December 4, 2007

A Gift of Darkness

Inspired by a Brazilian folktale, The Sea Serpent’s Daughter

I would gather darkness from
Under my pillow,
From under my blanket and
From under my bed.

I would gather dark from
My Mom’s kitchen cabinets in the kitchen,
From my toy closet behind everything and
From the mud.

I would gather darkness from
A trashcan,
From a metal clothes closet and
From underground.

I would gather dark from
The sky,
From under a tree and
From nighttime.

I would put the dark in a cardboard box,
And surround it with metal,
Color it red, and put pink
Ribbon on it.
I’d decorate it with stars.

I would close the box
With a lock, a blue and grey metal lock,
And tie it up with a red and white
Dotted string.

I would give it to my Grandma
Who is tired from
Mowing the lawn
All daylong.

I would find her in the living room
Lying on the couch.
Grandma would say,

A group poem by Ms. Benedetto’s 1st & 2nd grade,
Yoncalla Elementary School

November 19, 2007

As if Dreaming

The sky becomes one with its clouds
the waves with their mist.
In Heaven's starry river, a thousand sails
As if dreaming, I return to the place
where the Highest lives,
and hear a voice from the heavens:
Where am I going?
I answer, "The road is long,"
and sigh; soon the sun will be setting.
Hard to find words in poems to carry
on its ninety-thousand-mile wind,
the huge inner bird is soaring.
O wind, do not stop--
My little boat of raspberry wood
has not yet reached the Immortal Islands.

Chinese Poet Li Qingzhao
from Admiring Lotuses

(translated by Jane Hirshfield)

November 11, 2007

On-Line at the Nameless Cafe

Siting here at the Nameless, sun streaming in the windows, chatting with God on the laptop, love wordlessly pointing out how sweet the music is, how exquisitely enchanting the light. As the sun caresses the table it brings out the deep red and gold hues in the wood. How many conversations at this table? How many cups of coffee or tea? How many stories? I watch the light move slowly across the room. The pace is slow here at the Nameless this morning. Relaxed. The atmosphere settled. Sunday morning, but really, in here, it feels like eternity - a sweet, settled eternity. Everyone here is finding their way, in their own time and season. While they patiently wait for God, they drink coffee and tea. The waitress brings plates of warm goodies. When things settle, an easy loving-kindness emerges. I look around and find nothing sacred. Then again, there is nothing ordinary here either.

God just popped up! Since I had a good connection, I took the liberty of asking that ageless question, "Who or what are you?" The Beloved's reply: "I don't know."

I wrote back, "I knew it!" and we both had a good laugh at my choice of words.

Then, silence. You know, that still, silent, warm Presence that is so...


... Beloved

November 8, 2007

And For No Reason

For no reason
I start skipping like a child.

For no reason
I turn into a leaf
That is carried so high
I kiss the sun's mouth
And dissolve.

For no reason
A thousand birds
Choose my head for a conference table,
Start passing their
Cups of wine
And their wild songbooks all around.

For every reason in existence
I begin to eternally,
To eternally laugh and love!

When I turn into a leaf
And start dancing,
I run to kiss our beautiful Friend
And I dissolve in the Truth
That I Am.

Hafiz/ Trans. Ladinsky

November 4, 2007

The Treasure

O you who've gone on pilgrimage -
where are you, where, oh where?
Here, here is the Beloved!
Oh come now, come, oh come!
Your friend, he is your neighbor,
he is next to your wall -
You, erring in the desert -
what air of love is this?
If you'd see the Beloved's
form without any form -
You are the house, the master,
You are the Kaaba, you! . . .
Where is a bunch of roses,
if you would be this garden?
Where, one soul's pearly essence
when you're the Sea of God?
That's true - and yet your troubles
may turn to treasures rich -
How sad that you yourself veil
the treasure that is yours!

~Rumi 'I Am Wind, You are Fire'
Translation by Annemarie Schimmel

October 28, 2007


If ten lamps are in one place,
each differs in form from another;
yet you can't distinguish whose radiance is whose
when you focus on the light.

In the field of spirit there is no division;
no individuals exist.
Sweet is the oneness of the Friend with His friends.

Catch hold of spirit.
Help this headstrong self disintegrate;
that beneath it you may discover unity,
like a buried treasure.

From: A Daybook of Spiritual Guidance
365 Selections from Rumi's Mathnawi
Translated by Camille and Kabir Helminski

October 25, 2007

Something Rings

I had a parent say to me recently, "When I tuck them in at night and they wake up in the morning in their beds, the universe is right."

I get that, I get that sentiment, that certain things when they are present in one's life, has one feel "the universe is right", something rings, something says "yes", there is a kind of intuited confirmation, messages come back to you saying you are heading in the right direction; there is synchronicity, a kind of harmony in the vibe surrounding an act or decision; there is a communication and relationship that is very much alive. There is a creative process happening, a conscious process in which we are participating, whether we realize it or not. This is magical in an ordinary way; in the zone or in contact with life in this way, this large way, feels alive and meaningful.

October 15, 2007

How Does God Keep From Fainting?

The wonder of water moving over that rock in the stream
justifies existence.

The swish of a horse's tail - again I am stunned
by the grandeur of the unseen One
that governs all

I resist looking at the palms of my hands sometimes.
Have you ever gotten breathless before a beautiful face
for I see you there,
my dear.

There is a wonderful problem waiting for you
that God and I share:

how to keep from fainting when we
see each other.

In truth:

how does God keep from fainting
looking at Himself all day?

Light is moving like a stream
and the myriad celestial beings


September 30, 2007

View From Openness

I have a little children's book that I share with children who are struggling with challenging life events. The book is called Zoom, by Istvan Banyai. It is a book of only illustrations, beginning with the crown of a rooster's head, and slowly, page by page, zooming out, until the earth is seen in orbit, as a far away star. This has been a meaningful metaphor enabling an enlarged vision of existence holding us, each of us, in form and formlessness, from the smallest detail to a vision whose capacity exceeds the largest detail we know. Whose eyes see this? What is holding us in perfect balance, in warmth, with such care?

September 16, 2007

The Void

We become aware of the void as we fill it.
~Antonio Porchia, Voices

September 9, 2007

Being With All That Arises

Do you have the patience to wait
until your mind settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.

~ Lao Tsu

August 28, 2007

The Presence Within / Mother Theresa

I wonder if Mother Theresa had a friend whom she allowed to get close to her heart, if she would have felt a holding and mirroring presence... And if so, I wonder if Mother Theresa could have born the weight of revealing her primitive agonies and the pain of betraying her essential presence (God within)… In the light of love, of loving kindness, of holding, and most importantly, of accurate mirroring, I wonder if with this kind of holding Mother Theresa may have drawn closer to realizing her own essential presence, her own authentic connection with God, with Being. If she had this, she may have turned within and realized this Presence right there in her own heart.

I’m speaking of a spiritual friend’s deep capacity for loving-kindness, for holding and accurate mirroring, which is huge and infinite in importance. Each of us has this capacity within, this authentic self that is the touch-point with God, that is the conduit, opening through which God-as-the-Unmanifest is connected with God-as-Manifestation, where the inner sky of emptiness meets the outer sky of form. Suzuki Roshi said we are the swinging door between these two, which are "not-two, not one." Here on this spot is where non-dual Presence is realized.

One could feel as though I were aggrandizing another’s capacity in this regard. However it seems to me that one cannot really inflate the capacity of this authentic Presence within. What is your experience of touching this Presence in others? Is not its capacity for light and love, wisdom and compassion, clarity, accuracy and warmth unfathomable? I see this essential presence in others. I see and feel and sense this touch-point, an access or opening to authentic presence, or God. This is the intimacy that cannot be manufactured. It does not come and go. It is inherent in our very nature. It is already, always present within, only usually covered over, hidden in the open, deep within our primitive agonies and all the subsequent strategies of creating a shell and distraction through preoccupation that we use to deal with our suffering. Being honest with oneself, one cannot pretend to this intimacy.

In her deeply private moments, talking honestly to herself in her journal, Mother Theresa bared the alienation she experienced; she tried to fathom the depths of her emptiness, understand the silence and separation she experienced when she turned her heart to God. She had performed this tremendous selfless work over the course of a lifetime, yet something essential was missing, she was not connected with what she sensed was something essentially important, the most important thing, and she could not fake it. The pretense of sainthood did not feed her. Apparently divine sustenance did not follow from her works or other's conviction and projection that she was the epitome of goodness, love, charity, and benevolence.

Mother Theresa could not pretend to intimacy with God. She had tasted it long ago. She had the marker for it, the bliss and freedom of this connection, so she could not pretend to its sacred intimacy when that connection was missing. She realized the taste of real water, the deep authenticity of it, how it refreshes, enlivens, rejuvenates; how deeply delightful it is. No picture of water, no image, no words, concepts, ideas or representations of water will quench one's thirst. It cannot be faked. Only genuine water will quench her thirst, and she had a deep, deep thirst for communion with the divine. Nothing can take its place. Not all the riches in the world. Not all the philosophical speculation and genius. Not all the asceticism, or all the good works in the world can take the place of realizing one's true nature. And it seems to start with self-realization. It seems to start within, with a return to the vast silence and emptiness of the inner sky. But there is a gate within and that gate seems to be not so easy to storm or take by force or will. It is not responsive to wealth or bribery, or acts of any kind, whether good or bad. It seems somehow indifferent to all of our strategies and manipulations. In fact it seems that we have to go through considerable layers - often involving suffering, facing our unfinished psychological business, exposing our shell, cocoon, and conditioned identity, the primitive agonies of the early wounds, particularly the wound of separation when we turned from our essential presence to get along and survive in the world - to even get close to the gate. Then we still find we are not able to just walk into that intimacy we so deeply thirst for. We have to wait, ripen, inquire, open and uncover more subtle layers of pretense, or resistance, of holding on, before we are, suddenly, spontaneously, pulled through the gate without the use of our hands. It is a mystery, involving grace, not-knowing, humility, suffering, softening of the shell, release, openness. Even then the groove of conditioning revisits us repeatedly, pulling us back into conceptualizing our experience, and rehabilitating the shell.

What impulse has us begin to experience our shell, to seek out our essential presence, to return to the gate, the source? St John of the Cross speaks to this mystery beautifully when he says,

"I always shall be moved to go
largely to something I don't know
that one may come on randomly."
This is really open. This deep openness, not-knowing, is not found in a church or in the teachings of a religion; not found in the tenets of Mother Theresa's foundational faith. There was some point of aliveness and authenticity within her that she was out of touch with. There is a touch-point of vastness in each of us that the mind cannot get itself around. That is a good thing as it holds the possibility that the mind, when it encounters this vastness, might come to rest, fall into silence, giving way to the emergence of intimacy of the soul.

Whoever made the call to release Mother Theresa's journals instead of burning them according to her wishes made a contribution. There are many people sincerely wrestling with their own alienation, and these honest admissions may provide insight and honest encouragement to them as they come to grips with their own loneliness, as they muddle through and discover what their particular suffering, their soft underbelly of tenderness has to teach them; as they explore their primitive agonies, the origins of their own feelings of separation and disconnectedness; as they face the vast emptiness of the unmanifest, and realize within them is the touch-point of their own original face, their true being. In my experience this is the antidote to alienation and the door to love, freedom and bliss.

August 20, 2007


I have a feeling that my boat

has struck, down there in the depths,

against a great thing.

And nothing



----Nothing happens?

Or has everything happened,

and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan Ramon Jimenez

August 16, 2007

Wetness of the River

A river of mystery
flows in each of us,
and in all things.

We feel its wetness
deep in our nature,
fed by hidden springs.

We sense its flow, alive,
breathing in our communion; moving
in the gentle currents of psalms.

I feel the wetness of this river
moving deep within me, flowing
as luminous in the night as in the day.

August 14, 2007

Being Alive

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That's what it's all finally about ...

From the Power of the Myth by Joseph Campbell

August 12, 2007

Deep Listening

If you listen deeply for the soul bridge within, you may become aware of an infinite and eternal listening. What is possible with your silent awareness, your wakeful listening and your seeing? If you listen deeply, your listening may invite another person to an awareness of their Essential Presence. In the warm hold of holy listening coming through you - a listening from wholeness - another may experience the presence of holy listening within themselves.

August 11, 2007

Returning Home

In the yard the leaves are turning,
spinning, golden colored honey
pages turning in my mind
leafing through time under
blankets of low-lying fog.

From the underbrush
a rabbit scurries
darting in front of the headlights
of the old car crackling gravel
returning me home

to soft candle light
familiar sounds
aroma of slow cooking
and quiet corners
of my mind
my body
my heart
and beyond.

Love resides in this corner,
in these leaves, in dense fog
moving through the rabbit's nose
over the sepia pages
the glinting candle fragrance,
pure and simple
turning, returning


July 26, 2007

The Guest

Friend, hope for the guest while you are alive.
Jump into experience while you are alive!
Think...and think...while you are alive.

What you call 'salvation' belongs to the time before death.
If you don't break your ropes while you're alive,
do you think
ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic
Just because the body is rotten -
that is all fantasy.

What is found now is found then.
If you find nothing now,
you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death.

If you make love with the divine now, in the next life
you will have the face of satisfied desire.

So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is,
Believe in the Great Sound!

Kabir says this: When the guest is being searched for,
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work.
Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity.


(trans. Robert Bly)

July 21, 2007


"The snow in the air could have been flying seeds, the snow on the ground could have been fallen blossoms. The rounding of the image gave emptiness a radiance."

From The Afternoon of a Writer
by Peter Handke

July 19, 2007


Walk around feeling like a leaf

Know you could tumble any second

Then decide what to do with your time

- Naomi Shiab Nye

July 15, 2007

Already, Always Blessed

It is easy to listen, and it is hard.
It often crushes me with wonder.
I am helpless against this flow
of grace, of love, of a presence
miraculous, yet light as a feather,

brushing by with a faint breeze, and then,
perhaps, out of sight again. This presence
seems miraculous, but really, it is just ordinary,
blissfully ordinary.

I do not know how it is that we are gifted
with this... the presence of these gods,
why they visit, showering our ordinary lives,
filling our souls with fountains of light;

sweeping into all the corners our cottage,
here, in our home, with you,
sharing these blessings.

But still they asked for nothing.

This melts me. All the blessings
and still they asked for nothing.

This old couple were already, always blessed,
already enfolded in light. This drew the gods
to them. They were listening, noticing,
before that knock on the door.

Standing at the edge of the field
our poet was opening, listening;
ready for the god's visit, ready
to be shaken with understanding.

She asked for nothing, and the gods smiled
in just the same way her poem
- fountain of light showering -
smiles upon us.


Here is a little Mary Oliver gift:

This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing

the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing

better to do
than listen.
I mean this

In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door

to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,

but gods.
It is my favorite story--
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give

but their willingness
to be attentive--
but for this alone
the gods loved them

and blessed them--
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water

from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,

and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down--
but still they asked for nothing

but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning--
whatever it was I said

I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field--
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors--
I was leaning out;
I was listening.
As you are,

July 14, 2007

A Light Touch

Sometimes a photo will capture my imagination, as this one does. In this, I see hands - open, exposed, relaxed, ready, waiting, receiving. And I see the light touch of presence, wooing these open hands, so near, even alighting on and in them, stroking - as light as a feather, brushing by with a faint breeze, and then, perhaps, out of sight again. This presence seems miraculous, but really, it is just ordinary, blissfully ordinary.

Read more on the story of these hummingbirds here:

July 8, 2007

The Touch of Grace

Sometimes, after dreams, I feel the emotional weight of the conditioned self, thick like a blanket of clay; I feel the texture and substance of the conditioning - guilt and shame, worthlessness, the whole lot bedded there, covered with cold heavy air. I have been told by the wise that awareness of this suffering arising is simultaneously the arising of freedom. I have been shown how all of our frailties and negative emotions are no other than this, the ungraspable this... And this seems right, these forms (thought forms, emotional forms) like all form are a manifestation of freedom, consciousness, being, the very presence itself, the flowering of purity and perfection. Through love and communion I smile now when these troubling forms arise. There is a vast consciousness that is holding them, allowing them, loving and saying "yes" to them, "Yes, you too have a place here, obviously." (The problem, the mug, being unmistakable.) With this "problem" arising we are reminded, we are given the opportunity of instantly seeing the gate, here, now. The path of release is suddenly open before us, outside of time. In a flash of insight we are presented with complete freedom, though we may not recognize it. We are given the opportunity to open our heart, unveil our fidelity to our true nature - the ungraspable this, which never leaves, never comes and goes, but abides, calm and clear.

In that line, "The problem, the mug, being unmistakable," it is all too easy to slip past the most significant word in the passage: being. It is hidden in the wide open, easily glossed over because we human beings focus almost exclusively upon our "human" and generally neglect our "being," which is the infinite and eternal in us. "Problem" and "mug" are much more accessible and familiar, like that pure word the wanderer has brought to the valley from the mountain slope; the blue and yellow gentian. "Are we here perhaps just to say: house, bridge, well, gate, jug, fruit tree, window-- at most, column, tower... but to say, understand this, to say it as the Things themselves never fervently thought to be." The wanderer does not bring the unutterable being from the mountain slope to the valley, it is already here. But he has to say it somehow, and what is there to say other than through form, through a "pure word he has learned, the blue and yellow gentian."

"The Things themselves never fervently thought to be." This is our gift, to realize and say their being, which is our being. The paradox is saying, realizing, the unutterable, that which already, always is. This is our dance, our celebration and our bliss. Even a "problem" - the mug with its white ring marring the dark table - is a "pure word" that comes to us from the mountain slope. Everywhere the white rings of our conditioned existence mar the dark table of our being. The problem, the self-identification is, for most of us, far from unmistakable. In the poem the ring is white, the table dark. Our attention is focused upon the white ring, not the dark table, our being, which receives and holds all forms, yet remains "dark" to us, hidden, unconscious. We especially focus our attention on the forms that mar, that cause suffering to self and others. In so doing we most often miss the "problem," misperceive it, again and again do we not? We are fixated on these white rings that brightly mar our existence, unable to see the root cause of this suffering; unable to see through the conditioning, to see the impermanence and limitations of the personal center, we misperceive form, we do not realize its emptiness.

Held in the light of love, and through humility, I have come to see my problems as the touch of grace, reminders of blessed emptiness, that form is no other than emptiness. With this realization a natural fidelity emerges to that which is here, now, ungraspable, unmistakable being.


This world is a
dewdrop world
and yet, and yet

June 30, 2007


Heidegger's A.M.

Coffee breaks
the chain
of neglect
of the problem of being.

Coffee grounds
the problem in ancient inquiries
concerning being not being beings.

Before coffee
what is not sought
is not unfamiliar
though ungraspable, hot,

but after the first shot
everyone understands
"The sky is blue," "I am happy,"
statements like that.
A white ring mars a dark table.

The problem, the mug
being unmistakable.

By Les Gottesman
from the Spring issue of The Antioch Review

June 24, 2007

This Light Glimmers Within You

Once you have tapped your inner self,
the one has made contact with the One sitting inside;
you have met with God.
Then what kind of fear can exist?
What is there to be fearful about, and what worries are left to encounter?
When you go within, you become still, you become peaceful.
All the waves, those generate within you;
they all originate at the level of your mind.
They all come to a stop.
There is a light within you, and you are also a light.
Both lights assimilate into one.


June 16, 2007

Grand Canyon


I just returned from a rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. As you can see from the photos (more available by clicking the sidebar Flickr pictures), it was a beautiful trip, in which I was daily filled with an extraordinary kind of AWE - which layered itself atop of my usual state of being easily amazed.
Here is a poem that reflects aspects of the feeling of being deep within the Grand Canyon:
They say the layered earth rose up
Ancient rock leviathan
Trailing ages in its wake
Lifting earthness toward the sun
And coursing water cut the rock away
To leave these many-storied walls
Expose’ of ages gone
Around this breathless emptiness
More wondrous far than earth had ever known
My life has risen layered too
Each day, each year in turn has left
Its fossil life and sediments
Evidence of lived and unlived hours
The tedium, the anguish, yes the joy
That some heart-deep vitality
Keeps pressing upward toward the day I die
And Spirit cuts like water through it all
Carving out this emptiness
So inner eye can see
The soaring height of canyon walls within
Walls whose very color, texture, form
Redeem in beauty all my life has been
The darkness and the light, the false, the true
While deep below the living waters run
Cutting deeper through my parts
To resurrect my gravebound heart
Making, always making, all things new

Poem by Parker J. Palmer
Photos by Meredith

June 2, 2007

Furry Friend


Landlocked in Fur

I was meditating with my cat the other day
and all of a sudden she shouted,
"What happened?"

I knew exactly what she meant, but encouraged
her to say more - feeling that if she got it all out on the table
she would sleep better that night.

So I responded, "Tell me more, dear,"
and she soulfully meowed,

"Well, I was mingled with the sky. I was comets
whizzing here and there. I was suns in heat, hell - I was
galaxies. But now look - I am
landlocked in fur."

To this I said, "I know exactly what
you mean."

What to say about conversation



May 28, 2007

Wholeness Exposed

The notion of ego-fixation "superimposed" upon Wholeness fits as a useful way to look at liberation or realization. We are fixated on the world of ego perspective, the horizontal dimension, the world of separation. Yet there is the possibility of realizing this "other world" here, a presence or being veiled by our exclusive fixation on the world of appearances.

Our egocentric perspective is superimposed on the One. When two people fall in love, Wholeness is exposed; the formerly distinct boundary markers for self and other dissolve somewhat; the demarcation between ego perspective and Unity blurs, in Meredith's words, becomes soft, indistinct or evaporates altogether. This occurs to greater or lesser degrees as a couple experiences the vertical dimension of non-separation. Realizing this is experienced as blissful. It fosters the possibility of further enlargement and expansion.

With the experience of love the individual is given a glimpse of that "other world" upon which the familiar world of ego perspective is superimposed. Formerly, ego-perspective was not recognized as a perspective. It was like water to a fish - unseen and unquestioned. With love there is the possibility of "seeing through" ego perspective, seeing its outline so to speak, and simultaneously the openness of the vertical dimension. If we accept the invitation of love, we may surrender or relinquish the exclusivity of ego perspective, our conditioned understanding of self, of who or what one is.

We do not lose our individuality in love, yet we open to the vast non-dual perspective of the cosmic mirror, or God, or Wholeness.

Through love we are invited into this openness, and we step into it, unafraid, moment-to-moment. Through love we enjoy the intimacy and bliss that is inherent with this communion.

May 23, 2007

I Live

I live
enfolded in your curves,
and the flow of your spirit.
Arch Bend of the John Day River
Photo by David Jensen

May 15, 2007

Begin and End

Yeshua said:
This sky will pass away;
and the one above it will also pass away.
The dead have no life,
and the living have no death.
On days when you ate what was dead,
you made it alive.
When you are in the light, what will you do?
When you were One, you created two.
But now that you are two, what will you do?

(The Gospel of Thomas, Logion 11, Leloup-Rowe translation)

Meredith: I’m curious about this question, “What will you do?” It suggests a question about volition, about free will. This has always puzzled me. Where/when does free will begin and end?

But there is also something else in this passage that I find interesting. It is that distinction between One and Two. Where is the distinction? What defines the edge - that invisible line that marks the separation between this material world and that other one, the One that we swim and breathe in but seem to only glimpse or recognize once in a while? One may think of this boundary or distinction as a precipice, or a place where we come to the rim and ‘let go’, or even fall into this other thing. Others may speak of this as a height, such as on the top of a peak where we can now see it All clearly, where before we only could see partially. Where does this distinction begin and end, start or stop for you?

For me, I sense the spiritual world exists at all times and in all places in this herenow, and yet somehow I/we get caught into thinking it is somehow different, apart from us, and that we may only see it when “Awakened”, or when something miraculous happens to us. I’m inclined to see this division, this edge as no edge at all. I see this edge as one not unlike the point of dissipation between steam and air, or the line on the beach between wet and dry sand. This is a ‘soft edge’, blurry, impossible to distinguish where one begins and the other ends. Spiritual is superimposed in/on material, not separate from it. From this, we can realize the “One” or the wholeness, in the apparent “two”, or separateness.

Aki: Here is another way to look at free will, choice and volition. We're moving along in space and time on the horizontal dimension, choosing, exercising free will, growing, gradually cultivating, approaching... And then "suddenly" we realize the vertical dimension, "superimposed" to use your word, upon the horizontal dimension, and what a realization this is! On the vertical dimension, there is Wholeness, no space and time, no choosing. In my experience there is rising on the vertical dimension; rising in grace, a deepening or rising in the field of grace. The experience is one of freedom, warmth, light and bliss; a feeling or presence of Wholeness, connectedness, non-separation.

May 10, 2007


A blog friend, Fiz, posted this on another site, and I fell in love with it. I don't know the photo's source.

May 4, 2007

Moving in Wholeness

To stir you up,
to turn you in,
and open you out,
and then
to eat you!
Yum, yum,

A new challenge awaits us at the beginning of the twenty-first century: to go beyond fragmentation, to go beyond the incompatible sets of values held even by serious-minded people, to mature beyond the self-righteousness of one's accepted approaches and be open to total living and total revolution. In this era, to become a spiritual inquirer without social consciousness is a luxury that we can ill afford, and to be a social activist without a scientific understanding of the inner workings of the mind is the worst folly. Neither approach in isolation has had any significant success. There is no question now that an inquirer will have to make an effort to be socially conscious or that an activist will have to be persuaded of the moral crisis in the human psyche, the significance of being attentive to the inner life. The challenge awaiting us is to go much deeper as human beings, to abandon superficial prejudices and preferences, to expand understanding to a global scale, integrating the totality of living, and to become aware of the wholeness of which we are a manifestation.

As we deepen in understanding, the arbitrary divisions between inner and outer disappear. The essence of life, the beauty and grandeur of life, is its wholeness. Life in reality cannot be divided into the inner and the outer, the individual and social. We may make arbitrary divisions for the convenience of collective life, for analysis, but essentially any division between inner and outer has no reality, no meaning.

We have accepted the watertight compartments of society, the fragmentation of living as factual and necessary. We live in relationship to these fragments and accept the internalized divisions—the various roles we play, the contradictory value systems, the opposing motives and priorities—as reality. We are at odds with ourselves internally; we believe that the inner is fundamentally different from the outer, that what is me is quite separate from the not-me, that divisions among people and nations are necessary, and yet we wonder why there are tensions, conflicts, wars in the world. The conflicts begin with minds that believe in fragmentation and are ignorant of wholeness.

A holistic approach is a recognition of the homogeneity and wholeness of life. Life is not fragmented; it is not divided. It cannot be divided into spiritual and material, individual and collective. We cannot create compartments in life—political, economic, social, environmental. Whatever we do or don't do affects and touches the wholeness, the homogeneity. We are forever organically related to wholeness. We are wholeness, and we move in wholeness.

--Vimala Thakar

Article on Vimala

April 28, 2007

Monument of Love

On the final days of my visit to India, I visited the Taj Mahal. I had wanted to see this monument as it is regarded to be one of the eight wonders of the world, and some Western historians have noted that its architectural beauty has never been surpassed.

It is said that the Taj is the most beautiful monument built by the Mughals, the Muslim rulers of India. The Taj Mahal is built entirely of white marble. On my way to Agra, I passed many businesses where white marble is sold, and many trucks hauling huge chunks of marble on the back of their flatbeds. It was amazing to see the potential transformation of this raw material in such a stunning architectural masterpiece. Indeed, the sight of this monument is beyond adequate description.

I loved the excitement of entering the monument park, where I could not even get a peak at the great building until I entered through an enormous gate. (These two photos are from This main gate is said "to be like a veil to a woman’s face which should be lifted delicately, gently and without haste on the wedding night. In Indian tradition the veil is lifted gently to reveal the beauty of the bride." As one stands inside the main gate of Taj, your eyes are directed to an arch that frames the Taj.

The Taj Mahal was built as a tribute to a beloved wife and as a monument for enduring love. I took my time at the Taj, because I sensed that it would reveal its beautiful subtleties if I was not in a hurry, and indeed, this was true. The dome is made of glittering white marble with perfect angles from every position. Because it is set against the plain across the river, the background becomes a mosaic of colors that, through their reflection, change the view of the Taj. The colors change at different hours of the day and during different seasons. I felt fortunate to see it both in the morning, with a pinkish glow, and as the evening sunset, changing from its color from a milky white to a golden glow. It is like a jewel; the Taj sparkles in moonlight when the semi-precious stones inlaid into the white marble on the main mausoleum catch the glow of the moon. On a foggy morning, the Taj seems to be suspended midair when viewed from across the Jamuna River. These changes, they say, depict the different moods of woman.

Walking around the Taj I noticed a freshness in the air, as a delicate breeze blew from around its corners. The breeze lifted the scarves and saris of the women there, creating this beautiful and delicate dance. In the presence of the Taj Mahal, you walk in beauty. Look at these random snapshots of women visiting the Taj the day I was there, reveling in this, and their own beauty.

April 15, 2007


My travels to India were made special by a visit to Mahatma Gandhi's memorial site. Here, there is a reprieve from the bustle of Delhi's streets, and visitors enter barefoot in hushed silence, remembering this great man of peace.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
Gandhi guided the people of India to self-rule through his plan of non-cooperation and civil disobedience. Even though he was jailed many times, he always reached out to the people and moved them to act.
Here is a spinning wheel set outside a 'junk' store. The spinning wheel is a reminder of Gandhi, and also as a symbol of the swadeshi movement. Gandhi started the swadeshi movement to encourage Indians to make their own cloth and use their own goods instead of British imports. Gandhi also planted the seeds of satyagraha, a non-violent, strategical means of resisting British rule.

April 8, 2007


For the past two weeks I have been traveling in northern India. It was an exciting adventure for me, and everything I dreamed it would be. After reading Roger Housden's book, Travels Through Sacred India, I have been wanting to experience India for myself. It would be difficult to summarize this experience in a few short paragraphs, but I can say that this was an amazing time, and that I am still being seasoned by what I saw and learned.
I began my trip in Delhi, and traveled by car through Rajasthan, through the cities of Mandawa, Khimsar, Jaisalmar, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Pushkar, Jaipur, and finally to Agra to experience the Taj Mahal.

As a tourist, one is offered an itinerary that includes seeing a lot of famous and historical sites, such as the Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur, and many temples, shrines and palaces. After a while, though these were all very interesting, I found I was gravitating to just wanting to find out more about the people of India - experience their schools, see their hospitals, their market places, their farming and industry, experience the riverbank laundry, learn to cook traditional Indian foods, and visit a children's home. So that is what I did. These experiences enriched my time tremendously, giving me a feel for India that as only a 'site-tourist' I would not have had. Here are a few favorite photos...

All for now (Blogger is sooo slow). Watch the photo stream on the right for photo snippits. I'll post more soon, when I recover from my jet lag.
It is so good to be home!

March 22, 2007


Hello from the beautiful city of Singapore! I am on my way to a journey in India. I'll share some thoughts and photos upon my return.

Blessings to my friends here.


March 17, 2007

Time and Again

Time and again, however well we know the landscape of love,
and the little church-yard with lamenting names,
and the frightfully silent ravine wherein all the others
end: time and again we go out two together,
under the old trees, lie down again and again
between the flowers, face to face with the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke

March 15, 2007


A little game: What do this painting by René Magritte and the word, reification, have in common?

(Wiki: Reification n., to treat that which is abstract as something tangible; the error which consists in treating as a "thing" something which is not one... i.e. the thingification of social relations.)

Meredith: The picture above is a rendering of something, a concept that we recognize in the material form as a 'pipe', but it is not a pipe.

Aki: Right. I think of God, treating God as a thing, hijacking the unknowable into a thing that can be manipulated. Confusing the word God for God, confusing the symbol for the essence. (Is the opposite deification?)

March 10, 2007

This Love

Hands cling to hands and eyes linger on eyes: thus
begins the record of our hearts.
It is the moonlight night of March; the sweet smell of henna
is in the air; my flute lies on the earth neglected and your garland
of flowers
is unfinished.
This love between you and me is simple as a song.

Rabindranath Tagore

March 5, 2007


Meredith: When I meditate, I often find my thoughts flowing; memories rise up, emotions rise up, bodily sensations all become rather present in a way they were not before. When I realize my thoughts are rambling, I bring myself back to my breath, to this moment now, and now, and now. Sometimes, as I have been taught, I might say to myself, "thoughts" or "sounds" or "sensations" etc, to sort of claim and categorize what my mind is focusing on, so that I can then watch it dissolve the focus (only then so very soon observe my thoughts take on yet another shape). In the long hours of sitting at retreat, I began to get a little more creative with my categories, such as noticing when my thoughts were memories, or when my emotions were of sorrow, etc. One such category that I noticed myself claiming, almost more than any other of my thinking patterns, was what I began to term "fiction". This was the label I gave to my thinking when I was building stories about what might happen, or a story about what could have happened, or what someone may have done or said, invented conversations, etc.

I was thinking about this tendency and its relationship to scripts. Our minds, my mind anyway, so naturally moves into scripts or invented fictions of reality. I wondered how much of my day is spent in this kind of thinking. I think it might be a lot of the time, if my meditation time is any indication. It is helpful, it would seem, to bring conscious awareness to the way our minds work. My first tendency is to pass some judgment about it, such as thinking in scripts or fiction is a bad or wrong way of thinking. But I quickly see humor in the judgment, too. Who says it's bad? We wouldn't have storytellers or playwrights without fiction and script thinking. But do you see the trickiness of fiction thinking? Do you see that lines between fiction and reality are hazy? Do you experience that this is rather exciting in fact, that we aren't always clear if something is fiction or fact?

Mind ramblings this bright day, when homework and taxes are on the table in front of me.

Aki: I've been pondering this, thinking about what you said here about fiction and fact and meditation.

I have many fictions, thoughts and fantasies. I find when I cling to them I suffer. When I release them, as in meditation, I enjoy, the moment, this living moment. There is joy. I release into freshness, spontaneity and authenticity. When I hold on to my fictions, or facts for that matter, I tend to suffer. When I hold on to a fiction, thought or fantasy it is a short trip to manipulation, orchestration, attempting to control, and scripting. Imagination, imaging, fantasizing, creating a fiction is one thing, but quickly I tend to move unconsciously to manipulation and trying to control.

By itself fantasy or imagination can inform, give messages, possibilities, alternatives, suggest direction, opportunity. I have response-ability. I can nurture the fantasy or thought or I can release it, let it go. With awareness and the ability to respond with awareness, our behavior tends to be accurate and authentic. But it seems without this important awareness we are like a leaf on the wind, animated by these thoughts and fantasies or facts in an unconscious way. When it is unconscious our behavior is generally in the service of survival and security, following the impulse of want and fear.

When I become fascinated and preoccupied with a thought or fantasy or a fact pattern, then I am susceptible to the human tendency toward behavior driven by unconscious want or fear. But if I stay present, conscious, aware, like in meditation, meditative awareness then neither fact nor fiction hinders. I am not attempting to manipulate or script life, but responding through wakefulness. In this way I nurture wakefulness, soulfulness. I nurture the emerging essence. And it is so joyful to see and feel being meeting itself, perfection recognizing perfection everywhere. This awareness can be nurtured.

February 18, 2007

What do we bring?

The wanderer does not bring a handful of earth,
the unutterable, from the mountain slope
to the valley, but a pure word he has learned,
the blue and yellow gentian.

R. M. Rilke

February 16, 2007

Lingering Beauty

I do not know which to prefer,

the beauty of inflections

or the beauty of innuendos,

the blackbird whistling

or just after.

from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Wallace Stevens

Photo by Brian McGeough

February 10, 2007

Language is Prayer

I have been keeping this blog up for what seems like a long time now. Often, especially lately, I find myself asking, "Why do I do this?" I have thoughts about scrapping this project, as I really haven't taken the time lately to nurture friendships like I used to. I haven't been putting out a lot of effort on this blog as I find my energies going in many other directions. Yet, something keeps drawing me back with just one more entry. Kind comments from readers let me know that what I offer is received. Writing is a small way of reaching out, to share something of myself and something greater than myself. Writing is a way to be close to others, and close to God.

This month, in the Shambhala Sun magazine, Norman Fischer writes about this very notion:

Years ago I went to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and did what all tourists there do: wrote some words on a scrap of paper that I tucked into a crevice in the wall. When I closed my eyes and touched my head to the warm stone, it came to me: “All language is prayer.” This must be so. Who is it we are speaking to when we speak to anyone? To that person, and also past him or her to Out There. If there is language, it means there is the possibility of being heard, being met, being loved. And reaching out to be heard, met, or loved is a holy act. Language is holy.

Norman Fischer, Shambhala Sun, March 2007

February 9, 2007


This is a photo of my father's sister, Melvina, at her place in Clatskanie, Oregon, connecting the earth and sky with cane and wand, two summers ago at 95.

My friend Steve Erickson sent me this picture with the above caption. Big smiles for Melvina!

February 3, 2007

Come to the Table

I have a round table in my dining room. The other day, after Quaker Meeting, Friends sat around the table and shared refreshments. We laughed and talked easily, sharing stories, memories, and ideas while sipping hot tea and eating apple cake together. Later, I thought about these friends, some of whom have serious health problems, some who are elderly, some young, some my own age, each with a unique past and with current struggles of one kind or another. I'm not sure if I would have chosen these folks as my friends. All of us are a bit quirky, one might observe, and yet every week we gather together and enjoy familiar camaraderie despite, or perhaps because of, our differences.

This gathering reminded me of the parts of my own broader self, all sitting at the table with me. I have parts I'd previously rather not have invited to my table – you know those parts, the wounded parts, the superior parts, the dark self-loathing, and shameful, shadowy parts. Mostly, in the past, I'd rather only have hosted my most congenial parts, my lighthearted, loving, compassionate, articulate, funny, and spiritual parts. But if I leave out the fullness of who I am, if I don't invite all my parts to the table, I realize that I am really not all there -that I will have repressed uninvited components of me, and eclipsed what these parts may have to teach me. So now, I want to invite them all in. Because my table is round, none of these parts sit at the head of the table – none of them have a seat of power in the full gathering here. Sometimes in my life, I recognize that I had let a sorrowful part assume the head, when I wallowed in my grief. Another time, sadly, I let my spiritual head take rein, and ignored my own humanity. Now, in the candlelight from the center of the table, I wish for all these parts of me to be illuminated, and welcomed.

January 30, 2007

Arousing Resonance

Here is a passage Aki shared from James Hollis, a Jungian depth psychologist. He has made some parenthetical additions.

"So as we sort through the rubble of historically charged images (of God, spirit, essence, love, the infinite...) by what standard do we gather them to our heart? It cannot be by their institutional authority alone. It cannot be because our family (or culture or church) or ethnic tradition embraced them. It can only be if they move us, that is set off a resonance within us. If such resonance occurs, the activation of like to like in some hidden harmony, then we know that that image has some meaning for us. No amount of will power or faith can, as such, arouse such resonance for us. When the spirit has departed, we cannot will it back. Though we may not understand why, when the spirit is present, we will be moved."

January 21, 2007

Reverence For Soul

Aki: I have been reflecting on reverence; of the dawning and nurturing of a reverent place within us. I would like to peer into that sacred space we collectively feel and intuit within; where we re-cognize our souls, where we honor and revere this space as sacred, express the intensity of our devotion to it, celebrate it as our door to the divine. We can touch this space, reflect it to one another, and bring our humility and awe to it. We need no longer project it onto anything or anyone, for nothing in form can carry this projection without breaking under its weight. I have tried, how I have tried. No, it has its own sacred space within each of us - the soul. This is where we can offer our reverence, our humility and respect. We have the moment-to-moment opportunity to live this precious life as an offering, an honoring of soul.

Bringing reverence to our inner soul is an accurate acknowledgement of that which represents our link with Being, our connection with the divine, that which infuses our daily living - from within - with sacredness. It represents that which gives us the enlargement, the expansive transformation we have sought lifelong in the external. It allows us to move beyond the personal, our limited ego-selves, while simultaneously granting us a full and rich engagement with and expression of our humanity. While heaven and earth come together within us, our awareness nonetheless allows us to differentiate between them, between the sacred and the personal, to revere each for their unique beauty and majesty. Our soul connects us with the infinite, and at the same time flows into our temporal human existence bringing recognition of deep relatedness, compassion and love.

I love my dear ones in a human and enduring way. I do not press upon them the sacred projections of my own soul. I do not freight love with demands and expectations to infuse my ego with the divine. I have learned in an experiential way how ego moves "insidiously" to co-opt divinity, wants to contain the sacred - something it simply cannot contain. Ego is insufficient to carry the infinite, sacred energy of Being. Soul is the proper vessel for the sacred, and soul resides, and is found first within. When soul is accurately honored within us, something blossoms in the outer world, and sacredness manifests in our simple and ordinary living. A divine light shines into and through our humanity, warming our lives in an ordinary and earthy, enduring and abiding way.

Meredith: I feel, perhaps I have always felt, there is a sacred space within me. When I listen to you, this place stirs within me.

Aki: Your response represents an accurate perception of the sacred. The recognition of its presence is stimulated by any number of things, people, and experiences in the outer world. But you do not make the innocent mistake of projecting it onto the personal and external, and then seek it in the external. All in the external world of form has the possibility of stimulating, reflecting and stirring the sacred within us. "When I listen to you, this place stirs within me." This is accurate seeing. This is wisdom. You have not projected your soul onto my words or onto me, a human man; you have not projected the sacred onto something external, not located it anywhere but in its rightful place within you. This is beauty. A deep peace reigns within when you see with this consciousness.

January 10, 2007


What was in that candle's light

that opened and consumed me so quickly?

Come back, my friend. The form of our love

is not a created form.

Nothing can help me but that beauty.

There was a dawn I remember when my soul

heard something from your soul.

I drank water from your spring,

and felt the current take me.


January 9, 2007


On Sunday, our small Friends Meeting worship group discussed stewardship. In our book of Quaker Faith and Practice was this quote on the meaning of stewardship.
To turn all we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives. ~ John Woolman
I've been thinking a lot about stewardship since seeing Al Gore's film, An Inconvenient Truth. This is a powerful film and a potent lesson in the necessity of stewardship. Before Meeting that day, I had watched the news reports of the North East's unseasonably warm January. There were video clips of people playing in Central Park wearing tank tops and shorts. One man, enjoying a game of golf in Chicago, was quoted, "If this is global warming, bring it on."

The same day, my cousin shared this article from the Sierra Club newsletter with me, My Low Carbon Diet. The site includes a Carbon Calculator, among other interesting tips for creating a low carbon life style. Check it out.

About global warming, let's not "bring it on." Instead, let's turn our lives into a channel for universal (and universe) love.

January 7, 2007

Afternoon Soulfulness

The winter sun is trying to come through ...beans on the stove asleep on the sofa ...this is the soft music of our lives.