Friday, October 18, 2019

I wearied myself searching for the friend

I wearied myself searching for the friend
With efforts beyond my strength
I came to the door
And saw how powerfully the locks were bolted
And the longing in me became that strong
And then I saw that I was gazing from within the presence
Only after that waiting and giving up all trying
Did Lalla flow out from where I knelt

Gently I weep for my mind,
caught in its illusion of ownership.
Mind,  you're not who you think you are.
You're dancing over a pit.
Soon you'll fall through,
And these things,  you've valued
And collected will be left behind.

~ Lalla

I began as a bloom of cotton

I began as a bloom of cotton,
outdoors.  Then they brought me to a room
where they washed me.  Then the hard strokes
of the carder's wife.  Then another woman
spun thin threads, twisting me
around her wheel.  Then the kicks
of the weaver's loom made cloth, 
and on the washing stone, washermen
wet and slung me about
to their satisfaction, whitened me
with earth and bone,
and cleaned me to my own 
amazement.  Then the scissors
of the tailor, piece by piece,
and his careful finishing work.

Now, at last, as clothes,
I find You and freedom.
This living is so difficult
before one takes your hand.

from Naked Song

nothing pouring into Nothing

With repeated meditation practice
the expanse of the visible universe
with all its qualities dissolves
to nothing, to where there is 
only health and great joy.

All teaching comes to this.


With passionate practices
I held the reins secure on my mind
and made breath one column.

Then the new moon's clear 
nectar descended into me,
nothing pouring into Nothing.


When will my shame fall away?
When will I accept being mocked
and let my robe of dignity burn up?

When the wandering pony inside
comes calm to my hand.


It is God who yawns and sneezes
and coughs, and now laughs.

Look, it's God doing ablutions!
God deciding to fast, God going naked
from one New Year's Eve to the next.

Will you ever understand 
how near God is
to you?

~ Lalla
from Naked Song
translations by Coleman Barks

Lalla described herself as "a somewhat something moving dreamlike on a fading road."

vanished into wonder

What is, simply is,
And "I" am nowhere to be found.

Far from the village,
Road vanished into path,
Path vanished into hillside,
Hillside vanished into Vastness,
The Known vanished into Wonder,


~ Jnaneshwar
the 13th Century Indian

a 13th century saint who, although he lived only twenty-two years, left a profound impact on Hindu spirituality. In Jnaneshwar's writings, Shiva is the formless, unmanifest Absolute, and Shakti is manifest form. Shiva is "That", and Shakti is "This" – all that arises in and as That. But the most precious gift of Jnaneshwar is his communication in words of the inexpressible truth that Shiva and Shakti are One. Shakti is merely Shiva – unmanifest, objectless, unmoving – moving into and as form. Jnaneshwar brilliantly communicates this inexpressible truth through verse, in which "He" is Shiva, and "She" is Shakti.

commentary by Chuck Surface

Thursday, October 17, 2019



"Almost the twenty-first century" -
how quickly the thought will grow dated,
even quaint.

Our hopes, our future,
will pass like the hopes and futures of others.

And all our anxieties and terrors,
nights of sleeplessness,
will appear then as they truly are -

Stumbling, delirious bees in the tea scent of jasmine.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart

a tree within

A tree grew inside my head.
A tree grew in.
Its roots are veins,
its branches nerves,
thoughts its tangles foliage.

Day breaks
in the body’s night.
There, within, inside my head,
the tree speaks.
Come closer—can you hear it?

~ Octavio Paz
translation by Eliot Weinberger
art by Leticia Alaniz

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

the story of moths

One night, moths, who were driven by desire,
Met together to discuss their obsession
To see if it was one and the same.  They enquired:
'How can we know?'  Truth was their possession,
They thought, and sent forth one of their number to bring
Any information he could to feed their yearning.
He fluttered to and fro between the curtains of night
Till he spied a candle spluttering in a castle tower,
Then he reported back the wonder he saw on his flight.
But one amongst his friends whose knowledge gave him power
Said this messenger understood nothing at all about the candle.
So another moth was sent, he saw and touched the flame
With the tip of his wing, but his report had no handle
On the truth since the heat drove him off, he had no claim.
A third went forth, was so intoxicated with love 
He threw himself on the fire and was consumed.
The wise moth seeing how the flame fitted like a glove
The moth's glowing body, said when he resumed
His place amongst his peers: 'That moth now knows
What he can never utter nor any language ever disclose.'

~ Farid ud-Din Attar
from The Conference of the Birds

annihilate separation

How long can the moth flirt
near the mouth of the flame before their lips touch
and the moth’s soul
becomes like
a sun.

And does the moth then die? No.
In serving God one is transformed into Him.

What lovers would return to us,
what lovers would not unite beyond belief and annihilate
their separation forever if they
had the power
to do so?

That power our Lord has. How long do you think
you can just flirt with Him before you
dissolve in ecstasy?

Existence spins on His potter’s wheel;
all is being shaped into the Divine.

What lovers would
not want to die

~ Meister Eckhart

associative leaps in poetry

excerpts from the essay entitled
so much happens when no one is watching 

by Daniel Deardorff

There are three things involved in making a associative leap:
a place to leap from, 
a place to leap to,
and most importantly, that space which is in-between.

Bly suggests that the in-between , the liminal space of the leap, provides a mysterious kind of content.  Bly calls our attention to the many things that happen "when no one is watching."  Pointing toward that which must remain outside our conscious awareness is like Lao Tzu saying that "knowing with not-knowing is best."  Connecting "what happens when no one is watching" to the emphasis on associativity, we notice a similar invitation to consider the unconscious space behind the associative image.  There is a great distance, swiftly traversed, between the philosopher and the predator in the line: "Plato wrote by the light from sharks' teeth."

One key to entering the vast spaces in Bly's thought in understanding is something I've called "associative alacrity" - the adroit capacity to form unexpected correlations,  In the modern world this capacity has been so repressed that it's hard to work out any sense of it.   In Norse mythology there is an ash tree that connects many worlds.  This "World Tree," called Yggdrasil, presents a complex image that works like this: at the top is the solar bird, the great eagle; at the bottom is the old lunar serpent.  The third thing, which connects this opposition, is something much less grand, a squirrel.  Leaping from branch to root, the acrobat squirrel carries messages between the extremities.  The furry mammal presents the limbic capacity to bridge the contradictions without reconciliation.  The squirrel is the embodiment of the leaping consciousness.

Leaping in this manner, the poems of Robert Bly refuse to turn away from Heaven, and at once, stubbornly refuse to renounce the earthly life.  "In a great ancient or modern poem, the considerable distance between the associations, the distance the spark has to leap, gives the lines their bottomless feeling, their space."  The relationships formed by these leaps are not linear - they are not stops along some rational railway, or some predictable system of linked facts - they are images or feelings related by something inexplicable and mysterious.  In this kind of association the distance, the interval or the leap, provides verticality and depth, a kind of bottomless content which functions as what Lawrence Hatab called "mythic disclosure": it does not explain things but "presents an intelligible picture of the lived world and the form of human involvement with the lived world."

In ancient times, in the "time of inspiration." the poet flew from
one world to another, "riding on dragons," as the Chinese said. 
Isaiah rode on those dragons, so did Li Po and Pindar.  They
dragged behind them long tails of dragon smoke.  Some of that 
dragon smoke still boils out of Beowulf. ...This dragon smoke 
means that a leap has taken place in the poem.

The associative paths... allow us to leap from one part of the brain
to another and lay out their contraries.  Moreover it's possible that
what we call "mythology" deals precisely with these abrupt juxtapositions...
using what Joseph Campbell called "mythological thinking," 
it moves the energy along a spectrum - either up or down. 
It can awaken the "lost music," walk on the sea, cross the 
river from instinct to spirit.

It is in the interval of the leap that "so much happens when no one is watching" and this is related to Richard Schechner's idea that certain rituals require "selective inattention."  He says: "Selective inattention allows patterns of the whole to be visible, patterns that otherwise would be burned out of the consciousness by a too intense concentration.

this essay is part of a collection in the book
Robert Bly - In This World

Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River

I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota.
The stubble field catches the last growth of sun.
The soybeans are breathing on all sides.
Old men are sitting before their houses on car seats
In the small towns. I am happy,
The moon rising above the turkey sheds.

The small world of the car
Plunges through the deep fields of the night,
On the road from Willmar to Milan.
This solitude covered with iron
Moves through the fields of night
Penetrated by the noise of crickets.

Nearly to Milan, suddenly a small bridge,
And water kneeling in the moonlight.
In small towns the houses are built right on the ground;
The lamplight falls on all fours on the grass.
When I reach the river, the full moon covers it.
A few people are talking, low, in a boat.

~ Robert Bly

wherelings whenlings

wherelings whenlings
(daughters of if but offspring of hopefear
sons of unless and children of almost)
never shall guess the dimension of

him whose
foot likes the
here of this earth

whose both
this now of the sky

- endlings of isn’t
shall never
to begin to

imagine how(only are shall be were
dawn dark rain snow rain
- bow;

’s whis-
in sunset

or thrushes toward dusk among whippoorwills or
tree field rock hollyhock forest brook chikadee
mountain. Mountain)
whycoloured worlds of because do

not stand against yes which is built by
forever; sunsmell
(sometimes a wonder
of wild roses

with north
the barn

~ e.e. cummings

where names are not needed

You come fresh from the place where names are not needed.
In that place there's a blissful secret most of us can no
longer remember. We have forgotten. But soon you
will start to learn words. You will learn to say what you
feel and want, and with that saying you too will forget
what is so natural to you now. Or perhaps you will be
lucky, and a current of the bliss you came from will
continue to stream through your heart...remembering
the beauty of your origin.

.....each of us is unique, and each of us has to find
our own way. I suppose it's only natural that I
should want to give you some advice...

Know you are safe...
Everything is all right forever.
We are made out of light.
One day you may doubt it -
that's part of the drama...
Just remember - you are safe...

Walk in the open air.
Spend as much time as you can
in nature, in places that humans
have not built on and paved over.
The natural world will teach you,
heal you, and replenish your soul
with its beauty. It is, like you are now,
fresh from the generosity of the

Be interested in everything.
Be a generalist.
Be curious and amazed by things.
Listen to others.
Welcome new ways of seeing, but
always think for yourself.

Follow your love.
Do what you love.
Love what you love.
I'm not talking simply
about love that's affection
or passion - but love that
continually moves to heal...

Little one, you are about to start
a great adventure.
Follow your love.
Be interested in everything.
Walk in the open air.
Know you are safe.

~ Elias Amidon

with thanks to Mystic Meandering
 art: 99 names of Allah

Monday, October 14, 2019

make a fish unfish

There seem to two kinds of searchers: those who seek to make their ego something 
other than it is, i.e. holy, happy, unselfish (as though you could make a fish unfish), 
and those who understand that all such attempts are just gesticulation and 
play-acting, that there is only one thing that can be done, which is to dis-identify 
themselves with the ego, by realizing its unreality, and by becoming aware of their 
eternal identity with pure being. 

~ Wei Wu Wei 


The world is not in need of improvement.  Stated another way, the world is not the problem...
When we detach from the thinking mind, perceiving senses, doing body, happy/unhappy person we regain right view.  In that, all is well. 

You have been trained since infancy to direct your attention to what is temporary. Had anyone before revealed the Permanent to you, there would be no need to sit with Wu Hsin. 

Most people don’t sit because they are afraid of what is revealed. 

The individuals fear that they will lose their individuality, their identity. One could say that the love of Being is not yet greater than the love of being somebody … or it could be said that the fear of the not yet known is far greater than the distaste for the known. 

Either way, “I’ll pay any price” is suddenly shown to be a hollow offer.

When you become clear that you are not this body, but that it is your instrument, then worries about death dissolve. 

In essence, death dies.

~ Wu Hsin
from  the introduction to Behind the Mind: 
A Short Discourse with Wu Hsin

who looks

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I'll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul? 
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.

This poetry. I never know what I'm going to say.
I don't plan it.
When I'm outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.

~ Rumi
translation by Coleman Barks


pocket of fog

In the yard next door,
a pocket of fog like a small heard of bison
swallows azaleas, koi pond, the red-and-gold koi.

To be undivided must mean not knowing you are.

The fog grazes here, then there,
all morning browsing the shallows,
leaving no footprint between my fate and the mountain's.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from After