24 September 2008

still figuring out religion

It's my third week here as a chaplain at harborview. I'm still astounded by the beauty of their weapons, as l. cohen might say -- the bright lights and electronic equipment, the hundreds of calmly suffering patients, the intense amount of healing, the intense lack of healing.

I'm blown away by the size of the project, the hospital in general, the mission to serve -- about all else -- the inmates of the county jails and the indigent and the non-english speaking poor, and all the rest of us that the statue of liberty still welcomes (i think). This place is a long way down the red road from "small steps" and "one person at a time". You can't have machine that bring back people's breathing and electrical currents with that kind of change. I think. Maybe.

So that still says nothing about chaplaincy and this experience and that's probably because I feel too green to do anything. So instead I'm going to share some passages I've read in the past few weeks. Some offerings I shared with fellow chaplains and fellow patients, during prayers and reflections, ministries of presence and compassion. They all run together towards their true nature as one.

That's perhaps the only surety I have in all this -- that separation from our true nature, our true nation, what I can, in my little jargon, the "One Love" -- is illness. And in that sense we are not well -- perhaps joyously and aware -- we are separated from our true selves, we are sick, we are in a giant late capitalist hospital. It's with that understanding that I record the gospel raps of brothers in the psych ward and hold the hands of recovering crack addicts crying about our future. It's only that handspun cord that makes all the shaking and tears and prayer make sense and not jumble.

So there's that. Johnny Cash whistles in the background.

1) from Neruda's _Hands of Day_

From so many rough hands
descended the tool,
the wineglass,
even the famous curve
of the hip that then pursued
the whole woman with its design!

The hand that forms
the wineglass of the form,
it conveys the pregnancy of the barrel
and the lunar line of the bell.

I ask some mighty hands
to help me
change the profile of the planets:
triangular stars
the traveler needs:
constellations like cold dice
of square clarity:
those hands that extract
secret rivers fro Antofagasta
until the water rectifies
its avarice lost in the desert.

I want all the hands of men
to knead mountains
of bread and to gather
all the fish from the sea,
all the olives
from the olive tree,
all the love not yet wakened
and to leave a gift
in each of the hands
of the day.

2) from Wendell Berry's _The Unsettling of America_

Some prominent agricultural economists are still finidng it possible to pretend that the only issues involved are economic, but that possiblity is diminishing. I recently attended a meeting at which an agricultural economist argued that there is no essential difference between owning and renting a farm. A farmer stood up in the audience and replied: "Professor, I don't think our ancestors came to Ameirca in order to rent a farm."
'Nough said.
3) from Brother Lawrence in 1666
Having found in many books different methods of going to God, and divers practices of the spiritual life, I thought this woul serve rather to puzzle me than facilitate what I sought after, which was nothing but how to become wholly God's. This made me resovle to give the all for the all; so after having given myself wholly to God, that He might take away my sin, I renounced, for the love of Him, everthing that was not He, and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world. Sometimes I considered myself before Him as a poor criminal at the feet of his judge; at other times I beheld Him in my heart as my Father, as my God. I worshipped Him the oftenest that I could, keeping my mind in His holy presence, and recalling it as often as I found it wandered from Him. I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without trobling or disquieting mself when my mind had wandered involuntarily. I made this my business as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of God.
4) from some Advaita text, possibly Sankara, quoted by Ken Wilber
The world is illusory
Brahman alone is real
Brahman is the world
Not much explanation necessary, I think, but I'll step on that by pointing out I've come much further with Christianity understanding the talk of God in 3 as shorthand for the understanding so clearly present in 4; that is, that by considering ourselves in a universe that only includes me and god (atman and brahman) we are effectively considering everything we see, from the homeless woman in the hallway to a dysfunctional google calendar, to be god.
And it's worth nothing that the instructions on meditation are, well, exact. That's all we need, really, if we can follow it.
one love from the department of spiritual care,
ps to sign up for these updates, you can go to:
and choose "ministry of presence"

15 September 2008

haymaker lisa in action, again

[ it may not be obvious that the scythe has contains farsi writing. but it does ]

haymaker lisa in action

[ it may not be obvious that the scythe has contains farsi writing. but it does ]

10 September 2008

from "the hour of trial" in "my non-violence" by mahatma gandhi

I just want to sit for a minute and witness the faith displayed in the following lines of Gandhi. His total immersion in faith -- the clarity and firmness of his vision, his faith in humanity, his faith even in Hitler --

"Non-violence is not a cloistered virtue, confined only to the [saint] and the cave-dweller. It is capable of being practiced by the millions, not with full knowledge of its implications, but because it is the law of our species. It distinguishes man from the brute. But man has not shed the brute in him. He has to strive to do so. This striving applies to the practice of non-violence, not to the belief in it. I cannot strive to believe in a principle: I either believe in it or I do not. And if I believe in it, I must bravely strive to practice it. Ahimsa is an attribute of the brave. Cowardice and Ahimsa do not go together any more than water and fire. It is that Ahimsa that every [person here] has to make a conscious effort to develop in himself."

[NB: When Gandhiji talks about Ahimsa, it is the ancient yogic principle of total non-harm, at the level of intention. It can be translated as "non-violence" or "Love". When translated as Love it is most closely connected to the Greek concept of agape -- ankurbhai]


"You cannot build non-violence on a factory civilization, but it can be built on self-contained villages. Even if Hitler was so minded, he could not devastate seven hundred thousand non-violent villages. He would himself become non-violent in the process. Rural economy, as I have conceived it, eschews exploitation altogether, and exploitation is the essence of violence. You have, therefore, to be rural-minded before you can be non-violent, and to be rural-minded you have to have faith in the spinning wheel."

[written october 29th, 1939]

06 September 2008

2008 fall quarter status report: clinical pastoral education

here is an update i wrote for the general private a few days ago. i'm
in the process of developing some new internet writing forums, to

a) new recipes and information about fall cooking classes
b) experiences with death and transcendence through "clinical pastoral
education" and other kinds of flute music.

clearly there might need to be some separation, as much as i'm a fan
of the nth root of unity.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: ankurbhai
Subject: 2008 fall quarter status report

dear investors

as in, friends and lovers and colleagues invested in the development
of the world, the soul, and this particular human incarnation of both.

i have a little bit of news to report for the fall season.

1. baby turnips are in season at nash's. i've attached a recipe.

2. i bought a scythe and will one day learn how to use it. there is an
instructional video that has been a great inspiration to me.

3. i received some lessons in the spinning wheel and plan to make that
an important daily meditation in the coming months, as part of a
renewed commitment to gandhian ideals.

4. i applied and was accepted, and have now begun, a course of study
called Clinical Pastoral Education. those are capitalized words
meaning i am in training to be a chaplain. a chaplain is someone who
listens and offers presence to the suffering, frequently in hospitals,
hospices, prisons, and militaries. at harborview hospital, where i am
working, we are in the department of spiritual care. i have a business
card and pager that say "spiritual care". it's pretty interesting.

5. i plan to be in washington studying the CPE program until jan 16 of
2009. it is essentially 3 days a week and i will be working at nash's
produce another 2-3 days a week. i am also teaching a series of
cooking classes (on tuesdays). you are welcome to visit. encouraged to
visit! you can help me teach a cooking class.

6. there are various and other writing projects i'm working on, but
those burners have been set to simmer, along with the watercolors. the
flute and meditation still hit a rolling boil each morning, as it
should be.

7. i apologize for sharing this wonderful news in this non-wonderful
way. things have moved very quickly. i told my mom just a week before
and haven't had a time or phone line to call all the people who i
wanted to tell on the phone. please accept my humble apologies. there
are a number of blessings i wanted to ask for, and some i think i just
took without permission. however it shook down, the wheels were
greased and it seems i slid into this new trajectory without even

lots of love as always

chaplain and haymaker
new dorky pager at 206 . 540 . 2091

of chaplains and haymakers

so there are some directions on the mango trail and i'm going to
publicize them soon. i've turned without turning into a old pastime of
humans. it's called "chaplain" or "chaplaincy" or "hats off to you
mark, god knows it's been a difficult summer" or something like that.
nothing to do with wooden boats or surreptitious lifts of the old
flask. so they say.

brother sushil sends me the following quote which sums up, perhaps
exactly, what impels me in this direction --

"It is precisely through the onset of old age, through loss or
personal tragedy, that the spiritual dimension would traditionally
come into people's lives. This is to say, their inner purpose would
emerge only as their outer purpose collapsed and the shell of the ego
would begin to crack open. Such events represent the beginning of the
return movement toward the dissolution of form. In most ancient
cultures, there must have been an intuitive understanding of this
process, which is why old people were respected and revered."

pg 285, A New Earth.

From a book by a gentleman named only "mr. eckhart trolle".

which of course reminds me of that other meister eckhart, from the
13th century --

"that which we take in through contemplation we must give out in love"

which is what i'm trying to do, i think. about time to start the stage
of productive work, to segue out of studies. of course in my case the
studies were informal and meandering ("tripper graduate school") and
productive work means going to school (Clinical Pastoral Education)
and getting called over hospital intercoms to arrive in a patient's
room and listen. that's what they say at least. my first shift is

formal update to follow.

salt march redux

this from a march version of an american style magazine, Gentleman's Quarterly:

Beginning tomorrow, artist Joseph DeLappe will begin reenacting
Gandhi's 1930 240-mile Salt March on a treadmill inside New York's
Eyebeam gallery—all of which will be reproduced in real time on Second
Life. Yes, the self-parody is (kind of) deliberate. "I'm a spoiled
American computer artist paying tribute to Gandhi's life and
philosophy by taking on certain aspects of his march, like the
walking," he says. "But at the same time, you know, I'm not going
anywhere." Indeed. The inspiration came from DeLappe's last project, a
series of virtual anti-war protests inside the America's Army video
game that led one blogger to say he had a "Gandhi complex." Well, at
least he's not wearing a dhoti, opting instead for "sweats, a white
T-shirt, maybe, and either running shoes or Jesus sandals." Sounds
like a whole new complex might be setting in.

Reenactment: Gandhi's March to Dandi—The Salt Satyagraha Online,
tomorrow through April 6, Eyebeam, 540 W. 21st St., NYC, (212)
937-6580, eyebeam.org, saltmarchsecondlife.wordpress.com

[ http://men.style.com/news/blog/2008/03/virtual-insanit.html ]

03 September 2008

more photos from the famous mr. werner

the second image, notably, is a drawing by mr. mansuoba fukuoaka in
the visitor book of baskarbhai save, the amazing old gujarati farmer
who developed (indepedently) a similar technique to fukuoaka's,
primarily with fruit trees.

it is to represent the difference between chemical farming, organic
farming, and natural farming (at the top of the hill).

"i guess i miss you / i guess a forgive you
i'm glad you stood in my way"