Sometimes I wonder if I’m on the *jnana* path or the *bhakti* path–the way of knowledge or of devotion, the mind or the heart. On the enneagram, I’m almost an even split between the rational, analytical **five** and the bohemian, emotional **four.** It’s not that I feel split within myself, but I see that this *thinkingfeeling* tends to be divided in most spheres of life.

When I was in school considering my future career, I was torn between the arts and the sciences. I had never fit into a clique–I was too geeky for the bohemians, and too artsy for the nerds. I’m often intolerant of shoddy research and people who simply don’t investigate things. And I’m amazed by people who are oblivious to God and to wonder.

In spiritual practice, there are similar divisions–simply because there is a path for everyone, and most people identify more with the mind or the heart. Most religions tend to favor the heart. Think Christian praise and contemplation, Hindu *kirtans,* Sufi *zikr* dancing, and even some Buddhist chants. But Zen is a rather “heady” way, as is Self-inquiry, and St. Loyola made even contemplation seem rather matter-of-fact.

It doesn’t matter. Either the heart or the mind can be the bridge to the Spirit, as long as the Spirit is allowed to do what It will. When I stopped wondering about wonder… this came:

>i open my eyes
and You . . . are there.
i close my eyes
and You . . . are here.

>all i need to feel
is to stop . . . *feel.*
You . . . *there*
You . . . *here.*

>”Ever desiring,
one beholds the manifestations.
Ever desireless,
one drowns in the mystery.”

>breathing water so sweet,
why should i want to live?

Score one for bhakti? Oh, but then I went to a computer and posted it on the Internet. Feelingthinking.

Presence and Absence

I’m sure that most of my blog’s regular readers know what I mean by feeling “the Presence of God.” Yet I wonder how many people in the general population know it. Is it something that most sense a few times in their lives, or that most “believe in” but do not feel? I don’t know. Our language is poorly equipped to express it, and our cultures, including many of our churches and religious environments, don’t really encourage it, either.

As for myself, I usually have a *sense* of God’s presence with me–a knowing of presence that’s definitely more than “belief” although it’s not always a conscious thing. Yet whenever I turn my mind or heart to God, very, very definitely, that *presence* has been there.

Today, something odd happened, in a perfectly ordinary moment at work, I suddenly felt God’s presence again, and realized that I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t felt it for weeks. It was a strange (though welcome!) revelation… kind of like if I’m looking for my cat in his usual hiding places, and turn and see that he’s on the bed, amused by the fact that he had hidden himself in plain sight.

Although I know God wasn’t absent, it was strange that he seemed to be, and doubly strange that I didn’t notice that the feeling of presence was absent until it returned. I find it sad to think this may be what many, if not most, people’s spiritual lives are like most of the time.

>**Hidden Presence**

>it was like you had gone.
i was here, alone behind my eyes,
alone in my home,
alone in my car and cubicle.

>days ended and days began,
days faded into days,
and I was alone.

>so suddenly, you’re back,
like the sun breaking through the cloud,
like the fading twilight
revealing heaven’s stars
like the passing of the winter
uncovering the life that was there
all the time, always.

>so why do you hide
my love, my lord?
why do you play these games
so cruel, so tender,
pretending to be absent?

>next time may it be i
absenting myself in you.

Writing as Meditation

In her famous book Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg describes how her roshi instructed her to begin using her writing as a form of meditation. Recently, my teacher, Kitabu Roshi », gave me a similar assignment, especially through writing poetry. He also instructed me to not write from my mind, but spontaneously, like freewriting, to let the Spirit direct me.

I’ve written a lot of poetry, and I used to have a couple of dozen original poems on this site. Most of my stuff was this outrageously joyful mystic rave in full keeping with my “holy fool” personality. What’s been coming since beginning poetry as meditation is new to me. It’s pretty unfiltered, it shows me what’s there, whether I want it to or not. Some is still the Frimster’s shout, and some shows the deep cries of my heart, and some is a little different:


My self mailed me an email
To explain myself to me.
The hours I spent teaching me
what I myself don’t know.

>**Norfolk Upanishad**
I sit listening
Listening to the sound of Your spirit
and hear my thoughts.

>But they are not mine.
I do nothing to make them come,
can do nothing to make them stop,
bubbles in the ocean.
I’m never so rich as when I have nothing.

>Listening in the dark to what comes, what goes.
Listening in the heart to the beat, the pulse.
It’s not I.

>I do not think to live
Something lives which is greater than me.
Auricle, ventricle, expand, contract.
Squeezing life from matter.

>Hear it in your head
Hold it in your heart–
The sound of life.
One life.
That One’s you.
And me.
Every one.

© jon zuck, january 16, 2005, norfolk, virginia

On a related note, Meredith and Akilesh have a wonderful post » on their blog » which discusses a passage from the journal of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the minister/poet/mystic, at the “precipice” of going into no-self. I highly recommend reading this post in depth. This is probably the most concise and lucid description of what I call “awakening” spirituality, and Akilesh’s metaphor of “the precipice” is a wonderful explanation of the point that leads from mere mysticism into the transformation of consciousness, theosis, fana, or enlightenment.

I most definitely relate Meredith’s statement about coming to the precipice, but not yet being able to jump into the void. Boy, can I relate to that! Everyone, please give yourselves a treat and read that post!

Living is dying

I’ve been feeling a lot of pain recently, largely because the tsunami affected me very deeply. Although I’ve never been to Asia, I’ve long felt a strong resonance to the lands that were hit by the tsunami, especially Indonesia. Today I learned a former colleague of mine is dying. My thoughts tonight:

>Death surrounds me.
I can deny it as well as you,
but I cannot hide and I cannot forget.

>A wave washed away my home,
though I live a world away. I die.
They told me Sharon is dying,
a cancer in her brain–I die.

>Every moment, my body sheds a million cells—
Just living is dying!
Every day, the world sheds a million souls
for living is dying.

>I feel I’m in a tapestry, pulled one way,
then the next,
then in all directions at once.

>For living is dying.

Eight Haiku for the Nativity

Thought I might put this on the front page as a post before I restore it into the Poetry section.

**Eight Haiku for the Nativity**

Igniter of Stars!
lies naked, bawling on rough straw
God in the manger.

Scandal of Ages!
The King of Infinity
in this time, this place!

"What?" "Why?" Resounding cry
across the galaxies–wings
and heads bow in awe.

Joy! This Special birth!
And more! Beyond all reason
The Giver is given!

Quiet night explodes!
Angelsong, ten billion strong–
Glory to the King!

Pungent barnyard smells
mix with the aroma of
His wonder, His love.

In orbits ordained
before Time, planets align–
form the Star, the Sign!

She names Him "Jesus."
Yet more strangers will arrive–
they will name Him "King."


jon zuck
December 25, 1995