Monday, May 12, 2014

Hermitage Update, Spring 2014

Theme: Real Time

So many die this time: Betty, Barbara, Cynthia, Dirk, David.

So it is we sit, silently, in solitude, as winter gives spring its release.

We’ll do it with Marie Howe’s poem:

          Magdelene--The Seven Devils"
                                           —by Marie Howe
                               Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven devils had been cast out" —Luke 8:2.

The first was that I was very busy.

The second — I was different from you: whatever happened to you could

not happen to me, not like that.

The third — I worried.
The fourth — envy, disguised as compassion.
The fifth was that I refused to consider the quality of life of the aphid,

The aphid disgusted me. But I couldn't stop thinking about it.

The mosquito too — its face. And the ant — its bifurcated body.

Ok the first was that I was so busy.
The second that I might make the wrong choice,
because I had decided to take that plane that day,

that flight, before noon, so as to arrive early

and, I shouldn't have wanted that.
The third was that if I walked past the certain place on the street
the house would blow up.
The fourth was that I was made of guts and blood with a thin layer
of skin lightly thrown over the whole thing.

The fifth was that the dead seemed more alive to me than the living

The sixth — if I touched my right arm I had to touch my left arm, and if I

touched the left arm a little harder than I'd first touched the right then I
to retouch the left and then touch the right again so it would be even.

The seventh — I knew I was breathing the expelled breath of everything that
was alive and I couldn't stand it,

I wanted a sieve, a mask, a, I hate this word — cheesecloth —

to breath through that would trap it — whatever was inside everyone else that

entered me when I breathed in

No. That was the first one.

The second was that I was so busy. I had no time. How had this happened?
How had our lives gotten like this?

The third was that I couldn't eat food if I really saw it — distinct, separate
from me in a bowl or on a plate.
Ok. The first was that I could never get to the end of the list.

The second was that the laundry was never finally done.

The third was that no one knew me, although they thought they did.

And that if people thought of me as little as I thought of them then what was

The fourth was I didn't belong to anyone. I wouldn't allow myself to belong
to anyone.

The fifth was that I knew none of us could ever know what we didn't know.

The sixth was that I projected onto others what I myself was feeling.

The seventh was the way my mother looked when she was dying—her mouth wrenched into an O so as to take in as much air…

The sound she made — the gurgling sound — so loud we had to speak louder 
to hear each other over it.

And that I couldn't stop hearing it—years later—

grocery shopping, crossing the street —

No, not the sound — it was her body's hunger

finally evident.
—what our mother had hidden all her life.

For months I dreamt of knucklebones and roots,
the slabs of sidewalk pushed up like crooked teeth by what grew underneath.

The underneath —that was the first devil.
It was always with me.
And that I didnt think you — if I told you — would understand any of this —

(Poem, Magdelene, The Seven Devils, by Marie Howe)

Friends get out of prison. One goes in. Water rolls down mountain. Time takes toll. Nobody thinks there’s another way. We celebrated resurrection. An old Trappist monk sends a poem about an old coyote and worms on good friday.

We look across the road. Walk through old dreams. Then recross and return home. There’s nothing else to do but what we are, doing.

Friday nights were two independent courses at the hermitage on Heidegger and Nishitani, Existentialists and Nothingness. We came through ok.

We scrape hull of matinicus pea pod for season rowing. We place Buddha in middle of zendo. We watch buds break open.

Everything is coming into its own.

It is May.

Where attention is given, mothering is born.

Peace, and what is, good!

  Rokpa & Cody, (woof); 

Panta (Rhea), and (Bodhi) Chitta (meow)   
and all who grace Meetingbrook


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hermitage Update, Fall 2013

Theme: Idiorrhythmy
It is time to be old, /  To take in sail  (R.W. Emerson, from poem "Terminus")
Judy asked might Lady Jane cat be buried with meetingbrook's animals up past yurt by brook in hillside cemetery. She brought the small long haired 22 year old just from vetenarian's office in green box with red and yellow flowers, green lemongrass, and tears. We asked the current residents of angel-ground to welcome, protect, and accompany this sweet companion from love to love, Judy to earth, placing candle, incense stick, and circle of stones. Rokie and Cody attended. We bow to mystery, carry shovels, pickax, and empty box back down path to Friday Evening Conversation.

Saskia arrives back at mooring Saturday afternoon from Mark Island encirclement on final sail of season with three women who, she said, sang, laughed, and happily drank the thermos of coffee sent with them. The big working schooners are moored and wrapped. Some docks hauled. Dinghies lean akimbo on hard earth. Leaves overrun gangplanks and autumnal completion of tie up.

Quakers return from summer open chapel in Rockport to Merton Bookshed/Retreat on Sunday mornings. 

Meetingbrook surrenders to its nature and idiorrhythmic practice of aware silent presence. Resident rodent continues to gnaw roof insulation of meditation cabin leaving piles of blue, brown, and assorted detritus on floor between circle rug and square zabuton. We celebrated 10 year anniversary dedication of chapel/zendo with gathering on 4October, feast of Francis. The kindness and generosity of Jim and Paul shelter much quiet and wonder within the walls and between them. Friend Joseph attends celebration and reads poem commemorating reentry from double decade walled life -- his Brunswick angels holding hands as he tells his story to a full silent hearing.

Doctors tell us we both will die, and give us proximate likelihood of cause. We say "thank you," and go on with life. I tell Saskia to tell others after I die that I died doing the thing I loved the best -- breathing!

Canadian Thanksgiving was spent dockside in Saint Andrews by the Sea, New Brunswick in a small corner unit between long hikes on various trails in Charlotte County. Rokie was good company, Cody stayed with workman who installed windows before rotted ones fell out.

"Umwelt" travels on used jetta wagon which joined community and diesel'd us across border.

No hard frost to date.

All is well so far.

Living alone together is a moment to moment awareness of itself
Immortal Longings  
Inside the silver body 
Slowing as it banks through veils of cloud 
We float separately in our seats  
Like the cells or atoms of one 
Creature, needs 
And states of a shuddering god. 
Under him, a thirsty brilliance. 
Pulsing or steady, 
The fixed lights of the city  
And the flood of carlights coursing 
Through the grid: Delivery, 
Arrival, Departure. Whim. Entering  
And entered. Touching 
And touched: down 
The lit boulevards, over the bridges  
And the river like an arm of night. 
Book, cigarette. Bathroom. 
Thirst. Some of us are asleep. 
We tilt roaring 
Over the glittering 
Zodiac of intentions. 
 ("Immortal Longings" by Robert Pinsky, from The Figured Wheel. The Noonday Press, 1996.) 
For this and all that comes with it, our gratitude!

As it rains  Sunday morning, remembering 14 years gone my sister's passing.

Peace, and what is, good!

  Rokpa & Cody, (woof); 

Panta (Rhea), and (Bodhi) Chitta (meow)   
and all who grace Meetingbrook


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hermitage Update, Spring 2013

Theme: Greening Mountain Trails

It happened of an afternoon. We walked up to yurt to do some work in morning. Later, we walked down. Buds leafing, ground sprouting, sun dancing. All of a sudden -- spring!

Practice proceeds apace.

Rokpa, Cody, Panta Rhea and Bodhi Chitta have made their accommodations, adjusting their dogness and catness to one another, and each seems sweeter in so doing.

The Hibernian bicyclist painter, carpenter, designer, plumber plies his skills on wohnkuche ceiling and upstairs bedroom and bathroom. Chaos haunts the stairway in four-footed and two-footed trespass.

Practice is back in Cabin, which also was tinkered with, as was the yurt, now available for solitude/respite, furnished and warm enough to bask in the song of tumbling brook water.

We change Thursday evenings. A partialing of concentration between A Course in Miracles and other Western lectio options are divided into 2nd, 4th and 1st, 3rd, 5th Thursdays.

Final class taught last evening at college for this semester. A good stretch.

Bicycle out and about again. Patient visiting at hospital returns. Garden put in. A broader stillness watches from Bald Mountain.

We sit in silence with and for all our sentient and existential kin. We pray for those ill, suffering, and dying. We speak with one another about whatever shows up for conversation.

This is good. And, for now, enough.

Peace, and what is, good!

  Rokpa and Cody, (woof); 

Panta (Rhea), and (Bodhi) Chitta (meow)   
and all who grace Meetingbrook


Friday, February 15, 2013

Feb, March 2013 Hermitage Update

After the blizzard, day by day, snow melts.

We've been on the road around Maine with Saskia's work.

Prison, with dust-up and replacement of key personnel, is on hiatus. We're thinking of combining with Buddhist Group volunteers to inaugurate Mindfulness, Meetingbrook, and Mashugana. 

Conversations and meditation practice at hermitage. We like the non-duality of Rupert Spira, the intelligent inclusion of Raimon Panikkar, the silence of God, and the don't-know mind of Zen. Of course, all poetry is uncertain gift.

We look forward to the final month of winter. Snowshoes have been useful. Grippers are great inventions. Ski poles serve through all seasons.

Finally, a word about shifting translation and hermeneutic interpretation. Everything that is heard these days must go through a straining process of re-translation and re-interpretation. Quelle est la difference? This question is the resonant echo whenever anything is heard or read. Lesson 21 of ACIM reminds us: "I am determined to see things differently."

Along with what the Dalai Lama's teaches in his Ethics for the New Millennium about kun long:
Kun Long --In Tibetan, the term for what is considered to be of the greatest significance in determining the ethical value of a given action is the individual's kun long. Translated literally, the participle kun means "thoroughly" or "from the depths," and long (wa) denotes the act of causing something to stand up, to arise, or to awaken.  But in the sense in which it's used here, kun long is understood as that which drives or inspires our actions--both those we intend directly and those which are in a sense involuntary.  It therefore denotes the individual's overall state of heart and mind.  When this is wholesome, it follows that our actions themselves will be (ethically) wholesome. 
It is a winter's storm of despair and desperation we face with the shenanigans of politicians, potentates, and professional embezzlers. Most everything becomes militarized: corporations, public safety police, banks, government, and the myopic watchdogs going blind -- the media. "Wholesome" is a drifting slog through blowing misinformation. I think everyone is frightened. Aporia, difficulty and uncertainty, settles over everything.

That said, our spirits are good. Saddened and wary, but good. The reasons we'd cultivated for being alive and remaining loyal to institutions, both civic and religious, have weakened and fall apart. Now we must rely on experience and revealing feeling to negotiate what lies before us in a complicated and phantasmagorical world.

So we sit. Pray. Converse. Attempt to be of service. Read. Watch. Learn. And cultivate a trust which is near, intimate, and willing to endure a skeptical eye.
come and go. 
let them.
Having to --
what do I think
to say now. 
Nothing but
comes and goes
in a moment. 
(--from poem, A Step, in Pieces, by Robert Creeley)
Robert Creeley is quoted as saying, "form is never more than an extension of content," in Charles Olson's essay on poetics, "Projective Verse."

Here, a hermitage is a place that recognizes aloneness.


(Given, we might be alone-together, or, alone with others.)

Here is lived the paradox and contradiction -- there is no other.

Alone we are profoundly, intimately, with-one-another!

Peace, and what is, good!

,   Rokpa & Cody, (woof); 
Panta (Rhea), & (Bodhi) Chitta (meow)   
and all who grace Meetingbrook

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Summer 2012, Update Theme: the Paragraph Refusing to Become Two

The old saw is that there are only two seasons in Maine -- winter, and the 4th of July. Today, therefore, is not winter. Time to write the summer update! The day is gray and green. Rain, visiting early, might return this afternoon. Parades are safe for now. Fred donates his 16 foot yurt to the hermitage. It was disassembled from Appleton and resides under tarp in trailer until platform can be brought from old site and reassembled here. Volunteer labor has been gift as well. Jay and I talk of meditation and Claude Anshin Thomas as we drove around Monday morning to purchase right bits for DeWalt and Makita drills. What we do buy does not fit, but the trip back and forth to Belfast was for the conversing company and not simply the hardware. At practice Tuesday evening we read "Sound of Wood Preaching Deep Underwater Words," Transmission Thirty-Eight, Yun-yen to Tungsten-Shan, from Living Buddha Zen, Lex Hixon's commentary on Zen Master Keizan's Denkoroku: The Record of Transmitting the Light. The final line of closing poem goes: "No way to enter here." And this sounds perfect. It takes no way to enter here, and, there is no way to enter here -- we are here! So it is with meetingbrook hermitage. Saskia sails this week, giving lessons to her 9 year old niece, native of Africa, bundle of energy visiting for the week. I begin volunteering at Pen Bay Medical Center, walking miles the first 4 hour shift with 77 year old woman training me. Jack is back leading Thursday Evening's A Course in Miracles, bringing his deep history with it and great desire to communicate it. Friday Evenings remain vibrant as we explore spirituality in what mystics, ecologists, artists, poets, scientists, and other creative thinkers are musing these days. Recently we've engaged Ray Kurzweil, Juan Enriquez, Gilles Deleuze, Forrest Gamble, Teilhard de Chardin, Ilia Delio, David Abram. German Shepherd Cody settles in, now devoted to Saskia since Erika's passing. Rokie likes the company, continues to come rowing with me, and is himself devoted to every round ball within eyesight. Saturday morning practice remains lovely and focused on mindfulness. So too Sunday Evening Practice, our two hour practice replete with soup and bread, dessert and conversation following sitting, walking, and chanting. As a hermitage we are just that, a hermitage. People drop in to use the chapel/zendo or the bookshed. They come and go, no one bothers them, the place is free, open, and informal. Summer is halfway over. Noon approaches. All is good. So is God, good. As is, you. Remain in good spirits! Peace, and what is, good!

, Rokpa , Cody

and all who grace Meetingbrook

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spring 2012, Theme: It is time

It is difficult to remember what month it is . Weather leapfrogs then reverts, circles, ages, jumps from hiding, crawls down hole in ground.

Ok, it is May. The rains came late. Basement sump pump woke from slumber and picks up as if half a year was half an hour ago. Sweet green stepped from hiding. Tiny umbrella clusters of budding leaves peek from popping bud, wriggle free, open, straighten out, and swell in rainfall mixed with reluctant sunfall. Everywhere it is spring! Mice are ambivalent about returning to outdoors.

Saskia finally returns to Maine after what seems (to her) like eons of sorting, packing, ridding, remembering, and brother-sistering her parents family home in Massachusetts. The tarped final trailer load is in the dooryard neatly wrapped and waiting as skeptical barn looks out as if sated stomach were to say, "That's going...where?"

We are back in the meditation cabin for practice. Quaker Meeting will migrate to Vesper Hill Chapel in Rockport come June. A potential reception of a yurt begins to scout out southwest direction for doorway and proposed deck up by brook. Black-flies are uncertain the surprising drops in temperature are finished. They hold caucuses whether to tea-party passersby but cannot (yet) come to consensus.

There were 22 of us at final class of East Asian Philosophy at hermitage. We did a thorough practice before small circle discussions and wider circle completion in wohnk├╝che.  Saskia's soups and hazelnut cake sealed the metta and metaphor of the evening.

You can hear lawn mowers. Winter tires wonder if it is safe to crawl into white plastic for their rest. Barn knows nesting rafters will fill with phoebes and bats. Empty bird feeders lay on side outside barn on kindling box as straggling birds come by like scouting parties to verify it is not a temporary lapse of attention, but the end of sunflower seed for the season. They fly off to mountain trees and bushes to renew foraging skills passing grumbling grey and red squirrels complaining the loss of cracker barrel gathering place that beckoned them the last two months.

Cody, the big German Shepherd, knows he is here for good. He contemplates adjusting his modus operandi to befit a place of sequestering stillness. Rokie likes having his cousin around. They are good together.

Meetingbrook considers gratefulness, hospitality, study, and spirit worthy considerations and attends as best it can to their practice and conversation.

Flannel clothing, heavy coats, gloves and scarves, all grow accustomed to hooks and hangers in foyer.

It is spring!

For now.

With love,

All are blest

Peace, and what is, good!

, Rokpa , Cody

and all who grace Meetingbrook

Monday, January 9, 2012

Winter, 2012, Hermitage Update

Theme: Practicing wonder

It is a brown January winter, so far. Some splashes of snow, including Christmas day several inches, but mostly, oddly, fluctuating temperatures and periodic mud. An unlikely Maine stretch.

David (Tibetan practice) visits from Antigonish. Nancy (Vipassana practice) from New Hampshire. Sam (Franciscan practice) from Connecticut. The bookshed/retreat has been warmed and welcoming.

The life of a hermitage is a quiet life. Except for the large German Shepherd who barks a storm running out from barn each time, whether 3AM, 7AM, or 9PM. He is a gentle giant with an enormous sound likely to keep all four footed and two footed creatures a little cautious. He comes that way. He's harmless. But his practice has been unswerving protectiveness of an elderly gentlewoman living alone on a hillside. We try to invite him into a more quiet greeting for this new outside. But sometimes, I admit, my greeting of the outside feels just as gruff.

We've begun an emphasis on eco-spirituality, eco-philosophy, and eco-theology on Friday Evening Conversations. David Abram, John O'Donohue, Thomas Berry, and the authors of "Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth," Ilia Delio, O.S.F., Franciscan Keith Douglass Warner, O.F.M., and Pamela Wood.

We continue to wander the middle place between traditions, the middle way between extremes, and the relational middle sanctuary of presence -- what some call the hospitality of heaven. There are no strangers there. It is an odd assortment of unique and loosely-knit pilgrims on the path of intention toward discovering self-forgetfulness with the help of generosity, compassion, and wisdom.

The Irish workman has migrated downeast. The aged farmhouse will adjust to the absence of tablesaw and Makita in the same way an aged body adjusts to the hours after rehab or exercise. It's nice to be off.

Saskia is back on the road gathering numbers for her work. I am back at my desk considering East Asian Philosophy this term. Our lives, like many lives, are side by side, respectfully (always trying) greeting each other in the meeting place between us. The task of being a hermit in the open (hito) is, as Dogen put it, "one continuous mistake." Still, we keep on.

Every once in a while, when we look around what is going on in town, we shudder with recall and curiosity about returning to the market-face of the hermitage. Most days we shrug our shoulders, shake our heads, and sober-up. And yet, we wonder.

Wonder is good medicine.

Twice a day.

Like prayer and meditation.

Good health to you!

Peace, and what is, good!

, Cody , & Rokpa ,

and all who grace Meetingbrook