Sunday, October 16, 2016

no such thing

There is no such thing as a person.
There are only restrictions and limitations.
The sum total of these defines the person.

You think you know yourself when you know what you are.
But you never know who you are. The person merely appears to be, like the space within the pot appears to have the shape and volume and smell of the pot.

See that you are not what you believe yourself to be.
Fight with all the strength at your disposal against the idea that you are nameable and describable.

You are not.

Refuse to think of yourself in terms of this or that.
There is no other way out of misery, which you have created for yourself through blind acceptance without investigation.

Suffering is a call for enquiry, all pain needs investigation.
Don’t be too lazy to think.

~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
with thanks to Love is a Place

no man's land

But oh!
How far I have to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!
For now, oh my God, it is to You alone that I can talk,
because nobody else will understand.
I cannot bring any other on this earth
into the cloud where I dwell in Your light,
that is,
Your Darkness,
where I am lost and abashed.

I cannot explain to any other
the anguish which is Your joy
nor the loss which is the possession of You,
nor the distance from all things
which is the arrival in You.
nor the death which is the birth in You
because I do not know anything about it myself
and all I know
is that I wish it were over
-- I wish it were begun.

You have contradicted everything.
You have left me in no man's land.

~ Thomas Merton
from Dancing in the Water of Life
with thanks to louie, louie

Saturday, October 15, 2016

no such thing

contemplation is not trance or ecstasy
not emotional fire and sweetness that come with religious exaltation
not enthusiasm, not the sense of being "seized" by an elemental force
and swept into liberation by mystical frenzy.
contemplation is no pain-killer.

In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing
that he no longer knows what God is;
this is a great gain,
because "God is not a what,"
not a "thing."

There is "no such thing" as God
because God is neither a "what" or a "thing"
but a pure "Who,"
the "Thou" before whom our inmost "I" springs
into awareness.

~ Thomas Merton
from New Seed of Contemplation
with thanks to louie, louie
sketch by the author

Sunday, September 25, 2016


~ Lucinda Williams

Sunday, September 4, 2016

lightly my darling

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. 
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. 
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. 
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. 

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. 
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. 
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. 
No rhetoric, no tremolos, 
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. 
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. 
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. 

So throw away your baggage and go forward. 
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, 
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. 
That’s why you must walk so lightly. 
Lightly my darling, 
on tiptoes and no luggage, 
not even a sponge bag, 
completely unencumbered.

~ Aldous Huxley
from Island

Thursday, July 7, 2016

roses underfoot

If anyone asks you to say who you are,
say without hesitation, soul
within soul within soul.

There's a pearl diver who does not know
how to swim!  No matter.
Pearls are handed him on the beach.

 We lovers laugh to hear, "This should be
more that and that more this,"
coming from people sitting in a wagon
tilted in a ditch.

Going in search of the heart, I found
a huge rose, and roses under all our feet!

How to say this to someone who denies it?
The robe we wear is the sky's cloth.

Everything is soul and flowering.

~ Rumi
Coleman Barks translation
art by Hilary Williams


Friday, June 3, 2016

the road home

An ant hurries along a threshing floor
with its wheat grain, moving between huge stacks
of wheat, not knowing the abundance 
all around.  It thinks its one grain
is all there is to love.

So we choose a tiny seed to be devoted to.
This body, one path, one teacher.
Look wider and farther.

The essence of every human being can see,
and what that essence-eye takes in,
the being becomes.  Saturn. Solomon!

The ocean pours through a jar,
and you might say it swims inside
the fish!  This mystery gives peace to
your longing and makes the road home home.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks

Thursday, April 21, 2016

the winds will blow their own freshness into you

Ansel Adams - Winter Sunrise

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, 
places to play in and pray in, 
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. 
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. 
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, 
and the storms their energy, 
while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn."

~ John Muir

John Muir was one of the earliest advocates of the national park idea, and its most eloquent spokesman. Born in Dunbar, Scotland, on April 21st 1838, he moved with his family to a Wisconsin farm in 1849. Muir's father, an itinerant Presbyterian minister, treated him harshly and insisted that he memorize the Bible. By age 11, he was able to recite three-quarters of the Old Testament by heart, and all of the New Testament.

Muir studied botany and geology at the University of Wisconsin and had a natural flair for inventions. In 1867, after recovering from a factory accident that left him temporarily blinded for several months, he cut short a promising career in industry to walk from Indiana to Florida, creating botanical sketches on his way. From there he sailed to California and then walked from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada – the "Range of Light" that would transform his life with his "unconditional surrender" to nature.

After working as a sheepherder in the high country for a season, Muir took a job in the Yosemite Valley in 1869, building a sawmill for James Mason Hutchings. In his free time, he roamed Yosemite, where he developed a scientific theory that the valley had been carved by glaciers. Muir felt a spiritual connection to nature; he believed that mankind is just one part of an interconnected natural world, not its master, and that God is revealed through nature.

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir at Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, 1903

To preach his gospel of nature, he moved to Oakland in 1873 to write articles for leading magazines like Overland Monthly, Scribner's and Harper's Magazine. Muir's articles made him nationally famous. He married Louie Wanda Strentzel and turned her family's farm in Martinez, California, into a profitable orchard business. But he grew restless to immerse himself in nature again, and, at Louie's urging, he traveled to Alaska's Glacier Bay and Washington's Mount Rainier. His writings brought national attention to two more places that would eventually become national parks.

Muir would also champion protection of the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. He was the public voice for setting aside the high country around Yosemite Valley as a national park in 1890, as well as for General Grant and Sequoia national parks. His efforts to make a large park in the Kings Canyon region of central California would not be successful, but later park supporters would take up the cause.

Muir's three-night camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 could be considered the most significant camping trip in conservation history. He was able to persuade Roosevelt to return Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to federal protection as part of Yosemite National Park. The trip would have a lasting impact on the president.

Muir's final crusade, to prevent the city of San Francisco from building a dam and creating a massive water reservoir in Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley, ended in bitter defeat with federal approval of the project in 1913. Muir died a year later, on Christmas Eve, at age 76.

Muir was a founder and the first president of the Sierra Club; Muir Woods National Monument, a grove of redwoods north of San Francisco, is named in his honor.

"If you think about all the gains our society has made, from independence to now, it wasn't government. It was activism. People think, 'Oh, Teddy Roosevelt established Yosemite National Park, what a great president.' BS. It was John Muir who invited Roosevelt out and then convinced him to ditch his security and go camping. It was Muir, an activist, a single person." 

~ Yvon Chouinard
 Patagonia founder and outdoor enthusiast

Monday, April 18, 2016

wind in the vast sky

If someone asks
about the mind of this monk,
say it is no more than
a passage of wind
in the vast sky.

~ Ryokan

inside the brushwood gate

I don't regard my life
as insufficient.
Inside the brushwood gate
there is a moon;
there are flowers.

~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind
by Kazuaki Tanahashi

I knew

Although from the beginning
I knew
the world is impermanent,
not a moment passes
when my sleeves are dry.

~ Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind

Sunday, April 17, 2016

the chance of humming

standing on two logs in a river
might do all right floating with the current
while humming in the

if one log is tied to a camel,
who is also heading south along the bank - at the same pace -
all could still be well
with the 

unless the camel
thinks he forgot something, and
abruptly turns upstream,


Most minds
do not live in the present
and can stick to a reasonable plan; most minds abruptly turn
and undermine the


~ Rumi
translation by Daniel Ladinsky
from Love Poems from God
watercolor by Kim Novak

Saturday, April 16, 2016

humility and compassion

Can true humility and compassion exist in our words and eyes
unless we know we too are capable of
any act?

~ Saint Francis of Assisi
translated by Daniel Ladinsky

the vase

I am always holding a priceless vase in my hands.
If you asked me about the deeper truths
of the path and I told you
the answers,

it would be like handing sacred relics to you.
But most have their hands tied
behind their

that is, most are not free of events their eyes have seen

and their ears have heard

and their bodies have felt.

Most cannot focus their abilities
in the present, and 
might drop what 
I said.

So I'll wait; I don't mind waiting until
your love for all
makes luminous
the now.

~ Rabia
(c. 717-801)
translation by Daniel Ladinsky

Friday, April 15, 2016

the way it is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

~ William Stafford
from The Way it Is, 1998
with thanks to alixe

William Stafford’s journey with words began most mornings before sunrise. This simple poem was written 26 days before he passed.
One of his students, the poet Naomi Shihab Nye, wrote, “In our time there has been no poet who revived human hearts and spirits more convincingly than William Stafford. There has been no one who gave more courage to a journey with words, and silence, and an awakened life.”