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Jerry Katz
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  #1983 - Monday, November 22, 2004 - Editor: Gloria



One day it's the clouds,
one day the mountains.
One day the latest bloom
of roses - the pure monochromes,
the dazzling hybrids - inspiration
for the cathedral's round windows.
Every now and then
there's the splendor
of thought: the singular
idea and its brilliant retinue -
words, cadence, point of view,
little gold arrows flitting
between the lines.
And too the splendor
of no thought at all:
hands lying calmly
in the lap, or swinging
a six iron with effortless
tempo.  More often than not
splendor is the star we orbit
without a second thought,
especially as it arrives
and departs.  One day
it's the blue glassy bay,
one day the night
and its array of jewels,
visible and invisible.
Sometimes it's the warm clarity
of a face that finds your face
and doesn't turn away.
Sometimes a kindness, unexpected,
that will radiate farther
than you might imagine.
One day it's the entire day
itself, each hour foregoing
its number and name,
its cumbersome clothes, a day
that says come as you are,
large enough for fear and doubt,
with room to spare: the most sacred
wish, the deepest, the darkest,
turned inside out.

~ Thomas Centolella ~  

(Views from along the Middle Way)

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    The Beauty of the Spiritual Crash

I hate to say it, but there is beauty in the spiritual crash.  I am much more genuine when crashing than at any other time.  Much softer and more open.  Less defended.  I guess that's why depth is just as important a word as height.  Little Much Afraid in Hinds' Feet on High Places was led to the high places by way of the low ones.  She was told to hold the hands of Suffering and Sorrow and she would not be forsaken.  That is such a magical little book and very few people have ever bothered to read it.  It is an allegory and I guess they are not very popular these days.

Right before I crash is when I notice myself getting harder, colder and shallower.  I find myself saying hurtful things and thinking them as well.  As if by coldness I can avoid the warmth within the crash.  Crashes feel cold but God is near at hand.  Even so,  I would do anything to avoid another one.

What is a crash?  For me, it is when I can no longer hold up my end of the bargain.  It was this summer when I could not bring myself to go to the hospital even though Bob was at death's door.  I had no power to be strong.  I was humiliated but that in itself could not enable me to push past the crash.  I had to linger there for weeks and weeks.

When I am in the low places, I turn to God and to silence.  I turn to honest confession that I cannot make it on my own.  I need help.  Once I recover, I am less apt to be as unguarded or as humble.  I quickly forget my genuine needs.  I gloss them over like nail polish on a naked hand.  Yes, I am bound for the heights once again, thinking that I can get there on my own.  That is human nature.

I remember working at the giant yard sale put on by Vernon Howard students every year.  One woman made this comment and it reverberated in me like a bell.  "We are the fallen people."  Indeed.  And it is just in knowing that truth that our spirits are softened and encouraged to look up.  The fact of our falling is in itself a rising.  It is not one that we do for ourselves but one that is done for us.  The beauty is not our own but that of truth itself.

Last night I was lost in bad dreams.  I woke up relieved to be back in the world.  At some point I was walking with my old friend Jeanne from junior high.  She was pregnant and I was jealous of the baby that would take all of her attention.  In reality, she has third stage ovarian cancer.  I am jealous of losing her to that, too.

When I read that just knowing my true nature will solve all of my problems, I recognize the Great Truth being spoken.  What I do not acknowledge is those who are not living it twenty-four seven and just talking a good game.

My friend Peter gave up on learning from others when a series of strokes delivered him from the normal world, throwing him into suffering that has continued for many years.  It took him two years to learn how to crawl down the hall to use the bathroom.  I am happy to say that Peter awakened naturally and on his own.  He is, in his words, "bigger than the sky." He has absolutely no interest in anything but the immediacy and the joy of existence.  He yells when it hurts and cries as he is moved to do so.  But it is not him, not him at all.  I bow to Peter and it is totally unnecessary for me to do so (at least in Peter's eyes).  He and I talk about how hard this life is.  And yet he enjoys it all.

The immediacy of life cannot be denied.  That is why my wall is still in place, although at times it totters, as do I.  Actually, they are one thing.  I know that my deepest need is to be healed of being me and for that I must wait.  While I wait, I like to write.  It seems to open my heart to bear witness to the chaos, the mess and the lessons.  Yes, I do think that there are life lessons to be learned.  They are all about learning to transcend the feeling of being separate from life.  We are life itself wrapped up in a tee-shirt that says, "I came to earth to learn my lessons and all I got was this lousy tee shirt."  The burial shroud for those who would not see.

You can't hold the opposites in a divided mind.  That is why we have been given the power of awareness.

Vicki Woodyard

posted on nondualnow



It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That's why we wake
and look out--no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems Graywolf Press

photo by Alan Larus

Rabindranath Tagore   (63) Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not (from Gitanjali)     Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.
     I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter; I forget that there abides the old in the new, and that there also thou abidest.
     Through birth and death, in this world or in others, wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same, the one companion of my endless life who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.
     When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the one in the play of the many.  


“Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don't get in real life - wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I'm grateful for it the way I'm grateful for the ocean.”


Anne Lamott


posted on AlphaWorld



We could never learn
to be brave and patient,
if there were only
joy in the world.

     - Helen Keller

Just Looking for Trouble


I once had a student

Who would sit alone in his house at night

Shivering with worries and fears.


And come morning

He would often look as though

He had been raped by a ghost.


Then one day my pity

Crafted for him a knife

From my own divine sword.


Since then

I have become very proud of this student.


For now, come night

Not only has he lost all his fear,

Now he goes out

Just looking for trouble.


         (from The Gift, translated by Daniel Ladinsky)


Commentary by Janaka Stagnaro


Sitting alone in one’s house does not necessarily mean being physically isolated in your dwelling. It is locking your self up in the idea that you not only live in the body but are the body. While the former idea is more liberating and less fearful because at least when the body inevitably goes back to dust there is something that has been living inside and thus is independent of the body; while, on the other hand, thinking you are only a body is a living death. At any moment you may be gone and with a whole host of nasty ways to extinguish you. For some parts of your life you may have the daylight of pleasures when everything is going your way, the way you want things to go. Yet all days end and nights follow and so do the moods of despair when the world seems out to get you. In this night that Hafiz speaks of is the time when fears arise. You live in fear if you are worried about securing and providing for the body. Watch a bird and how it nervously eats, looking up with every few mouthfuls, ever vigilant of danger. Look how many people work jobs that provide security, despite the fact time drags them down with heavy hearts. Do you? In your security shell of daily normalcy do you hide? You may even think that everything is all right, that it is just the way life should be; and, after all,  you find moments of contentment purchasing what the world has to offer. But that night surely will come and with it comes the dreams and the nightmares. Dreams are the place you cannot control, especially if you cannot control your daily mind. Sleep is a mini death. How you go to sleep is a good example of how you will die. Is your mind scurrying about between what you did or didn’t do earlier to the future with concerns about what might befall you? Or does the mind simply sink into the moment of sleep like a boat being cast into a lake? If you have fears when going to sleep you will encounter those fears in some sort of form in your dreams. Just as when the body drops at death. If something has not been resolved then ghosts, unredeemed, will come and haunt the mind. And so you will look like you have been raped in the morning. The vitality goes. Victimhood enshrouds you and you go out into the world smelling of fear, attracting more circumstances to reinforce being a victim. And the dreams become worse. The daily stench of fear grows. And life literally turns to hell.


Now remember that this person in the poem is a student. We are all students and life is our classroom. Some of us consciously may know that we have a teacher, and that teacher could be alive or no longer have a physical body. Teachers are indispensable. Only a fool thinks he knows it all. Whether a teacher knows best that does not matter so much. But if a teacher is truly a teacher than that teacher loves the student, and that love is needed when we forget that we are love. So Hafiz, out of love for his student, sees his student floundering. The pupil is caught in that vicious cycle of being afraid and creating fearful circumstances; so the teacher acts. The knife that he gives comes from his sword. And being that they are both out of the same material they are the same, just that the knife maybe a little easier for a student to wield, while the sword is for the master. What is this sword? It is the sword of discrimination. It is the blade that cuts away all illusions and thus all fears. By sitting in silence and then cutting away mentally everything that seems to make up who you are you will come to the place of Limitless Being. It is easy to think that your spouse, children, work, hobbies, clothes, home, car, looks, friends, money--even your body, moods, personality, or more subtly your thoughts and beliefs—all add up to who you are. Yet when you wield the sword of discrimination and say that with each aspect of your life they are only a passing phenomenon, which is no more permanent than a leaf on a maple tree, then you will begin not to keep your focus on grabbing hold of them all, or even chasing after or running from them. After some time you will begin to realize that none of these things are you at all. And the fear begins to melt back into the shadows.


Now the teacher begins to be proud of the student, for the student has begun to learn or rather unlearn. When night comes, when the old wounds and bitter thoughts and feelings arise in the darkness, the student isn’t shaken anymore. For with the blade that you wield you know that such phenomena is simply that and has nothing to do with you. Like the master you have learned that the world of passing forms offers nothing to you to gain or to lose. You have come to your Being where no one was ever born nor can anyone ever die. Free, the student begins to say and do the darnedest of things, not caring about what family, friends or anyone might think or say. And because there is now freedom from conditions, love can manifest fully in its unconditional nature. This is the trouble that Hafiz speaks of, because it is trouble for those who want to stay in their rooms shivering with fear. Meeting someone who is fearless and free from the conditions of the world, who can no longer be controlled--that is great trouble.


2004 Janaka Stagnaro


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