Give Me A Place To Stand
“We may spend much of our time unaware and unenlightened, yet the presence of Truth and God, like a deep and ancient friend, can shape our entire lives. So the inner task becomes how do we make a lasting friendship with the Unities that are larger than us? How do we keep their light in our heart when no stars appear in sight?” — Mark Nepo
These days are the toughest I can remember in a very long time. I remember thinking months ago when COVID19 surfaced, “Dear God, This and Cancer?” “When preoccupied with survival, we become pragmatists, pessimists, and even nihilists. When lost in the gears of existence, we’re always challenged to let in beauty while we’re suffering, to let in love while we’re struggling. What holds everything together, what releases resilience, and what renews us when we’re struggling is relationship. Relationship is the lifeblood of inner health.” Relationship is also the battleground for Enlightenment.
“To Marry One’s Soul, being true to who we are means carrying our spirit like a candle in the center of our darkness. If we are to live without silencing or numbing essential parts of who we are, a vow must be invoked and upheld within oneself.” I regularly must remind my eleven year old daughter, “Never be afraid to ask questions and, always Speak Your Truth.”
You and I are born into a culture of fear, which teaches us early on to be “seen and not heard.” Early on we loose our voice quickly, then proceed to spend a lifetime devotion, at least for some, to find it again and to set it free; In the process waisting what can never be returned to us. That was not the case for me, I resisted, I refused, but not without a price. A price I could not possibly understand at the time but learned quickly, a price to this day, worth paying.
The life of the contemplative for the truly spiritual becomes, “How do we make a lasting friendship with the Unities that are larger than ourselves? How do we keep the light in our heart when no stars appears in sight…Our constant challenge is to accept how life wears away what doesn’t matter until the miracle of life is revealed in everything.”
“The same commitments we pronounce when embarking on a marriage can be understood internally as a devotion to the care of one’s soul: to have and to hold … for better or for worse … in sickness and in health … to love and to cherish, till death do us part. This means staying committed to your inner path. This means not separating from yourself when things get tough or confusing…This means accepting and embracing your faults and limitations. It means loving yourself no matter how others see you. It means cherishing the unchangeable radiance that lives within you, no matter the cuts and bruises along the way. It means binding your life with a solemn pledge to the truth of your soul.”
In his book, “The Book of Soul — 52 Paths to Living What Matters.” Mark Nepo quotes the great Archimedes, “Give me a place to stand on and I will move the Earth.” The quintessential questions of life today as it was during the times of Archimedes remain the same, “What am I standing on, and What am I standing for?” “Stand on turns us back to a time of timeless foundation, to some sense of Source, to all that is larger than us, from which we’re renewed as integral beings.” I have repeatedly emphasized that we live in an integrated reality, an interconnected and interdependent reality and, only when we act as if the opposite were true we personally and globally suffer.
“Standing For leads us into the heart of what we value the ethics by which we live in the world. Standing on gives us a compass. Standing for gives us a direction to stay true, to remain true by following the compass.”
The two perennial questions need to be asked of ourselves more today than ever before and, If we are ever going to create a world of equanimity, justice, and real freedom. They have and remain generations since Archimedes the very foundation of a lasting and sustainable future without which nothing, I repeat, nothing is possible. They are the basis for honest relationships which is the basis for community’s, neighborhoods, cultures, societies, and nations. Until the two fundamental questions are resolved individually and globally, governing “for the people, by the people, and of all the people will not thrive.” You who chose to walk the walk, you who are on the road, must have a code that you live by. Without which we are easily distracted from here to there and back to here again. Driven by an ego which knows only survival and lives in a constant state of fear, sometime minutely subtle at other times profound.
“Life consists in learning to live on one’s own spontaneously freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one’s own — be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is, and learning what one has to offer the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering.” An offering which benefits the world, which promotes freedom, justice, and benevolent service. Any other offering proves always to be self-serving and rooted in an ego which knows only itself as separate from the rest, and is incapable of seeing other.
Most of our discontentment lies in the fact that most of us have no idea who and what we are. Thomas Merton says to us, “To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.” Here Merton provides the spiritual being a “place to stand,” “something to stand on,” and “something to stand for.”
Imagine if you can a squirrel deciding to live as a fish. It’s not difficult to understand the results, the squirrel would most certainly die. If “Love is the reason for my existence; Love is my true identity; Seflessness my true self; my true character, then at any time I live otherwise, it follows I will suffer and certainly will never find contentment in such a lifestyle.”
The place I stand is “on my own two feet,” “Love is the ground I stand on,” “Loving myself and other is what my life stands and exist for.” This is how “we keep the light in our heart when no stars appears in sight.” Love is the light we bring to the darkened corners of our world and, light our path in order that if we ever are led astray into any one of those corners. And if we were to be, Love is the light which guides us home.
Pine Wind Zen Community exists to be one of those lights in the darkened corners of the world. Pine Wind grounded in Love, Kindness, Compassion, Hospitality, and Benevolent Service exists to serve all who come to her doors or today reach out to her via the internet. Its monks and lay members stand on their own two feet together as witnesses to the possibilities of the Human Heart. Ordinary men and women working to live extraordinary lives in a difficult reality. We are meant for each other, all sentient beings exist for one another. To be there for each other as our motto teaches us:
“Community is the spirit, the guiding light, whereby people come together to fulfill a purpose, to help others fulfill their purpose, and to take care of one another.”
It is my hope and prayer that during these difficult and transitional times that the words of St. Benedict inspire us all to stand, to stand up, and to stand together.
I Love You,