Friday, April 30, 2010

A day comes


A day comes
when the mouth grows tired
of saying, "I."
Yet it is occupied
still by a self which must speak.
Which still desires,
is curious.
Which believes it has also a right.
What to do?
The tongue consults with the teeth
it knows will survive
both mouth and self,
which grin - it is their natural pose-
and say nothing.

~  Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, April 29, 2010

when we say goodbye

Why, when we say goodbye
at the end of an evening, do we deny
we are saying it at all, as in We'll
be seeing you, or I'll call, or Stop in,
somebody's always at home? Meanwhile, our friends,
telling us the same things, go on disappearing
beyond the porch light into the space
which except for a moment here or there
is always between us, no matter what we do.
Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens
when the space gets too large
for words – a gesture so innocent
and lonely, it could make a person weep
for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown
voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel
patting and stroking the growing distance
between their nameless ship and the port
they are leaving, as if to promise I'll always
remember, and just as urgently, Always
remember me. It is loneliness, too,
that makes the neighbor down the road lift
two fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes
day after day on his way to work in the hello
that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised
fingers to for him, locked in his masculine
purposes and speeding away inside the glass?
How can our waving wipe away the reflex
so deep in the woman next door to smile
and wave on her way into her house with the mail,
we'll never know if she is happy
or sad or lost? It can't. Yet in that moment
before she and all the others and we ourselves
turn back to our disparate lives, how
extraordinary it is that we make this small flag
with our hands to show the closeness we wish for
in spite of what pulls us apart again
and again: the porch light snapping off,
the car picking its way down the road through the dark.

~ Wesley McNair

feel your senses gather themselves together

Learn self-conquest, preserve thus for a time,
and you will perceive very clearly the advantage which you gain from it.
As soon as you apply yourself to contemplation,
you will at once feel your senses gather themselves together:
they seem like bees which return to the hive
and there shut themselves up to work at the making of honey.

~ Saint Teresa of Avila

Complete concentration is complete relaxation.
 The ability to work on a job with total concentration, 
and then put it out of your mind when necessary,
 is a skill which can be cultivated. 
Through practice, 
we can learn to drop whatever we are doing and turn our attention to a more urgent need.
 When you are absorbed in a favorite book and your partner interrupts you, 
set the book aside and give your complete attention to what he or she is saying.
 If part of your mind is on the conversation and part on what you have been reading, 
there will be division and tension in the mind. 
When we practice this one-pointedness during the day,
 it will greatly help our meditation.
 The mind will much more quickly become recollected. 

~  Eknath Easwaran



Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Large Red Man Reading


There were ghosts that returned to earth to hear his phrases,
As he sat there reading, aloud, the great blue tabulae.
They were those from the wilderness of stars that had expected more.
There were those that returned to hear him read from the poem of life,
Of the pans above the stove, the pots on the table, the tulips among them.
They were those that would have wept to step barefoot into reality,
That would have wept and been happy, have shivered in the frost
And cried out to feel it again, have run fingers over leaves
And against the most coiled thorn, have seized on what was ugly
And laughed, as he sat there reading, from out of the purple tabulae,
The outlines of being and its expressings, the syllables of its law:
Poesis, poesis, the literal characters, the vatic lines,
Which in those ears and in those thin, those spended hearts,
Took on color, took on shape and the size of things as they are
And spoke the feeling for them, which was what they had lacked.
~  Wallace Stevens

The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.
~ William Butler Yeats

Listen to your life

Listen to your life. 
See it for the fathomless mystery that it is.
 In the boredom and the pain of it 
no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, 
smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it
 because in the last analysis all moments are key moments,
 and life itself is grace.
~  Frederick Buechner

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A ruin is never simply empty

A ruin is never simply empty.  It remains a vivid temple of absence.  All other inhabited dwellings hold their memory and their presence is continually added to and deepened by succeeding generations.  It is, consequently, quite poignant that a long since vacated ruin still retain echoes of the presence of the vanished ones.  The German poet Friedrich Holderlin captures this unstated yet perennial presence of the echo of touch in abandoned places:

When night is like day
And over slow footpaths,
 Dense with golden dreams,
 Lulling breezes drift.

The abandoned place is dense with the presence of the absent ones who have walked there.

~ John O'Donohue, from: 'Eternal Echoes'

All will come again into its strength

All will come again into its strength:
the fields undivided, the waters undammed,
the trees towering and the walls built low.
And in the valleys, people as strong
and varied as the land.

And no churches where God
is imprisoned and lamented
like a trapped and wounded animal.
The houses welcoming all who knock
and a sense of boundless offering
in all relations, and in you and me.

No yearning for an afterlife, no looking beyond,
no belittling of death,
but only longing for what belongs to us
and serving earth, lest we remain unused.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
 from: 'The Book of Hours'

Everything around me is evaporating


"Everything around me is evaporating. My whole life, my memories, my imagination and its contents, my personality—it’s all evaporating. I continuously feel that I was someone else, that I felt something else, that I thought something else. What I’m attending here is a show with another set. And the show I’m attending is myself.
In the ordinary jumble of my literary drawer, I sometimes find texts I wrote ten, fifteen, or even more years ago. And many of them seem to me written by a stranger: I simply do not recognize myself in them. There was a person who wrote them, and it was I. I experienced them, but it was in another life, from which I just woke up, as if from someone else’s dream.
I often find texts of mine that I wrote when I was very young—when I was seventeen or twenty. And some have a power of expression that I do not remember having them. Certain sentences and passages I wrote when I had just taken a few steps away from adolescence seem produced by the self I am today, educated by years and things. I recognize I am the same as I was. And having felt I am today making a great progress from what I was, I wonder where this progress is if I was then the same as I am today.
Just a few days earlier I suffered horribly reading a short text I’d written earlier. I remember perfectly that my scruples—at least as far as language is concerned—are only a few years old. In a drawer I found a much older text in which those same scruples were strongly accentuated. I didn’t understand myself in the past in a positive way. How did I advance towards what I already was? How can the person who knows me today not know me yesterday? 
All this confuses me in a labyrinth where I am with myself and wander away from myself.
I wander with my thoughts and I’m sure that what I’m writing now I already wrote. I remember. And I ask the being that in me presumes to exist if there might not be in the Platonism of sensations another, more appropriate amamnesis, another memory of a former life that might only be of this life…
My God, my God, whose performance am I watching? How many people am I? What is this space between myself and myself?"
~ Fernando Pessoa, from: 'The Book of Disquiet'

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Love me."

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a
full moon in each eye that is 
always saying,
With that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in 
this world is
dying to 
~  Hafiz

do by not doing

Act by not acting;
do by not doing.
Enjoy the plain and simple.
Find that greatness in the small.
Take care of difficult problems
while they are still easy;
Do easy things before they become too hard.
~  Tao Teh Ching

Friday, April 23, 2010

walking in the rain

When my master and I
were walking in the rain,
he would say,
"Do not walk so fast,
the rain is everywhere."

~  Shunryu Suzuki

look without imagination

Learn to look without imagination, 
to listen without distortion:
 that is all.
 Stop attributing names and shapes to the essentially nameless and formless,
 realize that every mode of perception is subjective,
 that what is seen or heard,
 touched or smelled, 
felt or thought, 
expected or imagined,
 is in the mind and not in reality,
 and you will experience peace and freedom from fear.

~  Nisargadatta Maharaj

Thursday, April 22, 2010

where the battle did not happen

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed—or were killed—on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

~  William Stafford

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This moment

as smooth
as a board,
and fresh,
this hour,
this day
as clean
as an untouched glass
--not a single
from the past:
we touch the moment
with our fingers,
we cut it
to size,
we direct
its blooming.
It's living,
it's alive:
it brings nothing from yesterday that can't be redeemed,
nothing from the lost past.

~  Pablo Neruda

O, how incomprehensible

O, how incomprehensible everything was, 
and actually sad, 
although it was also beautiful. 
One knew nothing. 
And sometimes it seemed that something never seen yet long desired was about to happen, 
that a veil would drop from it all; 
but then it passed,
 nothing happened,
 the riddle remained unsolved, 
the secret spell unbroken,
 and in the end one grew old and looked cunning . . . or wise
 . . . And still one knew nothing, perhaps, was still waiting and listening.
~  Hermann Hesse
from: Narcissus and Goldmund

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Here, where nothing is worth anything

Here, where nothing is worth anything,
I've set up a grass-thatched hut.
After eating,
I just stretch out for a nap.
As soon as it was built,
weeds were already growing back.
Now I've been here awhile
its covered in vines.
So the one in this hut just lives on,
not inside, out, in between.
The places where usual folk live,
I don't.
What they want,
I don't.
This tiny hut holds the total world,
an old man and
the radiance of forms and their nature,
all in ten feet square.
Bodhisattvas of the Vast Path
know about this but
the mediocre and marginal wonder,
"Isn't such a place too fragile to live in?"
Fragile or not,
the true master dwells here
where there is no
south or north, east or west.
Just sitting here,
it can't be surpassed:
below the green pines
a lit window.
Palaces and towers
of jade and vermilion
can't compare.
Just sitting,
my head covered,
all things rest.
So this mountain monk
has no understanding at all,
just lives on
without struggling to get loose.
Not going to
set out seats
and wait for guests.
Turning the light
to shine within,
turn it around again.
you can't face it
or turn away from it.
The root of it.
Meet the Awakened Ancestors,
become intimate with the teachings,
lash grass into thatch for a hut
and don't tire so easily.
Let it go,
and your life of a hundred years
Open your hands.
Walk around.
The swarm of words,
and little stories
are just to loosen you
from where you are stuck.
If you want to know
the one in the hermitage
who never dies,
you can't avoid this skin-bag
right here.
~  Shitou Xiqian

Monday, April 19, 2010

Why scurry about looking for the truth?

Why scurry about looking for the truth? 
It vibrates in every thing and every not-thing, right off the tip of your nose. 
Can you be still and see it in the mountain? the pine tree? yourself? 
Don't imagine that you'll discover it by accumulating more knowledge. 
Knowledge creates doubt, and doubt makes you ravenous for more knowledge. 
You can't get full eating this way. 
The wise person dines on something more subtle: 
He eats the understanding that the named was born from the unnamed, 
that all being flows from non- being,
 that the describable world emanates from an indescribable source. 
He finds this subtle truth inside his own self, 
and becomes completely content. 
So who can be still and watch the chess game of the world?
 The foolish are always making impulsive moves,
 but the wise know that victory and defeat are decided by something more subtle.
 They see that something perfect exists before any move is made. 
This subtle perfection deteriorates when artificial actions are taken, 
so be content not to disturb the peace.
 Remain quiet. 
Discover the harmony in your own being. 
Embrace it. 
If you can do this, you will gain everything, 
and the world will become healthy again.
 If you can't, you will be lost in the shadows forever.

~  Lao Tzu

Sunday, April 18, 2010

the question of his own Enlightenment


On the question of his own Enlightenment the Master always remained reticent, even though the disciples tried every means to get him to talk.

All the information they had on this subject was what the Master once said to his youngest son who wanted to know what his father felt when he became Enlightened.

The answer was:  "A fool."

When the boy asked why, the Master had replied, "Well, son, it was like going to great pains to break into a house by climbing a ladder and smashing a window and then realizing later that the door of the house was open.
~  Anthony de Mello


As long as you do not see

As long as you do not see that it is mere habit,
 built on memory,
 prompted by desire,
 you will think yourself to be a person -
 living, feeling, thinking, active, passive, pleased or pained. 
Question yourself, ask yourself.
 'Is it so?'
 'Who am I'?
 'What is behind and beyond all things?'
 And soon you will see your mistake.
 And it is in the very nature of a mistake to cease to be, when seen.
~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In the secret cave of the heart


In the secret cave of the heart, two are
seated by life's fountain.  The separate ego
drinks of the sweet and bitter stuff,
liking the sweet, disliking the bitter,
while the supreme Self drinks sweet and bitter
neither liking this nor disliking that.
The ego gropes in darkness, while the Self 
lives in light...

~ the Katha Upanishad

I can give you my loneliness

I can give you my loneliness, my darkness, the
hunger of my heart; I am trying to bribe you
with uncertainty, with danger, with defeat. 
~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, April 16, 2010

all objects in existence are wildly in love

They are always kissing, they can't
control themselves.
It is not possible
that any creature can have greater instincts
and perceptions that the 
mature human
ripened me.
So I see it is true;
all objects in existence are
 wildly in
~ Meister Eckhart

all states of mind


All states of mind, 
all names and forms of existence are rooted in non-enquiry, 
non-investigation, in imagination and credulity. 
It is right to say "I am," 
but to say "I am this," "I am that" is a sign of not enquiring, 
not examining, 
of mental weakness or lethargy.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj


Thursday, April 15, 2010

The hurt you embrace becomes joy

The hurt you embrace becomes joy.
Call it to your arms where it can

change.  A silkworm eating leaves
makes a cocoon.  Each of us weaves

a chamber of leaves and sticks.
Silkworms begin to truly exist

as they disappear inside that room.
Without legs, we fly.  When I stop

speaking, this poem will close,
and open its silent wings...

~ Rumi

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
~ William Wordsworth

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

absence is full of tender presence

May you know that absence is full of tender presence and
that nothing is forgotten.
May the absences in your life be full of eternal echo.
May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere which
holds the presences that have left your life.
May you be generous in your embrace of loss.
May the sore well of grief turn into a well of seamless
May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear
from and may you have the courage to speak out for
the excluded ones.
May you become the gracious and passionate subject of
your own life.
May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle
words or false belonging.
May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight
are one, and may your belonging inhabit its deepest
dreams within the shelter of the Great Belonging.
John O'Donohue, from 'eternal echoes'

Is there nothing that holds?

We change. This is a truism so blatant we could laugh at it, if we really believed it. 
We know things change, both things as circumstances and things as objects. 
The meadow across from the house where I grew up,
 which seemed like it had been there forever,
 has been filled with houses for forty years. 
To the people living in those homes the meadow, 
the games and egg hunts were never there. 
Only their own memories are there.
 In our heart of hearts, however, most of us harbor a deep belief, 
so deep we accept it without thinking,
 that some part of us, an essential us, remains the same, 
regardless of events or even memories. 
It's an illusory belief.
 Is there nothing that holds? No. Nothing. 
Nobody. Nada. Nadie.
 Even if we hold what seem to be the same feelings and thoughts years later?
 Isn't there something essential in them that holds?
~  Terrance Keenan, from 'St Nadie In Winter'
artwork by the author