeps asking us to help it.)
Thank you for this participation!
Pax et Bonum
(Peace, and to all, good!)
Saskia and Bill
1. “When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” --Arthur Conan Doyle
2. The fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, made this point to his sidekick Dr. Watson in the movie Dressed to Kill. He said, “The truth is only arrived at by the painstaking process of eliminating the untrue.” --- from, Clear-Sighted Statistics: Module Thirteen: Introduction to Null Hypothesis Signifificance Testing (NHST), 2020, Edward Volchok, CUNY Queensborough Community College
Of course, as is said,
loss, the stark longing, for truth . . .
I’d like, I think, to think so.
Non vos relínquam órphanos:
I will not leave you orphans,
I go away,
et vénio ad vos,
and come again unto you,
and your heart
Yes, I’m glad.
I’d much like to think so, I think.