Thursday, March 31, 2011

the in-turning flower of the fig


Within her dark robes
the nun is silent,
passion kept
between herself
and the largeness.
She moves
no differently
down granite stairs,
continues to sew poorly.
she would deny all.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The Lives of the Heart




It is less the medicine than the doctor that cures.
It is less the doctor than the organic consciousness that heals.
Always the organic consciousness is responsible for illness and for its cure.
The doctor inspires, gives the impulsion that leads to health, 
the medicine helps or hinders locally to that end.
Medicine-only is an attempt at healing despite the organic consciousness.

~ Wei Wu Wei
from Fingers Pointing Towards the Moon



Vincent Willem van Gogh

Born March 30, 1853 in Groot-Zundert (today Zundert) in Breda, the Netherlands, 
Died, 29 July 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France,
is one of the founders of modern painting. 

He left (according to current knowledge) 864 paintings and 1000 drawings,
which are all done in the last decade of his life. 
His major work is stylistically Post-Impressionism
exerted strong influence on later artists, particularly the Fauves and Expressionists. 

During his lifetime he sold only a few images, 

Belinda Thomson: Van Gogh - Paintings - The Masterpieces, p. 84

Some quotes by Vincent van Gogh:

.The more you love,
the more active you will be ....

Many a man has a big fire in his soul;
and no one comes to warm up to it ....

I want to flush, easily, seriously;
I want more soul and more love and more heart ....

Conversion is necessary
as the renewal of the leaves in the spring ....


with thanks to Semsakrebsler


lost in thought


is the beginning 
of misery

~ Benjamin Dean
more at zen poems


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

when love itself comes to kiss you

When love itself comes to kiss you,
don't hold back!  When the king

goes hunting, the forest smiles.
Now the king has become the place

and all the players, prey, bystander,
bow, arrow, hand and release.  How

does that feel?  Last night's dream
enters these open eyes.  When we die

and turn to dust, each particle will
be the whole.  You hear a mote whirl

taking form?  My music.  Love, calm,
patient.  The Friend has waded down

into existence, gotten stuck, and 
will not be seen again outside of

this.  We sometimes make spiderwebs
of smoke and saliva, fragile thought -

packets.  Leave thinking to the one
who gave intelligence .  In silence

there is eloquence.  Stop weaving,
and watch how the pattern improves.

~ Rumi
from the soul of Rumi
translations by Coleman Barks
photo by elliot erwitt



St. John of the Cross compares man to a window through which the light of God is shining.  
If the windowpane is clean of every stain, it is completely transparent, 
we do not see it at all: it is "empty" and nothing is seen but the light.
But if a man bears in himself the stains of spiritual egotism and 
preoccupation with his illusory and exterior self, 
even in "good things," 
the the windowpane itself is clearly seen by reason of the stains that are on it.
Hence if a man can be rid of the stains and dust produced within him 
by his fixation upon what is good and bad in reference to himself,
 he will be transformed in God and will be "one with God."  

~ Thomas Merton
from Zen and the Birds of Appetite


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

only the lowest servant of the kingdom, is worthy to become its ruler

Water is the softest and most yielding substance.
Yet nothing is better than water,
for overcoming the hard and rigid,
because nothing can compete with it.

Everyone knows that the soft and yielding
overcomes the rigid and hard,
but few can put this knowledge into practice.

Therefore the Master says:
"Only he who is the lowest servant of the kingdom,
is worthy to become its ruler.
He who is willing to tackle the most unpleasant tasks,
is the best ruler in the world."

True sayings seem contradictory.

~ Lao Tzu
from the Tao Te Ching

my aim and my fulfillment


In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips, I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, "Master, I am thy slave,  Thy hidden will is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more."  

But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.

And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again spoke unto God,
saying, "Creator, I am thy creation.  Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all."

And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain and spoke unto God again, saying, "Father, I am thy son.  In pity and love thou hast given me birth, and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom."

And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant hills he passed away.

And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again spoke to God, saying, " my God, my aim and my fulfillment; I am thy yesterday and thou art my tomorrow,  I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, and together we grow before the face of the sun."

Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness, and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to her, he enfolded me.

And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there also.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from Poems, Parables and Drawings

lingering in happiness


After rain after many days without rain,
it stays cool, private and cleansed, under the trees,
and the dampness there, married now to gravity,
falls branch to branch, leaf to leaf, down to the ground
where it will disappear - but not, of course, vanish
except to our eyes.  The roots of the oaks will have their share,
and the white threads of the grasses, and the cushion of moss;
a few drops, round as pearls, will enter the mole's tunnel;
and soon so many small stones, buried for a thousand years,
will feel themselves being touched.

~ Mary Oliver
from Why I wake early


If only for once it were still

If only for once it were still.
If the not quite right and the why this
could be muted, and the neighbor's laughter,
and the static my senses make -
if all of it didn't keep me from coming awake -

Then in one vast thousandfold thought
I could think you up to where thinking ends.

I could possess you,
even for the brevity of a smile,
to offer you 
to all that lives,
in gladness.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Monastic Life, I,7

a hundred roots silently drinking


I have many brothers in the South
who move, handsome in their vestments,
through cloister gardens.
The Madonnas they make are so human,
and I dream often of their Titians,
where God becomes an ardent flame.
But when I lean over the chasm of myself -
it seems
my God is dark
and like a web: a hundred roots
silently drinking.
This is the ferment I grow out of.
More I don't know, because my branches
rest in deep silence, stirred only by the wind.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Monastic Life, I,3


Sunday, March 27, 2011

the madman


You ask me how I became a madman.  It happened thus:  One day, long before many gods were born,  I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen, - the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives, - I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, "Thieves, thieves, and cursed thieves."
Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.
And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, "He is a madman."  I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time.  For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and I wanted my masks no more.  And as if in a trance I cried, "Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks."
Thus I became a madman.
And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness;  the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.
But let me not be too proud of my safety.  Even a Thief in jail is safe from another thief.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Madman his Parables and Poems
art by the author



the great longing


Here I sit between my brother the mountain and my sister the sea.

We three are one in loneliness, and the love that binds us together is deep and strong and strange.  Nay, it is deeper than my sister's depth and stronger than my brother's strength, and stranger than the strangeness of my madness.

Aeons upon aeons have passed since the first grey dawn made us visible to one another; and though we have seen the birth and the fullness and the death of many world, we are still eager and young.

We are  young and eager and yet we are mateless and unvisited, and though we lie in unbroken half embrace, we are uncomforted.  And what comfort is there for controlled desire and unspent passion?  Whence shall come the flaming god to warm my sister's bed?  And what she-torrent shall quench my brother's fire? And who is the woman that shall command my heart?

In the stillness of the night my sister murmurs in her sleep the fire-god's unknown name, and my brother call afar upon the cool and distant goddess.  But upon whom I call in my sleep I know not

Here I sit between my brother the mountain and my sister the sea.  We three are one in loneliness, and the love that binds us together is deep and strong and strange.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from Poems, Parables and Drawings
drawing by the author



for a time of change


The mind of time is hard to read.
We can never predict what it will bring,
Nor even from all that is already gone
Can we say what form it finally takes;
For time gathers its moments secretly.
Often we only know it's time to change
When a force has built inside the heart
That leaves us uneasy as we are.
Perhaps the work we do has lost its soul
Or the love where we once belonged
Calls nothing alive in us anymore.
We drift through this gray, increasing nowhere
Until we stand before a threshold we know
We have to cross to come alive once more.
May we have the courage to take the step
Into the unknown that beckons us;
Trust that a richer life awaits us there,
That we will lose nothing
But what has already died;
Feel the deeper knowing in us sure
Of all that is about to be born beyond
The pale frames where we stayed confined,
Not realizing how such vacant endurance
Was bleaching our soul's desire.

~ John O'Donohue
from To Bless the Space Between Us


the remains



I empty myself of the names of others.
I empty my pockets, I empty my shoes and leave them beside
the road. At night I turn back the clocks; I open the family
album and look at myself as a boy.
What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.
My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds. How can I sing?
Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

~ Mark Strand
with thanks to melancholynotes


Saturday, March 26, 2011

a man receives only what he is ready to receive


A man receives only what he is ready to receive,
whether physically or intellectually or morally,
as animals conceive at certain seasons their kind only.
We hear and apprehend only what we already half know.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from a journal entry, 1860
art by Roderick Maclver
from Thoreau and the Art of Life


Friday, March 25, 2011

man is but the place where I stand



I do not value any view of the universe
 into which man and the institutions of man 
enter very largely and absorb much of the attention.  
Man is but the place where I stand; 
and the prospect hence is infinite.

~ Henry David Thoreau
from his journal, 1852
art by roderick maclver



Thursday, March 24, 2011

in silence


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.
O be still, while
You are still alive,
And all things live around you
Speaking (I do not hear)
To your own being,
Speaking by the Unknown
That is in you and in themselves.
"I will try, like them
To be my own silence:
And this is difficult.  The whole
World is secretly on fire.  The stones
Burn, even the stones
They burn me.  How can a man be still or
Listen to all things burning?  How can he dare
To sit with them when
All their silence
Is on fire?"

~ Thomas Merton
from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

pure no-thing

God is pure no-thing,
concealed in now and here:
the less you reach for him,
the more he will appear.

~ Angelus Silesius



For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river


For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river -
Unbearable pain becomes its own cure.

Travel far enough into sorrow, tears turn to sighing;
In this way we learn how water can die into air.

When, after heavy rain, the stormclouds disperse,
Is it not that they've wept themselves clear to the end?

If you want to know a miracle, how wind can polish a mirror,
Look: the shining glass grows green in spring.

It's the rose's unfolding, Ghalib, that creates the desire to see -
In every color and circumstance, may the eyes be open for what comes.

~ Ghalib (1797-1869)

Monday, March 21, 2011

so many skins


A human being has so many skins inside, 
covering the depths of the heart. 
We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! 
Why, thirty or forty skins or hides,
as thick and hard as an ox’s or a bear’s, 
cover the soul. 
Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there. 

~ Meister Eckhart


ecstasy: Czechoslovakia, 1933

The actress was only seventeen
and so the director arranged
to have her pricked lightly with pins
at the needed moments.

~ Jane Hirshfield

I write these words to delay

What can I do with these thoughts,
given me as a dog is given her flock?
Or perhaps it is the reverse -
my life the unruly sheep, being herded.
At night,
all lie down on the mountain grasses,
while mirror sheep, a mirror guard-dog
follow one another through rock outcrops,
across narrow streams.  The drink and graze by starlight.
This morning, waking to unaccustomed calmness,
I write these words to stay in that silent, unfevered existence,
to delay the other words that are waiting.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from After

Sunday, March 20, 2011

his name is God-with-them

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth ...
Here God lives among men.
He will make his home among them; 
they shall be his people and he will be their God;
his name is God-with-them.
He will wipe away all tears from their eyes;
there will be no more death, and no more mourning and sadness. 
 The world of the past has gone.
Then the One sitting on the throne spoke:
Now I am making the whole of creation new...

~ Revelations 21: 1-5


the longing for beauty

For beauty is the cause of harmony, of sympathy, of community.
Beauty unites all things and is the source of all things. 
It is the great creating cause which bestirs the world 
and holds all things in existence by the longing inside them to have beauty.  
And there it is ahead of all as...the Beloved ...toward which all things move, 
since it is the longing for beauty which actually brings them into being.

~ Pseudo-Dionysius
from The Divine Names

Saturday, March 19, 2011

to finding again


Everything else must have changed
must be different
by the time you appear
more than ever the same
taking me by surprise
in my difference
my age
long after I had come 
to the end 
of believing in you
to the end of hope
which was not even 
the first of the changes
when I imagined 
that I was forgetting you
you did not even need memory
to remain there
letting the years vanish
the miles depart
nothing surprising in that
even longing
does not need memory
to know what to reach for 
and nothing surprises you
who were always there
wherever it was
beyond belief

~ W.S. Merwin
from Present Company


secret places


Lovers find secret places inside this violent world
where they make transactions with beauty.
Reason says, Nonsense.
I have walked and measured the walls here.
There are no places like that.
Love says, There are.
Reason set up a market and begins doing business.
Love has more hidden work.
Hallaj steps away from the pulpit
and climbs the stairs of the gallows.
Lovers feel a truth inside themselves
that rational people keep denying.
It is reasonable to say, Surrender is just an idea
that keeps people from living their lives.
Love responds, No.
This thinking is what is dangerous.
Using language obscures what Shams came to give.
out of low word-clouds into burning silence.

~ Rumi
from The Big Red Book
translations by Coleman Barks

the adamantine perfection of desire

Nothing more strong 
than to be helpless before desire.

No reason,
the simplified heart whispers,
the argument over,
only This.

No longer choosing anything but assent.

Its bowl scraped clean to the bottom,
the skull-bone cup no longer horrifies,
but, rimmed in silver, shines.

A spotted dog follows a bitch in heat.
Gray geese flying past us, crying.
The living cannot help but love the world.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Each Happiness Ringed by Lions

beauty is integral to being


Part of what it means to be, 
is to be beautiful.  

Beauty is not super-added to things: it is one of the springs of their reality.  
It is not that which effects a luscious response in perceivers;
 it is the interior geometry of things, making them perceptible as forms.

~ Francesca Aran Murphy
photo by albert koetsier