Saturday, November 24, 2018

present, above time







These roses under my window make no
reference to former roses or to better ones;
they are for what they are;
they exist with God to-day.

There is no time to them.
There is simply the rose; it is perfect in
every moment of its existence.

Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts;
in the full-blown flower, there is no more;
in the leafless root, there is no less.

Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature,
in all moments alike.
There is no time to it.

But man postpones or remembers;
he does not live in the present, but with
reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of
the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe
to foresee the future.

He cannot be happy and strong until he too
lives with nature in the present, above time.


~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
 from Self-Reliance, an 1841 essay


Thursday, November 22, 2018

witness







You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their wealth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and and instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life -- while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.



~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Prophet





Wednesday, November 21, 2018

unawakened gifts


Related image


Those who are willing to stand out and take the risk of following their gifts place a mirror to our unawakened gifts. To know they are there, day in day out, at the frontiers of their own limitations and vision, probing further into new possibility, enduring at lonely thresholds in the hope of discovery, to know they are willing to risk everything is both disturbing and comforting.

In a small town near us there was a lovely writer and musician who lived a rather bohemian life; he was given sometimes to the drink but he had a beautiful, awakened mind.  He was a kind of 'undercover mystic' and many people, especially young people, came to talk to him when they felt their minds troubling them... I once asked him how he had managed to live alone on that edge.  He said: 'I was a very young man when I first felt the burn of that old mystical flame within me. I realized immediately what an adventure and danger it would be and that there was no going back. On that day I made a bargain with myself, the bargain was; no matter what came I would always remain best friends with myself.  I am old now but I never broke that bargain.'



~ John O'Donohue
from The Invisible Embrace, Beauty



Who would have thought my shriveled heart
Could have recovered greenness?

~ George Herbert
 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

doubts and loves







From the place where we are right 
Flowers will never grow 
In the spring. 

The place where we are right 
Is hard and trampled 
Like a yard. 

But doubts and loves 
Dig up the world 
Like a mole, a plow. 

And a whisper will be heard in the place 
Where the ruined 
House once stood. 







~ Yehudi Amichai

(from: The Selected Poetry of Yehudi Amichai
translation by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell)
photo by Eliot Porter.



Sunday, November 18, 2018

wherever we taste


.

A wife loves her husband not for his own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in him.

The husband loves his wife not for her own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in her.

Children are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Everything is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

This Self has to be realized.
Hear about this Self.

As a lump of salt thrown in water dissolves 
and cannot be taken out again,
 though wherever we taste, the water it is salty,
 even so, beloved,
 the separate self dissolves in the sea of pure consciousness,
 infinite and immortal. 

 Separateness arises from identifying the Self with the body,
 which is made up of the elements;
 when this physical identification dissolves,
 there can be no more separate self.



~ from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
.

music and survival






~ Alice Herz-Sommer


At age 110, Alice Herz-Sommer the world’s oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor, retains an unshakeable faith in the beauty of life and humanity, not unlike an awestruck child. She maintains that even the bad is beautiful, for it is part of life. To this day, Alice lives alone in her North London home, and practices the piano each day for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. People from everywhere come to listen outside of her building. She is the ‘lady in number six’. To claim that music is and has always been her salvation would be an understatement, in Alice’s own words:


“I felt that this is the only thing which helps me to have hope… a sort of religion, actually.
Music is God."

"I knew that even in this very difficult situation, there are beautiful moments... even the bad is beautiful."


 [ also known as Alice Sommer (26 November 1903 – 23 February 2014), was a Prague-born Jewish pianist, music teacher, and supercentenarian who survived Theresienstadt concentration camp. She lived for 40 years in Israel, before migrating to London in 1986, where she resided until her death, and at the age of 110 was the world's oldest known Holocaust survivor until Yisrael Kristal was recognized as such. Kristal was also a Holocaust survivor, and was born two months before Herz-Sommer ]

~ from Wikipedia





perfect accord




Some people who play solos quite well simply are no good at accompanying.  
It takes a special something to know when to keep in the background 
and when to play out to give the soloist support and when, 
occasionally, the piano has a real solo passage or phrase ... 

The thing is to think of the piece as a whole, 
not as a violin part with an accompanying piano part, 
but as one piece of music.  
You feel as if you were playing the violin part yourself, 
you are in such perfect accord with the violinist.




~ Anna Hubbard
in this letter to Mia Cunningham, Anna describes her experience of playing with Harlan.  
It might as easily describe the art of  living graciously with others.

from "Anna Hubbard - Out of the Shadows"
by Mia Cunningham

Anna and Mia,1956
(Mia left)



lightly my darling








It’s dark because you are trying too hard. 
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. 
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. 
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. 

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. 
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. 
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. 
No rhetoric, no tremolos, 
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. 
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. 
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. 

So throw away your baggage and go forward. 
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, 
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. 
That’s why you must walk so lightly. 
Lightly my darling, 
on tiptoes and no luggage, 
not even a sponge bag, 
completely unencumbered.




~ Aldous Huxley
from Island





between seeing and speaking








Somewhere between seeing and speaking, somewhere
Between our soiled and greasy currency of words
And the first star, the great moths fluttering
About the ghosts of flowers,
Lies the clear place where I, no longer I,
Nevertheless remember
Love’s nightlong wisdom of the other shore…

 I no longer I,
In this clear place between my thought and silence
See all I had and lost, anguish and joys,
Glowing like gentians in the Alpine grass,
Blue, unpossessed and open.







~ Aldous Huxley
from Island









Friday, November 16, 2018

be still and know








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

 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

glide








The soul, then, being thus inwardly recollected in
God or before God, now and then becomes so
sweetly attentive to the goodness of her well-beloved,
that her attention seems not to her to be attention, so
purely and delicately is it exercised; as it happens
to certain rivers, which glide so calmly and smoothly that
beholders and such as float upon them, seem neither to 
see not feel any motion, because the waters are not
seen to ripple or flow at all.



~ Saint Francis de Sales
from An Introduction to the Devout Life 

silence and meditation






One day some people came to a solitary monk  . 

They asked him:
"What is the meaning of silence and meditation? "

The monk was just the scooping of water 
from a deep well. 
He said to his visitors: 

"Look into the well. What do you see?" 

The people looked into the deep well and responded: 
"We see nothing!"

The monk put down his bucket. 
After a short while, he urged the people once more: 
"Look into the well! 
What do you see now? " 

The people looked down again: 
"Now we see ourselves!" 

"You could not see anything," replied the monk, 
"Because the water was restless as your life. 
But now it's quiet. 
This is what the silence gives us : one sees himself "


Then the monk told the people to wait a while. 
Finally, he asked them: 
"And now look again into the well. 
What do you see? " 

The man looked down.
"Now we see the stones on the bottom of the well." 

The monk said: 
"This is the experience of silence and meditation. 

If you wait long enough, you can see the reason of all things. "




~ author unknown






Sunday, November 11, 2018

baggage


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When we are hyper-vigilant, we fear everything and everything offends us.  We don't dare to move forward, as if we could reach the ultimate dwelling by leaving it to others to make the journey for us. Since that is impossible, why don't we exert ourselves, my friends, for love of our Beloved? Let's abandon our reason and fear into his hands. Forget about the weakness in our nature that we worry about so much. Let our families look after the safekeeping of our physical form; that's their concern. All we should focus on is getting to see this Beloved of ours as soon as possible.

Even if there is not much comfort on this path, we would be making a big mistake to fret about our health. Anxiety over our health does not improve it one bit; this I know.... The journey I'm talking about requires great humility... Unless we abandon ourselves, this state is arduous and burdensome. 
 We would be trudging under the load of our egos, like mud clinging to our boots and dragging us down.  Those who reach the ultimate dwelling bear no such baggage.




~ St. Teresa of Avila
from The Interior Castle
translation by Mirabai Starr
 art by Stephen Shortridge

Saturday, November 10, 2018

deepening



Image result for agitation art



He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world 
without deepening his own self-understanding, 
freedom and integrity and capacity to love, 
will not have anything to give others. 

He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion 
of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centeredness, 
his delusions about the ends and means, 
his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas.


- Thomas Merton
from Contemplation in a World of Action
art by  Art Strayer

with thanks to louie, louie 



Friday, November 9, 2018

inner wildness






Our bodies are wild. The involuntary quick turn of the head at a shout, 
the vertigo at looking off a precipice, the heart-in-the-throat 
in a moment of danger, the catch of the breath, the quiet moments 
relaxing, staring, reflecting – all universal responses of this mammal body… 

The body does not require the intercession of some conscious intellect 
to make it breathe, to keep the heart beating. It is to a great extent self-regulating,
 it is a life of its own. The world is our consciousness, and it surrounds us.
 There are more things in the mind, in the imagination, 
than ‘you’ can keep track of – thoughts, memories, images,
 angers, delights, rise unbidden. The depths of the mind, the unconscious, 
are our inner wilderness areas, and that is where a bobcat is right now. 

I do not mean personal bobcats in personal psyches, but the bobcat that roams
 from dream to dream. The conscious agenda-planning ego occupies
 a very tiny territory, a little cubicle somewhere near the gate, keeping track
 of some of what goes in and out, and the rest takes care of itself. 
The body is, so to speak, in the mind. They are both wild.




~ Gary Snyder
from The Practice of the Wild


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

kindness







 




I used to be libertarian. I used to be atheist. I used to want America to be more atheist libertarian.
All my voting, preaching, discussing and complaining reflected those desires. I'm still libertarian and atheist, and now I'm vegan to boot, but none of that matters any more. I no longer care.
All I want out of America now is kindness. That's all. The past few years have filled too many of our friends and neighbors with hate, and it breaks my heart. Some people started acting hateful, crazy and nasty so that they could win, and then people who disagreed with them acted the same way. They disagree in content but agree wholeheartedly in tone. 

So many of us now agree with the message of hate, and play "ideology" as team sports. The message doesn't matter when the medium is hate. My friends who work on TV, people I love personally, are using a tone and a meanness in their jobs that they never used before. Is hate where the money is? I don't know if fighting fire with fire actually works, but I do know that fighting hate with hate never works. 

It makes me cry. I've read about family members not invited to Thanksgiving because of political disagreements! The Clash sang "anger can be power" and I believed it. Maybe I still believe it, but maybe I don't want power any more. Can't we replace the word "evil" with the word "wrong?" Everyone is wrong sometimes and nobody is evil ever. The America I want is kind to people who are wrong. 

I'm like a dog, I don't hear words anymore, I just hear tone. Anyone whose tone is kind will get my complete support. Libertarian, Democrat, Republican, Socialist, Green . . . anything else you got. I've always been left out of team sports. I don't want to win enough. I'm not part of a team, I'm part of humanity. I want kindness. There's no other team for me. Let's love each other, and then discuss how to run our country together. 


~ Penn Jillette, of Penn & Teller
 with thanks to fivebranchtree