Friday, April 29, 2005

Zen Story

The first time I read this, I literally laughed out loud...

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.

This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parents went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the little one needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth--that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.

The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: "Is that so?"

Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. (N.Y.: Anchor, n.d.)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

In Sickness and Health

In Yoga Journal magazine this month, there was an article from a woman who was attending a meditation retreat somewhere in Asia and was hit by a truck. She tells this fantastic story of hanging on to life and, because she had years of meditation practice, was able to turn her consciousness to the peace within even as her body was shredded and broken in hundreds of ways.

It is in moments like these - if we can stay conscious and if we have learned to turn within when we are well - that we can say, "I am not my body." The body and even our mind is simply the vehicle (or in another anaology is a suit of clothes) for our Spirit/Soul/Atman/Consciousness.

Right now I am battling a pretty hellacious cold (which is far milder than struggling with a major disease or having all of my bones broken in an accident). And where I used to be so identified with my body that an illness would cause me great suffering (at which point I became quite the whiner - just ask my wife), I'm slowly starting to say to myself - "Ok, your body is sick, but you are fine... and not just fine, but perfect. Identify yourself with that."

I write this simply to encourage myself and others to stay on the path of Spirit (whatever your spiritual disciplines, quiet times, or forms of worship might be) when one is healthy and all things are well. Then when crisis or disease or accident strikes, we are not thrown off kilter - we remain at the Center and are able to experience God in the sickness even as we do in health. And at moments like these, what were concepts such as "I am not my body" become more than concepts - they become actualized experience and testimonies to the "peace that passes all understanding."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Cheerful Giver

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If you invariably take the position of a GIVER, in which everything given by you is a free offering to the world, without any thought of return, then your work will bring you no attachment. Attachment comes only where we expect a return.

[Swami Vivekananda]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Jedis in the Living Room

Very interesting news for all you Star Wars fanatics out there (of which I count myself one), Lucas announced at the SW Convention this week that there will be a live-action television show that will chronicle the time in the Star Wars story between Episodes III and IV (the time between the Prequel and the Original Trilogy).

No kidding! See the full story HERE.

She Made A Funny

This morning my wife IM's me at work and says,

"Hey, check out my blog. Today's entry is like a prayer and share... minus the prayer part."

"As a butterfly..."

As a butterfly lost in a flower,
As a bird settled on a tree,
As a child fondling mother's breast,
For sixty-seven years of this world,
I have played with God.

[Sasaki Roshi, a short poem about his life]

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Beyond Beyond

"Religion is a defense against a religious experience."
- Carl Jung-

"If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him."
-Buddhist admonition-

"Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate..."
-Translation: "Gone, Gone, Gone Beyond, Gone Beyond Beyond."-

"You have to go past the imagined image of Jesus. Such an image of one's god becomes a final obstruction, one's ultimate barrier. You hold on to your own ideology, your own little manner of thinking, and when a larger experience of God approaches, an experience greater than you are prepared to receive, you take flight from it by clinging to the image in your mind.
-Joseph Campbell-

"The ultimate and highest leave-taking is leaving God for God."
-Meister Eckhart-

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


You just never really know about people.

I had seen the groundskeeper at our church a number of times - he'd come in off the mower and we'd say "Hi" or perhaps I'd give him a nod on a Sunday morning, but for the most part I had assumed that he was one of the older, more traditional members of our congregation and we just didn't really have that much in common.

Then one day I have to shoot a video about serving in the church and I ask Fred if I can intervew him regarding his groundskeeping. He misunderstands at first and thinks I'm going to ask him about his spiritual life, to which he responds: "I'm not sure you really would want to hear what I have to say. See, I'd consider myself more of a gnostic Christian."

Now, the church that we belong to would perhaps be considered a tad more liberal than most evangelical churches - but it's still a very ordinary, traditional-thinking clan of people. And for someone to come out and admit that they were open to "out-of-the-box" spirituality was shocking and - to be honest - a breath of fresh air.

He went on to talk about how much he loves the work of Joseph Campbell and is much more into the teachings of Jesus than all of the "institution" that has built up around it. Since that time, he's given me the 6-disc audio CDs of Campbell's Power of Myth (I had read the book, but the audio makes it come alive!) and I've let him borrow my copy of The Gospel of Thomas. We chat occasionally and every time I see him out there mowing the enormous yard (which he does a few times a week for no pay), I can't help but think he's silently appreciating and meditating on the wonder and awe of God's Creation.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don't assume anything about anybody.
  2. God will send you companions on your journey.
  3. There are mystics in our midst.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

God's Rottweiler? has a very interesting article about Pope Benedict / Ratzinger with a sub-header of:

German Inquisition meister. Prince of the New Dark Ages. Torquemada of the 21st century. God's Rottweiler. And Pope.

Wow. This could be an interesting few years.

...and I already mentioned this to my friend Jon, but - allow me to be rather irreverent and inappropriate for humor's sake for a moment - Benedict/Ratzinger looks an awful lot like Palpatine/Sidious. If the pope starts shooting lightening bolts out of his fingers, I'm gonna freak.

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Disclaimer: In all seriousness, I wish this man only blessings in his new position and may God's power and mercy be upon his leadership. I'm just too big of a Star Wars geek to pass up the humorous reference.

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

[William Carlos Williams]

Monday, April 18, 2005

If we sell our land...

The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer. For we know that if we do not sell, the white man may come with guns and take our land. How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the tree carries the memories of the red man.

The white man's dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of pony and man - all belong to the same family.

So when the Great Chief sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The Great Chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water's murmur is the voice of my father's father.

The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes, and feed our children. If we sell you our land you must remember, and teach your children, that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

The red man has always retreated before the advancing white man as the mist of the mountain runs before the morning sun. But the ashes of our fathers are sacred. Their graves are holy grounds and so these hills, these trees, this portion of the earth is consecrated to us.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on.

He leaves his fathers' graves behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the earth from his children. He does not care. His fathers' graves and his children's birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the eyes of the red man. But perhaps the red man is a savage and does not understand. There is no quiet place in the white man's cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring or the rustle of insect's wings. But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand. The clatter only seems to insult the ears.

And what is there to life if a man cannot hear the lonely cry of the whip-poor-will or the arguments of the frogs around a pond at night? I am a red man and do not understand. The Indian prefers the soft sound of the wind darting over the face of the pond, and the smell of the wind itself, cleansed by a midday rain, or scented with the pinon pine.

The air is precious to the red man, for all things share the same breath - the beast, the tree, the man, they all share the same breath. The white man does not seem to notice the air he breathes. Like a man dying for many days, he is numb to the stench.

But if we sell you our land, you must remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also receives his last sigh. And the wind must also give our children the spirit of life. And if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where even the White man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow's flowers.

So we will consider your offer to buy our land. If we decide to accept, I will make one condition: The White Man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. I am a savage and I do not understand any other way. I have seen a thousand rotting buffaloes on the prairie, left by the white man who shot them from a passing train. I am a savage and I do not understand how the smoking iron horse can be more important than the buffalo that we kill only to stay alive.

What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.

You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of our grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. What befalls the earth, befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground they spit upon themselves. This we know. The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. But we will consider your offer to go to the reservation you have for my people. We will live apart, and in peace. It matters little where we spend the rest of our days. Our children have seen their fathers humbled in defeat. Our warriors have felt shame, and after defeat they turn their days in idleness and contaminate their bodies with sweet foods and strong drink.

It matters little where we pass the rest of our days. They are not many. A few more hours, a few more winters and none of our children of the great tribes that once lived on this earth or that roam now in small bands in the woods will be left to mourn the graves of a people once as powerful and hopeful as yours. But why should I mourn the passing of my people? Tribes are made of men, nothing more. Men come and go like the waves of the sea.

Even the white man, whose God walks and talks with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all; we shall see. One thing we know, which the white man may discover - our God is the same God. You may think now that you own him as you wish to own your land; but you cannot. He is the God of man, and his compassion is equal for the red man and white.

The earth is precious to Him, and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator. The whites too shall pass; perhaps sooner than all other tribes. Continue to contaminate your bed, and you will one night suffocate in your own waste.

But in your perishing you will shine brightly, fired by the strength of the God who brought you to this land and for some special purpose gave you dominion over this land and over the red man. That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. And what is it to say goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished from this earth, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairies, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people. For they love this earth as a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat.

So, if we sell our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as we've cared for it. Hold it in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you take it. And with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart, preserve it for your children, and love God loves us all.

One thing we know. Our God is the same God. This earth is precious to Him. Even the white man cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We shall see.

-Chief Seattle

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Childlike Rapture

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"We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about."

-Joseph Campbell

Friday, April 15, 2005


I've met a handful of incredible people over the past 1.5 years of Blogging - one of which is Dan Price. Dan's father passed away this week and I would just invite any of my readers to keep his family in your prayers as they go through this tough time. Thanks.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

As a Child

We began a fantastic new series at church this past Sunday called "As a Child." The aim of the series is to look at the qualities of a child that open us up to God - qualities like Wonder, Awe, Curiosity, Playfulness...

The Pastor's message about the wonderful magic of existence was fantastic... it's fairly short and you can listen to it HERE.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Stages of Worship (Going Deeper)

Image hosted by Photobucket.comBlogger Rick, at A New Life Emerging, had an interesting post yesterday about Church worship. And it got me thinking: Are our modern churches offering ever-deepening pathways to God? Is there a Stage II and III after Stage I?

Contemporary, rock-n-roll style worship seems to attract people in droves to worship services across the country - ours included. And why should it not? It presents the truths of God through the language of the culture: cutting-edge video, rock music and drama. People are attracted to this - and continue to come back, week after week.

This is a great first step - meeting people where they are: providing our flashy, noisy lives with flashy, noisy worship. But what if some people long for a sanctuary from "the noise?" What if there are truths of God - perhaps very deep truths - that can only be experienced in the silence when we cease to have individual egoic preferences ("I like rock and roll instead of organ music") and turn inward to the unifying Christ within?

Are our churches providing more than one "type" of opportunity for corporate worship (and by type, I don't mean different STYLES of music and formality, I mean an entirely different form)?

Communicating the quiet truths of the Spirit through contemplation and reflection to stressed-out, MTV families is like trying to speak Japanese to a group of Frenchmen. Therefore, stages are necessary, but most churches are offering only Stage One. Perhaps our places of worship should provide (at least) 3 opportunities for corporate worship:

  1. Stage One - Using the language of the culture to communicate Truth and provide a place for people to turn their hearts to God. This could be traditional or contemporary worship in whatever form or level of depth. People choose amongst the different varieties of services based on what kinds of music and formality they prefer best. This could also be called "Spectator" worship - a congregation sits "out there" and watches people perform or do things "up there on stage." This is where 90% of churches seem to put their energies.
  2. Image hosted by Photobucket.comStage Two - Moving beyond spectator worship into Participatory Worship. What would this look like? Perhaps there would be theological conversations around tables, readings and prayers by all those in attendance, active experiences such as journaling or painting, sharing with one another our joys and concerns. Both Stage One and Two are about seeing God "without" - outside of yourself, in the world through art, song, other brothers and sisters, etc.
  3. Stage Three - This mode of worship moves beyond egoic preferences. It is not for entertainment (you would never hear someone leave this service and say, for example, "Boy, I really enjoyed - or didn't enjoy - that one song today") or about outward art and "God in the world," rather it is turning in and literally experiencing the Christ that is seated in the heart. Contemplation. Unitive Knowledge of God. The worship of mystics. The quiet, direct comprehension of the Godhead within (which, in turn, helps us better see God "out there" as well). Of course, this is best done privately when one is alone and "in one's closet," but I believe there is a place for it publicly as well (or at the very least if our churches would teach us how to go about it).

Obviously, as you move from one stage to the next, the number of people that are able (or desire) to participate gets smaller and smaller. But if we are only provided with ONE opportunity, we're not helping those who want to go deeper, experience God more fully, or experience God from more than one angle.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

What's for Dinner

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Trying a new recipe tonight: "Wild Mushroom Stew with Herbed Dumplings." I'll let you know how it 'twas.

2 cups unbleached white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper
2 tbs chopped fresh herbs (any combo of rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme, or tarragon)
3 tbs butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
2 tbs olive oil

1/2 cup Maderia (oops, I forgot to get this!)
1/3 oz dried porcini mushrooms

1 lb mushrooms (any combo of shiitakes, portobellos, hen-of-the-woods, cremini, chanterelle, or white button mushrooms, sliced)
1 large carrot, but into small rounds
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or chopped fresh sage
Salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

God and self

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The more of your self-ness there is, the less there is of God.

The more of God there is, the less there is of your separate selfness.

Want to know God? Want to experience the Ground of all being? Want to experience the mind-blowing Divine Reality?

The "secret" of the saints is "dying to self." When the personality or ego's desires and strivings are set aside and one becomes, quite literally, a channel for God in the world, the gates of the Kingdom are flung wide open. Reality, Freedom, Beauty and Love can be fully experienced in no other way.

It is at this point that your self/ego/personality is no longer behind the wheel, so to speak: "It is not I, but Christ that lives in me." Or, as Aldous Huxley puts it, perhaps it would be more appropriately phrased: "It is not I, but Christ that lives me." Indeed we will not fully experience Divine Reality until we can say with integrity, "Not my will, but Yours be done."

This is a hard truth. There is no greater fear than the threat of ego annihilation - we believe this will leave behind a dull, joyless existence. The exact opposite is true: what lies beyond is unimaginable bliss (Sat, Chit, Ananda) and the unitive knowledge of God.