Tuesday, February 28, 2017
animated by a flow of aliveness
that resists crystallizing into a system of thought or belief -
although it does not hesitate to enjoy
thought and belief for the delight or communion they may reveal.
open, free-wheeling, inclusive
in view and practice, non-definitive, experimental, non-sectarian,
warm-hearted, and non-attached.
embraces the full range of human experience
while settling nowhere,
capable of a subtle openness and
... equally open to spontaneous delight and sensual extravagance. ...
grateful for beauty in all its forms of disclosure,
recognizing happiness and grief and all
emotions in between as free offerings of the Unnameable into Itself.
it negates conclusion-making while affirming the indefinable.
A kind of love-mysticism, it loves
the edginess and poignancy of human life
while seeing through its apparency to the stillness within.
Present without agenda, kind without being moralistic,
it reaches across the seeming divisions between
people and societies with the confidence of the light
that is common to us all.
~ Pir Elias Amidon
excerpts from Free Medicine
Friday, February 24, 2017
What is asked of one is not what is asked of another.
A sweater takes on the shape of its wearer,
a coffee cup sits to the left or the right of the workspace,
making its pale Saturn rings of now and before.
Lucky the one who rises to sit at a table,
day after day spilling coffee sweet with sugar, whitened with milk.
Lucky the one who writes in a book of spiral-bound mornings
a future in ink, who writes hand unshaking, warmed by thick wool.
Lucky still, the one who writes later, shaking. Acrobatic at last, the
elastic as breath that enters what shape it is asked to.
Patient the table; unjudging, the ample, refillable cup.
Irrefusable, the shape the sweater is given,
stretched in the shoulders, sleeves lengthened by unmetaphysical
~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come, Thief
Monday, February 13, 2017
The story goes that in certain Native American tribes, when a person became psychologically unstable, she or he was placed in the middle of a circle of tribal members – men and women, children and old people – and required to spin around and around until collapsing to the ground. The tribal member toward whom her body faced now became her special charge. She was obligated to care for that person, see to their needs, and be their companion and friend. The understanding was that caring for someone else is what stirs personal healing.
When we ache from the pain of loss or rejection, the pain of depression or loneliness, the pain of feeling unloved, from bodily pain or even the pain of impending death, the ache can feel agonizingly private to us. We feel alone in our pain: it encloses us in an isolation that feels terribly unfair. How is it possible then to offer care for others?
When Robert Kennedy lay dying from an assassin’s bullet, his blood spreading across a kitchen floor, he opened his eyes and asked, “Is everyone all right?” I like to believe that question eased his homecoming. At least it taught me this counter-intuitive calculus: when you are in need, give.
Giving in this way requires a shift in our hearts. In moving from self-concern to other-concern, we enter a deeper belonging.
The Native American ritual is charged by the healing power of belonging, not altruism, for altruistic behavior benefits another at one’s own expense. The circle of tribal members embraces the wounded person, who returns that embrace. Both are healed.
So to say “when you are in need, give,” is not an injunction to be virtuous or to sacrifice your need in favor of another’s. It is to step from the loneliness of separation into the seamlessness of Being where nothing and no one has ever been separate from anything else. Our absolute belonging is not an idea, nor do we need to make it happen, nor make ourselves worthy of it. It’s already and always so.
“Stepping into the seamlessness of Being” doesn’t require us to travel any distance – it may be more accurate to say it steps into us when we allow it to. A generous heart is first of all a receptive heart.
If I feel the need to be seen and loved for what I am, and if I sit in that need waiting for someone to respond with what I need, I might sit for a long time in disappointment. But if I stop waiting and simply give, as best I can, what I’ve been waiting for, my world turns inside out. The connection I longed for is revealed – maybe not in the way I wanted or expected, but in a more fundamental sense of belonging. I am now able to receive.
The way this happens is a kind of magic that is always available to us. The distressed woman falls to the ground. When she looks up she sees in front of her an old toothless grandmother. She takes her hand. What is it that passes between their hands?
~ Pir Elias Amidon, from Free Medicine
Friday, February 10, 2017
Every day the body works in the fields of the world
Mending a stone wall
Or swinging a sickle through the tall grass -
The grass of civics, the grass of money -
And every night the body curls around itself
And listens for the soft bells of sleep.
But the heart is restless and rises
From the body in the middle of the night,
Leaves the trapezoidal bedroom
With its thick, pictureless walls
To sit by herself at the kitchen table
And heat some milk in a pan.
And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe
And goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,
And opens a book on engineering.
Even the conscience awakens
And roams from room to room in the dark,
Darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.
And the soul is up on the roof
In her nightdress, straddling the ridge,
Singing a song about the wildness of the sea
Until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.
Then, they all will return to the sleeping body
The way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,
Resuming their daily colloquy,
Talking to each other or themselves
Even through the heat of the long afternoons.
Which is why the body - the house of voices -
Sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen
To stare into the distance,
To listen to all its names being called
Before bending again to its labor.
~ Billy Collins
art by Van Gogh
with thanks to whiskey river
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
In these times when anger
Is turned into anxiety
And someone has stolen
The horizons and mountains,
Our small emperors on parade
Never expect our indifference
To disturb their nakedness.
They keep their heads down
And their eyes gleam with reflection
From aluminum economic ground,
The media wraps everything
In a cellophane of sound,
And the ghost surface of the virtual
Overlays the breathing earth.
The industry of distraction
Makes us forget
That we live in a universe.
We have become converts
To the religion of stress
And its deity of progress;
That we may have courage
To turn aside from it all
And come to kneel down before the poor,
To discover what we must do,
How to turn anxiety
Back into anger,
How to find our way home.
~ John O'Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us
photo by Robert Frank
photo by Robert Frank
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Imagine you are walking alone at night on a country road. No people or cars or houses around, just enough starlight to see your way, the only sound the sound of your shoes on the road and the swish of your clothes as you walk. You feel the stillness inside of things come close. You stop. Now there are no sounds, except the almost-never-heard hush of things being.
You sense the stillness on all sides and an identical stillness within you. It makes you uneasy, as if you are about to be extinguished. You try to think, to establish yourself against the stillness, but the voice of your thoughts sounds thin, metallic. You feel an irrepressible need to be distracted, to change the stillness and its overwhelming of you. You walk home thinking about plans for tomorrow.
But in the quiet of your room you realize what happened: you got scared. You got scared of opening into the stillness, of allowing it to be. It was a close call. You see how throughout your life you have invited one distraction after another to prevent just this from happening. Now you feel disappointed in yourself. So instead of turning on your computer or reading a book or getting something to eat, you sit down and invite the stillness back.
A phrase you once heard comes to you, from Psalm 46: "Be still, and know." Be still. Be still.
You arrange your body as you have learned to do. You sit in a comfortable, alert position, with your back vertical so you don't slump or drift off. You let your body be motionless, quiet. The motionlessness of your body is a helpful friend; you know it is temporary, and in fact it is not really motionless - little shifts and sensations keep happening - but the relative stillness of your body reduces your identification with it, with the sense you are your body's ambitions and memories and likes and dislikes.
Learning to sit still, to settle like this, is called by Tibetan lamas "the first motionlessness." A quiet body at ease relaxes the persistence of thoughts. Once the first motionlessness has been learned, they say, then it doesn't matter if the body is motionless or moving, for the the ground of stillness is always available. But for now you need this helpful friend, and you sit still.
Now you invite what the lamas call "the second motionlessness." This is the still, empty openness "behind" each of your senses, the openness in which your senses arise. You relax into that openness. To say it is not moving points to its nature, but that's not entirely accurate. It is not the opposite of motion, or of the visible, or of sound. This motionlessness is not definable - it is not a sensation. Nevertheless it has an almost kinesthetic effect on you, as if it is vanishing you, as if the existing one you thought you were, the receiver, the photographic plate that records your experience, this"one," becomes transparent. You begin to feel the same threat of vanishing you felt on the road, but now you relax and let it be.
"The third motionlessness" comes now, unbidden. It is the stillness of presence itself - the stillness of a clearness that is always here, behind and within everything. It is what allows everything to show up. It is empty too not made out of anything, yet it is awesome and radiant in its presence. It is without being an it.
You remember now how the phrase from Psalm 46 continues: "Be still, and know I am God."
"God" - this old, strange word that sounds like a judge and yet still resonates beyond that - could it mean - could it have first meant - this empty Presence without form, appearing as all form? You realize you are trying to figure it out and you stop. Be still, and know I am God. The knowing is not thinking. It is presence being present to presence.
You find yourself wavering here - one moment at ease in the clarity, and in the next thinking about it. You hear the words again: Be still. Do nothing. Let be. Don't fill anything in. No need to figure anything out. Relax.
A sense of peacefulness opens in you, vast and without dimension. This what Sufis call sakina - vast, peaceful tranquility without dimension - and suddenly you are smiling, your eyes are filling with tears - a joy - could it be called that? - a joyousness like praise and thankfulness together, love pouring forth from nowhere, the whole show showing up - mountain, sky, stars, bodies - from nothing, from stillness.
In remembering the Real, all hearts find joyous peace.
- Qur'an 13:28
~ Pir Elias Amidon
from Free Medicine
Friday, February 3, 2017
~ Anne Gastinel & Pablo Marques
At least a flash of sanity: the momentary realization that this is no need to come to certain conclusions about persons, events, conflicts, trends, even trends toward evil and disaster, as if from day to day and even from moment to moment I had to know and declare (at least to myself): This is so and so, this is good, this is bad; we are heading for a “new era” or we are heading for destruction. What do such judgments mean? Little or nothing. Things are as they are, in an immense whole of which I am a part, and which I cannot pretend to grasp. To say I grasp it is immediately to put myself in a false position, as if I were “outside” it. Whereas to be in it is to seek truth in my own life and action, by moving where movement is possible and keeping still when movement is unnecessary, realizing that things will continue to define themselves ... - and will be more clear to me if I am silent and attentive,... rather than constantly formulating statements in this age which is smothered in language, in meaningless and inconclusive debate, and in which, in the last analysis, nobody listens to anything except what agrees with his own prejudices.
~ Thomas Merton
from Learning to Love
sketch by the author
with thanks to louie,louie