Saturday, May 19, 2018

THE WORST SIT EVER

I exaggerate, of course. But it was a weird experience, this morning. I set my Insight Timer for a 30-minute sit and started to pay attention to the breath. That's when things started to go awry. I've been having trouble sleeping for a few weeks now, waking up very early because, while I'm inhaling okay, at a certain moment there comes an almost total blockage of the exhale, startling me awake. This morning I woke with the realization that it's the left nostril that is causing the problem, due to a condition I have known about for many years but which has never troubled me before: a deviated septum.

Odd, no?

So I guess I brought that insight with me to my sit. First off,  the breath refused to settle down into its usual rhythm, and I found it impossible to simply organize it into a stable pattern. That led to a shivery, out-of-my-skin feeling that pervaded my whole body; and consequently to a restlessness and and awareness of itchy places everywhere that demanded to be scratched. After twenty minutes I was wondering when this sit was going to end, Was my Insight Timer failing me? I started watching the mental clock until I finally surrendered, opened my eyes and checked the little screen on my cell phone to find I still had two-and-a-half minutes to go. Closed my eyes for what seemed like another thirty minutes, then opened them again: another twenty-five seconds still to go! I watched them count down with inexorable slowness, one at a time, until the digital gong sounded.

Phew! What a relief, to get up and make a cup of tea. I've been at this game for more than twenty years. You'd think I could do better. So, well, anyway... it's always salutary to get a reminder that I'm still right at the beginning!

Friday, May 18, 2018

CHIMES

I have been reading Chimes, a new book of poems by my friend of many years (and fellow Englishman!) Michael Dennis Browne. Selected from the output of more than fifty years of work, they are short, some of them not more than a single page, many of them blending haiku brevity and clarity with the mysterious and sometimes confounding opacity of a zen koan. I am attracted to brevity. In the case of a poem, it invites the reader beyond itself into the space and silence that surround the words on a white page. If we read with full attention, then we, the readers, are drawn into our own richly rewarding space of contemplative silence.

These short poems speak of intimate things; of family--brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, sons. They speak of the beauty of nature when observed, inhabited up close; of the art of poetry; and of deeper, murkier realms of emotional resonance, like love, and loss, and death. The "Chimes" of the title--this is my guess--are echoes of memory from childhood days, those intense moments that "ring our bells," opening unexpected doorways and setting off pleasing reverberations in the mind. This poet is attuned to their peculiar and poignant music, and his poems are each musical compositions in themselves, songs and dances that enchant with their subtle rhymes and rhythms even as they bemuse. Their seeming light touch is deceptive; their reach, profound.

I suspect that many poets have their secret storage closet of intimacies like this one. I'm glad this poet opened this one up.

BUSY

I'm busy thinking about putting my "serious conversation" blog posts together as a book. As they are currently posted on The Buddha Diaires, you'd have to stitch them together starting with the oldest in order to get a sense of the development of the whole. I have also done some significant changes to the texts that I originally wrote, so the book--assuming that it happens--will be an easier and more coherent read than a disconnected series of blog posts.

The text itself is about 60 pages, and needs the addition of flyleafs, acknowledgements and so on. It will also need a cover, and I have already begun working with an artist friend to put together some ideas. In fact, it occurred to me this morning that we might do something more collaborative, in the form of another, analogous "conversation" between word and image, writer and artist. So I'll be watching for the development of possibilities.

I find myself, almost to my surprise, more excited by this project than I imagined I might be. I feel pleased with the text as I have written it, and I'm beginning to think this could be something more than the little chapbook I had originally envisioned. There is not much else engaging me at the moment, so this comes along as a welcome project at precisely the right time. As things so often do.

Please stay tuned. I think I'll have something really pleasurable to offer you, when the time comes.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

IT IS

It is
the little things 
we overlook
that need 
attention.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

"THE ARC OF THE MORAL UNIVERSE..."

The heart breaks, the stomach churns, the mind reels when confronted by yesterday's reports from Jerusalem. The juxtaposition of images of the savagery of the Israeli response to Palestinian protests and the self-congratulatory smiles of American and Israeli officials at the opening of the US embassy is quite simply an obscenity.

With all pretense of even-handedness abandoned, Trump's America submits to the fanaticism of Israel's religious right and sends its evangelical bigots to bookend the celebration with their "prayers." Does the grinning Netanyahu understand that these ministers of an Old Testament God see these events in the light of their publicly avowed belief, that the hegemony of Jews in the Holy Land is nothing but a prelude to their annihilation in the promised end times? Perhaps he is able to dismiss their beliefs as merely delusional, in his eagerness to co-opt American power to achieve his purposes. If so, he is himself delusional.

This will not end well. If nothing else, the statistics of birth rates and population growth militate against it. To maintain the status quo in years to come, Israel will need to reinforce an already incipient apartheid system with ever-increasing force and ruthlessness. The truism, that Israel "has a right to protect itself," will not stand against the reality of numbers. No amount of military might is powerful enough to contain the anger of vast hordes of the suppressed forever.

Israel was founded with the best of intentions and its early years were marked by its devotion to  democratic, egalitarian and humanitarian ideals. It would be well advised, now, to reconnect with those roots, to find compassionate accommodation with displaced Palestinians and its Arab neighbors, and to explore ways to live in peace, and justice, and respect for the humanity of all concerned.

The course of human history--and especially the history of the Jewish people--teaches that tyranny, no matter how successful in the short run, inevitably ends in disaster for the tyrant. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." In betraying the professed ideals of its founders, who themselves fled bleak tyranny to create a hopeful future, Israel now acts the oppressor and risks finding itself on the wrong side of history. Sadly, given everything that is happening under its current administration, the same is true of an America that places its heavy thumb on one side only of the scale of justice.