midwinter project: dig deeper into Thomas Merton

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10 years 7 months ago #4545 by Kate Gowen
May 11, 1964 “So we must all move, even with motionless movement, even
if we do not see clearly. A few little flames, yes. You can’t grasp
them, but anyway look at them obliquely. To look too directly at
anything is to see something else because we force it to submit to the
impertinence of our preconceptions. After a while though everything will
speak to us if we let it and do not demand that it say what we
dictate.” (Thomas Merton, "Courage for Truth", p. 198)

via Parabola magazine:



"The things we really need come to us only as gifts, and in order to
receive them as gifts, we have to be open. In order to be open we have
to renounce ourselves, in a sense we have to die to our image of
ourselves, our autonomy, our fixation upon our self-willed destiny. We
have to be able to relax the psychic and spiritual cramp which knots us
in the painful, vulnerable, helpless “I” that is all we know of ourselves."


?Thomas Merton, “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander,” (Garden City,
N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966), p. 204. Also mentioned in Roger Lipsey's
extraordinary homage to Merton's art: Angelic Mistakes: The Art of
Thomas Merton (Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc., 2006)


I'm starting to suspect that-- for me at least-- 'meditation' is about how to see. And the teachers whom I understand most readily practice some art that has enabled them to articulate the process of looking and the discovery of what is to be perceived. The Merton quotes are associated with books compiling his brush painting.

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10 years 7 months ago #4546 by Ona Kiser
Thanks for the reading suggestion!

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7 months 3 days ago #115226 by Ona Kiser

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7 months 3 days ago - 7 months 3 days ago #115228 by Chris Marti

I miss Kate!

Me, too!
Last edit: 7 months 3 days ago by Chris Marti.

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7 months 3 days ago #115230 by Kacchapa
I'd love to hear from her again. 

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115336 by Kate Gowen
Hey, guys…

Thanks, Ona and Mark for having reached out. It’s been a minute…

I’ve lurked a bit, this past week, catching up some, noting with curiosity some of my old enthusiasms and predilections. I caught fire, sometimes. It’s fun to see that.

Reflecting on the events and currents of the interval, I’d say some fundamental personal re-arrangements have been taking place, concurrent but often crosswise, of the general social upheavals of the last half decade. It has been so idiosyncratic that it has taken a long time to contextualize and articulate— even to myself. The question of how generally useful to anyone else my observations might be, remains.

But maybe I’ll venture a bit. Central overarching issue has been exploring what, exactly, growing old is about, for me. First it was necessary to inventory all the models and assumptions I’d acquired along the way. And set them aside for future reference, as needed. And IF needed. So far, no need for preoccupation with health or cognitive decline.

In an odd way, I’ve always had a sense that I was born to be old. Jung’s “memories, dreams, reflections” have always been more substantial for me than the maelstrom of social endeavors. And as my little boat has drifted merrily, merrily downstream, most of my face-to-face connections have let go.

In plain terms, I have come aground in Philly. All the circumstances that brought me here have morphed, except the constraints that pretty much mean that I’ll most likely remain. I hadn’t really expected or intended this outcome, but I’m okay with it. The urge to impose a trajectory on my life has kind of withered in this, my seventh decade.

(maybe more, later…)

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115338 by Shargrol
Really good to "hear" your voice again Kate! I'll always consider you and Ona as my older Awakenetwork sisters. :)

Hope Philly is treating you well enough and that you are riding out this midwestern winter without too much challenge!

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115339 by Chris Marti
Hello, Kate! So good to see you here. I've missed your wisdom.

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115340 by Ona Kiser
So nice to hear from you! I missed your voice here! Hugs!

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6 months 3 weeks ago - 6 months 3 weeks ago #115344 by Ona Kiser

Kate Gowen wrote: ... First it was necessary to inventory all the models and assumptions I’d acquired along the way. And set them aside for future reference, as needed. And IF needed.


I like this perspective, and it seems applicable to many things.

Kate Gowen wrote: In an odd way, I’ve always had a sense that I was born to be old. Jung’s “memories, dreams, reflections” have always been more substantial for me than the maelstrom of social endeavors. ...


This resonates, too.
Last edit: 6 months 3 weeks ago by Ona Kiser.

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6 months 3 weeks ago - 6 months 3 weeks ago #115346 by Kate Gowen
Might seem off-topic, but this is today’s best beachcombing from my meander—

道可受兮 “The Way can be received –
不可傳  but cannot be transmitted.
其小無內兮 So minute it has no interior –
其大無垠 so vast it has no bounds.
無滑而魂兮 Don’t let your soul be agitated –
彼將自然 but rather act spontaneously.
壹氣孔神兮 Unify your vitality, concentrate spirit –
於中夜存 maintaining them through the nighttime.
虛以待之兮 Respond to all while being vacant –
無為之先 and before anything else do nothing.
庶類以成兮 Let each kind achieve fulness –
此德之門 this only is the gate of Potentiality.” -
From 'The Verses of Chu', transl. by Nicholas Morrow Williams in 'Roaming the Infinite”: Liu Xiang as Chuci Scholar and Would-be Transcendent'
Last edit: 6 months 3 weeks ago by Kate Gowen.

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6 months 3 weeks ago - 6 months 3 weeks ago #115355 by Chris Marti
This article seems to "fit" here:

How to Be Useless

(From Aeon Psyche, a magazine I support via donation.)
Last edit: 6 months 3 weeks ago by Chris Marti.

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115357 by Kate Gowen
Lovely, Chris.

I was about to post something that was my first thought on waking this morning— “ what if ‘all’ meditation is, is something the (body/mind) does. Not something more spiritual or special or better than eating, sleeping, defecating, vomiting, becoming alarmed, running away, being attracted, moving toward…?”

The second thought was bemusement at having ever preferred anything more complicated.

I am entertaining the notion that Daoism is the final frontier, that it is the basket of teaching most specific to the old, those “returning to the marketplace with open hands,” those arrived at having no choice— both the naïveté and ambitions of younger years having fallen away.

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115362 by Kacchapa
Kate it's wonderful to hear from deep in the seventh decade. I feel it's already beckoning, 68 in a few weeks. 

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6 months 3 weeks ago - 6 months 3 weeks ago #115363 by Kate Gowen
The recurrent theme of my life seems to be that the “terra incognita,” the power place  of wonder, is, and has always been, under our feet and streaming into our senses on every side.

I am beginning to understand the Buddhist “poison” of ignorance as the habituated ignoring of what we think we have no use for.
Last edit: 6 months 3 weeks ago by Kate Gowen. Reason: Typo

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  • Anonymous1353
6 months 3 weeks ago #115364 by Anonymous1353
Replied by Anonymous1353 on topic midwinter project: dig deeper into Thomas Merton
“ I am beginning to understand the Buddhist “poison” of ignorance as the habituated ignoring of what we think we have no use for”

… the Buddha touched the earth and said “the earth is my witness” and Mara disappeared. 

What seems to be a recurrent theme in my life now is a question “what else is here-there?” 
I guess realising that This pain right now is not the Only thing there is as in truth it’s already gone and is but rolled on and on in memory and story. 
So what else is here-there? “Touch the earth”. 

It’s not just You, Mara, gibbering here but also that sense of the but on the chair and feet in the ground and air in the nostrils, hearing of sound, touching of fingertips on this screen … 

Thanks for sharing! :D 

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115366 by Tom Otvos
How absolutely wonderful to hear from you again, Kate!

-- tomo

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6 months 3 weeks ago - 6 months 3 weeks ago #115368 by Chris Marti
Kate --

... both the naïveté and ambitions of younger years having fallen away.

We did at some past point in time have a discussion about the difference, or similarities, or maybe the relationship of age and experience to awakening. I don't recall what conclusions were drawn, but my vote is that experience and age have their own unique wisdom. That wisdom is additive to awakening, to the Buddhist/Taoist version of wisdom.
Last edit: 6 months 3 weeks ago by Chris Marti.

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115369 by Philip Stone
Though our paths have never crossed in a thread, it's great to see you back again Kate.

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115373 by Kate Gowen
Now and again, the thought, “Time is the fourth dimension” nudges at me.

Yesterday, the thought elaborated into a fleeting series of overlaid portraits of a person from infancy to old age— such as have popped up on social media the last few years. Then I thought, yes, movies are 4-D representations, to the 3-D of photography.

Maybe aging has the potential of adding dimensions to our understanding, in ways that mostly go unrecognized— “unseen because unlooked for.”

This is a filament in the thread of “awakening makes further dimensions apparent.”

I am feeling more on that theme gestating…

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6 months 3 weeks ago #115374 by Kate Gowen
BTW— thanks kindly to the warm welcome, all.
It makes me realize that I’ve missed these conversations.

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