16 Dec
2017
Posted in: Books
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In Defiance of Tragedy

In reference to the wonderful discussion we had in my CDL Waking Up White group this week, I offer this (challenging) excerpt from the book we discussed (and will continue to discuss), Ta-Nehisi Coat’s We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy.

“I don’t ever want to lose sight of how short my time is here. And I don’t ever want to forget that resistance must be its own reward, since resistance, at least within the life span of the resistors, almost always fails. I don’t ever want to forget, even with whatever personal victories I achieve, even the victories we achieve as a people or a nation, that the larger story of America and the world probably does not end well. Our story is a tragedy. I know it sounds odd, but that belief does not depress me. It focuses me. After all, I am an atheist and thus do not believe anything, even a strongly held belief, is destiny. And if tragedy is to be proven wrong, if there really is hope out there, I think it can only be made manifest by remembering the cost of it being proven right. No one–not our fathers, not our police, and not our gods–is coming to save us. The worst really is possible. My aim is to never be caught, as the rappers say, acting like it can’t happen. And my ambition is to write both in defiance of tragedy and in blindness of its possibility, to keep screaming into the waves–just as my ancestors did.”

14 Dec
2017
Posted in: Poems
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I Want To Be….

Famous
by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

13 Dec
2017
Posted in: Poems
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One of the Doors

Today
by Mary Oliver

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.

12 Dec
2017
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And When We Have Achieved This…

“White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this–which will not be tomorrow and may very well be never–the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.”
— James Baldwin

11 Dec
2017
Posted in: Practice, Talks
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The Year Of …..

As many of you know, I will be on retreat for five weeks at the Forest Refuge in Barre, MA, from Dec 27 through Jan 31 — which means I’ll be spending New Year’s Day on retreat — so as part of my pre-retreat preparations I listened to a New Year’s talk by Phillip Moffitt titled: “Making This the Year of….

It’s a terrific talk. (There are a lot of terrific talks, but for whatever reason, this one really REALLY speaks to me.)

In this talk, Phillip shares his practice of picking “an overarching theme of development or discovery in some aspect of life”…. something that he intends to work on and then throughout the year, thinking of it as “The Year of ….” whatever that theme is.

He says he prepares for this by reflecting on these questions:

What have I learned this past year?
What’s finished? (What can I completely let go of?)
What’s left undone? (What’s not done that I would like to have done?)
What’s calling me?

He says that for him, this year (he gave the talk in 2015) will be The Year of Returning and Reflecting. (I listened to a similar talk he gave in early 2017, in which he says that year will be The Year of Paying Attention to My Health.)

He offers suggestions for others in considering what kind of Year this could be. For example:

The Year of Staying Present
The Year of Shifting Views (trying on the views of others, seeing things from their view point, even if just for a moment)
The Year of Discipline
The Year of Renunciation
The Year of Forgiveness (including forgiving one’s inability to forgive)
The Year of Letting Go
The Year of Opening the Heart (setting the intention that in as many ways as one can, looking for opportunities to open one’s heart)
The Year of Joy
The Year of Laughter
The Year of Kindness to Yourself (not self-indulgence, but self-kindness!)
etc.

Not with an idea of how the year will turn out to be. But with an intention to pay attention to a particular aspect of one’s life, and then being available to whatever presents itself — being available for wisdom to come by taking the time (in the silence) for something to be known (rather than “working” on something or “figuring something out”).

***

I’m really taking what he says to heart. I’m sitting with the questions he reflects on, and I’m thinking that for me, next year might be: The Year of Listening.

8 Dec
2017
Posted in: Poems
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Trust the Music

Attempts
by Mark Nepo

When the old life is
burning, everything will
smell like ash for a while.
So trust your heart,
not your nose.

Trust the music of the
ages to surface what’s left
way inside. Wait like a
cello for each rub to
bring you closer.

Learn how to ask for
what you need, only to
practice accepting what
you’re given This is our
journey on Earth.

7 Dec
2017
Posted in: Poems
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Nevertheless

My Mind Is
by e. e. cummings

my mind is
a big hunk of irrevocable nothing which touch and
taste and smell and hearing and sight keep hitting and
chipping with sharp fatal tools
in an agony of sensual chisels i perform squirms of
chrome and execute strides of cobalt
nevertheless i
feel that i cleverly am being altered that i slightly am
becoming something a little different, in fact
myself
Hereupon helpless i utter lilac shrieks and scarlet
bellowings.

6 Dec
2017
Posted in: CDL, Practice, Teachers
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A Different Kind of “Me Too”

The Spirit Rock News magazine just came out and it features an interview with Phillip Moffitt as he begins to transition out of his role as Co-Guiding Teacher. I am a big fan of Phillip, so of course I was interested in what he had to say, but he was talking about his role as a leader of the Spirit Rock organization, so I wasn’t really expecting him to say anything of particularly relevance to me.

I was wrong.

Phillip is asked: “You came into this leadership role with decades of experience as an educational and business leader; how have the special qualities of this particular role affected your own experience of leadership?”

Phillip answers: “The more one lets go of what one wants, the more effective one is as a leader in this community.”

[Given my new role as a Community Dharma Leader, this got my attention.]

Phillip continues: “…As an entrepreneur, I was the leader of a small team who made fast, decisive decisions; this did not involve a slow consensus process. I had to let loose of my style of decision-making and surrender to the consensus process that we go through here. Being willing to spend my time in such a process required a new orientation to leadership, and new priorities.

“Friends would ask; why are you willing to spend the time? To be fully revealing, for the first few years it was a struggle. At Spirit Rock, a leader does not so much “make their mark,” as they have to continually hold the values and possibilities for how the organization can function and how its people skillfully relate to one another and develop as practitioners.

“Over time, I realized this required more of a nurturing heart quality than the dynamic quality of my previous style of naming what was needed and implementing it. To my surprise, this shift in perspective turned out to be the “why” — the very act of leading in this manner and the change required was the reward.

“I would describe it as a two-decade practice of “letting go” of being the strong, decisive leader with clear views, and instead leading by building a common view through kind attention.

“Such a practice was not my goal. I was not initially suited for such a role. I had no idea how much wisdom comes from kindness, patience, and just letting go.

“And yet that’s how it ended up–a kind of renunciation of the way I related to the world that had previously allowed me to survive a challenging childhood and to thrive on a large worldly stage.”

***

Wise advice, Phillip. I recognize myself in your story. May I learn from your experience. May I take these words to heart.

5 Dec
2017
Posted in: Books, Groups
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This Is Possible

Last night our Dharma Book Group had a great discussion about this line from In the Buddha’s Words, by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

“For Early Buddhism, the ideal householder is not merely a devout supporter of the monastic order but a noble person who has attained at least the first of the four stages of realization, the fruition of stream-entry.”

We don’t talk much about stream-entry in our weekly sangha, so I thought it might be helpful to post this explanation of what that is, again by Bhikkhu Bodhi from In the Buddha’s Words:

“The stream-enterer abandons the first three fetters: identity view, that is, the view of a truly existent self either as identical with the five aggregates or as existing in some relation to them; doubt, about the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, and the trainings; and the wrong grasp of rules and observances, the belief that mere external observances, particularly religions rituals and ascetic practices, can lead to liberation.

“The stream-enterer is assured of attaining full enlightenment in at most seven more existences, which will all take place either in the human realm or the heavenly worlds. The stream-enterer will never undergo an eighth existence and is forever freed from rebirth in the three lower realms–the hells, the realm of afflicted spirits, and the animal realm.”

To which I would like to add these words from the Buddha:
If this were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.

4 Dec
2017
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With Each Falling Leaf

Coleman’s Bed (excerpt)
by David Whyte

Be taught now, among the trees and rocks,
how the discarded is woven into shelter,
learn the way things hidden and unspoken
slowly proclaim their voice in the world.
Find that far inward symmetry
to all outward appearances, apprentice
yourself to yourself, begin to welcome back
all you sent away, be a new annunciation,
make yourself a door through which
to be hospitable, even to the stranger in you.

See with every turning day,
how each season makes a child
of you again, wants you to become
a seeker after rainfall and birdsong,
watch now, how it weathers you
to a testing in the tried and true,
admonishes you with each falling leaf,
to be courageous, to be something
that has come through, to be the last thing
you want to see before you leave the world.