Friday, August 31, 2012
hanging over a pause,
apparitions neither named
nor thought, wind-forms,
insubstantial as time
and, like time, dissolved.
Made of time, they are not time;
they are the cleft, the interstice,
the brief vertigo of between
where the diaphanous flower opens:
high on its stalk of a reflection
it vanishes as it turns.
Never touched, the clarities
seen with the eyes closed:
and the crystalline fall
in the instant of this instant
that forever is still here.
Outside the window, the desolate
rooftops and the hurrying clouds.
The day goes out, the city
lights up, remote and near.
Weightless hour. I breathe
the moment, empty and eternal.
~ Octavio Paz
translation by Eliot Weinberger
with thanks again to growing-orbits
Thursday, August 30, 2012
The ant moves on his tiny Sephardic feet.
The flute is always glad to repeat the same note.
The ocean rejoices in its dusky mansion.
Often bears are piled up close to each other.
In their world it’s just one hump after another.
It’s like looking at piles of many melons.
You and I have spent so many hours working.
We have paid dearly for the life we have.
It’s all right if we do nothing tonight.
I am so much in love with mournful music
That I don’t bother to look for violinists.
The aging peepers satisfy me for hours.
I love to see the fiddlers tuning up their old fiddles,
And the singer urging the low notes to come.
I saw her trying to keep the dawn from breaking.
You and I have worked hard for the life we have.
But we love to remember the way the soul leaps
Over and over into the lonely heavens.
~ Robert Bly
Friday, August 24, 2012
Listen to me as one listens to the rain,
not attentive, not distracted,
light footsteps, thin drizzle,
water that is air, air that is time,
the day is still leaving,
the night has yet to arrive,
figurations of mist
at the turn of the corner,
figurations of time
at the bend in this pause,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
without listening, hear what I say
with eyes open inward, asleep
with all five senses awake,
it’s raining, light footsteps, a murmur of syllables,
air and water, words with no weight:
what we are and are,
the days and years, this moment,
weightless time and heavy sorrow,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
wet asphalt is shining,
steam rises and walks away,
night unfolds and looks at me,
you are you and your body of steam,
you and your face of night,
you and your hair, unhurried lightning,
you cross the street and enter my forehead,
footsteps of water across my eyes,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the asphalt’s shining, you cross the street,
it is the mist, wandering in the night,
it is the night, asleep in your bed,
it is the surge of waves in your breath,
your fingers of water dampen my forehead,
your fingers of flame burn my eyes,
your fingers of air open eyelids of time,
a spring of visions and resurrections,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the years go by, the moments return,
do you hear the footsteps in the next room?
not here, not there: you hear them
in another time that is now,
listen to the footsteps of time,
inventor of places with no weight, nowhere,
listen to the rain running over the terrace,
the night is now more night in the grove,
lightning has nestled among the leaves,
a restless garden adrift—go in,
your shadow covers this page.
~ Octavio Paz
translation by Eliot Weinberger
Thursday, August 23, 2012
~ J. Krishnamurti and Jonas Salk
In the depth of my Soul there is-
A wordless song-a song that lives
In the seed of my heart.
It refuses to melt with ink
On parchment; it engulfs my affection
In a transparent cloak and flows,
But not upon my lips.
How can I sigh it? I fear it may
Mingle with earthly ether;
To whom shall I sing it? It dwells
In the house of my soul, in fear of harsh ears.
When I look into my inner eyes
I see the shadow of its shadow;
When I touch my fingertips
I feel its vibrations.
The deeds of my hands heed its
Presence as a lake must reflect
The glittering stars; my tears
Reveal it, as bright drops of dew
reveal the secret of a withering rose.
It is a song composed by contemplation,
And published by silence,
And shunned by clamor,
And folded by truth,
And repeated by dreams,
And understood by love,
And hidden by awakening
And sung by the soul.
It is the song of love;
What Cain or Esau could sing it?
It is more fragrant than jasmine;
What voice could enslave it?
It is heart-bound, as a virgin’s secret;
What string could quiver it?
Who dares unite the roar of the sea
And the singing of the nightingale?
Who dares compare the shrieking tempest
To the sigh of an infant?
Who dares speak aloud the words
Intended for the heart to speak?
What human dares sing in voice
The song of God?
~ Kahlill Gibran
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
For silence is not God, nor speaking;
fasting is not God, nor eating;
solitude is not God, nor company;
nor any other pair of opposites.
He is hidden between them,
and cannot be found by anything your soul does,
but only by the love of your heart.
He cannot be known by reason,
he cannot be thought, caught,
or sought by understanding.
But he can be loved and
chosen by the true, loving will of your heart.
~ the cloud of unknowing
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
~ James Wright
from Above the River: The Complete Poems and selected Prose
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
As the under-secretary leans forward and draws an X
her earrings dangle like the sword above Damocles,
As a speckled butterfly turns invisible against the earth
the demon merges with the opened newspaper.
A helmet worn by no one seizes power.
A mother tortoise escapes, flying underwater.
~ Tomas Transtromer
from The Sorrow Gondola
translations by Michael McGriff and Mikaela Grassl
Monday, August 20, 2012
Saturday, August 18, 2012
I was speaking recently with a woman who was planning her own suicide. She had spent the past few weeks sorting out her finances, paying off her debts, and trying to find foster parents for her young daughter, who would be left motherless after she killed herself. So many people had tried to intervene, but her mind was made up. She was definitely going to die. She had been threatening it for years, but finally it was coming true.
Her friends and family were starting to panic. I agreed to speak with her.
"That's it. I'm done here. My time on earth is over", she told me, point blank, at the start of our one-to-one session. Everything had become such a burden to her - her job, her so-called-friends, her failed relationships, her own brilliant but overactive mind, even her beloved daughter. It was all just too much. She was in so much pain, totally drained, fed up and exhausted from trying to help everybody all the time, and never getting anything back. She was the one who gave everything to everyone, but who ever gave anything to her? Where was gratitude? Where was love? Even her young daughter was just "take-take-take" - her demands were incessant. The only way out of this hell was death. Suicide was the logical solution to the problem of living. Her life insurance policy would be generous to her bereaved family.
I let her talk and talk. She had a lot to say, and I said very little. I simply got on her side, saw and felt things the way she did, allowed her to experience what she was experiencing, and allowed her experience to become mine, intimately so. It was easy, since I have known well that place of total exhaustion, that place where "I've been trying so hard to save others and have received nothing back", that desperation to die (or at least to end the burden of living), and also the sense of guilt and terrible sadness that arises from imagining loved ones trying to go on without me.
I stayed close. I did not try to play 'spiritual teacher', 'expert on suicide prevention' or even 'therapist'. I certainly did not lecture her about nonduality, the absence of the self, the perfect perfection of perfect awareness, or the non-existence of the 'I'. We did not get into intellectual discussions about the Absolute and the Relative, the illusion of free will or the ins and outs of Oneness. I did not try to fix her, to mend her, or even to 'save' her. I simply listened to her. I wanted to learn from her, not teach her or feed her new beliefs. What was it like, exactly where she was, right now?
I joined the 'Our Lives Are Exhausting And We Want To Be Free From It All' Club. We were the exhausted ones, the unloved ones, the ones who nobody appreciated, the ugly ones, the overweight ones, the ones on the verge of collapse, the ones who wanted to die. The ones who nobody understood. I wonder if anyone had ever truly met her there before? I wondered if everyone she had talked to over the years about her desire to die - therapists, friends, family - had just been trying to save her, to fix her, to get her to stay alive and live in the old way, rather than meeting her in her pain and desperation and validating her present-moment experience. Had anyone ever truly met her? Or had they been driven away by her self-pity and anger, or perhaps their own discomfort and frustrated desires to help?
We talked for about three hours. The more we talked, the more I simply stood in her shoes, listening and seeing things from her perspective, being with her without trying to fix her or make her wrong or even right, the more she relaxed and opened up about her true longings and hidden dreams and desires. What became clear was this: Secretly, she did not want to die at all. She knew, deep down, that who she truly is - consciousness itself - cannot die. She knew that only the false can die. Only an image of herself can die. Only dreams can die.
What she really longed for was not physical death, not the death of the body, not the end of breathing, not the cessation of the heartbeat, but the death of the false self, the death of the pretense, the death of falseness and inauthenticity. The second-hand, limited 'self' she was pretending to be - the Real Estate queen, the selfless giver, the one who 'fit in' with others, the brilliant one with the "16 track mind" as she put it - was utterly false. Her life as it was playing itself out was suffocating her, and until this point, she had only seen death, and foster homes, and life insurance policies, and psychological escape, as the solution.
It soon became clear that this woman, although 'dying' on the outside, had a rich, creative inner life that had simply never been given expression. On the inside, she was so very alive, so open to life, so sensitive to everything around her, so "wide angle" as she put it, so "connected to everything and everyone". She was a force of nature, a wild and free spirit that had totally limited itself over the years, constrained itself to 'fit in' to some second-hand idea of what is normal, or right, or proper, or true. She had been living "the wrong life", so to speak, a dead and deadening life, a life of money and numbers and predictability, and it was crushing this inner explorer, this adventurer, this poet, this visionary, this seer, this spiritual seeker, this big-hearted pilgrim that she was.
The limited self longed to die, and the "Big Self" as she put it, longed to break free. And although this is not my language (I rarely talk about Big Self or Being Aligned With The Universe), I knew that to truly meet her, I had to get into her world, into her language, and stay there, and not flinch for one moment.
The more she felt heard and understood, the more she was met without judgement, the more she relaxed, and the more she started to talk openly about her secret longing to travel, to explore, to ride out into the unknown without a map. She talked with increasing passion about those times in the past where she had felt free and alive and unburdened. There was a longing to return to that simplicity. There was a fire in her, a raging furnace of love that had been suffocated all those years in her attempts to 'fit in'.
Her suicidal depression had really been a signpost to life! The pain of life-suffocation had appeared to her as the raging desire for death. But it was not really the desire for death, was it? It was the desire for life! For more life! She longed to live, to really live, to no longer suffocate under the weight of the false image. Only one who longed to live could experience such an overwhelming urge to die. She longed with every cell of her body to end the pretense and the falseness and half-lived dreams and to open up to life in all its rawness and beauty - not to die, not to die, but to live in a real way.
What would real, fearless living look like? She had a brilliant mind, and a wide-open heart, all of which had been suffocated and wasted in the business of Real Estate. We started to explore the very realistic possibility of her selling her house and setting off into the unknown with her beloved daughter ("my angel, sent from heaven"). She had always longed to travel to New Zealand, to work there, to build a life there, to live a more simple and truthful existence there, and to expose her daughter to soul-enriching people and landscapes and possibilities. Could her dream become a reality? Was that possible?
She loved her little daughter so much, that was clear. She wanted her daughter to live and flourish and learn truth, that was clear. If she were to put her daughter into a foster home and then kill herself - which had been her plan for years, up until now - she would be teaching limitation to the one she loved more than anything. She would teach something false, something untrue. She would teach closing-off to possibility rather opening up. She would teach death, not life. She would not be teaching the deep truth of herself.
Suicide would be a false teaching, a false way of living and not living, and she knew this in the very depths of her being.
If she did not kill herself, if she let the body live, if instead she killed this inauthentic self, and stopped pretending to be the one she was not, and left this job and this life that was crushing her spirit, and set off into the unknown, and open up to the mysteries of the universe, she may finally become the mother (and sister, and daughter, and friend, and lover) she always longed to be - the one who taught and lived fearlessness, and realness, and life, and never-giving-up, even when exhausted. She would no longer be the 'exhausted one longing for freedom from all responsibility'. She would be totally, completely, unbelievably responsible in the full sense of the word - able to respond authentically to life, to herself, to her daughter. Able to answer the call that she had been denying for so long.
It was disregarding life's call that had hurt so much over the years. Life will not be silenced. The longing for death, the certainty of suicide, was really life screaming at her one last time. "LIVE! LIVE!"
Would she listen to its scream, now, at the point where everything was nearly lost?
Suddenly, everything became so clear. There was no longer any choice. She knew what to do. She knew what life was telling her. She had always known. Yes, she was going to kill herself... but not in the way the mind had imagined. She was going to kill her old self, her limited self, her false self. That was the real suicide! That was the call of life! She was going to break up with a life that had become meaningless, empty, and most importantly not right for her and her loved ones - a life that had turned her into something she couldn't bear - and set out into the unknown, with her beloved daughter, their hearts wide open to possibility. This was not a mental decision. This was not a conclusion based on fear. This was total relief. This was sinking into the deep truth of herself. This was a deep honoring of life. This was deep rest.
Her brilliant 'mind' had only been able to conclude 'death'. It had thought there was a choice between 'life' and 'death', and it had chosen 'death'. But what did it know? The truth of her being was saying only one thing: LIVE. The mind would never understand this.
There was no choice but to live.
The following morning, I learnt that her adventure had already begun. She was already finding herself boxing things away, making arrangements, selling unwanted possessions, preparing for a new life, a life of freedom and possibility and newness. She was no longer preparing for death, but for more life. It was still suicide, but a divine kind of suicide - the suicide of the false, by the false. She, however, had so much to do, so many plans to make, so much to sort out - much like before - but now she was no longer exhausted, no longer depressed by it all, since finally all of her 'doing' was truthful - she was doing what she loved, and she was no longer waiting for others to 'give back' to her.
Her relationship with her daughter had shifted overnight. It had become clear: her daughter was not - and had never been - an annoying "block" to her freedom, a drain on her energies, a reason for her suicide. Her daughter was her companion, her fellow traveler, part of this divine suicide! Her daughter was no longer "getting in the way" of the life she longed for - she was now part of that very life. It was no longer "my life" versus "her life" - there was simply life. This life. Our life.
I had not taught this woman anything. I had not really 'done' anything at all. I have no clever psychological theories. I had simply listened deeply to her, reminding her of what she had always known, reflecting her own deep truth back at her, so she could actually hear it for once. Out of devastation, out of total breakdown, her truth had been given the space to emerge.
It's interesting that the word "depressed" is spoken phonetically as "deep rest". We can view depression not as a mental illness, but on a deeper level, as a profound (and very misunderstood) state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own (false) story of ourselves. It is an unconscious loss of interest in the second-hand - a longing to 'die' to the false. This longing needs to be honored, not medicated, meditated or analysed away.
It's amazing what can evolve naturally when depression and the desire for suicide (which is the desire for the deep rest of yourself) are truly honored, met, embraced, held, and you do not flinch from pain or turn away from it. It's amazing what can happen when you actively listen to the one in front of you from a loving place of non-judgmental acceptance, trusting the intelligence of life itself, and allowing the divine and loving suicide of awakening to weave its mysterious magic.
~ Jeff Foster
art by van gogh
Friday, August 17, 2012
All things in this creation exist within you,
and all things in you exist in creation;
there is no border between you and the closest things,
and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things,
from the lowest to the loftiest,
from the smallest to the greatest,
are within you as equal things.
In one atom are found all the elements of the earth;
in one motion of the mind are found the motions of all the laws of existence;
in one drop of water are found the secrets of all the endless oceans;
in one aspect of you are found all the aspects of existence.
~ Kahlil Gibran
art by the author
All that spirits desire, spirits attain.
~ Kahlil Gibran
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Surely, the mind has abandoned itself and its moorings only when there is no desire for security. A mind that is seeking security can never know what love is. Self-abandonment is not the state of the devotee before his idol or his mental image. Self-abandonment can come about only when you do not cultivate it, and when there is self-knowing.
When the mind has understood the significance of knowledge, only then is there self-knowing, and self-knowing implies self-abandonment. You have ceased to rest on any experience as a center from which to observe, to judge, to weigh; therefore, the mind has already plunged into the movement of self-abandonment. In that abandonment there is sensitivity. But the mind which is enclosed in its habits of eating, of thinking, in its habit of never looking at anything - such a mind obviously cannot be sensitive, cannot be loving.
In the very abandonment of its own limitations, the mind becomes sensitive and therefore innocent. And only the innocent mind knows what love is not the calculating mind, not the mind that has divided love into the carnal and the spiritual.In that state there is passion and, without passion, reality will not come near you. It is only the enfeebled mind that invites reality; it is only the dull, grasping mind that pursues truth, God. But the mind that knows passion in love to such a mind the nameless comes.
~ J. Krishnamurti
from Collected Works, Vol. XI,251
with thanks to J. Krishnamurti Online
illustration by glen wexler
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
In the heart of the night,
The moonlight framing
A small boat drifting,
Tossed not by the waves
Nor swayed by the breeze.
This is one of a series of verse composed for delivery to the shogun in Kamakura in 1247
from Zen Poetry of Dogen by Steven Heine
By plucking her petals, you do not
gather the beauty of the flower.
Clouds come floating into my life,
no longer to carry rain or usher storm,
but to add colour to my sunset sky.
Death is not extinguishing the light;
it is only putting out the lamp
because the dawn has come.
Do not say, ‘It is morning,’
and dismiss it with a name of yesterday.
See it for the first time
as a newborn child that has no name.
Don’t limit a child to your own learning,
for he was born in another time.
Emancipation from the bondage of the soil
is no freedom for the tree.
Every child comes with the message
that God is not yet discouraged of man.
Every difficulty slurred over
will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on.
Everything comes to us that belongs to us
if we create the capacity to receive it.
Faith is the bird that feels the light
when the dawn is still dark.
From the solemn gloom of the temple
children run out to sit in the dust,
God watches them play and forgets the priest.
I have become my own version of an optimist.
If I can’t make it through one door,
I’ll go through another door - or I’ll make a door.
Something terrific will come
no matter how dark the present.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
with thanks to it's all dhamma
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
translated and spoken by Coleman Barks
Monday, August 13, 2012
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.
Why was I born among mirrors?
The day walks in circles around me,
and the night copies me
in all its stars.
I want to live without seeing myself.
And I will dream that ants
and thistleburrs are my
leaves and my birds.
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.
~ Federico Garcia Lorca
translation by W.S. Merwin
Lorca and his family at their house in Granada.
~ Elgar, Cello concerto, 1st movement
performed by Yo Yo Ma with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, August 11, 2012
We're always thinking of eternity as
an idea that cannot be understood,
But why must it be?
What if, instead of all this,
you suddenly find just a little room there,
something like a village bath house,
grimy, and spiders in every corner,
and that's all eternity is.
Sometimes, you know,
I can't help feeling that that's what it is.
~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky
from The Brothers Karamazov
with thanks to whiskeyriver
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Nurture the darkness of your soul
until you become whole.
Can you do this and not fail?
Can you focus your life-breath until you become
supple as a newborn child?
While you cleanse your inner vision
will you be found without fault?
Can you love people and lead them
without forcing your will on them?
When Heaven gives and takes away
can you be content with the outcome?
When you understand all things
can you step back from your own understanding?
Giving birth and nourishing,
making without possessing,
expecting nothing in return.
To grow, yet not to control:
This is the mysterious virtue.
~ Lao Tzu
from Tao Te Ching
On a farm you learn to respect nature,
particularly for the wisdom of its dark underworld.
When you sow things in the spring,
you commit them to the darkness of the soil.
The soil does its own work.
It is destructive to interfere with the rhythm and wisdom of its darkness.
You sow drills of potatoes on Tuesday and you are delighted with them.
You meet someone on a Wednesday who says
that you spread the potatoes too thickly, you will have no crop.
You dig up the potatoes again and spread them more thinly.
On the following Monday, you meet an agricultural advisor who says
this particular variety of seed potatoes needs to be spread close together.
You dig them up again and set them closer to each other.
If you keep scraping at the garden, you will never allow anything to grow.
People in our hungry modern world are always scraping at the clay of their hearts.
They have a new thought, a new plan, a new syndrome, that now explains why
they are the way they are. They have found an old memory that opens a new wound.
They keep on relentlessly, again and again, scraping the clay away from their own hearts.
In nature we do not see the trees, for instance, getting seriously involved in therapeutic analysis
of their root systems or the whole stony world that they had to avoid on their way to the light.
Each tree grows in two directions at once, into the darkness and out to the light
with as many branches and roots as it needs to embody its wild desires...
It is wise to allow the soul to carry on its secret work in the night side of your life.
You might not see anything stirring for a long time.
You might have only the slightest intimations
of the secret growth that is happening within you,
but these intimations are sufficient.
~ John O'Donohue
from Anam Cara
Monday, August 6, 2012
~ St. John of the Cross
read by Robert Bly
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
I maintain that Truth is a pathless land,
and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever,
by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and
I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally.
Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable
by any path whatsoever, cannot be organised;
nor should any organisation be formed to lead or coerce people
along any particular path.
If you first understand that, then you will see
how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter,
and you cannot and must not organize it.
If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized;
it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion,
to be imposed on others.
~ J. Krishnamurti
art by zahra darvisharian
Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed, and growing sweet–
all this universe, to the furthest stars
all beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.
Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,
a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
translation by Stephen Mitchell
from "Ahead of All Parting:
The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke"