January 25, 2021


'Nothing But A Tender Spirit': A Conversation With Poet Maj Ragain

Hosted by

Joel David Lesses
'Nothing But A Tender Spirit': A Conversation With Poet Maj Ragain
Unraveling Religion
'Nothing But A Tender Spirit': A Conversation With Poet Maj Ragain

Jan 25 2021 | 00:51:38


Show Notes

In 2015, in the wide expanse of spiritual and emotional terrain, before his passing in 2018, Maj Ragain, northeast Ohio's poetic fixture and teacher sits with Joel to talk of spirituality and mentorship, sharing poems, talking of tenderness and eroticism and the flux of life, 'all rivers run to the sea.' 

Maj Ragain was born into a small, southeastern Illinois farm town. Home-tutored and raised on Vernor Lake, he earned a BA in English at Eastern Illinois University, and an MA in English at the University of Illinois. He has been on faculty, off and on, at Kent State University since 1969, where he obtained his PhD in 1990. He is the author of seven chapbooks of poetry and five book-length collections, all of which contribute to Clouds Pile Up in the North: New & Selected Poems. Maj had served for more than thirty years as host to open poetry readings in Kent, monthly, downtown, mentoring hundr​eds​ of poets through the years.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 A list of things to do around the house this spring. Find my own way to belong to this world. Drown in what I do every day, befriend old grief, then kill it. Pick the lock on my ribcage and leave it open. Remember to swallow hard and piss beautiful rust. Make my bed with the hopeful. Give up my breath to the moon, to the river, to the men who sleep in their clothes, to the women who comb their belly hair. And mark the trail home. Learn to cut stone with my tongue. Learn to do my own joy down to the bone. Become the wild sweet freedom for which I yearn. Seek out the homely mother of beautiful blood who dances with a cold half moon. Remember not to leave this world without ceremony. Remember to look after the sun as it is gone to cry out when there is no one to listen. Speaker 2 00:01:29 I'm your host Joel Lesses, and I'm, I came down today on a whim to see Ma. Speaker 0 00:01:34 Thank you, Joel. Glad to have you in my house. Got a friend, uh, last night. Um, Mike Thomas, uh, poet, uh, Cleveland poet is Speaker 0 00:01:44 Moved west, uh, seeking his fortune and, um, wound up in Denver. He, um, called me last night and, um, said that he's managing a restaurant now. And, and he and the chef had gotten together and, um, were talking after work. And Mike had my book, the Hungry Ghost, surrenders his tackle box in which this poem, a list of things to do around the house this winter, this spring, uh, this summer, this fall, uh, appears. And, um, they apparently got, um, some paint and a brush, and they painted the whole poem on the wall from ceiling to floor, <laugh> and, um, and, and sat there and talked about it. And, um, I'm just thinking there's no better fate for a poem than to find its way out into the world, into a public place. Um, when I write poems, anybody writes poems, you begin with a blank page that empty snowfield begin to make marks on it, footprints. Speaker 0 00:02:54 And, um, you never know where the poem's gonna travel or whose lives it may enter. And I don't know. I just, um, late night phone call. And I don't know, poems have a funny life that lives beyond us, still carries our life along with them. So, yeah. Yeah, poems break present for me now. But yeah, it's simply that. And, uh, it's about the, uh, role of, uh, the erotic life, um, that deep life, um, and its connection to the everyday, um, uh, happenings, the identity we we have, and, uh, trying to reawaken our understanding to, um, to the way in which that might be the real life, uh, below volition prior to volition. Um, nothing we can really think about, but something that moves deep, uh, within us and has its own intelligence. And, uh, also that the erotic life and the spiritual life, and those two paths may, uh, can be the same. Speaker 0 00:04:17 I think that's forgotten, uh, uh, often in this culture, which has, um, is obsessed with sexuality, certainly, uh, at a kind of, um, surface horizontal, obsessive level, um, sexuality without intimacy, right? Yeah. Without intimacy or without its connection to the deep, um, erotic life that really moves the world. Yeah, I think so. And, um, uh, at, uh, the top end of that, the most visible in this community. Yeah. And, um, those kinds of enduring connections that, um, give our lives shape and purpose. And, but there are deeper, deeper levels to that. And, uh, at the bottom of that lies something, um, which is a prime mover, but also eludes language and all description, which has recognitions, um, of its own for which we cannot, uh, account, but is part of the basic exchange, uh, among us. And I, I think often art and poetry points to that deeper, deeper life, um, to the life inside the life. Speaker 0 00:05:47 Um, yeah. And also that the notion of the woman as, um, as, as teacher, um, in the, the patriarchy in which we, in which we live, the woman, um, uh, as the protector of secrets of, um, the priestess of the, um, of the, the divine office of, of, of woman, and, um, the secrets that are accessible only through her, the life that's accessible only through her and, um, the Dallas, um, um, what, six centuries ago, six millennia ago, rather, made much of the way in which they were the keepers of the treasures. Yeah. And the treasures were accessible only through them. And, and, uh, love passion. But at the end of that is the fruit of, um, of it, which is wisdom. And, um, so yeah, I've been thinking about it. Speaker 2 00:06:53 Yeah. This whole idea of, uh, of, uh, you know, uh, women as teachers and, and, and, uh, really, um, how the, the, the kind of, uh, what women teach and how they teach it is a very fascinating and, and broad mm-hmm. <affirmative> broad subject. Speaker 0 00:07:15 It is. And, uh, I think one of the first lessons is, um, is not to, uh, not to do, to, to defend ourselves. And, um, I have an old friend, Daniel Thompson, who, um, died 10 years ago, next to month. Great. Uh, great brother of mine. And, um, I, um, Daniel, um, is still around, um, in my life. Um, he's not in his body, but, um, his, uh, presence persists. And, um, he, he al we always had a, um, kind of loving and, and, uh, comic relationship. And he, um, told me in his voice a month ago. And, um, I do hear voices, I'll admit <laugh>, I'll admit straight up, and I hope you do too. Daniel said to me, he said, maid, uh, stop defending what you think you are defending. And, um, and he repeated it in his voice, stop defending what you think you are defending. Speaker 0 00:08:16 And, um, it seems to me that, um, Daniel was, um, wa was telling me, um, don't forget the lesson that, uh, women have taught us. And, um, if you are defended, love has, um, um, a great difficulty in, in finding you in penetrating that armor. And, uh, I think that, um, men among themselves are encouraged, um, to, uh, to be armed, um, with all guns of every, every description, um, real and metaphorical. Um, and that I think women are thankfully the disarms. Yeah. And, uh, they take the armor from us, and, um, and they, they take the weapons from us and, um, uh, they're not needed in the home. Yeah. They may maybe needed in the bush. Yeah. You know, but not, not, not in, not in home, not, not in the house, not at the supper table, you know? Right. So that's one thing that comes to mind. Stop defending what you think you are defending. And I think they teach that lesson. And to be, um, and to be humbled, I think in a way, uh, humbling as, um, as a kind of prelude of deliberation. Speaker 2 00:09:36 Is it, I have a poem, and I, I don't know if you, you have a poem that you'd like to find after this? Go ahead. Within many, in the dance tree, fall leaf spirals still in air between toes curls, greens and yellows, grass, and the sound of clouds moving in the water, 16 and one and one and 16, what are names, but labels and through us wind forms of things, air, tree, leaf, sky, water, winter, ground, summer, ground, spring ground, and autumn ground are just faces of the earth, circling the sun circled by the moon, just like you split the sky with a shriek to find the one true season that does not change. Speaker 0 00:10:35 Wow. Well, it sure catches the sense of, um, the, the intricacy of movement that our, our, our lives, um, are, I mean, we'd been talking earlier about, um, Aja Chan Yeah. And his, um, that wonderful, uh, Thai forest monk, um, who died, I think in the nineties mm-hmm. <affirmative> 1990s. Uh, but his teachings are important to me, and his articulation of the way in which, uh, everything is both arriving and going away. It's both appearing and disappearing, and there is no stasis. It's all, um, it's all flow, it's all movement, and, um, uh, and that there's nothing to be held onto, uh, that it all flows around us and we flow with it. And, um, of course, the quantum physics teaches us that that reality is not so much a construct as an ev an event that's in motion in movement is it's an ongoing happening. Speaker 0 00:12:04 And, um, so I think sometimes we're aware of that, but we see things very slowly. And your poem catches that. And also the idea of what the DAO is, uh, in Daoism and in the book of changes, the ch uh, the notion that the Dao is the regenerative principle that that makes the world continue. Uh, it makes the house across the street reappear an hour from now <laugh> and not go away. That there is a kind of continuum in which there are all of these events. And our lives may well be understood as events, as movements, and our bodies are held in a kind of provisional stasis. These vibratory patterns are held together for, uh, a while under what Buddhism calls, uh, five, five conditions. When those conditions are right, then, uh, all the vibrations find a kind of core, but, and they're held in, in orbit, in, in, in, in, in proximity. Speaker 0 00:13:23 And so we, we've, we form an identity or a self out of that, but then when the conditions change, the, it all pulls apart and disperses. And so it's a, it's a, it's what the Chinese call the gathering and the scattering another way to, to see it. But if you, if you can envision a life like that, then you're out into the boundlessness and abundance, abundance and bigness of things. There's plenty of air to breathe, and you're not in the closet of yourself anymore. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you're not hiding in the darkness with the shoes and, and the coats and, and, and the pants and, and you're out in a big place. And I think that, um, health and I think that wellbeing, um, may well have to do with the kind of space in which we find ourselves and the space in which we live our lives try to live in a big, big space. Speaker 0 00:14:22 That's why I read poetry. Yeah. Uh, that poetry gives me air to breathe. It also puts me in a bigger space outside of my own small concerns that tend to trap me during a day Sure. And the domestic stuff, the little things I have to do Yeah. To maintain the world. Well, when I read Walt Whitman's song of myself, yeah. I'm reminded that, um, that all of this is multitudeness and ongoing and, and, and huge and full of all kinds of things, uh, um, that I can touch and, and be restored by. You know, that's a wonderful thing. I'm glad, I'm glad, glad for both of us. <laugh> <laugh>. Um, Speaker 2 00:15:04 Did you have a poem that, that you wanted to? Speaker 0 00:15:07 There's a, um, back in 1983, I, I met a, um, I was at a, a, a weeklong conference at Naropa Institute in, uh, uh, Boulder, um, a weeklong conference, um, on the eastern and western contemplative traditions. And, uh, Naropa had bought, uh, together, um, oh, uh, Tibetan Buddhist, um, Zen Buddhists, um, Russian Orthodox priests, um, Carmelite, uh, nuns. Um, the Benedictine were there, the brothers, uh, the, the Trappists and everybody was there. Um, that is those who had paid attention in some kind of tradition of the contemplative life. And it was a week that arguably really changed my life. And, um, and much of the ballast of my life, I think, derives from that, that week. And, um, I, um, I was sitting in one of the churches in downtown Boulder, and things were winding up. And, um, sister, um, Tessa Bki, um, now Mother Tessa Bki, a Carmelite nun, um, at the, uh, doge Zong, uh, house in Boulder, uh, was on, on, on stage. Speaker 0 00:16:39 And there were maybe a hundred people gathered around her. And she offered 10 guidelines for the path of Christian contemplation. And this is out of her Christian tradition, but I think it becomes quickly, much broader. And she, I wrote these down in, uh, in the book that I, that I had, and I'm looking at something that was written more than 30 years ago, but which I go to literally every day. And, uh, mother Bki said, uh, one work, work with the plain stuff of day to day two, love God, the historical Christ from the scriptures, the cosmic Christ from nature, and the mystical Christ from prayer. Number three, love life and be grateful. Four, embrace little deaths and little sufferings for they prepare us for the greater ones to come. Five, love one another and express it generously. Six, keep your balance. Seven, work with your humanness. Speaker 0 00:17:50 Eight, get back up quickly. Nine, sit still empty yourself every day. Be still can laugh no matter what happens, especially at yourself. I've never forgotten. I, and those are my, my 10 commandments, um, my 10 guidelines. And, uh, you know, I, I would think that if you could work with two of these and fully, I mean, that would be enough. And, you know, work with your, work with your humanness and do it every day, and work with the humanness of other people. Forgive them for being human. And, um, first of all, with all the limitations and the possibilities that are there. And, and, and work with that. And, um, love one another and express it generously. And unless you, unless you express it, how are they to know that you love them? And you can express it through words or, but try to express it through actions and love life and be grateful. Speaker 0 00:18:55 And gratitude seems like one of the most, um, enlightened states in which human beings can find themselves and work with the plain stuff of day to day. And you are right where you need to be, wherever you are. It's the only place that you have for now. And there's a famous vagabond, Japanese poet named EO Sakaki, who would say to his students, don't you ever tell me you need anything. You know, you have what you need right now to go forward on, on the path. So, um, yeah, never forgotten these. And at the end of the conference, the, the, the leader, um, the head of it all, the center of the hub was Cho Trpa, the founder of Naropa, who was to die a few years later in, uh, very early in, uh, was very old, um, in his forties, I think, early forties in, in Nova Scotia, but of a heart attack. Speaker 0 00:20:01 But, but he, that day, he sat on stage smiling, said nothing the whole week. And, um, finally one young intrepid young woman turned to him after everybody had been talking all week and said, uh, master, what is compassion? And that was the center of the whole week. What is compassion? How do we act compassionately? And he smiled, and he said, softly. He said, compassion is washing the clothes and drying the clothes, and folding the clothes. And everybody in the audience looked around and said, that's it, <laugh>, that's all he is gonna say. And that's all he had to say. And so I went home to the, uh, apartment of the Buddhist friend with whom I was staying friend, though I had not met her until she opened her home to me. And I, and I got everything I could find that I had, uh, I had dirtied up during the week, and I threw it in the washer and dutifully watched it wash and dutifully watched it dry, and I folded everything and lifted on the bed. Speaker 0 00:21:12 And, uh, to this day, I, I folded my clothes and, um, I fold my dirty clothes too. And, um, and when I jeans and shirt and socks and undershirt and whatever, and at night, I've folded my dirty clothes and gratitude for, uh, for their having protected me during the day. And so I think that finally his wisdom moves toward an action that, um, that leaves us in a state of gratitude for, for whatever, and gratitude and compassion, maybe very close to one another. So, um, yeah. So mother, mother Bakk. Yeah. Thank her. She's still alive, still Speaker 2 00:22:00 Teaching. Is she mm-hmm. <affirmative>, certain people will be familiar with it, cuz I've, I've shared it with other people, so. Speaker 0 00:22:06 Good, good. Speaker 2 00:22:07 Nice. Yeah, it's interesting how different traditions, uh, at the root really are just expressing. It's like, uh, Dogan says different languages, one tongue. Right? Speaker 0 00:22:17 Oh, oh, that's wonderfully. Yeah. Wonderful. Yeah. Different languages. One tongue. Yes. And yeah, all, all the tributaries flow to the sea. Yeah. Uhhuh Speaker 2 00:22:28 <affirmative>. And we were talking a little bit, one of my favorite books Major is, um, is Zenman Beginner's Mind. Oh, Suzuki. Speaker 0 00:22:34 Suzuki. It's a great book. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:22:37 About how you should burn yourself completely like a good bonfire leaving no trace. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I know we talked a little bit about this via another route, which was the Baggo Gita mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which talks about the relinquishment of the fruit of action mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, uh, I didn't know if you, you had a poem that related to that or wanted to say something about that, or, Speaker 0 00:22:58 Well, that relinquishment to the right of the fruits of your actions. I mean, I I read it in the Baggo Beita that I later gave you. Yeah. And I mean, it's just a, it's a, it's a three inch thick book, four inches. I mean, it's a, it's a tome. And I remember coming to that and, uh, that moment in the Baggo Beita, and I just, um, Speaker 0 00:23:29 I, I mean, our recognition never went away. That I don't own any of this. I have no rights here. Um, none of this belongs to me where I'm at now. I live in a house that my wife and I ostensibly own. Um, I came across in a drawer, uh, the electric bill from 40 years ago Yeah. From the previous owner. And who wasn't there was owner previous to him, who there's owner previous to him. And, and on and on it goes. And, um, so that you, you're, you're, you're the right here is to be, um, is to be human and to work with that and to, um, Speaker 2 00:24:16 The humanness. Speaker 0 00:24:17 Yeah. The humanness and, and, um, and try as nearly as you, you can to do no harm and to love. And, um, the line out of Jack Cornfield's, um, path With Heart, which is a great book I recommend to everyone, is a, I mean, it's one of those fundamental books in which so many, um, lines of wisdom, traditions flow. And, um, he says, and this, this to me is, is nearly the whole thing Jack Cornfield said. Phil says that, um, it is the quality of heart we bring to what we do that matters most. It is the quality of heart we bring to what we do that matters most. And I, I just, it's the quality of heart. And funny, it should come down to that Speaker 2 00:25:17 Because there are so many other levels and layers that you can approach or attach or clinging or de dissect. But really fundamentally, the crux of is just the period Speaker 0 00:25:26 Of heart, as far as I can tell. And in, in, I mean, I can't, I mean, I, I, I, um, and I've read, uh, um, hundreds of books about all of the traditions, and it's been expressed in so many ways. But I think that's it. And it's akin to a biblical, uh, line that I hold close. And it is Lord, uh, grant sustaining me a willing spirit. And, and that's the willing spirit, I think, pays attention to the quality of heart. And y you know, everybody knows something about the quality of their own heart to bring things at the kind to come to anything at the highest level of which we're capable. A a level that's kind, generous and forgiving, whether you're dealing with, uh, an angry mailman or a guy who's just rear-ended your car, or whether it's a lover who's closing the door, or whether it's an old woman in a bed drawing a last breath, or whether it's a casual conversation. Um, bring the best quality of heart of which you are capable to the ordinary moments, working with the everyday stuff. As Mother Bki says to me, that rings, that's a bell that rings. Speaker 2 00:27:08 How do we, how do we do that? How do we cultivate that awareness? How, what are some of the ways in which, I mean, contemplation, prayer, meditation, what? Speaker 0 00:27:18 Well, Speaker 0 00:27:20 Look, look at the guidelines again. Um, she says, sit still and empty yourself every day, be still. And, um, I think that in, in, um, uh, the wonderful poet Naomi ship Na Yeah. Uh, from San Antonio was here at Kent, uh, four years ago. I loved her work. I hope she reads in every town in America at least three times a year. And, uh, she's a great, um, generous force. And, uh, she said that she, um, she made fun of the, before her reading <laugh> for a big crowd. She said, uh, I, she said, I don't, don't tell me you're too busy anymore. And because you're just not <laugh>. You know, most people are bored and, um, with themselves and have their sales down and don't, uh, don't do, don't, don't run that one by me one more time, <laugh>. And, and she said, I want everybody to turn to the person, do their immediate left and say, I am not busy <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:28:26 And, uh, it's a great moment. And everybody did. They kind of got flustered and laughed about it. But, uh, but the point was really hammered home. And, you know, when people say, I'm, I'm just too busy to, or I'm just op No, come on. You know, chances are that you've involved yourself in a, in far too much at, at far too shallow a level. Yeah. And what you're doing is, is, is my poet friend said years ago, you're digging foxholes inside of foxholes one foxholes enough. Yeah. You need to dig another one inside of it. But people going through those repetitions and you know, you're not too busy. And so sit still and find a moment in which busyness subsides and busyness falls away in meditative practice, as you know, uh, in your own practice, it falls away. Uh, it gets quieter. It gets quieter, and silence is great force. Speaker 0 00:29:23 It's a very fertile state. And then learn to empty yourself. And, um, the Greek word, and they're wonderful Greek words for which there's no real counterpart in English. The Greek word for emptying oneself, uh, is called kenosis. Uhhuh <affirmative>. And it's, um, uh, Thomas Burton makes much of this Yeah. And, uh, in his writing. But if you empty yourself, you, you, you, you dump out everything. And when we Gao yes. When we put our fingertips together in the, in our, in our hands. And when you gastro and you, you bow, um, of course you acknowledge that the other person is with you and that you're somehow connected in a, in a fashion that's, uh, amenable and that you're willing to be with this person. But you also, in pitching your head forward and slightly downward, you are emptying the contents of your head. And when you come back upright, you're ready to be filled. Speaker 0 00:30:27 So you can't fill a cup that's already full. And so you gotta find a way to dump it out. And I don't know, people have different practices to do that, but it has to be somehow at attuned to the spiritual emptying. For some people it's prayer. Yeah. I think singing is an emptying. Uh, it so much is born. And then the Buddhist, uh, and I know of no counterpart in this in any other spiritual tradition, given that I'm speaking from ignorance here, but, but the Buddhists say that, um, you know, emptiness is the fertile ground for compassion. And, uh, emptiness is the fertile ground for compassion. So they are the same thing. They are. And one translates as an expression of the other, each translates into the other. And there is a place at the end of the kpa at the end of time where the iron tree blooms the iron tree bursts into bloom. Speaker 0 00:31:33 And so emptiness is, I think, well, anybody who prays, who knows emp knows emptiness to pray deeply as to empty oneself if four ones God, you know, and, um, to be filled in with God's grace and love. I think. So you gotta find ways to do that. And, uh, if you submit to whatever the, the day thrusts upon you, you gotta be doing something. Yeah. You gotta be doing something active. And, uh, Wallace Stevens in, uh, his book called The Necessary Angel, a book of essays said, you know, if you, you've got to send vectors of action and faith and assertion out toward the world, otherwise the world in sending them in toward you will crush you. Yeah. And he said, it's like one of those inflatable tents, right. That has that little fan fan that runs Uhhuh <laugh>. You know? So as long as that fan's running the thing stands upright, as long as you're doing something. Speaker 0 00:32:30 Yeah. As long as you're generating, as long as you're trying to write a poem, as long as you're trying to, um, to pray, as long as, as you're trying to meditate, as long as you're trying to, you're trying to build something mindfully, as long as you're sweeping the sidewalk Yeah. Mindfully, then you're, you are creating a space, you're strengthening the space that you're in, uh, against the genuine onslaught of the world. Yeah. And the media, um, wants you to be active all the time. Right. It wants you to want all the time. Right. It wants you to need all the time. It wants you to be hungry all the time. It wants you to consume all the time. So anything you can do to create a space in which that doesn't happen, Speaker 2 00:33:17 That it's not dictated by the construct of the society around you. Speaker 0 00:33:21 Yeah. Yeah. And those rhythms, the teaching of how to, to, to strengthen those rhythms is in, in every spiritual tradition, Speaker 2 00:33:32 It matters. Not what Speaker 0 00:33:33 No. It matters. Not what, and as Speaker 2 00:33:34 Long as it's with care and awareness. Speaker 0 00:33:36 No. And David, uh, foster Wallace, um, in that wonderful, uh, little wa is water. I mean, Google app Speaker 2 00:33:43 You recommend, you recommended it to, and I picked it up, I I picked it up at the bookstore, I think. Speaker 0 00:33:47 Yeah. You know, it's a little Yeah. It's available book it's time. Yeah. It is in fact his 2006, uh, Oberlin, uh, college commencement address. Yeah. And, uh, that's since become sort of legendary, particularly in light of his death, his hanging himself. And he, he, again, as is too often, the case could not, could not live by the very truths that he gave to others. They couldn't save himself. Yeah. And, um, but he said, um, you know, unless you find yourself and make yourself a part of some spiritual tradition, unless you are strengthened by a community of others of like heart and soul, this culture will eat you alive. Yes, Speaker 2 00:34:36 It will. Speaker 0 00:34:37 And I, I think, I think so. You know, and, uh, Speaker 2 00:34:42 The way society, our, our American society is, is structured, the soul is neglected. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the inner life is neglected. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so people don't really know where to begin or what that looks like, or mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but they have intonations of that are like Huh. Beginnings of that. But they may not be familiar with it, Speaker 0 00:35:00 I think. Yeah, exactly. And, um, is it, uh, oh, EKU says, um, yeah, he says that when you no, when you are no longer aware of the life that you are, not the life that you have, but when you are no longer aware of the life that you are, when you no longer appreciate the life that you are, you turn to things. And so that you begin to, what should be inwardly directed becomes outwardly directed. And then you start attaching yourself to every, and then you have all these wants. And then what And what the nafs Yeah. What the in Rumi, uh, in Sufi is what's called, what are called the nafs in afs, the denizens of the lower bitter soul take over. Yeah. And once they get in there, they'll, they're relentless. And Rumi has a great poem about the man who goes up in the mountains and sees this great serpent and cased in ice, you know, way up 10,000 feet in the snow. Speaker 0 00:36:15 And so he's an enterprising fellow, and he goes up with some others in a big wagon, and they cut out this huge chunk of ice in which this snake has been entombed. And he takes it down to the hot plane and, um, sets up a tent and, uh, and, and invites people to pay to come in to see this serpent. Well, the, the ice melts and the rest of the story, you can figure the serpent destroys the man first who set him free. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, then he destroys everybody that he can get to and slaughters many. But once you Speaker 2 00:36:55 Found teaching made, Speaker 0 00:36:56 It is really, and once you awaken that lower soul, um, I think destruction follows. And, uh, and I think that, that what the have you are having awakened it Yeah. Allowed it to awake. Um, I think then, then you pay the price. Yeah. Speaker 2 00:37:17 Okay. Speaker 0 00:37:17 For it. I, I think, and, uh, and this culture is, is hell Ben, on, on selling you tickets to see the <laugh>, the serpent melling in the ice, man, come on. Come Speaker 2 00:37:30 On, <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. So much of what healing is from a, from a mystical or Sufi perspective is really like, uh, uh, the, uh, realigning resonance or, or tones or vibrations of our own rhythms mm-hmm. <affirmative> in a way that is, uh, kind of trying to reset it with another person who has that tone set mm-hmm. <affirmative> or who is, uh, health tones mm-hmm. <affirmative> or healthy tones. So, um, I know you had mentioned a little bit about the vibrational frequencies of stuff, so Speaker 0 00:38:07 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. Well, you're sure not gonna change the vibrational frequency of, of the world. I I'm not going to. I know that. And, um, all I can do is, um, try to attune myself to certain parts of it, not all of it, but, um, parts of it that seem nurturing. Speaker 2 00:38:32 Yeah. Speaker 0 00:38:33 And another thing that Robert, uh, Roshi, Robert Aiken, uh, who, who wrote a great book called Taking the Path of Zen, which is the other book, I mean, enter with Roshi Suzuki's, Zen Mind, beginner's Mind. Yeah. But, but also this taking the path of Zen, which is a thin little volume, um, he says that all nurturing begins with an inclusion. Speaker 2 00:39:00 Yeah. I remember He Speaker 0 00:39:01 And I say the same things over and over again. And may I always, that's, that's one of those anchor Yeah. Ideas. Like, uh, Speaker 2 00:39:08 I've carried that with me in, in my work. I mean, actually you should very much. Yeah. Speaker 0 00:39:13 So Little Minded Big Mind, you know, I mean, that's, that's in Roci Suzuki. But, um, I mean, little Mind, um, little mind excludes, big mind includes, and so little mind yas at Differences, you know, and, um, saying this is not like that. And Little Mind is always choosing between this and that. And one's Zen teaching is that Enlightenment is simply stopping choosing between this and that. I mean, because you're stuck there, it'll never end. Right. I mean, you, you, once you start that, it'll continue to your last breath. But if you can, if you can let that go and intelligence defined as letting go and move beyond that, then all kinds of things are possible. But that little, that little mind is, uh, boy, this yas like a little chihuahua, you know? And Big Mind is, is quiet, you know? Speaker 2 00:40:15 Yeah. Uh, so, and, and then w the books that I always recommend to people who, who who are interested in, um, like learning about maybe meditation are generally it's, uh, they're three books. One, and, uh, the Three Pillars of Zen by Ro Philip Kalu, Uhhuh <affirmative>, and then Zen Mine, beginner's Mind. And then of course, my favorite book, which, uh, is The Snow Leopard and Peter Matheson just, just mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, passed on. Speaker 0 00:40:42 Yep. May agree. He's a great teacher. May, may his soul find safe passage. Speaker 2 00:40:48 But, uh, you were talking a little bit earlier, uh, in our conversation before we recorded the show about, uh, his teacher's teaching to him. Speaker 0 00:40:54 Yeah. I thought it was terrific. I, it's in the Snow leopard and, uh, uh, two things I carry away, uh, from Snow Leopard above all others. And, um, one was, um, it's a passage somewhere in the book that, um, in which math proposes that it's better to be true than strong. And, um, well, whether, what that means to be true, it's hard and to talk about. And, um, but I think you know, it, I think each of us knows it when we're being, being true to something. And, um, Robert Frost said famously that somebody ask him, when he reads a poet for the first time, uh, what question does he ask? And Frost <laugh> said, without hesitation, he said, I ask myself whether this poet has anything to be true to, you know, wow. You know, next time you read a poem poet for the first time, ask yourself whether you can detect whether this poet has anything to be true to whether that comes out of your reading of the poem. Speaker 0 00:42:11 And so math said, it's better to be true than strong. Nobody's strong enough. We're all, we're all, we're not only all going to be broken, but we're breaking. Yeah. And, uh, we're mending and breaking and mending and breaking, and then with age, we break and break and breaking, and then the final, final brokenness. And so better to be true than strong. The other thing is that, uh, Matheson's teacher, um, told him that his personal colon matheson's was simply two words, expect nothing. And, um, Mathen was initially really rocked back on his heels and said, you mean, that's it? And, uh, and he was assured that that was it. And so if you can live, if you can live as best as you can without expectation, but rather live with welcoming the Strange Angels as DH Lawrence calls them, um, or consider your life a guest house as Rumi does. Speaker 0 00:43:23 And, um, that every stranger that comes to your door bears some kind of gift if you can, but understand it that way. So, um, live in Big Mind, um, live in Welcoming Mind. Yeah. Um, work with your humanness. Yeah. Joel's humanness. And, uh, and I think it's the most honorable work in the world, and it's daily, and it's what you do, whether you're not think about it that way or not, but do think about it. I mean, um, I think the level of awareness brought to that, um, sharpens the practice of the work. You know, it makes more things possible that what you're doing in working with your humanness is in an old spiritual tradition that so many, many, many have done. I'm working with my humanness when anger arises and you work with it, you know, or when you think you know, somebody's done something to you, you know, or wronged you work with that, work with it. Don't, don't let it overwhelm you and calcify and attach itself to you. Just, um, just say to it, come here, let me work with you. Let me work with this. Let me see what you're made of and what caused you and where you came from. Yeah. Maybe befriended, Speaker 2 00:44:52 Um, cuz a part of that, part of that big Mind you were speaking about is really something that we were also talking about earlier today, which is, uh, probably my favorite of all favorite topics, which is just the Supreme, the supreme intelligence mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, um, how I was saying to you how I felt that events, it, the Supreme is the orchestrator of events. So when we get angry at something, we're really saying that we are not in accordance with what presents itself mm-hmm. <affirmative> and what is the presenter? Yeah. Speaker 0 00:45:24 Mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And for the Chinese, um, the Dallas, um, it would be acting in accord with the Dao. Yeah. Which is also understood the way, the way things are supposed to be, whether we think that way or not. Yeah. But it's the, it's it's close to dharma. And dharma in its original sense for Buddhas, Buddhist means, um, has a connotation of firmness, you know, firming up, uh, life with the truth, with, with Dharma, but Dharma and, um, Dharma and Dao. Yeah. There's certainly, is certainly touch in many ways. Speaker 2 00:46:09 The, uh, the dhar, the dharma that word has, has spins off many ways, does it not? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, is that true? I've never fully understood the full meaning of it. Speaker 0 00:46:19 I don't Well, that's good, Speaker 2 00:46:21 <laugh>. Speaker 0 00:46:21 It's like, you know, he, you understands the Dow does not understand the Dow, you say the word Dow. You don't, you don't, as soon as you say it, you don't have it. You know, you think you have the Dow, you don't have the Dow. And, uh, and so, you know, those things are, those things allude us. They include us, but they allude us. So Speaker 2 00:46:45 Would you, is there an a poem that you'd like to read? Maj, anything coming to mind? Or what do you think? Speaker 0 00:46:52 Um, Speaker 3 00:46:57 Oh, Speaker 0 00:47:02 Poem Speaker 0 00:47:05 Is, poem becomes directly from, from Dogan, from the Chauvin Genzel, yeah. The Treasurer of the True Heart and, uh, Dogan, that 13 century Zen master's. A big, big influence on me. And, uh, well, I don't read 'em anymore. Um, I haven't read 'em for years, but, you know, I've, he's kind of part of part of me. Yeah. Uh, part of how I think, and I, I sometimes in poems, I, I will begin with a quote, and this is Duggan's. Um, um, I don't wanna say that. When Dagan returned to a, um, to his native Japan after long wandering Yes. In China. Yes. Um, uh, people asked him immediately what he had learned in his wandering, and he said nothing except a tender spirit. And I thought was a wonderfully enlightened answer. And, um, I think part of the work is to, for each of us to, to maintain the tender spirit, to find ways to encourage the spirit, to remain tender against cynicism, against all of the cynicism, against all of those forces that, that would tend to, to cut it off and isolate it, and diminish it, and diminish us in the process. And I would say that if you can keep a alive tenderness as a human quality in a lifetime, in a long lifetime, that's a triumph. Um, and so Dogan went, walked all those miles to hundreds and hundreds of miles to, to, uh, to get acquainted with the tenderness of his spirit. It's a great lesson. And this quote from Dogan is, uh, if you cannot find the truth right where you are, where do you expect to find it? <laugh> Speaker 0 00:49:03 And my poem, find it in the letter the mailman fused to deliver. Go chase him down the sidewalk. Take back what belongs to you. Find the truth in the goodwill. The dead man suits without shoulders hung in a row. Check the left breast pocket where that went home. Find the truth in the grocery under the cart where you stole the potatoes and the cat litter. Sometimes the truth is down low. Find it on your back step. Find it in the one black shoe, heavy as a stone, the laces in a hard, hard, not find it in yesterday's half frozen cup of muddy coffee. You left on the winter porch rail. Drink it down, shoulder the morning. A clear blind river runs beneath your feet. Find it in your dreams. Black moon in a bone, white sky. Find it in the main street bridge here in Kent. Runs over the Cuyahoga. Find it there, the graffiti of the great speckled bird. Find it in the broken sword. Find it in a child's name, scribbled in the acid ink of tears. Find it in your own breath. The wind horse that carries you across this plane toward the mountains. If you not cannot find the truth where you live, where does it live? This truth you live for <affirmative>. Speaker 0 00:50:46 My father's ashes are scattered, um, from a bridge back in southeastern Illinois where I'm from. And, uh, my ashes will be scattered there too. And, uh, I like the idea of going down the river with my, uh, with my old man. I like the idea of, um, of fire and, um, water and earth and air, the four basic elements. And, um, you know, I, um, how they're all expressions of each other. They're more alike than we we know. And, um, and all rivers run to the sea and that all waters join. And, um, yeah, the dissolution seems, um, seems a good thing. And, um, yeah, seems Yeah. Yeah.

Other Episodes