Saturday, December 31, 2016

late ripeness







Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered 
the clarity of early morning. 
One after another my former lives were departing, 
like ships, together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas 
assigned to my brush came closer, 
ready now to be described better than they were before. 
I was not separated from people, 
grief and pity joined us. 
We forget — I kept saying — that we are all children of the King. 
For where we come from there is no division 
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be. 
We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part 
of the gift we received for our long journey. 
Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago - 
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror 
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel 
staving its hull against a reef — they dwell in us, 
waiting for a fulfillment. 
I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard, 
as are all men and women living at the same time, 
whether they are aware of it or not. 





~Czeslaw Milosz
from Collected Poems, 1931-1987
art by van gogh







forgiveness






Forgiveness is the answer to a child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean. The dream explains why we need to be forgiven, and why we must forgive. In the presence of God, nothing stands between Him and us - we are forgiven. But we cannot feel His presence if anything is allowed to stand between ourselves and others.



~ Dag Hammarskjöld 
from Markings
translated by Leif Sjoberg and W.H. Auden.

Hammarskjöld was the second Secretary General of the United Nations, serving from 1953 until his death in a plane crash in 1961. He is the only person to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. Markings, a sort of diary of poetry and meditations, was found in his office after his death, along with a letter to Swedish Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Leif Sjoberg, explaining that it may be published if Mr. Sjoberg felt it worth publishing.





Tuesday, December 27, 2016

no expectations







A spirit that lives in this world
And does not wear the shirt of love,
Such an existence is a deep disgrace.

Be foolish in love,
Because love is all there is.

There is no way into presence
Except through a love exchange.

If someone asks, But what is love?
Answer, Dissolving the will.

True freedom comes to those
Who have escaped the questions
Of freewill and fate.

Love is an emperor.
The two worlds play across him.
He barely notices their tumbling game.

Love and lover live in eternity.
Other desires are substitutes
For that way of being.

How long to you lay embracing a corpse?
Love rather the soul, which cannot be held.

Anything born in the spring dies in the fall,
But love is not seasonal.

With wine pressed from grapes,
Expect a hangover.

But this love path has no expectations.
You are uneasy riding the body?
Dismount.  Travel lighter.
Wings will be given.

Be clear like a mirror
Reflecting nothing.

Be clean of pictures and the worry 
That comes with images.

Gaze into what is not ashamed
Or afraid of any truth.

Contain all human faces in your own
Without any judgement of them.

Be pure emptiness.
What us inside that? You ask.
Silence is all I can say.

Lovers have some secrets
That they keep.


~ Rumi
From: Rumi - Bridge to the Soul
Translation by Coleman Barks


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Love frees


.
.
All day long a little burro labors, sometimes
with heavy loads on her back and sometimes just with worries
about things that bother only
burros.

And worries, as we know, can be more exhausting
than physical labor.

Once in a while a kind monk comes
to her stable and brings
a pear, but more
than that,

he looks into the burros eyes and touches her ears

and for a few seconds the burro is free
and even seems to laugh,

because love does
that.

Love frees.


~ Meister Eckhart
art by: Stephen Filarsky


the bridge








Between now and now,
between I am and you are,
the word bridge.

Entering it
you enter yourself:
the world connects
and closes like a ring.

From one bank to another,
there is always
a body stretched:
a rainbow.
I’ll sleep beneath its arches.
 


~ Octavio Paz
from The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz 1957-1987
with thanks to Love is a Place 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

in the heart of the night






In the heart of the night,
The moonlight framing
A small boat drifting,
Tossed not by the waves
Nor swayed by the breeze.


~ Dogen
from Zen poetry of Dogen

 

true person







The true person is
Not anyone in particular,
But, like the deep blue color
Of the limitless sky,
It is everyone, everywhere in the world.
 
 
 
~ Dogen
from Zen poetry of Dogen
 

Friday, December 9, 2016

lessons








~ Elizabeth Lesser

Thursday, December 8, 2016

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

still life





The rose that no longer blooms in the garden,
blooms inside her whole body, among the veins
and organs and the skeleton.

Linda Gregg 



A hidden blossoming.

Petals flaming beneath the skin.

And a softness pressing,
as delicate as the mouth
of a blind lover.

Each movement,
each quiet gesture
awakens
a rosary in the blood.

Was it desire
which brought her to this moment,
this arrival at source,
or was it merely a need 
to be still, to be richly fed
from this fountain
of dark silence?



~ Dorothy Walters
from Marrow of Flame


 

the difficulty of return






When I first got back,
I thought people would
wish to listen,
moved by my unlikely tale.

Soon I saw that to them I was
mere pariah, outcast,
traveler from a far country
no one had ever heard of,
or believed in.

These goods I brought home
were invisible to all
but the most discerning eye.

My recitals, my celebrations
and laments for what had transpired,
a dumb-show
to all but the most
finely tuned ear.

Now I am ringed by a halo of silence,
and move cautiously,
mouth closed
over this stone
I carry on my tongue.


~ Dorothy Walters
from Marrow of Flame

 

Monday, December 5, 2016

observe






Surely any form of accumulation, either of knowledge or experience, any form of ideal, any projection of the mind, any determined practice to shape the mind - what it should be and should not be - all this is obviously crippling the process of investigation and discovery.

So I think our inquiry must be not for the solution of our immediate problems but rather to find out whether the mind, the conscious as well as the deep unconscious mind in which is stored all the tradition, the memories, the inheritance of racial knowledge,whether all of it can be put aside. I think it can be done only if the mind is capable of being aware without any sense of demand, without any pressure, just to be aware.

 I think it is one of the most difficult things to be so aware because we are caught in the immediate problem and in its immediate solution, and so our lives are very superficial. Though one may go to all the analysts, read all the books, acquire much knowledge, attend churches, pray, mediate, practice various disciplines; nevertheless, our lives are obviously very superficial because we do not know how to penetrate deeply. 

I think the understanding, the way of penetration, how to go very, very deeply, lies through awareness, just to be aware of our thoughts and feelings, without condemnation, without comparison, just to observe. You will see, if you will experiment, how extraordinarily difficult it is, because our whole training is to condemn, to approve, to compare.  




~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Book of Life

problem?







There is a story of a man who came to see the Buddha because he had heard that the Buddha was a great teacher. He had some problems in his life, and he thought the Buddha might be able to help him straighten them out.

The Buddha listened patiently to the man as he laid out all his difficulties and worries, and then waited for the Buddha to say the words that would put everything right for him.

The Buddha said, "I can't help you."

"What do you mean?" said the man.

"Everybody's got problems," said the Buddha. "In fact, we've all got eighty-three problems, each one of us. Eighty-three problems, and there's nothing you can do about it. If you work really hard on one of them, maybe you can fix it - but if you do, another one will pop right into its place."

The man was furious. "I thought you were a great teacher! I thought you could help me!"

The Buddha said, "Well, maybe it will help you with the eighty-fourth problem."

"The eighty-fourth problem?" said the man. "What's the eighty-fourth problem?"

The Buddha said, "You want to not have any problems."



- Steve Hagen
from Buddhism Plain and Simple
art by Alex Arshansky


Saturday, December 3, 2016

the unstructured sources of our beings









Poetry leads us to the unstructured sources of our beings, to the unknown, and returns us to our rational, structured selves refreshed. Having once experienced the mystery, plenitude, contradiction, and composure of a work of art, we afterward have a built-in resistance to the slogans and propaganda of oversimplification that have often contributed to the destruction of human life. Poetry is a verbal means to a nonverbal source. It is a motion to no-motion, to the still point of contemplation and deep realization.



~ A. R. Ammons

Thursday, December 1, 2016

a stream I go a-fishing in








Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.


~ Henry David Thoreau
from Walden: Where I lived and What I lived for
 

inside the river





Inside the river is there a river? -
it could follow slow water the way
the real current follows a stiller
shore. And in your life the life that
hurries could pass, and pass its
open neighbor the earth, and its shore
the sky. To be here, and always to find
places in the current, the dreams
the river has - surely we bubbles
ought to tell about it?

Listen: One of the rooms the river has
after its bridge and its bend in the mountains
is a place waiting for the sun every
afternoon, when the sun dwells
at a slant under a log and finds
that little yellow room and a waterbug
trying to learn circles but never making
one its shadow approves. Miles later
the river tries to recall that dream,
turning with all of its twisting self
that found gravel and found it good.

Just before the ocean that river
turns on its back and side and slowly
invites the world and the air and the sky,
trying to give away everything, everything.



  ~ William Stafford



the path






The path to heaven lies through heaven,
and all the way to heaven is heaven.

 
~ Catherine of Siena
with thanks to Love is a Place

Saturday, November 19, 2016

hoeing







As I drew a still fresher soil about the rows with my how, I disturbed the ashes of unchronicled nations who in primeval years lived under these heavens, and their small implements of war and hunting were brought to the light of this modern day.  They lay mingled with other natural stones, some of which bore the marks of having been burned by Indian fires, and some by the sun, and also bits of pottery and glass brought hither by the recent cultivators of the soil.  When my hoe tinkled against the stones, that music echoed to the woods and the sky, and was an accompaniment to my labor which yielded an instant and immeasurable crop.  It was no longer beans that I hoed, nor I that hoed beans...



~ Henry David Thoreau
from Walden, The Bean-Field

art by Clotilde Espinosa

wind on water






A field of water betrays a spirit that is in the air. It is continually receiving
new life and motion from above.  It is intermediate in its nature between land
and sky.  On land only the grass and trees wave, but the water itself is rippled
by the wind. I see where the breeze dashes across it by the streaks or flakes of
light.  It is remarkable that we can look down on its surface.  We shall, perhaps, 
look down thus on the surface of air at length, and mark where a still subtler
spirit sweeps over it.



 ~ Henry David Thoreau
excerpt from Walden, the ponds

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

on good and evil


.




And one of the elders of the city said, Speak to us of Good and Evil.
And he answered:
Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts it drinks even of dead waters.

You are good when you are one with yourself.
Yet when you are not one with yourself you are not evil.
For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house.
And a ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not to the bottom.

You are good when you strive to give of yourself.
Yet you are not evil when you seek gain for yourself.
For when you strive for gain you are but a root that clings to the earth and sucks at her breast.
Surely the fruit cannot say to the root, "Be like me, ripe and full and ever giving of your abundance."
For the fruit giving is a need, as receiving is a need to the root.

You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,
Yet you are not evil when you sleep while your tongue staggers without purpose.
And even stumbling speech may strengthen a weak tongue.

You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.
Yet you are not evil when you go thither limping.
Even those who limp go not backward.
But you who are strong and swift, see that you do not limp before the lame, deeming it kindness.

You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,
You are only loitering and sluggard.
Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles.

In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.
But in some of you that longing is a torrent rushing with might to the sea, carrying the secrets of the hillsides and the songs of the forest.
And in others it is a flat stream that loses itself in angles and bends and lingers before it reaches the shore.
But let not him who longs much say to him who longs little, "Wherefore are you slow and halting?"
For the truly good ask not the naked, "Where is your garment?" nor the houseless, "What has befallen your house?"


~ Kahlil Gibran
(excerpt from: The Prophet )
.

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

compassion










~ 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


Sunday, April 17, 2016

the chance of humming






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

Though
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 
world

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

uh-oh.

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

chance
of
humming.


~ 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
backs;

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.”