Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Christmas Meditation

The snow drops soundlessly on the hard earth...already a blanket of white.

It sounds like silence on silence.

It is so quiet, that we sit up and take notice of something else...a certain newness.

We strain to listen...but we can't hear.

Yet we can feel it. The air is heavy with it. And it can be felt in our hearts.

Something has changed. On this night, the world has become different.

A child has been born who will teach us the secret to peace: how to look into the souls of others and see ourselves.

And for that, there will be a terrible price.

But for now, the world is quiet...hushed under this buffer of white.

Let the child sleep...and enjoy these moments of peace.

Let us all sleep.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Dark Tunnel

Recently, a missionary priest, from the Passionist Order, came to our parish.

He stayed for five days, and on almost every evening of the service, our church was packed solid -- standing room only.

He said that, in the 25 years he'd been visiting parishes across America and in many countries of the world, he'd never seen such a response.

I think this priest will witness larger crowds wherever he goes. At least I hope so.

There is something haunting America. We're hungry for closeness with God, with spirit - some kind of substance.
It's like we're in a dark tunnel, and we're looking for the light.

We want enrichment -- something besides a larger home or more electronic toys or a nicer car.

This war in Iraq, the slaughter each day...our rampant commercialism and consumerism...our unhappiness -- these are all behaviors of people who are asleep.

What power we would have...if only we were a force for pure kindness in the world.  I hope we wake up soon and come out of ourselves.  (  

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Boy, Everything Sure is Impermanent!

Got to hand it to the Buddhists, the enlightened ones, anyway!

They know the score when it comes to awareness of the impermanence of all things.

Many learned Buddhist authors that I've read are fond of saying: "All is an illusion." And my take on this is that our perception of all things, e.g. an apple, our feelings, are constantly changing. So the realities of both the apple and feelings are never fixed.

A bit tough at first for me to get my hands around -- given I live in America, where we seem to suffer the illusion that all things, including nature, can be 'fixed' or 'made better' and that they should then stay that way.

It's a cultural thing. Please forgive us.

But the older I get, I'm becoming more aware that things just don't stay fixed. In fact, change is the only thing that seems permanent.

Funny lesson: I like to wash my windows a lot - at least once each season. Love clean windows and the special quality of light that comes into my home.

As November's chilly temperatures locked in place, I got to work cleaning the inside and outside of the windows. It was tough work, and it pretty much took me the whole day to do the entire house.

The next day dawned sunny and bright, and I had about 6 or 7 hours to enjoy streak-free light before a sudden rain storm rolled by. It was only five or so minutes, but just enough to leave water spots on the outside of the windows in the front of the house. The job was ruined.

So how did I handle this? Next day, I redid the outside of windows - but just in the front of the house.

The following day, a new lesson: Workmen from the county water authority pulled up directly in front of my house, and began digging up the street to replace a main. It was a windy day, the dust was blowing everywhere; looked like a scene from "Lawrence of Arabia."

Then, guess what? Another short interval of rain.

My satisfaction with myself, and my desire to have this permanent state of shininess and perfection was in shambles.

After a bit of consternation -- I had to finally laugh. Truly, nothing is permanent, and the weather...the rain, wind, indeed, the earth's dust...changing each and every day, is a wonderful teacher.

Can I accept this reality -- brought home to me via the window-cleaning episode?

Working on it!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Fear is death

When I think about fear, it seems like a kind of death, an everyday death that we put ourselves through.

If I fall into the trance of fear, and the #1 trance for me, I know this by now, is fear over letting others in and revealing all of myself.

I've learned that that could bring rejection -- or at least I've talked myself into believing that.

So, an 'everyday death' for me means cutting myself off from others, and myself.

It feels cold and there are no options. No light.

Life, on the other hand, means letting that light in...and accepting myself (both at peace and in turmoil...regardless of how I feel at the moment). It means accepting others, too, just the way they are.

Recently, I had a revelation about fear...and death...and something that's always been a stumbling block of sorts for me.

It's like this: I have to confess, I've always had a bit of trouble understanding the whole rationale for Jesus' presence here on earth. I've been taught that he died for our sins; to open the gates of heaven.

I guess that's always been hard for me to understand. It's such a big concept, and rather fanciful at that. Maybe I need to follow a more tangible thought process.

Well, I think I've found it.

Try this one on for size:

Maybe Christ showed us how to die to ourselves -- that is, let go of our fears and let God take them on...to completely wrench our hearts from fear and open them far enough so that we can accept and trust God. His way.

Perhaps He wanted to teach us how to die to the self (our learned fears, prejuidices) and accept and trust God, the spirit, the universe -- whatever.

Death on the cross is the ultimate trust in God. Death is the ultimate fear...and he confronted that, and accepted it...and overcame it...to gain everlasting life.

And maybe, when we shed fear, we gain everlasting life. We catch a glimpse of that life with God...through compassion for ourselves and others. Our connection with the divine.

I'll have to think about this for a while.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Being a Child

Went to a public talk a few weeks ago, to hear Sakyong Mipham (a noted Buddhist teacher & spiritual director) speak at the Society for Ethical Culture in NYC.

He said that someone once taught him that some old Buddhist monks seem to get younger as they advance in age.

My take on it is that their meditation practices and "right" actions (in the Buddhist sense), lead them to such a state of enlightenment and compassion for others, that they become very innocent. They are no longer ruled by their fear. They know that all things in life arise and fall away. And, they can accept all as it is -- people, pain, challenges, joy, happiness.

Actually, when you think of it, this state is more like a kind of pure wisdom, a sophistication and knowledge of the world and the mind and the way it works. And it’s an understanding that these things, the world, the mind, are merely tools for us to use…and we are not to be used by them.

I think the earth would heave a sigh of relief if we could all somehow arrive at one-tenth of that state of enlightenment...to be more accepting -- of ourselves and others.

I know that I feel relieved and free when I can accept myself, my thoughts, my desires, my failings...and fears.

But it occurred to me, as I sat and listened to this Buddhist monk, that Christ told us the same thing...and it's really one of the greatest things he said. And I love this about him...probably above all else:

One day, as he was teaching, he was asked to bless some children that the people had brought before him. His apostles tried to push them away.

But Jesus knelt down to see the faces of the little ones, and maybe he opened his arms and smiled broadly (this is purely my imagination), and he said: "Suffer the little children, for such is the kingdom of heaven."

In other words, he said: Let them come to me, and let me love them and be in their presence, and enjoy the things they say and do. They're pure of heart. They trust everybody and accept things for what they are -- not what they should be. And when they're afraid, they are worthy of compassion, the compassion of their Father. They know they are protected. And they trust the Father.

I think that, to be enlightened, is like being in the kingdom of heaven. And to be enlightened is to have this childlike acceptance of oneself and of others…and to trust in the wisdom of God.