Doshi Dharma Heritage

My flight out from Providence to Clatskanie, Oregon, where Great Vow Zen monastery is hosting this year’s gathering began to take on the character of a quest, with adventures, misadventures, and digressions. What is normally more or less a seven-hour experience turned out to be fifteen hours, counting the hour plus from the airport in Portland to the monastery. I’m recovering from a bout, mild, but a bout nonetheless of pneumonia, and not feeling totally up to speed. The trip out didn’t help. Alt … [Read more...]

The Remarkable Annie is Born

annie besant

Annie Besant was born on this day in 1847.When George Bernard Shaw recruited Annie Besant to the Fabian Society in 1885 he called it a major victory for the cause, as he declared she was "the greatest orator in England." She was a social activist and journalist. And one of the most famous women in England.Everything changed when she was engaged to interview and expose the spiritualist Helena Blavatsky who had announced she was channelling ascended masters. Like Colonel Henry Steel … [Read more...]

Preachers of Love


September 30th is a big day in American Universalist history.Elhanan Winchester was born in Brookline, MA (apparently in those days Brookline was called Muddy River Village...) on this day in 1751. And, John Murray was born in Alton, Hampshire (not New Hampshire) in England on this day in 1741.Murray is a particular favorite of mine for many reasons, but not the least of which is his delightful telling of when he was a calvinist Methodist going with a delegation to reprimand and reclaim … [Read more...]

A Feast for the Archangels


Today is Michaelmas, or my preferred name the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael, or the shorter version the Feast of the Archangels.I think one of the great gifts to Western religions from Zoroastrianism was the idea of angels. Where they got it, I don't know with any certainty, but on first blush it does sort of look like an adaptation of local deities for monotheistic religions.Wherever they come from, the idea of spiritual beings that muck about between heaven and … [Read more...]

TELLING STORIES: A Yom Kippur Meditation

yom kippur

TELLING STORIES A Yom Kippur Meditation28 September 2014James Ishmael FordFirst Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandTextWe have seen Yitzhak Perlman Who walks the stage with braces on both legs, On two crutches. He takes his seat, unhinges the clasps of his legs, Tucking one leg back, extending the other, Laying down his crutches, placing the violin under his chin. On one occasion one of his violin strings broke. The audience grew silent but the violinist didn’t … [Read more...]

A Meditation on Breathing as Meditation (It’s a Zen Thing)

child blowing planet bubbles

Last night I had quite the dream. I was suffocating, and I wasn't. The thrust of the dream was that I was suffocating. I could feel the air shutting off. And, at the same time, I was aware I was breathing. I'd dived into some liminal space between sleep and waking, where the dream was driven by the reality of my pneumonia, but another part, a "waking" part knew that I really was breathing, if not optimally...Makes one appreciate taking a deep breath. Even if, as at the moment, it hurts a … [Read more...]

Leonard Cohen Tells us How to Meditate

leonard cohen

Actually, Lenard Cohen tells us how to live.The quote comes thanks to Zen teacher Brad Warner writing in response to something Sam Harris, who is many things, some delightful, but not a Zen teacher said about the relative merits of Zen meditation and Dzogchen. So, thanks, Brad, for pointing us to Zen priest Leonard Cohen's advice.“Sometimes when you no longer see yourself as the hero of your own drama, expecting victory after victory and you understand deeply that this is not paradise. S … [Read more...]

The Complete Consort: Thinking of T. S. Eliot

NPG P869(12); T.S. Eliot by Cecil Beaton

…I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.East Corker IIIThomas Stearns Eliot was born on this day in 1888.He was an important influence on my early spiritual t … [Read more...]

Uncle Shelby Bursts Onto the Stage

Shel Silverstein

Sheldon Allan Silverstein, sometimes known as Uncle Shelby, but probably best known as Shel Silverstein was born on this day in 1930. A man of many talents, but it looks like his lasting legacy is going to come from his children's books. Always a bit of a surprise to me, as I first encountered him sneaking looks at my father's Playboys while looking for other things. I was completely taken with his surreal cartoons. A person of many parts... … [Read more...]

THIS DEWDROP WORLD A Meditation on the Coming Ecological Catastrophe & the Only Way Through

child blowing planet bubbles

THIS DEWDROP WORLD A Meditation on the Coming Ecological Catastrophe & the Only Way ThroughJames Ishmael Ford21 September 2014First Unitarian Church Providence, Rhode IslandTextThis dewdrop world Is a dewdrop world And yet, and yet.Kobayashi IssaI’ve been thinking a lot about identity of late.In particular I find myself thinking about my recent visit with some thirty or so UU ministerial colleagues at a district clergy gathering. A handful of those present w … [Read more...]