Saint Nicholas

According to local Irish legend, Saint Nicholas is buried in Co Kilkenny. The grave is said to be in the ruined Church of St Nicholas, Jerpoint. The church is all that remains of the medieval village, Newtown Jerpoint, that fell to ruin by the 17th century. The village was surrounded by the Cistercian Jerpoint Abbey, founded in 1183. Located on 1,880 acres, the abbey had its own gardens, watermills, cemetery, granary, and kitchens. It served as a launching point for Irish-Norman Crusaders from Kilkenny. The abbey was disolved in 1540.

The ruined church is now found on privately held farm land. Located to the west of the abbey, the church has an unusual grave slab with an image of a cleric, thought to be a bishop, and two other heads. The cleric is said to be St Nicholas and the heads, the two crusaders who, so the story goes, brought Nicholas’ remains back to Ireland. Though the church dates from 1170, the grave slab appears to be from the 1300s.

St. Nick
St. Nick

 

The tale tells of a band of Irish-Norman knights from Jerpoint, traveling to the Holy Land to take part in the Crusades. On retreat, as they headed home to Ireland, they seized St Nicholas’ remains, bringing them back to Kilkenny, where the bones were buried.

Evidence lends some posible credence to this tale as the Normans in Kilkenny were keen collectors of religious relics—possibly even more so than the Italians. And it is known that Norman knights from Kilkenny participated in the Holy Land Crusades.

Another version of the story tells of a French family, the de Frainets, who removed Nicholas’ remains from Myra to Bari, Italy, in 1169 when Bari was under the Normans. The de Frainets were crusaders to the Holy Land and also owned land in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny. After the Normans were forced out of Bari, the de Frainets moved to Nice, France, taking the relics with them. When Normans lost power in France, the Nicholas de Frainets packed up once again, moving to Ireland. This story has the relics being buried in Jerpoint in 1200.

This poem by Bill Watkins commemorates the legend:

‘The Bones of Santa Claus’

Where lie the bones of Santa Claus
To what holy spot each pilgrim draws
Which crypt conceals his pious remains
Safe from the wild wind, snows and rains.

It’s not in Rome his body lies
Or under Egypt’s azure skies
Constantinople or Madrid
His reliquary and bones are hid.

That saint protector of the child
Whose relics pure lie undefiled
His casket safe within it’s shrine
Where the shamrocks grow and rose entwine.

Devout wayfarer, cease your search
For in Kilkenny’s ancient church
Saint Nicholas’ sepulcher is found
Enshrined in Ireland’s holy ground.

So traveler rest and pray a while
To the patron saint of orphaned child
Whose bones were brought to Ireland’s shore
Safe from the Vandal, Hun and Moor.

Here lie the bones of Santa Claus
Secure beneath these marble floors
So gentle pilgrim, hear the call
And may Saint Nicholas bless you all.

article from Stair na hÉireann:  https://www.facebook.com/StairnahEireann— with Lisa Dublin and John JQ Quigley.
Guiding Light
Guiding Light
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Fasting the Mind

“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds” ~ Thomas Merton.

Feeding the head, if it’s not regulated, leads to a negative state of overload. It is the childish dream of acquisition without conflict; ‘I wanna do what I want’, taken on a mental level. If you let an animal, the animal part of your self, just do what it wants, it will eat and eat until it gets sick. It will never have time to process and digest, never get needed exercise or sharpen its wits through the trials of the hunt. It ends up fat, sick, and obsessed. The same with feeding the head. If we do nothing but read books, watch YouTube videos, even attend retreats and talks, but never actually exercise our mind through concerted actions, discipline it through reason, and rest it through silence, it too becomes fat and lazy.

overloaded
overloaded

We get caught in a downwardspiral, tending to blame everything on outer circumstances: “why can’t I do what I want, why won’t they let me do what I want, if I could do what I want I’d be happy”. If there is no reason or restraint put into action to exercise the mind and lend experience rather than ever fulfilled desire, we become bloated and sick, and place the blame for our discomfort on others and the world.

monkey mind
monkey mind

This is where isolations, or solitary retreats, come into play. If you can go into isolation, even small periods of ‘tech fasting’ during the week where you’re not putting information into your head nonstop, your mind can digest and comprehend. Otherwise, the imagination takes over and the mind gets fat and lazy, lost in the fog of information overload. You’ll have little chance for true realizations. You’ll instead be miserable; mentally constipated. And if you’re miserable, you’ll be always looking to be happy. See how this leads into a downward spiral: “I need to do what I want, don’t you understand that I’m miserable, why can’t I do what I want?” You’re not deprived, but exactly the opposite. You’re obsessed, craving more and more, and down the slippery slope you go.

beware of your head
beware of your head

If you can fast the mind through solitary retreats, no books to read, no YouTube videos to watch, no teachers to listen to, no friends to pump you up, then you can let the mind become lean and free. Even short quiet periods during the week, such as going for a walk around the block, without looking at your phone, can work wonders. You’ll think better, you’ll open the door for resolution. This is why solitary retreats can be so valuable, especially nowadays when our minds have become arrogant and obsessed through constant exposure to the internet, ‘smart’ phones, and their ceaseless stream of meaningless information. Take a walk, and watch your head rather than stuff it. Go on a solitary retreat and fast your mind, let it get slim and trim, and perhaps something meaningful will slip through.

– Bob Fergeson

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Images of Essence

Steps
Steps

Images of Essence, featuring Nostalgiawest photographer Bob Fergeson and poet Shawn Nevins is available in a .pdf file format for viewing on your computer or phone for only $6.99.  For iPhones and iMac, it’s available from Apple for only $3.99!

Great idea for Christmas!

Click on the links below to get yours now!

For .pdf file download, click here:

http://www.blurb.com/b/606747-images-of-essence

For iPhone from the Apple Store, click here:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id662178671

Open Trail
Open Trail

 from the book:

“Lovely”Lovely

Without lifting a hand,
the world becomes more
than I could ever make it.

 

* * *

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Beauty as a Path Within

Trough Springs Canyon
Trough Springs Canyon

One fine day in the spring of 1997-8 or so, I was hiking out of Trough Springs Canyon. I had made the trip to the creek in the bottom, taken my weekly shower in the rarity of flowing water in the otherwise dry desert, and was walking up the thousand feet of elevation gain to my truck back at the trailhead. The past week or two had been spent in solitary retreat, fasting and reading, sitting in the desert’s immense silence. The exercise of hiking provided a break in the routine; I was in good spirits as I trudged up the narrow canyon through the large rocks.
The end of the ridge I would soon be walking on came into view above and to my left. From the perspective of being down below the sheer cliffs it took on the appearance of a peak, a glimmering tower of red sandstone set against a stark blue desert sky. I couldn’t stop looking up at it; it began to capture my attention in a strange way. After a few glances, I stopped at a switchback and turned towards it, and was hit with a beauty I have rarely seen. The peak hadn’t changed, but in that instant something in me was open and unguarded, and I couldn’t turn my head from the view. I gazed in awe at the rock, and could not believe it to be so maddeningly beautiful.

Heartbreak Peak 2
Heartbreak Peak 2

The view had somehow opened me up. I don’t want to sound too poetic, or grandiose, but that’s what happened. My heart began to ache, both figuratively and physically. My chest was in agony, and I thought of William Blake’s words, “…portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.” I could not hold the beauty, it was too much for my heart to bear. So it broke.
I do not wish you to think I’m exaggerating. It happened so fast and unannounced that I had no time to stop it, something I probably would have done if I could have. But the process had begun, and all I could do was drop to my knees on the rocky trail and weep. I had wept tears before: when my father died and I realized what his life had been like, for him. And when my dreams of the secluded life on the Zen Master’s ashram had been dashed from a good dose of reality. But this time it was somehow different. I was not weeping for the loss of something, or from the shock of hitherto unseen truths; I was simply allowing the beauty of my own true existence, reflected in the desert peak, to become apparent and real. I could now accept it, even though my mind could not believe it.

Trough Springs View
Trough Springs View

My heart had been opened, and in an unselfish manner. There was no loss of a loved one, or dashed hopes, but simply the seeing of things objectively, letting the beauty come through before it could be washed clean of its power by the reasoning mind. It flowed through unhindered, unabashed, and unexpected. I no longer had a need to filter perception; to keep my heart safe and secluded from its own treasures. I began to weep not only for the impossible view before me, but at my own heart’s opening. It was free, free of the tight bonds of reason and practicality. Free of the ‘shoulds’, the rules, the restraints. Not free to ‘do what it wants’, to indulge in the childish fantasies of teenage youth, but free to simply be, without correction.
Every time I hike that trail I try to capture with my camera the beauty of what I’ve come to call Heartbreak Peak. The photographs are pale copies, some better, some worse, but the view itself is still astounding. What hits me when I now re-visit that lonely canyon isn’t as much memory, but gratitude. Gratitude that something opened a crack in my heart to let in Grace and Love. That spontaneous breaking of the prison wall that was keeping me locked up as well as secure, allowed the higher part of me to make contact. It forged a connection from the low to the high, from the mundane to the eternal. I can now walk that trail, I try to visit it every year or two, and sing praises to my Self. I was rescued and delivered from the ‘secure’ unconsciousness of a buried heart, to blindingly clear Light and Love.

Heartbreak Peak
Heartbreak Peak

Now that I’ve had a few years to dwell on the above event, it’s become clearer to me what happened, and why it’s so important for anyone on the spiritual path. My Zen teacher used to take those who could make the trip, to the east coast seashore in hopes of catching that Beauty through a sunrise over the ocean. He had seen before what an effect this could have on the heart, if the person was ready. Maurice Nicoll wrote of Beauty and the Puer Aeternus, how the eternal child is our intermediary between the mundane and the divine, and how Beauty can be a door through which we allow the divine to make contact. Before the above event, the trip to the seashore and the words of the wise were only theories with which I had no real relationship.
If you have the chance to allow Beauty to break you, whether through a sunset, the eyes of a child, or a desert peak, don’t fear. It may seem you’re losing control and it’s too much to bear, and it is. But don’t be afraid, for if you follow Beauty and Love within to your own heart, the Infinite may become your Home.

– Bob Fergeson

Trough Springs Trail
Trough Springs Trail
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Bart Marshall – Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview

Bart Marshall
Bart Marshall

Bart Marshall describes his spiritual path as “self-guided eclectic.” It began with a death experience in Vietnam in 1968 and ended in 2004 on an airplane at 30,000 feet over the Atlantic as he returned from a workshop with Douglas Harding. In those intervening years he “turned over every rock” in his quest for a final answer, but counts three teachers as the most influential: Richard Rose, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and Douglas Harding.

He founded Self Inquiry Group (SIG) in Raleigh, North Carolina (www.selfinquiry.org), and for many years held weekly meetings before stepping back in 2013. Sometimes called “the reluctant guru” by those who know him, Bart nevertheless travels widely to speak when asked, and teaches retreats and intensives with Deborah Westmoreland (Conscious TV interview) events that have proven to be highly transformative for participants.

Bart is the author of The Perennial Way: New English Versions of Yoga Sutras, Dhammapada, Heart Sutra, Ashtavakra Gita, Faith Mind Sutra, and Tao Te Ching, and an upcoming book, Christ Sutras (Fall 2014), which contains the complete sayings of Jesus from all sources arranged as topical sermons. He is currently completing a book of essays on spiritual matters, Becoming Vulnerable to Grace.

Interview recorded 11/8/2014

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Points and Patterns by Shawn Nevins

 Points
  First, one must realize that the only answer to what ails them is a total answer. The only hope lies in discovering if there is anything permanent in the self or even in the Universe. Without certainty in regards to our fundamental nature, all our life is built upon vagueness, hopes, and fears.
  Second, one must find ways of exploring, searching for the source of their awareness. With introspection, one becomes aware that they are an observer of their experience and even their thoughts. Is this awareness permanent, though? Is it of the body or does it emanate from another source?
  Third, one must focus their energy on one priority. It should be obvious to you and your friends for what you use your time and thoughts.
  Fourth, one must remember the urgency of the task. You are moving toward Truth, but could always be moving quicker. Evidence points to the possibility of various after-death fates, but the discovery of the Foundation of All negates the concern for body and mind. It is not wise to die in ignorance.
  Fifth, one must watch for patterns of behavior that hinder the accomplishment of the above tasks. Refer to Richard Rose’s “List of Obstacles” [in chapter five of The Albigen Papers] and add “doubt in our ability to achieve.”
  Sixth, you create the details of these steps and you continually explore systems and teachers, picking and choosing that which appeals to your intuition and reason. Every person has multiple locks or blocks and will require different keys along the way. Teachers and systems are aids for you to create your own path

 

  Patterns
  1. By studying patterns, we become aware of how few decisions we make – things happen to us. By this humbling realization, we increase our desire to know. Humility brings power. The humble man admits his robotic nature and uses that nature to better his quest. Thus, we establish a pattern of increasing frustration and increasing desire for an answer.
  2. You did not bring yourself to where you are. Yet your belief in will keeps you where you are (i.e. guilt keeping you stuck).
  3. All of your flaws and failings are already known – there is nothing to hide. The pretense of hiding ties you in knots.
  4. To discover patterns requires memory. Our flawed memory requires aids such as: keeping a journal, time alone for recollection and reflection, and the memory of our friends.
  5. What is one negative pattern you live in today? How did it manifest in the past?
* * * * *
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The Cloud of Unknowing

Written around the year 1375, The Cloud of Unknowing was written as a letter of advice to a young novice just setting out on the path of contemplation.  The author, believed to have been a country parson, writes in a personal, direct style, hoping to share his knowledge of contemplation with the young would-be monk.

  The theme of the Cloud of Unknowing is of turning one’s attention within, away from the mind and its objects. The attention is turned inward upon itself, and since it is now focused on nothing the mind can understand, sees only a ‘cloud of unknowing’, a seeming nothingness. For most seekers, this can be frustrating, if not impossible, for it gives no immediate reward, or even an object or image for their mind to grasp. To simply aim one’s attention at its own source is to look back up the ray of one’s awareness, where the mind and ego cannot go. This also takes the attention off of the body and its desires and fears, along with the senses and outer environment.

Cloud
Cloud

For when you first begin to undertake it, all that you find is a darkness, a sort of cloud of unknowing; you cannot tell what it is, except that you experience in your will a simple reaching out to God [a naked intent unto God]. This darkness and cloud is always between you and your God, no matter what you do, and it prevents you from seeing him clearly by the light of understanding in your reason, and from experiencing him in sweetness of love in your affection.

 – You are to smite upon that thick cloud of unknowing with a sharp dart of longing love. -… no man can think of God himself. Therefore, it is my wish to leave everything that I can think of and choose for my love the thing that I cannot think. Because he can certainly be loved, but not thought. He can be taken and held by love but not by thought. – Cloud of Unknowing
.
The gift of The Cloud is its simple message of going beyond the mind. We cannot find our Source, or “God”, by thinking, or through worded thought, but only through what it calls love or longing. This may be called a vector, a direction we follow through our intuition, even after we have gone beyond our mind. It leads us into an uncharted realm, a cloud of unknowing in the back of beyond, where we lose our ‘self’. If we continue into this Great Unknown, guided by this longing, perhaps we will meet our Self,  and find we have been there all along.
.
For whoever hears or reads about all this, and thinks that it is fundamentally an activity of the mind, and proceeds then to work it all out along these lines, is on quite the wrong track. He manufactures an experience that is neither spiritual or physical. He is dangerously misled and in real peril. – Cloud of Unknowing

 

http://www.mysticmissal.org/archive4_cloud_of_unknowing.htm

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Mountain High – Touching the Void with Bob Fergeson

“When the thought and the mind goes away, all you are left with is the real part of yourself…. In the quiet, there is a sense of eternality and unconditional love.”
~ Bob Fergeson

The sense of eternality marks the work of photographer, mountaineer, and spiritual teacher Bob Fergeson. Set among the Rocky Mountains, Bob’s story weaves the passions of the creative life and a love for the outdoors into a compelling narrative of a spiritual search. From his childhood attempts to capture moments of ethereal, quiet beauty with a Brownie box camera, Bob’s life careened towards a crushing encounter with alcoholism, then flowered in a time of self exploration through painting, drawing, and dreamwork, led to years of spiritual disciplines, and culminated in a final encounter with Truth that left him weeping on a Colorado mountainside.

Whether you frame your quest as a search for God, truth, enlightenment, awakening, certainty, or an aching longing to fill a void inside, you will find this feature-length documentary is more than just a film, it is a resource that you will mine for inspiration and advice again and again.

Stream Or Download The Movie:

If you want High Definition, the digital version is for you. It’s also great for avoiding postage costs.

For the $9.95 budget version: mountainhigh.vhx.tv/buy/mountain-high-budget-edition
For the $19.95 supporting version (includes bonus footage): mountainhigh.vhx.tv/buy/mountain-high-supporting-price

Questions about streaming and downloading? See this FAQ.

for more info: http://www.poetryinmotionfilms.com/mountain-high.htm

 

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Going Within – by Bob Cergol

Richard Rose writes in his booklet on meditation:
“The ultimate aim of meditation is to go within. Going within means to find Reality by finding the Real part of ourselves. It does not mean merely playing around inside the head with random observations which we have discussed as being important to understanding the natural mechanism of man’s mind.”
“When we begin to meditate in the attempt to go within we should simply observe our self. We cannot really do it simply. It is a very profound task or attempt.”
He also writes in that booklet of the levels of meditation, of which “Going Within” is the 4th level. The instruction given is: “Employ whatever necessary.”

 

What does it mean to “go within”?
It’s not a place, and you don’t really “go” anywhere. It refers to the direction of one’s attention.

 

What is it that you do to “go within”?
Life is basically an experience. Experience is a continuous stream. We can categorize our experience as “inner” and “outer.” Inner experience refers to the totality of our individual reaction to outer experience — and on another level to inner experience itself in a spiraling, even “tail-chasing” process so the line between inner and outer is blurred — and ultimately may prove to be a false distinction, i.e. all experience is external….
Going within means a shift in the object of seeing or listening, of one’s attention from the perceptions and events swirling around us to the seeing or listening to our reactions to life’s experiences.

 

What determines those reactions?
We engage ceaselessly in evaluating whether our sense of self is affirmed or diminished. The former is pleasure. The latter is pain.

 

Which reaction is dominant for you? What is its source?
What fills your attention most of the time?
I believe that fear of death develops in concert with the development of identity, for the simple reason that intellectually we know that the body is mortal and therefore cannot be the vehicle that will ensure survival of that identity. The escape mechanism is to disassociate from the body, place oneself anterior to it and take possession of it, as it were. But since there is no hard proof, there is this core knowledge of the lie, and our lives become an incessant, doomed-to-fail effort at proving the independent existence of that identity by attempting to magnify it through experience.

 

What is the motivation for shifting your attention away from external experience to look at inner experience? Or said another way, what motivates you to examine what is occupying your attention?
The primary motivation is whenever experience diminishes the sense of self. It is not really motivation since the shift is a reaction. If looking at the internal experience of reaction is painful, the automatic reaction is to shift the attention away either by engaging in rationalizing analysis or by engaging in alternative mental or physical activity.

 

What result do you expect from “going within” as you conceive it?

 

Consciousness versus Awareness: definitions
The dictionary defines the words “consciousness” and “awareness” as synonyms, and each word is used in the definition for the other. The definition for both words depends on there being an object to which consciousness or awareness applies. This implies that there must be a subject who possesses the attribute of consciousness. One is either conscious of something or not. In this sense the words are verbs and denote action by an individual being — even if that action is itself either automatic — or an unconscious action!
Students of the esoteric have this concept that “God” or the “Source” is pure “awareness.” They conceive this awareness to be a possession or attribute of God’s, just as they perceive it to be an attribute or possession of their own self — or one that can be acquired. Realization is conceived as adding god-like awareness or consciousness to this same personal self. This all stems from an egocentric point of reference that places their ego anterior to everything else. Seekers of enlightenment have this idea that they will become god-like, or one with god, or attain this god-like awareness, and so there is the presumption of personal immortality and eternal ego consciousness.

 

Let’s see how this would apply to God, Supreme Being or Transcendental Awareness:
What is the object of this consciousness or awareness? What is God aware of?
If God’s awareness is without object then, how is God alive according to our concept of being? Does God know that he’s alive?
Does the knowledge of “being alive” require an identity? Would you be alive without your identity? — Without your body? Without your mind? Without — YOU!?
If God is all-knowing, what does he think about?
If God is beyond all thought, what occupies his attention?
If God is the object of his own attention, how long is God’s attention span?
If God is beyond time and exists eternally, then how could God not be eternally bored with himself?
If you believe in your own immortality, or even the possibility, what will the object of your attention be for eternity?
Can you imagine yourself, your identity with all its history, as the object of your consciousness for eternity — with no ability to alter that history? Is that realization? — Or the definition of Hell?

 

*
I distinguish between the two words consciousness and awareness.
For me, consciousness is personal and temporary; awareness is impersonal and timeless. Consciousness is the experience of individuality, and awareness is that which powers it. The “experience of individuality” is motion on a background of immobility — a whisper that cannot alter or penetrate the silence. Consciousness is a point. Consciousness is the point at which the un-manifested intersects the manifested. Awareness is boundless.
Awareness is consciousness without an object, unless you wish to say that awareness is its own object.
How then does an individual become aware of that which is anterior to that individual? The question seems a contradiction — indeed a Koan!
The short answer is by “abandoning the ego-centric position” — another paradox. The verb abandon implies action by the ego, which action itself would reinforce the supremacy of the ego’s position. Therefore it is said that the ego is taken from you or dropped. When one “gives up” or “expires” it is not a voluntary action but a spontaneous acceptance or natural consequence….
The process is negative or subtractive. The end result is not created by the process.
  *
– Bob Cergol
*
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Deduction, or Induction?

Trap:thinking that Liberation is a conclusion, a deduction: a product of thinking. If we are identified with the mind, we become trapped into believing it will eventually solve the problem of self-definition and thus leave us in peace. But the mind being a problem creator as well as solver, it will simply lead us into a new problem complete with a new, better solution, and so on, without end. Even worse, if we’re lucky, it may force us to constantly defend, project, and renew any thought-based solution until we wear ourselves out, and are forced back to honest self-observation.
Trick: there is no solution, for there is no problem. Peace of mind is dependent on nature and circumstance; liberation is our true and present nature. While a quiet mind is a necessary step and found through effort, it is not the final goal. By a combination of watching our thoughts and looking at the looker, we become detached from the mind, and find that true peace lies beyond it. Then, circumstance and our daily life will no longer be the problem, since a solution is no longer sought in thought, world, or mind. No longer hounded by the mind to fix ourselves, our lives simplify, and we reside in peace within, while the mind and its world of thought is relegated to practical matters, only.
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