Wednesday, January 16, 2019

no one

No one home.
fallen pine needles
scattered at the door.

~ Zen Master Ryokan
from Sky Above, Great Wind 
The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan
by Kazuaki Tanahashi

written in my hut on a snowy evening

Reflecting over seventy years,
I am tired of judging right from wrong.
Faint traces of a path trodden in deep night snow.
A stick of incense under the rickety window.

~ Ryokan 
from Sky Above, Great Wind

Monday, January 14, 2019

uncertainties about identity

Image result for the past art


The past is all of one texture—whether feigned or suffered
—whether acted out in three dimensions, or only witnessed
 in that small theatre of the brain which we keep
 brightly lighted all night long, after the jets are down,
 and darkness and sleep reign undisturbed 
in the remainder of the body. 
 There is no distinction on the face of our experiences;
 one is vivid indeed, and one dull, and one pleasant, 
and another agonising to remember;
 but which of them is what we call true, 
and which a dream, there is not one hair to prove. 
 The past stands on a precarious footing; 
another straw split in the field of metaphysic, and behold us robbed of it.


the past, ... is lost for ever: our old days and deeds, our old selves, too,
and the very world in which these scenes were acted, all brought down to the
 same faint residuum as a last night's dream, to some incontinuous images,
and an echo in the chambers of the brain.  Not an hour, not a mood, 
not a glance of the eye, can we revoke; it is all gone, past conjuring.  And 
yet conceive us robbed of it, conceive that little thread of memory that
we trail behind us broken at the pocket's edge; and in what naked nullity
should we be left! For we only guide ourselves, and only know ourselves,
by these air painted pictures of the past.

~  Robert Louis Stevenson
 from A Chapter on Dreams,
The Complete Works of Robert Louis Stevenson 
art by Arthur Boyd

with thanks to Five Branch Tree

Saturday, January 12, 2019

a basis of peace

~ Rupert Spira


your presence is a healing calm

Cry out all your grief, your
disappointments! Say them in

Farsi, then Greek.  It doesn't 
matter whether you're from Rum

or Arabia.  Praise the beauty
and kindness praised by every

living being.  You hurt and have 
sharp desire, yet your presence

is a healing calm.  Sun, moon,
bonfire, candle, which?  Someone

says your flame is about to be 
dowsed, but you're not smoke or

fire. You're infinitely more
alive.  Say how that is! This

fluttering love will not stay
much longer in my chest.  Soon it 

will fly like a falcon to its
master, like a owl saying HU.

~ Rumi
from The Soul of Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks

this giving up

Can you find another market like this?
Where, with your one rose
you can buy hundreds of rose gardens?

Where, for one seed you get a whole wilderness?
For one weak breath, the divine wind?

You have been fearful of being absorbed
in the ground, or drawn up by the air.

Now your waterbead lets go
and drops into the ocean, where it came from.

This giving up is not a repenting.
It is a deep honoring of yourself.

When the ocean comes to you as a lover,
marry, at once, quickly for God's sake.

Don't postpone it. Existence has no better gift.
No amount of searching will find this.

A perfect falcon, for no reason,
has landed on your shoulder, and become yours.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks

a living flame

Love's valley is the next, and here desire
Will plunge the pilgrim into seas of fire,
Until his very being is en-flamed
And those whom fire rejects turn back ashamed.
The lover is a man who flares and burns,
Whose face is fevered, who in frenzy yearns,
Who knows no prudence, who will gladly send
A hundred worlds toward their blazing end,
Who knows of neither faith nor blasphemy,
Who has no time for doubt or certainty,
To whom both good and evil are the same,
And who is neither, but a living flame.
But you! Lukewarm in all you say or do,
Backsliding, weak - oh no, this is not you!
True lovers give up everything they own
To steal one moment with the Friend alone -
They make no vague, procrastinating vow,
But risk their livelihood and risk it now.
Until their hearts are burned, how can they flee
From their desire's incessant misery?
They are the falcon when it flies distressed
In circles, searching for its absent nest -
They are the fish cast up upon the land
That seeks the sea and shudders on the sand.
Love here is fire; its thick smoke clouds the head -
When love has come the intellect has fled;
It cannot tutor love, and all its care
Supplies no remedy for love's despair.
If you could seek the unseen you would find
Love's home, which is not reason or the mind,
And love's intoxication tumbles down
The world's designs for glory and renown -
If you could penetrate their passing show
And see the world's wild atoms, you would know
That reason's eyes will never glimpse one spark
Of shining love to mitigate the dark.
Love leads whoever starts along our Way;
The noblest bow to love and must obey -
But you, unwilling both to love and tread
The pilgrim's path, you might as well be dead!
The lover chafes, impatient to depart,
And longs to sacrifice his life and heart.

~ Farid Attar
translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis
from The Conference of Birds

Unity's inclusive span

The pilgrim sees no form but His and knows
That He subsists beneath all passing shows --
The pilgrim comes from Him whom he can see,
Lives in Him, with Him, and beyond all three.
Be lost in Unity's inclusive span,
Or you are human but not yet a man.
Whoever lives, the wicked and the blessed,
Contains a hidden sun within his breast --
Its light must dawn though dogged by long delay;
The clouds that veil it must be torn away --
Whoever reaches to his hidden sun
Surpasses good and bad and knows the One.
The good and bad are here while you are here;
Surpass yourself and they will disappear.

 ~ Farid Attar
English version by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis
art by Andrew Wyeth

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

profound not-knowing

One of my favorite things to do is to sit with my elderly father who has Alzheimers. It's a beautiful thing just to sit a place of profound not-knowing with him, a place where I do not know what to say or do. I sit, without expectation, without trying to 'fix' him, or manipulate his experience in any way. I just listen, without trying to make things better in the moment, without playing the role of 'the one who knows'. As consciousness, I am simply available to him. I don't need to 'know' anything in this place, for we are each other. I simply cannot tell who is the one with memory loss. 

And here, I notice a deep and profound acceptance of any wave of frustration or sadness that appears in the ocean of experience. His pain, my pain, there is no difference at all. 

And this seems to me to be what true relationship is at its very core - meeting, really meeting in the moment, without hope, without a future, without expectation, without a story. Coming face to face with yourself. Nobody meeting nobody. 

I love what Nisargadatta Maharaj says: 

"With the dissolution of the personal 'I', 
personal suffering disappears." 

But crucially, he also adds: 

"What remains is the great sadness of compassion". 

Yes, the absence of 'I' is not cold detachment and neo-Advaita world-rejection, 
but intimacy of the most unspeakable kind. 

"Thanks, Dad, for keeping me grounded." 

~ Jeff Foster
from his newsletter: Life Without a Centre
art by picasso



There is no where in you a paradise that is no place and there
You do not enter except without a story.

To enter there is to become unnameable.
Whoever is nowhere is nobody, and therefore cannot exist except as unborn:
No disguise will avail him anything

Such a one is neither lost nor found.

But he who has an address is lost.
They fall, they fall into apartments and are securely established!
They find themselves in streets. They are licensed
To proceed from place to place
They now know their own names
They can name several friends and know
Their own telephones must some time ring.

If all telephones ring at once, if all names are shouted at once and all cars crash at one crossing:
If all cities explode and fly away in dust
Yet identities refuse to be lost. There is a name and a number for everyone.
There is a definite place for bodies, there are pigeon holes for ashes:
Such security can business buy!

Who would dare to go nameless in so secure a universe?
Yet, to tell the truth, only the nameless are at home in it.

They bear with them in the center of nowhere the unborn flower of nothing:
This is the paradise tree. It must remain unseen until words end and arguments are silent.

~ Thomas Merton
from The Selected Poems of Thomas Merton


Sunday, January 6, 2019

the silent self

Image result for noise art

There is a silent self within us whose presence is disturbing precisely because it is so silent: it can't be spoken. It has to remain silent. To articulate it, to verbalize it, is to tamper with it, and in some way to destroy it. 

Now let us frankly face the fact that our culture is one which is geared in many ways to help us evade any need to face this inner, silent self. We live in a state of constant semi attention to the sound of voices, music, traffic, or the generalized noise of what goes on around us all the time. This keeps us immersed in a flood of racket and words, a diffuse medium in which our consciousness is half diluted: we are not quite "thinking", not entirely responding, but we are more or less there. 
We are not fully present and not entirely absent, not fully withdrawn, yet not completely available. 
It cannot be said that we are really participating in anything and we may in fact, be half conscious of our alienation and resentment. Yet we derive a certain comfort from the vague sense that we are "part of something" -- although we are not quite able to define what that something is -- and probably wouldn't want to define it even if we could. 
We just float along in the general noise. Resigned and indifferent, we share semi-consciously in the mindless mind of Muzak and radio commercials which pass for "reality".

- Thomas Merton
from  Love & Living
art by Andy Mercer
 with thanks to louie, louie


Friday, January 4, 2019

to breathe nothing but silence


Minds which are separated pretend to blend in one another's language.
The marriage of souls in concepts is mostly an illusion.

Thoughts which travel outward bring back reports from You from outward things, but a dialogue with You, uttered through the world, always ends by being a dialogue with my own reflection in the stream of time.  With You there is no dialogue, unless You choose a mountain, circle it with cloud and print Your words in fire upon the mind of Moses.

What was delivered to Moses on tablets of stone, as the fruit of lighting and thunder, 
is now more thoroughly born in our souls 
as quietly as the breath of our own being.

from Dialogues with Silence

To deliver oneself up, to hand oneself over, entrust oneself completely to the silence of a wide landscape of woods and hills, or sea, or desert; to sit still while the sun comes up over the land and fills its silences with light.  To pray and work in the morning and to labor in meditation in the evening when night falls upon that land and when the silence fills itself with darkness and with stars.  This is a true and special vocation.  There are few who are willing to belong completely to such silence, to let it soak into their bones, to breathe nothing but silence, to feed on silence, and to turn the very substance of their life into a living and vigilant silence.

Thomas Merton
from Thoughts in Solitude
sketch by the author


The only silence we know is the silence when noise stops, the silence when thought stops - but that is not silence. Silence is something entirely different, like beauty, like love.  And this silence is not the product of a quiet mind, it is not the product of the brain cells which have understood the whole structure and say, 'for God's sake be quiet'; then the brain cells themselves produce the silence and that is not silence.  Nor is silence the outcome of attention in which the observer is observed; then there is no friction, but that is not silence.

You are waiting for me to describe what this silence is so that you can compare it, interpret it, carry it away and bury it.  It cannot be described.  What can be described is the known, and freedom from the known can come into being only when there is a dying every day to the known, to the hurts, the flatteries, to all the images you have made, to all your experiences - dying every day so that the brain cells themselves become fresh, young, innocent.  But that innocency, that freshness, that quality of tenderness and gentleness, does not produce love;  it is not the quality of beauty or silence.

That silence which is not the silence of the ending of noise is only a small beginning.  It is like going through a small hole to an enormous, wide, expansive ocean, to an immeasurable, timeless state.  But this you cannot understand verbally unless you have understood the whole structure of consciousness and the meaning of pleasure, sorrow and despair, and the brain cells themselves have become quiet.  Then perhaps you may come upon that mystery which nobody can reveal to you and nothing can destroy.  A living mind is a still mind, a living mind is a mind that has no center and therefore no space and time.  Such a mind is the limitless and that is the only truth, that is the only reality.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from Freedom from the Known
photo by Shreve Stockton

silence II

Silence is not a lack of words. 
Silence is not a lack of music. 
Silence is not a lack of curses. 
Silence is not a lack of screams. 
Silence is not a lack of colors 
or voices or bodies or whistling wind. 
Silence is not a lack of anything. 

Silence is resting, nestling 
in every leaf of every tree, 
in every root and branch. 
Silence is the flower sprouting 
upon the branch. 

Silence is the mother singing 
to her newborn babe. 
Silence is the mother crying 
for her stillborn babe. 
Silence is the life of all 
these babes, whose breath 
is a breath of God. 

Silence is seeing and singing praises. 
Silence is the roar of ocean waves. 
Silence is the sandpiper dancing 
on the shore. 
Silence is the vastness of a whale. 
Silence is a blade of grass. 

Silence is sound 
And silence is silence. 
Silence is love, even 
the love that hides in hate. 

Silence is the pompous queen 
and the harlot and the pimp 
hugging his purse on a crowded street. 

Silence is the healer dreaming 
the plant, the drummer drumming 
the dream. It is the lover's 
exhausted fall into sleep. 
It is the call of morning birds. 

Silence is God's beat tapping all hearts. 

Silence is the star kissing a flower. 

Silence is a word, a hope, a candle 
lighting the window of home. 

Silence is everything --the renewing sleep 
of Earth, the purifying dream of Water, 
the purifying rage of Fire, the soaring 
and spiraling flight of Air. It is all 
things dissolved into no-thing--Silence 
is with you always.....the Presence 
of I AM 

~ Elaine Maria Upton

Thursday, January 3, 2019

a state of magical simplicity

To practice Zen means to realize one's existence 
moment after moment,
 rather than letting life unravel in regret of the past 
and daydreaming of the future.
To "rest in the present"
 is a state of magical simplicity, 
although attainment of this state is not as simple as it sounds.

~  Peter Matthiessen
 from 'Nine-Headed Dragon River'