Wednesday, August 28, 2019

our group identities







When you seek to affirm your unity by denying that you have anything to do with anyone else, by negating everyone else in the universe until you come down to you: what is there left to affirm? 

 The true way is just the opposite: the more I am able to affirm others, to say “yes” to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says “yes” to everyone.

 I will be a better Catholic, not if I can refute every shade of Protestantism, but if I can affirm the truth in it and still go further. So, too, with the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, etc. . If I affirm myself as a Catholic merely by denying all that is Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Buddhist, etc., in the end I will find that there is not much left for me to affirm as a Catholic: and certainly no breath of the Spirit with which to affirm it.





~ Thomas Merton
from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander


somehow




I find that somehow, by shifting the focus of attention, 
I become the very thing I look at, 
and experience the kind of consciousness it has; 

I become the inner witness of the thing. 
I call this capacity of entering other focal points of consciousness,

love; 

you may give it any name you like. 

Love says "I am everything". 
Wisdom says "I am nothing". 
Between the two, my life flows. 

Since at any point of time and space 
I can be both the subject and the object of experience, 
I express it by saying that 
I am both, and neither, and beyond both.



~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

the secret





.
Since I am
Somebody's dream, 
I have a good life.

Sometimes I go away in my sailboat on a cloud
and take a quiet little trip.

I have a secret
which I have learned how to read inside myself;
if I told it to you, 
it would make you laugh.

My heart is naked
and no one can put clothes on it,
and nothing can be put on
that will not immediately fall off.

My secret is ignorant,
it doesn't sing songs,
no lie,
it has nothing to tell you.

My two eyes 
are maps of the planet -
I see everything
and nothing upsets me.

Just now
I was in China
and saw there a great piece of happiness
that belonged to one man.

And I have been to the center of the earth,
where there is no suffering.

If on your loneliest nights,
I visit other planets
and the most secret stars of all,

besides being no one,
know that I am you
and everybody.

But if I go away
without giving you a name to remember me with,
haw will I find
the right dream to return to?

You won't have to mark down
on your calendar that I am coming back;
don't bother to write me into your notebooks.
I will be around
when you aren't thinking about me,

without hair or a neck,
without a nose and cheeks
no reputation -
there won't be anything.

I am a bird
which God made.



~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton





song: if you seek...






If you seek a heavenly light
I, Solitude, am your professor!

I go before you into emptiness,
Raise strange suns for your new mornings,
Opening the windows 
Of your innermost apartment.

When I, loneliness, give my special signal
Follow my silence, follow where I beckon!
Fear not, little beast, little spirit
(Thou word and animal)
I, Solitude, am angel
And have prayed in your name.

Look at the empty, wealthy night
The pilgrim moon!
I am the appointed hour,
The "now" that cuts
Time like a blade.

I am the unexpected flash
Beyond "yes,"  beyond "no,"
The forerunner of the Word of God.

Follow my ways and I will lead you 
To golden-haired suns,
Logos and music, blameless joys,
Innocent of questions
And beyond answers:

For I, Solitude, am thine own self:
I, Nothingness, am thy All.
I, Silence, am thy Amen!




~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton
art by Edward Hopper




Sunday, August 25, 2019

one breath





When my mother was dying
We made a agreement that when she passed
I would have to find her in new ways

She said,

You can find me in the wind
Or in the scent of a rose..

You will find me in the decisions you make…

Help each other

We are all children of the Gods
And we all share one language
And we all share one breath





~ Lisa Kristine






when the body and mind grow weak






When the body and mind grow weak, 
the Self gathers in all the powers of life and descends with them into the heart.
  As prana leaves the eye, it ceases to see.
 "He is becoming one," say the wise;  "he does not see. 
 He is becoming one; he no longer hears. 
 He is becoming one; he no longer speaks, or tastes, or smells, or thinks, or knows." 
 By the light of the heart the Self leaves the body by one of its gates;
 and when he leaves, prana follows, and with it all the vital powers of the body.
  He who is dying merges in consciousness,
 and thus consciousness accompanies him when he departs,
 along with the impressions of all that he has done,
 experienced, and known.





~ from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
art by van gogh




the dying now to the now


.





When effort is needed, effort will appear. 
When effortlessness becomes essential, it will assert itself. 
You need not push life about. 
Just flow with it and give yourself completely to the task of the present moment, 
which is the dying now to the now. For living is dying. 
Without death life cannot be.




~ Nisargadatta Maharaj


Saturday, August 24, 2019

in the flow






The man of earth abides in the flow.
The ground moves beneath him, and he knows
it moves.  His house is his vessel, afloat
only for a while.  He moves, willing,
through a thousand phases of the sun,
changing as the day changes, and the year.
His mind is like the dirt, lightened
by bloom, weighted by rain.



The fragment of the earth
that is now me is only on its way 
through me.  It is on its way 
from having been a tree,
a school of fish, a terrapin,
a flock of birds.  It will pass
through all those forms again.




~ Wendell Berry
from Farming Poems



the eighth elegy







With all its eyes the natural world looks out
into the Open.  Only our eyes are turned
backward, and surround plant, animal, child
like traps, as they emerge into their freedom.
We know what is really out there only from 
the animal's gaze;  for we take the very young
child and force it around, so that it sees
objects - not the Open, which is so
deep in animals' faces.  Free from death.
We, only, can see death; the free animal
has its decline in back of it, forever,
and God in front, and when it moves, it moves
already in eternity, like a fountain.

Never, not for a single day, do we have
before us that pure space into which flowers
endlessly open.  Always there is World
and never Nowhere without the No: that pure
unseparated element which one breathes
without desire and endlessly knows.  A child
may wander there for hours, through the timeless
stillness, may get lost in it and be 
shaken back.  Or someone dies and is it.
For, nearing death, one doesn't see death; but stares
beyond, perhaps with an animal's vast gaze.
Lovers, if the beloved were not there
blocking the view, are close to it, and marvel...
As if by some mistake, it opens for them
behind each other... But neither can move past
the other, and it changes back to World.
Forever turned toward objects, we see in them
the mere reflection of the realm of freedom,
which we have dimmed.  Or when some animal
mutely, serenely, looks us through and through.
That is what fate means: to be opposite,
to be opposite and nothing else, forever.

If the animal moving toward us so securely
in a different direction had our kind of 
consciousness -, it would wrench us around and drag us
along its path.  But it feels its life as boundless,
unfathomable, and without regard
to its own condition: pure, like its outward gaze.
And where we see the future, it sees all time
and itself within all time, forever healed.

Yet in the alert, warm animal there lies
the pain and burden of an enormous sadness.
For it too feels the presence of what often 
overwhelms us: a memory, as if 
the element we keep pressing toward was once
more intimate, more true, and our communion
infinitely tender.  Here all is distance;
there it was breath.  After that first home,
the second seems ambiguous and drafty.

Oh bliss of the tiny creature which remains
forever inside the womb that was its shelter;
joy of the gnat which, still within, leaps up
even at its marriage: for everything is womb.
And look at the half-assurance of the bird,
which knows both inner and outer, from its source,
as if it were the soul of an Etruscan,
flown out of a dead man received inside a space,
but with his reclining image as the lid.
And how bewildered is any womb-born creature
that has to fly.  As if terrified and fleeing
from itself, it zigzags through the air, the way 
a crack runs through a teacup.  So the bat
quivers across the porcelain of evening.

And we: spectators, always, everywhere,
turned toward the world of objects, never outward.
It fills us.  We arrange it.  It breaks down.
We rearrange it, then break down ourselves.
Who has twisted us around like this , so that 
no matter what we do, we are in the posture
of someone going away?  Just as, upon
the farthest hill, which shows him his whole valley
one last time, he turns, stops, lingers -,
so we live here, forever taking leave.



~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from Duino Elegies
photo by shreve stockton



to meet it







Do you know what it means to come into contact with death,
 to die without argument? Because death, when it comes, 
does not argue with you. To meet it, you have to die every day to everything: 
to your agony, to your loneliness, to the relationship you cling to; 
you have to die to your thought, to die to your habit, 
to die to your wife so that you can look at your wife anew; 
you have to die to your society so that you, as a human being, are new, 
fresh, young, and you can look at it. But you cannot meet death
 if you don't die every day. It is only when you die that there is love. 
A mind that is frightened has no love, it has habits, it has sympathy, 
it can force itself to be kind and superficially considerate.
 But fear breeds sorrow, and sorrow is time as thought.

So to end sorrow is to come into contact with death while living,
 by dying to your name, to your house, to your property, to your cause, 
so that you are fresh, young, clear, and you can see things as they are without any distortion.
 That is what is going to take place when you die.
 But we have a limited death to the physical. We know very well logically, 
sanely, that the organism is going to come to an end. So we invent a life 
which we have lived of daily agony, daily insensitivity, the increase of problems,
 and its stupidity; that life we want to carry over, which we call the "soul,"
 which we say is the most sacred thing, a part of the divine, 
but it is still part of your thoughtand therefore it has nothing to do with divinity.
 It is your life!

So one has to live every day dying, 
dying because you are then in contact with life.




~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Book of Life
photo by Kathleen Connally




a very sacred thing







The natural way of being after death of a loved one is suffering at first,
 then there is a deepening. In that deepening, you go to a place
 where there is no death. And the fact that you felt that means you went deep enough,
 to the place where there is no death. Conditioned as your mind is by society, 
the contemporary world that you live in, which knows nothing about that dimension
 – your mind then tells you that there is something wrong with this. 
Your mind says “I should not be feeling peace, 
that is not what one feels in a situation like this.”
But that’s a conditioned thought by the culture that you live in. 
So instead we can recognize when this happens, when that thought comes 
– recognize it as a conditioned thought that is not true.

It doesn't mean that the waves of sadness don’t come back from time to time. 
But in between the waves of sadness, you sense there is peace. 
As you sense that peace, you sense the essence of your children as well 
– the timeless essence. So death is a very sacred thing 
– not just a dreadful thing. When you react to the loss of form,
 that’s dreadful.

When you go deep enough to the formless, the dreadful is no longer dreadful,
 it’s sacred. Then you will experience the two levels, 
when somebody dies who is close to you. Yes it’s dreadful on the level of form.
 It’s sacred on the deeper level. Death can enable you to find that dimension in yourself.
 You’re helping countless other humans if you find that dimension in yourself 
– the sacred dimension of life. Death can help you find the sacred dimension of life 
– where life is indestructible.

Surrender can open that door for you. Complete acceptance of it. 
So honor that sacred dimension and realize that what your mind is saying, 
that it isn't right, is just a form of conditioning 
– it isn’t the truth. It is supremely right.

This is always the window into the formless. As you accept it, surrender.
 Because the form is gone, your mind becomes still when you surrender to death.
 It’s not through explanations that you accept death. You can have explanations, 
mental explanations that say, well, he or she will move on or reincarnate, 
or go to some place of rest. That can be comforting, but you can go
 to a deeper place than that, where you don’t need explanations 
– a state of immediate realization of the sacredness of death, 
because what opens up when the form dissolves is life beyond form.
 That is the only thing that is sacred. 
That is the sacred dimension.

You can get tiny glimpses of that when you lose something, 
and you completely accept that it’s gone. 
This is a tiny glimpse of death and it can give you a tiny realization
 – maybe even more than tiny, if you’re ready.




~ Eckhart Tolle




Thursday, August 22, 2019

poetry and the mind of concentration






.

Every good poem begins in language awake to its own connections—language that hears itself and what is around it, sees itself and what is around it, looks back at those who look into its gaze and knows more perhaps even than we do about who are, what we are. It begins, that is, in the mind and body of concentration. 

By concentration, I mean a particular state of awareness: penetrating, unified, and focused, yet also permeable and open. This quality of consciousness, though not easily put into words, is instantly recognizable. Aldous Huxley described it as the moment the doors or perception open; James Joyce called in epiphany. The experience of concentration may be quietly physical—a simple, unexpected sense of deep accord between yourself and everything. It may come as the harvest of long looking and leave us, as it did Wordsworth, a mind thought "too deep for tears." Within action, it is felt as a grace state: time slows and extends, and a person's every movement and decision seem to partake of perfection. Concentration can also be place into things—it radiates undimmed from Vermeer's paintings, form the small marble figure of a lyre-player from ancient Greece, from a Chinese three-footed bowl—and into musical notes, words, ideas. In the whole-heartedness of concentration, world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done. 

A request for concentration isn't always answered, but people engaged in many disciplines have found ways to invite it in. A ninth-century Zen monk, Zuigan, could be heard talking to himself rather sternly each morning: "Master Zuigan!" he would call out. "Yes?" “Are you here?" “Yes!" Violinists practicing scales and dancers repeating the same movements over decades are not simply warming up or mechanically training their muscles. They are learning how to attend unswervingly, moment by moment, to themselves and their art; learning to come into steady presence, free from the distractions of interest and boredom. 

Writers, too, must find a path into concentration. Some keep a fixed time of day for writing, or engage in small rituals of preparation and invitation. One may lay out exactly six freshly sharpened pencils, another may darken the room, a third may develop as add a routine as Flaubert, who began each workday by sniffing a drawer of aging apples. Immersion in art itself can be the place of entry, as Adam Zagajewski points out in "A River": "Poems from poems, songs / from songs, paintings from paintings." Yet however it is brought into being, true concentration appears—paradoxically—at the moment willed effort drops away. It is then that a person enters what scientist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has described as "flow" and Zen calls "effortless effort." At such moments, there may be some strong emotion present—a feeling of joy, or even grief—but as often, in deep concentration, the self disappears. We seem to fall utterly into the object of our attention, or else vanish into attentiveness itself. 

This may explain why the creative is so often described as impersonal and beyond self, as if inspiration were literally what its etymology implies, something "breathed in." We refer, however metaphorically, to the Muse, and speak of profound artistic discovery as revelation. And however much we may come to believe that "the real" is subjective and constructed, we still feel art is a path not just to beauty, but to truth: if "truth" is a chosen narrative, then new stories, new aesthetics, are also new truths.




~ Jane Hirshfield
from Nine Gates, Entering the Mind of Poetry






clearance in the thicket of thought






In prayer, we come nearest to making a real clearance in the thicket of thought.  
Prayer takes thought to a place of stillness.
 Prayer slows the flow of the mind until we can begin to see with a new tranquility. 
 In this kind of thought, we become conscious of our divine belonging.
  We begin to sense the serenity of this clearing.

  We learn that regardless of the fragmentation and turbulence 
in so many regions of our lives, there is a place in the soul 
where the voices and prodding of the world never reach.

  It is almost like the image of the tree.  The branches can sway and quiver in the wind,
 the center of the tree, there pertains the stillness of its anchorage. 
 In prayer, thought returns to its origin in the infinite.  
Attuned to its origin, thought reaches below its own netting. 

 In this way prayer liberates thought from the small rooms where fear and need confine it. 
 Despite all the negative talk about God, the Divine still remains
 the one space where thought can become free. 

 There we will be liberated from the repetitive echoes of our own smallness and blindness... 
Prayer is the path to the secret belonging at the heart of our other lives.





~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes



Tuesday, August 20, 2019

passing an orchard by train









Grass high under apple trees.
The bark of the trees rough and sexual 
the grass growing heavy and uneven.

We cannot bear disaster like
the rocks-
swaying nakedly
in open fields.

One slight bruise and we die!
I know no one on this train.
A man comes walking down the aisle.
I want to tell him
that I forgive him that I want him
to forgive me.


~ Robert Bly




a story of war





.
When you are called home, when you are somehow struck by the absolutely mysterious and irrevocable desire to know the truth of who you are, then you must be willing to put aside every story of separation.  Every story of separation is a story of war.

Human beings have been making war in every culture for a very long time.  Culture is a reflection of the individual mind, and the individual mind is a reflection of the cultural mind.  Since you are reading this, I assume you are interested in peace in your own mind.  You are not waiting for them to make peace.  This is good news, because war is fought to get others to do it our way so that we can live in peace.  When you stop waiting for them, and instead shift you attention to your own mind, then you can recognize the tendency toward war in your own mind, the tendencies of totalitarianism, hate, revenge, and holding on.  And you can recognize the suffering that those tendencies continue to deliver.

Some how, in the face of it all, you find you want peace.  You are sick and tired of the war within your own mind.  You may even express it in a conscious prayer, a plea for help, for understanding, for deliverance, for grace.

Grace is here now.  It is knocking at your door.  You have a chance to be at peace in this moment.  You only need to accept the invitation of your own heart, fight now, regardless of outer or inner circumstances, and let yourself sink into the peace of your innermost being.

Unless all of us take the responsibility for our own inner peace, the wars will continue.  We cannot wait any longer for someone else to change, We cannot wait for someone else to forgive us so that we can then forgive them.  We cannot wait for someone else to say they are sorry.  Peace cannot be postponed.






~ Gangaji
from the Diamond in your Pocket





It was like this: you were happy





It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.

It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.

At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent - what could you say?

Now it is almost over.

Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

It does this not in forgiveness -
between you, there is nothing to forgive -
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

Eating too, is a thing now only for others.

It doesn't matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.




~ Jane Hirshfield



Thursday, August 15, 2019

by presence





.

The teacher teaches by presence. 
The language of presence is 
more powerful than all the verbalizations 
from all the languages from the world put together. 
It is the eloquence of existence. 

If you allow life to become your teacher, it teaches. 

But if you turn to books 
and want to know whether it be duality or non-duality, 
one god or many, one creator, or two, etc., 
if you turn to books and theories, 
if you want to dig into the past and base your perception on that, 
then the opportunity to live first hand would be missed.





~ Vimala Thakar
from Growing into Wholeness






our inner prisons







Forgiveness is one of the really difficult things in life.  The logic of receiving hurt seems to run in the direction of never forgetting either the hurt or the hurter.  When you forgive, some deeper, divine generosity takes you over.  When you can forgive, then you are free.  When you cannot forgive, you are a prisoner of the hurt done to you.  If you are really disappointed in someone and you become embittered, you become incarcerated inside that feeling.  Only the the grace of forgiveness can break the straight logic of hurt and embitterment.  It gives you a way out, because it places the conflict on a completely different level.  In a strange way, it keeps the whole conflict human.  You begin to see and understand the conditions, circumstances, or weakness that made the other person act as she did.

...

Why are we so reluctant to leave our inner prisons?  There is the security of the confinement and limitation that we know.  We are often willing to endure the searing sense of forsakenness and distance which limitation brings rather than risking the step out into the field of the unknown. 



~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

what makes us miserable






It is startling that we desperately hold on to what makes us miserable.  Our own woundedness becomes a source of perverse pleasure and fixes our identity.  We do not want to be cured, for that would mean moving into the unknown.  Often it seems we are destructively addicted to the negative.  

What we call the negative is usually the surface form of contradiction.  If we maintain our misery at this surface level, we hold off the initially threatening but ultimately redemptive and healing transfiguration that comes through engaging our inner contradiction.  We need to revalue what we consider to be negative.  Rilke used to say that difficulty is one of the greatest friends of the soul.  


Our lives would be immeasurably enriched if we could but bring the same hospitality in meeting the negative as we bring to the joyful and pleasurable.  In avoiding the negative, we only encourage it to recur... The negative threatens us so powerfully precisely because it is an invitation to an art of compassion and self-enlargement that our small thinking utterly resists.  Your vision is your home, and your home should have many mansions to shelter your wild divinity.  Such integration respects the multiplicity of selves within.  




~ John O'Donohue
from Anam Cara
photo by edmund teske



Tuesday, August 13, 2019

circling










~ Buffy Sainte-Marie



 

beneath persona



The person, from the Latin persona, was originally the megaphone-mouthed mask used by actors in the open-air theaters of ancient Greece and Rome, the mask through (per) which the sound (sonus) came.

~ Alan Watts


Walt Whitman - 1854


There is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, a thought that rises,
 independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining eternal. 
This is the thought of identity — yours for you, 
whoever you are, as mine for me. 
Miracle of miracles, beyond statement, 
most spiritual and vaguest of earth’s dreams, 
yet hardest basic fact, and only entrance to all facts.
 In such devout hours, in the midst of the significant wonders of heaven and earth,
 (significant only because of the Me in the centre,) creeds, conventions, 
fall away and become of no account before this simple idea.
 Under the luminousness of real vision, it alone takes possession, 
takes value. Like the shadowy dwarf in the fable, once liberated and look’d upon, 
it expands over the whole earth, and spreads to the roof of heaven.


~ Walt Whitman
 from Walt Whitman: Poetry and Prose
 with thanks


identity and safety





You ask me how I became a madman.  It happened thus:  One day, long before many gods were born,  I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen, - the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives, - I ran mask-less through the crowded streets shouting, "Thieves, thieves, and cursed thieves."

Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.

And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, "He is a madman."  I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time.  For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more.  And as if in a trance I cried, "Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks."

Thus I became a madman.

And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness;  the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety.  Even a Thief in jail is safe from another thief.






~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Madman his Parables and Poems
art by Leonardo da Vinci