Tuesday, January 31, 2012

paying attention to the melody

All right.  I know that each of us will die alone.
It doesn't matter how loud or soft the sitar plays.
Sooner or later the melody will say it all.

The prologue is so long!  At last the theme comes.
It says the soul will rise above all these notes.
It says the dust will be swept up from the floor.

It doesn't matter if we say our prayers or not.
We know the canoe is heading straight for the falls,
And no one will pick us up from the water this time.

One day the mice will carry our ragged impulses
All the way to Egypt, and at home the cows
Will graze on a thousand acres of thought.

Everyone goes on hoping for a good death.
The old rope hangs down from the hangman's nail.
The forty-nine robbers are climbing into their boots.

Robert, don't expect too much.  You've put yourself
Ahead of others for years, a hundred years.
It will take a long time for you to hear the melody.

~ Robert Bly
from Talking into the Ear of a Donkey

Sunday, January 29, 2012

creator, preserver, and destroyer

statue from Tamil Nadu, Chola Dynasty, India

As a symbol, Shiva Nataraja is a brilliant invention. 
It combines in a single image Shiva's roles as creator, preserver, and destroyer 
of the universe and conveys the Indian conception of the never-ending cycle of time. 

Although it appeared in sculpture as early as the fifth century, its present, 
world-famous form evolved under the rule of the Cholas. 
Shiva's dance is set within a flaming halo. 
The god holds in his upper right hand the damaru (hand drum that made the first sounds of creation). 
His upper left hand holds agni (the fire that will destroy the universe). 
With his lower right hand, he makes abhayamudra (the gesture that allays fear). 
The dwarflike figure being trampled by his right foot represents 
apasmara purusha (illusion, which leads mankind astray). 
Shiva's front left hand, pointing to his raised left foot, 
signifies refuge for the troubled soul. 
The energy of his dance makes his hair fly to the sides.

~ description by the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Beneath its diversity and complexity, the underlying unity of Hinduism has correspondences with the inward dimension of the Christian faith.

~ Ursula King

Friday, January 27, 2012

only breath

~ Rumi
with Coleman Barks

after long busyness

I start out for a walk at last after weeks at the desk.
Moon gone, plowing underfoot, no stars, not a trace of light!
Suppose a horse were galloping toward me in this open field?
Every day I did not spend in solitude was wasted.

~ Robert Bly
photo by michael totten

Thursday, January 26, 2012

creativity - authority - self-knowledge

There is no method for self-knowledge. 

Seeking a method invariably implies the desire to attain some result and that is what we all want. We follow authority - if not that of a person, then of a system, of an ideology - because we want a result that will be satisfactory, which will give us security. We really do not want to understand ourselves, our impulses and reactions, the whole process of our thinking, the conscious as well as the unconscious; we would rather pursue a system that assures us of a result. But the pursuit of a system is invariably the outcome of our desire for security, for certainty, and the result is obviously not the understanding of oneself. When we follow a method, we must have authorities - the teacher, the guru, the savior, the Master - who will guarantee us what we desire; and surely that is not the way to self-knowledge.

Authority prevents the understanding of oneself, does it not? Under the shelter of an authority, a guide, you may have temporarily a sense of security, a sense of well-being, but that is not the understanding of the total process of oneself. Authority in its very nature prevents the full awareness of oneself and therefore ultimately destroys freedom; in freedom alone can there be creativeness. 

There can be creativeness only through self-knowledge.

~ J. Krishnamurti
from The Book of Life
with thanks to j krishnamurti online

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

you can barely distinguish me

I have hymns you haven't heard.

There is an upward soaring
in which I bend close.
You can barely distinguish me
from the things that kneel before me.

They are like sheep, they are grazing.
I am the shepherd on the brow of the hill.
When evening draws them home
I follow after, the dark bridge thudding,

and the vapor rising from their backs
hides my own homecoming.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke
from The Book of Monastic Life
translation by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
art from the cave of chauvet-pont-d'arc

Monday, January 23, 2012


The modern pagan, the child of technology or the “mass man,” does not even enjoy the anguish of dualism or the comfort of myth. His anxieties are no longer born of eternal aspiration, though they are certainly rooted in a consciousness of death. “Mass man” is something more than fallen. He lives not only below the level of grace, but below the level of nature—below his own humanity. No longer in contact with the created world or with himself, out of touch with the reality of nature, he lives in the world of collective obsessions, the world of systems and fictions with which modern man has surrounded himself. In such a world, man’s life is no longer even a seasonal cycle. It’s a linear flight into nothingness, a flight from reality and from God, without purpose and without objective, except to keep moving, to keep from having to face reality….

~ Thomas Merton
from Seasons of Celebration
art by picasso

the beauty

~ John O'Donohue

as we climb higher

As we climb higher, we say this.
It is not soul or mind, nor does it possess
imagination, conviction, speech or understanding.

It does not live nor is it life.  It is not a 
substance, nor is it eternity or time.

It is not wisdom.
It is neither one nor oneness, divinity nor goodness.

It falls neither within the predicate of nonbeing nor being.

It is beyond assertion and denial.  We make assertions and
denials of what is next to it, but never of it, for it is both beyond
every assertion, being the perfect and unique cause of all things,
and by virtue of its pre-eminently simple and absolute nature,
free of every limitation,
beyond every limitation;
it is also beyond every denial.

~ Pseudo-Dionysius
art from Sistine Chapel images

unsophisticated teachers say

Unsophisticated teachers say that God is pure
being.  He is as high above being as the highest
angel is above a gnat.  I would be speaking as incorrectly
in calling God a being as if I called the sun pale or black.

God is neither this or that.

~ Meister Eckhart

Sunday, January 22, 2012

the parents poem

It’s a good idea to figure what to do with parents.
One man I knew, after caring for them for years,
Led them across a busy street—two lines of traffic.
He started a lost colony for his parents.

He bought them big boots and pith helmets.
He sent his parents into battle. He dressed
Them in Austrian uniforms and gave them
Maps of Russia. No one ever saw them again.

Another man built a furnace and put his parents
Into it. He got some tincture, and tried to tran-
Substantiate his parents. It took a long time
And used a lot of heat, but there wasn't much change.

A neighbor stored them in an empty cistern—the ladder
Is still sticking out. He took them to Kenya
And got his parents to take a walk with the elephants.
And they died all right . . . But by the end,

They knew for sure that they’d had children.

~ Robert Bly
art by gene kloss

chinese foot chart

Every part of us
alerts another part.
Press a spot in 
the tender arch and 
feel the scalp
twitch.  We are no
match for ourselves
but our own release.
Each touch
uncatches some 
remote lock.  Look,
boats of mercy
embark from
our heart at the 
oddest knock.

~ Kay Ryan
from The Best of It

from you

From you
I don't want anything new
no more gifts
nor the scent of landscapes
rising to fill us, 
no bouquets of insight
left by my head
in the tenderness of morning,

no intoxication 
of thoughts that open horizons
where rooms are low,
nor the sever of spring
under the grid of old worlds
that has set on our skin,
nor my favourite blue,
the cobalt 
colour of silence.

All I want
is your two hands
pulsing in mine,
the two of us
back in a circle
round our love.

~ John O'Donohue


Awareness is primordial; it is the original state, beginningless, endless, uncaused, unsupported, without parts, without change. 

Consciousness is on contact, a reflection against a surface, a state of duality. 

There can be no consciousness without awareness, but there can be awareness without consciousness, as in deep sleep. Awareness is absolute, consciousness is relative to its content; consciousness is always of something.

 Consciousness is partial and changeful, 
awareness is total, changeless, calm and silent. 
And it is the common matrix of every experience.

Nisargadatta Maharaj
from I AM THAT


The essence of realization is nowness, 
Occurring all at once, with nothing to add or subtract. 
Self-liberation, innate great bliss, 
Free from hope or fear is the fruition.

~ Marpa
 from his song of realization and experience
with thanks to life love yoga

Saturday, January 21, 2012

sense of presence

This sense of presence, 
it is not the sense that I am present, you are present, or any individual is present. 
The sense of presence is the sense of presence, as such. 
Because one identifies oneself with his body, 
he thinks he is born and is going to die. 
What is born is the general sense of presence, as such. 
The sense of presence which has come spontaneously will leave spontaneously.

~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Friday, January 20, 2012

beyond myself

When my heart came to rule
in the world of love,
it was freed
from both belief
and from disbelief.

On this journey,
I found the problem
to be myself.

When I went beyond myself,
the pathway finally opened.

Mahsati Ganjavi
translation by David and Sabrineh Fideler

Mahsati Ganjavi lived during the 12th century, born in Ganje, Azerbaijan. Her poetry was a strong voice against prejudice and hypocrisy and patriarchy, while upholding love -- both human and divine.

She was celebrated at the court of Sultan Sanjar for her rubaiyat (quatrains), but later persecuted for her courageous stand against overly dogmatic religion and arbitrary male dominance.

Comments by eric at poetry chaikhana

the dark and mysterious virtue


The Tao gives birth to all of creation.
The virtue of Tao in nature nurtures them,
and their families give them their form.
Their environment then shapes them into completion.
That is why every creature honors the Tao and its virtue.

No one tells them to honor the Tao and its virtue,
it happens all by itself.
So the Tao gives them birth,
and its virtue cultivates them,
cares for them,
nurtures them,
gives them a place of refuge and peace,
helps them to grow and shelters them

It gives them life without wanting to posses them,
and cares for them expecting nothing in return.
It is their master, but it does not seek to dominate them.
This is called the dark and mysterious virtue.

~ Lao Tzu
from the Tao Te Ching

from March '79

Being tired of people who come with words, but no speech,
I made my way to the snow-covered island.
The wild does not have words.
The pages free of handwriting stretched out on all sides!
I came upon the tracks of reindeer in the snow.
Speech but no words.

~ Tomas Transtromer
translation by Robert Bly
from The Half-Finished Heaven

Paul Cézanne

Born: 19 January 1839
Aix-en-Provence, France
Died: 22 October 1906 (aged 67)
Aix-en-Provence, France

The paintings convey Cézanne's intense study of his subjects, a searching gaze and a dogged struggle to deal with the complexity of human visual perception.

self portrait

Throughout his life he struggled to develop an authentic observation of the seen world by the most accurate method of representing it in paint that he could find.

~ Paul Cézanne
comments from wikipedia

Thursday, January 19, 2012

many-roofed building in moonlight

I found myself
suddenly voluminous,
a many-roofed building in moonlight.

Thought traversed 
me as simply as moths might. 
Feelings traversed me as fish.

I heard myself thinking,
It isn't the piano, it isn't the ears.

Then heard, too soon, the ordinary furnace, 
the usual footsteps above me.

Washed my face again with hot water,
as I did when I was a child.

~ Jane Hirshfield

poetry, mythology and fairy stories

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

the task

It is a simple garment, this slipped-on world.
We wake into it daily -- open eyes, braid hair --
a robe unfurled
in rose-silk flowering, then laid bare.

And yes, it is a simple enough task
we've taken on,
though also vast:
from dusk to dawn,

from dawn to dusk, to praise, and not
be blinded by the praising.
To lie like a cat in hot
sun, fur fully blazing,

and dream the mouse;
and to keep too the mouse's patient, waking watch
within the deep rooms of the house,
where the leaf-flocked

sunlight never reaches, but the earth still blooms.

~ Jane Hirshfield
from The October Palace
thanks to Ivan at poetry chaikhana

- gratitude - Louie Schwartzberg

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

the box of chocolates

He always knew where he had been, and he remembered
The box elder in the fence post, looked down on men
Who couldn't see the storm coming.  He's learned
To live with the way his bait went deeper.

My mother kept her spirits high with little jobs.
He bought her a heart-shaped box of chocolates
Once a year. One life, one woman,
That was God's rule, and he didn't like it much.

~ Robert Bly
from Talking into the ear of a Donkey
photo by Shreve Stockton

Friday, January 13, 2012

no resistance

That which offers no resistance,
overcomes the hardest substances.
That which offers no resistance
can enter where there is no space.

Few in the world can comprehend
the teaching without words,
or understand the value of non-action.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2012

a moment outside the moment

From birth to death time surrounds us

with its intangible walls.
We fall with the centuries, the years, the minutes.
Is time only a falling, only a wall?
For a moment, sometimes, we see
not with our eyes but with our thoughts
time resting in a pause.
The world half-opens and we glimpse
the immaculate kingdom,
the pure forms, presences
unmoving, floating
on the hour, a river stopped:
truth, beauty, numbers, ideas
and goodness, a word buried
in our century.
A moment without weight or duration,
a moment outside the moment:
thought sees, our eyes think.

~ Octavio Paz

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the end and the beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand, 
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

~ Wisława Szymborska
Translated By Joanna Trzeciak
fake NY Times  front page photo
thanks to rebel girl at the mark on the wall

Tuesday, January 10, 2012



You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.
Only in the awareness of the present, 
can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.
Only in the present, 
can you savor the aroma, 
taste the sweetness, 
appreciate the delicacy.

If you are ruminating about the past, 
or worrying about the future, 
you will completely miss the experience 
of enjoying the cup of tea.
You will look down at the cup, 
and the tea will be gone.
Life is like that.

If you are not fully present, 
you will look around and it will be gone.
You will have missed the feel, the aroma, 
the delicacy and beauty of life.
It will seem to be speeding past you. 
The past is finished.
Learn from it and let it go.
The future is not even here yet. 
Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it.
Worrying is worthless.

When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, 
when you stop worrying about what might never happen, 
then you will be in the present moment.
Then you will begin to experience joy in life.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh


Monday, January 9, 2012



 causing or tending to cause objects to slip 
 liable to slip from the grasp, a position, etc.
 not to be relied upon
 liable to change; unstable

An ardent Jehovah's Witness once tried to convince me
 that if there were a God of love, he would certainly provide mankind
 with a reliable and infallible textbook for the guidance of conduct.

 I replied that no considerate God would destroy the human mind 
by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book,
the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book,
 is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience
 that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, 
consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures
 is like eating paper currency.

Therefore the Book that I would like to slip to my children
 would itself be slippery. It would slip them into a new domain, 
not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling. It would be a temporary
 medicine, not a diet; a point of departure, not a perpetual
 point of reference. They would read it and be done with it, 
for if it were well and clearly written they would not have to go back
 to it again and again for hidden meanings or for
 clarification of obscure doctrines.

~ Alan Watts
from The Book on The Taboo against knowing who you are

the eel in the cave

Our veins are open to shadow, and our fingertips
Porous to murder. It's only the inattention
Of the prosecutors that lets us go to lunch.

Reading my old letters I notice a secret will.
It's as if another person had planned my life.
Even in the dark, someone is hitching the horses.

That doesn't mean I have done things well.
I have found so many ways to disgrace
Myself, and throw a dark cloth over my head.

Why is it our fault if we fall into desire?
The eel poking his head from his undersea cave
Entices the tiny soul falling out of Heaven.

So many invisible angels work to keep
Us from drowning; so many hands reach
Down to pull the swimmer from the water.

Even though the District Attorney keeps me
Well in mind, grace allows me sometimes
To slip into the Alhambra by night.

~ Robert Bly
from The Night Abraham Called to the Stars: Poems