Sick of what it is called
Sick of the names
I dedicate every pore
To what’s here.
Haiku from “Desire for Truth: Zen teachings on realizing what is,” by Roger Hawkins from the Fall 2010 Issue on the subject of “Desire.”
Purchase this issue here
Photography Credit: Guillan, F. Meilleau, P. Landy, Le Japon Que J’aime,” Editions Sun Paris,1967.
Sick of what it is called
"Last Sunday, my friends and I spoke about the gift of learning to observe ourselves impartially. We spoke of using the constantly changing flow of sensory feeling in the body—keeping it simple, just knowing pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral in the body. Breaking our experience down in this way—sunlight, pleasant, shadow, unpleasant– can help us glimpse the flowing, changing nature of our experience.
But turning our attention to the moment-by-moment experience of the life of body can accomplish something much greater. It can help free us from an obsessive identification with a small, embattled self. It can be the key to living a much bigger life—a good life in the deepest sense. For real.”
–Editor, Tracy Cochran on paying attention.
“When the Baal Shem had a difficult task before him, he would go to a certain place in the woods, light a fire and meditate in prayer–and what he had set out to perform was done.
When a generation later the “Maggid” of Meseritz was faced with the same task he would go to the same place in the woods and say: We can no longer light the fire, but we can still speak the prayers-and what he wanted done became reality.
Again a generation later Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov had to perform this task. And he too went into the woods and said: We can no longer light a fire, nor do we know the secret meditations belonging to the prayer, but we do know the place in the woods to which it all belongs–and that must be sufficient; and sufficient it was.
But when another generation had passed and Rabbi Israel of Rishin was called upon to perform the task, he sat down on his golden chair in his castle and said: We cannot light the fire, we cannot speak the prayers, we do not know the place, but we can tell the story of how it was done.
And, the story which he told had the same effect as the actions of the other three.”
–Told by S.J. Agnon to Gershom Scholem. From Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism by Gershom G. Scholem.” Schocken Books, 1954.
An Epicycle from Parabola Volume 08:3: “Words of Power.” Order this issue here.
Art Credit: Marc Chagall, Jew at Prayer, 1913
"…here’s my confession: my devoting follows not one path, but many. I’ve never lived in an ashram or considered entering a convent. I never looked into the gaze of a teacher and knew I was being called to be that one’s disciple. I have joined in the prayers of many faiths and felt them to be moving, genuine, and indisputably aimed right toward–and quite conceivably heard by–God, yet I have never been tempted to convert. I’ve had no interest in finding the one spiritual home I would never have to leave. What I’ve longed for instead is to experience the divine as it manifests in the world. And since every faith defines a path to God, and many secular actions crisscross those spiritual path, I’ve chosen to partake of a variety of practices and, most important of all, to stay on the lookout for evidence of the Great Mystery moving through life.
This approach to spiritual practice is not recommended, I know. Often I have come across stern pronouncements directed at people like me: one cannot dabble, say the priests and scholars. Spirituality is not a tasting menu. “New Agers” who borrow a bit of this religion and a bit of that, while discarding the parts they don’t like, will never have anything but a shallow and delusional relationship with the sacred. Respectfully, I disagree. Seeking itself can be a practice. And what I have discovered, over and over again, is that the more open I am to finding the holy in any place, time, or circumstance, the more likely I am to be invited into a brief encounter with it.”
–Trebbe Johnson, author, a leader of vision quests, and the founder of Radical Joy for Hard Times on meetings with force that impels faith.
From our latest Fall Issue on the theme of “Spiritual Practice.” Order it here.
Support Parabola Magazine by subscribing or donating here.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Should one “dabble” in spiritual practices or remain faithful to one?
Photography Credit: Julie Fletcher (Australia), “Lost Souls” (Runner-up for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014 in the People and Space Category) via: My Modern Met.
"The life of Laura proved that opening to our experience in its raw state without hope of escape makes us capable of opening to others as well."
Art credit: Edmund Dulac, But Nicolette One Night Escaped… c. 1916.
Bede Griffiths (December 17, 1906 – May 13, 1993), born Alan Richard Griffiths and also known by the end of his life as Swami Dayananda (“bliss of compassion”), was a British-born Benedictine monk who lived in ashrams in South India and became a noted yogi. He became a leading thinker in the development of the dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism. Griffiths was a part of the Christian Ashram Movement. (Wikipedia)
In Cynthia Bourgeault’s book, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God, she wrote:
"Bede Griffiths, one of the great contemplative masters of our time, claimed that there are actually three routes to the center. You can have a near-death experience. You can fall desperately in love. Or you can begin a practice of meditation. Of the three, he said with a somewhat mischievous smile, meditation is probably the most reliable starting point"
In 1986, Parabola Magazine conducted an interview with Father Bede Griffiths entitled “The Silent Guide” in our Spring issue: “The Witness.”
On the subject of what a witness means in the context of religion, he replied:
"In meditation one tries to calm the body and the senses, to calm the mind, and become what’s called “the silent witness,” the witness beyond the mind. We in the West think that the mind is everything, but all Eastern practice is to get beyond the mind to the point of the silent witness, where you’re witnessing yourself, where you’ve gone beyond the ego, beyond the self.
The Indian tradition rests on what the West has largely lost: that there are three levels. There is the level of the body and the level of the mind, which the Western world thinks is the end. But beyond the body is the spirit. It’s the Atman, the pneuma of St. Paul, another dimension where we go beyond the mind, the senses, and the feelings, and we’re aware of the transcendent reality. And that is the goal of life, to get to that.”
Why do you practice meditation?
Order this issue here.
For more on Cynthia Bourgeault, see this post.
"This was what God wanted: creatures who would freely love each other and freely respond to Him with love. In a sense, God had to take that risk. If He wanted there to be love, He had to give us freedom. And by giving us freedom, He gave us the possibility of rejecting His love. Freedom therefore implies the possibility of doing evil. The world was not created evil. But God took the risk because He wished there to be love.
This is the true meaning of the Christian doctrine of Hell, which is so widely misunderstood. God does not condemn us to Hell; God wishes all humans to be saved. He will love us to all eternity but there will exist the possibility that we do not accept that love and do not respond to it. And the refusal to accept love, the refusal to respond to it, that precisely is the meaning of Hell. Hell is not a place where God puts us; it’s a place where we put ourselves. The doors of Hell, insofar as they have locks, have locks on the inside.”
—Bishop Kallistos Ware from the interview: IMAGE AND LIKENESS, PARABOLA, Volume 10, Number 1: “Wholeness.” | Order this issue here.
Photography Credit: Three shafts of sunlight illuminate the basilica and its mosaic floor in the Vatican, December 1971. Photograph by Albert Moldvay, National Geographic
The Middle Ground
There is a middle ground, a basic Reality embracing self
and Self. It may be called my true nature. To discover what
prevents me from the experience of it, I have only to look
at myself, just as I am.
It is so simple.
At this moment, what is my state?
I let my attention embrace the whole of myself, from the
top of the head through the torso, solar plexus, the entire
I am very still in the body. I follow the breath. I watch
the movements of thoughts and associations. The feelings
become quiet, and the activity in the head diminishes. I
am more. I perceive the whole of my world, just as it is.
I remain very still, refusing the mind’s inclinations to reach
Thoughts and feelings come and go like floating clouds.
They are not me.
The experience is at one and the same time, both active
and passive. Through sensation of the body, I perceive that
I am. Yet, I do not know who or what I am. I am witness to
I am aware of a feeling which suffuses the interior of myself.
It is a choiceless, an accepting awareness. With it comes a
sensation that extends to and envelopes all the parts of the
body. I am very still, relating to the silence that is both
inside and outside.
Nothing is lacking at this moment.
–William Segal (1904-2000), painter and writer, met P.D. Ouspensky and G.I. Gurdjieff in the 1940s, and later spent long periods at the main Rinzai and Soto Zen monasteries in Japan. He is the author of numerous works, including Openings: Collected Writings of William Segal (1985-1997). This poem is from The Middle Ground, (Green River Press).
From Parabola Magazine, Winter 2006, the “Home” issue. Purchase it here.
Photography Credit: A portarait of William Segal from the autobiography of William Segal, entitled A Voice at the Borders of Silence, edited by Mark Magill. (The Overlook Press, New York, 2003), p. 234.
“The authority and ease with which he often wrote came from his wholeness, but wholeness was a work in progress. “The voice of God is not clearly heard at every moment,” he wrote…,”and part of the ‘work of the cell’ is attention, so that one may not miss any sound of that voice. What this means, therefore, is not only attention to inner grace but to external reality and to one’s self as a completely integrated part of that reality. Hence, this implies also a forgetfulness of oneself as totally apart from outer objects, standing back from outer objects; it demands an integration of one’s own life in the stream of natural and human and cultural life of the moment. When we understand how little we listen, how stubborn and gross our hearts are, we realize how important this inner work is. And we see how badly we are prepared to do it.”
Passages of this quality from his writings deserve a place on seekers’ bulletin boards or in their journals. How can one keep these thoughts in mind and live by their light? One’s own search, however structured and inspired, must be similarly alive–and complex enough to address the human condition as a whole. We are our own workshops. Merton knew this.”
–Roger Lipsey, a longtime contributor to Parabola Magazine on the inner search of Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton from his forthcoming book We Are Already One: Thomas Merton’s Message of Hope: Reflections to Honor his Centenary (1915-2015).
To read the full article, purchase our Fall Issue on Spiritual Practice.
Help support Parabola by subscribing.
Photography Credit: Jonathan Williams, Portrait of Thomas Merton