Monday, October 19, 2020

while things are quiet

Things are easier to control while things are quiet.
Things are easier to plan far in advance.
Things break easier while they are still brittle.
Things are easier hid while they are still small.

Prevent problems before they arise.
Take action before things get out of hand.
The tallest tree
begins as a tiny sprout.
The tallest building
starts with one shovel of dirt.
A journey of a thousand miles
starts with a single footstep.

If you rush into action, you will fail.
If you hold on too tight, you will lose your grip.

Therefore the Master lets things take their course
and thus never fails.
She doesn't hold on to things
and never loses them.
By pursing your goals too relentlessly,
you let them slip away.
If you are as concerned about the outcome
as you are about the beginning,
then it is hard to do things wrong.
The master seeks no possessions.
She learns by unlearning,
thus she is able to understand all things.

~ Lao Tzu
from the Tao Te Ching
translation by j. h. mcdonald

it needs the metaphor of the body ...

The spirit
likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers,
ten toes,

shoulders, and all the rest
at night
in the black branches,
in the morning

in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather

plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
it needs
the metaphor of the body,

lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body's world,

and imagination
and the dark hug of time,
and tangibility,

to be understood,
to be more than pure light
that burns
where no one is --

so it enters us --
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;

and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star. 

~ Mary Oliver 

Sunday, October 18, 2020




My body, now that we will not be traveling together much longer
I begin to feel a new tenderness toward you, very raw and unfamiliar,
like what I remember of love when I was young —

love that was so often foolish in its objectives
but never in its choices, its intensities
Too much demanded in advance, too much that could not be promised —

My soul has been so fearful, so violent;
forgive its brutality.
As though it were that soul, my hand moves over you cautiously,

not wishing to give offense
but eager, finally, to achieve expression as substance:

it is not the earth I will miss,
it is you I will miss.
Louise Glück
 from A Village Life
with thanks to brain pickings


Thursday, October 15, 2020

about this mind


About this mind,
in truth there is nothing really wrong with it.
It is intrinsically pure.
Within itself it's already peaceful.
If the mind is not peaceful these days,
it's because it follows moods.
The real mind doesn't have anything to it;
it is simply an aspect of nature.
It becomes peaceful or agitated because
moods deceive it.
The untrained mind is stupid.
Sense impressions come and trick it into 
gladness, and 
but the mind's true nature is none of those things.
That gladness or sadness is not the mind,
 but only a mood coming to deceive us.
The untrained mind gets lost and follows these thing;
it forgets itself.
Then we think that it is we who are 
upset or at ease or whatever.
But really this mind of ours is already unmoving and peaceful -
really peaceful!
Just like a leaf which remains still 
so long as the wind doesn't blow.
If a wind comes up, the leaf flutters.
The fluttering is due to the wind -
the fluttering of the mind is due to those sense impressions;
the mind follows them.
If it doesn't follow them,
it doesn't flutter.
If we know fully the true nature of sense impressions,
we will be unmoved.
Our practice is simply to see the "Original Mind."
We train the mind to know those sense impressions
and not get lost in them,
to make it peaceful.
Just this is the aim of all this difficult practice.
~ Ajahn Chah
 from Food for the Heart -
The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah
art by Cameron Gray


in space

In space
(the experiment
suggested by two fifth graders),
a Canadian astronaut
wrings water out of a towel.

It stays by the towel,
transparent isinglass,
a hyaline column.

Then begins to cover his hands,
his wrists,
stays on them
until he passes it to another towel.

On earth
some who watch this
recognize the wrung, irrational soul.

How it does not leave
but stays close,
outside the cleaning twist-fate but close--

fear  desire  anger
joy  irritation 

wet stuff
that is shining, that cannot go from us,
having nowhere other to fall.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Beauty

how to let go

We already know how to let go -
 we do it every night when we go to sleep, 
and that letting go, like a good night's sleep, is delicious. 

Opening in this way, 
we can live in the reality of our wholeness. 
A little letting go brings us a little peace, 
a greater letting go brings us a greater peace.

Entering the gateless gate, 
we begin to treasure the moments of wholeness. 
We begin to trust the natural rhythm of the world, 
just as we trust our own sleep and how our own breath breathes itself.

~ Jack Kornfield


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

mist and moonlight and memory


I live in a well. I live like smoke in the well.
Like vapor in a stone throat. 
I don't move. 
I don't do anything but wait.
 Overhead I see the cold stars of night and
morning, and I see the sun. 
And sometimes I sing old songs 
of this world when it was young. 
How can I tell you what I am when I don't know? 
I cannot. I am simply waiting.
 I am mist and moonlight and memory.
 I am sad and I am old.
 Sometimes I fall like rain into the well. 
Spider webs are startled into forming 
where my rain falls fast, on the water surface.
 I wait in cool silence and there will be a day 
when I no longer wait.

Now it is morning.

- Ray Bradbury
from the short story, The One Who Waits 
with thanks to whiskey river

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

the haunted room

In Ireland there are many stories of haunted houses.  
There may be a room in which one senses a presence 
or hears footsteps or a strange voice.  Such haunted places 
remain uninhabited.  People are afraid to go there. 
 The place is forsaken and left to deepen ever further 
into the shadow of itself.  
The way you think about your life can turn your soul into a haunted room. 
 You are afraid to risk going in there anymore.  Your fantasy
 peoples this room of the heart with sad presences, 
 which ultimately become disturbing and sinister. 
 The haunted room in the mind installs lonesomeness at the heart of your life.
  It would be devastating in the autumn of your life to look back
 and recognize that you had created a series of haunted rooms
 in your heart.  
Fear and negativity are immense forces,
 which constantly tussle with us.  They long to turn the mansions
 of the soul into a totally haunted house.  These are the living conditions
 for which fear and negativity long, and in which they thrive. 
 We were sent here to live life to the full.  When you manage to be generous
 in your passion and vulnerability, life always comes to bless you.
  Had you but the courage to acknowledge the haunted inner room,
 turn the key, and enter, you would encounter nothing strange or sinister there. 
 You would meet some vital self of yours that you had banished 
during a time of pain or difficulty.  Sometimes, when life squeezes you
 into lonely crevices, you may have to decide between survival or breaking apart.
 At such times, you can be harsh with yourself and settle to be someone
 other than who you really long to be.  At such a time, 
you can do nothing else; you have to survive. 
 But your soul always remains faithful to your longing
 to become who you really are.  The banished self from an earlier 
time of life remains within you waiting to be released and integrated. 
 The soul has its own logic of loyalty and concealment.
  Ironically, it is usually in its most awkward rooms that the special blessings 
and healing are locked away. 
 Your thinking can also freeze and falsify
 the flow of your life’s continuity to make you a prisoner
 of routine and judgement.

~  John O’Donohue, 
from  'Eternal Echoes

making the darkness conscious


One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.
The later procedure, however,
 is disagreeable and therefore not popular.

~ Carl Jung
from The Philosophical Tree 
When we turn toward our pain instead of away from it,
self-mercy enters those parts of ourselves we had closed off, withdrawn from,
or abandoned to feelings of impotence. When it seems there is nowhere
 else to turn, when all our prayers and strategies seem to be of little avail,
 something deeper arises: a mercy that leads toward the heart.

Without mercy (a quality of loving kindness that is the tender
 acceptance of even that which might be otherwise unacceptable) as 
an alternative to holding to our pain, we abandon those most painful 
memories within us to harsh judgment and merciless reflection.

The appearance of mercy, ...compassion... is absolutely unmistakable
as we learn to open into that which once closed us off.
Memories may always be bittersweet, but we may also find peace
 flickering, at the edges of what once caused us agitation. 
Healing, then, becomes not the absence of pain but the 
increased ability to meet it with mercy instead of loathing.
No one can wholly remove our pain. All we can do is 
increase the spaciousness of mind and heart in which it 
is allowed to decompress. 

We  meet ourselves  with simple kindness that confounds
our addiction to critical self-judgement.  We find ourselves
more likely to meet others' confusion and helplessness 
open-heartedly.  We find less need for others or ourselves
to be different in order to be loved.

We find ourselves.

~ Stephen Levine
from Unattended Sorrow

view with a grain of sand

We call it a grain of sand
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine without a name,
whether general, particular,
permanent, passing,
incorrect or apt.

Our glance, our touch mean nothing to it.
It doesn't feel itself seen and touched.
And that it fell on the windowsill
is only our experience, not its.
For it it's no different than falling on anything else
with no assurance that it's finished falling
or that it's falling still.

The window has a wonderful view of a lake
but the view doesn't view itself.
It exists in this world
colorless, shapeless,
soundless, odorless, and painless.

The lake's floor exists floorlessly
and its shore exists shorelessly.
Its water feels itself neither wet nor dry
and its waves to themselves are neither singular nor plural,
They splash deaf to their own noise
on pebbles neither large nor small.

And all this beneath a sky by nature skyless
in which the sun sets without setting at all
and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.
The wind ruffles it,  its only reason being
that it blows.

A second passes
A second second.
A third.
But they're three seconds only for us.

Time has passed like a courier with urgent news.
But that's just our simile.
The character's invented, his haste is make-believe,
his news inhuman.

~ Wislawa Szymborska
translated by Stanislaw Baraniczak and Clara Cavanagh

Monday, October 12, 2020


Are you willing to be sponged out, erased, cancelled,
made nothing?
Are you willing to be made nothing?
dipped into oblivion?

If not, you will never really change.
The phoenix renews her youth
only when she is burnt, burnt alive, burnt down
to hot and flocculent ash.

Then the small stirring of a new small bub in the nest
with strands of down like floating ash
shows that she is renewing her youth like the eagle,
immortal bird.

~  D.H. Lawrence

Sunday, October 11, 2020

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

Friday, October 9, 2020

coping with challenging times


~  Joseph Goldstein

exteriorly “all right”


The heart of man  can be full of so much pain, 
even when things are exteriorly “all right”.
 It becomes all the more difficult because today we are used to thinking
 that there are explanations for everything. But there is no explanation 
of most of what goes on in our own hearts, and we cannot account for it all.
 No use resorting to the kind of mental tranquilizers
 that even religious explanations sometimes offer.
 Faith must be deeper than that, rooted in the unknown
 and in the abyss of darkness that is the ground of our being. 
No use teasing the darkness to try to make answers grow out of it. 
But if we learn how to have a deep inner patience, 
things solve themselves, or God solves them if you prefer:
 but do not expect to see how. Just learn to wait,
 and do what you can and help other people. 
Often it is in helping someone else 
we find the best way to bear our own trouble.

-- Thomas Merton
from his Christmas letter, 1966
art by Picasso
with thanks to louie, louie

Thursday, October 8, 2020



~ Thich Nhat Hanh