Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In the Stillness Dancing

"So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing."
TS Eliot: Four Quartets
 In memory of Lux Umbra Dei, whose Bio said just:
  Gratitude! Gratitude!
There are people in life who have a profound effect on us - even though we may know them all too briefly.   Their presence in our lives challenges us, hints of depths to which we feel drawn

John Main - was another (also known to Lux):
Many years ago we lived near Mt. Savior Monastery in upstate NY and we were privileged to hear John Main give a sermon at Mass and speak about meditation.  Only once before had I heard someone speak so profoundly, from the heart, in simple words, words which led you into the sacred.  He reminded me instantly of hearing Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel speak about the holiness of time, when I was in college.  He too had that quality of "knowing" something from the heart - and putting it into the simplest terms, so that each sentence held a universe of meaning.   Later I was able to briefly meet the Dalai Lama.   And that completed the Trinity for me - three leaders, from different faiths, each one in touch with the deepest heart of Reality, each one able to put a lifetime of practice into the simplest words and actions, as if teaching you from heart to heart.
From a review of John Main's biography:
In The Stillness Dancing describes Main’s life as a journalist, soldier, barrister, and Benedictine monk.  His life was a quest for an authentic life of prayer.  While a civil servant in India, he met an Indian Swami who taught him to meditate using a mantra (holy word).  This form of prayer was taken from him when he entered Ealing Abbey, England. As a novice he was directed to adopt a more “traditional” form of prayer.  Much later, after his ordination to the priesthood, John Main discovered that the form of prayer taught by the swami already existed within the mainstream of Western Christianity, but had fallen into disuse.  The biography describes how he spent the rest of his life attempting to restore this form of Christian meditation to the central place it once occupied in the Church.
John Main exercised a profound influence on us as well as upon the monastery itself.  It was his introduction to meditation that led us, decades later and in a round-about way, to another monastery in the mountains of Colorado - in the dead of winter.  It was there, at a meditation retreat, that I came to understand the meaning of "emptiness" ~ when I heard the meditation bell reverberate ~ as if inside myself.   And Lux Umbra Dei rejoiced!  Gratitude!

One thing leads to another....  It is a wonder to write it all down.  Part of this blog's unfolding path ~ a path which is a mystery, even to me.

Focus on the Water

Let your eye rest on the water.  Look deeply at the ripples.  See what comes....

It's a gift from stratofrog.  And it goosetails, for me, with an experience from long ago.  When I stood in the Ganges with Gandhi.  Well, not really.  But it was as Real as anything could be - when I experienced it.  I learned much wisdom.  In a very short span.  It occurred at a monastery over 30 years ago.   It was a great blessing.  And this photo, more than anything, provides the entry into that experience.

The monks had invited friends to join them at a workshop.   I knew them all, except for the presenter.  Part of the workshop involved making a list of spiritual stepping stones and wisdom people.  Then we chose one wisdom person with whom to have a conversation - an inner journey down a spiritual well to a place of meeting.  I closed my eyes, allowed myself to go down the inner well - mine was round, with stones all the way down, mossy in places, damp, cool, pleasant.  Immediately I found myself in the Ganges.  I now write my exact words of that experience, speaking to Gandhi:
I don't know quite how to begin.  I will fold my hands and bow to you - Gandiji....  It's very peaceful here - even though we are surrounded by others purifying themselves - washing together in the water.  I am so aware of the multitudes in this river. .. And yet we are peacefully alone too.  I have time to talk to you and you are gracious enough to share this time with me.  Pardon me, if I say one thing more about our surroundings.  I see now that is it so appropriate to put the bodies of the dead into the river along with the rest of us who bathe here.  But I realize as I say this too that you are supposed to be dead and I am supposed to be alive.  Yet we are here bathing together.  Somehow - in a way I cannot understand - everyone is in this river. 
Yes, my daughter.  You yourself have said so.
 ................. long pause..............
Why is it that I am unable to speak more to you?
Silence together, my daughter.
I didn't know I could go down and find silence together.
On earth, I fasted and kept silence one day a week.  Here we can do so always.... But we can share as often as you like.
Yes, I see that now.  We're all here together.  I'm so glad to be home.  My tears become part of this river too.  Drops of water which reflect.  But I can only see the reflections when they've fallen.  ~ But then they're gone ~ part of the river now.
 Just so, my daughter.
You say so little, Gandhi.  You have the gift of listening.  Do you think I will ever have it too.
"In the stillness is the dancing"
(Like a soft echo in my mind, for a while now.)
You yourself have said it.  Follow my example.

Summary (afterward) - to myself:
I am afraid I may have missed my opportunity.  I had so much I wanted to say - like before you make a long distance call - but when you finally hear the voice - that's all you wanted to hear - just the voice, the comforting feeling of hearing the voice and remaining in its presence.

"In the stillness is the dancing"  ~  An allusion to a line from TS Eliot's Four Quartets:

"So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing." 

Now here's the thing.  Although I own a book, whose title rang in my mind, I knew the experience really referenced Eliot's words.  (I had purchased the book - for its title, you see.)  But there's moreWhen I searched, just now, for a link to it, I found another book with almost the same title - a biography I didn't know existed.   So, why, you might ask, have I just linked to a biography I have never read?  Because it concerns a man I was yet to meet - at the same monastery - a man whose impact on me (and others) relates to the title of this blog.  A blog yet to be born.  A man yet to die.   A book yet to be written.  A profession I was yet to train for - which had never even entered my mind.   And yet... all that meaning was contained in my experience.  That.  And more, of course.

As TS Eliot writes: 
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
This blog, like life, is a journey. We are on it together....

Monday, June 29, 2009

A hole in the sky - reveals The Mystery

Photo ~ Courtesy of brotherjohn OEF

A comment below, by my very first visitor to this blog,  exactly suits a photo that just arrived this morning:

Through the hole in the sky…a poet once wrote… it is that precise blueness that releases the mystery to me. Seeing and feeling a connection to everything, and nothingness. And golden green thru the trees breaking light into beauty. I feel it in your poems. The Gaze of God is a vast concept through which I look back, cannot answer and feel humbled. The growth of a seedling, yearning to be, and being.

This mysterious confluence of events somehow "fits" with whatever direction this blog has decided to take. I'm just going along for the ride...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

He looked on his servant in her nothingness....


I looked at my soul.
And my soul looked back at me.

Such poverty
                       (to see)

And yet
Such majesty
                       (to be)

I looked at God.
And God looked back at me.

All in an instant
A hole: My very soul?

A space into eternity
Vast emptiness - of heavens.
Clear through
what had been

Full of God's gaze: The Spirit's blaze?
Like laser's trace
My finite self
Leaving a space
Of limitless grace.


God's love is
A purifying love.

It scours us clean.

Like water
It wears a way.

Clean through.


"He looked on his servant in her nothingness..."

Magnificat, Annunciation song.

I think in our deepest hearts we are all alike. There is a window in us - that opens to eternity - which to me appeared as something like the night sky, full of stars, not just around me, but right through me. As if ... seeking after the Mystery, and coming "face to face" with this mysterious gaze upon us, we are somehow transformed - even replaced by the Mystery itself - or it's trace in us. And maybe, over time, if we have enough such moments, we literally disappear into the Mystery.

Some people, it would seem, want to shut that out. Not just from themselves, but from others too. They have that window (onto eternity) "capacity" - but may choose to ignore it. Or they may shut the window - as if to erase the capacity in themselves.  Or worse, some try to shut it down for others too. (Thus missing this great adventure - even depriving the cosmos of a unique "window"  into mystery.)

God is just one way of wording it. A mystery beyond our conception. Holy Mystery - whatever is deepest, truest, most transcendent, most real - although most hidden. I used God here because it came as part of the poem, part of the experience. But mostly I prefer terms which veil the mystery. Something which can never be penetrated. Indeed, if we try to penetrate it, or so it seems to me, the Mystery only grows greater - as we ourselves become part of it - or it becomes part of us. Could be both.

Nothingness. It attracts Mystery. And Mystery draws you into nothingness.


None of us is perfect. Yet this experience taught me that God does not so much look "at us" as "through us". Beyond our imperfections. It's as if, in the gaze of God, our imperfections, our limitations, simply disappear.

We can take comfort in that, I think.

It is a compassionate gaze. A transforming gaze. Nothing to fear.