We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Gonna Miss Her

Spring                                                                        New Shoulder Moon

In Gwangju, April 2016

In Gwangju, April 2016

SeoAh goes home today. Murdoch misses her and Joe needs her. Her flight is at 11:45, so we’ll leave around 8:30 or so. After I get her checked in, I’ll turn around and drive back past Conifer and on to Littleton to Hearing Aid Associates. My hearing aid no longer takes juice from batteries.

The dishwasher saga is still not over. After substantial research into dishwashers, it’s my conclusion that no one makes one that lasts very long or very well. The combination of swirling water and electronics seems to make them more vulnerable than most appliances. So. If you’ve had a good experience with a particular brand, let me know. Gonna buy one soon. Sigh.

Gwangju, April 2016

Gwangju, April 2016

Joseph’s been running an exercise at Robbins all this week. His wing commander told him on Tuesday, “Brief at 1 p.m.” This was at noon. He usually has much longer to prepare. 500 people. “I knocked it out of the park, Dad.” Baseball metaphors come naturally to this boy who was young when the Twins won the World Series twice. He also told me he still answers the phone, “Capt. Buckman-Ellis,” then has to shift quickly, “No. Major Buckman-Ellis.” 6 years a Captain wears a pretty strong groove in the brain.

Last night was the first night of the new qabbalah series, Time. The first year introductory curriculum covers the three dimensions of the qabbalistic universe: soul, space and time. Time, above all other concepts we think we understand, bends and twists when we try to hold it down, flog some sense out of it. I confess to being more unsettled as to my understanding of time than any other idea except the notion of self.

kabbalah magicThe two have a close relationship. It’s the human observer who brings time into being, I think. We know from Einstein that time and space are inseparable; but, I’m still with Kant, that time and space are actually ways our minds use to make sense of the data we gather from our senses. The implication is that they are constructs of human consciousness and that we cannot know their existence in what Kant calls the ding an siche, things in themselves.

These classes are like one long late night conversation in college. And fun for that reason.

Regress to advance

Imbolc                                                                             New Shoulder Moon

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
– Anatole France

melancholyThe last letters of the Hebrew alphabet now have renderings in sumi-e, lying on my table ready for quotes and the chop. A member of Beth Evergreen last night referred to me as an artist. Oh. I thought he said audience. Artist is not a word I’ve ever associated with myself so my brain heard something else. A revealing moment. How others see us is not always, perhaps often, not the way we see ourselves.

An obituary on Terry Brazelton had this summary of a major finding of his research: “Development does not occur on a linear path, with each skill building on earlier ones. Rather, it unfolds in a series of major reorganizations in which children temporarily regress before mastering a new developmental milestone.” NYT

Well. That explains melancholy, at least as I’ve experienced it. There’s a plateau effect, then a hesitation, a pause while the psyche incorporates a new way of being, one probably not available to consciousness at the time of the pause. Since it’s inchoate, the reorganization seems like a regression, a stutter. The mind and the body both slow down, awaiting something they don’t understand. Result: melancholy.

 Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

If you’ve read my posts over the last month or so, I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. My psyche had moved on, already aware that I needed more tactile moments in my daily life, already aware that it was time to resort my priorities based on a new constellation of possibilities made real by our move.

Last night at the shabbat service a rabbi friend of Jamie’s gave a short reflection. She had us consider an unusual moment in the Torah when the former Hebrew slaves remembered fondly the foods they had in Egypt. Using this seemingly inscrutable nostalgia for a time of bondage, she suggested that during transitions, a time of instability, wandering in the dessert for example, we often want to return to the stable state we know to ease the anxieties and uncertainties of a transition. Thus, when faced with a period of eating manna during an often frustrating movement toward the land promised, but not yet reached, even slavery seemed to have its charms.

That nostalgia, I think, is the root of melancholy, a hope that the past can ease the upset of the present. The psyche knows that’s a false hope, a trap, but is unable to articulate why. So, stasis, moving neither forward nor backward, which the ego interprets as negative without knowing why. Really, the moment is gestational, a new way awaits its birth. Not back to Egypt, but on to the promised land. Not back to the life of forty years in Minnesota, but on to the new life developing in Colorado.

 

 

 

Moving Forward, Cloud Dissipating

Imbolc                                                                             New Life Moon

20180315_080213Under the New Life moon a new life has emerged, related to the old one, but different nonetheless. The trajectory and the distance of the change got a marker last night on the final evening of the kabbalah class on the mysticism of the Hebrew letters.

I had my first art exhibit! (well, since elementary school.) I have done over half of the Hebrew letters in my sumi-e calligraphy, adding a quote I felt highlighted some aspect of the letter’s significance. And finishing them off with the chop. Oddly, the thought of displaying my work didn’t daunt me, as it would have in the old life. In the new life my work is my play. Self consciousness doesn’t enter the field.

Some even called my work beautiful. Wow. Don’t get me wrong though. I was proud of these pieces and as a result was able to appreciate how the others responded to them, not deflect it.

20180315_080239Too, under the new life moon I’ve become the regular dinner cook at our house, experimenting at times, at other times (mostly) using recipes, but enjoying myself immensely. Added to my long practice of working out, even that has a new flavor with the workouts every six weeks or so from On the Move Fitness, I’ve got tactile time each day. I’m using my hands and a non-verbal creative impulse.

The day after my birthday was the new moon. That means these changes have all happened in my 71st year, facilitated by the earlier fall into a melancholic state. So today I speak in favor of sadness, of gloom. Without the stasis and the deep reexamination that melancholy brings this new life would likely not have emerged.

20180315_080258It is no accident, though in real time it was, that this period was also the time of the middot of joy. Joy and sadness are not enemies, rather they are a vital source of learning if we don’t suppress them. Steering away from grief, tamping down joy in favor of a false stability, a false calm defuses the opportunity our soul offers to us through these emotions. They signal the soul’s gladness, the soul’s mourning, both key to a depth appreciation of our journey.

How the rest of my life will adjust, shift in light of these changes is not yet clear to me. And that’s ok.

 

 

 

Imbolc                                                                              New Life Moon

Kate, costumed for Purim

Kate, costumed for Purim

The full new life moon had a cloudy cover as it rose in the east yesterday, a halo. Driving back from the Purim celebration last night it was moving west, though then in a clear sky, Orion visible nearby. This morning as I came up to the loft it sat near the horizon, visible only through under the branches of our lodgepoles. This bout of melancholy began under the waning Imbolc moon, grew stronger under the first days of the new life moon and now seems likely to be gone during its waning. Maybe a month total. As these visits go, not too bad.

Fellow melancholic and friend, Tom, called yesterday and we talked about the gremlin’s energy sink, its dredging up of old emotions, its general sucking out of life’s marrow. We both have long acquaintance with it. And, long experience does yield some perspective, a hint of how it will probably go. For me, the down is matched by an up, a safer version of the bi-polar depression to mania swing. The up has not come yet, but I can feel it on its way.

grandio-elite-greenhouse-featuresA couple of things have come into focus over the last few days. One, I need to work more with my hands, with my body. Now that the turmoil of our first years here has begun to subside I’m missing the garden, the orchard. Not just the growing, the plant care, the flowers and vegetables and fruits fresh out of our soil, but carrying bags of compost or digging or moving bee hives, tending to the raspberry patch. If I don’t do this, I can get stuck in my head. Not the only part of me I want to nurture.

Two, I need to read more, be quiet more. Meditate. I’ve been reading novels, as is my habit, and I read news of all kinds on the web, but I need to shift my reading diet a bit to include more philosophical, theological non-fiction. Example. I began re-reading, as I mentioned, David Miller’s, The New Polytheism. That’s the sort of work I’m talking about. It sends sparks off in so many different directions.

A few possibilities for more tactile activity. Kate and I looked at a greenhouse made by an outfit called Grandio Elite. I’m not interested in the very laborious work it would require to garden in the rocky Shadow Mountain soil. But, in a greenhouse, yes. I miss working with the soil, with plants. And, we could grow plants in the greenhouse and put them outside in containers during our short growing season. Green thumb Kate grew tomatoes here last year. Not easy.

alephs and a mem

alephs and a mem

Finally got to working with my brushes and ink, rice paper. Still a really, really long way to go before I have any true facility with it, and that’s a good thing, lots of practice required. My presentation for the kabbalah class, unveiling the Hebrew letters, will be certain letters drawn with these ancient Chinese tools and a line of poetry congruent with the letters deeper meanings written below it. Here’s a couple of alephs and a mem.

Hiking, of course. And to that end, more new workouts. Though. Got a new workout Tuesday and my left quad and bursa have complained a lot. Gotta figure out what caused that. Still, these workouts give me more strength and balance, continued ability to be in the world with my body.

20180301_064843And the reading. Oddly, the deeper my immersion into Judaism, the more my interest in Taoism increases. So. Diving into those books, some online educational material. Also, Reimagine. Reconstruct. Reenchant. Material on emergence. James Hillman. Magic and reenchantment. Reinvention of the sacred. The auld Celtic faith.

These things seem to have traction and will be a significant departure from the immediate past. A balancing, or rebalancing, of time, of attention. An outcome I expect from melancholy. Underway now.

Melancholy. Again.

Imbolc                                                                            New Life Moon

hitchikers melancholy robotCame back from a short trip to the post office and the doggy drug store. While driving, I realized I had sunk further into melancholy, the gremlins now over the wall of my subconscious. Perhaps that’s what this feeling of new life trying to break through is, a sadness about the immediate past, or perhaps it’s part of a deeper thread carrying those moments of doubt one accumulates in a life time. The overcast to my inner sky is real, whatever it is.

Negative emotions are closer to the surface, bursting out yesterday in a confrontation with Kate over to how complete a project. Anger is a handmaiden of melancholy, its easiest to access expression. Not proud of it. Kate responded out of our mussar learning, letting the stimulus and her response separate in time. Proud of her.

611333-ancient-roman-wall-with-street-nameboardIt’s been awhile, I think, since old man melancholy came to visit, set up residence as a guest, in Rumi’s characterization. But he’s moved in for the duration. Still don’t know what to do. Hunker down? Act better to feel better? The mussar way. Doesn’t feel right to me, at least not now. Go down the holy well from which this manifestation arose? If we do meet the gods in our pathologies, then who is this tromping around my psyche?

Spent much of yesterday reading I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg, a member of Beth Evergreen. Almost finished in it one long gulp. This is a profound and well-written account of a journey through madness, a psychosis with gods and demons populating another world, the world of Yr. In terms of background to melancholy, it shows the further reaches of hospitality, when the guests become multiple and their stay overshadows all. It also underscores the agony associated with mental illness.

Admin bldg, Richmond State Hospital.

Admin bldg, Richmond State Hospital.

We know that agony in my family with my Aunt Barbara, Aunt Marjorie and Aunt Roberta all diagnosed as bi-polar. Aunt Barbara and Aunt Marjorie both succumbed to the disease, Aunt Barbara spending the bulk of her life in a mental hospital, Aunt Marjorie starving herself to death. Aunt Roberta managed to get out of the same hospital after a long, severe episode. Psychosis is not faraway, at least not for us.

Not sure how long this journey will take. Not sure what new truth it wants to pull up from my inner world. I am sure though that this is a necessary path for me to walk. Where it heads, I do not know. I do sense that this ancientrail has an important purpose, probably about redefining how life is now, how it can be.

So, here, welcome to the table, old man melancholy. Dine with me for a while.

 

Life opens forward if you let it

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon

Jim

Jim

Friend Jim Johnson had an opening of his work in Aberdeen, South Dakota the other night. His new work is lots of colors, strings, leaves, nice bright colors as Simon and Garfunkel sang. Jim, and his long time friend Mark, have both taken their art with them into the third phase. Mark has written one book, an initiation tale, about his time in Vietnam and is at work on another, a hero’s quest tale of his time in Fiji and on the road. He also had a show of new work a couple of years ago, his bridge series. I admire them, keeping Bridgit’s hearthfire lit. Life opens forward if you let it.

Bridgit is the triple goddess in the auld Celtic faith, patroness of poetry, of song, of craft, of the creative spirit. At the double monastery in Kildare, Ireland (men and women), Christians kept her eternal fire burning even after the church absorbed her as a saint. This is Bridgit’s time. She’s the goddess of Imbolc, the cross quarter holiday when the magic of life in the womb brought hope to ancient Celts after the long fallow season.

bridgit's holy well, Killdare, Ireland

Bridgit’s holy well, Kildare, Ireland

This is my creed outworn (see Wordsworth in the post below). Or, part of it. James Hillman, a very interesting Jungian analyst, said we find the gods in our pathologies. I believe that, too. Jung said we find the gods in our diseases. I believe we find them, too, in passions, in new art, in turning over old life like a furrow in which to plant the divine seeds of a new one.

A while back I talked about doing the work that only I can do. Jim and Mark are doing theirs. Over the last few weeks, reading Emerson and Deng Ming-Dao in daily meditations, I’ve found resonance with this idea. Emerson said, for example, in his essay, Success, “Each (person) has an aptitude born with (them). Do your work…It is rare to find a (person) who believes their own thought or who speaks that which (they were) created to say.” Ming-Dao, in his 365 Days of the Tao, says, in his entry #40, subconscious: “Everything to be understood is within us. All that must be transcended…is within us. All the power of transcendence is within us. Tap into it and you tap into the divine itself.”

Approa39It is axiomatic that each person is unique, a particular example of the human, of life, of the creative process that began at tzimtzum or the big bang, thrown into a particular time and a particular place. It is that particularity that Emerson elevates. It is that particularity which formulates within us, as instantiations of the whole, our own work. When we tap into the sacred, the shard of ohr (divine light) lodged within us, we come to know our work. And, the world needs it because you are the only one with this spark of the divine and the only one in the whole history of the universe who has it. If you don’t express your ancientrail, it will die with you and the world will be poorer.

We need you. As you are. Not as a bearer of tradition. Not as a follower of rules and laws, no matter what their claim to authority. Not as a sycophant to the culture in which you were raised. No, none of these. Instead we need the you that dances among the stars, the you that drinks from the deep holy wells within you. We need the you that only you can be.

Yes, it’s a scary prospect that you might be worthwhile just for what you are. Not for the degrees you’ve earned or the children you’ve had or the job you do, but for the you that carries a singular vision, a once in eternity vantage point on the universe. Tell us what you see. Tell us what you know. Tell us who you are. We need you, all of us need you.

 

 

 

Gospel Aversion

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The Winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
It moves us not—Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn
Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea,
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.

The World Is Too Much With Us, William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

 

GaithersWorlds collided last night and I found it unpleasant. Rabbi Jamie, the Evergreen Chorale, and choir director Val Robinson combined for an evening of Jospel music. That’s gospel music done in a Jewish idiom. Val was a spectacular director. She had the choir energized, crisp in its delivery, and used all of its members as if she were playing an organ. A Beth Evergreen member, Cheri Rubin and her husband Alan, helped make this happen.

Rabbi Jamie seems to blend in with other traditions, yet not lose his distinctively Jewish identity, a feat I admire. Last night he was in gospel mode, adjusting his usual musical style to the more upbeat, quick, punctuated rhythm Val and the music brought.

The worship began with a real memory dredger and heart massager, We Shall Overcome. Appropriate for Black History month and for a setting which commemorated the strong Jewish involvement in the early civil rights movement. So far, I was with the program.

As the music went on, words projected on two screens to either side of the sanctuary, though, I found myself wanting to be elsewhere. Too much God language with too much evangelical style emoting. The woman in front of me sat with her hands palms up, forearms lifted, elbows on her chair rests. Then, the God language got patriarchal with God on his throne and the heavenly father with an excellent name.

BlakeI didn’t realize the distance I’d come from Alexandria and the gospel music style of Bill and Gloria Gaither, my high school teachers who went on to become big stars in the niche genre of popular gospel music. No, that’s not quite right. The style is treacly and sentimental, pop in its overtones while churchy just underneath. That doesn’t push me away though it’s not music I’d turn on voluntarily.

What pushes me away, what I felt physically as a desire to leave the room, was the patriarchal God language, though even that is not the nub of it. The nub of it is the presumption of knowledge, certainty, about a god. That certainty which presents an anthropomorphic deity, gendered and crowned, comes from a text based religion which confuses the words of others with revelation. This confusion, common in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, leads to all the poisoned politics which those monotheistic faiths engender. (ha, a pun there.)

No thrones. No gender. No person like god. No. That cannot be read in the wind howling down Mt. Evans. That cannot be known from the blooming of the bloodroot in spring. That cannot be found in the cry of a new born animal whether human baby or puppy or calf or tiny turtle scurrying toward the sea. That cannot be learned from the glitter of the stars at night or the gentle silver light of a full moon.

No. Just no.

Burned Love

Imbolc                                                                              Imbolc Moon

ash wednesdayThe first day of Lent falls, this year, today. That means, as Allan Metcalf, the author of the article quoted below says, that we’re dealing with hearts and ashes. Makes sense to me that my 71st would fall on such a day. Since hitting three score and ten a year ago, I’ve passed into birthdays that commonly show up in the obituary pages. Ash Wednesday reminds us that we deconstruct, returning our enlivened elements. #Recycle Me as the green burial folks said.

This reminder,  a mark made from the ash of palm leaves used a year ago, would be good for all of us. It doesn’t have to come with the whole freight train of Catholic dogma. We could use soot from the chimney or ash from a burned log in the fire place.

yamantaka3

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

It invites comparison to Yamantaka. “Yamantaka is a violent aspect of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, who assumes this form to vanquish Yama, the god of death. By defeating Yama, the cycle of rebirths (samsara) that prevents enlightenment is broken.” Met Museum

The holiday of Easter, which comes at the end of Lent, celebrates a god who conquers death. We do not defeat physical death though Christianity posits that great wakin’ up mornin’ sometime in a future dimly understood. Mebbe so. Mebbe so.

As for me, I’m with Yamantaka whose wonderful mandala hangs in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. It encourages a focused meditation on your own death so that the Bodhisattva can help you clear your mind of fear. That is the victory over death that Yamantaka offers, release from the fear of physical death. An ash mark on the forehead once a year is a start, but the Catholic one comes with strings created by texts. So let’s create our own and use it to recall our work with Yamantaka.

Challenges

Winter                                                                     Imbolc Moon

Kep and Rigel

Kep and Rigel

No word yet on Rigel’s further tests, the ones focused on her GI tract. We do have her now on a diet exclusive of all proteins other than rabbit and those from milk products. She seems less needy, appears happier and to have gained a bit of weight, or, at least doesn’t look as emaciated as she did. These are all good signs and we’re hopeful, but still tentative. We go back to see Dr. Bayliss next Friday.

Cooking and sumi ink painting are my gardening equivalents here on Shadow Mountain. I realized not that long ago that I need some active, physical work in my life. This surprised me because I think of myself as an intellectual, a reader, a writer, sort of an in my head guy a lot of time. Which is of course true. Partially. I’m also an emotional guy with Kate and the dogs, family and friends. And, I also spent 20+ years as a serious horticulturist and beekeeper. Oh, right. Yeah.

kitchenI don’t miss the heavy lifting (the literal heavy lifting) for the most part, though part of my time at Beth Evergreen involves setting up for Adult Ed events and I do like moving chairs and tables, that sort of thing. Go figure. But I also need purposeful, intellect engaged physical activity. Different from exercise, which I also need. Cooking is physical and intellectual, also creative.

I’m challenging myself, trying to do things I’ve not been comfortable with. Don’t laugh, but I made pan gravy last night after pan frying some nice pork chops. I’d not done that before. Seemed, I don’t know, too delicate or fussy for my skills. Easy peasy. I also did the pork chops. It’s pretty easy to heat pork out of its flavor and tenderness zone, not as easy to cook it so it’s moist and tender. Got it last night!

zenThe sumi painting I’ve not yet fully engaged, still collecting materials, setting up my work space, learning techniques, but I intend to stay at it as long as it takes to get some proficiency. Precise or artistic hand work has never been my thing, but I’m going to change that, at least to some degree.

I have two areas I want to investigate. The first is the Zen calligraphy typified by circles and crescents, done mindfully with brush and paint as a meditation. The second is Hebrew calligraphy, drawing the letters as art. This last one interests me because I’m learning (well, sort of) the language itself and, more interesting for this work, I’m also learning the history of the individual letters, their symbology and their story. Their shapes are intriguing and I think focusing on making individual letters in the same style as Zen calligraphy may open them up to me in a new way. We’ll see.

This guy needs his hands in, something or other. Right now, the stove and the ink brush will do.

The Grail and the Veil

Winter                                                               Moon of the Long Nights

Sumi Brush“The more I have looked into the Quest for the Grail, it is clear it is a Western form of Zen. There is no grail, it is understanding that the veil is the mystery of existence, it is nothing, but our interactions with everyone and everything.” Woolly and friend, Mark Odegard

Mark is an artist, an author, a sweet guy and a friend of 30 years. He’s done many retreats at a Zen Buddhist retreat center in Minnesota and done calligraphy with that giant brush Zen monks use. He has an ability to come at ideas from the side, or behind, seeing what cannot be seen; the Zen work has informed his sight in substantive ways.

He’s asking the Woolly Mammoths this New Year’s question for their next meeting:

“What personal tool/skill do I need to refine for my quest for the grail’? I will write down your answer to this, and ask you again at the end of the year.

The story represents our own encounter with the mystery of life (often occurring in our late teen years). The meaning is veiled for us, what do you need to lift the veil.”

Mark’s question made me start because I’d just written this, only two or three days ago here on Ancientrails:

“Torah study is about loving attentiveness. It is a way of engaging the sacred world which we can know first from within our own person and which permeates that which we encounter throughout our lives…

God lit up for me. Ah, if I do Torah study, if I engage in loving attentiveness to my Self, my own Soul, and those of others and of the broader natural world, then I can find the knowledge which permeates all things, that very same shards of the sacred that shattered just after the tzimtzum to create our universe. That is God being available everywhere. This is far different from the Latinate imponderable of omnipresence, sort of an elf on the shelf deity lurking in every spot, finding you everywhere. And judging.

No. God is another word for the intimate linkage between and among all things, from the smallest gluon to the largest star. God is neither a superparent nor a cosmic Santa Claus writing down your behaviors in the book of deeds; God is a metaphor for the sacred knowledge which permeates the perceivable, and the unperceivable, world.” Ancientrails

I’m not trying to revive the word God here, nor am I trying to reinsert myself into the thought world which includes God. I’m on the same grail quest I started years ago in Alexandria First Methodist sitting beside the huge stained glass window of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Back then I read the Bible as history, not as mythology. Back then it mattered if there was a Jesus who prayed in that Garden that the burden of crucifixion be lifted.

I pushed those beliefs away long ago, passing through a moment, a long moment of second naivete with them, then moving into the world of the Great Wheel and the cyclical, spiraling time through which all life moves, in fact, all things. Over the last year or so my intense program of Jewish immersion has taken me another big step along this ancientrail, a true Grail quest began when, as a sixteen year old, I began to doubt the stories I’d heard growing up.

Frederick J. Waugh, The Knight of the Holy Grail, c. 1912

Frederick J. Waugh, The Knight of the Holy Grail, c. 1912

 

 

My true philosophical (qua religious) home, existentialism, found me in the aftermath of that doubting and my first encounter with philosophy at Wabash College. When I went into my Christian immersion, through seminary and in the Presbyterian years, my faith went mystical, seeing the divine as divinely personal, as a bright light shining within the darkness of my inner world, a light whose purpose was not to dispel the darkness, but to integrate, Taoist style, both of them.

Now, with Rabbi Jamie, I’m studying the kabbalah. Like Zen it insists on not seeing with eyes alone, but with the heart, with a poetic sensibility that understands religious language, I think all religious language, as metaphor, even and especially for the kabbalists, the written Torah.

The veil is a very important metaphor in kabbalistic thought. Like Mark observed above the kabbalists know there is a veil between us and the mystery of existence. The veil underscores the humility necessary for this work and without humility the quest will fail.

canterbury pilgrims

canterbury pilgrims

This idea is ultimately significant. Or not. We cannot penetrate the veil. Ever. Yet we all stand together on the other side of it. To see through the veil, to actually find the Grail, is not given to us, yet that place which we see through a glass darkly is the place where we stand right now. Yes, right now the Grail is in our hands, a cup from which we can drink at any moment.

This ancientrail, the quest for the Grail, the turning of the Great Wheel, the lifting of the burden of our crucifixion, flowing up and down with divine energy through the Tree of Life, is our life, is the life of this world, this cosmic pulsing brilliant reality. Yet we let so many things: work, fear, hope, pride blind us.

winter solstice3The Woolly Mammoths have been my companions, fellow pilgrims, on the way to Canterbury. Or, fellow Tibetan Buddhists inch worming their way around the sacred mountain, Meru. Or, my fellow Torah scholars, davening as we read the sacred texts. Or, fellow Lakotas, our skin pierced and tied to the world tree during the Sun Dance. Or, friends traveling through this life together until it ends.

“What personal tool/skill do I need to refine for my quest for the grail?” Out of far left field, I’m going to answer, “A Sumi brush, rice paper, an ink stone. And the courage to use them.”

 

 

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