March 4th, 2006

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Good Morning -

I woke at 4, read a bit, and then, went back to sleep and had the most wonderful dreams, and in the dreams, I was as I am now, in my snuggly hat with no hair, and delightedly teaching people how they can have fun even with cancer, and chemo and radiation. I was swinging, and learning to ice skate, and drinking hot chocolate, and meeting new people, and having the most delightful time. It was quite exciting, and again, feels affirming of what is going on for me.

I read this morning about the battle at Gettysburg. I visited there when I was 11 or 12, but I didn't fully comprehend how in danger Washington D.C, and the North were until reading this book. Lee lost 28,000 people at Gettysburg, nearly a third of his army. The North lost 23,000. It is hard to comprehend such a battle, and such losses. Each time I read the numbers, I feel I should cry, and yet, somehow, I can't. It is all so unimaginable to me.

Sometimes, I think California should secede from the union. The energy crisis of 2000-2001 in California, due to deregulation and greed to the point of theft, was inexcusable. California wants tougher environmental and food standards. The Bush administration doesn't and wants to legislate over what we want. California could easily survive on its own, but when I read this book, and see the lives lost to keep all the states together, well, I think as Rodney King said, "Can't we all just get along?"

So, now, I Wikipedia Rodney King. He received 3.8 million in a civil suit against the LAPD, and is currently bankrupt and in a drug rehab center. Again, I feel sad.

I bought a Zen and Now clock which chimes to awaken one gently. It is however quite loud, and I seem to have not figured out it's programming yet, which is actually quite simple, but I want it to be complex, so it is chiming away, and maybe that is what I need, the chime, chime, chiming, awakening me to the constant interplay of joy and sorrow.

Rilke, Lou Andreas-Salome, and Freud were interested in the psyche, in bringing the unconscious to light. We have continued to evolve and study the unconscious, and yet, when I read of Rodney King and that he seemed unable to access help that might have changed his life, again, I feel sad.

Sometimes, it seems we need to dig up a plant, and shake the dirt off the roots, and re-plant.

Thich Nhat Hanh was interviewed by Melvin McLeod in the March issue of Shambhala Sun.

I offer a part of the interview.

Thich Nhat Hanh:

"Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself - it is very difficult to take care of another person. In the Buddhist teaching, it's clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice."

McLeod asks, "Why don't we love ourselves?"

Thich Nhat Hanh:

"We may have a habit within ourselves of looking for happiness elsewhere than in the here and now. We may lack the capacity to realize that happiness is possible in the here and now, that we already have enough conditions to be happy right now. The habit energy is to believe that happiness is not possible now, and that we have to run to the future in order to get some more conditions for happiness. That prevents us from being established in the present moment, from getting in touch with the wonders of life that are available in the here and now. That is why happiness is not possible."

"To go home to the present moment, to take care of oneself, to get in touch with the wonders of life that are really available - that is already love. Love is to be kind to yourself, to be compassionate to yourself, to generate images of joy, and to look at everyone with eyes of equanimity and nondiscrimination."

"That is something to be cultivated. Non-self can be achieved. It can be touched slowly. The truth can be cultivated. When you discover something, in the beginning you discover only part of it. If you continue, you have a chance to discover more. And finally you discover the whole thing. When you love, if your love is true, you begin to see that the other person is a part of you and you are a part of her or him. In that realization there is already non-self. If you think that your happiness is different from their happiness, you have not see anything of non-self, and happiness cannot be obtained."

(A note here - I read this and realize that this applies to suffering as well as happiness. When we consider our suffering different than another's suffering, we again, leave the place of non-self. My suffering is yours. Yours is mine. Back to Thich Nhat Hanh.)

"So as you progress on the path of insight into non-self, the happiness brought to you by love will increase. When people love each other, the distinction, the limits, the frontier between them begins to dissolve, and they become one with the person they love. There's no longer any jealousy or anger, because if they are angry at the other person, they are angry at themselves. That is why non-self is not a theory, a doctrine, or an ideology, but a realization that can bring a lot of happiness."

McLeod says, here, "And peace."

Thich Nhat Hanh replies, "Sure. Peace is the absence of separation, of discrimination."

And that takes us back to the Civil War, fought all those years ago to eliminate separation and discrimination. May we all continue to work, internally and externally, for that to be so. A joyous day to you all!!
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Rilke -

I find myself with Rilke today, Rilke as translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy, Rilke's Book of Hours, Love Poems to God. I offer a few.

The hour is striking so close above me,
so clear and sharp,
that all my senses ring with it.
I feel it now: there's a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world.

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
and they come toward me, to meet and be met.

I, 1

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

I, 2

I thank you, deep power
that works ever more lightly
in ways I can't make out.
The day's labor grows simple now,
and like a holy face
held in my dark hands.

I, 62
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Poem by Linda Gregg -


by Linda Gregg

Every evening, an hour before
the sun goes down, I walk toward
its light, wanting to be altered.
Always in quiet, the air still.
Walking up the straight empty road
and then back. When the sun
is gone, the light continues
high up in the sky for awhile.
When I return, the moon is there.
Like a changing of the guard.
I don't expect the light
to save me, but I do believe
in the ritual. I believe
I am being born a second time
in this very plain way.
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A broken record -

I feel like I am a broken record on the subject of this book on Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, but I seem to need to continue to share it, and to encourage the reading of it. It brings back what I learned of history but in such a different light. This man, the Gettysburg Address, all that was done by those who surrounded him, and by the people of the time. It amazes me. I find myself wanting to put the words of the Gettysburg address here, or perhaps, the story, as told by Leo Tolstoy, of arriving in a "wild and remote area of the North Caucasus," and being begged by the tribal chief for stories of Lincoln, "the greatest general and greatest ruler of the world. He was a hero. He spoke with a voice of thunder; he laughed like the sunrise and his deeds were as strong as the rock... His name was Lincoln and the country in which he lived is called America, which is so far away that if a youth should journey to reach it he would be an old man when he arrived. Tell us of that man."

Tolstoy says of Lincoln. "Washington was a typical American. Napolean was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country - bigger than all the Presidents together." "We are still too near his greatness but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do. His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us."

This book certainly aids our understanding of the kindness and compassion of Lincoln. He united disparate personalities for the good of the country. He knew when to move forward and when to wait. His empathy astounds.

Somehow, I have to come back to the words of the Gettysburg Address. My generation was raised on them. We were raised to believe that this country was a country of honor. Sadly, our faith has been sadly diminished, and yet, I still want to believe that we can return to what Lincoln believed. Where is our leader now?

Lincoln's now famous words:

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, a conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether than nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that, this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that, government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The secretary of war, under Lincoln, Stanton was raised as a Quaker, and did not believe in war, and yet he and Lincoln tried to console themselves that this war "represented a divine will at work in human affairs."

Lincoln's wife Mary lost three brothers and a brother-in-law who fought in the Confederate army. Their son Willie died, from typhoid fever, probably as a result of the White House water coming from the Potomac River which was contaminated because of inadequate latrines. It is hard to imagine the division. I have read of this before, families divided, but somehow it is hitting me more deeply now, as I wonder how we make a huge change now, how we find ways to honor and recognize differences without wounding, killing, dividing and judging. Lincoln lived by not judging. May I learn, ever more consciously, to do the same.