Saturday, November 24, 2018

present, above time

These roses under my window make no
reference to former roses or to better ones;
they are for what they are;
they exist with God to-day.

There is no time to them.
There is simply the rose; it is perfect in
every moment of its existence.

Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts;
in the full-blown flower, there is no more;
in the leafless root, there is no less.

Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature,
in all moments alike.
There is no time to it.

But man postpones or remembers;
he does not live in the present, but with
reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of
the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe
to foresee the future.

He cannot be happy and strong until he too
lives with nature in the present, above time.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
 from Self-Reliance, an 1841 essay

Thursday, November 22, 2018


You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.
They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.
Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights, is worthy of all else from you.
And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream.
And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the courage and the confidence, nay the charity, of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride, that you may see their wealth naked and their pride unabashed?
See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver, and and instrument of giving.
For in truth it is life that gives unto life -- while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness.

~ Kahlil Gibran
from The Prophet

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

inside the fog that encloses trees

Inside the fog that encloses trees, they undergo the robbing of their leaves... Thrown into confusion by a slow oxidation, and humiliated by the sap's withdrawal for the sake of the flowers and fruits, the leaves, following the hot spells of August, cling less anyway. 

The up-and-down tunnels inside the bark deepen, and guide the moisture down to earth so as to break off with the animated parts of the tree. 

The flowers are scattered, the fruits taken away. This giving up of their more animated parts, and even of parts of their body, has become, since their earliest days, a familiar practice for trees. 

~ Francis Ponge

translation by Robert Bly
from News of the Universe 
- poems of the twofold world

unawakened gifts

Related image

Those who are willing to stand out and take the risk of following their gifts place a mirror to our unawakened gifts. To know they are there, day in day out, at the frontiers of their own limitations and vision, probing further into new possibility, enduring at lonely thresholds in the hope of discovery, to know they are willing to risk everything is both disturbing and comforting.

In a small town near us there was a lovely writer and musician who lived a rather bohemian life; he was given sometimes to the drink but he had a beautiful, awakened mind.  He was a kind of 'undercover mystic' and many people, especially young people, came to talk to him when they felt their minds troubling them... I once asked him how he had managed to live alone on that edge.  He said: 'I was a very young man when I first felt the burn of that old mystical flame within me. I realized immediately what an adventure and danger it would be and that there was no going back. On that day I made a bargain with myself, the bargain was; no matter what came I would always remain best friends with myself.  I am old now but I never broke that bargain.'

~ John O'Donohue
from The Invisible Embrace, Beauty

Who would have thought my shriveled heart
Could have recovered greenness?

~ George Herbert

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

doubts and loves

From the place where we are right 
Flowers will never grow 
In the spring. 

The place where we are right 
Is hard and trampled 
Like a yard. 

But doubts and loves 
Dig up the world 
Like a mole, a plow. 

And a whisper will be heard in the place 
Where the ruined 
House once stood. 

~ Yehudi Amichai

(from: The Selected Poetry of Yehudi Amichai
translation by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell)
photo by Eliot Porter.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

wherever we taste


A wife loves her husband not for his own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in him.

The husband loves his wife not for her own sake, dear, but because the Self lives in her.

Children are loved not for their own sake, but because the Self lives in them.

Everything is loved not for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it.

This Self has to be realized.
Hear about this Self.

As a lump of salt thrown in water dissolves 
and cannot be taken out again,
 though wherever we taste, the water it is salty,
 even so, beloved,
 the separate self dissolves in the sea of pure consciousness,
 infinite and immortal. 

 Separateness arises from identifying the Self with the body,
 which is made up of the elements;
 when this physical identification dissolves,
 there can be no more separate self.

~ from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

music and survival

~ Alice Herz-Sommer

At age 110, Alice Herz-Sommer the world’s oldest pianist and oldest holocaust survivor, retains an unshakeable faith in the beauty of life and humanity, not unlike an awestruck child. She maintains that even the bad is beautiful, for it is part of life. To this day, Alice lives alone in her North London home, and practices the piano each day for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. People from everywhere come to listen outside of her building. She is the ‘lady in number six’. To claim that music is and has always been her salvation would be an understatement, in Alice’s own words:

“I felt that this is the only thing which helps me to have hope… a sort of religion, actually.
Music is God."

"I knew that even in this very difficult situation, there are beautiful moments... even the bad is beautiful."

 [ also known as Alice Sommer (26 November 1903 – 23 February 2014), was a Prague-born Jewish pianist, music teacher, and supercentenarian who survived Theresienstadt concentration camp. She lived for 40 years in Israel, before migrating to London in 1986, where she resided until her death, and at the age of 110 was the world's oldest known Holocaust survivor until Yisrael Kristal was recognized as such. Kristal was also a Holocaust survivor, and was born two months before Herz-Sommer ]

~ from Wikipedia

perfect accord

Some people who play solos quite well simply are no good at accompanying.  
It takes a special something to know when to keep in the background 
and when to play out to give the soloist support and when, 
occasionally, the piano has a real solo passage or phrase ... 

The thing is to think of the piece as a whole, 
not as a violin part with an accompanying piano part, 
but as one piece of music.  
You feel as if you were playing the violin part yourself, 
you are in such perfect accord with the violinist.

~ Anna Hubbard
in this letter to Mia Cunningham, Anna describes her experience of playing with Harlan.  
It might as easily describe the art of  living graciously with others.

from "Anna Hubbard - Out of the Shadows"
by Mia Cunningham

Anna and Mia,1956
(Mia left)

lightly my darling

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. 
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. 
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. 
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. 

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. 
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. 
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. 
No rhetoric, no tremolos, 
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. 
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. 
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. 

So throw away your baggage and go forward. 
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, 
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. 
That’s why you must walk so lightly. 
Lightly my darling, 
on tiptoes and no luggage, 
not even a sponge bag, 
completely unencumbered.

~ Aldous Huxley
from Island

between seeing and speaking

Somewhere between seeing and speaking, somewhere
Between our soiled and greasy currency of words
And the first star, the great moths fluttering
About the ghosts of flowers,
Lies the clear place where I, no longer I,
Nevertheless remember
Love’s nightlong wisdom of the other shore…

 I no longer I,
In this clear place between my thought and silence
See all I had and lost, anguish and joys,
Glowing like gentians in the Alpine grass,
Blue, unpossessed and open.

~ Aldous Huxley
from Island

Friday, November 16, 2018

be still and know

Imagine you are walking alone at night on a country road.  No people or cars or houses around, just enough starlight to see your way, the only sound the sound of your shoes on the road and the swish of your clothes as you walk.  You feel the stillness inside of things come close. You stop. Now there are no sounds, except the almost-never-heard hush of things being.

You sense the stillness on all sides and an identical stillness within you. It makes you uneasy, as if you are about to be extinguished.  You try to think, to establish yourself against the stillness, but the voice of your thoughts sounds thin, metallic.  You feel an irrepressible need to be distracted, to change the stillness and its overwhelming of you. You walk home thinking about plans for tomorrow.

But in the quiet of your room you realize what happened: you got scared.  You got scared of opening into the stillness, of allowing it to be.  It was a close call.  You see how throughout your life you have invited one distraction after another to prevent just this from happening.  Now you feel disappointed in yourself. So instead of turning on your computer or reading a book or getting something to eat, you sit down and invite the stillness back.

A phrase you once heard comes to you, from Psalm 46: "Be still, and know." Be still. Be still.

You arrange your body as you have learned to do.  You sit in a comfortable, alert position, with your back vertical so you don't slump or drift off.  You let your body be motionless, quiet.  The motionlessness of your body is a helpful friend; you know it is temporary, and in fact it is not really motionless - little shifts and sensations keep happening - but the relative stillness of your body reduces your identification with it, with the sense you are your body's ambitions and memories and likes and dislikes.

Learning to sit still, to settle like this, is called by Tibetan lamas "the first motionlessness." A quiet body at ease relaxes the persistence of thoughts.  Once the first motionlessness has been learned, they say, then it doesn't matter if the body is motionless or moving, for the the ground of stillness is always available.  But for now you need this helpful friend, and you sit still.

Now you invite what the lamas call "the second motionlessness." This is the still, empty openness "behind" each of your senses, the openness in which your senses arise.  You relax into that openness. To say it is not moving points to its nature, but that's not entirely accurate.  It is not the opposite of motion, or of the visible, or of sound.  This motionlessness is not definable - it is not a sensation. Nevertheless it has an almost kinesthetic effect on you, as if it is vanishing you, as if the existing one you thought you were, the receiver, the photographic plate that records your experience, this"one," becomes transparent. You begin to feel the same threat of vanishing you felt on the road, but now you relax and let it be.

  "The third motionlessness" comes now, unbidden.  It is the stillness of presence itself - the stillness of a clearness that is always here, behind and within everything. It is what allows everything to show up.  It is empty too not made out of anything, yet it is awesome and radiant in its presence.  It is without being an it.

You remember now how the phrase from Psalm 46 continues: "Be still, and know I am God."

"God"  - this old, strange word that sounds like a judge and yet still resonates beyond that - could it mean - could it have first meant - this empty Presence without form, appearing as all form?  You realize you are trying to figure it out and you stop. Be still, and know I am God.  The knowing is not thinking. It is presence being present to presence.
You find yourself wavering here - one moment at ease in the clarity, and in the next thinking about it.  You hear the words again: Be still. Do nothing. Let be. Don't fill anything in.  No need to figure anything out. Relax.

A sense of peacefulness opens in you, vast and without dimension.  This what Sufis call sakina - vast, peaceful tranquility without dimension - and suddenly you are smiling, your eyes are filling with tears - a joy - could it be called that? - a joyousness like praise and thankfulness together, love pouring forth from nowhere, the whole show showing up - mountain, sky, stars, bodies - from nothing, from stillness.

In remembering the Real, all hearts find joyous peace.
- Qur'an 13:28

~ Pir Elias Amidon
from Free Medicine


Wednesday, November 14, 2018


At the age of twenty-nine Gautama slipped away from his palace in the middle of the night, leaving behind his family and possessions. He traveled as a homeless vagabond throughout northern India, searching for a way out of suffering. He visited ashrams and sat at the feet of gurus but nothing liberated him entirely - some dissatisfaction always remained. 
He did not despair. He resolved to investigate suffering on his own until he found a method for complete liberation. He spent six years meditating on the essence, causes and cures for human anguish. In the end he came to the realization that suffering is not caused by ill fortune, by social injustice, or by divine whims. Rather, suffering is caused by the behavior patterns of one's own mind.
 Gautama's insight was that no matter what the mind experiences, it usually reacts with craving, and craving always involves dissatisfaction. When the mind experiences something distasteful it craves to be rid of the irritation. When the mind experiences something pleasant, it craves that the pleasure will remain and will intensify. Therefore, the mind is always dissatisfied and restless. 
This is very clear when we experience unpleasant things, such as pain. As long as the pain continues, we are dissatisfied and do all we can to avoid it. Yet even when we experience pleasant things we are never content. We either fear that the pleasure might disappear, or we hope that it will intensify. 
People dream for years about finding love but are rarely satisfied when they find it. Some become anxious that their partner will leave; others feel that they have settled cheaply, and could have found someone better. And we all know people who manage to do both.

  ~ Yuval Noah Harari