Saturday, April 28, 2007

RISE





RISE

I wake to rising, to the elevate sun and flight of birds.
I wake to the lift and life of daylight, the streaming of shine clouds illuminate in.
I wake to a rising child whose small arms reach up for holding.
I wake to her uplifting face, a helium kiss.
And I salute this day for the upward shift of heart it gives.
I wake to the uplift of bloom and branch and catch as much of the sun as I can.
I insist on joy and the living out of it like the infinite box of good things it holds for me.
I live for the lifting hands, and haul each beaten dreamer out of the dark,
one by one, the basement empties of starving child,
wounded student, yet another undreamed of horror.
I stand at the circle door of heaven sleeves rolled up for the work.
My muscles flex in delight and purpose. I lift so they may rise.
I do life like love and revisit the morning light of everything I do.
I imagine the arisen. I enact the rising.

This life invites the illuminating action.
I reach out to you, child, all who have witnessed the bullets, and I sing
out the low, the debasing, the unceasing image hat this is all we are.
I rise above the working and I turn it into lifting.
I lift myself up out of the world til I am floating on the muscular rain,
making my shape out of cloud and soprano sunlight, the voice
at the top of the dome of heaven
I bind to my voice and I sing out of the world its call for me to hey come down from there.
I lift up that voice, too.
I am the singing wingspread of my mind.
I eat the shadows up into me.
For they are mine, all these tragedies. They are mine so send them forth,
So I may infuse them with my breath and turn them into sorrows with wings
and bid them leave this world through the elevator of my witness.
I insist. I take them up like a banister. I am the staircase of the eschatology.
I rise in the morning and in the night when the moon comes up, as all the lights go down, I bind myself to the moon’s light and I rise.
I insightful, strong with God who also is always there lifting, singing as I lift.
I infinitely bound to air and earth, I rise with the color of fire.
And I am breathing in the weapons.
And I am breathing in the war.
And I am breathing in the harsh words.
And I am breathing in the same old story told to the same old music.
I am absorbing the history of mankind,
The history of violence, the history of the rise and fall of just about everybody at this point.

I am absorbing the atomic bomb, Hiroshima, Auschwitz, Nagasaki, Baghdad, Kabul, Sarajevo, Sierra Leone, London, Paris, Darfur, I am absorbing Rwanda, absorbing East Timor and East Berlin, I am absorbing Congo, I am absorbing Watts and New Orleans. I am absorbing Wounded Knee, Tippecanoe, anything and everything that took place on this soil since 1492. I am taking in this moment on this earth surrounded by these amazing, loving good, hopeful, dreaming, wanting, determined, anxious, did I say loving people and I am breathing all of this in and I will not breathe it out.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

DHARMA AND THE CHRIST



As we walk the paths of our lives, we are to exercise our love for all things spiritual. In a close relationship with the world, we develop a close relationship to God. By loving life, we love God. For the poets of the Bible, this love was deep to the point of being all consuming. Amazement and wonder accompanied their every step. They walked aware that every grain of sand that shifted beneath a sandal was luminous with the light of creation. And just as much as it is a commitment to live life for every minute drop of wonder it can contain, it is a choice to engage life on this level of ultimate intensity. Such is the choice to know God not only through creation but through the experiences that arise in our lives. For just as the flower blooming through the snow is a presentment, and a metaphor, of the divine every conversation and kiss is as well. Once we choose to visit the sacred level of life, we find that it extends through all things and events.
In the reclaiming of Christianity as Buddhism’s cousin, we can find the Buddhist principles of attention to the “good path,” “The virtuous man delights in this world, and he delights in the next; he delights in both. He delights and rejoices, when he sees the purity of his own work.” This verse from Dhammapada's “The Way of Truth” finds its beautiful companion in Psalm 1 from the Holy Bible:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the way of the ungodly nor abides by the counsel of sinners, nor sits in the company of mockers;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law does he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by a stream of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaves fall not off; and whatsoever he begins he accomplishes.
The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not be justified in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous. But the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Righteousness and virtue are one and the same, and both involve a deep sense of attention to the world. In this state, one seeks the beauty and truth of all circumstances and conducts oneself in such as way as will multiply the beauty and truth in the world. Buddha teaches that Mara, the great tempter, can easily overthrow an individual who “lives looking for pleasures only, his senses uncontrolled.” Mara, he also teaches will not overthrow him “who lives without looking for pleasures, his senses well-controlled, moderate in his food, faithful, and strong.” The sinners and ungodly of the Biblical terminology meet a similar fate as those who look for pleasures only in the Buddhist.
When we view Christ as our dharma, an inner-voice that weighs in on our thoughts and motivations, we can begin to see how the teachings of both Buddha and Christ resonate with our own natural sense. While Mark Twain says, “There’s nothing common about common sense,” the vouchsafed Buddha seed and Christ seed in our primordial minds beg to differ. There is a path to achieving a flawless intuition and sensitivity to beauty. There is a fundamental part of us that longs to allow this part of our psyches to be all there is. For once we function from this place, we function in alliance with God. We are no longer “in the way.” We are “of the way.” And in this place, all our works will find completion.
The Messiah Dharma works like a tree breaking through bracken to receive the sunlight. In Psalm 2, we witness the activation of the dharma,
Why do the Gentiles rage and the peoples imagine vain things?
The kings of the earth and the rulers have conspired and have taken counsel together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
Let us break their hands asunder, and let us cast away their yoke from us.
He that dwells in heaven shall laugh, and the Lord shall mock at them.
Then shall he speak to them in his anger, and terrify them in his wrath and say,
I have appointed my king over Zion, my holy mountain,
To declare my promise; the Lord has said to me, You are my Son; this day have I begotten you.
Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for your dominion.
You shall shepherd them with a rod of iron; you shall break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
Be wise, therefore, O kings; be instructed, O judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with reverence, and uphold him with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from his way while his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they who put their trust in him.

Even in so-called Biblical Times, there were two kinds of people. There were those who did not see life as sacred, and those who did. The former radically outnumbered the latter. This psalm works quite well as a study of a wrathful God about to set aright a wrong people. However, when we read it as a description of how, once activated, Messiah Dharma functions as the communication instrument of a promise-keeping God, the psalm brims with a new spiritual and neurological life. This seed makes us God’s kings who reign over the Kings of the worldly world. It makes us all “my Son,” and we are “begotten” on the day we waken to our Messiah Dharma. God is not speaking to our ego-selves when He says, “You shall shepherd them with a rod of iron; you shall break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Rather, he addresses the Messiah Dharma, granting it permission to do whatever it takes to get us on the right path.
In the Book of Jonah, Jonah denies God’s instructions as they are fed to him through his dharma. The dharma then works with God to bring about Jonah’s awakening to his true path. The sequence of events necessary to bring about this awakening are quite awesome and no more awesome than the journeys our Dharma will take us on to get us to see what we need to see, or, more aptly, see how we need to see. In this same way the dharma shepherd moves through our psyches with a rod of iron judging what can remain and what can be lost. Then we lose it. What we do not “get” right away is brought to us in lessons and experiences. The harder we fight our dharma lessons, we more depressed and ineffective we become as humans. The farther we retreat from life. We will all get broken like a potter’s vessel because we are made of clay. By destroying the clay, dharma empties us so we can be made new. We are not to strike out at the Messiah Dharma, the psalm teaches, but to Kiss the Son. For it is the Son, as in Buddhism it is the Dharma, that will show us how to live life completely.

Friday, April 13, 2007

WHY THE HOLY BOOK IS HOLY





In Conversations with God, Neale Donald Walsch "quotes" God as saying that the Bible was written by men and they got a lot of things wrong. I know that the Holy Bible has been the source of much horrendous action. Yet, our lack of understanding does not make the poets unskillful. The cipher of alchemy runs through these texts like water through soil, nourishing every word, image, and symbol with cool life. It has been hidden, and in its discovery and application the Holy Bible shifts into its own deliberate meaning. It flourishes under our eyes like a living forest rich with all life from root to loam to wolf to leaf to eagle and cloud. What is unfolding in me unfolds further each time I read, and I am awed always by the depths it finds in me to sound.

These are words we fall through into the mystical. Beautifully enough, the text with the cipher running through it does not in the least bit vary in meaning from the contemporary view of the Divine held by many, including Walsch who sees God as a stem cell of the universe. The text compounds what so far has been hinted at, and it takes us deeply into the mysteries of the universe. These are mysteries we can't afford to ignore now that they are opening. My wish would be that we can open them together.

THE WHISPERING GALLERY


At the top of the dome at St. Pauls Cathedral in London, in an area called the Whispering Gallery, aged benches curve the dome’s circumference. Lean forward and you can see the brilliance of the marble floor below, look up and see Sir Peter Thornhill’s glass mosaic scenes of Creation. Sit still, raise your eyes slightly and you can see, between the arches of the inner dome, mosaics of prophets and saints as they sit at their desks either engaging or trying to escape from the task of writing down the word of God. Each man takes a varying degree of dislike to the process. John is most disciplined, there with his lion, as angels hold open his book. Not so willing, Isaiah looks about to haul off, punch the angel holding the pen, and ditch the job altogether. Jeremiah must be held down while one angel forces the pen into his closed fist and implores him to take the divine dictation, which he does. It’s a scene of violence and trepidation, furor and resistance. The whispers of the Whispering Gallery, the mosaics suggest, might not be the kind of whispers we long to hear, despite our pleas to hear God’s voice.
There is that edge where the soul starves for its free expression in a material form, a desire to be made manifest. Yet in order to achieve expression in physical form it requires a language whose limits must by definition expand to hold such a wild and unformulated thing. Those prophets around the dome weren’t afraid of God; had they been, they would have seized the pen like good little prophets. It’s God’s voice that’s got them wanting to run. The thoughts of God are simply too big for our mere words. And the soul longs to always be talking back, communicating, communing. The soul longs to break free of its skin and soar in ecstasy, a state which defies the hard skin of language altogether. At this place, the state of trying to get the spirit world to listen, or At’woo, as the Tlingit call it, language changes shape. Metastasis. Metaphor steps in to help us do what Plato’s speaker’s soul, “poor thing,” can not. At the edge, the systems of language break open to reveal technical leverage for reaching beyond. But if we can achieve a new system of language to phrase such expression, wouldn’t it then follow we’d need new ears to hear the response? And this presents a whole new set of problems in the world of ears.
At some point, the prophets had let go of the language they normally listened to, thought in, lived through, the language within their own heads. They had to abandon the known to receive the unknown language of God. No wonder they look a little scared. Their faces convey a sense of living in a perpetual state of wonder, wondering if what they heard is what was said, if what was said could possibly be true, if they could possibly do anything to avert a dawning tragedy, change the path of man. And also their faces, in so many shards of glass, convey what weight it is to be able to hear in any sense of the word, what great responsibility it is to be the receiver of any kind of speech, what an honor it is to listen.
Throughout the texts of the Bible, countless references to hearing loss suggest we are all living on the edge of God’s language, and countless references to unheard prayers suggest that God lives on the edge of ours. Deafness is as much a spiritual condition as it is an aural one, and overcoming it seems to be the key to our salvation, as well as God’s only hope for satisfaction with His creation. In Hebrews 5:11, the language of hearing loss is used to suggest that communion with Yahweh is quite similar to being in an audiometer: “Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.” It would seem that the one “of whom we have many things to say” is having trouble getting through to us because our hearing stinks. And yet what’s so wonderful in this passage is that the words themselves can’t be formed with the knowledge that they won’t be heard. It’s an auditory stalemate. In Hebrews 4:2: “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, even as they also did, but the word they heard didn't profit them, because it wasn't mixed with faith by those who heard. “ The ability to hear is insufficient for knowledge of God. For it isn’t merely what we can hear that matters but how we hear it. If we do not listen “with faith” we may as well be deaf.
“Hold the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” In the audiometer, my audiologist says things which I must repeat. He gauges my hearing ability by how many words I repeat correctly. This passage from 2 Timothy 1:13 reminds me of being in glass dark booth. And more intriguing certainly, “sound words” here seem to hold special weight. Are there unsound words? Are these words that are not safe or are these words that make no sound? Is it suggested that God’s words are the only sound words, all else is phantom speech?
Isaiah writes in 49:1, “Listen, islands, to me; and listen, you peoples, from far: Yahweh has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name.” Listening is the means to receiving gossip prophecy as it is passed from prophet to people, and the “islands” ought to listen to be connected. Through listening, we form union. Ephesians 4:21 begins “if indeed you heard him, and were taught in him.” Hearing is a means of receiving instruction, “if indeed" we can hear at all. Deafness or Hardness of Hearing is hinted at by “if indeed.” Perhaps you heard something but are you sure of what you heard?
Hearing is, again, not enough in Mark 4:24: “He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you, and more will be given to you who hear.” Hearing, it seems, is here an act of willingness, something beyond chance sense, otherwise all would hear. Hearing loss is diagnosed for all humanity by audiologist Matthew in 13:15: “for this people's heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes.” This suggests to me that whereas I think that my sense of hearing has abandoned me, perhaps we have, to fall upon idiom, abandoned our senses. And perhaps it isn’t merely idiom, metaphorical. Perhaps what we perceive as our literal senses are our metaphorical ones, particularly given that what we hunger for most is a direct experience with the sacred. Matthew offers hope for our move into the metaphorical (a word that lovingly longs to be mistyped as metamorphical) senses: “or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and should turn again; and I would heal them.” The metaphorical senses are those that we use to perceive the Divine, or tragically fail to, as in Deutoronomy 30:17 they are cut off: “But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but shall be drawn away. . . “ They allow us hunger: “My dove in the clefts of the rock, In the hiding places of the mountainside, Let me see your face. Let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. (Song of Solomon 2:14)” They allow us joy, “Those on the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; but these have no root, who believe for a while, then fall away in time of temptation. (Luke 8:13) And unused, they render us downright evil as in Jeremiah 13:10, “This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who walk in the stubbornness of their heart. . . .” Yet, it seems that God, Himself, has selective hearing. He hears his servants in Exodus 22:27, “for that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What would he sleep in? It will happen, when he cries to me, that I will hear, for I am gracious.” And yet in Psalm 64:1, “For the Chief Musician” it would seem that God must be called to, does not automatically “hear” unless summoned. This is how it is for the hard-of-hearing. Touch us on the shoulder and we will give your attention, but just start muttering about something near us and we will ignore you. My friend David has promised me a t-shirt that read “I’m not a bitch. I just can’t hear you.” But that other poet David calls out, taps God’s metaphorical shoulder, “Hear my voice, God, in my complaint. Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.” At times, it would seem God is altogether profoundly deaf, “And ye returned and wept before Jehovah, but Jehovah would not listen to your voice, nor give ear unto you (Deutoronomy 1:45).
Viewed this way, the Bible is a story of living with hearing loss, only both parties of the relationship suffer it, and the relationship is in dire need of some other language to carry it through on. At the very least, our metaphorical ears need our permission to open,
"Today if you will hear his voice, don't harden your hearts (Hebrews 4:7).” Also, they require reminders to “hear this (Isaiah 48:1),” as though we forget at any time to listen intently. And ultimately, metaphorical listening must be a communal act as in Isaiah 48:1: “Come near, you nations, to hear! Listen, you peoples. Let the earth and all it contains hear; the world, and everything that comes from it.” And we must “come near. . . to hear,” just as the speech-deaf must approach the speaker, be close enough to make words of the sound.

Monday, April 09, 2007

THE ONION METAPHOR


The mystical journey is often compared to the peeling of an onion. Here's my take.

Go get an onion. Put it on the table in front of you. Take off one layer of the peel. Then another, and another. You get the point. You have tears coming from your eyes now. Keep peeling. Peel all the way to, well, peel all the way. The onion’s gone and you’re completely weeping and maybe the tears have now turned into real tears, drawing on feelings you did not know you had. But you can’t really tell. Wipe away your tears.

Now, get another onion. Put it on the table in front of you. Take of one layer of the peel. Now, using a very fine knife or burning apparatus, remove one layer of your own skin from your entire body. Then another from the onion, then another from yourself. Then another, and another. You get the point. You are a screaming weeping ruin by this time. And you have to keep going in order to find the truth. When the onion is gone, you are also gone. If you really exist, this is the moment you will know it. If the onion still exists, you will know that as well. Keep peeling.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

CARRY TIGER UP THE MOUNTAIN

I am posting this poem in honor of Good Friday and the closing of a very difficult Holy Week. I have found that the more focused I have become on spirit the more deeply I am affected by the liturgical calendar. At present, I feel as though my heart is being gripped by enormous hands that want to tear it out of me. At such times, I remember the Qi Gong move called "Carry Tiger Up the Mountain." Years ago when I was doing Qi Gong I would weep every time this motion came into my practice. By the tenth movement I'd be a wreck. Finally I asked my teacher why I wept every time I did this. He told me the movement follows the story of a Tao master who carried the dead body of his pet tiger up a mountain because he knew that was the only way to fully embrace his death.

CARRY TIGER UP THE MOUNTAIN

If you really want it out of
you, then we’re talking the
Himalayas, Sherpa-less, no
gear because who can carry
gear when they’re carrying
a tiger. You really have to
take it all the way. And after
you’ve climbed the whole
mountain, then begins the
journey, then you must name
the mountain. Call it: Tiger
Mountain, and after that, there’s
the mountain inside you you
have to climb that makes
Everest look easy. You long
for low oxygen, pulmonary
edema on this internal peak
that begins with your hair
and goes downward, tearing
through every cloud in your
mind. And you can’t climb
up the outside of it but must
go through the molten interior.
Through the stone sealed earth
and still with that tiger slung
across your back like a scarf,
this thing you loved, this thing
you spoke to as water pours
itself into a cup. You thought
you would drink of this life
forever. One foot and then
another is how you walk,
each drives claws, luxurious,
gold in the dark, to scratch
initials of longing into your
skin. Death is the only ink for
the calligraphy of pain, and
every stroke must be confident.
Carry your love up that wild
mountain. Only then can you
rip that mountain out. Set into
ice and sky you and tiger free.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

PEACE AND PATIENCE


In Mandarin, Patience means "to wait with certainty; to allow life to carry you."

The Ten Commandments are lessons in dealing "with our own stuff" and not putting it out into the world. I've been thinking about how in Hebrews Paul writes that Christ becomes "an author of life" and how this reflects the Buddhist and Taoist notions of "ministering." The Taoists and Buddhists maintain that how we walk and talk and think creates the world. The Judeo-Christian Commandments are our version of this. Along with the command not to commit blasphemy, harsh speech, we, too, are instructed to only put peace in the world. I struggle with this when I want an answer NOW for a question. Our tendency is to "talk" about it when we are angry, to put our emotions out there for all to see, and endure. This is counter to peace. Inaction and silence prompt us to work through our attitudes toward things that confound us, rather than to turn them into a circus of words. Thought, word, and deed is such a tall order. But I think that if it leads to peace as the teachings suggest, it's worth it. All of my control issues are the result of my impatience, my inablity to let things unfold. I am working on developing patience.

THE DEAD SEA



We who lived there
didn’t call it that.
We worked the ink
as God works the tide,
sealing it with sand
and salt. We ate in
grace, moved in peace.
What kept us never
yelled or scolded. No
one got hurt. We were
allowed to leave but
who would want to?
Gazing out, the water
in us sang life that
only ended when
forgotten.

Back then we all moved
upon the water in our
minds. I left my cup
on a rock.It filled with
rain. But you won’t find
rain here. This rain
cleanses memory but
leaves no earthly mark.
And when you remember
us, picture me standing
on this cliff as you stand
now, kind visitor, gazing
out at what I saw but not
seeing.