Hermit's Corner Meetingbrook Home Page
Bookshop & Bakery Running comments on Meetingbrook
Hermitage Update About Meetingbrook
Meetingbrook Events Meetingbrook Home Page

Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
July 2003

Theme: Let’s Try This -- Learning to live Alone

This freedom  -- what is this?

Beginning after a retreat with the Trappists in Berryville Virginia 5 years ago we wondered aloud and with others whether this hermitage Meetingbrook was developing should consider affiliating itself with the Catholic diocese in Maine. We asked many people in and out of the shop, in and out of state, in and out of the church. The majority said no -- stay independent.

This sentiment was echoed over a wide range of experience and thought about such connections -- cloistered religious, hermits affiliated and not affiliated, priests and ministers both catholic and not catholic, Buddhists, laypeople, cranky artists and poets, and assorted others who have an opinion on such matters. Nearly unanimous was their view -- caution, discouragement, but willing to see us through any inquiry. So, we enquired. There were communications and gaps between attempted communications. There were pleasant conversations, courtesy visits, and simple inquiry. 

Last week we sent a letter and ended that consideration to affiliate Meetingbrook with the church of our root tradition. It was a look. Now that glance is over. 

I enjoy my lifelong path
Between misty vines and rocky caves
In the wilds there’s room to spare
And time to accompany clouds
This road doesn’t reach the world
Only the mindless can climb
I sit alone nights on a couch of stone
While the round moon comes up Cold Mountain.
       - Han-shan

Independence asks not to be bound by another's point of view.

The Catholic Church is our root tradition. Whatever flowers -- is grateful to root. Pollen and seed range wide to find receptive dwelling places. And on; and on. We will always come from where we've come from. Still, we move on. The decision is not to affiliate any further than root. There will be periodic points of contact with that origin. It was a five-year deliberation, mostly our own, with folks working at the diocese in Portland.


            My gratitude for these past five years.

Since first letter and visit to Bishop Joseph in May 1998, through emails and letters to Sr. Rita-Mae through the years, finally communication with and visit to Meetingbrook by Sr. Ann this May 2003 --- there have been many opportunities to look at and ask about our vocation.

First I sought a blessing. Then hermit status. A recommendation was made that private association of the faithful might apply. Finally the suggestion was made to us that Bishop Joseph might write a supportive letter. It has been five years of prayer and inquiry.

I wish to thank you for each opportunity to consider affiliation with the Diocese.

I’ll be ending my considerations of affiliation. I’m satisfied that in these five years the inquiry and practice of Meetingbrook has deepened. I also acknowledge that the inquiry as to whether a formal affiliation would be mutually beneficial to both the Diocese and Meetingbrook has been answered. I am content to accept no other connection than baptismal.

It has been a worthwhile inquiry. I’ve learned I am a hermit, a solitary, someone dwelling as-one-is with each and all. No affirmation or affiliation is necessary to make what is now/here more now, more here. This vocation is continual inquiry, continual listening, and continual humbling. If Christ is present, invisible, and hidden in creation, persons, and sacrament --- we’ll look and reside there until such time as it pleases God to reveal another way.

We’ll keep the three of you in our prayer. May we each be open to the Holy Spirit!

In gratitude,

In his book Hermits The Insights of Solitude, (c. 1996), Peter France writes in his prologue "Dawn in China" about Confucius and Lao-Tse.

Lao-Tse had little use for society and was completely indifferent to the social status of the individual. Social organization was anathema to him and social participation of any kind an impediment to the freedom and so the proper development of the individual. He was an older contemporary of Confucius and had been an official at court but tradition has it, he became disillusioned with court life and fled through he western passes. The guardian of the route persuaded him, before leaving to compose the Tao te Ching, which became a manifesto for the solitary life.
The essence of its teaching is that it is by withdrawing rather than by asserting ourselves, through retreat rather than pursuit, by inaction rather than action that we acquire wisdom. We have to unlearn the superficial cleverness that we have developed to get on in society, to cease to compete with others, and to learn to live alone.
Solitude is healthy, according to the Taoist, because it removes us from the mutilating pressures of society and exposes us to the healing influence of Nature. We are part of the natural world and should allow our personalities to be shaped by natural forces. The short-lived storms of wind and rain suggest the futility of violent action; vegetable growth matures, culminates and subsides in response to natural impulse. The person who seeks truth should imitate this.
The highest goodness is like water. Water is the symbol of humility. It always seeks the lowest place, it 'dwells in regions which people detest' and yet it is good and necessary to all living things: 'it benefits all things and does not compete with them'. Further, water best illustrates the principle of wu wei, or effective inactivity, because it is soft and yielding but can wear away rock: 'There is nothing softer or sweeter than water and yet there is nothing better for attacking strong and hard things.' (pp.viii-ix)

At Tuesday Evening Conversation on Buddhist Studies someone mentioned striving toward God and the divine. Another said they were interested in what was beyond God and the divine. There was a pause. "This," he said, "this is beyond God. I will move through this."

After the ecstasy, the laundry -- as the book title suggests. Once in a rare while we happen to stand outside (Gk. ek-stasis) and see reality as it is. But our true home is not outside. Nor is it inside. Our true home is passing through this reality. Passing through this reality means we are passing through this reality. Whenever, wherever, whoever, whatever the reality --- we dwell insecure and impermanent as what-is-passing-through. It is not that we are going somewhere else, striving for some goal, an endgame that concludes and finishes. No. Our passing-through is the continual and never-ending practice/realization of what-is-now.

This is how freedom releases us from imprisonment and illusion. "This" is freedom. It is touch and go. As Elie Wiesel said in one of his books, "God is movement, not explanation."

Seeing God is not as vital as moving through what (God) is moving through, what (God) is doing. Right now -- what is (God) doing? Right now -- what is it you are doing? What is it I am doing?

[Note: The parentheses (around the word “God”) intend to enclose-as-embodied within, or, remove-as-other from, the word “God” in the constructed sentence. What we call "God" is what is moving through each one and everything. We, at times, confuse ourselves by attempting to make "God" other than what is God. We, at times, try to feel secure that we have located God and have God under control. Ask again. God is not other than the asking.] 

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. (Helen Keller)

There is no security anywhere. Superstition and certainty are shills for security. Shills decoy. First your money, then your life is taken.

The solitary lives as-one-is in the world. How does one live in the world?

Good question. This koan travels with us.

We’ve asked, and continue to ask, “What is this?” We ask life about our lives. This question is a precious gift. It is ours for the asking. We long to be asking a true question.

Truth, a Zen master said, is just like this.

What is this?

This is our freedom. Ask this now.

With gratitude.
, Sando , Cesco , Mu-ge , and all who grace Meetingbrook



HomeEventsHermitage Update Bookshop & Bakery
Bookshop Recommendations About MeetingbrookHermit's Corner


Meetingbrook Hermitage
64 Barnstown Rd.,
Camden, Maine USA 04843
Meetingbrook Bookshop & Bakery
50 Bayview St. (Cape on the harbor)
Camden, Maine USA 04843
e-mail: mono@meetingbrook.org

© Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage

Web design by Karl Gottshalk