Sunday, July 21, 2024

touching the earth



~ Thich Nhat Hanh

something other than it is

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 

Friday, July 19, 2024

must be a balloon


We begin to see a strange and lethal truth:
 contrary to our beliefs, 
our basic drive and all our life force goes into a struggle
 to perpetuate our separateness, 
our touchiness, or self-righteousness.

Lao Tzu said, "He who feels punctured, must be a balloon.",
 the balloon of irritability, anger, self-centered opinions.
 If we can be punctured (hurt), we can be sure we are still a balloon.
 We want to be a balloon; otherwise we could not be punctured.
 But our greatest desire is to keep the balloon inflated. 
After all, it's me!

So what is the turning point?
 It begins when we observe and feel our anger,
 our manipulation, our anxiety - 
and know in our hearts a deep determination to be in another mode.

Then the real transformation can begin. 
Instead of ignoring, pushing it away, or wallowing in it, 
we take our garbage into ourselves and let it digest.
 We take ourselves with us into the pool of life. 
This begins the turning. After it, life is never the same.

The turning is at first feeble and intermittent. 
Over time, it becomes stronger and more insistent
 As it strengthens, more and more we know who our Master is.
 Of course, the Master is not a thing or a person 
but our awakening knowledge of Who We Are. 
Difficult years come before the turning. 
 Some but not all will make it through the difficulties.

Gurdjieff said: man is a machine. We know how machines work: 
when the blender's button is pushed, it goes WHOOSSSH; 
when we turn our car's ignition key, the motor roars. 
Man is a machine. Why? As long as a man's primary drive 
is to keep his balloon unpunctured, 
to avoid having his buttons pushed,
 he is an automatic machine
 which has no choice.

Suppose you do something to me that I view as punishing,
 it's mean, it's unfair,I don't deserve it.
 How do I react when this button is pushed? 
With anger?
 (And I may not reveal my anger, or I may turn it against myself).
 Then I am a machine.
In this instance, 
what would the tuning point be?

The turning point is my ability, developed slowly by practice, 
to be aware of the thoughts and bodily sensations which comprise anger.

 In the observing of thoughts and sensations, 
anger will swallow itself and its energy can open life instead of destroying it. 

Then I (the angry one) can act out of this clarity
 in a manner that benefits me and you.
Let us not have some naive notion that this ability is won overnight.
 A lifetime is more like it.
 Nevertheless, faithful and determined practice
 makes a difference and fairly soon at that.

We come to view the unpleasant aspects of life as learning opportunities.
 If my balloon is deflated a little -- great!
 As an opportunity to be welcomed, not avoided or dramatized.
 each round of such practice renders us a little less machine-like, 
gives us more appreciation of ourselves and others.

~ Charlotte Joko Beck
from the Newsletter of the Zen Center of San Diego,
 (Feb-Mar, 1989)
art by James Stough

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

in communion with all things


It is important to see how we live mainly in our heads.
Think with your whole body, feel with your whole body.

In the whole feeling, the global sensation,
you go into your room and touch your whole room.
You go outside and touch the clouds, the trees, the water.

You do not live in isolation.
In your radiation you are in communion with all things.

In this expansion there is no place for the ego
because the ego is a contraction.

Love is expansion, a feeling of spaciousness.

~ Jean Klein 
art by Mirree
with thanks to No Mind's Land

like two golden birds

Like two golden birds perched on the selfsame tree,
Intimate friends, the ego and the Self
Dwell in the same body.  The former eats 
The sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life
While the other looks on in detachment.

As long as we think we are the ego,
We feel attached and fall into sorrow.
But realize that you are the Self, the Lord
Of life, and you will be freed from sorrow.
When you realize that you are the Self,
Supreme source of light, supreme source of love,
You transcend the duality of life
And enter into the unitive state. 

The Lord of Love shines in the hearts of all.
Seeing him in all creatures, the wise
Forget themselves in the service of all.
The Lord is their joy, the Lord is their rest;
Such as they are the lovers of the Lord.

~ Mundaka Upanishad
Modes of Knowing 
translation by Eknath Easwaran
art by Jane Rosen

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

haunted pilgrims

Fashioned from clay, we carry the memory of the earth. 
Ancient, forgotten things stir within our hearts, 
memories from the time before the mind was born.
Within us are depths that keep watch.
These are depths that no words can trawl or light unriddle. 
Our neon times have neglected and evaded the depth-kingdoms
 of interiority in favor of the ghost realms of cyberspace. 

We have unlearned the patience and attention of lingering at the thresholds 
where the unknown awaits us. We have become haunted pilgrims 
addicted to distraction and driven by the speed and color of images.

~ John O'Donohue
from Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

without an image of ourselves

Procrustes was a host who adjusted his guests to their bed.
Procrustes, whose name means "he who stretches."

He kept a house by the side of the road where he offered hospitality to passing strangers, who were invited in for a pleasant meal and a night's rest in his very special bed. Procrustes described it as having the unique property that its length exactly matched whomsoever lay down upon it. What Procrustes didn't volunteer was the method by which this "one-size-fits-all" was achieved, namely as soon as the guest lay down Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed and chopping off his legs if he was too long. Theseus turned the tables on Procrustes, fatally adjusting him to fit his own bed.

We are no sooner out of the womb than we must begin this precarious unfolding
 and shaping of who we are. If we have bad or destructive times in childhood, 
we begin to fix on a survival identity to cover over and to compensate 
for what happens to us. If we are never encouraged to be ourselves 
we begin to construct an identity that will gain us
 either attention or approval. 

 When we set out to construct our lives according to a fixed image, 
we damage ourselves. The image becomes the desperate focus 
of all our longing. 

 There are no frames for the soul. In truth, we are called,
in so far as we can, to live without an image of ourselves,
 or at least to keep images we have free and open.

 When you sense the immensity of the unknown within you, 
any image you have built of yourself gradually loses its promise. 

 Your name, your face, your address only suggest the threshold of your identity.
 Somehow you are always secretly aware of this.
 Sometimes. you find yourself listening to someone 
telling you what you should do 
or describing what is going on inside you,
 and you whisper to yourself that they 
have not the foggiest idea who you actually are.

~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes

Saturday, July 13, 2024

our compulsive manufacturing of contrived existence stops


There are times like these in our lives—such as facing death or even giving birth —
when we are no longer able to manage our outer image, no longer able to suspend ourselves
 in pursuit of the ideal self. It’s just how it is—we’re only human beings, and in these times
 of crisis we just don’t have the energy to hold it all together. When things fall apart,
 we can only be as we are. Pretense and striving fall away, and life becomes starkly simple.
 The value of such moments is this: we are shown that the game can be given up 
and that when it is, the emptiness that we feared, emptiness of the void, is not what is there.
 What is there is the bare fact of being. Simple presence remains—breathing in and out, 
waking up and going to sleep. The inevitability of the circumstances at hand is 
compelling enough that for the moment, our complexity ceases. Our compulsive manufacturing
 of contrived existence stops. Perhaps in that ungrounded space, we are not even comforting ourselves,
 not even telling ourselves everything is okay; we may be too tired to do even that. 
It’s just total capitulation—we’re forced into non-grasping of inherent reality. 
The contrived self has been emptied out along with contrived existence and the tiring treadmill
 of image maintenance that goes along with it. What remains is a new moment 
spontaneously meeting us again and again.

There is an incredible reality that opens up to us in those gaps 
if we just do not reject rupture. In fact, if we have some reliable idea of what is happening
 in that intermediate, groundless space, rupture can become rapture.

~  Pema Khandro Rinpoche
excerpts from Breaking Open in the Bardo

defending the image

 humility is the greatest freedom. 
As long as you have to defend the imaginary self
 that you think is important, you lose your peace of heart.
As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people,
 you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and
 there is no joy in things that do not exist.

~Thomas Merton

it floats you


The vast flood
Rolls onward
But yield yourself,
And it floats you upon it.

~ Ikkyu
from Zen and Zen Classics 
by R. H. Blyth
with thanks to

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

contemplative dimensions of healing trauma


~ James Finley

Monday, July 8, 2024

breathing underwater


I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.
A strong house
by a strong sea.

And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbours.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.

And then one day,
- and still I don't know how it happened -
the sea came.
Without warning.

Without welcome, even.
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.

And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death.
A while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door.
And I knew then, there was nether flight, nor death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling you stop being neighbours
and you give your house for a coral castle,
and you learn to breathe underwater.

~ Carol Bieleck
"I am not a traditional nun. 
In addition to being a Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart,
 I became an ordained Sufi priest,
 participated in the Dances of Universal Peace,
 and attended the 1995 United Nations Women’s Conference in Bejiing."

photo by Alex Mustard

Sunday, July 7, 2024

a great coauthorship


Each of us has had many authors, 
and each of us is engaged, 
for better or worse, in that same authorship. 

We could say that the human race is a great coauthorship 
in which we are collaborating with God and nature
 in the making of ourselves and one another. 

From this there is no escape. We may collaborate either well or poorly,
 or we may refuse to collaborate, but even to refuse to collaborate
 is to exert an influence and to affect the quality of the product.

The business of humanity is undoubtedly survival in this complex sense —
 a necessary, difficult, and entirely fascinating job of work. We have in us
 deeply planted instructions — personal, cultural, and natural — to survive, 
and we do not need much experience to inform us that we cannot survive alone. 

The smallest possible “survival unit,” indeed, appears to be the universe… 
Inside it, everything happens in concert; not a breath is drawn but by the grace
 of an inconceivable series of vital connections joining an inconceivable multiplicity
 of created things in an inconceivable unity. 

it may be that our marriages, kinships, friendships, neighborhoods,
 and all our forms and acts of homemaking are the rites 
by which we solemnize and enact our union with the universe… 
They give the word “love” its only chance to mean, 
for only they can give it a history,
 a community, and a place. 

 in such ways can love become flesh
 and do its worldly work.

It is  in these bonds that our individuality has a use and a worth;
 it is to the people who know us, love us, and depend on us
 that we are indispensable as the persons we uniquely are… 
Separate from the relationships,
 there is nobody to be known.

~ Wendell Berry
taken from  The Art of the Commonplace
art: Share in the wonder of the Shared Sky exhibition | by Stuart Buchanan
with thanks to The Marginalian by Maria Popova

let the last thing be song



Memory is safest in someone with amnesia.
Behind locked doors
glow the unmarred pieces—
musical notes humming
in a jumble, only
waiting to be


What is left in one
who does not remember?
Love and music.

Not a name but the fullness.
Not the sequence of events
but order of rhythm and pitch,

a piece of time in which to exist.


A tone traveling through space has no referent,
and yet we infer, and yet it
finds its way between our cells
and shakes us.

Aren’t we all still quivering
like tuning forks
with the shock of being,
the shock of being seen?


When I die, I want to be sung across the threshold.
Don’t you? Doesn’t the universe,
with its loosening warp
and weft, still
unspool its symphony?

Sing to me — please —
and I will sing for you as all unravels,
as time continues past the final beat
of the stutter inside your chest.

Harmonize, at the edge of that horizon,
with the black hole’s
fathomless B-flat.

~ Hannah Fries
with thanks to the marginalian

Saturday, July 6, 2024

there is some kiss

There is some kiss we want with our whole lives, the touch of
spirit on the body. Ocean water begs the pearl to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately it needs some wild darling! At
night, I open the window and ask the moon to come and press its

face against mine, Breathe into me, Close the language-door and 
open the love-window. The moon won't use the door, only the window.

~ Rumi