Monk In The World

To be a monk is to have time to practice for your transformation and healing. And after that to help with the transformation and healing of other people.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday, April 13, 2014




LEARNING TO WALK IN THE DARK by BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR
I just recently finished this new book by Taylor. Below are her thoughts in the chapter explaining The Dark Night of the Soul, as it relates to the thinking of John of the Cross. She speaks of her own journey of darkness.

When I read her words here it was like she copied and pasted my own soul's journey.

In theological terms, this makes John a teacher in the negative way, which does not mean that he is a pain to be around. It means that he does not try to teach by saying what God is, since positive statements about God serve chiefly to fool people into believing that their half-baked images of God and their flawed ideas about how God acts are the Real Thing. John works in the opposite direction. He teaches by saying what God is not, hoping to convince his readers that their images of and ideas about “God” are in fact obstacles between them and the Real Thing. If this is a disappointment to some of John’s readers, it comes as a great relief to others.
 I cannot say for sure when my reliable ideas about God began to slip away, but the big chest I used to keep them in is smaller than a shoebox now. Most of the time, I feel so ashamed about this that I do not own up to it unless someone else mentions it first. Then we find a quiet place where we can talk about what it is like to feel more and more devoted to a relationship that we are less and less able to say anything about. The slippage started with the language of faith, which I had spoken fluently for a long time. After years of teaching other people what words like “sin,” “salvation,” “repentance,” and “grace” really meant, those same words began to mean less and less to me. When I had first learned them, they had helped me to make sense of the tumult both inside and outside, giving me special names for what was happening as well as a sturdy framework for managing it. Then, so gradually that it is hard to say when things changed, those same words began to sound more like stuffed pillows— things to be placed between a person and the hard bones of life so that less bruising occurred.
 Although I knew what “sin” meant, there were other words with more nuance in them that struck with more force: “betrayal,” “brokenness,” “forgetfulness,” “deadly distance from the source of all life.” I could never figure out what made these words less meaningful to people of faith than the word “sin,” but they noted the difference. “Why can’t you just say ‘sin’?” But I had questions of my own. When had the language of faith stopped offering a handle on lived experience and become a container for it instead? Wasn’t that like asking God to act inside a box? Once the words began to break off, the landslide was hard to stop.
Remember when you said the Nicene Creed without even thinking about it? Remember when you memorized scripture not as a useful metaphor or a meaningful relic of first-century faith but as a direct revelation of God’s own truth? Once you have emerged from whatever safe religious place you were in— recognizing that your view of the world is one worldview among many, discovering the historical Jesus, revolutionizing your understanding of scripture, and updating your theology— once you have changed the way you do church, or at least changed the music at your church and hired a pastor who tweets, or you can no longer find any church within a fifty-mile radius in which you can let down your guard long enough to pray; once the Dalai Lama starts making as much sense to you as the pope or your favorite preacher, and your rare but renovating encounters with the Divine reduce all your best words to dust, well, what’s left to hold on to?
 I do not believe I am describing a loss of faith in God here. Instead, I believe I am describing a loss of faith in the system that promised to help me grasp God not only by setting my feet on the right track but also by giving me the right language, concepts, and tools to get a hook in the Real Thing when I found it. To lose all that is not the same thing as spending eleven months in a dungeon (speaking of John of the Cross). It may not even qualify as a true dark night of the soul, but it is without doubt the cloudiest evening of the soul I have known so far.
 After so many years of trying to cobble together a way of thinking about God that makes sense so that I can safely settle down with it, it all turns to nada. There is no permanently safe place to settle. I will always be at sea, steering by stars. Yet as dark as this sounds, it provides great relief, because it now sounds truer than anything that came before.

Barbara Brown Taylor

Thanks Barbara. Wish we could have a cup of coffee together.

Alan 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


"...Thomas Merton, the influential Trappist monk, who in his last years was given permission to live in a hermitage on the grounds of Gethsemane Abbey in Kentucky. About his home, he wrote this:
This is not a hermitage--it is a house...What I wear is pants. What I do is live. How I pray is breathe...Up here in the woods is seen the New Testament: that is to say, the wind comes through the trees and you breathe it. Is it supposed to be clear:? I am not inviting anybody to try it. Or suggesting that one day the message will come saying NOW. That is none of my business.

With these last three sentences he means that the way of life he has found to be "home" for him needn't be how anyone else is called to live. Of Merton, one can say that he was both a Christian monk and a Zen man. Anyone familiar with the fascinating life can see in it a fine example of how the inner "Boy" and the "OX" merged within him, so that he became, by the time of his early death, something like the Hotei figure we will meet in the last of  our Ten Pictures. Merton's life was also one of searching for his true home. It is noteworthy that he found it in his own skin at the end. A year before he died in Bangkok, thousands of miles from his Kentucky hermitage, he wrote,

Life consists in learning to live on one's own, spontaneous, freewheeling; to do this one must recognize what is one's own--be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid.
...Hence the paradox that (one's inner identity) finds best when it stops seeking; and the graduate level of learning is when one learn to sit still and be what one has become...

THE OX HERDER AND THE GOOD SHEPHERD: Finding Christ on Buddha's Path by Addison Hodges Hart, pages 89-90



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Just Sit Down And Shut Up!



Over the holidays I had a wonderful conversation with my Son and Daughter-in-law about the spiritual life (which is life).

We see things differently in many ways when it comes to this life  but in many ways we see things the same.

We had about a two hour discussion and continued that discussion via email when they returned home.

As can be my habit, I eventually said something that was misinterpreted by them and they felt offended and I had to apologize and explain.

I was forgiven.

But here's the point of this little story.
I was reminded again why I am so attracted to Zen Buddhism.

I know there are disagreements and heated discussions out there regarding Zen but I'm too ignorant to be about those discussions and that is freeing.

The profound simplicity of this beautiful way!

As my teacher recently told me through a story,

Just go sit!

Bows to my teacher.

And bows to my son and daughter-in-law for reminding me about this beautiful practice and way.


THE KOAN OF JUST SITTING 

Eihei Dogen said, “Zazen is not a meditation technique. It is simply the Dharma gate of joyful ease; it is practicing the realization of the boundless Dharma way. Here, the open mystery manifests, and there are no more traps and snares for you to get caught in.”

Magid, Barry (2013-09-16). Nothing Is Hidden: The Psychology of Zen Koans (p. 153). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Years Message To My Little Ladies

Here is a suggestion from Terry Hershey:
"If you need a new year resolution for your list, I have a good one.
A simple act. With a simple verb.
Be willing to light a candle."
(Papa does this almost everyday of his life)
Terry continues...
"We learn from the Jewish tradition that one who is willing to light a candle is a 'rodef shalom,' a pursuer of peace."

Ladies,
What a wonderful way to begin your day. What a wonderful way to begin a spiritual practice.
If you do nothing else to begin your day, just try taking time long enough to light one simple candle in a prayerful way.

And then take that light out into the world.

Happy New Year Ladies!

Love,

Papa

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Memories



Me and my youngest granddaughter Eleanor Grace.
I like to call her Elli.



My oldest granddaughter Caroline Jo.

We call her Care Bear.

May they bring Joy to the world.

Alan


Saturday, December 21, 2013

A CHRISTMAS LETTER TO MY FOUR GRANDDAUGHTERS








A CHRISTMAS LETTER (2013) TO MY LITTLE LADIES

THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS

DEAR
CAROLINE, ALICE, LILY AND ELEANOR,

AT CHRISTMAS WE CELEBRATE THE GIFT OF GOD IN THE FLESH. AS THE STORY GOES :

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being.
What came into into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light.
The Gospel of John
1: 1-5

Mysterious words indeed Ladies!

That Word came to be known as The Christ.
And that word now is The Cosmic Christ.

Jesus revealed in himself, the God who is in all of us.

What a great Christmas Gift!

Believe it or not, you too can be that gift to the world.

You too can be that light to the world.

You too can be that light that cannot be extinguished by the darkness.

You all have a particular gift to give to the world!

SO,

As you receive all your gifts this Christmas (whatever Christmas 

it is while you are reading this) Papa would encourage you to 

discover what gift it is that you have that can become your light unto the world.

Finding that gift is finding that image of God which was given to you at your birth.

And in finding that Christmas gift in yourself you create 

Christmas over and over again in the ways you live, love and be in this world.

And that gift is not under a tree, up in the sky and not even in Santa’s bag.

That gift is and always has been deep inside you.

God, the God in you, is closer to you than you are to yourself.

And when you find it:

The Word becomes flesh again.

So Merry Christmas Ladies.

Thank you for being such a gift to Papa!

I love you all!

Christmas 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

GETTING TO THE ROOT OF THE MATTER



Dogen would appreciate the cook's noticing this beautiful celery root while cooking Thanksgiving Dinner today.

But I don't cook to please Dogen.

I cook to cook.

And noticing is part of the process.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monk-in-the-world,
Alan