Saturday, April 01, 2006

Gratitude, Day 24

"image source"

Strange day today. Couldn't focus much on anything, so I got very little accomplished. Today I am grateful for distractions: blogs, soccer, basketball, and dinner out.

Some days I am simply grateful for anything that allows me to ignore myself.

What are you grateful for?

[Update: Had to change the image due to technical difficulties.]

Haiku Practice

I have been playing with haiku on and off for a few months, but as I mentioned last night, I now want to make haiku a part of my practice. I did some reading today and found some interesting info on the web.

This site has a list of rules one can apply to the writing of haiku. There are 65 rules given, with the admonition to pick and choose since some of the rules contradict each other. Here are a few of the rules:

2. Seventeen syllables written in three lines.
3. Seventeen syllables written in three lines divided into 5-7-5.
4. Seventeen syllables written in a vertical (flush left or centered) line.
5. Less than 17 syllables written in three lines as short-long-short.
6. Less than 17 syllables written in three vertical lines as short-long-short. (Ala Barry Semegran)
7. Write what can be said in one breath.
8. Use a season word (kigo) or seasonal reference.
9. Use a caesura at the end of either the first or second line, but not at both.
10. Never have all three lines make a complete or run-on sentence.
I was hoping to find a few hard and fast guidelines to use but haven't had much luck. The 17 syllables rule is only a suggestion -- many very good haiku in Japanese and English have less than 17 syllables.

However, all good haiku share some basic characteristics:

1) They mention a season either directly or by inference.
2) They have two parts sometimes referred to as the fragment (the shorter, stand-alone line) and the phrase (the rest of the poem).
3) The two parts compare generally unrelated ideas in a way that forges new meaning.

The language is to be compacted as much as possible, which often means dropping articles, prepositions, and sometimes even verbs. Images are meant to carry the weight of the poem, and exposition is to be avoided. Classical haiku, with its foundations set in Zen, aims to produce an aha! moment in the reader.

Because haiku relies so heavily on images and the symbolic associations they evoke, Westerners have had a hard time getting the essence of haiku. This has resulted in a distinctly Western haiku form often bearing little resemblance to the Japanese traditions.

Japanese haiku is founded in nature imagery. This convention has not survived the conversion into English, though there are many who still attempt to honor this element of haiku.

As I learn more, I will post more information on the art of haiku.

Here are a few of my first attempts at the form. These are rough and feel very forced to me. I hope to get more relaxed with the form as I practice.

[image source]

windblown leaves
old river sleeps under snow--
moonlight warms skin

[image source]

quiet pond
moonlit lotus blossoms --
no self

[Sabino Creek]

last water scent
before the desert withers --
breathe in, breathe out

[image source]

ocotillo bloom
fierce hummingbird squabble --
afternoon breeze

A Note on Beck v. Cowan

Matthew Dallman tipped us off to the lawsuit filed by Don Beck against Chris Cowan earlier this week. Here is the info Cowan posted at the Spiral Dynamics Gateway:
Information update posted by Chris Cowan, 3/13/06:

Acting on behalf of his company, The Spiral Dynamics Group, Inc., Don Beck has filed a lawsuit against Chris Cowan. The suit, listing The Spiral Dynamics Group, Inc., as Plaintiff is Cause No. 2005-30034-211 in the 211th Judicial District of Texas.

.pdf copy of the Plaintiff's lawsuit
.pdf copy of Defendant's initial answer

Additional filings and consequential actions will be posted here in the interest of disclosure of the facts.
I think this is regrettable, but the feud between these two has been ongoing for quite some time. Back in October, I posted my limited take on the situation, trying to outline the major points of difference and essentially wishing that they could put their differences behind them so that those of us who want to learn the system wouldn't have to do two different certification programs.

I felt that my post actually came down in favor of Cowan's version of Spiral Dynamics, while also noting that he has expressed most of the animosity between the heirs of Graves's work. I did try to justify Wilber's admittedly simplified version of the Spiral, which may have been what earned me the following comments (both posted on the same night, 12/7/05, within a few minutes of each other):
Anonymous said...
Your post is full of half truths and statements that pretend to know what is going on when you don't. You've missed the theory, correct terminology, and core issues from the academic side; you've also missed the interpersonal conflict, political dimensions, and postions of both parties. Do your homework before opining and editorializing about something you know little about.

Anonymous said...
BTW Beck has a "Prime Directive" whereas Graves (the source) had a "prime good" - a Beck distortion of the original meaning of the phrase. Why don't you check this link out? FYI the way to piss off Cowan is to distort, misrepresent, falsify, and spread disinformation - some experts have more expertise than others.
I suspected Cowan or one of his associates/students left these comments. The original post was put up before I attended Beck's certification in Boulder last October. I blogged repeatedly about that certfication experience while I was there. These comments were left a month later.

I have read the suit filed by Beck. In essence, he is accusing Cowan of interferring with SDi business relationships and customers, including but not limited to claiming that Beck has no right to use the Spiral Dynamics name and information, and that only Cowan has that right. [The pdf Cowan posted does not allow text to be copied.]

The comments left on my blog seem to approach the level of interference Beck is suing over, though I think they fall short. I hope I am wrong in my suspicions, but I felt it relevant to the situation as it now exists to post them here and explain the context.

No Tarot Post Today

I was about a third of the way through this morning's Tarot post on the Emperor when a power surge shut down my computer. Blogger didn't retain any of the post I had written when I tried the recover post function.

I'm too annoyed with myself for not having saved anything that I simply don't feel like trying to recapture what I had written.

Sorry about that.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Gratitude, Day 23

For a while now, I have been entertaining the thought of trying to write poetry again. But I want to do something different than I did when I last wrote poems, so I have decided to study haiku. I like the precision of the form and the element of spiritual discipline introduced to the form by Basho, perhaps the greatest haiku poet.

So, today I am grateful for new challenges.

And I am grateful for this haiku, one of my favorites:
On a withered branch
a crow has settled --
autumn nightfall.

What are you grateful for?

[image source]

The Darkness Within

This poem, written in the summer of 2001, marked one of my "awakening" moments -- which generally have been too few and too far between. It was one of the last poems I wrote before I stopped writing poems.

The Darkness Within

It goes unnamed, invisible like crows
in the pure darkness just before
first light, just before

awareness stops: that nervous
dance the mind does
when it wishes to evade,

the same way a shadow
prays for clouds
to block the sun’s revealing light

so that it may hide.
In these quiet ways
a thing goes unnamed

and therefore lacks form --
a body to be held,
eyes in which to stare --

unnamed, until the moment
the lone dance stops.
Bare feet on wet grass,

arms hanging at my side,
a silence, clouds clearing
to reveal sun. Three crows

watch me in curiosity, unsure
how to regard this human
who raises his arms

and stands like a cross,
very still, his shadow stretching
behind him, trying to escape.

And even crows grow bored
and disappear
into the late afternoon. I stand

with my face to the sun,
eyes closed, knowing
for the first time in my life

the darkness within me
is fertile, has water and soil
and its own strange light,

not as we know light,
but a warm radiance.
And things grow

in this darkness, they live
and breathe, and die,
and no matter what I’ve been told

it can be named, and has a name
I’ve known my whole life,
a name they said means nothing

but it does, it means everything.
This darkness, this living, breathing
darkness within me: my soul.

[image source]

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Gratitude, Day 22

Today, I am grateful that it isn't yesterday. A little bit of sleep and a morning workout do wonders to clear the head.

I'm also grateful for the diverse and interesting bloggers who write on Buddhism and integral thought. These men and women add a lot to my days with their thoughts and inquiries into things that actually matter.

What are you grateful for?

Sharon Salzberg: Stages of Faith

[image source]

I was reading an old issue of Buddhadharma the other night and came across an interview with Sharon Salzberg for her then-new book, Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience.

What struck me about her views on this was that she was describing a stage model for faith (James Fowler has done so as well in The Stages of Faith). Salzberg's model is very specific to the form of faith, however, and how it can develop within an individual.

She offers these stages:

Blind Faith: "Has that same kind of exhilaration and feeling of having a much larger sense of possibility [as bright faith]. But blind faith implies that you can't question, you can't examine, you can't investigate. Blind faith is the end of the road, while in Buddhist teaching, bright faith is just the beginning."

Bright Faith: "Many dharma students can recall that period of bright faith, which is at first an intoxicating rush of falling in love -- falling in love with a teacher or teaching, or falling in love with a brand new sense of possibility when we had previously felt confined or unworthy. Suddenly, this inspiration can turn our lives around. It's incredibly exhilarating and wondrous. It's the first step."

Verified Faith: "Through questioning, putting things into practice and examining them, bright faith moves to the next stage, verified faith, which relies less on external sources and more on our own experience.

"Verified faith comes from our own experience of the truth. The movement from bright faith to verified faith happens through putting something into practice and not just believing what we're told. It's about not being gullible, about questioning everything. What is frightening about blind faith, then, is that there is no maturation into verified faith."

Unwavering Faith: We move into unwavering faith "through constant deepening. It's like something seeping into your bones. If you've seen the power of love enough, for example, then you know it so deeply that it becomes something that you don't need to refer to externally. You know it so very deeply."

She didn't expand on this last type of faith any more than what is here. I wish she had, because now I will have to read the book.

As I read her words, I saw blind faith and bright faith as pre-rational forms of faith, verified faith as a rational form, and unwavering faith as a post-rational form of faith. I think this is a useful model for looking at the nature of faith in the world around us. We don't see much unwavering faith.

I do think we see a lot of people mistaking blind faith or bright faith for unwavering faith, having no ability to distinguish between pre-rational and post-rational. I remember the priests talking about unwavering faith in their sermons, when what they really meant was blind faith.

We are stuck with an overabundance of blind faith operating in the world these days. When a man can be sentenced to death for converting from Islam to Christianity, or when doctors can be targeted for murder by those who oppose certain procedures they perform, or when rape victims can be denied emergency contraception by overzealous pharmacists, we are living in a world run by blind faith.

Buddhism inspires bright faith in those new to it, which quickly becomes verified faith through study and contemplation. The world would be a much better place if more traditions hadn't excised that element of their religion.

[image source]

Prayer Fails to Heal Heart Patients

In the largest study of its kind ever conducted, praying for heart-surgery patients failed to impact their outcomes. It turned out that patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher incidence of complications.

The work, which followed about 1,800 patients at six medical centers, was financed by the Templeton Foundation, which supports research into science and religion. It will appear in the American Heart Journal.

Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School and other scientists tested the effect of having three Christian groups pray for particular patients, starting the night before surgery and continuing for two weeks. The volunteers prayed for "a successful surgery with a quick, healthy recovery and no complications" for specific patients, for whom they were given the first name and first initial of the last name.

The patients, meanwhile, were split into three groups of about 600 apiece: those who knew they were being prayed for, those who were prayed for but only knew it was a possibility, and those who weren't prayed for but were told it was a possibility.

The researchers didn't ask patients or their families and friends to alter any plans they had for prayer, saying such a step would have been unethical and impractical.

The study looked for any complications within 30 days of the surgery. Results showed no effect of prayer on complication-free recovery. But 59 percent of the patients who knew they were being prayed for developed a complication, versus 52 percent of those who were told it was just a possibility.

Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center, who didn't take part in the study, said the results didn't surprise him.

"There are no scientific grounds to expect a result and there are no real theological grounds to expect a result either," he said.

"There is no god in either the Christian, Jewish or Moslem scriptures that can be constrained to the point that they can be predicted."

Within the Christian tradition, God would be expected to be concerned with a person's eternal salvation, he said, and "why would God change his plans for a particular person just because they're in a research study?"

Science, he said, "is not designed to study the supernatural."

Interesting study. The Institute for Noetic Sciences has had more promising results in similar studies, but their results haven't been accepted by the mainstream.

I don't think the question in this new study is whether or not God responds to prayers, but rather whether collective intent can influence the physical universe. This study would suggest that it can't.

One other consideration: In the IONS studies, they have had multiple faiths represented among the prayer groups, and these people were chosen for their proficiency in focused prayer. This may indicate that healing prayer, like so many things, is more effective when done by professionals and not by any random person off the street.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Gratitude, Day 21

[Image source]

It's tough when my choices (or lack thereof) come back to bite me in the ass. Not much to do but keep moving forward.

Today, I'm grateful that there is a tomorrow. "The sun will come out . . ." and all that crap.

Of course, my preference would be timeless nondual consciousness, but lacking that, I'll make do with what I have.

And even on a day like today, I realize that I have a lot. And I have a lot to be grateful for, even when all that seems small in comparison to other parts of my life . . . today.

But there is always another day -- until there isn't.

What are you grateful for?

Poem: Li Po

[image source]

Conversation Among Mountains

You ask why I live
in these green mountains

I smile
can't answer

I am completely at peace

a peach blossom
sails past
on the current

there are worlds
beyond this one

-Translated by David Young: Five T'ang Poets

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Gratitude, Day 20

[Image source]

It rained today, though only briefly. As always, I am grateful for rain, even when it's just a tease.

I am also grateful, today like many others, for the Buddhists who have chosen to share the wisdom they have found over the years with those like me who struggle to stay on the path. It really does help to read their words and to try to implement their insights.

What are you grateful for?

Mindfulness and Difficult Emotions

[Image source]

There are certain advanced techniques in which you intentionally churn up emotions by thinking of people or situations that make you angry or lustful or afraid. The practice is to let the thoughts go and connect directly with the energy, asking yourself, "Who am I without these thoughts?" What we do with mindfulness-awareness practice is simpler than that, but I consider it equally daring. When emotional distress arises uninvited, we let the story line go and abide with the energy of that moment. This is a felt experience, not a verbal commentary on what is happening. We can feel the energy in our bodies. If we can stay with it, neither acting it out nor repressing it, it wakes us up. People often say, "I fall asleep all the time in meditation. What shall I do?" There are lots of antidotes to drowsiness but my favorite is, "Get angry!"

Not abiding with our energy is a predictable human habit. Acting out and repressing are tactics we use to get away from our emotional pain. For instance most of us when we're angry scream or act it out. We alternate expressions of rage with feeling ashamed of ourselves and wallowing in it. We become so stuck in repetitive behavior that we become experts at getting all worked up. In this way we continue to strengthen our conflicting emotions.

-Pema Chodron, Resting Completely

I added the emphasis in this quote. This is a great practice when we are sitting, but it is even better if we can do this in the world, as part of our daily lives. I'm still working with it in my own life, but it has helped me to become less attached to my emotions when they come up.

Still, we can take this practice one step deeper. When a hard emotion comes up, we can recognize the thought that comes with it and feel the energy of the emotion in the body. But we can also take a step back from the emotion and get to know it. We can ask our anger, for instance, what it needs to feel more calm. Or we can ask our sadness what might make it feel more joy.

If we can first own the emotions as part of ourselves, we can then disidentify with them when they come up and get to know them, their needs, their wants, and the things that will make them feel better.

We can also do this with our joy or our love. We ask it how we might feel more of its gift in our lives. We can see how it opens our hearts and makes us more compassionate and more caring.

The hard part in doing all of this is to do it with a sense of inquiry, instead of a sense of grasping. We want to follow a path toward less pain and more joy, but we want to do it for higher good of all sentient beings. We want to expand our heart without attaching our sense of purpose to our feelings.

For as long as we are tied to this self, we must learn to deal with its feelings and needs. But the quest is find our way to Spirit. We want to create more space in our life so that Spirit may fill us with Its purpose, may lead us to Its open heart, and thereby bring us one step closer to our true nature, which is No Self.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Gratitude, Day 19

Some days I feel one-dimensional. I'm "Bill the trainer" for ten or so hours, four days a week.

Today, I'm grateful that a few of my clients read this blog and know me as something other than just "Bill the trainer." On hectic days like today, that knowledge helps me keep touch with the other (softer) parts of myself that often get left at the door when I enter the gym.

What are you grateful for?

Zen Page-A-Day Quote

The Pure nature of mind -- emptiness, lucidity, and intelligence without limit -- has always been inside us.

-Kalu Rinpoche

[Image source]

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gratitude, Day 18

[Image from the Washington Post]

Gotta love the Cinderella. Today I am grateful for an 11 seed beating a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. George Mason University beat favored UConn in overtime, 86-84. I'm not sorry to see UConn fall, since they beat the UW the other night. The people who are supposed to know these things picked at least 40 teams ahead of GMU in the seedings -- guess they were wrong.

So, today I am grateful for Cinderellas, the underdogs no one thinks will succeed, who yet find a way to do the unthinkable.

What are you grateful for?

Sunday Poet: Diane Di Prima

Ode to Keats, 2, The Dream

Hedged about as we are with prayers
and with taboos
Yet the heart of the magic circle is covered with gray linoleum
Over my head fly demons of the past
Jimmy, they pass
With a whooshing sound
The only ghost who stands on the ground
(who stands his ground)
Is Freddie-
I rise a few inches above the circle, and turn somersaults
I want to go shopping, but all I see is my reflection
I look tired and sad. I wear red. I am looking for love.
On the sidewalk are lying the sick and the hungry:
I hear "Spencer's Faerie Queen cost them all their lives."
And Spencer? I ask, "What did this life buy?"
Through the door is the way out, Alan stands in the doorway
In an attitude of leaving, his head is turned
As if to say goodbye, but he's standing still.

Hedged about with primroses
with promises
The magic words we said when we were praying
Have formed a mist about us...

Diane Di Prima is always associated with the Beat generation of poets, though sometimes not in a good way. She was one of the few women to actually be associated with the movement who also associated with the poets, socially, and then wrote about it (Memoirs of a Beatnik). She is sometimes dismissed as a groupie, but to do so dismisses a fine poet.

Here is some biography:
[Di Prima] was born in New York City on August 6, 1934 and after attending Swarthmore College, settled in Greenwich Village. It was at this location where she lived the "bohemian lifestyle" that typified the Beat movement.

She published her first book of poetry, a collection called This Kind of Bird Flies Backward was published in 1958. In the early 1960's, she collaborated with Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and started a monthly periodical that featured the work of themselves and many other notable Beats, including Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs.

She also was the founder of two publishing houses which focused on the writing of innovative and avant-garde poets: The Poets Press and Eidolon Editions. She also began a career as a lecturer at the Naropa Institute in Colorado in 1974.

Di Prima's career may reflect a struggle with the political and social upheavals that occurred in the 1960's and 1970's however, her writing often focused on her personal life and relationships. Much of her later writing reflected an interest in alchemy, female archetypes and of course, Eastern philosophies.

Some of her works include: Poems for Freddie (1966), Earthsong Poems 1957 - 1959 (1968) The Book of Hours (1970), Loba, Parts 1 - 8 (1978), and Pieces of a Song (1990). She also authored a collection of short fictional stories, Dinners and Nightmares (1961) and an autobiographical book, Memoirs of a Beatnik released in 1969.
Di Prima's poems are often composed in a flat diction representative of the way people talk. Some work lacks punctuation and relies on the reader to infer pauses from the phrases used or the breaks in lines.

Her better poems, however, rely less on stylistic traits and more on the precision of language and the meaning she wishes to convey.

She has taught at Naropa on and off for years, as part of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics -- where all young poets enamored of the Beats hope to one day obtain an MFA. The requisite exposure to Eastern religions, especially Zen, has certainly influenced her work. Over the years she has moved toward a more introspective verse that contains less of the angry politics so often part of the early Beat movement.

Di Prima is still political, however, but more focused now on compassion and a woman's place in the world.

Here are a couple of other poems, all of which can be found at The Beat Page.

The Window

you are my bread
and the hair
line noise
of my bones
you are almost
the sea

you are not stone
or molten sound
I think
you have no hands

this kind of bird flies backwards
and this love
breaks on a window pane
where no light talks

this is not the time
for crossing tongues
(the sand here
never shifts)

I think
turned you with his toe
and you will
and shine
unspent and underground


I loved you in October
when you hid behind your hair
and rode your shadow
in the corners of the house

and in November you invaded
filling the air
above my bed with dreams
cries for some kind of help
on my inner ear

in December I held your hands
one afternoon; the light failed
it came back on
in a dawn on the Scottish coast
you singing us ashore

now it is January, you are fading
into your double
jewels on his cape, your shadow on the snow,
you slide away on wind, the crystal air
carries your new songs in snatches thru the windows
of our sad, high, pretty rooms

This poem is posted at PoemHunter:
The Belltower

the weighing is done
in autumn

and the sifting
what is to be threshed
is threshed in autumn
what is to be gathered is taken

the wind does not die in autumn
the moon
shifts endlessly thru flying clouds
in autumn the sea is high

& a golden light plays everywhere
making it harder
to go one's way
all leavetaking is in autumn
where there is leavetaking
it is always autumn
& the sun is a crystal ball
on a golden stand
& the wind
cannot make the spruce scream
loud enough

Diane Di Prima on the Web:

The Beat Page -- Diane Di Prima
Diane Di Prima Links
Poetry in Revolt: Many poems and some links
Jacket 18: An interview and some sonnets