Friday, December 31, 2010


The rain has stopped,
the clouds have drifted away,
and the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure,
then all things in your world are pure.
Abandon this fleeting world,
abandon yourself,
then the moon and the flowers
will guide you along the way.
~ Ryokan
photo by  Hideyuki Katagiri
thanks to

Thursday, December 30, 2010

how heron comes

It is a negligence of the mind
not to notice how at dusk
heron comes to the pond and
stands there in his death robes, perfect
servant of the system, hungry, his eyes
full of attention, his
wings pure light.

~ Mary Oliver
photo by Kathleen Connally

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the way in

Whoever you are: some evening take a step,
out of your house, which you know so well.
Enormous space is near, your house lies where it begins,
whoever you are.
Your eyes find it hard to tear themselves
from the sloping threshold, but with your eyes,
slowly, slowly, lift one black tree
up, so it stands against the sky, skinny, alone.
With that you have made the world, the world is immense
and like a word that is still growing in the silence.
In the same moment that your will grasps it,
your eyes, feeling its subtlety  will leave it....
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
translated by Robert Bly

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I sit quietly, listening to the falling leaves--
A lonely hut, a life of renunciation ...
this hut of sticks,
flimsy as the world itself.
~ Ryokan

My hermitage

My hermitage lies in a forest all around me,
Everything is thick and green
no one finds this place,
Only those who have lost their way.
No news of the affairs of men
Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.
A thousand peaks, ten thousand mountain streams
yet no signs of anyone.
~ Ryokan
art by Cezanne

The great good news

The great good news is that 
love is free and it has not gone anywhere. 
In all of these eons that you have been hiding from love,
 love is still here, 
it is still open, 
it is still waiting for your commitment, 
still waiting for you to say,
"Yes, I give my life to the truth of love. 
I vow to let love live this life as it will, 
for better or worse, for richer or poorer." 
The love that you search for everywhere is already present within you. 
It may be evoked by any number of people or events. 
A mountain can evoke this love. 
A sunset can evoke this love. 
But finally, you must realize you are this love. 
The source of all love is within you. 

- Gangaji

Friday, December 24, 2010

Keep your intelligence white-hot
and your grief glistening
so your life will stay fresh.
Cry easily like a little baby.

~ Rumi


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The hunger of the hungry and the fullness of the full

If the soul was born with pinions
What are hovels to it, what are mansions?
What's Genghis Khan to it and what his Horde?
I have two enemies in all the world,
Two twins, inseparably fused:
The hunger of the hungry and the fullness of the full.
Marina Tsvetaeva, (1892-1941)
translation by David McDuff
(Born in Moscow, she married Sergey Efron who fought with the White Guard.  One of her two children died of malnutrition in 1920.  They lived in exile in Prague and Paris.  Even though Sergey was secretly a soviet informer during their exile, he was executed by the secret police on their return to the Soviet Union.  Tsvetaeva hanged herself in 1941.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

out of the freezing sky


Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint 
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought: 
maybe death isn't darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us — 

as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones. 

~ Mary Oliver 
from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays

Grace is not something to be acquired from others. 
If it is external, it is useless. 
All that is necessary is to know its existence in you.
~ Ramana Maharshi


Waving Adieu, Adieu, Adieu

That would be waving and that would be crying,
Crying and shouting and meaning farewell,
Farewell in the eyes and farewell at the centre,
Just to stand still without moving a hand.

In a world without heaven to follow, the stops
Would be endings, more poignant than partings, profounder,
And that would be saying farewell, repeating farewell,
Just to be there and just to behold.

To be one's singular self, to despise
The being that yielded so little, acquired
So little, too little to care, to turn
to the ever-jubilant weather, to sip

One's cup and never to say a word,
Or to sleep or just to lie there still,
Just to be there, just to be beheld,
That would be bidding farewell, be bidding farewell.

One likes to practice the thing. They practice,
Enough, for heaven. Ever-jubilant,
What is there here but weather, what spirit
Have I except it comes from the sun?

~Wallace Stevens

Sunday, December 19, 2010

If the rise of the Fish

If for a moment
the leaves fell upward,
if it seemed a small flock
of brown-orange birds
circled over the trees,
if they circled then scattered each in 
its own direction for the lost seed
they had spotted in tall, gold-checkered grass.
If the bloom of flies on the window
in morning sun, if their singing insistence
on grief and desire.  If the fish.
If the rise of the fish.
If the blue morning held in the glass of the window,
if my fingers, my palms.  If my thighs.
If your hands, if my thighs.
If the seeds, among all the lost gold of the grass.
If your hands on my thighs, if your tongue.
If the leaves. If the singing fell upward.  If grief.
For a moment if singing and grief.
If the blue of the body fell upward, out of our hands.
If the morning held it like leaves.
~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart

Friday, December 17, 2010

You will know love when the mind is very still

You will know love when the mind is very still and free from its search for gratification and escapes.  First, the mind must come entirely to an end.  Mind is the result of thought, and thought is merely a passage, a means to an end.  When life is merely a passage to something, how can there be love?  Love comes into being when the mind is naturally quiet, not made quiet, when it sees the false as false and the true as true.  When the mind is quiet, then whatever happens is the action of love, it is not the action of knowledge.  Knowledge is mere experience, and experience is not love.  Experience cannot know love.  Love comes into being when we understand the total process of ourselves, and the understanding of ourselves is the beginning of wisdom.
~ J. Krishnamurti
from his talk in Madras, Feb. 5th 1950

It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know. 
~  Henry David Thoreau

Poetry has an immediate effect on the mind. 
The simple act of reading poetry 
alters thought patterns and the shuttle of the breath. 
Poetry induces trance. 
Its words are chant. Its rhythms are drum beats. 
Its images become the icons 
of the inner eye. 
Poetry is more than a description 
of the sacred experience; 
it carries the experience itself.

~ Ivan M. Granger

Thursday, December 16, 2010

When I speak of darkness, I mean the absence of knowledge

And so to stand firmly and avoid pitfalls, 
keep to the path you are on.  
Let your longing relentlessly beat upon the  cloud of unknowing 
that lies between you and your God.  
Pierce that cloud with the keen shaft of your love, 
spurn the thought of anything less, 
and do not give up this work for anything.  
For the contemplative work of love by itself will eventually heal you...
And so diligently persevere until you feel joy in it.  For in the beginning it is usual to feel nothing but a kind of darkness about your mind, or as it were, a cloud of unknowing.  You will seem to know nothing and to feel nothing except a naked intent toward God in the depths of your being.  Try as you might, this darkness and this cloud will remain between you and your God.  You will feel frustrated, for your mind will be unable to grasp him, and you heart will not relish the delight of his love.  But learn to be at home in this darkness. Return to it as often as you can, letting your spirit cry out to him whom you love.  
the fourteenth century anonymous author,
the Cloud of Unknowing

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

awaken...a meadow of delight

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The gray window
And the ghost of loss gets into you,
May a flock of colors,
Indigo, red, green
and azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the curragh of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And, so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
~ John O'Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us

Monday, December 13, 2010

[you who never arrived]

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don't even know what songs
would please you, I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next 
moment.  All the immense 
images in me - the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and un-
suspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods -
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all 
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing.  An open window
in a country house -, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.  Streets that I chanced upon, -
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back
my too-sudden image.  Who knows?  perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us 
yesterday, separate, in the evening...

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from the Uncollected Poems
translated by Stephen Mitchell

Dusk in the Country

The riddle silently sees its image. It spins evening
among the motionless reeds.
There is a frailty no one notices
there, in the web of grass.
Silent cattle stare with green eyes.
They mosey in evening calm down to the water.
And the lake holds its immense spoon
up to all the mouths.
~ Harry Edmund Martinson
translation by Robert Bly
art by the author

beneath the seen


Is this the largest organism in the world? 
This 2,400-acre (9.7 km2) site in eastern Oregon
 had a contiguous growth of mycelium 
estimated at 1,665 football fields in size 
and 2,200 years old, this one fungus has killed the forest
 above it several times over, and in so doing has built deeper soil layers
 that allow the growth of ever-larger stands of trees. 
Mushroom-forming forest fungi are unique
 in that their mycelial mats can achieve
 such massive proportions.
~ from Wikipedia

Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome.
 It's true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears
 above the ground lasts only a single summer. 

Then it withers away - an ephemeral apparition. 
When we think of the unending growth and decay of life
 and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity.
 Yet I have never lost the sense of something that lives
 and endures beneath the eternal flux. What we see is blossom, 
which passes. The rhizome remains.

~ Carl Jung
from Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Your desiring cannot

Love is not condescending, never that,
nor books, nor any marking on paper,
nor what people say of each other.
Love is a tree
with branches reaching into eternity
and roots set deep in eternity,
and no trunk.
Have you seen it? The mind cannot.
Your desiring cannot.
The longing you feel for this love
comes from inside you.
When you become the Friend,
your longing will be as the man in the ocean
who holds to a piece of wood.
Eventually, wood, man, and ocean
become one swaying being,
Shams Tabriz, the secret of God.
~ Rumi

Sunday, December 12, 2010

once, more intimate

Yet in the alert, warm animal there lies
the pain and burden of an enormous sadness.
For it too feels the presence of what often 
overwhelms us: a memory, as if
the element we keep pressing toward was once
more intimate, more true, and our communion
infinitely tender.  Here all is distance;
there it was breath.  After that first home,
the second seems ambiguous and drafty.
Oh bliss of the tiny creature which remains
forever inside the womb that was its shelter;
joy of the gnat which, still within, leaps up
even at its marriage: for everything is womb.
And look at the half-assurance of the bird,
which knows both inner and outer, from its source,
as if it were the soul of an Etruscan,
flown out of a dead man received inside a space,
but with his reclining image as the lid.
And how bewildered is any womb-born creature
that has to fly.  As if terrified and fleeing
from itself, it zigzags through the air, the way
a crack runs through a teacup.  So the bat 
quivers across the porcelain of evening.
And we: spectators, always, everywhere,
turned toward the world of objects, never outward.
It fills us.  We arrange it.  It breaks down.
We rearrange it, then break down ourselves.
Who has twisted us around like this, so that
no matter what we do, we are in the posture
of someone going away? Just as, upon
the farthest hill, which shows him his whole valley
one last time, he turns, stops, lingers -,
so we live here, forever taking leave.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
excerpt from the Duino Elegies

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Knowing Nothing


Love is not the reason.
Love is the lure,
the thin goat staked out in the clearing.

The lion has stalked
the village for a long time.
It does not want the goat,
who stands thin and bleating,
tied to its bit of wood.

The goat is not the reason
The reason is the lion,
whose one desire is to enter -
Not the goat, which is
only the lure, only excuse,
but the one burning life
it has hunted for a long time
disguised as hunger.  Disguised as love.
Which is not the reason.

Or would you think
that the bones of a lion reason?
Would you think that the tongue?
The lion does not want the goat,
it wants only to live.  Alone if it must.
In pain if it must.  Knowing nothing.
Like the goat, it wants only to live.
Like love. Or would you think that the heart?

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Lives of the Heart

A Month of Days and Nights


Days that could have
been anything,
night that could have been anything,
turned with the leaves.

Then, someone played
the piano -
unpracticed, and perfect.

I listened to pity
and lowered my head in shame.
Ashamed not at my tears,
or even at what has been wasted,
but to have been dry-eyed so long.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The lives of the Heart


Sunday, November 28, 2010

stay with that silence

There was a time we lost ourselves in others,
a time we ate the best of foods.
There was time we relied on the intellect,
a time we looked for fortune
but all this had no value in the end.
For a mouthful of food and some bitter herbs
we went everywhere,
we made so many plans
one day it was Rome,
the next day it was Africa.
We entered a raging battlefield, for what?
a few crumbs of bread.
Lose your soul in God's love, I swear
there is no other way.
Stay with that silence.
I once ran toward the knowledge of this world;
now the papers are packed, the pens are broken
O Saaqi, bring on the wine!
~ Rumi
from A Garden Beyond Paradise
version by Jonathan Star

Friday, November 26, 2010

Autumn Quince

How sad they are,
the promises we never return to.
They stay in our mouths,
roughen the tongue, lead lives of their own.
Houses built and unwittingly lived in;
a succession of milk bottles brought to the door
every morning and taken inside.
And which one is real?
The music in the composer's ear
or the lapsed piece the orchestra plays?
The world is a blurred version of itself --
marred, lovely, and flawed.
It is enough.
~ Jane Hirshfield
from Of Gravity & Angels

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

from "Among School Children"

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
~ W. B. Yeats

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Be still

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
be silent, they try
To speak your
To the living walls.
Who are you?
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?
Who (be quiet)
Are you (as these stones
Are quiet). Do not
Think of what you are
Still less of
What you may one day be.
Be what you are (but who?) be
The unthinkable one
You do not know.
~ Thomas Merton
excerpt from In Silence

emptiness and freedom

What can I say about the emptiness and freedom 
into whose door I entered for that half-minute, 
which was enough for a lifetime, 
because it was a new life altogether?  
There is nothing with which to compare it.  
I could call it nothingness, 
but it is an infinitely fruitful freedom, 
to lack all things and to lack my self 
in the fresh air of that happiness 
that seems to be above all modes of being.  
Don't let me build any more walls around it, or I will shut myself out.
~ Thomas Merton
from Dialogues with Silence
sketch by the author