LIKE AN EARTHQUAKE Facing Death and Embracing LifeA Sermon byJames Ishmael FordDelivered at a Workshop on Death and Dyingat theFirst Unitarian Society in Newton10 November 2007TextI am not ready to die, But I am learning to trust death As I have trusted life. I am moving Toward a new freedom Born of detachment, And a sweet grace – Learning to let go. I am not ready to die, But as I approach sixty I turn my face toward the sea. I shall go where tides replace time, Where my world will open to a f … [Read more...]

Neville Chamberlain

Arthur Neville Chamberlain, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, disgraced for his policy of appeasement in dealing with Hitler, died on this day in 1940.What is more immediately of interest to me is that Chamberlain was a Unitarian. At least he was raised a Unitarian and while he never joined a church in his adulthood (and was in fact buried from Westminster Abbey), was generally seen by his friends and his enemies throughout his adulthood as a Unitarian.It is arguable that his world-view … [Read more...]

Death and Dying: A Liberal Spiritual Bibliography

A long time and much beloved member of the Unitarian Universalist congregation I currently serve who has since moved out to California recently learned she has cancer and, it appears, not a long time to live. Being a good UU she asked me for a reading list. I solicited colleagues on both UU and Zen Buddhist listservs to which I belong for their suggestions. I gleaned the following from their responses.Pema Chodron When Things Fall Apart (for me perhaps the most helpful of the books on this … [Read more...]

Who Is Your Candidate?

ABC News has a delightful if apparently occasionally disconcerting questionnaire that reveals your "true" choices among the current crop of presidential hopefuls. (I gather more than one self-professed Democrat found a Republican or two on their list, as well as significant examples of the other way 'round...)While I never strayed from the Democratic fold in this test, I wasn't entirely happy with the list that popped for me. The first time I took it I ended up with Gravel (at least he's an old … [Read more...]

Koan Zen: A Brief Bibliography

This past Sunday I had the enormous pleasure of leading a small workshop on koan practice with particular emphasis on the Mu or No koan at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies.In preparation for this workshop I cooked up a brief reading list.As it turns out there really isn’t much written on koan Zen that is directly useful to practitioners. Sadly the field is dominated either by spiritual tourists who for the most part have no idea of what they are talking about or scholars who have a s … [Read more...]


Isolato by Larissa Szporluk The ox is slow but the earth is patient. The ox is in a war of many tiers but no engagement, like folds within a bellows that broke from the accordion (war to be alone in a shiftless wind that does not answer, war to be the only child in existence, even frozen, be the only sound that plows the only land, and as the only one, be dumb to all … [Read more...]

The Mystery

"We think we can experience this world only through out perceptions. We think we see reality, but what we see is our own bubble of perception, filtered through all of our associations and desires, through language and conditioning. As the saying goes, we don't see things as they are, we see them as we are. Yet, awareness is our nature, without bounds, without solidity. We create this bounded world of phenomena in order to survive and make sense of things. Yet when we live only in our bubble of … [Read more...]

One of the More Important Questions on the Spiritual Path

(Thank you, Kyogen!) … [Read more...]

As Long As We’re Testing Ourselves

I took the "If You Were a Poet..." quiz on gURL.comI am...Sylvia PlathDo your feelings come pouring to the surface no matter what? Is writing or speaking your mind a matter of life and death for you? If so, you may identify with Sylvia Plath's confessional style of poetry. Plath is perhaps one of the most famous poets of the 20th century. Read more...Which poet are you? … [Read more...]

What Religion Are You?

I just received a note from my old friend Ken Arnold. He had just discovered that wonderful test at Beliefnet called Belief-O-Matic. It is a hoot. I recall some years ago posting the link for it to a Zen teacher's listserv and being informed by a noted Soto Zen priest "Damn, James. Turns out I'm one hundred percent Unitarian Universalist!" Actually she used a scatological term rather than "damn," but I consider this a family-friendly blog. (Which I suspect opens whole avenues of why we consider … [Read more...]