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Meetingbrook Dogen & Francis Hermitage Update
November 2003

Theme: Autumn's Late Word

Something feels lost. It is November. Emptiness flits near. The veiled membrane between approaches transparency. Murderous attacks worldwide continue. Nature in New England disrobes and plunges into bare stillness.

In a similar way, there is a field of silent awareness containing all the events of our days. Although we may sometimes be gripped by emotion or lost in a particular story, there is throughout each of our dramas a deeper reality of silent presence. This is a silence of the heart rather than an imposed cessation of speech or activity. It is a silence that is, we could say, the background of all activity. We don’t need to find it because it is not lost. (p.7, in Passionate Presence, Experiencing the Seven Qualities of Awakened Awareness, by Catherine Ingram, c.2003)

November takes autumn at its word. No pretty colors. Instead, wind blows down brown leaves, ground cold turns them stiff. Celebrations of change and death lapse into emptiness and desolation. Earth in Maine shifts from balmy transition to chilly change. Wood goes into stoves and fireplaces. Tommy wore gloves and scarf when he dropped off wood chips stiff with last night’s frost.

We think it is too early for cold to come in so suddenly. Twenty-six foot sailboat is lifted from harbor and placed on stands by birdfeeders. Joel backs up truck with this season’s split wood. “Have a good winter,” he says before turning up hill back to Hope. I wish him health and return next November with next year’s wood. Either one of us could not be here to enact our yearly dialogue. We know that. It’s why we converse.

The process of dissolution of life-in-form includes, as well, the dissolution of the constructs of experience themselves, the skandhas of Buddhist psychology. The skandhas, it will be recalled, are those constituents of physical existence that created the experience of reality on the physical plane, created our experience of separate, personal “self.” They are form, feeling, perception, intellect, and consciousness. The dissolution of those constituents leads to the deconstruction of the separate identity as well as the de-realization of the world, finally and ultimately for the dying person.

Transcendence begins as new and transpersonal levels of identity are animated. The attention has profoundly shifted. The psychological phases of Chaos and the psychospiritual phases of Surrender have been passed. The soul has been experienced and ingathers all attention, awareness, to itself. From that vantage point, the soul begins to access Spirit. This is the process of Transcendence, referred to in the monastic infirmary tradition as the rites of reincorporation, the return to the Source. (p.261, in The Grace in Dying, How We Are Transformed Spiritually As We Die, by Kathleen Dowling Singh, 1998)

Conversation words transparency.

Meetingbrook conversations use books, articles, and poems the way our bodies use breath, blood, and skin. It is conversation we engage in. It is not argument, ideology, polemic, or preaching. Conversation invites us to speak with one another. Right and wrong are not to be proven. Reaching or overreaching is not a goal. Disclosure of prejudices and angry opinions are neither frowned upon nor discouraged. There is no icing out or shunning of unpopular thought. Repetition of personal stories and skipping in place with habitual patterns of non-dialogic spans of airtime are accepted within the circle of suffering with each other where we are at this given time of our lives. No one is requested not to come back. Only those withdraw who have not yet learned to accept the suffering and search of others in an open invitation to move with it and through it.

There is nothing to learn in Meetingbrook conversations, nothing but exploring and engaging what is at source of oneself and one another. We try to learn this nothing in the presence of one another.

November gives up summer with its lingering beauty and color stretching through October. In Maine November pivots autumn towards winter. The word we arrive at is common and immediately felt. It is similar to something Ryan said at end of a prison conversation, "That which holds all things together is the common language we are trying to learn."

Autumn’s late word is poetry written by smoke’s evaporating fragrance. It evokes glory’s dwelling.




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




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