I Just Want One More Hug

When my kids were younger,  all 3 of them went through a stage that was equal parts endearing and frustrating.   It was a time of not wanting to go to bed.   A period of inventing countless,  increasingly absurd excuses.

“I need a drink.   I have to go to the bathroom.   I forgot my stuffed animal.”  Children are deeply manipulative creatures.   Eventually they would happen upon reasons that were hard to resist.   “I need a hug.  I need a kiss.   Can I have a back rub?”

I broach this topic here because I am learning that there are parts of me that are like my children.   They don’t want to let go.   They don’t want to release their hold.

People call it the false self.   And the monkey mind.  It is the reason that meditation needs to be learned; because there is a part of us that resists.

It takes the form of needing to move,  wiggle and itch.   Or the thoughts and feelings that just won’t be released,  that keep coming back,  as annoying as the single fly that threatens to ruin the picnic.   Or the desire to shave a few minutes off the end of a meditation session to respond to a facebook notification.

My false self,  my monkey mind, it is no less clever than young kids.   I am a thinker.   And when I’m letting go,  my mind offers me these tantalizing rabbit trails,  fragments of thoughts,  compelling metaphors.   Much like kids,  my mind closes in on my weakness.

I totally understand the value of an approach I associate with  Zen Buddhism:  Ignore every itch.   Sit for the entire time.   Do not compromise anywhere.

I get it just as much as I get parents who draw a line in the sand.  No you may not have another drink,  a stuffed animal,  or even a hug.    Bed time is bed time.   End of story.

I could just never make that work.   Treating my kids that way just created this tornado of ugly emotions and suddenly everybody is wide awake  and feeling unloved. (or maybe that was just me.)

In the same way, when I take that militaristic stance to an intrusive thought,  I get pulled into dualistic experiencing of the world.   When I refuse to scratch an itch,  I grow to hate that itch…   In the words of eminent sage  and theologian Pauly Shore,  I harsh my mellow.

Perhaps my wonderful kids were a bit spoiled.   Maybe my meditation practice suffers.   I can live with those possibilities.



Chronus Widdershins

As the seconds on my meditation timer count down…

I live a whole uneventful life.

I grow old and die.


It is the periodic gongs which remind me…

Punctuating minutes that last months,

And seconds that last years.

Those bronze vibrations pierce the vale.


I go looking within.

After a journey– a trek

A battle– with myself

My shadow-doppleganger-nemesis

I die.

Walk away and let go.


And then there is a field.

The clouds cast shadows on the curving ground.

I see it from far away at first.

I wonder on the scarecrow?

No.  A man.  Standing.


Arms like tiny toothpicks reaching up.

I am speeding toward him now

He is Jesus.

He is me.

And this is a destination.


Homunculus Jesus.  


In the eye of the storm

Of my thoughts, and emotions and memories.

Further away.

They are a trinity feeding on each other.

Swirling about.

Tearing up the place.


But here is silence.

Here is the very deeps of me.

And the end.


Time breaks down in a black hole.

And Martin Buber told me

That prayer doesn’t exist in time.

Time exists in prayer.


I know that when you turn Chronus widdershins…

Each moment can stretch upwards now.

And second that ticks away…

Is pregnant with an etetnity of its very own!


And so there is a director’s cut.

And the director is God.

That extends itself inward.

Right when i approach Him


At the moment i put my hand on his heart…

My own heart.


And i am already in my own heart

In a moment turned already sideways.

When things go terrifyingly well

When i am neck deep in nothingness

There is a sweet moment

That happens almost never

And it happens





Already in that heart space and time,

I journey to a place deeper still.

Into the heart of the me/not me

Who stands in my heart already.


Call it the heart of the heart.

The secret’s secret.


It is an open field.

Of course

A man stands there.


I am so small now.

I have have gone so deep within.

I am afraid that of where i must go now.


This deeper place still.

Strangeness abounds here.

How can this Great Witness

Continue this endless descent.


What if the troika

Never ended?


Once i fell into the depths of me.

It happens evety time.

I am


I am

       Still falling.


If there might be an eternity in every moment

That how long is 3 days spent dead and in hell?


That is what i scream

     As i fall.


I made smaller

And smaller still.

Each time i enter into

The heart within the heart within the heart withinthe heart!


And then…  i am nothing


Am nothing


I am



I am!


I am a star

A consellation

A nebula.


I am the night sky.

Behold my vastness.


The smalkest doorway was a threshold to this



I am.
But God’s love.

And God’s love

I am.
Gasping. Panting.
Filled to overflow.

I am
lifted up by my collar bones gently.
Floating nowhere
And also everywhere.

I am
or atleast a little bit
Sitting In my meditation chair.
With outstretched arms embracing just everything.

I am nothing.
And yet this deliciousness
It is almost too much.

Going on, as it has,
In this timeless kairos

I am nothing.
And then The bell!

A ringing bigger than the world.
And me,

I am
The vibrations.
Working their way up
and down The bronze.


You are already lovely.

You began as you are and as you will always be.


Those doings of yours,

They are perhaps good.  Or not.

But those doings of yours are only and ever just that.


They will rise and fall like waves and empires.


But you.


You are the ocean beneath the waves,

The ground beneath the buildings.


Hoping to Hear From You

We are looking to hear from you, today, and considering transitions in our faith.   When did you know it was time to leave? How did you know it was time to leave? What are some things that surprised you? What are the positives or the negatives? The answers to this question will help shape a post on this blog. If you have pithy comments that you would care to share with others, post them in the comments below. If you would rather a level of anonymity, or would like to run longer, send an email to  thecontemplace@gmail.com


I discovered this book written by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.  It is about joy.  I am quite daunted by the idea that these two men, after all their life experiences, can find so much to be joyful about.  When I think about the persecution and exile, the cancers, murders, fear that these spiritual giants have faced, it puts my struggles into perspective.

According to this book, Buddhists view joy as the natural state of being.  With practice, they believe that we can return to this state.  At this point, I decided to put the book down.  Because I was struck, suddenly, by the idea that this could– maybe should– be a Christian view, too.

I have given lots of space in my head to what it might have been like in the Garden of Eden.  But I am not sure I have ever considered the joy of that place.  I suspect that joy is the natural state of being from a Christian perspective, too.

I am going to go meditate on this possibility now.  I will let you know how it goes for me.  If you have some thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear how them below.


Marriage and Death. And also Meditation and Insomnia.

Imagine that you are standing in a church.  You are standing in the front and facing the back, and maybe the first thing that you notice is the way the light comes in through the stained glass windows…  Or perhaps it is the high, vaulted ceiling, and the way the lines conspire to bring your view upward.

The pews are mostly filled.  This is no ordinary church service, though.  People are wearing suits, ties, and dresses.  The organ fills the air, and a few people lean over to whisper briefly to their neighbors.    The air is charged.  Intense emotion fills the place.  The ceremony is about to begin.

And this leads to the important question.  Just which ceremony is it?  The obvious choices are either a funeral or a wedding.  You could, of course, turn around and face the front of the church.  This is where everything changes:  Either it is one somber coffin.  Or it is two people, who perhaps look and feel more alive than they have ever been.

At theological-philosophical-symbolic level, there continues to be this interesting list: it seems like marriages and funerals are identical in all the ways that they are not exact opposites.  Both involve an end of one part of our existence.  Both, I think, usher in a whole new way of existing.

If this set of thoughts was a road, there would be a sign right here.  It would say, “beware, sharp turn ahead.”  Are you ready for a sharp turn?  Bare with me, here.

I was struggling with insomnia night.  I woke suddenly.  The weight of my worries and fears perched on my chest.  It was lonely and irritating.

As I lay there, staring at the ceiling, I realized something:

Insomnia is a lot like meditating.

Except for the parts where it is exactly the opposite.

In both cases, I sit in silence.  In both cases, I am confronted with the things that I spend most of my life pushing down and away.  In both cases, it might look like rest.  But at the same time, it is hard work.

The relationship between marriages and funerals is much like the relationship between meditation and insomnia.   I haven’t said much about the most obvious difference between the positive and the negative within each pair, and that, perhaps, is my whole point.

Marriage and meditation are time that we choose to do something for our betterment.  Death and insomnia are things which happen to us.  As a result, we have all kinds of happy, warm, and fuzzy feelings about the former, while we have all sorts of sad, cold, and prickly feelings about the later.

Which leads me to consider the wisdom of the body.  Sometimes the parts of me I can name are not as wise as the parts of me which go unnoticed.  Perhaps a way to view insomnia is to see this as my body/unconscious/God within telling me that I need to spend some time letting go.  What if I viewed these bouts with insomnia as an opportunity to meditate on these things?


silence and Silence

You would think silence would be easy…  And if you grabbed a shallow, material definition of the word “silence” you would be right.  Because anybody who is older than 13 has an easy enough time just closing their mouth.  As a result, by some ways of thinking about it, such a person would be silent.

But of course, we all know that we can stop making physical noise and be so far away from silent.  Sometimes, these are the times when our minds and hearts are making the most noise: those times when we are physically silent.

The point of meditation and contemplation is this deeper silence.  I have been thinking about this lately: the idea that we cultivate these Deep Silences.   They seem to be the only appropriate response to many of the mysteries that surround us.

In lots of important ways, we are little, tiny things adrift in an ocean of things way bigger than us.  The Mystery of life, and of death.  The Mystery of suffering, and of injustice.  The Mystery of existence, and of God.

We won’t ever fully grasp these things.  We can’t explain them away, we can’t control them.  There are probably times that it is worth trying to chisel away at little aspects of them that we might wrap our brains around.  But equally, there are times to humbly agnowledge our position to these things.

In some way, my silence becomes a sort-of offering to God.   As I thought about this, I remembered these words of Mother Theresa.  She told an interviewer once, that one of her ways of praying was to listen to God.  When the interviewer asked what God was saying, she said that God was saying nothing; God was listening to her.  Mother Theresa described this process, where she and God listened to each other, listening to each other.  I love that, even though I don’t know exactly what it means.

I kind-of hope it means something like presenting my silence to God as an offering, though.   Other wise thinkers have talked about contemplation as an act of reflecting God’s image back at God’s self.  Being silent is like preparing my inner mirror, cleaning off the accumulated grime of my ego and baggage, so I can more fully reflect God.

God, of course, reflects right back at me in those times.  And there is this little (big?) piece of God, dwelling inside me.  So when I see myself clearly, purely, I see God there, too…   It is as if the reflection then aligns with the image outside of me, that I am looking at…

I think I have just reached the place where words stop making sense.  Seems like a good place to end and be silent.


My friend Hafiz

spoke to me

across these thousands of miles,

these hundreds of years.


He told me how they all waited for God to speak.

And they cried when he did not.


I have been there.

Crying those tears with them.

Tonight was different though.


The wind let go of the dirt it had been carrying.

It stopped pushing those branches gently aside.

The birds stopped their bickering.

The clouds stood still in the sky.


Tonight, all the lights turned green as we waited for God to speak.

This eager hush fell over the crowds.

Those lucky enough to be scratching the gray coating off their lottery tickets…

All came up winners.


Tonight, we all waited for God to speak.

Just as they had waited, hundreds of years ago.


But tonight?

That waiting?

That waiting itself…



was all

that we needed.

Stopping Early

Sometimes, I find it hard to finish my meditation time.

I feel naked, exposed, and vulnerable to my worries, my problems, and my baggage.  Their is this ridiculous part of my brain, that gets quite desperate.

“I can not continue to hold on to this hurt, fear, and stress.”  That part of my brain says.  For the record, that part of my brain is me, too.

And sometimes, I power through.  Other times, I do not.

Here is the ridiculousness of the whole thing:

All those things continue to be with me.   They don’t go away.  A decision to stop meditating is not a decision to fix these problems.  It is a decision to let them fester.

Of course, the point (to whatever extent there is a point) is not to ruminate on these things.  Increasingly, I am suspecting that whatever device I use to release these worries is not a strategy to increase the quality of my meditation time.  Whether I choose a word as mantra, focus on my breath, label the thoughts, etc…  Which ever one it is, this experience with holding an awareness of my worries without submitting my whole self to them, this is something I carry with me, out of my time of meditation practice.

I am summoning up a reminder for myself, today, as much as sharing thoughts with anybody else.  Holding the hard stuff, even when it is difficult, for the time that I have set aside for meditation, this is an important, powerful, and useful thing to do.