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Monday, August 16, 2021

Onto a Vast Plain - Rainer Maria Rilke

Onto a Vast Plain


You are not surprised at the force of the storm —

you have seen it growing.

The trees flee. Their flight

sets the boulevards streaming. And you know:

he whom they flee is the one

you move toward. All your senses

sing him, as you stand at the window.


The weeks stood still in summer.

The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel

it wants to sink back

into the source of everything. You thought

you could trust that power

when you plucked the fruit:

now it becomes a riddle again

and you again a stranger.


Summer was like your house: you know

where each thing stood.

Now you must go out into your heart

as onto a vast plain. Now

the immense loneliness begins.


The days go numb, the wind

sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.


Through the empty branches the sky remains.

It is what you have.

Be earth now, and evensong.

Be the ground lying under that sky.

Be modest now, like a thing

ripened until it is real,

so that he who began it all

can feel you when he reaches for you.


- Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Joanna Macy)

Monday, July 19, 2021

School failed me, and I failed the school. - Einstein

School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn’t worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave.

This was a Catholic School in Munich. I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement. How can a teacher understand youth with such a system?

From the age of twelve I began to suspect authority and distrust teachers. I learned mostly at home, first from my uncle and then from a student who came to eat with us once a week. He would give me books on physics and astronomy.

The more I read, the more puzzled I was by the order of the universe and the disorder of the human mind, by the scientists who didn’t agree on the how, the when, or the why of creation.

Then one day this student brought me Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Reading Kant, I began to suspect everything I was taught. I no longer believed in the known God of the Bible, but rather in the mysterious God expressed in nature.

The basic laws of the universe are simple, but because our senses are limited, we can’t grasp them. There is a pattern in creation.

If we look at this tree outside whose roots search beneath the pavement for water, or a flower which sends its sweet smell to the pollinating bees, or even our own selves and the inner forces that drive us to act, we can see that we all dance to a mysterious tune, and the piper who plays this melody from an inscrutable distance—whatever name we give him—Creative Force, or God—escapes all book knowledge.

- Albert Einstein

Monday, June 14, 2021

Thunder (Nag Hammadi Codex VI, 2)

I was sent out from the power

and have come to you who study me

and am found by you who seek me.

Look at me, you who study me,

and you who hear, hear me.

You waiting for me, take me into yourselves.

Don’t banish me from your vision.

Don’t let hatred enter your voice against me

or let anger enter your hearing.

In no place, in no time, be unknowing of me.

Be alert. Don’t be ignorant of me.


I am the first and the last.

I am the honored and scorned.

I am the whore and holy.

I am the wife and the virgin.

I am the mother and daughter.

I am the members of my mother

and the barren one with many sons.

I have had a grand wedding

and have not found a husband.

I am a midwife and do not give birth.

I am the solace of my labor pains.

I am bride and groom,

and my husband produced me.

I am the mother of my father

and sister of my husband,

and he is my offspring.

I am a slave of him who prepared me

and ruler of my offspring.

He produced me earlier yet on my birthday.

He is my offspring to come,

and from him is my power.

I am the staff of his power in his youth

and he the rod of my old age,

and whatever he wants happens to me.

I am a silence incomprehensible

and an idea remembered often.

I am the voice whose sound is manifold

and word whose appearance is multiple.

I am the utterance of my name.


Why do you who hate me love me

and hate those who love me?

You who deny me confess me,

and you who confess me deny me.

You who tell the truth about me lie about me,

and you who lie tell the truth.

You who know me,

be ignorant of me, and those who have not known me,

let them know me.


I am knowledge and ignorance.

I am shame and fearlessness.

I am shameless and ashamed.

I am strength and fear.

I am war and peace.

Hear what I say.

I am the disgraced and the grand being.

Consider my poverty and wealth.

Don’t be arrogant when I am cast down on the earth,

and you will find me in those who are to come.

Don’t stare at me lying on a dung heap.

Don’t run off and cast me away.

In the kingdoms you will find me.

Don’t stare when I am cast with the disgraced

in the most sordid places

or laugh at me.

Don’t throw me out among those violently slaughtered.

I am compassionate and cruel.


Be careful.

Don’t hate my obedience

or love my self-control.

When I am weak, don’t forsake me

or fear my power.

Why do you despise my fear

and curse my pride?

I am a woman existing in every fear

and in my strength when I tremble.

I am a woman, weak,

and carefree in a pleasant place.

I am senseless and wise.


Why have you hated me in your counsels?

I will be silent among the silent

and appear and speak.

Greeks, why do you hate me?

Because I am a barbarian among the barbarians?

I am the wisdom of Greeks and knowledge of barbarians.

I am the judgment of Greeks and barbarians.

My image is great in Egypt, and I have no image among the barbarians.

I am hated everywhere and loved everywhere.

I am called life and you have called me death.

I am called law and you have called me lawlessness.

I am one you pursued and seized.

I am one you scattered and gathered together.

I am one before whom you are ashamed,

and to me you are shameless.

I am the woman who attends no festival

and whose festivals are many.

I am godless and one whose god is great.

I am one you studied and you scorn me.

I am unlettered and you learn from me.

I am one you despise and you study me.

I am one you hide from and you appear to me.

When you hide I show.

When you appear I hide. . . .


Take me into understanding from grief,

and take me from understanding and grief.

Receive me into yourselves from other places

ugly and destroyed.

And steal from the good even in their ugliness.

Out of shame take me to yourselves shamelessly.

Without shame and with shame, rebuke what is mine

in you

and come to me, you who know me

and you who know my members,

and make great ones among small first creatures.

Come to childhood

and don’t despise it, because it is small and tiny.

Don’t turn away the great in parts from the small,

for the small is known from the great.

Why do you curse and honor me?

You wound me and have mercy.

Don’t separate me from the first you have known.

Don’t cast out or turn away,

turn away and not know. . . .

I know the first ones,

and those after them know me.

I am perfect mind and rest. . . .

I am the knowledge of my search,

the finding of those who look for me,

the command of those who ask about me,

the power of powers

in my knowledge of angels sent at my word,

and of gods in their seasons sent by my counsel,

and of spirits of all who exist with me

and of women who live in me.


I am one who is honored, praised, and scornfully despised.

I am peace, and war has come because of me.

I am alien and citizen.

I am the substance and one without substance.


Those unconnected to me are unfamiliar with me,

and those in my substance know me.

Those close to me are ignorant of me,

and those far away have known me.

On the day I am close to you, you are far,

and on the day I am far, I am close to you.


I am . . . within.

I am . . . of natures.

I am . . . of created spirits,

the request of souls.

I am control and the uncontrollable.

I am union and dissolution.

I abide and dissolve.

I am below and they come up to me.

I am judgment and acquittal.

I am sinless,

and the root of sin comes from me.

I am lust outwardly, yet within me is control.

I am hearing for all, and my speech is indecipherable.

I am an unspeaking mute

and enormous in my many words.


Hear me in gentleness and discover me in roughness.

I am the woman crying out

and cast upon the face of the earth.

I prepare bread and my mind within.

I am the knowledge of my name.

I am the one who cries out

and I listen.

I appear . . . walk in . . . I am . . . the defense.

I am called truth and iniquity. . . .


You honor me and whisper against me.

You, the vanquished, judge those who vanquish you

before they judge you,

because in you the judge and partiality exist.

If you are condemned by one, who will acquit you?

If acquitted by him, who will arrest you?

What is in you is outside,

and one who fashions you on the outside

shapes you inside.

What you see outside you see within you.

It is visible and your garment.

Hear me, hearers,

and find out about my words, you who know me.

I am the hearing all can reach;

I am speech undecipherable.

I am the name of the sound

and the sound of the name.

I am the sign of the letter

and the designation of the division.

I . . . light . . . great power . . . will not move the name . . .

to the one who created me.

I will speak his name.


Look at his words and all the writings completed.

Be alert, hearers and angels and those sent

and you spirits arisen from the dead.

I alone exist and have no one to judge me.

Many pleasures exist in many sins,

uncontrolled passions and disgraceful desires

and brief pleasures

embraced by people until they sober up

and float up to their place of rest.

There they will find me and live, and they will not die again.

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Kingdom of Astonishment

This is not the spiritually materialist mindfulness practiced by corporations seeking to improve employee productivity. This is not the sterile “peacefulness” that helps you better accommodate oppression. No, this is ecstatic participation with the natural world. This is the inter-penetrative experience of awe that only occurs when you realize the world is a polyphony of aliveness. “Split a piece of wood. I am there. Life up the stone and you will find me there,” instructs Jesus. The “me” he speaks of is not himself, but the kingdom of astonishment. The fragrant pith of the cedarwood entering your nostrils is the kingdom. The awe you feel at the moonlight-silvered grub under the stone is the secret gospel. 

We live in a moment when we are woefully blind to the kingdom. Sensory gating, the neurological process of filtering out “redundant” stimuli from our sensual experience to create a homogenized reality, has been tightened by patriarchy and civilization. We quite literally do not see “what is in front of our faces”. Reading stories of miracles in older texts we laugh at our ancestor’s “belief” in magic. But what if the magic was still there? As we codify expectations, we limit our ability to experience surprise and awe. In short, it gets harder and harder to change our minds and experience the marvel under a stone or in a piece of wood. We expect the ordinary, and receive it in return, growing increasingly despondent each day, even when just beyond our blinders mountains move and kingdoms explode from mustard seeds. Lucky that our brains are malleable. There are still methods of “dilating” into greater participation with the divine animacy of the natural world.

- Sophie Strand

from

https://www.facebook.com/sophie.strand1/posts/10225969809498508

Friday, April 2, 2021

Meanderings around sweetness and sarcasm

Esteemed Gentlemen,

I am a poor, young, unemployed person in the business field, my name is Wenzel, I am seeking a suitable position, and I take the liberty of asking you, nicely and politely, if perhaps in your airy, bright, amiable rooms such a position might be free. . . . Large and difficult tasks I cannot perform, and obligations of a far-reaching sort are too strenuous for my mind. I am not particularly clever, and first and foremost I do not like to strain my intelligence overmuch. . . . Assuredly there exists in your extensive institution, which I imagine to be overflowing with main and subsidiary functions and offices, work of the kind that one can do as in a dream? — I am, to put it frankly, a Chinese; that is to say, a person who deems everything small and modest to be beautiful and pleasing, and to whom all that is big and exacting is fearsome and horrid.

- Robert Walser, from "Job Application”

Monday, March 1, 2021

Playing with Children

 Early spring

The landscape is tinged with the first

fresh hints of green

Now I take my wooden begging bowl

And wander carefree through town

The moment the children see me

They scamper off gleefully to bring their friends

They’re waiting for me at the temple gate

Tugging from all sides so I can barely walk

I leave my bowl on a white rock

Hang my pilgrim’s bag on a pine tree branch

First we duel with blades of grass

Then we play ball

While I bounce the ball, they sing the song

Then I sing the song and they bounce the ball

Caught up in the excitement of the game

We forget completely about the time

Passersby turn and question me:

"Why are you carrying on like this?"

I just shake my head without answering

Even if I were able to say something

how could I explain?

Do you really want to know the meaning of it all?

This is it! This is it!


- Ryōkan


Thursday, February 11, 2021

Are you a Mystic?

22 Characteristics of Mysticism:

Experience: The mystic respects discoveries of the rational mind, but they are keen on experience. Mysticism cannot be read about or learned objectively. The mystic trusts implicitly in their own experience which is a trust of the universe and of oneself. The anti-mystic may protest that one’s experience is “subjective” and therefore unreliable. The authentic mystic, however, argues that both the right brain and left brain are necessary for comprehending reality. This argument is based on the next characteristic of the mystic which is

Nondualism: The mystic seeks unitive experiences. As Fox reminds us, “All mystical experiences share in common the perspective of nonseparation or nondualism.” Ultimately, the mystic experiences what mystic and Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn calls Interbeing—the reality that everything is interconnected. (More on this below.)

Compassion: Because the mystic has experienced the interdependence of all living things, they invariably develop compassion for all beings because for them, no being is separate from another. The mystic recognizes that the wellbeing of all must be taken into account.

Connection-Making: Because the mystic seeks unity and unitive experiences, they seek to make connections where connections have been lost. Mystics are often found in the so-called “helping professions” in which connection-making is fundamental; however, artists may also be diagnosed as mystics, for they too are essentially connection-makers by way of the imagination.

Radical Amazement: Awe is one of the most prized emotions among mystics. Fox describes it as, “a reverential fear based on a realization of the greatness of our existence, of our being included in the amazing twenty-billion-year drama that is the universe.”[2] While the mystic respects rational analysis, their psyches are large enough for awe, and they revel in it.

Affirmation Of The World As A Whole: The mystic affirms not the world laid waste by human neglect or greed-induced destruction, but a world that is whole and connected. They facilitate and strive to promote human connection and the wholeness of the Earth community. The mystic loves immersing themselves in nature because they experience viscerally and erotically that they are intimately connected with it.

Right Brain: The mystic affirms and delights in the qualities of the right brain: Art, music, literature, dancing, and deep embodiment appeal to them instinctively. Intuition is the crown jewel of the right brain, and scientists tell us that intuition may be the highest form of intelligence.

Self-Criticism: The mystic is self-critical without being judgmental. They understand the reality of the human shadow and are actively engaged in shadow healing. They are vigilant about projecting their shadow onto others and are willing to take a hard look at their own belief systems.

Heart Knowledge: The mystic values heart knowledge and heartbreak over intellectual knowledge. They have experienced viscerally that to ignore or minimize the heart in favor of reason diminishes their humanity and compassion.

A Return To The Source: The mystic may have many names for the Source, but they live their lives with reverence for something greater than the rational mind and human ego.

Feminist: To be intimately connected with “the mysteries” is to have moved beyond patriarchal consciousness. Mystical awareness is inherently feminine and honors the feminine in the Earth and in all living beings. As stated above, the mystical inclination is relational; it fosters connection, and helps heal division and separation.

Panentheistic: The mystic knows that all life is sacred because the sacred abides within all people and things. Panentheism is not atheism, nor is it the notion that the sacred is somewhere “out there.” Most atheism is a rejection of theism which usually celebrates divinity at the expense of the body and the senses. Matthew Fox writes, “I do believe that if the only option I was given by which to envision creation’s relationship to divinity was theism, I would be an atheist too.”[3] To paraphrase Fox, the “God” you don’t believe in is the “God” that I don’t believe in.

Birther Of Images: Every mystic is an artist because the mystery is found and expressed through images. Images, not complete sentences uttered in linear fashion, most aptly convey what is happening in the inner world. The mystic thinks and feels poetically and values poets, or as James Joyce called them, “priests of the imagination.”

Silence: Mystics love silence and solitude. While the mystic may be extroverted and enjoy the company of others, they require silence. A left-brain culture, says Fox, is a culture ill-at-ease with silence because it is devoid of mysticism. The mysteries are not ubiquitous in the din of industrial civilization, but rather, in the silence.

Nothingness and Darkness: The mystic knows that light is not found in light places, but in the darkness. They understand that they lived nine months in complete darkness before bursting forth into the light of birth. They have experienced firsthand the treasures that darkness holds, and they open to what it may ask of them next.

Playfulness: Mystics enjoy fantasy and play. They do not repress their childlike spirit in order to appear mature or reasonable or spiritual. Humor is an essential nutrient for the mystic’s wellbeing.

Justice and Activism: The mystic is not an apathetic person who is oblivious to the world around them. Because they passionately crave the mysteries, they also crave justice and mercy for all beings. Many Christian mystics, such as St. Francis, Hiledgard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Hellen Keller, and others were also activists and pioneers of social justice movements.

Prophetic: The mystic is a prophet—a word with two distinct meanings. One role of a prophet is foretelling or the ability to see and forecast the future. Another role is forth-telling which is to speak truth to power, to say what is so, and to call out injustice.

Being-With-Being: The mystic is committed to being present with other beings—to fully listening to them and offering presence and acceptance even when nothing else can be done and when disagreement and division seem insurmountable.

Cultivation Of The True Self: The mystic understands the difference between the false self or the human ego and the sacred or True Self. Their lives are committed to the painful journey of daily surrender of the false, egoic self to the Sacred Self.

Universal Consciousness: The mystic may prefer one tradition over another, but they absolutely honor all traditions. They are committed to inclusivity and acceptance of all beings.

Animals: Mystics love and protect animals. Because they honor their own animal bodies and their own animal natures, they befriend and work for the safety and protection of animals. A mystic will almost always have one or more animal companions or be in daily contact with animals in their natural habitat.

- from "The Coming of The Cosmic Christ" by Matthew Fox, via Carolyn Baker 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Julian of Norwich’s Seven Lessons For Navigating A Pandemic

Facing The Darkness

  • Look darkness squarely in the face.

  • Do not deny or scapegoat the realities of the pandemic.

  • Take the pandemic as an opportunity to examine your goals and intentions.

  • Your life is short. How can you contribute? What gifts do you have to offer?

  • Stay connected with your fear, anger, grief, and despair.

  • Beware of addictions that numb and make you stupid and silly.

  • Face the darkness of our own personal shadow and do shadow healing work.

  • Stay close to the teachings of mystics, poets, indigenous wisdom.

Welcome Goodness, Joy, and Awe

  • Fall in love with nature and human goodness.

  • Realize what a blessing it is to be here in an amazing universe on an amazing planet after an amazing journey of 13.8 billion years.

  • Nature is God; God is nature. Immerse yourself in nature.

  • Seek and cherish awe. Julian says that “A reverent awe is the proper response to the supreme beauty of the sacred.”

  • Practice gratitude moment to moment.

Practice The One-ing of The Sacred and Life

  • Live your life as if there is no separation–between you and the sacred, between you and Earth, between you and other living beings.

  • All of nature is interdependent. We are interdependent with each other and with nature.

  • Understand how the story of separation shows up in your life. Notice your own “othering” in relation to people with whom you disagree. What might happen if you stopped “othering” them?

Understanding the Sacred Feminine and Divine Motherhood

  • Regardless of your gender, be aware of the patriarchal influences in your life, past and present.

  • Remember that patriarchy and gender are different. Women can be as patriarchal as men since patriarchy is simply a way of life based on power and control.

  • Learn how to be a spiritual warrior against patriarchy.

  • Learn how to be a spiritual midwife on behalf of goodness, compassion, generosity, awe, joy, and creativity.

Practice Non-Dualism and Living With Paradox

  • Practice holding the tension of opposites. Cultivate a both/and consciousness.

  • Consider that in the age of extinction, something profound is trying to be born in you and in the world.

  • The extinction of our species is likely, and at the same time, nothing is certain.

  • In Julian’s life, the Black Death came in waves. When people thought it was gone, it came again. Know that pandemics in our time are likely to repeat that pattern.

  • Stop asking “When will collapse happen?” It’s happening NOW, and we don’t get to know the outcome.

  • Experiencing joy will deepen your capacity to grieve. Grieving will enhance your capacity to experience deep joy.

  • The more you open to death, the more enlivened you become.

Trust Your Body and Your Sensuality

  • Julian said, “God is in our sensuality.” This is hardly a statement from an institutional, industrially-civilized Christian. Julian’s perspective was wild and nature-based.

  • Be at home with your body. She says, “God willed that we have a twofold nature: sensual and spiritual.”

  • Ground yourself in Earth-based spirituality and sensuality. Reject any spirituality that emphasizes transcendence, “rising above,” or escaping “this vale of tears.” Julian rejected the transcendent theology of her time, preferring to embrace nature and the body as holy.

Celebrate The Power of Love Over Evil

  • Know that all beings are “swimming in an ocean of divinity.” We have every right to dislike any being, but it is our responsibility to acknowledge their humanity and their divinity.

  • Embrace “mystical hope,” not conventional hope. Mystical hope is not tied to outcome and does not depend on external circumstances. It is nourished by our connection to the sacred within ourselves and in the world. As with Viktor Frankl’s experience in a Nazi death camp, mystical hope is about finding meaning and making meaning in all circumstances.

  • “All shall be well,” is not a declaration of naive optimism. It depends on our willingness to wake up and do the inner work that “pandemic times” demand of us.