taking attendance ~ week 32

My word for 2016 is ATTEND.  img_1119-1

Although I don’t think attending is a superpower, some days I wish it was. On those days, I think if one more person promises that he or she has the superpower to right all wrongs and save US from THEM, I daydream about sticking a pencil in my (or someone else’s) eye. On my better days, however, I choose to acknowledge that while I have no superpowers and am responsible TO the World – I’m not responsible FOR it. I’m responsible FOR my life and how I choose to live it.

To that end, I will attend to what and whom I can. And I’ll remember that I don’t have to attend every argument, drama or political whack-o-doodleness to which I’m invited. Each Sunday , I’ll share something here – an image, a poem, a song or maybe even a story that’s helped me attend to what I can that week.

Joe Zarontonello, or Joe Z as most of his students/friends call him, is a teacher and poet who has spent the last 40 years practicing many different forms of meditation. Joe has studied with Buddhist teachers, and since 1982, with the Trappist monks at Gethsemani. Joe spends time on the road leading retreats, but most of the time he’s at home running Loose Leaf Hollow — a guesthouse for solitary or guided retreats in the rolling knobs
outside of Bardstown, Kentucky. In short, he lives his life in attendance.

Here’s his most recent Poem of the Week:

The Great Step Backward       


How in the world can I sit on my cushion in the zendo
in the stillness and diamond silence
when the world all around
seems to be going to hell in a hand basket?

There’s fear and loathing on the campaign trail.
Fascism is making a political comeback.
Drones fly and bombs fall in the Middle East.
And millions of refugees are fleeing for their lives.

How can I sit here in the zendo,
just breathing and listening deeply,
when the entire planet, nature included,
seems to be having a collective nervous breakdown?

Well, I’m practicing the completely counter-intuitive
“Great Step Backward” taken by all the masters–
the Buddha, Merton, Dorothy Day, the Dalai Lama–
to name just a few of my favorite Contemplative Activists.

Somehow all the great activists discover, in the silence
that arises between the out-breath and the in-breath,
that only Holy Wisdom will ever lead
to the Compassionate Action needed to heal the world.

All warriors, and all activists, should train in meditation.
The Great Step Backward–
the practice of Mindfulness, must precede Action.
Realizing this, no matter what headline screams–here I sit.

2 thoughts on “taking attendance ~ week 32

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