“I would not say I am looking for God. Or, I am not looking for God precisely. I am not seeking the God I learned about as a Catholic child, as an 18-year-old novice in a religious community, as an agnostic graduate student, as - but who cares about my disguises? Or God’s.”
— Mary Rose O’Reilley, The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd.
Roshi [his Zen Buddhist teacher] said something nice to me one time. He said that the older you get, the lonelier you become, and the deeper the love you need. Which means that this hero that you’re trying to maintain as the central figure in the drama of your life— this hero is not enjoying the life of a hero. You’re exerting a tremendous maintenance to keep this heroic stance available to you, and the hero is suffering defeat after defeat. And they’re not heroic defeats; they’re ignoble defeats. Finally, one day you say, ‘Let him die— I can’t invest any more in this heroic position.’ From there, you just live your life as if it’s real— as if you have to make decisions even though you have absolutely no guarantee of any of the consequences of your decisions. -Leonard Cohen
“I fell in love with Tibet because their essential mission was to keep a continual stream of prayer. To me they kept the world from spinning out of control just by being a civilization on the roof of the world in that continuous state of prayer. The prayers are etched on wheels, they feel them with their hands like braille and turn them. It’s spinning prayer like cloth. That was my perception as a young person. I didn’t quite understand the whole thing but I felt protected. We grew up at a time when nuclear war seemed imminent with air raid drills and lying on the floor under your school desk. To counterbalance that destruction was this civilization of monks living high in the Himalayas who were continuously praying for us, for the planet and for all of nature. That made me feel safe.”
I've been spending a lot of time lately in conversation with others about how to effectively think about and listen to the spiritual dimension of people's lives. From my very first sessions as a trainee spirituality was a dominant element in many of the conversations. It became very clear early on that I was going to need to discover ways to ask appropriate questions about beliefs, practices, and communities. I also became very curious how to explore the sustaining and healing qualities of people's spiritual and religous experience while also examining how these practices may also be doing harm. A delicate balance for sure.
But the real reason for this post was to direct you to my friend and fellow narrative therapist Kelly McCann's new blog, Scenes From a Semi-Mormon Life where she gets transparent around her own spiritual journey. The writing is funny, smart and brave. I know Kelly spent a lot of consideration around the risk she might be taking by being so publicly transparent with her own spiritual exploration so go take a look, leave a nice comment or two, and be sure to bookmark it for daily reading.
The truth is in the meeting of opposites - Father Bede Griffiths
I discovered this video of the life of Father Bede Griffiths over at Zen Mirror. I ended up watching the whole thing. So compelling is Father Bede Griffiths story of combining the spiritual traditions of the west and the east, that immediately after watching the video I went over to Amazon and bought his biography and a book of some of his writings. I'm very curious about this man. Do yourself a favor and make some time to get a glimpse of this amazing man's life.
Bede Griffiths was a monk, a man in whom there was no guile, and was last to see the guile that may have been in any other. This monk with a universal heart was an icon of integrity and guilelessness. As John Henry Cardinal Newman once described them, Bede was one of those: who live in a way least thought of by others, the way chosen by our Savior, to make headway against all the power and wisdom of the world. It is a difficult and rare virtue, to mean what we say, to love without deceit, to think no evil, to bear no grudge, to be free from selfishness, to be innocent and straightforward... simple-hearted. They take everything in good part which happens to them, and make the best of everyone. (homily, Feast of St. Bartholomew)Such was Father Bede Griffiths, Swami Dayananda, who died May 13, 1993, barefooted and clothed in the color of the sun, in his thatched hut at Shantivanam in South India.
I believe my years of experience feeling alone and isolated in the world, struggling with one's mortality, searching for purpose and meaning, and then reaching a jumping off place where my life depended on me redefining my faith and spirituality and the purpose and meaning of my life, qualify me quite well for the role of a Spiritual Director.
Because nobody should have to walk the road alone.
My Zen teacher Paul Lynch, JDPSN has written a great "letter to a
beginning student". It captures a lot about his teaching style and why I like studying with him. I wanted to point some people over there who might
be interested in starting a practice. Ocean Eyes Zen Center meets every
Sunday morning in Huntington Beach and all are invited. Have any questions? drop me a line.
This last weekend Michele and I attended our second Obon Festival. Our first was last year in Seattle, this year it was a little closer home at the the Orange County Buddhist Church in Anaheim. If you haven't done an Obon Festival before I recommend you give it a look, it's a lot of fun. Your typical Obon Festival consists of lots of food, Taiko drumming and toward the end of the day Bon Odori Dancing, which is like a big community square dance. Next year both Michele and I are going to take the dancing lessons so we can participate. We don't want to miss out in the fun. For those interested the OC Buddhist Church practices Shin Buddhism which is the largest form of Buddhism in Japan but very little known outside in the west. I plan on taking some classes there soon and am very glad I found them. Here are some phots, enjoy:
"A human being is a part of a whole, called by us _universe_, a part
limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and
feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical
delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for
us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few
persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this
prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living
creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." - Einstein
Nice clip. It features highlights from the opening reception for Shaolin: Temple of Zen – Photographs by Justin Guariglia, including the kung fu and calligraphy demonstration by the visiting Shaolin monk Shi De Chao.
If you do decide to start meditating, there's no need to tell other people about it, or talk about why you are doing it or what it's doing for you. In fact, there is no better way to waste your nascent energy and enthusiasm for practice and thwart your efforts so they will be unable to gather momentum. Best to meditate without advertising it. Every time you get a strong impulse to talk about meditation and how wonderful it is, or how hard it is, or what it's doing for you these days, or what it's not, or you want to convince someone else how wonderful it would be for them, just look at it as more thinking and go meditate some more. The impulse will pass and everybody will be better off--especially you.
Have confidence in your own spiritual potentiality, your ability to find your own unique way. Learn from others certainly and use what you fine useful, but also learn to trust your own inner wisdom. Have courage. Be awake and aware. Remember too that Buddhism is not about being a Buddhist; that is, obtaining a new identity tag. Nor is it about collecting head-knowledge, practices and techniques. It is ultimately about letting go of all forms and concepts and becoming free.
- John Snelling, Elements of Buddhism
A student once said: "When I was a Buddhist, it drove my parents and friends crazy, but when I am a buddha, nobody is upset at all."