Monday, January 21, 2008

Finding God

I received an email earlier this week.
A young friend wanted to know where and how he might find God,
and what God might be for him.
Since my young friend loves music, I suggested that he might begin his search
by listening for the Silence within the music.

That evening, when I flicked on the DVD,
to escape a day that rested heavily,
these words were the immediate result:

If there is no music, there is no Mystery.
If there is no Mystery, there is no God.

If there is no Mystery, there is no faith.

- Septimus Harding

The next morning, I had another email awaiting me.
This was from Nancy, the woman with whom I co-host monthly Adyashanti Gatherings.
Nancy was stunned to find herself in an interview in the December issue of the The Sun, entitled, Who Hears This Sound?”
And, I was equally stunned by the synchronicity of Adya’s teaching:

A woman sitting near us, whose hands had fidgeted in her lap through most of the evening,
took the microphone and said she was feeling a tremendous sadness because she feared that she’d never have an awakening experience.
Adyashanti asked what her deepest spiritual yearning was.
The woman answered, “I want to know God.”

Adyashanti asked the woman, whose name was Nancy, momentarily to stop her search for God and go in search of Nancy instead.
“Where is Nancy?” he asked.

“What is Nancy? If I ask you where is your hand, where is your foot, you can answer.
But if I ask where is Nancy, where is she?
She pretends to be the center of this whole life, but where is she?
Is this Nancy anything more than a thought?”

“No,” she said.

Adyashanti described the tendency of the human mind to believe in a limited notion of “me,” a separate self at the core of our being.
But when we go in search of that “me,” we discover something deeper and more vast.

“What is looking through your eyes right now?” he asked the woman.

After a pause she answered, “It feels like life.”
“OK,” he said.
“Let’s go with that. It’s life peering through your eyes. So what is life? Is life male or female? When is life’s birthday? Does it have an age?”

“No,” she responded.

“So, at the very center of this thing called ‘you’ is nothing but life,” he said.
“It’s not Nancy; it’s life that’s peering through. Now, just for fun, let’s remove the word life.
I like the word life. It’s very unspiritual.
But since you’re in search of God, what if we replace the word life with God?
Isn’t God life, the essence of all existence?”

“Yes,” the woman answered.

“God is peering through right now,” said Adyashanti. “In this moment.”
The woman seemed profoundly moved.

“Whoa,” she said, her eyes widening.

“Hang with that for a while,” Adyashanti told her as she quietly took her seat and the next questioner approached the microphone.
I noticed that Nancy’s hands had stopped fidgeting
and were folded together peacefully in her lap.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Barchester Chronicles

Septimus Harding
Originally uploaded by
Seeking Tao

Mr. Harding is a small man, now verging on sixty years, but bearing few signs of age; his hair is rather grizzled, though not grey; his eye is very mild, but clear and, bright, though the double glasses which are held swinging from his hand, unless when fixed upon his nose, show that time has told upon his sight; his hands are delicately white, and both hands and feet are small; he always wears a black frock coat, black knee-breeches, and black gaiters, and somewhat scandalises some of his more hyper-clerical brethren by a black neck handcherchief.
Anthony Trollope

Last night I discovered the 1982 BBC production of Anthony Trollope’s The Warden and Barchester Towers.

I was delighted and intrigued by the character of Spetimus Harding described here in an essay by John Lett.

Trollope wasn't greatly interested in Christianity. But he did give us here something which is very rare: a portrait in literature of a really good man, which isn't boring. The Warden, The Reverend Septimus Harding, may not be a very good clergyman; but he is rather a good saint, a true Christian, and absolutely convincing. He loves the cathedral, and the music in the cathedral. He loves his daughters and his little flock in the Hospital, the bedesmen of the almshouse. He has an absolutely instinctive understanding that God is love, and I am tempted to say that that is almost all the religion he knows.

I was intrigued also by how the Warden, when upset and forced to speak his mind, moves his left hand over his heart and there unconsiously fingers the strings of the cello he so loves, while his right hand draws a nonexistent bow adamently back and forth. When traumatized, music swells within this man.

At one point, after confronting the Attorney General of England, Sir Abraham Haphazard, Septimus finally expending all he has to say, looks down at his hands and apologizes for the strange mannerism.
To me, this last gesture only demonstrates Septimus' sanity and self awareness.

But, I sat bolt upright in my rocker when Septimus Harding in the depths of his struggling with the morally of his part of the right and wrongs of Life uttered these words:

“I know that ultimately we cannot understand. But, I also know that we must try.”

The loud clap of Adyashanti describing the nature of enlightenment seemed to jerk me up and I hit the pause button and wrote down the words. Yes.

The Nothing that is Everything is beyond our comprehension.
Living in the present moment we know zippo about what will unfold next.
But, we have to live out this kind of balancing act,
for in the next moment the non-existent future will be here...

So, Sunday morning I am at the computer trying to share some of this mystery, and as you know my Sunday routine includes the radio – ostensibly for some classical music.
But, come 7 a.m. Christa Tippett’s Speakiing of Faith puts an end to that.

Listen to what’s playing in the other room:

I am looking on benches and streets, in logic and code. I am looking in the form of truth stripped to the bone. Truth that lives independently of us, that exists out there in the world. Hard and unsentimental. I am ready to accept truth no matter how alarming it turns out to be. Even if it proves incompleteness and the limits of human reason. Even if it proves we are not free.
(Janna Levin)

In 1931, Gödel shook the worlds of mathematics, philosophy, and logic with his incompleteness theorems. He showed that some mathematical truths can never be proven or, as he says in Janna Levin's novel, that mathematics is perfect, but it is not complete.

To see some truths, you must stand outside and look in. This notion also held deeply unsettling human implications. It posited hard limits to what any of us can ever logically, definitively know. (Christa Tippett)

The program then continued…
MS. TIPPETT: …how does the messiness of just of experience… not just …what we can know, but just how life unfolds, how does that impinge on, kind of, the ultimate reality of what we can know and achieve…

MS. LEVIN: … we should never turn away from what nature has to show us, … we should never pretend we don't see it, because it's too difficult to confront... I don't understand other attitudes that want to disregard certain discoveries because they don't jell with their beliefs. … one of the painful but beautiful things about being a scientist is being able to say, 'It doesn't matter what I believe. I might believe that the universe is a certain age, but if I'm wrong, I'm wrong.'
There's something really…thrilling about being committed to that.

Which is just another way of coming around to Adyashanti’s insistence that spiritual inquiry requires dedication to “What’s really True.”

Even though we cannot really know – at least not with our intellects.
But we have to try. Because
The Truth is what we are.
The Truth is what’s looking out our eyes.
Septimus Harding, knew this.

Friday, January 11, 2008

You are a bit happier…

Well as I mentioned yesterday, I don’t think I have been laughing enough.
And well, Today has gotten on my last nerve.
And I can’t be all the time invoking menopause, ‘cause I don’t think that’s true.
(I drink soy milk for pete sake.) So... anyway...

I don’t think I’ve been crying enough either.
I had that thought this morning.
But, I didn’t have the time for any corrective measures.
And now, I’m at work. (that’s where I hurried to)
So screw that.
(And, I’m not a screamer. So screw that.)

Which is how I came to sitting quietly at the computer until I'd surfed into a neighborhood I didn’t recognize
and couldn’t tell you how I got there,
where I came across this book of poetry:

Tao Lin's, you are a little bit happier than i am

"Tao" – how cool
And the title – how true.
Then, I came across One Reviewer saying,

“Tao Lin’s poetry collection gracefully proves the theorem that nothing can be truly sad if it isn’t also funny.”

I REALLY liked that.

So I have been trying to find a poem.
So far, so failed.

So I offer this excerpt from BigHeartedBoy who was good enough to post
Tao Lin's Book Notes essay on his poetry.

You are a little bit happier than i am is I think a non-fiction poetry book. The narrator is myself, "Tao Lin." I wrote most of the book to console myself against unrequited feelings, loneliness, meaninglessness, death, limited-time, and the arbitrary nature of existence, maybe. The reason the book today exists is because my brain used my body and the world of phenomenon as tools to create something to make itself feel better. My brain said to my fingers what to type, my fingers said, "Okay," words appeared on the computer screen, my eyes delivered the words to my brain, my brain processed the words, and my brain said, "I feel better, thank you. You're welcome."

Wow! This reminds me of the insight migraines provide… didn’t I write on that a bit ago? (PB talking here... now back to Tao Lin.)

When I was writing most of the book I think I lived in a studio apartment with my brother on 28th street in Manhattan. I was also working on two other books. A novel called Eeeee Eee Eeee and a story-collection called Bed. Each day I woke and ate cereal and brewer's yeast and flaxseeds and walked or took the train to the library and sat at the computer two to six hours until night, then walked to a bookstore and stared at books and walked somewhere else and stared and maybe ate dinner alone somewhere and walked back to the library where two to six more hours I stared at the computer screen (or sometimes I went to a reading and stared at authors), then around or after midnight went home and lay facedown or in a fetal position on my brother's bed. If my brother was asleep I hid in the bathroom and read on the floor, to not disturb him with light. I didn't see anyone really or have any friends, or talk, and slept on an air mattress. My life was optimized for writing. If I had a choice of what to do I would just think, "What will make my writing better," and then there would be no choice anymore and I would just do what was required, like a robot. It was good. ...

And that was good.

It made me want all the more to find a poem from you are a little bit happier than I am
But, all I was ever able to come up with were couplets
(are they couplets? Couplets?) ...

Anyway One Reviewer, while meaning to offer something like high praise

(“for every ounce of drear and self-pity, Lin inserts an arresting aside”)

mentioned these lines that finally made me realize that Tao Lin was
REALLY depressed:

this poem has all this between each stanza
…someone on the largest dose of tylenol cold in the history of the world falling off a sixty-story building at night.

Well, gee.
There’s an image.
This is actually Too depressed for me.
And suddenly, it hit me!

You know,
I am a little bit happier than this guy! Tah Dah!

I Bow and exit stage right.
(Careful, Don’t trip over the curtain.)
damn this menopause, where's my soy milk?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Snowstorm at Upaya

Snowstorm, Upaya
Originally uploaded by Upaya

Some of you may be sick of snow by now, but here in Georgia I miss it.
The last two days, I have even sat outside leaving the kitchen door wide open.
Still, it's January. Where's the snow?

I find my snow online.
This is a picture by Joan Halifax taken at the Zen center, Upaya.

Just this morning as I padded round the kitchen in my daily get-to-work routine, part of me bemoaned the fact of how life seems to be such a dreary process of one step in front of the other just now.

No particular pain. No particular gain.
So try not to complain,
(You can always write bad poetry)

That was the trouble I decided.
I am not laughing enough these days.
And I reflected upon a recent conversation I'd had with Sandy.

She was writing the final submission for a series of inspirational articles in her local paper from a doctor's point of view.
Trouble was, she didn't feel inspired.
Uncle Eddie's death made her sad.
One of her patients had just died, and
"Michael, my little anorexic, drove through a horrendous snow storm yesterday to see me. I don't know how he made it. I have an appointment with him on Friday, but he may be dead. He is dying and I cannot help him."

Well, next day an envelope arrived with a copy of Sandy's article.
She'd ended with Ecclesiastes ... "and a time for every purpose under heaven."

So, it's Winter now.
Feel the profound comfort of being tucked in warm and sheltered.
Use your eyes...

Sometimes grey is beautiful.

Can you see how it might be perfect?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Uncle Eddie

Ed & Edie, 1964
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

Uncle Eddie, my mom’s little brother, died just before Christmas this year.
I knew this would be hard on Mom the moment I saw her standing in the middle of her kitchen, in tears.
She had just received the call.
After years of Alzheimer’s,
Ed was dead in the middle of the night having gotten up to go to the bathroom.

Then, just like that, the kitchen filled with the rest of our family.
People poured in all dressed up for Mom’s Sunday brunch kicking off our Christmas.
The mini-reunion was filled with hugs and laughs
until I could not stand
the unacknowledged elephant a moment longer.
“Uncle Eddie died! Mom just found out.”

Every Christmas dinner I can recall, we had oysters and ambrosia
in honor of my Grandfather who was born of Christmas day. And Mom would tell the story of his birth and our tradition
until she started crying.
Her beloved father had died at 57, self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
Fourteen year-old Eddie had found him in the bathroom.
Mom never told that part of the story. But we all knew why she cried. And now Eddie entered once again into Mom's Christmas saddness.

After New Years my cousin, Kim, emailed to ask if I had any pictures of her dad.
She was making up a book for her mother.
I knew I had a few:
A cold Thanksgiving hiding in the hayloft of their barn in southern Illinois,
A sweltering summer reunion with both of Mom’s brothers,
the one and only time all eleven cousins were ever in the same place.
Because, I guess like many families,
anger can be held for years.

I looked through some 50 years of photos
trying to stay on my task, trying not to feel that much
to come up with the six I scanned and Photoshopped for Kim:
The Men.” “The Wives.” “The Cousins.” “Grandma.”

Afterwards, I couldn’t get to sleep.

God, the pain and love with family. No wonder some of us have disappeared for years.
It’s here we are most deeply wounded
and yet
we cannot really run away.
Try as we may.
It is impossible
- like trying to escapes your very bowels.
Impossible. Because at bottom, there is love and self.

And I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend Life.
It’s a mystery.
How is it to possible be Here,
And then Not?

It is beyond all words.
Here and then Not…

Is this lack of comprehension just my way of intuiting the Eternal?
Having existed, always existing?

Kim, upon receipt of the pictures, simply replied,

And for all this I Give Thanks

Originally uploaded by hostowe

Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life, the idea came to him of what he called “the love of your fate.” Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, “This is what I need.” It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength is there. Any disaster that you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.

Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.

Joseph Campbell

as posted by Joan Halifax Roshi

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Gentle Buddha, Happy New Year

Gentle Buddha
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
Happy New Year.

Let's see... the year is nine hours old and I am already pressed for time.

Not a good sign.
So, here is art. Oh, let's put that in quotes: "art"...

Gee, Mom, it's what I made.
The background is a photo of the sheet metal table on my back deck.
The calligraphy is asemic babble.

But in all of that I also see a kind face looking down from above.
A gentle buddha for all on New Years.

Go slowly and enjoy.