Friday, September 30, 2011

beyond confinement

A name should never trap a thing.  In the Jewish tradition, for instance, if you knew the name of a thing, you had a inkling of its secret and mystery.  The name was a doorway of reverence.  When you name a dimension of your experience, one of your qualities or difficulties, or some presence within you, you give it an identity.  It then responds to you according to the tone of its name.  We need to exercise great care and respect when we come to name something,  We always need to find a name that is worthy and spacious.

When we name things in a small way, we cripple them.  Often our way of naming things is driven by our addiction to what is obviously visible...  The visible is only the shoreline of the magnificent ocean of the invisible.  The invisible is not empty, but is textured and tense with presences.  These presences cannot be named; they can only be sensed, not seen.  

We have put wrong names on many of our most important experiences.  We have often caricatured and shown disrespect to some of our most faithful desires.  We have kept some of our most beautiful longings as prisoners in our hearts, falsely imprisoned simply because of mistaken identity.

The wildness of the invisible world is nameless.  It has no name. A first step towards reawakening respect for your inner life may be to become aware of the private collage of dead names you have for your inner life.  Often, the experiences of wilderness can return us to the nameless wildness within.  Sometime, go away to a wild place on your own.  Leave your name and the grid of intentions and projects and images which mark you out as citizen Z.  Leave it all, and let yourself just slip back into the rhythms of your intimate wildness. You will be surprised at the lost terrains, wells, and mountains that you will rediscover, territories which have been buried under well-meant but dead names.   To go beyond confinement is to rediscover yourself.

~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes


To go forth now
from all the entanglement
that is ours and yet not ours,
that, like the water in an old well,
reflects us in fragments, distorts what we are.
From all that clings like burrs and brambles—
to go forth
and see for once, close up, afresh,
what we had ceased to see—
so familiar it had become.
To glimpse how vast and how impersonal
is the suffering that filled your childhood.
Yes, to go forth, hand pulling away from hand.
Go forth to what? To uncertainty,
to a country with no connections to us
and indifferent to the dramas of our life.
What drives you to go forth? Impatience, instinct,
a dark need, the incapacity to understand.
To bow to all this.
To let go—
even if you have to die alone.
Is this the start of a new life?

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
excerpt from  The Prodigal Son, 
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
art by Ruth Norman

Thursday, September 29, 2011



Some listening were certain they could hear
through the notes summoned from the strings one more
following at a distance low but clear
a resonance never part of the score
not noticed during the rehearsals nor
prayed into the performance and yet here
with the first note it had been waiting for
holding silent the iced minors of fear
the key of grief the mourning from before
the names were read of those no longer there
that sound of what made no sound any more
made up the cords that in a later year
some still believed that they could overhear
echoing music played during a war

~ W.S. Merwin
from The Pupil

the pear


November. One pear
sways on the tree past leaves, past reason.
In the nursing home, my friend has fallen.
Chased, he said, from the freckled woods
by angry Thoreau, Coleridge, and Beaumarchais.
Delusion too, it seems, can be well-read.
He is courteous, well-spoken even in dread.
The old fineness in him hangs on
for dear life. "My mind now?
A small ship under the wake of a large.
They force you to walk on your heels here,
the angles matter.  Four or five degrees,
and you're lost." Life is dear to him yet,
though he believes it his own fault he grieves,
his own fault his old friends have turned against him
like crows against an injured of their kind.
There is no kindness here, no flint of mercy.
Descend, descend,
some voice must urge, inside the pear-stem.
The argument goes on, he cannot outrun it.
Dawnlight to dawnlight, I look: it is still there.

~ Jane Hirshfield 
from Come, Thief
art by janis zroback

only a state of being


There is in fact only one state, 
not two states such as the conscious and the unconscious there is only a state of being, 
which is consciousness, 
though you may divide it as the conscious and the unconscious. 
But that consciousness is always of the past, never of the present; 
you are conscious only of things that are over. 
You are conscious of what I am trying to convey the second afterwards, are you not? 
You understand it a moment later. 
You are never conscious or aware of the now. 
Watch your own hearts and minds and you will see that 
consciousness is functioning between the past and the future 
and that the present is merely a passage of the past to the future.

If you watch your own mind at work, 
you will see that the movement to the past and to the future is a process in which the present is not. 
Either the past is a means of escape from the present, which may be unpleasant, 
or the future is a hope away from the present. 

So the mind is occupied with the past or with the future and sloughs off the present. 
It either condemns and rejects the fact or accepts and identifies itself with the fact. 
Such a mind is obviously not capable of seeing any fact as a fact. 
That is our state of consciousness, which is conditioned by the past and our thought, 
is the conditioned response to the challenge of a fact; 
the more you respond according to the conditioning of belief, of the past, 
the more there is strengthening of the past.

That strengthening of the past is obviously the continuity of itself, which it calls the future. 
So that is the state of our mind, 
of our consciousness;a pendulum swinging backwards and forwards between the past and the future.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Book of Life

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

just be aware of your being here and now


Just live your life as it comes. 
Keep quietly alert, inquiring into the real nature of yourself. 
Perception is based on memory and is only imagination. 
The world can be said to appear but not to be. 
Only that which makes perception possible is real.

You agree to be guided from within and life becomes a journey into the unknown. 
Give up all names and forms, and the Real is with you. 
Know yourself as you are. Distrust your mind and go beyond. 
Do not think of the Real in terms of consciousness and unconsciousness. 
It is utterly beyond both. 
It gives birth to consciousness. 
All else is in consciousness.

Nothing you can see, feel or think is so. 
Go beyond the personal and see. 
Stop imagining that you were born. 
You are utterly beyond all existence and non-existence, 
utterly beyond all that the mind conceives. 
Question yourself: Who am I? 
What is behind and beyond all this? 
Soon you will see that thinking yourself to be a person is mere habit built on memory. 
Inquire ceaselessly.

 Just be aware of your being here and now. 
There is nothing more to it. 
In reality you are not a thing nor separate.

You are the infinite potentiality, the inexhaustible possibility. 
Because you are, all can be. 
The universe is but a partial manifestation of your limitless capacity to become. 
You are neither consciousness nor its content. 
You are the timeless Source. 
Disassociate yourself from mind and consciousness. 
Find a foothold beyond and all will be clear and easy.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj
from I am That

look at love


look at love
how it tangles
with the one fallen in love

look at spirit
how it fuses with earth
giving it new life
why are you so busy
with this or that or good or bad
pay attention to how things blend

why talk about all
the known and the unknown
see how the unknown merges into the known

why think separately
of this life and the next
when one is born from the last

look at your heart and tongue
one feels but deaf and dumb
the other speaks in words and signs

look at water and fire
earth and wind
enemies and friends all at once

the wolf and the lamb
the lion and the deer
far away yet together

look at the unity of this
spring and winter
manifested in the equinox

you too must mingle my friends
since the earth and the sky
are mingled just for you and me

be like sugarcane
sweet yet silent
don't get mixed up with bitter words

my beloved grows right out of my own heart
how much more union can there be

~ Rumi
from Fountain of Fire
translated by Nader Khalili
art by klimt

Monday, September 26, 2011

no entity


There is no entity separate from craving; there is only craving, there is no one who craves. 
Craving takes on different masks at different times, depending on its interests.

The memory of these varying interests meets the new, which brings about conflict, 
and so the chooser is born, 
establishing himself as an entity separate and distinct from craving.

But the entity is not different from its qualities. 
The entity who tries to fill or run away from emptiness, incompleteness, loneliness, 
is not different from that which he is avoiding; he is it. 

He cannot run away from himself; all that he can do is to understand himself. 
He is his loneliness, his emptiness; 
and as long as he regards it as something separate from himself;
 he will be in illusion and endless conflict. 
When he directly experiences that he is his own loneliness, 
then only can there be freedom from fear. 

Fear exists only in relationship to an idea, and idea is the response of memory as thought. 
Thought is the result of experience; and though it can ponder over emptiness,
 have sensations with regard to it, it cannot know emptiness directly. 

The word loneliness, with its memories of pain and fear, prevents the experiencing of it afresh. 
The word is memory, and when the word is no longer significant,
then the relationship between the experiencer and the experienced is wholly different; 
then that relationship is direct and not through a word, through memory; 
then the experiencer is the experience, 
which alone brings freedom from fear.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Book of Life

Sunday, September 18, 2011

nothing to gain


There is nothing to gain. 
Abandon all imaginings and know yourself as you are. 

All craving is due to a sense of insufficiency. 
When you know that you lack nothing, 
that all there is, is you and yours, desire ceases.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

ourselves and earth


I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete,
The earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and broken.

I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate those of the earth,
There can be no theory of any account unless it corroborate the theory of the earth.,
No politics, song, religion, behavior, or what not, is of any account, 
unless it compare with the amplitude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude of the earth.

~ Walt Whitman

Saturday, September 17, 2011

like water


The best, like water, 
Benefit all and do not compete. 
They dwell in lowly spots that everyone else scorns. 
Putting others before themselves, 
They find themselves in the foremost place 
And come very near to the Tao. 

~  Lao Tzu



Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question 'Whither?'

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,

And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

~ Robert Frost
with thanks to writers almanac

Friday, September 16, 2011



There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you’re full of food and drink, Satan sits
where your spirit should, an ugly metal statue
in place of the Kaaba. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon’s ring. Don’t give it
to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you've lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents,
Jesus’ table.
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table
spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.

~ Rumi 
translated by Coleman Barks

all things are empty


All things are empty: 
Nothing is born, nothing dies, 
nothing is pure, 
nothing is stained, 
nothing increases and nothing decreases. 

So, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no thought, no will, no consciousness. 
There are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind.
 There is no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, no imagining. 
No plane of sight, no plane of thought. There is no ignorance, and no end to ignorance. 
There is no old age and death, and no end to old age and death. 
There is no suffering, no cause of suffering, no end to suffering, no path to suffering. 
There is no attainment of wisdom, and no wisdom to attain.

~ the heart sutra

Thursday, September 15, 2011

steep yourself in the sea of matter

Sons and daughters of the earth, steep yourself in the sea of matter, 
bathe in its fiery waters, for it is the source of your life and your youthfulness.

You thought you could do without it because the power of thought has been kindled in you?   
You hoped that the more thoroughly you rejected the tangible, 
the closer you would be to spirit: that you would be more divine 
if you lived in the world of pure thought or at least more angelic 
if you fled the corporeal? 
Well, you were like to have perished of hunger.

You must have oil for your limbs, blood for your veins, water for your soul, 
the world of reality for your intellect: 
do you not see that the very law of your own nature 
makes these a necessity for you?

~ Pierre Teilhard De Chardin
art by picasso

one great thing


And I thought over again
My small adventures
As with a shore-wind I drifted out
In my kayak
And thought I was in danger,

My fears,
Those small ones
That I thought so big 
For all the vital things
I had to get and to reach.

And yet, there is only
One great thing,
The only thing:
To live to see in huts and on journeys
The great day that dawns,
And the light that fills the world.

~ Inuit song
photo by Alvis Zujevs



A red horse crops grass,
A black crow 
delves bugs from a dirt pile.
A woman watches in envy what is so simple.

~ Jane Hirshfield

philosophy and religion


...he who defines his conduct by ethics
imprisons his song-bird in a cage.
The freest song comes not through bars and wires. 

...he to whom worshiping is a window, to open but also to shut, 
has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

...if you would know God be not a solver of riddles.
Rather look about you and you shall see Him playing with your children.

...look into space; you shall see Him walking in the cloud, 
outstretching His arms in the lightning and descending in rain.

...see Him smiling in flowers, and then rising and waving His hands in trees.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Prophet

preferring simplicity and freedom from desires


If you overly esteem talented individuals,
people will become overly competitive.
If you overvalue possessions,
people will begin to steal.

Do not display your treasures
or people will become envious.

The Master leads by
emptying people's minds,
filling their bellies,
weakening their ambitions,
and making them become strong.
Preferring simplicity and freedom from desires,
avoiding the pitfalls of knowledge and wrong action.

For those who practice not-doing,
everything will fall into place.

~ Tao Teh Ching
version by j.h. mcdonald

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I am the spirit within the earth

It is lovely indeed, it is lovely indeed.

I, I am the spirit within the earth.
The feet of the earth are my feet;
The legs of the earth are my legs.
The strength of the earth is my strength;
The thoughts of the earth are my thoughts;
The voice of the earth is my voice.
The feather of the earth is my feather;
All that belongs to the earth belongs to me;
All that surrounds the earth surrounds me.
I, I am the sacred works of the earth.
It is lovely indeed, it is lovely indeed.

~ Navajo origin legend
Song of the Earth Spirit
art by van gogh



Let us look for secret things
somewhere in the world,
on the blue shore of silence
or where the storm has passed,
rampaging like a train.
There the faint signs are left,
coins of time and water,
debris, celestial ash
and the irreplaceable rapture
of sharing in the labour
of solitude and the sand.

~ Pablo Neruda
excerpt from On the Blue Shores of Silence

Tuesday, September 13, 2011



When a fine old carpet
is eaten by mice,
the colors and patterns
of what’s left behind
do not change.
As bedrock, tilted,
stays bedrock,
its purple and red striations unbroken.
Unstrippable birthright grandeur.
“How are you,” I asked,
not knowing what to expect.
“Contrary to Keatsian joy,” he replied.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from Come, Thief
art by Camille Pissarro, 1877