just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness
June, 2012

Pro Choice IS Pro Life

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Life/death is difficult.  It’s complicated.  It’s messy.  And when we try to make decisions from our head rather than our heart, we run into increasing difficulty.  When we become rigid in our thinking we can make things worse.  The closed mind can be a dangerous thing.  On the other hand, there’s nothing more beautiful than a mind wide open to the wonder and mystery.  A mind, open from the heart, flows like water to meet the next change, the gift of the divinity of the next arising moment.  Within the complexity of life, perhaps our most important action is to listen deeply to the heart’s call.  This is where faith abides.  It’s where we find our center, outside the insecurity of trying to convince others that we’re right and they’re wrong.

There’s simply no way I can know what a young woman is going through who finds new life in her body that’s not wanted.  There’s no way I’ll understand the conviction of someone who’d wish harm upon this woman because they refuse to meet her suffering.  I’ve always thought the Pro Life movement has lost credibility by refusing to stand against capital punishment and collateral damages from war.  I do know that faith calls us to compassion, to meet another’s suffering with an open heart.  It calls us to surrender these matters to Divine Love, knowing it all works out, far beyond our small ego mind’s temptation to think we somehow ‘know what’s best’.  In these matters, I have no choice but to rest in faith, embracing the uncertainty of it all.

The longer I live, the more I ‘think’ I know, the more I’m humbled to the mystery of this gift of life.  It seems my greatest test of faith is to surrender through deep listening to divine Providence.  Faith says to surrender, knowing it all works out, moment by moment.  It’s this Ground of Being that gives us the vitality, strength and courage to participate.  Even when the problems like abortion, war, capital punishment, euthanasia, etc. present themselves, we can fill with joy for the opportunity of participation.  And when it’s obvious there are no black and white answers, faith gives the flexibility to openly meet new moments with curiosity and a desire to ease suffering.  From here we must continue to ask the questions, beyond the illusions of ‘an answer’.

When I present a strong attitude of ‘knowing’ I seem to increase suffering.  When I allow faith to work, the open heart and curious mind listen more carefully.  At this moment, we touch what’s common…common sense.

This deep faith that comes from an open heart is beautifully described by a seventeenth century Jesuit named Jean-Pierre de Caussade:

“….God is only asking for your hearts.  If you truly seek this treasure, this kingdom where God alone reigns, you will find it.  Your heart, if it is totally surrendered to God, is itself that treasure, that very kingdom you long for and are seeking.  When we long for God and his will we rejoice in it and that rejoicing is the fulfillment of our longing.  To love God is to long earnestly to do so.  Loving, we wish to be the instrument of his action so that his love can operate in and through us.  Divine action responds to the willingness and good intentions of the pure and simple, not to their intelligence, nor to any precautions they may take, plans they may make their own initiative.  All these can lead them astray—they often do.  But their honesty and good intentions never betray them.”   p. 30, The Sacrament of the Present Moment

I find it extremely gratifying that our fore fathers understood this, directing us to surrender to divine Providence in matters of such complexity.  I admit, I don’t have the answers.  Yet, I have to confess that for me, pro choice is pro life.  It’s asking for a deeper examination of our suffering and our willingness to meet one another’s suffering.  Our fore fathers understood how money corrupts, printing “In God we trust”, once again directing us to move beyond our notions of cleverness and knowing.  Rather than spending billions of dollars trying to persuade one another to what we “think” is right, how about going back to the glue this country was founded on….faith and the open heart?  It’s in this magical space of mystery, faith and wonder where we’ll come to the ‘feeling’ that pro choice is pro life, divine action deepening our understanding of one another.

Finding the Divine Beyond Words

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Language is a system of arbitrary symbols used for the purpose of trying to communicate with one another.  The problem with arbitrary symbols is just that…they are arbitrary.  Yet, for centuries we try to push the notion that meaning is in the word.  In fact, meaning is in the person.  An entire field of linguistic study, General Semantics, is founded upon this.  When I speak of my experience of the Divine, I’ve left that experience.  Language removes me from the experience of the ultimate as I enter my thought patterns.  The felt sense of God is somehow lessoned as I move from the heart to the intellect, trying to capture that experience with words.  Further, I can never repeat that experience and you can never have my experience, as hard as we may try.  I have my experience.  You have yours.  You have your experience of my experience and I have my experience of your experience, and on and on it goes.  With billions of sensation and perceptual events available, there’s simply no way we’d ever come to the exact same experience, no matter what.  Yet, our heart knows something the intellect and language can never come to.  It knows the experience of One, of the felt sense of being held within the non-separable God.

“Their heart may be said to be the interpreter of God’s word.  Listen to the heart, it interprets his will in everything that happens.  For divine action secretly informs the heart of its purpose through the instincts rather than through the mind, indicating them either by chance happenings making the heart respond at random, or through necessity in which case there is no choice, or through impulses to which there is an instinctive response.”

“It is like a musician who combines long practice with the perfect understanding of music, who is so immersed in his art that everything he undertakes connected with it will have a touch of this perfection.  If his composition were to be examined, it would turn out that they conformed perfectly to the conventions and that he was most successful when working unhampered  by them—so much so, that connoisseurs would hail his impromptus as masterpieces.  For convention, if followed too closely, restricts talent.”

  1. 38, the sacrament of the present moment

Brother David Steindl Rast says that when dealing in paradox, we’re likely dealing with the divine.  de Caussade writes:

“Without rules, nothing more orderly; without preparation, nothing more profound; without skill, nothing more accomplished; without effort, nothing more effective; and without precaution, nothing better to adjust to whatever may happen.”  p. 39

This is a depth of living that gives us courage “to be”.  It provides the nourishment to face uncertainty, to enter ‘I don’t know land’ with humble confidence.  The willing hearts come under the influence of divine action, “whose power over them depends on the extent to which they have surrendered themselves.”  p. 32

Katagiri Roshi calls this “whole hearted” action.  While our intellects crave understanding through words, there is no perfect understanding.  There is just an accepting of “profound awareness of something that is greater than the intellectual world.”  He writes:

“To digest means to take care of your everyday life by totally accepting that there is something greater than the intellectual world.  How do you do this?  Through everyday life that is impermanent, you have to actually touch something deep that is eternal.  By making your body and mind calm, you can go deeply into the human world and touch your life profoundly.  Then you can feel what is eternal, not in an intellectual or philosophical way, but in a practical and realistic way.”   p. 218  Time is the Universe

He further speaks to the beauty of quality living from the whole heart when writing:

“We don’t believe that our life is walking on the bottom of the ocean because we are always living on the surface, hanging on to the past, present and future.  We think the bottom of the ocean is something other than daily life.  But we cannot ignore the fact that our life in the stream of time is constantly changing.  It is constantly changing because it is manifested from moment to moment at the pivot of nothingness.  So if you want to live your life to really work, then whatever you do—dance, art, painting, photography, or sitting zazen–your life must be swimming on the surface, and simultaneously it must be rooted, walking on the bottom of the ocean.  That is living wholeheartedly.”  p. 81 Time is the Universe

He speaks of an emptiness where we let go of fixed ideas ‘in order to go beyond them’.
Real living, when being/doing merge, is when ‘you become one with your activity, whatever it is, and do your best.’  Katagiri says, ‘When you see yourself, your activity, and your body and mind in the realm of emptiness, occupying the whole universe, there is oneness.’ p. 53  This experience is found in the heart, beyond words and the intellect.  Some call this the food of faith.  Katagiri calls it Big Hope, that which is beyond the arbitrary symbols of language.  My heart resonates with the linguistic symbols of God and Jesus.  This meaning is in me.  We all respond differently to these words, given our necessary different life experiences.  While we support one another by trying to communicate the spiritual experience as best we can, ultimately, it seems the best we can do is sit in silence, breathing the same air, in gratitude for this gift of being, this opportunity to share life with one another, outside our intellectual notions of time and space.  This is peace.  This is hitting the mark of kindness.  I truly believe this is the will of God…of divine Providence.

Happy…Just to Be

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Life is difficult.  Our thoughts continually plague us with desire for something different.  These thoughts take us from the full experience of the present moment as we drift into hopes for things to be as they were or hopes that they’ll change to something we dream of.  Yet, I contend that real joy for meeting the gift of the moment may be our best skill for adapting to changing conditions.  If I’m rigidly holding on to ideology/dogma that’s located in the ego/intellect, I’ll most certainly miss the ‘will of God’ found in the heart/Divine.

I’ve recently discovered a French Jesuit named Jean-Pierre de Caussade who wrote a wonderful book entitled The Sacrament of the Present Moment. It was written in the early 1700’s, and here’s what he writes:

“It is necessary to be disengaged from all we feel and do in order to walk with God in the duty of the present moment.  All other avenues are closed.  We must confine ourselves to the present moment without taking thought for the one before or the one to come.  For is not God’s law always under cover, as it were?  Something will prompt us to say: ‘At the moment I have a liking for this person or this book, or an inclination to take or offer this advice, to make such a complaint, to confide in or listen to this person, or to give away this or to make that’.  These stirrings of grace must be followed without relying for a single moment on our own judgment, reason or effort.  It is God who must decide what we shall do and when, and not ourselves.  When we walk with God, his will directs us and must replace every other guidance.

Each moment imposes a virtuous obligation on us which committed souls faithfully obey.  For God inspires them with a desire to learn one moment what, in the next, will uphold them in the practice of virtue.  They are drawn to read this or that, to observe and reflect upon the smallest happening.  In this way everything that they learn and hear is fresh in their mind and no dedicated novice will carry out her duty better than they do.

In all that these souls do, they are aware only of an urge to act without knowing why.  All they can say is: ‘I have an urge to write, read, question or observe this.  I obey this urge and God, who inspires it, supplies me with a store of knowledge which subsequently I am able to use to the advantage of myself and others.‘  This is why they must always remain simple, pliant and responsive to the slightest prompting from these almost imperceptible impulses.  God, who possesses them, may make use of them in any way for his glory.  If they were to resist these impulses, like those who depend on their own efforts and initiative, they would be depriving themselves of countless things essential for the fulfillment of future obligations to the present moment.  Since people do not recognize this, such souls are criticized and blamed for their simplicity and they, who blame no one, who are tolerant and understanding of all sorts and conditions, find themselves despised by the falsely wise, who are unable to savour that sweet and refreshing submission to God’s commands.”   pp. 15-16

I personally find great wisdom in this call to the present moment.  If we’re carried away in thoughts and our notions of identity and self importance, we can’t hear the ‘will of God’.  Yet, when we fully surrender to our connection with the Divine we’re supported to the best of our Being.  When I cultivate gratitude for this very gift of being I find deep joy and motivation to ‘show up’.  To tap into ‘divine Providence’, it’s necessary to ‘pay full attention’.  This requires the surrender of our pull to ‘our’ intellectual ‘judgment, reason or effort’.  It moves us from pride to humility, in full acceptance to the glory of God’s will.  It’s the core of faith, this openness to receive the gift of the given without question, even in the face of others’ ridicule and an outcome that may not have turned out as we had wished.  Yet, de Caussade writes, “God reveals himself in all things through faith.” p. 17.

A working formula for this practice would be, 1. Show up fully, 2. Pay full attention, 3. Be/Do Your Best, 4. In full faith to divine Providence, knowing I don’t control the outcome.  The last, an unexpected outcome, may be the most challenging, as de Caussade writes, “It is in these afflictions, which succeed on another each moment, that God, veiled and obscured, reveals himself, mysteriously bestowing his grace in a manner quite unrecognized by souls who feel only weakness in bearing their cross, distaste for performing their duty, and capable only of the most mediocre of spiritual practices.”  He goes on to describe abiding faith, an acceptance that all will be well provided on this journey, even when our beliefs have been shattered, even when our hopes have gone empty.  There is still God everywhere, fully open to experience within the present moment:

“You are seeking God, dear sister, and he is everywhere.  Everything proclaims him to you, everything reveals him to you, everything brings him to you.  He is by your side, over you, around you and in you.  Here is his dwelling and yet you still seek him.  Ah!  You are searching for God, the idea of God in his essential being.  You seek perfection and it lies in everything that happens to you–your suffering, your actions, your impulses are the mysteries under which God reveals himself to you.   But he will never disclose himself in the shape of that exalted image to which you so vainly cling.”  p. 18

Yes, life is difficult.  As the First Noble Truth of the Buddha says, “Life is suffering (restlessness).”  We’re continually grasping to be back there or over there, anywhere but right here, now, in full awareness to this next arising moment, in all its glory.  Our mind is for teasing us with, “I’ll be happy when….”, or “I’ll be happy if….”.  Why not just be happy to Be, cultivating the open mind in gratitude to the changing and our felt sense of interdependence (God everywhere and in everything), in full faith and obedience to Divine Love?

Some recent insights:

May we receive this moment completely, graced to BE, not caught in thoughts of previous moments or future moments.

I don’t have to be right, just open minded with a renewed spirit.

Each moment, Divine moment.

Each moment, Grace given.

Many minds, One heart.

I like the notion of “life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” for All creatures.  It’s deep gratitude, humility and moderation, walking with a gentle footprint.

One can’t be whole-hearted with split attention.

The experience (feeling, not thought) of the Divine leads one to hitting the mark (of kindness, joining, interdependence).  This experience is beyond words, beyond thought.  When we let our words separate us, we miss the mark, the root of the word ‘sin’.

In faith, the journey is to wake up to divine Providence…to the will of God…to hold humility in ego’s temptation to greed, power, fear and ignorance, to be/do that which is best for all with harm to none.

Lord, make me an instrument of peace.  And give me the wisdom to know the value of practice, since instruments don’t sound very good when not tuned properly and when not dedicated to practice.