Friday, December 29, 2017

Seneca on anxiety





There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.

What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come.

Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.

It is likely that some troubles will befall us; but it is not a present fact. How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering? You will suffer soon enough, when it arrives; so look forward meanwhile to better things. What shall you gain by doing this? Time. There will be many happenings meanwhile which will serve to postpone, or end, or pass on to another person, the trials which are near or even in your very presence. A fire has opened the way to flight. Men have been let down softly by a catastrophe. Sometimes the sword has been checked even at the victim’s throat. Men have survived their own executioners. Even bad fortune is fickle. Perhaps it will come, perhaps not; in the meantime it is not. So look forward to better things.

The mind at times fashions for itself false shapes of evil when there are no signs that point to any evil; it twists into the worst construction some word of doubtful meaning; or it fancies some personal grudge to be more serious than it really is, considering not how angry the enemy is, but to what lengths he may go if he is angry. But life is not worth living, and there is no limit to our sorrows, if we indulge our fears to the greatest possible extent; in this matter, let prudence help you, and contemn with a resolute spirit even when it is in plain sight. If you cannot do this, counter one weakness with another, and temper your fear with hope. There is nothing so certain among these objects of fear that it is not more certain still that things we dread sink into nothing and that things we hope for mock us. Accordingly, weigh carefully your hopes as well as your fears, and whenever all the elements are in doubt, decide in your own favour; believe what you prefer. And if fear wins a majority of the votes, incline in the other direction anyhow, and cease to harass your soul, reflecting continually that most mortals, even when no troubles are actually at hand or are certainly to be expected in the future, become excited and disquieted.
 
 
 
 ~ Seneca
with thanks to brainpickings
 Art by Catherine Lepange from Thin Slices of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind
 
 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Robert Bly and Friends reviving oral tradition








~ Robert Bly

Friday, December 1, 2017

The thief who became a disciple






One evening as Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras a thief with a sharp sword entered,
 demanding either his money or his life.

Shichiri told him:  "Do not disturb me.  You can find the money in that drawer." 
 Then he resumed his recitation.
A little while afterwards he stopped and called:  "Don't take it all. 
 I need some to pay taxes with tomorrow."

The intruder gathered up most of the money and started to leave. 
 "Thank a person when you receive a gift,"  Shichiri added. 
 The man thanked him and made off.

A few days afterwards the fellow was caught and confessed,
 among others, the offence against Shichiri.  
When Shichiri was called as a witness he said:  
 "This man is no thief, at least as far as I am concerned.  
I gave him the money and he thanked me for it."

After he had finished his prison term,
 the man went to Shichiri and became his disciple.




~ from Zen Flesh Zen Bones
 compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki




Tuesday, November 28, 2017

a home in the dark grass








In the deep fall, the body awakes,
And we find lions on the seashore—
Nothing to fear.
The wind rises, the water is born,
Spreading white tomb-clothes on a rocky shore,
Drawing us up
From the bed of the land.

We did not come to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves like the trees,
The trees that are broken
And start again, drawing up on great roots;
Like mad poets captured by the Moors,
Men who live out
A second life.

That we should learn of poverty and rags,
That we should taste the weed of Dillinger,
And swim in the sea,
Not always walking on dry land,
And, dancing, find in the trees a saviour,
A home in the dark grass,
And nourishment in death.




~ Robert Bly
from Stealing Sugar from the Castle
art by O'keeffe

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Merton on Sufism








Sufism looks at man as a heart and a spirit and a secret, and the secret is the deepest part. The secret of man is God's secret; therefore it is in God. My secret is God's innermost knowledge of me, which He alone possesses. It is God's secret knowledge of myself in Him, which is a beautiful concept. The heart is the faculty by which man knows God and there Sufism develops the heart.

This is a very important concept in the contemplative life, both in Sufism and in Christian tradition. To develop a heart that knows God, not just a heart that loves God, but a heart that knows God. How does one know God in the heart? By praying in the heart. The Sufis have ways of learning to pray so that you are really praying in the heart, from the heart, not just saying words, not just thinking good thoughts or making intentions or acts of the will, but from the heart. This is a very ancient Biblical concept that is carried over from Jewish thought into monasticism. It is the spirit which loves God, in Sufism. The spirit is almost the same word as the Biblical word "spirit" -- the breath of life. So man knows God with his heart, but loves God with his life. It is your living self that is an act of constant love for God and this inmost secret of man is that by which he contemplates God, it is the secret of man in God himself.




-- Thomas Merton, 
speaking to a group of Catholic sisters in Alaska, 
2 1/2 months before his death in 1968
with thanks to louie,louie

 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

good or bad?







~ Alan Watts

Friday, November 17, 2017

There is nothing but this

.




First days of spring - blue sky, bright sun. Everything is gradually becoming fresh and green. Carrying my bowl, I walk slowly to the village. The children, surprised to see me, Joyfully crowd about, bringing My begging trip to an end at the temple gate. I place my bowl on top of a white rock and Hang my sack from the branch of a tree. Here we play with the wild grasses and throw a ball. For a time, I play catch while the children sing; Then it is my turn. Playing like this, here and there, I have forgotten the time. Passers-by point and laugh at me, asking, "What is the reason for such foolishness?" No answer I give, only a deep bow; Even if I replied, they would not understand. Look around! There is nothing but this.


~ Ryokan

Sunday, November 12, 2017

this rain










What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone,
in the forest, at night, cherished by this
wonderful, unintelligible,
perfectly innocent speech,
the most comforting speech in the world,
the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges,
and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it.
 
It will talk as long as it wants, this rain.
As long as it talks I am going to listen.




~ Thomas Merton




Saturday, November 11, 2017

by dying they have their living



The lovers know the loveliness
That is not of their bodies only
(Though they be lovely) but is of
Their bodies given up to love.

They find the open-heartedness
Of two desires which both are lonely
Until by dying they have their living,
And gain all they have lost in giving,

Each offering the desired desire.
Beyond what time requires, they are
What they surpass themselves to make;
They give the pleasure that they take.



~ Wendell Berry
from Sabbaths, 1997 V
Painting by Chagall

Thursday, November 2, 2017

all-one







Don’t forget the nut, being so proud of the shell,
The body has its inward ways,

the five senses. They crack open,
and the Friend is revealed.

Crack open the Friend, you become
the All-One.



  ~ Rumi

 version by Coleman Barks
from Unseen Rain

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

seek the mystery






The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. 

If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, 
you'll always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find the answer. 

They think they have, so they stop thinking. 
But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery,
 plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. 

The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer. 




~ Ken Kesey

from The Art of Fiction - interview by Robert Faggen, 
The Paris Review No. 130 (Spring 1994)


while the music lasts








Men's curiosity searches past and future 
And clings to that dimension. 
But to apprehend 
The point of intersection of the timeless 
With time, is an occupation for the saint - No occupation either, 
but something given And taken,
 in a lifetime's death in love, 
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender. 
For most of us, there is only the unattended
 Moment, the moment in and out of time, 
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight, 
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning 
 Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply 
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music 
While the music lasts.



~ T.S. Eliot
excerpt from The Dry Salvages
 with thanks

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The madness of love







The madness of love 
Is a blessed fate;
And if we understood this
We would seek no other:
It brings into unity to
What was divided,
And this is the truth:
Bitterness it makes sweet,
It makes the stranger a neighbor,
And what was lowly it raises on high.

  

~ Hadewijch of Antwerp
photo by Ansel Adams
.

Friday, October 27, 2017

metaphors and symbols







Someone who found the inner path
who, dedicated to deep meditation,
got a glimpse of this essential truth,
that we choose God and World
only as metaphors and symbols.
 Every thought and action then
becomes an inner conversation,
a meeting between God and World.


~ Hermann Hesse
from The Seasons of the Soul

 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water






Enlightenment is like the moon reflected on the water. 
The moon does not get wet, nor is the water broken.
 Although its light is wide and great, the moon is reflected
 even in a puddle an inch wide. The whole moon
 and the entire sky are reflected in dewdrops on the grass, 
or even in one drop of water. Enlightenment does not divide you,
 just as the moon does not break the water. 

You cannot hinder enlightenment, just as a drop of water
 does not hinder the moon in the sky. The depth of the drop 
is the height of the moon. Each reflection, however long
 or short its duration, manifests the vastness of the dewdrop, 
and realizes the limitlessness of the moonlight in the sky.


~ Dogen Zenji (1200 - 1253)